Monday, June 27, 2011

The Shallows: Ch. 2 Part A

The Vital Paths

In chapter 1, Carr gave his personal experience. In this chapter, he reaches into history to show how new tools (technologies) changed different individuals. Technology gives us new metaphors for description, new ways of defining time and space. Does it also influence us physiologically?

In 1895, a very young Sigmund Freud hypothesized the existence and purpose of cells in the brain. (Then he needed money, so he went into psychoanalysis. But other scientists eventually discovered the neuron thing.)

All of our thoughts, emotions and memories are turned into electrical impulses in our brains. These are transmitted along paths of neurons, controlled by endings called synapses (what Freud called ‘contact barriers’). There are billions of these neurons, each with many branching dendrites, which in turn have their own synaptic terminals. The synapses control whether an electrical impulse is stimulated or suppressed. (The electrical impulse is the thought, emotion or memory. I’m reminding myself, lol.) All the neurons are connected to one another in what seems to me to be the craziest, most intricate web ever. Scientists still don’t understand how it all works.

But they now know that the adult brain is malleable. Yes. Our adult brains can change like kids’ brains do— not as much, but still quite a bit. This makes me very, very happy. It means you can teach an old dog new tricks. When a child OR adult experiences a sensation or perform a task, a chemical reaction takes place in the neurons. This is communicated across synapses. Certain neurons’ connections become either stronger or weaker. We can strengthen or weaken the connection by repetition of the activity or sensation.

Can you say habit training? Charlotte Mason was really onto something. I wonder if she knew about Freud’s unpublished research? What’s really interesting is that the false idea of the unchangeable adult brain was scientific dogma until the late 20th Century. Carr calls it “neurological nihilism”. Ha. One scientist did experiments proving adult neuroplasticity for thirty years before anyone paid any attention!

There is much more-- think of the implications where using the Internet is concerned. But I am writing short narrations. I will continue this chapter next time.

Grace, and the Ferris Buellers of the World

This morning one of my Twitter people (Tweeps?) pointed out a blog post dealing with family worship, and, thinking it would be about family-integrated worship, I headed over to read it. It is really about family at-home worship, though. I guess I should pay closer attention when I read tweets. I'm glad I read it, though, because the author makes a very good point about legalism in general. In the paragraph entitled, "Family Worship Isn't Required by the Bible", Jerry Owen says:

...I know my point here will be used by [lazy parents] to justify and continue their laziness [in not reading the Bible with their kids]. This is what gracious biblical standards always do, and in response legalists try to curb sin by adding rules.

Actual godly standards always allow freedom to obey, and some people take advantage of that to rationalize ungodly behavior. Then come along other people who get frustrated that their fellows are not toeing the line, and, like the Pharisees of Jesus' time, they add "fences" to the standards.

I resemble that remark. I tend to want to play Big Sister to the Ferris Buellers of the world, if you know what I mean. So, here you go, Katie. You were not placed on the earth to make sure everyone else gets it right. You weren't even placed here to gripe about people who aren't getting it right. You were placed here to glorify God yourself. Period.

2001: A Space Odyssey

On Friday night, we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wanted to see the movie because Nicholas Carr references it in The Shallows.

I had never seen it. The Warrior Poet was surprised. See, you can still learn new things about your spouse after (almost) twenty years.

Interesting how a movie can be simultaneously boring and fascinating. The cinematography was stunningly attractive. The older girls kept saying, "I can't believe they did that without computer generated animation!" and "I can't believe they did that without green screens!"

It was a chilling movie. A rated-G horror movie, which shows the inadequacies of the film ratings system. The girls watched it with us, although I told them they didn't have to. It was sort of like looking out the window of a high-rise admiring the physics of two passenger trains crashing in painful slow motion. Only you don't really understand physics.

At one point, an astronaut is silently flung into space, disconnected from his air supply by Hal, the calmly devious supercomputer. The camera follows his tumbling progress for literally minutes, alternating between it and Dave, the other astronaut, who is also eerily calm as he attempts to bring back the body. Cornflower, age ten, finally looked at me and said, "Mom, is there no BOTTOM to space?" We have studied astronomy and outer space, but I guess the reality never hit her until that moment. What a way to learn it.

2001: A Space Odyssey is supposed to be one of the top ten movies ever made, but it depends on who you ask. As far as family films go, I would put it way down on the list. A friend at church looked at me quizzically when he found out we spent our Friday night watching this (looong, boring) movie. "I like movies like that 'Night at the Museum'. Light, funny things you can enjoy with the kids." Okay. Me, too. :)

As far as art goes, it is amazing. Also frightening. And baffling as well. Around thirty minutes in, Aravis said, "Postmodernist." Yep. I'd be scared too if I thought our own intelligence, space aliens, and the material universe were all we had.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Immersed in Reading

Aravis and I finished How to Read Slowly. Mr. Sire is a kindred spirit.

'How do you find time to read so many books?'

...I have a problem. I read too much. I pay attention to plot, image, character and theme when I should be paying attention to wife, sons and daughters, the peeling house paint and the leaking toilet tank. Actually, I need advice about how to spend time not reading...

Yep. And another great quote:

...all truth is God's truth and therefore there is nothing to fear from learning anything which is true. The major problem is error masquerading as truth.

And a really fabulous quote about the world of the book:

As a child "listener" and later, as a reader, I never asked, Is the story true? Do rabbits really talk? Do dark red houses appear and disappear in various parts of the forest? No, for the time of the story all of us children entered its world, and we stayed there until the last sentence became an echo. The story had made for us a separate reality, and we really "believed" it right up to the final line. Yet, never beyond. When the story was over, we asked Mom for cookies and she reminded us of the chores...

As readers it is our task as well as our delight to enter that world with open eyes, accept it on its own merit, learn its rules and see it function.

This is something we become in danger of losing once we learn literary analysis. But if we are aware of its value, perhaps we needn't lose it.

I reminded Aravis that this copy of How to Read Slowly is borrowed and must be returned. I recommended she put in her commonplace book whatever quotes she wants to keep. She responded that she wanted to keep all of it, and is going to look for her own copy at Half Price Books. I love it when that happens.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scales and Arpeggios - Aristocats

Practice those scales and arpeggios!

"Though at first it seems as if it doesn't show
Like a tree, ability will bloom and grow!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Reading

I've got quite a few books going right now, which makes me feel slightly addlepated. Seriously. My friend Javamom just shakes her head at my manic reading. Anyway, here are my recent reads:

The Student Whisperer (finished), which I narrated onto the blog. This book helped me think about interacting with kids in a mentoring way, which is good. I haven't completed all the exercises in the second half, and I am not sure I will. My favorite part is her journals at the beginning.

When God Goes to Starbucks (finished) and Is God a Moral Monster? (still reading) by Paul Copan. My dad turned me on to Paul Copan this spring. Mr. Copan is something of a 21st Century C.S. Lewis in terms of Christian philosophy. Not as imaginative, though.

When Children Love to Learn (various authors) edited by Elaine Cooper. I am reading this with a group (and narrating it on this blog). Love, love, love this book. I never read it before. Silly me, I thought it would be a little fluffy, but it is as meaty as Charlotte Mason's original volumes. (Well, maybe not quite as meaty, but close.)

Toward a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason (Volume 6). Our book club just finished this on Monday night. The last section of the book, combined with the first couple of chapters in When Children Love to Learn, taught me that I never knew what it meant to respect a person as an image-bearer of God, although I have seen it in action. I can't even write about it yet. A paradigm shift must be in the works.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. I finished reading it, but am going back through in order to process through some of his main points. This one is being narrated onto the blog, too.

I am still reading George W. Bush's Decision Points, but I got bogged down in the chapter on Iraq. I've set it aside for the moment.

Mariel and I are reading Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) and Churchill's Birth of Britain (almost there!) and we finished the second book of The Once and Future King (T.H. White) today. It's hard to resist the checklist mentality in the summer, but we are trying to read the books for the sake of reading, not finishing, if you know what I mean.

Aravis and I are finishing How to Read Slowly by James Sire. We are also reading Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell. We had planned on reading John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, but we haven't even started it and I just don't know...

Cornflower is done with all her school readings. Even though she is ten years old, she climbs into my lap every so often with a picture book. Ah, nostalgia.

We are all reading through Exodus together, too. The Israelites just got in trouble for worshipping the golden calf.

I checked some books out of the library the other day. Most of them sat on the table until I returned them this week. I did read one-- a book on community and the Rule of Benedict. That was a good one, but I can't remember the author. I like the Rule of Benedict as a practical application of loving one another in day-to-day life.

So that's what I am reading. What books have you read lately? Maybe I'll add them to my list...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Narration: The Shallows: Chapter 1

Hal* and Me

In this chapter, Mr. Carr briefly fills us in on his gradual adaptation to digital technology. He actually does start with his birth (1959) and what he calls his “Analogue Youth”. Ha.

