Dr. Knoegle’s End

03/30/2009 § 1 Comment

The majority of people who had derailed themselves from Europe and America carried with them one single vice that many vegetarians had–they had an aversion to work.

–Herman Hesse, Dr. Knoegle’s End

My friend let me borrow The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse. And so I don’t post about Orlando Furioso all the time I decided to post about it.

I had never even known that he wrote fairy tales. I’m really birdbrained sometimes. I am however not entirely birdbrained and am somewhat familiar with his writings, having enjoyed them to varying degrees. Thinking about it later, Herman Hesse is a perfect soul to craft Fairy Tales, even his longer works feel kind of magical and, I dunno, light…airy…shimmery- –like the forest in the morning…you know, all that junk.

The whole collection is good. It’s a quick read and since I don’t speak German,  I can’t really tell if it’s accurate, but it’s good. Jack Zipes has done a good job with the stories in translation. The tone seems right. Jack zipes also writes great criticism on fairy tales in general and folklore if anyone is interested; Breaking the Magic Spell, in particular. *wink*

The quote at the top of this post is from Dr. Knoegles End, a story about a vegetarian utopia in which the good doctor makes enemies with Jonas, a disciple of the pure pulpist movement…people “wanting to come closer to the soil.” Amazingly enough Jonas’ thumbs and big toes were in the miraculous process of reverting back to their primitive state.

This story is the best. I don’t know what the point of it is. I read it twice and I’m pretty confused. It seems strange to me that Herman Hesse would be mocking anyone, even vegetarians….so I don’t think it’s that. But maybe it’s just a parable about how people are mean to each other. Even people with like interests. Dr. Knoegle is a tourist in the vegetarian world after all.

Whatever reading one could assign is irrelevent in my mind. It’s just a funny, original story. Who knew a fairy tale could be constructed  from characters who don’t eat meat?


Orlando Furioso: Canto 1, 31-60

03/26/2009 § 1 Comment

Where did Orlando go? We’re 60 stanzas into this sucker and he’s nowhere to be found! Dont’ worry. He comes back in like a hundred pages or so.

So at the end of last time Ferraú vowed to win Orlando’s helmet from him after a ghost came and freaked him out. The ghost was, of course, Angelica’s bro, who Ferraú had slain earlier.

Rinaldo had set off upon a different trail and after we leave Ferraú with his vow we come back to Rinaldo who has not traveled far when lo! he sees Baiardo (his horse with man brain). He yells something priceless that could be used in a sappy song directed towards not a horse with man brain but to a girl, if one were so inclined. He yells “ho, there, wo! Without you weary is the road I tread.” Maybe a song for a hiphopera or something.

The horse, like a scorned lover, turns a deaf ear and gallops further off. And now the narrative follows Angelica.

She goes through the woods and terrifying undergrowth. She “abhors the dreaded traces,” which I take to be shadows. They remind her of her pursuer Rinaldo. She reaches a grove, with two crystal streams nearby.

She finds a charming nook which is made gay by roses and shady oaks. She falls asleep but alas! her slumber is cut short. A knight approaches. He heads towards the riverbank and props on his elbow, cheek in hand, deep in thought. He is dubbed the cavalier of grief because he begins to sob and the very stones are moved by his tears.

Then there are some passages about virgins being like roses…and plucking….and despoiling hands…..and rain and earth…and virgins should, with zeal, and more than her eyes, defend this prize. Eyes seem more valuable to me than virginity, but maybe the crusades were different than now.

The knight who waters the river with his tears ends up being Sacripante, King of Circassia. He laments by the river for quite some time. Angelica hears every word and is unmoved. She has known of Sacripante’s love for quite some time.

“She holds the world in such contempt and scorn,/ No man deserving her was ever born.”

Man. That Angelica!

She plots and schemes and instead of running from him as she did from Rinaldo, she steps out of her hiding place. Then, when Sacripante sees her there is a priceless description that may be, if you can believe it, an exageration. “No mother with such joy and stupor raised/ Her eyes to see the face of her lost son/Whom when his regiment without him blazed/ It’s homward way, she mourned as dead and gone,” Man. I don’t think that Sacripante’s lust compares with a grieving mothers’.

