Whoosh! Issue 56 - May 2001

XENA AS HEIRESS OF ANACHARSIS:
HER ROUTE TO IMMORTALITY

By Edward P. Rich
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
3717 words



Introduction (01-06)
The Source (07-16)
Enter XENA (17-29)
XENA Too Will Become a Classic (30-41)
Notes
Biography



XENA AS HEIRESS OF ANACHARSIS:
HER ROUTE TO IMMORTALITY




Introduction




Xena tries to hide the fact she landed on a branch the wrong way
Xena has the makings of a classic icon.


[1] The entertainment industry is a crapshoot. You spend your time and money and hope for the best. Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor have been part of an entertainment phenomenon that happens only a couple times a century. Phenomena like this cannot be planned. They just happen. It has not happened to this extent since the late Bill Boyd, a middle-aged actor, revived his cowboy character that theatre owners no longer wanted. Showing his movies on TV, he made a fortune. It was the first major American television series, HOPALONG CASSIDY (TV, 1949-1951).

[2] Then there was husband and wife, Skip and Gloria Fickling who created the first tough woman detective. HONEY WEST (TV, 1965-1966), "the sexiest private eye to ever pull a trigger", was played on TV by Anne Francis. It attracted a loyal following and Francis was nominated for an Emmy. The character was too sexy for the times, and ABC decided not to renew. However, eleven books translated into many languages made the Ficklings a fortune. Locals call their ocean front house at Laguna Beach "the house that Honey West built".

[3] With Xena now leaving the air, she too has a chance to be another Honey West. With cult status and a worldwide following, this Xenite hopes the creators feel the same and will exploit what they still own of their creation in the same way the Ficklings did. Just take what they own back to New Zealand and get to work. There should be a publishing and distribution deal for XENA fan fiction, XENA CD's and videos, even sell remaining XENA books. There should be translations into Japanese and other foreign languages. There should be efforts to hold XENA conventions somewhere annually, and an official XENA newsletter that maintains XENA consciousness.

[4] There is though another element needed, essential to prolonging XENA and her parallel universe. This is an abundant supply of good story concepts. The best fan fiction should be incorporated into future episodes. However, by an extraordinary coincidence, two hundred and thirteen years ago in France there was published a set of books that has already built this foundation, THE TRAVELS OF ANACHARSIS.

[5] Someone once said that a book would outlive a tombstone. Anacharsis became a legend and a part of the French language. Likewise, Xena, if she connects with him, will become immortal too.

[6] Having spent the better part of life selling books and writing catalog descriptions of them, both as librarian and bookseller, I have a boundless faith in the erudition of my colleagues. If you want to know who Anacharsis is, for he lives still and is a definite part of the Xenaverse, then access www.bibliofind.com and type in Anacharsis as title. The result will be a long list. Hence, there is no need for me to introduce him. I will leave it to others who have done it better.


The Source

[7] Anacharsis was the hero of a long set of books titled, VOYAGE DU JEUNE ANACHARSIS EN GRECE, DANS LE MILIEU DU QUATRIEME SIECLE AVANT L'ERE VULGAIRE. In English the title usually is translated, "Travels of Anacharsis the Younger in Greece during the middle of the fourth century before the Christian era". This is a mistranslation. The 'young' Anacharsis traveled, not the 'younger', since there never had been an elder. In addition, pagans call the era 'vulgar', not 'Christian'. The title was patterned on Goethe's SORROWS OF THE YOUNG WERTHER and Schiller's Wilhelm Meister trilogy.

