Minions and Henchmen

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As ever, dear readers, welcome.  In our last, entitled “Henchmen and Minions”, we had a brief look at henchmen—that is, the servants—in groups—of evil-doers, from orcs

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to Imperial stormtroopers.

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These were a grim lot, doing their masters’ work and showing no signs of remorse or regret and mostly very competent at doing so.

In this posting, we thought that we would take the opposite tack and look at minions—for our purposes, we’ll define them as the Light Side of the Dark Side.  Often, unlike Sauron or Cardinal Richelieu in our last post, their bosses are hardly the object of fear themselves.

We begin with two combinations of comic ineptitude:  government mounted police vs bandits and policemen vs pirates.

In 1869, Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

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composed the music for Les Brigands (“The Bandits”).

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The plot concerns the adventures of a group of Italian banditti, led by a chief called Falsacappa, (“Fake Cape”, suggesting that he’s only wearing the costume of a bandit and is, in fact, someone not so bold?)

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who are scheming to pull off a major heist.  Here (along with that of Falsacappa) are some of the original costume designs.

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These bandits talk (and sing) as if they were blood-thirsty killers, mostly, but that seems to be all that they do, except indulge in petty crime.  Their opponents, the carabiniers (here’s an original design for their uniforms),

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the ancestors of the modern carabinieri,

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although the costume design makes them look much more like French Napoleonic carabiniers,

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a pair of cavalry units, rather than mounted police, are even less impressive.  In fact, as they march onstage, they recite this (our crude translation):

“Nous sommes les carabiniers, gauche, gauche
La sécurité des foyers, gauche, gauche
Mais, par un malheureux hasard,
Au secours des particuliers
Nous arrivons toujours trop tard…”

 

“We are the carabiniers, left, left.

The security of homes, left, left.

But, by an unhappy chance,

In helping private citizens,

We always arrive too late.”

They are also so loud as they tramp along that they always alert criminals that they are coming (and there’s a song about that)—just look at this sheet music cover to give you an idea.

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As for a leader, he seems just to blend in with his hapless men.

In 1871, WS Gilbert (1836-1911)

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of (eventual) Gilbert and Sullivan (1842-1900) operetta fame,

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published a translation of Les Brigands, which became the standard 19th-century translation.  The characters in the Offenbach clearly also influenced Gilbert, who, in 1879, created The Pirates of Penzance.

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Led by a Pirate King, who looks the part, but…

the plot concerns some extremely tender-hearted pirates, who, being orphans themselves, always let people—and ships—go if the crews claim to be orphans.

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Their opponents, who appear to be Metropolitan policemen (“Bobbies/Peelers”),

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are extremely timid and jump at the slightest sound—which is not surprising, as their chief is an elderly major general whose greatest claim is that he knows everything about war—except for war.

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Inept or timid policemen seem to be very popular as minions—early film featured The Keystone Cops from 1912-1917.

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If earlier figures, like the carabiniers and the Gilbert and Sullivan police were dim or fraidy-cats, the Keystone Cops were an absolute disaster, causing more problems than they ever solved–

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which brings us to our last exhibit

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and perhaps enough said.

 

Thanks for reading, as always, and, as always,

MTCIDC

CD

ps

If you would like to see the Keystone Cops in action, here’s a LINK to one of their films, “For Better But Worse” at the Internet Archive.

(There are more there.)

Henchmen and Minions

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Welcome, dear readers, as ever.

A henchman was originally a hengestman, from hengest “horse/stallion” + man “man”—in other words, a groom, a servant who takes care of horses.

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Although the word began with the meaning of “groom”, it has certainly changed over time and now it suggests something like “ thuggish follower”—like these gangster henchmen.

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The word minion comes from the Old French word mignon, “a (little) darling”, but its meaning has also changed–even more than henchmen, now indicating a kind of low-level person who simply follows orders, which the peasants in this picture by Albrecht Duerer make us think of.

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These words originally came to mind while we were watching the first episode of Neil Oliver’s excellent BBC series A History of Scotland. (Smart writing and wonderful photography.)

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In the episode, a scene was reenacted, in which Saint Columba (521-597AD)

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faces off against a Pictish druid.

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(This is the closest we can come to an image of a druid. As far as we know, there are, in fact, no surviving images of the learned class of the Celtic world, just often very imaginative illustrations with little or no factual basis.)

In Adomnan’s (c.624-704AD) Life of Columba, Book II, Chapter XXXIV, Columba struggles to free a slave being held by the druid, Broichan.

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The saint wins, of course, but what struck us about this story—and in this DVD depiction—was that it was a one-on-one contest: neither man called upon backup—something which one might especially expect from the antagonist of the story, as in so many. After all, we thought, just think of villains in all kinds of stories—

The Sheriff of Nottingham has his henchmen ready to try to capture Robin Hood at the famous archery contest.

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Or, if you prefer—

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The evil Cardinal Richelieu

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has his guards

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to fight the musketeers

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in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.

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The Wicked Witch of the West

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has two sets of henchmen: the flying monkeys

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which have been the terror of many childhoods, in our experience, and the Winkie Guards,

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whose drum beat and deep chant always made us a little nervous when we were little (not to mention their skin color and odd noses).

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Here’s a LINK, in case you’ve forgotten what they were like.

In a more modern story, the Separatists have so many droids,

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as Emperor Palpatine has so many stormtroopers.

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And, of course, Saruman

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has so many orcs

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as, along with all of his human minions, does Sauron.

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We can imagine several reasons for such overwhelming force in these stories. For the protagonist/s, the more of the enemy there are, the more impressive their defeat, as when Odysseus faces so many suitors (over a hundred) with only his son, Telemachus, and a couple of servants to help him.

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(And Athena, of course!)

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For the antagonist/s, there is the sense that they are so powerful that they have only to command and vast numbers of henchmen will do their bidding.

