Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 146

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 146

Dan asked Joe Di Stefano, the director of training at Spartan Race, to compile his recommendations of how to train for an obstacle course race. Here is his comprehensive response to Dan’s request.


I’m going to have to send this edition of WW to Laree a little early this week. I will be in the air when I usually send her my ramblings. I’m off to Norway and juggling luggage from the Perform Better in Long Beach and this European trip.

I will be spending my birthday in the comfort of Business Class and I will have, technically, the longest birthday of my life. Ideally, I will get some sleep and catch up on some relaxation too.

The internet was the usual mix of crazy and informative this week. I really liked this from Art of Manliness. I have seen 94 of the top 100 movies and I just enjoyed reading the summaries here, too.


I hold a special place in my heart for Ghostbusters. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the movie. I watched it over and over, played the video games, and had all the Ghostbusters toys. Moreover, from the ages of 4 until 6, I demanded that my family call me Peter Venkman and not Brett. Back then I loved the movie primarily for the cool special effects and proton packs. 20 years later, I still think the proton packs are cool. But I’m finally starting to appreciate how incredibly funny Ghostbusters is. There’s no deep meaning you can take away from Ghostbusters, it’s just a really entertaining and fun movie. When you’re looking for something to watch after a long day at work, you know who to call.

Best line: “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!’”

Doctor No

The first James Bond film and quite possibly the best. 007 (Sean Connery) is sent on a mission to Jamaica to investigate the murder of a fellow MI-6 agent. Action, intrigue, and sexually suggestive named women are mixed in to make this a stellar guilty pleasure.

Best line: “Bond. James Bond.”

End quote

I’m not sure how I found this little gem on comedies, but this, too, is a fun list.


10. The General (Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926)

9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)

8. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

7. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)

6. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)

5. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)

4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)

3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

2. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)

1. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

End quote

Steve, the author of the blog, teaches at St. Mary’s with me. I enjoyed this piece a lot as I am no real fan of this “hack” culture.


The 7 ways to transform your sex life. Use polyphasic sleep to hack your energy levels. Dump a stick of butter in your coffee to energize your breakfast and keep you feeling full all day (no shit—you just dumped a stick of butter in your coffee). All of these hacks carry a similar message: If only we did XYZ, then our bodies, minds, and entire lives will transform for the better.

The promise of the latest technological gadgets to transform our world has become a loud drum-beat. We can now use data and tech to hack our way to a better, more productive life. Unlike previous generations who had foolish dreams of finding an actual fountain of youth, the new-age techno-utopia culture promises “scientifically” designed elixirs and technologies, many of which may be actual be founded in something theoretically possible…but then they go way too far…like off the walls too far…so they can claim that a breakthrough to solving our problems is just around the corner.

It’s with a mix of arrogance and, perhaps, naïve optimism. Yet the cost is that we so often throw out common sense and age-old wisdom to pursue the latest and greatest hack to a better life. Shortcuts are the way. The goal is no longer the path, the goal is the finish line as quickly and easily as possible. The Buddhist motto “chop wood, carry water” has been replaced with “hack your life.”

End quote

In my longevity lectures, I talk about metformin. This article is pretty interesting on this topic.


Should we all be taking Metformin? Metformin is a diabetes drug but researchers have found that the people taking the drug also get dramatically fewer cancers. Here is Wired:

What they discovered was striking: The metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently—as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications.

As Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, once put it, “Metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history.” Nobel laureate James Watson (of DNA-structure fame), who takes metformin off-label for cancer prevention, once suggested that the drug appeared to be “our only real clue into the business” of fighting the disease.

It’s not just Wired. Here is the title of a recent meta-analysis:

Metformin reduces all-cause mortality and diseases of ageing independent of its effect on diabetes control: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

End quote

We were having a discussion about lifting and conditioning and I mentioned an article about Japanese lifters using some interesting workouts back in the day. I couldn’t find that, but this article was in the same basic direction.


If you are not acquainted with PHA procedures perhaps we should explain here just how you should proceed. You will note in the given sample workouts, I have listed 6 sets of 3 repetitions for the snatch, for instance (in the first workout). In the PHA or Sequence system you do only one set then go on to the next exercise or lift which, in this case (Workout No. 1) would be the seated incline press, and you do a set of this, then on to the clean pulls for a set, then the squat for a set. Then you start all over the the snatch for another set, then the seated incline press, and on through all four exercises again. Continue this way until you have completed all sets for each exercise (never do more than one set of an exercise or lift in succession). In other words, if your workout calls for 6 sets, this means that you go through the whole workout 6 times.