Since you really ought to read the book yourself, I’m not going to narrate his history. Instead, here is my own.

I had a partial analog childhood (rotary phone and all) but we got our first home computer in the early 1980s, when I was in junior high. It was a Commodore 64. The only thing I remember about it is “Radar Rat Race”, a simple and silly game similar to Pac-Man.

We used computers in high school. We analyzed our personalities in order to discover which careers would best suit us. We took exams on Scantron test forms that could then be fed into a machine for scoring. (My first class on Proper Bubbling was in high school.) We wrote reports on home computers.

My parents gave me a word processor when I went to college. It was more like a glorified typewriter than a computer. It did have a memory, though.

My second year of college, the administration did something new and different. Instead of requiring us to stand in line all over campus to register for classes, they assigned us each a time to call the registration line. We registered by punching in class codes with our touchtone phones. For the first time, I conducted business in my pajamas.

I married the Warrior Poet in the early 90s. Within four years we had a daughter and a computer. We used the computer like a word processor. Eventually we had another daughter and another computer. This one connected to a new thing called the Internet.

I am not a techie. All this electronic stuff mystifies me. What I remember about our first Internet connection is that the computer was in a windowless room ‘way in the back of the house where none of the babies liked to play. I did not use it very often. I did occasionally order groceries online to be delivered to our home. That was a real blessing for a mom with three small children. :)

In 2004, we moved. We fitted up a schoolroom just off the kitchen and put our computer in this lovely, bright room. I began using the Internet daily. Within a year, I had joined several Yahoo discussion groups and started my own blog.

Eventually we acquired all the rest of it—- laptops, Wi-Fi, smartphones, social networking, etc. And here we sit.

The Internet has enabled us to homeschool on a shoestring. We use the Ambleside Online free curriculum. Many books we read are available online for free. We use free online current events resources. We search for the lowest prices on homeschooling materials. We use the Internet to compare explanations of difficult concepts in math or science. We cross-reference timelines and biographical information. We network and connect with other homeschoolers.

What would we have done without it? I'm sure we would have done something. But what?

We didn't realize the Internet was going to be such a boon when we made the decision to homeschool in 1998. We certainly didn't realize we would come to rely on it.

(How about you? I'd love to hear about your family's journey from analog to digital.)

Mr. Carr says we give up “our old linear thought process” in exchange for the use of the Internet. Our old way of thinking is calmer and more in-depth, but the new way is very stimulating. Some of his friends have even given up reading books!

That has not happened at our house. But we do feel the pull of the Internet even when we are not online. The literary mind has been at the forefront since Gutenberg’s printing press made books common. Is it becoming obsolete?

*The title of the chapter refers to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Narration: The Shallows: Prologue

"The Watchdog and the Thief"

“The medium is the message.” I have heard that many times, but never thought about what it meant until now. We usually debate content when a new medium arises— for instance, did the Internet usher in a “golden age of access” or a “dark age of mediocrity and narcissism”? Each of us has our side in that discussion.

Content does matter, but what we get out of a new technology has more to do with the technology itself than with the content. Media—and the Internet is no exception—tend to affect us at a basic physiological level. Mr. Carr will work with this assertion for the rest of the book.

Book Review: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

Neil Postman warned us about TV’s influence on public discourse in 1985; Jane Healy explained the effect of modern media on children’s brains in 1991; now, using recent scientific studies as well as anecdotes, Nicholas Carr contemplates how we win as well as lose with the new technology of the Internet.

The Shallows is an important book. I think everyone should read it. We now have more than ten years of experience with this new medium. My own household has gone from one Internet-linked computer anchored in a lonely back office to five laptops and a Wi-Fi connection. This past school year, two of my three kids used online interactive math curriculum. I want to know how the Internet is likely to influence us.

Besides being relevant, the book was a joy to read. Carr seamlessly weaves history, analogy, personal stories and scientific studies into a pleasing whole. More than once, I was overtaken by the depth of his insights.

I plan to narrate the book chapter-by-chapter. I’m going to try something new, too-- *short* narrations. Ha. We’ll see how that goes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reading Shakespeare

"Shakespeare plays should be read throughout our lifetimes, not just once. Children may not understand all of Shakespeare, but who does?"

From Leslie N.'s summary of CM's Volume 5 (section entitled, "Poetry as a Means of Culture")

CM's original words:

Shakespeare is not to be studied in a year; he is to be read continuously throughout life, from ten years old and onwards. But a child of ten cannot understand Shakespeare. No; but can a man of fifty? Is not our great poet rather an ample feast of which every one takes according to his needs, and leaves what he has no stomach for?
These days, it seems like educators are mostly concerned about making it easy for the mind to work. But I must urge that, while physical activities like hand crafts, gardening, dancing, etc., are useful to train the nerves and muscles to be ready and responsive, physical exercise does nothing to keep the mind alive. We also must not put the focus of children's education on drama--even when it's Shakespeare--or poetry--even when it's beautiful, lyrical poetry. Yes, children need these things, but they come into the world waiting to connect with lots of different things. They need to establish relationships with places far and near, with the expanding universe, with the long-gone days of history, with current social economics, with the earth we live on and all of its delightful plants and trees, with the affectionate families who love them, with their home country and foreign countries, and, most of all, with the highest of all relationships--their relationship with God. With all these things to learn about, only the most ignorant teacher will let his students spend most of their time on math, or crafts, or singing, or acting, or any one of a hundred specialized subjects that try to pass for a complete education.

--from Leslie N.'s paraphrase (pages 72-73) of CM's Volume 6

Friday, June 17, 2011

When Children Love to Learn: Chapter 2

The girls and the Warrior Poet are watching Curse of the Were Rabbit (Wallace and Grommit). I am reeling from the second chapter of When Children Love to Learn. In it, the author compares this teacher's classroom with that teacher's classroom-- sort of peeking into each room and describing what he sees and how it either affirms or denigrates the personhood of the child. I just wonder what he would say if he saw some of my teaching. Actually, I'd love to know. It would be helpful.

The child is already a person with a capable mind, with vast potential as well as limits.

I like how he described Principle 2-- "Children are... born with possibilities for both good and evil." He said they are created in the image of God (good) as well as fallen (evil). I am going to have to ponder that thought for awhile.

He also contrasted CM's philosophy with other theories of education--

*Behaviorists: manage many children, efficiency, child as object

*Piaget: lead child through developmental stages (concrete to abstract)

*Bruner: help child to cognitive insights which lead to self-actualization, child as "rudderless and morally neutral explorer"

*Freud: explore child's mind for deeper meaning, child as "animal at the mercy of drives beyond his control"

*Mason: present the child with a feast of learning, child as born person

Teachers tend to have a mix of philosophies they are trying to work from. CM's philosophy presents a unified whole.

"Authority rightly applied expresses respect for the learner, and takes into account the lines by which he or she is designed. While not abrogating the biblical mandate for obedience, true authority seeks to work in relationship with those under its mantle. Thus, the teacher desires to engage students actively as co-learners functioning with respect flowing from a caring and relational authority." (p. 62)

Two conditions necessary for the proper exercise of authority and docility:

1. Teacher must "act so evidently as one under authority"
2. "Children should have a fine sense of the freedom which comes from knowledge which they are allowed to appropriate as they choose, freely given with little intervention from the teacher."

Education is a discipline, too. "The key to supplanting the weakness of will in forming character is the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, both of mind and body. To a great degree education is the formation of habits, while trusting divine grace."

At the end he briefly discusses, "I am, I can, I ought, I will!" It is a brave and faithful motto. Students are the children of the Creator. They have the ability to do what they ought, and, by God's grace, they will.
"Through what we do and how we do it-- moment by moment, day by day, consciously or unconsciously-- we alter the chemical flows in our synapses and change our brains. And when we hand down our habits of thought to our children, through the examples we set, the schooling we provide, and the media we use, we hand down as well the modifications in the structure of our brains."

--The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (page 49)

How far do we embrace the new technologies? Where should the lines be drawn?

When Children Love to Learn: Chapter 1

This chapter was written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. It is called, "The Value of Charlotte Mason's Work for Today". I can already tell this book is going to be so insightful.

“Most of the progressive schools wanted really good things for children. But it is impossible to achieve such aims without the realism of the truth, at least to a certain extent, as the framework.”

Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole attended a school similar to Summerhill:

“These people had the idea that boys and girls should be allowed to do what they liked. And unfortunately, what ten or fifteen of the biggest boys and girls liked best was bullying others.” --C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

“…knowledge fits into a hierarchy according to what is most worthwhile to know.”

Romanticism assumes that “the fruits of a ‘decent society’ [will] continue to grow on a tree whose roots [have] been cut away.” This idea results in lawlessness, which creates a backlash of government intervention, “slapping on an exoskeleton” of rule from without, since kids aren’t being taught to govern themselves.

It seems that people are now trying to impose a framework, but it isn’t quite the same. The focus is more on getting ahead, or just trying to keep the kids out of trouble.

Teaching children to govern themselves is different than conditioning children to stay out of trouble. One is respectful; the other, no matter how kindly put, is not.

“[Charlotte Mason’s] ideas, being true ones, have an unchangeable underlying pattern (form) and yet give freedom for individual life and practice.”

CM’s ideas transcend culture. Although a CM education can be specifically American or British (or Canadian or German or Indian or Kenyan…), it is unified by the Christian principles undergirding it. Thus, we can have that common framework, while preserving diversity. (It also transcends time, because human beings are essentially the same in every era.)

“These truths were not a cage, and that is a huge difference from those that would legalistically impose truths on others. Many educational theories and prescriptions confine education and childcare practice to a closed box. ‘It has to be like this or that,’ depending on the theory espoused.” (p. 28)

I thought of an episode from the book, Lovey, by Mary MacCracken. She was a teacher at a school for emotionally disturbed children in the U.S. I read her book when I was in high school. She loved and respected her students, and treated them as individuals. She talks about one student that came into her class with many problems, one of which was a refusal to eat. She worked with him for some days, trying many things. She had no success. Finally, she forced the first bite, and he began to eat. The experience taught her that solutions normally eschewed may be acceptable if enough love is involved.

We should adapt our plans to fit individual children. “A combination of the benefit of individual work and the stimulation and enthusiasm of a group works well.”

“Teaching is an art—and we learn from our mistakes. If students aren’t ‘latching on’, sooner or later we cast about for a different choice or arrangement.” (p. 32)

“One ‘sin’ today is a failure to lead children into full-length living books. There is something about reading one chapter, the next, and then the next, that grounds a person’s thinking and builds a pattern that holds together.” (p. 36)

Errors abound in both directions—both in not giving enough whole books, and in stuffing in too much ‘education’. She says, “Beware. There is far too much information around.” This book was published in 2004.

Concerned parents and educators today try so hard to regain the framework, but often we err because we don’t understand the foundations. We think that if we could just go back to the ‘good old days’ or if we could just get ‘back to basics’ everything would be fine. But the solution is not reverting to a bygone era. Instead of arbitrarily applying practices that were used in times when the common framework existed, we need to first understand underlying principles-- the nature of human beings, how they are created in the image of God, how they have just obligations to follow Him, to glorify and enjoy Him forever. This is true no matter the era. As CM said, “we are the same, with a difference.” When we understand this, we become able to gather the best from all eras and from our own time. We discover postmodern, yet truly Christian, education-- education that suits the needs of our time, while embracing principles true in every time and place.

(I would love to discover that. So often I feel like I am casting about for something I don’t really understand. I go back and forth between form and freedom. Maybe someday I’ll find the balance.)

“No one can do everything that would be worthwhile. The best of curriculums must be guides, not absolute directives.” (p. 37)

“We must not quench the joy of living.”

“The rule is to give interesting material, but slowly enough that it is absorbed, possessed, not forgotten in the overflow of ‘too much’.”

(I think I have been giving my kids too much. I want to look at the page counts for my kids’ ages/grades in the PNEU programmes and try to stick with those in the coming year.)

“[Charlotte Mason] called the refusal to get between the child and the source ‘masterly inactivity’, allowing the child direct contact with and individual response to original works.”

“[Wise passiveness] indicates the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action.” --Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3

(I really have to work at masterly inactivity. When I have the power and desire to act, I find it difficult to keep from acting.)

“If we get too intense and long-winded, we’ll see their eyes glaze over.”

(Note to self: work on answering questions in a few thoughtful words!!)

On the Lord: “It is terrible to turn this amazing person into a lesson. Children must catch the scent, the scene, the wonder of who He is.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When Children Love to Learn: Preface

Some of us are reading When Children Love to Learn this summer. I borrowed the book, so I cannot mark in it! I am keeping a record of notable quotes, etc., here instead. :) Please feel free to comment if you want.


My narration:

We have a long tradition of literary education to follow, with the one difference that ancient literate civilizations educated an elite few. At least some of those civilizations dehumanized certain segments of society.

The Hebrew idea of being human, on the other hand, consisted of being made in the image of God. Other cultures only allowed that kings or other important people might be made in the image of a god. Because we are made in the image of God, we have an obligation to know the law and act upon (that is why we all need education!). This idea was prevalent in Western society until recently. Our kids’ worth is in Christ, not in achievement or aesthetics, or even virtuous behavior.

This scripture came to mind:

“[Jesus Christ] hath made us kings and priests to God…” Revelations 1:6a

Notable quotes:
“We offer no technique, but rather the simple proposition that children are best educated by adults…who are themselves in a lifelong process of learning and subject to the same duties and freedoms within a Christian worldview.” (p. 13)

“Miss Mason was profoundly Christian, rooted in scripture, and immensely practical. (p. 15)

“…form and freedom (a phrase Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to describe the proper tension between the reality of moral law on the one hand and individual freedoms and creativity on the other).”

“She was sharp in rejecting the false ideas of child-centered “freedoms” popularized by Rousseau and followers of the Romantic movement…” (p. 16)

“This is education for a purpose and not a status symbol.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


"Let me, if I may, be ever welcomed to my room in winter by a glowing hearth, in summer by a vase of flowers; if I may not, let me think how nice they would be, and bury myself in my work. I do not think that the road to contentment lies in despising what we have not got. Let us acknowledge all good, all delight that the worlds holds, and be content without it."

--George MacDonald (_George MacDonald: An Anthology: Readings_, compiled by C.S. Lewis)

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 32 through 44

UPDATE: All links to the Ivanhoe notes are now in my sidebar to the right.

Chapter 32

A note on Cedric’s pronouncement of Gurth’s freedom: Cedric says, “THEOW and ESNE art thou no longer… FOLKFREE and SACLESS art thou in town and from town, in the forest as in the field. A hide of land I give to thee in my steads of Walbrugham, from me and mine to thee and thine aye and forever; and God’s malison on his head who this gainsays.”

This basically means, “I hereby make you a free person and give you land to be yours forever. May God condemn anyone who denies it.”

This made Gurth not only a freeman, but a special kind of landowner called a ‘freeholder’. He was not only given his freedom, but also some political clout, as a person had to be a freeholder in order to participate in government. (A person had to be titled gentry in order to have *real* power in medieval England, but freeholders held some sway in shire and village.) THEOW and ESNE basically equate with ‘thrall’ or ‘slave’, while FOLKFREE and SACLESS mean ‘lawful freeman’.

liard: spirited
mots: notes played on a bugle
Sathanas: Satan
ruth: sorrow for another’s misery
maugre: pleasure
quondam: former
cardecu: a quarter of a crown
leman: sweetheart

Thought question: How did Locksley divide the spoil?

Chapter 33

Introduction: The holy man in this chapter is none other than Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx, whom we met walking along with Sir Brian in the first few chapters of the book. It has been awhile since we heard about the Prior.

manus imponere in servos Domini: This is something like, “you mustn’t lay hands on the Lord’s servant”
excommunicabo vos: something like “at the point of excommunicating you”. Excommunication is being removed as a member of the Catholic church.
nebulo quidam: “a certain person without boundaries” (?)
Deus faciat salvam benignitatem vestram: “The Lord bless you with good health”
propter necessitatem, et ad frigus depellendum: “because of necessity and cold”
latro famosus: on account of (?)
inter res sacras: among the sacred objects
pouncer-box: a small box with perforated lid used for sprinkling powder on paper, or a box for perfume
morris-dancer: an English folk dancer
ye may retain as borrows my two priests: he is offering his priests as pledges that he will come back with the ransom
Ichabod: “the glory of the Lord hath departed”
dortour: dormitory
score: twenty
marevedi: Moorish coins (the Moors were Muslims that settled in Spain in the Middle Ages)

Note: Stop for a moment and make sure you know the situation of each of the following: the Black Knight, the Hermit, Rebecca, Isaac, Sir Brian, Maurice de Bracy, Cedric and Rowena. (We don’t find out about Ivanhoe until a later chapter.) The plot thickens at this point, and it is easy to get lost. If you aren’t sure where one of our characters has ended up, look back at the previous couple of chapters and find out. From now on, I will include some questions meant to ensure we all keep up with the story.

Chapter 34

Introduction: Remember Prince John’s plot to take over King Richard’s throne? John and his advisor, Waldemar Fitzurse, are still working toward that end, and the battle at Torquilstone has deprived them—temporarily, at least-- of some of their fiercest allies.

Key quote: “Richard is in England—I have seen and spoken with him.”

“I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark to Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.” As we learned earlier in the story, De Bracy is the leader of a band of Free Companions— basically knights-for-hire. He wants to escape with his knights to mainland Europe and find employ in the army of some duke or king.