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At the same time, we wonder if, underneath all of that force, there is a basic insecurity, a feeling that “my power by itself is really not enough—I can’t do this alone”? After all, it’s not the Sheriff of Nottingham who faces Robin Hood in the 1938 film,

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but the secondary character, Guy of Gisborne (played by Basil Rathbone, who was the first great film Sherlock Holmes).

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The Wicked Witch of the West relies upon her monkeys and her guards and Saruman and Sauron upon their armies and none ever faces an opponent alone: for that matter, we never even see Sauron except as a shadow at his fall.

And perhaps that underlying insecurity has some roots in reality: the only antagonist who actually confronts the protagonist is a little too sure of himself and of his major henchman and we all know what happens next…

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As always, thanks for reading and

MTCIDC, dear readers!

CD

War Game

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Welcome, dear readers, as ever.

In our last, Sam Gamgee, while discussing their current situation with Frodo, says:

“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo:  adventures, as I used to call them.  I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say.”  (The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter 8, “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”)

We suggested, in our last, that this might, in part, be a comment upon the enthusiasm for war in Britain in the later months of 1914, with its dramatic posters.

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Now, rereading the posting, we wanted to take the passage in a different direction, that of “kind of sport”, or, rather, game.  “Game” took us to a once-well-known poem by Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938),

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Vitae Lampada (“The Torch of Life”, 1897):

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(“They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

The sand of the desert is sodden red, —
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

 

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

Here we see battle equated with playing football at school, the implication being that one must stick to it, whether it be in a game or in life.

People have been making a game of battle for many years. The Romans seem to have had some sort of equestrian display called the “Troy Game” (lusus Troiae), about which most of what we know comes from Vergil’s Aeneid, Book 5, lines 545-603—here’s a LINK so that you can read it for yourself in translation), and there appears, as well, to have been some sort of cavalry event complete with masks (although, recently, there have been questions raised about these masks).

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(These masks also remind us of a piece of armor used in eastern Europe, especially by the early warriors of Russia and its allies.)

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Certainly, medieval warriors enjoyed jousting as a game

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including a kind of general mayhem called a melee.

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Such events proved so dangerous, however, that, in 1130, Pope Innocent II banned tournaments and, in time, several English and French monarchs did the same, with very mixed results as far as obedience went, although melees eventually seem to have died out, even as jousting continued in popularity.

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Tournaments might keep knights in training, but, by the Napoleonic era,

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military authorities had begun to think about how they might train their young soldiers off the battlefield.  Beginning in the early 1800s, officers in the Prussian army began to experiment with board games, called “Kriegsspiel” (literally, “game of war”).

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(Here’s a LINK to great site if you want to know more about such games or, even better, play them.)

Board games like this continued to be developed and popular.  Here’s Polemus from 1888.

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In 1911, H.G. Wells (1866-1946),

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published Floor Games,

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at the end of which he promised that, some time in the future, he would write about what he called “little wars” and, in 1913, that book appeared, Little Wars.

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This was a whole new kind of game.  It was a kriegsspiel, in that it was a wargame, but it was a wargame which, instead of using maps and wooden pieces, as earlier board games had, this was a much more realistic game, played with scenery and hundreds of small metal soldiers, mostly based upon the soldiers manufactured by William Britain, beginning in the 1890s.

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Such games, with even more elaborate scenery, figures, and rules, are played today around the world.

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(Here are links to both books so that you can have your own copies:  Floor Games, 1911Little Wars, 1913.)

Besides kriegsspiels, by the early 20th century European armies began to create full-sized 3D equivalents, called maneuvers.  In these, large numbers of actual soldiers, divided into sides like “Red Army” and “Blue Army”, would march across the countryside, seeking to gain advantage over the other side, while referees looked on and judged how successful those movements were.

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In the summer of 1914, the Austrians were due to hold their summer maneuvers in the hills of Bosnia, to the west of Serbia.  The Austrian Crown Prince, Franz Ferdinand, who was to observe those maneuvers,

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arrived in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on the 28th of June with his wife, Sophia—and then things went very wrong

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and wargames turned into actual war, a war which lasted till November, 1918, in which perhaps as many as 16.5 million people died.

This leads us back to something which HG Wells suggested at the conclusion of Little Wars and which we wish were true:

“And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more—and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable “patriots,” and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.”

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What more can we say?

Thanks, as always, for reading and

MTCIDC

CD

Metatextual

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Welcome, dear readers, as always—and don’t be weirded-out by the hyperliterary title.  We’ve been thinking about an odd moment in The Lord of the Rings, a moment when two of the main characters seem to possess the ability, at least for that moment, to step away from the story, and to see themselves as characters, which is one way in which metatextuality, meaning “outside the text”, works.  (For a useful definition, see this LINK.)

It’s a passage in The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter 8, “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”.  Sam and Frodo are pausing before Gollum leads them through a passageway which will bring them into Mordor.  They have a meal, then talk about where they’re about to go and Sam says:

“…And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started.  But I suppose it’s often that way.  The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo:  adventures, as I used to call them.  I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say.”

Because Tolkien was writing this after the Great War, we might imagine that, at one level, he’s reflecting upon the war fever which captured Great Britain in the early days of the conflict, with its recruiting posters and popular art depictions like these—

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and its masses of volunteers crowding recruitment offices.

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This was all before the grim reality of trench warfare

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and casualties beyond anyone’s pre-war comprehension

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dampened that early enthusiasm, leading to a realistic cynicism mostly quietly expressed,

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although soldiers could sometimes express their opinion of the war vocally—see this LINK for some of that vocalizing.

What Sam says next seems to agree with this:

“But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind.  Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it.”

So, “adventures” now, to Sam, are no longer “a kind of sport” which “wonderful folk” seek out, but rather something which just happens to people—in fact, people like Sam and Frodo.  And, just like Sam and Frodo, “…I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.”