[8] A German colleague wrote that it is a

"learned, imaginary travel journal through ancient Greece of the classical epoch. The cultural-historical compendium of the then knowledge of ancient Hellas, first published in 1788, is the work of almost 30-years and original main work of the French ancient history researcher Jean-Jacques Barthelemy (1716-1795) and was a considerable publishing success." [Note 01]

[9] An American bookseller describing their set incorrectly as a first edition said this about its author:

"Jean Jacques Barthelemi (1716-95), a highly esteemed classical scholar and Jesuit, is probably best known for his work on French royal medals and THE TRAVELS OF ANACHARSIS THE YOUNGER IN GREECE, the latter having an extremely high impact upon the growth of philhellenism in France at the time. Barthelemi fell from grace at the time of the Revolution, was briefly imprisoned under the false charge of being an aristocrat, and died shortly thereafter, while reading from a text of Horace." [Note 02]

[10] Another very prestigious American bookseller, who priced their 8-volume deluxe large paper edition of 1799 at $5600, states,

"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Anacharsis in the development of French neoclassicism and in the creation of philhellenic sentiment. Though there had been earlier attempts to popularize and disseminate what was known of Greek antiquity, none had been as influential and successful in educating Europe to an appreciation of the life and sensibility of ancient Greece." [Note 03]

[11] Describing the best first edition set (1788) on the market now, which is bound in full period olive-green morocco, a distinguished Los Angeles bookshop said,

"This very popular work describes Greece as seen by a barbarian Scythian, who commits the anachronism of visiting Athens a few years before the birth of Alexander the Great and of conversing with Phocion, Epaminondas, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle and Demosthenes. In his travels through the provinces he makes note of the manners, morals, and customs of the inhabitants and takes part in their festivals. The work furthered contemporary knowledge of ancient Greece and gave rise to many imitations." [Note 04]

[12] Another German dealer describing the first German edition says,

"A translation of a for its time much read travel novel, which, created out of ancient writers, provided its contemporaries a comprehensive view of classical Greece. Klemperer called this learned work 'the encyclopedia of the new cult of the antique' in the late 18th Century." [Note 05]

[13] A Dutch dealer said his set was an, "important work in French neo-classicism. The author succeeded to create an enormous public interest in the antique Greek civilization." [Note 06]

[14] Sound familiar?

[15] Yet, there is more. Success spawns sequels. Some fan fiction grew into books in their own right. For those wanting more spice, M. Chaussard wrote FETES ET COURTISANES DE LA GRECE. SUPPLEMENT AUX VOYAGES D'ANARCHARSIS ET D'ANTENOR. The work relates to the customs of the ancient Greeks both public and private, and gives Anacharsis a male companion, which may mean what it means. The last Anacharsis appeared as recently as 1928 when Abel Hermant brought out a textbook, LE NOUVEL ANACHARSIS. PROMENADE AU JARDIN DES LETTRES GRECQUES. A good character never dies and becomes part of the language.

[16] It was Jean-Baptiste Joseph Champagnac writing under the nom de plume Ch.H. de Mirval, who broadened the travels of Anacharsis to include Asia. He changed him also from a Scythian to an Indian. L'ANACHARSIS INDIEN: OU, LES VOYAGEURS EN ASIE. TABLEAU INTERESSANT DES MERVEILLES DE LA NATURE ET DE L'ART, DES MOEURS, USAGES, COSTUMES, ETC.


Enter XENA




Gabrielle tries not to look too bored by another of Xena's fishing tales
Gabrielle pens the tales of Xena from the start of the series.


[17] It is here that Xena, Gabrielle, and the gang come in. All the legends or realities of XENA have yet to be written. Superheroines can also grow old but never really die. There can be new episodes even with an aging cast. As with Disney classics, it is possible for XENA to be revived every ten or fifteen years.

[18] As we began, one constant problem with a successful series is decline in story lines. Using Anacharsis stories as a starting point, XENA episodes can be grafted onto them. As Anacharsis is an historic classic, it is not copyrighted. Here is how it might happen. There can now be Xena's meeting as an older woman with the beautiful young Indian youth Anacharsis. He can even have his gay friend along if the producers wish. It is during the Fourth Century before the Vulgar Era, as pagans call the time after the birth of Christ. A handsome Brahmin of the highest caste travels through Greece seeking 'feeling', wisdom, and that sensible way of life.

