Dylan Thomas, this week, in what would have been his one-hundredth year—
Frank Merriwell was a much-loved hero of American juvenile sports fiction. While attending Yale, he excelled at football, baseball, basketball, crew, and track; not to mention crime-solving, wrong-righting, and all around do-gooding.
He first appeared in a series of magazine stories created by Gilbert Patton in 1896.
His keen intellect and commanding physical attributes proved so inspirational that his exploits were expounded in comic books, dime novels, short stories, and film.
Exemplifying “fine sportsmanship, athletic prowess, and indomitable courage!” Frank neither smoked nor drank—which may have been his downfall, as the series declined in popularity by the early 1950’s.
For all intents and purposes, medieval warfare was a grueling, gruesome, dysentery provoking pastime for the common foot soldier. But for the mounted, more well-to-do, sometimes noble knight, it could be an opportunity to increase land holdings, do some social climbing, cash in on ransomed prisoners, and enjoy the genteel accoutrements of a pillaged village.
Of course, there were drawbacks to being a mounted knight as well. For instance, at Agincourt, in 1415 (think Shakespeare’s Henry V), the English defeated a French army five times its size. Due in part, to the poor judgment of a good number of acquisitive French equestrians who could hardly wait to get their hands on the cream of English nobility and ransom them to the highest bidder.
Wearing heavy, steel, state-of-the-art armor in what must have seemed like a “shock and awe” moment; the French raced on horseback through the narrow, muddy swamp. French foot soldiers felled by the famous English longbow turned the constricted battlefield into an outright bottleneck. Undeterred, the ransom-hungry equestrians galloped on over their broken bodies—in many cases, drowning their fellow Frenchmen in the mud. Though English arrows were no match for their fancy French steel; the knights failed to appreciate (with disastrous consequences) that their horses could still be shot out from under them. (When you fall from your horse into the mud wearing 66-110 lb’s of steel, suffice to say, it’s not easy to get up no matter how good you look!)