The consequences of rejecting those chances are obvious:  “And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten.  We hear about those as just went on…”

And Sam’s sense of the consequences of “just going on” is very realistic:  “—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.  You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo.  But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in!”

So far, then, we might see this as the clear thinking of someone who believed in those 1914 posters and came to learn otherwise.  Sam continues, however, and here’s where that metatextuality comes in:

“I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”

We know that Sam has long been fascinated by tales of elves and dragons.  As Gaffer Gamgee says:

“Crazy about stories of the old days, he is, and he listens to all of Mr. Bilbo’s tales.  Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters…”  (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter 1, “A Long-Expected Party”)

The Gaffer’s last remark suggests that not only has Sam heard tales, but he may even have read them.  We think that it should be no surprise, then, that, when put into a situation far beyond the usual, Sam might believe that it’s not just daily life, but, in fact, a “tale”.  And so he asks, “…what sort…?”

To which Frodo replies:

“I wonder…But I don’t know.  And that’s the way of a real tale.  Take any one that you’re fond of.  You may know, or guess, what kind of tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know.  And you don’t want them to.”

In Sam and Frodo’s case, they clearly don’t and can’t know, but, although they don’t know their fate (although we think that Frodo has an idea, saying “Our part will end later—or sooner.”), they both believe that they are in a tale, as Sam says:

“Still I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales.  We’re in one, of course; but I mean put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards.”

This is ironic, of course, as we know that this very story is drawn as Tolkien-as-editor says in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, from The Red Book of Westmarch (see “Note on the Shire Records”), a volume jointly written by Bilbo and Frodo and perhaps completed by Sam himself (see The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter 9, “The Grey Havens”).

There is also, to our minds, as we said, something odd about this view of themselves and their situation.  In general, characters in epic stories—just as Frodo says—are unaware that they are in them.  Achilles never turns to Patroclus in the Iliad and asks, “I wonder how this epic will end?” nor does Beowulf spend time discussing just what sort of tale he and Wiglaf have gotten themselves into.   (You can see a touch of metatextuality in the Game of Thrones series, however, when one of its evilest characters, Ramsay Bolton, can say, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”)

Frodo takes the idea of their being characters one step farther when he then suggests indirectly that their story is actually in the hands of its readers:

“…We’re going on a bit too fast.  You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point:  ‘Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.’ “

As in his earlier remark, that “Our part will end later—or sooner”, we see that Frodo imagines that they’re already in such a bad place that a young audience will want to stop the story.

This then leads us to a question as odd to us as their view of themselves as already-fictional characters in a tale:   if dad listens and agrees, closing the book, what will happen to Frodo and Sam then?

 

Thanks, as ever, for reading and

MTCIDC

CD

See, the Conquering Hero?

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Welcome, as ever, dear readers.

With Star Wars IX to appear in mid-December, completing the series, we’ve been going back through all of the previous episodes, from I (The Phantom Menace)

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through VIII (The Last Jedi).

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It’s a remarkable achievement and we’re very grateful to George Lucas,

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for bringing it so far, even if his strong sense of the story seems to have been abandoned after VI (Return of the Jedi).

Because there are now so many films (including all of the offshoots, like the animated features, as well as Rogue One and Solo), it’s sometimes hard to remember that, once upon a time, there was only Star Wars (only later A New Hope), with its triumphant conclusion—mass formations of troops, Princess Leia in an actual princess outfit, and medals all around.

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The next film—now V (The Empire Strikes Back) had a much less secure ending, with Darth Vader and the Emperor appearing to win and Han Solo a prisoner, on his way to Jaba the Hutt,

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but VI (The Return of the Jedi) is once more triumphant, both in its original ending, on the forest moon of Endor,

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and in the later revised version, where we see galaxy-wide celebrations.

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Among the other films, we’ve seen another celebration, on Naboo, at the end of I (The Phantom Menace),

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a secret marriage in II (Attack of the Clones),

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and a complex web of plot, including the construction of the Death Star, the separation of the babies—Leia to Alderan, Luke to Tatooine—and the funeral of Padme in III (The Revenge of the Sith).

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VII (The Force Awakens) had a mysterious ending:  Rey having gone to what appears the far end of the galaxy to find—

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while VIII (The Last Jedi) seemed vaguely hopeful, with an unnamed stable boy showing signs of having the Force within him, as Anakin did in I.

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With such a build-up, we’ve been wondering how IX (The Rise of Skywalker) will end.  As it’s supposedly the final episode, we assume that it will not conclude up in the air, like V, but will it have a mass celebration, like I, IV, and VI?

Or will it, like III, have multiple endings?  As we’ve thought about it, you could really see that as the case with The Lord of the Rings.

First, like I, IV, and VI, there are celebrations:  of Frodo and Sam at the field of Cormallen, in The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter 4, “The Field of Cormallen”.

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Then, in Chapter 5, “The Steward and the King”, we have the crowning of Aragorn

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followed by the wedding of Arwen and Aragorn.

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After that, we have the return of the hobbits to the Shire and the defeat and death of Saruman in Chapter 8, “The Scouring of the Shire”.  The Shire has been badly damaged by Saruman and his henchmen, however, so that, although they are gone, the healing will take many years.

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And the story doesn’t conclude there.  Only a little time goes by and then there is another ending:  the trip to the Grey Havens and beyond in Chapter 9, “The Grey Havens”.

