Drove My Chevy to the Nuckelavee

Since St. Patrick’s Day was two days ago, it might make sense to feature Irish mythology this weekend, but instead I’m going with Scottish. Hey, I’m part Scots-Irish, after all. The particular focus of this post is local to the Orkney Islands in the north, although it appears to have been influenced by Scandinavian folklore. I refer to the Nuckelavee, a much-feared beast capable of causing all sorts of destruction. Although it lived in the sea, it would occasionally venture onto land to cause droughts, wilt crops, and give diseases to cattle with its venomous breath. It was truly a force of nature. The Nuckelavee was known to especially get angry at the smell of burning seaweed, which the Orcadians did to make ash that would neutralize acidic soil. It does have its weaknesses, however, most notably an aversion to fresh water. As such, anyone being pursued by the creature could escape by crossing a river or stream. Along the same lines, it refused to leave the sea when it was raining. That malevolent entities were incapable of crossing running water was a pretty common idea, but I couldn’t say how it originated. The most famous account of a Nuckelavee encounter comes from nineteenth-century Scottish folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, who credits the tale to an islander named Tammas who escaped the monster by splashing lake water on it. The Nuckelavee is also kept under control during the summer by a seasonal spirit known as the Sea Mither. She was known to provide life and warmth, and to keep away storms.

Her main enemy was a winter spirit called Teran, who stirred up the sea and waves. Every year, she’d triumph over Teran during the spring and hold him captive at the bottom of the sea, but he’d break free and overpower her during the fall.

Sounds like a rather tedious existence, but such is the way of myths explaining the seasons. When at the height of her power, the Mither was able to confine the Nuckelavee as well.

I haven’t yet gotten into the appearance of the Nuckelavee. As with most such creatures, descriptions differ a bit. It’s also suggested that it might have had a different form when under the sea, which I guess humans would have never seen. Sometimes said to ride a gruesome horse, the story credited to Tammas fused the two together. It wasn’t quite a centaur, but rather the head and torso of a man growing out of the back of a horse. The man’s head was ten times as large as an ordinary one, and the mouth like that of a pig. The human-like torso also had arms long enough to reach the ground. The horse’s head had one flaming red eye. And most disturbing of all, the Nuckelavee had no skin, so its insides were constantly visible.

Its blood was black, and flowed through yellow veins. Apparently nasty beings that looked like horses but came from the water were a major problem in the British Isles at one point. You can see a gallery of recent Nuckelavee illustrations here.

Posted in British, Monsters, Mythology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Toad Home

All the extra stuff on the map screen in Super Mario Bros. 3 was pretty fascinating. There were mini-games, Hammer Bros. that walked around, airships that flew, hands that could grab you as you crossed a bridge, and treasure ships that occasionally appeared.

It was also the origin of Toad’s Houses, which were scattered throughout the game (except in the last world) and provided items for Mario and Luigi. There were even a few secret houses that only appeared if you did specific actions.

In most of them, however, you’d go in and have a choice of three boxes. The items for each house were always the same, but I believe the order was randomized. On the other side of the house stood Toad, in his vest with no shirt, telling you to pick a box.

I initially thought you couldn’t get up to where Toad was, but you actually can, and even shoot fireballs at him. They don’t harm him, and at least in the original they turn green for some reason. The question I have is whether these are all the same Toad, or there are different ones.

I’ve written about how I don’t believe the species as a whole were called Toads until some time later; they were just Mushroom People. I at least thought of Toad as one specific Mushroom Person, a retainer to Princess Toadstool (as we called her back then) who was playable in SMB2. What’s kind of weird about that is that the playable Toad in that game has blue spots on his cap, while the one(s) in SMB3 had red.

In artwork and tie-in materials, however, the SMB2 Toad had red spots as well, at least most of the time.

In the first few Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoons, he had a red cap with white spots, but it was soon changed to a white cap with red spots and it remained that way throughout.

That is, except when he was powered up, when he went back to the inverse color scheme.

