martes, 15 de mayo de 2018

WHAT LITTLE SANDRA READ - PART TWO

WHAT LITTLE SANDRA READ

PART TWO - Sandra at Twelve

These are the works I discovered upon entering puberty. The first time in my life I spent Swedish winters and Christmases, and came more into contact with my other country's culture, history, and literature.
I also discovered symphonic rock, by the way, which still has a profound impact on me.
But I am not including any Norse myths, for that would take up a whole volume on the subject, and especially on how much Loki came to mean to me ;)

It will suffice, however, to recap how I was introduced to Norse myths at this stage of my life:
When I was a child, my dad read Andersen stories and Norse myths to me. The myths were from a book called Bland gudar och jättar (Among Gods and Giants), an illustrated storybook. I immediately fell for Loki: whether leaving Thor's wife Siv like Sinéad O'Connor, turning into a mare to seduce a giant stallion and birthing a pretty unusual colt months later... Loki, the enfant terrible of the Valhalla, had a profound impact on me. So I will only give you a taste or two of Norse myths. A taste of Loki and then a taste of Odin:
As I have said before, when my dad first read Norse myths to me, I immediately fell for Loki: whether leaving Thor's wife Siv like Sinéad O'Connor, turning into a mare to seduce a giant stallion and birthing a pretty unusual colt months later... Loki, the enfant terrible of the Valhalla, had a profound impact on me. Yet the most outrageous thing he ever did I learned not from Bland gudar och jättar, but from the Swedish radio show Friggs rike (Frigga's Realm), targeting a more adult demographic. It was the episode from the Skadi story that did not appear in my Norse myth storybook. Never had I heard of Loki doing anything more spaced out. And Skadi is one of the most badass female characters in mythology I know, a warrior woman so cool and strong, whose name means literally "Hurt" ("skada" in Swedish, "Schade" in German), so this story is sure to be awesome...
In storms the giantess Skadi Thiassisdaughter into the Valhalla. Armed to the teeth, with her bow and arrows and her battle axe. White and foaming with rage. The gods have burned her father to a crisp, and she thirsts for revenge.
"Keep calm," Odin says, then tries to appease her by saying that they will make up for her late dad by offering one of them as a spouse to her.
Nearly all hot gods are married. And nearly all single gods are faulty. There is only one eligible bachelor among the Aesir, and it's Balder. Skadi has locked her target already. Yet Odin knows that he is not the perfect match for her, so he tells the young giantess she will be the one to choose her husband, but on one condition: that she has to pick by only looking at her suitors' feet.
As she closes her eyes not to see where each of them places himself, all the single gods arrange themselves in line, barefooted, behind a curtain. Skadi, when she is finally allowed to open her eyes, picks the best-looking pair of feet.
It turns out that it's a match far worse than Balder she has chosen: Njord, the god of the seaside, far older than she, who lives on the coast where the air reeks of algae and the seagulls squawk night and day. Skadi, a mountain-maiden through and through, is not amused. So she offers the gods a condition of her own: she will marry Njord only if the gods succeed in making her laugh. And she has not laughed since her childhood. (Now comes the bit that is censored in children's storybooks.)
The gods try everything: jokes, making faces, tickling... to no avail. In the end, it is Loki's turn. Surprisingly (and you know how unpredictable Loki is), he asks for a rope and one of Thor's billy goats. Once he has got both the rope and the goat (the myth does not specify whether it was Gnasher or Grinder), Loki ties one end of the rope to its goatee, then lowers his trousers (in front of the entire court of the gods!) and ties the other end around his own family jewels. The most painful, unusual, and outrageous tug of war I've ever heard of ensues. Loki must be in searing pain, at least wincing, maybe screaming like a banshee. And Skadi begins to giggle, to chortle, then bursts out into a hearty laugh when the trickster falls into her lap, having lost the tug of war.
Thus, she has no other choice than to marry Njord. Theirs is a short-lived marriage, dissolving after about a fortnight to live separate ways as divorcés due to irreconcilable differences. But I'm sure Skadi never forgot everything that Loki did to her (he even caused her father's death and started it all, in the first place). Thus, it came as no surprise that the gods, when they decided to smite Loki for all his evil deeds, chose Skadi to be his executioner. And she made sure the trickster would be in pain within the end of times: turning his two legitimate sons into direwolves and pitching them against one another, she then took Vali's and Narve's guts and used them for chains to bind Loki to a cliffside, then placed a poison snake above his head, dripping venom on the trickster and making him wince and writhe in endless searing pain (of course Loki's wife gathered the venom in a bowl, but, when it ran over, she emptied it pouring all the lethal liquid on her husband...). Indeed, Skadi was really schadenfroh, or "skadeglad," as it would be in Swedish.
...
Another R-rated Norse myth I got to know was the story of the Mead of Poetry, in a teenager book of myths from across cultures (Norse, Classical, Hindu, East Asian, Egyptian...) called En klunk av Kvasers blod (One Draught of Kvasir's Blood), by Sweden's leading oral narrator Mats Rehnman. The titular story is a feast of gore, intoxication, and steaminess my dad kept me from reading when I was a little girl, but I managed to read it in secret, once, during his absence. It begins with the two clans of gods signing a peace treaty and ends with Odin's unorthodox Promethean gift of inspiration to humankind.
So, to begin with the peace treaty: the Aesir and the Vanir, grown weary of years of war, gather to put an end to the armed conflict. And how do Norse gods sign a peace treaty? They all pass a bowl to one another and spit into it. When all the gods have mixed their fluids in the peace bowl, the froth begins to rise and take human shape. The figure born from the spit of the gods, Kvasir, is the most clever and learned of all sapients. He wanders through Midgard from village to village, sharing his infinite store of knowledge with humankind. But when he reaches Svartheim, the Home of the Dwarves, twin dwarf chiefs Fjalar and Galar, incensed by his words, crack Kvasir's skull open and drain his lifeless form of blood, then mix it with honey and store it in barrels in their cellars to create mead: honey beer. There is enough mead to fill three barrels, which the dwarves call Reconciliation, Acceptance, and Ecstasy. The Mead of Poetry is so strong a drink (stronger than Russian vodka?) that the drinkers who hold it become infused with Kvasir's knowledge and creativity. The Mead of Poetry is liquid inspiration. And Fjalar and Galar hoard it, deciding to take a sip every now and then. Until the drink goes to their little heads and inspires them to march on the Jotunheim (Giant-Home), where they manage to drown a married couple of giants. Their victims' orphaned children, however, do not hesitate to take a stand, and thus, the boldest of them, Suttung, captures the dwarves and puts them on a rocky islet in the middle of the ocean; a rock that, when the tide rises, is completely submerged underwater. At twilight, as highwater closes in, Fjalar and Galar pray for mercy and promise Suttung all three kegs of the Mead of Poetry as a fine to pay for having killed his parents. As soon as he puts them back on the mainland, they fulfill their promise. Suttung, once in possession of the mead, keeps it stored in a sealed ice cave, with his stepdaughter Gunnlaud shut in there, all alone without any distractions, to keep her eyes upon the prized treasure. Yes, there are no social services in the Jotunheim...
Now Odin himself, by chance, hears of the Mead of Poetry. And Odin, like me, thirsts constantly for knowledge. Having sacrificed his left eye and hung upside-down from Yggdrasil is not enough for him: he wants to drink the Mead as well...
Into the fields of Suttung's more sensible brother Baugi, during harvest time, wanders a weary drifter with a patch over his left eye. He offers the reaping farmhands a whetstone to sharpen their scythes, and the blades become so sharp that all of the reapers, fighting for possession of the whetstone, kill one another. Then, the one-eyed stranger offers his services to Baugi, impressing the landowner, since the stranger is strong and fast as nine men in one. When the harvest ends (within three days, that's how skilful he is), the drifter demands the Mead of Poetry in payment for his services. "You are Suttung's brother, after all..." After some well-deserved coaxing, Baugi takes up a drill and begins to bore through the door of the ice cave. When the hole is finished, the stranger (Odin, if you hadn't realized) turns into a one-eyed serpent and slithers into the cavern. Then, in the form of a dashing young man with a patch over his left eye, he approaches Gunnlaud, who is ecstatic to finally have some company. And that night, he deflowers her. The two of them manage to strike a deal: for each night of pleasure that Odin spends with the young giantess, the price will be a draught of the precious Mead. Three nights of love later, on the fourth day, quaffing Russian style, he drains each of the three kegs at one fell swoop (man, so much lovemaking makes one really thirsty...), then escapes through the hole in the shape of an eagle, with an infuriated Suttung, also in predatory avian form, hot on his talons. Thus, to fly lighter and easier, Odin drains himself of the Mead at both ends. Some of it falls into Midgard as eagle spew, and some as eagle poo. And, anywhere the Mead falls in either form, culture, knowledge, and creativity thrive among humankind, as a gift from the one-eyed god.

After so much violence, we may kind of tone down with some more innocent stories. Not only by Andersen, but also expurgated without any blood or guts. Yet, to quote Andersen and C.S. Lewis, these stories are not only for children, but also for reading adults to awaken... Shall we?

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When I was eight, in the year 2000, my dad gave me an ad usum adaptation (without any blood or guts) of Andersen's most famous stories (The Firelighter, The Little Mermaid, The Christmas Tree, The Ugly Duckling, The Tin Soldier, The Princess and the Pea...), illustrated by Cathie Shuttleworth. The translation, however, was not faithful to Nicola Baxter's source text, but a more or less free retelling by a Swedish translator called Ingrid Warne.
At a whopping sixteen pages long (the length of the longest story she had read for an eight-year-old, and later for a tweenager!), the ad usum Snow Queen in this compilation was, together with Norse myths starring Loki, shonen anime like One Piece, Genesis's Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, one of the works that shaped my tweenage years for reads and re-reads.
This is my English translation from Warne's Swedish of the Snow Queen in that collection. Together with the Lev Atamanov film, which I saw for the first time at Club Super3 around the same year, it was my childhood introduction to this tale.


And thus, without further ado, I am proud to introduce:

THE SNOW QUEEN 
Translated from the Swedish child-friendly adaptation by Ingrid Warne
into English by Sandra Dermark
(With vintage illustrations by Elizabeth Ellender)





0.
Maybe the secret of Andersen stories is that they he writes as if he were speaking out loud. Through this orality, we can hear his voice between the lines, how he tells his tales to friends, to little children.
In their original form, Andersen's tales are often very long and a little complicated when it comes to language; they can be incredibly sorrowful and sometimes even gory. Here, they have been retold and adapted with a careful hand. The gore and the tragedy have been toned down, and thus, these stories can also be told to, and read by, the youngest audiences.

I.
All right, let us begin! First, you ought to know a little about this wicked sorcerer and his mirror. In that mirror, everything turned hideous and frightening, and, if someone smiled at their own reflection, the only thing that could be seen was a sinister Cheshire-Cat grin. When people looked into the sorcerer's mirror, they said: "Ewww, how ugly and how wretched everything is! It does not pay at all to be kind..."
One day, the mirror shattered. The shards flew over the whole wide world and lodged in human eyes, where they warped the sight of their victims. But no one could even feel that they had got such a shard in one eye, since the shards were so tiny. All they could notice was that the world around them had turned so hideous and filthy... Several shards lodged within people's hearts, that instantly froze to ice. Nevermore could anyone feel any hope or joy.


II.
In those days, there lived two children, each one in a garret, their windows opposite one another, high above their bustling street. They had the custom of waving at each other across the street. Outside the windows, upon the sills, there were two large planter boxes, where, for three quarters of the year, roses bloomed and sweetpeas entwined, and, since their respective homes were so close to one another, the children frequently climbed over and across these boxes, like a suspended bridge, whenever the girl visited the boy's place or vice versa. Her name was Gerda, and his name was Kai.
In winter, their parents took the planter boxes indoors, and thus, Gerda and Kai had to run down all the stairs, and then up all the stairs across the street, if one of them wanted to visit the other. Sometimes, the snow whirled around the corners, and sometimes, little white snowflakes danced around.
"You do know that there is a snow queen?" asked Gerda's old grandmamma. "Try to find the biggest snowflake of them all, for that flake is the Snow Queen."
Later the same evening, when Kai was going to bed, he walked to the window and peered out. Right then, he saw a large snowflake that alighted upright upon the windowsill. As Kai stood there watching, the flake began to grow into a most beautiful lady in white. Her icy blue eyes glittered like stars, and her whole self shone with a strange, cold light.
Kai immediately understood that it was the Snow Queen. She was the loveliest sight he had ever seen, but, when she waved at him, he was frightened by the piercing cold look in her eyes. He turned his back to the windows and curled up in his warm bed. Right as he pulled the cover over his head, a dark shadow flew by outside the window.
The next day, when Kai was playing with Gerda as usual, he let out a scream of pain. "My heart is hurting so much..." he groaned, wincing "And my left eye as well."
Little to nothing could Kai know about the fact that a mirror shard had just lodged in his heart, and another, a splinter, in one of his eyes.
"Does it hurt much?" asked little Gerda in a friendly tone.
"Don't stand there gawking and looking at me like that!" Kai sneered. "Besides, I don't want to play with you anymore. You are stupid."
"But we were about to look at my new storybook," said an astonished Gerda.
"Storybooks are only for babies," Kai sneered, letting some snow fall on his coattails and letting Gerda see it through his magnifying glass. "Ice crystals, on the other hand, are completely perfect. Now I'm off to the Market Square to sled."
The local bad boys found a frequent thrill in lassoing some horse-drawn carriage as they sat upon their sleds. Thus, they would set off and be pulled along through the streets at breakneck speed! As Kai was now looking around for the perfect carriage to hitch a ride on, he saw a two-horse open sleigh, pulled by two beautiful horses, in the middle of the Market Square. "That's the sleigh that shall pull me," Kai thought. And thus, he lassoed that carriage, and the sleigh set forth with such tremendous power that Kai was pulled off his sled, and had to cling to the back of the seat, behind the driver.
Out of town the carriage drove, and the snow whirled around Kai. He began to feel really frightened, but he did not even dare to let go. In the end, the sleigh stopped in the open countryside and the driver who held the reins turned around. Then, Kai saw that it was the Snow Queen.
"Are you cold?" she asked him, stealing from him a kiss that erased all his remembrance of the past. "Come and sit here by my side and wrap my fur coat around you..." The Snow Queen was lovelier than ever before. Kai felt no longer afraid when the sleigh picked up speed once more and literally flew forth over the sparkling snow. High up in the sky twinkled the stars.