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And then the story finally ends—or does it?  We’ve seen in Star Wars VIII, when the stable boy seems to use the Force, though only for a moment,

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the implication that perhaps the title, The Last Jedi, is more of a puzzle than it would first appear.  The very last line of The Lord of the Rings, spoken by Sam, is “Well, I’m back…”  and it’s true, as far as Sam won’t go off on another adventure.  Before this, however, Frodo has been busy writing:

“There was a big book with plain red leather covers; its tall pages were now almost filled.  At the beginning there were many leaves covered with Bilbo’s thin wavering hand, but most of it was written in Frodo’s firm flowing script.  It was divided into chapters but Chapter 80 was unfinished, and after that were some blank leaves…

‘Why, you have nearly finished it, Mr. Frodo!’ Sam exclaimed.  ‘Well, you have kept at it, I must say.’

‘I have quite finished, Sam,’ said Frodo.  ‘The last pages are for you.’”

But what does this imply?  We have no idea what Sam may have added, but the volume Frodo gave him was the origin of The Red Book of Westmarch, the basis not only for The Lord of the Rings, but for The Hobbit, as well.  Are we being told that writing about adventure is an adventure in itself, and almost as important?

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Thanks, as always, for reading.

MTCIDC, of course!

CD

ps

When we think of music in triumphs, the first piece which pops into our minds (after the Gungan march, of course) was one written by Haendel (1685-1759), “See, the Conquering Hero Comes”.

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It was originally intended for his oratorio, Joshua (1747), but it fit his earlier piece, Judas Maccabaeus (1746) so well that he transferred it to the score of that oratorio.  Judas Maccabaeus was composed as a tribute to the second son of George II of England, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland,

 

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after he had decisively beaten the attempt to overthrow his father and replace him with the son of the former monarch, James II, at the battle of Culloden.

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Here’s a LINK to a stirring performance.

In 1796, the young Beethoven (1770-1827)

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wrote a series of 12 variations on the theme for cello and fortepiano.  It’s a lot of fun to hear what Beethoven can do with Haendel’s tune, so we give you a LINK here.

Light on Their Feet

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As ever, dear readers, welcome.

Recently, someone asked us about the Light Brigade—that is, the collection of regiments of British cavalry who fought in the Crimean War (1854-56).

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These are the troopers who mistakenly charged Russian artillery in the series of battles fought on 25 October, 1854, called, collectively, Balaclava.

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The question was, “Why was it called ‘the Light Brigade’?  Were the soldiers thin?  And was there a Heavy Brigade, where they were all fat?”

It seemed to us a very reasonable question and our answer began, “Over many centuries, cavalry has had a number of uses, but they could probably be broken down into two groups by those uses:  1. raids, skirmishes, scouting, and pursuit; 2. attacking enemy cavalry and infantry formations—and pursuit.  The former (#1) is the job of light cavalry, the latter (#2) of heavy cavalry.”

The Romans, who themselves only produced cavalry early in their history, quickly preferring to hire the job out, might, for example, use North Africans as light cavalry.

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If heavy cavalry were needed, then the task might go to Spanish or Gallic soldiers.

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And this would be true throughout military history—Renaissance cavalry might have heavily-armored gendarmes

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to break up an enemy unit (or more) with the weight of its charge, but would also use lightly-armed jinetes

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to find out the enemy’s positions, or attack their supply routes.

In the 18th century, most cavalry were heavy—although armor had almost disappeared.

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The Austrians and then the French added to those heavies light cavalry originally from the Hungarian world, hussars.

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Not to be outdone, the English fleshed out their heavy cavalry

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not with hussars, but something they called “light dragoons”.

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Dragoons had originally been mounted infantrymen, who rode to battle on horseback, then dismounted to fight,

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but, by the mid-18th century, dragoons were just heavy cavalry—bigger men on bigger horses—and light dragoons were smaller men on smaller horses, with mostly different functions.

By the end of the century and just beyond, during the Napoleonic era, the French, in particular, had developed a whole series of light cavalry types—hussars,

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chasseurs a cheval (literally, “hunters on horseback”),

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and lancers, as well.

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The English, to match the French, converted some regiments to hussars,

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but only after 1820, when Napoleon was in his second and final exile on St. Helena, did they convert several other regiments to lancers.

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(You can see that they borrowed their style of dress from that of Polish lancers in Napoleon’s armies.)

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These lancers

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along with hussars

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and light dragoons

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made up the famous Light Brigade of Alfred Tennyson’s (1809-1892)

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1854 poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

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This, in turn, inspired one of our favorite adventure movies, the 1936 The Charge of the Light Brigade.

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(We wonder how different children must have been in 1936—we loved that movie as kids!)

And this film, in turn, inspired a 20th-century adventure writer, George Macdonald Fraser (1925-2008),

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who wrote a series of 12 books detailing the life of one Harry Flashman, beginning with Flashman (1969).

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In part, these are a parody of the life of a typical Victorian officer, who eventually becomes General Sir Harry Flashman.  He appears at many of the famous military events in mid-Victorian British history, from the First Afghan War (1839-1842) to the Zulu War (1879), along with appearances at later events, including a cameo appearance at the British declaration of war against Germany on 4 August, 1914.  The joke is, although he wins all sorts of honors, including that knighthood, he is, in fact, a complete coward and it’s only amazing luck that he manages to survive as long and as well as he does.  And there is a second joke within the first:  Flashman is actually the school bully in a very famous earlier novel, Tom Brown’s School Days (1857),

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by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896), a book which is the ancestor not only of many later such novels and short stories, but also of the Harry Potter books.

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The fourth novel in the Flashman series, entitled Flashman at the Charge (1973),

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gives us Fraser’s hero as actually leading that famous attack by accident, an accident which leads to his capture by the Russians—and many further adventures.

So, our answer to the original question is:  “No.  The Light Brigade wasn’t skinny, but was called that because it was smaller men on smaller horses with very specific jobs which required rapid movement and greater flexibility than heavy cavalry.”

And, with that answer, we say thank you for reading and

MTCIDC

CD

ps

There was, in fact, a Heavy Brigade,

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who made their own equally-heroic, but more successful, attack on the same day as the more famous Light Brigade charge.  Bigger men on bigger horses, they drove advancing Russian cavalry out of the Heavy Brigade camp.