It was confusing that, in the cartoons, both Fire Flowers and Starmen, as well as some episode-specific items, simply made the characters super, in which form they had super strength and could shoot fireballs. The later cartoons kept the items’ effects more consistent with the games. But anyway, I also found it interesting that Luigi’s super form had basically his regular color scheme from the original SMB, which would be the case in Super Mario World as well.

But back to Toad, presumably because he was playable in SMB2, he was a regular companion to Mario, Luigi, and the Princess in both the Super Show and SMB3 cartoons. There were a few episodes without him, but not all that many. His character was pretty strong (presumably based on his ability to pull up vegetables and coins really quickly in SMB2), but also kind of whiny, and always wanted to play a more significant role.

Wouldn’t he have been disappointed to find out he wasn’t in SMW (the game or the cartoon) at all? So, yeah, I figured THE Toad had all these houses, presumably because he was a real estate investor or something. He also somehow always managed to get there before you, and he’d only give you one item when he had three in the building. I’d say he was saving them for other heroes, except if one player accesses a house, the other can’t after that. I’m sure this was quite frustrating in two-player games. Maybe it’s sort of like how, in other games, merchants will still insist on payment for items even when you’ve saved their town. Toad is kind of like that himself towards the end of Super Mario RPG, although by that point you’d probably stocked up on coins from the unlimited block in Bowser’s Keep.

Once all the Mushroom People are called Toads, it means looking back on SMB3 suggests that there might be several different ones in the different houses. When the houses reappeared in New Super Mario Bros., they were operated by Toadsworth, and he’s apparently the same every time.

Super Mario 3D World, on the other hand, has differently colored Toads in different houses, and presumably none of them are THE Toad, who’s playable.

And he once again has blue spots like in SMB2, but doesn’t seem to be the same as the Blue Toad in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and U.

Toad Houses show up in the first Paper Mario as well, where they function like inns in most role-playing games.

Toad as an individual is also playable in Wario’s Woods. In fact, I think he’s the ONLY playable character in that game.

Then there’s Captain Toad, who was introduced in Super Mario Galaxy, playable in parts of Super Mario 3D World, and the main protagonist in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

I believe many people originally assumed that Captain Toad was the same as the original Toad, but they’re clearly different in SM3DW. In his own game, he rescues Toadette, who is referred to as Toad’s sister in some sources and his girlfriend in others.

So you’d think it would be Toad who would rescue Toadette, but this isn’t the case. Also, the Captain can’t jump, while the original Toad can, even if he’s not as good at it as his teammates.

His Toad Brigade includes both Blue and Yellow Toads who are likely not the same as the ones in the NSMB games. You know, it would help if Nintendo would just give at least some of these characters names. Well, it’s been said that the developers of the NSMB games named the Blue and Yellow Toads Bucken-Berry and Ala-Gold, respectively, but this isn’t official.

Posted in Cartoons, Mario, Names, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Television, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Want Adventure in the Great Live Action

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Disney remaking their animated classics in live action seems to have become a thing, and with no end in sight. I can’t really say I see the point, and this is the first one I’ve seen. Well, okay, I guess you could count Maleficent and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which I have seen, but those were really more adaptations than remakes; they had common elements but didn’t tell quite the same story. But 2015 saw a remade Cinderella, and it looks like they’re remaking progressively newer films. Cinderella was sixty-five years old at the time of the remake, The Jungle Book forty-nine years, and Beauty a mere twenty-six. Mulan, its live-action remake slated for next year, will be only twenty. And I think they’ll be releasing the animated and live-action Gigantic at the same time. No, I’ve actually heard they’re going back again for the next few. It seems like one of the points in doing this is to iron out inconsistencies in the original films, or at least that’s the a side effect. Indeed, adding back story and filling plot holes was a major part of this new Beauty. The animated film said that the beast spell would become permanent on the prince’s twenty-first birthday, ten years after the enchantment. Simple math has shown that this means the enchantress cursed an eleven-year-old boy for not letting a strange woman into his home. The remake not only fudges the exact time period, but suggests that the enchanted castle is in a magical stasis, always in winter and with no one ever aging. There’s still a time limit that’s fast approaching, but nobody seems to know the exact figure, which makes more sense. There was also more development in Belle’s relationship with the Beast, and she knew that he was originally human before the end, removing the more problematic aspects of her falling in love with (from her perspective) an animal. The weird line about Chip getting into a cupboard with his brothers and sisters was cut as well, a good thing as the original implication seemed to be that Mrs. Potts had a whole lot of children but only ever talked to one of them. There were also some details added in that didn’t affect the story that much one way or the other, like the revelation that Belle’s mother died of the plague, Gaston having fought in a war (and enjoyed it, apparently), and the Beast being incredibly agile. LeFou being gay counts in this category, although at least there they did it to try to increase representation.

