Escape Artists
November 17, 2018, 08:56:59 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News:
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
Author Topic: PC280: The Devil and Tom Walker  (Read 9186 times)
Talia
Moderator
*****
Posts: 2680


Muahahahaha


« on: October 03, 2013, 07:37:27 AM »

PodCastle 280: The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers)

Originally published in Irving’s collection Tales of a Traveler. (You can read the story here.)

It was late in the dusk of evening that Tom Walker reached the old fort, and he paused there for a while to rest himself. Any one but he would have felt unwilling to linger in this lonely melancholy place, for the common people had a bad opinion of it from the stories handed down from the time of the Indian wars; when it was asserted that the savages held incantations here and made sacrifices to the evil spirit. Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind.

He reposed himself for some time on the trunk of a fallen hemlock, listening to the boding cry of the tree toad, and delving with his walking staff into a mound of black mould at his feet. As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! a cloven skull with an Indian tomahawk buried deep in it, lay before him. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death blow had been given. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors.

“Humph!” said Tom Walker, as he gave the skull a kick to shake the dirt from it.

“Let that skull alone!” said a gruff voice.

Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man, seated directly opposite him on the stump of a tree. He was exceedingly surprised, having neither seen nor heard any one approach, and he was still more perplexed on observing, as well as the gathering gloom would permit, that the stranger was neither negro nor Indian. It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper colour, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder.

He scowled for a moment at Tom with a pair of great red eyes.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 26, 2013, 07:08:50 PM by Talia » Logged
chemistryguy
Matross
****
Posts: 261


Serving the Detroit Metro area since 1970


WWW
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2013, 03:39:48 PM »

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this.  Call me uncultured, but I tend to shy away from much of the older fiction simply because it feels so old and dusty while I'm reading it.  This was lively and quirky and I now feel compelled to get a copy of Sleepy Hollow.  Also, Wilson Fowlie did a stellar job as narrator.  I could believe Old Scratch would sound exactly as he did in this reading.

Off topic:
Dave, I can totally appreciate your defense of reboots.  Reworking culture speaks to my core.  At their best, remakes can give us a fresh perspective.  At their worst we're encourage to visit the original once again. 
Logged

Shawn
Peltast
***
Posts: 122



WWW
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2013, 11:45:46 AM »

Really enjoyed this. Great story, great reading and I wound up learning a bit o' literary history to boot.
Admittedly I was at work, working with toxic fuming chemicals and possibly high, but hey - that's great!

Well done, everybody!
Logged
flintknapper
Lochage
*****
Posts: 323



« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2013, 10:24:27 AM »

A classic, I had never read or heard. Of course I do not think I have ever sat down and read Sleepy Hollow either. So the discussion Dave presented at the front of the piece really caught my interest. I was not aware that there really was no phantom in the original story, but rather it was was hoax. Obviously at somepoint, I need to sit down and discover Irving.

I loved the reading and thought the story was decent. Like Chemistry Guy, I was a bit surprised. I expected this story to sound more dated than it did. It bucked expectations when I still found the story really vibrant and relative. Some of that was Fowlie's reading. He did an excellent job keeping the language from dragging in my head and bringing the characters to life. However, Irving's writing was also spot on.

This being said, I finally came to the realization only recently that my own fiction is really southern gothic after several proffesional authors told me so. Irving being one of the forefathers of the American Gothic movement, it is hard not admire him. He is at the cusp of of a writing style that I try my damnest to emmulate today.

Now, I am getting off on a tangent. I like the piece. It is not at all what I expected going in.
Logged
Moritz
Lochage
*****
Posts: 491



« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2013, 12:01:57 PM »

I can only agree with what was said before, great reading, good story. Some of the language feels a bit stilted and over-explanatory/ telling from a modern point of view*, but it didn't bother me too much. I mean, it was certainly not the purple prose we get from some of the pulp writers...

* tangent: can anyone point me to an explanation on how the styles of writing changed over time? I once heard that modern writing is strongly influenced by movies and television, especially the whole "show not tell" paradigm.
Logged
flintknapper
Lochage
*****
Posts: 323



« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2013, 09:46:27 AM »

Hi Mortiz,

I am not sure about articles on the change in writing style, but I still think Irving is pretty fresh. People are still writing American Gothic (and in particular Southern Gothic) today. The definition of the style, based on Wikipedia (I know... but it was a quick reference), is as follows


"American Gothic Fiction is a subgenre of gothic Fiction. Elements specific to American Gothic include:Rationality/rational vs irrational, puritanism, guilt, Das Unheimliche (strangeness within the familiar as defined by Sigmund Freud), abhumans, ghosts, monsters, and domestic abjection. The roots of these concepts lay in a past riddled with slavery, a fear of racial mixing (miscegenation), hostile Native American relations, their subsequent genocide, and the daunting wilderness present at the American frontier."
Logged
Swamp
Hipparch
******
Posts: 2227



WWW
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2013, 12:29:24 PM »

My new narrating rule of F's: Fowlie never Fails to Flabbergast.

