Reading for Wednesday, 4 March

And who would have expected this? A lesson about bees and beehives.

There’s not a lot to say about this chapter except that it got me really curious about looking in a beehive one of these days. Has anyone else ever looked at a beehive? I’ve never known anyone with one (or one of those suits, that I think you’d probably want for this sort of thing).

What’s amazing, I think, is that the beehive description is just as interesting as the rest of the novel.

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6 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 11.20 – Bees

  1. I certainly have neve looked into a beehive – but have always been fascinated by them whenever I see docos about them or hear about their behaviour. But, in any event, I thought this was a terrific chapter, the way it used the queenless beehive as a metaphor for Moscow. It was a glum, sorrowful metaphor, the way Tolstoy talks us through every little nook and cranny of the queenless beehive. What he seems to leave unsaid, though, is just what Moscow’s parallel for the beehive’s queen is. I find that an interesting question, and I find it interesting that Tolstoy left it unanswered – perhaps because the thing that had gone from Moscow, or thathad died in Moscow, was something that could not be defined and described – not even by Tolstoy. But, even so, I think if I was a teacher, and “War and Peace” was on the syllabus, I’d be tempted to pose it as an essay question – what was it that had gone from Moscow and which, in going, had turned Moscow into a queenless beehive?

  2. When we lived in Orangeville, there was a fella’ on one of the adjoining lots who kept bees.

    He showed the kids those bees and didn’t have them put a protective covering of any kind on.

    He explained to them that the trick of handling bees is not to let them ‘feel trapped’ in any way – your sleeves have to be closed – you can’t be wearing anything that’s open – like wide sleeves where the bees can fly inside and feel trapped inside your clothing.

    I did visit a bee hive at the Wye Marsh here in Ontario . . . they kept the bees in ‘flat screens’ . . . I don’t know exactly how it works though.

    Guess (if you really wanted to know) you could ‘google’ it up and find a site.

  3. That’s a good point, Ian. Because it’s not necessarily the Tsar, because he might have left but Tolstoy would still have continued the spirit of Russia to be there.

    Or maybe Tolstoy never thought the metaphor out that far and he didn’t really have a metaphor for the queen.

    It all makes sense when you read it and that’s all that matters, really, isn’t it?

  4. Yes, that’s right, Matt … it makes sense and it works, which is all that really matters. I actually never thought of it in terms of the Tsar – but more something to do with the spirit and soul of the people, not as individuals but collectively. But you may well be right – Tolstoy might not have even given it a thought. But that’s one of the great things about great literature (or music or art) … it almost always raises questions and ideas and layers that the writer never even considered, simply because it conveys life, or some aspect of it, so well.

  5. But Tolstoy does seem to reflect on the spirit of the people – not just the Tsar, not just the government or the media of the day. His story seems to come from all sides – he tells it from the POV of the people themselves.
    He uses Pierre, for instance, to go onto the battlefield and to go into the burning streets of Moscow, dressed as a mere common citizen – a peasant.

  6. I can highly recommend a trip to “bee world” on the gold coast if you’re every up that way: highly educational on all aspects of things related to bees.

    Great essay question (though I suspect horribly unfair if it’s in a closed book test!) – what has brought Moscow to this point? It seems that Tolstoy’s view of history, with the great people not really in charge, means that Moscow can’t help but be a queenless behive: even with competent leadership, it would make no difference!

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