Monday, February 27, 2006

The Coloured Lands - Third Sortie

Today we are in for a real treat. The six plates that follow are from a fully-illustrated piece from The Coloured Lands entitled, "The Disadvantage of Having Two Heads: A Story." I say it is fully-illustrated, as it is replete with images and even the text is hand-drawn. I have not scanned the pages of pure text for a number of reasons, but I will provide a transcription (more like a translation, given its scruffiness) of the full text of the story. As always, click on each image for a larger version.

G.K. Chesterton

A little boy once looked over the garden fence and saw four knights with enormous crests riding by. As he is now married to a princess and moves in rather good society, he has desired me not to mention his name: so we will call him Redlegs. Being interested in such things he climbed over the fence and ran after the knights to see where they were going. They came to a very old man, who was sitting on the very sharp point of a rock, balancing himself. The knights, seeing by his sugar-loaf hat and white beard that he was a Magician, asked him where they could find the Princess Japonica (for so the Princess, who is a relative of mine, desires to be described). "The Princess Japonica," replied the Magician, "lives in the Castle beyond the Last Wood in the World, in the place where it is always sunset. She cannot come and visit anyone, and no one can visit her, because there are only two roads to it: and the right hand road is held by a Giant with One Head, and the left hand road is held by a Giant with Two Heads." Then the first knight said with great excitement (he was Bromley Smunk on the mother's side, and you know what they are), "I will soon clear the giant out of the way. But I think I will confine myself to the giant with one head. For I am a humane man and desire to cut off as few heads as possible."

So the first knight set out along the road to the One-Headed Giant. And a little while after the second knight set out & then the third & then the fourth, all the same way. The little boy stopped behind and talked to the Magician about the Fiscal Question. Scarcely had they dismissed this brief topic, then they saw a sad string of people coming along the road from the One-Headed Giant. They were the four knights & and I am sorry to say that they were rather smashed. Then Redlegs said suddenly, "I should very much like to see a Two-Headed Giant. Lend me a sword." Then they all roared with laughter and told him how silly he was to think that he could kill the Two-Headed Giant when they couldn't kill even the One-Headed Giant. But he went off all the same, with his head in the air & he found the Two-Headed Giant on the great hills where it is always sunset. And then he found out a funny thing. The Two-Headed Giant did not rush at him and tear him to pieces as he had expected.

It did certainly scream & shout and bellow and blare and with its two heads together. But the two heads were, as a matter of fact, screaming and shouting & bellowing and blaring in an odd way. They were screaming and shouting and bellowing & blaring at each other. One head said, "You are a Pro-Boer": the other said, with bitter humour, "You're another"; in fact, the argument might have gone on for ever, growing more savage & brilliant every moment, but it was cut short by Redlegs, who took out the great sword he had borrowed from one of the knights & poked it sharpley into the giant & killed him. The huge creature sprawled & writhed for a moment in death & said "You are beneath my notice." Then it died happily.

Redlegs went on along the road that had been guarded by the Two-Headed Giant, until he came to the Castle of the Princess. After a few words of explanation, I need hardly say they were married - and lived happily ever after. The Magician, who gave the bride away, said after the conclusion of the ceremony the following cabalistic and totally unintelligible words: "My son, the Giant who had one head was stronger than the Giant who had two. When you grow up there will come to you other magicians who will say, '[Something in Greek; I don't have the font for it, and don't know what it says anyway]. Examine your soul, wretched kid. Cultivate a sense of the differentiations possible in a single psychology. Have nineteen religions suitable to different moods.' My son, these will be wicked magicians; they will want to turn you into a two-headed giant." Redlegs did not know what this meant and nor do I.


That's that. I'm not sure what we'll get next time, but there's still a great deal to address. We might, for a lark, take a look at the illustrated demonology he constructed at the age of 17.


Nick Milne said...

Okay, so apparently you can't make them bigger by clicking on them, or at least I can't on this computer. Which is a shame, because they're huge when they're full-size.

I'll have to see what I can do about this.

XavMP said...

I've just finished reading it. Excelent ¡¡¡.

Hache said...

The full size images are at:

Nick Milne said...

Thanks very much, Hache. That's good to know!