Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Pain, Humanity, and Ascension of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”

 From TOR:

Hans Christian Andersen’s earliest years were marked by extreme poverty. His parents did not live together until nine months after his birth, leading Andersen and others to wonder if his father of record—also named Hans Andersen, a shoemaker—was indeed his father. Highly dubious legends later insisted that Andersen was the illegitimate scion of noble, even royal blood, but if so, noble and royal money was distinctly absent in those early years. His maternal grandmother died in a poorhouse, as did his mother. His (probable) paternal grandfather became mentally ill later in life, and also landed in a poorhouse, leaving his wife and children in desperate financial straits. A cousin landed in jail for begging.

What saved Andersen’s soul, then and later, were fairy tales about magical things like little mermaids.

Andersen probably first heard traditional folk tales from his grandmother and other relatives, tales he later worked into his own fiction. Despite the family poverty, the young Andersen also managed to attend, if irregularly, two infant schools and the town’s charity school, which gave him the ability to read a book that transformed his imagination: The Arabian Nights. He also discovered the theatre, another source of magic. When he was fourteen, he travelled to Copenhagen to work in a theatre there, a job that brought him the opportunity for more schooling and exposure to more books. Slowly, he became a writer and creator of new fairy tales.

His initial fairy tales tended to stay close to their oral roots, but gradually, Andersen began to add his own elements to his tales, creating stories that combined elements of folklore, romance, angst, social commentary, angst, delicate magical details, and, for a change, angst. His first volume of fairy tales, which initially appeared as a series of three thin booklets between 1835 and 1837, included a mix of retold folktales and original work, including “The Little Mermaid,” which was first translated into English in 1872.

Andersen had undoubtedly heard legends of mermaids and selkies and sirens and other creatures of the water. The stories date well back into ancient times, and European interest in mermaids had recently resurged thanks in part Frederick de la Motte Fouque’s worldwide bestseller Undine (1811), the tragic story of a water spirit and a knight. Andersen certainly knew the book; he may also have known the E.T.A. Hoffman opera based on the book, first performed in 1814. It reminded him that not all fairy tales need to have a happy ending, and that the quest for a soul can be a dangerous one.

“The Little Mermaid” opens happily enough, with a rich description of the underwater palace of the Sea King. Andersen, unlike other fantasy writers who told stories of similar underwater kingdoms, makes no attempt here for any oceanographic accuracy: his intent here is to build fantasy, and so the palace windows, for example, are made of amber, not exactly a sea product—although later, the little mermaid has to pass through what sounds suspiciously like fire coral, very definitely a marine product, to reach the sea witch.

The little mermaid is the youngest of six sisters, eagerly waiting her chance to head up to the surface of the water where she’ll be able to see humans and other surface wonders as well. The minute she does, things go wrong: she sees glorious fireworks and a handsome prince, but the ship she sees is almost immediately wrecked, with no survivors other than the prince, who only lives because the little mermaid drags him to the shore.

That’s the first hint that the story will not go well. The little mermaid becomes obsessed with the prince—she kissed him a few times in the water—and starts following him as much as she can, and collecting information about him. From this, she learns he’s a good guy—I have my doubts about this, but let’s move on for now—and decides to become human, so she can be with him. The sea witch she consults counsels her against this, since if it doesn’t work out, the mermaid will die, but the mermaid is determined: she gives up her voice, and heads to the surface, to walk on legs that cut like knives at every step.

Once on the surface, the prince dresses her up as a pageboy, and occasionally kisses her passionately on the forehead and says that he might—he might—just marry her. And then he marries someone else—the girl he thinks saved his life, who is also very beautiful, and, I might note, not dressed up as a pageboy, and who does not ask any pointed questions about the beautiful voiceless girl who has been sleeping at the prince’s door on a velvet cushion. Prince, I feel we need to talk about a few things, including the sleeping arrangements you’ve made for little voiceless foundling girls that you occasionally kiss on the forehead, but we may not have that kind of time. (Read more.)


The Politics of Inertia

 From American Greatness:

The Democrat will be up against literally Adolf Hitler, whether his given name is Don or Ron, so you can expect the ballot manufacturing turbines to be grinding away on overdrive in their underground bunkers.

But it is suddenly unclear for whom they will be manufacturing votes. The political weathermen all say “Joe Biden.” But there are many indications that the force field of Biden’s forward-moving inertia has been compromised. Damaging stories are accumulating, and not only in the right-wing press.

Remember that letter from 51 former intelligence officials insisting that news about Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” was really just Russian disinformation? Their letter provoked Twitter to suspend the account of the New York Post, which broke the story. But it turns out that the letter was agitprop orchestrated by Antony Blinken, then a senior member of Joe Biden’s campaign, now, God help us, secretary of state.

But now we have the New York Times and even CBS rooting about in the Biden midden. Just a few days ago, CBS interviewed Gary Shapley, a veteran IRS investigator, who detailed how the Justice Department intervened to “slow walk” and otherwise obstruct the agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s alleged tax fraud. Other outlets are casting a gimlet eye on reports that the Bidens, while Big Guy Joe was vice president, hoovered up more than $10 million from the companies of various foreign nationals.

Recalling the effect of Walter Cronkite’s critical report on the course of the Vietnam War in 1968—it was widely credited with forcing Lyndon Johnson out of the race for president—one commentator wonders whether the CBS report might have a similar effect on Joe Biden, forcing him from the 2024 race. “Now,” the report speculates, “the country could be witnessing a similar watershed moment as CBS signals its willingness to treat the Biden family’s corruption with the scrutiny it deserves.” (Read more.)

 Also from American Greatness:

Left-wing politicians and activists from then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (“They’re not going to let up, and they should not, and we should not.”) to Nikole Hannah Jones (“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.”) either excused the often violent protests or urged that they continue. Far from sending in 20,000 federal troops, as occurred after January 6, the Left demanded that then President Trump not resort to such Draconian measures.

Note that there were lots of government properties deliberately targeted in iconic fashion. A Seattle police precinct (with officers inside ) was set afire. A mob in Washington, D.C. tried to storm the White House grounds in a fashion that sent the president and secret service agents into a subterranean bunker. A historic Washington, D.C. church was torched. Violent mobs set federal and state courthouses on fire in Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Portland. (Read more.

The Crucial Difference Between Being Educated and Being Cultured

 From Marginalian:

“In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and learnt a monologue from ‘Faust,’ Anton Chekhov wrote in an 1886 letter to his brother, outlining the eight qualities of cultured people — among them sincerity, “no shallow vanity,” and a compassionate heart that “aches for what the eye does not see.” This essential difference between being educated and being cultured is what the great British novelist, philosopher, literary critic, educator, and poet John Cowper Powys (October 8, 1872–June 17, 1963) examined in greater dimension a generation later in the 1929 masterwork The Meaning of Culture (public library) — one of the most thoughtful and beautifully written books I’ve ever encountered.

Powys begins with the tenet that “culture is what is left over after you have forgotten all you have definitely set out to learn” and sets out to examine what, exactly, is left over — which is often too surprising and subtle, too aglow with inarticulable radiances, to fit into our intellectual templates of understanding. (Read more.)


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New Series about James I and Buckingham

George Villiers (Nicholas Galitzine)

Earl Somerset (Laurie Davidson), King James (Tony Curran) & Queen Anne (Trine Dyrholm)

It is a show about how a mother schemes to have her son accepted as the favorite of James I, known for his proclivity for handsome young men. The term "homosexuality" was unknown in the seventeenth century; men who gave in to such desires were accused of committing the sin of Sodom. James I is such a complex character to depict in that he was sincerely religious, oversaw a translation of the Bible, and was married with several children. He persecuted women accused of witchcraft with an unholy fury. He also loved to drink and carouse, enjoyed off-color humor, and became almost obsessively attached to a series of young male courtiers. People seem to assume that George Villiers was "gay" but there is no evidence that he sought such interaction other than whatever he had to do with King James. In fact, George was known to be a ladies' man and is the suitor of the Queen of France in The Three Musketeers

The new drama covers the years immediately before my novel My Queen, My Love. Many of the same characters appear in both, including the Countess of Buckingham, George Villiers aka "Steenie" Buckingham and Susan Villiers, who becomes Susan Denbigh. From Tatler:

Love. Power. Politics. A dazzling new period drama promises to bring a ravishing real-life royal saga that shaped King James I’s court to life on screen. Mary & George, due to air on Sky Atlantic in the UK and AMC in the US later this year, will chart the rise to power of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, a favourite and reported lover of King James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots. Aided by his formidable mother Mary Villiers, Countess of Buckingham, George Villiers became one of the most highly regarded, influential men in early 17th century England.

Hollywood doyenne Julianne Moore takes on the role of the ambitious, power-hungry Mary Villiers, while Nicholas Galitzine plays the Duke of Buckingham. James I, who has been described by historian Michael B. Young as ‘the most prominent homosexual figure in the early modern period’, will be portrayed by Tony Curran. The release date for the hotly-anticipated series but the first official images promise it will be a sumptuous dramatisation of history.

Here, Tatler brings you the true story behind the man who grew to be titled Duke of Buckingham, and his extraordinary rise to power. (Read more.)


As readers of My Queen, My Love know, George's rise to power continued under James' son, Charles I.


The Corruption of Climate Science

 From American Greatness:

We need to criticize the people who got us here,” says Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of Fossil Future. “We can’t keep treating these designated experts as real experts. They are not real experts, they are destroyers. They are anti-energy, non-experts. And that needs to be made clear.”

Epstein is right, and his advice has never been more urgent—or as difficult to make people understand. It is no exaggeration that every major institution in America has now committed itself to the elimination of affordable and abundant energy. If it isn’t stopped, this commitment, motivated by misguided concern for the planet but also by a lust for power and money and enabled by moral cowardice and intellectual negligence, will destroy Western civilization.

