Special Sub-Topic: A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
|What does the Warwick Castle tour guide offer as the most likely explanation for the bullet hole in Sir Sagramore's armour?|
Oliver Cromwell's troops ransacking the castle during the English Civil War. "Wit ye well, I saw it done..." whispers Hank. "I did it myself!"
Twain here, of course, is poking gentle fun at historical researchers and the fanciful theories they come up with for the origins of artefacts based on scant evidence. In fairness to them, however, Cromwell was responsible for an incredible amount of vandalism against anything with links to the monarchy during his short time in power in the mid 17th century.
Warwick Castle is one of the most visited attractions in England, partly no doubt because it's very close to Stratford-upon-Avon. It is very impressive, but the admission charges are eye-watering. I recommend that budget travellers view the exterior then go to see Kenilworth Castle a few miles away; it is less well preserved, but arguably more atmospheric.
|Which work did Twain use as his main source for the numerous tedious tales of knightly deeds in the book, sometimes quoting whole chunks verbatim?|
Malory's "Morte D'Arthur". Twain was doing two things here. Firstly, he was attacking all romanticised tales of chivalry and medieval history for the effect they could have on people who believed them to be real. Twain hated this genre of literature intensely and particularly had it in for Sir Walter Scott, who he attacked several times in his work "Life on the Mississippi" for the debilitating effect he had on the American South:
"Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; [...] with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptiness [...] He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote."
Quite. The other answer choices also use tales of chivalry for satirical purposes or to make a political point. Malory was apparently serious.
Secondly, Twain was obsessed with contrasting the grand high-faluting language of these tales with the very earthy and/or crude language he claimed people - even great kings and nobles - used in real life. His ultimate example of this is his very, very rude piece "1601: Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors", so controversial that he originally had it published anonymously. In "Connecticut Yankee", though, he uses Hank to have yet another go at poor Scott:
"Suppose Sir Walter, instead of putting the conversations into the mouths of his characters, had allowed the characters to speak for themselves? We should have had talk from Rebecca and Ivanhoe and the soft lady Rowena which would embarrass a tramp in our day."
|After becoming the second most powerful man in the land after his "miracle" with the eclipse, Hank is supplied with every luxury that the kingdom knows of, but he isn't happy. He misses many 19th century comforts - sugar, coffee, tea, tobacco, a telephone - but in his diary what does he complain about the absence of the most?|
Paintings. More precisely, what he missed were chromolithographs ("chromos") - cheap mass-produced prints of famous paintings that were virtually compulsory in any middle class American home in the late 19th century. Twain didn't like this dumbed-down culture any more than he did romanticised literature and has great fun with the fact that Hank prefers fake paintings to authentic Arthurian tapestries and even considers himself quite an art critic:
"And not a chromo! I had been used to chromos for years, and I saw now that without my suspecting it a passion for art had got worked into the fabric of my being, and was become a part of me.
It made me homesick to look around over this proud and gaudy but heartless barrenness and remember that in our house in East Hartford, all unpretending as it was, you couldn't go into a room but you would find an insurance-chromo, or at least a three-color God-Bless-Our-Home over the door; and in the parlor we had nine.
Here, even in my grand room of state, there wasn't anything in the nature of a picture except a thing the size of a bed quilt, which was either woven or knitted (it had darned places in it), and nothing in it was the right color or the right shape; and as for proportions, even Raphael himself couldn't have botched them more formidably, after all his practice on those nightmares they call his "celebrated Hampton Court cartoons...."
|What service does Hank seek to render future generations of music lovers during his stay at the court of Morgan le Fay? |
He approves the execution of the composer of "In The Sweet By-and-By". "In The Sweet By-and-By" is a schmaltzy, saccharine Gospel hymn that was in reality written in the 1860s and was extremely popular in Twain's time. After what we've seen done to Sir Walter Scott and chromos it's hardly a surprise to find that Twain seems to have taken firmly against the song; it also gets unflattering mentions in at least "The Invalid's Tale" and in "The Loves of Alonzo Fitz," where the love-smitten Alonzo finds the song much improved by being sung flat by one of the girls of his dreams.
In much of the book Hank is generally a non-violent and compassionate man, and we see few indications of the future orchestrator of the First World War-scale horrors of the Battle Of The Sand-Belt. He is horrified by Le Fay's random acts of cruelty and generally intercedes on behalf of her victims, yet even he clearly finds his patience tested by hearing "the initial agony" of the "wail" that was destined to become the song Twain hated so much.
|When Hank and Sandy finally arrive at the ogres' castle that is the aim of their quest, ready to free the forty-five captive princesses from their monstrous four-armed one-eyed captors, what does Hank find waiting for him? |
A pigsty, a herd of pigs and three ragged swineherds. "A Castle? It is nothing but a pigsty; a pigsty with a wattled
fence around it."
Sandy was not put off by Hank's protests for long, of course. She assured him that the castle was enchanted, and so appeared to him as a pigsty but to others "it is not enchanted, hath suffered no change, but stands firm and stately still, girt with its moat and waving its banners in the blue air
from its towers." So that was all right then.
