Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Last Valley

A Scene of the Thirty Years War - Ernest Crofts
The Thirty Years War ended on the 15th of May in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. What began as a series of religious squabbles in the German states eventually dragged the major powers of Europe into open warfare. The bulk of the fighting was in what we now call Germany.

Over 8,000,000 people died. From the war itself, from disease, and from starvation. There were areas of Germany which lost 25 to 40% of their population. The male population in many areas was reduced by as much as half.

The Treaty of Westphalia marked the virtual end of the feudal system in western Europe and also marks the birth of the nation-state. But the thirty years preceding that treaty were a savage and horrible time.

Friday evening I went looking for a film which I remember watching long ago. Probably due to researching material for yesterday's post on the last stand of the Swiss Guard. One of the paintings I looked at (and have used here on the blog before) was of a unit of pikemen, surrounded by the detritus of war, at the Battle of Rocroi.

This one -

Rocroi, el último tercio (Rocroi, The Last Tercio) - Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau
Why that painting had me charging off to Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube for a dimly remembered movie tells you something about the way my mind works. Not sure what, but there it is.

The film (I eventually found it, and watched it on YouTube) was The Last Valley -

Michael Caine and Omar Sharif in The Last Valley
At the opening of the film, Omar Sharif's character, Vogel - a teacher, is fleeing from the war itself. Like many during the Thirty Years War he has been reduced to the clothes on his back and only what he can carry. He sees horrific sights along the way, including the pillaging of a village he has stumbled into, seeking food and shelter.

Eventually he finds his way to a village in a high Alpine valley (the movie was shot in the Tirol) which is apparently deserted. He is closely followed by a band of mercenaries (of both Protestants and Catholics, for the Thirty Years War began as a religious war and only later became a struggle between warring kings) led by Michael Caine's character, the Captain.

The villagers eventually return to be surprised by the soldiers. The Captain and his men wish to pillage the village and return with what they find to their army. Vogel convinces the Captain that winter is approaching, if they return to the army whatever they find in the way of food will disappear "down a thousand throats" and he and his men will face an uncertain future. But if they stay in the valley for the winter, they will have plenty of food and shelter.

The Captain agrees.

Much of the film is about the interactions between the soldiers and the villagers. There is friction between those who wish to pillage the village and return to the army and those who just want a few months of peace. There is friction between Catholic and Protestant, the Captain's band is a mix of the two. The village is Catholic. It's a good film of people who have found a refuge from an insane world.

I cannot imagine living in such times. Armies, composed of many mercenaries, taking what they wanted, killing all who stood in their way, disease killing thousands. There really were very few places that were safe.

For those who think the times we live in are bad, and admittedly for some they are, there are areas of the world now which rival the Thirty Years War for disease and suffering, for the most part we have it good. For whatever reason, there are some in the world who feast on suffering and lies, even in our own country.

My home is my last valley, it is my refuge from a sometimes insane world.

I aim to keep it that way.


  1. Interesting article. It concerns me that the so called intellectuals, self described as Social Justice Workers are so damned ignorant of human history that their ego's cause them to thing that things are different THIS time. In all things that matter, they are not. Human beings want to be free. Free to live their lives as they see fit. However, a minority subset, believes that they want to be told what to do, how to live, where to work. That they want to be dependent on the generosity of the state. They are wrong, and they have been taught that they are wrong throughout history by wars and revolution.
    A pox on all of them.

  2. I agree with you both. The desire to retreat into the comfort and relative safety of my home is strong at times. The desire to be free and left the H... alone is in my blood from my Scot ancestors, my Revolutionary War ancestors, my War of Northern Aggression ancestors and my full-blooded TEXAS inculcation (yup, a native). If that isn't a history of rebellion, what is?

    Our heritage is liberty, not safety: "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!". Yet our younger generations were denied their birthright by our generation. Coddled by the folks that won WW2, our generation took for granted the American way, flirted with foreign ideas, and are in a full blown adulteration of our country. Culminating in the historically ignorant kids we produce in school. We have raised a generation of eagles in the turkey pen. They don't even know they can fly....

    I pray to God we aren't going to have to relearn history..... But the road map isn't promising.....

  3. There are too many people in this country that want to tell me exactly how to live and to back that up with more and more laws because they know best...... just leave me alone! The Social Justice Warriors preach acceptance of diversity but if I disagree with their views they get their hackles up and screech "REEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" If I remember right that was how this country got started, someone got tired of being told how to live.......

    1. That's right, push us far enough, we push back. Hard.

  4. Good post Sarge Nice to know that if needs must, you aim to misbehave.

  5. You wrote: "there are some in the world who feast on suffering and lies, even in our own country." That is such a truism that it's the entire DNC platform.

    1. Heh, typing "the DNC platform" would have been quicker.

  6. You might be interested in this film:

    Vigo Mortensen plays a Spanish captain of a tercio at Rocroi

    1. Looks intriguing, might be hard to track down. Amazon has Blu-Rays and DVDs (mostly used from 3rd party sellers) but most of those I'm guessing are in PAL format (European) as opposed to NTSC format (North America and a few other places, I think Korea uses NTSC as well). But I'm on the hunt! (I'm a Vigo Mortensen fan.)

      Thanks for the tip BP!

  7. Micheal Caine was a handsome rascal in his youth!

    1. That he was.

      (Blogger is starting to drive me bat-shit crazy. You left three comments on various posts, two made it through the spam filter, one did not. There is no rhyme nor reason to this.)


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.