Monday, July 28, 2003

Those Wascally Wabbits

28 July 2003 Those Wascally Wabbits

Those wascally wabbits:

Beatrix Potter, A Fierce Bad Rabbit

and everybody's favorite bunny

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

to find the ebooks in the

University of Virginia eText Library
scroll to author's name

She was born in 1886 in the lake District to a rich Victorian family. Beatrix had a brother, Bertram, who later influenced her to break the parental noose to marry. Although often overlooked, she was a skilled draughtsman for botanical illustrations in an age when women were socially dismissed from scientific publications.

Women Illustrators: Beatrix Potter
in frames, click name in left list

Potter, Helen Beatrix (mycologist, writer)

However, her fame accrued not from the precise sketches of plants, but from a book that was written for five-year-old invalid boy. She sent the copy to a friend, Rawnsley for review. He liked thhe pictures, but thought the text wanted improvement and volunteered his own. Beatrix declined and sent it to Frederick Warne & Co who also put the book on indefinite hold. Beatrix determined to bring out hr own book, published 450 privately. The rest became history as Warne became suitably interested to publish Nutkin Squirrel, Benjamin Rabbit and a few others.

The books have been a constant delight to children, perhaps because of the appealing size, exquisite illustrations on glossy papers and the witty text of the mischievous rabbit and his troubles. Few wabbits ever achieve such notoriety with the exception of Bugs Bunny brought out by Warner Bros on the old Saturday morning Bugs Bunny Show. For Christmas, there is the wonderful Velveteen Rabbit and then the Thornton Burgess series of Old Mother West Wind and the rolly-poly Peter Rabbit associated with Freddy Fox and friends at the Smiling Poool.

There's none though that has ever rivalled Beatrix Potter's the mischievous rabbit that lost his shoes and coat in Mr. MacGregor's garden and went to bed with a cold while Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had fresh blackberries. The book is still as fresh and sweet as blackberries picked at the end of July or beginning of August although now over a hundred years old. Warne has kept the copyright, but there are a few illustrated ebooks available through the University of Virginia Library system in the online etext system.

In reality, Beatrix Potter had little outlet for enjoyment in her life as her parents not only isolated her in childhood, but also dominated her in adulthood with their demands. She remained single until forty-seven, caring for their needs when she finally hired a nurse to tend to her father. She became deeply involved in preserving the historical geography of the Lake District because she feared that modernizations and industrialization would destroy the environment, buying up large tracts o land for the National Trust. In doing so, she needed a solicitor to handle the properties and hired W. Heelis & Co to look after her interests. With her brother's support and encouragement, she broke away from her parents' control to marry William Heelis. They raised prized Herdwick sheep.

The books are as lovely today as they were when I was a child. They still hold the surprise and delight at the turn of the page now as then, although like most small children I probably knew the text by heart and chanted alongside my indulgent reader. The ebooks come complete with illustrations. There are several online texts in the University of Virginia etext system. Please respect their rules. The U. of Virginia Archive is valuable and it would be a shame to lose public access as a result of user's violations. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was one of the very first discoveries I made on the internet, and you can imagine how delighted I was to watch the slow loading of graphics, isolated in Prague.

A few links below to sate your thirst for Beatrix Potter

Kirjasto: Beatrix Potter, biography

Literary Traveler
More than Just Bunnies: The Legacy of Beatrix Potter

The Horn Book Virtual History Exhibit
A letter from Beatrix Potter to Bertha Mahony Miller
letter is available for viewing

Peter Rabbit Co
a commerical site for Peter Rabbit

a webring of interrelated sites that gives local information regarding Beatrix Potter

Hill Top:The Home of Beatrix Potter
part of a webring that includes the area where Beatrix Potter lived
and also John Ruskin

Hawkshead Gallery

Kids Corner at Ohio University
several online books wonderfully made with Japanese translation?

University of Virgina Etext Center
hit your language on left column if you want to see the collections online
further down in center page is a link for the new ebook collection

look in the YA section or by A-Z index for Beatrix Potter
full text with pictures from originals. unfortunately site was defaced recently and pp12-17 of Tale of Peter Rabbit are missing, but the illus are back in the other volumes.
14 titles

Open Directory project Beatrix Potter,_Beatrix/

The Great Big treasury of Beatrix Potter
19 stories Fierce bad rabbit, squirrel nutkin

A Collection of Beatrix Potter Stories
14 stories Peter rabbit, two bad mice

The Great Big Treaury of Beatrix Potter
19 stories

Beatrix Potter


14 March Beatrix Potter:A Childhood Friend

10 August 2003 Harrison Cady

Sunday, July 27, 2003

King of the Golden River

27 July 2003 King of the Golden River

John Ruskin
The King of the Golden River or the Black Brothers
1842, Everyman edition published by J M Dent & Co, London 1907
electric book company
zip downloads free ebook download

The King of the Golden River is an unforgettable childhood classic that young and old may read to reread. The plot follows the structure of a fairytale with the pesentation of three brothers who live in Stiria in the Treasure Valley where Golden River flows.

