Friday, November 9, 2018

Red-Haired Jesus ..and Red-Haired Judas

I recently came across the following image which depicts the child Jesus being carried across the waters by Saint Christopher. In it Jesus is depicted with soft reddish hair. He's also carrying a globus cruciger, or orb and cross. It's quite notable as the orb looks markedly Earth-like. It's generally stated that the orb was said to represent the globe-shaped Earth, however this seems like the best example of that idea that's I've came across so far. The image is said to date from the 17th century, and is from the parish of Almenno San Salvatore in Italy.

(Saint Christopher bearing
the child Jesus on his shoulders)

(In detail, showing the globus cruciger)

It's also perhaps worth taking a brief look at Saint Christopher himself. His name is said to mean "Christ bearer", as in popular legend he was said to have carried the child Jesus across a raging river. What has always struck me is how similar the name Christ is to the word crossed. Of course, Jesus was famously said to have been crucified on a cross - and to have carried this cross prior to the crucifixion. Hence the phrase "a cross to bear". So I wonder if Christopher could in some sense also simply mean "cross bearer". Christopher also sounds a little like "crossed over". So also fits in with the idea of river crossings.

Saint Christopher is patron saint of travellers. The Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias famously sailed around the tip of Africa for the first time in a boat named São Cristóvão, meaning Saint Christopher. Likewise, Saint Christopher's namesake Christopher Columbus was said to be the first European to discover the Americas. However, since the name Columbus means "dove" it could be said that his name translates as "Dove of Christ" or perhaps even "dove crossing over". So I wonder how much of all this is literal history and how much is purely symbolic allegory.

The Portuguese were also said to have discovered the Americas independently. Though in their case it was an accidental discovery, as opposed to the more deliberate voyage taken by Columbus in search of the East. The Portuguese were gradually exploring the west coast of Africa and the various Atlantic islands, so it would perhaps makes sense that through a stray voyage they would alight upon the east coast of Brazil. So I wonder if the supposed Spanish discovery by Columbus is a re-writing of history in some sense.

In other news..

I also came across the following French quote, originally from a work titled Histoire des Perruques (or The History of Wigs) by the 17th century French theologian Jean-Baptiste Thiers.

(The quote in question)
"Les rousseaux portèrent des perruques, pour cacher la couleur de leurs cheveux, qui sont en horreur à tout le monde, parce que Judas à ce qu'on prétend, étoit rousseau."

It loosely translates as; the redheads wore wigs, to hide the colour of their hair, which was abhorred by the whole world, as Judas was said to be red-haired.

It's an interesting quote as not only does it reinforce the idea that Judas was associated with red hair, but it also tells us that redheads actively hid the colour of their hair under wigs. I guess in a similar way to how redheads today may dye their hair blond or dark.

Thanks to the same source text on Google Books I also discovered that the term crine ruber - Latin for red-haired - was used an insult. Which is something perhaps worth remembering when further investigating things.

(Crine ruber, meaning "red-haired")

Finally, I also came across the following book online which is well worth mentioning as it seems to be jammed full of interesting information relating to red hair, amongst other things. I've just skimmed through it so far, but really look forward to reading it over the next week or so.

The Naming of Russia - by Håkon Stang

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Red-haired firsts and founders, 2nd part (51 - 100)

While working at our partner blog Famous Redheads in History I couldn’t help but notice the great number of “firsts” and “founders” among our famous redheads. Here’s the list from 51 to 100. For the first part, see here.




51) James VI and I of England and Scotland: first Stuart to become king of England.

52) Archduchess Magdalena of Austria:  founder and first abbess of the convent in Hall in Tirol.


53) Eglantyne Jebb: founder of Save the Children.

54) Ronald A. Fisher: he is described as the founder of modern statistical science.

55) Jesse White Mario: first woman journalist in England.

56) David M. Ogilvy:  founder of Ogilvy & Mather and known as the father of advertising.

