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Who am I?

I grew up
  where Mischa's brother, the doctor,
  ate human liver with bitter wine:
  in soccer, a yellow card offence, I hear.

I trained as a cub
  where in ancient times the Southern mounds were built;
  where an Elk traverses cedars,
  with a big greasy tireless ol' man.

My famous works, as split,
  anticipate the arrival
  of you, seen, with half a drum,
  and of the French, fabric for a Nordic funeral.

I arrived and departed with a dirty snowball.

Play it once, for old times' sake - play it!

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You're a real riddler now, AE. We've recruited you, it seems! :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 30 '14 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @randal'thor, it's true, you've sucked me in. ;) $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 30 '14 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ I've made a few amendments with the intention of making certain aspects a bit less obscure. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 1 '15 at 17:40
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The subject of the riddle is:

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain

I grew up
  where Mischa's brother, the doctor,
  ate human liver with bitter wine:

Hannibal Lecter had a sister, Mischa, in Hannibal Rising. This is a reference to Hannibal, Missouri where Clemens grew up.

  in soccer, a yellow card offence, I hear.

Refers to a handball, which sounds similar to Hannibal.

I trained as a cub

A cub pilot on a riverboat, that is.

  where in ancient times the Southern mounds were built;

This refers to the Mississippi River on which Clemens worked as a steamboat pilot. Several Indian tribes in the Mississippi River basin were mound builders.

  where an Elk traverses cedars,
  with a big greasy tireless ol' man.

The Mississippi River is known colloquially as "Ol' Man River". The Cheyenne tribe called it the Big Greasy River. The Ojibwe names for various stretches of the river include Elk River, River from the Traversing Lake, and Red Cedar River. (I think we both found the same Wikipedia entry)

My famous works, as split,
  anticipate the arrival

Adventure. Advent means the anticipated arrival of a celebrated person. The Latin adventurus means about to happen.

  of you, seen, with half a drum,

Wordplay on Tom Sawyer. Tom is half of tom tom, a type of drum. Tom saw ya. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

  and of the French, fabric for a Nordic funeral.

I believe this refers to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Not sure where Huckle comes from. Maybe the bouclé French fabric? ...berry Finn looks to be a play on "bury Finn" which is what you do to a guy from Finland at his funeral.

I arrived and departed with a dirty snowball.

As has been noted, Clemens' birth and death were timed close to two consecutive appearances of Haley's comet.

Play it once, for old times' sake - play it!

This is a line from the movie Casablanca. It is often misquoted as "Play it again, Sam." This refers to Clemens' given name.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hooray! :) You've got it! Nice work. For the second novel, treat "the French" and "fabric" separately, and it should become clearer. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 2 '15 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, and "as split" should be pretty obvious now. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 2 '15 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ ("bitter wine" also remains). $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 2 '15 at 9:27
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Lot's of fun!

clearly, the unifying theme is Halley's comet... I could not interpret "dirty snowball" any other way that was reasonable. It fit with "arrived and departed with a dirty snowball" => meaning coming and going of Halley's comet.

"who am I" refers to

people, events, places, etc. associated with Halley's passages at different times:

so, surely "arrived and departed with a dirty snowball" refers to

Mark Twain who was born and died with the passage of Halley's comet. "I came in with Halley's comet in 1835. It's coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. The Almighty has said no doubt, 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'"(Mark Twain)

Once I got that far, I was pretty sure I was in the ballpark. Then, the rest was looking for anything to confirm or rule out the theme

people, events, places, etc. associated with the passages at different times:

My famous works, as split, anticipate the arrival of you, seen with half a drum, and of the French fabric for a Nordic funeral.

French fabric:

This refers to the Bayeux Tapestry... Halley's most famous appearance occurred shortly before the 1066 invasion of England by William the Conquerer. It is said that William felt the comet heralded his success. In any case, the comet was put on the Bayeux Tapestry – which chronicles the invasion – in William's honor h##p://www.space.com/19878-halleys-comet.html). and "We know Comet Halley was around in 1066 because it appears on the famous Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings along with the caption 'Isti Mirant Stella' (they marvel at the star). During the year 1144, Cardinal Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso was elected Pope Lucius II, but he was killed after less than a year in office, coinciding with the comet's visit in 1145. Meanwhile, an English monk, Eadwine of Canterbury, must have taken time out from the transcribing he was working on because he drew an accurate portrayal of the comet on his Psalms manuscript." (h##p://h2g2.com approved entry A60281831)

'split works' refers to

the type of stitching. "The skills of the embroiderers were, according to Mrs Makin, on a par with professional embroiderers of today. The embroidered cloth was not woven and so is not technically a tapestry. The couch, stem, split and chain stitches found in the tapestry..." (h##p://www. medievalists. net/2012/11/15/new research on how the bayeux tapestry was made/).

