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This is the sequel to the previous Kipling book I read,
Puck of Pook's Hill. It takes place the
following summer when Dan and Una are a year older and more "grown-up." It was published four years later, however. Like its predecessor, Puck, "the oldest Old Thing in
England," whom most of us know from Shakespeare's
Midsummer Night's Dream, appears to the children in the
Weald of Sussex, now known as
Pevensey, which was Kipling's home. The Good Readers at
Goodreads gave it fairly good ratings, but many commented that it was not quite as good as the first, and I
agree. And many made the same comments I made in Puck of Pook's Hill, that apply here. Lucy said, "The sequel to Puck of Pook's
Hill, with the same strengths and faults: if you didn't know the history to which it refers before you read it, you'd be fairly lost." Lauren said "My British history chops are
SORELY lacking. Ouch. There's a lot I don't know. She also commented that it lacked the kind of
overbearing sense of British imperialism that was so prevalent in Puck and led to some vaguely uncomfortable reading. In fact,
Rewards and Fairies seems to cover a broader
area of history, including the U.S., which speaks favorably of the Native Americans, but I don't know how true it is that
they had such a good relationship with George Washington. The other point that struck me as being different is that Dan and Una perhaps played a greater role
in the adventures, rather than just sitting and listening to a story, but it's been a while since I read Puck of Pook's Hill. Many characters from the
first appear here again, along with new ones. Incidentally, Kipling got his title from the poem by Richard Corbet,
Farewell rewards and fairies.
The Wikipedia page above supplies a sentence or short paragraph on each of the stories, which are all preceded and followed a related poem. The first set is "Cold Iron," of which Wikipedia says, "There is a brief episode in which the children Dan and Una encounter Puck again a year after their previous experience. Then Puck tells the story of a young mortal taken by Fairies whose fate will be determined by the first piece of iron that he encounters.
I had a hard time understanding the significance of iron, or rather, cold iron, until I read this Wikipedia page about its significance in folklore. They say:
"Cold iron" is historically believed to repel, contain, or harm ghosts, fairies, witches, and other malevolent supernatural creatures. This belief continued into later superstitions in a number of forms:
Nailing an iron horseshoe to a door was said to repel evil spirits or, later, to bring good luck.
Surrounding a cemetery with an iron fence was thought to contain the souls of the dead.
Burying an iron knife under the entrance to one's home was alleged to keep witches from entering.
"Cold iron" is a substitute name used for various animals and incidences considered unlucky by Irish fishermen. A similar phenomenon has been found with Scottish fishermen.
Well, that makes this first section a lot easier to understand. Wikipedia also says that Kipling used the term "poetically to mean 'weapon.'"
In the next set, "Gloriana," the children meet a woman in their little private woods called Willow Shaw. It turns out she is Queen Elizabeth I, also called Gloriana and Good Queen Bess, and she tells of her difficulties in avoiding a war with Spain. Later in the book, we read about Sir Francis Drake who is a prime figure in finally defeating the Spanish Armada. In this story, King Philip has a romantic interest in the queen, or perhaps, just wants to form an alliance. Queen Elizabeth is portrayed here as flippant and rude, and creeps Una out. As in all the stories, all the fantasy characters suddenly disappear, and Dan and Una forget what they just experienced. Puck explained in Puck of Pook's Hill that it must be that way. And yet when they are involved in the fantasy, they remember everything.
In "The Wrong Thing," Dan has an adventure with his elderly friend, Mr. Springett, who was a builder, contractor, and sanitary engineer. Dan liked to sit in his loft, and on this afternoon, he was working on a model ship he was building. They get a visit from Sir Harry Dawe, who was apparently not a real person, but worked on a design for King Henry VII. For that he was knighted, not because it was a good design, but because he advised the king to not use it and save a whole lot of money. After he finishes his story, poof! he's gone, and Mr. Springett and Dan realize they are laughing and have no idea why.
"Marlake Witches" is an adventure for just Una. She has been learning how to milk cows by Mrs. Vincey, the farmer's wife at Little Lindens. One day while peacefully milking in the field, she is approached by a young lady, dressed in a "curious" riding habit. She coughs and gasps, and cheerfully says it will get better when she goes to London, but we know she has consumption. Her name is Philadelphia Bucksteed. But the story is really about René Laennec, the inventor of the stethoscope. Kipling has him staying with Philadelphia's father as a prisoner of war, but that part is not true. Anyways, the story ends with Philadelphia playing the harp and singing I Have Given my Heart to a Flower for a dinner her father gave for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, also a real person. It is about death—her death. When the four men in the room are all crying, she thinks it is because she played so beautifully, but it is not. Here is the song, and it is apparently not a real one because all efforts to search it turned up zilch.
