by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
Let’s see. We’ve learned that God does not arrange marriages through the unholy love child of a Renaissance-State Fair. That’s proof for a loving and merciful God, I suppose.
Next we find out that one knight is not preparing for the fair. Sir Valiant is busy doing other tasks that are critical for the safety of the kingdom – and apparently so secret that even the readers can’t know what they are.
A quick recap on Sir Valiant: On top of a virtue-signalling name, we know the King likes him, that he is busy fighting Lies (the Dragon) and Temptation (the Giant), and that the Princess has a crush on him. She’s seen him twice – once when he was proclaiming a message when she was 16 and once for a short conversation when she was 21.
Sir Valiant approaches the castle to have a chat with the king:
“The same knight of the kingdom was riding alone in the early summer along the stone road to the castle. The wind blew through this dark hair as he rode with dignity on his noble white steed. Crossing the bridge over the moat, the night heard an unexpected voice.
“From whence cometh ye?”
Looking around, the knight saw the alligator down below. “From yonder villages on the edge of the kingdom,” he answered.
” Be ye on important business?” asked the alligator.
” Be ye the castle receptionist?” returned the knight. “(pg. 223)
Wow. That first paragraph manages to be purple prose without using ostentatious adjectives. I’m impressed between giggles. Does anyone in this kingdom ever have a bad hair day or a crabby horse?
The advantage to a poorly characterized Sir Valiant is that I visualize Prince Humperdink from the movie “The Princess Bride” every time Sir Valiant appears. After all, we know so little about Sir Valiant’s internal motivations that he may well be planning to marry the Princess then stage her murder to start a war.
Sir Valiant’s snappy comeback to the Alligator made me laugh. I think that’s the only time I laughed from intended humor in the entire book.
“So then,” the alligator ask curiously, ” comest thou for the princess?”
“My business, oh wise one, is to report of the battles of the kingdom,” the knight answered.
“Battles? Oh my! Have we not peace throughout the borders? This be news to me.”
“We have not peace, o great counselor. I thought thou saidth that thou wast wise. Dragons and giants do roam the land.”
” Such news be nonsense,” replied the reptile. ” Thou art beginning to sound as foolish as the princess. I have not seen a giant in years, though a dragon or two have visited on occasion.”
“They have terrorized the land. Much damage has been done,” declared the knight.
” I cannot speak for Giants, but I fear that you misjudge dragons. They are often misunderstood,” spoke the alligator. ” Let them be. They intend no harm.”
” Thy words remind me of the evil dragon himself, oh superb analyst. Didst thou at one time live in a garden? I’m pleased to hear that the princess is not taken in by thy words.” (pgs. 223-225)
I see two giant issues within this section. First, let’s discuss the literary issues. When writing an allegory that has virtue and vice characters, the characters exist and fully live within the allegory. The Kingdom is being terrorized by Lies the Dragon and Temptation the Giant – but no one outside of the Royal Family and Sir Valiant seem to be aware of their existence. We learned in the last passage that the knights and men of the kingdom are so eager for advancement that they are spending the summer training for the King’s Ren-State Fair. That implies that they are unaware of – or unconcerned about – the dragon and giant that are “terrorizing” the land.
This is also the section where the choice of a dragon to represent lies becomes clunky. The Bible describes the critter in the garden who tempts Adam and Eve as a serpent. In the allegory, the Alligator generally tempts the Princess to flee from the CP/QF path. Based on that trajectory, the most coherent choice for allegorical characterization would be Temptation the Snake. Making that change would keep the point of the allegory while removing the jarring disconnect at the end when Sir Valiant combines the dragon, the serpent in Genesis 1, and the alligator into one incoherent mishmash.
Lies could be represented by the Giant – but I’m still completely unclear about why lies or temptation are represented by a Giant. Both are far more sneaky and unobtrusive than a 30 foot tall man carrying a club.
Here’s the practical problem: this section is a perfect metaphor for how CP/QF adherents live in modern society. CP/QF believers get completely up-in-arms about “issues” that are non-starters for the rest of society like women should wear skirts all the time, hormonal birth control causing miscarriages, the myth of supporting a family on one-income of a poorly educated male or leaving number and spacing of children up to “God” (e.g., sheer chance). THIS is how CP/QF adherents sound to the rest of society – but they have no idea how insane they sound.
Most interesting of all – by the time Sir Valiant leaves he’s spent more time talking to the Alligator than to the Princess.
The knight had spoken of these matters with the king many times previously. He did, however, have another purpose for this visit to the king. He had long noticed and thought about the princess and sought, whenever the discussion allowed, to bring questions of her into the conversation as naturally as possible. He had often look for ways to talk about her without disclosing his personal interest. But he had decided that today was going to be different –it would be a day to speak of the matter more plainly. (pg. 225)
Sir Valiant sounds like a lovelorn teenager who doesn’t want other people to know he has a crush on the Princess but doesn’t realize that he talks about the Princess incessantly. It’s a great characterization of the average teenager – but is Sir Valiant supposed to be that inexperienced and unskilled in social skills?
Equally unexplained is why Sir Valiant has waited years to approach the King about his interest in the Princess. Seriously, Sir Valiant has been making attempts at bringing the Princess into conversations for multiple years – what has stopped him from saying “I’d like to court the Princess, please.”
“Why asketh thou for her hand?” questioned the king. ” Why doth she please thee?”
” Sire, though she be a princess, I’ve seen no greater servant. And though she be beautiful, she gloweth even more greatly within. And, my Lord, though she hath opportunity to meet many a knight, she falls for none because she seeketh one. I find not, Sire, another maiden in the kingdom that be of such mind, heart, and demeanor.”
” Thou hast answered well, Sir Valiant. And not only with thy words, for I have observed also thy loyalty, diligence, faithfulness, and understanding. It would please me to give my daughter and my blessing to such as thyself. I shall talk to the princess and her mother on my behalf.”
The king spoke briefly with the queen, but they needed not a long discussion, for they had spoken of Sir Valiant many times before and had observed his faithful service. They knew of no other young man in the kingdom with his understanding and stature. The queen was delighted, as the king knew she would be. Then the king walked outside to meet the princess. (pg. 226)
*rubs head to relieve ache from thumping against the desk*
Describing a princess as being a “great servant” is the type of faux pas that leads to nobles falling from favor and diplomatic alliances between countries to break down. “No, King, seriously, she’s a great charwoman! I love how she can work for hours like a peasant!” is a great way for Sir Valiant to spend the rest of his life in one of those remote, tiny villages in the hinterlands of the kingdom.
The rest of the first paragraph is a joke. Glowing from within means fairly little when heroine is already a drop-dead gorgeous princess with everything money can buy. The princess has no discernible virtue at keeping her heart pure; she’s met one knight – Sir Eloquence – whom she did like in a wishy-washy way after a while before he was run off by the King. After that, the Princess has been kept hermetically sealed in the castle and reproached about Sir Eloquence every time she wants to socialize. Ms. Mally should have dropped “mind” and “heart” from the list; all Sir Valiant knows about the Princess from his two interactions with her is a bit about her demeanor.
I can’t figure out why the King thinks he knows much about Sir Valiant. In the book, the King has meetings with Sir Valiant….and that’s it. I have no idea how Sir Valiant would prove loyalty or faithfulness – the plot ignores any issues within the Kingdom like factions. Really, at this point, Sir Valiant seems like a toady to the King – a yes-man who parrots what the King wants to hear back regardless if that information is true or accurate.
So…like the ideal husband for a CP/QF girl, actually.
I think we’ve reached the heart of the “singleness” curse afflicting CP/QF young adults. Men won’t ask to court women because asking to court is the equivalent of getting engaged – without having a chance to determine how compatible two people are. Women are secretly relieved on some level because suitors are being chosen on how well they impress her father rather than how well the couple suit each other.
Dating is sounding more and more appealing the farther into the book we get.
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