57) Jacopo Peri: he is considered the inventor of opera.

58) Eleonora Gonzaga the Younger: she founded a literay academy and established two female orders: the Order of Virtuosity (1662) and the Order of the Starrry Cross (1668).

59) Cyrus West Field: along with other entrepreneurs, he created the Atlantic Telegraph Company and laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858.

60) Horace Wells: American dentist who pioneered the use of anesthesia in dentistry, specifically nitrous oxide.




61) Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr: first ruler of the Emirate of Granada, the last independent Muslim state on the Iberian Peninsula, and the founder of its ruling Nasrid dynasty.

62) Sir Robert Peel: he is regarded as the father of modern British policing and as one of the founders of the modern Conservative Party.

63) Edmund Burke: in the twentieth century he became widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.

64) Louisa Adams: she is the first First Lady to be born outside the United States, a distinction that would not be replicated until 192 years later by Melania Trump.

65) James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon: his reign has been the longest of any Iberian monarch.

66) Finnan McDonald: he is considered by many to be the "Father" of the Idaho Territories, as he was the first white man to build a dwelling there.

67) George Moorehe is as often regarded as the first great modern Irish novelist.


68) Praskovia Kovalyova: Russian serf actress. Her most important role was Eliane in Grétry's opera Les Mariages samnites. Assuming the part for the first time in 1785, Praskovia sang Eliane for 12 years — a first in the history of serf theatre.

69) Catherine II of Russia: Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, the country's longest-ruling female leader.

70) Elisabeth of Bavaria: she was the longest serving Empress of Austria at 44 years.

71) Otto von Bismarck: he was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890. He also created the first welfare state in the modern world.

72) Lillie Langtry: she is regarded as the first pin-up.

73) Nellie Bly: American journalist who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days and an exposé in which she worked undercover to report on a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.


74) Billy Wilder: with The Apartment, Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as producer, director, and screenwriter for the same film.

75) Katharine Hepburn: she received four Academy Awards—a record for any performer—for Best Actress.

76) Janet Gaynor: she won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929. At 22, she was also the youngest to receive the award until 1986, when deaf actress Marlee Matlin, 21, won for her role in Children of a Lesser God.

77) James Mayer de Rothschild: founder of the French branch of the Rothschild bank.

78) Myrna Loy: in 1991 Myrna Loy became the first actress (the second being Maureen O’Hara) to receive an Honorary Oscar without having previously been nominated for an Oscar in a competitive category.

79) F. W. Murnau: his film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston) won the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production in 1929, during the first Academy Awards ceremony. The film is considered one of the greatest of all time.

80) Frank Borzage: his film 7th Heaven (1927, starring Janet Gaynor) won the first Academy Award for Best Director.


81) Greer Garson: she is the only actress to have received five consecutive Academy Award nominations for acting, all in Best Actress category (1940 - 1945), winning the award for Mrs. Miniver (1942).

82) Josiah Royce: founder of American idealism.

83) Madeleine Béjart: co-founder (along with Moliére) of the Illustre Théatre, of which she was co-director.

84) James Webb: is described as "the first systematic biographical account by a writer who hadn't known Gurdjieff personally".

86) Agatha Christie: Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum, she remains the most-translated individual author, having been translated into at least 103 languages.
And Then There Were None is Christie's best-selling novel, with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. Christie's stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952, and as of September 2018 is still running after more than 27,000 performances.
In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award. In 2013, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever by 600 fellow writers of the Crime Writers' Association. She was also the first British woman surfing standing up, in Waikiki (Hawaii) in 1922. She is the only mystery writer to be promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire only for her literary works.

87) Jacob Tonson: founder of the Kit-Cat Club.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Red Hair in Russia - The Udmurts and The Romanovs

It seems like ages since I've posted anything on here, so a new post is well overdue. Today's topic is red hair in Russia. Firstly, I came across the following colour photograph of the Romanov royal family.