“I will take sanctuary in this church of St. Peter—the archbishop is my sworn brother.” Fitzurse plans to seek sanctuary at the altar of the church, similar to Thomas a Becket’s historic attempt at safety.

bewray: betray
Tristram and Lancelot: legendary knights of the Round Table (Tristram is the older English version of ‘Tristan’)
Tracy, Morville, Brito: the knights that slew Thomas a Becket at the altar of the church in Henry II’s time


1. Why won’t De Bracy attack Richard?
2. What is Fitzurse going to do?
3. What does John do after Fitzurse leaves?

Chapter 35

vair or ermine: squirrel or ermine fur
romaunts: romances
extirpate: uproot
basilisk: a legendary serpent, like a dragon, with lethal breath and glance
consuetude: a practice that has become so customary that it seems to be law
periapts: charms

Question: What does Beaumanoir decide to do with Rebecca?

Chapter 36

A note on local government in medieval England: Beaumanoir says, "The laws of England permit and enjoin each judge to execute justice within his own jurisdiction. The most petty baron may arrest, try, and condemn a witch found within his own domain.”

The King of England was the ‘top of the heap’, so to speak, in English government; the barons served him, but they were also lords of their own land; they in turn had their vassals, usually knights, who lorded it over smaller sections of the barons’ land; then sometimes there were smaller divisions ruled by underlings below the knights. Imagine it as a pyramid, with the king at the top, the barons and knights in the middle, and the smaller landholders providing the wide base. Slaves and persons that owned no land spread out at the very bottom with no power at all. Many churchmen held positions of power similar to those of barons and knights.

Notable quotes:

“…[Albert Malvoisin] knew how to throw over his vices and his ambition the veil of hypocrisy, and to assume in his exterior the fanaticism which he internally despised.”

“Will future ages believe that such stupid bigotry existed?”.

“Trial moves rapidly on when the judge has determined the sentence beforehand."

quean: a woman of bad reputation
there is little time to find engines fitting: there is little time to make up false evidence

Question: What is Sir Brian’s reaction when he finds out about Beaumanoir’s decision to try Rebecca?

Chapter 37

sortileges: witchcraft
gage: pledge

I challenge the privilege of trial by combat: Rebecca is asking that her guilt or innocence be determined by whether her champion wins or loses a fight. This medieval type of trial was based on the idea that God would perform a miracle to save the innocent, and would let the guilty die. Rebecca is allowed to have a champion, rather than fighting herself, because she is a woman.

Thought questions:

1. How might you be able to tell that a "person of God" is not actually following God?
2. How do the Templars ‘prove’ that Rebecca is guilty of sorcery?
3. What is written on the bit of parchment Rebecca was mysteriously given in Chapter 36?

Chapter 38

essoine: excuse
devoir: courtesy
appellant: one who appeals a court decision
recreant: cowardly
capul: work-horse
asper: a Turkish or Egyptian silver coin
mancus: an Anglo-Saxon coin

bring down my grey hairs to the grave: Genesis 44:29
till, in the bitterness of my heart, I curse God and die: Job 2:9
Benoni: Genesis 35:18
gourd of Jonah: Jonah 4:7


1. What judgment was delivered by Beaumanoir?
2. What does Rebecca ask Isaac to do?

Chapter 39

Notable quotes:

“Protect the oppressed for the sake of charity, and not for a selfish advantage.”

“Proud as thou art, thou hast in me found thy match.”

“I envy thee not thy faith, which is ever in thy mouth, but never in thy heart nor in thy practice.”

“Thus do men throw on fate the issue of their own wild passions.”

“There are noble things which cross over thy powerful mind; but it is the garden of the sluggard, and the weeds have rushed up, and conspired to choke the fair and wholesome blossom."

that which is not bread: Isaiah 55:2
the garden of the sluggard: Proverbs 24:30-34


1. What plan does Bois-Gilbert present to Rebecca? What does Rebecca think of it?
2. What plan does Bois-Gilbert present to Albert Malvoisin? What does he think of it?
3. What does Bois-Gilbert finally decide to do?

Chapter 40

Introduction and question: In the first paragraph, Scott mentions “the magnanimous Wamba”. How has Wamba demonstrated magnanimity?

magnanimity: greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.

destrier: a war-horse
jennet: a kind of horse
manciple: steward, or purchaser of provisions
falchion: a sword with a short, broad, slightly curved blade
targe: shield


1. What does Wamba mean by the yeomen’s (outlaws’) “trade with heaven?”
2. Which “companions are worse to meet than yonder outlaws”?
3. Who attacks the Black Knight?

Chapter 41

Richard’s good intentions toward the bold Outlaw were frustrated by the King’s untimely death: This refers to events that occur in history after this story takes place (Ivanhoe is historic fiction, not actual history, but the real Richard I did meet an untimely death five years after resuming his throne).

Coningsburgh (Conisbrough) is an actual Saxon castle in Yorkshire. You can see pictures here.

since the days of the Heptarchy: Since the confederation of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia) which were loosely allied during the early Middle Ages (or late Dark Ages). Alfred the Great is traditionally supposed to have been the first king over all England.

barrow: mound
Hengist: one of the leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion in the 5th century AD
mendicants: beggars
harps, crowds and rotes: musical instruments
panegyric: formal and elaborate praise

Question: Ivanhoe takes King Richard to task at the beginning of this chapter, saying, "But your kingdom is threatened with dissolution and civil war---your subjects menaced with every species of evil, if deprived of their sovereign in some of those dangers which it is your daily pleasure to incur, and from which you have but this moment narrowly escaped." Do you think Richard has shirked his duty by staying in disguise so long, or was it wise for him to wait to reveal himself? For that matter, should he have gone to the Crusades in the first place, or should he have stayed in England?

Chapter 42

Introduction: This is one of the strangest chapters in the book. You may want to read it twice.


1. What happened to Athelstane?
2. What happened to Ivanhoe and King Richard?
3. At Coningsburgh, the Normans are represented by Richard and Ivanhoe—Ivanhoe is counted a Norman because of the way he dresses. Compare the younger and older Saxons’ attitudes toward them. (I think it is interesting that Richard and Ivanhoe are thought to be Saxons by Normans at Torquilstone, and thought to be Normans by Saxons at Coningsburgh.)

Chapter 43

What was the outcome of the combat?

Chapter 44

obsequies: funeral rites
rowel: the wheel of a spur

I will appeal to Rome against thee: The pope and the Church had considerable power in the medieval world, so the Grand Master might be able to stir up trouble for Richard. Medieval government was a complicated thing.


1. Why do you suppose Rebecca wants to leave without thanking Ivanhoe?
2. How did King Richard deal with Prince John?
3. Scott says Richard’s “administration was wilfully careless, now too indulgent, and now allied to despotism.” What do you think?
4. How do Cedric’s feelings change?
5. What is Rebecca going to do?

A final note on English government: After Richard’s untimely death, the throne passed to John, who was such a tyrant that the barons of England finally forced him to sign a document-- the Magna Carta--stating that he would respect the liberties of freemen and abide by the law himself. This document was one reason the American colonists (they considered themselves free Englishmen) resisted King George’s arbitrary laws, five hundred years later.

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 25 through 31

Introduction: Three Norman knights. Two beautiful maidens. One desperate father. Here is a brief recap—

1. Isaac of York is the prisoner of Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, who owns Torquilstone Castle,
2. The Lady Rowena is the prisoner of Sir Maurice De Bracy, a mercenary knight in the pay of Prince John,
3. Rebecca is the prisoner of Sir Brian du Bois-Guilbert, a Temple knight…

…and they are all holed up in Torquilstone Castle.

In addition to these prisoners, the Normans have captured Cedric the Saxon, Athelstane of Conyngsburgh and a mysterious sick person.

Wamba the Jester and Gurth the Serf have located the REAL outlaws of the green wood (including Robin of Locksley) and are helping to plan a rescue, along with the Black Knight and the Hermit (who is actually Friar Tuck, one of Robin Hood’s merry men).

What will happen next?

Chapter 25

A note on Thomas a Becket: He was the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the English church) in the 12th Century. He was foully murdered by the knights of King Henry II (the father of Richard I) after he refused to side with the king against the Pope.

In Henry’s defense, he didn’t actually want Becket killed. When a messenger came to give Henry news of Becket’s doings, Henry is said to have bellowed in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!!” and unfortunately, a few of his knights took him seriously. They hunted Becket down and killed him at the very altar of the cathedral. (Holding onto the altar was a sort of ‘base’ or safe sanctuary for a person in trouble with the authorities.)

St. Niobe: A character in Greek mythology. During the Dark Ages, monks and priests preserved and copied ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts. Apparently, the Prior told them a Greek myth, and they thought she was a Catholic saint. According to myth, Niobe was very proud of her fourteen children, and boasted that she was better than a goddess that had only two. The gods slew her children. She wept without ceasing, and was turned to stone.

