Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Lying Letter Home

The letter of Prester John, written back in the day, is an early medieval example of the ‘lying letter home.’

Dear Mum, wrote Prester John:

Our land is the home of elephants, crocodiles…white and red lions, white bears, crickets, griffins (spoofing right from the start…), tigers, lamias and wild men -- men with horns (heh heh), one-eyed men (anyone for tennis?), men with eyes before and behind (he is probably referring to maths teachers here), centaurs, fauns, satyrs, pygmies… giants, cyclopses, and similar women ( whatever they are).

Our land streams with honey and is overflowing with milk (historians believe PJ was living beside the Glanbia dairy on the Dublin road in Drogheda). In one region grows no poisonous herd, nor does a querulous frog ever quack in it; (the placid nature of the frogs in this region does much to recommend it ).

At the foot of Mount Olympus bubbles up a spring which changes its flavor hour by hour, night and day, (unfortunately, John noted elsewhere that he visited at a time when the waters tasted like Placenta-Pro, a Japanese soft drink made from 100% horse placenta). If anyone has tasted thrice of the fountain, from that day he will feel no fatigue, but will, as long as he lives (which was expected to be anywhere from an hour to 12 weeks if the griffins and pygmies didn’t get you), be as a man of thirty years.

In one of our lands… are worms called salamanders, which can only live in fire. They build cocoons like silk-worms which are unwound by the ladies of our palace and spun into cloth and dresses. These dresses, in order to be cleaned and washed, are cast into flames .. .(I have tried this method with a pair of Hilbo’s Penny’s pyjamas and the resultant flames were hot enough to crack the fire grate. Never again.)

John’s letter gave untold numbers the excuse they needed to escape their nagging wives and foray east and south into the wilderness. Funny enough, none of them ever found the mystical and legendary kingdom.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Petey,
    I have found a beautiful eden where pyjamas grow on trees and fluffy pillows abound and no rolled up socks can be found in any corner of the land...indeed.