jueves, 31 de octubre de 2013

NICE SHACK!

That's one heck of a stronghold, "Katla!"

My OC Katla lives in a more Saxon/Viking style fort, part wooden part of stone (when not at EAH, in the East Wing dorms). Hers stands also on a cliff, overlooking a vast lake: the Vänern, in the Swedish province of Värmland. Though it's a more wooded area.
I have sailed on the Vänern myself, and I have seen a lot of olden-day mansions on its shores. Thence came the inspiration.

ALSO SPRACH FRÄULEIN DERMARK

A recent bible for creating fictional characters happened to fall recently into my hands.
I identify myself mostly with this character type/archetype:
The FREE SPIRIT: eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes. Playful and fun-loving, she travels through life with a hop, skip and a jump, always stopping to smell the flowers and admire the pretty colors. She acts on a whim and follows her heart, not her head. 
Motivated by following her heart.
Virtues:
-sincere
-upbeat
-imaginative
Flaws:
-impulsive
-meddling
-undisciplined
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart
· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined - See more at: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com.es/2008/10/8-master-archetypes.html#sthash.yUr5l5P0.dpuf
Katinka and many other of my female OC:s (in fact, most of them! Think Réna/Ilona, Hedwig, Ulrika) are Free Spirits as well, while the lead male roster in my works tends to consist of dark and conflicted Romantic heroes (Gustavus, Katinka's POW beau turned spouse, for instance).
A more complete personality typology listed me as a Mercurial. Think of a person with mercury poisoning (AKA Mad Hatter Syndrome): http://www.ptypes.com/mercurial.html

miércoles, 30 de octubre de 2013

THE FAREWELL - FROM MY 30YW PLAY

Here's the most emotive scene from Der Löwe aus Mitternacht: Gustavus's last farewell to his beloved Eleanor! I promised I would write it later, and here it is!

SCENE IX. THE PARADE
The summer fades and segues into autumn... The Swedes have come to Thuringia in pursuit of Wallenstein. A military parade is held on the outskirts of Erfurt, on the 31st of October (like tomorrow, but in 1632!), and the royals are there. The sun shines through the clouds, but Eleanor seems for something serious to care.
Eleanor (worried): What are you thinking of?
Gustavus: Leipzig and Halle have already fallen...
Eleanor (weeping): Once more, the war tears us apart...
Gustavus (comforting her): But do I not always return to your arms?
Eleanor (weeping): Without you... Think of us... of our little girl!
Gustavus (comforting her): I have received a letter from her. She's writing better than before! (He reads aloud) "My best beloved father!" Yes! That's my child! My li'l Christina wishes me good luck...
Eleanor (worried): You will surely need it!
Gustavus (comforting her, and shedding a few tears): She wishes for a gift! We could buy her something in Leipzig, after our victory!
Eleanor (worried): Will you get through it?
Gustavus (comforting her): Darling, do you wish for a special gift as well?
Eleanor (weeping): Yes... I wish for... your life!
Gustavus (comforting her): Dear Eleanor! I have never seen you in such a mournful mood!
Eleanor (weeping): Last night I dreamt of something terrible!
Gustavus (comforting her): Of what?
Eleanor (weeping): Of a battle you fought against Wallenstein. There were daemons and wicked fairies on his side! And you...
Gustavus (comforting her): Did I fall?
Eleanor (weeping): Darling! Give me but one kiss before the battle is fought!
Gustavus (comforting her, and shedding a few tears): Yes! Only one kiss!
They kiss each other as the sun sets, and before the king falls, without regrets. Fair Eleanor knows her spouse must go forth into the fray, but she'll always remember his last kiss come what may.

This scene is so emotive because it showcases their feelings upon what will actually be the last farewell. Eleanor's prophetic dream serves as foreshadowing: The death of Gustavus comes as a foregone conclusion.
A letter from their only child adds to the heartwarming. That final kiss, an echo from Othello (the Verdi version), crowns such a display of tragic romance.

WHY WAS JESUS LIKE KARL MARX?

Because the doctrines of both work only on paper, since they conflict with the natural self-centeredness of the human individual.
For instance, Jesus said "Give the Caesar (or the Kaiser, or the worldly authority du jour) what belongs to worldly authorities, and give God what belongs to God".
It would be wonderful if ambitious and/or hypocritical clerical authorities had not started to covet, then to get, then to abuse worldly power.
Which brought the end of the tolerant, individualistic, and epicurean Hellenistic worldview. Medieval universities became male-exclusive, unlike their Age-of-Empire counterparts. Clever women and open-minded thinkers (Hypatia was both!) were persecuted, prosecuted, and subsequently executed.
Then the world changed. The lieges of nobles (kings, kaisers, czars, electors) ironically also helped the process of putting an end to the Dark Ages when they claimed the power and lands of the feudal gentry.
In those unpredictable days, somewhere in the Thuringian Forests, in the Electorate of Saxony, a dapper young student of Law at Erfurt was struck by lightning.
This incident was, for Martin L., like leaping down the rabbit hole. He was merely returning from a visit to his own hinterland birthplace when a thunderstorm surprised him in the middle of the woods.
He made it to Erfurt. He left university for a religious order. Then, Friar L. was sent to the Curia (the Pope's court) in representation of the Saxon Augustines.
It (the Curia) was Sodom and Gomorrah. No joke.
Upon returning home, Martin L., having discovered the darkest side of Catholicism (which still exists to this very day), left the cloister with some crystal clear ideas. For instance, that popes, cardinals, and their cronies do not live up to what the Bible says, for instance to the precept "Give the Caesar (or the Kaiser, or the worldly authority du jour) what belongs to worldly authorities, and give God what belongs to God".
He wanted the Bible translated and services to be given in Germanic languages.
Both the Pope and the Kaiser wanted his head on a platinum platter.
The Elector, however, saved his life and conveyed him to the safety of the fortified Wartburg. Some years later, Martin L.'s translation of the Bible was printed in Leipzig. The translator had obviously made use of a nom de plume not to be recognized by imperial authorities.
He encouraged Europeans to read and to sing, and to see Earth as a glen of smiles rather than a vale of tears. A revolution had just broken out, and it spread through Northern Europe like wildfire.
You know the rest: the Catholics counterattacked through the Society of Jesus and the Inquisition, a war broke out because the Kaiser wanted to convert or massacre his Protestant subjects, said war lasted for three decades and left it all in ruins, then the ideals of the Hellenistic period reappeared in the Northern nations with a name that had to do with light...
Minorities like women, children, foreigners, disabled people and non-human animals were empowered and given equal rights. The Church loosened its grip on both the State and the common people. And the long-forgotten words "rara temporum felicitate" (i.e. "due to the strange happiness of these times [when one can say whatever s/he pleases without risking penalty]") were resurrected, to live on to this very day.
Today, Northern Germans are celebrating the moment when Martin L. nailed his famous and notorious rant to a certain church door.
In his spiritual retirement, an elderly former Kaiser Charles V, reduced to kaiser of clockwork making and beer drinking, is said to have said: "Why didn't I kill Luther?"
It was already too late.
And, should he have had the reformer executed, I bet His Imperial Majesty would have fallen in battle against the electors and their vassals, seeking revenge for the death of their spiritual leader.

