Previously Balladeer’s Blog has examined Garrison Tales From Tonquin (Tonkin), the 1895 collection of short stories by James O’Neill, an American who served in the French Foreign Legion in Algeria and Vietnam during the 1880s and 1890s. I’ve also covered the Legion at Camerone and during the Great Syrian Revolt of the 1920s.
SECOND MADAGASCAR AFFAIR – This time around I’ll take a look at the French Foreign Legion during the 2nd Madagascar Conflict/ Expedition. The fighting went on from December 11th of 1894 to September 30th of 1895. This entire affair was so mishandled by French politicians in Reunion, by the War Minister and by General Jacques Duchesne that they basically killed thousands more of their own troops than were killed by the opposing forces.
TAKING IT FROM THE TOP – Typically for my French Foreign Legion posts, I’m not on their side in the war that the French government sent them to fight. It was the usual colonial nonsense, in this case exploiting unrest in the targeted country to use as an excuse for intervening and making Madagascar a French Protectorate. Regular readers know I don’t write sentiments like that to please politically correct fools, it’s just how I sincerely feel. If I felt any other way I wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
DECEMBER 1894 – On December 11th France declared war on Madagascar after its rulers refused to willingly become a French Protectorate. Though the French Army would be running this military campaign, the French Navy and their Marines kicked off the action by bombarding and then seizing Toamasina/ Tamatave on the eastern coast of Madagascar.
Though that location would have been ideal for a fairly quick march on the capital city of Tananarive/ Antananarivo, the French Army had beat out the French Navy for control of this war by UNDERCUTTING THEIR BID. (!) To stay within the lower costs the War Ministry had allocated, the army’s General Duchesne instead insisted on starting their campaign at Majunga/ Mahajanga on the northwestern coast of Madagascar, nearly doubling the amount of territory to be fought through.
JANUARY 1895 – In a relative feeling of “Team Spirit” the French Navy cooperated by now taking the area designated by the army for their landing site. On January 15th Majunga/ Mahajanga was bombarded and seized, fortress and all. Soon, however, the cosmic unsuitability of this location became apparent. Continue reading
A reader asked me if there is a Malagasy (Madagascar) solar deity. Since others may wonder the same thing I’m posting my reply here in an FAQ spirit.
Answer: None of my books on gods from Madagascar have a specialized solar deity, oddly enough. Here are four variations: 1) The Bara people of Madagascar have myths about how “The Sun Father” or just “Mister Sun” marries “The Earth Mother.” The Sun Father decides their children (human beings) should live with their mother on Earth because “their heads would catch fire” if they lived with him on the Sun. Continue reading
For Balladeer’s Blog’s Number One Harry Flashman Novel click HERE
For background info on George MacDonald Fraser’s infamous anti-hero Harry Paget Flashman you can also click the above link.
3. FLASHMAN’S LADY (1977)
Time Period: 1842-1845
The Flashman Papers jump around to various periods in Ol’ Flash Harry’s life. This particular novel covers our scurvy protagonist’s bed and battle adventures following his triumphant return from the First Afghan War all the way up to his pivotal role in a neglected Anglo-French action.
Along the way he clashes with London gangsters, battles Borneo Pirates and becomes a sex-slave/ military aide to an infamous African Queen.
Favorite Book Blurb: “Harry Flashman, that swashbuckling gremlin in the works of 19th Century history, is back in an around-the- world adventure that would turn Queen Victoria pale with shock and James Bond green with envy!”
NOTE: This novel is called Flashman’s Lady not just because of his beautiful blonde wife Elspeth’s larger than usual role but because excerpts from her diary complement Flashman’s memoirs in this tale. As all Flashman fans know, Elspeth cheats on Harry just as much as he cheats on her but his ego inevitably prompts him to half-believe the outrageous excuses she uses to cover her affairs. She outdoes herself in this story.
Synopsis: As the story begins Harry Flashman is still enjoying War Hero status and converting that fame into easier access to the bedrooms of various ladies. Presently the scoundrel finds himself pressed into playing on a Cricket team with some of his former classmates from Rugby School in Warwickshire.
Everyone tactfully avoids mentioning Flashman’s expulsion for drunken misconduct years earlier and he agrees. Always as physically strong as he is morally weak, Harry shines as his team’s Bowler (Pitcher for us Yanks) and leads them to victory.
