There’s going to be an eclipse today. Perhaps you’ve heard?
Not only do we live in a time where information is shared with blincding speed, we live in an age in which We Know Things.
We have Wikipedia and the Google machine. What more could we possibly need to Know All?
Such was not the case in King Arthur’s day. No wiki, no Google, no omniscience. Of course, they had Merlin and a Round Table, so they came close.
In the (obviously) non-fiction work of Mark Twain, noted journalist who was the court reporter in K. Arthur’s court, we learn of the impact of a rather notorious eclipse.
Once upon a time (you know how I feel about that phrase), Hank Morgan was minding his own business in 19th century Connecticut when he got a bonk on the noggin and found himself sitting under an oak tree in the middle of nowhere. In this case “nowhere” means not too far from Camelot and in 6th century England.
There he is, head-bonked and lost, when Sir Kay (a convenient knight) happens along and (as these things do) challenges him to a joust. Rather than find himself skewered when Sir Kay rides at him, Hank scuttles up a tree. It seems the better choice at the time. Kay captures Hank and takes him to the castle. During the trip, Hank figures out where he is, when he is, and that he knows a boatload more than even the most educated men of the day. (He doesn’t necessarily know more than the women, but we’re good at keeping secrets.) Julie Andrews swings by to sing about simple joys.
Meanwhile, Hank forgot rule #1 of time travel: Bring an appropriate change of clothing. While he looks fine for the 19th C, he looks like a twit in the 6th C, and since courts taught 6th grade girls how to be nasty, many people make fun of him. He is sentenced to be burned at the stake (a fitting end for marshmallows, but not for people). While he is in jail waiting to be toasted, Hank sends a message to the king that he will blot out the sun if executed.
Y’see, Hank paid attention in history and knew there was about to be an eclipse. How the heck he remembered that particular tidbit is beyond me, but who am I to question the veracity of this well-documented story?
King says “burn”, moon says, “hello, there sailor”, people say, “yikes!”, King says, “Bring back the sun!”, Hank says, “promote me”, and the chorus marches in to sing about the lovely weather.
Merlin is not amused and tries to undermine Hank by out-instagramming him. Hank makes gunpowder and a lightning rod, and wires Merlin’s tower to explode. He then calls a press conference and challenges Merlin to prevent the destruction of the tower. Merlin says these are alt-facts and waves his arms a bunch, but it does no good. Zap! and down goes the tower.
Personally, I think it was a mistake to take on Merlin, but Hank didn’t check with me.
Hank sets up secret schools which he uses to teach modern ideas. He builds secret factories to produce modern weapons and tools.
Then he falls in love with the Demoiselle Alisande a la Carteloise (“Sandy” to you) who convinces him to help her save her “mistress” being held captive by an ogre. The “mistress” and “ogre” turn out to be pigs, and Don Quixote swings by to sing about windmills.
On their way home to Camelot, they learn that a famous fountain has run dry. Merlin has shown up to fix things but proves unskilled in the ways of plumbing. Hank fixes the fountain, says a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and voila! the water runs.
Hank does more impressive stuff (there are a lot of pages in the book that have to be filled up) and kills a bunch of knights with a revolver. Annie Oakley swings buy to sing about getting men with a gun.
Because this is a true and factual account, Twain also reported on the attitude of The Church. Which was “Holy Pissed Off.” So they convinced Hank to take Sandy and their baby (oh, yeah—they got married) out of the country for the baby’s health. While Hank is gone, Arthur starts reading The National Enquirer and learns that Guinevere is having an affair with Lancelot (and that Sir Gawain is and a reality TV star were switched at birth). This leads to messy things like war and death, but since this is factual, we don’t talk about that.
The Church then publishes The Interdict, basically saying that Hank is the devil incarnate. Fighting, disease, electrocution, mayhem, and death ensue. The choir comes out and sings about it being a shame that everyone is dead but at least they can go back to living impoverished lives.
Then everyone denies everything and is fired from their positions.
Because life never really changes all that much.
Enjoy the eclipse.