Word Wednesday.

Ruse

Noun.

1: a wily subterfuge.

2: an action intended to mislead, deceive, or trick; stratagem.

[Origin: French, from Old French, roundabout path taken by fleeing game, trickery, from reuser. Early 15c., “dodging movements of a hunted animal; 1620s, a trick, from Old French ruse, reuse diversion, switch in flight; trick, jest (14c.), back-formed noun from reuser to dodge, repel, retreat; deceive, cheat,” from Latin recusare deny, reject, oppose, from re– + causari plead as a reason, object, allege, from causa reason, cause]

(1375-1425)

“She was already thinking of how she may use the astrologer to negotiate a better fee with the Village Chief. The stars and their confluence could at first be hard to read, leaving some uncertainty about whether the two prospective spouses were well suited to each other. Then, if the groom was steadfast on getting the bride that he had his eyes on, for an additional fee the matchmaker could be convinced to get a second astrologer’s interpretation, one more auspicious and conforming to the will of heaven. She had been doing her trade throughout several provinces for years, and that ruse had yet to fail her. – Village Teacher, by Neihtn.

Note: Village Teacher is an excellent story, recommended.

Fairy Tales: Little Red Riding-Hood.

The illustrations to The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, 1922, by Harry Clarke. Click for full size.

I’ve included the moral of this one because Perrault had written Little Red Riding-Hood as a warning to readers about men who were trying to prey on young girls who were walking through the forest:

The Moral

From this short story easy we discern
What conduct all young people ought to learn.
But above all, young, growing misses fair,
Whose orient rosy blooms begin t’appear:
Who, beauties in the fragrant spring of age,
With pretty airs young hearts are apt t’engage.
Ill do they listen to all sorts of tongues,
Since some inchant and lure like Syrens’ songs.
No wonder therefore ’tis, if over-power’d,
So many of them has the Wolf devour’d.
The Wolf, I say, for Wolves too sure there are
Of every sort, and every character.
Some of them mild and gentle-humour’d be,
Of noise and gall, and rancour wholly free;
Who tame, familiar, full of complaisance
Ogle and leer, languish, cajole and glance;
With luring tongues, and language wond’rous sweet,
Follow young ladies as they walk the street,
Ev’n to their very houses, nay, bedside,
And, artful, tho’ their true designs they hide;
Yet ah! these simpering Wolves! Who does not see
Most dangerous of Wolves indeed they be?

Note: Although this particular book was published in 1922, Perrault first published his fairy tales in 1697.

Word Wednesday.

Termagant

Noun.

1: Capitalized: a deity erroneously ascribed to Islam by medieval European Christians and represented in early English drama as a violent character.

2: an overbearing or nagging woman: shrew.

[Origin: Middle English Termagaunt, Tervagaunt, Old French Tervagan the imaginary deity: c.1500, “violent, overbearing person” (especially of women), from Teruagant, Teruagaunt (c.1200), name of fictitious Muslim deity appearing in medieval morality plays, from Old French Tervagant, a proper name in “Chanson de Roland” (c.1100), of uncertain origin.

Termagant, adjective: overbearing, shrewish. (C 1598)

“The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a termagant wife.” – Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book, M.R. James.

Books.

If you like well researched historical fiction, engaging characters, and well plotted and often challenging mysteries, Oliver Pötzsch has you covered with his The Hangman’s Daughter series. So far, the books, in order are: #1: The Hangman’s Daughter, #2: The Dark Monk, #3: The Beggar King, #4: The Poisoned Pilgrim, #5: The Werewolf of Bamberg, #6: The Play of Death. (I stacked them wrong, sorry.) The 7th book will be out early in ‘018.

The main characters are members of the executioner dynasty of the Kuisl family of Bavaria. The author is a descendant of the Kuisl family, and is a meticulous researcher. The books are set in the mid to late 1660s. They are altogether engaging and interesting, with a host of recurring characters, many of the likable; many of them detestable, all of whom you get to know quite well. Most of these characters are various inhabitants of Schongau. The character of Johann Lechner brings Havelock Vetinari to mind, just a bit, albeit with a more Medieval sensibility, which is not always a good thing.

There are, obviously, distressing events in the books, but for the most part, they are kept on the somewhat low key side.  The one exception to this is the prologue in The Hangman’s Daughter, which is both horrifying and very grisly. Mercifully, it’s short. These books are in no way any sort of paean to torture or the like. Altogether, they are grand books, recommended.