I have given my heart to a flower,
Though I know it is fading away,
Though I know it will live but an hour
And leave me to mourn its decay!
Ye desolate whirlwinds that rave,
I charge you be good to my dear!
She is all—she is all that I have,
And the time of our parting is near!
I really liked the next one, "The Knife and the Naked Chalk." The children have gone to the seaside, which they hate. They "lived in a flint village on
the bare windy chalk Downs, quite thirty miles away from home. They made friends with an old shepherd, called Mr. Dudeney, who had known their father
when their father was little. He did not talk like their own people in the Weald of Sussex, and he used different names for farm things, but he understood
how they felt, and let them go with him. He had a tiny cottage about half a mile from the village, where his wife made mead from thyme honey, and nursed
sick lambs in front of a coal fire, while Old Jim, who was Mr. Dudeney's sheep-dog's father, lay at the door.
One particularly hot afternoon, the children ask Old Jim to show them where Mr. Dudeney is. They find him and flop down in a strip of shade. They debate whether trees are good. The children live by the woods, but here there are none, which is the way Mr. Dudeney likes it. They talk for a bit, but the heat and fragrant thyme in the turf lulls the children into dreaminess. Mr. Dudeney continues with his knitting. Of course, Puck shows up and this time with half-naked man carving dark-blue flint arrows. They have entered the Neolithic Age, which is the final division of the Stone Age, dating from 10,000-4,500 BC (2,200 BC in Western Europe), according to Wikipedia. It is the story of how this man bartered his eye for a magic weapon with which they could kill "the Beast," (wolves). He went to the Children of the Night, who lived in the woods whom the shepherds feared. But he had seen the magic knife kill the Beast, and was willing to give up his eye to get them for his people. They are metal knives, unknown to the Neolithic shepherds until that time.
The next two sets, of which the second is a sequel to the first cover American history, Indigenous Americans, and the French Revolution, particularly the French attempting to get the Americans to unite with them to defeat England. Didn't happen. The first one is called "Brother Square-Toes," a nickname for Pharaoh Lee a French/British smuggler who accidentally ends up on a ship headed for Philadelphia due to it hitting the boat he was in alone in the dark, and not even aware.
He manages to get into the ship through a port, which is transporting the French ambassador, Edmond-Charles Genêt, to America. Most of the people on the ship are strangers, so they didn't notice one more. He gets along fine until he comes down with a bad fever. I don't think Pharaoh was a real person, but many others were. The Captain was Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart, and the ship was the French frigate Embuscade, pictured below fighting the HMS Boston.
When Pharaoh reached Philadelphia, he is befriended by the apothecary, Tobias Hirt(e). Wikipedia has nothing on him, but he was indeed a real person, and the outbreak of Yellow Fever was part of the story. Here is a pamphlet by him and others concerning it. Hirte is friends with the Seneca people, with whom Pharaoh forms a warm relationship, especially with Red Jacket and Cornplanter. The latter was a real person, so it is likely the former was, too. Below is a picture of Chief Cornplanter. They were part of the Iroquois nation.
Other historical truth that is part of this story is George Washington. Pertaining to this story, Wikipedia says, "During the French Revolution, he proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty." Incidentally, the story also makes it clear that Tobias Hirte wanted peace, but most of the white men wanted war. Well, nothing has changed much, has it? There's a mention of the Moravian Church that Tobias attended, which came from the Czech Republic, or what was known in the 15th century as Bohemia. HA! I always wondered who the Bohemians were, and now I discover they were part of my ethnic heritage! Here it is. Anyways, I liked this story because it contained American history, and even more because I live right next to Pennsylvania. And as mentioned above, the story also covered the outbreak of yellow fever.
Between this story and the second part is the poem, "If," which is very well-known. Here it is in its entirety—a short and powerful work.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Part two of this story, "A Priest in Spite of Himself," is about Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who was a bit of a scoundrel, and Napoleon, who probably was, too. Of the former, Wikipedia says:
. . . 1st Prince of Benevento, then Prince of Talleyrand, was a French clergyman, politician and leading diplomat. After studying theology, he became Agent-General of the Clergy in 1780. In 1789, just before the French Revolution, he became Bishop of Autun. He worked at the highest levels of successive French governments, most commonly as foreign minister or in some other diplomatic capacity. His career spanned the regimes of Louis XVI, the years of the French Revolution, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and Louis-Philippe. Those Talleyrand served often distrusted him but, like Napoleon, found him extremely useful. The name "Talleyrand" has become a byword for crafty, cynical diplomacy.
