Monday, July 13, 2020

The Golden Bough Readalong: Part the Fifth

This is such a weird summer.  It's both boring and stressful.  There is almost nothing to do, which is kind of restful but also no fun.  I've decluttered a bunch of areas, though, so that is nice.  And this week my oldest is coming home for a visit and a birthday!

So what has Sir James Frazer been up to?  I read chapters 25-30 in the last couple of weeks.

XXV.  Temporary Kings: So, instead of getting killed while still in the prime of life, in order to preserve the land at full strength, some kings figured out ways to get around it, such as installing a temporary king who has to go through a mock execution, or some other such dodge.  Here are various examples of temporary kings.

XXVI.  Sacrifice of the King's Son: Often those temporary kings do have to come from the royal family, in order to represent the king properly.  Who better than the actual son?  [I see some potential problems with this, actually...]  Frazer cites a legendary king of Sweden who sacrificed NINE of his sons to Odin -- not all at once, but one at a time in order to preserve his own life.  The tenth son survived because the people wouldn't let him be killed.  There are also some gruesome Greek legends about sons being sacrificed. 

XXVII.  Succession to the Soul: Frazer theorizes that when the king is killed, his divine kingly soul is believed to be transferred to his successor -- another reason to kill off your king while in the prime of life.  This has to be speculation [dude, MUCH of this book is speculation] but here are some examples of somewhat related practices.

XXVIII.  The Killing of the Tree-Spirit.
  1.  The Whitsuntide Mummers: Frazer figures this all fits right into the King of the Wood at Nemi, who must be slain by his successor.  As soon as he can be beaten by a challenger, he should die and the challenger take over the divine right.  Well, are there any examples in Europe of periodic slayings of "the human representatives of the tree-spirit"?  Oh, most certainly!  Here are a whole lot of examples of European peasants' spring-time rituals about killing a tree and bringing it back to life in a younger form.
  2. Burying the Carnival: Let's see if we can show that a belief in killing and resurrecting a god, any god, was a thing back in pastoral and agricultural societies.  That would make this speculative argument more probable, yes?  So here are lots of ceremonies about killing Death, or various other things, at Carnival (Mardi Gras, just before Lent starts).
  3. Carrying Out Death: This is similar to the Carnival ceremonies, except it also comes with bringing in Summer or Life.  Generally this involves the girls and boys of a village doing a ceremonial driving-out and funeral for Death, and then singing about bringing Summer in.
  4. Bringing in Summer: Or, to get even more elaborate, they might actually enact a bringing-Summer-in play.
  5. Battle of Summer and Winter: This kind of ceremony might wind up being a mock battle between Winter and Summer, and Summer isn't usually guaranteed to win.  But you sure hope it will.
  6. Death and Resurrection of Kostrubonko: In Russia, these ceremonies happen at spring and midsummer, and instead of calling it Death or Carnival, they call it various mythical names, such as Kostroma or Yarilo.  [Yarilo is delicately described as a "Priapus-like figure."]
  7. Death and Revival of Vegetation: So, these are clearly all pretty much the same thing, and the Russian version shows that "Kostrubonko, Yarilo, and the rest must also have been originally embodiments of the spirit of vegetation, and their death must have been regarded as a necessary preliminary to their revival."  But why the glee and excitement about killing off the spirit?  Why the dread of the first, old spirit?  "We must therefore recognise two distinct and seemingly opposite features in these ceremonies: on the one hand, sorrow for the death, and affection and respect for the dead; on the other hand, fear and hatred of the dead, and rejoicings at his death. How the former of these features is to be explained I have attempted to show: how the latter came to be so closely associated with the former is a question which I shall try to answer in the sequel."
  8. Analogous Rites in India: Report of a spring fair in one part of India that sounds kind of similar.
  9. The Magic Spring: A meditation on how early societies may not have understood the cycle of the year; sounds pretty improbable to me.  Then a description of an Australian aboriginal 'spring rite' which contains theories that are obviously embarrassingly wrong even to my uneducated mind.
XXIX.  The Myth of Adonis: Meditations on the transition from magic to religion, and how people have used both to try to get the most important things in life: food and children.  Let's talk about the Eastern Mediterranean countries, where many societies worshiped a young man god who died and rose, and was clearly a vegetation spirit: Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Attis.  In Frazer's telling, Adonis was beloved of Aphrodite, and wound up a sort of male version of Persephone.

XXX.  Adonis in Syria: Byblus in Syria and Paphos in Cyprus were major sites of Adonis-worship.  A bit about the ancient rites there.

Phew!  That chapter XXVIII was a doozy.  There's a lot of interesting stuff in here.  But Frazer seems determined to believe that ancient magic practices were taken so very seriously that people thought they actually controlled the seasons and weather themselves.  This strikes me as very, no, extremely unlikely.  It seems much more reasonable to suppose that people did their magic rituals in order to encourage things to go well, because it was so obvious that things could go disastrously wrong very easily.  One of my favorite historians, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, seems to me to have a much more plausible explanation in Dancing Goddesses, a book I loved and have been wanting to re-read.  Also, Frazer interprets everything he reads in the light of his own theory, which works kind of OK for Europe, and much less well for cultures he doesn't know much about.  It's absolutely disastrous when he talks about Australians.

I think I'm now at a half-way point , so I'm feeling pretty good about this routine of reading 3 chapters a week and making summary posts.

Some quotations:
But perhaps, for our purpose, the most instructive of these mimic executions is the following Bohemian one. In some places of the Pilsen district (Bohemia) on Whit-Monday the King is dressed in bark, ornamented with flowers and ribbons; he wears a crown of gilt paper and rides a horse, which is also decked with flowers. Attended by a judge, an executioner, and other characters, and followed by a train of soldiers, all mounted, he rides to the village square, where a hut or arbour of green boughs has been erected under the May-trees, which are firs, freshly cut, peeled to the top, and dressed with flowers and ribbons. After the dames and maidens of the village have been criticised and a frog beheaded, the cavalcade rides to a place previously determined upon, in a straight, broad street. Here they draw up in two lines and the King takes to flight. He is given a short start and rides off at full speed, pursued by the whole troop. If they fail to catch him he remains King for another year, and his companions must pay his score at the ale-house in the evening. But if they overtake and catch him he is scourged with hazel rods or beaten with the wooden swords and compelled to dismount. Then the executioner asks, “Shall I behead this King?” The answer is given, “Behead him”; the executioner brandishes his axe, and with the words, “One, two, three, let the King headless be!” he strikes off the King’s crown. Amid the loud cries of the bystanders the King sinks to the ground; then he is laid on a bier and carried to the nearest farmhouse.   [Wait, the girls are criticized and a frog beheaded??  This has no other context or explanation.]

