Saturday, January 7, 2017

Let's Read: The Once and Future King (Ch.15)

It’s Christmas time at Castle Sauvage! Quick, where is Stephen Colbert to do a rousing special lambasting the season? What? He is in another time and place? Pooh! …if only he was around when White was alive, then he would almost certainly have a reference in this text. 

*sigh* Well, I guess in light of his absence, we have to settle for images of romanticized Old England.

This chapter is pretty short, and a lot of it is lent to descriptions of the feast and weather. So instead of recounting all of the descriptions, which do have a homey feel to them, I will just focus on those which don’t cause me to gouge my eyes out in boredom.

“—when there was no unemployment because there was far too few people to be unemployed—“ (136)

This passage is smuggled in-between a description of the winter feast and the weather. Now, I am no expert of medieval economics, but I feel it is a tad disingenuous to say that there was no unemployment because there was far too few people. Part of this is because during the early medieval period, you weren’t really ‘employed’ as much as you were, more or less, tied to the land. It may be true, in a certain sense, that everyone at this time had something to do, but that doesn’t mean much since this is the period of English history where the economy as we think of it today was being built, so why White is commenting on it is a bit mysterious.

No, not really, actually: he is commenting on it because it is some kind of jab at his contemporary unemployed people; that in this romanticized past, things were better because there were no unemployed parasites sucking the blood of the hard-working employed. Thanks, White! (/sarcasm)
So then there is a protracted bit on how the weather behaves itself and I suppose it is amusing since it’s very indicative of childhood sentimentality; this whole part, in particular, feels sorrowful in that it is the recollection of someone who is idealizing their youth and how even something as uncontrollable as the weather appeared tamer, more susceptible to willful stride.

Moving on!

’Well done,’ they told him [King Pellinore]. ‘You live your own life while you’ve got it’” (138).

Seems that our lonely king has finally slayed the Questing Beast and is now settling down to live the good life. As far as I know, the Questing Beast is never something that is actually killed in the Arthurian legend, not that I know of regarding the original medieval texts. So it is a little cool that White actually has King Pellinore kill said beast and have him do him. An upbeat moment in an otherwise unexpectedly melancholic set.

Not much happens beyond this: Wart is clutching Cavall because he needs something to hug but Cavall doesn’t like the heat from the fire, so he stays dutifully with Wart regardless. After this Sir Ector speaks on some largely pointless stuff, filling in the reader on some facts, such as: King Pellinore’s conquest of the Questing Beast and the fact that that royal huntsmen from Uther Pendragon’s court has arrived. There is some uninteresting songs and then the chapter ends.

Very droll, over all.