The Rest of the Story: Eric Liddell

The late Paul Harvey had a feature on the radio called “The Rest of the Story” in which he would tell familiar stories of well-known people and events or commonplace tales of ordinary people–and then tell “the rest of the story”, the part that not many people know or the part that gives the true story an ironic twist. I’ve been reading a lot of unusual stories myself lately, and I decided to share a few of them with you here at Semicolon.

Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell is featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. In this video of his medal-winning race, Eric Liddell is in the outside lane:

In the movie and real life, Eric Liddell refused to run in a qualifying heat scheduled on Sunday because he believed in keeping the Sabbath holy. He had to withdraw from the 100 meter race, his best event. Liddell began to train for the 400 meter race instead, and he ran the race in the Olympics and won. Eric Liddell broke the existing Olympic and world records in the 400 meter race with a time of 47.6 seconds. After the Olympics and his graduation from Edinburgh University, Liddell continued to run in track and field events, but he always refused to compete on Sunday, citing his desire to please God above all else.

In 1925, Eric Liddell returned to China where he had been born and where his parents were missionaries. He served as a missionary there until 1941 when he was captured and interned by the Japanese who were invading China during World War II. It was there in the internment camp that “the rest of the story” of Eric Liddell’s allegiance to God’s principles above all else took place.

For the Thrill of It by Simon Baatz

For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz.

“The heart of the matter is that . . . all people are divisible into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary.’ The ordinary must live obediently and have no right to transgress the law—because, you see, they’re ordinary. The extraordinary, on the other hand, have the right to commit all kinds of crimes and to transgress the law in all kinds of ways, for the simple reason that they are extraordinary. That would seem to have been your argument, if I am not mistaken.” ~Fydor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, Part 3, Section 5.

Mr. Baatz begins his tale of the “murder that shocked Chicago” and the nation in 1924 with a longer excerpt from Dostoyevsky’s fictional crime novel because the quotation captures the attitude of at least one of the murderers, Nathan Leopold. The facts of the case are stark and indisputable: on Wednesday, May 21, 1924, nineteen year old Nathan Leopold, and his friend, eighteen year old Richard Loeb, kidnapped fourteen year old Bobby Franks, murdered him, and left his naked body in a drainage culvert. All three boys came from wealthy Jewish families living in Chicago’s exclusive Kenwood neighborhood. Leopold and Loeb both said, after their capture and in their confessions, that they knew Booby Franks only slightly and had nothing against him. They simply killed him “for the thrill” of planning and carrying out the master crime.

One of the questions I asked myself as I was reading this nonfiction account of such a horrific murder was “why?” Not only why did Leopold and Loeb kill Bobby Franks, but also why was I interested in reading about the sometimes sordid details. Why is Raskolnikov of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment such a fascinating character? I think we can learn something from these stories, both true crime and fictional, some negative and cautionary lessons that are worth considering.

It has almost become a trite truism, but ideas have consequences. Nathan Leopold, in particular, saw himself as a Nietzschean superman, a man to whom the ordinary laws of moral behavior did not apply.

“It didn’t concern him, Nathan replied. He had no moral beliefs and religion meant nothing to him: he was an atheist. Whatever served an individual’s purpose—that was the best guide to conduct. In his case, well, he was an intellectual: his participation in the killing had been akin to the desire of the scientist to experiment. They had killed Bobby Franks as an experiment; Nathan had wanted to experience the sensation of murdering another human being. It was that simple.” Baatz, p.148.

Not only did the ideas that Nathan Leopold fed into his depraved mind have tragic consequences, the philosophy of his and Loeb’s lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was just as twisted and confused and consequential as Nietzche’s philosophy was. Darrow, the most famous defense lawyer in the United States, even in 1924 before the Scopes trial, held to a kind of deterministic philosophy that excused crimes, even the most premeditated and heinous, on the basis of the criminal’s inability to control his hormones and his psychological make-up. In other words, criminals were not to be blamed for their crimes because a person’s behavior is predetermined by psychology and by physical genetic make-up. In his summation, Darrow said:

“I know . . . that one of two things happened to this boy; that this terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and came from some ancestor, or that it came through his education and his training after he was born. I do not know what remote ancestors may have sent down the seed that corrupted him, and I do not know through how many ancestors it may have passed until it reached Dickie Loeb. All I know is, it is true, and there is not a biologist in the world who will not say I am right.” Baatz, p. 374.

Nature or nurture, either way, Loeb and Leopold were not responsible for the murder of Bobby Franks. They were compelled to the crime by their own physical and psychological make-up, and to punish them for a crime that they had no choice about committing would be both unjust and useless.

Hogwash. Both Nathan Leopold and Clarence Darrow have latched onto ideas that they believe in but refuse to carry to their logical conclusions. If Leopold’s interpretation of Nietzche is correct, then I can declare myself a superwoman, above all human law, and I can murder Leopold or Clarence Darrow or anyone else if I choose to do so. I certainly have the right to do so. And if Darrow is right, no one can hold me responsible for that action, and punishment is a ridiculous concept. As is mercy. I am totally at the mercy of my biological and psychological impulses, a machine that may work properly according to the workings of the majority of human machines in the world or a machine that may malfunction (according to most people’s standards) and do something criminal. Either way, I am not responsible.

These are the ideas that produced the murder of Bobby Franks, and a few years later, the rise of Naziism and the scourge of the modern eugenics movement.

I didn’t know before I read this book:

Clarence Darrow was successful in saving his clients form the death sentence that the prosecutor asked to be imposed. Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and 99 years for the kidnapping of Bobby Franks. Richard Loeb died in prison, victim of a murderer himself. Nathan Leopold was released on parole in 1958. Leopold died of a heart attack in 1971.

The Alfred Hitchcock move Rope was based on a play by playwright Patrick Hamiliton that took the murder of Bobby Franks and the characters of Leopold and Loeb as its source. The play moved the action from Chicago to London. Hitchcock’s 1948 movie version starred Jimmy Stewart as a Nietzschean philosopher who is appalled when his ideas are made real by the murder committed by two former students of Cadell, the Jimmy Stewart character. Rope was one of Hitchcock’s least commercially successful films.

1924: Arts and Entertainment

On February 24, 1924, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premieres at An Experiment In Modern Music concert at Aeolian Hall, New York.

The 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris featured track and field athletes from all over the world such as Harold Abrahams of the UK, Eric Liddell from Scotland, Jackson Scholz from the United States, and Paavo Nurmi of Finland. The 1924 Olympics is the setting for the 1981 Academy Award-winning film, Chariots of Fire.

1924: Events and Inventions

January 21, 1924. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Soviet Union, dies at the age of 54. His death leaves the Soviet government with a power struggle: possible leaders include Leon Trotsky, general of the Red Army and Josef Stalin, general secretary of the COmmunist Party. Stalin immediately begins to purge (kill) his rivals to clear the way for his leadership.

April 6, 1924. Fascists win the elections in Italy with a â…” majority.

April 6-September 28, 1924. The first aerial circumnavigation of the world is conducted by a team of aviators of the United States Army Air Service. The trip takes 175 days, covering 27,340 miles, without crossing the equator into the southern hemisphere. Four planes left Seattle in April, and two of the four returned to Seattle in September to complete the trip.

'Mount Everest from base camp one' photo (c) 2007, Rupert Taylor-Price - license:

June, 1924. During the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition, George Mallory and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine both disappear somewhere high on the North-East ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” with the retort “Because it’s there!”. Whether Mallory and Irvine reached Everest’s summit is unknown.

August, 1924. France and Belgium agree to withdraw their troops from the Ruhr within a year, and Germany promises to pay off the war debts it owes mostly to those two countries.

August 28, 1924. Georgia rises against the Soviet Union in a rebellion, in which several thousands die. The rebellion is unsuccessful.

September, 1924. Indian nationalist Mohandas Gandhi goes on a hunger strike to protest fighting between Hindus and Muslims in British India.

December, 1924. People in the United States can now use disposable paper tissues made by Kleenex to catch those winter sneezes.

'M31 - Andromeda Galaxy' photo (c) 2008, Jyrki Kymäläinen - license:

December 30, 1924. Astronomer Edwin Hubble announces that Andromeda, previously believed to be a nebula, is actually another galaxy, and that the Milky Way is only one of many such galaxies in the universe.

1924: Books and Literature

In 1924, E.M. Forster publishes A Passage to India, a book I’m supposed to be reading for the Faith ‘n Fiction Rounndtable. However, I haven’t yet obtained a copy. I remember trying to read the book once before, but I didn’t get very far. Maybe this time will be different. E.M Forster went to India twice before writing his novel, and he had become an opponent of British imperialism in India.

Herman Melville’s Billy Budd is published posthumously in 1924. Melville died in 1891. Billy Budd, a novella about a Christ-like sailor, was discovered in manuscript form among Melville’s papers by his biographer.

Robert Frost wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1924.

'SF Chronicle, Tuesday February 26th, 2008' photo (c) 2008, Aaron Muszalski - license: in April 1924 crossword mania hits the U.S. after publisher Simon and Schuster publishes the first book of crossword puzzles, “”this odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it.” The New York Times complains of the “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport.” More history and information at Wikipedia.

Nonfiction set in 1924:
Baatz, Simon. For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago. (Harper). Recommended by Albert Mohler. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two nineteen year old boys from millionaire families who confessed to murdering a fourteen year old neighbor boy for “thrills”. The case shocked the nation.

Hymn #29: Be Still, My Soul

Original title: Stille, meine Wille, dein Jesus hilft siegen

Lyrics: Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752. Translated from German to English by Jane Borthwick, 1855.

Music: FINLANDIA by John SIbelius, 1899.

Theme: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:10.

From this sermon at the website An Infant in a Cradle:

“Be Still, My Soul,” (this text and tune) was the favorite hymn of Eric Liddell. He is perhaps most best known for refusing to run on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics (a story made famous in the film, Chariots of Fire). But, later in life, Liddell would become a missionary to China. During World War II, he was captured and imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp, where he would eventually die of a brain tumor.

It was this hymn that he taught to the other prisoners in the camp to provide comfort and hope, to strengthen their faith. In the midst of change and tears, disappointment, grief and fear, Liddell remembered and taught others that the day was coming when all that would be gone, and Jesus Christ would remain forever.

Be still my soul – the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in every change – he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul – thy best thy heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know His voice
Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still my soul – when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shalt thou better know his love – his heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul – the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them – while he dwelt below.

Be still my soul the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment – grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot – love’s purest joys restored,.
Be still my soul – when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed – we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy works and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

The Newbery Award: 1923 and 1924

In 1923 and 1924, the second and third years that the Newbery Medal for Distinguished Children’s Literature was awarded, only one book was named for the award, no honor books or runners up as they were called at first.

1923 Medal Winner: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Stokes)

1924 Medal Winner: The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes (Little, Brown)

Since I’ve already read The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle (it was OK, not my favorite kind of story), I thought I’d try to find a copy of The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes. I looked it up, and it’s available from several libraries in my area. But the most interesting thing I found was the subtitle. Get a load of this subtitle: wherein is told the story of Philip Marsham who lived in the time of King Charles and was bred a sailor but came home to England after many hazards by sea and land and fought for the King at Newbury and lost a great inheritance and departed for Barbados in the same ship, by curious chance, in which he had long before adventured with the pirates.

King Charles I? What was Newbury?

I read a book recently (From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books by Kathleen T. Horning) that gave this information about the early history of the Newbery Award:

The proponents and producers of formula series books launched a verbal attack on children’s librarians, claiming that since they were mere women (and spinsters at that), they had no right to judge what was fit reading for red-blooded American boys. Librarians, in alliance with the Boy Scouts of America, countered by emphasizing “good books for boys” in their early recommendations, thus advancing the notion of gender-specific reading tastes.

The first several winners of the Newbery Medal are a case in point. They are for the most part titles that would be touted as books for boys.
p. 151, From Cover to Cover by K.T. Horning.

So I’m thinking that Colum’s tales of ancient Greece, and Dr. Doolittle, and the adventure tales of Mr. Hawes are all books that were chosen to appeal to those red-blooded American boys who would otherwise have been reading Tom Swift or Horatio Alger’s stories or . . . what? What series were those spinster librarians trying to outclass in the early to mid-1920’s? Do the Newbery award committee members still try to choose books that will apppeal to boys or has the pendulum swung in other direction, to choosing books that will appeal to feminist girls? Or is gender appeal something that award committees should not discuss or consider?

Attitudes about “fit reading” have changed since the 1920’s. Most librarians (and parents) that I know of are perfectly content to not only allow, but positively encourage, boys and girls to read series books that are of very little literary value. I mean by this rather slippery term “literary” that the books that aren’t won’t even make children laugh fifty years from now, much less make them think. They still don’t award the Newbery to Captain Underpants or to Garfield Takes the Cake, but nowadays, as long as they’re reading something . . .

Do you think children should be encouraged to read whatever attracts their interest, or should they be required to read books that will make them think, books that have literary value? Or is it a false dichotomy? Should they be allowed/encouraged/required to read both?

So, anyway, next week I’ll be reading The Dark Frigate, and on Sunday I’ll tell you how I liked Padraic Colum’s The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles.

More posts from my Newbery Project.