Apollyon: “the king of the bottomless pit” according to the Book of Revelations.

cartel: a written agreement or challenge between opponents
pax vobiscum: peace be with you

Chapter 26

quidam viator incidit in latrones: A certain man, while traveling, fell among thieves (?) This appears to be a reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

quaso, domine reverendissime, pro misericordia vestra: This is something like, “Reverend father, pity a poor lady.”

Chapter 27

the scallop-shell of Campostella: the scallop shell was a heraldry symbol for people who had been on pilgrimage to Campostella. Legend has it that James the son of Zebedee (from the New Testament) is buried in Campostella, Spain.

their war-song of Rollo: Rollo the Viking was the first duke of Normandy.
mangonel: a type of catapult or siege machine
Woden, Hertha, Zenebock, Mista, Skogula: gods and spirits from Norse and Germanic mythology
biggin: a plain, close-fitting cap
Wittenagemotes: groups of wise older men that governed kingdoms in Saxon England and decided who would be king.

For what saith the blessed St. Augustin in his treatise, ‘De Civitate Dei’?: Augustine was one of the first priests of the Catholic church, and he wrote a book called “The City of God”.

The bull of the holy see, ‘si quis, Suadende Diabolo’: A ‘bull’ was a declaration from the Pope. The ‘holy see’ is the Vatican—the home of the Pope. The Latin phrase translates to: “By the persuasion of the Devil”.

Men of Belial: In the Bible, people who were completely given over to folly or godlessness were called ‘sons of Belial’. Belial is another name for Satan.

Seething pitch and oil: Pitch is a tar-like substance, sort of like asphalt. During a siege, boiling pitch mixed with oil would be dumped from the ramparts of a castle onto the soldiers below.

Some hilding fellow must he be: he must be low and contemptible

Chapter 28

Introduction: In this chapter, Sir Walter Scott tells us what happened to Ivanhoe. He also gives us more insight into Rebecca’s character and education.

At one point in this chapter, Rebecca says to Ivanhoe, “Bestow not on me, Sir Knight, the epithet of noble,” and yet her actions are indeed generous and courageous.

Thought question: How does Ivanhoe’s manner toward Rebecca change when he learns she is a Jewess? Does Rebecca’s manner change?

Personally, I get aggravated with Ivanhoe at this point. But, as Scott points out, he is a product of his times. Every era in history AND group in society has its blind spots.

Thought questions: What are our era’s blind spots? How about blind spots in the groups to which we belong?

We learn more about De Bracy’s character when he discovers Ivanhoe in the litter. Scott says, “The ideas of chivalrous honour… never utterly abandoned De Bracy. On the other hand, to liberate a suitor preferred by the Lady Rowena… was a pitch far above the flight of De Bracy's generosity. A middle course betwixt good and evil was all which he found himself capable of adopting…” Yet De Bracy becomes the protector of Ivanhoe and smuggles him into the castle.

Our history must needs retrograde for the space of a few pages: Let’s back up the story a bit.
importunity: a pressing demand or request
hacqueton and his corslet of goodly price: well-made padding and armor
cabalistical art: witchcraft
The fate of Miriam had indeed been to fall a sacrifice to the fanaticism of the times: Rebecca’s teacher in the medical arts had been executed as a witch.
vulnerary remedies: treatments for wounds
Nazarenes: Christians
Lion of Idumea: Idumea was the land of Edom in the Bible.
leech: doctor
the enriched traveler of Juvenal’s tenth satire: Juvenal was a Roman poet from the 1st century. His tenth satire is called “The Vanity of Human Wishes”. In it, he says that the enriched traveler trembles at the shadow of a reed shaking, but the poor traveler whistles in a robber’s face.
reversing Shylock’s position: Shylock was the Jew in The Merchant of Venice.

Chapter 29

Introduction: In this chapter we get a description of the battle, told by Rebecca as she watches from Ivanhoe’s window. Ivanhoe and Rebecca discuss glory, chivalry and nobility, too.

Thought questions: Does Rebecca speak of things she does not know of? What do you think of Ivanhoe’s definition of chivalry?

fetterlock and shacklebolt azure: a lock for a horse’s foot and a bar used for a shackle
En avant: Forward!
Beau-seant: this must have been part of a heraldic symbol
a la rescousse: To the rescue!
Saint John of Acre: the city of Acre in Palestine
assoilize: absolve or forgive
emprize: enterprise or adventure

a second Gideon or a new Maccabeus: Gideon was a judge in the Bible (Judges 6-8) who led an army against the Midianites. Maccabeus was a Hebrew around 150 years before Christ who led a revolt against the Seleucids and was considered one of the greatest heroes of the Jews.

Chapter 30

Introduction: Of all the wicked Norman knights, Front-de-Boeuf seems be the worst. Now he is mortally wounded. As he lies dying, his partners, De Bracy and Bois-Guilbert, argue over what to do next. They go to battle, and Ulrica confronts Front-de-Boeuf with his (and her) wickedness.

bruit: rumor
malapert: offensively bold
parricide: a person who has murdered his father

Chapter 31

mount joye Saint Dennis! a war-cry of the French
Preceptory of Templestowe: a religious house of the Templars
strophes: stanzas containing uneven lines

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 19 through 24


A note on nobility: One synonym for the word, “noble” is the word “magnanimous”. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “magnanimity” as, “That elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.” Cedric uses this word in Chapter 21—- be on the lookout for it!

Literary term-- Romance: Sir Walter Scott calls Ivanhoe a Romance. Nowadays, we have a pretty narrow definition for that word, but in literature, a Romance is a heroic story of mysterious or extraordinary events. It can also be a story that combines elements of joy and sorrow—a tragic-comedy.

Ivanhoe Chapter 19

“Saint George for merry England!” St. George and the Dragon was a popular medieval legend about an Eastern soldier who rescued a maiden by slaying a dragon.

dingle: a small wooded valley or hollow
defile: a narrow pass
embarrassed with baggage: the luggage is hampering his efforts
green cassocks and white visors: green tunics and white masks
vizard: a disguise or mask
reconnoitering: exploring in order to gain information
“Shall we e’en give him leg-bail?” Shall we run away?
errant thieves: roving robbers
halidome: a holy place or thing (literally, “holy-dome”)

Ivanhoe Chapter 20

Prior of Jorvaulx: the holy man who was walking with Sir Brian du Bois-Gilbert in the first or second chapter

calumniator: one who falsely accuses another person of a crime
de profundis clamavi: “from the depths I cried”
matins: late night/early morning prayers
orisons: prayers
countenance: appearance or facial expression
partisan: quarterstaff
shaveling: holy man (they shaved the center of their heads, making their hair into a tonsure)

Ivanhoe Chapter 21

Historic note: In this chapter, Cedric mentions his grandfather feasting with Torquil Wolfganger. According to Cedric, Torquil Wolfganger was the Saxon owner of Torquilstone Castle during the time of Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon king.

Harold was advancing against his treacherous brother, Tostig, and the Norwegian king, Harald Hardraada. Cedric tells us that Torquil invited Harold to stay the night at Torquilstone, which invitation was graciously accepted. Also according to Cedric, Harold’s brother Tostig arrived at the castle to confront Harold. The “magnanimous answer” Harold gave his brother was that if he would send the Norwegians home, Harold would forgive him and restore Tostig’s lands and title. Tostig refused to accept these terms.

Torquil Wolfganger and Torquilstone Castle appear to be inventions of Sir Walter Scott. History places the conversation between Harold and Tostig on the battlefield just before the battle commenced.

Harold defeated the Norwegians in Yorkshire, at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. (Remember, Ivanhoe takes place in Yorkshire.) Unfortunately, William of Normandy was landing in southern England at the same time.

The King knew that William was planning to invade. William had made Harold swear that he would give the throne of England to William after Edward the Confessor died, but when Edward died, Harold had allowed himself to be crowned by the English council of earls (known as the Witanagemot) who made such decisions.

After the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold marched his army south as fast as he could. He was defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex. (This battle is depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry.) And that is how the Normans came to power in England in 1066 AD/CE, around a hundred years before our story takes place.

Pictures of the Bayeux Tapestry, scene by scene

“…our grand master hath granted me a dispensation.” The head of the Templars has excused Bois-Guilbert from the rule stating that Templars may not marry Jews.

Englishmen: Saxons
repast: meal
Hardicanute: a Danish king of England who died from drinking too much

Ivanhoe Chapter 22

expiry: end
pannier: basket
she is the last of six pledges of her love: Rebecca is the last of Isaac and Rachael’s six children
the blessed rood: crucifix

Ivanhoe Chapter 23

A note on Physiognomy: In an earlier chapter, the Black Knight says he can tell Locksley is a man of good character by looking at his face. Physiognomy, the practice of judging a person’s character by his or her physical features, was a popular practice in Sir Walter Scott’s time. Scott brings up physiognomy again in Chapter 23, when discussing Rowena’s personality.

