Lyonesse - 4: Characters and their Relations

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4: Characters and their Relations
Lyonesse seemingly has a cast of thousands. Did you gravitate to any particular characters? Are there any you hated? Characters often seem to have sordid and subtle relationships with other characters. Did any of these stand out for you?

Comments

  • 2

    King Casimir was the most despicable to me, above some of the more blatant villains. I liked Dhrun and Shimrod.

  • 2
    edited January 3

    I liked Suldrun, and Dhrun and Glynneth, and Shimrod, and a host of minor characters, like Shimrod's friend with the tail, who died, and whose name I can't remember.

  • 1

    I didn't much care for any of them. Except perhaps Glynneth, who seemed to have some empathy for others. The main descriptor I'd use for most characters is "ingenuous". Not quite naive, but definitely straightforward and trusting. Was there anyone in the book who came across as being genuinely clever and complex?

  • 1

    Not sure if this needs its own thread, but can we talk about the sexual violence in the book?

    I'm struggling to think of a female character who wasn't raped or threatened with rape, and how none of those offences was taken at all seriously by anyone else. It's something that happened so often it almost made me stop reading. It happened so casually that it makes me wonder about Vance's rape fantasies. Is rape a part of Vance's other work? Is it a projection of Vance's desires into his writing?

  • 2

    @NeilNjae said:
    Not sure if this needs its own thread, but can we talk about the sexual violence in the book?

    I'm struggling to think of a female character who wasn't raped or threatened with rape, and how none of those offences was taken at all seriously by anyone else. It's something that happened so often it almost made me stop reading. It happened so casually that it makes me wonder about Vance's rape fantasies. Is rape a part of Vance's other work? Is it a projection of Vance's desires into his writing?

    Maybe it does need a separate thread, but casual rape is sadly something that frequently comes up in Vance's works I've read. It's a major flaw; it's like racism in Lovecraft. I'm saying this as someone who generally likes Vance, and loves the Lyonesse books. It's a side of things I don't want to make any excuses for.

  • 0

    I kind of struggled to remember who people were when they reappeared after a few chapters' gap. In the end I just decided to go with the flow and not try to tie things together.

  • 3

    Yes, a glossary and better map might have helped. I rather liked a lot of the smaller characters. I was thoroughly charmed by Shimrod's pal, Grofinet. Julius Sagamundus, Suldrun's tutor in one early chapter, was also quite fun. Casmir was also a great villain because he wasn't entirely a villain - almost just more at odds with people than really against them. And Carfilhiot - not really evil, but still an antagonist, and himself being played by other people who might be better at the game. Most of the people I found most vile (Suldrun's guardians and mother, and that malicious fairy and the ogre) had only really small roles. The people with the larger roles were more complicated, I thought. And certainly all the wizards were clever and complex. At least, their depths were never really plumbed, I thought.

  • 3

    Let me start with my thoughts on 'Suldrun'.

    Despite the trappings, 'Suldrun's Garden' is anything but a cozy Princess Bride-esque fairy tale. There are some bleak, downright unpleasant themes here, and the core protagonists seem to endure agony after agony while the bad guys get away with murder and worse. In many ways, this is Game of Thrones level hardships at times, but strung out with fairies, Vance's own, unique take on sorcery, and his singular dry wit.

    What struck me about 'Suldrun' though, are the relationships and friendships. With one notable exception, the main characters are helped and redeemed by the friendships and love for others. Suldrun and Master Jaime; Suldrun and Aillias; Aillas and his Slave Companions; Dhrun and Glyneth; Dhrun, Glyneth and Shimrod... all these relationships help carry the reader through the bleak sections of the book, especially towards the end, where the race to save the children is genuinely moving and compelling.

    I feel in love with these characters, and their interplay. In particular, the passage where Suldrun and Master Jaime discuss magic, is deeply affecting, as is the growing bond between Shimrod, Dhrun and Glyneth later in the story.

    The villains are, by contrast, isolated, friendless, and manipulators, incapable of sustaining meaningful relationships beyond base gratification. Casmir, Carfilhiot, Melancthe and Brother Umphred: isolated and scheming, they enjoy the trappings of success and power, suffering little, but are emotionally bankrupt.

    At times, 'Suldrun' almost has a 'Candide' like quality to it, with characters undergoing extraordinary trials but emerging due to their strength of character and desire for genuine justice. It is certainly unlike most stock fantasy trilogies - but then, Vance is unlike just about every fantasy writer out there.

    Looking forward to what others think.

  • 3

    @NeilNjae said:
    Not sure if this needs its own thread, but can we talk about the sexual violence in the book?

    I'm struggling to think of a female character who wasn't raped or threatened with rape, and how none of those offences was taken at all seriously by anyone else. It's something that happened so often it almost made me stop reading. It happened so casually that it makes me wonder about Vance's rape fantasies. Is rape a part of Vance's other work? Is it a projection of Vance's desires into his writing?