(Russia's Romanov Royal Family in Colour)

They all look incredibly red-haired to varying degrees in it. Obviously the original photograph will have been black and white, so it can't be taken as verbatim. I wonder how the tints and shades are chosen though. Is there some method, or is it just essentially guesswork? Perhaps something worth looking into in future articles. It does add a little more weight to some of the quotes we've mentioned on here previously though, which have stated that various members of the Romanov family had red or red-gold hair.

I've also been trying to dig up some more information regarding the Udmurts. These are people who live in and around the region of Udmurtia in Russia. Also known by the label Votyak, they are said to be the most red-haired people in the world.
"The Votiaks are the most red-headed men in the world, fiery red is the epithet."

A quick Google Image search will bring up examples of this fiery hair colouring, though it's sometimes difficult to tell which images show actual Udmurts, and which just show redheads in general.

(Google Image search for "Red Hair Udmurts"
- click to enlarge)

There's also the following BBC article from 2014 on the topic.


(The BBC article)

The red hair is quite striking, and it's very curious that people who would not look out of place in Scotland or Ireland are found native to lands so far away. It's something I've been looking into, but so far to little avail.

Interestingly, Udmurt is said to mean "meadow people" - quite a beautiful and idyllic name. So it's hard not to imagine some idyllic agrarian promised land for redheads. No doubt the reality is somewhat different though. The redheads in Udmurtia definitely offer a fascinating window into the largely unknown history of red hair however, and serve as an interesting "clue" for further speculation into what that history actually is.

The only real thing I've managed to dig up so far is the following paragraph from a book titled The Finno-Ugric Republics and the Russian State by Rein Taagepera;
Of course, most Udmurts, like most Irish, do not have red hair. The red can be very marked or just a tinge in dark or blond hair, visible under some lights, invisible under others. There is no explanation for this trait; it is certainly not shared by the Komis whose language is close to Udmurt. The nation is proud of its shundy-pi (sons of the sun): Udmurts say, 'A person with red hair is the sun's child', and 'A redheaded person is closest to the gods. The gods love them.'
I quite like that final sentence :)

It's also interesting that a link is made between red hair and the sun, as this is a theme we've mentioned on here before. I guess it's quite a natural link to make in a way. Hopefully more information will come to light regarding the red-haired Udmurts over the coming months and years.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Red-haired firsts and founders, 1st part (1 - 50)

While working at our partner blog Famous Redheads in History I couldn’t help but notice the great number of “firsts” and “founders” among our famous redheads. Here’s a list of the first 50. For the second part, see here

1) Francis Drake:  he carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, from 1577 to 1580, and was the first to complete the voyage as captain while leading the expedition throughout the entire circumnavigation.


2) William Farel:  founder of the Reformed Church in the Principality of Neuchâtel, in the Republic of Geneva, and in Switzerland in the Canton of Bern and the (then occupied by Bern) Canton of Vaud.

3) Galileo Galilei:  he has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and even the "father of science".

4) Tycho Brahe:  he has been described as "the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts."

5) Camille Jenatzy:  He is known for breaking the land speed record three times and being the first man to break the 100 km/h barrier.

6) Dodge Brothers: founders of dodge Brothers Company. Horace invented the first dirt-proof ball bearing.

7) Christopher Colombus:  discoverer of the American continent.

8) Suzanne Valadon:  in 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.


9) George Washington:  first American president.

10) Nathaniel Lyon: first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War.

11) Elizabeth of York:  first Tudor queen.

12) Ismail I:  founder of the Safavid dynasty of Iran.

13) Geoffrey I Plantagenet:  first Plantagenet king.

14) Cato the Elder:  first historian to write history in Latin.

15) Alexander Mackenzie: he is known for his overland crossing of what is now Canada, that reached the Pacific Ocean in 1793. This was the first east to west crossing of North America north of Mexico and preceded the Lewis and Clark Expedition by 12 years.

