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A Brief Overview of Poland During the Period of War

A Brief Overview of Poland During the Period of War

Connie S. Arnold’s Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son is a fiction novel set against the backdrop of the war-torn country of Poland during the German invasion in 1939. It centers on the journey of Stefan Zurowski, as he heads toward a strange land to exhaust his title as the new count after his entire family has been murdered in their home in the Masurian Lake District.  As a historical novel, Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son provides its readers with an illustration of Poland amidst the second world war. It gives them a glimpse of the terrible condition of the country and its people during those dark times.

Indeed, the second world war was a horrible period of world history. It killed millions of innocent people, and destroyed hundreds and thousands of homes. It arguably began when Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party of Germany, invaded Poland in September 1939. Such invasion then prompted Great Britain and France, which guaranteed military support to Poland in case the Germans attacked, to retaliate. This, along with all the other conflicts in Asia and the Pacific, triggered a horrendous war between many countries, which would last for about five years.

To understand a bit more about the war, let us go back to the place where it all started: Poland. As can be reckoned from the Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son, Poland was a country heavily affected by the war, particularly by the invasion of the Germans. In this article, we will have a brief overview of Poland during the period of war.

Invasion of Poland

As mentioned, the second world war began when the Germans invaded Poland. For some historians, the second world war was merely an extension of the first one. It grew out of the issues left unresolved by the first world war, and these issues particularly lingered in the German territory. Following the end of this war, Germany suffered from great political and economic instability. The Germans eventually developed a strong resentment over the harsh terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (the treaty that ended World War I and that sought to punish Germany). All of these facilitated the rise to power of the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler was an enormously ambitious leader. He upheld the superiority of the German race, and sought to expand the German territory. Before invading the Poland, Germany first occupied Austria in 1938, and annexed Czechoslovakia in the following year. In 1939, the German forces then bombarded Poland on land and from the air, which signaled the beginning another global war.

Poland came greatly unprepared for the Germans. The German forces utilized a powerful strategy termed as blitzkrieg (i.e., extensive bombing that employs shock and surprise and that aims to destroy the capacities of the enemy early on), which made it easier for them to invade the Polish territory. The Polish military attempted to carry out several strategies for retaliation. However, it often fell short of calculations. Its under-equipped forces and the outmoded thinking of its commanders were not much of a help as well. In essence, the outdated state of its military led Poland to fall into the arms of the Germans.

After weeks of fighting tenaciously, Poland eventually succumbed to defeat. By October 1939, Germany was already able to annex former Polish territories along its eastern border including West Prussia, Poznan, and Upper Silesia. The western part of Poland occupied by the Germans (i.e., Krakow, Lublin, Radom, and Warsaw) was then organized under the Generalgouvernement (General Government) led by Hans Frank, lawyer of the Nazi Party. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and was able to occupy the remaining half of the country. Poland then remained under the German occupation until 1945.

Conditions of Poland During the War

The Poles suffered tremendously under the German rule. Hans Frank was particularly an unashamedly proud ruthless Governor-General who ordered the execution of millions of Poles, and allowed the commitment of countless war crimes. The crimes and executions were so colossal that by the end of the war, about one-fifth of the pre-war population of Poland perished – that is around six million Polish citizens.

War crimes and crimes against humanity were prevalent in Poland during the German and Soviet occupations. German soldiers particularly committed countless war crimes from the very outset of the war. They would drag out Polish civilians and soldiers everywhere, and shoot them whenever they can. They would even set an entire village on fire to make sure that nobody is left alive. Whenever Polish soldiers would merely shoot at them, the Germans would then revenge by taking hostages and executing them.

Aside from executions, many Polish citizens also became involved in forced labor under both the Germans and the Soviets. In German-occupied Poland, Poles residing in large cities were targeted by a round-up policy utilized by the Germans to indiscriminately collect civilians off the streets, and send them as forced laborers to Germany. In Warsaw, for example, this round-up policy had about 400 daily victims. In the part of Poland occupied by the Soviets, on the other hand, approximately 200,000 Polish citizens were conscripted as forced laborers in Soviet Union.

