Monday, May 5, 2014

James Michener analysis - part 1: The relationship of 'Poland' to 'Centennial'



Above left: James A. Michener, American author.[a] Above center: The cover of one of Michener's novels, Centennial (published in 1974).[b] Above right: The cover of Michener's Poland (1983).[c]

Welcome to the James Michener analysis. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis. Regarding the appearance of possible anti-Semitism on this blog, please see the 'Disclaimers' section near the bottom of this page.

James Michener, in full James Albert Michener (born Feb. 3, 1907?, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Oct. 16, 1997, Austin, Texas), was a U.S. novelist and short-story writer who, perhaps more than any other single author, made foreign environments accessible to Americans through fiction. Best known for his novels, he wrote epic and detailed works classified as fictional documentaries.[d]

In analyzing various films on this blog, there have been correspondences discovered between many of these films, and the late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (this film itself is also analyzed on this blog). These correspondences have yielded valuable information as to the underlying meaning of A Space Odyssey, a film in which Kubrick was making statements and predictions about society that are crucial to understand, in order to assess where we as a society are today. Therefore, the first thing we want to check into in this analysis, is whether there are any links between James Michener and Kubrick.

Given that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a fictional film having to do with space exploration, and given that Michener's novel Space (published in 1982) itself has to do with exploration of space, one place to start is to see if there are any links between 2001 and Space. In fact, there are several such links, as described below.

Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was developed alongside science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name. There are several mentions of Clarke in Space, for example, where Michener, as narrator, describes that scientist Stanley Mott (one of the main characters in Space) was impressed by Clarke's writing: "Mott was impressed by the skill displayed in [certain science fiction short stories], but the one which made the most lasting impression was by an Englishman living in Ceylon, Arthur C. Clarke..."[e]

Another link between Space and A Space Odyssey has Michener, again as narrator, describing a certain (semi-fictional) island (which he calls Peenemünde), as it appears on a map, as resembling "a fetus, a monstrous thing brought to birth by mad scientists..."[f] In the final scene in Kubrick's film, a giant fetus floats near Earth (see screencap below).

A Space Odyssey ends with a giant fetus floating in space, gazing at Earth.

A somewhat more 'indirect' link between Space and Kubrick's film, has to do with something called the Egyptian Ogdoad, a set of eight deities which were worshiped in ancient Egypt. Part 45 of the Space Odyssey analysis on this blog discusses Kubrick's positing of a '5 + 3' ogdoadal system. To see how the Ogdoad applies to Michener's book, it is first observed that the first two chapters of Space are titled "Four Men" and "Four Women" respectively. In the book, each of the four men marries one of the four women, forming four male-female pairs. The eight deities of the Ogdoad itself were arranged in four male-female pairs, with each pair representing the male and female aspects of one of four concepts, namely, the primordial waters (Nu and Naunet), air or invisibility (Amun and Amunet), eternity or infinite space (Huh and Hauhet), and darkness (Kuk and Kauket). These pairs can be matched up with the husband-wife pairs in Michener's novel: Norman Grant (former Navy man) together with his wife, Elinor, represent the primordial waters; Stanley Mott (aeronautical engineer) and his wife, Rachel, represent air; John Pope (astronaut) and his wife, Penny, correspond to infinite space; and Dieter and Liesl Kolff represent darkness since, more so than with the other major characters, the action involving Dieter, as well as that involving both Dieter and Liesl together, takes place during darkness.

Having established a few links between Space and 2001, and thus between Michener and Kubrick, it will now be shown that two of Michener's novels, Centennial (published in 1974) and Poland (1983), are linked to each other, and that this link yields a clue as to Kubrick's and Michener's belief that the public has been given an inaccurate accounting of the Holocaust. In addition to this, analysis of Centennial leads to the conclusion that Michener believed that certain Mormons have the long-range intention of assembling certain North American Indian[g] tribes together into one geographic location and having their members 'convert' to certain religious principles (as necessary) such as belief in Jesus, and then establishing Zion (i.e., a New Jerusalem, or modern-day utopia) composed, in part, of these tribes. These Mormons appear to believe that the particular Indian tribes that they are trying to get together, consist of the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Centennial's chapter 7 (titled "The Massacre") is based on the Sand Creek Massacre, which took place in Kiowa County, Colorado in 1864. As discussed below, Kubrick and Michener believed that the public has been given an inaccurate version of what actually happened at Sand Creek; the commonly accepted version of events is that a band of soldiers, effectively acting on behalf of white settlers of the American West, massacred a tribe of Native Americans (i.e., American Indians) living at Sand Creek.

