X is for when I sought vellum and a calligraphy quill fashioned out of a crow’s tail feather from the backyard.
Around the age of seven, I first read The Secret of the Unicorn, with its adventure trail of pickpockets, a trio of antique model ships, and pirate legends leading to three cryptic pieces of parchment. Uniting the three revealed a set of symbols joining into latitude and longitude coordinates — a treasure map.
Oh the exhaustion of reaching X, be it down the alphabet or following it on a pirate map through perilous trials. To be sure, you the reader have arrived. But as of December 13th, you don’t have a map in hand, since it hasn’t been provided by that Gunmetal Pirate who’s been promising you a treasure hunt for months. When you do come back with a map, or rather, with the instructions and riddles whose clues lie in the treasure hunt posts, the above babble might make sense to you.
So ignore the April publish date because I’m a cheater. This post is actually being written in December, which means it’s taken your weary Pirate Geisha eight months to get here — I’m incapable of making anything easy for myself. In the end, every cheating alphabet post took up painstaking hours of culling images along with the pertaining words, which still managed to sneak in bits of me and my neuroses even though they were supposed to be about pictures.
Meanwhile, no one knows these posts exist, because they were privately “published” basically a year ago, only to be filled with content recently. For every week that it appears I’m not posting anything new, I lose about a thousand readers (yeah, yeah, figuratively). Still, I tend to these April, read-by-no-one alphabet posts like they’re prisms in some torturous rainbow leading to a dubious pot.
At least the treasure hunt I’m devising — to get you to meander through these effortful pictorials of mine — won’t be dubious. Why? Because it’s a treasure hunt inspired by this spectacular fairy party, and Tintin.
Wait, you don’t know Tintin?!
Allow me the pleasure of educating you in the elegant, eighty-year-old comic. Not only have I geeked over Tintin for forty years (I’m a vampire, dammit, just forget my age), but I dream about him. By “dream” I mean during my nighttime sleep as a midlifey (but still alluringly youthful) woman.
Anyway, here’s some Tintin math for you: Since I was seven, I’ve read each of the the twenty-four Tintin books no less than two dozen times in four languages (Farsi, English, French and Italian). Those dreams of mine I mentioned consist of new or undiscovered Tintin adventures, a sort of involuntary slumberland fan fiction.
Hence, they’re dreams of longing, like every other recurring dream of mine.
Tintin.com does a masterful job of defining the Belgian comic:
“The Adventures of Tintin were a veritable initiation into geography for entire generations. The international expeditions undertaken by the young reporter opened people’s eyes to countries, cultures, landscapes and natural phenomena that were still relatively unheard of. From the sands of the Sahara to the glaciers of the Himalayas, from the Amazon rain forests to the Scottish highlands, Hergé’s pictures overflow with details revealing a world full of wonder, danger and excitement – a passionate introduction to Planet Earth.”
“Combining breathtaking tales and clear linegraphics, Tintin is, of course, much more than the intrepid hero whose cause is just and whose heart is pure: he is the centre piece of a complex universe where we are placed face to face with our own reality.”
Incidentally, if you want to understand the extent of my “geeking over” Tintin, on the site’s not-in-English quiz, I scored 100% even with my shoddy, out-of-practice French.
At age seven, reading The Secret of the Unicorn, I was in awe of Tintin’s discovery of the three pieces of parchment hidden in the model ships, and the secret they revealed when overlapped.
Immediately after reading, I sought vellum, ink, a candle, and from the backyard, a crow’s tail feather to fashion into a calligraphy quill. I wanted to recreate the riddles and overlap them the way Tintin did, illuminating the result above candlelight.
The purpose wasn’t to find make-believe treasure, but to create a step-by-step puzzle.
Some forty years later, the brain shared by that seven-year-old is filled with the same wonder and excitement at possibility, and at creating a treasure hunt.
Some of you have signed up to receive instructions and a start date for such a treasure hunt. When it’s all set to go, you’ll be the first notified. Thanks for bearing with me.
In the meantime, let me continue the alphabet/pictorial tradition with a series of X’s.
~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Events always real, names always changed.
Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.
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