III.
But at home, little Gerda went about and mourned her playmate. Where could Kai have gone? People said that he was most likely dead, but Gerda refused to believe something that dreadful. As soon as springtime came, she donned her brand new red shoes and went forth to look for her missing friend.
Soon, she came to a wonderful orchard, where cherry trees stood in full bloom among the quaint little cottages. One of the doors opened, and there stood an old lady in a flowered straw hat. Her smile was so friendly that Gerda could not resist telling her about Kai, and how he had vanished without a trace.
"I have not seen him," the old lady said, "but most surely he will drop by around here, sooner or later. Why not stay here and wait for him?"
The old lady had, for a long long time, wished for a sweet little girl to call her own. Now, she let Gerda play in the beautiful orchard all springtime and summer long, but she took the care to wish all the roses away; otherwise, the girl would sadly be seized with homesickness, the old lady thought.
But she had forgotten the roses that decorated her hat! One lovely day, Gerda took a look at it. "Oh, no!" she gasped. "It will soon be autumn, and I have wasted all the springtime and summer away. I forgot why I once ventured out into the wide world... It was to look for Kai!"
And, without even donning her red shoes, she hastened away from the beautiful orchard. On she walked and walked.



IV.
Soon, her feet were sore, and she sat down for a rest. Then, a crow swooped down in front of her and began to peck the seeds on the ground.
Gerda asked the crow if he had seen Kai.
"Maybe I could," the crow began. "But he has forgotten you. All he can think of now is the princess."
And thus, he began to explain. The princess of the kingdom where Gerda and the crow were at the moment was very clever and learned. When she had read all the books in the castle library, she decided to look for someone she could marry. But it had not to be a twit at all!
The princess had an announcement printed in the press, and soon the castle courtyard was full of suitors, each one brighter than the other. But when they at last stood before the princess, they were so impressed both by her and by the golden throne she sat upon that they could not even breathe a word.
But one day, there came a boy who was neither afraid of the princess nor of her great fortune. He began a lively conversation with her about everything that she was interested in.
"Of course it was Kai!" Gerda gasped. "Now I must get to the castle and try to reach him there. But how could we do it?"
"I shall see what I can do," the crow promised before he flew away. In the evening, he returned: "My fiancée, the princess's pet who lives at the castle, will let us in through the back door."
Gerda hastened to the royal castle, where the fiancée crow really stood there waiting by the back door, that stood ajar. Right when Gerda was about to sneak up the spiral staircase, some soldiers passed by on horseback. But both men and horses were merely like twilight shadows. "These are dreams," the crows explained. "Things that the sleepers within the castle are dreaming of."
In the end, Gerda found the royal bedchamber. There stood two beds; in one of them lay the princess, and in the other, a head of messy hair popped up from the covers. Gerda pulled the covers off the sleeping lad. Then, she saw that it was not Kai at all, but a young prince.
Gerda began to cry with such heart-rending sobs that she woke up both the prince and the princess. They felt sorry for the little maiden and decided to help her. They promised her new shoes and a carriage of gold. Two footmen were to drive Gerda further on through her quest.




V.
But, as they were driving through the dark woods, some bandits attacked them and took the golden carriage.
Maybe they should have killed Gerda, if a young girl who was part of the robber band had not pleaded and nagged for her sake. Now, she was escorted instead to their den, a crumbling old ruin.
The robber maiden had a pet reindeer, that she rode into battle and wanted Gerda to say hello to. She had expected the robber maiden's fiery steed to be a pony or a little mule instead. The reindeer didn't appear to feel at home in the robbers' den, Gerda thought.
That night, she lay and listened to the owls who roosted and hooted high up there in the rafters. And, quite unexpectedly, one of them said:
"I have seen Kai, hoot hoot! It was last winter, and he flew with the Snow Queen in her carriage!"
"They were surely heading towards Lapland," another owl replied, "for there melts neither the snow nor the frost. Never, nevermore."
"That's right," the reindeer joined in. "The Snow Queen has her castle there, and I know for I was born in Lapland."
The robber maiden heard the whole conversation as well, and, at the crack of dawn, she told Gerda:
"I shall set my reindeer free if he promises to carry you on his back all the way up north to Lapland." The reindeer took to high leaps of joy, and Gerda shed tears of elation. On that very same morning, she climbed up on the deer's back, and off they set forth.
By day and by night they travelled, through deep forests and across high mountain ranges. In the end, the reindeer stopped in the middle of the tundra and said:
"All right, this is Lapland. Don't you see my wonderful Northern Lights?"

VI.
Shortly afterwards, they found a little deerskin tent where they asked to spend the night. When the Saami woman who lived in that tent heard where they were heading, she replied:
"The Snow Queen's palace? It's a long way to go, for the palace is in the Finmark, near the North Pole. But I know a wise Finmark woman who surely will help you find the way."
The next day, they set off once more. Gerda carried a letter that she was to give the Finmark woman. Inside her tent, it was warm and cozy, in spite of the snowstorm raging outside. After a while, Gerda could take off her cloak, her hat, and her shoes. Then, she gave the message to the wise woman, who read it most carefully.
"If Gerda could only do magic!" the reindeer sighed mournfully. "Then, she could have forced the Snow Queen and get Kai back..."
"Little Gerda has no need for magic," the Finmark woman replied. "She has a kind heart, and that's all she needs. Kai is happy at the Snow Queen's only because his heart is frozen. And, furthermore, there's a shard of the sorcerer's mirror in one of his eyes."
The wise woman then turned to the reindeer and resumed:
"You shall carry Gerda to the Snow Queen's garden, and leave her there, by the holly bush with red berries."
Gerda climbed once more up to the reindeer's back. She forgot her cloak, her hat, and her shoes.
The reindeer did as the wise woman had told, even if he did not like at all the idea of leaving Gerda all alone there, without any warm clothes, in the middle of the snowstorm.
A whole regiment of snowflakes whirled around Gerda. Some of them were icy blue, with monstrous shapes, and seemed to attack her; while others were white and soft, and, as they confronted the monsters, showed her the way to follow.


VII.
And so Gerda came to the Snow Queen's palace, whose walls were made of driven snow and whose doors and windowpanes were of ice hardened by the north winds. Only Gerda's warm heart kept her from freezing to death. The Queen herself was nowhere to be seen, having just left her throne room to bring the winter down south again.
In a little oubliette, she finally found Kai. He walked about pushing large blocks of ice as if it were a rather meaningful duty that had been assigned to him.
"Oh, Kai!" Gerda called him.
But Kai merely kept on moving his blocks. He was as pale and frozen as a statue of ice.
Yet Gerda stormed forth towards him and clasped him in her arms. Tears of joy coursed down her cheeks and onto his chest, seeping straight into his heart and thawing the hard layer of ice.
Outside the palace, the reindeer was waiting, and now began the long journey back home. Wherever they went, the snow melted away, and the grass and the flowers began to shoot up. They met the robber maiden on horseback, for she had emancipated herself on a quest through the wide world; she told them that the princess and her prince were travelling through foreign countries on honeymoon.
At last, they saw their hometown before them. Kai and Gerda quickened their pace.
It was as if time had frozen in their absence: everything in town was exactly the same. Old Grandmamma sat, as usual, by the window, sunning herself, and the planter boxes were in full bloom with roses and sweetpeas. Kai and Gerda walked up all the staircases up to their respective garrets. There, they stood, locking eyes and facing one another, high above the bustling street. Had everything that had transpired only been an unquiet dream? Anyway, here they stood now, like ever before, as warmth and sunshine and the scent of flowers pervaded everything around them, from all directions.



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Another Andersen story I got to know was the first one in the original list of tales in official integral version. Unlike the literary novella The Snow Queen, this is a Danish folktale (AT 562), retold by Andersen in his own personal style. In English it is known as The Tinderbox, but I first got to know it in Swedish; and, in Scandinavian languages, the title ("Fyrtöjet" in Danish, "Elddonet" in Swedish... even "Das Feuerzeug" in German) refers to any little device used to light fire. So a more appropriate translation would be "The Firelighter." Just think of a Zippo or any other classic period lighter... It's a pretty shorter story than that of the Snow Queen. It also has three big fat watchdogs (the heads of Cerberus?), a princess in a tower, parents who disapprove of her suitor, and it all starts with the aforementioned young man's descent into the underworld to retrieve the titular McGuffin...


THE FIRELIGHTER
Translated from the Swedish child-friendly adaptation by Ingrid Warne
into English by Sandra Dermark
(Illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline and others)

A young soldier, home from the wars, came marching down the kingsroad: left, right, left, right! Soon, he came across an old crone. 


"Oh my... what a gun, what a sword! You're a dapper young warrior indeed! Do you see that dry well over there? Well, if you climb down it and fetch something for me in the innermost sanctum of those three rooms under ground, I shall richly reward you. You see, I'm too old to bring what I'm looking for back to the surface. You will be paid a fortune, my lad!"
"And what am I supposed to bring you?" the young man asked.
"Just an old firelighter," replied the crone.



Down the well, under ground, there were three rooms, exactly like she had said; in each room there was a treasure chest, and each treasure was guarded by a huge watchdog. The first one, keeping a coffer full of bronze, had eyes as big as saucers; the second, who watched a silver hoard, had eyes the size of bicycle wheels; and the third, the keeper of a chestload of gold doubloons, had eyes like the rose windows in a cathedral tower. The soldier filled his pockets and backpack with money (first bronze, then silver, and finally gold), took the firelighter from the hall of gold treasure, and climbed back up to the surface. He gave the old crone the lighter, but, when he asked her wondering what was so special about that lighter, she refused to answer.

"Rather than telling you, I'll let you behead me at once!" she roared. And that was exactly what our young soldier did.
Then, he kept on his journey with the lighter in his pocket. Since he was loaded with gold, why not spend it in outrageous feasts, at the opera, in dapper attire...? So did this lad quite fast. At the end of the day, he had not one penny left. The staff at the four-star hotel where he had lived let him stay and work as a bellhop in exchange for room and board, up so many stairs that his fair-weather friends in high society never came for a visit because they found it exhausting to climb all the way up to his new place. 
And now he sat one winter night in his little bellhop's garret, freezing in the dark. A single little candle was all he had, and, when he was about to light it, he suddenly remembered the firelighter he had fetched down in the underworld. No sooner had he lit a flame that the dog with eyes as big as saucers appeared out of the dark. Astonished, the bellhop lit a second flame. Then came the dog with eyes the size of bicycle wheels; and, the third time, he summoned the one with eyes like rose windows. All three of them had come to grant his every wish.



It did not take long for our bellhop to be a wealthy man once more. One day, he heard about the royals' only daughter. She was very lovely, or so rumour had it, but she nearly never left the walls of her tower: her crowned parents were too afraid of that prophecy that she would marry a commoner!

Curious, the young man commanded the fire dogs to fetch the princess. As soon as he saw her lying on his rickety bed, he fell in love at first sight. If only he were a noble to marry her! 



Still, he kissed her passionately and let the dogs carry her back to her bedchamber at the royal castle.

The next morning, at the breakfast table, the princess told that she had dreamt of three monstrous dogs that had spirited her away. And a bellhop who had kissed her! The king and queen decided to keep watch over their only child and heir all night long. And, when the fire dogs came to whisk the crown princess away, guards were sent after the beasts. In the end, the young man was seized and locked up in a dark dungeon, until the time of execution, while his lighter was confiscated.
If I only had my firelighter at hand! the young man sighed. In the end, before the firing squad the next morning at dawn, he made the last wish to use the lighter for a last time; and thus, the officer who led the firing squad, accordingly, brought the firelighter.



Thrice our hero struck fire, and it did not last long until our three dogs sat in front of him, ready to obey his every command. Soon, they had battered down the doors of the fortress and overpowered the guards. 



