Saturday, August 19, 2006

Huck and Tom on The Middle East

A teacher friend of mine sent along this excerpt from Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer Abroad" featuring Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer talking about the Holy Land. The book was published in 1894 and the attitudes then are pretty much the attitudes today. Truly fascinating stuff.

Twain uses the archaic word "paynim" to refer to non-Christians, and usually meant Moslem.

From Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894):

"Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't know what a crusade is?"

"No," says I, "I don't.

"A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."

"Which Holy Land?"

"Why, the Holy Land -- there ain't but one."

"What do we want of it?"

"Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of the paynim, and it's our duty to take it away from them."

"How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

"We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They always had it."

"Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"

"Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"

I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the right of it, no way. I says:
"It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, and another person wanted it, would it be right for him to --"

"Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn. It ain't a farm, it's entirely different. You see, it's like this. They own the land, just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame, and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them."

"Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now, if I had a farm and another person --"

"Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with farming? Farming is business, just common low-down business: that's all it is, it's all you can say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totally different."


  1. Yes, that's a great excerpt.

  2. Anonymous12:51 PM

    Good find.

  3. Mark Twain really was a smart son of a bitch. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read more of his than I have.
    The Bible According to Mark Twain was wonderful. Highly recommended.

  4. ...One reason I stole the name...

    I should've been so lucky to come by it honest.