I have already conjectured that the annual flight of the priestly king at Rome (regifugium) was at first a flight of the same kind; in other words, that he was originally one of those divine kings who are either put to death after a fixed period or allowed to prove by the strong hand or the fleet foot that their divinity is vigorous and unimpaired. One more point of resemblance may be noted between the Italian King of the Wood and his northern counterparts. In Saxony and Thüringen the representative of the tree-spirit, after being killed, is brought to life again by a doctor. This is exactly what legend affirmed to have happened to the first King of the Wood at Nemi, Hippolytus or Virbius, who after he had been killed by his horses was restored to life by the physician Aesculapius. Such a legend tallies well with the theory that the slaying of the King of the Wood was only a step to his revival or resurrection in his successor.

In Russia funeral ceremonies like those of “Burying the Carnival” and “Carrying out Death” are celebrated under the names, not of Death or the Carnival, but of certain mythic figures, Kostrubonko, Kostroma, Kupalo, Lada, and Yarilo. These Russian ceremonies are observed both in spring and at midsummer. Thus “in Little Russia it used to be the custom at Eastertide to celebrate the funeral of a being called Kostrubonko, the deity of the spring. A circle was formed of singers who moved slowly around a girl who lay on the ground as if dead, and as they went they sang:

Dead, dead is our Kostrubonko!
Dead, dead is our dear one!

until the girl suddenly sprang up, on which the chorus joyfully exclaimed:

Come to life, come to life has our Kostrubonko!
Come to life, come to life has our dear one!’”

At a certain stage of development men seem to have imagined that the means of averting the threatened calamity were in their own hands, and that they could hasten or retard the flight of the seasons by magic art. Accordingly they performed ceremonies and recited spells to make the rain to fall, the sun to shine, animals to multiply, and the fruits of the earth to grow. In course of time the slow advance of knowledge, which has dispelled so many cherished illusions, convinced at least the more thoughtful portion of mankind that the alternations of summer and winter, of spring and autumn, were not merely the result of their own magical rites, but that some deeper cause, some mightier power, was at work behind the shifting scenes of nature. They now pictured to themselves the growth and decay of vegetation, the birth and death of living creatures, as effects of the waxing or waning strength of divine beings, of gods and goddesses, who were born and died, who married and begot children, on the pattern of human life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Summerbook #6: The View From the Cheap Seats

Oh, I do like Neil Gaiman, though as usual I'm late to the party.  This is a very long collection of non-fiction -- I have noticed before that absolutely everybody wants him to write introductions.  So I took it fairly slowly and read it over lunches, so as not to overdose.  Gaiman, however, is not easy to overdose on.

The book starts with my very favorite essay, which I would have put in front too, the one about how important libraries are.  I may be a librarian, but since I'm not a writer, I can't defend libraries with quite this much eloquence.  If you've never read this one, be sure to do so.  I gave you the link, so you have no excuse. 

After that there are some more good essays on various bookish and writing topics before a set of pieces on 'People I Have Known,' which of course include the expected DWJ, Pterry, and Douglas Adams, as well as lots of other well-known and not so famous people.  (Neil Gaiman, fortunate fellow, has known an incredible number of really neat people, and I felt particularly envious about the Frouds, not to mention Ray Bradbury.)  Then there are sections on SF, films, comics, music, fairy tales...all of the topics you would figure on. 

I added quite a few titles to my TBR list; did you know that Kipling wrote horror stories?  Because I didn't.  Other titles went on to my re-reading list, such as American Gods, Sandman, Thurber's The 13 Clocks, and more.  I was happy that he talked about Lud-in-the-Mist, and I might even give The King of Elfland's Daughter a try, even though Lord Dunsany and I do not get along well.  (I was quite tickled to find, however, that Lord Dunsany's name was Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett; no wonder he used Dunsany.)

I particularly enjoyed an aside pointing out that "European MTV is the only channel in the world worse than American MTV," because having been subjected to large doses of European MTV back in about 1991, to this day I cannot listen to Erasure's "Chorus" or that one song "More Than Words."  

Finally there are some really great pieces at the end, one of which is Gaiman's other famous speech, "Make Good Art," plus some other things that I think must have been favorites and things he thought were important.

The favorite bits:
[on the PEN dinner for Charlie Hebdo]  Comics and cartoons can viscerally upset and offend people.  Cartoons and comics get banned and cartoonists get imprisoned and killed.  Some comics are hard to defend, especially if you prefer prettier drawing styles, lack cultural context, or were hoping for subtlety.  But that does not mean that they should not be defended.

[on meeting Terry Pratchett for the first time]   The author, a former journalist, has a hat, but it's a small, black leathery cap, not a Proper Author Hat.  Not yet.  The journalist has a hat too.  It's a grayish thing, sort of like the ones Humphrey Bogart wears in movies, only when the journalist wears it he doesn't look like Humphrey Bogart; he looks like someone wearing a grown-up's hat.  The journalist is slowly discovering that, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot become a hat person; it's not just that it itches and blows off at inconvenient moments, its that he forgets, and leaves it in restaurants, and is now getting very used to knocking on the doors of restaurants about eleven a.m. and asking if they found a hat.  One day, very soon now, the journalist will stop bothering with hats, and decide to buy a black leather jacket instead.

Why do we need the things in books? The poems, the essays, the stories? Authors disagree. Authors are human and fallible and foolish. Stories are lies after all, tales of people who never existed and the things that never actually happened to them. Why should we read them? Why should we care?
The teller and the tale are very different. We must not forget that.
Ideas–written ideas–are special. They are the way we transmit our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.

[on a letter he received] ...three young men who wanted to know how I could possibly have listed Kipling as a favorite author, given that I was a trendy and enlightened young man and Kipling was, I was informed, a fascist and a racist and a generally evil person.
It was obvious from the letter that they had never actually read any Kipling.  More to the point, they had been told not to....
In truth, Kipling's politics are not mine. But then, it would be a poor sort of world if one were only able to read authors who expressed points of view that one agreed with entirely. It would be a bland sort of world if we could not spend time with people who thought differently, and who saw the world from a different place.

