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This book is a five hundred year old manual for how to run a kingdom or principality. Written in 1513 but not published until 1532, "The Prince" generated controversy even before it got into print. Unlike the many previous "how-to" manuals for new rulers, "The Prince" only judged actions by their effectiveness and did not consider morals or ethics at all. Some of the suggestions were so brutal and amoral that many critics in the 18th century considered "The Prince" to be a satire, as they co ...
 
Das Nibelungenlied ist ein mittelalterliches Heldenepos und wurde oft als „Nationalepos der Deutschen“ bezeichnet. Es entstand zu Beginn des 13. Jahrhunderts und wurde in der damaligen Volkssprache Mittelhochdeutsch geschrieben.Das Epos erzählt von der Liebe zwischen dem Drachentöter Siegfried und der burgundischen Prinzessin Kriemhild, von der Brautwerbung des burgundischen Königs Gunther um die isländische Königin Brunhild, vom Verrat der Burgunden an Siegfried und dessen Ermordung durch H ...
 
He is a divinely handsome young man, valiant and fiercely loyal to his uncle who adopted and nurtured him from the time he was an abandoned orphan. She is the ethereally beautiful princess of a faraway country, betrothed to the middle-aged uncle. They meet when the young man is sent as an emissary to her country to bring her back for the grand wedding. On board the ship, the two fall tragically in love. Tristan and Iseult by Joseph Bedier is a retelling of an ancient legend which has been po ...
 
Jack the Giant-Killer, Tom Thumb, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Henny Penny, Dick Whittington, The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood and a host of immortal characters are found in this delightful collection of English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. The book made its first appearance in 1890 and has remained a firm favorite with both young and old ever since. Fairy tales have traditionally emanated from France and Germany. The famous compilations by La Fontaine and the Brothers Grimm have o ...
 
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show series
 
In the 1890s, Waldemar Haffkine worked valiantly to develop vaccines against both cholera and bubonic plague. Then an unjust accusation derailed his career. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Haffkine's momentous work in India, which has been largely overlooked by history. We'll also consider some museum cats and p…
 
In 1938, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana vanished after taking a sudden sea journey. At first it was feared that he'd ended his life, but the perplexing circumstances left the truth uncertain. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review the facts of Majorana's disappearance, its meaning for physics, and a surprising modern …
 
In 1883, Missouri real estate broker James Reavis announced that he held title to a huge tract of land in the Arizona Territory. If certified, the claim would threaten the livelihoods of thousands of residents. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Baron of Arizona, one of the most audacious frauds in Ame…
 
One dark night in 1804, a London excise officer mistook a bricklayer for a ghost and shot him. This raised a difficult question: Was he guilty of murder? In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll consider the case of the Hammersmith ghost, which has been called "one of the greatest curiosities in English criminal law." We'll also …
 
In 1901, two English academics met a succession of strange characters during a visit to Versailles. They came to believe that they had strayed somehow into the mind of Marie Antoinette in the year before her execution. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Moberly-Jourdain affair, a historical puzzle wrapped in a …
 
In the 19th century, some New England communities grew so desperate to help victims of tuberculosis that they resorted to a macabre practice: digging up dead relatives and ritually burning their organs. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll examine the causes of this bizarre belief and review some unsettling examples. We'll al…
 
In the 19th century, France, England, and the United States each set out to bring home an Egyptian obelisk. But each obelisk weighed hundreds of tons, and the techniques of moving them had long been forgotten. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the struggles of each nation to transport these massive monoliths using t…
 
Eugene Bullard ran away from home in 1907 to seek his fortune in a more racially accepting Europe. There he led a life of staggering accomplishment, becoming by turns a prizefighter, a combat pilot, a nightclub impresario, and a spy. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell Bullard's impressive story, which won him resoundin…
 
Crossing the world in 1932, two German airmen ran out of fuel in a remote region of northwestern Australia. With no food and little water, they struggled to find their way to safety while rescuers fought to locate them. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the airmen's ordeal, a dramatic story of perseverance and cha…
 
In 1817 a young woman appeared in the English village of Almondsbury, speaking a strange language and seeking food and shelter. She revealed herself to be an Eastern princess, kidnapped by pirates from an exotic island. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Princess Caraboo, who was both more and less than sh…
 