16) H. S. Lewis:  first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

17) Tamerlane:  as the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia he became the first ruler in the Timurid dynasty.

18) Philip I of Castile:  first member of the house of Habsburg to be King of Castile.


19) John Glenn:  first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times.

20) Herbert B. Swope: first Pulitzer Prize for Reporting.

21) Mona von Bismark: first American to be named "The Best Dressed Woman in the World" by a panel of top couturiers, including Coco Chanel, and she was also named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

22) Patrick Henry:  a Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia.

23) Anna Bronwell Jameson:  first English art historian.


24) Brigham Young:  he founded Salt Lake City and served as the first governor of the Utah Territory.

25) Gerda Taro:  she is regarded as the first woman photojournalist to have died while covering the frontline in a war.

26) William Sherman:  British military historian B. H. Liddell Hart declared that Sherman was "the first modern general".

27)  Henry IV of France: first French monarch of the House of Bourbon, a branch of the Capetian dynasty.

28) Venus Ramey Murphy:  first Miss America to be photographed in colour.


29) Anita Snook: pioneer aviator who achieved a long list of firsts. She was the first woman aviator in Iowa, first woman student accepted at the Curtiss Flying School in Virginia, first woman aviator to run her own aviation business and first woman to run a commercial airfield.

30) Amelia Earhart:  first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

31) Fulk I of Anjou:  first count of Anjou.

32) Abd-ar-Rahman I:  founder of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries (including the succeeding Caliphate of Córdoba).

33) Gustav Vasa: he has been labelled the founder of modern Sweden, and the "father of the nation". He founded one of the now oldest orchestras of the world, the Kungliga Hovkapellet (Royal Court Orchestra).


34) Andrew Jackson:  founder of the Democratic Party.

35) L. R. Hubbard: founder of Scientology.

36) Isabella Stewart Gardner: founder of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

37) Florence Nighingale: founder of modern nursing.

38) Vittorio Alfieri: he is considered the founder of Italian tragedy.


39) Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote is considered the first modern novel, a classic of Western literature, and among the best works of fiction ever written. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes").

40) Charlemagne: he was the first recognised emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire.

41) H. P. Blavatsky: co-founder of the Theosophical Society.

42) Edward VI of England: first monarch to be raised as a Protestant.

43) Richard Henry Lee: American founding father.

44) Bernardo O’Higgins: he is considered one of Chile's founding fathers, as he was the first holder of this title to head a fully independent Chilean state.

45) Alexander Hamilton:  American founding father.

46) Giuseppe Garibaldi:  Italian founding father.



47) Infanta Beatrice of Portugal: she was the one who introduced the name Emanuele into the House of Savoy through his son Emmanuel Philibert.

48) William Holman Hunt: co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

49) Henry VIII of England: his disagreement with the Pope about the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon led him to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily on the navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.

50) Henry IV of England: Henry's mother was Blanche, heiress to the considerable Lancaster estates, and thus he became the first King of England from the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenets and the first King of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English rather than French.







Sunday, July 22, 2018

Five Famous Redheads From History

Emanuela recently found yet another famous redhead from history. This time the 19th century French author Alexandre Dumas. Famed for such works as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. I really love the novel The Three Musketeers, but have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, so I look forward to doing that. He was said to have "bushy red hair".

(Alexandre Dumas by the
French illustrator Maurice Leloir)

Anyhow, thanks to the fact that we've finally got ourselves up to date on our other blog ( https://redheadsinhistory.blogspot.com/ ) I've been able to go through our list of historic redheads to see if I've failed to mention any especially important ones. A few pretty big ones stood out.

So, if we take Dumas as our first famous redhead in this article then the second we must mention is Amelia Earhart.

Earhart was the famed aviation pioneer who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 whilst attempting to circumnavigate the globe. A memo written by her school librarian described her as "an attractive, friendly, red-haired teenager - not at all unlike her friends". The following lovely image also leaves little doubt as to her hair colour.

