The Piper in the Woods

“This is the night of revelation. This is the night the dolls wake. This is the night of the dreamer in the attic. This is the night of the piper in the woods.” — Steven Millhauser in Enchanted Night

Spring comes on little goat feet. . . .

If I were a scholar fixin’ to write a research paper, I would like to explore the use of Fauns, Satyrs, and the god Pan in English literature. This is a topic that has long intrigued me. These enigmatic figures dance through the shade and the starry darkness of our consciousness, but what is our fascination with them? Bear with me — no, goat with me — if you will, gentle readers, and let’s embark — embark — on a little walk among the trees. (I’ve just paid about ten bucks to the pun fund — at this rate I’ll be broke by the end of the next paragraph.) I’d like to do a little defining, a little comparing of examples, and finally a little theorizing about our wild friends, the horned pipers in the glens.

Detail from Self-Portrait by Frederic S. Durbin, March 2010.

First, let’s look to J.E. Zimmerman’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology. (This is the dictionary we used in Professor Froehlich’s Greek & Roman mythology class at Concordia, and it’s one of the few books that, as a writer and reader, I would never want to be without.)

Zimmerman tells us that Pan (Greek) is the same as Faunus (Roman).

Pan is the son of Hermes and Dryope. He’s the “Greek god of flocks and shepherds, forests and wild life, and fertility; patron of shepherds and hunters. Part man, part goat, with ears, horns, tail, and hind legs of a goat — playful, lascivious, unpredictable, always lecherous. He invented the flute with seven reeds which he called syrinx after the nymph Syrinx who had been transformed into the reed he cut for his first Pan-pipe. Shepherds loved his reed pipe, and Pan’s musical contest with Apollo is famous. He loved and pursued many nymphs. . . .” Zimmerman goes on to cite ancient sources of Pan references, which include the Aeneid, Herodotus, and Pausanias. “In English literature,” Zimmerman interestingly says, “poems about Pan are more numerous than distinguished; references to him are made by Spenser; Milton; Marvell; Cowley; Wordsworth; Shelley; Keats; Swinburne; Forster.”

So if I were that scholarly type fixin’ to do the research paper, I’d have my work cut out for me, chasing down all those references! Fortunately, I’m just a blog-tender, so I can deal in rumors, unsubstantiated “facts,” opinions, and whims. I can just tell you what I think. And that’s the beauty of a blog, right? We read and write them in order to talk about cool stuff — which, of course, sometimes has great applicability to our lives and our projects and our service, whatever it may be.

When we look up “Faunus” in Zimmerman, we’re told that he’s “Also Pan. God of agriculture, crops, prophecy, fertility, and country life.” The sole reference there is Aeneid vii. With that wording, Faunus sounds a little more staid and sober than Pan — sort of a Pan in midlife, a Pan who has settled down and become somewhat responsible. That may be because Faunus is a family man — er, god. He has a wife (or by some accounts a daughter) called Fauna, also known as Bona Dea or Bona Mater. She’s the goddess of fertility, nature, farming, and animals. “She never saw a man after her marriage with Faunus. Her uncommon chastity brought her rank among the gods after her death. Her followers are called Fauni.”

Note that point: the Fauni (Fauns) are followers of this nice, chaste goddess, not directly of Faunus himself. That may well be why Fauns seem to have a better reputation than Satyrs. C.S. Lewis’s Mr. Tumnus is a Faun. And in my own book The Sacred Woods, my Faun character is indignant when he’s mistaken for a Satyr. [“‘I’d like you better if you’d stop calling me a Satyr,’ said Mr. Girandole. ‘I’ve told you I’m a Faun. Satyrs are a vulgar folk. You won’t see me drinking wine by the skinful.’ / ‘And woman?’ R____ grinned waggishly. ‘You run catch woman?’ / ‘Mind your own business,’ said Mr. Girandole.”]

Well, what about Satyrs, then? Zimmerman reports: the Satyrs (or Satyri) are “sylvan deities that represented the luxuriant forces of nature; attendants of Dionysus.” (Dionysus! Say no more, squire! Eh? Eh?! Dionysus is the god of wine and revelry. [He’s that very same Bacchus, the youngest of the twelve great Olympians.] So the Satyrs were the ones having the keg parties.) “They were known for their orgies and lasciviousness. They looked like men, but had the legs and feet of goats, with short horns on their heads, and their entire bodies covered with hair. Some Satyrs were gods of the woods, and followers of Pan.”

Very interesting, huh? This would require more research, of course — and I may be reading more into the distinction than Zimmerman or any of the mythmakers intended — but based on these dictionary entries alone, it looks like the Fauns were followers of Fauna (the virtuous goddess), and the Satyrs were associated with Dionysus and Pan. Satyrs may also have been hairier than Fauns — hair over their entire bodies, Zimmerman says. So if that painting of mine is right at all, it must be a picture of a Faun, not a Satyr. (Pan also had the ears of a goat, which is overlooked by many artists.)

So much for the definitions: now we know whom we’re talking about; we know what the theme is as we consider the variations.

As soon as we get out of the classical myths and into English literature and into cinema, the lines start to blur, and I think it’s impossible to preserve the distinctions among Satyrs, Fauns, Pan, and Faunus. In Pan’s Labyrinth, for example: the movie’s title says one thing, but I’m pretty sure the Faun says he’s “a Faun.” (But when asked his name, he laughingly declares that he has many, most of them pronounceable only by the trees. That’s one of my favorite lines of the film.)

You all know I’m not one who can claim to have read widely; but I’d like to examine the treatment of Faun-esque characters in seven works: Steven Millhauser’s Enchanted Night (Crown Publishers, 1999); the movie Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, directed by Guillermo del Toro); two works of Arthur Machen (details to follow); C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (my Collier/Macmillan edition of the first one of those is copyrighted in 1950; Lewis scholars, feel free to clarify); my own novel The Sacred Woods (me, spring/summer 2009); and Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows. My theory is that these stories assign to the Pan-like figures one or more of the following roles:

1. beguiler/enchanter

2. messenger/instructor in things magical

3. corruptor/the diabolic

4. helper

5. the Divine

Millhauser’s Pan-type figure in Enchanted Night is of the first type: he pipes in the dark woods on a summer night, and the town’s children are roused out of their dreams. The music lures them into the forest, where they ultimately encounter the man with goat-legs, dancing and dancing, playing his flute. It’s a dangerous scenario, but Millhauser’s piper doesn’t harm the children. He simply enchants them with his music, and they come to listen: “He turns and turns, bending almost to the grass, rising high, a moon-dancer, a flute-dreamer, as the children gather in the clearing to listen to the dark, sweet music of the piper in the woods. They must have this music. It’s the sound of elves under the earth, of cities at the bottom of the sea. In the clearing the children listen, their lips slightly parted, their eyes veiled and heavy-lidded.” When the night is over, “At the first glimmer of gray in the sky, the piper in the woods looks up, bends and spins once more, and breaks off abruptly. In the shocking silence he beckons toward the sky, then turns and vanishes into the woods. The children, waking from their long dream, look around tiredly and head for home.” Millhauser’s piper is mostly the magical allure of a summer night made manifest; Summer Night Itself given a body and a sound. It’s the season that invites: the particular season of life, and the warm, kind season of the year; the moon, the darkness, the fire in the blood, and the imagination it all works to unlock. And what better personification of such a night than a dancing Faun? (As I’ve said before, it was the cover that drew me straight to this book, and the cover with the jacket copy that compelled me to buy it. If anyone out there still hasn’t read it, its season is nearly here again: get it and read it some hot night this summer!)

I would say the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth fits role #2, that of messenger and mentor in things magical. I wouldn’t quite go so far as to put him in the “helper” (#4) category, because at times he’s downright scary, and I’m not altogether sure he cares about Ofelia or necessarily wants her to succeed — he’s just there to deliver the messages. (Does anyone want to disagree? I realize it’s quite open to interpretation — but he certainly seems heartless and creeps me out in some of his scenes.) He’s there to tell Ofelia what she must and must not do in order to get back to her kingdom beneath the ground. (Maybe deep down he cares, because he does get angry at her when she messes up and almost blows it.) He’s the face and the voice of the magical kingdom deep within the Earth, a kingdom inaccessible to humankind.

For the darkest uses of Pan-like figures I know of, we turn to the Welsh author Arthur Machen (1863-1947). Machen first published a story called “The Great God Pan” in 1890, which he revised and extended into a novella in 1894. It’s readily available today, and for anyone who considers him/herself a serious fan of fantasy or horror fiction, it’s an essential book.

Machen’s Pan may fulfill roles #1 and 2, but for sure he is #3, the corruptor, a totally harmful influence encountered in idyllic woodland settings. I would go so far as to say we can pretty much equate Machen’s Pan with the devil. One character in the novella, delving into the secrets of the Pan-encounters, writes on his manuscript this Latin inscription:

ET DIABOLUS INCARNATE EST. ET HOMO FACTUS EST.

Machen assumes his readers will be able to figure that one out; he doesn’t provide a translation, but I’m pretty sure it means “And the devil is incarnate. And he is made a man.” (Help me out, anyone who really knows Latin! Is that facere, “to do; to make,” or should we be thinking “true; fact”? Either way, we get Machen’s point.)

Encountering the devil in the woods: what early American writer does that make you think of? Hawthorne, right? Beyond the village lies the dark, fathomless woods, which is the abode of witches and the devil.

