Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Vandy, Vandy

That valley hadn't any name. Such outside folks as knew about it just said, “Back in yonder,” and folks inside said, “Here.”


John sets out in search for a good song. He runs into the Millen family in an out-of-the-way valley, who are protective of their daughter, Vandy. John asks them about "the Vandy song", one of many he is searching for. After telling John just how many generations the song has been in their family, the Millens sing for him, only to be interrupted by Mr. Loden, who has come to woo young Vandy.

Too neighborly to send both men away, the Millens invite them to eat. At the dinner, John plays a hunch, and as the songs and talk turn toward witchcraft, Salem, and "King" Washington, he scares Mr. Loden with silver. After Mr. Loden leaves, John learns that the "Vandy" song tells of a witch man who, every 100 years, tries to seduce the Millen girl bearing the name Vandy. Two Vandys have resisted his charms, but now a third has his attention. As the night grows dark, John makes his bed by the cottage door and waits.

Late at night, John confronts Mr. Loden as he sneaks in. Mr. Loden paralyzes him with magic from the Long Lost Friend, admitting to being the witch man that has plagued the Millen family. As Mr. Loden conducts a ritual of killing magic, John attempts a counter-charm and manages to fling a silver quarter into a fire. A shade from Mr. Loden's past--and America's--appears to avenge a long-standing wrong...


At first blush, "Vandy, Vandy" holds to the same formula as "O, Ugly Bird!", where John comes across a pretty girl plagued by the attentions of a witch man who sees John as a rival for her hand. The witch man holds the upper hand by his magic, but John prevails through bravery, cleverness, and light magic. What sets "Vandy, Vandy" apart is the use of music as lore and the historical roots of the Mr. Loren's Faustian bargain. These provide an extra anchor of verisimilitude, and with the heightened stakes, I find "Vandy, Vandy" to be the better of the two.

And devotees to Lester Dent's Master Formula should see the familiar bones here, with the confrontations at each quarter of the way through the story, the pacing of the revelations, and the absolutely haunting punchline of Vandy singing the final verse of her song.

Once again, John flees before the young lady can tie him down. One day, he'll find one that will follow him...for Evadare awaits in his future.


I recently started reading a history of story structure that described how the earliest novels that derived from a combination of epic poetry and the personal letter. Then, in Gothic times, the next step of the novel's development occurred:
Writers who took the next step in developing internal structure for the long prose narrative made it a small step: They built their novels around a series of entries in a journal or diary (Robinson Crusoe being a good example). 
Bickham, Jack. Elements of Fiction Writing - Scene & Structure (Kindle Locations 75-76). F+W Media. Kindle Edition. 
And many of the Gothic-inspired occult investigators of Weird Tales followed a form of this device, combining the immediate action of the pulps with personal correspondence for exposition, explanation, and revelation. Wellman would return to this device time and time again, in Weird Tales such as "The Undead Soldier", "Among Those Present", and "The Terrible Parchment". John the Balladeer's predecessors, Judge Pursuivant and John Thunstone, would use these correspondences to solve such mysteries as "The Dreadful Rabbits" and "The Dai Sword"--and link their stories to the works and characters of Seabury Quinn and E. Hoffman Price. With the cursed painting of "The Golgotha Dancers", Wellman starts to shift towards embedding clues in other media, be it print art or music. These tales are puzzles, with the clues obscured by riddle and by the threat of violence. "Vandy, Vandy" follows in this shift, with John having to rely on his own memory and cunning to defeat Mr. Loden, as opposed to sending away for another's wisdom. And, like "The Golgotha Dancers," the final confrontation was a near run thing, with a chance effort at the end saving him.

Despite being the embodiment of Campbell's new fantasy, Wellman maintained--and grows--the connection to fantasy's Gothic roots that Campbell sought to eliminate.


Manly Wade Wellman was a musician as well. And while he often used existing songs such as the "Dry Bones" song in ""Can These Bones Live?", some of his original songs crossed over into his fiction. "Vandy, Vandy" is named for one of his original tunes, the lyrics of which help John save Vandy and her family from their curse. Versions of this tune have been recorded occasionally over the years, with few adhering to Wellman's original melody.

This isn't Manly Wade Wellman's preferred version of his "Vandy, Vandy" song--to claim otherwise would be to risk his wrath on the other side--but it is the cleanest recording I've been able to find.


  1. Linky no workee. This is the best I could find (or at least the one most like I'd expect John to sing it):

    1. Definitely more of how I expect John to pick it, at least.