Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bernard Cornwell & Tanakh

A friend recommended that I check out The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell, who she praised as a believable author of historical fiction. I did check him out, but since the library I subscribe to didn't have The Saxon Tales, I instead picked up his retelling of the legend of Arthur. I love his revision of the tales, not least because it sheds a lot of light on Tanakh (especially I Samuel- II Kings).

I wanted to type up some of the pieces that I felt were especially relevant. The first piece is excerpted from The Winter King, pages 242-243 in the hardcover version. I felt it did a great job of demonstrating the love that men at arms feel for one another, and support the traditional reading in I Samuel of Jonathan and David as brothers-in-arms.
The bards sing of love, they celebrate slaughter, they extol kings and flatter queens, but were I a poet I would write in praise of friendship.
I have been fortunate in friends. Arthur was one, but of all my friends there was never another like Galahad. There were times when we understood each other without speaking and others when words tumbled out for hours. We shared everything except women. I cannot count the number of times we stood shoulder to shoulder in the shield-wall or the number of times we divided our last morsel of food. Men took us for brothers and we thought of ourselves in the same way. 
And on that broken evening, as the city smouldered into fire beneath us, Galahad understood I could not be taken to the waiting boat. He knew I was in the hold of some imperative, some message from the Gods that made me climb desperately towards the serene palace crowning Yns Trebes. All around us horror flooded up the hill, but we stayed ahead of it, running desperately across a church roof, jumping down to an alley where we pushed through a crowd of fugitives who believed the church would give them sanctuary, then up a flight of stone steps and so to the main street that circled Yns Trebes. There were Franks running towards us, competing to be the first into Ban's palace, but we were ahead of them along with a pitiful handful of people who had escaped the slaughter in the lower town and were now seeking a hopeless refuge in the hilltop dwelling. 
The guards were gone from the courtyard. The palace doors lay open and inside, where women cowered and children cried, the beautiful furniture waited for the conquerors. The curtains stirred in the wind. 
I plunged into the elegant rooms, ran through the mirrored chamber and past Leanor's abandoned harp and so to the great room where Ban had first received me. The King was still there, still in his toga, and still at his table with a quill in his hand. "it's too late," he said, as I burst into the room with sword drawn. "Arthur failed me."
It's worth it to keep reading to understand the relationship between Galahad and Derfel...but it's just as well not to spoil the book.

No comments: