Thursday, October 18, 2012

Roman Polanski, the Sample Dungeon and the Cult of Cuthbert

Ever heard of the Polanski flick Cul de Sac?  I didn't think I had either when the DVD showed up at my house the other day.  But there it was so I must have requested it, right?  Not knowing what possessed me to request this movie, I plunked it in the DVD player and gave it a whirl.  I fell asleep about 20 minutes into it--it had been a long long day; I should not have started a movie at midnight--but I did manage to see enough to figure out why it had made it to my queue: it was filmed on location at Lindisfarne, England--home to a monastery that has two claims to fame of interest to the likes of you and me:
  • Back in 793 AD, it was the site of the first recorded Viking raiding activity on the British Isles, and 
  • It was named after its former abbot, an Anglo-Saxon monk-turned-saint named Cuthbert.
The movie reminded me of another bit of information relevant to the Hommlet-Sample Dungeon milieu; the real world Monastery of St. Cuthbert, which was pillaged by ferocious raiders from across the water, is on the island of Lindisfarne which is accessible from the mainland via a causeway.  The monastery in the Sample Dungeon--likewise pillaged by raiders of unknown origins sometime in the past--was built on an island of sorts in a swamp which was accessible via a friggin' causeway.  Gygax was no doubt well aware of the history of the real St. Cuthbert and his monastery; could it be that the sample dungeon was intended to be a visit to St. Cuthbert's former earthly abode?

As for the flick, despite its name it has nothing to do with suburban street layout.  And despite its setting, it has nothing to do with monasteries or vikings.  Released in 1967, it's an arty flick about a gangster on the lam after a botched heist who forces a mismatched married couple who live alone on an island to keep him company while he waits for Godot. Hilarity ensues.

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