"The Sea Wolf" by Jack London

Movie Poster for a production
of "The Sea Wolf"
"The Sea Wolf" by Jack London is the story of a man named Humphrey Van Weyden who has, by a series of mishaps, been taken aboard a seal hunting vessel called the Ghost. "The Sea Wolf" is a story of adventure, misfortune, romance and morality. In essence, "The Sea Wolf" is a story about a well-bred young man learning to fend for himself in a rough environment, while attempting to maintain his standards of morality even while living amongst men who disregard any moral responsibility to all but themselves.

In the beginning of Jack London’s novel, "The Sea Wolf", Humphrey is aboard a ferry steamer in the San Francisco Bay. An accident occurs when the steamer fails to spot another boat in the fog. The two vessels hit each other and the steamer begins to sink. Our narrator soon finds himself dumped into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay. He is an inexperienced swimmer and a gentle man, who is wholly unprepared for the disaster he now faces. He quickly begins to lose his battle for survival, but he is luckily picked up by the Ghost. He is revived and cleaned up by some rough sailors aboard the ship, whom he asks to introduce him to the captain.

It is at this point in "The Sea Wolf" that Jack London introduces us to the character for whom the novel is named. This man is the captain of the Ghost and his name is Wolf Larsen. Jack London describes the man thoroughly as rugged, somewhat nice to look at, but terrifying in the extreme. At first, Humphrey does not know what to make of the man, but senses something about him that he does not like. Nor does he like that Wolf refuses to turn the boat around and bring Humphrey to California. Humphrey learns from the captain that they are headed to Japan and that he has no plans to allow Humphrey to leave the ship.

From this point on "The Sea Wolf" takes Humphrey through a series of trying events. He has found himself aboard a ship full of murderous men. However, there are a few that Humphrey begins to admire. Wolf Larsen also forces Humphrey to do hard labor on the ship as payment for his safety. The captain mentions that he does this to teach Humphrey to “stand on his own legs.”

Humphrey soon learns that the captain is an avid reader and that he wishes to discuss the things that he has read with Humphrey. The pair’s conversations are mostly about morality and the existence of the human soul. Wolf is adamant that humans do not have souls and that morality is equal to stupidity. He believes that a man should do whatever he deems necessary to gain what it is that he wants in the world. Humphrey is appalled by the captain’s beliefs, and even more by his actions.

It is through these conversations that Jack London turns "The Sea Wolf" into a novel that is immensely more philosophical than your average adventure story. Eventually, a series of events on board the Ghost cause Humphrey to want to kill Wolf Larsen. However, the young man’s ideals stop him from following through. Wolf, on the other hand, displays time and again that he has no qualms about killing men on a whim.

When a young woman named Maud is brought onto the Ghost, Wolf begins to display lust for her. Humphrey has fallen in love with the girl, so Wolf’s advances fuel his hatred for the man. Humphrey eventually decides to escape with the woman, at great personal risk. The two then leave the ship on board a small hunting boat. Wolf eventually catches up with them on an island, but he is alone. His entire crew has deserted him. He is also sick and dying.

Despite his illness, Wolf continues to be aggressive toward Humphrey and even tries to kill him. Our poor Humphrey still cannot bring himself to kill the man. Instead, he sets about trying to steal the Ghost so that he and Maud can escape the island. Wolf gets very sick during this, so Maud and Humphrey do what they feel is right and care for the man while he is dying. Right up until his last breath, Wolf denies the existence of a soul and the need for morality. "The Sea Wolf" ends as Maud and Humphrey declare their love for one another.

In the end "The Sea Wolf" is really a story about good triumphing over evil. It is also a story about the resilience of the human spirit. The narrator of "The Sea Wolf" was given many opportunities to forsake his feelings and kill the man who had persecuted him and attempted to murder him. However, Humphrey makes it through his ordeal with his morality, and his soul, intact, thus proving that Wolf was wrong. Maybe he was not necessarily right about the existence of the human soul, but about the fact that you do not need to forsake your humanity to succeed.