Pan in The Great God Pan is made all the more horrible by how subtly Machen handles things. We never see Pan in immediate narrative; in fact, a theme of the book is how the human mind cannot handle seeing “the great god Pan” directly. (And in that aspect, one can certainly trace the enormous influence Machen had on H.P. Lovecraft! Doesn’t that sound like vintage Lovecraft? The evil is so horrible that, if you see it, your mind is shattered, and you become a raving lunatic.) In Machen’s book, we glimpse Pan only through suggestions and secondhand accounts — and in a grotesque, ancient carving excavated from the wall of a house that sends a boy (who has earlier encountered a strange man in the woods) into paroxysms of fear. [“The head is pronounced by the most experienced archaeologists of the district to be that of a faun or satyr. [Dr. Phillips tells me that he has seen the head in question, and assures me that he has never received such a vivid presentment of intense evil.]”] Crossing paths with Machen’s Pan leads to madness, obsession, and death. Nor does Machen hesitate to plunge into the sexual associations of Pan-lore. I don’t want to give away the plot to any interested in reading it, so I guess I’ll stop there with my references to this book.

But I have to point you to one more Arthur Machen story, “The White People,” also regarded as one of his greatest works. This tale, rife with all sorts of imagery that was scandalous at the time, alludes to some sort of horrible stone carving, deep in the forest, a secret of secrets that the main character feels she dare not talk about. It’s worshiped by witches and has an extremely malevolent influence. Typical of Machen, we never find out exactly what the carving depicts, except that it’s likely “of Roman origin.” I’ll bet I’m not alone in my certainty that the image is a figure with the face of a man and the horns, ears, and lower body of a goat. It may indeed have been the same figure Machen had in mind when he described the monument stone at the end of The Great God Pan — which bears the words:

DEVOMNODENTI / FLAVIVSSENILISPOSSVIT / PROPTERNVPTIAS / QUASVIDITSVBVMRA

(I’m actually wondering if that’s a misprint in the book; I’d like to add a “B” three letters from the end and make it “SVBVMBRA” — “sub umbra.” Anyone? Help?)

Anyway, he does provide the translation this time: “To the great god Nodens (the god of the Great Deep or Abyss) Flavius Senilis has erected this pillar on account of the marriage which he saw beneath the shade.”

Now let’s move on to role #4 and fill our lungs with fresh air. Narnia! Faithfulness and friendship! The Faun Tumnus is a definite type 4, the helper. So is Mr. Girandole in The Sacred Woods. Like Tolkien’s Elves, like Mr. Spock the Vulcan, like some instances of the new face of the vampire in popular culture, benevolent Mr. Girandole represents a solid ally who is a little better than we are in nearly every way — stronger, wiser, older, more capable — and yet vulnerable and all too human in some surprising ways. Unlike type #1, which tantalizes us with unfulfilled — or only momentarily fulfilled — longing; and unlike type #2, which is only an interface with Nature for us, the kindest Fauns usher us not to destruction like the #3’s, but to a better state.

Heh, heh! I realize I left Mr. Tumnus out in the cold and am not really talking about him at all — maybe some of you Narnia fans can help me out with him.

But that leads us to #5: Kenneth Grahame’s Faun-like figure in his mysterious and perplexing chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” It’s been noted by scholars that this chapter seems somehow incongruous with the rest of The Wind in the Willows — what’s it doing here? And yet what I hear again and again from people who have read the book is, “That’s my favorite chapter.” Here, an unquestionably Faun-like presence is called “the Friend and Helper.” Without doubt, the presence is referred to in terms of holy awe: “Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror — indeed, he felt wonderfully at peace and happy . . . some august Presence was very, very near.” The characters see the baby otter sleeping in peace and contentment between the hooves of the Piper, and then: “‘Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. ‘Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet — and yet — O, Mole, I am afraid!'” (Like Aslan this Piper is: not safe, but Good.)

Ooh! Ooh! Something just now occurred to me! Look at the Kenneth Grahame quote! I would bet money that it’s no accident Grahame wrote “It was no panic terror.” Are you aware of the fact that our English word “panic” comes from — yes, you guessed it — the name of Pan? My Webster’s dictionary says of “panic” that it’s from the Greek panikos, literally “of Pan”: “of, relating to, or resembling the mental or emotional state believed induced by the god Pan.” What Arthur Machen creates in The Great God Pan could hardly be any more authentic or true to the ancient Greek concept!

So what is the appeal? Why do these figures haunt and inform our literature? Well, here are my theories: at their worst, they give an embodiment to terrible forces beyond our control — the Unknown, the Evil, the destroying impersonal onslaught of Nature. And they provide a not-quite-human face for the worst elements in us ourselves. Lust and debauchery . . . in this way, I think there may be some connection between Satyr myths and werewolf legends. Jekyll and Hyde. “We have met the enemy and they is us.” They give a face to the Forest, to its mystery and allure — and in this way, they may be related to the figure of the Green Man. At their most benevolent, they represent that holy awe we feel when experiencing Creation as God made it: the green spaces where we can practically hear Him breathing . . . where we are afraid, and yet not afraid . . . not of the Piper at the gates of dawn.