[On Stardust]  I wound up defending it to a journalist who had loved my previous novel, Neverwhere, particularly its social allegories. He had turned Stardust upside down and shaken it, looking for social allegories, and found absolutely nothing of any good purpose.
"What's it for?" he had asked, which is not a question you expect to be asked when you write fiction for a living.
"It's a fairy tale," I told him. "It's like an ice cream. It's to make you feel happy when you finish it."
I don't think that I convinced him, not even a little bit. 

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the good days too.
And Fifthly, while you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.
So, this is a collection very worth reading if you're a Gaiman fan, but if you are, you've probably already done so.  Good stuff.  I would very much like to meet him someday, but if I ever do, I'll tell him that I really like his stuff but what I really want to talk about is Diana Wynne Jones.

And, finally, because I cannot see or hear the words 'cheap seats' without hearing this song in my head, enjoy:

Monday, July 6, 2020

Summerbook #5: Forest of a Thousand Daemons

Forest of a Thousand Daemons: A Hunter's Saga, by D. O. Fagunwa, trans. Wole Soyinka

This is a pretty amazing book and I feel so lucky to have found it.  To sum up, this is the first novel written in Yoruba -- one of the first in any African language -- published in Nigeria in 1939.  It's a major and influential classic in Nigerian literature which draws on Yoruba folk traditions.  Having read the two novels by Amos Tutuola last summer, I can now recognize something of the relationship between the two writers; Tutuola was clearly very influenced by Fagunwa.  Wole Soyinka translated Forest of a Thousand Daemons into English in the mid-1960s, and there is a wonderful note about his translation process, in which he comments, "Fagunwa's beings are not only the natural inhabitants of their creator's haunting-ground; in Yoruba, they sound right in relation to their individual natures, and the most frustrating quality of Fagunwa for a translator is the right sound of his language."   Obviously, only the smallest portion of Fagunwa's language choices can make it into a translation, but Soyinka really must have done a stellar job at it, because the language is individual and evocative, though I cannot claim to know anything much about it.

The narrator of Forest of a Thousand Daemons is not the story-teller; an old man comes to him and asks him to write down his story.  For three days, the man -- Akara-Ogun, 'Compound-of-Spells' -- tells about his experiences, and each day more people come to hear the incredible tales.  Akara-Ogun has been a hunter all his life, and a very skilled one, and a few times he ventured into this forest, a land inhabited by all sorts of spirits and beings, which are generically called ghommids.  His first adventure involves a huge fight with a strong ghommid, a trip to a village of the dead, and a marriage.  Akara-Ogun's second trip is longer; he is captured by a sort of fishy creature who is cruel to him, and only escapes by a trick.  He winds up at the court of the king, and becomes a trusted advisor, foiling several assassination attempts.   Finally, Akara-Ogun and several comrades go on a quest to a mountain kingdom, and have plenty of adventures along the way.

The forest is a very strange landscape, where circumstances change all the time and all sorts of creatures appear -- such as the one that is like an ostrich with a man's head... It all partakes of a dream-like feeling, and reminded me very much of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.  Though of course it's really the other way around!
...he said to us, "Aha, I observe that you fall silent, and the reason for your silence is this -- the key to this world remains in the keeping of God.  Were it in human possession there would be no illness, the poor would not exist, no one would ever know hardship, there would be no servants, everyone would be master in his own house -- and the world would be much worse than it is today."  His words amazed us greatly; they were full of wisdom and we changed our tune and began to tell him, "There is truth in this, old man; do carry on with your wise words."
And, it's illustrated with fabulous woodcuts, too.

I enjoyed this novel so much -- it's really, really strange, and it's a great novel, and I certainly did not understand it one bit, and I'm happy that it's currently in print.  People interested in African literature should definitely have it on a must-read list.  I think it really helped that I had already read some of Tutuola and Soyinka, but also that is not necessary.

Extra thoughts:

Getting to read translated literature at all is a gift, but it's always a limited one, because you can never really get the fullness, the complete feeling, of the original text.  Even if I could learn Yoruba, or Hindi, or Russian -- without a truly deep understanding of a language, I couldn't hope to really know the text.  (Take this far enough and you'll wind up in Bakhtin territory, and that way lies madness.)  I wish I could understand so many languages!  It always reminds me of the Grail Knight in the Indiana Jones movie; he could have said, "That is the boundary, and the price, of reading literature in translation."

But Soyinka continues in his translator's note: "The essential Fagunwa, as with all truly valid literature, survives the inhibitions of strange tongues and bashful idioms."  So it's always worth reading translated literature; 90% is a lot better than zero.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Summerbook #4: Edward Lear

This one got on my list because of the Slightly Foxed podcast, which luckily is only monthly, because it usually adds at least one book to my wishlist.  When I looked this one up, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it in our library collection at work.  So I took it right home.

I only know Edward Lear as a writer of nonsense verse, but that isn't what he did for a living.  And he was just a lovely man, but he had a really difficult life.  So here we go...

Edward was the 20th child of his very tired mother (she had 22!!! and a lot of them died), and after he was about 4, she left him to his older sister.  The sister was kind and loving, but the poor little guy was devastated, and his parents had an awful marriage.  That and a couple other things he never talked about just blighted his life; he was terribly lonely, yet couldn't really contemplate living with anyone.

He also had epilepsy, which at the time was a terribly shameful condition.  People were only just barely beginning to realize that it wasn't actual demonic possession.  Regular work and exercise were the best thing for keeping seizures at bay, but they were still frequent.  Fortunately, he could feel them coming on, and so managed to keep his condition a complete secret from all his friends.  This was another factor that kept him alone; if he'd really shared a home, he would have had to tell.

Young Edward wanted to be a painter, but could not afford the expensive Academy education, and started by doing botanical illustrations, moving on to birds.  He produced wonderful paintings of various parrot species.  Then he started traveling in order to draw and paint various landscapes, and decided that his vocation was to be a landscape painter.  There were a couple of problems, though; without the technical education he needed, he was not very good at drawing people, nor could he paint well in oils.  He came upon the scene just as landscape painting was losing popularity in favor of Millais' rather sentimental tableaux.  Lear's exact and delicate watercolors couldn't be printed in books very well, either.  He did do several books, but the images had to be re-done in another format, which was expensive and could only achieve an approximation.  Still, mid-Victorian English people had a massive appetite for information about other lands that we probably can't even fathom, blessed as we are to have color photos of any place on earth (or off it!).

