Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Serendipity

Rose City Reader hosts a A Once-In-A-While Blog Event called "What is Storyline Serendipity? It is finding happenstance in the books you read. Serendipity seems to be a rather difficult word to translate into other languages, so let's take a look on where the word Serendipity comes from.

According to Wikipedia "Serendipity means a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise". It was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to a friend, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of". The notion of serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of scientific innovation such as Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945, and the invention of the Post-it note by Spencer Silver in 1968."

Serendipity happens to me from time to time. A word or a place you have never heard of before and then it pops up here and there. It happened to me when I read the word "dipsomaniac" in Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure. I had to look it up to see what it means. It is a synonym, maybe used more in the past than the present (?), for alcoholic. Shortly afterwards I read the word in another novel, although I am not able to remember which one.


A new happenstance turned out lately. Having read Diana Gabaldon's book Outlander I ran into (not physically (!)) the battle of Prestonpans which took place on 21 September 1745 within the Jacobite rising. Reading Kidnapped by R.L. Stevenson it popped up again. The hero David Balfour is kidnapped and sent on board a ship. After a while he manages to escape together with a Scottish freedom fighter Alan Breck Stewart. While making their way back to the village where David will fight for his inheritance he has a chat with Alan.
“What,” cried I, “were you in the English army?”“That was I,” cried Alan. “But I deserted to the right side at Prestonpans – and that’s some comfort.”I could scarcely share this view: holding desertion under arms for an unpardonable fault in honour. But for all I was so young I was wiser than say my thought.“Dear, dear,” says I, “the punishment is death.”  
Recently, I opened the book The Witch from Portobello by Paulo Coelho. In the first chapter we meet Heron Ryan who is asked by his former teacher to follow her to Prestonpans in Scotland. From Paul Coelho's website I found the following:
"On 31 October 2004, resorting to a feudal law that was abolished the following month, the town of Prestonpans in Scotland granted official pardon to 81 persons – and their cats – executed for practicing witchery in the 16th and 17th centuries.According to the official spokesman for the Barons of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun, “most of them had been condemned without any concrete proof – based only on the witnesses of the accusation, who declared that they felt the presence of evil spirits.”"
So it is that Prestonpans has now popped up three times in my life. I am awaiting the fourth time. Let's see what the future has in line for me. Do you have any similar experiences in your reading or daily life?
The battle of Prestonpans in the Outlander version

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about serendipity in books because I suppose I consider it part of the plot line. But in real life I encounter it quite often and I think of serendipity as my friend. I love the definitions you quoted above. They make me smile.

    Oh, and thanks for coming over to the Marmelade Gypsy. Your comment about our art sale really made me smile!

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