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June 5, 2013

The Farce of Ávila
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:04 PM * 91 comments

The fifth of June, 1465, saw a very unusual event enacted outside of the city walls of Ávila in Spain. A broad wooden platform was erected—all the chroniclers were impressed with its size and height—and on it sat enthroned a wooden effigy of the king, Enrique IV of Castile, dressed in mourning, wearing a crown and spurs and carrying a scepter and sword. Then, in front of a crowd of the common people, some of the greatest nobles in the land read out a bill of accusations against the king: That he was sympathetic with the Moslems; that he was a homosexual; that he was of peaceful character; and that he was not the true father of his daughter, the infanta Juana.

As each charge was read, one of the symbols of rank was removed from the statue. Finally, with the cry “¡A tierra, puto!” the statue was thrown from the platform, while the mob lamented the death of the king.

Then Enrique’s half-brother, Alfonso, age 12, was brought forth, proclaimed the new king; crowned and acclaimed by the mob.

WTF, you may be saying. That was the same question that Enrique IV asked when he found out. He was one town over in Salamanca at the time. If they wanted to depose him they could have done it in person. Alas, Enrique didn’t act as if he was no longer the king. In a letter he sent to Pope Paul II a month and a half later Enrique asked that the plotters be punished. The pope sent a nuncio who arrived early the following year, but the question of WTF? remained. WTF were they thinking? remained a major question until the death of Alfonso XII three years later.

So, WTF?

Flashback! Let’s turn to Enrique’s father, Juan II de Castilla. Juan married his first cousin, María de Aragón, and had four children, of whom only Enrique survived to adulthood. Juan had been a big booster of the new concept, hereditary monarchy. Up to that point, the monarch was chosen from a pool of eligible candidates, elected by the nobles and acclaimed by the people, after which he or she could be crowned.

Young Enrique grew up, and married Blanche of Navarre. Blanche was fifteen years old, and Enrique fourteen, at the time of their marriage. Years passed, without an heir. People started talking. The story was that Enrique was unable to perform with her due to a curse. After thirteen childless years the marriage was annulled in 1453. Blanche returned to Navarre, where an examination by pious matrons determined that she was still a virgin.

Juan II was in despair. His son Enrique wasn’t pulling his weight in the nice shiny-new primogeniture program. So Juan, after the death of María, married Isabel of Portugal in 1447. Isabel was younger than Enrique. Juan II managed to have two more children, Isabel and Alfonso, by Isabel of Portugal before he died.

Juan II died in 1454, making Enrique king. A year later, in 1455, Enrique IV married his cousin, Juana de Portugal. (She was his step-mother’s cousin too, as it happened. A lot of that going around: Blanche of Navarre had also been Enrique’s cousin.)

Six more childless years passed. People talked more. Seven years after the marriage, in 1462, Enrique’s wife Juana of Portugal had a daughter, Juana of Castile. Hurrah! The succession was secure! He wished.

Here’s where the soap opera starts. Enrique IV had a favorite, Juan Pacheco, the Marquis of Villena. The two had grown from boyhood together and were very close. But all was not happy in Segovia. Enrique IV met Beltrán de la Cueva, a handsome young man from a minor noble family. Soon honors and riches were falling on Beltrán, and by 1461 it was clear that Beltrán was in and Juan Pacheco was out.

Unlike Beltrán, Pacheco was one of the most powerful nobles in Spain. His younger brother, Pedro Girón, was the richest man in Iberia, with personal holdings that weren’t equaled until the 19th century. His uncle was Alonso Carrillo, the Archbishop of Toledo—Carrillo, among his other qualities, was a noted alchemist, reputed sorcerer, and so deeply political that even his conspiracies had conspiracies.

Those three—Juan Pacheco, Pedro Girón, and Alonso Carrillo—were the main nobles who stood on that platform outside Ávila four years later. Archbishop Carrillo himself was the one who removed the crown from the head of the wooden dummy-king.

With the new king Alfonso (they thought) firmly in the faction’s pocket, Pacheco set about a propaganda campaign: Enrique was given the name “the Impotent.” His daughter, Juana, was dubbed la Beltraneja: the daughter of Beltrán. This lit off a civil war which ran in a desultory fashion for three years, culminating at the Second Battle of Olmedo (where both sides declared victory). Alfonso died a bit later, of natural causes, ending the entire affair.

So that’s the backstory.

Now to the farce.

Pacheco and Girón had originally wanted to accuse Enrique of heresy: That he had attempted to get them to convert to Islam. Carrillo pointed out that this did not pass the laugh test. That left deposing him for being a bad king, for which there was precedent.

At this time the Inquisition was already trying statues for heresy, in cases where the accused heretic had died or was otherwise unavailable. Like the Farce of Ávila, these occasions featured a statue dressed in mourning, which suffered the sentence of the court and was executed. Another precedent was the trial and deposition of the Master of the Order of Santiago in 1431, where a statue representing the master was placed in his chair, then stripped of its symbols of rank by the commanders of the order, who forbade him ever to use his titles again. In that case, it worked. The master went home and didn’t use his titles any more.

