Kids Stuff > Literature
Valiant Days, Valiant Knights
Remember being a kid? Most of the adults have apparently forgotten, as if they live in a different world now. Funny I started thinking of those things again shortly after my son was born. Can happen to anybody, but just happened to me...
The copy and the original: Visiting Disneyland in Los Angeles and a spectacular view from Mary's Bridge in the Swan-Gau area in Southern Bavaria. Can you see the castle?
Swan Not Swine. "Schloss Neuschwanstein" or "NewSwanStone Castle" is not only the unfinished palace of Bavarian King Louis II, it also inspired the referring palaces in Disney-film and -land in California. The Bavarian archetype of the Cinderella Castle is most famous, even if occasionally mispronounced "NeuSwineStein" in Russia, as we learned. Financing the extraordinary architecture, King Louis surely ran out of money for equally pompous interior and so plain brass had to do for the swan shaped door knobs instead of expensive gold. They say he got mad in his last days, maybe he was bitten by something. At least that had been our conclusion after discussing the theoretical danger of tick-borne encephalitis and FSME-vaccination.
Jungle Lord in Diapers. Thinking of castles usually leads to thinking of knights. I would remember how I got a wooden sword and shield as a child from my grandfather. Using crayons, on special request they had drawn the head of a red stallion, sign of Prince Valiant, on my round, shiny shield. Unfortunately, it was too heavy and soon the holding strap made from an old belt came off. But back to the future: After watching Disney's Tarzan on video my boy would refuse to dress and spend half a day in diapers only, in order to better imitate the Jungle Lord outfit. (Long before he would read "Captain Underpants" books on his own.) And then everyone in the friendly neighbourhood got aware of a revival of costumed heroes hitting the box office at the beginning of the new millennium. Those were also my heroes. Although many things seen then with those big eyes of a kid might look campy nowadays, I would also like to dedicate this page to them as "heroes from my youth" and tell a short story about them...
History Lesson. Val is not only a short form of the name Valerie, but also the nick name of adventure hero Prince Valiant, in German called "Prinz Eisenherz," which translates back to "Prince Iron Heart." The American Sunday paper strip could be regarded as exemplary both from the perspective of Hal Foster's graphical realization and storytelling. The plot cleverly incorporated the classic legends of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, Saint Patrick of Ireland, the Eternal Quest for the Holy Grail and the Fall of the Roman Empire in 410 AD (as well as the unconquerable fortresses Andelkrag). As a matter of fact, the medieval epos stands for general education in easily readable and quite entertaining format.
Bachelor Hero No More. In the first years the ambitious knave was guided by the prophecies of the witch Horrit that he would never know happiness and contentment. The loss of his early love Ilene finds a late parallel in the death of Gwen Stacy, a tragedy that would turn the metier upside down by showing that the story telling was "serious" and the good side wouldn't always win in the end. Early versions of Valiant Sundays (newspaper strips, not ice cream) used Vikings and dragons that can be already found in Foster's Tarzan strip. After the marriage to Aleta a certain charm got lost with the liberation of other young maidens in need. But also the Phantom would marry his Diana Palmer just as Spider-Man got his Mary Jane and Superman his Lois Lane. Consequently, Valiant would include ambiguous allusions to the hard lot in the life of a spouse. More and more his children shifted to the center of the story, in order to build up a new identification point for the young reader.
At King Arthur's Court. A weekly supplement to US newspapers since 1937, the Saga of the Singing Sword is the story of a Viking, who is driven from the mythical Scandinavian kingdom of Thule to the surreal Fenland, a swampy area on the British East Coast. In medieval Britain he joins the court of the legendary King Arthur in Camelot, the City of Marvel, and gets ready to go out into the big, wide world. Placed in the fifth century A.D., the adventure story incorporates numerous historic events and therefore can be regarded as a piece of public education. Hal Foster would draw his fascinating tale of knighthood, adventures and travel from 1937 to 1971. Then he passed the pen on to John Cullen Murphy, who was followed by Gary Gianni in 2004.
German Edition. "Prinz Waldemar (Prince Valdemar)" was the title of Valiant's first German translation, which was issued as early as 1939 in Vienna in a Kids' newspaper ("Kinderzeitung") called "Der Papagei (The Parrot)." Starting with 1950 the serial appeared in southern German magazines under the steady title "Prinz Eisenherz (Prince Iron Heart)." In 1970 the Viennese publishing house Pollischansky issued the first comprehensive edition of the knight's complete works (and of Alex Raymond's Flash Gorden), followed in 1987 by Carlsen giving it a fresh new start. On top of that, books for young people would reprint a novelization by Max Trell from the 1950's. And the Prince also went to the movies...
Movie MIx-Up. In the German-English-Irish co-production "Prince Valiant (Prinz Eisenherz, 1997)" Stephen Moyer played the young, impetuous prince. Together with Katherine Heigl as Princess Ilene of Branwyn he held his own against the evil sorceress Morgan Le Fey and the Viking Warrior Thagnar. The film made his family history a mystery to be resolved. Similar to the earlier Hollywood movie of 1954, which had starred Richard Wagner as the young prince next to Janet Leigh as Princess Aleta and James Mason as the perfidious Sir Brack. It was directed by Henry Hathaway, who had overseen "Niagara" with a seductive Marilyn Monroe and worked with John Wayne on such classics as "The Legend of the Lost," where he revealed his and every man's weakness with the line: "Can happen to any man, good or bad. A woman throws a harpoon into you, and you go where she pulls." A quote that says it all, also about Val.
Manly Mission. Ultimately, Prince Valiant is the tale of a bold man with a mission, who doesn't despair in the most hopeless situation, who has got something inside that keeps him going, travelling, fighting. And about searching for and finding a second chance, a parable told in the quest for Aleta, his later wife, who at first occurs to him like a dream to a half dead castaway landing on the Misty Isles. A face that he can never forget, which he tries to rediscover and never let go again.
Go to next page: Luke.
Val travels the New World up to Niagara Falls with certain family members joining him.
The Viennese Publishing House Pollischansky, located at the corner Dreyhousestreet / Ant Lane, was well known in the 1970's and early 1980's for issuing the first complete album edition of Prince Valiant as well as Flash Gordon and the Batman-parody Flutterman.