Of course, you can question whether making the villain’s stupid, clumsy sidekick gay (or I guess REVEALING his sexuality is a more accurate way to put it, as it wasn’t addressed at all in the animated movie) was really GOOD representation, but it was helped a little by giving him more agency and not playing him as quite as much of a slapstick character. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t decide Cogsworth was gay, especially considering that he was played by gay actors in both versions. But no, he’s reunited with his wife at the end, much to his chagrin. Which brings me to another change, that of the townspeople (or at least most of them) recognizing the inhabitants of the castle after they were disenchanted.

Some changes were definitely for the worse. They cut out two of the funniest lines from the original, the Beast saying he looked “stupid” and Gaston’s “Every last inch of me’s covered in hair.”

Gaston was also made more blatantly evil. I think the cartoon showed him gradually developing from a rude guy with an ego problem to more of a straight-up villain. In the remake, he ties Maurice to a tree and leaves him for the wolves fairly early on, even before he tries to have him committed to an asylum as part of a scheme to marry Belle. I also thought it was weird that, after Maurice is rescued, the townspeople initially seem to believe that Gaston tried to have him killed, but then Gaston just changes their minds without much of a reason. True, Maurice didn’t have evidence, but it still seemed abrupt. For that matter, it appeared that everyone other than LeFou wasn’t immediately so eager to praise Gaston, and had to be coaxed into it. This could have just been a joke on how spontaneous singalongs don’t really make sense, but they came across as a little more reluctant. This attitude change could have contributed to how LeFou eventually decides on his own to turn against Gaston.

And I’m not sure how to take the scene where the Beast uses a magic book to transport himself and Belle to her old home in Paris, which apparently hadn’t been touched in the time it took her to grow up.

The only way I can really rationalize it is to say that it was an illusion rather than reality, albeit an illusion from which Belle could take an object.

For the most part, the performances and visuals were very good, although there were obviously things they couldn’t do so well with the format. The Beast couldn’t be quite as big or imposing, for instance, although I think he still worked. A more pressing concern were the enchanted servants, a significant part of the Disney version who weren’t in the traditional tale. Well, that might not be entirely true; there was a 1978 written adaptation by Robin McKinley that apparently contains moving dishes and candelabras. If Disney got the idea from McKinley, they never credited or paid him, and he figured a lawsuit would be pointless. Regardless, they were obviously designed with animation in mind, and looked a little bizarre in live action mixed with computer graphics.

I did get used to most of them over the course of the film, but not so much with Mrs. Potts. Who thought that would be a good design for her?

Another design choice worth noting was how the aristocrats and their servants tended to have powdered wigs and painted faces, which based on some Google searching seems to have been the style in France from the seventeenth century until the end of the nineteenth, largely inspired by King Louis XIII wearing a wig when he started to lose his hair. While the story has many antecedents, the most famous version is the allegedly overly long and tedious novel (I’ve never tried to read it) written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, first published in 1740, and I believe she did give it a contemporary setting. So that checks out, I guess. Mari Ness’s review of this story points out how the Beast is said to have a harpsichord. Maybe that’s why one of the enchanted objects in this new film was a harpsichord, who was in fact married to the wardrobe. I always find it interesting when new takes on old stories incorporate references like this, which can also be seen in Belle asking for a rose from her father when he went off on his journey.

So, was this adaptation necessary? I would say not; the animated film still totally stands on its own. That said, it was well-made, and despite some significant missteps, still enjoyable to watch.