So he spent his years traveling a lot and painting.  Lear couldn't stand the English winters, which meant that he could never find a permanent home; Corfu was as close as he ever got, but it was difficult, because his friend Lushington was there too, and while Lear was quietly in love with Lushington, his feelings were not reciprocated.  Lear also contemplated marriage, but could never take the plunge.  He considered Emily Tennyson his ideal, but she was already married to Tennyson.

But this biography is not one of unrelenting loneliness and tragedy!  Lear was beloved by his many friends, and because he had been so miserable himself as a child, he loved to make people laugh.  He had a gift for sympathy and wanted to make people happy.  There are innumerable funny stories, my favorite being the one where his friend got a prestigious job, and he was so thrilled at the news (which he read while eating breakfast in an Italian pensione) that he grabbed a little fish off the plate and danced around the room with it...until he noticed the family sitting in a nook, eating their own breakfast.  Luckily they were easygoing Italians, and everyone had a good laugh.  (I also liked the one about the fellow in the train who informed Lear with great confidence that this fictional 'Edward Lear' person was really a pseudonym for the Earl of Darby.)

I did really enjoy this biography, which I have now talked about so much that you might feel that you've already got enough information.  Don't let that stop you; it's a really lovely book about a man who turned his many personal tragedies into an ability to love and sympathize with others.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Summerbook #3: Thames: The Biography

I've really been having a very Thames/London/UK-themed month, which wasn't on purpose but has been pretty enjoyable.

Peter Ackroyd is a British writer given to long, meandering historical books, and I've read a couple of them.  I enjoyed Albion pretty well, and London Under was mostly irritating.  I was really looking forward to Thames, and it was interesting.  It was also irritating.  I'd say about 50/50 of each.

It's a solid 400 pages of mixed history, myth, story, and Ackroyd's habit of putting in sentences that sound deep but only sometimes actually mean anything very much.   Any aspect of the river you can think of is in there: river work, river superstitions and traditions, river artists and writers, saints and fish and death.  Ackroyd wants to be comprehensive.

He kicks off with a statement that I find aggravatingly arrogant: that the Thames "can fairly claim to be the most historic (and certainly the most eventful) river in the world."  What, more historic than the Nile?  Than the Ganges?  The Tigris and Euphrates?  You're not selling me here, Peter; I want to enjoy this book but that's not a good start.  The Thames is very very historic indeed, but not more so than the NILE.

Before I complain too much, I do want to say that there was a lot to enjoy in this book.  There are lots of interesting stories, a bit of neat science -- I did like quite a lot of it.  That said, Ackroyd is given to a kind of writerly hyperbole that brings out the worst in me, and I go all pedantic.  I know Robert MacFarlane is the darling of UK writing of place, but I find him too self-consciously poetic, and Ackroyd has a similar problem.  Discussing sedimentary layers in geology, he feels the need to say things like "They are ribbons in the hair of Gaia."

And sometimes he makes scientific claims like this one, on water, that are more poetic hyperbole than fact:  "It is perhaps the oldest thing upon the earth.  It has remained unchanged, in every respect, for 3,500 million years.  The seas were formed in the depths of pre-Cambrian time, and there is not one drop more or less than at that inconceivable beginning."  That sounds neat, but it's not true.  Water molecules are broken apart and formed all the time.

He's prone to speculation and generalization which, again, sounds good but isn't in any way based on anything much, such as his comment on the guy in charge of building Old London Bridge, who died before it was quite finished and was interred in the chapel on the bridge: "His burial here may also have been a recognition of the old superstition that, in the foundations of bridges, a human sacrifice must be laid."

Or "The river was thus closely associated with spiritual authority."  Because there were a lot of meetings in various riverside towns...perhaps because they were convenient to get to?

On speech patterns of the Thames Valley:  "There is a special language of the river...There may be some trace here of a primordial language long since fallen out of customary use, perhaps derived from the Wessex or Mercian tongues."

On really big and ancient yew trees, he just gets his measurements a bit wrong and says that they are 29 and 31 feet in diameter, when he has to mean circumference.  (Why didn't anyone catch this?)

Statements that sound deep but mostly aren't:
The river is the oldest thing in London, and it changes not at all.

We are treading upon prehistory.

The creatures of the Thames share the ritual purity of the flowing waters.  (This was on the old habit of eating fish during fasting, which was not because fish were ritually pure.)

The river may heal that which is broken.  (This is from a bit about modern mudlarks, about which Lara Maiklem was a good deal more useful.  Ackroyd waxes poetic about how the official Thames Mudlarks have special intuitive associations with the river and find special things.)
So, maybe not really my kind of thing, but I'm glad to have read it.  I wouldn't trust Ackroyd's facts farther than I could throw Ackroyd himself, though; if I were writing a paper or something I'd go looking for citations.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Golden Bough Readalong: Part the Fourth

Greetings, programs!  Hope you're all doing well in this very hot, boring, yet also scary summer.  We have been watching a lot of Tron, thus the weird salutation.  I'm quite surprised that I managed to make it through my set Golden Bough chapters; I didn't think I would.  So, onward...let's talk about taboos, by which he means pretty much any religious or superstitious practice or belief -- for example the practice of not using a dead person's name anymore.   That is pretty much all I got to read about this time.