Don’t forget, you do not rest between sets or exercises more than a minute and preferably 30 seconds. Do not sit down during this rest period; instead keep moving to keep the circulation active. This is very important — KEEP MOVING — KEEP THE HEART ACTION UP AND THE BLOOD MOVING.

Workout No. 1

Snatch – 6 sets of 3 reps

Seated Incline Press – 6 sets of 5

Clean Pulls – 5 sets of 3 (a recent change in this workout has been to do the clean pulls in the power rack)

Squat – 1 set of 10, and 5 x 5.

Workout No. 2

Power Snatch – 7 sets beginning with 5 reps and working to 2 reps

Press – 5 x 5

Good Morning – 6 x 5

Squat – 6 sets of 10.

Workout No. 3

Clean and Jerk – 6 sets beginning with 5 reps and working to 2 reps

Seated Incline Press – 6 x 3 reps

Push Press- 6 sets beginning with 5 reps and working to 2 reps

Snatch Pull – 4 x 3

Squat – 1 sets of 10 and 4 x 5.

Workout No. 4

Power Clean – 2 sets of 5 and 4 sets of 3

Snatch – 2 sets of 3 sets of 3

Press – 5 x 5

Good Morning – 5 x 5

Squat – 1 set of 10, 4 sets of 5, and 1 set of 20 reps.

Workout No. 5

Push Press – 6 sets of 5

Snatch Pull – 5 x 3

Incline Press – 1 set of 5, and 5 sets of 3

Squat – 6 sets of 10 (a recent change in this workout has been to do sets of 3 in the power rack).

Workout No. 6

Deviates from the PHA system by doing the three lifts in order, then squatting:

Press – 1 set of 5, 1 set of 3, 3 sets of 2, and then add 10 pounds and do a single

Snatch – same as Press above

Clean and Jerk – same as Press above

Squat – 1 set of 10 reps, and anywhere from 2 to 5 sets of 5 depending on energy level.

Instead of a six workout cycle, this program could also be reduced to a five or four workout cycle if the lifter so desires. I would like to repeat again that the lifter’s ability to adapt to this program is strictly one of psychological motivation and of conditioning for overall fitness.

End quote

Of course, once I start thinking about the lifters of the past, I tend to worm hole into it. This article by Marty had a great point:

“The primitive training tactics used by leading lifting exponents of the pre-steroid era have tremendous relevance for today’s modern athlete seeking to maximize muscle, power and strength. The Old School “black iron” training of these ancient men has far more relevance for today’s trainee than the bloated bodybuilders with their barely-can-move non-functional physiques. Look at the fat-free muscled-up physiques displayed in the photo of Pete George and Tommy Kono. These men represent realistic physical role models for today’s trainees.”

These next two pieces on Dave Sheppard and Clyde Emrich just made me very happy. I love the simplicity of the old training models.


Always a hard gym worker, Sheppard trains four and sometimes five times each week. He will warm up with repetition snatching using 135 lbs. squat style and then jump to 200. From there he progresses to 215 which he uses for two reps, then he tries single attempts with 230 and 240 pounds and ups his poundage to just under his limit. If that weight goes up particularly well, then he will make a new personal record attempt. Then Dave drops back and makes several single attempts with 230. After his snatches are through, he starts to clean. He warms up with, then jumps to 300, making several attempts before he ups the poundage to 315 and finally 320. Then he goes back to 270 and makes several more single attempts.

After his cleans are through, Dave takes a rest of ten to fifteen minutes and starts on his presses. First he makes eight sets of two reps with 200 pounds, STRICT military style, commencing with an orthodox-width grip and gradually working OUT an inch at a time until the hands are wide and close to the collars. Then he works IN again using five sets of two reps.



A brief warmup and then,

Pressing – 205×6/225×5/250×3, then perhaps a series of 6 sets of 265×2. He then goes on, pressing 275 or 280×2, and may do 6 singles with 290. His top press is currently 310 pounds. He does a total of about 35 presses and now warms up for

Snatching – 135×5/185×5/205×2, then singles with 240, 250, 260, 270, and on up through 280 and 290 if he feels strong on that day. Having finished the two lifts he has concentrated on for the day, he now does some

Squatting – Emrich does a lot of squats, ‘warming up’ with 300×15, then 330×10/350×5/400×5/425×5/450×4/475×3, and perhaps singles with 500-520 pounds. These are Olympic squats, done all the way down. He varies the program a bit by doing some of these as front squats.