Since the time of Edward II in England, a fully dressed statue of a newly-dead king would be carried from town to town, and a new funeral held in each, so that everyone could see that the king was, in fact, dead, and had an opportunity to pray at his funeral.

At Ávila the statue of Enrique IV would have been understood to be the real king, who was accused, found guilty, and stripped of his power. The crowd lamented for the death of the old king, then acclaimed the new king, now dressed with the symbols of state (crown, scepter, sword, and seated on the throne). Presto! a legitimate king. In theory. Or, rather, in untested hypothesis.

Alfonso XII’s elder sister, Isabel, was betrothed to Pedro Girón. (She was also, serially, betrothed to Alfonso V of Portugal (her sister-in-law Juana of Portugal’s brother), and simultaneously to her cousin, Ferdinand of Aragón. Alfonso V of Portugal for his part got over his disappointment in not-marrying Isabel by getting betrothed to his niece, Juana “la Betraneja” of Castile.)

Pedro Girón, for all his vast wealth and huge private army, died suddenly a year later: Some say of plague. Some say of burst appendix. Others that he was poisoned. Others that he was bewitched.

Beltrán de la Cueva, first Duke of Alburquerque, took the side of Enrique during the civil war that the Farce (unexpectedly, at least to Pacheco) precipitated; nevertheless Beltrán too was displaced from Enrique’s court, to be replaced by Juan Pacheco, again. Enrique put aside his wife, Juana of Portugal, in the care of Pedro of Fonseca in order to spend more time with Juan. Pedro promptly got her pregnant. With twins.

The death of Enrique in 1474 was followed by the War of the Castilian Succession, which sought to determine who would be the next Queen of Castile. The choices were Isabel (Enrique’s half-sister), or Juana (Enrique’s daughter). Beltrán fought on the side of Isabel. Pacheco fought on the side of Juana — the woman whom he himself had delegitimized as a child of adultery, “Beltrán’s daughter.”

Isabel won.


A note on the Second Battle of Omedo: When it was over, Enrique held the field. His advisor, Mendoza, told him that he needed to declare victory. Enrique replied, “Where is the victory? All I see are dead Castillians.” Over in the other camp, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, adviser to Alfonso XII, said, “Get out there and declare victory.” Alfonso did, and thus the matter remained in doubt.

A note about the word “farce.” At the time it didn’t have the connotation of screwball comedy that we understand today. It would have meant only “secular drama” (as opposed to religious drama or judicial drama).

Comments on The Farce of Ávila:
#1 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2013, 09:39 PM:

Since I just reread Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, all this seems really, really familiar -- except where it's different, of course. Now I'm even more impressed with Bujold's ability to transmute plain old ordinary history into magical fantasy and keep it just as interesting.

#2 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2013, 09:44 PM:

The most important thing that we may have gained from this messy situation may be the Coplas de Mingo Revulgo, a long allegorical poem, a dialog between two shepherds, discussing, in veiled terms, the current political events. Not that allegorical poems are rare, but that this one was written in the vulgar tongue, filled with slang and jargon, not the proper Spanish of the court. It is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, record of the vocabulary of the common folk in the region.

It was wildly popular, with many manuscript and printed copies. Two of the fifteenth century manuscripts were fully glossed, by two different people, while the events were still contemporaneous, so we can know without supposition what was meant.

#3 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2013, 11:13 PM:

This seems so stupid, though it seems it was real enough to sort-of work at the time.

Sometimes motivations from that long ago are incomprehensible. This is comprehensible, but jawdroppingly weird.

#4 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2013, 11:50 PM:

This seems like a slightly relevant thread in which to ask: Does anyone know a good source of Arabic words which have been Hispanicized? I'm especially looking for names of Muslims in Spain after the Reconquista. Already checked Wikipedia and found a list that did not contain what I was looking for.

#5 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2013, 11:53 PM:

Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was a young man when he first came to the side of Alfonso XII (and later Isabel). He was the fellow who looked around, said, "Guns change everything," and invented combined arms. He had infantry, cavalry, and artillery lending mutual support, while supply moved by sea lines of communication. He invented the tactics that Napoleon perfected three hundred years later. He was known in life as El Gran Capitán.

Later in life Gonzalo took to training condottieri and conquistadors. He died old and in great honor.

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:05 AM:

4
Medieval genealogy lists? It's one place where people do get into that kind of thing. (Sometimes loudly and at very great length, and more so if they only have opinions, not facts.)

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:07 AM:

Arabic words?

alcalde (mayor)
azotar (to lash)
asesino (assassin)
alfil (chessman)
hasta (until)
ojalá (hopefully) (Literally "O Allah," as in "would to God.")
aciete (olive oil)
almohada (pillow)
azúcar (sugar)
rehén (hostage)
adobe (adobe)
café (coffee)
alcázar (fortress)

Pretty much any Spanish word beginning with al- and a whole bunch beginning with a- are of Arabic origin.

