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‘A Bird in a Cage’
The Worm Ouroboros, Chapters 22-24

The plight of the Lady Mervian, like many a woman of the heroic ages Eddison mined for this story, being Dark Age Hellas and medieval Britain, rises to take prominence over the great war in the narrative, bringing the story closer to the soul. The proud woman, both a prize to her enemy and a guardian to her people, is placed in the horrid position of being in the power of a brutal man who will stop at no shame or consideration to possess her sexually and symbolically.

Eddison here sketches a very real figure of a heroic lord of men, an Agamemnon of this fantasy setting, where gradually, the Demons and Witches with their tails and horns have become pale-faced human beings simply named after such creatures earlier described, as if the reader has finally been emerged into empathy with his alien subjects to the point of full identification.

Chapter 22 closes with a lyric poem plucked by Mervian on her lyre, who misses her brother and protector, Brandoch Daha, the Lancelot of this epic, unknowing that her cruel plight itself—her very circumstance—is sowing dissent in the ranks of her conquerors. For this story was written before the present age of The Lie, which opened in 1946, and decrees that even fictional stories must have antagonists so vile as to have no heroic element and therefore purge the hero of his essence. What occurs under Eddison’s ancient-thinking hand would have been applauded by Herodotus, in that the conquering king’s closest advisors side with the object of his unseemly lust—a lust that is very authentically crafted, not a prop, but a grasping desire:

“He rose up painfully, proffering from his lips a mud-spring of barbarous and filthy imprecations…”

Countered by the dignity of a rare woman:

“Did I not freely receive Corinius’s self when I did open my gates to him, firmly believing him to be a king and not a ravening wolf.”

Diction of note:


Night City: The Short Fiction of James LaFond: 2015-16

Organa: The Malfunction of Tray Sorenson

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