The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A little culture

The painting is "A Knight at the Crossroads" by Viktor Vasnetsov, from 1878. Pretty cool, huh?

Alot of the Deadman's companions are standing in front of that stone right now, and I've definitely stood there myself. Stand fast, my friends!!


A couple of people, like Andria, have looked around to see what the stone says, and found the inscription "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head." I have also seen it as "If you go straight, you will lose your life, left, your horse, right, your head." Based on one of the words I can barely make out on the stone, I think this last one might be it, but I can't tell for sure.

Anyway--a little more culture: one of recurring the themes of Russian literature seems to be the struggle between fatalism and free will. (For example, the last chapter of Lermontov's A Hero of Our Times). I think that puts a neat spin on the conundrum. For fatalists, the choices do look pretty grim--life, horse, head. True, the Russians have a penchant for the no-win situation.

But, if you reject the idea that all outcomes are necessarily foretold, the stone simply gives an indication of the nature of the dangers that lie ahead. In that case, straight and left seem to be hardships like penury and privation (maybe even slavery), things that can only be endured. On the other hand, the right hand road seems to indicate a violent battle with a physical enemy--one who possibly could have weaknesses, and perhaps can be defeated. I hope that I would turn right.

But the last thing that I like about the painting is the skull of the man and a horse on the ground in front of the stone--maybe a traveler who simply couldn't decide? Recognizing my own weaknesses, this is the one that I find the most disturbing...


Blogger Andria said...

Ok so I wikipedia-ed him...and the quote on the stone is supposedly this, "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head." I would much rather not lose my head right now. Instead of getting back on the proverbial horse, I might be putting it out to pasture. How's that for putting a West Texas spin on classic Russian art?

5:14 PM  

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