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The ferryman

The Tarot card that refused to burn.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Four years before the official discovery of Charon, the moon orbiting the dwarf plant Pluto, Oklahoma City-born science-fiction writer Joe Haldeman wrote an award-winning novel in 1974 called The Forever War where elite Earth soldiers “train on a fictional planet located beyond Pluto’s orbit called Charon.”

Synchronistically, four years later, in 1978, an astronomer named James Christy discovered Charon orbiting Pluto (still an official “planet” at the time) and when it came time to name the moon, he settled on “Charon” as a reference to his wife Charlene’s nickname “Char.”

This is hard to believe, considering Pluto (or Hades) is the god of the underworld and Charon (in Greek mythology) is the ferryman of the dead, carrying souls across the rivers Styx and Acheron. It's too perfect.

This syncs with the second episode of Carnivale’s second season – the episode “Ingram, Texas.” This is where the reluctant hero Ben Hawkins is told by the fortune teller’s daughter – after the fortune teller dies in a fire – to burn her Tarot cards. And when he does this, the only card that remains unburned in the barrel is “La Passeur” – or “The Ferryman.” A card she is unfamiliar with. A tattooed man – that keeps appearing as an “usher” who is ushering in death and destruction. Ghosts haunt the denizens of Carnivale and the windblown corners of their world.

Death hangs over Carnivale, just as it did with Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the last film Heath Ledger filmed before his untimely demise. In fact, in one eerie moment in Imaginarium, miniature effigies picturing the likes of Princess Diana and James Dean float down a river that might be the River Styx (is that Charon?), and the viewer half expects to see Ledger himself included in the group.

This “La Passeur” card is a clue for Ben as he ambles through the dusty, dirty Dust Bowl-era American Southwest with the misfit crew of Carnivale. Will he find The Ferryman?

And so we approach 2015 -10 years after the last episode of Carnivale appeared on HBO. “Hello 2015!” We await your arrival just as the cold, distant moon Charon awaits the arrival of New Horizons, the NASA space probe that was sent to investigate Pluto, Charon and “two Kuiper Belt objects. Perhaps more will be found during its brave journey into the infinite?

New Horizons is scheduled to reach Pluto and Charon next summer. What it will discover there remains unknown. Eventually, by 2038, New Horizons will “explore the outer heliosphere" and beyond, that is, if it is still operational. After that, only the cosmos can say if New Horizons will dream as it glides across the universe.


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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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