Image from The Hispanic America USA site.
Along the way, they witness an encounter between a king and a woman named Doña Ximena, who demands a unique vengeance against Ruy Diaz de Bivar, who slew her father -- she demands that the King make de Bivar marry her, that he give her "a man for a man". This is the dramatic beginning of the long and loyal marriage between El Cid, the hero of 11th Century Spain, and Ximena. The incident is from the play by Corneille, published in 1636.
The original of the medieval poem "The Song of El Cid", in Spanish, can be found at Poema de Mio Cid.The Song of El Cid has an account of the story and an analysis of the sub-text. You may also review the battles of El Cid or read the most detailed account of his life and the literature created about him at the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Just as they reach "a small hotel called Reine Pedauque in the town of Hypata," chaos breaks loose. (At the Sign of the Reine Pedauque is the most celebrated novel by Anatole France. Hypata is a town in Thessaly [Greece]. Such juxtaposition is possible in the Commonwealth.) A young man leaps from a second-story window and races off down the street with men and women -- mostly women -- yelling after him in outrage. Golias leads Shandon after the fugitive because this, it turns out, is their intended object of rescue, Lucius Gil Jones. The scene is very reminiscent of the novel Tom Jones, and so is the involved explanation, very reminiscent of French bedroom farce.
The name Lucius Gil Jones is constructed of allusions to three picaresque heroes. ("Picaresque": the adventures of a likable but not heroic figure satirizing the foibles of humankind, including sexual ones. From the root word "picaro", Spanish for "rogue". Encarta) Lucius was a young Greek transformed into an ass in the 2nd Century Latin tale The Golden Ass by Apuleius (preface); Gil Blas was the title lead in The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane by Alain Rene Lesage; and Tom Jones was the English variety of the roguish hero, by Henry James.
The young man's situation -- as well as the subsequent quest -- has more fantasy woven in than the original Tom Jones story, but basic elements are similar. Lucius was raised as the son of a baron, one who took seriously his duties to his land and his people. His father disappeared strangely, then a cousin, Don Rodrigo Monks Ravan, produced evidence designed to prove that he was illegitimate and no son of his father's -- leaving the cousin in line to inherit both Jones' title and his fiancée, Hermione Steingard ap Hawthorn. A soothsayer once predicted that Lucius would marry Hermione or no-one, while someone else has put a witch's curse on them to cause all of their meetings to end in bitterness, aided and abetted by the cousin Ravan, who has plenty of Lucius' youthful indiscretions to embitter Hermione with.
Hermione also has several namesakes.
The name of Don Rodrigo Monks Ravan is reminiscent of at least four villains:
Don Rodrigo is a favorite of the arch king Jamshyd (king and patron of Omar Khayyam), the greatest king in the Commonwealth, who holds court in Ilium, the greatest city in the Commonwealth. The three comrades decide to journey there to seek out Don Rodrigo and "squeeze the truth from him."
At several points in the book we run across barons, baronets, knights, earls and dukes and kings and arch kings. Perhaps you will find it interesting to review A Glossary of European Noble, Princely, Royal, and Imperial Titles. For a deeper exploration of feudal ranking, see Feudal Titles and Manorial Titles.
I immediately identified the next man to come on the scene. Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the local baronet, stumbles on the group and admires their audacity. "If only I could get up the resolution to hang someone -- not to mention the extra points I'd make if it was a defenseless old woman -- I could live in peace for the rest of my life."
Gilbert and Sullivan have created a mine of memorable characters and storylines for others to allude to, and this is one of them -- the nice young nobleman whose ancestral curse required him to do one evil deed a day or die horribly under a witch's curse.
Shandon has the unfortunate corpse in his arms, just as Golias has cut her from the tree, when the next legendary figure comes on the scene. True to character, Don Quixote de la Mancha perceives a princess being ravaged by rascals, rides down on Shandon with his lance -- and pole-vaults his way into a tree, thereby assuring himself that Shandon is, in fact, a mighty enchanter.