Also contained in chapter 7 of Centennial is a passage linking the Mormons with the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. This passage begins by giving the reader some background on the fictional character, Frank Skimmerhorn,[h] who has come to Colorado to help solve the 'Indian problem' there:


He was Frank Skimmerhorn, from some old family of Schermerhorns, no doubt, and he came from Minnesota. There, in the years 1861–62 he had become acquainted at first hand with Indian problems, for the Sioux, irritated by some minor alteration in procedures, had run wild and killed his parents, his wife and his daughter. A farm which had been worth twenty thousand dollars had been left desolated, and he had moved homeless from one Minnesota town to the next, hearing the terrible stories of damage done by the Sioux—a hundred ranches burned, two hundred people scalped, a whole section of the nation in disarray, and all because of a few fractious Indians.

He left Minnesota with his son, satisfied never to return. Rights to his farmland he had sold for fifteen hundred dollars, and with this he had returned to his childhood home in Nauvoo, Illinois, where he tried to piece together for himself an explanation of what he had seen during the Indian uprising, and one night after a church meeting it had all been made clear.

A farmer who had lived in Nauvoo all his life said, "I never cared for the Mormons. Now understand, I didn't go to war against them the way some of my neighbors did, and I never put fire to their barns. But as a people they don't please me, and their idea of one man having fifty-three wives, which they did. Yes, they did..." He lost his thread and leaned against his carriage. "What was my point, Skimmerhorn?"

"You didn't cotton to the Mormons."

"Yes. Like I was sayin', I could certainly not be called their defender, but they did have one idea that made a lot of sense, a lot of good common sense." He paused here to let that sink in, and Skimmerhorn asked obligingly, "What was it?"

"They had done a lot of serious study about the Indians. Sounded a good deal like you, when they talked. Confused as to who the Indians were and why they behaved in the unchristian way they did. And then it came to them in a prophecy kind of. God sent them a message sayin' that the Indians were really Lamanites, the Lost Tribes of Israel. Yessir, way back in the year 722 B.C. when the Assyrian King Sargon took 'em into bondage...ten tribes...they never got back to Israel...just wandered about the world."

"That's very interesting," Skimmerhorn said.

"You know it's true," his informant continued enthusiastically. "The Indian medicine lodge, for example, with all that mysterious going-on. What is it really? The tabernacle of the Lost Tribes. And you talk about sackcloth and ashes in the Bible. Don't the Indians mourn by cutting their hair and slashing their arms? Seems clear to me they're Jews."

"That would explain why they're so hellish," Skimmerhorn said, grasping his informant by the arm. "You said they were Lamanites? Now, just what does that mean?"

"I'm not a Mormon, you understand, but I've had my brushes with the Indians, so I listened, and as near as I could make out, the Lamanites were God's name for the Lost Tribes, and because they had known God and turned their backs on Him, he put a powerful curse on them, and darkened their faces, and turned all men against them. Skimmerhorn, if they knew God and rejected Him, it's our duty to hunt them down and slay them. It's our bounden duty."

For some days Frank Skimmerhorn pondered this matter of the Lamanites, and he asked throughout Nauvoo for other recollections the villagers might have as to what exactly the Mormons had said during their unhappy stay there on their way to Salt Lake City, and he came up with a profound body of confirmation. The Indians really were the Ten Lost Tribes. They had been led to America by the Prophet Lehi and their faces had been darkened because of their sin in rejecting the Lord. To exterminate them was both a duty and an exaltation. They were an abomination to honest men, and the sooner they were wiped from the face of the earth, the better.

In a dream, brought on perhaps by too much listening and too much brooding on this problem, Frank Skimmerhorn saw that he was destined to go to Colorado, where the Indians were causing trouble among the gold-seekers, and put an end to that trouble. It was more than an invitation; it was a command. In the Clarion he wrote: [a letter denouncing the Indians and saying they must be exterminated] [this letter was then widely printed ...][i]

Later in chapter 7, Skimmerhorn leads a large group of American soldiers into battle with the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian tribes, and this battle is Michener's 'allegory' for the Sand Creek massacre. However, part of the reason Michener has the battle take place in a fictional location (at 'Rattlesnake Buttes'), instead of at the actual Sand Creek site (which is near the modern-day town of Eads, Colorado, about 200 miles south, and slightly to the west, of Julesburg) (see the below left-hand map for the locations of Julesburg and the fictional Rattlesnake Buttes), is to help convey to us the idea that certain historians, and the popular media, have given us a fictional version of the events that happened at Sand Creek - Michener intends for Centennial's readers, to notice the discrepancy in locations just mentioned, and to then investigate the story of the battle itself.