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Terrible as an Army with Banners

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Welcome, dear readers, as ever.

Our title comes from the Hebrew Bible, in the book entitled The Song of Solomon, Chapter 6, verses 4 and 10, where the speaker’s beloved’s beauty is likened to an army with banners.  Growing up, we always wondered about that word “terrible”.  We didn’t see why someone’s good looks could be frightening, but we could certainly see how an army with its flags could be scary.

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On the subject of banners, recently, we’ve been writing about 2nd Lieutenant JRR Tolkien.

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In an earlier posting, in fact, we mentioned that that rank of 2nd Lieutenant was a replacement for the earlier rank of “ensign”.  “Lieutenant” is just the English version of a French compound for “place-holder” (lieu + tenant), in this case meaning the person who will step into the captain’s shoes if necessary.  Instead of a compound with its implication of replacement, “ensign” is actually a job description.  An “ensign” is a flag (a “color”, if infantry, “standard”, if cavalry) and an “ensign” is also the person who carried it.

By 1916, when Tolkien became a 2nd Lieutenant, colors were no longer carried in battle, but only on parade, as this early-20th-century illustration demonstrates—

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and is still the case for the famous “Trooping of the Colour” for the Queen of England’s birthday parade, where her splendid footguards march with one of their colo(u)rs.

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This is clearly all about show, now, but, once upon a time, colors—and their ensigns—had an important role in warfare.  Earlier colors were much bigger—in the 18th century, they were 6 feet by 6 feet square (1.82 metres by 1.82).

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And here are some modern reenactors to help you to see just how big that really is.

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The reasons for such a size (on a 9-foot pole, or “pike”—that’s 2.74m) are:

  1. units in earlier times (pre-late-19th-century, more or less) fought in long lines and, if you put the colors in the middle, everyone in a unit had a kind of fixed point to help them know where they—and their unit—were

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  1. as well, earlier firearms, which used black powder, put out enormous clouds of (white) smoke—

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If colors were big and tall, they could still be made out in the midst of those clouds.

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They could also act as a rallying point.  When lines came apart and the order was Charge!  (Or when things were falling apart and the call was for Retreat!)

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In time, colors came to be thought of as almost the physical representative of the spirit of a unit and being called upon to surrender them was looked upon as the worst disgrace.  This portrait of George Washington would have been thought particularly nasty by his British and German enemies because all around him are their colors, captured in two battles, Trenton and Princeton.  (His own headquarters flag—13 stars in a circle on a blue background—is in the upper right of the picture.)

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To escape surrendering their colors, soldiers would strip them from the poles/pikes and hide them in their clothes or, in real desperation, burn them, as the French did in 1760 when forced to surrender to the British at Montreal, in Canada (then New France).

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In earlier centuries, before gunpowder came to dominate battlefields, colors were already used as rallying points,

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but also, in the days before uniforms, colors—big or little—indicated who was fighting.  If you saw a figure bearing a flag with a white, angled cross (a “saltire” in heraldic terms) on a blue field (background), for example, you knew that the King of Scotland was on the battlefield.

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Thus, although 2nd Lieutenant Tolkien would no longer carry one of his unit’s colors into battle, as previous ensigns had, he would have known the importance of their role—and especially of the role of what they carried, which is why, for example, we see that, when it comes to battle in Middie-earth, nearly everyone seems to have a distinctive flag:

  1. the Rohirrim have their running horse

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(which we think JRRT may have borrowed either from the chalk cutting known as the “White Horse of Uffington”

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or possibly from an emblem long-related to the British monarchy, the white horse of Hannover—as we can see on this 18th-century grenadier cap).

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  1. Gondor has its tree and stars

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  1. and, when Aragorn marches out of Minas Tirith,

 

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it’s under his version of that banner–

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which also boldly states his claim to be the rightful king—without actually coming out and saying it—compare the two banners–

  1. and the Prince of Dol Amroth has his flag, with “his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan” (The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter 1, “Minas Tirith”).

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As for their opponents, we see Saruman’s white hand on armor,

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so we can presume, we think, that any banners carried would bear the same insignia and the same is true for Sauron’s orcs, which would have borne the lidless eye.

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(We might also note that Southrons in the service of Mordor appear to carry red banners—as Gollum reports to Frodo and Sam in The Two Towers, Book Four, Chapter 3, “The Black Gate is Closed”.)

All of which made us wonder if Solomon would have been so eager to describe his beloved as he did if the army he saw looked like this?

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As ever, thanks for reading and

MTCIDC

 

CD

 

 

ps

In an odd but fortunate use of a color, in 1842, during the First Afghan War, a Captain Souter was saved because he had hidden one of his regiment’s colors by wrapping it around his waist.  As the last members of his unit fell around him, his Afghan opponents saw what they believed to be a fancy waistcoat/vest and took him prisoner, hoping for a rich ransom.

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Nodding Off

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Welcome, dear readers, as ever.

In our last, we began with a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson

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from his 1885 collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses.

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There’s another poem from that collection which has haunted us for years—here it is:

THE LAND OF NOD

From breakfast on through all the day

At home among my friends I stay,

But every night I go abroad

Afar into the Land of Nod.

 

All by myself I have to go,

With none to tell me what to do—

All alone beside the streams

And up the mountain-side of dreams.

 

The strangest things are there for me,

Both things to eat and things to see,

And many frightening sights abroad

Till morning in the Land of Nod.

 

Try as I like to find the way,

I never can get back by day,

Nor can remember plain and clear

The curious music that I hear.

