Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympics, Fiddles, and Flying Canoes

I finsihed up our swim season and was exhausted.  My wife wanted to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and I did too (although I much rather watch the sports than the ceremony), but I was so tired I kept drifting off. 

One part I did catch (sort of) was a flying canoe with a man playing a fiddle in a duel against his shadow which for some reason was on the moon (if I had stayed awake, I'm sure I would know why).  I thought I'd check it out to see if there is any mythology involved here. 

What I found was more under the folk tale section, but since folk tales are close cousin to mythology, I feel like we can cover it here.

Apparently there is a French legend that seems to be the inspiration for this story of man punished for skipping church to go hunting.  His punishment is to be stuck in a flying canoe being chased by wolves and horses, which I can only assume are flying also.  It seems that loggers in Canada modified this story over time to the following:
Dec. 31, 1822, Gatineau River in Canada - After a harsh start to winter, the boss logger hands out rum.  One guy, Joe, drinks too much and falls asleep.  Another logger, Baptiste Durand, wakes him up and wants him to go with him on a 300 mile trip to see his sweety-pie.  Baptiste tells him not to worry since they'll be back in time for work the next morning.  His secret?  Baptiste is going to fly in their canoe.

Joe, being a smart guy and all, figures out that Baptiste is going to a deal with the devil.  Baptiste tells him to follow these rules - do not mention the Lord's name and do not touch any crosses on church steeples that they may pass.  They get eight other men to go with them and Baptiste makes them promise not to drink any more rum, since dealing with the devil is tricky enough without being intoxicated.

Just as they get ready, the devil himself appears and carries their canoe over the tree tops and villages.  Before they knew it, they were at Baptiste's family's house, which is in full swing for the New Year's party.  Not being a smart group of partiers, no one wonders how the loggers arrived at the party.

A few hours later, the crew is ready to set off again, but there is a problem.  Baptiste broke his rule and has gotten drunk.  Since he is the one who must steer the canoe, things are not looking so good and in one of the first instances of drinking and driving, they take off, a bit unstablely, in the canoe.

He almost runs them into a church steeple and a snow bank.  The men grab him, bind him up and get Joe to steer.  Every one of them are terrified that they are going to lose their soul to the devil (an occurance that typically happens when deals are made with the chap).

Just like any drunk driver, Baptiste feels he is O.K. to handle it and breaks the ropes and starts swearing and taking the Lord's name in vain.  The men freak out and Joe, highly distracted, crashes into a tree. They all fall to the ground and pass out. 

The next morning, they were all found, no worse for wear, by the other loggers, who just assume that they had too much to drink and all wandered off during the night.  The men, still freaked out, decide not to correct them for fear of the devil appearing when they mention his role.
Not exactly the fiddler and the moon story, but when I search for flying canoe, this one is the one that pops up in the search engines.  I bet that there is at least a connection between the one chosen by the Olympics and this one.
Have fun watching the Olympics - GO USA!
(thanks to, my source for the story)

No comments: