It’s always interesting to consider what might have happened in history if certain people hadn’t lived: science without Newton or Einstein, music without Beethoven or Bob Dylan – and fantasy without JRR Tolkien.
Of course, there was fantasy literature before Tolkien – Conan the Barbarian in America, Jules Verne in France, Homer in Greece, the whimsical English fairy tradition. But the whole “high medieval” fantasy of kings and queens, dark lords and dragons, armies of darkness and elves of light, all really stems from Tolkien. Like composers after Beethoven, every fantasy writer since Tolkien has had to either imitate or reject; he casts a very long shadow, even today.
My problem with a lot of this kind of fantasy is that I’m a democrat. I hate the idea of “rightful kings”, of an aristocracy; I want my fantasy world to have equality of the sexes, universal education and suffrage, proper dentistry (I can’t imagine Aragorn, even if he had the hands of a healer, popping round to perform a tricky tooth extraction after office hours). I want to see Aragorn and Sauron standing for election, maybe seeing off Saruman and Elrond in the primaries, facing Obama in a live televised debate.
Anyway, replace Aragorn with Prince Charles and you see the problem with hereditary monarchies at a stroke. Preferably of an axe. (What’s that you say? We get an extra day’s holiday for the Queen’s jubilee? Why no, madam, I was only kidding. Vive la Reine!)
Slightly slower gansey progress this week as I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh for work; and as you still can’t take knitting needles as carry-on I had to leave the poor thing behind, like an abandoned puppy, nose pressed against the window watching me leave, howling inconsolably (“Down, Red!”).
This meant flying from Wick airport, possibly the cutest airport in Britain. There’s something very pleasing about watching your bag being hauled out of the cargo hold, put on a truck, driven the ten metres to the terminal, and unloaded through a hatch directly into the waiting lounge for you to pick up, even if some of the mystique of air travel is lost in the process.
Here at last is the pattern chart – though it’s scarcely a surprise at this stage. The only change I made from the original pattern was to widen the step slightly, from 10 stitches to 12, and of course to increase the number of pattern repeats to fit my stitch gauge. I’m cabling every 6 rows which makes for a nice, tight cable. The wearer will be lucky if he can bend over once it’s on. Heaven help him if he sneezes.
The Humber Keel gansey finally made it to Des, the intended victim, in Edinburgh – here’s a picture to prove it. I thought he wouldn’t get a chance to wear it till the cold weather in autumn, but luckily we’re having a traditional Scottish spring.
Finally, another triumph for Lynne; here’s her Cape Cod gansey, based on the pattern from Alice Starmore’s book. Note the patterned gusset, a nice touch. Congratulations again!