The three comrades refresh themselves at an inn in a crossroads village named Upton (from the novel Tom Jones). Next follows a compressed set of allusions in five paragraphs, referring to prohibition:
"It isn't allowed," says Golias, "except in Tantalus's precinct." Tantalus was the son of Zeus. He threw a party for the Greek gods and, attempting to impress them all, served his own some Pelops as the main course. The gods were not impressed in the manner intended. They revived Pelops and gave him many gifts. The fast horses they gave him made him the originator of chariot racing. The ivory shoulder that the goddess Demeter gave him after she ate his made him the originator of prosthetics. The gods banished Tantalus to Hades, where he stood in a pool of clear water under a tree laden with ripe fruit. Every time he lowered his head to drink, the water receded; every time he raised his hand to the fruit, it drew away from him. This is the origin of the word "tantalized", for being shown something delightful which is then kept away from you. For a more intellectual study of the Tantalus/Pelops myth and the roots of the Olympic Games, see the Liberal Arts review, Mark Matz.
Golias goes on to describe what happened when one of the Yngling's, Fjolne, drowned himself in a vat of wine. The Ynglings were the royal line of Scandinavia, considered the descendants of the god Ing. You can read the Ynglinga Saga in hypertext or in Project Gutenberg's plaintext.
"Because of his royal status, his death caused quite a stir, and certain wingless harpies managed to take enough advantage of the situation to have a trial: Grundy vs. Dionysus, Gambrinus, and Barleycorn. The demand was for a sentence of banishment."
Mrs. Grundy never actually appears in Speed the Plough, 1798 English drama by Thomas Morton, but Mrs. Ashfield is always asking, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?" Mrs. Grundy became the archetype of the nosy, prudish neighbour. She was Robert Louis Stevenson's landlady in Familiar Studies of Men and Books.
"I've forgotten who the Drys' attorney was, though it might have been Heep [Uriah Heep, the conniving clerk who menaces David Copperfield in the novel by Charles Dickens.], but in any case Panurge was defense counsel. Old Toby Belch was the presiding magistrate, and -- notwithstanding the fact that Tom Norman was there -- Seithenyn ap Seithin [a fellow with a mighty thirst in the 1100 Welsh romance Culhwch and Olwen] was foreman of the jury. Incidentally there were so many challenges on both sides that they had quite a time impaneling a jury for him to be foreman of. When the dust finally settled, it could be seen that Panurge hadn't done too badly. Sitting in judgement at the behest of their fellow citizens were Friars John and Tuck, Sut Lovingood, Colas Brugnon [a 17th Century Burgundian cabinetmaker and winebibber from the French 1914 novel Colas Breugnon by Romain Rolland], Elinor Rummin [The Tunning of Elynour Rummin, English, 15th century, John Skelton], Eumolpus, Rex Cole [Old King Cole, originally referred to by the ever-inventive Geoffrey of Monmouth in the ever-inventive History of the Kings of Britain, c. 1135], Celm Hawley [The Old Soak, collection of newspaper columns by Don Marquis, pub. 1921] -- oh, I see."
The landlord, Will Boniface [a name that has come to be applied to innkeepers in general since first used by the landlord of the inn at Lichfield in the 1707 English drama The Beaux' Stratagem by George Farquhar], welcomes two new guests, a young and nervous popinjay and a langorous, lustful lady named Manon Lescaut. Manon and Lucius eye each other and manage to arrange a rendezvous. Hermione then arrives at the inn, but too late to stop Lucius from making his meeting with Manon.
Abandoned by Lucius, Golias and Shandon entertain themselves. Shandon manages to do "a glee club rendition of The Wreck of the Hesperus." Golias creates a song about the lady Hermione (not yet identified):
To me it's all one who she is, or if I meet her;
Blanchefleur's smile was never mine, nor Enid's slender hand,
Yet merely the knowing they live makes living sweeter:
Just to have scanned
The face of each was a grace, and so I bless them;
And here was their match, or one fashioned more lovely still;
In passing alone they're seen, yet I gently possess them
And always will.
