(urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight

Michael Straight mfstraight at gmail.com
Wed Sep 19 10:28:34 PDT 2007

On 9/18/07, Stephen Frug <sfrug at post.harvard.edu> wrote:

> had the writer stacking the deck for him at every turn. He had more
> magical allies, artifacts, assistants, companions, than you could
> shake a stick at: an invisible ogre doing his bidding! A sky-wolf who
> happened to be totally loyal! Elves (called Aelf) who were his slaves
> (yes, not always reliable, but often enough). A magic sword, the
> blessing and friendship of Odin, various other magic devices he got
> at the end (the helmet, another sword). Heck, he even becomes a god
> halfway through the work! Talk about favoritism!*

See, I think this is one of the more interesting things that Wolfe
does with his protagonists. In most fantasy, the protagonist is weaker
than all his enemies and the drama comes from struggling to overcome a
stronger foe.

But in Wizard Knight (and many other of Wolfe's books) the protagonist
is stronger than most of his foes and the drama comes from the moral
dilemnas of how to wisely and honorably use that strength.  I'd think
this would be particularly compelling for someone who finds his
reading colored by current geopolitical events, since is pretty much
the circumstance in which the United States finds itself as a nation.

As for the feudal / knightly society.  I don't think Wolfe admires it
uncritically nor intends the reader to.  I think there are some things
he admires about that society and some things he doesn't, and that
many of the places where you feel uncomfortable with it, you are
supposed to.

I'd be interested in a discussion of what people think are the
specific virtues that Wolfe does commend from that society which he
thinks are lacking in ours and whether we agree with him about those
virtues.  That's what I'm going to be trying to pin down when I
re-read the books.


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