[LMB] The Sharing Knife.... fast reread

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Mon Jan 21 16:26:40 GMT 2019

Pouncer remembers an old post:

One of the?years when I was?unusually distracted,?someone posted ?a long
analysis making the
case that the _TSK_ saga was a deliberate allegory (or anti-allegory) for
_The Lord of the Rings_.

Can't find it right away in the archives.?

Memorable though.? Instead of the sword that was broken being re-forged (to
be useful)
the knife that MUST be broken.??LakeWalkers would refuse to be Lords rather
the Rangers.
who used to be.? Servants crafted "up" from animals rather than "down" from
men and
elves.Healing magic ... ? Lots of details stuck in my head.

Not the name of the ?listie / author though.? John Burbidge?? John
Lennard?? Might have
been Brad DeLong, who I _certainly_ remember for making a case that
_Starship Troopers_ was an ANTI-military work.? It would be like him...?

Anyhow, I'd like to consider it again.? Then ask if it was ever confirmed a
intended work or perhaps unconscious or maybe a reader's projection onto
the work.

And anyhow,? now,? assuming it WAS the anti-allegory claimed, what knowing
that about
the original work might allow us to guess about the upcoming new additions
to the

John: That was me, and there are many, many correspondences to ponder,
including :

Lakewalkers / Rangers
broken and unbroken blades
river journeys
garments given by uncles that turn blades
Dark Lord / malices
Nazgul (flying) / malices (flying)
the humble people saving the world when those whose (self-appointed) task
that is cannot

To take just the first, I once asked in a conference paper / essay, whether
the following describes Dunedain or Lakewalkers :

A separate people, taller and grimmer than those surrounding them and
descended from different stock, they inherit a lifelong, unthanked task of
battle, expending greater lifespans in patrolling and defending all against
an ancient preternatural evil, only to be repaid with dark suspicions of
their difference and wilful ignorance of their nobility and sacrifice.
Nomadic and martial, ruthlessly disciplined, and deeply attuned to their
horses, they have astonishing field-, wood-, and warcraft, and the
knowledge and capacity to heal in ways that seem mystical to ordinary
people – with whom they do not intermarry. And they possess weapons that
can kill preternatural evil as ordinary weapons cannot.

It's both, of course ; and that essay goes on to take five major tropes in
-Lord of the Rings- and its long, long inferior wake that TSK
upends/reverses/cheerfully pretzelises : the magic sword, the chosen
people, the circular journey, the Dark Lord, and the eucatastrophe. As the
singular inherited magical weapon beyond the present ability to forge such
things becomes a class of weapons that are made all the time with constant
sacrifice, so the singular Dark Lord become a class of beings that while
fatally malicious are so by desperate nature rather than singular Satanic
pride -- which also transforms the eucatastrophe, as having saved the world
today, one has to get up tomorrow and save it again.

If those interested go to my LJ


and click on the tag "essays", the fifth one down is that paper / essay,
called 'Absent Gods, Absent Catastrophes'. And as it contends, the
triangulation with -Lord of the Rings- is certainly intentional, as
attested by Lois in several interviews and at least once on this list. So
the correspondences are fully deliberate -- but that does not of course
mean that any -interpretation- of those correspondences I make has any
authority at all save my own.

I am fairly sure that Lois has also confirmed the pattern whereby 'romance'
is systematically interrogated in TSK -- in Beguilement the woman's choice
of the man over her family ; in Legacy the man's choice of the woman over
his job ; in Passage the romance of the river ; and in Horizon the romance
of the road. IIRC she has also explicitly addressed some of the clear
challenge to the conventions of fantasy epic that became increasingly toxic
in the hands of Tolkien's inferior imitators -- not one of whom would ever
have started a novel* with a pregnant female teenager running away from her
family, nor yet (as Gwynne remarked) narrated a miscarriage. (Cf. lactation
in The Spirit Ring.) And I can say that when she saw my essay she did not
disagree with a formulation suggesting that -one- of the things she's about
in TSK in replacing tropes/topoi that in Tolkien derive from theology or
mythology with replacements that derive from biology -- magic
swords/sharing knives &c., but also frex compare the way Elrond's children
get to choose whether to be numbered among the First Born or Second Born,
and the more or less Mendelian distribution of groundsense ability in the
miscegenate suggested by Calla and Indigo Axe.

* And I do insist TSK is one novel, a four-decker, not a series or
tetralogy, however quadripartite. Just as LR is -- the original publication
in 3 vols was wholly an artefact of marketing and the post-war
paper-rationing still in force in the UK in 1954-5.

TSK is wholly itself, and superb, but it is also the single most profound
and telling creative critique of Tolkien and the subgenre he pretty much
created that I know ; so for me the relations of TSK to LR are -one-
-necessary- axis of reading. But that said, I'd be very hesitant about
trying any extrapolation into the new novella. There -might- be some
leftover or unfinished thoughts arising from the intertextuality that can
now be dealt with ; but it might equally be that TSK itself sees that done
and dusted, and a new autonomous set of thoughts arising from a child left
in passing, by TSK as much as Barr, will have some quite different
concerns. We shall see ...

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member & Director of Studies in English, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
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