They even chased the king and queen away from the kingdom, for the young bellhop and the princess to attain one another!
The people were delighted with their new young queen, and she had nothing against wearing the crown, as long as her beloved, the man of her dreams, shared her heart and hand as her consort. During the wedding feast, the three fire dogs sat at a feast table all for themselves... and you may believe that their eyes were open wider than ever before!




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MY FAVOURITE GENESIS SONGS
All of these Genesis songs had a profound impact, a very profound impact, upon my prepubescent mind as well. I will never forget the time dad bought Nursery Cryme at Auchan when I was but eleven, how enthralled I was with the cover picture of that girl who played croquet with severed heads, and how much that album means to me since then, ever since I was entranced by the tunes and the lyrics for the first time in my short life.

The Fountain of Salmacis

From a dense forest of tall, dark pinewood
Mount Ida rises like an island
Within a hidden cave nymphs had kept a child
Hermaphroditus, son of gods, so afraid of their love

As the dawn creeps up the sky
The hunter caught sight of a doe
In desire for conquest
He found himself within a glade he'd not beheld before

Hermaphroditus:
"Where are you my father?
Give wisdom to your son"

Narrator:
"Then he could go no further
Now lost, the boy was guided by the sun"

And as his strength began to fail
He saw a shimmering lake
A shadow in the dark green depths
Disturbed the strange tranquility

Salmacis:
"The waters are disturbed
Some creature has been stirred"

Narrator:
"The waters are disturbed
The naiad queen Salmacis has been stirred"

As he rushed to quench his thirst
A fountain spring appeared before him
And as his heated breath brushed through the cool mist
A liquid voice called "Son of gods, drink from my spring"

The water tasted strangely sweet
Behind him the voice called again
He turned and saw her in a cloak of mist alone
And as he gazed, her eyes were filled with the darkness of the lake

Salmacis:
"We shall be one
We shall be joined as one"

Narrator:
"She wanted them as one
Yet he had no desire to be one"

(Instrumental interlude; she goes straight for him and restrains him, he struggles to break free)

Hermaphroditus:
"Away from me cold-blooded woman
Your thirst is not mine"

Salmacis:
"Nothing will cause us to part
Hear me O gods"

Unearthly calm descended from the sky
And then their flesh and bones were strangely merged
Forever to be joined as one

(Instrumental interlude; both characters are fused together)

The creature crawled into the lake
A fading voice was heard
"And I beg, yes I beg, that all who touch this spring
May share my fate!"

Salmacis:
"We are the one
We are the one"

Narrator:
"The two are now made one
Demigod and nymph are now made one"

Both had given everything they had
A lover's dream had been fulfilled at last
Forever still beneath the lake...

(Chorus in a hallelujah mood)

Did you know?
  1. When I first heard the Genesis song, I learned a new classical myth that I didn't know before! I thought it was a secret, but it turned out that there are more people who know it!
  2. When I first heard the Genesis song, there was a word neither Dad nor I knew that we had to look up in our Swedish-English dictionary. It was the first time in my life I looked up a word: the verb "to quench," which still speaks of inquiry to me (but they'll never quench my thirst for knowledge).
  3. Another powerful female that Genesis introduced me to was Lilith, the zeroth woman (look up "Lilywhite Lilith" on YouTube).
  4. My obsession with Hermaphroditus and Salmacis took place from my 11th year of age to the 15th, during all of my puberty, until I had started bleeding. Then, I had discovered Othello in a reader in a local bookshop... Was all of that by chance?
Returning to Genesis, it's about time to talk Lilywhite Lilith, another femme fatale song that meant and still means A LOT for me. Maybe it was meant by chance, a decade before she learned to know the group: after falling out of love, a drunken thirty-something Sten Dermark, detached from Spanish wife and only child (who barely knew his face), accidentally shattered the first of the two discs in his Lamb Lies Down double LP. "Lilywhite Lilith" is the first song in Disc Two, the only one we have left on the LP.
(commentary - the zeroth woman)

Lilywhite Lilith

The chamber was in confusion 
All the voices shouting loud
I could only just hear
A voice quite near say:
"Please help me through the crowd"

Said if I helped her through
She could help me too
But I could see that she was wholly blind
But from her pale face 
And her pale skin
A moonlight shined

Lilywhite Lilith
She gonna take you through the tunnel of night
Lilywhite Lilith
She gonna lead you right

When I'd led her through the people
The angry noise began to grow
She said "Let me feel 
The way the breezes blow
And I'll show you where to go"

So I followed her into a big round cave
She said "They're coming for you
Now don't be afraid"
Then she sat me down 
On a cold stone throne
Carved in jade

Lilywhite Lilith
She gonna take you through the tunnel of night
Lilywhite Lilith
She gonna lead you right

She leaves me in my darkness
I have to face
Face my fear
And the darkness closes in on me
I can hear a whirring sound 
Growing near

I can see the corner of the tunnel lit up 
By whatever's coming here
Two golden globes float into the room
And a blaze of white light 
Fills the air...


Finally, the twenty-minute epic Supper's Ready also meant a lot to my musical and literary education. Occupying half the length of the album Foxtrot, and divided into seven parts like The Snow Queen, it also spans several registers from action-packed battle through Carrollian whimsy to mystical communion and return back home, just like the Andersenian novella. And of course the cast (aside from the young male and female leads, we have Narcissus, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Akhenaton... and even 666, who is no longer alone!!) is not for trifling either. Like the fox on the rocks --that human-bodied vixen in scarlet on an ice floe in the ocean, while the hunting party stands on the shore, in the cover of Foxtrot-- and the Musical Box --the first song in Nursery Cryme--. 
(commentary)

Supper's Ready

i. Lover's Leap

Walking across the sitting-room
I turn the television off
Sitting beside you 
I look into your eyes
As the sound of motor cars 
fades in the nighttime,
I swear I saw your face change
It didn't seem quite right

And it's... 
Hello, babe
With your guardian eyes so blue
Hey, my baby
Don't you know our love is true?

Coming closer with our eyes
A distance falls around our bodies
Out in the garden 
the moon seems very bright
Six saintly shrouded men 
move across the lawn slowly
The seventh walks in front
With a cross held high in hand

And it's...
Hey, babe
Your supper's waiting for you
Hey, my baby
Don't you know our love is true?

I've been so far from here
Far from your warm arms
It's good to feel you again
It's been a long long time
Hasn't it?


ii. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man

I know a farmer who looks after the farm
With water clear, he cares for all his harvest
I know a fireman who looks after the fire

You, can't you see he's fooled you all?
Yes, he's here again
Can't you see he's fooled you all?
Share his peace, 
sign the lease
He's a supersonic scientist
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man

Look, look into my mouth he cries
And all the children lost down many paths
I bet my life you'll walk inside
Hand in hand, 
gland in gland
With a spoonful of miracle
He's the guaranteed eternal sanctuary

(We will rock you, rock you little snake)
(We will keep you snug and warm)


iii. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men

Wearing feelings on our faces while our faces took a rest
We walked across the fields to see the Children of the West
But we saw a host of dark-skinned warriors 
standing still below the ground...
Waiting for battle!

The fight's begun, they've been released
Killing foe for peace
Bang, bang, bang
Bang, bang, bang

And they're giving me a wonderful potion
'Cause I cannot contain my emotion
And even though I'm feeling good
Something tells me I'd better activate my prayer capsule

Today's a day to celebrate
The foe have met their fate
The order for rejoicing and dancing
Has come from our warlord


iv. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?

Wandering in the chaos the battle has left
We climb up the mountain of human flesh
To a plateau of green grass and green trees
Full of life

A young figure sits still by a pool
He's been stamped "Human Bacon" by some butchery tool
He is you...

Social Security took care of this lad
We watch in reverence,
as Narcissus is turned to a flower
(A flower?)


v. Willow Farm

If you go down to Willow Farm
To look for butterflies, flutterbies, gutterflies
Open your eyes, it's full of surprise, everyone lies,
like the fox on the rocks
and the Musical Box
Oh, there's Mum and Dad and good and bad
And everyone's happy to be here

There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag
He used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag
The frog was a prince, 
the prince was a brick, the brick was an egg, the egg was a bird
(Fly away, you sweet little thing, they're hard on your tail)
Hadn't you heard?
(They're going to change you into a human being!)
Yes, we're happy as fish and gorgeous as geese
And wonderfully clean in the morning

We've got everything, we're growing everything
We've got some in, we've got some out
We've got some wild things floating about!
Everyone, we're changing everyone
You name them all, we've had them here
And the real stars are still to appear!

(All change!)

Feel your body melt
Mum to mud to mad to dad
Dad diddley office
Dad diddley office
You're all full of ball
Dad to dam to dum to mum
Mum diddley washing
Mum diddley washing
You're all full of ball
Let me hear your lies
We're living this up to the eyes
Ooee-ooee-ooee-oowaa
Momma, I want you now!

And as you listen to my voice
To look for hidden doors, tidy floors, more applause
You've been here all the time
Like it or not, like what you got
You're under the soil (The soil, the soil)
Yes, deep in the soil (The soil, the soil, the soil, the soil!)
So we'll end with a whistle
And end with a bang
And all of us fit in our places


vi. Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)

With the guards of Magog swarming around
The Pied Piper takes his children underground
Dragons coming out of the sea
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me
He brings down the fire from the skies
You can tell he's doing well by the look in human eyes
Better not compromise, it won't be easy

666 is no longer alone
He's getting out the marrow in your back bone
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll
Gonna blow right down inside your soul
Pythagoras with the looking glass
Reflects the full moon
In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a brand new tune

And it's Hey, babe
With your guardian eyes so blue
Hey, my baby
Don't you know our love is true?

I've been so far from here
Far from your loving arms
Now I'm back again
And babe it's gonna work out fine


vii. As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

Can't you feel our souls ignite
Shedding ever changing colours
In the darkness of the fading night
Like the river joins the ocean
As the germ in a seed grows
We've finally been freed to get back home

There's an angel standing in the sun
And he's crying with a loud voice
"This is the supper of the mighty one"
Lord of Lords, King of Kings
Has returned to lead his children home
To take them to the new Jerusalem
(Place of Peace).

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MY FAVOURITE PINK FLOYD SONGS
Pink Floyd did not play as relevant a part as Genesis in my childhood, but still

Syd Barrett

Crazy Diamond commentary - threnody, requiem

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Remember when you were young
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Now there's a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky
Shine on you crazy diamond

You were caught in the crossfire 
of childhood and stardom
Blown on the steel breeze
Come on you target for faraway laughter
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, 
and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon
You cried for the moon
Shine on you crazy diamond
Threatened by shadows at night
And exposed in the light
Shine on you crazy diamond

Well you wore out your welcome 
with random precision
Rode on the steel breeze
Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, 
and shine!

Nobody knows where you are
How near or how far
Shine on you crazy diamond
Pile on many more layers 
And I'll be joining you there
Shine on you crazy diamond

And we'll bask in the shadow 
of yesterday's triumph 
Sail on the steel breeze
Come on you boy child, 
you winner and loser
Come on you miner for truth and delusion, 
and shine!

Dark Side of the Moon - Lunatic Commentary

Brain Damage (The Lunatic)

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path

The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade you make the change
You rearrange me till I'm sane

You lock the door and throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me

And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

"I can't think of anything to say except... Ha-ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha!"
"I think it's marvelous."
"Ha-ha-ha!"

Eclipse

All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel

And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save

And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy,
beg, borrow, or steal

And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say

And all that you eat
And everyone you meet (everyone you meet)
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon...

There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HAND IN HAND WITH GWENDOLINE

Oh, hand in hand with Gwendoline,
while yet our locks are gold,
he'll fare among the forests green,
and through the gardens old;
And when, like leaves that lose their green,
our gold has turned to grey,
then, hand in hand with Gwendoline,
he'll fade and pass away!

Andrew Lang, 1884
 
 
Oh, hand i hand med Gwendoline
han genom skogen går,
som guld hans hår, så ungt hans sinn
bland parkens gröna snår.
När parkens grönska övergått
i grått liksom hans hår
bort går han med sin Gwendoline,
med hennes hand i sin. 
 
Översättning: Eva von Zweigbergk, 1960-tal
 
 
As a kid, my father often sang me the Swedish translation of this little Victorian ballad. It was on a compilation of KLASSISKA SAGOR with Red Riding Hood on the cover. The Swedish version, translated by Eva von Zweigbergk, is also in the common meter or ballad meter form, making it equally singable to both "Auld Lang Syne" and "The Rains of Castamere."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FOLKLORE FROM THE NORTH
KLASSISKA SAGOR was the title of the thick storybook in our place, the one where the Andrew Lang tale with this Gwendoline poem was written. The one with Red Riding Hood on the cover. But there were also folktales, the most relevant and the most classically Nordic of which (IMOHO) you are about to read.

NOW I'LL COME AND GET YOU!!
When I was a tween, my dad was a master at telling the story of the Three Billy Goats in Swedish, doing all the different voice impressions (and this, like Goldilocks, is an oral animal tale that relies heavily on doing one's bass and falsetto). He made quite a scary river troll and quite a fierce Big Billy Goat, with the gestures to support that booming voice of his.

SEVEN SISTERS GO SWIMMING (IN A FLOWER LAKE)
This story takes place in a woodland clearing so full of cornflowers, and bluebells, and forget-me-nots, that wave in the northern summer breeze... that seven passing-by sisters from the nearby village take it for a rippling blue lake, and thus, they cast off all their clothes and take the plunge for a dry swim in the "lake" of flowers.

