Category Archives: QUAINT

QUAINT #31: Don Q, Created by Kate and Hesketh Prichard

"Don Q's Love Story" Original Vintage Cover. Click for source.

"Don Q's Love Story" Original Vintage Cover. Click for source.

Don Q was created by Kate and Hesketh Prichard and debuted in “The Parole of Gevil-Hay” (Badminton Magazine, September 1897). Don Q went on to appear in numerous stories, collections, and novels, which is collected in The Chronicles of Don Q. Hesketh Prichard (1876-1922) was a successful author, big game hunter, and cricketer and was reportedly E.W. Hornung’s model for Raffles. Kate Prichard (1851-1935), Hesketh’s mother, was a novelist, short story writer, and political activist. The Prichards also created Flaxman Low.

Don Q is a grim Spanish bandit active in the mid- and late-19th century, operating with his gang in “the Andalusian highlands, stretching from Jerez to Almeria and beyond.” Don Q is known to the locals as “Don Quebranta Huesos,” or “Don Bone Smasher,” the local name for the “bonebreaking” vulture whose features Don Q seems to share. Don Q is no ordinary thief or bandit chief, however. He is a sequestrador, one who kidnaps and holds for ransom, what Don Q describes as “the noblest rank of brigand.”

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QUAINT #30: “The Werwolves” by Honoré Beaugrand

Image of a loup-garou courtesy of Wikipedia

The Werwolves were created by Honoré Beaugrand and appeared in “The Werwolves” (The Century, August 1898). Beaugrand (1848-1906) was the mayor of Montreal (1885-1887) as well as the author of stories and novels, including La Chasse Galerie (1900), a classic of Québécois folklore. “The Werwolves” is an early example of Québécois horror fiction as well as an interesting usage of traditional Native Canadian mythology.

“The Werwolves” begins in Fort Richelieu, in Québéc, on Christmas Eve in 1706. The Iroquois are “committing depredations in the surrounding country, burning farm houses, stealing cattle and horses, and killing every man, woman, and child whom they could not carry away to their own villages to torture at the stake.” Local white men have gathered at Fort Richelieu to take part in military exercises and to enjoy the coming holiday festivities. The men are telling stories in one of the barracks when one of the guards of the fort shoots at something. The guard swears he shot at an Iroquois outside the fort, although the soldiers who search for the Iroquois can find no trace of him or his tracks. The fort’s commanding officer is sure that the soldier was either drinking or is a fool and has him imprisoned. But an old trapper speaks up for the soldier and tells everyone that the man had been fooled by a band of Iroquois loups-garou (werewolves).

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QUAINT #29 The Engine from A MEXICAN MYSTERY by W. Grove

The Engine was created by “W. Grove” and appeared in A Mexican Mystery (1888) and The Wreck of a World (1889). Nothing is known about “W. Grove” apart from his British citizenship. Both novels are moderately entertaining, and are early examples of the Revolt Of The Machines subgenre of science fiction.

A Mexican Mystery is the diary of John Brown, a Scottish locomotive engineer who is sent to Mexico to oversee the construction of a new railway line for the “new Emperor” (implicitly the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph). Brown is sent to the small town of Xiqipu, which will be the location of his headquarters during the project. It is in Xiqipu that he meets Pedro da Luz, the local engineer for the project. Da Luz is a descendant of Montezuma and is independently wealthy, and although proud still welcomes Brown to the project. Brown, for his part, sees that da Luz is close to brilliant and respects his intelligence. Brown goes off to the front of the line, which is high in the mountains, to oversee its construction. Da Luz, meanwhile, stays in Xiqipu and works on his special creation. The Emperor is holding a contest for the best new locomotive, and da Luz intends to win the contest.

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QUAINT #28 A PARISIAN SULTANA by Adolphe Belot

A Parisian Sultana, written by Adolphe Belot, is set in 1872 and 1873, is about Laura de Guéran, a wealthy young widow living in Paris. She is 25 years old, of average height, “admirably proportioned…fair, decidedly fair” with a “well turned neck,” a “full, though not too full bust;” her “whole countenance is a strange mixture of good nature and firmness, of amiability and resolution, of gaiety and sadness.” De Guéran is the daughter of a member of the Royal Geographical Society and as a child and teenager she knew “most of the celebrated travelers of our age,” including Overweg, Speke, Richardson, Vogel, and Schweinfurth. When she turned 22 she fell in love with and married the wealthy French explorer the Baron de Guéran, and moved with him to Paris. Although English by birth she quickly fell in love with Paris and the French and became a French patriot. With her husband she enjoyed two years of married bliss.

Then he disappeared, somewhere in Egypt, and she was notified that he was dead. After a year’s mourning she summons three men to her apartment; the three are in love with her and have all proposed marriage to her. She tells them that she is going to Africa to find her husband’s remains and to see where he fell and why and to “publish his works,” and that the three should come with her. One of the men, a doctor, declines on the grounds that his mother is dying and he must stay with her. This is hard for him, because he clearly loves her, and she is genuinely sorry that he is not accompanying her. The other two agree, and together with an older doctor and a reliable female Cockney maid/companion they go to Africa.

