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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The 16th-17th century War of the Worlds

In a very short story that belongs to science fiction, mixed with Old West, fantasy, and horror, H. G. Wells masterfully succeeds in conveying some of the darkest sides of Renaissance and Baroque society.

First published in 1903, Wells' short story The Valley of Spiders has no exact time period indicated, but is apparently set in the 16th or 17th century: the three male protagonists are in fact armed with swords, and their hypocritical leader keeps a little reliquary hanging about his neck. Conquistadores? The place is a sort of magic valley in the middle of nowhere, with a quite general flora and fauna: thorn bushes, wild dogs, wild boars. . .  but it should be about America since the escaping "prey" they follow is a "half-caste girl" (literal quotations). The leader means to reach and rape her for the simple sake of it, even if he has "whole cityfuls of people to do his basest bidding--girls, women." A parallel might be made with Don Rodrigo and Lucia in Alessandro Manzoni's 19th century novel I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), set in 1628-30 in Italy, then mostly ruled by corrupt Spaniards. It is, too, the same period in which G. B. Marino's long poem Adone was published (1623), and the descriptions match perfectly.

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