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50 Responses to “The Piper in the Woods”

  1. Lizzie Borden Says:

    I have a quote for you!

    “Dryope’s son stole through the woods and all life danced to the goat god’s piping.” – Sax Rohmer I’ve always LOVED the image that sentence inspires in my mind. Well, you’ve seen what it inspires in my mind.

  2. fsdthreshold Says:

    For anyone who may have read this post in its first hour or so and may have missed my revision: in re-reading the Kenneth Grahame quote from The Wind in the Willows, I noticed his careful wording “it was no panic terror” — and I remembered that our English word “panic” comes from the name of Pan. I am quite sure Grahame chose that word very carefully. And note how accurate Machen was in his representation of Pan!

  3. Catherine Says:

    What a fun post! The piper faun who calls the children to dance all night, especially. (Not to diss Girandole — the piper faun is simply new, not something I’ve heard before, while I’d heard of Girandole before!) To be a C.S. Lewis fan who fills in information about Mr. Tumnus, he actually fits into two categories: #4, as you said, and #1. In the beginning he lures Lucy to his house so that he can serve her up to the White Witch. He changes, however, and slides into category #4. A true example of a dynamic (i.e. not static) character! (Sorry. I’m doing two literature courses this year and it’s gone to my brain.)

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Ooh, thanks, Catherine! I’d forgotten that about Mr. Tumnus!

    • Daylily Says:

      Thanks, Catherine! I would have put in a comment about Tumnus if no one else had; he is an interesting character and he was Lucy’s first friend in Narnia. Hey, what good are literature courses if you don’t use what you’ve learned? I was glad to read your insight. Well put.

  4. Gabe Dybing Says:

    Thanks for the special heads up to pop over here, Fred! I know I’ve been missing A LOT while I’ve been consumed in schoolwork, but now that summer is here I should have opportunity to lurk here more frequently, and perhaps even catch up on what I’ve missed.

    I have something of interest for you. _Pan’s Labyrinth_ is only the English translation of the Spanish-movie title, though I don’t think I should even dignify it with “translation.” del Toro’s Spanish title is _El laberinto del fauno_. There you go!

    😉

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Gabe! You haven’t missed a whole lot yet, because I was away from this blog for a LONG time. . . . But yes, you should pop in here a lot. Or lurk, or whatever you want to do.

      Thanks for the extra information on El Laberinto del Fauno. There’s something about the Spanish that is haunting. . . . I love the opening narration in Spanish, and Ofelia’s spoken Spanish is really cute!

  5. Nicholas Says:

    Loved reading this, Fred! Your examples are exactly the ones I’d think of, too. The faun in Disney’s _Hercules_ does not merit acknowledgment. There are fauns, though, in a true Disney work of art–_Fantasia_. They do indeed herald the arrival of Bacchus (Dionysus), who comes swilling wine on the back of his donkey.

    And then there is the faun character in the old Roy Thomas comic book _Arak, Son of Thunder_! 😉

    Van Morrison has a lovely song “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” inspired by the Kenneth Grahame chapter (my favorite in _The Wind in the Willows_).

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Yes, I think I’ve read several issues of that comic, Arak, Son of Thunder, and it does score large on the Faun scale! I really need to see Fantasia, having heard so much about it over many years. You won’t believe this, but I keep getting it confused with the original Heavy Metal movie! 🙂 Whenever I hear a reference to one or the other, I have to stop and think carefully. I have seen HM, but not F. Where are my priorities?!

  6. jhagman Says:

    “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” is also the title of Pink Floyd’s first album, in my opinion, it is a masterpiece!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Wow! Kenneth Grahame’s shadow is a long one and falls far across the world, extending into pop culture!

  7. Scott Says:

    Don’t forget Puck from William Shakespeare’s _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_.

    Wonderful subject Fred. Artistic license used by authors and filmmakers has blurred or obscured the mythology of Pan. It was nice to read the origin of the character.

    Keep up the good work.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Scott! I’m glad you liked this.
      I thought briefly of Puck, too–but there’s no evidence, is there, that he’s Faun-like? I think he’s just a mischievous fairy, not one with goat legs or horns or a set of pipes.
      Anyway, thanks for being here! If we can’t all be sitting around the same table playing D&D or talking about books, this is the next best thing!

    • Scott Says:

      I have to disagree with you on that.

      I am not a Shakespeare scholar (I hate iambic-pentameter), but the production that I saw portrayed him as a faun. Before I posted my first comment, I double-checked it myself. Wikipedia links Puck with fauns and satyrs. There is an illustration on the Puck entry that depicts him as a faun/satyr.

      From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 1
      Fairy:
      Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
      Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
      Call’d Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
      That frights the maidens of the villagery;
      Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
      And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
      And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
      Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
      Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
      You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
      Are not you he?