XIX.  Tabooed Acts: just huge lists of examples of the following:
  1. Taboos on Intercourse With Strangers
  2. Taboos on Eating and Drinking
  3. Taboos on Showing the Face
  4. Taboos on Quitting the House
  5. Taboos on Leaving Food Over
XX.  Tabooed Persons:
  1. Chiefs and Kings Tabooed: they're so powerful that using their things would hurt others.
  2. Mourners Tabooed
  3. Women Tabooed at Menstruation and Childbirth
  4. Warriors Tabooed
  5. Manslayers Tabooed
  6. Hunters and Fishers Tabooed
XXI.  Tabooed Things
  1. Iron Tabooed
  2. Sharp Weapons Tabooed
  3. Blood Tabooed
  4. The Head Tabooed
  5. Hair Tabooed
  6. Ceremonies at Hair-Cutting
  7. Disposal of Cut Hair and Nails
  8. Spittle Tabooed
  9. Foods Tabooed
  10. Knots and Rings Tabooed
XXII.  Tabooed Words
  1. Personal Names Tabooed
  2. Names of Relations Tabooed
  3. Names of the Dead Tabooed
  4. Names of Kings and Other Sacred Persons Tabooed
  5. Names of Gods Tabooed
XXIII.  Our Debt to the Savage: Frazer here stops and summarizes the argument so far, and issues a warning that even though he totally thinks of people as existing in a hierarchy from low to high, with the Oxford don at the top, this should not lead to arrogance or contempt for others.  I'll just quote the salient part here, because I do appreciate this, that he recognized that we can't just go around thinking we're more enlightened and clever than other folks.  His vocabulary is pretty offensive to the modern reader, so it's nice to know.
But to stigmatise these premises [beliefs] as ridiculous because we can easily detect their falseness, would be ungrateful as well as unphilosophical. We stand upon the foundation reared by the generations that have gone before, and we can but dimly realise the painful and prolonged efforts which it has cost humanity to struggle up to the point, no very exalted one after all, which we have reached. Our gratitude is due to the nameless and forgotten toilers, whose patient thought and active exertions have largely made us what we are. The amount of new knowledge which one age, certainly which one man, can add to the common store is small, and it argues stupidity or dishonesty, besides ingratitude, to ignore the heap while vaunting the few grains which it may have been our privilege to add to it. There is indeed little danger at present of undervaluing the contributions which modern times and even classical antiquity have made to the general advancement of our race. But when we pass these limits, the case is different. Contempt and ridicule or abhorrence and denunciation are too often the only recognition vouchsafed to the savage and his ways. Yet of the benefactors whom we are bound thankfully to commemorate, many, perhaps most, were savages. For when all is said and done our resemblances to the savage are still far more numerous than our differences from him; and what we have in common with him, and deliberately retain as true and useful, we owe to our savage forefathers who slowly acquired by experience and transmitted to us by inheritance those seemingly fundamental ideas which we are apt to regard as original and intuitive. We are like heirs to a fortune which has been handed down for so many ages that the memory of those who built it up is lost, and its possessors for the time being regard it as having been an original and unalterable possession of their race since the beginning of the world. But reflection and enquiry should satisfy us that to our predecessors we are indebted for much of what we thought most our own, and that their errors were not wilful extravagances or the ravings of insanity, but simply hypotheses, justifiable as such at the time when they were propounded, but which a fuller experience has proved to be inadequate. It is only by the successive testing of hypotheses and rejection of the false that truth is at last elicited. After all, what we call truth is only the hypothesis which is found to work best. Therefore in reviewing the opinions and practices of ruder ages and races we shall do well to look with leniency upon their errors as inevitable slips made in the search for truth, and to give them the benefit of that indulgence which we ourselves may one day stand in need of: cum excusatione itaque veteres audiendi sunt.

XXIV.  The Killing of the Divine King: finally, we're done with taboos.  This bit is pretty good.
  1. The Mortality of the Gods: Many peoples have not thought of their gods as immortals; they could get old and die.
  2. Kings Killed When Their Strength Fails: Since the health of the land and people depend on the health of the king, everybody has to take especial care of him, but what about when he gets old?   It might be a good idea to kill the king once he gets old and infirm, so that his kingly soul/power can pass to a younger, more vigorous ruler.
  3. Kings Killed at the End of a Fixed Term:  It might even be unwise to wait until grey hairs appear.  Some peoples just give the king 12, or 7, or 5 years and then kill him.  Maybe even once a year!  But aha, some kings figured out a way around this by getting proxies to die and staying alive themselves.  Or you could make somebody king for a day, and then kill him right off!   There are lots of clever ways to get around it.

So by now I'm pretty tired of the word taboo.  All those practices were pretty interesting, and it was easy to read because it was all stories about cultural beliefs, but on the other hand he's not providing footnotes.  I am excited about all this temporary kings stuff, so I'm looking forward to the next bit.  Here are some fun quotations:
The ancient Greeks believed that the soul of a man who had just been killed was wroth with his slayer and troubled him; wherefore it was needful even for the involuntary homicide to depart from his country for a year until the anger of the dead man had cooled down; nor might the slayer return until sacrifice had been offered and ceremonies of purification performed. If his victim chanced to be a foreigner, the homicide had to shun the native country of the dead man as well as his own. The legend of the matricide Orestes, how he roamed from place to place pursued by the Furies of his murdered mother, and none would sit at meat with him, or take him in, till he had been purified, reflects faithfully the real Greek dread of such as were still haunted by an angry ghost.

In the island of Uap, one of the Caroline group, every fisherman plying his craft lies under a most strict taboo during the whole of the fishing season, which lasts for six or eight weeks. Whenever he is on shore he must spend all his time in the men’s clubhouse, and under no pretext whatever may he visit his own house or so much as look upon the faces of his wife and womenkind. Were he but to steal a glance at them, they think that flying fish must inevitably bore out his eyes at night.   [I figured Uap must be Yap Island, and indeed it is.]

This practice of observing strict chastity as a condition of success in hunting and fishing is very common among rude races; and the instances of it which have been cited render it probable that the rule is always based on a superstition rather than on a consideration of the temporary weakness which a breach of the custom may entail on the hunter or fisherman. In general it appears to be supposed that the evil effect of incontinence is not so much that it weakens him, as that, for some reason or other, it offends the animals, who in consequence will not suffer themselves to be caught.   [Ahahaha, I like this one because it shows him holding a belief that is now exploded.]

At Babylon, within historical times, the tenure of the kingly office was in practice lifelong, yet in theory it would seem to have been merely annual. For every year at the festival of Zagmuk the king had to renew his power by seizing the hands of the image of Marduk in his great temple of Esagil at Babylon. Even when Babylon passed under the power of Assyria, the monarchs of that country were expected to legalise their claim to the throne every year by coming to Babylon and performing the ancient ceremony at the New Year festival, and some of them found the obligation so burdensome that rather than discharge it they renounced the title of king altogether and contented themselves with the humbler one of Governor. Further, it would appear that in remote times, though not within the historical period, the kings of Babylon or their barbarous predecessors forfeited not merely their crown but their life at the end of a year’s tenure of office.   [He doesn't explain why it would be difficult to perform this ceremony.  Anybody know?]