Posted in Cartoons, Fairy Tales, France, History, Humor, Magic, Revisiting Disney, Sexuality, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Wanted Eternal Youth, But Not THAT Much Youth!

I remembered having read this Oz story before, but I forgot where I’d seen it. It’s an interesting take on the issue of aging in Oz, which I’ve tackled in the past without any definite conclusions. L. Frank Baum says in The Tin Woodman of Oz that nobody has grown any older since the enchantment of Oz, and that specifically includes babies. Ruth Plumly Thompson modifies this in Kabumpo to say that aging is a matter of choice. But was that choice always the case, or did the enchantment itself have to be changed somewhat? This story suggests the latter. The Hungry Tiger meets a never-aging baby who’s been given incredible intelligence by a potion his mother took from Glinda. He confronts Ozma about always having to remain a baby, and she responds by enchanting the palace vegetable garden so it would age people.

Other Oz stories address the aging issue as well. In Edward Einhorn’s Paradox, it’s the result of Ozma accidentally rubbing a powder that prevents aging on an hourglass that’s really an alternate-universe version of Ozma’s grandfather who lives backwards.

Since such temporal anomalies affect a displaced person’s surroundings, everyone in Oz stopped aging, with the spell running backwards in time until shortly after Ozma took the throne. Glinda then reworks the magic on Ozma herself with a youth potion she received from Lurline. Paul Dana’s books propose that everyone around at the time of the enchantment stopped aging, and that included keeping pregnant women permanently pregnant.

Anyone who became pregnant after the enchantment, however, could have their babies in the usual way. This wasn’t mentioned in the original version of Time Travelers, and was likely added to account for what’s said about Ojo himself in Ojo, which I don’t think Paul had read when he first wrote the tale.

The Wizard of Oz specifically points out his own aging in Oz prior to Ozma’s reign in Paradox.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about the enchantment, Nick Chopper’s parents also died, and likely during the Wizard’s reign since his father once visited the Emerald City. (I guess he could have visited the place that would later be called the Emerald City, but I’m not sure this really solves anything.) So we’re left with a period of time when people did age and die, but also some references to much older characters. The thing is, I can’t recall Baum ever really using the older characters, at least when it came to mortals in Oz itself. This was more something Thompson did, as with the Samandrans in Yellow Knight. But then, Thompson might well have just worked with the Tin Woodman explanation, except revised somewhat to avoid the permanent baby issue. It doesn’t say when aging stopped, and she might have just forgotten about the early references, or disregarded them as contradictory. Since she did try to reconcile the accounts of the Wizard and Ozma’s early history as given in Land and Dorothy and the Wizard with her own Lost King, it’s not like she always ignored Baum’s contradictions; but she might well have done so when they went against the story she wanted to tell. A possible work-around that I’ve seen suggested, in Michael Patrick Hearn’s The Annotated Wizard of Oz among other places, is that the enchantment was suspended when someone not part of the royal family took the throne. It’s clever, but as David Hulan pointed out, it would make it strange that people seemed to have adjusted so well to aging and dying again when many of them would have been able to remember deathless life under the last rightful king. Then we have Jack Snow suggesting (if not outright stating) that Lurline’s enchantment occurred about 200 years before Magical Mimics. In order to fit all these sources together, we might be left with something like this:

1. Some Ozites have been around since time immemorial, possibly due to fairy blood, specific enchantments, or localized magic. This includes the Samandrans and their neighbors. According to Joe Bongiorno’s Royal Timeline of Oz, some of this was likely a result of Lurline’s attempt to undo her sister Enilrul’s curse as described in Phil Lewin’s Witch Queen, which made them unable to die but in constant pain. The timeline dates this to the thirteenth century.
2. Lurline’s enchantment in the eighteenth century, using the somewhat erratic power of an egg laid by the Phoenix of An, results in everyone alive at the time ceasing to age and die, at least as long as they remained in Oz. This includes unborn babies.
3. Babies born after the enchantment can still age and die, since they weren’t actually around when Lurline cast the spell. This includes Nick Chopper’s parents.
4. The backwards spell from Paradox affects everyone in Oz, including those who weren’t present at the earlier enchantment(s). This once again means non-aging babies, although I’m not sure whether it resulted in more permanent pregnancies.
5. A palace vegetable garden affected by the Magic Belt allows for controlled aging, especially for babies. I’m actually not sure whether this story takes place AFTER Paul’s stories in which Button-Bright and Ojo take pregnant Ozites to Ev to give birth, or these people were the exception because they were around for Lurline’s egg-based enchantment. I’m leaning towards the latter, as it would account for some people being able to age up to a certain point and then stop in Thompson’s Oz, like Randy. If so, this presumably means Ozma set up other localized spots for aging throughout the land, since not all of these Thompson characters would have been able to get to the Emerald City.

It ends up being pretty convoluted, perhaps unavoidable when some of these works are pretty obscure anyway, and adding in Baum’s penchant for contradicting himself. He never actually did say anything that went against the idea of permanent babies (at least as far as I can remember, and I remember these books pretty well), but it seems like pretty much everybody writing after him didn’t like the idea and tried to get around it in their own ways.

It’s like how more recent writers (including myself) tend to avoid having people and sentient animals kill each other for food, even though Baum was ambiguous on this point and Thompson apparently didn’t think much about it at all.

Posted in Characters, Edward Einhorn, Jack Snow, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Phil Lewin, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Always Going Forward, ‘Cause We Can’t Find Reverse

My re-watch of the Star Trek movies has reached the end of the films starring the original cast. I’d seen these two before, but only once each a long time ago. For the most part, I think I have to agree with the traditional wisdom that the even-numbered movies are the good ones. The problem with the odd-numbered ones mostly seems to be poor organization; they contain some good ideas, but aren’t implemented well. With the first and third, nothing really happened. The fifth, on the other hand, seems like it tried to incorporate way too much. But let’s take a closer look at it.

The Final Frontier – This one was William Shatner’s directorial debut, and seems to be widely considered the worst of the lot. The main villain, Sybok, is a renegade Vulcan cult leader who thinks he’s found the physical home of God. He’s also Spock’s half-brother. He takes the Federation, Klingon, and Romulan ambassadors to Nimbus III, the Planet of Galactic Peace in the Neutral Zone, as hostages in order to gain access to a spaceship. Not surprisingly, this turns out to be the Enterprise, even though the new model is not yet fully functional. Starfleet’s reasoning is that they need an experienced commander, but it seems like they could just give Kirk command of a different ship. The crew is currently on shore leave at Yosemite National Park, where Spock is confused by the lyrics to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and refers to marshmallows as “marsh melons.”

Apparently the novelization says that Dr. McCoy changed the references in Spock’s database as a practical joke, which seems awfully far to go to defend an out-of-character joke. It would actually make more sense if “marsh melons” had become the standard name by the twenty-third century; there have certainly been stranger word mutations. But that seems to be the order of the day in this movie. Star Trek IV was jokey, but there the humor largely came from the characters and their situation. Here, we just get gags for the sake of gags. Sulu and Chekov blow into a communicator to simulate a blizzard because they don’t want to admit they’re lost, there’s a goofy sequence involving Morse Code, and Scotty bangs his head on a beam after mentioning how well he knows the ship. Due to inoperative transporters, the crew members have to take a shuttle to the planet’s surface, then steal some horses to reach the capital city. So Uhura does a fan dance to distract the stable hands, who are luckily all attracted to human women despite all the alien species living on this planet.

I understand that was a jokey suggestion that ended up actually making it into the movie, which might well be how the whole thing was written. The Enterprise crew rides into the capital, Paradise City, where there are some pretty girls but no grass that I noticed.