As a poem for children, it seems to contain a certain amount of menace:  “All by myself I have to go”, “many frightening sights”.  At the same time, there is a certain fascination—after all, the speaker seems to want to return there.  In other words, it’s a weird, but somehow interesting place, which reminds us of Little Red Riding Hood’s song from Stephen Sondheim’s modern fairy tale musical, Into the Woods (1987), in which she describes her experience with the wolf:

Mother said,
“Straight ahead,
Not to delay
or be misled.”
I should have heeded
Her advice…
But he seemed so nice.
And he showed me things
Many beautiful things,
That I hadn’t thought to explore.
They were off my path,
So I never had dared.
I had been so careful,
I never had cared
And he made me feel excited-
Well, excited and scared.
When he said, “Come in!”
With that sickening grin,
How could I know what was in store?
Once his teeth were bared,
Though, I really got scared-
Well, excited and scared-
But he drew me close
And he swallowed me down,
Down a dark slimy path
Where lie secrets that I never want to know
And when everything familiar seems to disappear forever
At the end of the path was granny once again
So we lay in the dark till you came and set us free
And you brought us to the light
And we’re back at the start

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit…not.”

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Perhaps it’s that “curious music that I hear” which lures the speaker back?  For us, we’re immediately reminded of the Otherworld music which calls mortals into Faerie in Celtic folk literature.  Here’s a well-known tune with a lyric in Irish and English, which is the lament of a mortal woman who has been pulled into that world against her will, entitled Port na bPucai, “Song of the Pooka” (a kind of Otherworld spirit who plays malevolent tricks on mortals), which can illustrate the kind of music humans believed the Otherworlders used:

Is bean ón slua sí mé, do tháinig thar toinn

I am a woman from the fairy host who traveled over the seas

Is do goideadh san oíche me tamall thar lear

I was stolen in the night and taken beyond the sea

Is go bhfuilim as ríocht seo fé gheas’ mná sídhe

And I am held hostage in the kingdom by the fairy women

Is ní bheidh ar an saol seo ach go nglaofaidh an coileach

And I can only be in this world until the moment the cock crows

Is caitheadsa féin tabhairt fá’n deis isteach

I know I have tasks to do here

Ni thaithneamh liom é ach caithfead tabhairt fé

Which I do not like but must comply with

Is caitheadsa féin tabhairt fén lios isteach

I must return to the fort and do not have anything to do

Is ná déinig aon ní leis an dream thíos sa leas

With this body of fairy people down in the fairy mound.

 

And here’s a LINK so that you can hear that music sung.

On one level, then, this Land of Nod is simply the land of dreams—and here that land is, disturbingly illustrated by Charles Robinson for an 1895 edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses.

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And we see this again in another late-19th-century poem, by the American poet, Eugene Field (1850-1895), where Nod has become a character who, along with two boating friends (Wynken and Blynken), personifies a child going to sleep:

Dutch Lullabye

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
the old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
that live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
as they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
that lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
never afraid are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
to the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
as if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
and Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
as you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

For a 1904 edition of a selection of Field’s poems, Poems of Childhood, Maxfield Parrish provided the following illustration—

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(A “trundle bed”, by the way, is a low bed built to slide out from under a taller one and commonly was used in the past to accommodate children.  Here’s an image of one.)

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On another level, the reference to music might remind us of the Celtic Otherworld, to which unsuspecting humans are lured away.

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This is an illustration of Child Ballad 39A, “Tam Lin”.  Tam (Tom) is a mortal who has been taken by the elves (another name here for fairies) and is eventually rescued by a mortal woman.  Here’s a LINK to more on the ballad.

We have one more possibility for the Land of Nod—perhaps that which inspired Stevenson initially.  “To nod off” is an expression meaning “to fall asleep”, as we see in a traditional Scots song, “We’re a’ nodding”.  Here’s the first verse and the chorus as edited by Robert Burns and published in Volume 6 of The Scots Musical Museum (1803):

Gudeen to you kimmer
And how do you do?
Hiccup, quo’ kimmer,
The better that I’m fou.

Chorus:
We’re a’ noddin, nid nid nodding,
We’re a’ nodding at our house at hame,
We’re a’ noddin, nid nid nodding,
We’re a’ nodding at our house at hame.

(Translation:

“Good evening to you, old gossip,

And how are you?

Hiccup! Said the old gossip,

Much better because I’m full. [a local usage, meaning “drunk”]

Chorus:

We’re all nodding, nid, nid, nodding,

We’re all nodding at our house at home.

We’re all nodding, nid, nid, nodding,

We’re all nodding at our house at home.”)

But, besides this meaning, there is also, from “Genesis” in the Hebrew Bible, the story of the twin sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able.  After Cain murders Able:

“And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” (“Genesis”, Chapter 4, Verse 16)

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A little research suggests that the name “Nod” comes from a Hebrew root for the verb “to wander”, so Cain, we may be being told, was a wanderer.  That brings us back to our original Stevenson poem, where the speaker tells us that

“…every night I go abroad

Afar into the Land of Nod.

 

All by myself I have to go,

With none to tell me what to do—

All alone beside the streams

And up the mountain-side of dreams.”

 

Pleasant—or pleasanter—dreams, dear readers, and

 

MTCIDC

 

CD

 

ps

Our information on the Hebrew Land of Nod comes from this LINK.

Shadowy

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Welcome, dear readers, as always.

We were practicing our sortes tolkienses (one way of finding a topic—by simply slipping a finger into The Lord of the Rings and opening it at that page—it’s not 100% useful, but sometimes…) and came upon the title of Chapter 2 of Book One of The Fellowship of the Ring:  “The Shadow of the Past”.

In the context of the chapter, we see that that shadow is cast by the history of the Ring itself and also by its maker, Sauron.  That, in turn, set us off on thinking about literary shadows…

In 1885, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

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published a collection of poems.

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Poem #19 (if you count the dedication, which is, in fact, a poem) begins:

“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”

[If you would like your own copy of this volume, follow this LINK.]

In fact, in literature, its use is both visible—and invisible.