[19] Abbe Barthelemy, the author of the ANACHARSIS TRAVELS, evidently overlooked the Peloponessian Wars. Greece was a land in turmoil and hardly the place for the sensitive traveler. While Xena is ill equipped philosophically to do this sensitivity training, she does save their b*tts repeatedly. Acting as security guards, older and more mellowed superheroines might actually begin to see merit in their pacifist point of view.

[20] Anacharsis was such a devoted follower of the Vedic faith and treats the Supreme Personality of their Godhead with such reverence that he would not step on a flower or even a bug since they each have a soul. While nothing like the bumbling wanna-be warrior Joxer, Anacharsis and Antenor, his gay sidekick are such extreme pacifists, they annoy Xena as much as Joxer does.

[21] It will be Gabrielle who guides them, learning Hindu wisdom all the while. They all travel together back to Asia. They go anywhere the imaginations of the producers take them. These new journeys can be taken from the scrolls of Gabrielle's daughter, or, alternatively, Virgil grown older. His "lost" scrolls can be rediscovered.

[22] The time may be right to give XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS a rest. Now that the show has been officially wrapped, it might do for the producers and the senior cast to step back and have another look at it. The runaway success of XENA can be cited as an example of a new emerging entertainment industry reality. A series no longer needs to be made in Hollywood to succeed. It need not be tailored to the taste criteria of the three big American television networks. XENA openly lampoons some feminist and liberal issues that networks consider very serious.

[23] If Xena and Gabrielle were to interact with Anacharsis, then the whole thing takes on a 'classic' quality. To an extent, it becomes 'educational'. Who in modern life really cared about ancient Greece until Xena came along? Ten years ago, you could not give away sets of Anacharsis. They were what booksellers called a dog, just lumber decorators used to fill shelves in stylish houses. Xena gave new life and interest to a musty subject.

[24] The producers could try to recapture the enthusiasm they had in college for the subject matter by filming new Anacharsis/XENA episodes as a hobby. There is no hurry. Abbe Barthelemy took thirty years to write his epic. No need to create 'what if' segments to meet production deadlines. Just film what they wish and "keep them in the can", as they say about storing unreleased projects. Continue to experiment; be imaginative.

[25] The producers could decide who they want to work with further and who can get lost in the mists of time. Both Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor could plan, in about a decade from now, with family and children under control, to put on new costumes and do another couple seasons. Can anyone imagine how hard it would be to recast Xena or Gabrielle? Another actor in either part would be a fool professionally and physically to attempt it. Costume pictures are expensive and risky. Consider the example of the grand star of the old school, Gloria Swanson. She cast herself as Cleopatra and "barged down the Nile and sank". Gina Torres played the same role on XENA and is building a star career.

[26] Can you imagine Dr. Quinn as Xena? It might have happened. Jane Seymour's worst movie was made in 1977. It is SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (Sam Wanamaker, 1977). What BEDTIME FOR BONZO (Frederick de Cordova, 1951) did for Ronald Reagan, SINBAD does for Jane. She runs about in Barbara Eden genie costumes, delivers some incredibly silly dialogue at the top of her lungs, and sits with, converses with, and plays chess with a baboon. Okay, it is actually her brother, a prince, who has been transformed into an ape by their wicked stepmother, an evil sorceress. Her most memorable line, literally, was, "I have to pee!" No one yelled "cut", and it was never edited out.

[27] Even B-Grade costume movies appeal to many. The picture is worth watching because of the pioneer pre-computer special effects. In SINBAD, they sail to the island of Hyperborea to the Shrine of the Four Elements. That would be a fun place for XENA to go. Hyperborea was actually the northern Baltic countries during pre-Christian Sarmatian times (400 BC to 400 AD). It was believed in by theosophists and found on old maps of the ancient world.