They take Sybok and his hostages back to the ship, where the cult leader takes control and takes the ship to a planet in the center of the Galaxy that he calls Sha Ka Ree after the Vulcan equivalent of the Garden of Eden. According to people who know more about the franchise than I do, there’s no way the Enterprise should have been able to get there that quickly even at maximum warp, but that might be the least of this movie’s problems. I also found it a little odd how Sybok, despite referencing old Vulcan mythology, mostly has a very human understanding of God. He also uses examples from human history of people achieving what was previously thought to be impossible, even though Vulcans presumably accomplished such things on their own. I guess it makes sense that someone who’s turned against Vulcan teaching would be obsessed with Earth, but it still rings a bit false to me. The ship reaches Sha Ka Ree and Kirk, Spock, Sybok, and McCoy all land there, encountering a being who claims to be God but is obviously a fraud.

I’m pretty sure Kirk has been through this exact same scenario several times in the past. In this case, the deity is actually a malevolent entity who’d been trapped on this planet, and wants to use Kirk’s ship to escape. The four visitors claim that God would provide proof and wouldn’t hurt others for his own amusement, which suggests they aren’t really that familiar with many actual religious conceptions of God. But anyway, Sybok sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape, and that’s pretty much it. Well, I didn’t mention the Klingons who are pursuing the Enterprise just for target practice because they have very little bearing on the plot, but they’re there and are reprimanded for their actions. I kind of wish there had been more focus on Caithlin Dar, the Romulan ambassador, really just because I like how she looks.

The ending gives the impression that she hooks up with the Federation ambassador, St. John Talbot, who’s played by the guy who was Professor Perry in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, and is also Chancellor Gorkon in the next film.

There were some promising ideas in the movie, but overall it mostly came across as disorganized.

The Undiscovered Country – The last film to focus on the original cast provides a bit of a bridge to The Next Generation by having the Klingons begin to make peace with the Federation. Michael Dorn is even in it as Worf’s grandfather, who is sympathetic to Kirk and defends him at his trial. I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. Praxis, the moon of the Klingon homeworld (and presumably where the standardized test for education majors originated), explodes due to over-mining, causing danger to the planet’s atmosphere. Since the Klingons have invested so much in the military, they don’t have the resources to deal with this. It’s sad how many of these timely moral messages are still relevant today. The Klingons want to make a treaty with the Federation, and Spock volunteers the Enterprise to escort the Klingon ambassador, against Kirk’s wishes. Kirk still holds the Klingons responsible for the death of his son, even though the particular ones who did that are dead at this point. It’s true that the Klingon representatives at the beginning of Star Trek IV didn’t apologize for this, but still. Is this an optimistic future or isn’t it? I get what the movie was going for in terms of Kirk learning to overcome his prejudices, but I kind of think they laid it on too thick not just with him, but the humans in general, with the blatantly racist comments. But maybe there’s something to it. The original series, with its multi-ethnic cast, represents a hope that people can set aside their differences, so it fits that they’d eventually make peace with the Klingons as well. On the other hand, it kind of seems like racism still exists but is simply directed elsewhere, toward alien beings. The movie was from 1991, and it was later that year that the Soviet Union fell, inspiring a feeling of hope in the real world. On the other hand, it was also the year of Operation Desert Storm, the beginning of the ongoing conflict between the United States and Iraq. It’s interesting to look at the film in that light.

But anyway, after the Klingons have dinner with the Enterprise crew and we learn that they love Shakespeare, a torpedo attack on the ambassador’s ship results in his death. As there are no other visible ships in the area, Kirk and McCoy are arrested for assassination, and end up in a prison camp that’s basically the Klingon Gulag.

A shapeshifter helps them to escape, but double crosses them once they escape the magnetic barrier. Fortunately, the Enterprise is there to pick them up, managing to enter Klingon space by pretending to be a freighter. This follows a weird scene where the crew, fearing that their universal translators will lead to their discovery, instead cobbles together some bad Klingon with paper dictionaries. Would the Klingons have been able to identify them with a simple translation program? And even though translators are standard in this time, couldn’t they have brought along an interpreter in case of failure? I’m also not sure why Spock is so sure that whoever changed the ship’s data banks to say it had fired torpedoes when it hadn’t must still be on board. Couldn’t it have been hacked remotely? I mean, Kirk was able to remotely disable the shields on the Reliant by inputting a code, right? Regardless, it turns out that the double agent on board Enterprise is Valeris, the new Vulcan helmsperson (to replace Sulu, who is now captain of the Excelsior) whom Spock greatly admires. She’s played by Kim Cattrall, continuing the trend of really weird casting choices in these movies.

