Monday, 29 March 2010

Let’s call a trousse! Objects speak louder than words by Lynda Waterhouse

This year I have been spending time at the Wallace Collection in London with fellow author, Bridget Crowley, devising and running creative writing workshops using the collection as inspiration. Bridget was looking for artefacts for a Myths and Legends workshop when she found this object….a trousse.
Beneath the ornate sheath lies a set of knives that a hunter would use to eviscerate prey. The stag being overwhelmed by a pack of hounds is the handle of the largest knife. This trousse belonged to a legendary figure in British history- Bonnie Prince Charlie otherwise known as The Young Pretender or Prince Charles Edward Stuart.
Charlie had contacted Frederick the Great of Prussia asking for support with his plans to invade England and reclaim the British throne. He was probably hoping for some troops and a large bag of money.
No troops or bag of money arrived. Instead Frederick sent him this trousse.
I imagine there was no accompanying letter. That would be too incriminating if it fell in the wrong hands.
What was Frederick showing rather than telling him?
Was he warning him to keep his plans under wraps?
Was he suggesting that a soldier like a huntsman needs to be prepared?
Was Frederick using the stag imagery to remind him of the fate of Actaeon the hunter who accidentally stumbled across Artemis bathing with her nymphs? His punishment for this was to be turned into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds.
For me the message of Frederick’s gift shouts out, ‘Beware of your own ambition.’ Misplaced ambition can tear you apart like a pack of baying hounds.
I don’t know what it said to the Bonnie Prince. In 1745 he began his doomed invasion attempt turning back at Derby. He was pursued by the Duke of Cumberland who took his revenge by eviscerating many of the Prince’s supporters along the way to Culloden.


Stroppy Author said...

What a fantastic idea to use objects like this in your creative writing class. I might just steal that idea....

Whatever message FtG intended was probably not the message that BPCh read into the gift. I did my PhD on hunting as an image, and the Continental tradition was very different from the English tradition - it may have gone seriously awry!

Linda Strachan said...

A wealth of opportunities for storylines.
Isn't it fascinating when you think about how an object sent as a message could be misinterpreted, particularly if there are cultural differences.
I always wonder, when I read anything in translation, if the translator has taken cultural differences and interpretations into account.

Katherine Langrish said...

Wow. Just - wow.