Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Let's Read: The Once and Future King (Ch.11)
So, where were we last? Oh, yes… our young protagonists had wondered into a forest and encounter Robin Wood (try not to think about erections, remember), and were coopted into this rescue mission to Castle Chariot. Because if pop culture has taught us anything, then it is this—the best heroes are prepubescents.
“Nobody can get into Castle Chariot, except a boy or a girl” (103).
So… everyone can get into it, then? Wait. That is right—boy and girl as in youthful individuals. Magic operates according to age, I suppose. Odd. It is rare that you see Ageist-magic.
Wart is not confused by this revelation that only children can enter the castle, however, as he supposes that it is like unicorns or fairies, each of which only maidens and innocent people can touch, respectively. Fantasy world, we have to talk about identity politics.
Before we leave for the castle, we learn some more about these forest outlaws.
“They [the outlaws] were Saxons who had revolted against Uther Pendragon’s conquest, and who refused to accept a foreign king” (104).
So, wait… what?
Historically speaking, the Arthur-figure associated with the idea of King Arthur was a Briton war-band leader; this figure resisted the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Uther Pendragon was this Arthur-figure’s father. Is the text trying to say that the protagonist—Wart—is related to a figure who filled in for his own historical role, and then went on a bender and repulsed the Anglo-Saxon invaders, reclaiming the island in the name of Roman lifestyle and values? If so, then, damn.
Oh, we also get that Morgan le Fay, being a member of the Oldest Ones of All, has a weakness to iron due to their origination in the age of flint; they were conquered by people with steel weapons and so driven underground. Interesting, I guess.
Wart and Kay also learn that when they are in the castle they must not eat anything since they will then be stuck there forever. Bummer. Why would they be tempted to eat anything? The text doesn’t say.
So then Robin’s soldiers are taught the same.
“They were listening to the speech, word for word. Probably none of them could read or write, but they had learned to listen and remember” (106).
Contemporary fantasy inspired by medieval life and mythology tends to superimpose modern educational values and standards onto their universe; i.e., you have medieval worlds which have public school systems. I vaguely remember something about a modern-esque school system having a mention in this world, but it seems that it is a very elitist system since there is still many people who do not possess what would have been technical skills at the time. White rises above most of the contemporary pantheon.
But then the troop finally moves out, and the boys are placed under Maid Marian’s command.
“The boys had felt disgruntled at first, at being put in a woman’s band. […] They soon found their mistake. […] For she could move on all fours or even wiggle like a snake almost as fast as they could walk—and in the second place, she was an accomplished solider, which they were not” (107).
As impressive as Maid Marian is, why is it that every time a woman in fantasy enters the public sphere, she must be delimited in some way? Of course, Marian is an accomplished fighter, but she also is one with the animal within, she is not like the courtly ladies or motherly ladies, and she is not like those respectable others. Competent male warriors are rarely depicted in such lopsided fashion (unless it is part of a certain motif to augment their, usually, toxic masculinity). Certainly one of the silliest manifestations of sexism I have yet to see. Don’t worry, though, things get worse in this chapter.
So the group travels through the forest and they have an impromptu spiritual prayer circle, or something; point is that they are all holding hands and then Wart feels funny.
“Suddenly, he found himself filled with an exultation of night, and felt that he was bodiless, silent, transported” (109).
Pstt… Wart, did someone slip you something? You sound high as fuck, bro.
Then they meet the griffin that guards the castle and it is something like twenty-five feet tall. Huge ass monster, that is for sure. The boys manage to sneak past it… or maybe the warriors fought it. I dunno. I wasn’t really paying attention. Wait—just checked. They snuck past it.
“They found themselves in a wide clearing or plain. They stood stock still with surprise at what they saw. It was a castle made entirely out of food, except that on the highest tower of all a carrion crow was sitting, with an arrow in its beak” (110).
Ah, we have our gingerbread-house moment. This is why they were warned not to eat anything in the castle—because the whole castle is edible! In related news, imagine how impractical a castle made of food is and would be to maintain; sure, it sounds like a decent abstract art project but to actually build one to lure children in so as to fatten them up and eat them. I dunno. Sounds like a lot of work just to kidnap. Besides, wouldn’t your castle made of food stick out like a sore thumb if the locals get annoyed enough to hire some magic user to blast your castle apart? You don’t have much in the way of cover.
So the boys enter the castle and there is lovely descriptions of all everything is made of butter, lard, milk, and various cheeses and meats. The boys find this repellent because of course they would! All of that fatty food in that quantity would overwhelm the olfactory glands. It does sound disgusting.
But then they come across Morgan le Fay.
“She was a fat, dowdy, middle aged woman with black hair and a slight moustache, but she was made of human flesh” (111).
No, not really. What heteronormative horseshit. Hardly unexpected, though—of course the villain is going to be a gluttonous, gender-bending sloth. How else will we possible convey how evil and terrible they are… what? With… w-with words, descriptions of their actions, and multi-leveled representations of their actions in relation to the dominant morality and ethics of the time? Pff! Now you are the one being ridiculous.
The boys try and think how to free their friends.
“Do you think that we ought to go up and kiss her, or something frightful like that?” (112).
Dear Reader: do you yet know that the protagonists are little boys?
They decide on using iron instead; gripping it tightly they approach her but the castle melts away and their captives are freed. Yay!
So ends the adventure.
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