Also involved is General Chang, the Klingon ambassador’s chief of staff, who’s played by Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music. Actually, Christopher Plummer has played a lot of roles in both film and theater, but that’s the one I tend to associate him with.

The character’s love of Shakespeare might have been at least partially referencing how Shatner was once Plummer’s understudy in several Shakespearean plays. The Enterprise crew destroys Chang’s Bird of Prey and prevents the assassination of the Federation President, and that marks their last official adventure together. It’s now time to turn over the reins to the Next Generation cast, although Kirk’s story isn’t quite over yet.

Posted in Authors, Cold War, History, Humor, Language, Prejudice, Religion, Star Trek, Technology, VoVat Goes to the Movies, William Shakespeare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You May Find Important Pieces Gone

Cautionary tales to try to convince children to behave seem to be pretty much universal, even though it’s quite possible they do more harm than good. I’ve written before about boogeyman legends, and along much the same lines is the nineteenth-century German children’s book Der Struwwelpeter, in which kids are punished for their bad habits in extreme and often absurd ways.

A boy who won’t eat soup starves to death, a careless hunter’s gun is stolen by a hare, a girl who plays with matches burns herself to death, and a kid goes out in a storm and is blown away.

And in one story that’s particularly weird by today’s standards, a giant wise man dyes some white kids with ink because they were making fun of a black boy.

It’s obviously against racism, but in a strange way. Did I mention that the guy who wrote this was a psychiatrist? Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann couldn’t find a book he wanted to give his son for Christmas, so he wrote and illustrated his own. His original title was Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder, which translates to Funny Stories and Droll Pictures. I’m not sure if he intended the name to be sarcastic, but it doesn’t sound like it. It later came to be given its current title, meaning Shock-Headed Peter, after its first story. It’s strange to see two W’s in a row, even in German, and remember that these W’s are pronounced like V’s. Interestingly, while Peter is totally grotesque for not grooming himself, he doesn’t actually receive any direct punishment.

This statue is located in Frankfurt. I took the picture from here.
The most famous story in the book might be “Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher,” or “The Story of the Thumb-Sucker.” When a boy persists in sucking his thumb, he receives a visit from the “great, long, red-legg’d scissor man,” a tailor with a giant pair of shears who cuts off his thumbs.

What’s more, his mother basically just says, “Told you so.”

Picture by Maren Marmulla
I believe the first time I heard of the scissor man was in the XTC song from the album Drums and Wires, long a favorite of mine.

Not having seen the relevant picture when I first became familiar with the song (not that I could remember, anyway), I couldn’t help imagining Cut Man from Mega Man.

And just because I like it, here’s Robin Goldwasser’s cover of the song.

In general, it seems like the book is better known in the United Kingdom than in the States. In Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear, part of his Nursery Crime series, a parent who’s less accepting of nineteenth-century German morality joins Detective Jack Spratt in a sting operation to catch the Scissor Man. A version of the character also appears in Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather as one of the childhood fears that manifests in the Tooth Fairy’s house. This Scissor Man is much more unnatural in appearance than the tailor in Hoffmann’s illustration, described as “something like an ostrich, and something like a lizard on its hind legs, but almost entirely like something made out of blades.”

Not Pratchett’s Scissor Man, but another fantastic interpretation of the character, by Sanya Glisic
There is one prominent American reference, however, in that the movie Edward Scissorhands is frequently mentioned as showing influence from Struwwelpeter, both with the character’s scissors for hands and his hairstyle reminiscent of Peter’s.

Family Guy also did a parody of the Thumb-Sucker story, albeit without the Scissor Man.

This New York Public Library article mentions other media influenced by the book, including parodies about Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, and Richard Nixon.

Maybe now it’s time for Struwweldrumpf. The Donald certainly has the hair for it. Okay, I checked, and apparently it’s been done.

