Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Raven King and human "purposefulness"

Here's the passage I was groping toward remembering in our final class meeting, from Chapter 45 -- which Clarke presents as a passage from Strange's prologue to The History and Practice of English Magic. It's on Pages 496-97 of my hardcover edition.
King Henry's counsellors agreed that fairies were naturally wicked. They were lascivious, mendacious and thieving; they seduced young men and women, confused travellers, and stole children, cattle and corn. They were astonishingly indolent: they had mastered the arts of masonry, carpentry and carving thousands of years ago but, rather than take the trouble to build themselves houses, most still preferred to live in places which they were pleased to call castles but which were in fact brugh -- earth barrows of great antiquity. They spent their days drinking and dancing while their barley and beans rotted in the fields, and their beasts shivered and died on the cold hillside. Indeed, all King Henry's advisers agreed that, had it not been for their extraordinary magic and near immortality, the entire fairy race would have long since perished from hunger and thirst. Yet this feckless, improvident people had invaded a well-defended Christian kingdom, won every battle they had fought and had ridden from place to place securing each stronghold as they came to it. All this spoke of a measure of purposefulness which no fairy had ever been known to possess."
All of which, I think, Clarke wants us to read skeptically, as it echoes so much of the condescension toward natives displayed by "Christian kingdoms" of our own timeline.


Blogger Joel said...

The last line is kind of strange.

"All this spoke of a measure of purposefulness which no fairy had ever been known to possess."

Is this what you mean by skeptical, haha? They don't possess focus, it seems, and yet they took over an entire kingdom. I guess I can see how this could correlate to native americans; living in earth burrows, farming, but not really "masterfully" using the land.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

thank you so much! I've been trying to find a passage like this for days!

6:40 PM  

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