Hello, my name is Michel. I am a man. I am from France. I give Tours of Tours.
Yes. The city is called Tours. And the word “tours” is the same in French.
It is, as we say, cheesy. My English is pretty good. I lived in Indiana for 15 years before my family moved back. So it’s not the best English, but I can explain France to visitors.
Civitas Turones was the Latin name of the city. It’s named after the Gauls. That stuff is on the tour. Of Tours. It’s not like it’s the ultimate tour or anything. There are older cathedrals. Our wine is shit. I’m kidding. Mostly it’s the desperation of these tourists that gets to me, these folks who think love is in the air just because it’s France. They come here of all places looking for joy. One of them told me “I just wanna be loved.” And I told her “You’re going to need a lot of plastic surgery for that, babe.”
But let’s talk about the famous people from Tours.
We have Gregory of Tours and we have St. Martin of Tours. Balzac was from here. I take the tourists to our restaurants and ask them, with a straight face, if they are hungry for a Balzac sandwich? This, of course, my cousin the boulanger has invented for shits and giggles. Wrap your mouth around a bulging Balzac.
Tours used to be the capital of France for 88 years. Did you know that? Wish anything was left that I could take people to see.
And for the medievals, our most famous celebrity is Chrétien de Troyes, whom a lot of Americans think is from Tours. They can pronounce nothing, these Americans. I got asked by so many foreigners, on my tour of Tours, to tell them about Chrétien de Troyes, that I became an expert on that bastard.
I hate to be the bearer of bad cholesterol but…
What I mean is, in French we have this word “poseur”. And because we made the word, it stands to reason we have a lot of actual poseurs in our history already thank you very much.
Chrétien is supposedly the guy who wrote all the King Arthur stories. He did this in France, which is ridiculous. Hundreds of years after any of the battles took place. There would have to have been some stories already written about these hero guys in England, no?
The answer is, yes, the original inhabitants wrote down these stories and you can read them in a collection called Mabinogion. But this is actually not as old as the poems of Chrétien de Troyes, because they cannot find the original stories they are all based on. This was something I could not tolerate. So I started telling my curious American tourists a certain something.
OK you guys, you live where, Con-nect-i-cut? But you sometimes spend part of the winter in Florida. Yes, when I was there, I knew people who had the same illness. So, imagine you live somewhere but you have close cultural links with another place. In the Middle Ages, Celtic people in Britain had relatives in Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany. Brittany is the place on the edge of France where Bretons live, and Bretons are like Britons. Are you following me so far?
Great, so in Brittany the people got stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, straight from travelers from the land where these things occurred. After the people in Brittany wrote down these tales, the French stole them. Well, it wasn’t really stealing because these French dudes had guys called Troubadours who were able to sing stories and they rhymed. And people liked those stories a lot. The end.
No no no, wait just one cotton-picking minute, Michel. How can you say those uncivilized French people stole those stories and said Chrétien de Troyes wrote them. After all, he isn’t even the most famous person from Troyes, which is Rashi, the great medieval Jewish Biblical commentator. But the French can’t be bothered with that kind of stuff, and that kind of proves that they couldn’t have originated the Arthurian romances.
Still, Michel, how do you know? All right, I’ll tell you. There are several dwarves in the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, that’s how I know he didn’t write them, OK?
Not OK. What’s wrong with dwarfs?
There is nothing wrong with a dwarf being a dwarf. It is a perfectly good literary character for the land of fairies and inexplicable natural forces. You look at Irish and Welsh stories and there are plenty of dwarves.
Right, so how can you say Chrétien didn’t make these guys up?
Ah, that is because, in his most famous poem, the most powerful dwarf—if you have to pick just one dwarf—is called The Little King, or Gwiffert Petit.
Gwiffert is a very strange name for a Frenchman, perhaps?
Well, yes, that’s because it is a Celtic name, either from the Britons or the Bretons.
So when you read these supposedly pure French tales, you are seeing many names that show how Brythonic everything is. And all the magic, too.
But what about the chivalry?
Fine, Chrétien made that up.
And what about all the stuff with incest, and stealing girlfriends, and jousting?
He was just adding that like icing on the cake.
Well, isn’t that going to make your Tours of Tours a little less spectacular?
No, I am going to start offering tours of Brittany!
Or maybe I will stay in Tours. It’s surprising what I could get away with. The Council of Trent? I’ll make that the Council of Tours. The ruined Castle of Limours? I will put it somewhere in Tours. And anything that’s really in Belgium but too far for tourists to get to, and various places from Corsica, I will pretend those things are also in Tours. The Battle of Poitiers has recently been renamed The Battle of Tours, and I had nothing to do with that.
The whole thing about us once being the capital. I just can’t let go of the completely irrelevant past. Just like people in Indiana. We are very much like them, except we don’t eat corn products. We are so scared of the consequences of our actions. And when the most horrible, deadly things confront us, we can never admit that these things happened because we fucked our sisters. No, we can’t. instead, we go on vacation, and we can’t wait for someone to tell us some cock and bull story. Well, you came to listen, and have I got a story for you!