      In the first line, the Fairy remarks about his shape, which would indicate that he is not a fairy as she is. Line 6 says that he is “bootless” which would indicate that he has something other than “human” legs or feet. Also, his activities give him the personality of a faun. She does refer to him as a sprite, but that could be in the generic reference to another mythical creature.

      On the plus side, I told my wife about this blog post and she agreed with me that Puck is a faun! She actually said that I was right! OH HAPPY DAY!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Scott,
        How can you hate iambic pentameter when we speak in it all the time? It isn’t something artificial that long-ago poets imposed on the English language; it’s reflective of the rhythms and sentence-lengths we actually use!
        “I told you guys I’m heading for the beach!” [iambic pentameter]
        “Was that a rat, or am I seeing things?” [iambic pentameter]
        “Before we go, we’d better feed the cat.” [iambic pentameter]

        But anyway. . . . I won’t argue politics, but I will sure argue Fauns! I am wholly unconvinced there’s any link between Puck (Robin Goodfellow), a fairy (sprite) and Pan, Fauns, or Satyrs. I’ve never seen an illustration of him with goat’s legs or horns. I contend that what you’re seeing on Wikipedia is our society’s tendency to lump things together, in much the same way that a great many people have become convinced that Hobbits have pointed ears, or that Tolkien’s Elves have pointed ears. You won’t find any such in LOTR, but you will sure see it in artists’ illustrations of Tolkien’s work. (It’s the same phenomenon we see when people confuse “Ode to Joy” with “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” You’d be surprised how many people. . . .)

        What the fairy says about Puck’s “shape and making” simply means that she recognizes him–she knows his face and his appearance. Look at the rest of the fairy’s speech that you quoted: none of the Puck-behavior she attributes to him has any connection to Pan or Fauns. Pan is all about revelry, lasciviousness, etc.–Puck is mischievous, curdling the cows’ milk, etc.
        Granted, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in the forest near Athens in ancient Greece, but we all know how the only Greek things about it are the names of the four main characters–the rest is all decidedly very English.

        And why would “bootless” indicate non-humanoid legs and feet? Do you suppose the fairy is wearing boots? Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are normally depicted as being barefoot, too. I know I was!

        So–Puck is no more a Faun than the Huns were Germans!
        🙂

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Oh, and one more thing we need to look up — my memory isn’t serving here, but I’m pretty sure “bootless” to Shakespeare meant something different than it does to us. Help us out here, Shakespeare scholars!
        From Julius Caesar: “Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?”
        I can’t quite pull it out of my memory, but I don’t think it means “not wearing shoes.” Urgh! Who has their college notes handy? I remember studying this. . . .

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        I’ll try to remember to look this up, but as I thought about it after my reply, I think “bootless” means “fruitlessly” or “pointlessly.” In the Julius Caesar line “Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?” — it’s just before the conspirators kill him, when they’re making a final, at least self-justifying effort to sway him from his political course. Brutus is very close to Caesar — his “main dude.” Caesar is saying, “Look! Even my main dude’s pleas are falling on deaf ears. I’m not going to change my mind. Even Brutus kneels pointlessly.”

        One further clarification of my earlier response: I have no doubt that there are many Renaissance paintings and drawings that show hosts of English fairies in which some of them look Faun- or Satyr-like. That may well be — I can’t speak for how medieval English fairies all looked. My point is just that there’s no textual or folkloric reason to equate Puck with Pan, Fauns, or Satyrs. He was clearly a fairy or sprite.

  8. jhagman Says:

    What about the film “Allegro Non Troppo”? It has a long sequence with an aging satyr trying to recapture his youth, it is set to the music of Debussy- beautiful! it is getting to the Milhauser time of the year!

  9. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    I never have given a hoot for fauns or Pan, or he-she goats or satyrs or any related beings…but I respect that others dearly love them.

    However, during the Fred v. Scott back-and-forth, the issue of Tolkien elves came up, and (as all who know me will attest) I simply could not let that, albeit minute, part of the discussion slide by.

    Tolkien Elves (the REAL elves!) most certainly DO NOT have Vulcan ears. To my knowledge they were never described by Tolkien as having them and I have never encountered a drawing or painting by Tolkien that depicts the elves with Spock ears!

    Ohh, and about Puck … pucks are best used on ice. And as far as the issue of the boots, we need but refer to Black Sabbath’s second album, the 1970 metal gift from the gods “Paranoid” and track 8 of that masterpiece, the incredible “Fairies Wear Boots.” That should settle part of the argument, I hope.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Absolutely! We both know Elves don’t have pointed (“Vulcan”) ears, nor does Tolkien ever describe Hobbits with them, either. But a great many artists put them there. I think the big reason is that artists feel they have to do something to show that Hobbits and Elves are somehow different from humans. It’s a detail they seize upon. I’m SO glad the filmmakers weren’t swayed by the wrong illustrations!

