Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weird Tales from Ancient Times

Lucian
Author, Public Speaker
Born ca. A.D. 125, Samosata (located in modern day Turkey)
Died After A.D. 180

Lucian is a figure from the ancient world, known for his comic and satiric works. His True Story or True History is the earliest known work involving a trip into outer space, encounters with alien life forms, and interplanetary warfare. The story is often cited as the first science fiction novel.

Lucian's Philopseudes ("Lover of Lies") is the source of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," reprinted by Weird Tales in a translation by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) in its October issue, 1939. Lucian's original work is also the inspiration for Goethe's well-known ballad, written in 1797. According to Wikipedia, a line from the poem, "The spirit that I called," has become a cliché, referring to an ally that, once summoned, cannot be controlled. In the early 1930s, Adolf Hitler rose to power and was appointed as chancellor of Germany. Goethe's ideal of a Germany made up of separate principalities was long gone, while the Weimar Republic, which originated in a city bearing his unequalled cachet in German culture, became the first nation to fall to Hitler and his Nazi Party. Hitler--the spirit that was called by the German government and people--of course went out of its control and launched a war in Europe in September 1939, a month ahead of the cover date of Weird Tales in which Lucian's story appeared. A year and a month later, Walt Disney's Fantasia made its debut in a New York theater. One of the highlights of the film is a segment animating Paul Dukas' symphonic poem, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (1897), after Goethe's poem from a century before. The star of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (the Disney version) is of course Mickey Mouse.

Lucian's Story in Weird Tales
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" translated by Sir Thomas More (Oct. 1939)

Text copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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