Another strange practice in the 19th Century was Phrenology, the practice of determining a person’s character by the bumps on his or her head. How does the Bible say we should determine a person’s character?

Industrious Henry: Henry of Huntingdon was a 12th Century English church official who wrote a history of England.

The Saxon Chronicles: A history of the Anglo-Saxons in England begun around the 9th Century and updated into the 12th. (It looks like Scott attributes the writing of the Chronicles to Henry, or else he was quoting Henry while Henry quoted the Chronicles. A bit confusing if you ask me.)

The Wardour Manuscript: This is an imaginary manuscript that Sir Walter Scott made up in order to give his novel an authentic historic flavor. At the beginning of my copy of Ivanhoe, there is a “Dedicatory Epistle” to a Reverend Dry-As-Dust. (He is not real, either.) In this letter, Scott gives a fictitious explanation of the manuscript:

“ …the singular Anglo-Norman manuscript which Sir Arthur Wardour preserves with such jealous care in the third drawer of his oaken cabinet, scarcely allowing anyone to touch it, and being himself unable to read one syllable of its contents.”

(Sir Walter Scott must have been quite a character himself!)

foppery: the clothes of a man preoccupied with his appearance
St. Michael trampling down the Prince of Evil: The archangel Michael trampling the Devil (sometimes pictured as a dragon)
loadstar: a guiding star, especially used in navigation
crowder: a common person
avarice: extreme greed
license: unrestrained freedom or disregard for proper limits
the Empress Matilda: the granddaughter of William the Conqueror, mother of Henry II, and short-lived Queen of England. (She is usually not included in lists of English kings and queens.)
Eadmer: a Saxon historian born shortly before the invasion of William the Conqueror
apocryphal: of questionable authorship or authenticity

Ivanhoe Chapter 24

Damocles at his celebrated banquet: read the short legend here

sybil: a witch
unguent: ointment
alembic: something that refines or purifies

Thought Questions:

1. “Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners… under circumstances expressive of his character.” How was Cedric made prisoner? What about Athelstane? How did these events express each man’s character?

2. As events proceed, Cedric and Athelstane become aggravated with one another: “It astonishes me, noble Cedric, that you can bear so truly in mind the memory of past deeds, when it appeareth you forget the very hour of dinner.”/”It is time lost to speak to him of aught else but that which concerns his appetite!” Why do Cedric and Athelstane frustrate one another?

3. At this point in the novel, De Bracy and the Templar both have moments of grace in which they either continue down their chosen paths, or choose to change. See if you can pinpoint those two moments. The Templar's is easiest to see- after his moment of grace, good and evil struggle within him for the rest of the novel.

3. Should De Bracy and the Templar trust each other? Why or why not? What does De Bois-Guilbert say when De Bracy accuses him of conspiring to break the rules of his order?

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 12 through 18

(Find previous notes here)

Chapter 12

Introduction: The tournament continues, with the addition of a mysterious Black Knight, or Noir Faineant. (This actually means, “The Black Sluggard”.)

palisade: a fence of pales (stakes)
vanquished: defeated in battle
derision: ridicule, mockery
the tale was found exactly complete: they had the same number of knights on each side
“Laissez aller!” No holding back!
the spears were…lowered and placed in the rests: the knights set their spears into grooves on the horses’ armor that keep the spears steady and well-aimed.
endeavoring to extricate themselves from the tumult: trying to get out of the fight
springal: something like a catapult
casque: helmet
gorge: throat

Ivanhoe Ch. 13

"What think ye of the doctrine the learned tell us of innate attractions and antipathies?" Do you think we can perceive that a person is a friend or enemy even if we don’t see the face of the person?

Front-de-Boeuf must prepare to restore his fief of Ivanhoe: While Ivanhoe was at the Crusade, the Prince had taken his land and given it to Front-de-Boeuf. Now he will have to restore it. (Ivanhoe is the name of the estate. The man referred to as “Ivanhoe” is Wilfred of Ivanhoe.)

The audience were too much interested in the question not to pronounce the Prince’s assumed right altogether indubitable: The people were receiving unlawful benefits from the Prince too, so they praised him for taking land from an absent knight and giving it to a present knight, rather than pointing out that he had no right to do so.

"She seems a minor, and must therefore be at our royal disposal in marriage." It appears from this quote that the ruler of England could use his power to insist that young ladies marry certain men. I could not find any information to verify this. Prince John offers Rowena in marriage to Maurice De Bracy. Rowena knows nothing about this.

celerity: swiftness
billet: a note
mummery: play-acting

Ivanhoe Ch. 14

The great numbers of the Anglo-Saxons must necessarily render them formidable in the civil commotions which seemed approaching: The Anglo-Saxons are so numerous that if they decide to revolt, it will be difficult to subdue them.

While their manners were thus the object of sarcastic observation, the untaught Saxons unwittingly transgressed several of the arbitrary rules established for the regulation of society: The Normans watched to see if they could make fun of the Saxons for breaking random Norman rules of feast etiquette. The Saxons, who did not know any better, definitely broke some rules.

Conclamatum est, poculatum est: We have drunk and we have shouted (?)
purveyors: managers, stewards
objurgation: rebuke, scolding
simnel bread and wastel cakes: bread prepared by boiling (like bagels) and cakes made of the finest flour
surfeit: overindulgence
beccaficos: a type of small bird
abstemiousness: temperance, restraint
ague: a fever with shivering and alternating hot and cold spells

Ivanhoe Chapter 15

"Is Richard’s right of primogeniture more decidedly certain than that of Robert of Normandy, the Conqueror’s eldest son? And yet… his second and third brothers were successively preferred to him by the voice of the nation." Although the firstborn son of the king was traditionally the heir to the throne in England, usually the approval of the nobles was sought as each new king was crowned. Fitzurse is suggesting that the barons could legitimately overthrow Richard by supporting Prince John’s claim to the throne.

a deadly feud rose up between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelitish nation: This episode from Hebrew history is found in Judges 20-21. Compare the Bible account to De Bracy’s narration!

cabal: a group of people plotting something sinister
kirtle: a man’s tunic or coat
Free Companions: mercenaries-- knights who follow the ruler that pays them the most money
all the chivalry of that tribe: all the men of valor

Ivanhoe Ch. 16

A note on hermits and friars: Friars were monks who had taken a vow of poverty and wandered as beggars. It was against the rules of their order to accept money, but they could accept food and clothing. Hermits (also called anchorites) were monks that lived completely alone and devoted themselves to fasting and prayer. They also took a vow of poverty, and subsisted on the gifts of local residents. Both friars and hermits were generally thought to be wise and learned.

Yet his purpose was baffled by the devious paths through which he rode: He couldn’t get very far because the roads were bad.

assailed the door of the hermitage with the butt of his lance: knocked on the door

It has pleased Our Lady and St. Dunstan to destine me the object of those virtues, instead of the exercise thereof: I am in need of food and shelter myself.

St. Dunstan: An Anglo-Saxon monk and archbishop from around the 10th Century. Before he became archbishop, he lived as a hermit, studying, doing handicrafts and playing the harp. One tale told of St. Dunstan is that when he was tempted by the devil, he responded by seizing the devil’s face with fire tongs.

a parish pinfold begirt by its large hedge: a pinfold was a place used to stable stray animals until they could be returned to their owners.

monastic austerity or… ascetic privations: severe self-denial such as monks might practice

More Old Testament references (find these episodes of OT history in the Bible):

1. "…even as the pulse and water was blessed to the children Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…"
2. "From the scissors of Dalilah…"
3. "…and the tenpenny nail of Jael…"
4. "…to the scimitar of Goliath."

hostelry: inn
crag: a jagged mass of rock jutting upward or outward
pater: the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father which art in Heaven…)
ave: the “Hail, Mary” (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee)
credo: this might be the Apostle’s Creed (We believe in one God, the Father, Almighty…) or the Nicene Creed (I believe in God the Father, Almighty…)
morass: an area of low-lying, soggy ground
ford: a shallow place in a river or creek where a person can wade across
precipice: a cliff with a vertical face
parched pease: parched peas (as in, ‘pease porridge hot/pease porridge cold/pease porridge in the pot nine days old!’)
horn of the urus: the horn of a wild ox
“Waes hael” a greeting wishing good health (“Wassail!” literally, “Be hale!”)
“Drinc hael” the reply, also wishing good health (literally, “Drink and be hale!”)
lay: the song of a minstrel

Ivanhoe Ch. 17

A note on minstrelsy: Minstrels were wandering singers who told stories through their songs. Many of the tales were well-known and passed down from generation to generation.

At the beginning of this chapter, the Knight and the Friar discuss what kind of songs they are going to sing, using foreign terms. In medieval Normandy and France, ‘yes’ was oui, the poets were called minstrels, and their songs lais, or lays; in the south of France and into Italy, the ‘yes’ was oc, the poets troubadours, and the songs sirvente; in (Saxon) England, the songs were called ballads. ‘Yes’ was yes, and, as far as I can tell, the poets were also called minstrels in Old England.