Dang. Then Angelica embraces him and coos and bills! She has him in her clutches now. She tells him all that has happened. How she was saved from death and dishonor, and she was “…in fact/ As when she left her mother’s womb, intact.”

Then comes the punchline from the astute narrator. “It may be true, but no man in his senses/ Would ever credit it;” haha. Yeah. Sacripante believes it of course “…for, as all men do,/ He gives assent to what he hopes is true.”

Sacripante prepares for his sweet assault of deflowering. But lo! through the woods a clamour sounds (and it’s not the clamour of their bodies meeting) that tears his ear drums. He dons his helmet, as he always does.

A side note. Again hollywood has ruined my own imagination and internal projector. Whenever I read this part I think of the horrible Excalibur from the eighties and when Arthur makes Merlin change his appearance so he can conceieve Morgan Le Fay. If one casts their memory back they will remember Arthur is in full armour as he plants his seed which is somehow horrifying and comical at the same time. There must be some kind of latch or gate in armour that we, the museum goers, are unaware of.


Into the forest rides a valiant Knight bedecked in snowy white. The plume on his helmet is also white. This is stanza 60, thus we are left with the two knights staring at each other with “stormy looks.”

Characters in this section:

Angelica: endlessly pursued by all

Rinaldo: left to pursue on foot, betrayed by manbrained Baiardo

Sacripante: King of Circassia. Also in love with Angelica. A touch weepier than the others.

Mysterious White Knight: ???

Orlando Furioso: Canto 1, 16-30

03/20/2009 § Leave a comment

So in our previous installment we left Rinaldo happening upon Ferraú who are both madly in love with the coy Angelica. She happens to be fleeing on Rinaldo’s horse, Baiardo, who has man intelligence. Since they both love her, they engage in battle. And though Ferraú lost his helm and plume, he still proves a gallant  cavalier…unfortunately Angelica slips away while these two jerks fight.

They fight for about four stanzas full of adjectives. It is epic in the mind’s eye. Oh, if only you could see it. *wink* Then the realize, “F!”, Angelica has slipped away. They decide to have an armistice. They look around to see which direction Angelica has headed, but lo!, there are horseprints everywhere. Damn horse with man intelligence! So, “Along two paths, as Fortune prompts, they hark,/One here, one there….”

Ferraú comes again to where he dropped his helmet in the mud and decides that finding Angelica is unlikely, so instead of looking for his dream girl, he wades about in the mud for his helmet. (Again, it might be magic! which explains his choice). There is a stanza of him finding the perfect branch to form into a pole with which to retrieve helm and plume.

While searching fo the helmet he sees the head and shoulders of a knight, who, gasp!, is holding the helmet he is looking for. It’s a ghost. The ghost knight delivers insults to Ferraú. He turns out to be the ghost of the brother of Angelica, Argalía, who Farraú had killed. Ferraú had thrown his arms into a stream and had promised to throw the helmet into the stream as well, but he didn’t. Ferraú laments.

Then Ferraú vows to win Orlando’s helmet. The ghost makes him pledge to leave his old helmet and promises that if he does this Ferraú’s acquisition of a new helmet will come to be. Ferraú is so startled by this proposition that all the hair on his face stands erect! Classic!

He speaks no words but is now determined to win Orlando’s helmet; a helmet Orlando had won from the proud Almonte.

Characters in this section:

Rinaldo: of course. He was in the last section.

Ferraú: also, of course. he was in the last section as well.

Argalía: Brother of Angelica; Ghost.

Almonte: Slain foe of Orlando. Orlando now wears his helmet.

Orlando Furioso: Canto 1, 1-15

03/17/2009 § Leave a comment

I think I might understand why modern readers often drop works such as these before getting past page two. Very often there is some sort of appeal to the God or Gods of the authors choice. Even if the author wasn’t actually doing so personally, like Virgil or Homer or something, it seems to be a standard form in later Epic poetry and, for me, I wish the writers of these works would have had a little bit more foresight. Come on dudes. Get to the plot. Get to the action. No one needs a summary of deeds that you’re about to tell about while talking to some all powerful god.

