(urth) Honor

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 30 15:45:56 PST 2005

Generally speaking I agree with the negative assessment of Able centering on 
his actions when he first met the captain. But treating the subjects in the 
order they appear here, there are some open questions.

Roy said:
>The captain did not believe that Able was a knight, and said so. (K, 109)

The first obvious question is WAS Able a knight, regardless of whether the 
captain (or anyone else) recognized him as such? I think this is a 
contentious issue. A natural response would be that what a person *is* 
doesn't depend on how the random person on the street sees them; on the 
other hand it's quite clear that Able, at the very least, seems to believe 
at that point that being recognized as a knight is a (if not THE) key 
component to *being* a knight.

If you ultimately decide that Able was a knight at that point, then the 
captain's authority over him is null, and the captain is guilty of 
impertinence. Regardless of the truth of the matter, that seems to be the 
position that Able is coming from.

But I think we can speculate further about the captain that from his 
perspective it *did not matter* whether Able was "really" a knight or not. 
He would have treated a "legitimate" knight who happened to be down on his 
luck just the same, because his concern is not with a knight's virtue but 
with his power - and a knight without retainers or holdings or a powerful 
benefactor is, to him, just another man. The captain, I believe, establishes 
himself as a man who respects only power and force; I don't use this as a 
rationale for force to actually be used against him, but it certainly does 
present Able with a clear and limited set of options.

>The captain had no reason to believe that Able was a knight; he sported 
>of a knight's trappings. Able's ego, at that point, took center stage. From
>this point on, the dispute was not about the conditions of passage to
>Forcetti. The captain had wounded Able's fragile, boyish ego.

If Able believed - *truly* believed - that he was a knight, then there would 
be more than just an issue of his ego. The captain would be intolerably out 
of line from the perspective of a knight.

But... the other passage you quoted really calls into question whether 
that's what he really believed, or if he simply knew at some level that this 
would be reaction that was expected of him if he truly believed what he 
claimed. While things blur a little bit in matters of belief, I think we 
both agree that there's more than a little of the latter in Able.

This (perhaps deliberately) raises the moral question of why the former 
should supposedly be justified while the latter is not.

>Right after boarding the docked ship, Able started feeling seasick. He
>thought he was going to puke and was afraid that people would see and make
>fun of him. He couldn't bear the thought, so was prepared to salvage his 
>by turning on his new-found friend, who had been nothing but obsequiously
>helpful. "I knew I might throw up any minute, and I swore that I would make
>Pouk clean it up if I did." "And kill him if he would not do it." (K, 107)
>That's raw, unvarnished ego, to even consider killing a man because *he*
>might not want to clean up *your* puke. That was Able's mindset when he saw
>the captain, minutes later.

Not to disagree with you - because if anything I evaluated this bit as being 
a little worse than just having a big ego - but this scene strikes me as 
especially strange every time I see it. Able is recording this long after 
the fact, and he sees fit to report it, but does not express any evaluation 
of why he deems it important. Here we expect some kind of expression of 
shame... or an explanation... or *something*.

And it's not just a need to report his mindset of the time, because he often 
leaves us very much in the dark about his mindset or motivations in various 
scenes. One is tempted to conclude that an older able reports this thought 
because he is ashamed of it, because it humbles him. Such a conclusion is 
almost obvious, but if so then there is something interesting about his 
means of expressing it.

>I feel the same way about Able's repeated attempts to force others to
>massage his ego. At least he had the excuse of being immature in KNIGHT.
>It's harder to excuse his behavior in WIZARD. Was he not morally 
>for the death of the gaoler in the dungeon? Sure, it was Org who actually
>killed and ate him, but he could have stopped him by calling out. He chose
>not to. (W, 401) Of course, since he was a god, this could be written off 
>divine whim.

I wouldn't want to write it off in those terms in any event. And you again 
have pointed to something that seems interesting - recall that Able has had 
a run-in with another gaoler before, with somewhat similar results. There 
seems to be almost no indication that Able thinks that gaolers, as a species 
of sorts, are fit to live at all. Regardless of what you think of his 
treatment of the stablehands, this is not an attitude he expresses toward 
peasants or servants or slaves. It's not clear to me whether this hatred 
comes from something particular about Able, or whether it's supposed to be 
attributed to some kind of knight/gaoler antithetical relationship.

Perhaps it's in part a statement about how jails can corrupt one's humanity.

>I don't think anyone has tried to argue that Able didn't behave like a 
>particularly in KNIGHT. I have acknowledged that Wolfe chose to portray him
>that way deliberately. And I think we all agree that Wolfe intended he be
>seen as a Hero.

But as in many of Wolfe's stories there's another question. Did *Able* 
choose to portray himself as a lout, or did it just come through naturally? 
Did Wolfe intend that he be seen as a hero, or did Able, or did both of 

>As others have pointed out, real knights in regimented
>feudal societies weren't necessarily nice guys, certainly not the beloved
>figures of Arthurian romance. But Able's story is not really about knights,
>it's about Heroes. And, as Wolfe *always* does when he retells some story,
>he mixes things all up and turns them inside out. Adding Norse mythology 
>the realm of fairy to the mixture further muddles the picture.

Yet I don't think it's even remotely possible to understand some aspects of 
the story without making the social context an integral part - by comparing 
how we interpret the actions of the characters with how they would interpret 
their own actions. In that sense it is "about knights".

>It's natural for people on this list, almost by definition, to be favorably
>inclined toward Wolfe's fiction. It's understandable that there wasn't a 
>of discussion here when KNIGHT came out; we had only half the story, and it
>was anything but straightforward. But it's been about a year since WIZARD
>was released, and there *still* hasn't been a lot of discussion about TWK.
>Why not? There was plenty of discussion as each volume of LONG SUN and 
>SUN came out. What's different about TWK? Is it that people don't like it?
>Don't understand it?

Speaking for myself, I actually waited until the Wizard came out before 
reading the Knight, partly because I don't like to wait for the sequel and 
partly because I knew if I read them too far apart, I would probably have 
even more difficulty with the Wizard when it did come out.

In any event I suspect that some on the list haven't read the series yet, 
and may even have been put off reading it at all by the apparent lukewarm 
reception from those who have read it. It's hard to praise these books to 
the stars, obviously. But I've found them to be thought-provoking in a way 
that's similar to the "Soldier" series, over time. And there are characters 
in the story that I liked rather a lot... more unequivocally so than in most 
of Wolfe's books. Too bad one of them isn't Able.

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