Famous Castles

Some Interesting Photos of Castles:

I'd not encountered "ODDEE" before, so I'm not sure what this website is really about or where it's coming from. Still, they had an interesting short piece on famous and fascinating castles. There was also a reader-submitted list that is at least as good as the original piece.

The castles go from the most elaborate designs made without a serious purpose for defense, to the small, pragmatic fortified "Schloss" of a German raubritter.

Of particular interest is Marienburg, or "Mary's Castle," built by the Teutonic Order out of bricks instead of stone. The other one that caught my eye was the Hunyad Castle, where Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned. It is probably the most fearsome looking of the fortifications, having the look of a serious fighting position that was decorated entirely as an afterthought.

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day:

Remember, tonight of all nights, that God loves a good fight, as long as it's fought with a good heart.

So we loosed a bloomin' volley,
An' we made the beggars cut,
An' when our pouch was emptied out.
We used the bloomin' butt,
Ho! My!
Don't yer come anigh,
When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt.
--Barrack Room Ballad.

Lieutenant James Adamson was awarded the Military Cross after killing two insurgents during close quarter combat in Helmand's notorious "Green Zone".

The 24-year-old officer, a member of the 5th battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, revealed that he shouted "have some of this" before shooting dead a gunman who had just emerged from a maize field.

Seconds later and out of ammunition, the lieutenant leapt over a river bank and killed a second insurgent machine-gunner with a single thrust of his bayonet in the man's chest.

Richard Fernandez: The Age of Faith:

We talk about America and China competing for influence in Africa, but the Belmont Club points out that we thereby miss the real story.

In a process largely unnoticed in the West, billions of people in Asia and Africa have swapped out their indigenous faiths for either Christianity or Islam. And to an even greater astonishment of Western intellectuals most have chosen Christianity. Now the equalization of numbers has caused a fault line to appear through the Third World at about the tenth degree of latitude where the two aggregations face each other “at daggers drawn”.

The word “Christian”, associated in the 19th and 20th centuries with the missionary enterprises of Europe, has now come to mean something different in political terms. Today Christianity is a religion of the Third World. Europeans have largely converted to some soft and watered-down variation of the West’s only indigenous creed, Marxism, as represented by John Lennon’s “Imagine” song. Christianity can no longer be associated largely with the West. Ex oriente lux a phrase which once described the belief that all great world religions rose in the East is now truer than ever. With Marxism shrinking to the margins of the Guardian, the monotheisms have reclaimed the field....
The US is more deeply Christian than Europe, but a large percentage of its ruling class belongs to the "Imagine" religion instead.

Still, the real disadvantage here goes to China. China cannot market itself to Muslims in Africa as the competitor to America. To the degree that Africa is Christian, it will not look to China for leadership -- though there are millions of Chinese Christians, the state is in theory opposed to the faith. Muslims will not look to China for leadership either: worse than Christianity for Islam is polytheism (e.g., Chinese folk religion, certain variations of Buddhism) or the rejection of god (e.g, scientific atheism, other variations of Buddhism).

We may yet see the right in America build a unity on Christian grounds, and so adapt itself to the increasing percentage of Americans who are coming from the Catholicism of Latin America. If we do, America's leadership position within Africa -- and as a potential source of admiration for Chinese Christians -- will increase.

Grim's Hall Book Club: Franklin/Wife of Bath's Tale

Grim's Hall Book Club: The Fraklin's Tale and The Wife of Bath's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

We looked at The Franklin's Tale and The Wife of Bath's Tale as well this week.

I wanted to include these because there was so much interest in Chaucer associated with our discussion about the descriptions of women in The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale. One of the things that you may not know about Chaucer unless you read the whole of The Canterbury Tales is that he chases the questions of men and women all the way around, trying to view them from every side. So, you have loyal wives and disloyal wives; you have devoted husbands and scoundrels; you have tales of courtly love, and ribald stories; you view it from the perspective of the Church, and from very earthy perspectives.

The Wife of Bath's Tale shows some signs of being among Chaucer's favorites. For one thing, he gives her an extraordinary prologue! It's as long as some of the tales by itself, and contains a remarkable number of well developed theological arguments. It also includes some ribald "advice" on how to chew up a husband who gives you trouble, although it advises also that you accord with one in peace once he stops trying to boss you around. That last bit of advice is the most important, and makes up the subject of the actual story.

The story is Arthurian, and treats the question of "What women want most." What it proves that they want most is sovereignty: in Chaucer's version of this story, over their men as well as themselves. This is not the only version of this story, however, and in many versions it is simply to be sovereign over themselves.

Since we all read Cassandra as well, I'd like to mention this piece, which was a guest post at the blog of the lady who wrote the 'frigid wife' piece she cited earlier this week. The man who wrote the guest post took his lady up on the challenge to read some romance novels, which would explore the same question -- "What do women want?" He discovers that what they want is men who are "tall," who "can't be bald," who "move in without invitation and touch" (though noting that only the hero is welcome to do this! The same quality that makes the hero more attractive makes the villain wicked and hateful), be "preternaturally competent and successful at everything," "Have money," etc. But then he gets to this one:

2. Let her rescue herself.

This surprised me. I was under the impression that the hero’s role in romances was to rescue the heroine. But in all of these books the heroine has the most significant role in her own triumph over adversity.
Ah, well, that's the real trick, isn't it? The male figure in this story isn't the hero. He's the love interest. The damsel in distress is still the damsel; but the difference between a story written by a man and a story written by a woman is that in the women-written romances, the woman rescues herself.

