The Internet. Kindle. E-books. Google scanning everything in the world, providing the service “for free”. Reports of the book dying, and why it is dying, are everywhere these days. According to trend experts: books may be becoming obsolete, rather like the gallant knight! So let’s take this day, the 23rd of April, and celebrate the book - and the gallant night! For World Book Day is also St George’s Day. At least in England.
St George and the Dragon
St George is the knight that is known for slaying the dragon. Knight and dragon are depicted in numerous works of art, paintings as well as sculptures. Such as the sculpture in The Church of St. Nicholas (commonly known as Storkyrkan) in Stockholm, Sweden, where St George is known as “Sankt Göran“.
St George, of course, is also known as the knight who has lent his cross to the English flag – also the center red cross of the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom.
UNESCO’s lucky number 23
World Book Day, organized and promoted by UNESCO, is another kettle of fish completely - celebrated in England, Spain, Sweden … in many different countries where there are still libraries and book stores and books and where people still read them.
But why celebrate on the 23rd of April?
If you’re English you say it is because of Shakespeare. Naturally.
If you’re Spanish you are equally certain it is because of Cervantes.
If you’re Swedish you say it is so librarians will have something to do.
In fact, more people celebrate the national cinnamon bun day in Sweden (4th of October) than World Book Day (maybe because a bun costs less than a hardback?) but in England and Spain people don’t have cinnamon buns, so in those countries World Book Day wins out in the end!
Gregorian vs. Julian
Actually, although the 23rd of April is stated as the anniversary of the deaths of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, this is a “fact” which can be debated. Cervantes died on the 22nd of April and was buried on the 23rd of April according to the Gregorian calendar; however, at this time England still used the Julian calendar. Shakespeare did die on the 23rd of April, according to the Julian calendar. Nevertheless, Shakespeare actually died eleven days after Cervantes because of the discrepancy between the two date systems. The apparent correspondence of the two dates and the World Book Day can be seen as a fortunate coincidence for UNESCO.
2012 was the 80th anniversary of the World Book Day. According to all our calendars! ;D
The Day of the Rose – since 1436
A charming Catalan custom is to exchange roses and books, because the 23rdof April is also “The Day of the Rose”. Roses are everywhere - red and poetic and gorgeous - red like St George’s cross. “The Day of the Rose” goes as far back as 1436, and is rather like St Valentine’s Day – women get roses, men are now-a-days supposed to get a book as a return gift. (In 1436 this would have been a hard task to complete for one’s sweetheart; there weren’t that many books around to buy!)
I’d rather have a blue book than a red rose. Or a book by any other colour. As long as the contents is good. Don’t the women feel short changed? In fact, modern statistics indicate that women read more than men. 80% more. Maybe the givers in secret sneak their gift book back later? After 20 % of the book is read? ;D
For now: the book is still alive, so let’s celebrate it! And while we are at it, let’s celebrate roses too! And knights! Wherever they are and whatever they are doing now-a-days. It can’t be easy having a Masters in Dragon Management these days. What with the current job situation, the exchange rate, the EU-regulations and the global dragon shortage.
So here’s a lament by a modern St George:
Damage in distress! (Lament by a modern St George)
I must profess!
Where can one find
A willing damsel in distress?
Who needs a lean, mean
when dragons are so few
and far between?
I’ve started to advertise
“Gallant knight for hire!
Diploma in jostling,
and fighting supernatural fire!”
The last damsel I met
had the dragon on a leash
she rewarded my help
with a vile and angry speech
I thought I had saved her day
but understood her dismay
when it turned out that the dragon
was her much beloved pet!
Doesn’t anyone need a gallant knight?
I’m waiting to be a hero yet!