Canadientalism–that’s Orientalism, but Canadian. Instead of a discourse of largely European imperialist knowledge production aimed at defining the “exotic East,” Canadientalism is a discourse of American imperialist stereotypes aimed at defining the essential nature of the “exotic North.”
In the visual arts, we see Orientalism perpetrating stereotypes of the Arab, everything from turbaned thieves with splendid scimitars to veiled harem seductresses. Spicy aromas wafting around bazaar stalls, jewel-encrusted onion-domed palaces, vivid green gardens of paradise, and the licentious inner sanctuary of the harem–all these are part of standard Orientalist set design.
Canadientalism, on the other hand, is more corny and a whole lot less sexy (unless you have a thing for men in uniform). It perpetrates stereotypes of the Canadian, everything from scarlet coated Mounties with saddled steeds to bucktoothed Laurentian beavers. The aroma of spruce wafting from a lumberjack’s cabin, snow-encrusted igloo homes, vivid green national parks, and the chilly interior the hockey arena during playoff season–these are the stereotypes Americans attach to Canada because they find our apologetic complacency favourable to their imperial interests.
Whereas the Arab is a symbol of terror for many Americans these days, the Canadian is a symbol of timidity. The Americans would never invade their neighbours to the North, at least not as easily as they’ve done in the Middle East, but Canadians can generally be trusted to go along with whatever the Americans decide to do. Sorry, but there’s nothing threatening about a bunch of maple syrup-glazed doughnut eating, Tim Hortons coffee-drinking igloo dwellers. Except maybe Don Cherry, with his exotic suits gleaming like Damascene silk.
Above all Canadientalist texts, one stands above all as a paragon of literary exoticism: The One Thousand and One Hockey Nights in Canada. Loosely based on The One Thousand and One Nights, OTOHNC recounts the story of a Prime Minister embittered by Quebec separatism and the heroic MP who filibusters Parliament with a storytelling marathon that lasts for exactly one thousand and one nights. When the last story is told, the PM is fully cured of his jealousy, after learning so many stories about the whelps who have had it worse off than he has.
On the three hundred and fifty-sixth night, a tale is recounted of a French-Canadian university student and Habs fan who is then transformed into a beaver when he accidentally triggers the wrath of a jinni. The beaver travels to Ottawa to convince the chief of the RCMP that he is human. Seeing that the beaver has above average intelligence and can even play chess, the police chief makes the beaver his own personal pet. This leaves it up to the police chief’s mistress, an Indian princess, to plead on behalf of Mr. Beaver for the return of his humanity.
The following illustration is based on an actual illustration of The One Thousand and One Nights by H.J. Ford, a talented English illustrator active at the turn of the twentieth century. It was a quick sketch in which I hoped to pastiche this illustrator’s style with a kind of humour reminiscent of Kent Monkman’s style in his painting The King’s Beavers, on display in the Canadian exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Did you like this post? Let me know. Also here are some other posts you might like:
What are the Seven Pillars of Wisdom?
How T.E. Lawrence Came to Many-Pillared Iram
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
King of Egypt, King of Dreams by Gwendolyn MacEwen
6 thoughts on “One Thousand and One Hockey Nights in Canada”
Been ages since I’ve commented on anything or been in touch, I know… but I was wondering whether you’ve ever featured that particular illustration by H.J. Ford previously via The Vinciolo Journal?
Reason I ask is, I was discussing this latest post of yours (mightily amusing, in its irreverent précis of Canadian politics; and its knowing lampoon of “The Thousand Nights and a Night” ~ yet simultaneously conveying erudition and sophistication in your writing, I must say; the visual pastiche was pretty accomplished, too!) with someone, and paying especial attention to an Esoteric element I perceived therein: primarily in the artwork ~ and I had the strangest impression (not quite a “feeling”; more a spot of somewhat low-key, cerebral analysis!) of “deja vu”: the sudden realization that not only did the artwork seem uncannily familiar, but the very explication I was making of the unusual pictorial elements therein had already been furnished by myself “before” ~ sounds odd, eh?
Anyway, I trawled back through the Vinciolo Archive, and have come to the conclusion that the only explanation for my disjointedly “timeshift”-y sense of dislocation, at times, probably derives from precognition or something.
By the way, I penned a poem (more a case of doggerel, really!) humorously riffing on your fun-pokery at all things Canadientalist (Canadientalistic? Heh) ~ can post on here, The Vinciolo Journal, or email it to you instead; let me know which option you’d prefer!
Thanks for your enthusiasm, Max. By all means, if you want to send your poem as a comment, you may. I’m glad you appreciate my post.
JUST IN CASE!
‘Twas the seventeen-score-and-sixteen-th night
That the R.C.M.P.* Chief had been | [*Enunciate as “Arsey Em-Pee”, per the initialism! ~ Ed.]
On sentry duty in his hut
(Well, I call it a “hut” ~ but that’s not quite right;
“Mediaeval-style, stone chamber fit for Queen
Or King ~ with swanky Throne: on which to park One’s Royal butt”
Would be somewhat closer to the mark!);
This seventeen-score-and-sixteen-th night was dark
(As most nights are, forsooth!),
And redolent of Mounties’ sweat, and moose’s stink,
And lumberjacks’ B.O., and whiff of twigs ‘n’ bark
From beaver-nibbled trees, like… SPRUTH?!**
(**This “should” be “spruce”, I realize, yes! Ne’ertheless, howe’er, I think
It MUST stay spelt as “spruth” ~ rhymes better with “forsooth”, forsooth!
ANYWAY! ~ Where were we?! ~ )
Suddenly, a youth-
Ful beaver sprang before the Chief!
It’s clad in a ‘Habs’ hockey jersey, no less!”,
The startled Chief observed aloud, given his surprise!
“And I play chess,
Too, not just hockey!”, bragged the beaver,
Via rapidly jotting ‘pon a writing-pad!†
“Fancy a quick game, oh Chief?”
(†If you’re wondering how a *beaver* ‘s able
To write?! ~ Ha!, why aren’t there similar complaints
About the OTHER intellectual feats the clever critter brings to th’ table,
Such as PLAYING CHESS, for heaven’s sake!
So: just ACCEPT the word-pics, tho’ surreal, that Fantasy, unbridled, paints!,
And willingly stop (or at least PAUSE!) disbelief, if that’s OK? ~ Yup, I’d prefer
The reader(s) ceased their
Grumbling ’bout how “highly improbable” is this literate and hockeytastic beaver!)
“Hm, I don’t know whether to believe ya!”,
Quoth the Chief. “But I guess
We could have a game (or two) of chess,
Then, no sooner they’d begun
Partaking in their chess-y fun,
Than came a *knock-knock* ‘pon the door.
“Who can that be? For Ottawa
Is more or less wholly abed at this late hour
(The odd ~ and I DO mean VERY ODD! ~ passing beaver
Notwithstanding)!”, the Chief murmured to himself, amazed.
“Oh! be not fazed
By another nocturnal visitor to your Castellated, flinty ‘hut’!”, the beaver’s furious scribblings cried!
“‘Tis but our Indian-Princess friend, ‘Intercedes On Behalf Of Beavers (And Other Beasts)’, who hath tried
For many a moon to effect my metamorphosis BACK into a normal Canadian Joe!
(And you thought this Indian maiden’s name was simply ‘Princess’, didn’t you, eh?, my not-so-clever Mountie!
She also intervened on behalf of my similarly hairy, furry
Pal, Kuekuatsheu,‡ | [‡Pronunciation? “Koo-Way-Koo-Att-Shoo”! (Bless you!) ~ Ed.]
Better known as ‘the Wolverine’ ~ but even though
Transformed was he
Back to anthropomorphic ~ yet STILL kinda fluffy:
Hugh Jackman-esque! ~ shape again, unfortunately
Ended up in that awful ‘X-Men: Origins’ movie!
(He was ‘Stunt Wolverine #23’, by the way!))”
“How bizarre!”, exclaimed the Chief.
“But just one thing, ere ends your grief ~
What was (and is? ~ once more may be!)
Your name, dear beaver?”
“Let me see…”,
The beaver pondered (via chewed pencil), “it’s been so long
A time I’ve beavered as a beaver (verily, it seems an AEON!),
I would have quite my name forgot
A looong time past ~ were it not
For what I call my ‘JUST IN CASE’!”
“Your ‘JUST IN CASE’? ~ what the heck?!”
(Th’ Chief was, to say the least, quite lost!)
“Oh ~ ’tis this thing I wear around my neck,
On a flea collar. The case is silver, and embossed
With just two words: first, ‘JUST’; then, ‘IN’ ~
And hence, it’s called my ‘JUST IN CASE’!”
“Are you sure it’s silver? Looks like TIN…
Which’d be quite apt: your ‘just-TIN case’,
Eh!”, laughed the Chief. “But ~ forgive my jest,
Amphibious rodent; I meant no harm! And still I ask,
More intrigued than ever: How can such a case attest
To your actual moniker: what kind of… erm, ‘flask’,
Or the lettering thereon, yields sufficient clues,
That th’ enigma of your name be rendered eminently solvable?!”