I can’t say I found this video all that funny, but it was well-made.

Posted in Authors, Discworld, Fairy Tales, Family Guy, Humor, Jasper Fforde, Monsters, Music, Nursery Crime, Television, Terry Pratchett, XTC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Good in the ‘Ood

I wrote about the character of Kandar from Dragon Quest III about two years ago, thinking at the time it was a little bizarre to dedicate a post to a minor recurring boss, albeit one I found memorable. It turns out that I didn’t even scratch the surface where this guy is concerned, and I mostly blame inconsistent translation.

Even back in the NES days, there were some problems with this. The original Dragon Quest referred to a character named Yukinofu as the last owner of the Armor of Loto, but the English translation changed Yukinofu to Wynn (and Loto to Erdrick, but at least that was consistent). Then, when you finish the American version of Dragon Warrior III, a shopkeeper in Hauksness says he named his son Yukinov, a reference you’re not going to get unless you know the (already pretty obscure) character’s original Japanese name.

I believe later translations make it Yukinov in both games. It’s even more confusing now that the games have been released on different systems and translated by different teams. The modern translators have a penchant for puns and themed names, which I’ve seen some fans complain about. Personally, if I weren’t cool with that kind of thing, I never would have made it through the Oz books. But it does mean you might miss some references if you’re familiar with different translations of other games in the series. It’s hardly limited to DQ; just ask Dr. Light, Dr. Robotnik, or Princess Peach. Anyway, I believe the character has consistently been called Kandata in Japanese, after “The Spider’s Thread,” a short story by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. This Kandata was also a thief whom the Buddha decided to save from Hell because he’d once spared the life of a spider, so he let down a spider thread for the damned man to climb. When he refused to let anyone else climb it, his selfishness led to the thread breaking and his ending up back in Hell. So the name probably doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Malay for “pole,” as I guessed before, although I suppose it’s possible that influenced the translators.

Kandata appears again in Dragon Quest V as an assassin hired by the Minister of Gotha to kill you before you can return the token to prove you’re the rightful king. It probably wasn’t intended to be the exact same character, although it could have been; later games do sometimes have cameos from earlier ones, even though they seem to take place on different worlds. Regardless, he’s still a hooded man with an axe. In the DS version, though, he’s called “Robbin’ Hood” instead of Kandar, a play on…okay, I probably don’t need to explain that one. So again, I didn’t catch the reference, although I might have noticed the resemblance. It was some time ago that I played that part of the game. I’ve also seen it mentioned that Dwight Dwarf is basically a smaller version of Kandar/Robbin’ Hood, whose name is sometimes spelled “Robbin’ ‘Ood” as well.

I understand he shows up yet again in Dragon Quest Heroes and the not-yet-translated Dragon Quest X.

And in the Dragon Quest Monsters sub-series, he’s married, and in typical cartoon fashion to a woman who’s more or less a female version of himself. Known as “Kandata Waifu” or Robbin’s Old Lady, she has pigtails and carries a frying pan and a spatula.

She actually looks a lot like the slug demons from DQ9, and I guess there’s no way to tell for sure that she’s even human.

The mouth certainly doesn’t look like it.

There are also the Robbin’ Ladies, a trio consisting of the enormous Chocolat, the whip-wielding Hachini, and the tiny Hildy ‘Ood. I’m not sure why Hildy seems to be the only one with an official English name, but that could just be incomplete information. I doubt it’s explained whether these three are relatives of Robbin’ ‘Ood and/or his old lady or just have similar fashion sense. There’s also an intriguing reference on this page: “In one of the texts related to Dragon Quest II, he is revealed as the founder of Delkondar.” I wish it were more specific about what text this is. It does fit with his remaining in Alefgard at the end of DQ3. Delkondar or Dirkandor is the island castle called Osterfair in the original English translation, where the king gives you the Moon Crest if you can defeat a saber-toothed cat in battle. I could probably buy that this dude is a descendant of Kandar’s.

Posted in Dragon Quest, Focus on the Foes, Monsters, Names, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment