Whaling and Things of the Past

For reasons that will be apparent tomorrow, I was musing about whaling. One of my favorite books growing up was H. C. Holling’s book Seabird. It is a history of ships and sailing, from the days of the whaling boats in the early 1800s to the steam liners of the 20th century, as told by an ivory bird that passes down through a family. I was also listening to sea chantys, many of which were sung or chanted on the whaling boats, or are about whaling.

People hunted whales for their meat (plentiful), fat (plentiful), teeth and baleen, bones, and other body products. Europeans shifted to industrial-scale whale hunting as a source of light and very light industrial oil until the desired kinds of whales had almost gone extinct. Then we switched to petroleum. A few places still hunt whales as a cultural preservation practice, or for research practices (and then eat some of the results because there’s no point in wasting the whale, right? *coughJapancough*) Back when I was growing up, “save the whales” was shorthand for environmental preservation, humpback whale songs were worked into music, and whales were sort of trendy. Now they are back in the news because it seems that the off-shore wind turbines produce harmonics that kill sea life, including lots of whales. Just like their blades wipe out birds and bats on land. Hunting whales is verboten, but humans seem to have found another way to mess with them. Alas.

Some time ago, as I was looking at books for Red 2.0, Seabird came to mind. The problem is not Red 2.0, but one of Red’s parents, who is rather sensitive to things like little sketch pictures of flensing whale blubber, slaughtering animals, and so on. Not that the parent has a problem with proper slaughter of animals, but, well, whaling is different. When I was Red 2.0’s age, whaling was just a thing people did in the past and didn’t do any more. It didn’t bother me. But then a LOT of things people used to do don’t bother me the way they’re supposed to. And yes, I’m one of those really strange people who read the whaling parts of Moby Dick because I thought the technical details were cool and interesting to learn about.

It’s a form of pragmatism, I suppose. People did things back then that we don’t do today. Some of those things society has decided are wrong to do, like hunt whales, wear egrets on our heads, own other people [unless they are adults and agree to it, and even then it is frowned upon by a LOT of western society], carve our names on everything, beat up on weaker societies, and so on. Not everyone agrees with these changes, and so slavery is still practiced, female children are still killed (in utero), and there’s always That One Dude who has to mess up the painting/statue/tree/whatever for the rest of us. Or who gives crayons to unsupervised small children and is horrified that they draw on the statues …

Whaling doesn’t bother me. It was in the past, the culture around whaling is fascinating, the songs and rituals are intriguing to learn. How exactly do you reduce tons of temporarily-floating dead mammal into barrels of oil and packable teeth and other things, while at sea, without motors and metal cables and electric heaters? Oh, and without catching your boat on fire as you do all this stuff? What skills were needed? What was the reward? It’s a part of the past, and I study it as such. Whale oil still has some uses, and the few stocks of the stuff are carefully guarded and doled out for specific purposes. We have not found an economical way to duplicate really good whale oil for a few specialty applications. Emphasis on “economical,” because the batches would be so small. Abergris has yet to be properly duplicated because of it’s chemical complexity. Plus sometimes, the whales got even, either on their way out, or like that rogue sperm whale in the Pacific that hunted down whaling ships.

Some people believe that modern people should be terribly upset and offended by things in the past. Like whaling, and child labor in the US and England, or slavery practiced by Europeans and Americans. Or by how certain laws discriminated against women before the 1800s. I tend to shrug and say, “Yes, that’s the way it was. We as a society decided that it was wrong, or was no longer needed, and so we changed. That was then, this is now.” I have trouble getting worked up over parts of the past.

I think I’m Odd.


Too Into Your Research?

I think I first voiced the idea when I was on Peter Grant’s blog some time ago, and the topic of people taking on roles came up. I pointed out the strange-to-me behavior of Martin Sheen acting as if he dictated foreign policy to the US. My guess was that he’d played the role of president for so long on The West Wing that he somehow thought he was the PotUS. And I know that people notice if I’ve been working in German a lot, because my Grammar more Germanic becomes.

Starting around 2015 or so, several historians who specialized in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union, and some Russian escapees, began claiming that certain US politicians were dictators, or would become dictators, or were just like someone in one of the governments of Europe before 1940, or like Francisco Franco, and so on. I read their arguments, blinked a lot, and wondered what had happened to their powers of observation. I didn’t see that pattern in US politics. Populism, yes to an extent, political posturing of course, but not a slide into dictatorship or European nationalism. What was going on?

After a bit I caught on. Timothy Snyder, Anne Applebaum, and some Russian authors were seeing dictators in US politics because they’d seen so many dictators in their research that that had become all they saw. They had a mental pattern established based on their work. If something started to fit parts of that pattern, they filled in the rest without realizing it. And since the dictators they studied (or fled) were less-than-good, anything or anyone who started to fit that pattern was less-than-good. So Donald Trump was 3/4 of the way to being Putin or Peron, and so is anyone who gains a large populist following, no matter his or her politics.

I can sympathize to an extent, because I’ve had moments where I caught myself not leaving something in the past where it belonged. And it’s easy, when you have been immersed in something, to see bits of it in unrelated things. Too, politicians in the US and Europe copy certain things from Italian Fascism (so did the NSDAP in Germany, Franco, and the Soviets) because the aesthetics and technique work to get people stirred up and excited. No, I’m not seeing the swastika in everything. I do look at certain designs of the US eagle and sigh, because you can see the influences. I roll my eyes at some stage designs for the same reason. Mussolini’s people borrowed from the American Progressive movement, FDR’s people borrowed from the Italians, so did others, and it went back and forth.

The National Recovery Act blue eagle, used by the federal government in the 1930s. Source:https://fee.org/articles/world-war-i-opened-the-door-for-central-planning/

Now look at the example below. They are not identical. But you can see similar nods. The Progressives who became FDR’s cabinet and other advisors were impressed by what seemed to be happening in Italy in the 1920s, and wanted to borrow that success.

Italian Fascist eagle Source:https://www.ebay.com/itm/Roman-SPQR-Italian-WW2-Fascist-Eagle-with-Fasces-Pin-Broach-Mussolinis-Italy-/252481946805

Likewise, the academics and others see patterns and assume that what happened there is happening here. Martin Sheen dictates foreign policy, Timothy Snyder sees Stalin lurking in American presidential candidates, and Anne Applebaum echoes him in her own way. Refugees from Russia hear echoes of Putin in President Trump’s hyperbole, or in Marjorie Taylor-Green’s rhetoric. We all do it, in our own ways, but it’s been especially striking among some popular historians.

It’s interesting. I will still read Snyder and Applebaum’s earlier work, because it is solid in those fields, but I ignore their most recent writings.

Shots Heard Around the World

Today in April 19, the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord. Emerson’s poem about the battles is a lot less fun than the poem about the night before.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood

   And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;

   Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;

And Time the ruined bridge has swept

   Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

   We set today a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

   When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare

   To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

   The shaft we raise to them and thee.”


Most of us, who grew up in the US before the mid 1990s or so, probably would date the start of the American Revolution to July 4, 1776. After all, that’s the country’s official birthday. The Declaration of Independence made the separation official, provided the thirteen colonies could chase out the best army in the world, backed by the top navy in the world.

It’s easy to forget that the fighting had started over a year earlier, when British regulars stationed in Boston went to confiscate weapons and powder from the local militia. After all, with the regulars there, the Indians would not be a problem, and without the guns and powder, no one would be tempted to resist the closing of the port of Boston (at least until the tea destroyed in 1773 had been paid for.) It should have been a simple out-and-back mission for the soldiers.

William Barnes Wollen “The Battle of Lexington.” (1910) https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1959-11-302-1

The militia trained regularly, and some were veterans of the French and Indian War. Most probably still hunted. They were well trained, although not up to the drill standards of the British regulars, probably. Parade drill wasn’t what they did – they were short-notice troops, who fought in the woods and fields as well as in formal battle. They could also pass word to each other very quickly when the need arose, as it did on April 18-19 1775. That gave them an advantage in a fight of movement and concealment. They’d be hard-pressed to stand for long against a formal battle-force on the usual European battle field. But this wasn’t Europe.

