Thursday, January 4, 2018

When is a Fredo not a Frodo

So, amid the news stories generated by the current administration and its friends' shock that reactionary provocateur Steve Bannon sometimes says bad things about his allies and fellow travellers, I was amused by one tiny throwaway line in a piece on Politico.

In the main text of the piece, it notes that in the new forthcoming Wolff book, Bannon is said to have had an unflattering nickname for Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law:

Kushner, whom he privately referred to as “Fredo,” 
the traitorous brother of “The Godfather.”

A correction at the bottom of the page, however, shows that the original version of this piece mistakenly included a Tolkien reference:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story 
misidentified the fictional character name 
Bannon uses to refer to Jared Kushner as 
Frodo, a “Lord of the Rings” reference, 
rather than Fredo, a reference to “The Godfather.”

It's easy to see how the confusion might arise, given that Bannon is a Tolkien fan, as I touched on in an earlier post about the weird phenomenon of the Alt-Right's recent embracing of JRRT. And as such we wdn't expect him to call someone he was belittling by Tolkien's hero's name.

Here's the link to the original story

--John R.
current reading: the A. A. Milne biography, which is over 500 pages but feels much longer.


Magister said...

Any references to Dunsany in the Milne biography? They were colleagues at MI7 in 1918.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear M.

No, no references to Ld D in Thwaite's book, so far as I can tell. I'm not reading through it sequentially but there's no mention of him that I cd see in the relevant section and no mention in the index.

I'd thought Dunsany mentioned Milne among the people he worked with at M.I.7.B (i) but don't find the name in the chapter of his first autobiography devoted to Dunsany's propaganda-writing service (cf. chapter 44/page 291ff) nor in a second passage remembering his colleagues in his second autobiography (pages 8-9), nor in Amory's biography.

In my dissertation I do mention Dunsany and Milne as having worked together (Rateliff, p.217), citing as my authority for that bookseller/collector Brian de la Troathe's list (Rateliff p. 294-295), which unfortunately I don't now have ready access to. Here's the passage from my dissertation discussing his war stories, in which I argue their artistic merit is almost nil but their importance to Dunsany's life considerable:

"Because of [these stories], he got taken out of the trenches on the Western Front and given the only 9-to-5 desk job he was ever to hold in his life. Because of them, he got to experience what it was like to be part of a group of writers all working independently towards the same goal. He clearly enjoyed the work, enjoyed the companionship of his fellows (among whom were fellow fantasists A. A. Milne, future author of WINNIE THE POOH, and W. W. Tarn, author of now-forgotten classic THE TREASURE OF THE ISLE OF MIST. Even more importantly, Amory recounts how M.I.7.B (i) made plans for Dunsany "to give a series of propaganda lectures in America as part of his job, but when the war ended the plan naturally collapsed . . . " Thus the triumphant 1919 American tour, the high water mark of Dunsany's fame, was a direct outgrowth of his war job'


Bill said...

Your post put me in mind of a humorous episode of the British television program "The IT Crowd" in which Fredo and Frodo actually came together by design. The episode is called "Jen the Fredo" and it is a send up of The Godfather and Dungeons & Dragons with references to LotR including (if memory serves) Frodo.

Magister said...

In The Green Book, which seems to have been an annual "magazine" for former members of MI7B(i) (in which Dunsany has two stories), there is a list of all of Dunsany's colleagues. H. Russell Wakefield and A. A Milne were the only names I recognised; this is where I found out about Dunsany and Milne having been colleagues.

Speaking of The Green Book -- this is (obviously) not the same thing, but this particular issue is full of reprints of pertinent texts:

My article on Dunsany and the Nobel Prize will be in the next issue.

Martin Andersson

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Magister
Thank you for the news about GREEN BOOK, which I think was De La T's source.
I look forward to the publication of yr piece on Dunsany and the Nobel.
--John R

Also: thanks to Bill for news of the Frodo/Fredo mashup.