It was the work of an instant for Hank to buy the pigs from the swineherds and, after a few more (mis)adventures that are among the funniest parts of the whole book, to give them to away to various local people, all while appearing to Sandy as a true noble hero. As Hank remarks later, maybe there is something to be said after all for knight-errantry as a trade!
|What does Hank use as magic words in his powerful spell to drive the "demon" out of the Holy Fountain and make the waters flow again?|
German compound nouns. Twain and German were not exactly the best of friends, as a casual read of his essay "The Awful German Language" will instantly confirm. The tongue doesn't fare too well in his other works either. Hank had already become convinced that Sandy was the True Mother of the German Language:
"She had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."
So, when it came to selecting scary-sounding incantations guaranteed seriously to impress the masses who had turned out to watch Hank restart the holy waters (a simple repair job turned by Hank into yet another miracle) it was a no-brainer:
(The Constantinople Bagpipe Manufacturing Company)
(Attempts by nihilists to blow up theatre boxes using dynamite)
(The tear-jerking tragedy of the wedding of the camel driver from the Transvaal troops' tropical transport unit)
... and so on....
|What, according to Hank, do a spiritualist medium's miracles, a magician's miracles and many religious miracles all have in common?|
They only happen when there's no one around to see them. "A crowd was as bad for a magician's miracle in that day as it was for a spiritualist's miracle in mine; there was sure to be some skeptic on hand to turn up the gas at the crucial moment and spoil everything."
"[There was a chapel] whose walls were hung with pious pictures [...] commemorative of curative miracles which had been achieved by the waters when nobody was looking"
Hank was a Christian, but a Presbyterian who associated all this miracle-worship with the established Catholic church that he was determined to overthrow. He did acknowledge, however, that faith healing worked if the patient genuinely believed - "any mummery will cure if the patient's faith is strong in it" - and as proof described in detail how he watched King Arthur curing innumerable subjects of scrofula (the King's Evil) simply by touching them.
The one exception to this "nobody watching" rule was of course was angels: "That is, nobody but angels; they are always on deck when there is a miracle to the fore - so as to get put in the picture, perhaps. Angels are as fond of that as a fire company; look at the Old Masters."
|How did Hank first manage to discredit the rival magician he met in the Valley of Holiness, who claimed to be able to see what anyone else in the world was doing at any time?|
He asked the magician what he was doing with his right hand. Hank was forever despairing of how credulous Arthur's subjects were. They believed without question all the damsels in distress such as Sandy, who turned up with fantastic stories. Then, even though Hank had established his "magician" status by two widely observed "miracles", the populace was instantly ready to reject him in favour of this new arrival just because of his showy costume and impressive claims.
The trick, of course, was that the people the man claimed to know all about always turned out to be princes and kings hundreds of miles away - "The high and mighty Emperor of the East doth at this moment put money in the palm of a holy begging friar" - and it wasn't possible to check. Hank floored him totally by asking him about something out of sight but yet happening in the same room, and so easily verifiable.
He finished the magician off once and for all later by correctly predicting (thanks to his telephone line to Camelot!) that King Arthur was about to visit the Valley.
|Hank needed to find occupations to keep the nobility contented once he had finally overthrown the established order. Which two jobs did he find particularly well suited to them?|
Railroad conductors and baseball players. Hank had already gone some way in his campaign to undermine knight-errantry whilst simultaneously extolling the virtues of civilisation by persuading knights to ride about wearing billboards for soap, stove cleaner (even though stoves hadn't been invented yet) and other goods. His victory in the tournament, however, gave him free rein to exploit the knights as he wished, whilst also being sure they were kept happy so that they didn't have any ideas of rebellion.
He found that the petty authority and smart uniform a ticket collector gave them suited them fine. And baseball? "It was a project of mine to replace the tournament with something which might furnish an escape for the extra steam of the chivalry, keep those bucks entertained and out of mischief, and at the same time preserve the best thing in them, which was their hardy spirit of emulation."
They insisted on playing it of course in full armour, meaning they had no need to dodge the pitcher's balls because they ricocheted off. That could make the next World Series interesting...
For more ticket collector-themed Twain humour, please do go and read "A Literary Nightmare," a hilarious short story from "Old Times on the Mississippi." All together now: "A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare..."
|What name did Sandy give to the first child that she has with Hank, based on words she has heard Hank murmuring in his sleep?|
Hello-Central. "Many a time Sandy heard that imploring cry come from my lips in my sleep.
With a grand magnanimity she saddled that cry of mine upon our child, conceiving it to be the name of some lost darling of mine. It touched me to tears, and it also nearly knocked me off my feet, too, when she smiled up in my face for an earned reward, and played her quaint and pretty surprise upon me:
The name of one who was dear to thee is here preserved, here made holy, and the music of it will abide always in our ears. Now thou'lt kiss me, as knowing the name I have given the child."
Laughs are hard to come by as "Connecticut Yankee" hurtles towards its dramatic and heart-rending climax, but the tale of how Sandy named their first child after the 19th century way of calling a telephone exchange to start a call is just sweet.
Puss Flanagan, as Hank had told Clarence earlier, was the name of Hank's fiancee 1300 years away in Hartford Connecticut, home of the Colt's arms factory where Hank worked before he became chronologically inconvenienced.
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