Who fired first? No one knows, and both sides had been ordered not to shoot unless shot at. But someone did shoot, or at least everyone present thought a shot was fired. The men at Lexington took massed fire, then a bayonet charge. They didn’t do well. But that bought time for other colonists to muster,and as the day passed and the Red Coats began to return to Boston, more and more Minutemen gathered, sniping from behind trees and stone walls and giving the regulars fits. The soldiers retreated in good order and did not break discipline, but the colonists had preserved their guns and their gunpowder.

It was a victory for the Minutemen. They held the field, the Regulars retreated. It led to more and more colonials joining the ranks and besieging Boston, leading to the battle of Bunker Hill and the actual Revolution.

Long before the first shot, or before Paul Revere rode for the countryside, or before the crown closed the port of Boston, the ground was being prepared for the moment. It took eleven years for the colonists, enough of them, to reach the point of war. From 1764 until 1775 was a long time. People had to become independent, to establish a network of local and regional governments separate from the older official chains of command. News networks first laid out to help preachers spreading the First Great Awakening shifted into political message groups that helped tie the very different colonies together. Not everyone agreed with the fight, and some agreed with the reason for the fight but opposed those arguing for it (old habits died very hard, as General Tarleton discovered to his horror in the Carolina back-country. The colonists on both sides preferred to kill, burn, and otherwise abuse each other for personal reasons instead of acting like militia or proper soldiers. It went back to the 1730s and earlier.)

But that’s the long-submerged history that you don’t learn in school, or at least didn’t when I came through in the 1970s-80s or so. We learned about the “shot heard round the world” and Paul Revere’s Ride and Yorktown and Valley Forge. Now, historians have gone deeper, looking at the shifts in mood and leadership in the US, and the response to the war in England (short version – not everyone agreed with Parliament, including some in Parliament.)

None of which diminishes the sacrifice of the men at Lexington and Concord, and the respect due the British Regulars who retreated in good order.

Knights Without Ladies?

This is going to be one of my muddled mental musings, in part because of sorting out timelines for characters and motivations, historic and modern. If the ideal of the medieval knight and of the best of chivalry was/is something for men to aspire to, what does it mean when there are very few if any visible ladies for the man to respect and honor and even love?

As I drove back from a meeting of the North Texas Troublemakers (pilots, writers, retired military, writers, skilled craftsmen and women, writers, and generally creative, competent people), I thought about some of the stories, and what didn’t need to be said. The general approbation that met an account of some blue-collar guys who took it upon themselves to remonstrate with the abusive boyfriend of a coworker was part of the catalyst. The way other men went “on point” when a lady commented that she’d been propositioned and hadn’t caught on at first, and had witnessed a would-be purse-thief was another element in my thoughts. The gentlemen would brook no harassing or abuse of “their” ladies. Now, in the second case, the lady in question is able and willing to fend off unwanted attentions, so that wasn’t part of the equation. The men want to protect her. That’s their job, and woe betide the predator who thinks the men’s friend would make easy prey.

So, if the rising generations of females balk at being ladies in the traditional sense—polite, honorable, skilled in a trade or craft, able to assist men and to make a home or just be a good companion and friend, what is the reason for being a knight or gentleman? Back in the day, some men dedicated themselves to the ultimate Lady, the Virgin Mary, serving Her as clergy or knights (Templars, Hospitallers, Teutonic Order, and others). That’s not really an option for most today, and it was not a common calling even back then.

Why not be a slob who indulges in whatever impulses push him? If there’s no lady to reflect the knight and mirror his ideals in a womanly way, why bother? Some young men are raised with personal ideals and standards, but it helps to have help and encouragement – been there. It’s not easy to hold true to beliefs and ideals when no one else does. The military used to provide encouragement, as did organizations like the Boy Scouts. If those are weakened, what remains? Gangs, but their philosophy is more anti-society than pro. And the less said about the role of women in urban gang culture the better.

I’ve said before that I try to be the sort of woman – and general person – that is worth befriending and helping if it comes to that. I try also to be a person who befriends and helps when I can. I’m not as ladylike as my great aunt or mother, but I try. That means encouraging boys and men to be the best they can be, somehow.

