Marco Polo

Marco Polo’s book about his adventures across Asia and the court of the Kublai Khan was a huge hit across Europe.

So this hot author guests on Letterman to defend his work against claims that it’s fabrication and exaggeration.

Then Martha Stewart drops by to demonstrate her recipe for Mongol beverages. Elsewhere on the Medieval dial there’s a Joey the Slave Cartoon, Everyone Loves Raymond arguing over Dante’s Inferno, and 14th century celebrities appear on Hollywood Squares.

Marco Polo, explorer and story teller, appears on the David Letterman show in the year 1298 AD, to promote his new book about his trips across the known world from Europe to China. And, as always on History Bites, we also go channel surfing to see what’s on TV in the Middle Ages. Sports, Lifestyle, and 13th Century Ads make for an entertaining romp through the past.

Original Air Date: June 12, 2004

YouTube Transcript

Hello and welcome to History Bites I’m Rick Green. 
have you ever read a novel that
transported you away to far-off magical
and impossible places well in 1298 ad
there was a book like that but it wasn’t
a novel the book was a travelogue
written by a Venetian trader named Marco
Polo Marco had gone on a 23 year trip to
the Orient East across Europe and all of
Asia through lands controlled by Mongols
medieval readers gobbled up his story
though not everyone believed his strange
tales some called him Marco millions not
for the big bucks he was raking in but
because they felt he exaggerated but
whether they believed his claims are not
his book was a literary highlight of the
13th century
and when you’ve pinned a best-seller
there’s only one route for a traveler
like Marco to take the talkshow circuit
ladies and gentlemen he’s a world
traveler a trader and an author he’s
welcome Messer Marco Polo
thanks for coming on the show are you
gonna be all right there let’s see
allergies well since the Mongol steps
the grass lads was it just a killer yeah
okay now first of all I want to talk
about this book okay I do too because
it’s called a description of the world
that’s about my travels to the east into
the bud Gold territories Mongols are
scary hoho Marco now is it a description
of the whole world I mean there’s
nothing about France or Egypt or Ireland
or okay okay okay you know what i
exaggerated maybe just a little nuts
some people say all you do is exaggerate
about a book that has sold about a
gazillion copy report now in fact I’ve
actually bookmarked this hang on you
report that there are birds so large
they grab elephants in their talons and
lift them up into the sky and drop them
yeah well push through the Chinese have
birds that big or elephants that small
now is there a point to this operation
Dumbo drop or do the birds just hate
Elmo no though there’s a point for this
it’s dinner alright sure they fly up
with the elephants of the splat good
elephant guts to everywhere you know
what it’ll feed a flock of 500 and you
actually saw this who although no he was
describing it starts reading elephants
you you don’t wanna go bird-watching
who wants to get hit by elephant
droppings now that we’ve strengthened
them to 20 feet thick our city walls can
withstand a nice long siege now the
question is will the food hold out so
here are some suggestions for stretching
leftovers so they last five or six
oh wait wait let me guess the Bible
again this is the first it’s not the
Bible I need to say what happened
my husband finally bought a second book
it’s new it’s by Marco Pulu and it’s
called description of the world oh
does he say whether it’s round or flat
because Gelman and I have a little bet
going I don’t know so now you were gone
what twenty years out east traveling
around for Kublai Khan and and you wrote
down what you saw well you know actually
I I wrote it down after I was back in
Genoa Oh beautiful beautiful city Genoa
oh yeah you know however I’d really did
see much of it from jail you wrote this
in the slammer
that’s prisoners like David what sort of
do but sit around and entertain
cellmates what stories you know as I
understand that there’s lots of other
things they do in men’s prisons exactly
this is lab I made sure I was always
entertaining the guides with stories you
know way-hey they were a captive
audience right Marco Polo wasn’t the
first European to travel the Asian trade
routes his father and his uncle who
traveled with him had already made the
trip once Marco Polo is famous today not
