Wilkie Collins’s Count Fosco Reminds Me So Much of Sengkuni

Sangkuni illustration. Picture source: abasrin.com

Wilkie Collins’s Count Fosco and Vyasa’s Sengkuni or Sangkuni have many hateful yet agile traits one can relate and learn. Written in centuries apart, “Mahābhārata” and “The Woman in White” captivate me with the inserting of Sengkuni and Count Fosco. I detest each of them but I can’t deny I learn so much from their cunning.

I haven’t read “Mahābhārata” honestly. I only watched the Indian epic masterpiece when was I a little kid. Regularly watching the show was more than sufficient to have put Sengkuni as an unforgettable antagonist in my whole life. I heard him as reference when my father and his brother were referring to national prominent politician from New Order (I didn’t mention his name here, by the way). After I watched the series, I couldn’t agree more.

Sengkuni was best remembered because of his sly tactics for making his 100 nephews known as Korawa defeating their five cousins called Pandawa. Sengkuni was manipulative, provocative person who ignited hatred in the hearts of the Korawa people, especially Duryodana. His resentment toward Pandawa stemmed from his objection when his father accepted a marriage proposal for his sister, Gandari, from Dretarastra, a blind, kind-hearted prince from Hastinapura kingdom. Sengkuni, who was actually a prince from Gandhara empire, wished his sister would have married with Dretarastra’s brother, Pandu. Pandu was the father of Pandawa whereas Dretarastra was the father of Korawa. Despite the two’s good relationship, their sons were fighting for possessing Kuru empire with Sengkuni as the mastermind. Their story is known as Mahabharata.

Count Fosco or Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco was not a layman. Count (male)/ Countess (female) or Conte in Italian language refers to a title in European countries for a noble of varying status, but historically deemed to convey an approximate rank intermediate between the highest and lowest titles of nobility, according to Pine, L.G. Titles: How the King Became His Majesty. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992. P. 73. OCLC 27827106.

Personally, Count Fosco is like some types of people that I know in my life. They have certain attitudes that make them looking like noble people on the surface. The way they talk, how they treat others are different from common people. They know how to keep their tongues in check even when they are in debts or other huge problems. I call them as those who are enslaved to creating good images.

Such is what I learn from Count Fosco. He was in dire need of money but he was not looking as desperate person. He maintained his good humor sense, greeted strangers, and treated people nicely. He didn’t let others know what trouble he was in because that would taint his noble status. This what made Marian Halcombe firstly liked him. After she knew him a little bit longer, she found out who this man truly was. Her realization that Count Fosco was reading her mind and studying her behavior frightened her. This what made the protagonist was very careful in dealing with him. Unlike Laura Fairlie who was frontally disliking him, Mariam was more patient because she knew she must be resourceful and intelligent to get over him.

In addition to his observing nature, Count Fosco was good-tempered person, especially for those who were against his wishes, such as Mariam Halcombe and Laura Fairlie. He knew how to differently handle the two given their traits. Count Fosco was also persistent when it came to reaching his goals. Here, he carefully executed his plans of taking over 21,000 pounds belonging to Laura Fairlie through very well-planned timeline. He knew very well that good strategy wasn’t enough. There required patience to let things rolling on as he planned them, the trait that wasn’t possessed by Sir Percival Glyde.

Count Fosco and Sengkuni were top “brain washers”. While Count Sengkuni consistently whispered devilish words to the Korawa people, Count Fosco did the same thing for his wife, Madame Fosco, who was actually Laura’s aunt. She was so obedient to her husband that she worshipped him like a god. Count Fosco “guided” Sir Percival Glyde, his close friend, in their goals of getting the money.

Walter Hartright could have toppled him with just one strong blow. And I wished he did that because I really, completely detested Count Fosco. Of course, Wilkie Collins didn’t opt for that. Further legal consequence might emerge for Walter Hartright. Marian Halcombe’s descriptions became Walter Hartright’s weapons when confronting him in his rented room before he went away to Paris.