(Amelia Earhart)

Thirdly we have the German statesman and chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He was said to be "six-foot tall" with "flaming red hair".

(Bismarck as Minister President of Prussia.)

Our fourth famous redhead is the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Most famous for his play Under Milk Wood and the poem Do not go gentle into that good night.

(Dylan Thomas)

And finally our fifth redhead is quite a strange one. It's the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard. He had sandy red hair as can be seen from the following image;

(L. Ron Hubbard)

I was quite surprised to find that Hubbard was a redhead. It seems like something that would be more well known. It reminds me a little of when we found out that Madame Blavatsky was red-haired. She was another founder of a huge alternative movement, in that case the Theosophical Society. Quite a weird, and perhaps worrying trend! O_o

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Red Hair in the Orientalism Genre

A little bit of red hair in art today. A few quite beautiful images which I came across whilst looking through artwork in the Orientalism style. So many of the paintings I flicked through in this genre were really vivid, fascinating and beautiful, but I'll just share the few which feature redheads.

Both the following paintings feature half naked women in harems. A seemingly common theme in the Orientalism genre. Not that I'm complaining about this. The first is titled Pool in a Harem and is by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme. The second is titled Murder in the Seraglio and is by another French artist, this time the painter Fernand Cormon.

(Pool in a Harem - Jean-Léon Gérôme)

(Murder in the Seraglio - Fernand Cormon)

A seraglio is a living quarter that was used by wives and concubines in households in the Ottoman Empire. In modern Italian the word is spelt serraglio, and according to Wikipedia;
It may refer to a wall or structure for containment, for example of caged wild animals
Which would tend to suggest that some of these paintings portray a romanticised image of what was in reality no doubt a much more brutal world of sexual slavery. Still the artwork is very beautiful.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Red Hair: Updates July 2018

First up, following on from the last post we have another red-haired Jesus. It's by the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267 - 1337) and is from the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. The red hair is quite a bold red, at least in these images anyway.


(Tempera on wood - Giotto)

Secondly, and quite importantly, we have another blog now up online. This one, titled Famous Redheads in History, is a blog that's attempting to collect and catalogue all the redheads that we've thus far came across in our investigations. Hopefully it'll act as a kind of redhead database which we can use to look at history in a slightly more analytical way. It'll also be useful for cataloguing the references we have (or in some cases don't have xD) that lead us to have confidence that these figures were indeed red-haired.

(Famous Redheads in History screen-grab)


I'll also add a link to the site in the side bar.

Each post on the blog also comes with "tags" for the particular person in question. So it'll be easy to search for, let's say royal redheads, as it'll just be a case of clicking on the "royalty" tag in the sidebar.

Finally, we have another quite interesting redhead to add to the list ...Lewis Terman. The name will probably be unfamiliar to most readers, however Terman was the man who was responsible for the large scale introduction of IQ testing. So we have a redhead to thank for this often controversial social and educational tool.

We've wondered before where redheads rank on the IQ scale, but so far haven't found a sufficient answer. So it's interesting to note that a redhead was involved in the promotion of such testing.

(Lewis Madison Terman)
"Born in 1877, little red-haired Lewis preferred intellectual games and reading over sports or outdoor play.."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Red-Haired Art - Yet More Christos

Some more red-haired images of Jesus to add to the collection. I don't think I've shared these ones before (it's getting a little hard to keep track). Either way, I guess it's always better to have too many than too few.

The following two paintings are said to be the work of a Sienese painter named Barna da (or Berna di) Siena. They date from the 14th century.

(The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine)

(Christ Bearing the Cross, with a Dominican Friar)

This next one doesn't so much show a red-haired Christ. It's more of a haloed, illuminated Christ. However, I share it as it illustrates quite neatly the way the halo of light associated with saints and other religious figures seems to lift hair towards a blond or fiery shade. Perhaps explaining the overlaps between red hair and halos I've mentioned on this blog before.

