Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Post Soon!

As the owner of this blog, I was very excited to have another chance to read The Lymond Chronicles and share that experience with anyone who wanted to join me. I had a brief spurt of posts, but also started graduate school around the same time. However, having just wrapped up my first semester and looking for some things to keep my mind working, I am returning to Lymond's world and will be posting here soon on the rest of Game of Kings and hopefully the next novels in the series.

Thank you for your patience!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Will Scott of Buccleuch

Simon Woods 
Role as Charles Bingley from 'Pride and Prejudice' 2005

Another one of my favorite characters we find in Game of Kings is Lymond's side-kick, one-time betrayer and ultimate savior (by the end of Kings at the very least), Will Scott of Buccleuch. He is young, brash, bold, very intelligent and hell bent on joining Lymond's misfits to prove something to himself and others. As the eldest, legitimate son of Sir Walter Scott, Will Scott certainly would have had much of the same education and warrior's background as Lymond but where they match each other in those arenas, I think from the outset Dunnett wanted these two men to have something ultimately dividing the two.

They are both young men, though for all of Lymond's handful of extra years there are eons of experience and hardship giving Lymond the rough edges, unappealing vices but the lightning quick mind Will Scott (and even the reader) have a hard time keeping up with. I feel Will Scott's role in Kings was a mirror of our, the reader's role: that of a confused interloper just trying to fight our way through.

From the beginning of their relationship, Lymond is dismissive, vindictive and derisive to Will Scott, constantly testing his loyalties and fortitude to live on the other side of the law and his father's displeasure just as the reader is struggling to find where we should fit Lymond into our own hearts. It is through their relationship that much of the story is eventually explained as time after time Will fumbles his way beside Lymond, constantly demanding an explanation for the Master's actions.

I always felt a kind of sorrow for Will Scott because I think he hungered to be the kind of master of men Lymond was, but he lacked the sometimes heart of steel needed. Maybe it was through some of Will's more temperate personality that helped guide Lymond through the worst of his moments, thereby making him one of those heroes that fade into the background but are no less important.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


"I am as I am, and so will I be; but how I am, none knoweth truly... disdain me not without desert! Forsake me not till I deserve, nor hate me till I offend."

This is, I believe, one of the many clues Dunnett begins embedding to give the reader some idea of our hero's deeper character once we are able to peel away the disdain, conceited and petulant behaviors, spitefulness and acidic tongue. But as it comes rather early in the overall story, I think we tend to forget about this first and rather tender view of Lymond. It is a fairly intimate moment between two strangers, but in it Lymond recognizes something in Christian Stewart worth respecting and admiring. Though he has suffered a blow to the head causing a momentary lapse in memory, his personality and intelligence shine through at a masterful level. 

There is quite a lot going on in this seemingly simple scene - things I completely glossed over while reading this the first couple of times. All of the characters are still new to us but there are some, like Lymond's brother Richard, that we are better able understand more immediately. Yet, Lymond is supposed to remain an enigma to the readers for the basically the entire series. By this point we've seen him as the leader of a merry band of misfits, a drunkard with a bit of a cruel streak, an able solider and an enlightened man born out of wealth and the highest education. No one in Scotland or England know where his allegiances lie at this point - we are given to understand he has taken bribes in one form or another from both - but we do know he is a wanted traitor in Scotland. He has taken part in skirmishes that are aiding the Scottish forces yet his own brother and Sir Walter Scott are as yet unconvinced. What he is doing at the bottom of Boghall Castle with a sizable lump in his head is a bit of a mystery, but this is where he encounters Christian Stewart and their relationship takes root. She will become an ally of Lymond, for reasons not quite clear at this point - but she is able to break down some of the barriers he has and remains one of the few women to do so in this series. 

This scene has become one of my favorites and not because I imagine it as a love at first encounter situation; mainly it is when we are finally introduced to a rarely seen softer side of our hero and it is with a quite unusual woman, brilliant in her own right.

 The verbal sparing begins with Lymond quoting from A Tale of Rauf Coilzear... (historically there is no other known manuscript except a 1572 version owned by the National Library of Scotland, but as the text belongs to a time period of medieval poetry the reader can assume Lymond will be familiar with it)
 ...'I am but ane mad man that thou hast here met'

Doing a bit of digging, I located an online text of this poem and have located the passage...

'I am bot ane mad man that thow hes heir met
I haue na myster to matche with maister full men
Fairand our feidelis Fewell to fet
And oft fylit my feit in money foul fen 
Gangand with laidis my gouerning to get
Thair is mony Carll in the countrie thow may nocht ken,
I sall hald that I have hecht, bot I be hard set 
To Wymond of Wardrop I wait fell weill quhen
Sa thruie I said, Rolland it is mine Intent
That nouther to Wymond nor Will
Thou sall hald no hecht till 
Quhill I have brocht the to fulfill
The Kings Commandment

I have also found a text that gives a bit of a summary of this medieval tale and helps us understand what is being said. This is a bit of a verbal clue from Lymond, because in the tale the Emperor Charlemagne tells an unsuspecting charcoal-burner that he is Wymond of the Wardrobe and is in the queen's service. Our confused hero Rauf doesn't know what Charlemagne looks like, and so accepts this story to be true. Christian could conceivably take the place of the ignorant Rauf because her lack of sight will always lead her to be ignorant of anyone's true identity and using the allusion to the name here could lead one to think Lymond is aware of his identity and is yet buying time to find a way out of his predicament. Is he also trying to convince Christian she should trust his allegiances are as they should be (by being Wymond of the queen's wardrobe) and so not to consider him an English spy?  