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Summerbook #2: Oroonoko

Oroonoko, or, the Royal Slave, by Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn (1640-1689) was...well, an international woman of mystery.  She had several names besides Aphra: Ann Behn,  Agent 160 and Astrea, her pen name.   She deliberately told different stories about her youth, so it's not at all clear where she was from or who her parents were.  She may have been brought up Catholic?  She might have done some time in debtor's prison?  She definitely was hired by Charles II as a spy, and worked in Antwerp -- not that he ever paid her.  She almost certainly didn't spend time in the English colony of Willoughbyland (!) before it was sold to the Dutch (you know it as Suriname, north of Brazil), but she said she did.  She probably married Johan Behn (who may have been Dutch or German), and he maybe died, or they separated...anyway, she took the name Behn.  What her name was before is uncertain; she variously claimed Amis, Cooper, and Johnson.   She was one of the very first professional women writers in English, writing plays both tragic and comic, and this sort of proto-novel, and mixed with the well-known dramatists and writers of the day.  Quite a lady.

Oroonoko was published in 1688, just a year before her death at age 48.  It's not quite a novel, but it's pretty close, and it claims to be a sort of memoir -- a record of events that she witnessed herself 20 years previously, or heard about from the people involved.  So she's a minor character in the story, but as far as anybody can figure out, she was probably never in Surinam, as she calls it.  Oroonoko is sometimes celebrated as the first anti-slavery novel; I'm not quite sure it is that, but it's pretty close.  It's certainly interesting, and worth reading.

This is the story of a noble African prince.  Oronooko is the grandson of the king in Coromantien -- which you know as part of Ghana.  He is a paragon of courage, intelligence, handsomeness, and all good things, and he falls in love with his natural partner, Imoinda, who is not only the most beautiful maiden around, she is intelligent, accomplished, brave, and loyal.  They plan to marry, but the king throws a wrench into the works by ordering Imoinda into his harem, even though he's too old do much with her.  The star-crossed lovers eventually meet and plan to run away, but they are discovered, and the king punishes them by selling Imoinda into slavery and not killing Oronooko.

Oronooko is soon trapped into slavery himself, and taken off to Surinam, where everyone notices what a great heart he has.  He is called Caesar because of his natural nobility, and pretty soon he discovers that Imoinda has also ended up in Surinam!  So they live together in happiness, and many of the colonists like and respect them.  Oronooko impresses everyone with his hunting prowess, but he is obviously unhappy.  He encourages all the other Africans to revolt with him; they'll just run off into the jungle and settle somewhere, and live free.

Tragically, it's impossible for the large crowd to disappear completely, and after a few days, they are tracked down.  Oroonoko would be happy to fight for his freedom, but tries to negotiate an agreement.  None of the promises are kept, and he is tortured.  Knowing what lies in store for his beloved wife, he resolves to kill her before exacting revenge on his enemies.

Oroonoko and Imoinda are paragons of humanity, above everyone else they meet.   Europeans are portrayed as outwardly civilized, but barbarous and cruel; they make promises and enter into contracts, but never keep their word.  The native people of Surinam are shown as honest and in a state of primeval innocence which institutions would only destroy.  They are also unwilling to work for Europeans, and are able to avoid them; thus the importation of captured Africans to do the hard labor of the colony.   Thrown into a new and unfamiliar country, they cannot escape so easily, and become the victims of the colonists' casual cruelty. 

Since Behn was almost certainly never actually in Surinam, and probably never saw a colony or a plantation, she can't write from experience.  She gives it a pretty good shot, though, and I'd bet it was good enough for anybody who hadn't been a colonist.  As well as the social order, she describes scenery, plants, and animals: marmots, parrots, "tygers" (jaguars?), and small wildcats. 

Some quotations:
And ’tis most evident and plain, that simple Nature is the most harmless, inoffensive and vertuous Mistress. ’Tis she alone, if she were permitted, that better instructs the World, than all the Inventions of Man: Religion would here but destroy that Tranquillity they possess by Ignorance; and Laws would but teach ’em to know Offences, of which now they have no Notion.

The very Wood of all these Trees has an intrinsic Value, above common Timber; for they are, when cut, of different Colours, glorious to behold, and bear a Price considerable, to inlay withal. Besides this, they yield rich Balm, and Gums; so that we make our Candles of such an aromatic Substance, as does not only give a sufficient Light, but as they burn, they cast their Perfumes all about. Cedar is the common Firing, and all the Houses are built with it. The very Meat we eat, when set on the Table, if it be native, I mean of the Country, perfumes the whole Room; especially a little Beast call’d an Armadilly, a Thing which I can liken to nothing so well as a Rhinoceros; ’tis all in white Armour, so jointed, that it moves as well in it, as if it had nothing on: This Beast is about the Bigness of a Pig of six Weeks old.

At other times he would go a Fishing; and discoursing on that Diversion, he found we had in that Country a very strange Fish, call’d a Numb-Eel, (an Eel of which I have eaten) that while it is alive, it has a Quality so cold, that those who are angling, tho’ with a Line of ever so great a Length, with a Rod at the End of it, it shall in the same Minute the Bait is touch’d by this Eel, seize him or her that holds the Rod with a Numbness, that shall deprive ’em of Sense for a While; and some have fallen into the Water, and others drop’d, as dead, on the Banks of the Rivers where they stood, as soon as this Fish touches the Bait. Cæsar us’d to laugh at this, and believ’d it impossible a Man could lose his Force at the Touch of a Fish; and could not understand that Philosophy, that a cold Quality should be of that Nature; however, he had a great Curiosity to try whether it would have the same Effect on him it had on others, and often try’d, but in vain. At last, the sought-for Fish came to the Bait, as he stood angling on the Bank; and instead of throwing away the Rod, or giving it a sudden Twitch out of the Water, whereby he might have caught both the Eel, and have dismiss’d the Rod, before it could have too much Power over him; for Experiment-sake, he grasp’d it but the harder, and fainting, fell into the River; and being still possess’d of the Rod, the Tide carry’d him, senseless as he was, a great Way, till an Indian Boat took him up; and perceiv’d, when they touch’d him, a Numbness seize them, and by that knew the Rod was in his Hand; which with a Paddle, (that is a short Oar) they struck away, and snatch’d it into the Boat, Eel and all. If Cæsar was almost dead, with the Effect of this Fish, he was more so with that of the Water, where he had remain’d the Space of going a League, and they found they had much ado to bring him back to Life; but at last they did, and brought him home, where he was in a few Hours well recover’d and refresh’d, and not a little asham’d to find he should be overcome by an Eel, and that all the People, who heard his Defiance, would laugh at him. But we chear’d him up; and he being convinc’d, we had the Eel at Supper, which was a quarter of an Ell about, and most delicate Meat; and was of the more Value, since it cost so dear as almost the Life of so gallant a Man.   [It's an electric eel!!]