MY BAVARIAN LATE SUMMER 2011 - MEMORIES

The author in the shade beside a stream, which will feature in more comments on this post...

A tholos on top of a hill one sunny day. Pretty rococo, isn't it?


Sunning themselves by the stream. In landlocked Bavaria, it's not unusual to see this in summer.

Though the bravest ones go for the rapids upstream (though it's illegal!)
A panoramic shot of the Hofbräuhaus...
A closer look at the Hofbräuhaus: the regulars' table. I was not by that table when I got drunk and caused that lamentable, pitiable outcry!
The fresco on the Hofbräuhaus ceiling features the regional coat of arms and regional flag, aside from a few church towers and a cluster of maypoles.
Lastly, here's a veteran you've got to know! The writing on the pedestal, in German, reads:
 "Jean 't Serclaes,
 Count of Tilly,
 Bavarian military commander"
. Though he merely was a Bavarian by adoption (followers of this blog are aware of the fact that he was a born and bred Walloon!), serving as "Hand of the Elector" of sorts (did you spot the Game of Thrones reference?) to Maximilian I.
The portrait shows him in the prime of life, when his cropped locks and remarkable goatee were still nutbrown (OK, you have to imagine that!). He is wearing his battle suit as a high-ranked officer of the Tercios, with a Spanish-style frilled collar and a shining breastplate.
Though he has been more than beautified (the real Tilly was much more slender, giving him the appearance of a frilled lizard!).







TOMORROW EVENING

I will attend the Samhain celebrations in my favourite bookshop, whose staff are good friends of mine.
I intend to dress for the occasion as an undead fallen Prussian officer, with a bloodstained bullet hole on my left breast and blood around my lips.
Yesteryear I dressed, in a ninja balaclava, as "The Unknown". It was a rather simple disguise, based on the assumption that henchmen's faces are masked in fiction to convey both mystery and lack of humanity (see here at Faceless Goons for discussion and examples). The general facelessness of henchmen as well as the riddle: what does the mask conceal? A sinner or a saint? A beauty or a beast? Or all of them or neither?
For this year, I have designed a full Prussian officer's uniform, with coat, shirt, boots, breeches (white pirate trousers plus black leggings), and cavalry boots. The fake bullet hole is on a medal's ribbon, reflecting the paradox of military glory.

martes, 29 de octubre de 2013

30YW PLAY FINISHED

At last, I have finished Der Löwe aus Mitternacht! Now all I have to do is wait for Frau Oster to correct my mistakes, which will happen sometime this winter.
In my opinion, this is a milestone in my career... being my first large work in Goethe's language. It is a couch/chair drama, meant to be read instead of staged.
If I had to choose some highlights from the play, I would pick these:
PROLOGUE: Written in free verse and narrated, it explains the backstory of it all: Charles V and Luther, Jesuits and electors, Tilly and Wallenstein... to subsequently segue into Scene One, in which Wallenstein is fired (see below).
SCENE 1 (THE REICHSTAG): Wallenstein is fired by the Kaiser. But he doesn't give up. Kind of gives an idea of what this Wallenstein guy is actually like...
SCENE 4 (BREITENFELD): When Tilly tries to reunite his fleeing ranks, he is wounded by enemy officers, who call out the old Walloon's war crimes. The result is sheer badassery on the Protestant side:
Swedish Cavalry Captain (knocks Tilly in the head!): This is for Heidelberg!
Swedish Lieutenant (stabs Tilly in the side): And that's for Magdeburg!
SCENE 6 (ACROSS THE LECH):  The Protestants are throwing a new bridge across the confluence using a smokescreen (clever and well done, Gustavus!). The Catholics are desperate. This is Jean de Tilly's last stand. Like at Breitenfeld, he appears as a cornered rattler ready to strike. As his ranks falter, he says his customary Hail Mary (in Latin!), he crosses himself, he seizes a League flag, and he throws himself headlong into the fray. However, this display of badassery is rather short-lived...
SCENE 7 (RECALLED): If Tilly was the antagonist in Act I, Wallenstein takes the veteran's place in Act II. You thought he was corrupt, mad as a hatter, et cetera. This scene takes place at Friedland, and it shows the parvenu getting mad at the conditions the Kaiser offers:
Wallenstein: [···] Should I be second to that brat of an archduke? And should I play by the rules? That can't be for real!
Thus he writes a letter to the Hofburg, to receive carte blanche. And you bet the Kaiser grants him such a request. Now Wallenstein plus carte blanche equals the fact that whatever may happen...
SCENE 8 (THE ALTE VESTE): Gustavus vs. Wallenstein. The Northern Lion meets his match. Within the fort, Wallenstein sets a trap: to reconquer Leipzig and thus attract the Swedes to get to Saxony in late November. Cue the Swedes amazed upon finding the Alte Feste empty! And cue Gustavus, defeated for the first time in his life, asking for a rematch!
SCENE 9 (THE PARADE): The last farewell to Eleanor. Quite an emotive scene. She is all worried and weeping, as he dries up her tears. I will post the scene later on for you to enjoy and get teary-eyed!
SCENE 10 (LÜTZEN):  Yes, Gustavus is killed in that battle, lost in the fog and riding to his men's aid. But the way I describe it is graphic, violent, beyond comparison.
A Croatian officer, who follows the King closely on horseback: Long time have I sought you! (He shoots Gustavus in the back. The bullet shatters his right shoulder blade, and then punctures his lung. Gustavus falls unconscious off his steed, to be stabbed thrice by Croatians in the chest and back, and receive three shots to the same region. The first wound in his back brings searing chest pain. The Croatians take his clothes, weapons, and accessories as spoils of war, leaving the Swedish ruler in a bloodstained shirt.)
The Croatian officer: Now he's suffered enough. Let me give him the mercy shot! (He shoots Gustavus in the nape of the neck).
The news of the King's death spreads across the battlefield like wildfire, amidst gunshots and clanking of steel. Enter Count Pappenheim, the leader of the Catholic cavalry, who wanted to challenge Gustavus to a duel. He learns what has happened to Gustavus from a Swedish officer, who shoots him in the chest. Another punctured lung: he "drowns painfully and slowly in his own blood", in Wallenstein's encampment.
At the end of the day, the sun sets over a swampy plain littered with lifeless bodies: casualties like Gustavus, Pappenheim, and Berthold von Wallenstein (the Generalissimo's only son) as well as unsung officers and privates. "It is cold for the fallen, cold is the fog, but coldest are the hearts of the few survivors. The Protestants have finally won the battle, but they have lost much more than their liege."
SCENE 11 (WEISSENFELS): In a glass case in a parish church, the hero of freedom is mourned for by officers, privates, and a heartbroken Queen Eleanor (perchance the saddest of them all).
Eleanor (Desperate): Oh, Gustavus! Darling! Without you, I'm so alone! I wither, helpless, on my own!
FINALE: In which Queen Christina and Archduke Leopold decide to set right what their fathers have done wrong. And the moral of the story is delivered: to be considerate towards different beliefs and ideologies.

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR

The false heroine, "Katla", has sprung to action, whisking Lord Markus away to her court on a griffon's back:
She appears rather dynamic but poised, subjugating Markus and the griffon simply by touching them, much like the Snow Queen to her human beau Kay (will there be any more such shout-outs?)...