THE BABY BOAT
Some people from a landlocked shire visit a large, bustling port town (Gothenburg, Stockholm, Turku... it varies depending of the region) and, upon seeing a majestic three-mast clipper tugging at a little yawl, they assume (after discarding the guess that it's a mother whale and her calf) that it must be a mother boat with her baby boat. They have always wanted a three-master, but sadly cannot afford an "adult" clipper, so they purchase the yawl, the "baby boat," from the shipping company and take it with them inland, into their patch of countryside.
From that day onwards, they place the yawl in different meadows and pastures, and even in a stable during the winter, measuring the "baby boat" every single evening, yet their charge does not even grow half an inch.

RECIPE FOR NAIL SOUP
On a dark and stormy night, a weary peddler knocks at the door of a cottage. A sourpuss old maid opens the door with a frown, telling him harshly that this is not an inn. The travelling salesman knows she's no Madame Thénardier, but he needs to bring out the best in her, coaxing her to let him in with the premise that he will teach her the recipe for nail soup that he has learned on his journeys.
"All right, but you will have to sleep on the floor."
"Thank you, that offer is better than sleeping outdoors at this time! But first, let's make some of that delicious nail soup for supper! So put the water on the boil, madam."
She puts a cauldron over a red hot fire and they wait until the water boils. Then, after popping in a rusty old nail into the water, the peddler smirks and says to himself within earshot of the lady:
"If only you had a little flour, it would taste better."
The old maid runs off to the pantry and returns with a whole sack of flour, that she gradually stirs into the soup, following the peddler's instructions. After a while, when all the flour has been added, he tastes it once more and says:
"If only you had a little milk, it would taste better."
Cue the old maid racing off and returning with a bottle of milk.
butter -> supper for lordships
basically béchamel sauce with a nail at the bottom
peas, potatoes, carrots, bacon -> soup for royalty
the ending

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ACK, TVENNE VÄRLDAR BOR HÄR I MITT BRÖST!
Before the Gothenburg Opera stands a statue of a chubby man, a beret on his head and a songbook on his left knee, facing westward towards the North Sea. In summer, foreign (particularly Asian) students crowd about him, wondering who this Evert Taube was.
To cut a long story short, he was a singer-songwriter of the Swedish twentieth century. Coming from a long line of old salts, spending the summers in the family lighthouse on the island of Vinga (where he combed the beach for little "treasures" washed upon the shore and listened to old sailors' yarns of derring-do) and the rest of the year cooped up in a Gothenburg townhouse, young Evert wanted to live the high seas, not as a captain per family tradition, but rather as a bard. Facing parental opposition to his dream, he moved across the land to Stockholm, the capital, where he led a bohemian lifestyle until his father practically forced him out to sea: young Evert had, in spite of it all being against his will, the chance to visit Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the Cono Sur (Patagonia, Chile, Argentina...), and the Mediterranean during his sailor years. During his five-year stint as a gaucho in the Pampas, he learned Italian, Spanish, and English (he also became a foreman in canal construction, and even aide-de-camp to President Sáenz Peña!). Returning to Sweden in the 1920s, he met, wooed, and married the love of his life, Astrid, née Bergman (their daughter Ellinor would become another muse of Evert's), and began his career as a renowned songwriter until his demise in Stockholm in 1976, at the ripe old age of 85.
If I had a pensieve and could take out any memories repressed in my head, the first ones to come out as golden thread would be of Taube songs as background music and a tall man whose face as a thirty-something I cannot remember. Of dancing the waltz, my little hands clutched in his oversized palms, to those lovely tunes. Thankfully, in puberty, I had the chance of reconnecting with both dad and Sweden, and of listening to Evert Taube with keener, more eager ears.
Taube's neo-romanticism
these lines on my memorial - and pinwheels ("voladorets") instead of flowers

Ack, tvenne världar bo i mitt bröst,
spanskt, det går aldrig ur blodet.
Spansk är min stämma, min klingande röst,
men när mina visor kom till...


THE MERRY BAKER (FEAT. DARTH VADER)
One of those life-relevant things I learned in my tweens was what a parody was. Of course I had read and watched fiction that retold other fiction in a jocund tone, but it was my dad who told me there is a term for that, and that said term is "parody." He said it referring to the Swedish version of MAD Magazine, Svenska MAD, which, in comparison to the US original, had localised many a cultural reference.
One of the parodies in Svenska MAD that caught most of my attention was the Swedish translation of "The Force and I - The MAD Star Wars Musical," original lyricist Frank Jacobs, which retold Episode Four of the legendary space opera with parody lyrics to familiar tunes of the screen and radio of those days.
In particular, the Sith Lord was introduced in the source text with a parody of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" from Sound of Music ("How Do You Solve A Problem Like Darth Vader?"). Since the Trapp Family musical was not that well-known in 1970s Sweden, the translation opted for parody lyrics about Darth Vader to the tune of Evert Taube's "Den glade bagaren i San Remo," yet another example of Mediterranean Romanticism that sings of an operatic, womanising Italian baker and henpecked husband.
Nowadays, I barely remember the lyrics, but still prefer the parody to the source song. Though there are very few verses of the parody I remember, such as the initial verses of the first stanza:
Vår fiende Darth Vader, ja, Dödsstjärnans kapten,
ja, om ni kände honom, så var ni nöjda sen!
Aside from the first verses in Stanza 1, the other thing I can recall is the first verse in the refrain:
Den fule Vader andas
med hisklig andedräkt, [···]
When my dad enters a new room, he's in the tile business, he always looks down at how the floor is tiled. He calls it "yrkesskada," literally the "injury of the profession." As a Translation student and amateur lyricist, I have got more or less the same... though when it comes to translations, especially those of singable lyrics.
The whole MAD Star Wars Musical in Swedish, needless to say, would prove a great influence on my singable translations and filk songs: remember that I came across these lyrics, not even knowing what filk music was (the term, same as for "parody" above), a lustrum before I found amIright filk songs and "My Bonnie Has Tuberculosis / My Bonnie Has Only One Lung!"

A DANCE ON SUNNANÖ
Rönnerdahl the middle-aged bohemian
letting his sweetheart be happy
northern summer = southern springtime
the lyrism of this poem as sung by Master Kees

The Dance on Sunnanö
by Evert Taube
Translated from the Swedish by Sandra Dermark
Gothenburg, 21st of August 2015
Exordio signi Virginis


There is a dance on Sunnanö, there dances Rönnerdahl
with little Eva Liljebäck in the brilliant great hall.
And through the windows a cool breeze brings from the summer night
a scent of jasmine and lilacs into the hall full of light.

And little Eva's arms are soft, and freckled is her face,
and red as berries are her lips, her new gown's full of grace.
"Herr Rönnerdahl! Why, it is you, who take whoe'er you please
of all the ladies in the world! I've heard it, yes, with ease!"

"My music's not for taking, it's for giving, mademoiselle.
I'm still wealthy, though I purchase far more than what I sell."
"What do you see, Herr Rönnerdahl? My new gown, my fair skin?"
"Yes, that and maybe something more... Bring a good violin!"

There is a dance on Sunnanö to Rönnerdahl's rondeau.
The wind dances, so do the waves, so does last winter's snow.
It whirls and twirls and waltzes the whole park and ball-room through,
and brightly dawns the summer morn and calls a lone cuckoo.

And little Eva dances with Lieutenant Rosenberg,
and not a freckle's on her face, love glows scarlet on her.
But Rönnerdahl plays like a god, pale, fair, with boldest stride,
while soaring in a higher sphere where Eva is his bride.

THAT BALLAD I MISTOOK FOR BEING WRITTEN BY MASTER KEES
context of 17e balladen
young Taube the outsider bohemian in Sthlm - critique of the grande bourgeoisie and high society of the capital and the need to "prostitute himself"
loathed and unpublished until his death
Cornelis Vreeswijk asked widow Astrid Taube for the rights - a star was born

THE SEVENTEENTH BALLAD
by Evert Taube
Translated from the Swedish by Sandra Dermark

Gothenburg, 12th of August 2015
under the sign of Leo
and in the best of all possible moods.

Dedicated to Mona Utsten,
and to María Calzada.


It's really hard, I confess, to agree,
with one who begs me to amuse him singing
and flatters me before th' auditory,
but whose backstabbing whispers I hear ringing.
It's really hard to accept and drink his wine...
I put the cup to my lips hesitating...
He boasts he's payed for all the celebrating,
and, behind my back, he calls me a swine!

But I am free, you old and wicked fox,
and you, Your Ladyship, with all your cackle...
I'm free to sing for you, old poppycocks.
With poetry, your balderdash I tackle.
I drink your health now with the gods, with all,
and bring the angel of peace down even quicker,
after I show you who has held her liquor,
and told you the truth, and saved my soul.

Because the truth is healthy, and it is true
that if one in this land defies tradition,
not chirping constantly like chicks like you,
like all the others in their superstition,
but walks one's own way, on one's own two feet,
forgetting common sense, worshipping beauty,
some old hen cackles always about duty
and about being dreadfully indiscrete.

But cackle you tomorrow! For today,
the chance is mine: I'll sing a louder din, nice:
"Cock-a-doodl-doo! Your Lordship, pleased you may!"
For you, I've put my life upon the thin ice.
Think more of happiness than wealth or gold,
for you've got many ways to stay elated...
E'en if that I've sung intoxicated
is as my eternal reputation told!

I stand alone, though in good company,
and that by right, since my own path I follow.
The light and the goal day by day I see,
far from all of these bottles that I swallow.
And thus, by tunes of silver cords amused,
by voices only known to poets' hearing,
I forget all small trifles and all jeering...
and, proud, drink to the health of my own Muse!


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ACH, ICH BIN EIN ELEND SÜNDER...
Carl Michael Bellman, first things first, was a singer-songwriter who lived and worked in Stockholm in the late eighteenth century, during the reign of Gustavus III. Nowadays, he is best known as a lyricist, writing new lyrics to several Swedish and foreign folk tunes, the new lyrics being, in general, dithyrambs in which he celebrates the thirst for pleasant sensations of every kind (intoxication, lovemaking, the beauty of nature or that of the female physique, a peaceful moment of sleep...). The Bellman style's and characters' influence on the Swedish language, both literary and vernacular, has reached such a high degree that he is righteously dubbed the Shakespeare of the North.
The ensemble cast of characters that star in the Bellman Epistles and Songs are stock characters yet full of life and perks, a proper Stockholm-based commedia dell'arte troupe; the chief players in this ensemble of quirky quaffers being:
  • Corporal Lorentz Mollberg, the non-commissioned officer (drunken, quarrelsome, straightforward, and gruff as any good non-commissioned officer should be, but also with hidden depths as a womaniser and virtuoso of several instruments); 
  • Fredrik Movitz, the seventyish yet eager maestro, composer, and party planner (virtuoso of several instruments, mainly string instruments; he appears most frequently as a contrabassist and violinist - but he can also play the French horn quite well, right?); 
  • Father Berg, the merry vicar (who can be best described as a Lutheran Friar Tuck, combining Luther's zest for life and action with the goliardesque, with all the attitude towards strong drink and wenches that this entails); 
  • Ulla Winbladh, the Freya among wenches (High Priestess of Freya and Bacchus in the idealised world, but actually a girl of 14 who, ever since being jilted by her colonel lover -Wilhelm Schildt, a Swede of Germanic descent, at the service of Russia!-, works at a silk-spinning mill in the daytime... and moonlights at night selling herself for the money, which was illegal during the reign of Gustavus III); 
  • Jergen Puckel, the hunchbacked German fop (dad's favourite character and mine, mostly due to his quirky fashion sense and mastery of the raising of the wrist: think Grantaire dressed as a sissy villain from any anime!);
  • Christian Wingmark (the proper grand bourgeois in his powdered wig and the only sane man, who often finds himself on the receiving end of Mollberg's shenanigans, or of his own wife's short temper, or both) 
  • and his wife Madame Wingmark, who henpecks him, but is also a lively matron herself, wearing the trousers in their household and in their public life...
  • and, of course, a wide-assorted Greek chorus of wenches and Knights of the Order of Bacchus.
Again, listing all the Bellman songs that caught little Sandra's attention would be as exhausting a list as the one of Norse myths... and thus, this chapter will also be a short sample of the whole package.

We have previously mentioned Jergen Puckel in our dramatis personae, as well as his role in the Dermarkian family mythos.
intro to Jergen, Schweutsch, encouragement to learn German, comparison to Goethe's Faust.

Ach, ich bin ein elend Sünder,
 mein Contract till Ende går;
 Herz einmal, ich mich verbinder,
 noch zwei år.

Ich soll alle Flicken kränke,
på Spielhusen vare flink,

 altrich på min Ehefrau dänke,

 på Katrink!
 Schönt Fiolen schtemmer.
 Bringt mir Bleck und Penne!
 Fröhlich hör jak dik nu till, tu Fan, vid förschte Fink.