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QUAINT #27 Arbaces from “The Last Days of Pompeii” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

A depiction of the destruction of Pompeii from the documentary special Pompeii: The Last Day

Arbaces was created by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and appeared in The Last Days of Pompeii (1834). Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron of Knebworth (1803-1873) was a popular, productive, and influential writer for over 40 years. His reputation has unjustly suffered for many decades. Bulwer-Lytton also created Monsieur Favart, Margrave, Mr. Richards, Vril, and Zanoni.

The Last Days of Pompeii is about the lives of several characters in Pompeii in the final days before Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Two friends, Clodius, an effete Roman, and Glaucus, a popular Greek, are walking to the public baths when they see a beautiful, blind flower girl. She is obviously Greek, and this reminds Glaucus of another Greek woman he knew, who he had fallen in love with but had lost contact with. As Glaucus and Clodius speak they run into Arbaces, the Egyptian priest of Isis, a figure of power in Pompeii but one who is unlikable, and both Glaucus and Clodius detest him. Arbaces thinks little of either of them, for he hates the Romans and the Greeks and secretly prays for the return of Egypt to power. Until that time, however, he plots and schemes to accumulate personal power and indulge his own depraved tastes.

Arbaces is an Egyptian living in Pompeii. He is a magician, the “Lord of the Burning Girdle” and “he…from whom all cultivators of magic, from north to south, from east to west, from the Ganges and the Nile to the vales of Thessaly and the shores of the yellow Tiber, have stooped to learn.” In Pompeii he is a figure of fear and respect, in large part because he is rumored to wield the Evil Eye. He has contacts everywhere, especially among the Priests of Isis, whose chief Calenus is his servant and into whose company Arbaces personally inducts a number of priests. Arbaces is far more intelligent than everyone else around him, and even though his magic is humbug he is cunning enough to fool everyone with it.

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QUAINT #26: He Yufeng from “The Gallant Maid” by “Yanbei Xianren” (a.k.a. Wen K’ang)

From the Chinese film version of "The Gallant Maid" titled "The Heroine"

He Yufeng was created by “Yanbei Xianren” and appeared in Ernü ying xiong zhuan (The Gallant Maid, 1851-1879). “Yanbei Xianren” was the pseudonym of Wen K’ang (1798- 1872), a local official in Anhui who came from a prominent Manchu family and was appointed imperial agent to Lhasa. The Gallant Maid is little-known outside of China but is popular inside it, having inspired sixteen sequels.

The Gallant Maid is about He Yufeng (“Jade Phoenix”) and An Ji. An Ji is the son of the righteous official and Manchu bannerman An Xuehai. An Xuehai is in charge of the repair of a dam, but a flood destroys the dam and An Xuehai is made the scapegoat for its destruction. An Xuehai is imprisoned and ordered to pay a large fine. An Ji travels a long way to help his father, carrying a large load of silver to ransom him, but he repeatedly runs into misfortune, with his donkey drivers and later some evil monks both trying to rob him. Both times he is rescued by He Yufeng, who also frees an old farmer whose wife and daughter, Chinfeng (“Golden Phoenix”), had been captured by the monks. He Yufeng explains herself to the farmer. Years ago her father, General Ho, had been killed by sorcery. General Ho had been a high official of the Solid Yellow Banner, but his superior had ordered him to marry He Yufeng to the official’s son. The son was crude and barbaric and was unworthy of He Yufeng, who is beautiful and educated. General Ho refused to countenance the wedding, so his superior had him jailed on false charges and then killed him via sorcery. He Yufeng, loyal to her father in the proper Confucian way, retreats to a rustic village with her mother and then goes to the underworld and trains herself as a nüxia, or female knight-errant, to avenge her father. While her mother is alive, however, He Yufeng cannot carry our her revenge, and instead makes a good living robbing corrupt and evil government officials. He Yufeng is so strong and such a good fighter that all the other outlaws greatly respect and fear her. In the underworld she is known as Shisan Mei, “the Thirteenth Sister.”

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QUAINT #25 Pedro Arbuez d’Espila in “The Torture of Hope” by Villiers de l’Isle Adam

Inquisition Scene by Francisco Goya

Inquisition Scene by Francisco Goya

Pedro Arbuez d’Espila was created by Villiers de l’Isle Adam and appeared in “The Torture of Hope” (Nouveaux Contes Cruels, 1888). “The Torture of Hope” is in many ways the quintessential conte cruel.

There was a real Pedro Arbuez d’Espila, Don Pedro Arbues de Epilae (1441/2-1485, one of the most notorious and vicious of the Spanish Grand Inquisitors. Arbues engaged in compulsory baptism of Jews and used judicial torture to ensure that the conversions were sincere. Arbues was killed by a group of Jews in 1485; Pope Pius IX canonized Arbues as St. Peter of Arbues in 1867.

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QUAINT #24 Sufrah, Geomancer by Marcel Schwob

Illustration by Maxfield Parrish from The Arabian Nights, 1909.