viernes, 25 de octubre de 2013

THE RINGSTETTEN SAGA III: BREITENFELD

Previously on the Ringstetten Saga:
So, we have Gerhard "parti pour l'armée", during wartime, and finding Liselotte as more than a friend, while she merely sees him as a brother figure. Gustavus paying slightly more attention to this li'l blond ensign. And the Swedish ranks soon find themselves in the half-occupied Electorate of Saxony (its capital, Dresden, still remains intact). Soon, the hitherto neutral (and overweight) Elector George von Wettin visits the Swedish camp with his ranks (in finer scarlet doublets), including a patriotic red-haired Law student from Leipzig (don’t forget Kurtius, for he’ll soon prove his mettle!), and they garrison there, striking an alliance with Sweden. 
That's the setup for the battle of Breitenfeld!
The upcoming confrontation is the talk of the encampment: this is no petty skirmish against some colonel, but a battle royale against Count Tilly himself! And the Swedes' first confrontation with the League's leader, on top of that!
No wonder Gerhard, like all other subaltern officers, is so stirred. Every ensign and lieutenant wants His Majesty to see the worth in him.
On the eve of battle, both armies prepare the best way they can. Gustavus Adolphus, thirsty and excited, visits another nearby estate, Krostewitz or Crostewitz, home of the Elector's favourite brewery, where the hop harvest is being celebrated. Draining his tankard of spicy mulled beer at one fell swoop, he greatly praises the drink he has quaffed, and even rewards the estate lord with a ruby ring of pure gold.
In the meantime, in the morgue in suburban Leipzig, now the League's headquarters, the badass and foolhardy Count of Pappenheim tries, with the aid of his fellow generals, to coax the Count of Tilly into giving battle. The careful Walloon would rather wait until reinforcements arrive, yet the younger generals' coaxing and taunting finally leads him to give in, to confront the Swedes at Breitenfeld. At last Gottfried zu Pappenheim will have some action and excitement: the scar on his forehead, shaped like the crossed swords on his clan's coat of arms, flares up like whenever he is enraged or excited, for he is burning to fulfil the prophecy that a Count of Pappenheim scarred with his family crest, riding a white steed, will defeat a great ruler on the field of battle...
While the younger leaders of the League coax Tilly throughout the night, Gustavus lies asleep in his pavilion after a night of revels and fireworks, dreaming that he wrestles against the septuagenarian Walloon, pulling his opponent's silver hair, receiving a bite from the old count on his left arm in response, yet, being younger and stronger, the Swede quickly pins the Walloon to the ground, ripping his chest open. Right when he was going to see if the Count of Tilly had got a heart, the King of Sweden awakens. The sun has not risen over the Saxon plains and the towers of Leipzig yet.
So, the Swedes routed the Catholic League at Breitenfeld, on the northern outskirts of Leipzig, on the 7th of September 1631. That's as true as it can be.
The Protestants charged with all their fury. And they won, in spite of having the sun in their eyes and being outnumbered, thanks to their more modern equipment and revolutionary strategies, courtesy of Gustavus "the Great" Adolphus (The song he had written, "Do Not Despair", may have played a role in the League's defeat), who managed, in the heat of battle, to take the hill where the Leaguers' cannons were posted, then to turn the cannons 180 degrees, against Tilly himself.
Considering that Gustavus was much younger, and thus much more open-minded and impulsive, than Jean de Tilly, this is no coincidence.
The few Catholics who had survived and not been taken prisoner fled into the woods, letting the Swedes reconquer Leipzig, Halle, and all the villages in the area. Pappenheim had been left for dead on the battlefield and was later rescued by his own, while Tilly had been nearly slain or taken prisoner. Both generals were unconscious and severely injured, unable to take action until the springtime of 1632.
It was hard to inform Count Tilly, when he came to, of the Breitenfeld debacle. When the Catholic League's leader was made aware, he burst into tears of blood (literal tears of blood, due to cranial injuries). Yet he was determined to survive at least for half a year more, to set up the last stand against the Swedes in spring.
It was the first defeat in the "Old Corporal's" career, and it marked the turning point.
It was also the turning point for the victorious young "Lion of the Midnight Sun".
You might have asked if Gerhard was killed at Breitenfeld. Well, he only sustained some flesh wounds (we can't off a leading character so early on!). And he proved to be rather brave and clever: he was shot in the left shoulder, and... instead of getting back to the encampment for the surgeon to tend to his wounds... he bandaged the wound with his flag, though it was against regulation. So the flagpole became like an unusually long tonfa, which he thrust among the Catholic pikes and even killed some with the blasted flagpole and his own short officer's sword. He even thwacked Count Tilly with the flagpole (IT'S NO JOKE!). And his detachment took an officer prisoner.  A dark-skinned and raven-haired gent three years older than Gerhard. With a glittering breastplate and frilled collar. Now don't forget this POW, for he's another leading character (the quartet is complete!).
So, the unit led by Ensign Gerhard von Ringstetten slew twenty men and three officers (and took an officer prisoner) with a broken and pointed wooden flagpole. This is a rather modest list of casualties, but the fact that there are three officers among them is what makes such an effort stand out.
They even captured the flag of Tilly’s own regiment. This flag depicts a quaint chapel with the Virgin Mary on top of its spire and a linden growing by its side, with the words For Church and Realm. It becomes one of the Swedish ruler's foremost trophies, and the ensign presents it to the King after battle.
Gustavus Adolphus slept that night in a modest cart with equally cheerful and fiery General Johan Banér, one of his favourite warlords. And they had a good time until dawn. 
Though the wounded ensign, before being taken to the estate for his convalescence, has given up all hopes of being promoted to lieutenant, he is left speechless by the fact that most of the slain on the twilit battlefield are embracing equally deceased or mortally wounded enemies, as if they were good friends or bound by blood ties, reconciling when it is already too late.
The next day, the winners started to celebrate their unexpected success and to raid the League's encampment. They took all the cannons, lots of money and provisions, some camp followers like the stunning Natasha as POWs, Madonnas (for their children to play with)... In short, everything that the fleeing foes had left behind. And they snatched it all like a swarm of locusts.
Of course, our ensign received a nice share of the spoils and presented half of it to his would-be father-in-law, who insisted that Gerhard should keep it for himself. He also offered the prisoner he had made to his liege as a gift. But His Majesty freed all the POWs and had them join the Swedish ranks. And he also made young Ringstetten a lieutenant!
At the same time, Liselotte tended to Gerhard's wounds, giving him a whole bottle of brandy to drink before the surgeon removed the bullet. She congratulated him and looked at him. It had been, so far, the best day in his life!
The prisoner that Gerhard had made was put under his command as his orderly, or personal servant. His name was Alois, and he had been a half-Croatian, half-Flemish captain of pikemen before his capture. He looked typically Mediterranean, with nutbrown eyes and a copper suntan... but he was far more reserved than his new commanding officer.
Another POW, a young Austrian count who had been Alois's ensign, Rainer Leopold von Liebenstein, is also put in Gerhard's company, keeping the rank of ensign but with the flag of Sweden, and soon clashes with his new commanding officer, mistrusting the rank of Lieutenant and Prussians, while flirting with Liselotte just to provoke young Ringstetten, whom he calls "Herr Leutnant" in a sissy-sounding ironic tone. Actually, Rainer’s whole outgoing and serious personality is but a façade that conceals his insecurities from losing his whole company, save for Alois, and most of his commanding officers, to enemy fire at Breitenfeld.
As for Kurtius Waldmeister, he tells the Elector that he'd rather join the Swedish army, and soon he appears, trading his scarlet doublet for a blue one, in the Swedish encampment.
Gustavus Adolphus, as we have mentioned before, had slept that night in a modest cart with equally cheerful and fiery General Johan Banér, one of his favourite warlords. And they had a good time with each other until dawn.
The next day, while Gerhard recovers in Breitenfeld and the people of Leipzig celebrate the victory, Gustavus sallies forth towards Halle an der Saale. Catching up with Tilly's personal surgeon, the King of Sweden pressures him to tell about the wounds the old count has received in action: three gunshots, none of which has pierced his skin, yet all three have caused large dark bruises containing blood clots that the surgeon has taken out. Thus, the old warrior is extremely weak and still unconscious, yet expected to recover at least when springtime begins.
Cue autumn turning to winter, and the Swedes getting from Saxony to the Rhineland. What happens next will be related in another post.
To be continued!