So. The first few stanzas are along the lines of, and I’m paraphrasing here:

Girls, warriors, love and war,


Harm…France, Rome. Charlemagne…

Generous Orlando, Ippolito… Wolfs bane……

Giving this I give my all….etc.

Okay. Nothing really like that. But about as boring. And I added the “wolfs bane” part, for rhyming purposes.

To summarize:

Orlando is introduced in the beginning, after that junk I wrote about above, and he has loved Angelica for some time now; chasing her around India, Media and the Tartar plain. He leaves all the treasures he has won behind to bring her back to the West and…at the Pyrenees he finds Charlemagne with the French and German camps. He joins back up with his army and he immediately rues the day! He loses his love, Angelica.

Rivalry for Angelica arises between (Count) Orlando and Rinaldo, his cousin. No greater beauty exists, obviously. She is consigned to Namo, the Duke of Bavaria! WTF? But the duke says that he will give Angelica to whoever impales more infidels on his sword, “Excelling thus in prowess and might.” Score! Orlando hasn’t lost Angelica after all. He just has to impale more folks than his cousin.

Then, though, the duke who has promised Angelica as the spoils is taken prisoner and “…his pavilion in the rout forsaken.”  Bogus for Orlando and Rinaldo.

Meanwhile Angelica leaps into the saddle of a horse that happens to be near and rides straight away. She rides quickly and almost immediately meets a cavalier without a horse. This is Rinaldo, the very one who was competing with Orlando for her hand.

When she comes upon Rinaldo, also called Lord of Montaubon, Rinaldo recognizes his horse that the beautiful Angelica is riding, Baiardo. Side note: Baiardo has human intelligence!

Angelica rides on, as in a dream. She’s tired after all. Fleeing these paladins all day is exhausting. She roams a bit, comes upon a stream. She sees Ferraú, a Spaniard. He’s dirty from the battle. He drops his fancy helmet into the stream. (I think this is a magic helmet…but I don’t remember yet) He, of course, is also in love with Angelica!

That’s about it for 1-15. We’ll continue whenever I get around to reading 16-30.

Characters in this section:

Orlando: In love with Angelica. Nephew of Charlemagne.

Rinaldo: Also in love with Angelica. Orlando’s cousin.

Angelica: Daughter of Great Kahn of Cathay. Pursued by most Knights of the Crusades apparently.

Baiardo: Horse with Man Brain.

Ferraú: Spaniard. Also in love with Angelica

Canto- basically a chapter. See here.

Orlando Furioso

03/15/2009 § 1 Comment

In an attempt to have a type of overarching narrative to this blog, (if that’s at all possible), I’m going to reread Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto and report on short sections of it at a time…just junk I find funny or really interesting parts. I’ve found that people like interesting things. I have two different translations of this work so perhaps at times I’ll compare the two. The main text I’ll be using is the Penguin Classics with a translation by Barbara Reynolds.

I read this long epic poem a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Since finishing, the images of Rinaldo and Orlando and myriad other knights of the Crusades all falling in love with Angelica has sort of been bouncing around in my head. This has made for awkward moments at parties when I assume others have the same images in their heads and I reference Rinaldos beard hairs or Orlando riding his horse to death and cracking up while everyone looks down and sips their beer or wine. Bogus.

The level of ridiculousness this tale takes on is laugh out loud funny. At least that is how it was for me the first time. It’s pretty funny….Knights abandoning the crusades and doing all sorts of random junk in pursuit of Angelica hit my funny bone hard, and old funny bone has been laughing ever since.

I probably don’t have anything new or exciting to say about this work so I imagine the posts will be a type of list/love letter to romantic/epic stories in general. Maybe I’ll just summarize each canto with a few whimsical sentences. I don’t really know yet. I just wanted to warn you folks. This is what’s happening now.