In the introduction of the original edition by Oliver Lodge comments that the story is a parable on Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Like Andersen's Snow Queen, the tale is presented with vivid realism. We know the people and their problems; we recognize their faces during our daily perambulations and their voices are familiar from previous conversations. We've seen the beggar on the street, seen the famished dog and known the stingy person who gave us not a bite to eat when our stomachs rumbled with hunger and we watched the selfish stuff their faces while we fainted. We know the abuse and the spite spat at our dog that trailed at our heels as some wretched misanthrope kicked it aside to stride arrogantly around us. We know these things intimately. They are the details that make the story ever so real and unforgettable.

Besides the characters, voices and values are real, we slide easily into a world mixed of a bit of fantasy, magic, real geogrpahy and allusion to biblical myth and Germanic lore. The story is set in Stiria, which at first glance confuses the eye, but the descriptions of mountain and vale are so convincing that we know the place to be real. Transpose the "i" for "y" and Styria magically appears, now more known for a notorious politician than rich dairy-land and vineyards, but Salzburg ought to be familiar along with the infamous Rax mountains where winds and storms descend so suddenly that even seasoned professional climbers risk their lives. By using real geography, well known for spas and mountain resorts, Ruskin introduces the Germanic romanticism with a hint of Schubert or Brahms,

"when the sun had set to everything else, and all above was darkness, his beams still shone full upon this waterfall, so that it looked like a shower of gold."

Ruskin is careful to mark the difference between appearance and reality. This is no re-invention of the Midas myth. There is no Firebird and no Golden Feather or hen to lay a golden egg. He is not interested in magic, but in something far deeper which is found in the allusion of the brothers being turned into stone pillars and the figures of the child, dog and old beggar. Here is no magic, but a search for human compassion.

He deepens the content of the story through allusion to the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis 19: 8-26. Lot is promised safety if he flees the evil of his environment, but his wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. A convenient term is teshuvah or repentance—making a u-turn in life from the evil we have commited. It's difficult for anyone to do whether a drug or alcohol addict suddenly abandoning an addiction to start life anew. Human nature doesn't release the past so easily. Embittered, we hang onto our anger long after the quarrel has ended. Given a slight excuse, we take it up grudges and addictions again. Lot's wife turned. Drawn back to her past, she became self-destructive. Thus the brothers are driven to self-destruction through their inability to heed warnings. The story progresses naturally without magic. Through the use of allusions and allegory, Ruskin utilizes the allusions to intensify the inner meaning of the story and to make us stop and reconsider the things we have done and left undone. he needs not point an accusing finger, for we are accutely aware as children of the secrets hidden within. The message is optimistic regarding the value of human compassion and the respect for life— a dog's, a child's and a beggar's.

It's easy to see how the apparitions appeared in Dicken's Christmas Carol, which was published three years later in 1843, but it is also transparent how the works of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm influenced English Literature with a Germanic flavor.

Illustrations by Rackham

John Ruskin King of the Golden River

John Ruskin King of the Golden River

John Ruskin books online
a teaching collection for John Ruskin

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Aesop and the Fisherman

20 July 2003 Aesop and the Fisherman

Aesop's Fables: Tortoise and Eagle

It's easy to ridicule the Tortoise who dreams of flying. A glance at the carapace convinces us of a free fall landing, but the Tortoise in his shell is oblivious to his fate and limitations. Aesop makes us laugh at ourselves, not the hapless Tortoise. How many crash landings have we made because of blindness to personal limitations and filled with personal ambition?

Limitations seem so obvious, yet we soar upwards oblivious to final downfall.

Aesop's Fables: The Dog and the Shadow
dog crossing over a bridge

We sneer at the dog taking a plunge off the bridge to dash after a reflection in the stream—an illusion, but rarely apply it to our own fleeting dreams and aspirations. The person investing in a scam to earn gobs of money, but ends up broke with legal complicaitons.

What do they have to do with the Fisherman and his Wife?

Pushkin: The Fisherman and the Goldfish
Translated by Louis Zelikoff; Illustrated by B. Dekhteryov

Lacquer Box: Fisherman and the Fish
reduction of Pushkin

Pushkin and Brothers Grimm are frequently attributed as sources. An easy interpretation the story, regarding the poor fisherman who catches the talking flounder, is he has a greedy wife. She is insatiable, a common theme for the Dog and his Shadow. There's never enough to keep the old dog happy.

