Spellcoats ending (spoiler)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jul 25 16:39:27 EDT 2003

Charlie wrote:

>I recently finished the Spellcoats - a very good yarn - and was struck by
>the ending, which (as you will recall if you've read it) is written by the
>curator of a future Dalemark museum in which the coats are displayed, and is
>full of scholarly guesses as to their significance, historical veracity, the
>identities of the people mentioned, etc.
>I couldn't help but be reminded of the Historical Notes at the ending of
>Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', with its scholarly symposium. Except that
>Spellcoats came first, of course! But then it occurred to me that maybe this
>is a well-worn device, used all over the place by many writers I just
>haven't come across. So - can anyone think of any other examples? And any
>earlier than DWJ's?

I think it's one of those devices designed to show the reader that s/he is
privy to secrets that baffle the wisest and most learned of the rest of the
world.  There's an example in Susan Cooper, when they have retrieved the
McGuffin from wherever it is and it ends up in a museum, at the end of
*Over Sea Under Stone*.  1965?  Pre-Spellcoats, anyway.  That has scholars
doing their blocks over the inscription on the cup and proving all sorts of
things by it, and the children knowing better than they do but not saying.

Others that spring to mind...  There's a museum displaying things and
getting them slightly wrong in E. Nesbit's *Wet Magic* (1923), in which an
egg-boiler is explained, under the sea, as "Land-Queen's jewel-case" or
some such, with four huge egg-shaped emeralds in it to show its use to the
vulgar, and a half-full cigar-case is "Charm case containing Evil Charms".
Robert Heinlein has "scholarly" footnotes added by the Archivist (and
contradicted by the Other Archivist) in the early chapters of *Time Enough
For Love*, which came out in 1974, five years earlier than *The
Spellcoats*, so that would be a very minor example, I suppose.

It's a bit like showing the newspaper headlines or accounts about events
that have happened in a book, in non-magical/non-fantasy stories, and we
the readers know how hopelessly the paper has misunderstood the events it
is recounting.


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