      Here’s the information I was looking for from the Oxford English Dictionary: Robin Goodfellow is “a mischievous sprite or goblin believed, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, to haunt the English countryside. Also called Puck.” If that’s our definition of the character Shakespeare used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s quite clear that there’s nothing to link him to ancient Greek or Roman Pan, Faunus, Fauns, or Satyrs.

      But I’m certainly not “bustin’ your chops,” Scott! I don’t doubt that you’ve seen artists’ renderings of Puck with goat’s-feet. I will grant you that there’s nothing expressly saying that he didn’t have them, and I think artists in the 1700s and 1800s liked to draw some fairies that way, because of course English fairy lore sprang up in a world already enriched by classical mythology. . . . My whole case is that we shouldn’t go around equating Puck with Satyrs and Fauns, because he wasn’t one.

  10. fsdthreshold Says:

    By the way, I looked it up: in Shakespeare’s vocabulary, “bootless” means “profitless, pointless, unavailing, useless,” etc. Perhaps the most famous example is his Sonnet 29:
    “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state / And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries. . . .”
    So, getting back to the line you quoted, Scott: the fairy accuses Puck of Puck’s tendency to:
    “bootless make the breathless housewife churn”
    See? Puck casts a spell so that the poor housewife, trying to make a churnful of butter, keeps churning and churning and churning until she’s out of breath, but the ingredients never turn into butter. (It’s not talking about Puck’s shod or unshod state at all!) Oh, that Puck!

  11. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    Perhaps that is because Puck, rather than being a butter-ruining faun, was, in reality, Robin Goodfellow, wealthy man-about-town, who happened, it so turns out, to be in the employ of a North American food conglomerate, where he served as the Pixie of Parkay, roaming the countryside, spoiling butter and driving the underclasses to purchase margarine? Just a thought, good squires.

    • Scott Says:

      Then the good King Oberon determined that the butter industry was “to big to fail” and bailed them out. This endeared him to the International Union of Butter Churners. He then demonized evil Big-Margarine and assessed a 200% sales tax rate on the sale of all butter substitutes. The Royal Senate held lengthy and totally useless hearings into the actions of Robin Goodfellow.

  12. Scott Says:

    OK. I have to admit that I was wrong about Puck. I can’t find anywhere that refers to him as a faun and you have done far more research into the matter than I have time for. However, I will probably always picture him that way. First impressions can be very powerful.

  13. Tim in Germany Says:

    I must confess to being in pretty much the same boat as ‘Clearly in the Minority’ on this one. I’ve never been fascinated by goat-footed guys. I guess I’ve always lumped them together with Kokopelli and Til Eulenspiegel as fanciful attempts to explain how nice young girls end up pregnant.

    As such, they seem infinitely more creative than “I found him in the bullrushes” or Caesar randomly decreeing that embarrassingly pregnant women travel far away to be counted. Lets face it, if religions were judged by their degree of creativity, Phoebus would still be driving the chariot and the tabloids would screech about demigods rather than lovechildren.

    Nonetheless, I’ve never been attracted to the further adventures of a critter whose raison d’etre is so deliciously salacious in its own right.

  14. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    Tim, much like a certain Ranger I once knew in another life, has once more found his mark…I, too, never cared for the goat-boys because they lusted for innocent maids who, of course, are to reserve their treasure for dragon-slaying knights and not half-breeds.

    As someone who wishes the Iowa DNR would treble the number of doe liscenses issued each year, I am strongly in favor of the strident culling of herds of hoofed animals, especially those who like to frolic at night (often in the midst of public highways).

    And Scott — I can read between the lines and loved your take on the margarine industry. My sentiments exactly.

  15. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    ATTN: DM — The first, third and sixth members of the party marching order are assembled. Are the brothers and our good governor posing under a pseudonym? It would be great if we were all here … still seeking the gnomes’ Stones … still bemoaning the burning of the Pink Orchid … still missing Mark, the true hero of The Flail … still paying into the Pun Fund …. still delighting in the Big R … still wasting time with ‘rhetoric’ and still trying to figure out how the map fit together …

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      ATTN: Party Leader — No, I’m sad to say that you already know about all party members who are here. I know that the governor from Raven Dale/Allerton has looked in a time or two, but as far as I know he is not a regular. I don’t think either of the brothers has ever been here. Maybe in your communications with the younger, you could drop him the hint that continued absence from this blog might hurt his homunculus. 🙂 Of course, we’ve got Griseld and Balthaff. . . .

      Those are wonderful memories you conjure up!