When Manon's young popinjay is tricked into leaving the lovers alone all night, Golias is troubled. "It reminds me of what the Cu Roi MacDairi did to Cuchullain. It was all right for him to manhandle Cuchullain. He could beat anybody in the Commonwealth except possibly Heracles." You can read the story of Cuchullain and the other Irish heroes in lyrical terms at A History of the Irish Race, or in far more irreverent terms at The Ulster Cycle. Both sites are large and take time to download. The Irish have a lot of history.
" ... but when he got Setanta [Cuchullain] down, he rubbed dung in his hair. It's the sort of thing that breeds vengeance; if not from the injured party, then from outraged Delian Law. I'm afraid Lucius will regret this business."
They do take a short break in the pursuit, when they witness what appears to be the over-running of a helpless monastery by a horde of armed barbarians. The invasion is turned into a rout, however, by one monk whom Golias refers to as Friar John; probably "Friar John of the Hashes" in Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Rabelais, who saved the vineyards of his monastery singlehandedly with only his staff and his cross.
They stop to lunch with the Friar, who discourses at length upon wine and its natural relationship with monks, as well as upon the Lernists [the invading force], the bakers of Lerne in Gargantua and Pentagruel;King Grangousier, [father of Gargantua];pax vobiscum;pater noster; andAthena popping out of Zeus's head.
Friar John is very similar to Robin Hood's companion Friar Tuck, who himself has embodied the common image of a monk -- both the common image of the hearty wine-bibbing but generous and courageous soul, and the image of the wise and humble healer.
The encounter with Friar John leads Shandon to ruminate on the delight the Friar took in knowledge for its own sake, and decides to begin emulating him. For example he thinks he'd have even more fun with the song the Friar taught them if he knew about the personages involved.
First verse: Zeus, Hera, and Io
In one of Zeus's many love affairs, he tried to disguise what he was doing from his wife Hera by transforming his lover Io into a cow. This was not the first use of the phrase, "Don't have a cow, man."
Antonio da Correggio: "Jupiter and Io" (1532).
Second verse: Aphrodite and Adonis
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of Love, and other natural forces. Adonis was a young and beautiful Greek hero. Aphrodite kept Adonis by her side a little longer than the rest of the Greek gods thought appropriate, so they ran a maddened boar his way and got him killed. Her tears created the flower Anemone.
By Myers' rendition of the myth, if Adonis had been doing what a really healthy young man would, paying all his attention to Aphrodite, and not gone off hunting boars, he wouldn't have gotten himself killed.
Aphrodite Entrusting Adonis to Persephone
Third verse: The Centaur and the Lapithean dame
Centaurs were creatures of Greek mythology with the head and torso of a man and the body of a horse. They were often wise and noble creatures, tutors to young demigods. However, at the feast of Eurytion one of the centaurs got drunk (that was the excuse) and tried to make off with the bride. The subsequent balttle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs was a favorite topic of poets and artists for centuries.
The song is cut short by the discovery of Hermione's maid in a ditch. Their coach was hijacked "where the road bores through the fen near Hereward's old hangout."
The Greeks used to mix new wine with turpentine -- the juice of the fir tree -- to make it keep. The fir cone became a symbol of Bacchus and from there an appropriate name for a tavern. Francois Villon (The Vagabond King) frequented a Parisian tavern named "Pomme de Pin" -- Fir Cone. Parouart was the name for Paris in the French thieves argot used by Francois Villon in many of his poems. Books available at Amazon.com
Lucius sets out to seek information at the Hell Fire Club. The original Hell Fire Club was founded by Sir Francis Dashwood in 1745. It acquired a mixed reputation, regarded in some circles as a haven for arcane wisdom, and more generally as a den of sacrilegious orgies. Other Hell Fire Clubs were started in London over the years by young men who wanted to shock society, and usually succeeded.
In the meantime Shandon and Golias go looking for a replenishment of their funds, achieved when they run across the Kilmansegg (From Miss Kilmansegg, a comic poem by Thomas Hood. Miss Kilmansegg is a young heiress of great expectations who, when she loses a leg in a riding accident, replaces it with a gold one. A suitor later brains her with it.) In reference to this golden leg, Golias mentions Midas.
The three do track down and confront Don Rodrigo, but with no satisfactory result.