FWIW, El Gran Capitán spoke Arabic as well as Spanish.

#8 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:13 AM:

Bujold took a medieval Spain(s) course at the U, then kept reading, then began her medieval "Spain" work. I haven't read it yet, but, well, there's always tomorrow!

Thanks for posting this kind of thing, Jim.

#9 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:26 AM:

Xopher@3: This seems so stupid, though it seems it was real enough to sort-of work at the time.

It was theatre as ritual (and as-you-know-Bob, theatre has its roots in ritual) -- that which is done in symbolic representation becomes done in reality.

#10 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:35 AM:

So they were basically doing a public spell to depose the king?

#11 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 01:37 AM:

a bill of accusations against the king: That he was sympathetic with the Moslems; that he was a homosexual; that he was of peaceful character; and that he was not the true father of his daughter, the infanta Juana.

Change that last one to "and that he was born in Kenya" and it sounds all too modern a list....

#12 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 02:01 AM:

Yeah, Xopher, that's about the size of it.

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 02:40 AM:

A note about the word "farce." At the time it didn’t have the connotation of screwball comedy that we understand today. It would have meant only "secular drama" (as opposed to religious drama or judicial drama).

The contemporary slang usage of "drama" also seems to be quite appropriate.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 06:52 AM:

Jim Macdonald #7: I was under the impression that the alfil was the specific chess piece we call the bishop.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 06:55 AM:

Jim Macdonald #7: Also, aceite, not aciete, is any kind of vegetable oil (aceite de olivo, de rape, de coco lo que sea).

#16 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:09 AM:

Clearly, I need to read The Curse of Chalion even though it hasn't got any Vorkosigans in it.

#17 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:28 AM:

Rikibeth (15): Yes. Yes, you do.

#18 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:34 AM:

I think The Curse of Chalion is one of Bujolds best, and The Paladin of Souls is excellent. Unless I've missed something, The Hallowed Hunt is minor by comparison.

#19 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:35 AM:

Rikibeth, 15: And then read The Paladin of Souls!!!!! IMO you can skip The Hallowed Hunt until you really have no more LMB left, on the theory that average LMB is still better than a lot of things.

#20 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 10:12 AM:

Thanks, Fragano. That's what I get for going by memory rather than looking things up.

#21 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 10:33 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #18, TexAnne @ #19, I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way. The third one is a perfectly good book, it just didn't grab me like the first two did. I thought maybe my brain was broken.

I haven't cosplayed in nearly 30 years, but if I ever did I would be Ista.

The Curse of Chalion has the most irresistible opening I've ever read. I picked it up at the bookstore and I was GONE before I got to the end of the second page.

#22 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 10:47 AM:

Re the Chalion series (Nancy Lebovitz, TexAnne, and Lila)

I like The Curse of Chalion.

I love Paladin of Souls. It was good the first time through. It deepens on rereading, at least for me, and I've developed an abiding respect and fondness for Ista.

I also liked The Hallowed Hunt least on first reading but found that it deepened on rereading (which I almost didn't do, as it didn't really call to me). Ingrey is in some ways a counterpart of Ista; both books are stories of people breaking free of the constraints imposed on them by their societies and their well-meaning relatives, although the specific constraints are very different. Ingrey is such a closed-down character; his very life has depended for so long on being private and controlled, and his breaking free comes in a series of small and subtle steps. It's unfortunate that this leaves him subject to being upstaged by the supporting characters, who are uncommonly vivid. Bujold is good at secondary characters, but they really shine here.

#23 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 11:28 AM:

I like all three of Bujold's Chalion books--a lot. Curse is in my opinion the most successful novel--it's Bujold world-building and plotting and character-developing at her absolute best. Paladin is also remarkable, though more for the character development; Ista is one of Bujold's most powerful characters, I think. Hunt suffers by comparison to the first two, in part I think because of the double-back plot structure (don't get me wrong, Bujold makes it work, but for some reason it seems a little clunky in this case) and in part, for me, because I just don't find Charlemagne as interesting a back story as the Crown of Aragon and Castile.

But they are all solid, well-written fantasies, and I too found myself hearing echoes of Curse while reading Jim's summation of the Farce of Avila . . .

#24 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 11:49 AM:

Oh wow, Lila, can I do the embroidery for the Bastard's festival-day clothes for you? Because a little border of white rats and crows sounds like so much fun, I can't even tell you.

#25 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:07 PM:

23
I don't think Charlemagne so much (Wotan comes to mind). The ice-bear subplot was based on an incident in 11th century Germany - a delegation from Iceland went to Bremen to ask for a bishop, and took a polar bear along as a gift/bribe/threat (take your pick).

#26 ::: John Rynne ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:12 PM:

Beltrán was the Duke of "AlbuRquerque", with an R in the middle. The Breaking Bad version lost an R somewhere along the way.

#27 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:14 PM:

P J, my favorite part of that section is that gur cevapr vf pnyyrq Fxhyyfcyvggre orpnhfr uvf cbrgel vf fb zvaq-oybjvatyl zbivat. A quick lesson in cultural relativism/assumptions.

#28 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:37 PM:

When Enrique married Blanca de Navarre, it was as part of a treaty ending a war between Castile and Navarre, in which Blanche's dowry was set equal to the territory that Castile had already taken.

When she went home with the marriage annulled, Castile didn't give those lands back.

Poor Blanche wound up as a prisoner in Navarre for the rest of her life.

#29 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:51 PM:

27
That, too. (I think it goes with the Barrayaran counts.)

#30 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 12:55 PM:

25: PJ, I did not know about the historical ice-bear incident! That's charming. But I'm pretty sure that "Great Audar" at least is derived from Charlemagne and the Massacre at Verden. Bujold has made brilliant use of the material, but (as I said) I just don't find the back story as compelling . . . maybe I should try a reread, at that.

27: Xopher, me too. I loved that bit.

#31 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 01:40 PM:

30
Google Isleifr and 'polar bear'.
The source is generally given as Adam of Bremen (1070s); Isleifr was in Rome in 1056, visiting the Pope because king Harald didn't like the archbishop of Bremen (who got to do the consecration anyway, because the pope said so).

#32 ::: BethN ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 02:18 PM:

The French made a very big deal of the royal effigy as a stand-in for the king -- in fact, in the 15-16c, they always had 2 effigies as part of the funeral/transition to the new reign. One of them was a dead effigy, symbolizing the dead physical body of the king (which was decently kept in its coffin where no one could see or smell it). The other was the effigy of the king as he was in life, symbolizing the eternal royal body of the King: a king may die, but the King never dies. This effigy sat in state, presided over banquets, rode around in processions, etc. until the funeral, at which time the old king's rod-of-state was formally broken and the new king proclaimed. Bye bye effigies.

When political theory evolved to the point that power transferred instantly from dead king to live one with no transition period, the effigies fell out of use.

#33 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 03:13 PM:

The proof that Enrique was a secret Muslim was this: He preferred to ride with his knees bent in the Moorish fashion rather than standing in the stirrups with his legs straight like a Christian.

He was also accused of capricious taxation and profligate spending. Determining exactly what Enrique did or didn't do can be a bit of a puzzle. Isabel, who followed him, had motivation to make sure that his daughter Juana was not the legitimate heir, and she owned the chroniclers. Figuring out Enrique's reign is rather like using Holinshed's Chronicles as a source on the later Plantagenets.

Your major chronicler of the Queen's party was Alonso de Palencia, who described himself as a humble "seeker of the truth," but has been more accurately described as "subtle and poisonous."

Speaking of Alonsoes, Alonso (or Alfonso) Carrillo, Archbishop of Toledo, had been the president of the Castillian delegation at the Council of Basle (formed to deal with the Hussite problem), a council which had attempted to depose the Pope.

-------------

You won't find a lot of Moorish names in Spain after the Reconquista. Anyone with an Arabic-sounding name ... changed it.

#34 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 04:49 PM:

18 & 19, I actually found Hallowed Hunt very compelling indeed. A coming out story, so to speak.

But then, I also read the books as theological allegories, each with its own virtue - Courage, Forgiveness, and Mercy, in order. On another board, when I brought this up, LMB's response was "Huh. You don't always see stuff close up, but it can be seen further out." Another poster objected to my using Christian virtues, and then we were off, with LMB bringing up the nine-hour video version of the Mahabharata as evidence that the idea of theological virtues is not exclusively Christian.

But yes, Curse of Chalion broke my brain in a very good way when I first read it. Naq gur Jvsr bs Ongu in Paladin broke it all over again.

#35 ::: Sue Burke ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 05:28 PM:

You can watch all this beautifully dramatized on Spanish television:
http://www.rtve.es/television/isabel-la-catolica/

#36 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 07:28 PM:

Pretty much all of LMB's books reward re-reading; I find that's even more true for Hallowed Hunt. There's a lot of there there.

#37 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 07:45 PM:

Laura: I tend to think of them as the Daughter's book, the Bastard's book, and the Son's book, which means we need the Mother and the Father at some point. :)

The Jvsr bs Ongu really, really amused me.

#38 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 07:48 PM:

Curse of Chalion is pretty clearly the Bastard's book, I think.

IIUC she had intended to write one for each of the Five Gods, but either didn't have stories to tell for the Mother and Father or the series wasn't popular enough.

#39 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:04 PM:

Xopher: Don't be silly, Paladin of Souls is completely and utterly the Bastard's book. Curse is the Daughter's book.

LMB was just Guest of Honor at Baycon, and the podcast "Sword and Laser" interviewed her. One of the audience questions was whether she was going to do more in that world; her answer boiled down to "I haven't got a story yet." It's currently the top entry at swordandlaser.com, and you can go directly to the mp3 at this link.