 Mit mein rechte Blut jak schriever
 dich nu dette Refersal,
 det jak mich nu übergifver;
 Ganz fatal!
 Det jak ej will vare nükter,
selten uti Kirchen gå,
 truhget fülle meine Plikter,
 klunke på,
 glemme alle kremper.
 Stockholm den Nofember,
 Manu mea propria, auf Krugen Rosenthal.



MORE ABOUT JERGEN PUCKEL
Fred Âkerström, - Cajsa-Stina - badass covers
Käraste bröder...
Yellow overcoat with starched coattails, ponytail, and a pipe; quaffing vodka as if it were water.

THE REDDEST BERRIES IN WINE AND CREAM
Romeo-esque suitor serenading at the window of a fishermen's cottage on Lake Mälaren...

Ulla, my Ulla, say may I now offer
the reddest berries in wine and cream?
Or from the fountain a pitcher of water,
or from the lake trap a freshly-fished bream?

PUDDING MED RUSSIN, VÂFFLOR ETT DUSSIN...
Speaking of Bellmanian feasts, he has a song, to the tune of "Ja må hen leva" (the Swedish happy birthday song par excellence), which also prepares a scrumptious feast. This one's a bit trickier to make a singable translation of, because of all the rhyming effects that would be lost.
PS. "Kallsup" refers nowadays to having a drink go down the wrong way. But in the eighteenth century, it referred simply to a shot of liquor served cold.

     Ostron jag väljer,
       rhenska buteljer
skulle min drottning och jag tömma ut.
       Pudding med russin,
       våfflor ett dussin
bleve vår frukost, en kallsup till slut;

 Pudding med russin,
       våfflor ett dussin
bleve vår frukost, en kallsup till slut.


Somehow, another lyrics translator got ahead of me with this Anglophone translation that does not fully conform to the meter, but still is worth singing:

Oysters and wine,
All red from the Rhine,
Forthwith I'd command to my empress' repast;
Pudding with plums in,
Waffles a dozen,
Make up our breakfast, a dram at the last.

Pudding with plums in,
Waffles a dozen,
Make up our breakfast, a dram at the last.

IF YOU THINK THE GRAVE'S TOO DEEP AND DIRE...
Of Fred Âkerström - Cajsa-Stina - badass covers
singable libretto from my teens (Musica Sveciae)
I CAN DO BETTER!


THUS SAUNTER WE SO GRADUALLY
Fredman's Song number 21
Carl Michael Bellman
Translated directly from the Swedish by Sandra Dermark
on the 10th of September 2015
Castellón de la Plana, Region of Valencia, Spain

Dedicated to Mona Utsten on her 51st birthday, with all of my best wishes.

Thus saunter we so gradually
from revels loud and bountiful,
when death comes calling: "Come to me, 
thy hourglass is full!"
You, elder, lower your bâton, 
and you, young man, my law partake:
The fairest nymph who smiles at you on
in your arms you shall take!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

You, th'one with apple-ruddy cheeks
and tricorn hat cocked to the side,
soon your procession dressed in black
is forward seen to stride!
And you, who speak of poppycocks,
with medals rife your overcoat...
I hear carpenters make your box
and rattle in your throat!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

And you, who, chanting titles' clank,
deck your bâton with gold each year,
which barely gets, for all your rank,
a shilling for your bier!
And you, who, cowardly and irate,
curse the cradle that once you held,
yet, for the glass's second half, they relate,
should every day be beheld!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

You, who in blood-stained shirt forth strode
whenever Ares played fanfare,
you, who in the arms of Fräulein Bode
are weak and toss and flare...
...and you, with books inlaid with gold,
raising your head at church-bells' knell,
clever and learned, to wage war told
on ignorance and hell!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

But you, who as if honest shine,
offending your friends constantly,
and slandering them once drunk wine,
as if a joke, I see...
And you, your friends do you not defend,
in spite of all the drinks you've shared...
You could as well stick a carrot up your rear end!
What d'you say? Have you cared?

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

But you, upon returning, the most
times French leave took! What did you think?
Not pleased at all is our dashing host,
though he commanded: "Drink!"
Tear such a guest apart from the feast,
thrust him out with his whole entourage,
then, with a mien of fiend or beast,
tear the cup from his visage!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!

Say, are you pleased? What do you say?
Then praise the host now at the end all!
If we're all heading the same way,
we'll follow each other! Skål!
But first, with our wines red and white,
we bow before our hostess! Arr!
Slip freely into the grave in the light
of Venus, th'evening star!

REFRAIN:
If you think the grave's too deep and dire,
why not take a draught of liquid fire?
Then another, a third, make it four, make it five...
and you'll feel more alive!


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AF KLINTBERG MIN VÄN
"Den stulna njuren"

FROGMAN FRICASSÉ
In a very dry woodland in mid-summer, where and when bushfires are a frequent occurrence (I have heard Spanish and Australian versions of this story, as well as one set on the Swedish island of Öland), the charred remains of a frogman in full scuba gear, aqualungs and all, are found at the top of a charred pine, hanging like a macabre Christmas ornament half a year out of season.
Turns out that the frogman had been diving on the coast where the firefighting hydroplanes and hydrocopters refilled their tanks. He had been sucked into such a tank and released high above the flames...

THAI KIDNEY HOUSE MAFIA
Scandinavian tourists, frequently young and green, on a summer visit to a Southeast Asian country, are coaxed by so-called "activists" who speak broken Engrish to sign a petition, written in the language of that country, for "raising funds to save the rainforest (and/or the tigers, and/or the orangutans)."
recommended a place to go for a drink
unconscious after just draining that cup, awakening in an ice bathtub with a fresh stitch on the lower back, bandaged at the loins with white gauze
back home in Scandinavia -> general hospital -> the form in an Asian language for "saving the jungles" which they had unwittingly signed was actually a kidney donor's contract.

MR. AND MRS. BATMAN
A concierge in the Norwegian town of Stavanger was, during the night shift, startled by sudden screams and thuds from upstairs, from a flat where a childless fortyish couple lived. After he had rung Emergencies and they had stormed into the couple's bedroom, they found the wife tied to a chair with sturdy ropes, dressed only in scanty underwear. On the floor at her feet, between her spreadeagled legs... lay the husband, unconscious, in a Batman costume, black mask and all. The only difference from the original Batman being that this cosplayer's costume had the fly open and the genitals peeking through the open fly.
Turns out that Mr. and Mrs. Batman were stuck in a rut, and trying a hand at bondage and roleplay. The cosplaying hero, standing upright on the bed and leaping off it, was supposed to swoop down upon the damsel and set her free. However, he had underestimated both his own lack of physical prowess and state of intoxication.
The Emergency services freed Mrs. Batman and reanimated her husband.
(Other versions of these botched randy shenanigans have the husband cosplaying as Superman, Tarzan, or the Phantom -a superhero quite popular in Scandinavia-.)

DIE HARD AND TRY HARDER
So it's this young man with a stroke of bad luck: girlfriend fell out of love, finds no job, expelled from University... thankfully, he has a water-tight plan. And, by water-tight, it means that the local river, strait, or fjord plays a major role. It's just as easy as going down to the bridge with a noose, a loaded pistol, and a box of Rohypnol.
description of all the options
what could go wrong?

PIRANHAS IN THE POND
In the park in Malmö, a dog owner is playing fetch with her pet on the shores of the artificial lake. The stick falls into the water, and the doggy swims in to fetch it... is pulled into the lake and begins to yelp... sinks as the water around bubbles and is dyed red... and that doggy never resurfaces.
It appears that some at least eccentric person has put piranhas in those ponds, and now they're a dangerous invasive species.

THE HEROIN BABY
On a plane back to Europe from Colombia, there are a young straight couple with their newborn baby lolling on the young woman's lap. When a flight attendant approaches them, and offers even comforts (pillows, a nappy-changing cloth for the plane table) meant for the baby, the infant does not even react. In fact, the infant, with a strangely pale face, does not even breathe. Alarmed, the flight attendant asks the parents to undress their baby to perform some CPR. They refuse at all costs... but still, the flight attendant wrests the baby out of their arms and takes off that little one-piece... to see, in the middle of the chest, some rather Frankenstein-esque stitching, which appears to be pretty decent, since the thread remains and the cut is fresh! Alarmed, she takes some scissors and opens up the infant's chest, as the couple stare at one another, not saying anything but looking quite afraid... which leads to a shocking discovery: the little ribcage is revealed to be hollow and full of heroin and cocaine bags. The smugglers had taken a dead baby, taken out the little lungs from its chest, filled it with their illegal cargo, stitched it back together, and made it pass for their own child on the flight back to Europe.
The air hostess, as she passed along the aisle of the plane on the transatlantic flight, noticed that the baby, nestled between the couple who were asleep, didn’t look very well — in fact it looked extremely ill. Not wanting to disturb anyone she gently lifted up the baby and took it back to her station.
Feeling the baby’s forehead, she found it was cold and with a sudden panic she realized that the infant was dead.
Calling upon a doctor she knew to be on board, he examined the baby and confirmed that, not only was it dead, but it was embalmed. The child’s body had been hollowed out and it was full of the illegal drugs that the couple were trying to smuggle.


THREE BUSINESSMEN AND A NUT
Three businessmen en route to an important conference suddenly get a flat tyre on a dark country road in the middle of nowhere. They do have a spare tyre; what is missing are the metal nuts to secure it in place. The accident happened to take place not far from a lunatic asylum, or nuthouse.

AN OVEN FULL OF LOVING
A young pâtissier takes a nap reclining against the oven... and does not awaken. His colleagues try to reanimate him, but in vain. They phone 112... and, a while later, they get the dreadful coroner's report that the young man had been oven-baked on the inside. All the vital organs in his abdomen were broiled.

EL SEÑOR DON GÂTEAU
Finally, I would like to call your attention to the tale of a young Spanish maidservant in a wealthy London household. The master and his lady are off to the opera one evening and tell the maid to put the gâteau, assuming she knows that they are referring to the cake, in the freezer. They have a white Persian cat, which they love like the child they never had, as a pet. Of course the Spanish maid has never heard the French word "gâteau" in her short life, so she assumes, even though it might seem quite strange ("eccentric quirks of the masters," she thinks), that she has to put the "gato" in the freezer.
When the masters finally return home to their Belgravian mansion at midnight, they look at one another with utmost concern, since their pet cat has not come to meet them and rub against their legs like she always does every time she hears the keys in the keyhole. Upon entering, they find the lukewarm gâteau still on the kitchen counter... and, upon opening the freezer to get some ice for their bedtime glasses of Scotch, they find a dead lump covered with frosty white fur inside the freezer, frozen solid.
Needless to say that, in the very first morning, those masters fired that maid.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
MOBY DICK
Moby Dick was that only Penguin Classic in Papa's library that I liked to re-read some special short fragments of every now and then, positively surprising him. The main reason why a little animalist got involved in the exploits of a whaling crew was none other than the title. I already knew what "dick" meant other than a hypochoristic of Richard; ie the more adult word sense. And I was but eleven or twelve... (smirk!)
As for the influence of Moby Dick on my works: there were three things in this epic that especially struck my fancy: the initial Etymology and Extracts, the description of cetacean anatomy during dissections of specimens, and the analysis of the zodiac on the gold doubloon in Chapter 99; all these three fragments I read "like Satan reads the Bible" (ie only that and not the whole text). Without much further ado, let me introduce you to each of these in turn, and in order of appearance:

ETYMOLOGY AND EXTRACTS
As Part Zero, before Chapter 1 titled "Loomings," Melville breaks the ice by introducing the reader to everything about cetacean etymology and literature that was known up to the Age of Revolution. One of the results of said beginning was the fact that Yours Truly, at the tender age of 11, could say "whale" in Fiji and Erromangoan.
The "Extracts" proved my introduction to several classics of English literature (The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Pilgrim's Progress, The Rape of the Lock), as well as to my first brushes with iambic pentameter (I would never read Shakespeare in original until my mid-teens). I also enjoyed my home country being compared to a whale beached off the coast of Europe, as well as Georges Cuvier's assertion that the whale is a mammal without hindquarters (and, in fact, cetaceans have got vestigial pelvises, remains of their terrestrial ancestry!).
Finally, the Extracts introduced me to the Leviathan mythos that would provide such fertile ground for future Lovecraft reads as a nerd intrenched in the high school library...
ETYMOLOGY
(Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School)
The pale Usher- threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality.
“While you take in hand to school others, and to teach them by what name a whale is to be called in our tongue leaving out, through ignorance, the letter H, which almost alone maketh the signification of the word, you deliver that which is not true.” HACKLUYT
“WHALE. * * * Sw. and Dan. val. This animal is named from roundness or rolling; for in Dan. hvalt is arched or vaulted.” WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY
“WHALE. * * * It is more immediately from the Dut. and Ger. Wallen; A.S. Walw-ian, to roll, to wallow.” RICHARDSON’S DICTIONARY
KETOS, Greek. 
CETUS, Latin. 
WHOEL, Anglo-Saxon. 
VAL, Danish. 
WAL, Dutch. 
VAL, Swedish. 
HVALUR, Icelandic. 
WHALE, English. 
BALEINE, French. 
BALLENA, Spanish. 
PEKEE-NUEE-NUEE, Feegee (Fiji). 
PEKEE-NUEE-NUEE, Erromangoan.
EXTRACTS
(Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian)
It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of a poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane. therefore you must not, in every case at least, take the higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in these extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As touching the ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here appearing, these extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing bird’s eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our own.
So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am. Thou belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this world will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too rosy-strong; but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel poor-devilish, too; and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them bluntly, with full eyes and empty glasses, and in not altogether unpleasant sadness- Give it up, Sub-Subs! For by how much more pains ye take to please the world, by so much the more shall ye for ever go thankless! Would that I could clear out Hampton Court and the Tuileries for ye! But gulp down your tears and hie aloft to the royal-mast with your hearts; for your friends who have gone before are clearing out the seven-storied heavens, and making refugees of long pampered Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, against your coming. Here ye strike but splintered hearts together- there, ye shall strike unsplinterable glasses!
“And God created great whales.” GENESIS. 
“Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep to be hoary.” JOB.
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” JONAH.
“There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein.” PSALMS.
“In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword, shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” ISAIAH
“Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if is not Leviathan described by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.” RABELAIS.
“The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling pan.” LORD BACON’S VERSION OF THE PSALMS.
“Very like a whale.” HAMLET.

