austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

What a day, what a day, when the apple fell for Tell and Switzerland

My new book for today, Curious Myths Of The Middle Ages by S Baring-Gould, was one of those fortuitous ones which I ran across while going from one shelf to another in the university library. The title leapt out at me just for the title seeming rather endearing. I was thinking that I had already enough books checked out and it's so hard finding time to read them all and yet, after all, I can renew them and what are the odds I'd run across this one again? So I went with the greedy algorithm and added it to the pile. The more I read it the more I appreciate it: the book dates to 1867, though I can't find when this edition was printed and it's surely not that old. Several of the pages are perforated-stamped with a college name that's been obsolete since 1955, so I have a lower bound on its age at least. It's a surprisingly easy, brisk read for something composed before Andrew Johnson's impeachment, though.

It contains some really fascinating stuff including --- following the debunking of the William Tell legend by noting how many stories just like it (and with a punch line I'd never heard before) were spread across northern Europe and across the centuries --- the work of an ingenious contemporary monk who mock-proved that Napoleon Bonaparte was ``just'' a localized retelling of the myth of Apollo. He makes a fair case, too. That Analog story which tried to ridicule Higher Criticism by proving how World War II was a fable was beaten to the punchline by at minimum a century.

Also it features an appendix talking about coincidences mentions one novel to me: that all the British monarchs from William III through George IV happened to die on Saturdays. I don't know if I'm really learning much from talk about the Wandering Jew or the legend of Presterjohn that I didn't know before --- other than how medieval views of them were understood 150 years ago, which is itself a kind of meta-historical knowledge you don't see much anywhere --- but I'm glad I'm reading it. (I am picking up all sorts of new ways to spell Genghis Khan's first name too, most of them emphasizing a soft-G start.)

Trivia: American Airlines sold out five 21-seat special plane flights to the 1941 Kentucky Derby. Source: 1941: The Greatest Year In Sports, Mike Vaccaro.

Currently Reading: Curious Myths Of The Middle Ages, S Baring-Gould.

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