The prompt this week reminded me that nations and clans of all kinds have a tendency to create long stories of their history, legends of their glistening, glorious past.
These sagas usually tell the story of an early leader, a hero of supernatural power. Sometimes such a legend will include a sidekick of the ruler, a character known as the “trickster,” an imp or sprite who enjoys fooling around.
In Shakespeare’s day, this sprite was Puck, well known in British folklore. When a farmwife came down in the morning and learned that the milk had soured long before it should have, it was natural for her to think that some sort of creature, some mischievous elf – Puck, in other words – had been responsible.
In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Puck plays an important part. The best description of him would be: he's a conniver, always conniving, scheming, manipulating. Officially he’s jester to the king, but he enjoys his remarkable powers for farce by screwing things up for people.
In the play there are several couples of young lovers; Puck gets a charge out of scrambling the arrangement so that the guys and the gals are no longer sure just who loves whom.
Of course, one of Puck’s most famous achievements has to do with what he does to Nick Bottom, the weaver. For Bottom it isn’t a fun job anyway - weaving stuff can be awful tedious – but it’s worse when a weird elfish prankster gives him the head of a jassack.
But he turns out to be lucky; the fact that this change somehow makes beautiful women fall madly in love with him makes up for it a bit.
Puck, as you might expect, brags a lot. He claims he can fly around the world in a certain number of minutes.
Well, the folks over at NASA thought about this. They had had astronauts circling the globe for years. They knew, to a minute or so, just how long it took. They wondered, would their guy win such a race, or would Puck?
So here’s your chance to win the huge cash award. (Assuming I can find somebody to put up some cash – which doesn’t look likely.)
The question is, who would win, who would circumnavigate the globe faster? Puck or the astronaut?
(The answer will be posted Friday)