For example this week has been less than successful. I had been planning to write a post on
In short I’m in a funk. What’s worse I’m in a funk over a f***ing piece about zombies. It’s not as if I’m trying to write the Codex Gigas or something.
“What’s the Codex Gigas?” I hear you cry. Well I’m rather glad you asked.
Here's the story. It's the year 1230 and we find ourselves in the Czech Republic (Gee Note: Probably because of the strong beer, friendly people, and reasonably priced strip clubs. Hey, there are worse places to go on holiday). A Benedictine monk who may or may not have been called Hermann commits a dastardly crime which is too horrendous to speak of. You know, like wearing socks with sandals. Or admitting a fondness for High School Musical. Distraught and deeply ashamed by Hermann's actions the other monks pull our boy to one side and politely explain that he's going to be punished by being buried alive. You see, nobody but nobody embarrasses an order of monks and get's away with it.
Hermann, like any sensible chap, freaked the hell out and started to beg for his life. "Guys", he said, "we're friends. I'm sure we can find some way around this. How about if I offer to paint the walls of monastery? After all, the old place looks like it could to with a wee bit of sprucing up. I mean all this bricks and mortar. It's so 1210's. Why don't we add a couple of lamp shades here and there, a splash of lilac, and a doily or two. Drag it kicking and screaming in to 30's? Guys?".
"No dice." Said the monks. "We're monks dude. We don't give a toss if the monastery looks good or not. In fact the uglier something is the closest it brings us to God. Because, um, God doesn't like pretty things. Yes that's it. The more horrendous looking the better as far as our Lord is concerned. In fact after we're done burying you alive we're all going to dress up as Madonna from that music video where she looks about 100 years old and she's wearing spandex and doing all that aerobic stuff. You know, the one that made Brother Lucius vomit the first time he saw it. Oh that Brother Lucius. So crazy."
"Shit!" said Hermann. "Look there's gotta be something I can do. How about… wait… how about I write a book?"
""What you mean like the Da Vinci Code or something?" Said one monk "I didn't like that. It wasn't even that I found it particularly scandalous. It was just, you know, kinda rubbish. I think it lost me right around the time when they introduced an albino Kung Fu fighting monk. I don't know about you, but I sure don't know any monks like that."
"What about Brother Jonas?" replied another. "He's a black belt in Karate."
"Is he the one with long hair that rides a Harley" asked the first
"No" said the second, "That's Brother Mortimus. Brother Jonas is the one with the tattoo on his arm that says "Monks do it quietly".".
"Say didn't he…"
"Look lads" interrupted Hermann. "I don't mean to be rude but couldn't we get back to the issue at hand here. Namely me not dying?"
"Oh yeah sure" said the monks "Well look, we'll make you a deal. If you write us the best book ever created, with like… pictures and fancy writing and all that stuff, we'll let you go. But it needs to be really big and clever, like Wikipedia in book form or something. Also we'll need it by tomorrow morning."
And so Hermann was thrown in to a cell, supplied with enough paper and ink to rival the warehouse of Dunder Mifflin, and set to work. Sadly it turns out that Hermann was about as bad at writing as he was at being a monk, because as dawn rapidly approached Hermann realised that the words “It was a warm summer’s day” alone didn’t really amount to something “really big and clever”. And so a desperate Hermann turned to God for help, praying his ass off, hoping to get himself out of this sticky situation.
God was obviously busy at that very moment. Either that or Hermann was looking too pretty for Him. Because no matter how hard Hermann prayed he was not answered. And so, at the end of his tether, this sunk monk aimed his sights a little lower.
“Ummm… Hi. Hi Satan. Look I’ve got myself in to a bit of a jam here and was wondering if you could help me ou…”
Cue a puff of smoke, flickering lights, and - oh gosh - lots of other woovy bezerk things.
“MWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I AM THE DIVEL… er… THE DEVIL. TREMBLE BEFORE MY MASSIVE SENSE OF EEEEEEEEEVIL.”
“Oh. Hey. Look you couldn’t give me the power to write this book could you? I mean I’d do it myself but I’ve got a really tight deadline.”
“MWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I CAN HELP YOU WRITE THE BOOK. BUT FIRST YOU MUST SELL ME YOUR SOUL MWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”
“Oh yeah sure. Whatever. Anyway this is what I’ve got so far. “It was a warm summer’s day”. I mean I think it’s quite catchy right?”
“MWUHAHAHAHAHAHA… OK. Look I hate to be a stickler here” said the Devil. “But really this selling me your soul thing is quite a big deal. For a start you’ve only got one of them. It’s not like selling a kidney on the Chinese black market or something. Secondly it’s supposed to inspire fear and dread and all that. And, I don’t know, I don’t think your at the requisite level of scared if I’m honest.”
“Well” said Hermann. “Normally I would be scared. But truth is if I don’t do this I’m going to get buried alive anyway. So I guess I’m all terrified out”.
“Tsk. You know I wish you’d told me that before. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with the smoke and flashy lights. So buried alive you say? Man that’s harsh. What did you do?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Oh ok. I get it. High School Musical appreciation huh? Well I gotta say you brought it on yourself in that case.”
“Yeah, make me feel better why don’t you?”
“Not to worry. Pick up that quill and start moving it over the paper, and soon the greatest book ever written will be complete. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am hungry and I’m off to find somewhere that sells hotdogs at 4am.”
And with that the Devil left. Hermann sat back down at his desk and picked up the quill. And then the most amazing thing happened.
He wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And wrote. His hand flew over the paper like an eagle, filling page after page of the most glorious text. Ten pages, a hundred pages, three hundred pages. All filled to the brim with the depths of human knowledge.
In the morning the monks arrived, armed with enough builders tools to put the Extreme Makeover crew to shame. They were amazed to find that the most fabulous book awaited them. It’s contents included the entire Latin version of the Bible, Isidore of Seville's encyclopedia Etymologiae, Josephus' “Antiquities of the Jews“, Cosmas of Prague's “Chronicle of Bohemia”, and various spells designed to ward off demons and the like.
Except, on page 290, where the entire sheet was dedicated to a depiction of Satan himself in full Technicolor glory.
Despite all this the book was a rip roaring success and the monk was reprieved, free to carry on appreciating the work of Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens to his hearts content. The monks celebrated what would be surely their most prized possession for years to come. The Codex Gigas.
So where is it now? Well of course the Codex, the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world, resides in Sweden. No really. Sweden. It turns out that at some point Sweden waged war with the Czech's and took the Codex Gigas back home with them as a prize.
Whether or not you believe the above tale (Gee Note: And I know it’s difficult to believe that any man in his right mind would admit to liking High School Musical) the Codex Gigas remains one of the most fascinating documents in existence. Recent studies show there was one single scribe for the entire thing, and that they were likely a self taught writer - ruling out anyone formally educated.
But it’s still shrouded in mystery. “How long did it take to write?”, “Why was it written in the first place?”, “And why the f*** is there a massive picture of the Devil slap bang in the middle of it?” are questions that will likely never be answered.
But then, who cares? After all it’s a great tale to tell. And sometimes that’s all you need.