Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

How to Conquer Jerusalem (Frederick II Style)

Frederick II looking
rather pleased with
In A.D. 1099, the First Crusade succeeded in taking the City of Jerusalem after much bloodshed and struggle. One hundred and thirty years later, Frederick II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, conquered Jerusalem once again. At this time, Jerusalem was under the control of al-Kamil, sultan of Egypt and nephew of the late Saladin. He was worried that al-Mu'azzam, his cousin and the ruler of Damascus, was angling for his position. Terry Jones in Crusades narrates the ensuing "conquest" of Jerusalem.

"In the meantime an emissary had come from al-Kamil asking for Frederick's help against his brother al-Mu’azzam, who he believed was trying to seize the Sultanate from him. Al-Kamil offered Frederick the Holy City in exchange for his support. Frederick could see the opportunity for a diplomatic coup and set out for his Kingdom in the East…
 When Frederick arrived at Acre he found the situation had changed.
 Al-Mu’azzam had died, and al-Kamil no longer needed his help. Frederick had to plead with al-Kamil: ‘I am your friend. It was you who urged me to make this trip. The Pope and all the kings of the West now know of my mission. If I return empty-handed I will lose much prestige. For pity’s sake give me Jerusalem, that I may hold my head high!’ Al-Kamil had as little interest in the Holy War as Frederick, but he was in an embarrassing position: ‘I too must take account of opinion. If I deliver Jerusalem to you it could lead not only to a condemnation of my actions by the Caliph, but also to a religious insurrection that would threaten my throne.’ It was intimated to Frederick that the only way out of the situation was a show of force. If al-Kamil were forced to give up Jerusalem in order to avoid bloodshed, he might save face. And so, in November 1228, Frederick marched at the head of his army of three thousand men and al-Kamil then went through a charade of negotiation.
 So, on 18 February 1229, Jerusalem was restored to the Franks, without a drop of blood being spilt. The deal was for ten years and included Bethlehem and some places between the Holy City and the coast…The Holy Sepulchre was in Christian hands once more."

-from Crusades by Terry Jones, pages 222-223