TO ENCOURAGE THE OTHERS

Voltaire says about the Early Modern era that, during wartime, "we have to slay a great commander (on the enemy side, obviously) "pour encourager les autres".
Consider the berserk revenge of the Swedish ranks at Lützen, or the Brits' at Trafalgar...

jueves, 24 de octubre de 2013

AN INTERLUDE OF RUNES AND SHIELDMAIDENS

In the first and second installment of the Ringstetten series, runes feature prominently. The few literate Swedish peasants would rather use them than Latin letters. The encampment school teaches both Latin and Runic literacy (reading/writing), secret messages are written in runes (for the Catholics not to understand), and these signs are thought to have magical powers. All of that is true (note that this was the seventeenth century, with all its religious wars, sorcery and superstition), and it puts some of the "magical" in the "magical realism" label I brand the series with.
Most funnily, the training snowman our young warriors use to exercise themselves during the "Rhineland winter" (1631-32) is an effigy of the enemy generalissimo, dressed in a green doublet and scarlet plume, with a rosary, a long rapier, and prominent handlebars and goatee. To use the snowman as a lifesize voodoo doll, a message has been written on the nape of "his" neck, in runes. Transliterated into Latin letters, it reads "Johan Tilly, son till en sköka" (Swedish for "Johan Tilly, son of a harlot").
Another prominent theme is wartime crossdressing and shieldmaidens: Germanic and Viking women went to war, joined armies, fought the enemy... unlike women in the Southern empires of yore (Tacitus even stated that equal rights among the Germans, like their proximity to nature, made them a purer and more innocent people than those of the corrupt Roman Empire).
Liselotte is more than a mere camp follower and regimental nurse: she aspires to be a shieldmaiden, and takes thus part in most of the skirmishes (not in epic battles like Breitenfeld and Lützen). As a highwaygirl, she is as skilled a markswench and fighter as her beau Gerhard. Against Liselotte is Croatian Natasha, taken prisoner at Breitenfeld: a more feminine and mature, sexier camp follower... who has an affair with His Majesty Gustavus Adolphus in Eleanor's absence. This femme fatale, widowed with twin children, will lose them to Wallenstein's entourage, and then sacrifice herself during the hard years, in a way that will brand all of the rebels forever.

A BLOND KATLA?

The fairytale webcomic Erstwhile's latest installment is "The Singing, Springing Lark". Today, I have seen, for the first time, something I had hitherto been impatiently waiting for: the false heroine in human form!

There you have her: a tall, blond and violet-eyed Aryan!
My OC Katla is a darker shade of blond and honey-eyed, while this Dragon Princess looks more like the Snow Queen's daughter turned ice dragon (perchance as a shout-out to Andersen?).
The name of the Erstwhile Dragon Princess has hitherto not been revealed, and I can't wait till Monday to discover it.
So, until the sacred day I find it out, I will refer to her as "Katla" within scare quotes. The name, besides being one of my favourites, is Old Norse for "kettle" (fitting for an aggressive character!).
And may lightning strike me down if her name turns out to be actually Katla!

IN DA RÄNKZ

In my stories, encampments and outpost communities feature prominently. There is a reason why the ranks, in historical fiction and fairytale fantasy, take up so many commoners' sons in pursuit of their fortune, as well as nobles' sons in pursuit of adventures...
For instance, in the Beaumont version of Beauty and the Beast, the heroine is not exactly an only child... and she sees, in her magic mirror, that her brothers (commoners) "have joined the army" (otherwise, "have gone to the army"). The French original states: "Ils sont partis pour l'armée". In the webcomic, she has no male siblings, but a brother-in-law called Claude... who I bet my life will enlist!
You can get called up or enlist of your own free will. You may come from a clan with a military tradition and be confronted with the choice of the pen or the sword. You may be slain in battle or made a POW, or even desert when confronted with the dark side of war...

THE RINGSTETTEN SAGA, PART II: LOVE AND WAR AND OLD LACE

A couple of posts before, I started to tell you the story of Gerhard and Hedwig von Ringstetten: the children of Küstrin's governor (a boy of 16 and a girl of 15), who became an ensign in the Swedish army and a maid in Queen Eleanor's entourage. And thus, they parted ways on that sacred August day... but what happened then?
Previously on the Ringstetten Saga:
The first leading characters to be introduced are both the children of Küstrin's governor (Kommandant, as before, is the German/Swedish word for fortress governor). Their father Konrad von Ringstetten, having been forced to convert to Catholicism and aware of the fall of Templin, is worried about the outcome of a Swedish royal visit to his own guardhouse. However, Küstrin is pardoned on Queen Eleanor's advice, its garrison is spared (though the prisoners are freed), and Konrad and his wife Elsa, re-converted to Lutheranism, let their children, Gerhard and Hedwig, follow their respective dreams as a Swedish Army officer and a maid in the Queen's entourage, respectively... as they emotively take leave of the sixteen-year-old ensign and the fifteen-year-old maid, his younger sister. A traitor within the garrison is exposed (a Wallonian Jesuit dressed as a lieutenant, who tried to take Küstrin for the Count of Tilly at the head of a fifth column sent to watch the Kommandant and, at a given signal, have the sentries drugged, then take the fort from within), and he is sentenced to run the gauntlet on the outskirts of Küstrin, as the governor lights the fireplace (though it's mid-summer), to symbolically burn a portrait of Tilly and a wooden Virgin Mary. 
Well, Gerhard entered the Swedish encampment, and he swore an oath to the flag: never to lose it and to treat it "like his own fiancée". Now our young officer wasn't even betrothed... but that changed over the course of the war. For he met by the campfire, that evening, a red-haired girl dressed as a soldier. Who was she? Elisabeth Charlotte "Liselotte" von Tarlenheim, his commanding officer's only daughter. That's who...
If you like the "spirited"/tomboyish type of female character in historical and fantasy fiction, you'll understand what Gerhard saw in Liselotte (by the way, she's 16 as well). They started as friends, and gradually their relationship developed. But a Swedish officer, in the olden days, required the consent of both his liege and father-in-law to marry.
And so, Gerhard decided to draw the attention of both King Gustavus Adolphus and Colonel Karl Hermann von Tarlenheim. In which way? Well, let's say charging headlong against detachments of passing-by Croatians, Walloons, and other Catholics, hoping to be rewarded with a lieutenancy.
Our young ensign also learns how to sew and make lace, skills that Swedish officers are taught to be able to mend their own clothes and have something to do while waiting. At first, Gerhard holds prejudice against a warrior being taught such "feminine" activities, and his first lace looks rather like tangled cobwebs... but he is soon encouraged by His Majesty, who advises him that not doing anything is even more feminine than sewing or lacemaking.
Gustavus is also fond of reading, especially the deeds of his predecessors as strategists, and he takes to his personal portable library every night, even in camp, during the war that is going on.
And the Swedish royal is even writing a song (in Swedish and German, the translation is mine) to sing before confrontation and thus encourage the Protestants:


"Do not despair, my little band,
though enemies throughout the land
are seeking to destroy you!
They rejoice, hoping you'll fall soon,
but they will sing another tune,
so keep on brave and coy, you!"


