Roy C. Lackey
rclackey at stic.net
Sat Nov 26 00:46:30 PST 2005
>Might as well refer back to the chapter in question. On p. 127 of the
>Able asks after his possessions after he's regained consciousness:
>Pouk coughed. "Speakin' of Cap'n... As we was, sir, 'cause he's prob'ly got
>'em. Speakin' o' him, I've learnt what he's plannin', sir. He told Mate,
>Mate told Second, and Njors heard him an' told me. When we get to port,
>he'll pay off the crew and let 'em go ashore. He thinks everybody'll go,
>only I won't, sir. Him an' Mate'll come down here to do for you then, only
>I'll be with you."
The text immediately continues:
"I said no. 'I won't wait for them. How long before we get to port?'"
>[Note that the reason he's talking about the captain getting the crew out
>the way is that the captain wanted to kill him while he was unconscious,
>the crew wouldn't let him.]
Note that Able said that he wouldn't wait because he was determined to
implement the more common perversion of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others
before they do unto you."
>On p. 128-9 of the trade the actual confrontation plays out. Able is
>sitting, on account of his wound.
The pagination of the trade seems to correspond with the hardback.
Just before the section of text Chris quoted below is this:
"I told Gylf to let him [the captain] see him then, and he did. He had been
lying in a corner where it was dark and he came up out of there like brown
smoke but all solid and snarling.
"'I can kill you if I want to,' I told the captain. 'I beat you before,
and I can beat you again. Gylf could kill you, too, and you won't stand the
ghost of a chance against both of us.'"
The captain had barred the door behind himself when he entered the cabin. He
was alone with Able and Gylf. Able knew that the captain would not accept
the terms he then offered --he said so -- which were the same terms that he
had dictated before; the captain must knuckle under and leave Able in the
captain's cabin. He also had no doubts about the winner of a fight against
the captain. He said so. Both versions of the terms he demanded amounted to
the same thing.
>"I want my bow and I want my money. Somebody told me you had them, but he
>was too scared of you to come in here and get them for me. So I'm here to
>get them myself. You've got the sword, which is yours, and you'll have some
>money of your own. Go get it, and give me mine. All I want is what belongs
>to me. Give it to me, with my bow, the case, and my quiver, and you can go
>away without fighting."
>He shook his head.
>"I didn't think you would. All right, here's my last offer. Gylf and I will
>go out on deck. Before the next watch, you clear out of this cabin, leaving
>all my stuff - money, bowcase, armor, and so forth - where I can find it.
>Twenty-two gold ceptres, most of them new and all real gold, plus my other
>stuff. Will you do that?"
>He stood up and Gylf growled. I was afraid he was going to grow into the
>black thing that had killed the outlaws, and I told him not to.
BTW, Able didn't want Gylf to turn into that big "black thing" because *he*
was afraid of it. It wasn't out of concern for the captain or any sense of
>"You'll return my ship and its cargo to me when we reach port?"
>"Sure," I said. "But I don't want them in the first place. I don't--"
>He was grabbing his sword...
>Mind you, the situation with the ship and his way of dealing with the
>captain was bad from the very beginning. And you can certainly say that it
>was this handling of things from the outset that created this mess. But the
>way Roy portrayed the killing of the captain is clearly off the mark, and
>his interpretation colored by his dislike for Able. The captain, at this
>point, had determined to murder Able regardless; in this confrontation he
>decided to take a chance that Able's wound, the fact that he was seated,
>the element of surprise would give him just enough advantage to kill Able,
>and he almost succeeded.
>The key points at which to criticize and/or examine Able are:
>* His treatment of the captain (and others) from the very moment he set
>on the ship.
>* His decision to dispose of the body, which was self-serving and
>in a way that is difficult to explain. To wit, why does he feel the need to
>get rid of the body when everyone on the ship will surely know what has
>happened in general, if not in exact detail?
>What does not help is to portray the captain as the innocent victim of a
The captain may not have had a reserved seat in the church choir, but he was
definitely a victim of naked, unprovoked aggression on the occasion of his
first encounter with Able. It was Able who initiated physical hostilities in
that first meeting, after the captain ordered him off his ship. If you want
to say that the captain's display of a sword to punctuate his order made
Able feel threatened and therefore justified in using force to gain the
advantage, then you must grant the captain the same consideration in the
second encounter. That's what Able was doing when he called up Gylf;
punctuating his demands with a show of force.
The captain had two choices -- submit or fight. He had been forced to
submit, on pain of death, the first time. He was within his rights, as
ship's captain, to execute Able for his crimes -- and Able's actions *were*
criminal -- after fate allowed him to regain command of his ship. He was
within his rights, as a man, to retaliate against the man who had harmed
him. What the captain may have been guilty of is failing to recognize the
hopelessness of his position in the second altercation. Or maybe he did
recognize it but chose to fight anyway. After all, he had already lost face
and authority as captain, so much so that the crew felt emboldened to
threaten mutiny when he wanted to kill Able. To lose his authority a second
time would have ruined him.
It may not have been a "cold-blooded assassination", but Able knew the
likely outcome when he took over the captain's cabin the second time. We've
all seen this scene played out a hundred times in old Westerns: The
gunslinger comes into town, picks a fight with a local -- knowing full well
that the local doesn't stand a chance against him -- and kills him. As the
gun smoke clears, he tells the sheriff, "It was a fair fight. Ask anybody.
They all saw it. He even drew first. It was self-defense."
That's one way to look at it. Call it whatever you like, but the captain's
death is on Able's hands, if not his conscience. And if I were St. Peter,
keepin' score, he ain't gettin' into Heaven. <g>
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