The blood orange was considered to be a symbol of Christ. The word orange is cognate with words like or (French), oro (Spanish) and aurum (Latin) meaning gold. Which in turn are cognate with words like aura.

The painting is titled Going Down to Gethsemane and is by the German-American artist Johannes Adam Simon Oertel. It dates from 1898.

(Going Down to Gethsemane - Johannes Adam Simon Oertel)

Finally, this one isn't Jesus, but it does look very Jesus-like. It shows Olaf II, King of Norway, later St. Olaf. It's from a stained glass window in Ålesund Church, Norway.

(St. Olaf - Ålesund Church)

(St. Olaf, detail)

Red-Haired Artwork - Jewesses, Oranges and Military Heroes

Some quite interesting artwork I've came across over the last few weeks. First up, this is a painting by the Polish artist Aleksander Gierymski and is titled Jewess with Oranges. The hair is more of a soft auburn colour I guess. Though the lady in the painting looks of an age that would suggest such a strong colour is the product of dye rather than nature. The warm colours of both the woman and her oranges are offset quite nicely by the blue-grey background.

(Jewess with Oranges - Aleksander Gierymski)

Next up, this one shows David with the Head of Goliath by the Italian artist Guido Cagnacci. When I saw the thumbnail of this in my folder I assumed it was a military figure because of the costume. It was only when I clicked to enlarge it that I was reminded that it was an image of the biblical David. Again in this one the hair is more of an auburn-red. It's a very beautiful image (ignoring the severed head of course).

(David with the Head of Goliath - Guido Cagnacci)

(David with the Head of Goliath, detail)

Finally this image shows the British military hero General James Wolfe. It shows his death at the Battle of Quebec and is by the artist Benjamin West. Wolfe was also actually red-haired in real life too. This is another quite rich and vivid image. His soft, light red hair can be more clearly made out in the close up.

(The Death of General Wolfe - Benjamin West)

(The Death of General Wolfe, detail)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Legend of the Fiery-Haired Girl - Maiden Tower, Baku

I came across the following tale when I was researching the history of "maidens locked in towers" for an article I intend to write for my other blog.

(That article can be found here
 - - Maid Maleen - The "Maiden in the Tower" Meme - - )

The story relates to a tower called Maiden Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan. In fact, I wasn't too aware of Baku before writing this article, but having looked at its Wikipedia page it looks very beautiful with lots of interesting architecture. The story itself also has its roots in something I'm only vaguely familiar with, namely the ancient Zoroastrian religion and its fire-laden mythology.

The story in question is titled The Legend of the Fiery-Haired Girl and concerns the tale of a fire-haired warrior-maiden who saves the inhabitants of ancient Baku from slavery and destruction.

The story below is a paraphrased version of the one that can be found on the Wikipedia page;
There was an ancient town-fortress in Baku, which had a Fire Temple-Tower. In very ancient times, an enemy encircled the fortress. The enemy ordered Baku's people to surrender but they refused, so they launched a siege to demolish the fortress and enslave all the inhabitants.
The Supreme Magi, together with other priests, prayed to the Holy Fire in the Tower, asking the God of Ahura Mazda to help. On the next day, the people saw that a large piece of the Holy Fire fell down from the top of the Tower. A beautiful girl came out from the fire. She had long fire-coloured hair.
She said: "Don't worry. I'll help and protect you. Give me a sword and a helmet. The enemy should not see my girl's hair, open a fortress gate". Meanwhile, the enemy's commander was waiting outside for one-to-one combat. If the fiery-haired girl won the fight, then the enemy army would back away. But if the enemy won, they would capture the fortress.
Fortunately the fiery-haired girl got the upper hand in the battle and put her knife to the commander's throat. He then screamed: "You win! Who are you? Take your helmet off. I want to see your face!" He took off the helmet and saw that she was a beautiful girl with long fire-coloured hair.
He exclaimed: "Oh, you are a girl! You are brave and beautiful girl! If girls of Baku are so brave, I'll never capture your fortress! Don't kill me, beauty!" They then fell in love with each other, she spared his life and they got married. The people then named the tower Maiden Tower as a consequence.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiden_Tower_(Baku)