Robin Turgis was the proprietor of the original "Pomme de Pin" in Parouart/Paris where Francis Villon stole fourteen barrels of Aulnis wine from him -- and wrote about it in The Testament, 1461.
Golias has hocked the golden leg with Barabas [the Jewish merchant in Christopher Marlowe's drama The Jew of Malta, 1592] [also see Where Did Shylock Come From?"], but didn't get enough for it to meet their needs, so he goes off to gamble up the rest. When Lucius returns he is excited at having met with an "officer -- an awfully jolly, considerate fellow" named Captain Face, who knows an alchemist/fortune teller who may be able to help. (Captain Face and his friend are from Ben Jonson's play, The Alchemist.)
While waiting for Captain Face, Lucius and Shandon receive a visit from a nameless hunchback hired by Ravan to guard Hermione, who has been won over by Hermione's sweet nature and delivers a letter from her to Lucius. She forgives him all and begs him to save her -- but he still does not know where she is.
Enter Captain Face, who leads them to the alchemist. After some very alchemical action and language -- including a reference to Trismegistus and the philosopher's stone -- they leave with a potion that will turn Lucius into an owl so that he can seek out Hermione's window.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work quite right.
They enjoy a visit with the Complete Angler, who refers to Venator, Piscator, Trimalchio's chef and Arion, and starts a round of songs.
You can find Isaak Walton's book at Amazon.com, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham; or you can read it online.
The song by Golias, true to his traditions, links many great rivers of legend into one. From source to mouth there's but one ford ..."
At one point in the wanderings, Shandon notices the outlines of skyscrapers on the horizon, from which come the sounds of jackhammers and other urban noises. "That's the New Purchase," Golias says. "We'll find out how many stick around after Annexation Day."
Janet is successful in winning back Tamlane, but the Queen of the Fairies gets a replacement -- Shandon himself.
Myers has constructed his Fairyland intriguingly. The King of the Fairies is named Gwynn Uriens MacLir. The Queen is named Nimue. King Gwynn refers to Nimue putting Merlin under a rock and siccing a young man named Accolon on him, the King. These are all events from the Arthurian Chronicles, and the King's name is a variation of Arthur's -- who is said according to legend to have been carried away to the land of the Fairies to await the day that England needs him again.
The King's name also has other sources:
Incidentally, King Gwynn refers to Golias as "Amergin" -- the bard associated with the Celtic tradition.
Shandon is rescued, if unwillingly, with the use of Avarta's nag. He and Golias come out of Fairyland at "the place where Kydnon took that beating." Kydnon is a character in the 12th century Welsh romance The Lady of the Fountain, part of the Mabinogion. He searched the world to find if there was anybody who could beat him, and he found one in the Black Knight.
After Shandon recovers his wits, Golias fills him in on his own travels during the separation. After the wreck, he was "naked as Conaire on coronation day" [The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel, 8th century, part of the Ulster Cycle] and "hungry as a valraven" [a raven who follows the army to feast on the slain; one of the traditional 'beasts of battle' in Old English epic poetry]. Luckily, he and Lucius "ran into Leoline down in the foothills boar hunting." [Baron of Langdale Hall in Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge]. While going on toward the Oracle he met with Groa [seeress in Norse myth], "reminded her I was a friend of Svipdag's," [her son, from the Lay of Svipdag, c. 1200, part of the Poetic Edda.] and asked for word of Shandon. He could tell from her riddles -- that he had not vanished like Kaikhosru but was not on earth -- what had happened to him.
Kaikhosru is mentioned in the c. 1100 Persian epic Book of Kings by Firdawsi and also in the 11th century Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He was a young Persian prince who set out on a journey to the next world and never returned.
Golias left Lucius with Degare, hero of Sir Degare, an early 14th century English metrical romance. Golias "covered the Warlocks from Mount St. Michael to the Venusberg" before meeting up with Laeg [Cuchulainn's charioteer, who grew up in Faerie], who showed him a route into Fairyland.
There are two Mount St. Michael's in literary history. Saint Michael's Mount in Cornwall is mentioned in Milton's Lycidas (1638). In Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain King Arthur slew a giant at Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Brittainy.
