Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

Month: May 2017

The Naked Truth

There’s nothing like the deliciousness of really good chocolate. Yesterday, I threw away any notion of the diet I ought to be on, and indulged in a chocolate covered caramel made by Godiva. Heavenly! Yet after I examined the packaging, something occurred to me that I never thought about before – probably since I’m primarily focused on, well, chocolate.

A visit to the Godiva website told me that Godiva, a business with roots in Brussels, named their company after Lady Godiva, for “values associated with her of boldness, generosity, and a pioneering spirit”. The company logo features a naked woman with long flowing tresses (strategically placed) and riding a horse.

As most people know, the story of Lady Godiva (968-1057) is that she took pity on the people, begging her husband to reduce his oppressive taxes on them. Figuring he’d found the perfect way to keep her quiet, he said he’d reduce taxes when she rode naked through their town of Coventry. Godiva, after sending out a strongly worded proclamation for people to stay indoors and not peek, called her husband’s bluff.

Surprisingly, not a person in Coventry failed to follow her order except for one man named Tom, who couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak a look. He was immediately either struck blind or dead (depending on which version you read) through swift heavenly judgement. Meanwhile, Godiva’s ride convinced her husband to reduce taxes and everyone joyously celebrated, except, of course, for Peeping Tom.

It’s all a very pretty story indeed, despite the fact that it never happened. There are no accounts by Godiva’s contemporaries of such an event occurring, and gossip being what it is, most likely her acquaintances would have at least mentioned it. (“Did you hear what Lady Godiva did last week? I’m telling you, I could have died!”)

The oldest form of the story doesn’t appear until the 1200’s, and “Peeping Tom” doesn’t show up until the 1700’s – not exactly the most reliable sources of information. As time went on, little details were added to shape the current legend of Lady Godiva.

Statue of Lady Godiva in Coventry, England – scene of the infamous ride. (Tripadvisor photo)

Coventry, England remains quite proud of Lady Godiva and no one is willing to let her story disappear. The Godiva Procession, part of the Coventry Fair, has been held for many years with “Godiva” typically wearing a body suit and cloak (in case any Peeping Toms are curious). The event has changed over time, and is now called the Coventry Godiva Festival, with a decidedly rock concert leaning. If you’re planning a trip to Coventry around July 7-9, click HERE for the current lineup. Sadly, I didn’t see any mention of an appearance by Lady Godiva on the schedule.

At least there’s one thing of which we can be sure. A story might be only a legend, but Godiva chocolate? That, my friends, is real.

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Humor and History is a Perfect Combination

I love to laugh and equally enjoy learning quirky little tidbits from the past. If you do, too, I have the perfect book to recommend. Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History & Nonsense is a collection of eighty-six blog posts written by Sarah Angleton – friend and fellow writer – selected from five years blogging as the Practical Historian.  As the title suggests, readers will not be bored by dry history lectures. The stories are witty and clever; drawing parallels between events from the past and the daily life of the author’s own family in an entertaining and decidedly tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Sarah Angleton signing at North Cafe.

Because all pieces in the collection are short, the book is easy to pick up and read whenever you have a spare moment. The only problem might be in putting it down.  While humor abounds, it so happens one of my favorite stories is a bit more poignant.  We learn about the author’s niece looking for the perfect wedding gown, and how Queen Victoria started a trend. Trust me, if you’ve bought a wedding dress, you’ll love the story, On the Shelf of Rarely Used Things.

Yesterday, Sarah had her first book signing at North Cafe in Wentzville, Missouri. I stopped in to congratulate her, and get an autograph on my copy. Do yourself a favor and buy this book on Amazon, or request it at your local bookstore. If you’d like to meet Sarah, you can visit her next signing at Our Town Books in Jacksonville, Illinois on June 2.

Congratulations to Sarah on a fabulous accomplishment!

Support your local authors. They need you!

Attending her signing moves me to mention the hard work involved in letting people know about a book. In the old days, authors like Edgar Allen Poe or Ernest Hemingway would arrange a tour to read from their work and (hopefully) sell some books. Some authors are reported to have bribed  paid editors and critics for recognition. Others who had a little extra coin in their pockets  might hire people to wear sandwich boards and walk through town (history’s version of social media).

Any way you look at it, getting out the word is tough.

That’s where you, dear readers, are so crucial. Pictured is a chart of ways you can help your favorite author. I can promise she (or he) will appreciate it more than you know.

 

 

 

 

 

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