Six Degrees: From Perenelle to Lord Juss
Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Six Degrees we go! This week we once again hop from book to book and character to character as the mysterious, circuitous path known as Six Degrees of Kool Books continues. In the last link in the chain, Jenelle Schmidt introduced us to the multi-volume, history spanning world of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. It was certainly not your typical fantasy fare with time travel and magic and historical characters all wrapped up into one very interesting sounding series.
I had not heard of the world of Nicholas Flamel and I’m guessing many who read this will not have heard of the book which sparked a connection to it in my mind. The book I am referring to is The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison. Tolkien and Lewis were both admirers of this work, with Tolkien eve calling Eddison, “The greatest and most convincing writer of invented worlds I have ever read.” High praise indeed. Perhaps one day I’ll give a fuller review of this work. It certainly merits one, but suffice it to say that with its Jacobian English, odd names, and even odder countries, Ouroboros is probably not for everyone. I quite enjoyed it, however, and if you have an interest in fantasy or myth, it is probably one worth giving a try.
Now, on to the connection. In Jenelle’s post, she mentioned Flamel’s wife Perenelle, describing her as, “more decisive than her husband, and more willing to take responsibility. She believes whole-heartedly in their cause and is not as bothered as her husband by the casualties of war.” This brought to mind the leader of the unfortunately named forces of Demonland from Eddison’s books, Lord Juss. He is not really a demon as the name of his country might imply. Juss and his court are said to have horns on their head, but in all other respects they act and behave like normal men. For some reason Eddison named all of the different countries in his world after fantasy creatures. So for instance we have Witchland, Goblinland, Pixyland, Impland, and so forth. But the people of these lands don’t seem to be witches or goblins or imps anymore than Juss and his people seem to be demons. It’s one of the unfortunate aspects of the story, but once you get past it and the loopy names Eddison picks for some of his characters, it’s quite a rousing tale.
Juss is someone who is practically fearless when it comes to facing the much stronger armies of Witchland. He embarks on a quest twice to rescue his imprisoned brother, risking his life multiple times. He is certainly not bothered by those who fall fighting, in fact, the whole book revolves around the idea of a perpetual, never ending war and Juss whole-heartedly embraces his role in it.
Yes, these are really their names
The players in this conflict are many. First we have Goldry Bluszco (I told you the names were quirky). Juss’ brother is incredibly strong and challenges one of the lords of Witchland to a wrestling match where it’s winner take all and the fates of the two kingdoms hang in the balance.
Brandoch Daha is a great warrior, the greatest swordsman of the day in fact. He reminds me a bit of Lancelot in that he is Demonland’s premier warrior and peerless in battle. As with the rest of the Demon lords, he is noble through and through.
Lady Mevrian is Brandoch’s sister and, left in their family’s castle while the army is off fighting the war she is captured when the castle falls to Witchland. Brandoch’s counterpart among the Witches, the ambitious Corinius attempts to force Mevrian to marry him. Corinius is a prideful yet shrewd leader who pursues the war and Mavrian with dogged tenacity. Lord Gro, the sorcerer and advisor to the Witches is not from Witchland, but uses his skills to further their conquests. It is his magic which flings Goldry to the far corners of the world. At first he seems like your typical, dark-hearted wizard, but he is a rather complicated character and his motivations and perspective change considerably after meeting the Lady Mevrian.
Prince La Fireez is the ruler of Pixyland. What a name right? And to top it off he has to rule a country called Pixyland. The guy can’t get a break. Although officially his kingdom falls under the authority of Witchland, Lord Juss saved his life in the past and when the leader of the Demons is taken prisoner and held by La Fireez, he is forced to make a difficult decision about what to do.
Duke Corsus is another of the leaders of the Witchland army, but his days of glory seem to be behind him. Though still a skillful warrior he is not happy about the young upstart Corinius and other new leaders taking his place and seems to want to drown his sorrows in drinking and feasting.
Lord Corund is the overall leader of the armies of Witchland. He is sort of the General Lee of the story, a noble soldier fighting on the wrong side of the conflict. Lord Juss and the others respect him, even though he is trying to destroy their homeland.
It was actually a bit of a struggle describing these characters and I apologize that some of them are a bit vague. It’s been several years since I read it and the story is so stylized that most of the characters are defined by their actions more than their personalities. It is a given that the heroes will all to a man risk their lives and fight on in the midst of the worst kinds of adversity. They are a little like the heroes of Greek mythology. Theseus, Perseus, and Hercules for instance are all different people, but in the end they are really all just heroes running around the world doing mighty feats. The world of Ouroboros is a little like that. It’s still great reading though and the story has a classic, timeless feel. I guarantee that if you read it you won’t forget it. There exists no other fantasy novel I’m aware of that is anything like it.
If you want to join Jenelle and I in our little weekly posting, just visit the Six Degrees main page to find out how it all works. If you do join us, we’ll put a link to your page on the site so you can be part of this great online literary game!