Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Long Lost Friend

For those in America and serving overseas, have a Happy Fourth of July.


Rather than darken the mood of "King Washington's" victory (see "Vandy, Vandy") with talk of Ugly Birds, Salem witches, and the Frogfather, I instead want to take a look at the folklore in Wellman's writings. Having grown up in Africa and moved to the united States, Manly Wade Wellman drew on a wide variety of folk stories in his fiction, whether from the familiar ward of silver and laughter against evil or that an unburned werewolf would turn into a vampire. He would even create his own monsters and magics in his writing that fit the traditions he wrote about like a glove. The man-eating plant shaped as a house, known as a gardinel, is one such invention, while many of the Indian spirit monsters of the forest may--or may not--have been as well.

What is clear, however, is that the magic and folklore used by Silver John were not among his inventions. Named in that short stories "A Desrick on Yandro" and "Old Devlins Was A-waiting" are two books, The Long Lost Friend and Big Albert, or more commonly known as Albertus Magnus. These actually existed, and serve as a practical manual for Christian magic--or as the pentecostals might now recognize the body of lore among their spiritual warfare books. But while these current manuals rely on confrontation and faith, the classics used a bit more of ritual and charm. In some cases, this is a more modern form of the Christian amulets lining the inside of European museums such as the Rothenburg o. d. Tauber Medieval Crime and Justice Museum.

The website established by Manly Wade Wellman's estate even includes these books as part of their treatment of Wellman's involvement with the Cthulhu Mythos, complete with preferred texts.


For another meaning of long lost friend, here's a story told by Wellman's friend and fellow science fiction writer, David Drake:
After he returned from Columbia in the late ’20s, Manly worked as a crime reporter for the pro-Democrat newspapers in Wichita. The wife of a small-time grifter whom Manly knew (I vaguely think he may have been called Rabbit) took up with the local drug lord. Wichita was on the route that brought cocaine up from Mexico. One day the drug lord was shot to death in bed by a rival gang; they killed the grifter’s wife also. 
They wanted a picture of the girl for the front page (this is 1930, remember), so Manly hared down to Rabbit’s two-room shotgun house. The front door was ajar. He knocked and called; no reply. He stepped into the front room, looked around, and then went into the bedroom. It was empty too, but there was a silver-framed photo of the woman on the dresser. 
Manly stepped to the dresser and grabbed the picture. As he did so, he heard the click of a gun cocking behind him. He turned to see Rabbit in the doorway, ‘looking at me over the sights of a .38 with the hammer roostered back.’ 
“Oh, Rabbit!” Manly cried. “I came as soon as I heard. I’m so sorry!” 
Rabbit lowered the gun, blubbered, “Manly, you know she was no good but I loved her. She was so beautiful!” And threw himself into Manly’s arms, crying. 
They commiserated for some while. At the end of the discussion, Rabbit gave Manly the photo. Manly swore he’d pull strings at the paper to get it printed on the front page so that all Wichita could see how lovely Rabbit’s late wife had been. 
And they did.

 Tomorrow, we'll look at an ugly bird...

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