#40 ::: David Goldfarb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Linked to a podcast download site, I guess the gnomes view those with suspicion.

#41 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:06 PM:

Xopher: If CoC is the Bastard's, what's Paladin? I don't think you can say it's either the Son's or the Daughter's.

#42 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Carrie S., you should totally do it if you have the patience and the inspiration, but not for me! I'm unlikely ever to be anywhere I could wear it.

#43 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:32 PM:

All (or almost all) the magic in CoC is Bastard magic; the main character belongs to the Bastard completely, and several other characters are His creatures too.

The Daughter's book? Can't see it. Make your case.

#44 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:36 PM:

Xopher, Caz is a saint of the Daughter. Ista is a saint of the Bastard. Are you sure you're thinking of the right titles?

#45 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 08:56 PM:

Maybe I just need to reread them. I remember Pnm gbffvat nyy gung fghss ng gur raq, vapyhqvat gur qrzba va uvf oryyl naq gur onq thl'f fbhy, vagb na bcravat znqr ol gur Onfgneq. I could be misremembering.

#46 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:00 PM:

I probably should have ROT13'd some of that. If the mods agree, could you oblige? Like everything between "I remember" and "I could be misremembering."

[Done. -- Prostt Cumot, Duty Gnome]

#47 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:11 PM:

Vg jnf gur Onfgneq jub gbbx gur qrzba naq gur phefr, lrf -- ohg vg jnf gur Qnhtugre jub jbexrq jvgu Pnmnevy gb znxr gung cbffvoyr.

The Bastard is important to the story, yes, but the Daughter even more so.

#48 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:42 PM:

Thank you, M. Cumot.

#49 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 09:51 PM:

David @39: oh, how I wish she'd do a sequel to Paladin. The Hallowed Hunt is OK -- and now I think I WILL re-read it too -- but I want more Caz! And more Iselle! and I really want more Illvin & Ista & Foix and Liss!

#50 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2013, 10:29 PM:

The thing with wanting more of your favourite LMB character, is that her approach to writing is: "What's the worst thing that could happen to this person?" and then write that... She has said that people who clamour for more Miles stories should probably think about that some more.

As for CoC being the Daughter's book: Herself has stated it, on her mailing list, I think. Naq gur "ubyr" gung gur fbhyf naq gur qrzba jrag guebhtu jnf abg znqr ol nal tbq. Vg jnf znqr ol Pnm'f fbhy. Gur cbvag vf znqr gung gur tbqf npghnyyl pna'g nssrpg gur jbeyq bs znggre - gurl pna bayl jbex guebhtu crbcyr. Gung'f jul Pnm arrqrq uvf guerr qrnguf, "sbe gur cenpgvpr".

You should definitely re-read. This discussion is making me want to do so (again)!

#51 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 12:45 AM:

Cheryl@50: "The thing with wanting more of your favourite LMB character, is that her approach to writing is: 'What's the worst thing that could happen to this person?'"

I don't think it is. That line is frequently quoted and I think LMB started it, but it's not what I see. Her approach is: "What's the worst thing that this person could survive -- and learn from?"

#52 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 06:32 AM:

Andrew Plotkin @51

That's a quite general principle of making a story. There's a variation in Lester Dent's guide to writing pulp fiction. The story is structured as a series of problems for the hero to overcome, and they're never easy.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 06:51 AM:

Jim Macdonald #20: You're welcome. I find this one amusing, the one I find less amusing is the Frouseira (see the historia section of http://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castelo_da_Frouxeira) because the rebel in question was ancestor of mine and being in my line of ancestry had, naturally, picked the wrong side.

#54 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 07:40 AM:

Sue:

Yeah, that series is essentially everything I know about the history Jim is discussing here. Its like readinga discussion of Roman history and all you know about it is from seeing a couple Shakespeare plays covering the same span of time.

#55 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 08:26 AM:

Another fan of this series. The Curse of Chalion caught me hard in the first few pages and spat me out emotionally drained several hours later. (V gubhtug gur Pnmhevy'f tenqhny ernyvfngvbaf nobhg ubj ybat ur'q orra ba guvf cngu jrer rkgerzryl jryy qbar - chapurf va gur thg gb gur ernqre nf jryy nf gb cbbe Pnmhevy.)

Paladin of Souls took me longer to get into, but caught me after a bit.

I really like The Hallowed Hunt as well. It wasn't what I was expecting after TCoC and PoS, , but I liked Ingrey right from the start, which helped. I see that in Jo Walton's review over on the Tor site she says she never did really like him, and she thinks she would have enjoyed the book more if she had - so maybe that's a big factor in whether or not people like this book - if they like Ingrey and Ijada and care about them, then they like the book more.

#56 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 08:27 AM:

No idea why. Extra spaces perhaps?