It has been a long time since I read this story, and I totally forgot about Tom's wife.  I really wish we could have witnessed her confrontation with the Black Woodsman.  (Hmmmmmm, maybe I should write that.)  The signs of their struggle spark the imagination.

What I like about this story is that Old Scratch wins, and rightly so.  Tom Walker really is an abominable man.  I really started to hate his behavior once he got religious and started counting people's sins as if it were debts to collect on and somehow make him rich in righteousness.  That is completely opposite of what I view as righteous.  Humility is the mark of true virtue.

So many Faustian "deal with the devil" stories end with the devil being bested.  I blame it on Charlie Daniels.  Actually Daniel Webster did it first, but that's another story (unfortunately not in the public domain).  I like those types of stories too, but you have to give the devil his due.  He knows his business.  I really like how he arrives to collect Tom Walker at the perfect damning moment, because of course he would.  Good stuff.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2013, 12:31:13 PM by Swamp » Logged

Facehuggers don't have heads!

Come with me and Journey Into... another fun podcast
Wilson Fowlie
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1468


WWW
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2013, 01:21:13 PM »

My new narrating rule of F's: Fowlie never Fails to Flabbergast.

LOL
Logged

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham
quasidoza
Extern
*
Posts: 18


« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2013, 01:02:42 AM »

Good story with excellent narration. 

I enjoy a tale of social commentary but isn't overtly shoving it down your gullet.  Not being American some of the old slang went over my head but quickly became obvious so wasn't an issue.

There is a debate around payday loans in UK and suspect many think they have a contract with the devil (was the church as it happened).  I'm fairly sure many of us know people that use their religion and not practice it, as an atheist this sort always puzzled me most.

Logged
Moritz
Lochage
*****
Posts: 491



« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2013, 01:59:26 AM »

Hi Mortiz,

I am not sure about articles on the change in writing style, but I still think Irving is pretty fresh. People are still writing American Gothic (and in particular Southern Gothic) today. The definition of the style, based on Wikipedia (I know... but it was a quick reference), is as follows


"American Gothic Fiction is a subgenre of gothic Fiction. Elements specific to American Gothic include:Rationality/rational vs irrational, puritanism, guilt, Das Unheimliche (strangeness within the familiar as defined by Sigmund Freud), abhumans, ghosts, monsters, and domestic abjection. The roots of these concepts lay in a past riddled with slavery, a fear of racial mixing (miscegenation), hostile Native American relations, their subsequent genocide, and the daunting wilderness present at the American frontier."


I think these elements have to do more with topics included in the genre and less with the use of language (e.g. passive voice, adjective, exposition etc.)
Logged
Devoted135
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1252



« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2013, 12:55:56 PM »

I really enjoyed getting to hear a classic tale that I've never come across before. Though I feel like I have heard the name Tom Walker in connection with the devil in some phrase or other...

Anyway, it was fun to listen to and I'm glad that both he and his wife got were dealt justly with. As Swamp said, they were both terrible people!




Dave, with regard to the new Sleepy Hollow tv show, I've been watching and enjoying it. From what little I know of your tastes, I actually think it would be right up your alley. To clarify one point you made, in the mythology of the show Crane was not awoken in order to help ward off the headless horseman (HHM), but rather because "their bloodlines had mixed" so he was accidentally awoken when the HHM was. Also, it appears that the HHM is supposed to be the first horse of the apocalypse, and Crane is one of the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation. That's why I think you would like it. Cheesy
Logged
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Hipparch
******
Posts: 4980


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2013, 04:55:03 PM »

Dave, with regard to the new Sleepy Hollow tv show, I've been watching and enjoying it. From what little I know of your tastes, I actually think it would be right up your alley. To clarify one point you made, in the mythology of the show Crane was not awoken in order to help ward off the headless horseman (HHM), but rather because "their bloodlines had mixed" so he was accidentally awoken when the HHM was. Also, it appears that the HHM is supposed to be the first horse of the apocalypse, and Crane is one of the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation. That's why I think you would like it. Cheesy

Hmmmmm. Those do sound like very Dave hooks, don't they? Thanks Smiley
Logged

benjaminjb
Hipparch
******
Posts: 1389



« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2013, 11:14:15 PM »

I have not yet listened to this story... but I did just read it as part of my ridiculous and useless quest to read on every story that the Library of America puts up on its "Story of the Week" page. So I recently read and commented on this story on my blog and am looking forward to hearing it and hearing what you all have to say about it.

Edit: Links fixed. Thanks, Dave!

Now that I've listened to it, I have to agree that Wilson Fowlie is rather perfect for this story. I hope that's a compliment: "You sure do pull off a good devil voice."

I also love that Washington Irving doesn't pull any punches on the slavery issue: it's the Devil's thing--and it's even too evil for Tom Walker, who is otherwise a real monster.