If you would like to read more ballads, try A Taste of Chaucer by Anne Malcolmson (some of Chaucer’s tales are based on popular ballads of the times) or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Burton Raffel.

exceptis excepiendis: (Latin) with the proper or necessary exceptions

Unlike old Ariosto, we do not pique ourselves upon continuing uniformly to keep company with any one of our drama: The author has stepped outside the narrative to comment on the way he is writing, saying he does not mind leaving the Friar and the Knight ‘frozen in time’, so to speak, while he tells what has been going on with other characters. Ariosto was an Italian poet of the 16th Century who apparently never let his narrative about one set of characters run ahead of another, as Scott has done here. (In the next chapter, Scott leaves the Black Knight and the Friar about to answer the door, and heads all the way back to the end of the tournament in order to tell us what happened to others…)

Ivanhoe Ch. 18

Introduction: This chapter does not further the plot much, but it does give us plenty of insight. Cedric’s thoughts, decisions and actions are especially noteworthy. Also, pay attention to Gurth—he seems to be a rather insignificant character, but will eventually have his part to play.

omens: a sign that is supposed to indicate future good or evil. The Saxons were Christian, but added these ancient superstitions to their Christian beliefs.
glaive: broadsword
brown-bill: halberd (a sort of spear with a curved, double ax-head near the pointy end)
weal: the general good
gyves: shackles

Thought questions:

1. How does Prince John try to gain popularity? Should he be doing this? Why is it so difficult for him to win the approval of the people?

2. What is Waldemar Fitzurse plotting? What is De Bracy plotting? (My, there sure is a lot of plotting going on.) He claims to behave “like a true knight”. Is he a true knight?

3. Earlier, Rowena is cut off by Cedric as she says, “If, to maintain the honor of ancestry, it is sufficient to be wise in council and brave in execution, to be boldest among the bold, and gentlest among the gentle, I know no voice, save his father’s…” How do you think she might have finished the sentence? What do you think of Cedric's decisions and actions?
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In his arms he'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded
There will be no need for prayer;
Rapture, praise and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

--Joseph M. Scriven 1819-1886

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ivanhoe Notes: Chapters 5 through 11

(This is the second installment of my Ivanhoe reading guide. First post here.)

Chapter 5

Poetry: This chapter’s poetry is from The Merchant of Venice, a play by Mr. William Shakespeare that deals with greed and mercy. One of the main characters in the play, Shylock, is the historic stereotype of a Jew. (A stereotype is a generally held belief about a specific type of person, which is usually too general to be true for everyone of that type.) Many people during the Middle Ages and for some time afterward believed that all Jews were just like Shylock.

Read a retelling of The Merchant of Venice

OR a simpler retelling.

The treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages: “[The Jewish race], during those dark ages, was alike detested by the credulous and prejudiced vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious nobility…” (Ivanhoe, Chapter 5) During Medieval times, the Jews were kicked out of Israel and scattered throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Everywhere they went, they were despised and persecuted. England was no different. Many Jews were moneylenders. It was one of the few jobs open to them.

poniard: dagger
The Pilgrim: the Palmer from the previous chapter
Knights Hospitallers: An order of Knights in the Holy Land
guerdon: reward
Palestine: the Holy Land (the Middle East)
I will be his surety that he meets you: The Pilgrim (Palmer) is giving a pledge that Ivanhoe will meet de Bois-Guilbert on the field of battle if/when he comes back from Palestine.
paternoster: the Lord’s prayer
he underlies the challenge: he is subject to (must submit to) the challenge
the exchequer of the Jews: at this time in England, Jews were required to pay money at regular intervals, simply because they were Jews.

Ivanhoe, Chapter 6

solere chamber: a loft or upper room
benison: blessing
whose good-will you probably have the means of securing: you probably have money you can exchange for protection
certes: certainly
ambuscade: ambush
Norman, Saxon, Dane and Briton: the four main races of people in Medieval England.
bills of exchange: the Medieval version of a check—a note that orders the bank to pay money out of your account to the holder of the check.
avarice: greed
gyves: shackles
hurly-burly: disorderly outburst
Gramercy: great thanks

Ivanhoe, Chapter 7

Introduction, OR Prince John plots to gain power: Prince John, the brother of King Richard, is doing everything he can to keep Richard imprisoned by Philip, the king of France. He is also gathering supporters among the English nobles just in case Richard dies, so that he can be the next king. (He isn’t in line to be the next king, because his and Richard’s oldest brother, Geoffrey, left a son named Arthur. Arthur is supposed to be king after Richard.)

At this time, several sorts of people inhabit England:

1) powerful people who have abused their power while Richard is gone,
2) lawless people just back from the Crusades, who gained more skill in robbing and plundering while there, and hope to stir up trouble now that they are back in England,
3) outlaws-- people frustrated enough to go outside the law for justice. These vigilantes occupy the forests and wastes, stirring up trouble for the sheriffs and magistrates.
4) regular folks, both rich and poor, powerful and weak.

The duke of Austria has captured Richard for the king of France. At this time, Western Europe was divided into little kingdoms and duchies each ruled by a different feudal lord, although the kings of France and England had rule over several. (Richard, in addition to being king of England, was duke of Normandy and lord of several other areas in Europe.) As duke of Normandy, King Richard was the vassal (servant) of the King of France, BUT as King of England he was a fellow sovereign. A little confusing, but there it is.

Also, the Templars and Knights Hospitallers (Knights of St. John) were on the side of the king of France and hostile toward King Richard.

Geography: This historical map of Europe shows where everything was located--

OR a less detailed map.

Poetry: Palamon and Arcite is a translation of The Knight’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the Canterbury Tales.

laced the helm: connected his helmet to his shoulder armor with laces
buckler: a small round shield
courser: a swift, strong horse
yeomen: servants
subaltern oppression: cruel exercise of authority by a person of lower rank than the actual leader
all who had reason to dread the resentment of Richard for criminal proceedings during his absence: all the barons who had done illegal things while Richard was gone and were not looking forward to facing him on his return
lists: the jousting arena
pursuivants: attendants similar to heralds
out-heroding the preposterous fashion of the time: going beyond even the excessive fashion of the time
caracole: a half-turn performed by a horse and rider
libertine: a person who acts without moral restraint
Bride of the Canticles: the bride in the Old Testament Song of Solomon, who was ‘black but comely’
Mammon of unrighteousness: ill-gotten wealth

Chapter 8

Introduction, OR The Five Points of Chivalry: Knights were expected to embody the virtues of friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy and piety. (These points of chivalry are detailed in the romance poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written in the 1300s and translated in our time by several authors. If you would like to read it, the AO website recommends Burton Raffel’s version.) As you read the next few chapters, think about whether the knights and nobles in Ivanhoe exhibit these qualities.

cap-a-pie: from head to foot
escutcheon: a shield or shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms
“Cave, Adsum”: “Beware-- I am present”

Chapter 9

donative: donation or gift
John of Anjou: Anjou was territory in France that Prince John had inherited from his father, Henry II.
outrecuidance: presumption
menials: domestic servants

Chapter 10

barbed steed: a horse in armor
zecchin: a gold coin from the Venetian Republic (Venice)
moiety: half
necromancers and cabalists: practitioners of magic and secret arts

Chapter 11

errant: roving
merk: an old Scottish silver coin
St. Nicholas’ clerks: robbers
visors: masks
quarter-staff: a pole six to eight feet long


Consider making these helpful lists:

1. Characters we have met so far in the story.
2. Synonyms for the word, “noble”.
3. Antonyms for the word, “noble”.

Thought Question:

A noble person might be a person with a fancy title and position, or it might mean someone with high moral character. What is high moral character?

Ivanhoe Notes: Intro through Chapter 4

I consider Sir Walter Scott's novel, Ivanhoe, an excellent introduction to the higher levels of reading often required for high school and college. The story itself is not complicated. It is a simple romantic adventure in which good triumphs over evil. The language is complex, but not as challenging as some of Scott's other works. There is some dialect, as well as a few archaic words, but it is simpler than, say, Rob Roy. Most importantly, the story is vital and compelling enough to hold a student's attention, to make him want to work through the language.

I wrote this reading guide in 2010 as help for a co-op class I taught on Ivanhoe. Some of the students did not have the English history emphasis that AO provides. Therefore, I included a lot of background info. An AO student steeped in English history will most likely make these connections on his own or with the help of light scaffolding from the parent/teacher.

The best use of this guide would be for the parent to read the notes herself and reference them with her student *only as necessary* to enhance the student’s enjoyment of the novel. (We want the student to remember Sir Walter Scott with fondness...)

*And one more caveat: It is also perfectly okay to read Ivanhoe without some kind of study guide. I am only providing this for people who want something more.* The following quote exemplifies the atmosphere in which we should enjoy challenging books:

The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas.

