Do You Want to Know What Comes Before?

Yesterday you may have learned that I’m struggling with a story. It’s about the same family you may have met in Savior and The Brothers Path but 200+ after the events in The Brothers Path and 500+ years after the events in Savior. 

It would help me a lot to know if, reading this, you’d like to know more about these people. Also, who seems to be the main character (to you). Here’s how it ends:

To Weber’s good fortune, Brandstetter fastened the loaded cart to the wagon. Kasparli and Vrenli would ride in the wagon with Brandstetter’s children. Hans Kaspar and Weber would follow behind.

“Conrad, you get up on Little Red. Let’s see how you drive a team of Conestoga horses.” Brandstetter motioned to the immense red animal to his left, closest to the wagon.

Conrad leapt up onto the horse, and in reflex and instinct, patted its neck.

“Let’s move,” said Brandstetter, when everyone was settled, hitched up and organized. “First stop, Germantown church. Next stop, Lancaster. Then four hundred miles on the Old Indian Warpath. Get them going, son,” Brandstetter handed Conrad a whip. He flicked it lightly over the horses’ heads. The team shook its harness bells, and the small procession began its trek into the vast wild of America.

13 thoughts on “Do You Want to Know What Comes Before?

  1. It is hard to tell who the main character is but from that small passage I would assume either Brandstetter or Conrad as they are the two characters that are focused upon the most.

    I am not familiar with these characters but based on the above I am wondering what Brandstetters background is, he is telling everyone the plan and what they are to do. He seems comfortable in his authority, why might this be? Why are the others so compliant with his orders? Also Conrad is comfortable with the horse’s, I am assuming this is because of the era they live in, but could there be something else there as to why he feels connected with these animals?

  2. Brandstetter, I believe. Otherwise, you would have posted a longer piece. Just guessing. I like it very much. The scene is sticking with me.

    • This is the end of the novel. I mostly just wanted to know if people would want to read what leads up to this moment. Brandstetter is the main character in a way; the real main character isn’t a person at all and Brandstetter, here at the end where he appears, kind of symbolizes America, the New World, which, through the story is recurring obsession.

  3. To answer your question also Brandstetter, although it is the first time I hear the Swiss name. Of course after years in the States, names were changed and it was probably Brandstätter originally
    . I would just like to mention that the diminuitive form of Verena would be Vreneli, and Caspar has no diminuitive form as far as we know. Caspar (or Kaspar – once had a Swiss friend with the name) is always used.

    • Thanks for the info on Verenli. I’ll change it. Kasparli is a problem because his father is Hans Kaspar. I wish so much back in the day they’d used more names… I’ll change Brandstätter, too.

      Interestingly, they tended to change peoples’ names as soon as they arrived. My Schneebeli forbears were Snavely immediately, though in their German speaking towns, they remain Schneebeli. The result of that is that there are both Snavelys and Schneebelis in America (and Snewli, and Schnebele etc.) It’s a mess. What’s funny THERE is no on in CH even knows where “Schneebeli” came from. I have a theory that the family took the nickname of one of their family members about the time the Habsburgs were run out of Switzerland. I think this because they’d been closely allied with the Habsburgs in the beginning and maybe didn’t want to lose everything. BUT their property is very near Schnabelberg Castle and he was their immediate lord, so my OTHER theory is that they were once Little Schnabels or something. No idea, it’s just fun to think about.

      • I would keep the name. Brandstetter as on a second check it does exist in Switzerland. Schneebeli sounds very Swiss. Many names in Switzerland originate in certain areas Our name Gerber originates in Emmentaler and 90% of the names in the telephone book in Langnau arevGerbers.

        • Brandstetter is actually a relative. Conrad marries his daughter. Brandstetter appears to have been an immigrant German family.

          He’s not the protagonist of the novel except in a symbolic sense. People in the family have been obsessed with America for two generations. At the end of the story, they have arrived in Philadelphia. None of it was easy. Brandstetter just happens to be at the dock looking for a farm hand to buy, but he’s a good guy. He’s on his way to Virginia with his family to homestead there. He kind of symbolizes America. Conrad is my ancestor. His mother died in childbirth (really) and he was raised by his father’s second wife. Slowly slowly it’s dawned on me that the protagonist of the story is probably not a person at all, but the yearning for the New World. I think Conrad will represent that better than anyone because his ties to the Old World were frayed and broken the moment he was born. Anyway, that’s how it seems to me now. I’ve also realized I don’t want to write about settling in America; I want to write about the desperate desire to leave Switzerland even among people who had no special, objective reason to want to go. By the time this story happens, the persecution of Täufers had pretty much ended in Zürich, though it was still happening in Bern. I’m writing about wanderlust. Now that I know that, it’s a lot more interesting to me.

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