Shelly Barclay 



The Malleus Maleficarum or "The Hammer of the Witches"

The Malleus Maleficarum "The Hammer of the Witches" is a book that outlines the characteristics of "witches," how to "interrogate" them and what their punishment should be. This infamous book was something of a manual during the Inquisitions. It was written by Inquisitors for Inquisitors. To the modern eye, it is a horrifying lesson in misguided power, the danger of false religious superstitions and the dangers of allowing a single religious institution to control the well-being of the public. It is quite possible that the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum are responsible for more torture and death than any other authors.

Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger finished the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486. It was published in 1487. Kramer and Sprenger were both members of the Dominican Order and they were both Inquisitors for the Catholic Church. Their book was intended to be a guideline for other Inquisitors. It was meant to aid them in detecting witches, tell them which rules to follow when questioning them and what punishment should be eked out to those who were uncooperative or found guilty.

The first part of the Malleus Maleficarum debates every argument against the reality of witchcraft. The use of the word heretical is of note. They believed that those who did not believe in witchcraft were heretics. The second and third parts of the Malleus Maleficarum outline what to look for in the search for witches, information extraction and punishment.

It is interesting to note the criteria for being labeled a witch. Things like mental illness, unusual features, living conditions and other such trivial things were believed to be proof of witchcraft. If you were to read the Malleus Maleficarum, you would be likely to find something that could have led to your torture, had you lived in those dark times. Simply being accused of it by an enemy would have sufficed. It is also interesting to note that many of the things these Inquisitors said witches do were most likely made up completely. It makes one wonder what kind of men invented this book. It is entirely fictitious, sadistically so, in many ways.

The Malleus Maleficarum does talk about torture more than an empathetic person would care to see. However, it does not specifically outline the torture methods that were used during the Inquisition. Instead, it refers Inquisitors to Canonical Law, which did grant them the right to use some of the most despicable forms of torture ever devised by humankind.

Common belief holds that the Malleus Maleficarum was banned just four years after it was written. However, it does not seem to appear on the first official list of banned books by the Catholic Church. Otherwise known as the "Pauline Index," Pope Paul IV's list did not include the Malleus Maleficarum. Still, it may have been banned, but it was not out of print or use. It was printed numerous times in the 16th and 17th century. It was also used extensively by both the Catholics and Protestants.

Shelly Barclay

Sources


Lovelace, Wicasta, Introduction to Online Edition, retrieved 8/30/10, malleusmaleficarum.org

Great Books About Snakes for Kids

It is wonderful for kids to learn about as many animals in this biologically diverse world, even the creepy crawly ones like snakes. In fact, it might be even more important for kids to learn about the not-so-popular animals in this world. That is because, quite often, conservation efforts are reserved for the cute and cuddly (a phenomenon known as "survival of the cutest"). Here are a few books that will help children learn about snakes and dispel the myths that keep people from loving these amazing creatures.

"Snakes" by Gail Gibbons

Suggested age range: 4-8

Gail Gibbons is a popular non-fiction children's writer who has written several books on animals. In "Snakes," Gail brings together all kinds of information about snakes from fun facts to descriptions of various snakes' appearances. All of the information is easy to follow and concise. This book also contains illustrations for your kids to look at.

"Amazing Snakes!" A Level 2 I can read! book by Sarah L. Thomson

Suggested age range: 4-8

This book contains loads of great photos of snakes. It also contains lots of great information that is easy to follow. In this book, Sarah discusses general facts about snakes and even provides some information on threats to snake populations.

Fangs! series by Eric Ethan

Suggested age range: Varies

There are six books in the Fangs! series by Eric Ethan. All of them contain pictures and great information on the various snakes they highlight. They are good for kids ages four and up.

Books in the Fangs! series:

"Cottonmouths"

"Rattlesnakes" 

"Vipers" 

"Boas, Pythons, and Anacondas" 

"Cobras" 

"Copperheads" 

"The Snake Book" from DK Publishing

Suggested age range: 4-8

This book is great for its pictures. Sure, it contains some good information on species life cycles, habitat, etc. However, the pictures are so vivid and up close that they make the book. You can see every scale on every snake in these great pictures. Kids are sure to love them.