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Red Hair & Game of Thrones

I've been meaning to write this one for a while. I normally don't watch too much mainstream TV, but I do like Game of Thrones, and it's hard not to notice the plethora of red-haired characters in it. This is something that would have seemed quite noteworthy ten or fifteen years ago when I first started charting the fortunes of red hair. However, these days it doesn't seem quite as extraordinary. Maybe this is just me getting jaded with the topic. Had I noticed such a popular TV series with so many redheads back when I began writing it certainly wouldn't have taken me so long to catalogue it all. Then again though it was rare back then, but not so rare now.

One of the interesting things I like about Game of Thrones is that it doesn't seem afraid to appeal to traditional stereotypes regarding looks and racial characteristics. You have the often red-haired Wildlings from north of the wall, the blond-haired Lannisters. The silver-haired Targaryens. The swarthy uncivilised Dothraki tribes from across the sea - along with the countless other darker-skinned slaves and nomads which eventually end up following Daernerys Targaryen.

(The blond-haired Lannister family)

These stereotypes, all in someway lifted from actual history and human folklore, have led to accusations that the show helps perpetuate racist views and myths. Personally I would disagree with this, though I understand why people would make this accusation. It is after all quite striking to see a milk white woman being worshipped by hordes of black and brown people on TV - especially in today's era.

(Daernerys Targaryen being lauded by her followers)

I remember how well these tribal and family characteristics stood out when I first started watching the series - "the blond ones are Lannisters, they're all bad, the dark-haired and red-haired ones are northerners, they're good". It was like I was being told a fairy tale that I was already vaguely familiar with.

I wonder if some of the show's success lies in this appeal to these traditional tropes and associations that we all carry within ourselves somewhere deep down. Does a blonde-haired princess just make more sense to us deep down on some fundamental level? Is this a product of our culture and history, or is there some tiny degree of truth in such stereotypes? It's uncomfortable, but interesting ground to cover. I certainly don't think it's good to shy away from such topics, or to censor any such artistic expressions. Again though, people are also well entitled to express any counter opinions they may have.

Personally, I prefer my TV and art to be edgy. The false and sickly tokenism we generally see today in the mainstream is just a recipe for boredom in my opinion. We mentioned before on this blog the increasing number of "token" redheads in adverts and on TV. The effort and intent is appreciated, and I'm sure it stems from a desire to do good, but I wouldn't want a generic redhead inserted unnecessarily into some TV show on my behalf. I'm sure most black people feel the same about the endless stream of black "everyman" actors we see in the media. If diversity means a diverse range of inoffensive characters everywhere then it's kinda gonna suck a bit entertainment wise.

Anyhow, with all that said, I'll list below some of the main red-haired characters that are in the show.

Sansa Stark: Eldest daughter of Eddard Stark, one of the main characters in the show. Her mother, Catelyn Stark, is also somewhat red-haired, though hers tends more towards the auburn in shade.

Ygritte: A Wildling from north of the wall, love interest of Jon Snow.

Melisandre: Also known as The Red Woman. A witch or sorceress.

Ros: A red-haired prostitute.

Tormund Giantsbane: A red-haired and red-bearded Wildling.

(Clockwise from top left;
Ros, Sansa Stark, The Red Woman, Ygritte)

(Tormund Giantsbane)

One of the more interesting references to red hair in the series comes in Season Seven, Episode Six when Tormund is in conversation with the Hound;

The Hound: Gingers I hate.
Tormund: Gingers are beautiful. Kissed by fire.

