The Legendary French Drummer Boy Joseph Bara

Jean-Joseph Weerts “Portrait de Joseph Bara.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The legendary French drummer boy Joseph Bara was raised to the status of hero in the 1790s. His story begins with his birth on 30 July 1779 to a woodranger and a domestic servant, both of whom worked at the Palaiseau estate of the Condés. Unfortunately, while Bara was still a youth, his father died, and, so, when the French politician Lazare Carnot appealed for men and created the conscription called levée en masse to raise any army, Bara’s mother enrolled him as a volunteer in the army at the tender age of twelve. He was then attached to a unit that fought counter revolutionaries in Vendée, and, it was during this time that he was killed. A General J.B. Desmarres gave a written account of his death to the Convention that stated:

“Yesterday this courageous youth, surrounded by brigands, chose to perish rather than give them the two horses he was leading.”[1] Continue reading

Empress Éugenie’s Magical Ring

Empress Éugenie's magical ring
The Empress Éugenie in the early 1850s. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The wife of Napoleon III, Empress Éugenie, who was described as stunning in appearance, was noted to have many fine pieces of jewelry, but she was also reported to be extremely superstitious. For instance, one literary magazine noted that she possessed “unbound faith” in an amulet she wore and that she forced the Emperor to wear “a little flannel bag filled with camphor suspended round his neck”[1] to prevent him from “catching diseases,” such as cholera. There were also reports that she visited fortune tellers and that once when going incognito to a palm reader, she was told:

“Madame, your hand is so extraordinary that one of two things must be the truth; either my skill must be at fault for once, and I see impossible events, or you must be the Empress Eugenie, for no other hand could tell of such strange vicissitudes.”[2]

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Christmas Tree Folktales and Legends

Christmas Tree. Free from Clipart Panda.

Many countries have claimed that the Christmas tree originated in their country. Among those are France, the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), and Germany. Accompanying these claims are many legends, and the first of these legends related to the Christmas tree has its roots in the thirteenth century. It comes from a romantic folktale told in France.

“[T]he hero finds a gigantic tree whose branches are covered with burning candles, some standing erect, the others upside down, and on the top the vision of a child, with a halo around his curly head. The knight asked the Pope for an explanation, who declared that the tree undoubtedly represented mankind, the child the Saviour, and the candles, good and bad human beings.”[1]

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French Folklore and Charles Perrault’s Tale of Bluebeard

Charles Perrault. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Charles Perrault was a seventeenth century French author and member of the Académie Française, and French folklore became synonymous with him because he was the person who laid the foundation for a new form of literary genre known as the fairy tale. Among the many fairy tales that he wrote was one called Barbe Bleue or Bluebeard. It was first published in 1697 and was intriguing enough to permeate literature of the eighteen and nineteenth centuries even though the story was written in the seventeenth century. 

Bluebeard was the story of a wealthy, violent, and ugly nobleman named Bluebeard because of his indigo blue colored beard. Bluebeard had married several times only to have his wives mysteriously vanish and his story began with him having once again “lost” a wife. Wishing to find a new wife, Bluebeard visited a neighbor who had three lovely daughters. Unfortunately, for Bluebeard the daughters were fearful of him because of his odd colored beard, and none of them wanted to become his wife. To convince the daughters that they have nothing to fear, Bluebeard hosted a sumptuous feast and regaled the daughters with charming stories and plied them with dainty treats. The daughters began to think that perhaps Bluebeard was not so bad, and, so, when he selected the youngest daughter to take as his bride, she willing went to live with him in his three-story castle in the countryside. Continue reading

Heavenly Visitors and the Credulous in the 1700s

Heavenly Visitors in the 1700s: Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna
Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna, 1482. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The belief in heavenly visitors in the 1700s resulted in one credulous 62-year-old woman coming face-to-face with Saint Paul and the angel Gabriel. It all began because the widow had an incredible devotion to the gospel and such unshakeable faith in Saint Paul that she would spend several hours each day at an altar dedicated to Saint Paul. Because she came so frequently and so regularly, two villains observed her, and as they knew she was rich, they decided to take advantage of her believing and gullible nature.

One day, about the time of her devotions, one of the villains hid behind the altar. When the widow arrived and when she was not looking, he threw a letter out that she assumed had dropped from Heaven as it was signed, “Paul, the apostle.”

In the letter the widow was praised for her devotion and for the many prayers she offered up to the saintly apostle. Moreover, she was told that because of her remarkable faith and devotion, the apostle and the angel Gabriel would come from Heaven and sup with her that very evening at 8pm. Continue reading