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«Author(s): Sarah McColvin Title: The weaver at the loom: A discussion of Guy Gavriel Kay’s use of myth and legend in The Fionavar Tapestry Date: ...»

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Function III also introduces the ‘villain’ to the text: ‘At this point a new personage, who can be termed the villain, enters the tale. His role is to disturb the peace of a happy family, to cause some form of misfortune, or harm’.8 During the course of The Fionavar Tapestry, several different characters occupy the role of villain, though they are always agents of the larger evil, Rakoth Maugrim. For the greater part of the text Maugrim remains distant from the action and uses his underlings to perform tasks that he requires doing. Maugrim is a figure of deep shadow, from outside the Weaver’s loom, ‘Rakoth, whom the stones bind, is outside the Tapestry. There is no thread with his name upon it’ and it seems that he is waging war on the whole planet, and therefore all planets, rather than being focussed on a particular character (p. 214). This fundamentally changes the structure of the hero/ villain relationship. Maugrim does not want to kill the High King of Brennin in revenge for his imprisonment; he wants to grind all the people of Fionavar under his heel. This makes all people, human or not, his enemy and therefore potential heroes. As the narrative demonstrates this enables often minor characters to assume the mantle of hero for a short period. The idea of an interdiction being violated is most obvious in the breaking of the magical ward stones that guard Maugrim’s imprisonment. Brendel of the lios alfar suggests that Brennin do


Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Function III, para. 2.

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is not until much later in the narrative that the reader establishes that it is the Dwarves who have violated the oath they gave to guard the ward stones. The reader is aware that the guard has slipped but the reveal is delayed in order create confusion in the reader which matches the confusion experienced by the characters. Kay follows the order for the introduction of the hero and the villain as laid down by Propp: the villain is established first, and then the hero follows in response. Kay uses the prologue to introduce Rakoth Maugrim, the ultimate villain of the trilogy, and the heroes arrive later. This is repeated after Maugrim escapes his bonds. Until his ‘hand is clawing the sky’, none of the Five Canadian characters, or any of the indigenous ones, have become heroes. They become heroes because there is a villain who must be defeated.

The next several functions are compressed and disrupted by Kay as they shift from the order established by Propp. Functions VI through to VIII can all be found in the actions of Metran. By the end of The Summer Tree, the reader is aware that Metran is a traitor to his king and has been working for Maugrim; we are informed of this during his conversation with Galadan after Jennifer’s abduction: ‘No longer was he the shuffling old man she’d seen that first night or watched as he cowered from Jaelle in the Great Hall. Metran stood straight and tall, his eyes bright with malice’ (p. 184).

Therefore it is obvious to any reader that Metran has been spying on his ageing king and relaying the information to his true lord, Maugrim. These actions are defined by Propp as function ‘IV: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance’. However, Metran’s actions are not just an ‘attempt at reconnaissance’; he has been entirely convincing in his disguise as an aged wizard. The effectiveness of Metran’s deception blurs this function into the next one ‘V: The villain receives information’ all of which is dependent on his disguise, thus combining functions ‘VI: The villain attempts to

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victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy’. These functions are all present in the short scenes that involve Metran, though the reader is not made aware of the deception straight away, much as the leaders of Brennin and the other mages are oblivious to his deception until Jennifer has been taken and Metran has left for Cader Sedat. Yet, this is not the first instance of an agent of Maugrim spying, as Silvercloak and Sören are followed to Earth when they leave to collect ‘The Five’. In the complex weaving of narratives Kay is able to alter the order in which the functions appear, thus disrupting the familiar framework of traditional story telling. Maugrim’s forced entry in to the mind of Jennifer is also a form of this function which Kay has updated from verbal questioning to psychological abuse. The way in which Maugrim is able to know everything that Jennifer knows, and even things she is not yet aware of, demonstrates that Kay is also able to combine Propp’s functions as this action could be defined as function ‘V: The villain receives information’.

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function that can be applied at various stages of Kay’s narrative. Propp highlights this

function as having a pivotal point in the narrative:

This function is exceptionally important, since by means of it the actual movement of the tale is created. Absentation, the violation of an interdiction, delivery, the success of a deceit, all prepare the way for this function, create its possibility of occurrence, or simply facilitate its happening.9 Propp then lists the different ways this function can present itself and many of these

occur in Kay’s trilogy:

(1) ‘The villain abducts a person’ - Jennifer’s abduction by Galadan. Jennifer’s abduction and rape is undeniably a pivotal moment in the trilogy; without it the battle at


Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Function VIII, para. 1.

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child he fathers will bring about his downfall, thus he orders Blöd to kill her.

(2) ‘The villain seizes or takes away a magical agent’ – Metran and the Cauldron of Khath Meigol and the book of Nilsom. Whilst Metran does not ‘seize or take away’ the Cauldron of Khath Meigol, he does prohibit it being discovered by others. The book of Nilsom is a text written by an earlier First Mage of Brennin, who was instrumental in the corruption of the King at that time, and this magical text instructs Metran how to use the Cauldron to channel the life power of many others. Silvercloak has read this book, but the other mage in Brennin, Teyrnon, has not which suggests that this text is hidden or forbidden in some way. As Metran has this book, which allows him to shape the death rain which falling over Eridu, it can said that he has seized this text in order to prevent others using it. Silvercloak destroys the Cauldron and then burns the book, thus removing their magical threat.

