||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Joiry deserves more
CL Moore in her Jirel cycle sketched out two worlds: the French barony of Joiry, which is where Jirel interacts with reality; and the underworld, which best I can tell is her own self-twisted mindscape. Moore first presents Joiry to us as a Dark Age manor, a land with a Church but no King - not even crossbows. Moore struck gold with her first such story - and then wrote it again... and again. This was a waste, because a setting should, also, be a protagonist: Howard's boisterous kingdoms of the Hyborean Age, Smith's Stygian charnels of Zothique.
Smith's Averoigne was a Dark Age manor too, once upon a time: HP Lovecraft mused on its dark age. HPL might have done it ineptly, and Smith himself wrote only of its Haut-Moyen, but we do have hints at an older age of robber-barons in what they're now calling Ylourgne.
Moore's worldbuilding is sparse; any backstory to Black God's Kiss isn't needed for that story. As a result, we don't learn how Jirel got to command a castle. As for Guillaume, we don't know why he wanted that castle. Guillaume's name points to German stock from central (or south) France. Since he was ignorant of the masked knight's sex, he's probably a foreigner. (From Vyones, peut-être.) So he constrains Joiry only in time, after the name "Guillaume" became a thing in the eleventh century or later.
Put it this way: Conan would know exactly what to do in old Averonha. Conan in haut-moyen Ximes or Vyones, if there wasn't a monster about, would find himself adrift, an hour after he'd worn out the local trollops. (Although one does wonder how he'd fare against la Mère des Crapauds.) I get the notion Conan would know what to do in Guillaume's and Jirel's Joiry as well.
Joiry is, then, that Arabian-Nights archetypal land whither the adventurer comes to conquer the faceless knight and to pull off his helmet, to reveal it as her helmet. Moore had riffed on this to explore how the prize of Bad Idea Conan's conquest might react, if given time and opportunity to... reflect.
But that is only one possible female (anti)adventure, to only one trope of male adventure-story. Are there not more? If Moore had read more, and cared more, I hope she'd have gotten more mileage out of Joiry's possibilities.
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