Malnutrition and diseases were also rampant in Poland during the period of the war. Many Poles starved to death because there was not enough food available to them, as the occupiers confiscated 27 percent of the country’s agricultural output. The general malnutrition of the Polish population then soon caused an increase in infectious diseases among the citizens. The rate of tuberculosis among Poles, for example, rose from 136 per 100,000 to 420 per 100,000 during the war.

Overall, the atrocities of the second world war are undeniable. The war indeed brought about the worst in humans. The innocent people of Poland were particularly great victims of a war initiated by greedy men. Just like the Zurowski family in the Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son, the second world war tore apart millions of families, and obliterated hundreds and thousands of homes. It brought numerous negative effects that are distressing countless of people even until now. In essence, war is but a lame excuse to kill the innocents. It is awful, distasteful, and utterly useless.

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Five Things Effective Villains Do in Children’s Books

Every great children’s story has a villain. Villains play a significant role in spicing narratives up. Indeed, nothing makes a character more heroic than letting him or her battle against a worthwhile foe. In children’s literature, particularly, scoundrels and scumbags are essential. They come in various shapes and sizes; and they possess varying characteristics that make each one distinct from the others.

Oftentimes, villains are also provided with captivating backstories that give readers some ideas on the motivations behind the villains’ wicked actions. Generally, villains in children’s stories are deceitful, merciless, persuasive, and proud. Sometimes, they can also possess some likeable qualities that may convince readers that they are the good guy. However, these qualities are eventually shown to be mere façade.

For villains to be effective, children’s book authors commonly make them do things that will surely stir various emotions within the readers. These actions or characteristics have been used time after time in children’s literature, and thus, have already established their effectiveness. They have been utilized in vivifying villains like Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, Mr. Gum, Mudcat the Pirate, Shere Khan, and Captain Hook. To give you an idea on how to jazz up your next children’s book using a compelling villain, this article lists down five things that effective villains do in children’s books.

They make children suffer

Essential to villains in children’s stories is the hatred against children. Generally, children are portrayed as the innocent, naïve, and pure characters who see the world in bright colors. For bad characters whose primary purpose is to bring evil to the story, their first task is to loathe innocence and purity inherently. They abhor children because children are a symbol of goodness, which they believe should be suppressed.

In children’s books, making children suffer is one way of showing a villain’s hatred against them. For example, in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, the antagonists Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker both make their orphaned nephew James suffer by insulting and starving him. However, determined to escape his miserable life, young James ventures into a fantasy adventure that proves that he is smarter than his horrible aunts.

By using this plot device, children will learn that the oppressed and the underdogs can eventually become the champions by simply having bravery, courage, and virtue.

They steal

Stealing is a wrongful act that children should learn to never do. In children’s literature, many villains are portrayed as thieves. Usually, they steal riches like cash, diamonds, and golds to depict inherent greed and materialism. Sometimes, villains also steal other things that are valuable to the protagonists just to agonize them.

For example, in Andy Stanton’s Mr. Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire, the evil character Mr. Gum attempts to steal the fortune of a gingerbread man named Alan Taylor. However, his wicked intentions are thwarted by the goodness of a little girl named Polly.

By using this plot device, books can teach children that stealing is unfair and unjust, and that honesty and integrity are great traits to have.

They kidnap

Aside from things, villains in children’s books also always try to steal people, particularly children. In the literary world where bad people are in every spot, children are never safe. Lack of vigilance often results to children being kidnapped and brought into a dark cave, a mysterious portal, or a magical kingdom filled with orbs of fire. Other than children, villains also love to kidnap prominent characters like kings and princesses to set about an adventurous hunt for the protagonists.

For example, in Connie S. Arnold’s Mudcat the Pirate: The Adventures of Ra-Me, the Traveling Troubadour, the maritime villain Mudcat the Pirate kidnaps a festival princess named Miss Lulu Belle a curse in the form of black clouds and a storm descends and turns everything dark. This, then, prompted the mighty hero Ra-Me, the traveling troubadour to go on a dangerous adventure to save princess Lulu Belle.

