(urth) Marcus v. Franzen = Unexpected Wolfe sighting

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Tue Oct 25 20:30:37 PDT 2005

It's been a while since we've had a discussion/debate going here, so I'll 
rummage through the closet for my pointy stick and have a go at starting 

> >Seth Lombardi writes:
> >
> >> In some way I took Able's limitations
> >> as being a commentary on the limited (to Wolfe) heights of pagan,
> >> pre-Christian heroics and morality. . . .
> >
> >What you say makes sense, but what of the men and women in Midgarthyr who
> >show unqualified heroism: especially Idunn?  Is she also so flawed, and 
> >Valfather's blessing on her also a joke?

I don't agree with David's assessment (in almost any regard), but Idnn is 
certainly human. She attempts to manipulate Able to get out of her duty, and 
arguably attempts the same thing with Svon and even Garvaon. As a stronger 
statement, it was my impression that Garvaon's state of mind going into 
Utgard might well have been because she tried to get him to help her run 
off; his presumed refusal tore him up and led to his self-destructive state 
of mind once they actually got to Utgard.

That said I think that if we come out of the book condemning its characters 
for their failings then we've missed the point, and we've failed to look 
closely enough at ourselves.

David said:
>Idnn was an opportunist who cared only about becoming queen.

This seems fairly absurd to me. Beel wanted her to be queen, and she did 
feel a strong sense of duty to her father. But every indication was that she 
was frightened of what was going to happen, and was really hoping for a way 
to avoid it. A significant portion of The Knight makes no sense at all if 
you assume she "cared only about becoming queen".

>The frost giant women who followed her died for nothing,

Can you back this up? I would think that all this would depend on what the 
frost giant women hoped to accomplish by putting their lives on the line, 
and they have very little actual voice in the novels.

I'll take a crack at it myself, though perhaps others can do better. Through 
most of the novel the giant women are nowhere to be found. They are bigger 
and stronger than the men, and yet they are absolutely absent from the 
political landscape and pretty much have no say in matters. [Might there be 
a little bit of a message here?] Their rallying to the queen and fighting 
against the men was a sharp and defining act of *autonomy*. I don't see how 
their involvement can be seen as a failure from any angle.

>as did Garvaon.

What *did* Garvaon die for, again? By a knight's standards there's not too 
many better ways to die. His name will live on in legend, and even those who 
knew him at the time were so moved that they stopped their flight and built 
an enormous monument to him.

But in general, what do knights die for? I am reminded of young Able 
describing Berthold to Ravd. Berthold fought to protect his village, and 
Gerda. Ravd replied that while Berthold was certainly brave and noble and an 
amazing man, because of these reasons he had for fighting he was no knight. 
To be a knight, apparently, is not to fight for such reasons. The pursuit of 
honor, as it's portrayed here, seems damn near senseless - yet of course, 
you can't help but feel it and understand in some sense.

I do think that the younger Berthold is meant as a contrast to the knightly 
ideal. And we are thus led to be a bit more conscious of the fact that from 
our own (modern) subjective perspective, our heroes are more like Berthold 
than Ravd or Garvaon or Able. And also that we know a little less about the 
knightly ideal than we unreflectively assume we do.

-- Chris (Civet), brandishing pointy stick

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