Much like Marian Halcombe, Walter Hartright was patient and clever. On top of that, his sincerity guided this man to smoothly deal with Count Fosco. Walter Hartright fully understood he had to be very well-spoken to confront a manipulative person like Count Fosco.

As Walter Hartright didn’t have legal supports for proving Count Fosco’s wrongdoings, Wilkie Collins remarkably ended the life of Count Fosco. He was killed by unknown people from his past, politically related, in a strange land (Paris) then surrounded by Parisians in a public place. Count Fosco’s life was eventually very much disgraced.





The Ekalawya story


In a bit rare edition of my most favorite morning show at Motion Radio, two announcers of Selamat Pagi Anda Semua (Good Morning to You All) told an unusual story from mega epic Mahabharata. Just few clicks away (thanks so much to Google), here is what I found:

Ekalawya or Ekalavya is a hunter from the lowest caste in India called Nisada. His passion to learn about archery leads him to leave his beautiful wife Dewi Anggraini then seeks for guidance from Resi Drona or Durna, the teacher of Panca Pandawa and Korawa.

Ekalawya is dissapointed once he meets Drona. The latter says he does not want to teach Ekalaywa because he is not from noble caste. Besides, Drona wants only Arjuna, his most beloved student, to be the best of all archer.

Ekalawya’s steps to learn does not stop there. He then resides in a forest and master his archery skill by himself. To honor Drona, who never teaches him at all, he creates a statue which looks like his imaginary teacher. Ekalawya gradually becomes so skilled thanks to his continous training.

In one of his training days, he shoots at a dog with an arrow without even looking at the animal. The Pandawa find the animal then become curious on the archer. Ekalawya thus admits his deed. He introduces himself as the pupil of Drona. Finding out this fact, Arjuna becomes depressed. He starts to think he may not be the most genius archer.

Drona can read Arjuna’s mind. Both of them depart to the forest where Ekalawya lives in and studies. Drona humiliates Ekalawya after the fake student pays him a homage. Drona calls Ekalawya as an immoral person who keeps on regarding the former as his teacher despite earlier rejection. Surprisingly, Drona asks for Ekalawya to do Dakshina, teacher’s request for a student as a form of gratitude. Drona demands Ekalawya to cut his right thumb. Without hesitation, Ekalawya fulfills Drona’s request although he knows this will makes him hard to shoot with arrows and bows.

 Different version on Ekalawya’s death

One of the announcer says Ekalawya dies during his archery battle against Arjuna. The most handsome son in Pandawa still needs to face Ekalawya to convince himself that he is the most skillful archer although he knows his opponent candidate already loses his right thumb. The rivalry goes on fairly at the beginning. Both of them can shoot at animals with arrows precisely until they lose targets. At the end, both archers face each other. Who shoots faster will secure his life from death. Ekalawya knows Arjuna’s game. He intentionally deccelerates his shooting with an arrow and a bow thus dies. Many believe this moment turns out into a karma when Drona is killed in Baratayudha war. The spirit of Ekalawya descends to Arya Drestadyumena who cuts Drona’s head during the war.

Whereas Wikipedia says Ekalawya dies in a war against Yadawa troops.

Javanese puppet version:

Javanese puppet has a different version. Ekalawya or Ekalaya is actually the prince from Paranggelung kingdom. He is already a master in archery. He seeks for Drona to learn Danurwenda spell but is sent away because Drona swears he will only teach Pandawa and Korawa. Ekalawya thus learns on his own. His conflict with Arjuna arises as he receives complaints from his faithful wife Dewi Anggraini that the most good-looking man from Pandawa wants her. Arjuna dies in the battle but Kresna helps him to be alive again ( it does sound weird). Ekalawya eventually dies after he loses his thumb where he puts Mustika Ampal ring following a tricky game with Arjuna. The prince vows he will kill Drona.

During Baratayudha war, the spirit of Ekalawya descends to Arya Drestadyumena who cuts Drona’s head.