All of the abovementioned books are perfect for kids. They contain information that even an adult could use, but are written in a way that makes them easy for kids to read. Eyewitness Books has many books that fit this description as well. And, while they don't have any advanced books that are strictly about snakes, their book Reptiles is worth taking a look at, as it contains several pages worth of snake information.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: "Finders Keepers" by Stephen King

Finders Keepers
Cover art used under fair use
Copyright held by publisher or artist
"Finders Keepers" is the sequel to "Mr. Mercedes" and the second in what will become a trilogy in the summer of 2016. Unlike "Mr. Mercedes," "Finders Keepers" focuses on an unfortunately fortunate kid and an author killer who has just been let out of prison. However, Bill Hodges and his friends return as a major part of the novel, as does the Mercedes Killer himself, tying it all together in a neat little package.

Mild spoilers ahead.

It's no secret that I like Stephen King's style a lot. However, as I've said before, I don't like every single one of his novels, but I like this one. Hodges comes back in trimmer shape after suffering a heart attack at the end of the last novel. He and his neurotic partner started up a private detective agency called Finders Keepers. They are brought into a bigger case than they imagine when a friend's younger sister shows up at their office.

Central to the story is Peter Saubers, a boy who unwittingly made a discovery that may have saved his family from abject poverty and the dissolution of his parents' marriage. However, this find has some serious history that is about to come back to haunt young Peter.

The novel follows the original owner of Peter's discovery and Peter as one tries to find what he buried decades earlier and the other tries to help his family stay above water. It's easy to care about the characters, with the exception of the very bad man. The plot is well paced, and there was a serious teaser for the next novel that has me very excited. I venture to guess that will be the best and most Stephen King-esque of the bunch.


Shelly Barclay

Book Review: "In the Shadow of Lions" by Ginger Garrett

"In the Shadow of Lions" by Ginger Garrett is a historical Christian fiction novel that highlights the relationship of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII in a completely new way. Anne is portrayed as a seductive woman that is not a seductress. She is portrayed as a woman who had to seize her opportunities, not an opportunist. Most of all, she was portrayed as a devout Catholic girl, not an evil temptress bent on stealing the crown and ruining England. Ginger Garrett had her work cut out for her in trying to portray one of the most despised characters in European history as the girl she was before the gossip likely ruined her name for all time.

In all respects, "In the Shadow of Lions" is a page-turner. Ginger Garrett incorporates three different stories into one novel and weaves them in a way that you never want to skip past one plot line to get to one that is more interesting. Her main characters are three females who are protected by the same angel. The first is a woman from modern times who is writing the story of the other two for an angel she calls "The Scribe." The second is a woman of the street whose only wish is that her son found his place in Heaven when he died in infancy. The third is Anne Boleyn, a young woman who is trying to save herself and her family from the whims of a King and an unsympathetic court. All of these characters and their stories are engaging.

Historical characters that Ginger Garrett weaves into "In the Shadow of Lions" include King Henry VIII, Queen Catherine, Anne Boleyn and Thomas More. What is interesting about her approach to these characters is that she keeps their known characteristics and sympathizes where history has not. On the other hand, she is unsympathetic where history has been kind. In other words, she gives readers who are familiar with these characters a new perspective on their possible motives. In the case of Thomas More, she leaves the man that history loves and reminds the reader of his faults, of which there are many.

While the Catholic religion runs deep in "In the Shadow of Lions", readers of any faith (or lack thereof) can appreciate the intrigue, innocence, darkness, madness and politics that Garrett has woven into the plot. It is a story of how faith can save a person or drive them to cruel extremes. This is fact, regardless of whether god is real or not. As for the history involved in this book, whether you know it or not, Ginger's version will capture your attention. A lot of it will be recognized by history buffs. Deep down, we all know that history has smeared the names of some while uplifting those of others without regard to fact. That fact is we all are all human. No one is perfect and very few are truly evil. "In the Shadow of Lions" highlights that fact in a wonderful way.

It has to be said that Ginger Garrett really knows how to tell a story. This novel is brilliant. This is historical fiction the way it was meant to be. A canvas of factual history painted with the brush of a thoughtful storyteller.