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The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

The Mysterious Stranger (edition 2011)

by Mark Twain

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298737,648 (3.97)11
Title:The Mysterious Stranger
Authors:Mark Twain
Info:CreateSpace (2011), Paperback, 86 pages

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The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain



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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I hate reading books looking for the meaning. That may be the reason I sometimes avoid some of the classics. I knew what I was getting into with this book though- most of the message was pretty obvious. Entertaining but not one that will mean something deeper to my life! ( )
  Twikpet | Mar 29, 2013 |
I hate reading books looking for the meaning. That may be the reason I sometimes avoid some of the classics. I knew what I was getting into with this book though- most of the message was pretty obvious. Entertaining but not one that will mean something deeper to my life! ( )
  Twikpet | Mar 29, 2013 |
A delightful tale of a young stranger who comes to town and befriends three young friends, one of them the narrator of the story. The young man has some peculiar habits, at least to the minds of the young boys, not the least of which is a total lack of compassion for the plight of the human. Still, they enjoy his company, and long for him to return when he has been away a while, but his presence does wreck a great deal of havoc in the town. This book was unfinished when Mark Twain died, and was finished by someone else later; I must admit, even as a long time Twain fan, I cannot say at what point Twain left off and the other began, though there are hints throughout the story of things the author hints at expounding on later, but which were not carried through, possibly because the other author did not wish to read Twain's mind. Overall, a satisfying and fun work. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Oct 4, 2012 |
This is an excellent novel, despite statements by literary experts that it is unfinished. Far from it, the version published in 1916 deserves a place in everyone's library for it speaks volumes about the human condition. It was written in a brisk and spare style, with humour, suspense, and wisdom (the finest example of this is probably Chapter 10). As whole, the book straddles the genres of the historical novel, of humour, of philosophy, of science-fiction, and does them all justice. And through these pages, Twain reminds us of Voltaire's famous aphorism, "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer."

From the beginning, Twain slowly feeds his readers little morsels of magic and miracles to lure them in before making them to confront the harsh realities of life. We are shown a group of Austrian schoolboys from the Middle Ages and their village life. Then, comes Satan, the nephew of the Biblical Satan, and a virtual avatar of the author himself, who goes about the town with his miracles and his twisting of reality, like many omnipotent characters of modern fantasy and science-fiction. His miracles are done to amuse his mortal friends, the schoolboys. When they finally see the ironic results of their meddling and good intentions, they beg him to undo what has been done. However, Satan is blunt and unrepentant with the product of his power; that which is, now, is preferable to bleak, sorry existence of humanity.


Humanity, or more specifically, Western civilization, is for him a miserable animal/creature that dooms itself on account of its self-delusions. We preach and pray, but we really prey on each other and kill each other for reasons that are quite clear, that are obviously immoral, but are shrouded in endless veils of self-delusions, e.g. nationalism, superstition, the morality of jus ad bellum.

But, we can forgive this Satan, in the end, for teaching us about ourselves. We may also sometimes find him the humorous outsider. As an angel, as an omniscient outsider, or perhaps just a mirage, only he is equipped to judge us as a species.

I also think that any alarmed by Twain's frankness will also forgive him in the end, for being honest about us, and for trying to teach us one last lesson.
  GYKM | May 24, 2011 |
Mark Twain (1835-1910) uses this novel to mock the conventional ideas about God: that God is a loving ever-present entity who wants to help people and reward people who do what he wants done and punishes people who disobey him. He sets his parable in Austria hinting that Austria is no different than America. It is a country where the people are asleep and way behind time. They live in an age of belief, rather than science. It is a time when knowledge is kept from the common people. All people need to know is to be “good Christians; to revere the Virgin, the Church, and the Saints above everything.” Twain tell us that “knowledge was not good for the common people, and would make them discontented with the lot that God had appointed for them, and God would not endure discontent with his plan.”

Some boys – symbolic of the uncultivated immature people – meet a very affable elf-like creature who tells them that he is an angel – which, as we will see, represents God. He tells the boys that his name is Satan, but not “the Satan.” “The Satan” is his uncle – suggesting that God is related to evil. The angel explains that “the Satan” was chased out of heaven because he disobeyed God and enticed the woman God created to eat the fruit he forbid her to eat, and then went and ate the fruit himself. This suggests that God is bad-tempered and petulant, fussy about details, not wanting to be crossed even over a somewhat trivial matter.

The angel shows the boys that he can create tiny people to build a toy fortress for them, for fun. They watch, almost mesmerized by the tiny people’s activity. Then they and the angel see two tiny men disagreeing and starting a fight. The angle becomes annoyed, reaches down and grabs the two men between his fingers and squashes them. He does this while assuring them that he is an angel and can never do wrong. The families of the two murdered men begin to cry and shout in mourning, and the angel, annoyed at the noise, takes a board and squashes the mourners and the people near them.

Then the angel decides to complicate his building project to add tension and fun. He causes earthquakes and storms that kill most of the people. When the boys look on in horror, the angel says that there is no need to worry, he can always create new people. He explains that they need to understand that people are to him like bricks to them; he uses them as he sees fit, including breaking and crumbling them. Satan explains that the problem with people is that they have a moral sense, they distinguish between right and wrong, and this sense gives them all kinds of problems. They wouldn’t have had this problem if Eve had not eaten the fruit.

Satan shows them that he also has the ability to change the destiny of humans such as them. He manipulates the destiny of one of the boys and the boy dies while trying to save a girl who was drowning. He gives a woman a magic cat that can bring her food whenever she needs it; however, people hear about the cat and burn her as a witch. Thus it is clear that the angel – God – is uninterested in the people he creates. ( )
  iddrazin | May 20, 2011 |
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Mark Twainprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wyeth, N.C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was in 1590 - winter.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work is the single work published in 1916. Do not combine it with the Mark Twain Library edition or with any work called No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger (or variations on that name) as they are different works with significantly different content.
Please don't combine this single work with any collections in which this work is contained.
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The Mysterious Stranger, A Fable, Hunting the Deceitful Turkey, The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm
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The story of, a stranger with supernatural powers who happens into a print shop in Germany in 1490.

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