Ultimately, Michener believed that Sand Creek was, in fact, not the massacre it is commonly portrayed as having been. In fact, Michener, in his introduction to the 1978-1979 TV miniseries based on Centennial, says that a massacre did take place in 1864, but he does not specify that it was a massacre of Indians by whites; and, as explained below, Michener is actually referring to a (real-life) Indian massacre of whites, at Julesburg. Based on the analysis of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film, The Shining (this analysis can be viewed on the Can Analyze Kubrick blog), Kubrick himself also believed that the public has been given an inaccurate version of the events at Sand Creek; and, the Sand Creek 'allegory' in The Shining is a 'surface' allegory for the Holocaust, and for Kubrick's belief that the public has been given an inaccurate version of the Holocaust as well. Michener himself also believed this, as described below.


In order to link Centennial with Poland, and to thus see how it is that Michener depicts the idea that the public has been given a false version of the Holocaust, we first review some basic information about Poland:

Poland is a historical novel detailing the times and tribulations of three Polish families (the Lubonski family, the Bukowski family, and the Buk family) across eight centuries, ending in the then-present day (1981). The three families are fictional as are the other characters in the book. The plot, however, takes place throughout the history of Poland and contains many historic people. The events are largely real events in which the fictional characters interact. Chapter 9, "The Terror", is about invasion and occupation by the Nazis during World War II, including the Holocaust in Poland; and the subsequent Soviet occupation. Much attention is devoted to the Polish resistance movement in World War II, including the Leśni (foresters).[j][k]


Above left: A map from chapter 7 of Centennial, showing the extent of the area of Colorado jointly occupied by the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian tribes, after the treaty of 1851.[l] Michener's fictional town of Centennial is established a few decades later than the time period depicted by the above map, and is therefore not shown on the map, but it comes to be located at the point where the fictional 'Zendt's Farm' is shown (denoted on the map by the small purple circle), on the South Platte River upstream of its confluence with the North Platte River (the location of this confluence is marked by the small blue circle). The aforementioned Rattlesnake Buttes (established in 1861) is located in the area inside the pinkish oval. Above right: A map of the Kindom of Poland and the surrounding countries, taken from chapter 8 of Poland, depicting the geographical situation after the Napoleonic Wars.[m] As can be seen on the map, Michener's fictional town of Bukowo (inside the yellow circle) is located on the Vistula River (the Vistula is denoted by the two reddish arrows), upstream of its confluence with the San River. (The San flows into the Vistula from the southeast; the confluence is marked by the green circle.) The Vistula runs north from this confluence, winding around a bit before it empties into the Baltic Sea. As indicated above, Michener not only did not believe that white soldiers massacred the Indians at Sand Creek, but he mentions a real-life massacre of settlers by Indians, at a small settlement named Julesburg (Julesburg is shown on the map of the Indian territories, further downstream on the South Platte from Zendt's Farm, and is denoted by the small orange circle): On pages 590-591 of Centennial (in Chapter 7, shortly after the story of the Sand Creek battle), it is mentioned that rampaging Indians over-ran Julesburg. It is this massacre that Michener is referring to in his statement made in his introduction to the TV miniseries mentioned above.

One geographical correspondence between the areas depicted on the two maps, is that both Julesburg and Bukowo are located at similar distances upstream from the respective river confluences (about 85 - 90 miles for Julesburg, and approximately 50 miles for Bukowo). If the map from Centennial is rotated ninety degrees clockwise, and we reverse, in our 'mind's eye', the flow of the South Platte, so that it runs from east to west (south to north in the rotated map), additional geographical correspondences between the two maps can be drawn: When the Indian region is rotated as stated, it is roughly similar in size and shape to Poland. Also, the Vistula River traces out a route somewhat similar in shape to the one now followed by the South Platte (except that the Vistula's curvature in the area of the aforementioned confluence with the San, is greater than that of the South Platte at its confluence with the North Platte). Also note that both the South Platte and the Vistula divide their respective regions along a north-south axis into two approximately equal-in-area halves (again, when using the rotated map of the Indian region).

We can also draw geographical correspondences between the various surrounding Indian territories shown in the map from Centennial, with the surrounding countries in the map from Poland: When the Indian map is rotated, the Sioux, Crow, and Pawnee territories, all taken together, correspond to Russia. Also, Comanche and Ute countries (together) correspond to Germany, and the region between the Pawnee and Comanche territories, and to the east of Arapaho/Cheyenne territory (in the non-rotated map), roughly corresponds to Austria (once the Indian map is rotated). The overall point of all of this is that Michener is drawing a correspondence between Centennial and Poland - he is allegorically connecting the events at Sand Creek in Colorado, with World War II and the Holocaust in Poland (this is the subject of Chapter 9 of Poland; as stated above, this chapter is titled "The Terror"). The connection is that not only has the public been given an inaccurate version of what happened at Sand Creek (i.e., it was not a wholesale slaughter of Indians by whites), but correspondingly, the public has also been given an inaccurate historical account of the Holocaust (i.e., the account of the slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust, has been exaggerated). The fact that the map of the Indian territories was rotated clockwise by ninety degrees to yield the above-described correspondences, is a 'match' for the ninety degree image rotation 'theme' in 2001: A Space Odyssey (as described in part 11 of the analysis of 2001 on this blog).