Folktales of Dissatisfaction and Greed

Family Management: Margeret Hunt's, Grimm's Household Tales, Fisherman and his Wife

Last week, an interesting book, Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders by Jenna Glatzer, crossed my desk, alerting me that perhaps the moral isn't greed, but self-image and ambition.

The Tortoise is dissatisfied with his lot in life and wishes to be Sweeney among the nightingales; thus destroys himself. How many people forgot parachutes lately? Martha Stewart, Enron,, Arthur Anderson, etc. Although these are company names, the individual corporate administrators attempted to fly beyond their means and crash landed. Their egos destroyed not only companies, but the lives as employees scrambled for new jobs. The Tortoise destroys only himself by his deluded ambition.

The fable of the dog is similar. Dissatisfied with what he already has, he takes a dive and loses.

"To look successful" in a highly pressurized society, many people suffer panic disorders. They learn to reject themselves through the terror of being rejected by others. The front of the NYT or Seattle-pi carries the latest images from Italy in Haute Courture, making fashionable excessive spending on oftentimes absolutely ridiculous clothing. Television and film industy espouse the ideal female body, exploit bodies, but not always brains or acting ability. Headlines scream about the new ravishing Demi, although her body was bought through artificial improvement. Charlie's Angels is hailed as feminist advancement in film by which women should model their lives; but has little psychological or intellectual depth. The message clearly states that without a Maserati body, you're nix. Brains don't count, nor do talents; you need "the look".

Psychologically this creates a vacuum in a person trying to fulfill a public image or social demands, but cannot accept himself. To ignore personal limitations courts death. Unable to accept oneself, puts a person on a constant panic alert with the terrible fear of : What If? What if I fail the exam? What if they don't like my dress? Life gets terribly tied up around the limitless possibilities of "What if?" Students crack their heads on exams; employees work around the clock and entertainers imitate cartoon superheroes with feathers and body alterations to make themselves look invincible.

Instead of accepting the baldface moral of Avarice for the Fisherman and His Wife, play with symbols. Water frequently represents dreams and desires. Don't identify the fisherman and his wife as separate characters, consider them as different parts of the human psyche. The Fisherman being the outward practical person who recognizes his limitations but does not have the courage to admit to them or embrace them, and the wife the inner drive or ambition. He is compelled by ambition to always step higher in life and succumb to pressure. Like an Enron CEO, he takes that fatal step beyond the real restrictions of his world. Instead of doing the double-sommie without the circus net, he goes for the triple, remaining paralyzed the rest of his life from a broken neck.

The fisherman's wife represents the external social forces that impels someone to make the fatal step, but iit could also be the demanding internal ambition that does not allow over-achievers to sleep. In reflecting on the story in this way, it's easy to comprehend that the Golden Fish or Flounder is the reward to ambition. For the Microsoft exec in Seattle, it was the expensive house, the antique cars and a few large toys like boats, before the investigation for embezzlement and fraud—and suicide.

The over-achiever, compelled by social acceptance or recognition, racks up success after success but cracks one day through fear of failure. The Callas, refusing recordings to be released, was terrified of public criticism and rejection; the Donny Osmond, suffering terribly from panic disorder; the Michael Jackson, dissatisfied with being black, artificially turned white, thereby mutilating a handsome face. The kid who can't talk in class because he's afraid his classmates will laugh. The terror of failure that pushes a person over the edge, or corners him from entering society with fears of humiliation and rejection. One day the "success" collapses and life is reduced to a wreck.

Frog and the Ox

Demands to succeed, isn't just a childish image of the frog blowing herself up; but a grave reality. "Image" affects, corrupting nearly everything from Grade Inflation to the State of the Nation Address with a pesident doing a bad lampoon on the Lone Ranger. The war in Iraq has sadly over-extended. For all the hot air on Saddam and Al Queada, there's nary a trace of either Saddam or Bin Ladin. Instead we watch the tragedy of theTortoise learning to fly or the Frog outsizing the Ox, as the Fisherman hasn't learned to define personal limitations and abide with them.

Golden Fish by Pushkin
with lacquer illustrations

Lang, Green Fairy Book : Fisherman and Wife

Lang, Green Fairy Book : Fisherman and Wife p343

Fisherman and his Wife
illus by Walter Crane Engl/German text

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Golem and Gollums

6 July Golem and Gollums

If you walk through Josefov in Prague, undoubtedly, you shall bump into a golem. Ask about golem, and a guide will tell you that the Maharal put his remains in the attic of the Staronova synagogue. If you go around on Pariszka, you can see the ladder. To go there is forbidden.