In psychology, the shadow is metaphorical, being used to symbolize an unconscious part of the personality.  [For more on this, see this LINK.]

And, visibly—but also invisibly—the shadow as physical object can represent something more, as we find in perhaps the first modern literary use of the shadow in Adelbert von Chamisso’s (1781-1838)

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novella (a short novel), Peter Schlemihls Wundersame Geschichte (1814), “Peter Schlemihl’s Amazing Story”.

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Here’s the first English translation, from 1824.

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In the story, the protagonist, Peter Schlemihl, meets a strange man, who can pull anything out of his pocket—and we mean anything.  As Schlemihl reports:

“If my mind was confused, nay terrified, with these proceedings, how was I overpowered when the next-breathed wish brought from his pocket three riding horses.  I tell you, three great and noble steeds, with saddles and appurtenances!  Imagine for a moment, I pray you, three saddled horses from the same pocket which had before produced a pocket-book, a telescope, an ornamented carpet twenty paces long and ten broad, a pleasure-tent of the same size, with bars and iron-work!”

(This is from the 3rd edition (1861) of that first English translation.)

Impressed, Schlemihl is quickly persuaded to make a trade.  The strange man offers him a magic purse, which he calls “Fortunatus’ fortune-bag”.  This object is based on an old story which seems to appear for the first time in 1509 as Ausgabe des Fortunatus (the “Edition/Issue of Fortunatus”?), in which Fortunatus (as you’ll probably guess, the name means “Lucky”) has both a wishing cap and this bag.  Here’s the title page of that first edition.

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[If you would like to read one version of the Fortunatus story, here is a link to it from Andrew Lang’s The Grey Fairy Book (1900).]

The purse will always produce ten gold coins when one puts a hand inside, guaranteeing a steady means of wealth for the owner.  In return for this, Schlemihl hands over–his shadow.

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This seems an odd trade, but having a magic bag which acts as an endless bank account is certainly no less strange.  Not to be too literal-minded, but beyond the idea that a shadow is a tradable item, it makes us wonder, however:  what could a shadow be made of that it can be removed and collected?

At the beginning of Peter Pan (1904), Peter has lost his shadow and Wendy reattaches it by sewing it on, as if it were simply mobile black cloth and perhaps this is how we might think about it as a physical object, at least for shadow stories.

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Although he is pleased with the money, Schlemihl soon realizes the real price he has paid:  when people see that he has no shadow, they avoid him in anything from disgust to horror, which ruins his ability to live anywhere and even to marry the girl he wishes.  The shadow, then, is more than cloth:  it is part of a person’s identity.  If you cast no shadow, you are not quite human.  The real price of the shadow is even higher, however, as Schlemihl learns when the strange man (who is obviously Satan in human form) returns to offer a second bargain:  the Devil will return his shadow in return for his soul.

It’s clear that here Schlemihl has learned his lesson, refusing this offer several times and finally throwing away the “fortune-bag”.  Although he may believe that he is done with magic, magic is not yet done with him, however.  With some of the few coins remaining to him, by accident (or so it seems), he buys a pair of seven-league boots.  (A “league”, classically, is about three miles, so, when he puts them on, each step he takes is at least twenty-one miles.)

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This element of the story, in turn, is also based on something in another older story, which appears in Charles Perrault’s (1628-1703)

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1697 collection, Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passe,

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“Le Petit Poucet” (maybe “Thumblet”?).  In this story, a character steals a pair of these boots from a pursuing ogre, allowing the thief to cover great distances with every stride.

[If you’d like to read this story, here’s a LINK from a 1901 translation.]

With these boots, Schlemihl never regains his shadow, but eventually gains a peaceful existence studying the natural world (which, in fact, von Chamisso did, as well, becoming a well-known naturalist later in life).

[Here’s a LINK to a translation of the story by Michael Haldane.]

More than a century later, the early modern fantasy writer, Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

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reused the idea of buying or trading shadows in his 1926 novel, The Charwoman’s Shadow.

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A charwoman, or, simply, “char” (“char” is the same as “chore”, meaning “a task”), in the UK means a kind of cleaning woman.

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When it comes to fantasies, the idea that this may be about the shadow not of a princess, or at least a lady in distress, but of an ordinary cleaning lady, is immediately intriguing, but the charwoman isn’t really the main character.  That’s Ramon, the son of an impoverished Spanish nobleman.

To earn money for his sister’s dowry, as well as to find a profession, Ramon apprentices himself to a wizard who deals, among other things, in shadows.  As payment for his learning, Ramon uses his shadow—but, just like Peter Schlemihl before him, quickly comes to regret it.  The charwoman works in the wizard’s house and, as Ramon slowly learns spells, he also learns her story and what has happened to her since she traded away her shadow long before.

In a moment of chivalry (the story takes place in Spain in what’s called the Siglo de Oro, the “Golden Century”—the early 16th to the later 17th centuries–when wealth from the New World made Spain a world power, as well as a leader in the arts), Ramon promises to rescue the Charwoman’s shadow for her.  In the house of a wizard, you can imagine that this won’t be easy, but, eventually, and through ingenuity, he does so, only to discover that—but you should really read the story for yourself.

[Unfortunately, as this book was published in 1926, it’s still under copyright here in the US, so we can’t offer our usual LINK, but we can offer you Peter and Wendy (1911), the novel version of Barrie’s 1904 play—LINK.]

In contrast to shadows which can be traded or lost, what’s interesting to us about Sauron’s shadow is that it’s no more than a suggestion of the appearance of its owner, who, although he casts that shadow over all of Middle-earth, never appears physically in the novel.  The Nazgul—shadowy figures themselves—represent him, but Sauron himself is never more than a shadow and, in fact, when he is eventually destroyed, it’s his shadow we see broken and swept away:

“And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky.  Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent:  for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.”  (The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter 4, “The Field of Cormallen”)

That “little shadow”, then, certainly has more uses than the child in Stevenson’s poem will ever see.