(More thoughts on Unabashed Enjoyment.)

There. I feel better. I want to share the things I have learned, but I don't want people to feel beaten down with details.

I will be posting the guide (in sections) over the next week or so. Eventually, I will have all the posts linked in my sidebar. I hope the guide helps parents, especially those that might not otherwise attempt Ivanhoe with their middle- or high-schoolers.

My thanks to the Advisory of Ambleside Online for their hard work on the AO curriculum. Many of the links in this guide can also be found at I especially want to thank Anne White for providing the Plutarch study guides. I used her format as a model for my Ivanhoe notes.

Another resource for the teacher is Monkey Notes. I referred to these notes occasionally as I researched the novel. I especially like their take on the study of literature.


These first notes are more comprehensive than the others. The beginning of the book lays groundwork for the exciting story, and I want to make sure everyone has enough background to delve into the adventure. Use as much or as little of this information as you need.

Links to background information:

The conquering Normans

Story of Richard I “Coeur de Lion”, his brother John, and Richard’s captivity and escape

Van Loon provides an astonishing look at medieval life, including the Crusades, in Chapters 35-39 of Story of Mankind

A timeline of the kings and queens of England, with pictures

Note on vocabulary: I will provide a list of vocabulary and definitions for each chapter, because I want you to be able to follow the story without looking up many words. However, I am not looking up every uncommon word because often you can figure out a word’s meaning using context. Context is a word’s immediate situation—the other words surrounding it, the language used, the opinions and beliefs of the people speaking or being spoken to, and the historic and geographic atmosphere of the book. If you cannot figure out a word’s meaning using context or the chapter’s vocabulary list, then get out the dictionary.

Who was Sir Walter Scott?

Also known as, “The Wizard of the North”, Scott mysteriously published his novels in the early 19th Century under the nom-de-plume, “Author of Waverly”. His collected prose works are often called The Waverly Novels. H.E. Marshall covers Scott’s biography in Chapters 77-78 of English Literature for Boys and Girls.

OR for a shorter biography that includes a list of works, go here.

Introduction to Chapters 1-4

Most of all, Ivanhoe is an adventure story, a romance. However, Sir Walter Scott set the story in a real time period of English history, and he spends half of the first chapter describing the political climate of 12th century England, laying the groundwork for his exciting tale. If you find the first few pages a little dry, be patient. Halfway through the chapter, we meet two of the most colorful characters of the book.

Notes and Vocabulary for Chapter 1

History: William I (1066-1087), a Norman, conquered Anglo-Saxon England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After he died, England was ruled by several other Norman kings, the worst being Stephen, who ruled ‘without any right’, which appropriately led to chaos. After Stephen came Henry II. He attempted to restore order and was marginally successful. Richard (1189-1199) and John are Henry’s sons.

When the story opens, Richard has inherited the kingdom from Henry II, gone to the Crusades, and been kidnapped by the Duke of Austria on his way home. During Richard’s absence, his brother, Prince John, has attempted a power grab, and the Norman barons have increased in might, disdaining the king’s council of advisors, and increasing their oppression of the Saxons, who after a hundred years of subjugation are still defiant.

Poetry: Scott begins each chapter with a verse of poetry that offers clues to the chapter. This particular offering is from Alexander Pope’s translation of The Odyssey.

Geography: Sheffield is in Yorkshire, just north of Nottingham and east of Liverpool.

The English Constitution: To this day, the English Constitution is not a single document, but what is called ‘case law’-- law based on precedent set through court cases decided by a jury of free men. The English had practiced some form of ‘shire court’ since the earliest days of Anglo-Saxon society, and by Richard’s reign, English Common Law was, well, common. Prior to the Norman invasion, even the king had to be recognized as legitimate by the witan, a group of noblemen who also served as the king’s closest advisors. The Normans continued these customary practices after a fashion, but not to the satisfaction of the Saxons. One glaring change is that the language of the courts changed from Anglo-Saxon to French, fixing a barrier against any Saxon gentleman who had not gone to the Continent to learn the language.

More background on English law

English council of state: the King’s council of advisors
state of vassalage: service, homage and fidelity owed to a feudal lord in return for protection
such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression: the barons’ ability to wield their power, and their unjust and cruel ways of doing it, were so increased
nourishing the most inveterate antipathy: encouraging ingrained hatred
laws of the chase: hunting laws
rustics and hinds: coarse country people and farm laborers
West-Riding of Yorkshire: one of the historic divisions of the county of Yorkshire
malice prepense: evil intent
Ranger of the forest that cuts the foreclaws off our dogs: a reference to tyrannical hunting laws, which disabled the dogs of the inferior classes to protect the deer in the forest
Eumaeus: the faithful swineherd of Odysseus

Notes and Vocabulary for Chapter 2

Poetry: Chapter 2 begins with a quote from The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, a collection of biographical verses and poetic tales told in the persons of medieval figures. Chaucer himself lived in the 14th Century, near the end of the English Middle Ages. This quote is from Chaucer’s biographical verses about the Monk. See if you can decipher his Middle English!

Brian: In this chapter, we meet Sir Brian du Bois-Guilbert, a Temple Knight. The Knights Templar was a monastic order of knights charged with protecting pilgrims and reclaiming the Holy Land. They were exempt from all authority except that of the Pope.

In defiance of conventual rules and the edicts of popes and councils: contrary to the rules of his religious order and the government
furniture: the necessary equipment for a saddle horse
stocking loom: a mechanical knitting loom invented in England in the 1500s
Damascene carving: an intricate inlaid pattern
device: an identifying emblem used by knights and lords
baldric: a belt worn across the chest to support a sword or bugle
Saracens: Arabs or Muslims
El Jerrid: a game played with a blunt javelin in Muslim countries
in Flanders and in Normandy: Flanders is a region on the coast of Belgium near the Netherlands. Normandy is the homeland of the Normans, on the northern coast of France.
Prior of Jorvaulx Abbey: second-in-command at the monastery
scan too nicely: examine in too much detail
anchoret: a person who has retired into seclusion for religious reasons
Franklin: a property owner not of noble birth
palmer: a pilgrim that carried a palm leaf as a symbol of having been to the Holy Land

Notes and Vocabulary on Chapter 3

We meet Cedric the Saxon in this chapter. Cedric is a descendant of Hereward the Wake, a famous Saxon rebel of one hundred years earlier.

sagacious knowledge of physiognomy: keen understanding of facial expressions
truncheon: a heavy club
to announce, I ween, some hership and robbery: to announce, I suppose, some pillaging and robbery
morat and pigment: “These were drinks used by the Saxons…Morat was made of honey flavored with the juice of mulberries; pigment was a sweet and rich liquor composed of wine highly spiced and also sweetened with honey.” (from a note in the Signet Classic edition of Ivanhoe)

Notes and Vocabulary on Chapter 4

Rowena: In Chapter 4 we finally meet the beautiful Lady Rowena. Rowena is a Saxon princess descended from Alfred the Great. She is named for the 1st century daughter of Hengist who helped Hengist overcome Vortigern and conquer the Britons. (In the 1st century, the Saxons were the conquerors and Britons the vanquished…) The story of the earlier Rowena and her triumph over Vortigern can be read in Chapter 9 of Our Island Story (found online at Sir Brian refers to this story when he drinks the health of Lady Rowena.

cope: a long ecclesiastical vestment worn over a robe
the wood was disforested: the wood is no longer a protected hunting area
reliquary: a container in which a religious relic is kept
the dark caverns under which they moved: the Templar has dark bushy eyebrows and deep-set eyes
I drink wassail: a toast of goodwill
a truce with Saladin: Richard had worked out a truce with the leader of the Muslims in whereby Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands, but would be open to Christian pilgrimages.

Thought questions:

1. In Chapter 2, Scott says, “…charity, as it is well known, covereth a multitude of sins, in another sense than that in which it is said to do so in Scripture.” According to the Bible, how does charity cover a multitude of sins? In what sense do you think Scott is using it?

2. Why doesn’t Cedric want to listen to the latest news from Palestine?

3. Wamba the Fool is reprimanded several times in the first few chapters. What do you think of his responses? How does his social position differ from Gurth’s?

4. “Nothing could be more gracefully majestic than his step and manner, had they not been marked by a predominant air of haughtiness, easily acquired by the exercise of unresisted authority.” What do we learn from Scott’s description of Sir Brian’s walk?

5. “If mildness were the more natural expression of such a combination of features, it was plain that, in the present instance, the exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception of general homage, had given to the Saxon lady a loftier character, which mingled with and qualified that bestowed by nature.” What do we learn about Lady Rowena from the description of her face and expression?


(I am providing this study guide as a thank-you to the community of Ambleside Online for the many free resources with which they have blessed my family over the years. I did many hours of research to produce this guide. Feel free to use it if it helps you, but please respect my work and do not attempt to reproduce it for profit.)