Christian now has her own opportunity and parries his thrust with one of her own from the medieval tale Roswall and Lillian in which a poor and bereft knight known as Dissawar shows up in Lillian's father's kingdom and wins her love. As Lillian is trying to discover the true identity of Dissawar she begs him to
 'cast away that name. 
Call  you Hector of Oliver, or as ye are fair enough, 
Sir Porteous, or else name you for the worthy Emedus; 
or call you for the brave and comely Predicase. 
Or, because I love you so well, let your name be Sir Liondale, 
or great Florent of Albanie if ye bear love for me, my heart! 
Or call you Lancelot du Lake for the sake of your true love, 
or the Knight of the Arms Green, for the love of your bright lady!'

It is here Lymond recognizes Christian's humor, intelligence and quick wit and his respect for her grows immensely when he recognizes he cannot hide behind allegorical and classical allusions to heroes long gone. When he then changes his tune and starts quoting from Sir Thomas Wyatt's works, I feel he is offering Christian an apology for using his games on her and also trying to tell her he will reveal in his own time who he truly is, but asking her for the grace to do so. 

If you have any thoughts to share on this little scene, please feel free to do so. This has been quite a learning experience for me!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch

Though it would probably seem best to start off this blog with a long and detailed post about our hero, I thought I would start off with one of my favorite characters in this series, Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch.
Actor Kieth Michell portraying Henry VIII in the 1970 series  Six Wives of Henry VIII. 

From Dunnett's descriptions of Sir Walter Scott, I started envisioning this towering hulk of a man with a prominent jaw and overall strong features and naturally, red hair. He certainly has a very strong persona in her books and to be honest, I think if historical accuracy had not tied her hands with this character, Dunnett might have kept old 'Wat' around for much, if not all, of the series. 

He is one of the many real life individuals woven into the series and lived during the tumultuous and bitter period of the Rough Wooing (Henry VIII's persuasion tactics to get the baby Mary Queen of Scots as a bride for his son Edward), seeing much of the action as his lands were located in that murky area of the Lower Marches. Quite a few times he found himself at the displeasure of the Scottish Crown, but Dunnett portrays him in her novels as a fierce Scottish supporter, though not always in line with those who might have been sitting on the throne. And in that I think she has the right of things. 

He comes across the pages as a wildly passionate man, with a hot temper, quick wit and rough tongue ready to lay his life down for love of his family and native land. She merges Wat into her story as an opponent of Lymond (who at this point has been branded and accepted as a traitor in all corners of Europe) as he tries to discover the loyalties of Lymond's elder brother Richard before the enmity between England and Scotland erupt in all out war. In one of my favorite quotes, Wat is haranguing brother Richard over Lymond returning to Scotland and the current mess of war declaring 'and in between raids every landowner between Berwick and Fife is courting England like a pregnant scullery maid. God knows, I don't blame them. I've taken English money myself...', which immediately goes to show his sense of humor, but also that he is a realistic man. He knows the struggles all men up who have lands marching up and down the border between the two nations will face in the times ahead and he fully comprehends the need to 'promise food and horses and do or don't lick their boots according to the thickness of your walls and the kind of conscience you have.' 

Very quickly, Dunnett sets Sir Wat up to be another hero in her story - maybe not a friend to our intended hero, but most certainly the kind of big, bluff and hardy hero Scotland sorely needed at that time. He is far-sighted, realistic and sharp. Having dealt with the English before, he therefore has knowledge Scotland could put to good use later on. Yes, Sir Walter Scott is one of my most favorite characters in this series and I think it might have been something Dunnett intended all along. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Recently, I started rereading the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett for the third or fourth time and as my mind began to wander a bit - as it tends to - I began wondering who would fill the roles of these fantastic characters if there were ever a movie to be made. To be honest, I don't think Hollywood would do justice to these novels, but that is a post for another day.

In any event, I fell in love with this series back in college when I didn't quite have the mind to handle all that was written and so missed large chunks of what was really happening. In truth, I was still quite immature when it came to the world, and of history, therefore unable to grasp many of the classical allegories or historical references heavy with meaning and foreshadowing. Furthermore, Dorothy Dunnett was a master of nuance and subtlety and was as mighty as Titian when it came to drawing her readers into a scene. It's taken me another reading of her novels to get a bigger picture and solve more of the puzzle, but I find that each time I start reading any one of the six books again, things start to swim into view. 

Trolling through the internet a few years ago, I came across a couple places where Lymond discussions were taking place, but by then and still now, none of them are active. Many of them provided insights to things I had failed to see and were a great enjoyment to me, but I've always wished for more. And so here is my attempt to provide me and anyone else who is interested in an opportunity to share and discuss Dunnett's great masterpiece. 

I am by no means an expert on this series and am not setting up this blog as a means to broadcast my 'truth', but more as a way for others who have found much to love in these novels to discuss them. Interpretations others might have are most welcome and in some cases will be greatly appreciated, as there are many things to miss.

To start, I'm going back to The Game of Kings where we are first introduced to our tragic hero in the dangerous world of 16th century Scotland and with any luck, I will be able to draw other fans of Dorothy Dunnett and the Lymond Chronicles here as a we follow Francis Crawford of Lymond through his many journeys.