Sunday, April 15, 2012

Who's Who: Louis XI of France

Of the many books in Prospero's library one is full of "the wizard's florid script; on some pages were pentacles, pentagrams, and doodles, these latter being usually pictures of bearded patriarchs, pharaohs, and King Louis XI of France, who, as far as Prospero was concerned look like this: [see top right] [The Face in the Frost; 5].

Like Prospero, Bellairs, too, was a witty doodler. "John had a real talent for cartooning and, had he so chosen, I think he could have made something out of it by attending art school," recalls friend Alfred Myers. "However, such an idea was never even remotely on his personal radar screen. In all my years of knowing John, I never knew him to do anything so ambitious with his cartooning talent."

Bellairs also doodled bearded patriarchs and pharaohs...and bishops and nuns and more...but his most frequent character was Louis XI (1423-1483), leading credence to why Myers jokingly called Bellairs the "biggest modern-day fan" of the so-called spider king. Bellairs' caricatures decorated letters and cards and often accompanied autographed books.

"John liked to draw him wearing his favorite peaked cloth hat, with medals of various saints forming a ring around the rim (i.e. his badge for Saint Michael and who-knows-who-else). Louis would pray to a given saint for success in one of his endeavors, and if that saint didn't come through for him, Louis would demote his medal to the back of his hat. John also greatly appreciated the fact that Louis kept a cardinal, not of the avian, but of the Prince of the Church variety (i.e. Jean Balue) in a cage in his castle."

The reissued Olmstead Press version of Face - while being small, easy to carry, and a nice clean copy of the text - lacks any sort of illustration by Marilyn Fitschen, including the one seen above of Louis XI. That image is reduced to the following passage:
"....King Louis XI of France who, as far as Prospero was concerned, looked like Cyrano de Bergerac with a lumpy Roman nose." [Face; 9; Olmstead Press, 2000]
Fan Kalev Hantsoo owns the Recorded Books version and notes the same edit is there, "leaving us (gasp) deprived of a few words."

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