For over 50 years, with increasing frequency, corrupted, careerist scientists have produced biased studies that, amplified by agenda-driven corporate and political special interests, constitute a “consensus” that is supposedly “beyond debate.” We are in a “climate crisis.” To cope with this climate emergency, all measures are justifiable.

This is overblown, one-sided, distorted, and manipulative propaganda. It is the language of authoritarians and corporatists bent on achieving even more centralized political power and economic wealth. It is a scam, perhaps the most audacious, all-encompassing fraud in human history. It is a scam that explicitly targets and crushes the middle class in developed nations and the entire aspiring populations in developing nations, at the same time as its messaging is designed to secure their fervent acquiescence. (Read more.)


Who Was Beowulf and Was He Real?

 From author Dena Bain Taylor:

The story of Beowulf comes down to us in three written sources. The most famous is the epic poem Beowulf, written in Old English in (likely) the early tenth century. I’m fully prepared to argue over drinks that it’s the greatest poem in the history of English literature.  In the first 2200 lines of the poem, the young Beowulf sails with his warband to Denmark and saves the kingdom of Hrothgar by killing the man-eating monster Grendel, quite spectacularly tearing off its arm and pursuing it to take its head. He follows up by wrestling down and killing Grendel’s equally monstrous mother. In the second part (1172 lines), Beowulf is an old king compelled to fight and kill a dragon that has been ravaging his people. He succeeds, but is himself killed. There’s an inescapable sadness at the end of Beowulf. For all his greatness as a king and a warden of the land, Beowulf dies alone, deserted by all but one loyal thane, Wiglaf the son of Weohstan.  He has no heir to leave his wargear to and he knows that his people, the Geats, are doomed to destruction at the hands of their old enemies the Swedes once they get news of his death. It’s a weighty counterpoint to the beginning of his tale, where he’s surrounded by loyal companions and welcomed as family by Hrothgar the Shield-Dane and Beowulf’s uncle Hygelac the Geat, two kings at the height of their powers.  

The poet devotes exactly ten lines to what happens in between the two stories: Beowulf succeeds his uncle Hygelac as king of the Geats, rules his land well for fifty winters, and grows old and wise. And then the dragon wakes.  It was that gap that first got me thinking — what was the turning point in Beowulf’s life and career as a hero-king? I’d also long wondered, is Beowulf just a fictional character in an Anglo-Saxon poem — a 10th century version of a Marvel comics Avenger, if you will?  Or does the monster-killing hero in fact represent some real Scandinavian prince? (Read more.)


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Feast of St. Joan, May 30

O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal....
Wisdom 4:1

Today her feast occurs during the octave of Pentecost, but in 1431 May 30 fell upon a Wednesday, the Vigil of Corpus Christi. It was around noon when Jehanne Darc, or Jehanne la Pucelle, "the Maid," as she called herself, was led into the public square of Rouen by enemy soldiers to where the stake awaited her. Nineteen years old, her head shaven, surrounded by placards branding her a witch, idolatress, and abjured heretic, she invoked the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and St Michael the Archangel. She had been calumniated and condemned by those whose holy office it was to guide and protect her soul; she had been exposed to lewdness and impurity by those whose sacred duty it was to shelter her innocence and virginity. She was abandoned by the king whose crown her victories had won. She was in great interior darkness; the voices of her saints were silent.

Although she conversed with angels and saints, Joan the Maid was known to be practical and blunt. Very feminine and very French, she missed her embroidery and her mother, yet she emerges on the pages of late medieval history like someone from the Acts of the Apostles. Surrounded by miracles, she was herself a Miracle; she led an army to victory at the age of 17, an illiterate peasant girl, who knew nothing of war or politics. She saved France as a nation, for it had all but ceased to exist when she came on the scene.

Such was her Faith that she confounded her judges, while exhausted, frightened and pushed to the breaking point of her mental and physical strength. Denied the Sacraments by her persecutors, she gazed upon the upheld crucifix, calling out, "Jesus! Jesus!" as the flames consumed her. When Joan's ashes were scattered in the river, her heart was found, untouched by the flames, and still bleeding.

"If I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me, O Lord Jesus." Communion Antiphon for the Feast of St Joan

St. Joan, pray for us!
More pictures, HERE.

When the Government Violates the Constitution

 From Reason:

When local bureaucrats in Hennepin County, Minnesota, seized an elderly woman's home over a small tax debt, sold it, and kept the profit, they likely had no idea they would set in motion a series of events that would cripple the practice known as "home equity theft" across the country.

Yet that's what happened. The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that the government violated the Constitution when it took possession of Geraldine Tyler's condo over an overdue property tax bill, auctioned the home, and pocketed the proceeds in excess of what she actually owed.

Tyler, who is now 94 years old, purchased the Minneapolis-area condo in 1999. But a series of events, including a neighborhood shooting, prompted her to relocate to a retirement community in 2010, at which point it became difficult for her to pay both her new rent and the property taxes on her former home. She accrued a $2,300 tax bill, which turned into an approximately $15,000 bill after the government added on $13,000 in penalties, interest, and fees. Local officials then sold the home for $40,000—and kept the remaining $25,000. (Read more.)