“Ah, that’s easy, Chief! Let me disabuse
You of the notion I’m a riddle…
The answer’s simple: my case, or tin,
Holds a modest scroll within,
On which is writ a faint inscription ~” ~
At this point, the “hut”‘s door got kicked wide
By the ice-encrusted moccasin-boot of Intercedes-On-Behalf-Of-Beavers-(And-Other-Beasts) (henceforth, “IOBOBAOB” for short; and to be pronounced “Eye-Oboe-Bay-Obb”!), who cried:
“So VERY sorry! ~ couldn’t wait ANY longer to come in; the weather’s abso-bloody-lutely CANADIAN outside!
But now that I’m INSIDE”, she glared reproachfully at the two “guys”
(As if to say: “You took your time inviting me in, didn’t you!”),
“Let ME tell y’allllll aboot that stoopid ‘inscription’!”
“If you insist!” scrawled the beaver. “(She’s always like this!)”,
He surreptitious added, in a memo-aside meant for the Chief alone.
“I saw that!” fumed IOBOBAOB. “Grrr! That beaver takes the piss!
Hinting that *I’m* ‘always’… ‘muttering’? ~
Yet HE’S the one who’s ALWAYS spluttering!
Not to mention ALWAYS ‘futtering’
The beaver looked embarrassed.
“My ‘addiction’ to self-stroking’s a thing of the past,
Honest!”, his sudden-shaky “hand” (i.e., paw-writing!) pleaded!
“Don’t worry aboot it”, the Chief, all sotto voce, breathèd
Unto the beaver’s tufty, twitchy ear; “You’ll be relievèd,
My furry friend, to know that even hardened Mounties
Get ‘the Urge’ quite oft! ~ and therefore MOUNT things as we please:
Turned-on, vibrating motorcycles; horses; beavers; moose ~ you name it!”
“That was quite the LOUD so-called ‘aside’, you twit!”,
IOBOBAOB, scowling, hollered, in a shouty-and-interrupty way;
“Now, if I could FINISH what I was TRYING to say…!:
This STOOPID beaver and his STOOPID case,
With the STOOPID scroll rolled-up within
(And please DON’T ask he ‘Get it oot’; this ain’t the place
Or time for THAT!) ~ strange to say, the STOOPID inscription
Merely iterates what is said on the tin…
Except for one slight, scroll-borne difference: there’s no space
Between the ‘IN’ and ‘JUST’! You get my drift…?
(What can I say? The engraver ~ or should that be
‘Embosser’? ~ of the tin obviously made a mistakey!)”
“Good God!”, the grizzled Mountie growled, now wide-eyed, with dawning realization (nay, outright CREEPING HORROR!) writ large on his visage, yet scarcely able to believe her,
“You mean to say this… this CREATURE, were he human, would sport and model even-DAFTER clothes? And, what’s worse, boast a ‘barnet’ all STOOPID-styled: all messy and big-quiffed?
Yes: if we consider the type of ANIMAL he is; and prefix this with ‘JUST’ plus ‘IN’ ~ why, then we face the Devil Incarnate…: none other than the ghastly…
JUSTIN *BEAVER*!!!” =:-O
(Apologies for presenting protracted “shaggy doggerel” so awful ~
SO malodorous and shitely dire, in fact, it’s infinitely worse
Than e’en the worst of the pretty bad, rubbishy verse
From that supremely UNgifted ~ but “SO-bad,-he’s…-not-SO-bad?” ~ poetaster,
William “Silvery Tay and Its Bridge Disaster”
N.B.: I did actually email this poem (plus some other stuff) to you a few days ago… but then it occurred to me that maybe your email address had changed during the intervening two years since I last contacted you?
Thanks for the poem, Max! You have written the Thousand and Once Hockey Nights in Canada in true Canadientalist style. I’ll look back at my inbox, maybe I missed it.
Something I wrote a while (approx. a year) ago, but never sent you… but which now seems vaguely prescient?
κατάβασις: katábăsis ~ a “journey downwards” (typically from the interior of a country, thence to the coast; then again, on a supramundane ~ or should that be “SUB-mundane”? ~ level, katabasis can also signify the journey downwards of a god or goddess, hero or heroine, to the Underworld!) that I’m sure you already possess a “descent” enough knowledge of, since it’s a rather Literary term, innit?
Good Luck (for your thesis presentation),
Thanks, Max! That’s a good term. I think about journeying to the underworld every time I get on the subway.