But, I’m still going to post about whatever I’m reading, or just random things I want to post about. I’ll probably post regular posts more than the Orlando project. Depends how busy I am, and my reading schedule and all that. It will definitely be at my leisure. Maybe take years. Who knows?

Orlando Furioso is one of those works that I don’t think I ever came across when I was in college. I should have come across it, being an English major at a reasonable university, and like the Tain and innumerable other incredible and more intersting works in the realm of literature, I think students in the Humanities are worse off not having  read these works. More time was spent with stupid Spenser and Milton. Bravo jerks. Bravo.

Far Corners of the Earth and 18 Blocks from Where I Live (also on the Earth).

03/10/2009 § Leave a comment

Ugh. Sorry with all this non-fairytale-related junk. After this I won’t post about anything different for a while. Promise.

So, Gemma and I are going to Buenos Aires soon. I’ve been dying to go to a different corner of the earth, as I don’t think the Northwest and Northeast count; since they are still the US, and as large as the US is, it is probably just one corner of earth. Are there four? How many corners altogether?

I haven’t ever come across any Argentinian folklore, so I’m excited to see if we come across any down there, or anything else along that vein in South America. Hopefully I’ll find some good editions of Borges and Cortázar. I’m looking forward to hanging out at Borges old haunts; coffee shops, bookstores, and the Biblioteca Nacional. If anyone of the handful of people who visit this blog have been to Argentina and have any recommendations about anything feel free to leave a comment. Mmm. Mate and matambre. Can’t wait.

Other items:

Publican. I bring up this restaurant because it’s not just a restaurant. It’s an epic assault on the senses. Pork Bellys, Pig Ears, Oysters, Belgian Beers… the list goes on and on.

Gemma took me to Publican for my birthday last week and it was, quite possibly, the best meal I’ve ever had. And I have been to several of the top restaurants here, so I don’t say that lightly. Thanks Gemma.

Reading aloud: The White People, Cosmicomics

03/09/2009 § 2 Comments

All these are most secret secrets, and I am glad when I remember what they are, and how many wonderful languages I know, but there are some things that I call the secrets of the secrets of the secrets that I dare not think of unless I am quite alone, and then I shut my eyes, and put my hands over them and whisper the word, and the Alala comes.

-Arthur Machen

I really like that sentence. I like to call it my favorite of my favorite of my favorites.

Gemma likes when I read to her. We do this fairly regularly. The other night I started reading the story, The White People by Arthur Machen  to Gemma. We have decided to stop  this story.  It is longer than what Gemma and I try to read together but since I had loved The Great God Pan so much I thought it would be a good one to try before bed. Boy was I wrong. We abandoned it after about five pages. It is definitely not something one should read aloud to their loved one. It is wordy and abstract and more of a conversation in the vein of a Demonic Platonic dialogue. Riviting stuff, but when read aloud more like reading a How-To book aloud…as written by Socrates and Theatetus.

Oddly enough, the stories we have enjoyed reading aloud most are Lovecraft stories…and as long as you can get past the obstacle of saying things like Cthulhu, R’yleh, Yog-Sothoth, and Azozoth, it’s great. It’s also great to read American Folktales aloud as fast as you can. This is key.

I ended up finishing The White People on my own. So after abandoning that story we were in need of something else. Luckily, at Half Price Books I had just acquired Cosmicomics by Calvino and The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman for like four bucks.

I managed to read the first story of Cosmicomics, The Distance of the Moon, on the bus. It’s the story of some folks, with no vowels in their names (things like Qfwfq), who remember when the moon orbitted so close to the earth they could reach it with the help of a ladder and then harvest the lunar milk that collects in the crevices. It is also a story of unrequited love. I find it odd how many stories that have unpronounceable words end up being the best for reading aloud. To get around names like Qfwfq, I just said Q. Works fine. I’m sure there is some significance in Calvino’s use of nameing things like this but we are reading for enjoyment and not criticism.

Anyway, the story has beautiful imagery and is told in that special way that is particular to Calvino. I really enjoyed this story, and I think Gemma did as well.  I think it is a good candidate for reading aloud. There is something about the dreamy quality of Calvino’s words that deserve to be spoken.

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