Cæsar, having singled out these Men from the Women and Children, made an Harangue to ’em, of the Miseries and Ignominies of Slavery; counting up all their Toils and Sufferings, under such Loads, Burdens and Drudgeries, as were fitter for Beasts than Men; senseless Brutes, than human Souls. He told ’em, it was not for Days, Months or Years, but for Eternity; there was no End to be of their Misfortunes: They suffer’d not like Men, who might find a Glory and Fortitude in Oppression; but like Dogs, that lov’d the Whip and Bell, and fawn’d the more they were beaten: That they had lost the divine Quality of Men, and were become insensible Asses, fit only to bear: Nay, worse; an Ass, or Dog, or Horse, having done his Duty, could lie down in Retreat, and rise to work again, and while he did his Duty, endur’d no Stripes; but Men, villanous, senseless Men, such as they, toil’d on all the tedious Week ’till Black Friday; and then, whether they work’d or not, whether they were faulty or meriting, they, promiscuously, the Innocent with the Guilty, suffer’d the infamous Whip, the sordid Stripes, from their Fellow-Slaves, ’till their Blood trickled from all Parts of their Body; Blood, whose every Drop ought to be revenged with a Life of some of those Tyrants that impose it. ‘And why (said he) my dear Friends and Fellow-sufferers, should we be Slaves to an unknown People? Have they vanquished us nobly in Fight? Have they won us in Honourable Battle? And are we by the Chance of War become their Slaves? This would not anger a noble Heart; this would not animate a Soldier’s Soul: No, but we are bought and sold like Apes or Monkeys, to be the Sport of Women, Fools and Cowards; and the Support of Rogues and Runagades, that have abandoned their own Countries for Rapine, Murders, Theft and Villanies. Do you not hear every Day how they upbraid each other with Infamy of Life, below the wildest Salvages? And shall we render Obedience to such a degenerate Race, who have no one human Virtue left, to distinguish them from the vilest Creatures? Will you, I say, suffer the Lash from such Hands?’ They all reply’d with one Accord, ‘No, No, No; Cæsar has spoke like a great Captain, like a great King.’

Aphra Behn is buried at Westminster Abbey, though not in the Poets' Corner.  When I was there in 2016, I found her in the cloister.  Her tombstone says,  "Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defence enough against Mortality."

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Mysteries of Udolpho Readalong: I

I wasn't sure how often I would do a Udolpho update, but after Volume I seems like a good time!  This has been a pretty good pace for me; I'm not having any trouble keeping up, but it doesn't feel like a massive burden.

The plot so far: Emily St. Aubert and her parents live quietly at their estate, enjoying nature, reading, and music, until the death of Madame St. Aubert.  Emily and her father decide to take a tour of the mountains, and on the way they meet a respectable young man, Valancourt.  They all enjoy the scenery together for a while, and Emily and Valancourt get along wonderfully, but nothing is said for the moment.  Once Emily and her father are on their own again, he gets sick and dies, and Emily is left to manage on her own. 

Once at home, Emily carries out the last wishes of her father: that she find some hidden papers and burn them without reading them.  Of course, she inadvertently reads a sentence, and its implication is frightening, but she did promise, so she burns the paper.  What mystery could have lain within?    Soon Valancourt shows up in hopes of courting her, and she has to tell him that she's on her own now and he'll have to wait until she's with her aunt, the vain, frivolous, and mercenary Madame Cheron.

Madame Cheron at first pegs Valancourt as penniless, and shoves him off...until she finds out that he's the nephew of a very rich and influential lady, so he becomes welcome.  She tries to shove the wedding through faster than anybody wants, until the very last minute, when she takes over all the wedding preparations for herself!  All of a sudden everything has changed.  No longer may Emily and Valancourt wed; Emily's going to be whisked off to Italy.  Will the lovers ever see each other again?

There is so much scenery.  Incredible amounts of scenery.  Mountains, forests, and cataracts abound, and they're carefully described, which must have been pretty good stuff if you were a young miss in Kent who never got to go anywhere much.  One thing puzzled me, though, as you can see:
When weary of sauntering among cliffs that seemed scarcely accessible but to the steps of the enthusiast, and where no track appeared on the vegetation, but what the foot of the izard had left; they would seek one of those green recesses, which so beautifully adorn the bosom of these mountains, where, under the shade of the lofty larch, or cedar, they enjoyed their simple repast, made sweeter by the waters of the cool stream, that crept along the turf, and by the breath of wild flowers and aromatic plants, that fringed the rocks, and inlaid the grass.

Emily wished to trip along the turf, so green and bright with dew, and to taste the full delight of that liberty, which the izard seemed to enjoy as he bounded along the brow of the cliffs;
The first time I saw izard mentioned, I thought that it might mean lizard, but the second time...lizards don't bound along cliffs.  So what on earth is an izard??  It turns out to be the Pyrenean chamois, a kind of mountain goat or antelope, and I suppose it's pronounced i-ZARD, not IH-zard, as it is in my brain.  Izards were hunted nearly to extinction in the 1940s -- for the soft leather -- but the population is now recovering fairly well.
The izard
Besides wandering in the mountains and admiring the sublime views, Emily also enjoys sitting at the window, looking at scenery and thinking high-minded thoughts.

Nothing very wild happens until the very end of volume I, and even that is unexpected, rude, and ominous, but not bonkers.  For one thing, Mrs. Radcliffe didn't believe in writing off-the-rails Gothic novels; she believed in promoting common sense, intelligence, and virtue, so this is no Monk (Remember the Monk-along?  Good times!)  Mrs. Radcliffe also didn't believe in blatant anti-Catholicism, just the subtle kind, so the nuns we meet have so far all been very kind and hospitable, although is it morally proper for Emily to refuse their invitation to join their convent (there's a quotation about that below).

However, Madame Cheron's boyfriend Signor Montoni is clearly not going to be a good guy.  Emily is full of good sense and courage, so I believe in her ability to overcome!  I'm pretty sure she'll spend the entire second volume in dire straits.