for the journey or for serving in the
court of Kublai Khan but for writing
about it if Marco’s uncle had gotten the
writing bug first today kids in swimming
pools would be shouting Maffeo just
doesn’t sound right you traveled with
your dad and your uncle yup let’s write
that at a club a Pheo had visited the
cot a few years earlier well is that
right I visited the can just before the
show the last time Kublai asked my dad
about it we’ll bring it back a few
things from Europe so he could learn
about Christianity oh is that right
bring what a crusade bolo from Jesus
Sepulchre slipped a bit of Qatar’s oh
well sure I mean what good is the oil if
you haven’t got a fryer
yeah okay well you know as a matter of
fact the true friar said by Pope Gregory
only baited as far as our media the word
came the area was be invaded by be bars
the Arba Lester you know kids now of
course the last thing you want when you
enter our media is to get our molested
by Bibb ours right you know what funnily
enough that’s exactly what they said
what’s a security priest check it out
went back to acre so so so you show up
in Kublai Khan’s court completely monk
less yeah well all we had was a letter
saying we really did have some priests
at one time even though they took off
and I said then you know we had a few
little trinkets for the King for the
Khan I can just see the head of the
Mongol say my friends went to the
Christian world and all I got was this
lousy t-shirt
Marco Kublai Khan the big leader in
China sorry never heard of all it’s the
grandson of some guy jingis Khan Genghis
Khan see him I’ve heard of I got tell
you a story about this when Genghis Khan
died his funeral cortege came right
through my grandfather’s town and I kid
you not here I kid you not
anyone who set eyes on genghis his
funeral procession was killed by the
killed just for lucky just for being in
the way the mongols figured you know
genghis would have wanted it that way
but yeah that was the last my
grandfather saw of genghis in fact it
was the last he saw of anything gee I
usually cry at funerals but I don’t know
about this one
I’ll pick Joan Rivers to block is how do
fish procreate how to fish broke on the
seabed of course they start with coral
I kid no fish procreate by laying eggs
like a chicken I’ll agree no I’m sorry
there is no chicken of the sea fish do
not procreate sign us a proven that fish
simply come alive spontaneously in water
which is of course why vegetarians can
eat them all right no Marco you also saw
real unicorn yeah yeah on Sumatra but I
got a say what can we we show the
unicorns yeah III think we got they were
a major major letdown no wonder they’re
endangered exactly you know another
place to avoid is Yunnan Province
because they believe if the gentle
stranger stays overnight in your house
you should burn him while he sleeps to
keep his spirit in your home for good
luck they get many tourists in the union
so I guess if you registered a
bed-and-breakfast don’t count on the
breakfast when we return more of the
world according to Polo
when Marco Polo set out on his trading
expedition to the Far East in 1271 he
was only 17 years old now I recall when
I was 17 and the focus of my thoughts
was certainly not trading at least not
for spices so it’s no wonder that much
of what Marco Polo wrote centered on a
subject with a little more curve to it
and uncle spent years traveling around
Asia for Kublai Khan yeah we were kind
of ambassadors at large I guess all
right now I’m interesting this what was
the best place you visited well you know
batiks khan has mountain they are so
fresh you could cure any sickness it
probably saved my life at that point in
Russia I was there right now the main
attraction bioscan as far as I’m
concerned were the ladies you guess that
they do oppress the guys well this’ll be
good yeah
they stuck three or four hundred feet of
lidded in their pants I’m sorry in their
pants yeah they wheeled up the Geminid
till their pants are like oh they’re so
so so so the fact the the was that
batiks a knee and men like a large can
do they
I’m gonna track you
you know another great plates is Kabul
they have a tradition if a stranger
arrives the homeowner leaves gives the
stranger free offering of crops from his
field AMS’s women-folk campbell you say
no wonder you were gone 20 years after
all who can resist free crops captain
sensors indicate that there are Mongol
warriors up ahead and they are using
their cloaking device of wearing leather
armor Mongols and gentlemen prepare to
face the wrath of the car
shields up I just don’t understand why
this is such a big deal is all Rey do
you want your children to go to hell do
you want them to struggle up the seven
levels of agony fire and Punishment
only when they leave their toys around
and I trip on them all I’m saying is how
do we know what hell was really like
Raymond do you read oh I look like a
monk you’re gonna live like a monk hell
purgatory it’s all laid out in Dante’s
Inferno Dante’s Inferno yeah I thought
it was Satan’s inferno sorry sorry look
I mean look the kids are under two years
of age I mean do they really need to
worry about sin and salvation and stuff
what’s odd about Marco Polo’s book is
not what he wrote but what he omitted
for example he doesn’t mention that the
Chinese printed books something that
should have caught the attention of an
author whose books were all written by
hand he also never mentioned gunpowder
which the Mongols used extensively in
warfare but was not seen in Europe until
thirteen forty and for all the tea in
Marco never mentioned all the tea in
China curiously he did talk about a more
intoxicating beverage food actually Dave
got its recipe from Sebago Lee and horse
but I hog within the 80
Oh Marco it’s not that I don’t have
confidence in your culinary abilities
but I’ve arranged for someone with a
little more experience in the kitchen to
help us out and here she is kids Martha
Stewart eeny
so why don’t we make it today kids well
it’s a favorite beverage of the Buggles
it’s called Kubus I like to call it
commit you know I hear some of these
models are a pretty big drinker oh yeah
they’ll drink you under the table you
know if they have a table actually I
have some role tables so what’s in this
stuff well traditionally Kubis is made
with four beds in horse milk Dave I like
to use yaks milk
I find it tastes a little sweeter and it
yields just a little more cheese during
the fermentation process yes speaking of
yeah okay okay okay you take your sour
horse milk or your yaks milk I guess you
pour it oh you pour it into a horse kid
bag just like just use a small skin and
to the yaks milk I add just a little bit
of nutmeg and some honey
thanks Dave some honey and some other
spices that I will reveal in my next
book right that you let the entire
mixture whatever’s in the bag take it
and ferment and David all takes a little
bit of time we don’t have to have made
some earlier today
so it should be just about ready to go
now the final step in the preparation of
this Mongolian thirst quencher is to
give your kumis bag of vigorous shake
and it just gets all the contents with
creamy and frothy I know when somebody
gives my kumis bag of shake it gets
frothy in a hurry
the abbot says children are born with
sin they lie look at Hali saying she
wrote a pony to the moon that’s a
complete lie I’m not the best mother I
admit that I don’t listen to your mom’s
advice about wet nurses and and using
puppies to get breast milk flowing but
the abbot said that children are Devils
and full of sin and we have to beat it
out of them so they are free of sin and
will get into heaven
but they got the whole lives to renounce
sin but don’t live to their first
you should read Dante’s Inferno dante
says hell is divided into two halves the
top half is incontinence and the bottom
is malice yeah sir-sir yeah well sounds
like me and my brother when we shared a
bunk bed as you could see a few of the
eel innards have mixed in with the kumis
but don’t worry about that
it just makes it more nutritious you see
normally I wouldn’t add you know Marco
most of everything you’ve said tonight
has been a little hard to swallow but
good this stuff looks real hard to
well actually – a horse good side
package a Twitter via a tract you have
to go into the forest to put meat on
your table but you could end up on a
wolf’s table wolves do attack you those
are the twenty third leading cause of
death after childbirth hunger plague and
bandits now Bears help throw away those
useless traps and dangerous arrows
because here’s Wolfsbane Wolfsbane is
deadly poison just mix it with me leave
it out for the night and Wolfsbane does
the trick your fame
instead of you
besides you know as ambassadors of the
con we got a different girl every night
no charge
yeah I guess my next question is and I’m
sure everyone the audience has the same
one why the heck did you come back well
