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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Close reading of "Bloodsport" by Gene Wolfe

Discussions/Questions Elsewhere:

Summary (the entire story is discussed--read at your peril):

The first to note is the title, which sets the tone:  This is going to be a game ("His head struck the wretched stony soil")--chess except some of the pieces are unusual, i.e. bowmen--but it's a brutal game.  The narrator, Valorius, doesn't want to kill.  He holds back a full blow: "The spectators were not pleased with me, but I was pleased with myself."

Then he meets Lurn, a pawn of the moon goddess, who bests him but spares his life.  A spark kindles between them.  Lurn tells of how the moon bests the sun, his god (presumably during the eclipse.  His statement shows that he believes they can get along:  "I have seen the sun and the moon in the same sky.... They did not engage."

Lurn and Valorius join forces with regular people ("They were farmers and farriers, tinkers, tailors, and tradesmen, not soldiers and certainly not Game pieces.") to battle the Hunas.

Lurn and Valorius make the last leg of the journey to where the game started:  the garden (Eden).  Lurn expects to be crowned, which is when Valorius battles her and uses the sun to his advantage to kill her.

Not a strong narrative story, possibly due to the nature of its teller:  a bit deceptive and  cruel ("like a wolf [author?] stabbing and slashing")--see title--this note seems critical in interpretation.  Another missing key left out of other interpretations is when Lurn and Valorius join forces:  They are not essentially opposed.

Both point out the religious aspects and the game of chess, which is about all that is clear on the first reading, but that they join signals they are allied on spiritual matters even if she is not able to discern ghosts as he is able to do--at least not until it's obvious ("Who is that?").  They are key players who guide the normal--their game on display.  They are not the major players.  Valorius is surprised to have made it midway up the ladder (this argues against his being a Christ figure).  When she proclaims herself queen, Valorius is moved to kill her.

The big question mark for me is the last line where just before he'd listed all possible paths:
"Choose your road and keep to it, for if you stray from it, you may encounter such as I....  We shall not meet again."
So all paths are equal? (This despite Lurn's outcome.)  The only problem is taking the wrong road (which Lurn did).  The ending appears to open a new can of worms.

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