Thanks, as ever, for reading.

MTCIDC

CD

Helm (2)

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As ever, dear readers, welcome.

In our last, we focused upon the helmets worn by Tolkien and other European and US soldiers in the Great War, the French

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the German,

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and the British (US troops eventually settled on the British pattern).

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The British helmet, we said, has produced the common comment that it looks like it was inspired by the medieval “kettle helm” (the second image being from the 13th-century Maciejowski Bible—but these helmets were clearly so practical that they continued to be used well beyond that time).

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“inspired by medieval” is the way we commonly see JRRT’s Middle-earth, and it made us wonder about the kinds of helmets we would meet in The Lord of the Rings.  Unfortunately, if there were a concordance (that is, a book dedicated to listing all the times various words are used within a text, like this concordance for Homer’s Odyssey)

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for Tolkien’s work, we are betting that perhaps the only word we would find there would be “helm”, which is generic, unless one adds “great”, which produces a more specific kind of head protection, looking like these, in use from the late 12th to the mid-14th centuries—

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With only “helm” to go on, what clues might help us better to visualize what warriors are wearing?

We’ve suggested before that one possible visual resource for JRRT’s images of medieval warfare was the work of the American illustrator, Howard Pyle (1853-1911), in books like The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903), which Tolkien could have read as a boy.

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And here’s a well-known illustration—with a knight in a great helm, in fact.

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But what did Pyle use for models?

In Pyle’s time, the collection and classification of armor was still at its very beginnings (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York only instituted an Arms and Armor Department in 1912, for example).  We can only assume, then, that he thought “knights = medieval” and so any armor might do.  (If Arthur were real—there’s been argument about this for many years—he would have lived centuries before the medieval period and so would have had neither knights nor the military equipment of later days anyway.  As myth, Arthur can live at any time, of course.  We think of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, where, at one moment, we’re facing Huns and, at the next moment, Vikings.)

If Pyle were one of JRRT’s sources, then, “helm” can easily stand for any kind of protective headgear made of metal and vaguely medieval.  We think that there is more to be said on this, however, and we’ll go into a bit more detail about helmets in The Lord of the Rings in the third part of this little series, but, for now, we want to concentrate on one helmet in particular.

Normally, one thinks of helmets as protection, but, in the novel, we see one also used as a disguise, as Eowyn becomes “Dernhelm” (Old English dirne, “hidden/secret” + helm “head covering/helmet”, so, something like “a helm which hides”?).

What kind of helmet, we asked ourselves, would Eowyn be wearing which would:

  1. keep her identity hidden
  2. blend in with the helmets of other Rohirrim?

We began by looking at modern illustrations of Eowyn but, unfortunately, a cursory survey shows us that almost all modern illustrators appear to have chosen the same scene:  the moment when Eowyn has removed her helmet when facing the Witch King.

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So far, we’ve found only a few artists who capture the previous moment:

  1. whose name so far has eluded us, but who shows a rear view of something which looks rather like a French Great War helmet.

image12helm.jpg

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  1. the second, another anonymous (to us), again shows Eowyn from behind, but with a style of helmet which appears to owe more to fantasy than to any medieval reality—

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and perhaps a little something to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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  1. the third is Christian Schwager, based in New Zealand.

image16schwager.jpg Her armor is full plate, which, in our world, is later medieval.  As for the helmet, it somewhat resembles a visored sallet, but only vaguely.

image17sallet.jpg

And that plume and its placement strike us as problematic, at best.

  1. the last is the well-known fantasy illustrator, Frank Frazetta, and although we enjoy some of his work, this illustration suggests to us that the artist doesn’t appear to have taken the scene–or Eowyn– seriously—or practically.

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As we wrote in a post some time ago, the basis of the Rohirrim is Anglo-Saxon, men who wore long mail shirts and conical spangenhelm,

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making them look very much like dismounted versions of their Norman opponents, both being shown in the following panel from the Bayeux Tapestry.

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A characteristic feature of the spangenhelm is that nasal—the bar which comes down to protect the wearer’s nose.

image21spang.jpg

Potentially, this and the helmet’s brim might shade the eyes and make the face less visible.

image22

 

So, with the need for disguise and blending-in being crucial, and only “helm” to go on in the text, we asked ourselves what did the two artists who acted as inspiration for Jackson’s films, Alan Lee and John Howe, choose to do? Here’s a picture of the battlefield confrontation by Lee—

image23lee

 

Eowyn is, as in the case  of other illustrators, here depicted as having removed her helmet, and, even under magnification, it’s difficult to make much out.  Howe, however, has given us a very detailed picture.

image24howe.jpg

It’s clear, however, that, in choosing to emphasize the dirne in “Dernhelm”, he’s stepped away from the world of knights entirely and into a slightly older world, that of the Vikings, as his helmet more closely resembles the so-called “spectacle helmets”, of which a few examples survive from Viking burials, like this, reconstructed from a discovery at Gjermundbu, in Norway.  (For a very useful view of Viking helmets in general, follow this LINK.)

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In turn, Jackson’s designers have followed Lee—

image26eo.jpg

This certainly gives us the “hidden/secret” part of “Dernhelm”, but what about the idea of blending in?  Looking at a group shot of Rohirrim, we find a little surprise.

image27ro.jpg

Instead of looking like Anglo-Saxons, as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, Jackson’s Rohirrim look more like Vikings—and so Eowyn’s helmet blends right in (in fact, in this picture, you can see at least one other warrior with a spectacled helmet), almost as if her helmet and its secrecy requirement have been the basis for all of the warriors of Rohan.

There are lots of other helmets to pursue, however, which we’ll do in our next, so, with thanks to you, dear readers, for reading this, we’ll say

MTCIDC,

CD