As for Napoleon,
Wikipedia has a lot to say, but here
is one sentence: "Napoleon's political and cultural legacy endures to this day, as a highly celebrated and controversial leader."
I will only detail one more story, and this was my favorite, because it involves a spiritual conversion. Yeah, yeah, OK, so the Catholics converted the Pagans, but more importantly, a seal converted the Catholics into understanding that animals have souls, too. The section is entitled, "The Conversion of St. Wilfrid" and here is the poem that precedes it, entitled, "Eddi's Service." I LOVE this poem!!
Eddi, priest of St. Wilfrid
In the chapel at Manhood End,
Ordered a midnight service
For such as cared to attend.
But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service
Though Eddi rang the bell.
‘Wicked weather for walking,’
Said Eddi of Manhood End.
‘But I must go on with the service
For such as care to attend.’
The altar candles were lighted,—
An old marsh donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.
The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.
‘How do I know what is greatest,
How do I know what is least?
That is My Father’s business,’
Said Eddi, Wilfrid’s priest.
‘But, three are gathered together—
Listen to me and attend.
I bring good news, my brethren!’
Said Eddi, of Manhood End.
And he told the Ox of a manger
And a stall in Bethlehem,
And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider
That rode to Jerusalem.
They steamed and dripped in the chancel,
They listened and never stirred,
While, just as though they were Bishops,
Eddi preached them The Word.
Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day,
And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.
And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End,
‘I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend.’
This story is about St. Wilfrid and his work to convert the Pagans of medieval Sussex. Wilfrid had a
busy life that covered a lot of territory. Here is his
Wikipedia page, and this
segment of the story takes place specifically in West Sussex, or
which "is derived from the Saxon Seals-ey and can be interpreted as the Isle of Sea Calves (sea calves
are better known as seals)," according to Wikipedia. Eddi is his priest. I could not find anything about Eddi, or any particular reference to blessing
animals, but Kipling based these stories on mostly something true, so perhaps in English legend, there it would be found.
The two Catholics converted Æthelwealh, the Pagan King, and his queen, along with their people, who agreed probably because they needed rain. But it was the scholar named Meon, with whom the priests developed a warm friendship, as they had a lot in common. But he would not agree to convert unless his pet seal, Padda, whom he had brought up as a pup, agreed. The priests, especially Eddi did not like "brutes," particularly since Padda came into Wittering Church one Sunday—all wet—to hear the music, and Eddi ran out." Wilfrid and Eddi are having dinner at Meon's house.
I wish you'd keep yon brute in its proper place," I said, and Eddi, my chaplain, agreed.
"I do," said Meon. "I keep him just next my heart. He can't tell a lie, and he doesn't know how to love any one except me. It 'ud be the same if I were dying on a mud-bank, wouldn't it, Padda?"
My good Eddi rubbed his hands and his shins together, and flushed. "Padda is a child of the Devil, who is the father of lies!" he cried, and begged my pardon for having spoken. I forgave him.
"Yes. You are just about stupid enough for a musician," said Meon. "But here he is. Sing a hymn to him, and see if he can stand it. You'll find my small harp beside the fireplace."
Eddi, who is really an excellent musician, played and sang for quite half an hour. Padda shuffled off his ox-hide, hunched himself on his flippers before him, and listened with his head thrown back. Yes—yess! A rather funny sight! Meon tried not to laugh, and asked Eddi if he were satisfied.
In any case, one day while the three are out fishing, they get stranded on a cove, boat wrecked, in
a fog, and after a couple days, they know they are in danger of starvation. But who should come along but Padda, with a supply of fish for them to eat. Meon
then sends him for help. Meon, though, not Christian, doesn't believe in Wotan (Odin) either. But they kneel and say a prayer, along with Padda, and both
priests lay their hand on the seal in blessing. After they are safely home, Meon agrees to be baptized. And Eddi makes the sign of the cross on Padda's
muzzle, too. What a sweet story!
And that's all I will cover, but in brief, we also learn about Nicholas Culpeper (18 October 1616-10 January 1654) who was an English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer, according to Wikipedia. Of course, using astrology to heal is baloney, but he, according to the story, discovered that it was rats that spread the plague, which of course, was true. We also hear about Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, and revisit Sir Richard Dalyngridge who tells us that King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings and ended up a blind beggar. According to Wikipedia, there is a question of accuracy about how he really did die. "His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England."
This is a long book to read, and not an easy one unless you are well-versed in English history. But as with its predecessor, I learned quite a bit, and even more in writing the review, as is often the case. It is a good book, but not for everyone! You can read all my Rudyard Kipling reviews on his Index Page.
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