Monday, 11 February 2013

Father Brown … and the German Imagi-nation

I have recently been reading G. K. Chesterton’s FATHER BROWN stories, and came across one entitled THE FAIRYTALE OF FATHER BROWN.

In the opening paragraphs Chesterton describes a small German imagi-nation that I had not come across before.

The following extracts give a bit of background about this imagi-nation:
The picturesque city and state of Heiligwaldenstein was one of those toy kingdoms of which certain parts of the German Empire still consist. It had come under the Prussian hegemony quite late in history ...

There had been not a little of war and wild justice there within living memory ...

The German soldiers by the innumerable sentry-boxes looked strangely like German toys, and the clean-cut battlements of the castle, gilded by the sunshine, looked the more like the gilt gingerbread.

... this place was forcibly annexed at the time of Bismarck's very earliest schemes of consolidation – forcibly, that is, but not at all easily. The empire (or what wanted to be one) sent Prince Otto of Grossenmark to rule the place in the Imperial interests.

He was a soldier of distinguished skill and success, but he didn't have altogether an easy job with this little place. He was defeated in several battles by the celebrated Arnhold brothers – the three guerrilla patriots to whom Swinburne wrote a poem ...

... the Prince was expected ... to receive certain visitors whom he really wished to meet. They were geological experts sent to investigate the old question of the alleged supply of gold from the rocks round here, upon which (as it was said) the small city-state had so long maintained its credit and been able to negotiate with its neighbours even under the ceaseless bombardment of bigger armies.

His great passion was ... the strange desire of gold. For this legend of the gold he had left Grossenmark and invaded Heiligwaldenstein.
There is quite enough detail herein to be a good starting point for someone who wants to create a small German imagi-nation. If I had the time – and was not already working on several project of my own – I might be tempted to add some flesh to these bones myself.


  1. Jolly useful find and one that is tempting to pick up and run with...

  2. Tradgardmastare,

    I must admit that I am very, very tempted to do some work on expanding upon the basic information in this story ...

    All the best,