So what moves a man to be a gentleman when no one is watching? What inspires him when society doesn’t provide a lady and warps the very idea into something negative? In Jude’s case, his faith, and finding a lady (or perhaps ladies) to help and protect. And his Lady. In a way he’s a bit of a knight, and it would not surprise me at all if Fr. Antonio Manfredi isn’t watching him as a potential deacon and perhaps eventually seminary material if Jude shows any signs of a religious vocation. Or perhaps not, since the good father has experience with other shadow mages. But that’s fiction. In our world? I don’t have a good answer.

Walls and Wanderers

Walls appear all over the world. Not just building walls, but defensive walls, some of which are huge. The Great Wall of China is the most famous, with Hadrian’s Wall not far behind. The prehistoric wall in Syria, only discovered in the 20th Century, is enormous, longer than Hadrian’s wall, but very few traces remain.

Hadrian’s Wall is well known because it is Roman, and the British found it to be a useful divider between civilization and the Scots. Well, domesticated Britons and the Scots. Mostly domesticated Britons. Anyway . . . The Romans had a problem with the people of the north. Since the army was at both the geographic and financial limits of the Empire, and the proto-Scots were far less likely to make it all the way to Rome than the Germanic peoples, Marcomani, or Perisans were, a static defense made sense. The idea was to control passage north and south, rather than to block off passage from the north entirely. Very much like the Limes defensive line separating Germania from the civilized world.

Here be Picts (and maybe dragons. But certainly Picts). Creative Commons Fair Use. Original source: https://www.visitbritain.com/us/en/node/16141
The route of Hadrian’s Wall: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/189432728066128278/

Hadrian’s Wall was started in AD 122 CE, way out at the western end of the Roman Empire. Eighty mile-castles, 160 smaller watch points, seventeen larger forts (camps for the border guards and the associated towns), and the wall itself stretch across the narrow neck of Britain. The wall was built of dirt and stone, with wood added. The goal was to funnel trouble into the strong points, and to overawe the people on both sides of the structure.

A later emperor, Antininus Pius*, pushed even farther north and had the Antonine Wall built. It was made of a bit of stone and mostly turf, and lasted a far shorter time (AD 122-162 CE). The Romans had overextended, and pulled back to the earlier fortifications. By the mid to late 300s, the Romans had begun to reduce the size of the force in the north, and the wall (and Britain) was abandoned by Rome. But the wall remained, at least until someone decided that it would make absolutely lovely houses, barns, churches, and other things. Roads consumed a lot of the wall as the English built military routes into the still-recalcitrant north. Ah, recycling!

The wall remained in memory under different names, and when the English at last more or less settled things on the Border, antiquarians came to look at the wall. Eventually efforts were made to trace all of it, and to preserve what little remained intact. Large parts have been mapped and in part restored today. There are a number of museums, as well as hiking routes, along the route. The find of water-soaked documents at Vindolanda, and the discovery of how to read them, opened up a window into daily life for ordinary troopers on the Wall. They wanted dry socks, and complained about rations and other stuff. You know, things have not changed much in the past 2000 years . . .

Kipling wrote about the wall in Puck of Pook’s Hill.

A Song to Mithras

(Hymn of the XXX Legion: circa 350 A.D.)

Rudyard Kipling

MITHRAS, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
‘Rome is above the Nations, but Thou art over all!’
Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,
Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day! Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat.
Our helmets scorch our foreheads, our sandals burn our feet.
Now in the ungirt hour—now ere we blink and drowse,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows! Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main—
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn! Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull dies,
Look on thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice!
Many roads thou hast fashioned—all of them lead to the Light,
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!

*Antoninus Pius ordered the wall built, but had his hands full in the east and never visited. Unlike Hadrian. The later emperor, Constantine, was British, as was his father. Emperors from the frontiers tended to be defense minded . . .

The Syrian Wall: https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/syria/great-wall.htm

Eighty Years

December 7, 1941.

Others will pen more eloquent tributes and meditations on the events of that day. But on December 7, 1991, I observed that “This is Pearl Harbor day.” And a fellow college student said, in complete honesty, “What’s that?” She truly did not know the significance of the day or the anniversary. At that moment, my interests, my major, and other things took a hard turn, leading to a decision to do whatever I could to ensure that my generation knew, truly knew, what WWII meant, and why warbirds, floating museums, and other things were important, and that they were real, not made-up stories. In a way, it led to my being where I am, doing what I do, to keep the past alive. I am two steps from Pearl, fewer if you count my having gotten to meet and to hear Gabby Gabreski and others who where there.

