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Old 29th January 2009, 02:37 PM   #1
Piscivore
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James Branch Cabell totally ripped off Neil Gaiman!

(note to mods: the following is in the public domain in the US)
Originally Posted by JBC, in "Jurgen"
How Emperor Jurgen Fared Infernally

Now the tale tells how... Jurgen came through the trapdoor... and how he saw and wondered over the creatures which inhabited this place.

...But the first thing the devils did was to search Jurgen very carefully, in order to make sure he was not bringing any water into Hell.

"Now, who may you be, that come to us alive, in a fine shirt of which we never saw the like before?" asked Dithican. He had the head of a tiger, but otherwise the appearance of a large bird, with shining feathers and four feet: his neck was yellow, his body green, and his feet black.

"It would not be treating honestly with you to deny that I am the Emperor of Noumaria," said Jurgen, somewhat advancing his estate...

"But we are rather overrun with emperors," said Amaimon, doubtfully, "and their crimes are a great trouble to us. Were you a very wicked ruler?"

"Never since I became an emperor," replied Jurgen, "has any of my subjects uttered one word of complaint against me. So it stands to reason I have nothing very serious with which to reproach myself."

"Your conscience, then, does not demand that you be punished?"

"My conscience, gentlemen, is too well-bred to insist on anything."

"You do not even wish to be tortured?"

"Well, I admit I had expected something of the sort. But none the less, I will not make a point of it," said Jurgen, handsomely. "No, I shall be quite satisfied even though you do not torture me at all."

And then the mob of devils made a great to-do over Jurgen.

"For it is exceedingly good to have at least one unpretentious and undictatorial human being in Hell. Nobody as a rule drops in on us save inordinately proud and conscientious ghosts, whose self-conceit is intolerable, and whose demands are outrageous."

"How can that be?"

"Why, we have to punish them. Of course they are not properly punished until they are convinced that what is happening to them is just and adequate. And you have no notion what elaborate tortures they insist their exceeding wickedness has merited, as though that which they did or left undone could possibly matter to anybody. And to contrive these torments quite tires us out."

"But wherefore is this place called the Hell of my fathers?"

"Because your forefathers builded it in dreams," they told him, "out of the pride which led them to believe that what they did was of sufficient importance to merit punishment. Or so at least we have heard: but if you want the truth of the matter you must go to our Grandfather at Barathum."

"I shall go to him, then. And do my own grandfathers, and all the forefathers that I had in the old time, inhabit this gray place?"

"All such as are born with what they call a conscience come hither," the devils said. "Do you think you could persuade them to go elsewhere? For in that event, we would be deeply obliged to you. Their self-conceit is pitiful: but it is also a nuisance, because it prevents our getting any rest."


...Then Jurgen went back to Chorasma, where Coth, the son of Smoit and Steinvor, stood conscientiously in the midst of the largest and hottest flame he had been able to imagine, and rebuked the outworn devils who were tormenting him, because the tortures they inflicted were not adequate to the wickedness of Coth....

"But it is inadequate torment, Jurgen, such as does not salve my conscience. There is no justice in this place, and no way of getting justice. For these shiftless devils do not take seriously that which I did, and they merely pretend to punish me, and so my conscience stays unsatisfied."

"Well, but, father, I have talked with them, and they seem to think your crimes do not amount to much, after all."

Coth flew into one of his familiar rages. "I would have you know that I killed eight men in cold blood, and held five other men while they were being killed. I estimate the sum of such iniquity as ten and a half murders, and for these my conscience demands that I be punished."

"Ah, but, sir, that was fifty years or more ago, and these men would now be dead in any event, so you see it does not matter now."

"I went astray with women, with I do not know how many women."

Jurgen shook his head. "This is very shocking news for a son to receive, and you can imagine my feelings. None the less, sir, that also was fifty years ago, and nobody is bothering over it now."

"You jackanapes, I tell you that I swore and stole and forged and burned four houses and broke the Sabbath and was guilty of mayhem and spoke disrespectfully to my mother and worshipped a stone image in Porutsa. I tell you I shattered the whole Decalogue, time and again. I committed all the crimes that were ever heard of, and invented six new ones."

"Yes, sir," said Jurgen: "but, still, what does it matter if you did?"

"Oh, take away this son of mine!" cried Coth: "for he is his mother all over again; and though I was the vilest sinner that ever lived, I have not deserved to be plagued twice with such silly questions. And I demand that you loitering devils bring more fuel."


Compare to SANDMAN #23: "Seasons of Mist: episode 2":

(This is not public domain, but should be allowable under Fair Use)
Quote:
Ten billion years spent providing a place for dead mortals to torture themselves? And like all masochists they called the shots. "Burn me" "Freeze me" "Eat me" "Hurt me". And we did.

...I am Breschau of Livonia. I ripped out the tongues of those who spoke against me, and cut the unborn babes from the wombs of my enemies women, that they would not become warriors to rise against me. I took my mother by force, and I strangled my sister when she would not consent to my advances. Soon my name was whispered in the night by mothers to terrify their babes into obedience, I am Breschau, who bathed in the blood of children. I am Breschau, who forced the true prophets of the lord to dance upon plates of hot iron, under which fires were burning, and I laughed as they danced. I am Breschau, and when my mistress was unfaithful to me, I cut the nose from her face and wore it about my neck. As for the woman, I had her sewn to her lover, and, skin to skin, I left them in the desert to be eaten by ravens, and I laughed as I heard them scream. I am Breschau, and this is my punishment.

...No one cares any more, Breschau. No one remembers. I doubt one mortal in a hundred thousand could even point to where Livonia used to be, on a map.
"Breschau" is even used as the name of a fictional country in "Jurgen".

I was quite amused by this.
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Old 29th January 2009, 06:29 PM   #2
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Obviously Cabell, or someone involved, is well read.
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Old 29th January 2009, 06:30 PM   #3
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Of course, it could be the old homage gambit!
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Old 30th January 2009, 08:09 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
Of course, it could be the old homage gambit!
Oh, yeah, that's clearly what is going on- Gaiman even thanks Cabell in American Gods. I just thought it was funny to find where he got one of the ideas I thought was really original when I read Sandman.
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