[A comma with a space to either side. Odd spacing is a typical feature of mad-lib spam. -- Ludgens Borso, Duty Gnome]

#57 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 09:33 AM:

Xopher Halftongue @ 43
All (or almost all) the magic in CoC is Bastard magic;

Gur gurbybtl va gur obbx (naq frevrf) pyrneyl fgngrf gung gur Onfgneq rkvfgf gb onynapr gur Zbgure/Sngure/Fba/Qnhtugre naq gung nyy zntvp/qrzbaf naq zntvp yvxr guvatf ner bjarq/znavchyngrq ol gur Onfgneq. Vg'f vf nyfb pyrneyl fgngrq gung gur Onfgneq vf gur tbq bs ynfg erfbeg, nzbat bgure guvatf, urapr gur fhpprffshy qrngu phefr gung Pnm qvfpbiref va gur ortvaavat. Gur snpg gung gur obbx ortvaf ba gur rir bs Qnhtugre'f Qnl naq gung nyy gur tbbq guvatf gung unccra gb Pnm bevtvangr sebz n qvfpvcyr bs/orybirq bs gur Qnhtugre naq gung Pnm cenlf gb gur qnhtugre ba frireny bppnfvbaf chgf uvz naq gur obbx fdhneryl va Qnhtugre'f grzcyr.

Xopher Halftongue @ 43
and several other characters are His creatures too.

Gur bayl punenpgre jub pynvzrq npdhnvagnapr jvgu be qribgvba gb gur Onfgneq jnf gur Onfgneq'f npbylgr. Ur jnf nyfb gur bar jub rkcynvarq gb Pnmnevy gung ur tnir bss gur pbybef oyhr (sbe gur Qnhtugre) naq juvgr (sbe gur Onfgneq) sbe gubfr jvgu gur Fvtug gb frr gur tbqf-gbhpurq. Rirelbar ryfr jnf pynvzrq ol rvgure gur Sngure, Zbgure be Fba. Lrf, vg jnf gur Onfgneq'f qrzbaf gung Pnm jnf pneelvat nebhaq va uvf oryyl, ohg vg jnf gur Qnhtugre'f (naq Pnm'f) jvyy gung xrcg gubfr qrzbaf sebz rfpncvat. Cyhf, jura Pnm qvrq, ur jnf gnxra hc ol gur qnhtugre naq fubja ure svryq bs sybjref.

#58 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 10:40 AM:

I adore Bujold's work in general, and really liked aspects of the Chalion series, but I was put off by the meddling of the gods. I want my characters to have more free will.

#59 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 10:58 AM:

Mary Frances and P.J. Evans $ 23, #25, #30:

Can't remember if I read it on a Bujold site or if it was something Pat Wrede wrote or both, but the germ for Hallowed Hunt appears to have come from a book on Wrede's desk that Bujold borrowed before Wrede got around to reading it. It was called Mad German Kings or title to that effect--and I don't think they were talking about Ludwig II.

#60 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 11:25 AM:

janetl@58:

That is an interesting response. (I know, "interesting" is a wave-off word...) The thematic point of the Five Gods series is a theistic universe in which humans *have* free will -- as opposed to the shallow rendering of generic-imitation fantasy, where the gods are vastly powerful (if not all-powerful) but still leave the plot resolution up to human beings because of genre convention.

Real-life theists have spent some time grappling with the question too, of course. Answers such as "you wouldn't understand how it works" (ineffability) and "actually, you don't have free will" (Calvinism) are rarely regarded as satisfying. Nor has a-theism become all that popular, although I'm sure I'm not the only one on this thread who leans that way.

The idea Bujold works through is a rarely-struck middle note in which the gods can *only* meddle, and then only if people consent.

#61 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 11:28 AM:

janetl, 58: they *do* have free will. They have to specifically ask the gods for help, and then they have to choose to serve. Caz and Ista serve in very different ways; she's a much more active servant than Caz, probably because the Bastard thinks it's funny to make her figure stuff out.

#62 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 11:31 AM:

ah, shoulda refreshed. What Andrew said.

#63 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 01:27 PM:

#54 : albatross

The Farce is presented in Episode 2 of that series.

The first thing that struck me about the show was the thick Castillian accents of the actors. Then I facepalmed, because of course....

#64 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 01:37 PM:

I was up far, far too late last night (this morning?) rereading Chalion. I'll be vague to avoid spoilers.

Yes, for much of the book it was a little unclear to me just who was Caz's patron, given the presence of both white (Bastard) and blue (Daughter), and that his primary theological adviser ends up being a saint of the Bastard. The major positive events in the book, though, are almost all Daughter based, and it's very clear at the end that he's the Daughter's; the white was because of the event with the demon. He not only sees the Daughter and Her garden, he flat-out says that he's going to Her garden when he dies. Though it confused me for a bit, because he called her the Lady, making me wonder if he was talking about the Mother. I'd love to see a Mother book, not just because hey! Chalion!, but because I think it would be fascinating to see how and if she resolves the potential ambiguity about the word "Lady".