Both Kubrick and Michener must have done extensive research on the Holocaust (and/or had researchers do it for them), which would have included, among other things, checking into factual records regarding how may Jews were killed. If the logic used by the two men regarding Sand Creek (Michener in Centennial and Kubrick in The Shining) is followed, and applied to the Holocaust, then we can conclude that the two men believed that the Holocaust has been depicted inaccurately, by mainstream historians, the popular media, and other parties; e.g., the number of Jews killed that is typically stated is much higher than it was in reality. Note that Michener's figures in chapter 9 of Poland reveal that more Christians (220,000) than Jews (140,000) were killed at the Majdanek death camp. Michener claims that "the three centers of Nazi terror in Lublin—Under the Clock, Zamek Lublin and Majdanek—are historic and are depicted as accurately as data permit, except that the specializations of the various fields at Majdanek varied from time to time."[n]


In addition to the topics discussed above (the inaccuracy of the commonly accepted versions of Sand Creek and the Holocaust), Michener is also having some of the action in Centennial depict a partial 'microcosm', for what he believed the Mormons are currently doing in North America regarding the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, i.e., the establishment of Zion, as mentioned earlier in this post. However, before this is discussed, a certain document from Mormonism needs to be reviewed. This document is called The Articles of Faith, and certain portions of it will be looked at in the next post in this analysis.

a. Image from the Wikipedia 'James Albert Michener' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
b. Image from the Wikipedia 'Centennial (novel)' page; "James A._Michener - Centennial (novel)", licensed under fair use via Wikipedia. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher of the book, Random House, or the artist(s) who created the cover artwork.
c. Image from the Wikipedia 'Poland (novel)' page; "Miche poland 1st ed", licensed under fair use via Wikipedia. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher of the book, Random House, or the artist(s) who created the cover artwork.
d. 'James Michener'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 04 Sep. 2015. URL =
e. Michener, James A. Space. Introduction by Steve Berry. Dial Press, 2015. Google Books, p. 538. URL = The other two mentions of Clarke are on pages 620 and 848, respectively.
f. Ibid., p. 30. Peenemünde is the name of a real city, located in Germany relatively close to where Michener's fictional island of this name is situated.
g. By "North American Indian" tribes is meant not only those groups of Native Americans located within the 50 states of the United States, but also groups of native peoples living in Mexico and the Caribbean Islands.
h. The Skimmerhorn character in Centennial is, to some degree, a representation of an actual person from history, Colonel John Chivington.
i. Michener, James A. Centennial. Introduction by Steve Berry. Dial Press, 2015. Google Books, pp. 557-560. URL =
j. Wikipedia, 'Poland (novel)'. Web, n.d. URL =
k. Michener calls the Leśni the 'Stork Commando' in his novel, and he says at the beginning of the book that the Polish retaliation against the Germans in Zamość is based on actual events: the Poles not only killed Nazi soldiers there, but they also killed innocent German civilians.
l. Map from Centennial, p. 397.
m. Map from Michener, James A., Poland, New York: Random House, 1983, p. 390.
n. Michener, James A. Poland. Introduction by Steve Berry. Dial Press, 2015. Google Books, p. 9. URL = Since Poland was published in 1983, Michener was, in fact, using the most recent (at the time) commonly available data for his figure of 360,000 prisoners killed at Majdanek; for according to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum website, "The figure of 360,000 victims appears in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, the Britannica Polish edition, and the Polish Nowa Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN. In all three cases, the source is a 1948 publication by Zdzisław Łukaszkiewicz, a judge who was a member of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland." (--Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum website, "Majdanek Victims Enumerated. Changes in the history textbooks?", 23 Dec. 2005, Web, URL =,44.html.) However, according to the same website, Tomasz Kranz later calculated a total of 78,000 prisoners killed at Majdanek. As an aside, Stanley Kubrick has reportedly said that, "The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed. 'Schindler's List' is about 600 who don't." (--Goldmann, A.J., (August 21, 2005), "Eyes wide open", Haaretz, Web, URL = If Kubrick did make this statement, he was using the word "about" as if to say, that this is the popular perception of what the Holocaust was, not what it was in reality.

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