Monday, July 18, 2011

Ass-Licking, Iron-Fisting: A History Lesson

Why couldn’t any history class I’ve ever taken be this interesting?

From the June issue of Wired, I learned the story of Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen, the fifteenth-century German knight who had a robotic hand. As Wired begins, “The Six Million Dollar Man, Darth Vader, Robocop — we have a passion for badasses who restore their mortal bodies with machinery.” Well, Berlichingen, known sometimes as Götz of the Iron Hand, lost a part of his body most vital to his warrior profession when, as Wikipedia explains, “enemy cannon fire forced his sword against him.”


I’m going to say right now that if this ever happened to me, someone living the current day with a wide array of medical options, I’d probably just die, because the combo of cannon and sword working against me seems like too much. I would just ask to quietly pass away, down in the mud and the puddle of what used to be my sword arm.

Ol’ Götz was made of sterner stuff — metaphorically so but soon literally as well. He ordered the construction of a prosthetic which by today’s standards might be somewhat crude but to Götz’s contemporaries transformed him into a walking robotic terror — or at least would have, had they had awareness of robots back then. As Wired notes, the replacement has “articulated fingers controlled by gears, [with which] he was able to grip anything from a sword to a quill pen.”

diagram of the actual hand, which, yes, is not an actual hand, but still
The article doesn’t comment on his penmanship, but Götz maintained his status as a terror on the battlefield, fighting, pillaging, ransoming all across Germany before dying in piece at age 82. The steampunk cyborg arm remains on display today in Jagsthausen Castle in Germany, but this relic isn’t Götz only lasting legacy. A 1773 play about the man’s life has him respond as follows to a demand for his surrender: “Er aber, sag’s ihm, er kann mich im Arsche lecken!” Translated, that would be something like “He, however, can lick me in the ass.” The quote, which according to Wikipedia is known today as the Gotz quote.


The quote would later inspire Mozart to write at least one but and possibly two cannons, Leck mich im Arsch, which I don’t feel needs a translation, and Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber, or something like “Lick my ass fine, well and clean.” It’s the second one that’s the more vulgar of the two, so of course I’ll be offering the translated lyrics in full:
Lick my ass nicely
Lick it nice and clean
Nice and clean, lick my ass
That's a greasy desire
Nicely buttered
Like the licking of roast meat, my daily activity
Three will lick more than two,
Come on, just try it,
And lick, lick, lick.
Everybody lick their ass for themselves.
It doesn’t seem noted that this second, more scatological canon is directly inspired by Götz, so I suppose it’s possible that Mozart simply springboarded of the earlier canon into new levels of depravity. It may also be that Mozart simply set new, filthy lyrics to a composition by Wenzel Trnka, which, if you ask me, is an amazing fuck you from the former to the latter.

Game nerd that I am, I suspect that Götz has one more cultural connection: Who’s got German heritage, crazy battle skills and two thumbs (one of which is mechanical)? This guy.


He’s a fairly unpopular character in the second Samurai Shodown and a controllable character despite the notable handicap of not being a samurai in anyway. His name is different — Neinhalt Sieger, as I wrote in one of my “games ’n’ names” posts, is a bad approximation for “non-stop victory” in whatever you’d call the German version on Engrish — but I’m willing to bet that Götz at least partly inspired the character because the series also features fighters based on real-life historical personages including but not limited to Andrew Jackson, Charlotte Corday and various Japanese notables. And, you know, he’s a menacing German knight with a mechano-arm.

Yeah, games are weird sometimes, but hey — so are Germans.

“Now That’s Interesting,” previously:

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