A similar mention comes in Season Three when Ygritte describes to Jon the person she lost her virginity to; "He came trading with his brothers. He had red hair like me. Kissed by fire". There are also numerous other mentions of red hair throughout the series, though some aren't quite as rosy in sentiment as this, such as when the character Bronn describes the man he stole the prostitute Shae from as a "ginger cunt", or when a fellow Wildling suggests that Ygritte would offer up her "ginger minge" to Jon Snow. I'll refrain from quoting that bit of dialogue in full xD

Watching the series I've quite enjoyed the frequent references to red hair. The positive mentions of it, plus the numerous strong red-haired characters, suggest a certain warmth for the trait on the part of the show's writers (I've never read the actual books, so it might be worth finding out if the theme is as strong there too). The use of terms such as "ginger" and "ginger minge" as insults in show also add to the realness and relatability. Quite a surprisingly British use of language for an American TV series.

In fact, I wonder if the weakness of the black characters in the show is actually due to the inability on the part of the writers to aim such blunt language towards them. The series abounds with labels such as "ginger cunt",  "blond-haired bastards", etc, which all give an added edge to the various factional rivalries in the show. There's also a fair amount of un-PC insults thrown towards gay and female characters in show. I wonder if the real racism lies in the show not using similar language towards its black characters. The feisty redheads in the show get insulted, which then gives them the opportunity to insult back. The various black characters in the show never get the opportunity to have the same type of exchanges - and it's these types of exchanges that in many ways make the show so endearing to its fans. Maybe that's where the problem lies.

Either way I look forward to Season Eight :D

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Red Hair and the Merovingians Revisited

Someone recently left a comment drawing my attention to the following painting. Titled; The Last Merovingian, it shows a very red-haired Childeric III getting his kingly locks shorn off by three monks. Quite a striking image.

(The Last Merovingian)

(The Last Merovingian - detail)

It's by the French artist Évariste-Vital Luminais. He was active during the 19th century and his works seem to feature red hair quite frequently.

(The Death of Childeric I)

(The Gallic Scouts)

(Les énervés de Jumièges)

As I've mentioned before on this blog, it's sometimes repeated online that the Merovingians were said to be red-haired. However, it's difficult finding any actual sources for this claim. The Merovingians were known as the "long-haired kings" - hence the symbolic shaving of the head in the painting - but the actual colour is difficult to pin down. Of course, most Europeans tend to have an array of hair colour in their family, so it would be unlikely that any colour would be common to an entire family. Then again though, that would make it even more interesting if it were found to be the case that the Merovingians were especially red-haired.

Given how far back in the past the Merovingian story is set it's perhaps also entirely possible that their entire history is more myth than reality. In fact, given how dishonest our current media is I'm starting to wonder if this was always the case. I'm starting to view all history as simply the aggregation of nonsense. These paintings do suggest though that the tradition relating red hair and the Merovingians was current in the 19th century, and that it's not just a modern phenomena. Again though, it could just be an aesthetic choice on the part of the artist. Maybe the way we write (or in this case paint) history says more about us than it does about any supposed distant point in time.

A quick search on Google Books for the keywords "red hair Merovingian" brought up the following description from a 19th century work;
Sidonius Appollinaris saw and has delineated one of their military bands. He describes the host as bareheaded, with masses of long red hair falling between their shoulders, their bodies tightly girt about with raw hides, though naked from the knee downward, carrying neither slings nor bows, nor other missiles, except a hatchet and a short pike, to which was strung a barbed harpoon, marching on foot, and protected by no defensive armour.
Lectures on the History of France - Sir James Stephen

This description seems to parallel the descriptions of Germanic, Gaulish and British tribes given by Greek and Roman writers. Again, one wonders how much is fact and how much is imagination.

Redhead - Ian Cook

In other news I recently had contact via email with Ian Cook, the author of the red hair themed novel Redhead. Quite fitting following on from the previous topic really given the far reaching historical and mythological themes featured in book.

He informed me that there is a revised edition of the book now available, and that he's also well into the sequel, which I look forward to reading :D