    I think to call it a projection of Vance's desires into his writing doesn't give him enough credit. To paraphrase von Clausewitz, sexual violence is sexual politics by other means, and the theme of sexual politics is shot through the entire trilogy. The relationships between Melancthe and Shimrod as well as that between Aillas and Tatzel can be read as reflections upon the nature of desire and its illusory character. Vance is clearly making judgments about sexual desire, with which one may reasonably disagree, but it seems clear that his presentation of sexual predation isn't snickeringly prurient: it's a characteristic of villains that stands in clear contrast to the behavior of the "good guys" and which often enough gets them punished rather severely. The ogre who rapes the adolescent girl gets his head chopped off and boiled in a pot, for example.

  • 2
    edited January 4

    Just to note I've moved a comment from @Loz in this thread from elsewhere. It appears two posts above this one in case anyone missed it.

    And, that's a great analysis, IMO. It helps me put a finger why I really like some of the characters - or maybe it's more proper to say character combinations - and dislike others. Though I'm still having trouble reconciling this view with @NeilNjae 's, which seems very different.

  • 2
    edited January 4

    @Bill_White said:
    ...but it seems clear that his presentation of sexual predation isn't snickeringly prurient:

    I got well fed up with reading of "erotic conjunctions" and similar circumlocutions...

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:

    @Bill_White said:
    ...but it seems clear that his presentation of sexual predation isn't snickeringly prurient:

    I got well fed up with reading of "erotic conjunctions" and similar circumlocutions...

    Fair enough. But, I mean, it's not Nomads of Gor.

  • 1

    I was quite put off my the sexual violence (though I never disliked his language even there).

    It wasn't enough to ruin the stories but it was too much and there is a good argument that using it to set up or colour a villain is kind of lazy.

    The only other characters I found annoying were the ones overly tolerated like the performers who swindle Sir Pompom and Madouc (in book 3, admittedly). It felt so obvious and went on for so many steps that I struggled to believe it would be tolerated without resistance.

    On the contrary I loved the obvious-to-the-reader ruses of certain highwaymen throughout the books.

  • 1

    @Loz Do you think there's anything to be read into the fact that one of the most touching relationships was so short lived? Jaime doesn't survive the chapter, and Suldrun doesn't make it to the second half of the book. So happiness is fleeting in Lyonesse?

  • 0
    On those lines, I was quite struck by - despite the book's name - Suldrun gets scarcely to half way, and the garden isn't that important for most of the book!
  • 2

    @Apocryphal said:
    @Loz Do you think there's anything to be read into the fact that one of the most touching relationships was so short lived? Jaime doesn't survive the chapter, and Suldrun doesn't make it to the second half of the book. So happiness is fleeting in Lyonesse?

    I think Vance was making it clear that this isn't a traditional fantasy where the fair prince wins the princess, and her beloved mentor smiles on benevolently. Bad things happen to Good People, but that beautiful little relationship brings a bitter-sweet note of happiness to Suldrun's otherwise glum existence.

    For some, happiness is very fleeting, but the hardships endured by Aillas, Dhrun and several others help forge their characters so that they can, as the saga develops in 'The Green Pearl' and 'Madouc', challenge those who genuinely mean harm to the Elder Isles. Aillas definitely hardens, becomes less romantic, and actually grows into being a king who can outthink even the scheming Casmir.

  • 2

    @Loz said:

    What struck me about 'Suldrun' though, are the relationships and friendships. With one notable exception, the main characters are helped and redeemed by the friendships and love for others. Suldrun and Master Jaime; Suldrun and Aillias; Aillas and his Slave Companions; Dhrun and Glyneth; Dhrun, Glyneth and Shimrod... all these relationships help carry the reader through the bleak sections of the book, especially towards the end, where the race to save the children is genuinely moving and compelling.

    I feel in love with these characters, and their interplay. In particular, the passage where Suldrun and Master Jaime discuss magic, is deeply affecting, as is the growing bond between Shimrod, Dhrun and Glyneth later in the story.

    The villains are, by contrast, isolated, friendless, and manipulators, incapable of sustaining meaningful relationships beyond base gratification. Casmir, Carfilhiot, Melancthe and Brother Umphred: isolated and scheming, they enjoy the trappings of success and power, suffering little, but are emotionally bankrupt.

    This is great. I agree 100%. I think you've captured the essential (but deftly handled) 'morality lesson' of the novels very well.

    I also think Vance's more amoral 'roguish' characters in his other stories -- I have in mind Cugel especially -- suffer precisely because they are so isolated and scheming. So this is, perhaps, an underlying theme of a lot of Vance's (fantasy) works.

  • 2

    @RichardAbbott said:
    On those lines, I was quite struck by - despite the book's name - Suldrun gets scarcely to half way, and the garden isn't that important for most of the book!

    Yes, and (no spoilers) the second novel has surprisingly little to do with the 'green pearl' itself (though it does play a very important role at the very end)!

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