Sunday, November 30, 2014

Achilles on the Plains

Like Achilles, Roman Nose had stayed out of the morning battle, and like Achilles, his absence had been keenly felt by his warriors. The day before he had destroyed the charm of his sacred war bonnet. One of the taboos connected with it was that he must not eat food taken from the pot with an iron implement. At a feast given by the Sioux, Roman Nose ate meat served by a squaw with an iron fork. Tall Bull, his friend, called his attention to the error and urged him to take purification ceremonies at once. But that very night Forsyth's command was discovered and Roman Nose had no time for the ceremonies before the battle.

He stayed out of the first charge, saying he would die if he made it. But he was such a power that the other Cheyennes kept urging him. In mid-afternoon he suddenly decided to go into the fight. Putting on the war bonnet, he mounted. With a wave of his great arm, the giant summoned his warriors. A moment later they were charging. 

Forsyth's men fought this new danger desperately. At the dead run, Roman Nose thundered down upon them. Just before he reached the trenches, a shot from some bushes to one side, brought him crashing down. Jack Stilwell and two companions were hiding there. Roman Nose's followers scattered.

The place where Roman Nose fell was on the river bank. Painfully he dragged himself out of sight among the bushes. There was he found by his people and carried away. He died in the Cheyenne village that night.
- Paul Iselin Wellman, Death on the Prairie: The Thirty Years' Struggle for the Western Plains (1934) 

I read this account of the death of the great Cheyenne warrior Roman Nose more than 10 years ago, when I was a student at UCL. It stayed with me, although I could not remember the details of names and dates, so I was pleased to finally be able to locate the passage again on the internet.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"But I Love...I Love All...All People..."

On 13 November 1989, six days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Erich Mielke addressed the parliament of the German Democratic Republic in his role as Minister of State Security. When one member of the parliament objected to his use of the term "comrades" to address them, he replied "But I love...I love all...all people...".  The room could only laugh.

I know about Mielke, and about the above clip, because of Philip Kerr's novel Field Grey (2010).