By using this plot device, children will learn that prudence is important in avoiding danger, and that fortitude and heroism are magnificent qualities.

They try to kill the protagonist

The purpose of a villain in a children’s book is to challenge the child protagonist. The mission of a villain is to defeat the protagonist, which goes as far as trying to kill him or her. Arguably, it is inherent in evil people to wish ill upon their adversaries. They will try to eradicate these foes as much as they can in the name of wickedness.

For example, in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a crippled but conceited tiger named Shere Khan goes on a long wicked journey of hunting down a human child named Mowgli, who has wandered into the jungle and has since then been adopted by wolves. Mowgli grows up under the protection of these wolves. Being a horrible villain that he is, Shere Khan launches a ten-year game plan to overthrow the wolf pack to be able to kill Mowgli.

By using this plot device, books can teach children that strength, fearlessness, and a little help from friends all go a long way when it comes to surviving.

They prevent people from being happy

Most villains seem to scorn happiness. These characters often live miserable lives. Because of this, they also often try to prevent other people from being happy. For them, happiness is a sham and everyone should live in constant sorrow just like they do.

For example, in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, the tragic villain named Captain Hook is represented as a lonely and jealous man who is driven to villainy by his envy for the innocence and youth of the Lost Boys led by Peter Pan. Because of such jealousy, Captain Hook spends most of his time terrorizing the people of Neverland and preying on the Lost Boys.

By using this plot device, children will learn that there exists genuine happiness in the world. Most of the time, this unfeigned happiness is found in being kind and by doing good things.

Overall, there is no doubt that effective villains are essential in children’s books. Because the purpose of children’s books is to teach children some important lessons in life, it is necessary to include evil characters in stories in order to introduce the little ones to the reality that various forms of wickedness do exist in the world. At the end of the day, children’s books do not just stop at teaching children that evil exists, but they also make children believe that evil can be defeated.

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TROUBADOUR (troo-buh-door)

So, what is a troubadour and how does he know these stories?

During Medieval Times a traveling minstrel was called a troubadour. He told stories, wrote poems and sang songs to delight his audiences. He was paid with bags of gold, precious gems or other means of currency, depending on the affluence of his host. He traveled from village to village entertaining and gathering material for what he wrote. This was the troubadour’s way of remembering his experiences so he could share at the next event. The subjects of the songs were romantic love, usually unrequited, and feats of valor by the knights. The knightly code of honor was a popular theme, telling how knights were to conduct themselves. Writers, like Wordsworth, might start their poems with ‘There was a time when…” which morphed into ‘Once upon a time…” for our fairytales.

Mostly, troubadours entertained kings and queens in castles or noblemen in fine establishments. They were held in high esteem and were sometimes as highly thought of as a knight, riding prancing steeds and dressed in costly array.

Since most troubadours were members of the castle staff and under the protection of the king, they could travel safely with the knights of the realm. A troubadour was an important figure in the traveling party. His songs could calm the restless knights preparing for battle, sing songs that would invite peaceful slumber and compose ballads heralding the mighty exploits of the knights. He could act as an ambassador from the kingdom he represented to a neighboring one, preparing the path for goodwill and harmony.

Our troubadour named Ra-me is a teenager just starting out to entertain whose first invitation is to perform at a castle. He doesn’t have a great deal of courage, and he is clad in humble garb, riding a mule and playing a simple lute.

In the book The Patchwork Princess, the Adventures of Ra-me the Traveling Troubadour, he experiences all of this plus a dragon and a problem that may keep him from his bag of jewels. He must add a little magic to overcome this difficulty if the dragons don’t attack him first.

Ra-me can expect to be fascinated when he gets the invitation to play at King Lister’s castle in Parkingham. Ra-me can look forward to seeing many things: Maybe a fortress with battlements on top, a drawbridge, beautiful princesses, brave knights, banquet tables laden with sumptuous food.