It's also funny to me to see how slowly the story opens: first, we get a mention of pirate treasure; then we get a vision of Tom and his wife; then the devil offers Tom the treasure; etc. If you were to write this story today, I think you'd skip all that--plot-wise, the wife issue really only serves to delay Tom's deal with the devil. But theme-wise, I love how Irving slowly builds up all this material about the profit of theft: pirates aren't all that different from usurers or from a domestic situation that's really an economic war; and people can be ruined by theft as easily as by speculation.

Also: do we hear how formidable the wife is just so we know the Devil is dangerous when he disappears her? Is this one of the first examples of the Worf Effect?
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 11:19:47 PM by benjaminjb » Logged
DKT
Friendly Neighborhood
Hipparch
******
Posts: 4980


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


WWW
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2013, 11:25:39 PM »

That link isn't working for me, Ben  Sad
Logged

InfiniteMonkey
Lochage
*****
Posts: 483


Clearly, I need more typewriters....


« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2013, 12:16:48 AM »

I think I would only be surprised if Fowlie somehow did a *bad* narration. Which I find hard to imagine.

What this reminded me of more than anything is the old con man's maxim, "You can't con an honest man". Tom Walker is clearly not an honest man. He wants something for nothing, and bends his bitter soul to that end. The Devil is of course the Devil, but he's able to take advantage of Tom Walker (if the phrase is really accurate) because Tom thinks he can somehow cheat the Devil.
Logged
evrgrn_monster
Lochage
*****
Posts: 356


SQUAW, MY OPINIONS.


« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2013, 10:15:52 PM »

How much fun was this story? Man, what a blast.

I have actually never read anything by Washington Irving, shame on me, and I was pleasantly surprised how non-wordy and concise he is. I have always associated classic with Howard and Lovecraft, who both try very hard to use every word in the dictionary in their work, and although I do quite enjoy them, this was a breath of fresh air. A good ole' American horror folk tale, with a main character who is a delight to hate and an evil we all know. To top it all off, the narration was perfect.

Also, I laughed really hard when the story mentioned that the Devil didn't really bug Tom Walker, because the alternative was his wife. Ha!
Logged

Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2013, 09:02:01 AM »

* tangent: can anyone point me to an explanation on how the styles of writing changed over time? I once heard that modern writing is strongly influenced by movies and television, especially the whole "show not tell" paradigm.

I think that most of the change in styles is due to the easy availability of reading material and the short attention spans encouraged by modern media.  A hundred years ago, if you get a book than you know damned well you're going to read it all, so slow starts aren't all that relevant.  Nowadays, a slow start and people are liable to put your book down and find another.

I don't think that modern published writing is heavily influenced by movies and television, because (at least to me) movies and television done well are a completely different paradigm than writing done well.  I have noticed that some subset of brand new writers try to stick heavily to a cinematic style, which in general I don't think works well.  I wrote up a brief commentary about a few years ago:
http://www.diabolicalplots.com/?p=173

Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2013, 09:05:09 AM »

Interesting to see other people's reactions to this one, because normally I AM a fan of old-timey fiction, but I found this story almost entirely unremarkable.

I did appreciate, as Dave pointed out, that the devil's blackness was not an ethnic slur, but was soot from Hellfires.  And I appreciated that even Tom Walker refused to stoop to slavery.

Other than that, it was just another deal with a devil story, and one which doesn't really do anything particularly interesting.  If this had been one of the first of such stories, than I'd give it a pass, but Dr. Faust was out hundreds of years before, and I'm sure many others.  Man makes a deal with the devil, continues to be a heartless bastard, then goes to Hell.
Logged
rlzack
Extern
*
Posts: 15



« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2013, 08:38:42 AM »

As above, I really enjoyed this one. Yes it's a classic, which makes it easier (in some sense - if the story was bad would it have survived this long?). Still.

I thought it was interesting that TW would not touch slavery, but usury is OK. Both actions would take him to hell, so what is the difference? Before going to hell, both break up families and generate a lot of misery. Why does he (or why do we) think that one is somehow less bad than the other?
Logged
Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
Hipparch
******
Posts: 8660



WWW
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2013, 09:15:22 AM »

I thought it was interesting that TW would not touch slavery, but usury is OK. Both actions would take him to hell, so what is the difference? Before going to hell, both break up families and generate a lot of misery. Why does he (or why do we) think that one is somehow less bad than the other?

I didn't think it was an unreasonable distinction. 

A person goes to a usurer by choice--yes they can be driven to that choice by circumstance, but the usurer doesn't create that problematic circumstance and in the absence of someone to lend them money that person might just die quickly in poverty than die slowly in poverty.  Which isn't to say that a usurer is blameless in the circumstance, but the borrower has to choose to enter the transaction (much like a person has to choose to make a deal with the devil for them to lose their soul).

No person signs themselves up for slavery by choice. 
Logged
Pages: [1] 2  All
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!