That kicks off a successful run for Flashman playing Bowler in a series of those quasi-official, no-American-who-has-ever-lived-can-understand Cricket matches like you find in Raffles stories. Harry being Harry he also begins making side money shaving points and throwing games in league with some London gangsters. Continue reading
Previously Balladeer’s Blog examined the gods and goddesses of the Merina people of Madagascar. This time around I’ll move on to the Betsimisaraka people, the second most populous group in that island nation.
Instead of my usual list of entries on each individual deity in a pantheon this time around I will experiment with taking the myths in order, from creation onward. Let me know if you prefer that I go back to the usual method of individual entries.
I. CREATION – Zanahary, the sky god and supreme deity of the Betsimisaraka, wanted companionship in his heavenly realm, so he created his son Razanajanahary. The two got along famously but after a time the son lost his sense of contentment and wanted to explore lower realms.
The father encouraged Razanajanahary to indulge his wanderlust. When the son tried, he found that there was no place for him to stand in the realm far below. He told Zanahary about this situation, and the father resolved to take action. Continue reading
FOR MY MAIN LIST OF GODS FROM MADAGASCAR CLICK HERE
MAHAKA & KOTOFETSY – Trickster deities to the Merina people of Madagascar. Mahaka and Kotofetsy are depicted like Coyote is depicted in Native American myths. In some tales their deceptive nature is applauded and in others condemned.
On occasion Merina people who prided themselves on their own wit and trickery would try to outdo Mahaka and Kotofetsy. In one myth the pair transform themselves into old men to put their adversary at ease, only to trick him out of everything he owns, right down to his clothing. The defeated man runs home naked, pursued by a jeering mob.
Other myths involving the pair:
Mahaka and Kotofetsy frame a would-be antagonist for sorcery, causing him to be beaten with sticks by his neighbors, who think he has desecrated their loved one’s tomb. Continue reading
RATOVOANA – This demi-god was the son of a deity and a Vazimba, Madagascar’s version of elves or Menehune. Ratovoana was born through the procedure known in the west as a Caesarean Section instead of the usual birth through the vaginal pathway. Such births were regarded with a certain supersitious awe in the ancient world and the children thus born were considered to be destined for great things.
In the myths of the Merina and other people of Madagascar such births were viewed as meaning that the figure thus born was “self-created” or “self-delivered”. These “self-created” beings are genuine rebels who often defy the supreme deity and therefore occupy a special place in the pantheons of Madagascar and I’ll deal with other such figures in the future. This entry will be limited to Ratovoana. Continue reading
RAPETO – This gigantic deity falls into the global mythological category of “Divine Geographers” for his role in crafting and creating many landmarks throughout Madagascar. This makes him similar to Khong Lo in Vietnamese myths, Inugpasug in Inuit myths, Halmang in Korean myths and Moshiri in Ainu myths. A number of stories about the enormous Rapeto explain the origin of various geographical features throughout the land. His name was used to classify the Rapetosaurus, a dinosaur that used to inhabit Madagascar. Continue reading
RAFARA – The Merina goddess of motherly love and devotion. She had been forced into a marriage to an ogre and had borne him a daughter named Indesoka. One day Indesoka’s playmates, who were pure-blooded ogres instead of a hybrid like she was, tricked her into breaking her evil father’s silver jug.
Indesoka used her powers as a demi-goddess to cause a cave to appear in the side of a stone mountain and hid within that cave, sealing the entrance behind her so that the stone seemed smooth and undisturbed. Rafara’s powers are greater and she is able to find Indesoka. Continue reading
ANDRIANAMPOINIMERINA – Here is a non-crow related myth about this demigod from Madagascar.
Long ago the farmers in Andrianampoinimerina’s kingdom came to their ruler for help with their problem. They had a huge surplus of crops because there simply weren’t enough citizens nearby to buy them. Andrianampoinimerina had a solution. Continue reading
ANDRIANAMPOINIMERINA – A past King of the Merina people and the Demi-God who ruled over the birds called crows. From the time Andrianampoinimerina was a small child crows were his special protectors and always kept a watchful eye on him.
Once when a wild boar attacked the youngster the crows guarding him rapidly beat their wings in the eyes of the boar and pecked at it, ultimately driving it off. Continue reading