What he learns, we hear him tell his friend Falstaff upon his return from the latest adventure. We see him gain self-confidence with each escapade. But, his first composition is a clumsy attempt to share his triumph at the kingdom of King Lister.

Fairy tales were a huge part of my childhood. These stories served as companions that kept my imagination thriving while growing up. Medieval knights were my particular interest. Quite subjectively, medieval fairy tales possess a sense of class and creativity that is seldom seen in many stories nowadays. Reading them opens a portal to a world filled with history and magic.

As a child, I spent many hours of every day reading fairy tales. The sensational reading experience that fairy tales used to bring me is best summarized in the words of Terri Windling: “Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality – for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.”

Eventually, my fondness of fairy tales fostered within me a distinct yearning for writing. I soon developed a passion for storytelling, which came to fruition only in the later years of my life. From being a mere wanderer in the different worlds of the fairy tale books I have read, I became a Connie S. Arnold fan, children’s author of medieval fairy tales – an unyielding storyteller of history and magic in a prevailing era of science fiction. There are several reasons why I (and perhaps, most authors of the genre) still choose to write fairy tales.

Fairy tales provide commentaries on the society

Fairy tales are commonly thought to be stories of adventures for children’s consumption. Indeed, the largest audience of magical folklore are the young ones. However, aside from merely talking about kings, queens, fairies, and dragons, fairy tales can also be socio-political. Sometimes, they provide commentaries on the society that do not only allow readers to be imaginative, but also to be critical.

The best example of a classic fairy tale with socio-political commentaries would have to be Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast. For one, Beauty and the Beast is different from other fairy tales because it deviates from the superficial depiction of love that is commonly seen in classical tales such as Snow White and Cinderella. In Beauty and the Beast, the female protagonist does not fall in love with a handsome young prince, but with a beast. Together, their story tells a tale of love that sees beyond the physical beauty. It focuses on people’s inner ability to love and nothing else.

Aside from not being superficial, Beauty and the Beast also has a pinch of feminism in its story. Belle, the female lead, is portrayed as a distinctive woman who does not conform to the conventional depiction of women in classical fairy tales. Unlike the other female protagonists, she is intelligent and assertive. While all the other women in her village are devoting their time to looking pretty, Belle is reading her books – quite a bold portrayal especially at a time when the value of women was entirely anchored on their faces and physique.

Fairy tales touch readers at a profound level

Fairy tales are not just stories of adventures, fantasies, and magic. Fairy tales are also stories of meaning. They provide readers with something to believe in. Meaning and profundity are what distinguishes fairy tales from most of storytelling nowadays. Compared to many modern-day narratives that are often bland, monotonous, and shallow, fairy tales touch readers at a profound level. They work on the unconscious, helping people navigate through the challenging periods of their lives. To put it simply, fairy tales are teachers.

Just like all the other children, fairy tales were also my childhood staple. It is in magical folklore that I learned about many valuable lessons in life – as G. K. Chesterton once said, fairy tales do not just teach children that dragons exist. They also tell children that dragons can be killed. This is the kind of life lessons that I kept in mind while writing my book series, The Adventures of Ra-Me, the Traveling Troubadour. However, instead of killing dragons, my storytelling teaches readers that dragons can also be our friends.

Fairy tale stories are timeless

Finally, the timeless nature of magical folklore is one of the reasons why I choose to write fairy tales. The depth, wit, and wisdom of these stories seem to never die down. They remain consistent and firm all throughout the centuries. Even in the modern era when science fiction is attempting to take over the literary world, the essence of fairy tales remains in the hearts of many readers. This is particularly evidenced in the way fairy tales remain popular and in demand for re-making.

Before becoming a fan of Connie S. Arnold, author of The Adventures of Ra-Me, the Traveling Troubadour, I was just a mere reader astonished by the way fairy tales could simultaneously excite me and touch my heart in the most profound way. This is the magic of fairy tales. They can be entertaining without having to give in to the shallow. Until its magic runs out, it is necessary to continue writing fairy tales.