Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Number 1782: EC fans thrown to the wolves!

This story, shown in the original art scans that are available on the Heritage Auctions site — thank you, Heritage! — is a clever work of suspense. [SPOILER] Yet it is ultimately frustrating for the reader. I recall it caused some readers to write, wanting to know who paid the price to keep a coach full of people ahead of a pack of hungry wolves.[END SPOILER]

I am asking my this story, credited to Al Feldstein, one of those EC swipes? It seems that I have either read or heard it told, before EC did it.

Jack Davis’s artwork fits the story well, but seems a bit hurried as the characters trying to outrun the wolves. All in all, though, I think it is good fun.

From The Haunt of Fear #13 (1952).


Ryan Anthony said...

That was really good. If a Hitchcock movie had been written by Jack London, it might've been this story!

Daniel [] said...

Eh. Attempting to sacrifice the driver would be suicidal, as would be his participation in ejecting someone else. A woman and an old man are unlikely to presume that they can over-power a young soldier. The woman is unlikely to be involuntarily sacrificed in preference to her child. So I think that leaves the old man and the child as candidates. If we may infer that the “EEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” came from the sacrifice, I'm figuring that the old man got it. (But it may have been an expression of horror or self-loathing on the part of a perpetrator.) There's not much need to spring upon an infant if one of the killers already has him in her arms, so this too suggests that the old man was thrown to the wolves.

Daniel [] said...

There are various Russian folktales based on the idea of a party throwing someone or some series of persons off a sled, to pursuing wolves, in the hope of reaching safety. In one version, parents sacrifice their children, one at a time. In most versions, the sacrifice proves futile. There is a Russian expression, “lightening the troika” (a troika being a sled drawn by three horses) that alludes metaphorically to these tales.

Pappy said...

Dan'l, thanks for both your notes...I like your analysis of who got jettisoned. Whether the author had that in mind or not, I don't know. It is one of those "Lady or the Tiger" stories that is written to cause the reader to have to use logic and actually think of an ending, instead of being told (something EC Comics did in abundance, and often in gory detail).

The Russian folktale triggered a memory...I might have the story in a book of Russian folktales. I have many books in boxes and in storage, so it would be a major effort, but the next time I feel like I have a day or more of my life to give up in a search, maybe I will take a chance and look.

On second thought...maybe not.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Unfortunately I don't have the answer to your question, but I understand why this story is renowned. No splatter, no ghosts... no werewolves. The circumstances, the horror we face, the monsters we become.
I was about to state my impression that such a peculiar story may have literary origins, and that Jack London or some russian writer of the 19. century could be acceptable guess. Too late.
"Guess the victim": Ivan is out. He is driving, so he can't leave the horse. Can't be a victim and takes no part in the killing; Vanya holds the child, so she can't throw anyone out of the troika (save her child, but honestly...).
So, either Nevka kicks off the old man (but this would mean there's only ONE killer who "springs" upon the victim), or it's him and the old man who grab Vanya and pull her off. Possibly keeping the child in a fit of mercy. Or they rip the baby out of Vanya's arms, and she screams. Tough stuff.

Pappy said...

J D, when faced with such choices, I would prefer them to be fiction, rather than to find myself in a real-life similar situation.

The only similarity I can come up with is as a pre-teenager, riding my bicycle with three or four large dogs running at me, barking and baring their fangs. I got away, luckily, but when I told my younger brother of my harrowing encounter, I cruelly said, "Too bad you weren't riding next to me; they could have eaten you so I could get away!"

Come to think of it, maybe that is where I remember the story...personal experience.

Daniel Young said...

There are a number of versions of this as a Russian folk-tale. The one I remember most ends with the drivers who were hired by the bride and groom throwing the couple off at the end to allow them to make it to the other village. However, seeing that they alone survived the villagers figure out what they did and the two murderers are shunned by everyone for the rest of their lives.

Pappy said...

Daniel, thanks for that. I think that the story "reads" Russian: wolves, winter and woods...yep, that is a Russian story.