What has happened outside the encampment palisade in the meantime? If you guess that Tilly had Magdeburg burned to the ground, and that Leipzig soon yielded to him... you're completely right!
So, we have Gerhard "parti pour l'armée", during wartime, and finding Liselotte as more than a friend, while she merely sees him as a brother figure. Gustavus paying slightly more attention to this li'l blond ensign. And the Swedish ranks soon find themselves in the half-occupied Electorate of Saxony (its capital, Dresden, still remains intact). Soon, the hitherto neutral (and overweight) Elector George von Wettin visits the Swedish camp with his ranks (in finer scarlet doublets), including a patriotic red-haired Law student from Leipzig (don’t forget Kurtius, for he’ll soon prove his mettle!), and they garrison there, striking an alliance with Sweden.
That's the setup for the battle of Breitenfeld!
The upcoming confrontation is the talk of the encampment: this is no petty skirmish against some colonel, but a battle royale against Count Tilly himself! And the Swedes' first confrontation with the League's leader, on top of that!
No wonder Gerhard, like all other subaltern officers, is so stirred. Every ensign and lieutenant wants His Majesty to see the worth in him.
On the eve of battle, both armies prepare the best way they can. Gustavus Adolphus, thirsty and excited, visits another nearby estate, Krostewitz or Crostewitz, home of the Elector's favourite brewery, where the hop harvest is being celebrated. Draining his tankard of spicy mulled beer at one fell swoop, he greatly praises the drink he has quaffed, and even rewards the estate lord with a ruby ring of pure gold.
In the meantime, in the morgue in suburban Leipzig, now the League's headquarters, the badass and foolhardy Count of Pappenheim tries, with the aid of his fellow generals, to coax the Count of Tilly into giving battle. The careful Walloon would rather wait until reinforcements arrive, yet the younger generals' coaxing and taunting finally leads him to give in, to confront the Swedes at Breitenfeld. At last Gottfried zu Pappenheim will have some action and excitement: the scar on his forehead, shaped like the crossed swords on his clan's coat of arms, flares up like whenever he is enraged or excited, for he is burning to fulfil the prophecy that a Count of Pappenheim scarred with his family crest, riding a white steed, will defeat a great ruler on the field of battle...
While the younger leaders of the League coax Tilly throughout the night, Gustavus lies asleep in his pavilion after a night of revels and fireworks, dreaming that he wrestles against the septuagenarian Walloon, pulling his opponent's silver hair, receiving a bite from the old count on his left arm in response, yet, being younger and stronger, the Swede quickly pins the Walloon to the ground, ripping his chest open. Right when he was going to see if the Count of Tilly had got a heart, the King of Sweden awakens. The sun has not risen over the Saxon plains and the towers of Leipzig yet.

GOTT MIT UNS! OR SWEDES INTO THE FRAY

Alright, I am in the middle of my first Germanophone story: Der Löwe aus Mitternacht (The Lion from the Land of the Midnight Sun).
It's a play about the Austro-Swedish phase of the Thirty Years' War, divided into a prelude and two acts.
What about some snippets, translated by myself?
FROM THE DRAMATIS PERSONAE
Albrecht von Wallenstein: wealthy landowner, Duke of Friedland, Generalissimo of the Imperial Army. Married with two children. A true aesthete and freethinker, who loves science and whose greatest passion is astrology. He is afraid of loud noises, and he also suffers from heart issues caused by his lifestyle. He is quite moody: anyone who contradicts him must be executed, as known to his many allies and servants at Friedland... and to his many enemies at the Imperial Court. He actually plans to dethrone the Kaiser and take over the whole Empire...
Jean 't Serclaes, Count of Tilly: Leader of the Catholic League. A completely chaste and temperate veteran, who remains undefeated to this day. This septuagenarian, raised by Jesuits, is still single and childless due to his vow of chastity. He feels better in camp that at court. Coldhearted towards his enemies, and stays calm in the direst straits.
FROM ACT ONE
SCENE II. THE LANDING
The Swedes have landed on the white chalk cliffs of Pomerania. After many days, they have finally reached the German coastline. The King lands first, followed by the Queen, until the meanest private: everyone can be seen.
Gustavus: Thank God that we haven't suffered any casualties. That must be a good omen!
He kneels and sings so wonderfully: "Do not despair, my little band, though enemies throughout the land are seeking to destroy you!"
Officers: Long live the Golden King! Long live the Hero King!
Privates: Long live the Lion from the Land of the Midnight Sun!
Eleanor: Long live the one dearest to my heart!
Everyone: Long live the chosen Deliverer!

lunes, 21 de octubre de 2013

A FORTRESS PRISON IN PRUSSIA

In my previous post, "A Germanic Encampment", I wrote abou a special type of location that features prominently in my literary tales. This post follows the same premise, and I'll use a Thirty Years' War novel's description of Templin: along with Küstrin and Spandau, one of the three most notorious fortress prisons in the Electorate/Kingdom of Prussia (the novel is written by one Jacob de Liefde). We'll follow a soothsayer called Carolo, who is looking for Captain Harry Wyndham, a young Scottish officer taken as a POW and living there as a servant in the Kommandant's (commander's/governor's) household:

In the territory of Brandenburg, and on the borders of Lake Templin, the sombre and 
massive walls of a strong castle rose abruptly out of the tranquil waters. Built upon a 
promontory, it was on all sides surrounded by the unfathomable lake, and the only 
means of access lay through the heavy iron doors, upon the fortification of 
which the architect had brought to bear all the resources of his profession. 
The space inclosed by the walls was laid out partly as kitchen-garden,
 partly as stone-yard, and each day of the monotonous year a troop of 
silent and listless men might be seen engaged in laborious work as they 
performed the duties of the common ploughman,  or, what was worse still, 
the heavy task of breaking and quarrying the stone that was to fortify their prison. 
Dispersed through  the various groups were hard-featured and rough-handed 
overseers, whose ejaculations when inciting the prisoners to harder work, 
and the monotonous calls of the sentries were the only sounds that 
broke the silence of that sombre abode. 
Somewhat livelier were the environs of the guardhouse. There the soldiers not on duty 
amused themselves with cards, dice, and drink; there oaths and blasphemy, levity and
wantonness reigned supreme, and not a thought of pity was bestowed on the unhappy 
objects of their care. 
The principal building, which was occupied by the dwellings of the officers of the garrison,
 the arsenal, the cells of the prisoners, and the sick rooms, was a large, square block, 
with a verandah  running round it. Every point within the fortress might be seen at a glance
from this elevated position and here the commander of Templin was at this moment pacing 
up and down, throwing  ever and anon a searching  look around him. 
It seemed that something disturbed him, for he turned frequently to that part of 
the verandah which was nearest the guardhouse, and from which subdued sounds of 
merriment proceeded. 
At last, when a chorus of laughter reached his ears, he frowned, and in a sharp and 
irritated voice  called " Carolo." A young page appeared, and waited to be addressed. 
" Go to the captain of the guard and ascertain what is the origin of the loud merriment I 
hear. Have I not told him frequently that I will not allow brawls and drunken revelry
 within these walls ?" The page sped on his errand and returned in haste, reporting 
that it was no drunkenness, but that Wanza had again arrived with his goods, 
and that he was exposing them for sale to the soldiers. 
" What ! Wanza here again ? " said the commander of the fortress, stamping with his foot. 
" Ha! has he forgotten our promise last time ? We shall teach him to palm his forged goods 
on honest people, and enter these walls against our express command. Have him brought
 hither, Carolo, and silence those loud-mouthed fools." 
Carolo, expecting a good scene, flew to the guardhouse, and ere long he was conducted
 between two soldiers to the commander, who met them at the entrance of the building. He 
assumed a look of great  humility before the commander, but a cunning glance from under 
his eyelashes showed that he was tolerably at his ease. 
 
We follow Carolo into the guardhouse, whrer the garrison's officers and their families live:
The officer then entered the building, and opening the door of a room motioned Carolo to 
follow him. It was a richly-furnished apartment, hung round with tapestry. 
 With a touch of his foot he stirred the blocks, and threw something into the 
flame which made it shoot up and burn brightly. Then, having asked for some salt, 
he threw a handful of it in the flames, and gazed long and intently at 
mysterious figures described by the smoke. At last he turned round and 
seized the hand of the commander, who had watched him with suspended breath. 
 
Although the commander was superstitious, and put some faith in Carolo's 
words, it was still with considerable surprise that he received intelligence the 
same evening that two prisoners were to be brought to the castle; and found 
on their arrival the next day that one of them was a foreigner, a Scotsman, and 
that his name actually did commence with a W. Unacquainted with the 
peculiar circumstances which had inspired Wanza's  prophecy, he felt strangely
 attracted towards our hero. 
"If it be true," he mused, "that his life, health, and welfare are intimately connected 
with mine, then common prudence bids me take especial care of him." 
And thus, to his great astonishment, instead of being led to a subterranean cell, or 
doomed to spend his days in hard and unhealthy labour, Wyndham found himself 
reserved for the governor's own use. He was kept a prisoner, it is true, but 
without having to experience any great hardships. 
He slept in a good cell, he was fed from the governor's own table, and his work in the 
day time consisted in preparing those few records and books which the 
Imperial decree compelled that officer to keep. He was treated with the utmost
 deference, and the governor himself offered him the use of his library. 
It may be supposed that Harry, though entirely at a loss to comprehend 
the reason of this treatment, was nevertheless very thankful for it, and 
looked upon it as a special act of Providence. 
It would be both useless and tedious to follow Wyndham in his imprisonment. 
There was absolutely no variety in his life, there was no incident that would be 
worthwhile recording.
 News from the outside world there was none.
The governor remained ever scrupulously anxious about his welfare. He would 
frequently enter into conversation with his prisoner,  and make him tell the story of his
 life, which, as a sort of recompense, the latter was glad to give. He found his hearer 
very interested, but surprisingly superstitious on certain points, especially as 
to the fact of there existing some mysterious connection between them. 
Not knowing to what use this strange delusion might lead, he did not attempt to 
controvert it. The governor even supplied him with some English books 
which he had procured at a great cost, and had he dared he would have 
allowed him to roam at his ease over the whole castle. The strict discipline, 
however, limited even his power, and an hour each day in the square was all 
that was allowed him. Thus week succeeded week, and season followed season,
 till  Wyndham counted two long years, and began to wonder whether he was
 doomed to spend the rest of his life in this seclusion.
 
