I was asked to compose a list of where to read the manuscripts and not the Paine-butchered version of The Mysterious Stranger so without further ado—
The first attempt Mark Twain made at his story. Composed of 90% of the Paine butchering (Paine censored a lot out of this one though). The rest came from No. 44 and honestly that just doesn’t make sense…
About the manuscript itself, his name is originally “Satan,” named after his uncle. This changes in later manuscripts. I personally think it’s the darkest one, though the other two have some pretty heavy themes as well.
(I had to type this one up—sorry for any typos)
The second attempt! Alright, it’s technically not really a story-attempt but a character development journey. Mark Twain was stuck on his story, so he brought in Tom and Huck and the villagers of St. Petersburg to kind of flesh him out. Here is where his name changed to Forty-four, and his relation to Satan is now father and son.
This is the shortest manuscript and generally nothing happens… Most of what I talk about comes from the manuscript’s working notes which is a way more interesting story! Unfortunately I can’t type them up as they are chaotic and confusing to just read.
(But you can check out The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts for yourself if your library has a copy.)
The third and final manuscript—also called “The Print-shop Version” for obvious reasons. (Takes place in a print shop). This is the only version with an ending… and the only version Forty-four truly remains a mystery to the other characters (hence the title!). In the other versions he reveals what he is and what he’s doing, this version seems to be a later timeline than the other two where he’s done studying the human race and now he’s just having fun.
the weird thing is that we keep coming up with scenarios where there’s a worse evil, an ultimate evil out there. Like in comics or stories where everyone bands together to defeat some sort of Ancient Power who is Pure evil.
But it’s like…in reality…the worst evil is still human evil
it’s like we’re trying to downgrade how bad humanity can be
or we’re hoping there’s something that can be done than what is worse than what we’re capable of