the tunnels getting love white stuff in
the corners of his mouth you know like
like old guys do and we figured of
Kublai Khan dies there goes our
protection so we really did an excuse to
die moose yeah couldn’t you just leave
old oh no no nobody leaves the cauda
list he tells him to leave but then in
92 we got good news because the wife of
our God kind died oh yeah that’s that’s
the good news all right now I’m sure our
Gong Khan was thrilled or a little date
he was the plan of Persia and the cons
of Persia traditionally marry their own
mothers but I can barely sit through
dinner with my mom
– kidding mom so the Marvel’s needed
someone to deliver his new bride
caucusing to Persia so everything worked
out okay for us yeah for them you know
not so good cuz Kublai Cod died shortly
after we left our god-kind died before
we could get caucus into him Oh 1294 was
not a good year for Khan’s
I should say so I guess the the cons
were kicking the can
no wonder Marko was astounded by what he
saw in Asia he came from a civilization
that by Asian standards was positively
yes Europe was emerging from the dark
ages but slowly
mental illness it destroys lives it
destroys families it affects 10 out of
10 village idiots but now there’s hope a
cure Posey’s bag full of posies worn
around the neck can cure mental illness
one bag of posies can make the
difference between you brought this back
from where Persia Persia the kerbin
region it’s called turquoise some folks
say that the stone comes from the bones
of people who died and unrequited love
and then wearing it will bring the user
similar luck ok now this this year this
is a souvenir just for you every noble
betted Kublai Khan’s Court has won that
is very beautiful what is it it’s a
portable spittoon yeah because you know
Paulette fancy parties nothing impresses
the babes like your own private pork jar
so maybe maybe Howell is just like real
muddy with like very very bad weather
but it is Dante says so that’s the third
circle of hell where the gluttons live
you see you and Dante think just the
same way all right all right all right
bad example ok so so maybe maybe he’ll
is like on earth here where you go you
go to work and you got a really
pointless job that you hate
that’s the fourth circle that’s where
all the money grubbers go okay but
already who said it was like where all
the demons are breathing fire and
torturing people sure in the sixth
circle that is a napkin made of asbestos
it’s like the one Kublai Khan gave to
the Pope it’s completely fireproof you
never know when your dinner might burst
into flame you know what they told me
they told me that asbestos is made for
the wool these little little creature
called a salamander no man yeah a little
fireproof lizards now you see that’s the
first believable thing you’ve said yeah
well no this all believe in mr. Dante’s
wonderful vision yeah when hell freezes
over that’s exactly what happens in the
ninth circle you know what that is
actually an absolutely no idea it’s
bunny money money made of paper that’s
right you the diccon outlawed metal
coins Marco now wouldn’t this money just
fall apart after a while yeah that’s the
beauty of it when it wears out you just
exchanged the bills for new ones but you
see what you have you have to pay a 3%
premium so to the Treasury so these
Chinese use bits of paper k yeah well
yeah I know it sounds strange but
they’ll take a couple horses please oh
here are some bits of paper could you
give me some change from a book
Oh No just give it to me in postage you
heard it here folks it’s all Marco sure
led an interesting life he was a
successful merchant trader and author he
introduced Europeans to places and
practices many of them had never
imagined Kohl tattoos and the
ever-popular yak wool but despite his
celebrity Marco Polo was still ridiculed
for much of his life to folks who had
never left their hometown
never mind Europe it was all too strange
to be credible even on his deathbed one
of Marcos closest friends asked him come
on man were you making that stuff up
problem was Asia was so far away how
could he take people across all that
land to prove anything which just goes
to show that geography also bites a
Monastery of st. Agnes is weeks away
doesn’t anyone else have relics whoa kid
lots of places that there’s hundreds of
places in Europe that claim to have our
saviours bones there’s enough bogus
relic bones around the building
Manimal tricks