Exegesis of "A Tale"

It's a true story, actually, or rather a true tale. All but the last third, that is -- I just made that up ... things have to make sense, after all. The knight -- well, the man -- is still in the wilderness. It's been some years now, and he has no hope ... but we knew that. For our part, we might hope for him, might pray for him. He wouldn't admit it, but it's not so much despair as rage that stays his lips from prayer. Endings should be happy, after all, when you're a knight in a tale. He failed and still fails to appreciate that he lived in the real world, for all that there are dragons.

For my part, I have long known that God needs fools. Pity those whom God uses. That's why I have intervened. We always know how every story ends. Perhaps happily ever after, but certainly in death. There is a happy death, though, and I gave it to this poor, pathetic fool, wouldn't you say? -- if he dies, that is. Who knows ... maybe he recovers. But what should we expect? If mercy is to be found, it's not in plots, but themes.

What then shall we say? That he died happy? But he still lives, remember? -- I made the ending up. My tale-spinning may just be the tickling of an ear.
I wrote each of these three parts years apart, and I just made up the last part. So what shall we say? Maybe it's this: love has value in itself, regardless of its object or its outcome. If we love dragons, what must we expect but catastrophe. But this love has made the world richer, if only in the eyes of God.


At 9:04 PM, Blogger Jack H said...



At 12:06 AM, Blogger Jack H said...

B said
And the knight rested the rest of a babe at his mother’s breast. When he woke he found he was in the quaint dwelling of the shepherdess, and ministered by her tender hands. Autumn rolled into winter, winter into spring, and in the fullness of time the knight’s wounds were healed and he had grown into his former strength. And he came to be that he looked into the eyes of the maid, and saw no horror, no hatred, but love, compassion, as a shepherd for a lost sheep, as a shepherdess for a fallen unicorn.


And when the knight died, in her arms, he was swept by angels into the presence of the Lord. The knight looked into the Lord’s eyes and saw there all the depths of sky and sea, and swift winds and deep waters that poured out love, bathing him in every joy. The knight, ashamed, turned away, but the Lord with His firm hand gently touched his face and all his shame pain and and tears became as mist. Every torment became a sigh in the night, in the awareness of the King's presence.

Then the King spoke, “Welcome, dear knight. Come and receive the fullness of your reward. For you are most favored in my sight.” The knight grew confused. “O King,” he said, “how can you say this thing? My life was marked with torment and failure.” And the Lord replied, “Do you not see, my friend? I was the dragon. All your suffering was for me. It is not the success of deeds but the fullness of the heart that makes the knight.”

Jack H said...
Ah yes, you know the variant readings. I, like most conservative scholars, think the oldest texts are most reliable. Texts are so very mutable, no?

My theory is that the wounds were fatal. Miracles are so rare. But some kings do hate injustice.

There is a well-known ellipsis in that second reading, as you will know. While some corrupted manuscripts have the king saying, "I was the dragon", this is clearly heretical. More authoritative copies have: "I had loosed the dragon for just a time." I know of one fragment that reads: "It is mine to slay the dragon."

I view these addenda as pious glosses, clearly authored by a different hand. Rather like the pseudepigraphic Acts 29 – --
(see )

-- well-meaning, but of merely human origin.


brent said...
Yes, I see the variance. Clearly this manuscript lacks the darkness of the former. Have I been mislead? I suppose my own hope for a happy ending has clouded my exegetical judgment. However, the others are clearly written from different times. Could this manuscript be written from a redeemed knight? And the obvious context points to the King also being the dragon, possibly even a puppet doing the Kings bidding – testing the knight’s love. Or could this be symbolic of what most would deem hideous, but which those with eyes to see discern to be the true beauty, in love of the unlovable – God-like.

Jack H said...
I am no mystic, to speculate so loftily. I would suppose, if we were to deal in symbols, that the imagery of the dragon is sufficiently attested in scripture that we need not speculate as to its nature. In this sad tale, the dragon destroys and betrays and abandons. It does not return in any form, unless it be that of the dire wolf. What is it that burns women and children? What is it that tears lambs and attacks maidens? What is it that craves destruction? Surely, not shepherds. Not unicorns.

We might have hope that the dragon of this tale is so transformed. But that would be another story, and its history seems to have been lost. It is certainly unknown to me, and I have ears for such rumors.

We are the servants of our nature, and there is only one force in the universe, or outside of it, that can redeem corruption. That force, that Force, does not elect to do so, in every case. However we might mirror and pour out this Force, of love, it is not all-powerful. Free will has its place, and dragons are monsters of will. Some are touched, and transformed. Some are untouchable, and remain agents of darkness. How are we to know the difference? We can only love as much as we are able, and trust that such a seed bears fruit. We cannot be surprised that such trust sometimes proves false. We were given no promise of unwavering success. We were, rather, commanded to love, regardless of the object, and regardless of the outcome.

We must be careful not to read our desires into the text. Just as scripture must answer scripture, so here, in this merely secular chronicle, we must let the words mean what they say. I too would have liked a happily everafter. In fact, I did what no scholar should do, and inserted one, after a fashion -- selected from a number of possible choices, as the many variant texts indicate. The ending I selected, would have the knight as a second dragon, and this one finally transformed, where the first was not. The obvious homiletic lesson from such a reading would be that even those who appear to be good, are nothing but monsters, if untransformed by love. It is not the works of love, but love itself, that has meaning. Works show forth love, but they are not love. But as I said in the exegetical appendix of the Authorized Edition, the fact is that the last authentic report on the knight has him lost in the wild wood, unconsoled, if not inconsolable. I fear the third act of this Tale is mere pious apocrypha.

I do have access to unpublished material -- a fair bit of my private researches have been into this theme -- and it may be that I will release it to the public, some day. But the material is chaotic and badly preserved, and I'm not sure that the field would be enriched by any contribution I might attempt to make. We shall see.


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