(3) ‘The villain pillages or spoils crops’ – drought/ winter/ poison rain. Metran uses the Cauldron to create the brutal winter that lasts until Midsummer when the goddess Dana intervenes after receiving a sacrifice. After that spell has been broken, he shapes the death rain which falls over the mountainous country of Eridu. This death rain kills the entire population of Eridu in such a way that prevents other people from burying the bodies lest they become infected too. However, the Paraiko are immune from this magical poison and Kimberley is able to charge them with disposing of the bodies thus drawing them out of their self-imposed exile.

(6) ‘The villain causes bodily injury’ – Matt’s death. There are several instances of the villain causing bodily injury and of this being a pivotal moment in the narrative, but we shall remain with the actions of the treacherous mage. Metran causes Matt Sören’s death

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Silvercloak as mage and source is irreversibly broken. However, this enables Sören to return to Calor Diman and reclaim the throne of the Kingdom of the Dwarves. This in turn brings the armies of the Dwarves back over to the Light.

(7) ‘The villain causes a sudden disappearance’. The most notable disappearance connected to Metran is his own, as his departure from Paras Derval marks the discovery of his treachery. This disappearance is linked to his own reappearance in the narrative as a villain and this is accompanied by a change in his physical appearance. Disappearance and reappearance are linked here and Metran’s disappearance and reappearance at Cader Sedat also brings about the reappearance of Lancelot du Lac into the legendary love-triangle of Arthur and Guinevere. Whilst Lancelot had not appeared in the trilogy until this point, the inclusion of Arthur and Guinevere more than suggests his immanent arrival.

The remaining three specific points chosen here to be applied to The Fionavar Trilogy are most readily applied to Rakoth Maugrim as over-villain rather than to any of his minions: (13) ‘The villain orders a murder to be committed’; (15) The villain imprisons or detains someone; and (19) ‘The villain declares war’. As previously mentioned Maugrim orders Blöd to kill Jennifer after he has raped her and this occurs after she has been imprisoned in Starkadh. Whilst Maugrim does not officially declare war, with heralds and such, his intentions are well known to the forces of the Light when he breaks free of his bonds under Rangat. What the forces of the Light are not aware of is that he has been preparing for his escape for a number of years and is therefore ready for pitched battle much faster than they had anticipated. Only Kimberley’s warning at the very end of The Summer Tree prevents Aileron from marching on Starkadh with disastrous results.

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request or command; he is allowed to go or is dispatched’ is of particular interest in the study of fantasy literature as it defines the different types of hero. These are given by Propp as ‘seeker-hero’ and ‘victim-hero’ and the structure of the narrative depends to a large extent on which kind of hero is present.10 Both seeker-heroes and victim-heroes

can be found in The Fionavar Tapestry. Seeker-heroes respond to a request for help:

‘[a] call for help is given, with the resultant dispatch of the hero’ or they are allowed to leave in order to proceed with their quest ‘the hero is allowed to depart from home – the initiative for departure often comes from the hero’.11 Propp takes this further by stating that ‘[t]he departures of seeker-heroes and victim-heroes are also different. The departures of the former group have search as their goal, while those of the latter mark the beginning of a journey without searches’.12 Once the different types of heroes have been established, the next two functions are concerned with the hero’s subsequent actions, though Function X ‘The seeker agrees to or decides upon a counteraction’ is specifically concerned with seeker-heroes and not victim-heroes. Because of the close relationship between functions IX, X and XI (‘The hero leaves home’) they will be discussed together.

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Tapestry, the one who most closely embodies the idea of a seeker-hero is Kimberley Ford, the Seer of Brennin. Throughout the trilogy, it is Kimberley who embarks on quests to find specific people, such as King Arthur, or certain magical objects, such as the Cauldron of Khath Meigol. Whilst she does not physically journey to Cader Sedat, it is Kimberley who travels with her mind in order to locate the cause of the unnatural


Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Function IX.

Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Function IX.

Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, Function XI.

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subsequently sail to Cader Sedat, would not know that the Cauldron is the cause. Kay is arguably altering gender roles by having a young woman as his most obvious hero and Kimberley accepts this position of authority within the texts, as the powerful male characters defer to her: ‘Seer of Brennin, […] we are gathered to do your bidding’.13 This deferral of power comes from the preeminent shaman of the Dalrei and extends to three monarchs, including the legendary King Arthur, and two mages; all men who accept the appropriateness of Kimberley leading this endeavour. The only other woman present is Jaelle, the high priestess of Dana, who is consistently side-lined in the trilogy as she represents a power which the male characters, and arguably the male author, do not fully understand.

Kimberley also embarks on a physical journey which combines all the elements of a seeker-heroes quest when she leaves Brennin to rescue the last of the Paraiko in Khath Meigol in The Darkest Road. Her quest to save the mythical Paraiko begins in The Wandering Fire when Kimberley became aware of Ruana’s presence while she is endeavouring to find the cause of the winter; Ruana’s chanting guides her back from the ‘unplace’ into which she had travelled (p. 197). In The Darkest Road, Kimberley then travels to Khath Meigol to rescue the besieged Paraiko and draw them back into the world: ‘I do know that I have come not only to set you free, but to bring you down, by the power I bear, to war against Rakoth Maugrim’ (p. 69). Therefore, by embarking upon this quest Kimberley is responding to ‘a call for help’ and she is ‘allowed to depart’ immediately. Propp defines another aspect of the seeker-hero’s departure ‘[m]isfortune is announced’ and Kimberley’s quest to Khath Meigol also includes this


Guy Gavriel Kay, The Wandering Fire (Hammersmith: Voyager, 2006), p. 193. All further references will be given in the body of the text.

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