Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Let's Read: The Once and Future King (Ch.4)




So the Wart—our young boy-king-to-be— finally returns home with Merlyn—old man extraordinaire— in tow, something which if it happened today would likely be classified as a crime.

Wart is gushing about his outing and though the writing still feels stilted it is growing on me; the choppy statement-like quality of Wart’s dialog, upon deeper thought, does sound more like that of a young boy.

Turns out that the hawk—Cully—was caught. Hob is quite enthused about this.

He [Hob] came for Cully, as if he could not keep his hands off him any longer, but he patted the Wart too, fondling them both because he was not sure which he was gladder to see back” (37).

Darn. That must be one important friggin’ hawk. Either that, or Wart here isn’t as important as White would have us believe. Then again, if I spent fourteen hours a day training an animal then I would get pretty attached to it to for no other reason than it would be a pain to train another. So… it makes sense. In a D-bag kind of way.

So Sir Ector comes in and Wart is super-excited about Merlyn being his teacher. Wart remarks that he was “on that quest you said for a tutor” (38). Sir Ector seems a bit perplexed at first about Merlyn and this makes me wonder about the first chapter; I had just assumed that Merlyn, through some convoluted way that these fantasy novels tend to push the story, would be Wart’s teacher and that this forest-hawking scenario was simply contrived up by someone in secret in order to get the boys to meet Merlyn. But now it seems that Sir Ector has no idea about Merlyn and is surprised to meet him.

“‘Ah, a magician,’ said Sir Ector, putting on his glasses and looking more closely at Merlyn. ‘White magic, I hope?’
‘Assuredly,’ said Merlyn, who stood patiently among the throng with his arms folded in his mecromantic gown, while Archimedes sat very stiff and elongated on top of his head.” (38-9).

So, Black magic, or magic used for evil and/or unholy purposes does exist in this world. Good to know.

Love this imagery, of Merlyn standing imposingly in this place while his talking owl sits stoically on his hat’s top. Very classically cool.

But Sir Ector demands some testimonials; after all, if you are going to hire a magical man from the woods to teach two young lads, then you kinda want some reassurance that everything is on the ‘up and up’. 

Merlyn then proceeds to produce a trio of tablets with function as Merlyn’s letters of recommendation. One of these tablets is from Aristotle. Sir Ector, however, feels that Merlyn kept them up his sleeve; Merlyn next causes a vast mulberry tree to grow in the courtyard—Sir Ector says that Merlyn “[did] it with mirrors”. So next Merlyn causes it to snow and a comically large icicle forms underneath Sir Ector’s nose. Of course, Sir Ector believe it to be done with hypnosis, but also is clearly cowed and relents that Merlyn makes for a fine educator.

See, people, before state regulation this is what you got for teachers: woodsmen who are good with their hands and tricks!

Kay then comes into the picture and he and Merlyn have a bit of a verbal scuffle but they quickly make up. Kay is said to be “one of those people who would be neither a follower nor a leader, but only an aspiring heart, impatient in the failing body which imprisoned it” (40). If you have any idea what this means beyond the obvious platitudes, then please, speak up. (Pro-tip: it means very little beyond the obvious platitudes; it wants to set up Kay as some kind of idealism incarnate.) Though it is interesting: Wart was described as being a hero-worshipper and a follower, and Kay is now being described as neither leadership material nor follower material. I am sure that this is to set up their qualities as manly men knights, but it does strike me as out of place in at least today’s fantasy where every male protagonist is either some kind of beefcake egotist or a naturally born leader.
Any rate, the chapter ends with everyone all hunky dory. Yay!

Franks and Goths (Notes:49)

Historians have long hated equating the fall of the last Roman emperor with the fall of the empire itself; in terms of classes, social stru...