Here are some quotations I noted:
She [Emily] had discovered in her early years uncommon delicacy of mind, warm affections, and ready benevolence; but with these was observable a degree of susceptibility too exquisite to admit of lasting peace. As she advanced in youth, this sensibility gave a pensive tone to her spirits, and a softness to her manner, which added grace to beauty, and rendered her a very interesting object to persons of a congenial disposition. But St. Aubert had too much good sense to prefer a charm to a virtue; and had penetration enough to see, that this charm was too dangerous to its possessor to be allowed the character of a blessing. He endeavoured, therefore, to strengthen her mind; to enure her to habits of self-command; to teach her to reject the first impulse of her feelings, and to look, with cool examination, upon the disappointments he sometimes threw in her way. While he instructed her to resist first impressions, and to acquire that steady dignity of mind, that can alone counterbalance the passions, and bear us, as far as is compatible with our nature, above the reach of circumstances, he taught himself a lesson of fortitude; for he was often obliged to witness, with seeming indifference, the tears and struggles which his caution occasioned her.

During her stay at the convent, the peace and sanctity that reigned within, the tranquil beauty of the scenery without, and the delicate attentions of the abbess and the nuns, were circumstances so soothing to her mind, that they almost tempted her to leave a world, where she had lost her dearest friends, and devote herself to the cloister, in a spot, rendered sacred to her by containing the tomb of St. Aubert. The pensive enthusiasm, too, so natural to her temper, had spread a beautiful illusion over the sanctified retirement of a nun, that almost hid from her view the selfishness of its security. But the touches, which a melancholy fancy, slightly tinctured with superstition, gave to the monastic scene, began to fade, as her spirits revived, and brought once more to her heart an image, which had only transiently been banished thence. By this she was silently awakened to hope and comfort and sweet affections; visions of happiness gleamed faintly at a distance, and, though she knew them to be illusions, she could not resolve to shut them out for ever. It was the remembrance of Valancourt, of his taste, his genius, and of the countenance which glowed with both, that, perhaps, alone determined her to return to the world.

As she mused she saw the door slowly open, and a rustling sound in a remote part of the room startled her. Through the dusk she thought she perceived something move. The subject she had been considering, and the present tone of her spirits, which made her imagination respond to every impression of her senses, gave her a sudden terror of something supernatural. She sat for a moment motionless, and then, her dissipated reason returning, “What should I fear?” said she. “If the spirits of those we love ever return to us, it is in kindness.”

So, the nuns are very kind, but in the end, their lives are "selfish," which I must say is an adjective I've never heard applied to nuns before!  Also, St. Aubert asks Emily to burn the papers because they would make her unhappy, and then she complies because she made a promise.  For myself, I'd rather know unpalatable truths than be protected in ignorance, but that was considered proper back in the day, and nobody asked Emily's opinion about it.  I'm looking forward to what befalls our young heroine next!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Summerbook #1: The Return

This was billed as "one of de la Mare's finest occult stories, this darkly thrilling tale."  It sounded neat, so I took it home.

Arthur Lawford, boring suburban husband, complacent, pudgy, and smug, takes a walk in a graveyard near his house and falls asleep (or swoons) on a gravestone.  When he awakes, he has a new face -- the face of Sabarthier, a stranger buried outside consecrated ground.  Sabarthier's spirit seems to be there too.  His wife and friends don't recognize him, and how to convince them that his tale is true?  What is to be done about it?  Lawford makes the acquaintance of Mr. Herbert, who is just full of interesting theories, and his sister, who is sympathetic.  As he tries to fight off this possession, it may come at the cost of his sanity.

The story was OK, but it was not darkly thrilling and I couldn't always tell what they were talking about, which is a common problem with me and Walter de la Mare.  I keep trying with him, and I need to stop.  It always seems like I will love his stuff, and I just do not.  I don't get him.  It's not that he's a difficult writer, but I often can't tell what he's saying.  So, no more de la Mare for me.  Well, maybe the fairy tales...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Heidi's Alp

Way back in 1985, this British family borrowed a camper-van, bundled their four daughters in, and took weeks to drive around Europe on a storybook-themed trip.  Hardyment, the mom, wrote up this lovely book to tell the story.

Obviously it was a tricky proposition to take that much time off, so what they actually did was start the trip with Mom and four daughters, plus a friend and her year-old baby.  After a few weeks, the friend and baby went home and Dad joined them.  Mom being a writer, she seems to have been able to pull off the long trip.

They start in Holland, with Hans Brinker (which I have actually never read, I really should), exploring the cities and dikes of the Netherlands.  Then it's off to Denmark, where Hans Christian Andersen will be a major guide on the trip; they first visit Legoland, Odense, and Kronborg (that's the castle at Helsingør, Hamlet's Elsinore).  This gave me lots of happy moments, since she's describing places I visited at about the same time.*  They then follow HCA into Germany, stopping at Hamelin for the Pied Piper, and trekking into the Harz Mountains, even into East Germany!  There is a very exciting moment in which they try to drive up the most famous peak, only to be stopped by a DDR soldier who anxiously tries to find the words to say "top secret."


On the whole, Hardyment is a bit hard on Germany, I thought.  She finds West Germans to be bourgeois and complacent, and dislikes sugary tourist traps like Neuschwanstein.  Some of it rubbed me the wrong way.

Then it's off to Italy and the land of Pinocchio and Venice, which are mostly good successes.  I want to go to the Pinocchio park now.  And the greatest part of the trip is traveling to Maienfeld and hiking up into Heidi country, where they find meadows, goats, and even an Alm-Uncle in a cottage, who invites them to stay the night.  After that they are pretty tired, so they noodle around France for a bit before heading home and skip Paris.

I really enjoyed most of this account.  I've always wanted to do something like this myself, of course, so I was hugely envious for most of it.  Hardyment describes everything wonderfully; there's a lot about the children and living in a camper-van (and a few good tips, if you're a parent wanting to travel).  It's a lovely book and I'm glad I accidentally found a copy on the donation table.

Also, I definitely need to read The Wind in the Willows again this summer.  Toad and his traveling-cart also figure here, and in general Toad, Mole, and Rat are hovering around, asking to be read.

* Now I shall be self-indulgent and tell you about the Danish part of the book.  It was so fun to read about a visit to Legoland that was just like my own visit; we had a week in May in which all the exchange students piled on a bus together and drove around, visiting places.  So I too got my Legoland driver's license as described in the book -- of course we were much too old for it but what is more fun for a bunch of teenagers than doing something they are much too old for?  I too have been to HCA's house and listened to the story phones, and I've been to Kronborg to see Holger Danske.  So that was just a lot of fun for me.  So here are some photos, which are really just pictures of photos in an album:

All of us in front of Kronborg (I'm taking the photo).
We must have been horrible nuisances!

Driving lessons at Legoland

This was a very fashionable outfit, ack