The Mysterious Stranger
The Mysterious Stranger is the final novel attempted by the American author Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

. It was worked on periodically from roughly 1890 up until 1910. The body of work is a serious social commentary by Twain addressing his ideas of the Moral Sense and the "damned human race".

Twain wrote multiple versions of the story, each unfinished and involving the character of "Satan". The first substantial version is commonly referred to as The Chronicle of Young Satan and tells of the adventures of Satan, the sinless nephew of the biblical Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, in an Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n village in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. The story ends abruptly in the middle of a scene involving Satan entertaining a prince in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, suggesting Twain died before he finished writing it.

The second substantial version Twain attempted to write is known as Schoolhouse Hill which involves the familiar characters of Huckleberry Finn
Huckleberry Finn (character)
Huckleberry "Huck" Finn is a fictional character created by Mark Twain, who first appeared in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and is the protagonist and narrator of its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is 12 or 13 years old during the former and a year older at the time of the latter...

 and Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer
Thomas "Tom" Sawyer is the title character of the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . He appears in three other novels by Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Tom Sawyer Abroad , and Tom Sawyer, Detective .Sawyer also appears in at least three unfinished Twain works, Huck and Tom...

 and their adventures with Satan, referred to in this version as "No. 44, New Series 864962", and is set in America. Schoolhouse Hill is the shortest of the three versions.

The third version, called No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Translated from the Jug, returns to Medieval Austria and tells of No. 44's mysterious appearance at the door of a print shop and his use of heavenly powers to expose the futility of mankind's existence. This version also introduces an idea Twain was toying with at the end of his life involving a duality of the "self", one being the "Waking Self" and the other being the "Dream Self". Twain explores these ideas through the use of "Duplicates", copies of the print shop workers made by No. 44. This version contains an actual ending; however, the version is not considered as complete as Twain would have intended.

The edition published in 1916 is composed mainly of a heavily edited Chronicle of Young Satan with a slightly altered version of the ending from No. 44 tacked on. Albert Bigelow Paine
Albert Bigelow Paine
Albert Bigelow Paine was an American author and biographer best known for his work with Mark Twain. Paine was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Committee and wrote in several genres, including fiction, humour, and verse....

, who had sole possession of Twain's unfinished work after Twain's death and kept them private, searched through Twain's manuscripts and found the proper intended ending for The Mysterious Stranger. After Paine's death in 1937, Bernard DeVoto
Bernard DeVoto
Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.- Life and work :He was born in Ogden, Utah...

 became possessor of Twain's manuscripts and released them to the public. Beginning in the 1960s, critics studied the original copies of the story and found that the ending Paine chose for The Mysterious Stranger referred to the characters from different versions of the story (e.g. No. 44 instead of Satan) and that the original names had been crossed out and written over in Paine's handwriting.

The book version that was published nonetheless maintains Twain's criticisms on what he believed to be the hypocrisy of organized religion that is the subject of much of Twain's later writings.

In 1969, The University of California Press published, as part of The Mark Twain Papers Series, a scholarly edition of all three unaltered manuscripts. According to the "Mark Twain Project" editors of this series, No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger is the definitive version of the text as close as possible to what Twain would have published had he lived to do so. In addition to omitting a quarter of the original text, Paine's version invents the character of an astrologer who is made responsible for the villainies of Father Adolf. It was republished in 2005.

Summary of Paine's version

In 1590 a few boys are living happy sheltered lives in a remote Austrian village named Eseldorf. (Esel means "donkey" in German and can refer to a stupid or ignorant person, and "dorf" means village, so in essence it is a village of stupid people.)
The story is narrated by one of the boys—Theodor, the village organist's son—in a first-person narrative
First-person narrative
First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the...

. One day, a handsome teenage boy named Satan appears in the village. He explains that he is an angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

 and the nephew of the fallen angel Satan. Young Satan performs several magical
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

 feats. He claims to be able to foresee the future and informs the group of unfortunate events that will soon befall those they care about. The boys don't believe Satan's claims until one of his predictions comes true. Satan proceeds to describe further tragedies that will befall their friends. The boys beg Satan to intercede. Satan agrees, but operates under the technical definition of mercy. For instance, instead of a lingering death due to illness, Satan simply causes one of Theodor's friends to die immediately.

Mayhem ensues — witch trial
Witch trial
A witch trial is a legal proceeding that is part of a witch-hunt. * Witch trials in Early Modern Europe, 15th–18th centuries** Salzburg witch trials - 1675-1690, Salzburg, Austria** Spa witch trial - 1616, Belgium...

s, burnings
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

, hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

s, death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

s and mass hysteria. Satan vanishes with a brief explanation:

"In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever--for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!"

"Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago - centuries, ages, eons, ago! - for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities."

"Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane - like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell - mouths mercy and invented hell - mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!" . . .

"You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks - in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier."

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream - a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. The term comes from Latin solus and ipse . Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not...

. And you are but a thought - a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

Characters in "The Mysterious Stranger"

  • Theodore, the protagonist
  • Satan, an angel named after his uncle, the fallen Satan.
  • Seppi, a friend of Theodore's and Nikolaus'. One of the boys who Satan reveals his true self to.
  • Nikolaus, a friend of Theodore's and Seppi's.

Other central characters include Father Peter, his niece Marget, and the Astrologer.

Film versions

According to the IMDb, a film version of #44, The Mysterious Stranger, was shot by The Great Amwell Company and shown in the United States on PBS, later running on Home Box Office
Home Box Office
HBO, short for Home Box Office, is an American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner. , HBO's programming reaches 28.2 million subscribers in the United States, making it the second largest premium network in America . In addition to its U.S...

. The role of 44 was played by Lance Kerwin
Lance Kerwin
Lance Kerwin is an American actor, perhaps best remembered for his starring role in the TV series James at 15. Since the mid-1990s, however, Kerwin has not acted, instead focusing on his Christian religious beliefs, having become a pastor...

, with August played by Chris Makepeace
Chris Makepeace
- Life and career :Makepeace was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Doreen and Harry Makepeace. He began his acting career in a 1974 Canadian television special, The Ottawa Valley. His next role was in 1979's Canadian comedy, Meatballs, in which he starred opposite Bill Murray, playing one of the...


Another movie adaptation of this book was shot in the Soviet Union by Igor Maslennikov and released under the name Filip Traum. It was shown in the cinemas only once in 1991, and up until 2007, when a remastered DVD-version was released, the general public mostly did not know anything about this film.

A scene about this story also appears in the 1986 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain, where Satan gets Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer
Thomas "Tom" Sawyer is the title character of the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . He appears in three other novels by Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Tom Sawyer Abroad , and Tom Sawyer, Detective .Sawyer also appears in at least three unfinished Twain works, Huck and Tom...

, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher to construct small clay people to bring to life and live in a small kingdom together before Satan destroys them through fighting, plagues and natural disasters, depicting the futility of mankind. The scene also quotes Satan's last line from the book. In this version, Satan appears playful and friendly when he constructs the small kingdom, slowly revealing himself as cruel and hateful as he destroys it. He appears as a robed noble, with a mask where his head would be. As his true nature is revealed, the mask changes from appearing kind to demonic, and finally to a grinning skull.

External links and references

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.