Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pilgrim's Prize (Part 2): The Knight's Tale (Chaucer Journal)


The first real entry in the Pilgrim’s Prize contest, Post-Apocalyptic Medieval Battle of Hogwarts and The Love of Maidens, is the product of contestant Bernard Knopper. It is Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” as told through a Harry Potter fanfiction reimagining. Split into seven parts as to remain faithful to the format of Chaucer’s original, the story sticks to the premise of the mother text well.

                As depicted within The Canterbury Tales, “The Knight’s Tale” opens with the great conqueror Theseus annexing more territories. The exact details aren’t important; what is important, however, is that he quickly acquires Thebus and settles down for the ancient warrior-king equivalent of retirement.  But while conquering Thebus, two royal knights by the name of Palamon and Arcita survive.

The gist of their story is that they are imprisoned. While imprisoned, they each lust after a beautiful maiden, Emily. But, after one day, it is arranged that Arcita should go into exile while Palamon remains imprisoned. After a while, Palamon escapes and encounters Arcita; the two fight, when, ho and behold, the king of Thebus finds them and offers to settle the dispute of their womanly conflict.

To make a long story short, Palamon and Arcita are told to each gather a sum of men. In one year’s time, they will duke it out in a stadium of the lord’s choosing and the winner will marry Emily. Fast forward a year, the battle happens. Before the battle, each of the three (Palamon, Arcita, and Emily) prays to a different god or goddess: but, one of the central Gods is left out, becomes angry, and kills Acrita, though he had the upper-hand in battle. Eventually, Palamon and Emily marry after some time has passed and Emily is not repulsed at the sight of Palamon. The end.

That is a super-fast gist of The Knight’s Tale.

                Narratively, the fanfiction sticks to the source material. Instead of Palamon and Acrita, though, we have Harry (Palamon) and Draco (Acrita). Instead of Gods we have the founders of Hogwarts. Instead of Theseus, we have a fresh-from-the-dead Dumbledore. Instead of Emily we have Ginny. Instead of royal knights, Harry and Draco are resistance fighters against an imperious Dumbledore’s resurgent drive to conquest.

                Centrally, the pieces remain the same. It is merely an aesthetic gloss which is different. An example of this: Harry and Draco, now best friends since Ron’s death, have been captured by Dumbledore after begging him for mercy. Dumbledore imprisoned them in Hogwarts, the equivalent of the dungeon from Chaucer. While imprisoned, they gain affection over Ginny. Then, Draco is released into exile over a mistake made in the Ministry of Magic. Naturally, Harry gets fed up with being a prisoner and escapes, he then encounters Draco. They have a toss only to be interrupted by Dumbledore who thinks it is great fun that they should fight over a woman. He suggests a wizard battle tournament. Each of three pray to a Hogwarts founder, the battle begins, and the ghost of Helga Hufflepuff, sour at being left out, kills Draco. Harry wins the contest and after several years of sitting on his feet, marries Ginny as he lives in Hagrid’s hut. I guess he and Dumbledore found some common ground. The end.

                As a modern response to Chaucer, I both enjoyed and reviled this fanfiction. On one hand, I relent that it was creative using Harry Potter as the aesthetic to revamp The Knight’s Tale. On the other hand… I found much of the dynamics forced and cliched.

                For instance, the relationship between Harry and Draco was obviously a wink to the Harry Potter fanfiction community, which has this love-affair in pairing them up in mildly cringe-inducing bromances. Such a move was especially iffy here since Harry and Ron would have been a less forced pair. Likewise, I feel Dumbledore was included merely for the sake of being included, the allusions to the Lord of the Rings (“Dumbledore the White”) making it even more questionable. As a villain character, really anyone else would have been a better fit, though the absoluteness of villainy in Harry Potter makes any choice sort of strange.

                That said, I do admire Knopper’s rendition all the same. Aside from how the tone of the story changes between the beginning and end, which serve negative interests, the other pieces work remarkably well. Hogwarts founders instead of Gods, the Quidditch Stadium instead of an arena, Ginny instead of Emily (and so on). Once you have accepted the premise of Knopper’s fanfiction and understand that they are grafting on a medieval tale onto a decidedly un-medieval property, it is neat delving into the source text and comparing and contrasting.

                So, that being said, I would give this tale a 7.5/10. A well-earned score for a solid piece of work.

                Knopper’s story has made me anticipate the upcoming stories so I will be glad to see what future tale-tellers have in store for me.

Link: http://www.pilgrimliterary.com/blog/2015/4/15/bks-tale-part-1