The Poe Project (1)

the-poe-project

Two Tales…

The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal

This was written in 1835 and intended by Poe to be a hoax. It tells the story of Hans Pfaal, who, to escape his creditors, builds a balloon and with it flies to the moon. The story starts with the people of Rotterdam watching while a weird balloon descends from the sky. The man upon it hands (or rather throws) a letter to the burgomaster (the mayor) Mynheer Superbus Von Underduk, which describes Hans Pfaal’s adventures in the moon. Well, not really in the moon, but of how he got there in the first place.

I had no idea what this tale was about when I started it, so it’s quite by accident that I chose a story so alike The First Men in the Moon. Although, it’s a lot less accurate. I’m not sure if it’s because it was written so long before or because Poe really did intend it to be a hoax. It also wasn’t exactly what I expected, considering I tend to expect gruesome tales of death by Poe. The most it did was leave me uncomfortable while he described the physical symptoms Hans Pfaal suffered when he reached the outer parts of our atmosphere.

I began to find great difficulty in drawing my breath. My head, too, was excessively painful; and, having felt for some time a moisture about my cheeks, I at length discovered it to be blood, which was oozing quite fast from the drums of my ears. My eyes, also, gave me great uneasiness. Upon passing a hand over them they seemed to have protruded in no inconsiderable degree; and all objects in the car, and even the balloon itself, appeared distorted to my vision.

I don’t think this will ever be one of my favorite of Poe’s tales, but I liked the fantastical nature of it, especially considering we now know very well that a journey like that is impossible. I’m not sure if H. G. Wells ever read this or Jules Verne (with his From the Earth to the Moon novel), but Poe most certainly wrote it first.

The Gold-Bug

This tale was written about 1842 and tells the story of Mr. William Legrand, who after losing all his family’s money moves from New Orleans to an island in South Carolina. During the story the narrator, a nameless person, and Legrand’s valet, Jupiter, join him in his mad quest. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but let’s just say he wasn’t so crazy after all.

The Gold-Bug is shorter than The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal and has a faster pace. It’s also more ‘Poe-ish’ than the other, although I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been stereotyping Poe’s stories. They can’t all be horror and murder, right? Every writer walks through more than one genre I suppose. But still, it wasn’t the gruesome tale I keep expecting to see.

It’s more of a little adventure tale, about fluctuating luck and perseverance, even when no one believes you. And that following your instincts might reward you in the end. I may be making it sound profound, but it’s not really a layered story: there was a mystery and an intelligent man to solve it. With his sidekicks, of course, no sane adventurer leaves home without them.

Also, it’s one of those weird stories that start with a strange bug. In this case a gold one.

“Curse your stupidity! do you know your right hand from your left?”

and a poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Tamerlane

My Poe poem this month is Tamerlane, which is about a man who is corrupted by his ambition to rule the world. Or at least that’s what I got from it. I’m terrible with poems: I love them, but I never read them. So I’m very rusty at the whole interpreting poems thing and Poe isn’t exactly transparent. From what I can gather, Tamer is telling his story to his father, who sounds dead to me but who knows.

You call it hope – that fire of fire!
it is but agony of desire

Tamer describes to his father his greed in conquering all of earth and his love for a woman who he makes his queen. He talks about a storm, a fight between Heaven and Hell. Then in the end, when Death comes for him, he wonders about this never-ending ambition of his and what it did to him. I liked this poem, I thought it had beautiful images of love and sin. I won’t cast judgment on Poe’s style yet (be it good or bad), since this is my second poem by him (the first being The Raven). We shall wait and see.

We grew in age – and love – together –
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather –
And when the friendly sunshine smil’d
And she would mark the opening skies
I saw no Heaven – but in her eyes.

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4 thoughts on “The Poe Project (1)

  1. I never read anything by Poe but like you, I always thought he was the king of melancholic and gloomy stories but I suppose I was wrong.

    Nice post! It just made me want to look into his work :)

    • I was expecting lots of bloody and murdery stories, especially considering the only other tales I’ve read by him are the Dupin ones, which are all about strange and gloomy murders. I don’t think we’re wrong, I’m sure those tales are coming. And I can’t wait to finally read them :)

      Thanks! I’m at the point I’ll recommend Poe with some reservation, it’s best to know what exactly you’re heading into first.

  2. I used to love Gold Bug as a kid. It was in fact my first introduction to Poe with Tell-Tale Heart to follow soon after. I remember reading it outloud to my mom and her enjoying the parts cataloging the treasures the most. Last year I read it again, and was quite surprised at how my perspective changed with years – the story does seem to move a bit too fast. An interesting thing about this adventure is that the focus is mostly on the process of decoding the secret map rather than the action. In a way it feels very much like Poe.

    • I liked it quite a lot too! I love this stories that have a certain nostalgic feel to them because they bring back all these memories from when we read them before, those are my favorite books. If felt like a detective/crime story without actually saying so and between these two that I read it’s definitively the one I like best.

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