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<   No. 1986   2008-07-04   >

Comic #1986

1 SASquaTCH Assistant: It looked vaguely reptilian!
2 Jane Goodall: Hmmm. I'm mainly good with primates. We need a competent reptile handler who can get to Loch Ness as soon as possible.
3 SASquaTCH Assistant: Isn't Steve in a police cell in Glasgow?
4 Jane Goodall: Yeah, I can't think of anyone either.

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The photo of "Loch Ness" used as the background here is actually the Alpsee, nestled in the German Alps near the famous castle Schloss Neuschwanstein.


2019-08-10 Rerun commentary: Given how "good with primates" we've seen Jane Goodall to be, it's probably a good idea that she leaves the reptiles to someone else.

Here's Schloss Neuschwanstein, by the way:

Neuschwanstein HDR1

"Neuschwanstein" is German for "new swan stone". To understand why the palace is called this, you need to know a bit of the history behind it. It's located not far from the village of Schwangau, where gau is an old Germanic term used to refer to a region. So the village is "swan region". In the nearby foothills of the Alps there are two small lakes, the Alpsee ("alp lake", my photo of which is used as the background in this comic), and the Schwansee ("swan lake"), adjacent to the tinier village of Hohenschwangau ("upper Schwangau").

In 1829, the Crown Prince Maximilian of Bavaria toured the area, finding an old dilapidated castle dating from the 14th century, named Schwanstein ("swan stone", in the meaning of "swan castle"). Maximilian fell in love with the area and in 1832 bought the old castle, which he immediately began reconstructing. The work lasted from 1833 to 1837, at which point the prince moved into the renovated building, renaming it Schloss Hohenschwangau Schloss Hohenschwangau after the adjacent village. In 1848, Maximilian's father, King Ludwig I, abdicated after a revolution which changed Bavaria from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, and Maximilian became King Maximilian II. He continued adding to Hohenschwangau until 1855, taking the swan motif of the region to heart and decorating the palace with many paintings and sculptures of swans, including many scenes taken from the medieval tale of the Knight of the Swan.

Maximilian's son, Crown Prince Ludwig, grew up in these surroundings, and also became enamoured of swan imagery. Furthermore, he was besotted with the romanticism of the Knight of the Swan and Richard Wagner's operatic retelling, Lohengrin. Young Ludwig would have preferred to leave the modern world behind and live in a pseudo-mythical Middle Ages of knights and romance.

In 1864 Maximilian died after a sudden illness, leaving the 18-year-old prince as King Ludwig II. Now with money and power, Ludwig decided to build his ideal romantic castle. And he knew exactly where to put it. Within sight of Hohenschwangau was a higher outcrop of rock, on top of which were the ruins of an even older 12th century fortress, named Schwangau. It and the original 14th century Schwanstein has co-existed in the area for centuries, and now it was Schwangau's turn to be renovated. In 1868 Ludwig had the remains of the old castle blown up, and a grand new palace built on top of the rock from then until 1884 when he moved in to the building proper from temporary lodgings in the gatehouse (which was completed in 1882). He named the new building Neuschwanstein - the new reincarnation of the old Schwanstein (the former castle on the site of what was now Hohenschwangau). Neuschwanstein was a true fairy tale castle, decorated with theatrical rooms that mimicked sets from Wagner operas, including an artificial cave grotto. It was designed to satisfy Ludwig's Bohemian tastes and no doubt he enjoyed living there.

Ludwig's reign was not to be a long and happy one, alas. In 1868, the Bavarian government, sick of Ludwig's excesses and eccentricities, declared him insane and appointed his uncle Luitpold as the new Prince Regent. A deposition was sent to arrest Ludwig and take him into psychiatric care at Berg Castle, near Munich. The very next day at around 6 pm, Ludwig and his doctor left for a walk around the castle grounds together. They never returned. After a frantic search for a few hours, at around 10:30 pm both were found dead in the shallows of the adjacent Lake Starnberg. Ludwig's watch was stopped at 6:54.

Ludwig's death was officially ruled as suicide by drowning, although there was no evidence of water in the lungs according to the autopsy report. His doctor had evidence of blows to the head and neck, suggestive of strangulation, while Ludwig showed no signs of struggle. Their deaths remain mysterious and unsolved.

The following panorama gives you an idea of the lay of the land around Neuschwanstein. It was taken from Neuschwanstein itself.

Neuschwantsein panorama

[Photo is Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Lokilech from Wikimedia Commons]

Not that this has anything much to do with Loch Ness, but it's interesting anyway.


Reader Richard B. writes:

Reality is Unrealistic (and I don't know off the top of my head if this example is on TV Tropes already): a lack of water in the lungs does not rule out drowning, despite what (again ahem) Little Old Ladies Investigating may have told us. It's not common, exactly, but neither is it uncommon for people to die of asphyxia under water (i.e., drown) while keeping their airways closed. So whatever the coroner's report may say, it is quite possible that Ludwig did drown. In fact, given that I've never heard of any evidence of either violence or poison on or in his body, it's quite likely.

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