It’s time for another adventure into horrifying Victorian literature. This time, I have read “Wagner the Wehr-Wolf“, an 1850s serial written by G.W.M. Reynolds. The full text can be found here. I chose this book 1.) because of the name. How can you hear about a book with a title like this an NOT read it?, and 2.) because it was written by the same guy who wrote those books I recapped a couple of times before (you know the, the one where three sisters invent increasingly complicated scenarios to sleep with a guy, and the one where an aristocratic woman has sex with a commoner and is so grossed out she DIES). So I knew this book was going to be good.
Anyway, because Reynolds writes these epically long serials, my goal was to summarize each chapter of Wagner in only a few sentences. Much harder than you think. I’ll do roughly ten chapters at a time.
SO PREPARE YOURSELF, BRIEF MORTAL, BECAUSE HALLOWEEN IS NIGH AND THE WEHR-WOLVES ARE OUT AND–actually, this book isn’t scary at all. The scariest thing is how bad the writing is.
1516. We’re in Germany’s Black Forest. 90-year-old dude named Wagner is in his cottage, mourning how all his family is dead, except his super-hot 16-year-old granddaughter, Agnes, who has gone missing. He’s like, “I don’t think she’s dead. I checked the whole of the Black Forest and if she was killed by bandits or eaten by wolves, I would have found evidence” and I’m like, “What, you checked the WHOLE Black Forest? All several thousand square miles of it?”
Random dude takes shelter from the storm in Wagner’s shack. He is really rude and says [direct quotation], “Your lot is wretched, old man . . . if you live a few years longer, that period must be passed in solitude and cheerlessness:—if you suddenly fall ill you must die the lingering death of famine . . . and ere the peasants of that hamlet, or some passing traveler, might discover that the inmate of this hut had breathed his last, the wolves from the forest would have entered and mangled your corpse.”
Also, this guy has the power to grant wishes, so if Wagner wants to be young and hot and rich again, he can make it happen. Wagner just has to promise to prey upon the human race, who the dude hates. Wagner’s like, “Awesome! I shall ask no questions!” He drinks a potion, turns young and hot again. YAY!
It’s now 1520. Count Riverola of Florence is dying. He’s a raging douchebag. His daughter, Nisida, is hot. Reynolds slobbers over her for five paragraphs. However, ten years ago her mother died in a strange way and Nisida was so upset that she took to her sickbed, after which she lost her sense of hearing and her ability to talk. Huh. So that’s a medical thing in this book. Therefore, Nisida has never been courted because being a deaf-mute is ABHORRANT, I guess, and even her father’s wealth and her beauty could not overcome it. Also, where she was once sweet, now she’s constantly angry.
Francisco, her younger brother, is nice, so Count Riverola hates him. The Count is like, “Francisco, here is my deathbed wish: when you get married, the SECOND you leave the church, come here and open The Secret Door of Secrecy that has Never Been Opened. You and your bride shall enter the chamber, but no one else. There’s stuff inside you’ll need to see/deal with.” The Count dies.
Nisida steals the key to The Secret Door of Secrecy from her brother and checks it out.
Nisida finds a manuscript inside. She reads it, gets really upset, puts it back, and leaves. Meanwhile, Nisida’s maid, Flora, is also hot. Her brother, Alessandro works as the secretary to a diplomat in Constantinople. This is important, because this book is in part about Eviiiiil Musliiiiims. So while Flora is cleaning Nisida’s rooms, she reflects on how she is in love with Francisco, though she has no right to be, because he’s a noble and she’s a maid. Then she finds a piece of paper which had dropped out of the Seeeeecret Manuscript of DOOOOOM and starts to read it. It’s about some horribly gruesome murder. THIS IS WHY THE HELP SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT TO READ. Nisida catches her reading it and makes her swear she’ll never tell a living soul.
The Count of Riverola’s funeral happens. All of a sudden a young woman bursts in and walks towards the bier. She screams and faints. Everyone goes, “Dafuq is this?” and checks her out. She is, of course, hot. *SIGH* She wakes up and reveals that she had probably been the lover of the dead Count Riverola. Someone in the crowd recognizes her and goes, “OMG, IT’S LONG-LOST AGNES!” (gee, could it maybe be Wagner?) and she’s all, “I don’t know you, dude, stop hugging me.” And the guy is like, “Nah, I know your grandpa, I’ll take you to him now.” Then the funeral continues.