As for the free will thing, that's specifically addressed in the book: the saint of the Bastard (whom I'm not naming because a) spelling and b) spoilers) muses on all the hundreds of "Caz's" that may have been nudged to start on the path that Caz eventually took, and how the rest of these theoretical Caz's all, at some point, said "no". Or at least didn't say "yes". The gods can clearly influence events, but the reaction to those events is up to the human involved, and they can do almost (but not quite) nothing without direct human aid. This preserves at least some free will both for the gods and for the humans.

It's a fascinating theology, really. I really like the take on the Saints. And how the religious establishment doesn't understand them at all.

#65 ::: Cally Soukup has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 01:39 PM:

Probably for poor punctuation, given all the editing I did. Or maybe the gnomes just felt it needed rot-13ing instead of using vagueness as my spoiler protection? They're welcome to add it if they think it necessary.

[Yeah. Specifically, an exclamation point followed by a comma. Odd punctuation doesn't get on the list by accident: Each example is taken from actual spam that's hit us, and not just once. To quote in full a mad-lib spam that arrived just 48 minutes ago that tripped this very filter: hi!,I love your writing very much! proportion we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL? I require an expert in this area to unravel my problem. Maybe that's you! Taking a look ahead to peer you. -- Morix Cuisoonar, Duty Gnome]

#66 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Jim,

Yep, and I remember thinking "WTF is this accomplishing" when I saw it. I kept wishing for a "slow down 30%" button while watching the series, but over time, I found both the unfamiliar accents and the unfamiliar ways of speaking ("vuestra magistad") got easier to understand. And fundamentally, soap operas are just *better* with swords and poisoning and Vatican politics.

#67 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 07:20 PM:

"soap operas are just *better* with swords and poisoning and Vatican politics. "

And that explains the only soap opera I ever followed—I, Claudius. (You have to take the Vatican part of your formula anachronistically, but geographically it works.)

#68 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 07:34 PM:

Jim @33 -

That first sentence calls irresistibly to mind Harold Hill's line about horse-race gamblin': "Not a wholesome trotting race, no, but a race where they set down right on a horse." ("Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!")

#69 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2013, 09:44 PM:

Allan Beatty @67: I read I, Claudius during an election season (Bush Sr. vs Dukakis), and found the poisonings and knifings a refreshing change from the contemporary era's character assassinations. It somehow seemed a little more sincere.

#70 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Andrew Plotkin @60: The idea Bujold works through is a rarely-struck middle note in which the gods can *only* meddle, and then only if people consent.

Uh-oh, now I'm earwormed by:

"Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He sees,
Yours are the feet with which He walks,
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world...."

#71 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2013, 03:47 PM:

shorter elise: "Now you are the body of Christ" (1st Corinthians 12:27)

#72 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2013, 06:54 PM:

Regarding “whose book”: it was said that the Bastard is the thumb to the other gods’ four fingers (I don’t recall where); on that grounds he can reasonably be found in every book.

#73 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2013, 07:32 PM:

More on free will in the Chalion series. In Paladin of Souls, a character laments that the gods did not help:

(To a god): "You want something. The god's tongues can grow quite honeyed when they want something. When I wanted something--when I prayed on my face, arms outflung, in tears and abject terror--for _years_--where were You then? Where were the gods the night [redacted] died?"

(from the god) "The Son of Autumn dispatched many men in answer to your prayers, sweet [redacted]. They turned aside upon their roads, and did not arrive. For He could not bend their wills, nor their steps. And so they scattered to the winds as leaves do."

And then the god twists the knife, telling the character that someone else has been praying, in equally dark despair, and the character is, or can be, the answer to that prayer. "Will you turn aside? As [redacted]'s deliverance did? At the last, with so few steps left to travel?"

The gods may not be able to force people to do things, but the evidence suggests they manipulate really, really well.

#74 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2013, 04:02 PM:

God doesn't play dice with the universe. He plays cards. And he knows whats in your hand.

#75 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 12:37 AM:

Ken Brown: that's why I always liked that when the gods played a game in Diskworld, Fate chose Rincewind. Utterly contemptible and worthless until that vague moment when even he has a "This is wrong" moment strong enough to bend his survival skills towards something besides running like hell in a straight line. What's interesting about the character is the curves he ends up in when that happens.

(On a side note, I think that Granny Weatherwax would have absolutely no use for him under any circumstances, but that Nanny Ogg would see him as something she could work with or on. Depending on her stock of potatoes and sharpened sticks, because her cooking is never going to interfere with the Rincewind Prime Directive of get back to the Library where he's safe.)

#76 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 07:20 AM:

Ken Brown @ #74:

And whatever you've got, he'll always win, because he's got the whole world in his hand.

#77 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 08:29 AM:

And now for something completely different, here is an illustration of the uses of metadata

He's got the ones and the zeroes x, in his hands x.

#78 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 10:57 AM:

Lila @21: The Curse of Chalion has the most irresistible opening I've ever read. I picked it up at the bookstore and I was GONE before I got to the end of the second page.

