The Story behind the Story.

Yesterday I posted a flash fiction story that involves a fair amount of historical background. I think it’s better if you read the story first without knowing what inspired it, so click here to read it. (It’s really short.)


Ok, now for “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would have said. It all started when I read this article by Shannon Selin about Napoleon Bonaparte’s superstitions. The story of him supposedly seeing a “Red Man” that he was trying to bargain with struck me as a particularly compelling one, even though it may have little or no basis in fact. I thought that another encounter between Napoleon and the Red Man, this time during his second exile, would be a fun thing to imagine.

The Red Man in my story differs from most of the folk tales, in that he is taller and even more unsettling in appearance. However, the setting of the story, as well as various aspects of “the Emperor’s” personality, are also based fairly closely on things in Napoleon’s biography, from the descriptions of the island to his stomach ailments.

Why didn’t I use the names of the people or locations, then? Well, partly because I was making the whole thing up based on what was already a made-up legend, it bothered the historian in me to make it seem too much like this happened when, in fact, it didn’t. But also, I thought it made the story somehow creepier to make it more vague and timeless.


  1. Well done! I recognized the Emperor fairly quickly, but I think the story would work even if one didn’t know who he was. He could have been an emperor of ancient China, for example.

  2. Just a suggestion, you done the ending, go back to the beginning or work your way back to the beginning with the emperor meeting his red friend.

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