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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Jirel Meets Magic by C. L. Moore 

First appeared in Farnsworth Wright's Weird Tales. Reprinted by Lin Carter, Pamela Sargent, Eric Pendragon, Robert H. Boyer, Kenneth J. Zahorski, Michael Parry, Sean Richards, Tom Shippey.

Jirel pursues the wizard Giraud into his own castle; however, his bloody footprints lead to a window and disappear.

Commentary (with Spoilers)

Jirel follows the tracks to find his sorceress mate who seems to be protecting him in this other realm--a woman who disappears and reappears with the sound of a door. In an attempt to save a wood nymph, Jirel is handed the key to destroying the sorceress who rules this realm.

Strangely, republishing this story did not take off until thirty-six years after its first publication, selected for various sword-and-sorcery publications, which was the hay day for that type of fiction, one feminist, and one major fiction anthology (about sixty years later). 

This is a powerful work, cinching the strings of the novel or collection together. What's strange was the belated editorial focus on the tale's strengths. It truly sells the collection as being what James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock one of "The 100 Best Books [of Fantasy]."

In "Black God's Kiss" and "Black God's Shadow", we have a journey into the subconscious (perhaps one's own or some supernatural dark that undergirds our existence). Here, though, we journey into the mind of another as can be seen by the unseen doors. Jirel must see through the illusions presented by another. What appears to be outdoors is indoors. The interiors of many homes often mimic the verdant exteriors--plants, flowers, colors and wildlife. Here it is literal, confusing not only where one is, but also where one is in another 's house. "Jirel's whole world turned inside out about her." This seems be an illusion confusing Jirel's mind--one of several she must overcome to reach her goal. Piercing the illusion seems to be the goal. It can't be too much of a stretch to consider art--written or otherwise--as a creation of another kind of illusion, which may need to pierced as well.

It's fascinating that her armor or "mail" (a homonym signifying Guillaume since she decided not to love again after him?) make her "impregnable to the men" (mentioned twice). Much of the first few pages could be an allusion to what occurred in the earlier tales--her love for Guillaume protecting from the desires of other men. Does it belong here? Only as part of a longer work and perhaps thematically. Giraud's crime is also not fully clear; however, he does abandon one mistress to reach out for another, meaning his attachment is not strong.

What her eyes being yellow means (due to blood-lust) is unclear. Are the irises yellow (do they change or was it hyperbole)? Or are the sclera yellow, due to blood, bile, or liver failure? Is it the blood of herself of others that creates the color change? It is probably best to think of the blood in multiple senses--from menstruation (a blood-letting unique to her gender), to death, to what brings oxygen to remain alive. If it's the sclera, it might be a subtle undermining of the character. Or is it the flaw that makes it perfect?

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