In Defense of the Legend of John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, and Myles Standish

Brief History: First of all, I know this isn’t my usual fairy tale/folk tale blog, but I thought I’d try something more Americana in honor of the football season. . . or something. Second, I promise that since this blog is about the group known as the Pilgrims I won’t get on my many colonial America soapboxes such as the difference between the strict, hypocritical Puritans and the religous-diverse Plymouth colonists or the broken agreements with the Wampanoag people or the lack of cultural acknowledgement for Tisquantum (a.k.a. Squanto) who is the only reason why we have Thanksgiving. Nope. Nor will I go into the history Thanksgiving not being celebrated in U.S. until the Civil War as a morale booster and really had nothing to do with the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. [Deep breath] Now, on to the story.

In 1858, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the king of historical inaccuracies (i.e. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere), wrote a long poem called The Courtship of Miles Standish. In the midst of battles against the indigenous people and bad harvests, Miles Standish had an eye for the young, pretty Priscilla Mullins. As a military leader, Standish naturally was not a romantic (as according to the big book of stereotypes) so he asked his friend, John Alden, to speak on his behalf. However, John and Priscilla grow close and by the time he tries to propose for Miles, Priscilla says, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” So, they get married, Standish gets over it, and they all eat turkey.

Analysis: Everyone likes history better when it has a love story involved. Case in point - Titanic. (And they could have both fit on the door. Just saying.) In reality, historians don’t know if there really was any triangle between the political assistant, the military advisor, and the daughter of a shoemaker. This is what is known:

  • The major events from the poem like the Nemasket raid really did happen, but over many years instead of a few months.

  • Myles (correct spelling) Standish really did remarry when his first wife died after arrival in Plymouth, but he married a woman that came over on a separate ship about three years later. His first wife died very shortly before Alden and Mullins married so if he really did want Priscilla for his wife, he must not have waited long.

  • John Alden originally joined the colonists as a barrel mender and became a part of the standing military and a secondary governor. He sounded more ambitious than his literary counter-part.

  • Priscilla Mullins was one of the only members of her family to survive the voyage on the Mayflower and married John Alden when she was about 19 years old. They had at least 10 children, one of whom grew up to be accused during the Salem Witch Trials.

Blame It on the Victorians: Longfellow was a descendant of the Aldens and claimed the story of the love triangle was a family legend passed down through generations. An upside to all of the fame his poems gained by being more dramatic than historical is that Longfellow used some of his fame towards his support for the abolitionist movement. Focusing on a positive here.

Last Thoughts: “Didn’t it reeeeeeeeally happen that way, Grandpa?” Ever seen the Elmer Fudd cartoon where he’s John Alden? Huh. Huh.


3 Movies that Need a Thanksgiving Special

Christmas gets all the good stuff. Oh sure, occasionally you get an entertaining Halloween short to go along with one of your favorite movies (I confess that I own Scared Shrekless on DVD), but what does Thanksgiving get? One Charlie Brown short and a parade which ends with the Jolly Fat Man anyway. Society is always in such a hurry to get to the holiday season that November just gets grazed over. I know that Thanksgiving is based around more legend than truth (look it up) and, yes, I know it was only made a federal holiday in order to keep up morale during the Civil War (also true), but why doesn't Hollywood give it a little love. Give this turkey and cornucopias a chance, just to let autumn last a little longer.

Here are three suggestions for Thanksgiving TV specials.

Star War Thanksgiving Special

It would take place on Jakku (because everyone wants to go back to Jakku, right?) where scavengers and the lowlifes who buy their goods come together for one special, peaceful day to eat dehydrated bread. There would singing and cameos and possibly a random cartoon short in the middle for no reason. And it would all be awful. Just plain awful. So awful that Disney would then try to bury it, only to then have it resurface ten years later as a cult classic. A whole generation will remember it fondly due to the fact that they were too young to realize just how bad it was in the first place.

Halloween: Michael Meyers's Thanksgiving Reunion

Oh come on! This totally writes itself. Laurie has fallen into a false sense of security as it has been almost a month since her attentive big brother tried to kill her. As she prepares to feast with whatever friends and family remain from the previous attack, the night will slowly reveal each guest at the dinner being rather creatively bumped off. So many carving utensils. Death by stuffing sounds like a good way to go. In the end, it would all turn out to be an attempt by Michael to show Laurie just how grateful he is for her. To do this, he will present her with a table centerpiece made from her most recent boyfriend's head, because there has to be a heartwarming ending.

An Avengers Thanksgiving

This would mostly be a lot of awkward, drunken conversations between Iron Man and the rest of the team eventually leading to some sort of collateral damage. But imagine the kind of food Stark would order in! Hulk mash...potatoes!