In the 16th century, Jews and Judaism were under Christian persecution, expulsed from countries and frequently suferring from the effectiveness of the Inquisition. Rabbi Loew, known as the Maharal, made a visit to Leopold II. Bishop Thadeusz made life difficult for Prague Jews. To protect his people, the Maharal made a golem.
golem and r Loew

The concept of golem is traced back to the beginnings of time in Bereshit or Genesis 1:27 where God announces to make man in his image. First the Garden was created with plants and animals, and then man placed into it; but man was made from the dust of the earth and a bit of water and then God breathed life into its nostrils.

If man is made in the image of God, then man also has the power and ingenuity to create, as God began creation, but didn't finish it. He left man with the creative faculty to continue the process. But man has his own will and ideas about the world around him, which caused a minor rebellion to choose his own path. He has the power to create and destroy, which includes making a golem of his own.

Making a Golem
how to make a golem

The origin of the golem story is very old, starting somewhere around the 3d century. The Sefer Yetzirah contains the secret knowledge of the creation of the universe and how to make a golem, but the will must be pure or the golem will become destructive.

Rava's Golem
an essay discussing the creation of golems and Sefer Yetzirah

This eliminates any success for Shelley's golem, Frankenstein, as it was made with an impure intent. There are different stories regarding the Maharal's golem. Some say that it ended up flooding the home of the rabbi, adapted in Walt Disney's Fantasia in the clip of the Socerer's Apprentice; while others say that the Maharal's wife did not like to see anyone sitting around doing nothing, and so put it to work cleaning the house—a purely selfish motive, thus destroying it.

The Golem: background and summary
golem and the water (socerer's apprentice)

Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague
a story of the Maharal and the Golem

In 20th c Literature, two writers used golems in their works.: Karel Capek and JRR Tolkein. Capek uses the theme of the golem in RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots), coining the word "robot" in English, and War of the Newts. In both, the robots and newts begin as having no conscience or will of their own, but metamorphose into a humanlike state of consciousness and rebel against the wills of their masters. In RUR, Capek brings about a happy ending, allowing the robots to become human through experiencing love. He was optimistic in a bitter time, but Newts ends with the destruction of the world through the rebellion of the newts, foreshadowing the Nazi regime. Capek was third on the Gestapo hit list when they rolled into town He had died shortly before, so they were disappointed when they showed up at his door. They sent his brother, Josef, to Auschwitz.

The theme was picked up in more famous works such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Space Odessey 2001, Logan's Run and Blade Runner.

Gollum in the Lord of the Rings is dehobbitized to being subjugated to the evil within the pervasive power of the ring. He has no real will of his own, and in the end destroys himself, by falling over the edge into the Crack of Doom. Although, Lord of the Rings is hotly debated for Christian interpretation or supremist literature, it seems that the theme of the golem is often overlooked. According to kabalist literature, the motive of creating the golem must be pure, or the end result will be destructive.

Ralph C Wood: Tolkein's Orthodoxy
another controversial viewpoint chewing about religion

Hans Isaksson , Fantasy or Reality
more political rantings, but a trogodyte is a nonpasserine bird whereas Gollum was a hobbit

At the time of both these writers, man was creating mechanical workhorses to replace manual labor, but was also deeply immersed in creating weapons of mass human destruction that had never been known before. Capek definitely was concerned with the destructive politics of Nazi Germany which would dominate all of Europe after his death, resulting in millions of deaths of subjugated, dehumanized people—not just those who died in concentration camps, such as his brother Josef, but also those who died in battle. Certainly, Tolkein, was not untouched by the destructive forces of his age, and perhaps, the gollum he presents is only a marionette, having no will of its own, thus perishes as evil overwhelms itself.

JRR Tolkein: literary criticism links

JRR Tolkein: Online Literary Criticism

NYT: JRR Tolkein Archives

a collection of articles regarding Hobbits

Cathy Cupitt, Reverent Comic Subversion in The Hobbit
a comparison of hobbits and beowulfs and grendels

A warning? Perhaps, it is as man always takes on the role of playing god, becoming destructive not only to his environment, but ultimately himself.

Robots in Literature

Richard S Ehrlich, The Golem
an essay comparing computers and the Maharal's golem

Tolkien Internationalism
George W. Bush is Gollum.
Gollum goes political

Patrick Grant, Tolkein: Archtype and Word
counterpoint, Tolkein goes Jungian

Bruce Rockwood, Law, Literature, and Science Fiction
social law that is reflectd in Science Fiction and Satire


The Tolkein's Gollum
actually not Tolkein's Gollum, but someone's interpretation of it

Middle-Earth Encyclopedia: Gollum

One Ring Net: Middle Earth Tours
more about commercialized Gollum

IMBD: Andy Serkis / Gollum-Smeagol,+Andy
Hollywood Gollum

Serkis: Lord of Rings Gallery