Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Bugs Me Wednesday: Fogg's Non-existent Airship

It has occurred to me that I’m missing out on one of the major perks of having a forum for my own personal ramblings: the opportunity to complain about stuff that bugs me.

So here is the first of what will be a sporadic feature- after all, not a lot of stuff really bugs me- that we’ll call “What Bugs Me Wednesday.”

We begin the series with one of literature’s greatest and longest-lasting lies: the mythical airship in Jules Verne’s Around the World In 80 Days.  Just about every film adaptation, comic book version and dumbed-down retelling has invented some sort of hot-air balloon out of whole cloth (pardon the pun). Even the cover art for reprintings of Verne’s classic is guilty from time to time. Sometimes it’s a zeppelin, sometimes it’s a steampunk airship, but whatever form it takes, it has no relation whatsoever to the story as Verne wrote it.

The incomparable Phileas Fogg and his valet Passpartout do indeed set out on a memorable adventure. They have run-ins with the law, with outlaws, with vigilantes and religious sects. There’s a princess in distress, an opium-den trap and an acrobatic circus. Modes of transportation are rented, bought, hijacked and destroyed, but at no point in the journey do the characters take to the air.

Do they take a turn on the back of an elephant? Sure. Do they cross the Great Plains in a fortuitous windsled? They do. But do they ever set foot in the basket of a hot-air balloon? No, no, a thousand times no. And it’s time for this nonsense to stop.

Pictured above are the thumbnails from the first page of Google Image results for “Around the World in 80 Days.” Take a quick look and you can see how widespread this pernicious falsehood has become. An entire generation is being led to believe that Fogg was some sort of Victorian Steve Fossett. And yeah, it kind of bugs me.

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