23 May 2008

"The Story of Mankind" - Chivalry

"The knights tried to model their own lives after the example of those heroes of Arthur's Round Table and Charlemagne's court of whom the Troubadours had told them and of whom you may read in many delightful books which are enumerated at the end of this volume. They hoped that they might proved as brave as Lancelot and as faithful as Roland" (p 160, van Loon 1922).

Aside from the vague use of "they" (does it refer to the knights or the troubadours?) van Loon does not stop to mention who Roland is or note that Arthur and Lancelot are mythic characters. It is entirely probable that a middle-school child in 1921/1922 might have been exposed to the legend of King Arthur and his Knights through a storybook but Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland)? The end of the chapter notes that Don Quixote de la Mancha was one of "the last true knights" (p 161) and, after his old sword and armor were sold, the sword somehow ended up in the hands of George Washington at Valley Forge (and also Gordon in the fortress at Khartoum). The chapter closes by stating "And I am not quite sure but that it proved of invaluable strength in winning the Great War" (p 161). That's a fairly large metaphorical leap to go from a fictional self-styled knight to General Washington to the Great War.

I've been reading ideas, too, and it's very interesting to compare the storytelling style of van Loon, with no citations to back up a statement, with that of a modern historian.

Vocabulary for the day:

Current book-in-progress: The Story of Mankind, The Host, and Songs for the Missing
Current knitted item: Gray neckwarmer
Current movie obsession: Little Miss Sunshine
Current iTunes loop: Sarah Brightman Harem


  1. superfluous is among the best of words.


  2. this blog is unfathomably awesome! i am alec from barnes and noble.com( under the appellation edwardhopper) i love science, literature, and i am currently engaged in the reading of bleak house! i will continue to view your blog, with alacrity.(*pun)
    are you a fan of poetry? i have won a great many of awards, though i am but 14.