Sufrah was created by Marcel Schwob and appears in “Sufrah, Geomancer” (Vie Imaginaire, 1896). Schwob was also the creator of the King in the Golden Mask and Septima.

“Sufrah, Geomancer” is a sequel to the Arabian Nights. Moghrabi Sufrah is the magician who is Aladdin’s enemy in the Arabian Nights, but as “Sufrah, Geomancer” tells us, at the end of the Arabian Nights Sufrah’s body was not burned black by the drug he consumed, but rather put into a deep sleep. Sufrah escapes from Aladdin’s palace through a window while Aladdin is making love to the princess. But when Aladdin’s palace disappears to China, as happens in the Arabian Nights, Sufrah is left alone in the open desert, without any food or water. Nor does he have any magic charms he can cast or magic items he can use to rescue himself.

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QUAINT #23: The Hellenes in “Gobi or Shamo: A Story of Three Songs” by G.G.A. Murray

Hellenes. The Hellenes were created by G.G.A. Murray and appeared in Gobi or Shamo: A Story of Three Songs (1889). George Gilbert Aime Murray (1866-1957) was a scholar of the Classics, a Fellow at Oxford, a playwright, a translator and popularizer of Hellenism, and a passionate liberal, campaigning tirelessly for the League of Nations.

Gobi or Shamo is the search for a lost colony of Greeks. Mavrones is a young English scholar who yearns to discover an unknown historical curiosity or treasure. He stumbles upon the possible existence of a lost group of Greeks while perusing a set of manuscripts in a former Byzantine monastery on the Greek island of Arganthus. Mavrones sets out to locate the Greeks, assisted by his friend Quentin Baj, “a man of six feet two, with dark moustaches and a crushing manner, and…further…the possessor of an acer et contemptor animus, with few good-natured weaknesses to spoil the edge of a resolve.” Mavrones, Quentin Baj, and their annoying friend Wibbling set out for Mongolia, and after a series of life-threatening adventures they find the Hellenes.

The Hellenes are the descendants of Milesians taken prisoner by Darius the Great after the Ionian Revolt of 499 B.C.E. After five generations of slavery the Milesians fled northward, joined with a group of Ionians, and fled “from the kingdom of the Persians, Northward and Eastward, over the great mountains that lie by the sources of the Indus and Oxus…” They ended up in a remote, mountainous part of Mongolia (“shamo” being the Mongolian term for the Gobi) and settled there, on top of a steep plateau, driving off the local Sanni tribe and forcing a peace on them. The Hellenes have an interesting civilization. They retain the essentials of Classical civilization, but have developed advanced technology.
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QUAINT #22: “Les Xipéhuz” (The Shapes) by J.H. Rosny

Close up of Danae Stratou's "Desert Breath", which would be an apt illustration for this novelette. Image courtesy of io9. Click for link.

The Xipéhuz were created by “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” and appeared in “Les Xipéhuz” (“The Shapes,” L’Immolation, 1887). “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” was the pen name of Joseph Henri Honoré Böex (1866-1940), a French author. For many years after his death Böex was forgotten, primarily because the majority of his work was written in disrespected genres like science fiction and the prehistoric romance. But in recent years critics and academics have begun paying him more attention and giving him the credit he deserves. Böex produced some remarkable science fiction and is considered (with Jules Verne) to be one of the most influential figures in the development of science fiction in France. “Les Xipéhuz” is one of his most famous, and best, stories.

“Les Xipéhuz” is set in the Middle East, circa 5000 B.C.E. A nomad tribe, the Pjehu, discover a group of “translucent bluish cones, point uppermost, each nearly half the bulk of a man…each one had a dazzling star near its base,” clustered around a spring. When the Pjehu draw close to the cones, or “the Shapes” as the narrator calls them, the Shapes attack them, killing many, although they only target warriors and avoid killing women, children, the sick and the aged. But the Shapes do not pursue the Pjehu beyond a certain distance and ignore them if they leave the Shapes alone. The Pjehu, shaken, consult a group of local priests who decide that the Shapes are gods and that they must be sacrificed to. But the Shapes kill those priests who approach them.

The priests experiment with slaves and determine the distance beyond which the Shapes will not pursue humans, and then the priests set that boundary with stakes and decree that the Shapes are to be left alone. But other tribes are not told about the priests’ decree or ignore it, and members of those tribes cross the boundary and are massacred. Then the Shapes begin expanding their territory. When the tribes try to resist, hundreds of their warriors are killed by the Shapes. All the tribes of Mesopotamia begin fearing for the existence of Man, and some men turn to dark cults.

The tribes’ wise men at last consult the hermit Bakhun. Long ago he had abandoned a nomadic life for a pastoral one, and in so doing flourished. Bakhun believes in odd and unusual things, like the sun, moon, and stars being “luminous masses” rather than gods, and that “men should really believe only in those things tested by measurement.” Bakhun tells the wise men that he will dedicate his life to studying the Shapes. He does so, and draws a number of significant conclusions, most important of which is that the Shapes are living beings rather than spirits or gods.

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