Nordic Funeral refers again to

the tapestry: 1) "Was the bayeux tapestry created for a viking burial?" (h##p:// answers wikia .com/wiki/Was the bayeux tapestry created for a viking_burial). also see "But Marit Monsen Wang has interpreted the symbol of the portal under which Aelfgyva stands in the Tapestry as reflective of an ancient Nordic concept: the portal between this mortal life and that of the other-world as described in the Scandinavian Eddas. Monsen Wang also traces this theme in the Risala, the description of an encounter between an Arab traveler and the Russian Vikings in the 10th century. She refers specifically to the funeral rituals of the Viking king described in detail in the tale." (pg. 39: h##p://peregrinations.kenyon.edu/vol2_3/current/fb3.pdf). and see this footnote "Customary funeral rights might infer a Christian burial, however subsequent evidence in this and other texts infer a Viking funeral under a pile of stones on a headland. - See The Funeral of Harold in the Carmen page xliii The Carmen of Hastingae Proelio Edited by Catherine Morton and Hope Muntz 1972 (Oxford medieval Texts)." from "h##p://www.secretsofthenormaninvasion.com/footnote.htm"

I believe 'half a drum; refers to

a looking glass or telescope.

I grew up where Mischa's brother ate liver with bitter wine: a yellow card offence, I hear:

this refers to the 1910 sighting in Russia

bitter wine:

Vodka (http://www.macalester.edu/academics/russian/about/resources/miscellany/vodka/). confirms the location

Yellow card offense

merely confirms that the location is Russia (Crime and Punishment)

Mischa's brother:

alternate Russian spelling for Misha. Russian classic: The brothers Karamazov: a novel in four parts and an epilogue by Fyodor Dostoyevsky ("...And remember, Misha, if you are called Misha. . . . His name is Misha, isn't it ? " He turned to Pyotr Ilyitch again..."

I lived as a cub where the mounds are built; where an Elk traverses cedars, with an weary old man and a big greasy queen. Not as sure about this, but I believe:

Cedars:

gives a location and then time: referring to Cedars of Lebanon: "Matthew's description of the miracles and portents attending the birth of Jesus can be compared to stories concerning the birth of Augustus (63 BC).[nb 4] Linking a birth to the first appearance of a star was consistent with a popular belief that each person's life was linked to a particular star.[32] Magi and astronomical events were linked in the public mind by the visit to Rome of a delegation of magi at the time of a spectacular appearance of Halley's Comet in AD 66, about the time the Gospel of Matthew was being composed...Other writers suggest that the star was a comet.[48] Halley's Comet was visible in 12 BC and another object, possibly a comet or nova, was seen by Chinese and Korean stargazers in about 5 BC. This object was observed for over seventy days with no movement recorded.[48] Ancient writers described comets as "hanging over" specific cities, just as the Star of Bethlehem was said to have "stood over" the "place" where Jesus was (the town of Bethlehem)..." (h##p: //en. wikipedia. org /wiki/Star of Bethlehem). The last is disproved but is linked to the theme via myth.

mounds and more on cedars:

"*Cedars of God** (Arabic: أرز الربّ‎ Horsh Arz el-Rab "Cedars of the Lord") is one of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ) that thrived across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. Their timber was exploited by the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. The wood was prized by Egyptians for shipbuilding; the Ottoman Empire also used the cedars in railway construction"(h##p://en wikipedia. org /wiki/ Cedars of God)

weary old man:

"SADDAY, 'He of the Mountains,' though a more obviously secondary appellation, belongs semantically with Sûr." -- Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, p. 188... "It was Moses' acceptance of the old faith in the God of the Fathers that led him to identify Yahweh with the 'God of the Fathers' as well as with Shaddai." -- Ibid., p. 168

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow! That's such a fascinating explanation - thank you! The bits that fit with the intended meaning are: the dirty snowball (though it's not the main theme) and the person MT. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 1 '15 at 9:32
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This answer is wrong, but I may have solved some of the clues correctly

Dostoevsky?

Mischa's brother

Fyodor Dostoevsky had a brother named Mikhail; Mischa is a diminutive form of the name Mikhail.

yellow card offence

This surely refers to prostitution, as referred to in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (this is where I first heard the term, and it's what put me onto this answer).

where an Elk traverses cedars

I suspect this refers to some Elk River or other (or possibly Moose River).

My famous works

suggests that we're looking for some kind of artist (novelist, composer, whatever); Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky were what immediately came to my mind.

the French fabric for a Nordic funeral

I suspect this is wordplay. The French for fabric is tissu, and the Norwegian/Swedish for funeral is begravelse/begravning. Tissubegrav? Needs more work!

More to follow...

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice try but nope, not Dostoevsky. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 30 '14 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @AE I'm right on yellow card though, aren't I? The first verse at least sounds very Russian. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 30 '14 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ I could tell you but ..... $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 30 '14 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ ... you'd have to kill me :-D $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 30 '14 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ 'fraid so................. $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 30 '14 at 14:44

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