[28] The more you watch SINBAD, the more it reminds you of XENA. The premise in both is much the same. Fanciful story line played straight and grounded faintly on history and literature. Jane Seymour and Lucy Lawless are both action actors. They both ride horses and like doing costume roles filmed out of doors. The late Gene Siskel once remarked that Americans tend to believe English actors appear only in projects of the highest literary and artistic merit. They never make a poor or silly movie just for the money or because they are the wife of the director or producer.

[29] Nevertheless, SINBAD and a couple XENA episodes are very much alike. What is a flop as a big screen movie might just have succeeded as a high camp television series. Had SINBAD been made as a TV series, rather than a big screen movie, it might have been the XENA of the Seventies. So, perhaps buy the rights to some old ancient costume films, cut them up into XENA episodes, and use computer technology to insert XENA and the gang into them. One Greek trireme, that ship with oars sailing along, is the same in any film. This is less expensive than convening a cast for conventional shooting.


XENA Too Will Become A Classic




Xena is about to invent the still and corn liquor
Gab and Xena look a little bit 'country' on Ares Farm.


[30] Some claim that efforts have been made in various places in the recent past to influence, even sabotage, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. In Memphis, Tennessee, for instance, the station airing it has undergone equipment failure several times on Sunday at noon, going off the air during scheduled airings. One has to live with things the show's detractors do. When cast members disappoint, that is counterproductive. Some awful gaffes have been made.

[31] Also in Memphis, there was the scheduled appearance of the Evil Callisto at a fan fair last summer. Psycho Barbie did not show up. After having paid a stiff $20 to get in to see her, disappointed teens dressed in their Xena or Ares tee-shirts were seen morosely hanging about the lobby of the hotel waiting for Mom or Dad to come pick them up. When she did not appear the following day, a Sunday, disappointed fans were drawing moustaches on her publicity photos. While she is billed as being evil, or maybe only wicked, one must never disappoint the public.

[32] In defense of Hudson Leick I will say that maybe she felt it was beneath a major international star to mingle with actors from other TV dramas. Perhaps an XWP cast member should not appear at public events promoting anything but XENA. Unfortunately in this case, the competitive Fox TV station picked up the story as news. The impression was left that it was not the fan fair that was too small a venue, but the City of Memphis itself.

[33] To make of XENA more than just another TV show gone its way takes patience and discipline by all concerned. Those who created it must cherish it. Starting now, senior cast member should cherish their association with XWP. To have been on XENA is the most valuable credit their professional resumes contain. They have in XENA a lifetime career, if they want it. There are no good or bad XENA episodes. Different people see different things in them.

[34] Collectively the episodes have earned the right and can now be called a canon. Only the most famous writers have a canon. Most authors have only collected works. Writers like Horace, Homer, Shakespeare, Beaumont & Fletcher, Voltaire, and Goethe have canons. Fan fiction books not in their canon are called apocryphal. Having a canon, the writer is no longer just an author. They can be respectably studied at universities, courses can be given, and theses can be written. Can you say that for CLEO and JACK? XENA cannot join forces electronically or in any other way with any other TV fare.

[35] Once a writer achieves a canon, the work can no longer be criticized for content. It is as it is and can never change. Some wonderfully imaginative things have been done to market XENA as videos. Producers and cast should not really care why people spend big money to buy their videos. They should go to the church of their choice and give thanks that fans do. A wonderfully fortunate thing has been the packaging of the videos. Neatly boxed in beautiful pictorial jackets then marketed in a slick catalogue, they are similar to those morocco bound sets of Anacharsis quoted on Bibliofind. Coupled with Anacharsis, XENA could be an immensely valuable literary property.

[36] Correctly handled the XENA material can take on a life of its own. The closing announcement was titled "XENA comes to an end". The end is prologue. Coupled with Anacharsis it might outlive the corporate entity Universal Studios itself. It can live longer than Studios USA. It will certainly outlive the careers of any irritating executives who work there now. Many entities of Hollywood once called Epic or Colossal and such are gone and forgotten. XENA must be carefully protected from the mundane.