“Which to secure, no skill of leech’s art 
Mote him availle, but to returne againe 
To his wound’s worker, that with lowly dart, 
Dinting his breast, had bred his restless paine, 
Like as the wounded whale to shore flies thro’ the maine.” THE FAERIE QUEENE. 

“Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful calm trouble the ocean til it boil.” SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT. PREFACE TO GONDIBERT.

“Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail 
He threatens ruin with his ponderous tail. 
* * * * Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears, 
And on his back a grove of pikes appears.” WALLER’S BATTLE OF THE SUMMER ISLANDS.
“By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Commonwealth or State- (in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.” OPENING SENTENCE OF HOBBES’S LEVIATHAN.
“Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat in the mouth of a whale.” PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.
“That sea beast Leviathan, which God of all his works 
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.” PARADISE LOST.
—“There Leviathan, 
Hugest of living creatures, in the deep 
Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims, 
And seems a moving land; and at his gills 
Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” IBID.
“So close behind some promontory lie 
The huge Leviathan to attend their prey, 
And give no chance, but swallow in the fry, 
Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.” DRYDEN’S ANNUS MIRABILIS.
“To fifty chosen sylphs of special note, 
We trust the important charge, the petticoat. 
Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail, 
Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.” RAPE OF THE LOCK.
“Spain- a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.” EDMUND BURKE. (SOMEWHERE.)
“Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a stroke, with immense velocity.” JOHN HUNTER’S ACCOUNT OF THE DISSECTION OF A WHALE. (A SMALL SIZED ONE.)
“The aorta of a whale is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the water-works at London Bridge, and the water roaring in its passage through that pipe is inferior in impetus and velocity to the blood gushing from the whale’s heart.” PALEY’S THEOLOGY.
“The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.” BARON CUVIER.
All of this exciting and edifying jazz comes as the zeroth section of the novel, right before Chapter 1, "Loomings:"
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
At which point, at the end of this paragraph, I would grow weary and return once more to the Fiji and Erromangoan and Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost and my native country described as a beached whale on the European coast and Georges Cuvier correctly describing the whale as a mammal without hindquarters (cetaceans have very rudimentary pelvises, as proof of their terrestrial ancestry).

CETACEAN DISSECTIONS (FEAT. THE GREAT HEIDELBERG TUN)
The section of anatomy in Moby Dick caught my eye when I was at the dissection stage of my life, opening up frogs and bugs and a doll's voicebox to see what they looked like on the inside. And of course there had been precedents in the scary tales of devoured victims that scarred my childhood: Tom Thumb, Pinocchio, the Tin Soldier, the Seven Goat Kids... (This was on Grandmama's lap, long before noticing that I was a voraphile!)
In a move that seems to anticipate the way the camera maneuvers around in a film, Ishmael encourages the reader to go up through the bottom of the whale’s head into its throat and look at the world from inside its mouth, covered in glossy white membranes.
Furthermore, said membranes are compared to bridal satins, but this is not the only analogy here: the stomach of the sperm whale is a great Kentucky Mammoth Cave, its spermaceti organ is a Great Heidelberg Tun, its windpipe is like the Grand Erie Canal, its pulmonary blood vessels form a remarkably involved Cretan Labyrinth, the tongue is a carpet of the softest Turkey, the cranium is compared to the fortifications of Québec... The esophagus, or "swallow," is so narrow that a croissant would get stuck. But still these analogies make the cetacean system (and, by extension, any other mammalian system) an epic world, a planet of marvels, in itself.
In case you are feeling thirsty, why not read the passages while playing a little drinking game? Take a sip per each and every analogy of cetacean body parts with objects or places.

After giving you an overview, on to the text without further ado:


Chapters 74-75: The Heads of the Sperm and Right Whale, respectively

Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us join them, and lay together our own.
Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all the known varieties of the whale. As the external difference between them is mainly observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this moment hanging from the Pequod’s side; and as we may freely go from one to the other, by merely stepping across the deck:- where, I should like to know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology than here?
In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between these heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but, there is a certain mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale’s which the Right Whale’s sadly lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale’s head. As you behold it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority to him, in point of pervading dignity. In the present instance, too, this dignity is heightened by the pepper and salt color of his head at the summit, giving token of advanced age and large experience. In short, he is what the fishermen technically call a “grey-headed whale.”
Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads- namely, the two most important organs, the eye and the ear. Far back on the side of the head, and low down, near the angle of either whale’s jaw, if you narrowly search, you will at last see a lashless eye, which you would fancy to be a young colt’s eye; so out of all proportion is it to the magnitude of the head.
Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale’s eyes, it is plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more than he can one exactly astern. In a word, the position of the whale’s eyes corresponds to that of a man’s ears; and you may fancy, for yourself, how it would fare with you, did you sideways survey objects through your ears. You would find that you could only command some thirty degrees of vision in advance of the straight side-line of sight; and about thirty more behind it. If your bitterest foe were walking straight towards you, with dagger uplifted in broad day, you would not be able to see him, any more than if he were stealing upon you from behind. In a word, you would have two backs, so to speak; but, at the same time, also, two fronts (side fronts): for what is it that makes the front of a man- what, indeed, but his eyes?
Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of, the eyes are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so as to produce one picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar position of the whale’s eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of solid head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating two lakes in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate the impressions which each independent organ imparts. The whale, therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side, and another distinct picture on that side; while all between must be profound darkness and nothingness to him. Man may, in effect, be said to look out on the world from a sentry-box with two joined sashes for his window. But with the whale, these two sashes are separately inserted, making two distinct windows, but sadly impairing the view. This peculiarity of the whale’s eyes is a thing always to be borne in mind in the fishery; and to be remembered by the reader in some subsequent scenes.
A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning this visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content with a hint. So long as a man’s eyes are open in the light, the act of seeing is involuntary; that is, he cannot then help mechanically seeing whatever objects are before him. Nevertheless, any one’s experience will teach him, that though he can take in an undiscriminating sweep of things at one glance, it is quite impossible for him, attentively, and completely, to examine any two things- however large or however small- at one and the same instant of time; never mind if they lie side by side and touch each other. But if you now come to separate these two objects, and surround each by a circle of profound darkness; then, in order to see one of them, in such a manner as to bring your mind to bear on it, the other will be utterly excluded from your contemporary consciousness. How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man’s, that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct problems in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated, is there any incongruity in this comparison.
It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when beset by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer frights, so common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly proceeds from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve them.
But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye. If you are an entire stranger to their race, you might hunt over these two heads for hours, and never discover that organ. The ear has no external leaf whatever; and into the hole itself you can hardly insert a quill, so wondrously minute is it. It is lodged a little behind the eye. With respect to their ears, this important difference is to be observed between the sperm whale and the right. While the ears of the former has an external opening, that of the latter is entirely and evenly covered over with a membrane, so as to be quite imperceptible from without.
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all.- Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind? Subtilize it.
Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant over the sperm whale’s head, so, that it may lie bottom up; then, ascending by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and were it not that the body is now completely separated from it, with a lantern we might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach. But let us hold on here by this tooth, and look about us where we are. What a really beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from floor to ceiling, lined, or rather papered with a glistening white membrane, glossy as bridal satins.
But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw, which seems like the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box, with the hinge at one end, instead of one side. If you pry it up, so as to get it overhead, and expose its rows of teeth, it seems a terrific portcullis; and such, alas! it proves to many a poor wight in the fishery, upon whom these spikes fall with impaling force. But far more terrible is it to behold, when fathoms down in the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there suspended, with his prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging straight down at right-angles with his body; for all the world like a ship’s jibboom. This whale is not dead; he is only dispirited; out of sorts, perhaps; hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his jaw have relaxed, leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a reproach to all his tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws upon him.
In most cases this lower jaw- being easily unhinged by a practised artist- is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of extracting the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white whalebone with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles including canes, umbrellasticks, and handles to riding-whips.
With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were an anchor; and when the proper time comes- some few days after the other work- Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished dentists, are set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag stumps of old oaks out of wild woodlands. There are generally forty-two teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down, but undecayed; nor filled after our artificial fashion. The jaw is afterwards sawn into slabs, and piled away like joists for building houses.
Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the the Right Whale’s head.
As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale’s head may be compared to a Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly rounded); so, at a broad view, the Right Whale’s head bears a rather inelegant resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a shoemaker’s last. And in this same last or shoe, that old woman of the nursery tale with the swarming brood, might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her progeny.
But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume different aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on its summit and look at these two f-shaped spout-holes, you would take the whole head for an enormous bass viol, and these spiracles, the apertures in its soundingboard. Then, again, if you fix your eye upon this strange, crested, comblike incrustation on the top of the mass- this green, barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the “crown,” and the Southern fishers the “bonnet” of the Right Whale; fixing your eyes solely on this, you would take the head for the trunk of some huge oak, with a bird’s nest in its crotch. At any rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle here on this bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you; unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term “crown” also bestowed upon it; in which case you will take great interest in thinking how this mighty monster is actually a diademed king of the sea, whose green crown has been put together for him in this marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very sulky looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip! what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter’s measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and pout that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more.
A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped. The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when earthquakes caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a slippery threshold, we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I at Mackinaw, I should take this to be the inside of an Indian wigwam. Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah went? The roof is about twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp angle, as if there were a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed, arched, hairy sides, present us with those wondrous, half vertical, scimitar-shaped slats of whalebone, say three hundred on a side, which depending from the upper part of the head or crown bone, form those Venetian blinds which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned. The edges of these bones are fringed with hairy fibres, through which the Right Whale strains the water, and in whose intricacies he retains the small fish, when openmouthed he goes through the seas of brit in feeding time. In the central blinds of bone, as they stand in their natural order, there are certain curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges, whereby some whalemen calculate the creature’s age, as the age of an oak by its circular rings. Though the certainty of this criterion is far from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical probability. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater age to the Right Whale than at first glance will seem reasonable.
In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous “whiskers” inside of the whale’s mouth;* another, “hogs’ bristles”; a third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language: “There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his upper chop, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth.”
*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, or rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on the upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these tufts impart a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn countenance.
As every one knows, these same “hogs’ bristles,” “fins,” “whiskers,” “blinds,” or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne’s time that the bone was in its glory, the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as you may say; even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness, do we nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being a tent spread over the same bone.
But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and, standing in the Right Whale’s mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of the softest Turkey- the tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the floor of the mouth. It is very fat and tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting it on deck. This particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it will yield you about that amount of oil.
Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started with- that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale’s there is no great well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible of a lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale’s. Nor in the Sperm Whale are there any of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely anything of a tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external spout-holes, the Sperm Whale only one.
Look your last now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet lie together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the other will not be very long in following.
Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale’s there? It is the same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to death. But mark the other head’s expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident against the vessel’s side, so as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution facing death? This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.

Chapter 83: Jonah Historically Regarded

One old Sag-Harbor whaleman’s chief reason for questioning the Hebrew story was this:- He had one of those quaint old-fashioned Bibles, embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which represented Jonah’s whale with two spouts in his head- a peculiarity only true with respect to a species of the Leviathan (the Right Whale, and the varieties of that order), concerning which the fishermen have this saying, “A penny roll would choke him”; his swallow is so very small. But, to this, Bishop Jebb’s anticipative answer is ready. It is not necessary, hints the Bishop, that we consider Jonah as tombed in the whale’s belly, but as temporarily lodged in some part of his mouth. And this seems reasonable enough in the good Bishop. For truly, the Right Whale’s mouth would accommodate a couple of whist-tables, and comfortably seat all the players. Possibly, too, Jonah might have ensconced himself in a hollow tooth; but, on second thoughts, the Right Whale is toothless.
Another reason which Sag-Harbor (he went by that name) urged for his want of faith in this matter of the prophet, was something obscurely in reference to his incarcerated body and the whale’s gastric juices. But this objection likewise falls to the ground, because a German exegetist supposes that Jonah must have taken refuge in the floating body of a dead whale- even as the French soldiers in the Russian campaign turned their dead horses into tents, and crawled into them. Besides, it has been divined by other continental commentators, that when Jonah was thrown overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway effected his escape to another vessel near by, some vessel with a whale for a figure-head; and, I would add, possibly called “The Whale,” as some craft are nowadays christened the “Shark,” the “Gull,” the “Eagle.” Nor have there been wanting learned exegetists who have opined that the whale mentioned in the book of Jonah merely meant a life-preserver- an inflated bag of wind- which the endangered prophet swam to, and so was saved from a watery doom. Poor Sag-Harbor, therefore, seems worsted all round. But he had still another reason for his want of faith. It was this, if I remember right: Jonah was swallowed by the whale in the Mediterranean Sea, and after three days’ he was vomited up somewhere on the Tigris, very much more than three days’ journey across from the nearest point of the Mediterranean coast. How is that?

