Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Jewish Tolkien and His Fantasy Country

OK, mostly he didn't write fantasy, he mostly did thrillers, things like Stephen King.

I've said Goldman. William Goldman.

But once, he ventured into the realm of Faërie. When he did, he was clearly as brilliant as Tolkien. The Princess Bride. Originally written for his two daughters and he wrote the screenplay himself. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the novel came out September 1st* 1973, in Chicago, while it may already have been September 2nd in England, the day when J. R. R. Tolkien died.

I think, the connexion doesn't quite cease here. Fourteen years later, The Princess Bride became a film. Then the film smoldered under the ashes for another ten years, and became a huge hit through video, ten years after the release in theatres. That year, 1997, a certain Peter Jackson acquired the rights for doing The Lord of the Rings, and his The Fellowship of the Ring was released four years (a lustrum) after that. That is, 28 years after Tolkien died and The Princess Bride was published. Anyone noticed a similarity of appearance between Inigo Montoya and Aragorn? In the films, of course.

There are parallels too in multiple attempts at making the film, the difference being, for The Princess Bride, the masterpiece was not preceded by any ... Ralph Bakshi, for instance, not to mention even worse ones.

And there is the technique, in both there is world building. They seemingly, according to critics**, both convey that the world went on before the scenes opened and goes on after they have closed. In both there is map drawing.

But in some other fashions, The Princess Bride would be closer to a novel by Lloyd Alexander. We deal with Ruritanian fantasy, not with actual supernatural entities. Now, most Ruritanians are set in our world. Ruritania. Syldavia (and Borduria). Bretzelburg. Grand Kudpein. Vulgaria. But while Lloyd Alexander has a whole series of Ruritanias visited by Vesper Holly, he also has the Ruritanias in the Westmark trilogy, and the setting of The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian — Ruritanias without connexion to our geography. That is also the case with ... well, not quite ... Guilder and Florin.

It so happens, before the Netherlands switched to the Euro money, their currency was known as Guilder ... but the coins were marked with an FL, which stood for Florin. Two countries, around a marine strait, are on the map*** marked as Guilder and Florin. Shall we think Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maartens or Surinam? Perhaps most of all, what kind of abuse is adressed. Syldavia, Bretzelburg and Grand Kudpein (all written by French speakers) have a huge part for police brutality and dictatorship. Like Westmark and the unnamed country where Sebastian roamed. Lloyd Alexander had a French wife after all. But the purely English or American ones, by Anthony Hope, Ian Fleming, and, obviously, William Goldman, feature abuse involving the family. Anthony Hope allows a double of the King of Ruritania to stand in while he is imprisoned, to avoid usurpation. This double, Rudolf Rassendyll, turns out to be a much gentler husband than Rudolf V of Ruritania. So, in a way, Anthony Hope was making a point against toxic masculinity and abusive husbands.

Vulgaria has the child catchers. I think Ian Fleming was making a point against abortion and child protective services, especially as they targetted certain traveller populations.

Florin ... let's be clear that while Count Tyrone Rugen tortures people, it becomes easier for Prince Humperdinck° to basically force Buttercup into a marriage. Sounds a bit like psychiatry to me. Meanwhile, one hero, though not the protagonist, roughly equivalent to Athos in The Three Musketeers, has a fairly Catholic name. Inigo, son of Dominick .... a reference to the founders of Society of Jesus and Order of Preachers?

Montoya is a Basque surname. It originally comes from a hamlet near Berantevilla in Álava, in the Basque region of northern Spain. During the Reconquista, it extended southwards throughout Castille and Andalusia. The name roughly translates to mean hills and valleys. It has become more frequent among Gitanos than among the general Spanish population.

One father and son or uncle and nephew couple are Ramón and Carlos Montoya, Flamenco artists, not totally out of the way considering there are real life Humperdinck's connected to music too: Engelbert Humperdinck the composer, Engelbert Humperdinck the singer. We also have:

Gabriel Montoya (20 October 1868, in Alès – 7 October 1914, in Castres) was a French singer, chansonnier and lyricist.

Joseph Montoya is less likely, a politician ... did you know a founder of an order also existed of the name Montoya?

Laura Montoya, in full María Laura de Jesús Montoya Upegui, (26 May 1874 – 21 October 1949), religious name Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena, was a Colombian Roman Catholic religious sister and the founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and Saint Catherine of Siena (1914). She was well known for her work with Indigenous peoples and for acting as a strong role model for South American girls.

And, whether Flamenco artists, or gipsies or Catholics, psychiatry in Protestant countries hasn't been too gentle on them. Count Tyrone Rugen ... is he a standin for a shrink, like Baron and Baroness Bomburst for abortion and child protective services? Or was William Goldman prophetic without knowing it? There has been a murder victim Eliud Montoya, and a bandit, Diego León Montoya Sánchez, since the publication of the book. I guess I'd have to read the book first, but one thing is certain : the oppressed population of Florin is not representative of the actual Middle Ages.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Vigil of St. Mathias

* On This Day: The Princess Bride Publication Date
Veronique Manfredini – September 1st, 2021

** For The Lord of the Rings, I'm one of those critics. As for The Princess Bride, I have neither seen the film, nor read the novel. But I have seen extracts, by youtube suggesting after I went from the theme in Jack Sparrow to one by Mark Knopfler in The Princess Bride.

*** Yes, like lots of fantasy, The Princess Bride has a map.

° The name is a Westphalian version of Huniberting ... descendant of Hunibert. Which means "bright warrior" or "bright Hun" ...

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