Today isn’t for “What if’s” and “We now know that . . .” No, it is to remember the day and the moments, the feelings at the time, the men who fought the fires, who tried to defend their ships and bases, who lost comrades and kin, and the civilians who did what they could in the aftermath of the attack.

Fair Use from: Diginewshub.com. The USS Shaw exploding.
https://pearlharborwarbirds.com/jaw-dropping-color-photos-of-pearl-harbor/ A selection of images from the attack and aftermath. We tend to forget that color film was available, just rare and expensive.

A Golden Age of Information (And Music)

Mike raised the point that these days, it is amazingly easy to learn about topics that once required travel to the location, or travel to archives that had records and information by or about the participants in the event. Or to newspaper offices, county courthouses, county historical societies, perhaps a knowledge of three or more languages . . . And now a whole world is open to the curious and determined.

I had not thought about music until a few years ago, when a classical DJ was rhapsodizing about all the medieval and other “early music” now available. It may have started with either Telarc or Naxos, both early adopters of CDs and “odd music.” Telarc leaned toward the popular and movie-score genres, while Naxos hunted around for “odd” classical like Alan Hovahness, Renaissance ensembles, and so on. Other recording labels joined in, and once the internet became more of a sales option, smaller European and Asian companies, as well as direct-sale from organizations, became easier. Never really easy, and some things are not found outside of very small regions and museums, but if you want, oh, music from the pilgrimages of on the Camino Del Santiago, you can find it. (MomRed likes that for walking music. I wonder why? 😉 )

I red an excellent book about the history of western Europe between 600-800, written by an Australian, using the now-digitized Vatican Archives and other on-line sources. He could do all the research on-line, and send e-mail questions to archivists and scholars about translations and “hard to read handwriting” puzzles on scanned documents. Granted, he had to start by knowing where to look, and how to read the languages and writing, but he didn’t need to travel to Rome and get access to the “live” documents. That’s amazing! Military history? There is an amazing trove of things out now, diaries as well as official documents, personal photos, uploaded videos by people doing “staff rides” over battlefields . . . If you know how to start searching. That’s the down side to so much information.

How do you sort the wheat from the chaff? You can listen to a CD or MP3 and decide if it is good or not. How do you verify someone’s diary? If you already know a lot about the episode being described, then you are probably OK. But without having background knowledge? That’s the problem a lot of people are discovering now. Just because you can search for it doesn’t mean you know what to do with it, or how to understand it. Or if the source is valid. Academic researchers get bitten, so I don’t feel so bad when I get half-way through something and only then start to think, “Hold on a moment, here. Something smells off.”

It’s the best of times, it’s the most frustrating of times, it’s a glorious time for finding stuff of the document and musical sort.

Vlad III Dracula and Changes in Government

No, not the revolving door that was “who governed Wallachia, either in theory or in truth.” Even with a score card, I have trouble keeping things straight in that part of the world. No wonder the place is so overflowing with odd, uncanny, or “shoot first, then bury, then identify” attitudes towards everyone else.

During the time Vlad Tepes was attempting to maintain something like government in Wallachia, and the Hunyadis were doing the same in Hungary, rulers all across Europe worked to decrease the power of the nobility and to strengthen the central government, such as it was. The Holy Roman Empire was an exception here, as usual, but the dukes and electors worked to gain more control at the expense of peasants and lower nobles. The old system of traditional group rights, of peasants providing food, fiber, fuel, and all other goods in exchange for protection (physical and spiritual) had broken down in the 1300s for a number of reasons. What came after led to the trend I’m looking at, and teasing apart.

If you go through the history of the 1300s-1400s, you will find a lot of peasant revolts. The German Peasants Revolt of the 1520s was just another one of those, although it tied into the Protestant Reformation in some ways. The battle cry for all these was the same: When Adam dug and Eva span, then there was no noble man. Back when everyone worked for a living, no nobles bothered anyone.