This winds up Monday’s workout, which may last from 1½ to 2 hours, but with plenty of rest between efforts.

Tuesday – Rest.


He again goes through the same Press routine as on Monday, then goes into

Cleaning – 205×2/250×2/300×2/320×2/340×1/360×1/370×1, and then, depending on energy, may work up t 390. After the regular cleaning he does some

Power Cleaning – without foot action or dips – 225×5/250×5/270×5/280×2/290×2/300×2/310×2, and singles up to possibly 340. Clyde is very strong on Power Cleans, and cleans for his presses of over 300 pounds are done do easily they look effortless.

Thursday – Rest.


This is his heavy day, and he will start with

Pressing – lifting about the same as Monday, except that he will try and hit his top press of 310 before going down to his rep presses. Again he will do at least 30 presses before going on to

Snatching – working up to a top snatch, and doing reps along the way, then

Clean & Jerking –working right up to his top, and trying to do some repetition jerking from the shoulders with lighter weights. On this day Clyde will usually go on to clean 400 pounds. On one Friday session he did a solid 415 in practice. He usually finishes off the Friday workout with

Squatting – working up from 300 to 500 pounds, and getting in a total of about 50 reps over the various weights.

End quote

For more on Clyde, this is a great interview.

There has been a spark of interest in my Coyote Point PDF. Here is again, if you don’t know it.

Over at “tan pants,” I found this “laugh out loud” gem from W. C. Fields. I think it is worth your time.


Finally she had returned to New York, and this is the diet they concocted for her:


One crust of toast

½ oz. gooseberry juice (strained)


Small dandelion green

Acorn au naturel


Eye-cup of iced tea (tepid with no sugar)

Three dried artichoke leaves (no sauce)

Moderate sized finger bowl

Quite frankly I was shocked to find that she had gained eight pounds and now weighed 355 pounds. “See here, my little barn swallow,” I admonisher her in my fatherly way, “you have been going about this matter in entirely the wrong way. No wonder you were unable to get through the Holland Tunnel last Wednesday on your way to Perth Amboy to see your aunt.” Thereupon I prescribed for her the Fields Fodder Fare for Fattened Femininity. Briefly this diet consists of the following: creamed pigs feet and mince pie for breakfast; double sirloin steak smothered in pate de fois gras and two dozen buttered oysters for lunch; side of venison and a salad bowl of chocolate parfait for dinner; French pastry and beer between meals.

Whilst on this diet, I recommend the wearing of one of my diaphanous dresses for Dowager Duchesses which are like – for the lack of a better word – anything. These dresses are resilient and can be stretched like chewing gum. You first vaseline the body. Two jars come with each dress. You pull them over the head until exhausted. Then lie down. Repeat until relieved or satisfied. They come in three types. Slipon, pullon, and rayon, the latter by arrangement with DuPont de Nemours. These trade lasts are copyrighted, pirates beware, including the Scandinavian countries.

Well, my diet did the trick – and after only two months! When I visited Mrs. Snavely in the hospital she had dropped to 83 pounds and kept shrieking that she’d never touch another morsel of food as long as she lived. She smiled the last time I saw her and said: “Mr. F., you did this for me.” It was a compliment I cherish. They were the last words she ever uttered. I sobbed like a child at her funeral. Her husband, to show his appreciation, gave me a Cabochon agate.

End quote

This week, I’m off to Norway, so until next time, keep on lifting and learning.


Not just for Spartan Race enthusiasts, this compilation from Joe Di Stefano, manager of the Spartan Pro Team, tells us how to prepare for an obstacle race, but also how to get in remarkable condition both mentally and physically for whatever strenuous effort you have in front of you.

Picking up with “The Sword in the Stone”


“I vote we take Cully and see if we can get some rabbits in the chase,” cried the Wart.

“The rabbits will not be out in this wet,” said Kay sarcastically delighted to have caught him over natural history.

“Oh, come on. It will soon be dry.”

“I must carry Cully, then.”