  16. Zoë Says:

    Didn’t Pan have some role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The “merry wanderer of the night?” I know it was a faun-like creature, but I can’t remember if it was actually Pan or not. I had no clue there was any difference between fauns and satyrs! The thing about the word “panic” coming from “Pan” is really cool. I’m wondering about other words with Pan in them now, like panorama…

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Great to see you here again, Zoe! (I’m sorry I don’t have a way of adding the two dots above your “e”!) About the “pan” that appears in many words: in old Greek, “pan” has the meaning of “all” or “everything”–and there was a word “(h)orao” meaning “to see”–so “panorama” (“pan-(h)ora(ma)”) meant “seeing everything” or “a look at everything”–seeing over a wide range. This “pan” for “everything” shows up in many of our modern English words.
      pantheon — “all the gods; the entire cast of gods”
      pandemonium — “all the demons”
      Pan-Am — an airline that flew “all across America”
      pandemic — an epidemic that spreads everywhere
      As far as I know, this “all” meaning of “pan” has no connection to the name of the god Pan.
      I was just telling my students this week about how helpful it is to study Greek and Latin if one wants to understand English words — that’s where the overwhelming majority of our words have come from! Some people refer to these as “dead” languages, but nothing could be farther from the truth!

  17. Lord FinkleWinkle Says:

    D&D Memories! Lo’ I am Lord FinkleWinkle of Man-zard-on-Codpiece! Many were the days I did launch sorties on the gremlins of Guzzleweenie. To no avail. My sword of vomiting and my cloak of mystical absorptive power served me not at all.

    I fondly recall my cohort, “Goat Man of Swick”, a satyr with a penchant for baudy wenches and stout drink. Often one worked against the other, sadly. It was in the Halls of Grobnire that Goat Man of Swick met his end, and the bards still to this day sing of it. However owing to FCC regulations in these dark modern days, even the fully descriptive parts must be “bleeped”.

    But Goat Man of Swick was, as many hoofed beasts of his ilk, always trying to eat garbage when no one was looking. I don’t mean bad food, but rather literally garbage. On one foray into the Mines of Lutharr I caught him collecting beer cans and eating them as silently as he could in the night. Believe me it was hardly as silent as he fancied.

    It was probably his penchant for dancing while playing the pan flute that ultimately cost him his life. People can only put up with that for a couple of days.

  18. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    Lord FinkleWinkle? Was his alias Roger the Bard? Is he any relation to Silch Ungwar? Kane Maddog? Asagi the Slasher? Snicker-Snee Scratch Mangler? Render Ferret? Yataghan Ironhand? Or was he, as I suspect, the illegitinate son of Non Descript, Innowner?

  19. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    The timbers were old and thick and heavy with the moisture that made the cool air difficult to breathe.
    The iron hinges were showing rust, but it looked as if the door could be pushed open wide enough to squeeze through without too much effort.
    Putting his left shoulder against the wood, he pushed forward, surprised he had was required to drive with his legs to move the portal.
    The chamber beyond was, as he had been told, circular, but not perfectly so, as if the contractors had run out of money before completing the space. A quick glance in the lantern light showed the area to be no more than 20 feet in diamater, with a flat roof some dozen feet overhead.
    A small wooden table, some three feet squard, stood in the middle of the room, a wooden three-legged stool stood nearby. On the table, somehow standing upright, was a rectangular piece of glass, maybe 21 inches across if measured diagonally, held in place by a thin brass bracket.
    Curious, he approached, and in the soft amber light of the lantern could make out thin, lettering, bright green in color, etched into the glass.
    Peering closer, he was surprised to discover that he could read the words

    “fredericsdurbin.wordpress.com temporarily inactive”
    “see: absent host; lazy visitors”

    • Daylily Says:

      Perhaps, in the absence of our host, we should have a movie title contest. Prizes to be determined later. “Absent Host, Lazy Visitors” really sounds as if it would be lacking in action and human interest. Rather along the lines of “Crouching Wash, Hidden Error,” which no one has bothered to make into a movie yet, with good reason. No, I’m sure we can do better than these. 🙂

  20. Marquee Movies Says:

    I’d respond to that cleverly written posting, Brown Snowflake, but I’m too lazy.

    • Daylily Says:

      Aha! I’ll bet Marquee Movies has a list of DOZENS of titles he’d like to see become movies. How about sharing a few of them?

  21. fsdthreshold Says:

    I will make a superhuman effort to post another entry before this week is out!
    Over here, we’re officially having “cold days in June,” so that expression no longer carries any weight as meaning something rare. Last night, June 1, I was huddled next to my kerosene stove. Never thought I’d see the day I’d be doing that. I’m extremely envious of the 90-plus-degree temperatures some of you are reporting. Why do those days never happen where I am in the world, whether I’m here or in the States?! Why does a cold wave follow me around? I’m going to start disguising myself. . . .

    • Daylily Says:

      Oh, so you’re like Joe Btfsplk, who had his own personal little rain cloud! I’m sure that some of us would be glad for you to visit us, bringing your own cold wave with you. We in New England have already had some scorching hot days. But we’ll settle for another blog entry. (I’m afraid that “Huddling Host, Hidden Cold Wave” is another movie destined never to be made.)