One day a peculiar kind of epidemic broke out amongst the prisoners, and in a few 
cases proved fatal. As soon as this was reported to the governor he seemed in 
the greatest trouble. His anxiety increased each day, and at last he resolved to 
send a messenger to the Imperial army, requesting a physician to be sent
 immediately. 
One afternoon in September, fully two years having now elapsed since his 
imprisonment, Wyndham sat in the little room he usually occupied when 
engaged in his work, when he became aware of an object passing between
 him and the light. On looking up he saw on the verandah outside the window 
a tall form, wrapped in a long gown and covered with a strangely-fashioned hood.
 He had never seen the figure before, and as the face was perfectly unknown 
to him, he conjectured that it must be  the new physician arrived
 from the Imperial camp. But what was his astonishment when, on passing 
his window again, the strange visitor made a momentary pause and putting
 his fingers to a little hole in one of the many small panes of glass, threw a
piece of crumpled parchment into the room and  disappeared. In an instant Harry had 
seized the parchment and read these words in English, " The governor will visit you 
shortly. Feign illness." 
These few words, with their strange suggestion, little as they told him, made his 
heart leap. His blood ran wildly through his veins, and his temples throbbed as he read 
the two short sentences over and over again. Had he a friend in the castle, and that one 
of his own nation? The door opened and the governor entered on his usual morning 
visit.
 At that moment Harry was sitting before the table, his face covered with his hands. 
As the governor entered he assumed his ordinary position, but he could not 
hide from the other's watchful eyes his intense excitement. 
He trembled violently, there was an unusual colour in his cheeks and a sparkle in
 his eye that might have deceived any one. 
"You do not feel well, captain?" said the governor, seizing the youth's hand, his own 
trembling almost as much. "We must get the physician to look at you ;" and hastily 
he left the room, unaware how he had unconsciously helped the plan of which 
Harry knew only a  small part. Presently Harry heard footsteps approaching 
the room, and the voice of the governor in earnest conversation. Then the door 
opened, and the strange figure once more
stood before him. After frequent feeling of the pulse he recommended
 that the young man should be put to bed in a quiet room. "If possible..., he said, "
 let it be on the basement, and if you have no objection, let me inspect the room." 
The sound of the voice made Harry tremble; and the whole of that day, until 
he was removed in the evening to a cell at the bottom of the house, he puzzled
 his mind to recall where he had heard that voice before. But though the sound 
was perfectly familiar to him, he had no recollection of the face; and the agony 
of suspense as he construed and wondered over the English  words and over 
the sound of the voice would almost have been sufficient to work him into a fever. 
Exhausted at last by anxious listening, for it had grown totally dark in his room, 
he fell into a troubled slumber. 
Carolo meets Wyndham, when the young man awakes, and informs him that 
Gustavus is en route to Templin:
The King of Sweden lay with a large army within three days' march of the castle. 
His own friend Baverley was on his way to attack it with a considerable force, 
hoping to surprise it. 
"I greatly fear, however," he continued, "that the governor has been advised of it, 
and that when your friend arrives tomorrow he will find everything ready for his 
reception. We cannot therefore trust to this. Now listen to my plan; one life is 
worth another. In procuring this disguise I have already incurred very great risk. 
If you do not obey' me implicitly, therefore, my danger will have been incurred in 
vain. Here is a rope, bind me ; change your upper garments for mine, gag me, 
and disguised in my robe, leave this building. On the southernmost angle
 of the outer wall you will find a sentry, whom I have drugged; a rope ladder 
hangs down to the waterside, where a boat is in  readiness. The night is dark; 
all depends upon your agility and silence. Now, quickly." 
Luckily no one within the house obstructed the supposed physician, and in a few 
moments Harry breathed the air outside. It was completely dark, but he knew his 
way perfectly. The wall was gained, the sentry lay in a state of helpless torpor. 
Arming himself with the soldier's pistols and sword, he felt for the ladder. 
It was there. He descended,  — his foot was in the boat, — he was free. 

But the time for action was not yet gone by. 
His flight might be discovered and a pursuit begun. He seized the oars With vigour, and 
each stroke separated him farther from the sombre mass that rose out of the water. 
Suddenly his boat came in violent contact with an object on the water, and he was 
thrown  forward. 
Ere he could recover his position, he was seized, his mouth covered, and he himself 
dragged into another boat which was filled with men. "Who art thou, — friend or foe ? " 
asked a rough voice, in German. 
Luckily, they were allies of his and Carolo's!  

As may be supposed, William's boat was not the only one on Lake Templin that night. 
Ere the two friends had disengaged themselves from each other's embrace, another boat, 
and another, came gliding up noiselessly, all filled with men armed to the teeth. No time
 was to be lost.
With a sudden impulse Wyndham related in a few words how he had escaped, and how 
he found the sentry asleep. In a comparatively short time the wall was gained, and with 
a burning desire to set the other captives free, Wyndham led the way up the ladder, and 
found himself once more on the walls of the prison.
 
The rest is soon told. The garrison, not expecting this attack, was taken entirely by 
surprise. After a short  but sharp fight it was disarmed and the castle gained. 
But as they knew that assistance must without fail arrive from the nearest military 
post within a few hours, the prisoners were hastily liberated and armed, the garrison
 locked up in the cells, and the fortifications blown up. And when the sun rose the 
troop had again crossed the lake, and each horseman, with a liberated prisoner 
behind, was already on the road to the Swedish camp. 
 
 
In one of my own works of fiction, the first leading characters to be introduced are 
both the children of Küstrin's governor (Kommandant, as before, is the 
German/Swedish word for fortress governor). 
Their father Konrad, having been forced to convert to Catholicism and 
aware of the fall of Templin, is worried about the outcome of a Swedish 
royal visit to his own guardhouse. 
However, Küstrin is pardoned on Queen Eleanor's advice, its garrison is 
spared (though the prisoners are freed), and Konrad and his wife Elsa, 
re-converted to Lutheranism, let their children, Gerhard and Hedwig, 
follow their respective dreams as a Swedish Army officer and a maid
 in the  Queen's entourage, respectively... as they emotively take leave 
of the sixteen-year-old ensign and the fifteen-year-old maid, his younger sister. 
A traitor within the garrison is exposed (a Wallonian Jesuit dressed as a 
lieutenant, who tried to take Küstrin for the Count of Tilly at the head of 
a fifth column sent  to watch the Kommandant and, at a given signal, 
have the sentries drugged, then take the fort from within), and he is
sentenced to run the gauntlet  on the outskirts of Küstrin, 
as the governor lights the fireplace  (though it's mid-summer), to 
symbolically burn a portrait of Tilly and wooden Virgin Mary. 
Then, obviously, the story follows the youngsters as the war goes on (I will 
resume my account later!)...