“If he could have died – like Nelson – in the hour of victory! Would it not have been better for him – happier for me? Often I thought so. For to fade slowly away; to lose his strength and fire and intelligence; to outlive his character, and no longer be himself! No, that could not be happiness!”
Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick
I’ve finally finished reading Jock of the Bushveld. It was sometimes gripping, sometimes sad, and oftentimes hard going with antiquated, somewhat ungrammatical phrasing akin to the writing of it’s time – published in 1907. And an unnecessary over use of exclamation marks. It was a story I felt I knew well from having seen the film as a child and from Johnny Clegg’s ‘Great Heart’ music video and also in legend. Jock, in South African culture, is a legend of a dog and the stories of his conquests in the bushveld are told over and over again – how many dogs have since been named Jock?
But when the legend is so great, some of the facts are lost. Little did I know the real cause of Jock’s death at the end of the story – I won’t tell you. I have vivid memories of anxious scenes involving tsetse flies and sleeping sickness, fighting baboons and kudu kicks, but by the time I had read the above quote, which appears about 5/6ths of the way into the book, I had begun to doubt my memories. How was Jock’s story finally going to come to an end? And would it be, as Fitzpatrick muses, in the hour of victory?
Little did he/she know. A profound, tactical and heart-palpitation-causing narrative technique. Little did she know has been on my mind for some days. It bears altogether far too much resemblance to real life in my opinion.
On Friday night Hubby and I rushed off to see a 2016 Oscar nominated film, Joy. On an aside, although Jennifer Lawrence is certainly pretty to look at, surely there are films more deserving of the Academy’s prestigious accolades? Anyway, the whole film carried the message of ‘little did she know‘ – in this case echoing predictable reverberations of the American dream – ‘work hard etc etc and you will achieve greatness’.
Another, far more interesting ‘little did he know‘ film is Stranger than Fiction. I’ll steal IMDB’s plot description: “A mentally unstable IRS auditor (Will Ferrell) hears an author’s (Emma Thompson) voice in his head and discovers that he is the ill-fated protagonist of her latest work.” Note: this is not a spoiler.
Voice in Will Ferrell’s head: “Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.
So, knocking about in my head, is this little phrase, ‘little did she know‘. Little did I know – rather than being at my desk yesterday morning by 9am to work, I would have a lovely phone call with my mama instead. Little did I know that our office strategy meeting would be brought forward by an hour and that, rushing to my local cafe to snatch some undisturbed work beforehand, I would find that their wifi was down. Little did I know that deciding to go in to the office to make use of their wifi, I’d be roped straight into some urgent work, stay on for the strategy meeting and remain at my desk for the rest of the day. Little did I know, with all the great intentions and ‘plans of mice and men’, that I’d only get to my blog today.
On one level, not knowing what tomorrow or even today holds is terribly scary, but having mulled and mulled over this ‘little did she know‘, it also evokes that seed of hope.
Do you ever get that feeling that something good is just round the corner? It’s a smokey, intangible feeling, but it lingers in our minds like a long forgotten fragrance. I think it’s a feeling from childhood, when your birthday is just a few days away, and somehow that feeling never entirely leaves and pops back up at the strangest times.
Today I trust that ‘little did she know’ fills you with that sweet bouquet of things hoped-for, of joy, of sunrises and new days, of ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’ – of all that mushy stuff that reminds you of the possibilities of life.
P.S. Thanks to my Hubby (both fan and critic) who pointed out my error in last week’s post – I was in stocks in Salisbury not in shackles – correction made.
p.p.s. The next Oscar nominated film on my list to see is The Martian – all film and book recommendations always welcome.
P.p.p.s. Below, a ‘little did he know’ snippet for your enjoyment.
P.p.p.p.s. Also below a version of Jaluka’s Great Heart theme song from the Jock of the Bushveld film.