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Joe Btfsplk?! Is that actually a reference to Pogo?! If so, Bravo! (I referred to it, too, with my line in the posting “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”)

        Have I ever mentioned on the blog my colleague at the university, a Japanese professor who actually talks like Joe’s last name? He’s very personable: he’ll grin, wave, and say, “Mxplsch thbbh aghchnsxzblnn gmmfh!” If you say “Hello!” he’ll reply with “Abnng gkzplh mw!” This can go on for awhile. I really and truly wonder how his students manage. . . .

      • Daylily Says:

        Interesting. I, too, thought that Joe Btfsplk was a character in “Pogo.” But when I googled Joe to find out how to correctly spell his last name (!!!), I found out that he was actually a character in “Li’l Abner.” As for Pogo, I have treasure on my bookshelf: six Pogo books dating from the 50’s, inherited from my dear aunt. Here are two possible movie titles from _The Pogo Stepmother Goose_: “Robin, the Red Breasted Hood” and “The Town on the Edge of the End.”

  22. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    Dearest Daylily: “lacking in action and human interest” was my point …

    How about “Dennis Moore, Silly B***h?” ha ha. (lupins, anyone?)

    Poor Fred, he is on the wrong side of the world and the wrong side of which temperatures to enjoy. I curse any day in the 90s and any in the 80s with high humidity.

    Memorial Day was perfect here: 83, no humidity, not a single cloud and a soft 10 mph north breeze (always welcome, the north wind is, even when he sneaks into the Iowa winter as a stormbringing, wind chill inducing ‘Alberta Clipper’).

    As for Marquee, I thought it would be Chris who would be quick to jump on the ‘lazy visitors’ bit, but thanks for chiming in. You know me … when it gets a little staid I like to kick the mule.

    • Daylily Says:

      Dear Brown Snowflake: Your story line was engaging and your point was perfectly clear. Perhaps my sense of humor was not. The last line of your story could, with some different punctuation, be taken as a movie recommendation.

  23. Marquee Movies Says:

    Brown Snowflake, it’s cruel to kick mules. I wish you were too lazy to do so. (And Daylily, I’ll come up with a list soon!)

  24. Marquee Movies Says:

    OK, here’s one – I’ve always wanted to release a movie titled, “Closed for Remodeling.” Imagine that on marquees all over the country…..

  25. I am clearly in the minority Says:

    Awesome Marquee. And Daylily, you have a great imagination, as you have shown on this blog many times. I bet you can come up soem great titles.

    Closed for Remodeling…the more I think of it the funnier it is. Can you just see the people standing, like confused sheep, (pardon the expression) under the marquee?

    Reminds me of the story of the first McDonalds to open in Moscow. This was just off Red Square, in 1985 or 86, I believe. Anyway, they had a ‘practice’ day for the crew one day before opening and 10,000 (10,000!) people showed up just to see what it would be like. ANYWAY, the counter had 16 registers, but when the doors opened on either side of the store, the people rushed in and immediately qued up behind the nearest register, despite the pleadings of the cashiers and managers that, yes, you could step to another line and be first. It took 15 minutes to convince anyone to do it, and then they had to keep repeating the process every few minutes. Guess the sheep needed pratice, too.

    Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the land/he steals from the poor and gives to the rich/stupid b***h (gotta love Monty Python!) :-)=

    • Daylily Says:

      Thanks for the compliment and the vote of confidence! But I think that this heat wave has fried my brain; I’m not coming up with much in the way of movie titles.

  26. fsdthreshold Says:

    I can see how that process with the queues at 16 cash registers might take some education in Japan, too — it would be a battle against the thought that, “If no one else is standing in line there, it must not be allowed, or else something is wrong with that cash register.” Not really — people here would “get” it pretty quickly — but both of those thoughts would flash through everyone’s mind first.

    So, the new film Closed for Remodeling opens in theaters across the country, and after a modest opening weekend, the Bureau of Statistics investigates just who went to see it. It is discovered that the audience consisted almost entirely of burglars — who were flummoxed to discover the theaters fully staffed. . . .

    • Chris Says:

      In America the queues at cash registers never really becomes a problem precisely because, in my 4X years of life here in the States I’ve almost NEVER seen an American willingly wait in line _even when no other obvious option was available_. It is usually a second or two before most Americans will demand special treatment and a new register opened for them.

      Also: I heard “Closed for Remodeling” did well enough that they are making a sequel directed by Quentin Tarantino just to up the violence and body-count. Right after he finishes directing “The Hobbit”. (I’m looking forward to Bilbo overdosing on heroine and having to be revived by Smaug only to be brutalized by Gollum in a fetish-spandex outfit. But that, of course, is because I love cinema.)

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