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In "The Children's Hour," how is the children's attack similar to the attack on the...

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maggysmith | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:24 AM via web

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In "The Children's Hour," how is the children's attack similar to the attack on the Bishop of Bingen, and from what source is the allusion drawn?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 29, 2011 at 1:07 PM (Answer #1)

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The attack of Alice, Allegra, and Edith upon Longfellow have more differences from than similarities to the attack upon the Bishop Hatto of Bingen of Longfellow's literary allusion. The girls' attack is one of love as they "devour [him] with kisses" and as he reciprocates by putting them "down in the dungeon / In the round-tower of [his] heart" to keep them safe and secure "forever, / Yes, forever and a day." Nonetheless, similarities can be found between this attack of love and the rats' attack of revenge in the source of the literary allusion, an oral tradition folk tale called "The Mouse Tower." It was in an old collection of folk tales called Folk Tales from Many Lands retold by Lillian Gask, with illustrations by Willy Pogany.

Bishop Hatto is attacked by the spirits of murdered town folk who possess the bodies of rats to take revenge upon the Bishop. The darkly shaded (making this allusion an odd one for Longfellow to choose for his playful poem--except that it may have been a familiar nursery folk tale) similarities between the attacks are these. The children descend in a "sudden rush" and "sudden raid" to take their hapless victim by "surprise" as do the rats in their descent upon the Bishop. Both children and rats breach the "castle wall." Both swarm "everywhere" and "surround" their victims in the "tower." Both "devour" their victims, though the children devour with "kisses" while the rats simply devour ....

the rats and mice had devoured his horse, and were now swimming across the river ... . The rats surged against him like waves breaking on a cliff, and very soon the Bishop was overwhelmed in the horrid flood. ... where Bishop Hatto met his death.

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