Conrad's Fate (at last)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Jun 7 10:31:46 EDT 2005


>Paul wrote:
>> (I have an impression that there's a precedent in DWJ for people
>> taking powers in vain and then getting squished when the powers
>> actually show up, but I can't think where at the moment.)

Jennifer suggested variously:
>Time of the Ghost- although it's perhaps a bit unfair to say they are
>taking powers in vain, when as far as they know they made her up. Is there
>something of the sort in Power of Three, or am I misremembering? Something
>about the putting curses on in the names of the Powers? Hexwood, where the
>Reigners try to use the Bannus and it ends up using them?

I suspect that the theme "Be careful what you ask for: you might get it"
runs through a whole lot of DWJ's work: it was something she picked up on
very strongly when she was working through the Encyclopedia of Fantasy
entries for Clute and Grant, though I can't now remember what the entry
covering the subject ended up being called.  It starts from the idea of the
three wishes that always go wrong and end up getting wasted, and the
Fisherman's Wife who demands more and more until the magic fish loses
patience and puts her right back where she started out, and spreads in all
directions from there, turning up in fantasy all over the place.

<rummage> <riffle>

Could be under "Answered Prayers" or "Read the Small Print" or in a number
of places, I think, though neither of those quite seems to sum up the idea,
being more preoccupied with "Three Wishes" than with Gods actually turning
up but not being quite as the person praying had wanted them to be.

In any case, meddling with powers too big to handle and getting a
comeuppance for it is certainly a standard fantasy notion.  Never mind
Tash, Uncle wossit in *The Magician's Nephew* can't cope with Jadis turning
up as a response to his machinations, and she isn't even really a god.

In DWJ's work, isn't there very often an element of needing to understand
things before you can deal with them?  She has a side-message, quite often,
that knowledge is power, that knowing what you are doing is the key to
doing it right, and that rushing in without checking what is really going
on may be a Really Bad Idea.  Some of her books are practically devoted to
that: *The Spellcoats*, certainly, and *Cart and Cwidder*, are very
strongly themed about learning what talents and skills and abilities you
have, and then how to use them in order to do what is needed.  *The
Homeward Bounders*, too, and *Eight Days of Luke*, though those have a
slightly different take, in that the hero *must* be ignorant of his power
or he can't succeed... But the power comes with realisation, at the end of
each of those.

This has wandered some distance from the gods turning up asked-for but
unexpected, and certainly from *Conrad's Fate* sorry, but it does seem to
follow some sort of chain of reason so I shall send it as it is and see
what others on the list feel about it.

Maybe it could get back to Conrad with the "he doesn't know what he's good
for" idea, and at the end what he's good at turns out to be seeing things
clearly -- even though he hasn't done so for almost the entire book.

Minnow


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