Chapter 77: The Great Heidelberg Tun
Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you must know something of the curious internal structure of the thing operated upon.
Regarding the Sperm Whale’s head as a solid oblong, you may, on an inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous substance.
*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both sides.
The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great tierce is mystically carved in front, so the whale’s vast plaited forehead forms innumerable strange devices for emblematical adornment of his wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished with the most excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate ice is just forming in water. A large whale’s case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of securing what you can.
I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not possibly have compared with the silken pearl-colored membrane, like the lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale’s case.
It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since- as has been elsewhere set forth- the head embraces one third of the whole length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship’s side.
As in decapitating the whale, the operator’s instrument is brought close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless, untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.
Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and- in this particular instance- almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm Whale’s great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.

Chapter 80: The Nut
If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist his brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to square.
In in full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty feet in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this skull is as the side of a moderately inclined plane resting throughout on a level base. But in life- as we have elsewhere seen- this inclined plane is angularly filled up, and almost squared by the enormous superincumbent mass of the junk and sperm. At the high end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; while under the long floor of this crater- in another cavity seldom exceeding ten inches in length and as many in depth reposes the mere handful of this monster’s brain. The brain is at least twenty feet from his apparent forehead in life; it is hidden away behind its vast outworks, like the innermost citadel within the amplified fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice casket is it secreted in him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily deny that the Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance of one formed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange folds, courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems more in keeping with the idea of his general might to regard that mystic part of him as the seat of his intelligence.
It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in the creature’s living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his true brain, you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any. The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world.
If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and from the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled down to the human magnitude) among a plate of men’s skulls, and you would involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you would say- This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by those negations, considered along with the affirmative fact of his prodigious bulk and power, you can best form to yourself the truest, though not the most exhilarating conception of what the most exalted potency is.
But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale’s proper brain, you deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then I have another idea for you. If you attentively regard almost any quadruped’s spine, you will be struck with the resemblance of its vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit, that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. But the curious external resemblance, I take it the Germans were not the first men to perceive. A foreign friend once pointed it out to me, in the skeleton of a foe he had slain, and with the vertebrae of which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-relieve, the beaked prow of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from the cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man’s character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.
Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His cranial cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in that vertebra the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten inches across, being eight in height, and of a triangular figure with the base downwards. As it passes through the remaining vertebrae the canal tapers in size, but for a considerable distance remains of large capacity. Now, of course, this canal is filled with much the same strangely fibrous substance- the spinal cord- as the brain; and directly communicates with the brain. And what is still more, for many feet after emerging from the brain’s cavity, the spinal cord remains of an undecreasing girth, almost equal to that of the brain. Under all these circumstances, would it be unreasonable to survey and map out the whale’s spine phrenologically? For, viewed in this light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his brain proper is more than compensated by the wonderful comparative magnitude of his spinal cord.
But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to the Sperm Whale’s hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises over one of the larger vertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort, the outer convex mould of it. From its relative situation then, I should call this high hump the organ of firmness or indomitableness in the Sperm Whale. And that the great monster is indomitable, you will yet have reason to know.

Chapter 85: The Fountain
That for six thousand years- and no one knows how many millions of ages before- the great whales should have been spouting all over the sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back, thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings- that all this should be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter minutes past one o’clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1851), it should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapor- this is surely a noteworthy thing.
Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting items contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cunning of their gills, the finny tribes in general breathe the air which at all times is combined with the element in which they swim; hence, a herring or a cod might live a century, and never once raise its head above the surface. But owing to his marked internal structure which gives him regular lungs, like a human being’s, the whale can only live by inhaling the disengaged air in the open atmosphere. Wherefore the necessity for his periodical visits to the upper world. But he cannot in any degree breathe through his mouth, for, in his ordinary attitude, the Sperm Whale’s mouth is buried at least eight feet beneath the surface; and what is still more, his windpipe has no connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his spiracle alone; and this is on the top of his head.
If I say, that in any creature breathing is only a function indispensable to vitality, inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a certain element, which being subsequently brought into contact with the blood imparts to the blood its vivifying principle, I do not think I shall err; though I may possibly use some superfluous scientific words. Assume it, and it follows that if all the blood in a man could be aerated with one breath, he might then seal up his nostrils and not fetch another for a considerable time. That is to say, he would then live without breathing. Anomalous as it may seem, this is precisely the case with the whale, who systematically lives, by intervals, his full hour and more (when at the bottom) without drawing a single breath, or so much as in any way inhaling a particle of air; for, remember, he has no gills. How is this? Between his ribs and on each side of his spine he is supplied with a remarkable involved Cretan labyrinth of vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels, when he quits the surface, are completely distended with oxygenated blood. So that for an hour or more, a thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a surplus stock of vitality in him, just as the camel crossing the waterless desert carries a surplus supply of drink for future use in its four supplementary stomachs. The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is indisputable; and that the supposition founded upon it is reasonable and true, seems the more cogent to me, when I consider the otherwise inexplicable obstinacy of that leviathan in having his spoutings out, as the fishermen phrase it. This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon rising to the surface, the Sperm Whale will continue there for a period of time exactly uniform with all his other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and jets seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then whenever he rises again, he will be sure to have his seventy breaths over again, to a minute. Now, if after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him, so that he sounds, he will be always dodging up again to make good his regular allowance of air. And not till those seventy breaths are told, will he finally go down to stay out his full term below. Remark, however, that in different individuals these rates are different; but in any one they are alike. Now, why should the whale thus insist upon having his spoutings out, unless it be to replenish his reservoir of air, ere descending for good? How obvious it is too, that this necessity for the whale’s rising exposes him to all the fatal hazards of the chase. And not by hook or by net could this vast leviathan be caught, when sailing a thousand fathoms beneath the sunlight. Not so much thy skill, then, O hunter, as the great necessities that strike the victory to thee!
In man, breathing is incessantly going on- one breath only serving for two or three pulsations; so that whatever other business he has to attend to, waking or sleeping, breathe he must, or die he will. But the Sperm Whale only breathes about one seventh or Sunday of his time.
It has been said that the whale only breathes through his spout-hole; if it could truthfully be added that his spouts are mixed with water, then I opine we should be furnished with the reason why his sense of smell seems obliterated in him; for the only thing about him that at all answers to his nose is that identical spout-hole; and being so clogged with two elements, it could not be expected to have the power of smelling. But owing to the mystery of the spout- whether it be water or whether it be vapor- no absolute certainty can as yet be arrived at on this head. Sure it is, nevertheless, that the Sperm Whale has no proper olfactories. But what does he want of them? No roses, no violets, no Cologne-water in the sea.
Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of his spouting canal, and as that long canal- like the grand Erie Canal- is furnished with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the downward retention of air or the upward exclusion of water, therefore the whale has no voice; unless you insult him by saying, that when he so strangely rumbles, he talks through his nose. But then again, what has the whale to say? Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a living. Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!
Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale, chiefly intended as it is for the conveyance of air, and for several feet laid along, horizontally, just beneath the upper surface of his head, and a little to one side; this curious canal is very much like a gas-pipe laid down on one side of a street. But the question returns whether this gas-pipe is also a water-pipe; in other words, whether the spout of the Sperm Whale is the mere vapor of the exhaled breath, or whether that exhaled breath is mixed with water taken in at the mouth, and discharged through the spiracle. It is certain that the mouth indirectly communicates with the spouting canal; but it cannot be proved that this is for the purpose of discharging water through the spiracle. Because the greatest necessity for so doing would seem to be, when in feeding he accidentally takes in water. But the Sperm Whale’s food is far beneath the surface, and there he cannot spout even if he would. Besides, if you regard him very closely, and time him with your watch, you will find that when unmolested, there is an undeviating rhyme between the periods of his jets and the ordinary periods of respiration.
But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak out! You have seen him spout; then declare what the spout is; can you not tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to settle these plain things. I have ever found your plain things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely.
The central body of it is hidden in the snowy sparkling mist enveloping it; and how can you certainly tell whether any water falls from it, when, always, when you are close enough to a whale to get a close view of his spout, he is in a prodigious commotion, the water cascading all around him. And if at such times you should think that you really perceived drops of moisture in the spout, how do you know that they are not merely condensed from its vapor; or how do you know that they are not those identical drops superficially lodged in the spout-hole fissure, which is countersunk into the summit of the whale’s head? For even when tranquilly swimming through the mid-day sea in a calm, with his elevated hump sun-dried as a dromedary’s in the desert; even then, the whale always carries a small basin of water on his head, as under a blazing sun you will sometimes see a cavity in a rock filled up with rain.
Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter to be over curious touching the precise nature of the whale spout. It will not do for him to be peering into it, and putting his face in it. You cannot go with your pitcher to this fountain and fill it, and bring it away. For even when coming into slight contact with the outer, vapory shreds of the jet, which will often happen, your skin will feverishly smart, from the acridness of the thing so touching it. And I know one, who coming into still closer contact with the spout, whether with some scientific object in view, or otherwise, I cannot say, the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm. Wherefore, among whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to evade it. Another thing; I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that if the jet is fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you. The wisest thing the investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let this deadly spout alone.
Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot prove and establish. My hypothesis is this: that the spout is nothing but mist. And besides other reasons, to this conclusion I am impelled, by considerations touching the great inherent dignity and sublimity of the Sperm Whale; I account him no common, shallow being, inasmuch as it is an undisputed fact that he is never found on soundings, or near shores; all other whales sometimes are. He is both ponderous and profound. And I am convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a little treatise on Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me; and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and undulation in the atmosphere over my head. The invariable moisture of my hair, while plunged in deep thought, after six cups of hot tea in my thin shingled attic, of an August noon; this seems an additional argument for the above supposition.
And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that vapor- as you will sometimes see it- glorified by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For d’ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye.


THE ZODIAC OF LIFE
In Chapter 99, "The Doubloon," Captain Ahab nails the eponymous gold coin to the main mast of the Pequod as a reward for the sailor who first spots Moby Dick. The chapter consists mainly of exegeses of the iconography on said Ecuadorian gold doubloon: the captain himself begins by analysing all the symbols of power (the flame, the volcano, the tower, the rooster, the sun) on the coin and identifying them with himself, in an Ahab-centric view in which he embodies the archetype of the dragon slayer.
The more prosaic Second Mate Stubb concentrates rather on the zodiac featured on the coin, much like someone in our days may soliloquise, in the same fashion, about the zodiac as the twelve stars on the outer rim of a 2-euro coin.
Stubb's analogy of a cynically regarded human life with the zodiac, not dissimilar to Jacques's Seven Ages speech in As You Like It, influenced my poemary Zodiaka, written a lustrum later (though Zodiaka centers not on the signs as stages of life, but as archetypes) to a certain degree (the counter in a now non-existent local bar in Castellón, decorated with the seasons and star signs on ceramics by Alberto Guallart, also played a major part).

[···] while arching over all was a segment of the partitioned zodiac, the signs all marked with their usual cabalistics, and the keystone sun entering the equinoctial point at Libra.
Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing.
"[···] Great pains, small gains for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself. Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes, ‘t is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then! Here’s stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then.”
[···] soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, “[···]By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here’s signs and wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls the zodiac, and what my almanack below calls ditto. I’ll get the almanack; and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll’s arithmetic, I’ll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar. Here’s the book. Let’s see now. Signs and wonders; and the sun, he’s always among ‘em. Hem, hem, hem; here they are- here they go- all alive: Aries, or the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull and Jimimi! here’s Gemini himself, or the Twins. Well; the sun he wheels among ‘em. Aye, here on the coin he’s just crossing the threshold between two of twelve sitting-rooms all in a ring. Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You’ll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts. That’s my small experience, so far as the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch’s navigator, and Daboll’s arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pity if there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders! There’s a clue somewhere; wait a bit; hist- hark! By Jove, I have it! Look you, Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter; and now I’ll read it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack! To begin: there’s Aries, or the Ram- lecherous dog, he begets us; then, Taurus, or the Bull- he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the Twins- that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path- he gives a few fierce bites and surly dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin! that’s our first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes Libra, or the Scales- happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or the Scorpion, stings us in the rear; we are curing the wound, when whang comes the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside! here’s the battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the Waterbearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep. There’s a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive and hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and trouble; and so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly’s the word for aye! Adieu, Doubloon! But stop; here comes little King-Post; dodge round the try-works, now, and let’s hear what he’ll have to say. There; he’s before it; he’ll out with something presently. So, so; he’s beginning.”

