The Faerie and Fantasy course continues with Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn”. You can listen to it on the Faerie and Fantasy main page (here) or subscribe to the Tolkien Professor’s iTunes feed for this and many other Tolkien podcasts.
Re-edit for typos and readability
Last of the Red Hot Swamis
Let’s begin with the name Schmendrick. It is a Yiddish word for a stupid person. The word was introduced in 1877 in Shmendrik, oder Die komishe Chaseneh (Schmendrik or The Comical
Wedding) a comedy for the yiddish theater. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmendrik )
The yiddish theater was was lively in America more than a hundred years ago, but as its primary audience became more americanized, its best performers moved on to vaudeville, burlesque, night clubs and jazz clubs.
One of these was Sophie Tucker. In 1909 she was a star of the Ziegfield Follies. in the 1920s she was a well known jazz singer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3heCSPJrO70 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8aRd-BZack&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLE996BFE83ECA4589), in the 1930′s she had a radio show. In the 1960s when Beagle was writing The Last Unicorn, she was still touring regularly appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP4jPkfgSuI&feature=related) and billing herself as the Last of the Red Hot Mammas.
I suspect the similar phrases are no more coincidental than the match up of Schmendrick the Magician and Mandrake the Magician (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandrake_the_Magician).
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