[37] The announcement of the cancellation was dignified, almost statesmanlike, but someone to whom the subtleties of XENA drew a blank wrote the paragraphs that follow. After six years, the staff of the president of Studios USA Domestic Television, should know that the ancient lands through which Xena and Gabrielle traveled were not imaginary and are found on early maps. Beowulf was a Norse warrior, but he was also Anglo-Saxon, that is English, and the princely hero of an epic poem of the same name in the eighth century. The writers did not just make up the name. Surrounded with such cultural and geographical illiterates, it is not surprising that CLEOPATRA 2525 and JACK OF ALL TRADES are more to their taste. Compared to XENA they are on life-support. Just another ho hum futuristic sci-fi even infusions of XENA cannot save.

[38] As for not being accepted by the American networks, that may, in future, grow to be less and less meaningful in commercial terms. An international hit with a recognized following can be syndicated to the whole earth, not just the rather parochial standards committees of New York and Hollywood. There are so many new ways to disseminate entertainment that many films go directly to video without ratings or TV airplay.

[39] Critics can also be won over. People only criticize winners, not losers. In forming the character of the Indian Brahmin Anacharsis, the World Viashnava Association can act as consultants. He should be the ideal devotee with a profound understanding of the astral nature of Krishna. Driven around in a stretch limousine and a week at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel can win over the severest critics. However, the issue is larger. There are thousands of little villages in India with electricity only a few hours a day. There is only one television, and they all sit and watch it. It would be nice if it were XENA.

[40] There have been HERCULES projects before and there may be again. There will never be another XENA. Shown in over 115 countries and in over 50 languages, world syndication is an essential issue now. XENA has sad and violent episodes. The creators of XENA can experiment; they can put in controversial themes. Anacharsis is a novel. Novelists do not have to be politically correct. Future XENA writing should return to its beginnings. As it was with the Abbot Barthelemy, it should take on a hobby aspect. Instead of 'what ifs' there should be 'what the h*lls'.

[41] Finding a classic novel from an earlier century based on the same times and material is unique. Attached to an historic classic, XENA too will become a classic. She can look forward to a great future. I hope the house in New Zealand that XENA builds will have a baronial library lined with leather bound XENA books and Anacharsis editions.

Notes

Note 01
Bibliofind.com Antiquariat Barbara Schoeningh, Ottenser Marktplatz 15, Hamburg 22765 Germany
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Note 02
Bibliofind.com Krown and Spellman, P.O. Box 948, 3319 Cattaraugus Ave., Culver City, CA 90232 USA
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Note 03
Bibliofind.com Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books, 32 Saint George St., London W1S 2EA U.K.
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Note 04
Bibliofind.com Heritage Book Shop, Inc., 8540 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90069
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Note 05
Bibliofind.com Hamburger Antiquariat Keip GmbH, Grindelhof 48, Hamburg 20146 Germany
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Note 06
Bibliofind.com Charbo's Antiquariaat, Korninginneweg 79, 1075CJ Amsterdam Netherlands
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Biography

Edward P. Rich

Edward P. Rich is a retired dentist and former librarian for rare books at the United States Military Academy, West Point, and the Library of the Health Science, University of Illinois at the Medical Center Chicago. Receiving a Josiah K. Lilly Fellowship at Indiana University, he is today a rare book and map dealer.

Favorite Episode: Have none. They are all great, only different. Bought all the videos, advanced Xenites buy the videos.
Favorite Line: DR. JANICE COVINGTON: "...something that will revolutionize the way we look at the ancient world. It has the power to turn myth into history, history into myth." THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210)
First Episode Seen: Do not remember. Christie D. a Xenite from Winnipeg MB put me on the wonders of XENA after reading (and enjoying) my alternative DR. QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN novel.

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