In 1911 English sisters Claire and Dora Williamson began consulting a Seattle "fasting specialist" named Linda Burfield Hazzard. As they underwent her brutal treatments, the sisters found themselves caught in a web of manipulation and deceit. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Williamsons' ordeal and t…
 
In 1909, Oklahoma brothers Bud and Temple Abernathy rode alone to New Mexico and back, though they were just 9 and 5 years old. In the years that followed they would become famous for cross-country trips totaling 10,000 miles. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll trace the journeys of the Abernathy brothers across a rapidly e…
 
In 1759, ghostly rappings started up in the house of a parish clerk in London. In the months that followed they would incite a scandal against one man, an accusation from beyond the grave. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Cock Lane ghost, an enduring portrait of superstition and justice. We'll also s…
 
In 1944, British captives of the Japanese in Sumatra drew morale from an unlikely source: a purebred English pointer who cheered the men, challenged the guards, and served as a model of patient fortitude. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Judy, the canine POW of World War II. We'll also consider the frequ…
 
In 1977, West German tourist Erwin Kreuz spent three days enjoying the sights, sounds, and hospitality of Bangor, Maine. Unfortunately, he thought he was in San Francisco, on the other side of the continent. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Kreuz's unlikely adventure, which made him a local hero in his adopted c…
 
In 1931, a 93-year-old widow was discovered to be hoarding great wealth in New York's Herald Square Hotel. Her death touched off an inquiry that revealed a glittering past -- and a great secret. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll tell the story of Ida Wood, which has been called "one of the most sensational inheritance cas…
 
Here are eight new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions. Intro: In 1940, the Venezuelan post office was said to deliver love letters at half price. In 1890 Mark Twain composed a holiday message for the New York World. The sources for this week's puzzles are below. …
 
In 1928, Belgian financier Alfred Loewenstein fell to his death from a private plane over the English Channel. How it happened has never been explained. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe the bizarre incident, which has been called "one of the strangest fatalities in the history of commercial aviation." We'll also…
 
When a mysterious illness blinded him at age 25, British naval officer James Holman took up a new pursuit: travel. For the next 40 years he roamed the world alone, describing his adventures in a series of popular books. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Holman's remarkable career and his unique perspective on his…
 
Joseph Medicine Crow was raised on a Montana reservation in the warrior tradition of his Crow forefathers. But during World War II he found himself applying those lessons in very different circumstances. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe Joseph's exploits in the war and how they helped to shape his future. We'll …
 
George Parker Bidder was born with a surprising gift: He could do complex arithmetic in his head. His feats of calculation would earn for him a university education, a distinguished career in engineering, and fame throughout 19th-century England. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll describe his remarkable ability and the st…
 
John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as "the hermit of the north," famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll spend a winter with Hornby, who's been called "one of the most colorful…
 
In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we'll tell the story of Fri…
 
In 1953 Mildred Norman renounced "an empty life of money and things" and dedicated herself to promoting peace. She spent the next three decades walking through the United States to spread a message of simplicity and harmony. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe her unusual life as a peace pilgrim. We'll also admire W…
 
Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions. Intro: Stonewall Jackson recorded 14 precepts for good conversation. Ben Franklin offered four "rules for making oneself a disagreeable companion." Sources for this episode's puzzles: Puzzle #1 is from listener…
 
In 1967, Jim Thompson left his silk business in Thailand for a Malaysian holiday with three friends. On the last day, he disappeared from the cottage in which they were staying. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review the many theories behind Thompson's disappearance, which has never been explained. We'll also borrow John…
 
Beryl Markham managed to fit three extraordinary careers into one lifetime: She was a champion racehorse trainer, a pioneering bush pilot, and a best-selling author. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review her eventful life, including her historic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936. We'll also portray some Canadian s…
 
By 1914 Frank Lloyd Wright had become one of America's most influential architects. But that August a violent tragedy unfolded at his Midwestern residence and studio. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the shocking attack of Julian Carlton, which has been called "the most horrific single act of mass murder in Wisco…
 
In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck founded an association to answer Santa's mail. For 15 years its volunteers fulfilled children's Christmas wishes, until Gluck's motivation began to shift. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the rise and fall of "Santa's Secretary" in New York City. We'll also survey some…
 
In 1911 an exhausted man emerged from the wilderness north of Oroville, California. He was discovered to be the last of the Yahi, a people who had once flourished in the area but had been decimated by white settlers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Ishi's sad history and his new life in San Francisco. We'll also…
 
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