When the climate shift of the early 1300s (onset of Little Ice Age) led to famine, animal disease, and human disease, up to a quarter of the land could no longer be farmed. Too cold, too wet, with a shorter growing season, or too exposed to the much stronger storms that swept across the North Sea coast and southern Europe, the land lay idle and reverted to fallow, pasture, or wilderness. The nobles still wanted their due, even as harvests shrank and conditions grew worse. They had wars to fight, tournaments to participate in, daughters to dower and sons to have knighted. They liked their luxuries, all of which required more and more money to pay for. They no longer provided good value for the exchange, and began trampling on traditional rights.

This led to the peasant revolts. The Black Death further tipped the balance, especially in Western Europe. The old ways lingered, but some nobles reluctantly faced reality. Fewer people survived to work the land, but people still needed to eat. So the harshest conditions of servitude and the worst labor contracts faded away, at least temporarily, in the face of necessity. If a count wanted people to work his fields, he needed to pay them a decent percentage of the harvest and not make too onerous demands on them. At least in the short term. However, this collided with the world of orders and station. G-d had decreed every man his place and station, and one’s duty was to remain there. If G-d didn’t want a person to be a farm worker, He wouldn’t have made that person a farm worker. Or so one of the arguments went.

The peasants fought back against the increasing claims on their labor and crops. They produced for survival, not for the market. The group throve or failed together. The group needed the commons, the woodlot and wood rights, the familiar crops and old ways that worked. Grain stayed home to be eaten, not sold to merchants or distant towns. If you have read about the lead-up to the French Revolution, this sounds dreadfully familiar and are probably nodding. The mental world of “survival first” didn’t change between 1300 and 1789. For the group rights and security to be threatened led to “rebellion” and “revolt.”

The great lords, the electors, prince-archbishops, dukes, kings, and others wanted more control. No peasant uprisings triggered by nobles, no powerful nobles skimming off taxes and threatening the power of the monarch, the monarchs wanted order and calm. This meant efficiency, and clearing out the underbrush of traditional group rights, as well as breaking the nobility. The Black Death did some of that by thinning the ranks literally, but the survivors wanted to return to “the good old days.” The centralizers looked ahead and wanted to move on to the good new days, when a king could get all possible taxes, in full, on time, and everything was tidy, neat, and in his favor.

The Tudors in England got ahead of the others, and the Spanish Habsburgs weren’t far behind. Farther east, the nobles remained too strong, as the peasants found out in Bavaria and Saxony in the 1520s, and earlier in Wallachia. Granted, Wallachia was . . . chaos personified, with Hungary, Bessarabia, Poland, the local nobles, and Turks all claiming a chunk or all of the area. You had Saxon towns with their traditional rights, granted in the 1200s. You had peasants, Hungarian nobles, Szekley nobles (sort of Magyar but not), and anyone else who had wandered in. Orthodox and Catholics snarled at each other, and the Turks played everyone off of everyone else. Someone needed to settle the place down and make order of it. Vlad Tepes assumed that he would be the one.

As we know, it didn’t work out that way. He tried hard, eliminated a lot of enemies, caused the Ottomans to have second and third thoughts about messing with the place (at least for a while) and ran head-long into the Hungarian Hunyadies. Mathias Corvinus Hunyadi was not about to stop his efforts to centralize Hungarian power, which he felt extended to include Wallachia.

In many ways, Vlad III Dracula was a very typical eastern European Renaissance prince. His politics were those of the monarchs around him. Granted, his approach to “how do I deal with enemies/traitors/yes” tended to be a bit more, ahem, pointed that was practiced farther west, but the Hungarians and Croats did similar when fighting the Turks, and the Turks probably started it. “Sources are vague” as they say.

You know, history is a mess. Blargh. Remind me why I do this for a living? 😉

Hero, Horror, Yes

Apropos of two comments over at Peter Grant’s place, I started thinking about history and memory. They dovetail into the WIP, because they involve Vlad Tepes. Was he a national hero, somewhat tragic, forced into being cruel by the cruelty of his enemies? Or was he born with a sadistic inclination that the situation allowed him to indulge, even on his own and neighboring peoples (the Saxons in some villages in Wallachia)? Given that Freudian analysis on pre-modern minds is, at the very least, fraught, I’d say the only safe answer is, “It depends on when, where, and who you ask.”

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