What is the man for, then? He's the love interest. That's all, really; love is important enough that he doesn't need to do more than love and be loved.

The Wife of Bath's Tale puts the lady in the role of the rescuer, even of the knight. In learning to serve her and be guided by her, the knight -- it is usually Sir Gawain, in this tale, though Chaucer doesn't name him -- finds a lady love who is both beautiful to him and faithful, though at first he took her to be rather otherwise.

In The Franklin's Tale, we have a story with some resonance today: it is the story of a military wife whose husband is deployed, and who finds herself being pursued by a young squire who develops an ardent fascination with her. She is loyal to her husband and true, but finds herself responding to his flirtation with a playful promise she takes to be impossible. The squire arranges to have a wizard and illusionist make the impossible appear to come true, and then reminds the lady of her promise to give her love to him.

The lady's response is virtuous: she considers, but rejects, suicide, and instead confesses everything to her husband so they may think about the matter together. The knight who is her husband takes her honor to be as important as his own, and says that she must keep her word having given it. In spite of the sorrow and pain he feels, and the shame this will bring on him, he counsels her to be as bound by her word as he would be by his own.

She goes to do this, but is so upset by it that the squire is moved by her pain and love for her husband to release her from her vow. The wizard, in return, is moved by the squire's mercy, and releases the young man from his debt. The tale ends:
"Masters, this question would I ask you now:
Which was most generous, do you think, and how.
Pray tell me this before you farther wend.
I can no more, my tale is at an end."
It's a good question. Is the knight the most generous, to put his lady's honor at the level of his own? Is the lady the most generous, to have loved her husband so much as to trust him with her sorrow? Is the squire the most generous, to lay aside his claim on the lady in honor of the truth of her heart? Or is it the illusionist, who has a legitimate claim on the squire that the squire brought on himself by wickedness, but who lets it go when he sees the squire abandoning his evil?

Nelson Lee

Grim's Hall Book Club: Nelson Lee's Three Years Among the Comanches:

Quite a story! The most memorable scene for me is the shipwreck, early in the tale, where Lee describes hanging from the mast and watching the swirling waters below. What was the part that sticks with you?

The question attending Lee's book is whether or not it is legitimate. It would be welcome, in a sense, to suppose that it wasn't: then we could dismiss the various cruelties, especially toward babies, as being simple legends. Indeed, one of the oddities is the cruelty toward babies; we see that with tales about the Comanches, but normally frontier stories suggest that the Indians kept captured children and raised them, even if they slaughtered adults or traded them as slaves.

So is it legitimate? The Handbook of Texas, Online, says:

Of this probably spurious classic work, Walter Prescott Webb stated that "there is no better description of the life of the Texas Rangers than that of Nelson Lee." The book has since been a source for several writers about Comanche culture. But in 1982 anthropologist Melburn D. Thurman called Lee's account of Comanche ceremonies "blatantly erroneous" and demonstrated that Ernest Wallace and E. Adamson Hoebel's discussion of the "Comanche" Green Corn Ceremony in The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains (1952) employed questionable data from Lee's book. Though noted Indian scholars have long identified the Comanches as a nonsedentary and therefore nonagricultural people, Lee narrated to his New York editors that Comanches planted corn, beans, and tobacco. Other wildly erroneous claims abound. Lee said that the Comanches wrote hieroglyphics on tree bark; built villages with central squares, streets, and houses of important men located on the squares; and resolved irreconcilable differences between two adversaries by lashing them together with a cord and requiring them to fight to the death. Accordingly, Thurman and other specialists of Plains Indians disputed Lee's captivity claims and, by extension, other claims he makes concerning his exploits.
I'm left admiring the quality of the tale, but I think we have to believe that some of the wilder stories were put in to make it salable.

Yet the Rangers have always liked this book, and still like it, as evidenced by the fact that it's posted on their website. What do you think?

Star Wars in Old Norse

Tattúínárdœla saga:

Via Lars Walker, a highly unusual saga in Old Norse:

After this killing, for which Anakinn’s owner (and implied father) refuses to pay compensation, Anakinn’s mother, an enslaved Irish princess, foresees a great future for Anakinn as a “jeði” (the exact provenance of this word is unknown but perhaps represents an intentionally humorous Irish mispronunciation of “goði”). This compels Anakinn to recite his first verse:

Þat mælti mín móðir,
at mér skyldi kaupa
fley ok fagrar árar
fara á brott með jeðum,
standa upp í stafni,
stýra dýrum xwingi,
halda svá til hafnar,
hǫggva mann ok annan.
There are quite a few more posts on the blog, with most of the text being in the Old Norse. It's a fairly plausible bit, actually: the dialogue is just what the sagas should contain.