Charles River Editors have so many offerings in the pocket history section that it is almost impossible to keep up and I have not tried to. Once in a while though my fascination for history takes over and yet again I am impressed by the presentation of a well-researched, splendidly described and enriching text. This time the theme was that most enigmatic of ancient warriors: King Arthur.
It is not really my intention to review the book anymore because this being a well-known story and not really a self-published work I read it for my pleasure only. It is good though!
There is a passage in the book that describes the underlying human story and the necessity of creating heroes whose accomplishments are just beyond the ability of mortal man. This necessity has driven the development of myths, legends, folk lore and through time has morphed as the ages change to become the foundation stone of the power of dynastic monarchs. The hero must follow the monomyth as Campbell describes “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man”. Often the hero must be a tragic figure who suffers great loss and betrayal and knows his own fate. I used to think that the curse of the Cyclops was that they traded one eye for the gift of future sight but were betrayed and given only the ability to foresee their own unavoidable death; I am not sure I can find a reference to this particular myth now so this was probably a misunderstanding. It does still strike a chord with me that it is tragedy itself to know and understand one’s own fate. We all do though at some level. Even in “Fight Club” we hear that “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”. Not all timelines follow the same path in a strange mirror of quantum mechanics and path integrals interpretation of the infinite number of possible paths that a particle can (and does) take. The higher path of the hero seems to be to acknowledge the inevitability of fate and yet to rise up and meet the challenges that are thrown in their way. We continue to struggle and fight to stay on our path and to avoid being under that great summation at the end for as long as we can. This theme replays itself in all Armageddon, apocalypse, virus, zombie, destruction stories. We see the world around us crumble and yet we struggle to regress to the mean and to get back to a new normality. Even as the meaning of value shifts from gold to petrol to tinned pineapple chunks (or bacon rashers in “Journey’s End”) there are some who will accept the inevitability of the end and some who will fight on and fight on to try and achieve something of meaning and to return glorious.
It is the journey that is inspirational and the just not quite possible acts that make a hero. This glory is not bestowed “because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me”, it is assumed to be an innate trait, although we assume it could be learned. Somehow some aquatic sword delivery system would be useful in those situations; anyway who put the sword into the stone?
Not much of an Ebook review today.