Riddle-master trilogy was Re: Tolkien (was Re: Who invented the modern fantasy genre?)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Mon Aug 30 11:38:11 EDT 2004


On Sun, 29 Aug 2004 18:07:59 +1000, Abe Gross wrote:

>But harping on about grammatical inaccuracies with something as full of
>stuff to talk about as Riddle-master, even if you don't like it, seems so
>petty...

Here's another example, this time from a different group member:  Someone
was confused about the only riddle to come out of Hed, the one about Kern
and the thing with no name that pursued him, calling his name.  The way the
story goes, Kern fled past seven doors and locked them all behind him, then
waited as he heard six of the seven doors flung open by the creature.  He
waited for it to open the last door, but it never did.  Then he got
impatient.  Then he finally opened the door, and it was gone--and Kern spent
the rest of his life wondering what it was that had been calling his name.

This riddle is central to the first volume; its stricture is "Answer the
unanswered riddle," and this is the stricture that drives Morgon to leave
behind everything he knows to follow an uncertain and possibly fatal
destiny.  But this is how it's written in the book:  Morgon has just
finished telling the story to his brother Eliard, an unsubtle but not stupid
farmer, and Eliard says:

"Well, what was it?" (the creature)
"Kern didn't open the door."

You can see the problem.  Kern DOES open the door, eventually.  And the
entire group got hung up on how this was a big problem and how totally
confusing it was.  Except that it really isn't confusing; it's a metaphor
that is factually incorrect.  The rest of the story confirms what is really
going on; Kern wouldn't open the door to the creature when it called him, so
when he did open the door, it didn't matter.

I can't say that inconsistencies, whether grammatical or logical, can't ruin
a book.  Good grammar is how meaning is conveyed; logical inconsistencies
can make the rest of an author's words suspect.  But I do think that such
errors have to be pervasive before we get hung up on them, or it is just
nit-picking (or, worse, grandstanding on the part of the nit-picker, but I
really only see that in myself or in newsgroups :).  I can think of a lot of
reasons for a reader not to enjoy this trilogy--opaque description, strange
dialogue conventions, the overuse of the color orange--but a few minor
textual errors are not the greatest reason in the world, and as a critic I
certainly wouldn't give them a lot of weight when it comes to evaluating the
overall quality of the series.

Of course, I've probably read this series about thirty times, so I'm also
not the best one to pick up on any inaccuracies; I tend to elide right over
them.  Though the orange cloth has always bugged me.  I'm a child of the
'80s and we were always allergic to anything that hinted of the previous
generation.

Melissa Proffitt

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