Kay insisted on carrying the goshawk and flying her, when they went hawking together. This he had a right to do, not only because he was older than the Wart but also because he was Sir Ector’s proper son. The Wart was not a proper son. He did not understand this, but it made him feel unhappy, because Kay seemed to regard it as making him inferior in some way. Also it was different not having a father and mother, and Kay had taught him that being different was wrong. Nobody talked to him about it, but he thought about it when he was alone, and was distressed. He did not like people to bring it up. Since the other boy always did bring it up when a question of precedence arose, he had got into the habit of giving in at once before it could be mentioned. Besides he admired Kay and was a born follower. He was a hero-worshipper.

“Come on, then,” cried the Wart, and they scampered off towards the Mews, turning a few cartwheels on the way.

The Mews was one of the most important parts of the castle, next to the stables and the kennels. It was opposite to the solar, and faced south. The outside windows had to be small, for reasons of fortification, but the windows which looked inward to the courtyard were big and sunny. The windows had close vertical slats nailed down them, but not horizontal ones. There was no glass, but to keep the hawks from draughts there was horn in the small windows. At one end of the Mews there was a little fireplace and a kind of snuggery, like the place in a saddle-room where the grooms sit to clean their tack on wet nights after fox-hunting. Here there were a couple of stools, a cauldron, a bench with all sorts of small knives and surgical instruments, and some shelves with pots on them. The pots were labelled Cardamum, Ginger, Barley Sugar, Wrangle, For a Snurt, For the Craye, Vertigo, etc. There were leather skins hanging up, which had been snipped about as pieces were cut out of them for jesses, hoods or leashes. On a neat row of nails there were Indian bells and swivels and silver varvels, each with Ector cut on. A special shelf, and the most beautiful of all, held the hoods: very old cracked rufter hoods which had been made for birds before Kay was born, tiny hoods for the merlins, small hoods for tiercels, splendid new hoods which had been knocked up to pass away the long winter evenings. All the hoods, except the rufters, were made in Sir Ector’s colours: white leather with red baize at the sides and a bunch of blue-grey plumes on top, made out of the hackle feathers of herons. On the bench there was a jumble of oddments such as are to be found in every workshop, bits of cord, wire, metal, tools, some bread and cheese which the mice had been at, a leather bottle, some frayed gauntlets for the left hand, nails, bits of sacking, a couple of lures and some rough tallies scratched on the wood. These read: Conays 11111111, Harn 111, etc. They were not spelled very well.

Right down the length of the room, with the afternoon sun shining full on them, there ran the screen perches to which the birds were tied. There were two little merlins which had only just been taking up from hacking, an old peregrine who was not much use in this wooded country but who was kept for appearances, a kestrel on which the boys had learned the rudiments of falconry, a spar-hawk which Sir Ector was kind enough to keep for the parish priest, and, caged off in a special apartment of his own at the far end, there was the tiercel goshawk Cully.

The Mews was neatly kept, with sawdust on the floor to absorb the mutes, and the castings taken up every day. Sir Ector visited the place each morning at seven o’clock and the two austringers stood at attention outside the door. If they had forgotten to brush their hair he confined them to barracks. They took no notice.

Kay put on one of the left-hand gauntlets and called Cully from the perch—but Cully, with all his feathers close-set and malevolent, glared at him with a mad marigold eye and refused to come. So Kay took him up.

“Do you think we ought to fly him?” asked the Wart doubtfully. “Deep in the moult like this?”

“Of course we can fly him, you ninny,” said Kay. “He only wants to be carried a bit, that’s all.”

So they went out across the hay-field, noting how the carefully raked hay was now sodden again and losing its goodness, into the chase where the trees began to grow, far apart as yet and parklike, but gradually crowding into the forest shade. The conies had hundreds of buries under these trees, so close together that the problem was not to find a rabbit, but to find a rabbit far enough away from its hole.

“Hob says that we must not fly Cully till he has roused at least twice,” said the Wart.

“Hob does not know anything about it. Nobody can tell whether a hawk is fit to fly except the man who is carrying it.

“Hob is only a villein anyway,” added Kay, and began to undo the leash and swivel from the jesses.

When he felt the trappings being taken off him, so that he was in hunting order, Cully did make some movements as if to rouse. He raised his crest, his shoulder coverts and the soft feathers of his thighs. But at the last moment he thought better or worse of it and subsided without the rattle. This movement of the hawk’s made the Wart itch to carry him. He yearned to take him away from Kay and set him to rights himself. He felt certain that he could get Cully into a good temper by scratching his feet and softly teasing his breast feathers upward, if only he were allowed to do it himself, instead of having to plod along behind with the stupid lure. But he knew how annoying it must be for the elder boy to be continually subjected to advice, and so he held his peace. Just as in modern shooting, you must never offer criticism to the man in command, so in hawking it was important that no outside advice should be allowed to disturb the judgment of the austringer.

