Whale of a Tale, or there’s something fishy about this place…

Gilt Pleasures

Did you hear the one about the sailors who landed on an island, built a campfire and then got blown sky-high by a geyser?  No?  How about the sailors who landed on an island, built a campfire and then the whole island did a deep-dive, taking them with it?

These are just a couple of tales that made the rounds in the middle ages and both are based on the misconception that whales like to float at the surface of the water and so accumulate sand on their backs; sailors in turn mistake the whales for islands and when they make camp, may either find themselves unceremoniously caught up in the whale’s blow-hole eruption or, more commonly, they make a campfire and when it gets too hot, it startles the whale into diving into the depths, taking the sailors with it to their deaths.

Another commonly-told story about the whale…

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Medieval Anachronisms, Part 3: Cranes Hoisting Armored Knights

Real People in False Events: Joan of Arc




“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it.”– Joan of Arc


 Before writing this post, the little I knew of Joan of Arc wouldn’t fill a thimble. The information I was hoping to get from my old copy of The Book of  Saints proved skimpy and too parochial for my purpose. Turning to film, I decided to watch (again) the two best known classics about the Maid–the colorful Joan of Arc (1948), starring the late Ingrid Bergman, and the silent masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1924), with the acclaimed Italian stage actress Renee Falconetti in the stark black-and-white title role. Their unedited versions had just been released, and I heard they were the nearest one could get to visualizing the real Joan. To be sure, there were other movies (some I…

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