Venusberg is at the opposite end of the Warlocks and quite opposite in tradition; the Horselberg in Thuringia, where Venus held court in the caverns and Tannhauser tarried for seven years; he returned at the end of his adventures and was never seen on Earth again. 16th century German ballad, Tannhauser; 1844 German opera by Richard Wagner, Tannhauser.
Avarta's nag carries the two men and even Lucius the donkey straight to the Oracle, where Deiphobe answers the question each is concentrating on. Golias -- here called Demodocus -- is told that Lucius must seek the secret of his paternity and the hand of the woman he loves at Chapel Perilous [from Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Mallory]. Oh, and eat some rose petals.
Shandon, however, has let his mind stray to the desire to become an initiate into this Commonwealth, and not just a tourist. He is ordered to attempt the pilgrimage to Hippocrene. The Hippocrene, in Greek myth, was the source of poetic inspiration; a fountain on Mount Helicon whih sprang from the footprint of the winged horse Pegasus.
Golias says, "The only time I was ever in the chapel was with Lancelot, and we had other things on the docket." (This is the chapel where Sir Lancelot found a dead knight and took his sword and a piece of his shroud to heal a knight wounded by the dead man.)
They meet a gambler named Tyl, who has just invented the shell game. This is probably one of the names of Till Eulenspiegel, a legendary German wandering tinker known for practical jokes. He stars in Master Till Owlglass by Thomas Murner, and Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks.
The castle Jamshyd is using is Castle Nigramous -- the name of the castle of the sorcerous Hallewes, who tried to slay Lancelot at the Chapel Perilous. The gatekeeper is Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr, "The Dusky Hero with Mighty Grasp," who acts as porter at King Arthur's gate every New Year's Day, according to the Welsh romance Culwch and Olwen.
In the Chapel Perilous, Golias calls himself Taliesin, and uses a geas -- Taliesin and the geas are both from Irish myth. . Pronounced "gaysh", the geas was a bond, spell, prohibition, taboo, or magical injunction. If you broke its sacred obligation, you incurred the stated misfortune.
Wyrd is the Old English personification of destiny. Golias compares the proposed union of Ravan and Hermione to a series of ill-destined marriages:
Gunnar: In the Volsunga Saga, Old Norse, 11th century, Gudrun married the hero Sigurd and her brother Gunnar married Sigurd's sweetheart Brunhilde. Murders and catastrophes resulted because the lovers were mismatched; also, because this was Norse saga. In Njal's Saga, Icelandic, c. 1280, Gunnar Hamundarson married Hallgerd, who quarrelled with Njal's wife Bergthora. This is still in the Norse tradition. Feuds and massacres result.
Finn: The King of the Frisians, referred to in Beowulf and in Burnt Finnsburg, had a disastrous marriage through quarreling with his brother-in-law; Finn mac Coul, one of the greatest heroes of Irish legend, caused his own downfall by pursuing a woman who did not want him.
Conor: In The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu, also known as Deirdre of the Sorrows, an Irish saga in the Ulster Cycle, Conchobar mac Nessa (Conor) was the crown prince of Ulster who fulfilled the prophesy that Deirdre would wed a king and bring ruin and death upon Ulster.
Ulad: the Old Irish mane for Ulster.
Allecto, Megaera, Tisiphone: The Erinyes, the three avenging Furies of Greek myth.
Achillides: the son of Achilles, he was also called Neoptolemus and Pyrrhus. He was given a wife who had been promised to another. The marriage was fatal for him.
Kormak's blight: Icelandic poet, Kormak's Saga. He suffered impotence.Additional references:
Blas: another mention of Gil Blas, one of Lucius's namesakes.
Huon: A knight of Charlemagne's court who became the successor to Oberon, king of Faerie. Huon of the Horn, French romance c. 1220, translated in modern English by Andre Norton.
by John Myers Myers
Ace Fantasy Books
The Berkely Publishing Group
200 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10016
A Silverlock Companion:
The Life and Works of John Myers Myers
edited by Fred Lerner
Niekas Publications, 1988
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