“So-ho!” cried Kay, throwing his arm upward to give the hawk a better take-off, and a rabbit was scooting across the close-nibbled turf in front of them, and Cully was in the air. The movement had surprised the Wart, the rabbit and the hawk, all three, and all three hung a moment in surprise. Then the great wings of the aerial assassin began to row the air, but reluctant and undecided. The rabbit vanished in a hidden hole. Up went the hawk, swooping like a child flung high in a swing, until the wings folded and he was sitting in a tree. Cully looked down at his masters, opened his beak in an angry pant of failure, and remained motionless. The two hearts stood still.

End quote

Well, we finally finished the first chapter. No matter what version you read, nothing was edited or changed here. But, without some knowledge of castles and hawking, the vocabulary will leave you either a little lost or just skipping over the words and getting to the point.

So, to fix this issue, I embarked on a quest: I would define all of these words and get a sense of things. As I crunched through various dictionaries and translation issues, White’s English is English and his spellings are often archaic, I stumbled upon this site that has already done the work for me!  This section on the plants mentioned in White’s books is as follows:

angelica, p.179 – “An aromatic umbelliferous plant, used in cookery and medicine.” (OED)

aniseed, p.179 – “The seed of the anise.” (OED)

attar of roses, p.470 – “A fragrant, volatile, essential oil obtained from the petals of the rose.” (OED)

Barley sugar, p.14 – “a confection made from sugar, formerly by boiling in a decoction of barley.” (OED)

basil, p.179 – “Popular name of a genus of aromatic shrubby plants, including the culinary herbs Common or Sweet Basil and Bush or Lesser Basil.” (OED)

bindweed, p.94 – “Name for the species of the N. O. Convolvulus; as C. sepium, C. arvenis, etc.” (OED)

camomile, p.179 – “A Composite plant Anthemis nobilis, a creeping herb, with downy leaves, and flowers white in the ray and yellow in the disc. The flowers are used in Medicine for their bitter and tonic properties.” (OED)

Cardamum, p.14 – “A spice consisting of the seed-capsules of species Amomum and Ellettaria.” (OED)

convolvus, p.94 – as convolvulus, “A large genus of plants, having slender, twisting stems and trumpet-shaped flowers.” (OED)

fennel, p.179 – “A fragrant perennial unbellifer having yellow flowers, made use of in sauces, etc.” (OED)

fetherfew, p.203 – a corruption of “feverfew”: the plant Pyrethrum parthenium. (OED)

fritillaries, p.94 – “Any plant of the genus Fritillaria, esp. F. meleagris.” (OED)

fuchsias, p.422 – “A genus of ornamental shrubs.” (OED)

Ginger, p.14 – “The rhizome of the tropical plant Zingiber officinale, characterized by its hot spicy taste; used in cookery and medicine, and as a sweetmeat.” (OED)

gorse bush, p.153 – a prickly or rough bush.

hysop, p.179 – “A small bushy aromatic herb of the genus Hyssopus.” (OED)

kale, p.111 – “a generic name for various edible plants of the genus Brassica; cole, colewort, cabbage.” (OED)

lavender, p.179 – “The plant Lavandula vera, a small shrub with small pale bluish flowers, and narrow oblong or lanceolate leaves; cultivated extensively for its perfume.” (OED)

Mandragora, p.31 – “The plant Mandrake. Now only Hist.” (OED)

Mandrake, p.31 – “The mandrake is poisonous, having emetic and narcotic properties. Its forked root was thought to resemble the human form, and was fabled to shriek when plucked up fro, the ground.” (OED)

Old Man’s Beard, p.31 – “a name of the epiphytic plant Tillandsia usneoides.” (OED)

oleander, p.31 – an evergreen poisonous herb. (OED)

Peridexions, p.254 – or Perindeus. “A tree in India. Its fruit is very sweet and exceedingly agreeable. Doves delight in the produce of this tree, and live in it, feeding on its fruits.” (White 159)

saffron, p.179 – “the deep orange aromatic pungent dried stigmas of a purple-flowered crocus (Crocus sativus) used to color and flavor foods and formerly as a dyestuff and in medicine.” (www.merriam-webster.com)

sward, p.67 – “The surface of soil covered with grass and other herbage.” (OED)

sweet briar, p.203 – “a species of wild rose (R. rubiginosa) with fragrant leaves and shoots.” (OED)

tarragon, p.179 – “A composite plant, Artemisia dracunculus, of the wormwood genus, a native of Southern Russia and Eastern Europe, the aromatic leaves of which are used to flavour salads, soups, etc.” (OED)