But, avast; here comes our old Manxman- the old hearse-driver, he must have been, that is, before he took to the sea. He luffs up before the doubloon; halloa, and goes round on the other side of the mast; why, there’s a horse-shoe nailed on that side; and now he’s back again; what does that mean? Hark! he’s muttering- voice like an old worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen!”
“If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day, when the sun stands in some one of these signs. I’ve studied signs, and know their marks; they were taught me two score years ago, by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now, in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe sign; for there it is, right opposite the gold. And what’s the horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-shoe sign- the roaring and devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes to think of thee.”
“There’s another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men in one kind of world, you see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg- all tattooing- looks like the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says the Cannibal? As I live he’s comparing notes; looking at his thigh bone; thinks the sun is in the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels, I suppose, as the old women talk Surgeon’s Astronomy in the black country. And by Jove, he’s found something there in the vicinity of his thigh- I guess it’s Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don’t know what to make of the doubloon; he takes it for an old button off some king’s trowsers.

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THE KING OF HORROR
Other adult books of dad's that I loved peeking into were his Stephen Kings. Even though, like Moby Dick, they lacked illustrations, they made up for it with vivid imagery as well. The King of Horror lives certainly up to his surname.

A CLOUD OF VERY SICK BATS
the bats in Cujo
the dog's point of view
the baby dying of thirst

NEEDFUL THINGS
Mr. Gaunt=Mephisto
how he turns the village of Castle Rock inside out with war

WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE (CHARLIE DID)
The Shop
Charlie and Eleven (of Stranger Things fame)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
WEDDING CAKE TO HEAVEN
You know you are destined to make intertextuality your passion when an allusion to an epic in the library scene of the novelisation of a film meant for adults leads you to borrow said epic from a local library as a kid. While the librarian looks at you in disbelief, with eyes like oranges.
This is exactly what happened to me as a kid, with an allusion to Dante's Purgatorio in the library scene of the novel of Se7en, which I perused at my bachelor uncle's in Gothenburg. Library scenes always reveal something about high culture and the educated.
[cut to a closeup of Somerset's notepad ("You may want to check the following books RE: 7 Deadly Sins: Dante's Purgatory, The Canterbury Tales - The Parson's Tale, Dictionary of Catholicism")]
YOU MAY WANT TO LOOK AT THE FOLLOWING BOOKS,
     RELATING TO THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS:

     DANTE'S PURGATORY
     THE CANTERBURY TALES -- THE PARSON'S TALE
     DICTIONARY OF CATHOLICISM
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, I'll never understand. All these books. A world of knowledge at your fingertips. What do you do? You play poker all night." One of the guards then plays a tape of the Air from Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 (1731). As the music fills the library, Lt. Somerset peruses "The Parson's Tale" of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and the Purgatorio of Dante's Divine Comedy, compiling a list of resources to consider in regard to the case.  The music is clearly a fitting accompaniment for the library and the intellectual work, but it also suggests that intimate knowledge of high art and culture is essential for solving these crimes. Somerset spends all night poring over these great masterpieces of literature.
The library, however, is exquisite, a haven where Lt. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) researches literary classics that hold clues to the murderer's motivations. Somerset visits after closing hours, interrupting the guards' boisterous poker game, and their rapport is friendly and good natured. Green bankers lamps perforate the darkness, lending an air of mystery and history. One guard turns on a recording of Bach that follows Somerset through the shadowed stacks as he scans titles and touches books with tender respect. This scene where the library warmly enfolds the seeker of knowledge had a great impact on the tweenage Sandra, indeed.
Cue me, the day after that rush of highbrow quoting and allusions, asking for Part the Second of the Divine Comedy at the Stenungsund Public Library! The face of the female librarian in seeing a girl in her tweens asking for that book was as astonished as the one you may imagine. I mean, you understand educated adults asking for the Purgatorio in a public library, like in the library scene in Se7en, but the fact that a kid should be interested in it... a really eager and well-read tweenage girl... is mindblowing. As mindblowing as the plot of Purgatorio itself, which involves a cake-shaped island to heaven, the law of karma, oodles of myth references (including a certain Cretan queen who hid in a wooden cow costume!)... That afternoon in my room, I read Skärselden, Purgatorio in Swedish, and was hooked.
The poem begins with Dante and his senpai/pathfinder Virgil surfacing from hell in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for Easter, during the springtime equinox. At the time of the surfacing, it is dawn in Purgatory, but noontime (mid-day) in Spain: which demonstrates the common medieval fallacy of underestimating the size of the Earth (At this point, I am feeling tempted to mention the geocentrism of Paradiso: the Earth is the centre of the f-ing universe, while the Sun orbits the Earth in between Venus and Mars! I understand the historical context of this cosmovision: Middle Ages, Aristotle -same guy who said women were inferior to men-, yadda yadda... anyway, let's go back to Purgatory. I'll rant about that geocentric worldview sometime later). The Purgatorio demonstrates the medieval knowledge of a spherical Earth, with Dante referencing the different stars visible in the Southern Hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth... but grossly underestimates its overall size (and grossly overestimates its position in the universe!). But let's stop nitpicking and get to the point, shall we? It appears that, in a stark contrast to Charon's ferry across the Styx, these souls are escorted by an angelic ferryman (ferryangel?) from their gathering place near the seaport of Ostia through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the ocean to Purgatory Island, which happens to be mountainous and terraced enough to resemble a seven-tier wedding cake, with the Garden of Eden and the pools of Lethe and Eunoe (the latter is an antidote to Lethe, bringing back the drinker's positive memories) on top, where the bridal pair should be.
The only way is up, but there is no elevator. The whole ascent must be carried out on foot, terrace by terrace, all the way up to Eden:

 INT.  PUBLIC LIBRARY, MAIN LIBRARY -- NIGHT

     MUSIC CONTINUES.  Somerset has two books open.  He opens his
     notebook and brings a pen to bear.  Writes:

     SEVEN DEADLY SINS

     GLUTTONY     GREED     WRATH/ANGER    LUST     PRIDE     ENVY    SLOTH/APATHY

     He crosses out GLUTTONY and GREED.  Somerset picks up one book:
     DANTE'S PURGATORY.  Volume II of the DIVINE COMEDY.  Somerset
     opens it:

       -------------------------------------------------------------
      |                                     EDEN / EARTHLY PARADISE |
      |-------------------------------------------------------- /\  |
      |                                                        /  \ |
      |                               VII The Lustful         /____\|
      |                                                      /      |
      |                                VI The Gluttonous    /_______|
      |       7 TERRACES OF                                /        |
      |                                 V The Avaricious  /         |
      |                                                  /__________|
      |         PURGATION                               /           |
      |                                                /            |
      |                                               /             |
      |                             IV The Apathetic /______________|
      |                                             /               |
      |                                            /                |
      |                                           /                 |
      |                     III The Wrathful     /__________________|
      |                                         /                   |
      |                      II The Envious    /____________________|
      |                                       /                     |
      |                       I The Proud    /______________________|
      |                                     /                       |
      |                                    /                        |
      |                                   /       THE ISLAND        |
      |                                  /                          |
      |                                 /        OF PURGATORY       |
      |                                /                            |
      |_______________________________/_____________________________|


You may already have noticed at least slightly the order of sins, from greatest to least: the three sins at the bottom hurt both the self and others, while the four at the top only damage the self (at least, as a general rule). Aside from that consideration, the classification of sins in Purgatory is based on motives. The core of the classification is based on love: the first three terraces of Purgatory relate to perverted love directed towards actual harm of others, the fourth terrace relates to deficient love (i.e. sloth or apathy, or listlessness), and the last three terraces relate to excessive or disordered love of good things. Each terrace purges a particular sin in an appropriate manner. Those in Purgatory can leave their circle voluntarily, but will only do so when they have corrected the flaw within themselves that led to committing that sin. 
On Purgatory's Gate, the keeper angel tattoos seven capital Ps (for Peccato) on Dante's forehead with the point of his flaming sword. With the passage of each terrace and the corresponding purgation of his soul that the pilgrim receives, one of the Ps will be erased by the angel granting passage to the next terrace. The angel at the Gate uses two keys, silver (remorse) and gold (reconciliation) to open the gate – both are necessary for redemption and salvation.
punishments:
pride - carrying heavy rocks
envy - eyes sewn shut with wire
anger - thick toxic fog with some narcotic effect
laziness - running nonstop
Greed: The avaricious and ambitious lay face-down on the ground, hand-tied and foot-tied, unable to move.
gluttony - punishment of Tantalus
lust - firewalking: passing through a wall of flames and dancing in the fire with the other sinners

____________________________________________________

THE MONSTER BOOK OF MONSTERS (by Edwardus Lima)
In those days I was, of course, the perfect age for being a novice Potterhead. And Grandad Lars, bless his soul, gave me the Swedish versions of all five of the books published so far. Now all of them were given to Ana Garcés except Goblet of Fire, my favourite, in spite of the fact that she cannot understand either written or spoken Swedish. The first book I gave to Ana was Order of the Phoenix, to use as a flower press, in my mid-teens: In between mourning Padfoot and cursing both Bellatrix and Umbridge, the Brick of the Phoenix (of the same size as a standard edition of Les Misérables) had become a nuisance that was only fit for pressing flowers and taking up a lot of space.
Nowadays, if I have to re-read, I peruse Rowling books at the nearest public library I can find.
quidditch -
A point that deserves our attention is the translation of quidditch terminology into Swedish.
Several things related to Quidditch also have their special names or terms. To start with,
the balls used to play Quidditch are called the Quaffle, Bludgers and the Golden Snitch.
Fries-Gedin translated the Quaffle as klonken, probably due to the similarity with quaff,
which in Swedish means dricka i stora klunkar (NEO). Klunk(ar) sounds fairly similar to
klonken, making this translation not too farfetched. The Bludgers, secondly, are rendered
as dunkare, both words relating to hitting something. Bludger is probably derived from
bludgeon while the Swedish dunkare is more related to the sound produced when
hitting something. Even though the translation is not an exact equivalent, the words deal
with the same concept and the Swedish term is a good descriptive name. Lastly, there is
the Golden Snitch, which is den Gyllene Kvicken in Fries-Gedin’s translation. While the
English term is more related to the action when catching the Snitch, the Swedish term
instead deals with the behaviour of the ball. Kvicken roughly means The Quickie, and
although the terms are quite different, the translation is successful. Kvicken is a name

that works well in Swedish and it is easily associated with the quick fluttering ball.
The positions in the Quidditch team also have well-translated Swedish names:
the Chasers become Jägare, the Keeper a Väktare, the Beaters Slagträn
(at first Slagmän, but this was replaced with the name of the bat -metonymy-
as a gender-neutral term), and the Seeker a Sökare.
The impact of quidditch in my fiction is not deniable.
objects worth self-gifting: quick-notes quills (for exams/projects), remembrall (for anything I could forget, due to my absent-mindedness), time turner, pensieve
sweets - dreaming of the Express and Honeydukes - om nom nom (chocolate frogs, every flavour beans - and treats nonexistent in real life, such as cauldron cakes, fizzing whizzbees, candied butterfly wings...)
Another thing the Wizarding World broke the ice for me with was an intro to youkai: at least the first appearance in little Sandra's short life of the kappa, froglike freshwater humanoids, in Fantastic Beasts book and Lupin's DADA lessons in Prisoner of Azkaban; the portrayal of said beings, with their taste for cucumbers and their weakness for courtesy (a bow will make the liquid drain from the bowl in the crown in its head and at least disable the kappa) being features of the Rowlingian kappa true to Japanese lore. The only little disappointment that made me wince was the translation of "kappas" into Swedish as "kvarror", an onomatopoeic neologism made to evoke the croak of a frog. KVARROR, DESU KA!
...
Each Potterverse novel until Goblet of Fire, including that one, had also got an overarching mystery.
translation into Swedish and Spanish - general considerations (Flourish & Blotts - Boklund & Alster...)
At the end of the day, things got DEAD SIRIUS, both on screen and on the printed page. It was The Day that Padfoot Died (which has given title to an autobiographical filk song of mine), and it came right before everything in my real life became a cross to shoulder (losing grandparents to senility and then death, friendlessness and getting bullied at high school, struggling with negative numbers in Maths...) until I entered University. It was such good luck that Rowling wrote at such a slow and steady pace for the film adaptations to come, otherwise I would not have picked up the plot by means of said films (and found a kindred spirit in Luna Lovegood!).

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WHAT IS BETTER THAN DRINKING ALONE?

Finally, to take our leave of this section with some more lyrics, we shall give you some of my favourite verses. Two narrative verses, then two argumentative. Those which I always sing out loud when this song plays and I'm slightly tipsy. Those verses that mean a lot to me because I can see my own parents, who fell out of love when I was but two and still see each other as mere acquaintances or distant friends, as well as my own personal experience, mirrored in them. There is a love story, or at least one of amicable exes in here: it could happen in Castellón or Stenungsund, Lützen or Pazin, Montreuil-sur-Mer or Tallahassee, or even in Hasetsu/Kokura (and I could make a whole essay, full on War and Peace or Les Misérables length, about those verses, the Star on Tarot, the commonplace of the thirsty gentleman refreshed by a female below his rank -all the way from mythology to "Horchatera valenciana"-...):

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinking alone