I have a sense memory of having heard Bujold read it. I think maybe at a MileHiCon in 2000 or '01. "Poor guy. All he wants is a rest, and he has the misfortune to wander into my brain."

#79 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 11:31 AM:

The thing with wanting more of your favourite LMB character, is that her approach to writing is: "What's the worst thing that could happen to this person?" and then write that... She has said that people who clamour for more Miles stories should probably think about that some more.

She says that, but she doesn't mean it, IMO. Because ISTM the worst thing she could do to Miles is to divide his loyalty to Barrayar and his loyalty to Gregor. Which could also be the worst thing she could do to Gregor: making his lifelong fear (or at least since he learned some disturbing things about his father) come true.

Mad Emperor Gregor.

(Several paragraphs of elaboration cut, since this is somewhat off-topic in the first place. Suffice it to say that this has plenty of potential to be horrible to everyone involved.)

I actually kind of want to read it, but it would be much more horrible than anything Miles has gone through so far.

#80 ::: marin ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 11:37 AM:

Bruce @73: that's why I always liked that when the gods played a game in Diskworld, Fate chose Rincewind. Utterly contemptible and worthless until that vague moment when even he has a "This is wrong" moment strong enough to bend his survival skills towards something besides running like hell in a straight line. What's interesting about the character is the curves he ends up in when that happens.

Rincewind's not Fate's pawn - he's the Lady's pawn (which is to say Luck's pawn) in her games with Fate; that is, he's the wild card, the chance factor, in the works.

#81 ::: marin ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Argh. That should be Bruce @ 75.

#82 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 11:47 AM:

But I'm pretty sure that "Great Audar" at least is derived from Charlemagne and the Massacre at Verden.

I had thought that Holytree was based on Irminsul, but some quick googling turns up a Wikipedia page claiming that the Royal Frankish Annals state that it was Charlemagne who destroyed the original (?) Irminsul, so I guess we get two references for the price of one.

Although there doesn't seem to be as much religious difference between Audar and the Wealdings as there was between Charlemagne and the Saxons -- more like worshipping the same gods in different ways, not that that has historically been much less of a reason for humans to make war on each other than actually separate religions have been.

#83 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2013, 02:17 PM:

marin: Rincewind's not Fate's pawn - he's the Lady's pawn

Thanks for catching that--it's been several years since I read the book and I misremembered who the player was. (When it comes to the rest of the universe, Rincewind is always the one being played.)

#84 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2013, 05:53 PM:

This topic is of interest to me; I just recently started playing the Crusader Kings II computer game.

#85 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2013, 07:57 PM:

Okay, since I only own a few hundred books waiting to be read, I got a library card and checked out The Curse of Chalion. It's been sitting on the endtable for over 24 hours now. Maybe the Algerian font on the dustcover is offputting. But this copy is autographed!

#86 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2013, 10:51 PM:

As a longtime Bujold lover, I got a copy of Chalion as fast as was physically practical for me, when it came out.

Then I read the cover-flap blurb and got such an overwhelming "Oh, God, not another stupid Wheel of Time retread" feel from it that I RETURNED THE BOOK and couldn't force myself to read it for another six months, until all my other Bujold-loving friends pestered me to trust her.

Worst. Blurb. Ever.

#87 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2013, 02:13 AM:

Elliott Mason @ #86: Then I read the cover-flap blurb

See, that was your mistake right there. If you're already familiar with the author, or have some other reason to believe the book's worth reading, there's nothing left for the blurb to do: at best it will do nothing, at worst it will put you off. Save it for some day after you've read the book, when you're feeling curious about how badly wrong it is.

#88 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2013, 03:07 AM:

And in between best and worst there, it might have spoilers. I too have learned to avoid reading the flap copy on books I know I'm going to want to read -- which was difficult. I mean, it's text. You read text. That's what it's for.

My Bujold blurb experience was on the front cover of her first book:
"Trapped in an endless war without victory or glory, and only one thing left worth fighting for...

SHARDS OF HONOR"

Didn't sound at all like my kind of thing, put me off her for literally years. I didn't find out about her till she started publishing in Analog (which I subscribed to at the time) in the early nineties.

#89 ::: Alexander Kosoris ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2013, 07:56 AM:

Kevin Brown @74: If I learned anything from Chris de Burgh's Spanish Train, you can totally cheat and God won't notice.

#90 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2013, 01:59 PM:

Publishing types, why is it that the blurbs are often so very bad? I realize the blurb-writers often haven't been able to read the book, but even so it seems they could run it by the author or something (in these days of instantaneous communication).

#91 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2013, 04:11 PM:

Xopher:

The text on the back cover is written by someone at the publishing house, not by some author asked for a blurb, right? So why would they not have bothered reading the book? I mean, at the point you're publishing the thing, I imagine there are multiple editors/proofreaders who have read through the book pretty carefully--is there some reason why none of them can write something minimally sensible to put on the cover?

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