Tamarisk tree, p.254 – “A plant of the genus Tamarix, a graceful evergreen shrub or small tree, with slender feathery branches and minute scale-like leaves, growing in sandy places in S. Europe and W. Asia, and now much planted by the sea-shore in the south of England.” (OED)

teazles, p. 94 – variant form of teasel, “A plant of the genus Dipsacus, comprising herbs with prickly leaves and flower-heads; esp. fullers’ teasel, D. fullonum, the heads of which have hooked prickles between the flowers, and are used for teasing cloth…and wild teasel, D. sylvestris, held by some to be the original type, but having straight instead of hooked prickles.” (OED)

tussocks, p.168 – “A tuft, clump, or matted growth, forming a small hillock.” (OED)

whins, p.227 – “The common furze or gorse” (OED); i.e., a kind of shrub.

Zostera marina, (M), p.137 – eelgrass: “a submerged long-leaved monocotyledonous marine plant (Zostera marina) of the eelgrass family that is abundant along the Atlantic coast and has stems used especially in woven products (as mats and hats).” (www.merriam-webster.com)

Enjoy a bumper (“a brimming cup or glass”) as you scroll through this site and I will continue to pound away on looking for insights on this book.

For those of who read or watch “The Game of Thrones,” one of the central questions of the story is the parentage of Jon Snow. This, of course, is a classic motif in heroic writing: “Who’s your daddy?”

Rick Riordan has resurfaced this with his Percy Jackson series and most of the Demi-gods of Greece struggled with this question. It is a question that runs through Western Civilization. “Who is your father?” will be the central question for many heroes:


Jesus of Nazareth






King Arthur

Luke Skywalker

And…that guy from Guardians of the Galaxy

Of course, Batman and Harry Potter will have their own issues in this area, too.

Joseph Campbell’s work, from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” to “The Power of Myth,” illuminates this issue. By NOT having a family or a father, we, in a sense, adopt the hero into our community, our family. We adopt the orphan and the orphan redeems us. Of course, the question of fatherhood will always haunt the stories.

“The Wart was not a proper son. He did not understand this, but it made him feel unhappy, because Kay seemed to regard it as making him inferior in some way. Also it was different not having a father and mother, and Kay had taught him that being different was wrong.”

I mentioned before that J. K. Rowling drank deeply from “The Sword in the Stone” for her work with Harry Potter. The line “being different was wrong,” perfectly sums up the attitudes of Harry’s adoptive family, the Dursleys of Little Whinging. “Normal” was the goal for the Dursley family and Harry’s dreams, scars, magic, friends, and family are the farthest thing from the Dursley norms.

In high school, we were asked in an English class what we wanted to “be” as adults. I wrote “Something different, something unique,” so I would be on the wrong side of Kay and the Dursleys, too.

Wart’s difference here is that we don’t know who is his father is nor do we know his mother. We will get the answer to the question of his father in this book when he pulls the sword from the stone. As to his mother, that question will remain a mystery long enough to bring us the downfall of Camelot. Mordred, Arthur’s son will also be his nephew. I just realized that the story of Jon Snow and King Arthur have more than just a few plot lines in common (incest being one major issue).

We begin to see a list of Wart’s qualities here: “Besides he admired Kay and was a born follower. He was a hero-worshipper.” He is very good at hay-making and seems to understand hawks better than Kay. He also holds back his opinions. We will see his kindness and politeness throughout the stories and Kay will be one who flies off into temper and rudeness.

Wart is not a natural leader. He will soon become the King of England and be faced with an unruly mob to bring under his wing (that will be funny after you read the whole book). He will always be stuck…as all great heroes…with the burden of “why am I here?” or, more to the point, who is my father?

Not just for Spartan Race enthusiasts, this compilation from Joe Di Stefano, manager of the Spartan Pro Team, tells us how to prepare for an obstacle race, but also how to get in remarkable condition both mentally and physically for whatever strenuous effort you have in front of you.

Click here to get this each Wednesday in your email box.

Click here to see the Wandering Weights archive