Nisida and Francisco read their father’s will. Everything is left in a trust to Francisco, which he gets when he turns 30. However, if Nisida regains the use of her hearing and voice before that time, everything goes to her. She wants to abandon all claim to the estate, should she regain her hearing and speech. The notary says, “You can’t. You have to take it.”
Agnes wakes up in a strange house. Then the guy who rescued her from the church (probably hot young Grandpa Wagner) is like, “How are you feeling?” and we go through this never-ending rollercoaster of “I hate myself for abandoning my grandpa”, “No, it’s cool, he’s alive, and here in Florence”, “OMG HE IS??? JOOOOY!” . . . “I hate myself. Poor grandpa”, “No, because remember? He’s alive”, “OMG HE IS??? JOOOOY!”. And then Wagner starts talking about Creepy McWishGiver who [direct quotation]: “in conferring a fearful boon upon your grandsire, has plunged him into an abyss of unredeemable horror!’” Yeah, buddy, because that will really calm her hysterical ass down. And he’s like, “Let me tell you a story now.”
“Hey, Agnes, remember when we had a giant family and were happy, and then everyone except you and me DIED IN A HORRIBLE, VIOLENT WAY? And then remember how you and I tried to make a peaceful, happy life after that, but then YOU ABANDONED ME AND LEFT ME TO DESPAIR? Good, because the story picks up right after that.” Thanks for the recap. “Long story short, I’m your grandpa because of mystery-stranger devilry.”
And she accepts this INSTANTLY. She doesn’t even go “Huh?” The first thing she says is, “And can you pardon me?” Then she’s kinda like, “So, what did you have to do to be young forever?” and he’s like, “I didn’t sell my soul, but endured some other horrible mystery curse and never ask me what it is. You must call me your brother, never bring up this subject again, okay, story-time’s over, go to sleep.” And she goes, “Okay.”
Agnes tells how she came to abandon her grandpa. While out in the woods doing rustic shit, she meets Count Riverola who was hunting in the Black Forest. He’s like, “Baby, baby you so fine!” and they start meeting every day. She’s like, “I had never met a noble before, poor country girl like me, and any country girl would be dazzled when a [direct quotation] “great nobleman breathed in her ear.’” God, this book is creepy. After six weeks (during which they still haven’t had sex), he has to go back to Italy and asks her to come with him. She runs away, abandoning grandpa. Then Agnes breaks off her story with a scream, because of something she sees out the window. As you do in Gothic fiction.
Wagner’s like, “What did you see at the window?” And Agnes was like, “Wait, let me finish my long-winded story first and then I’ll tell you the emergency thing.” So, Count Riverola set her up in Florence with this really dope house and beautiful clothes and gives her his dead wife’s jewelry. Huh. And Agnes becomes his official, secret mistress.
Wagner’s like, “Uh, could you hurry up with the story? I want to know why you screamed.” And she’s like, “I will only tell you the most crucial stuff.” And then she resumes telling him stuff that isn’t even REMOTELY crucial. For shit’s sake, even Reynolds’s characters are bored with the story.
So Agnes is like, “Then one day when I went to church, this chick kept staring at me. And she had a rockin’ hot body, let’s talk about that for a while. [blah blah blah] But then she stared at me with such intensity, rage and hatred that I got really freaked out. Then Count Riverola got sick and stopped visiting, and one night before he died I woke up in the middle of the night and that hot angry chick was standing over my bed, still looking angrily at me. When I got up in the morning, [wait, how the HELL did she go back to sleep after that???] I found my jewelry box had been robbed of all the old jewels that had once belonged to Count Riverola’s dead wife. I wondered if it could have possibly been his daughter, Nisida, who robbed me. Then Count Riverola died and now I am alone and ruined.”
Oh, and by the way, Agnes screamed because she thought she saw the angry woman outside the window. And Wagner is like, “I’ll go find out what’s going on.”
Wagner goes to see Francisco, new Count of Riverola. Francisco is like, “Yeah, the lady-thief matches the description of my sister, but it couldn’t be her. Nisida is deaf, which means she could never figure out ANYTHING, like that our dad had a girlfriend. That’s how ‘deaf’ works.” Nisida comes in, says, “It wasn’t me.” And Wagner says, “You are so hot, I love you.” Huh. Wagner gets paired up with the baaaaad giiiiirl. This will end well.
END PART ONE