King Horn

 

This text copyright © 2008 Dr Anne Wilson

 

Please do not copy or quote from this text without acknowledging the author.


The Ritual Plot in ‘King Horn’

 

Move 1

 

Horn’s father, King Murry, is killed by pirates

 

Horn is exiled with Fikenild

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 1 TO KINGDOM

Move 2

 

Horn is a thrall at King Aylmer’s court

 

He is loved by the king’s daughter Rymenild

 

Fikenild tells the king that Horn will kill the king and

marry Rymenild

 

Horn is exiled

 

STEP 2

Move 3

 

Horn is Goodmind at King Thurston’s court

 

He saves the king from an invader and

refuses the reward of the king’s daughter

and kingdom

 

FIRST REVERSAL OF FIKENILD’S

ACCUSATION   (STEP 3)

Move 4

 

Horn returns to King Aylmer’s court bolder, wins

Rymenild from her suitor and is betrothed

 

He declares his innocence and his plans to win his

father’s kingdom

 

 

STEP 4

Move 5

 

Horn recovers his father’s kingdom and

becomes king

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 5

Move  6

 

Horn returns to King Aylmer’s court, where Fikenild is

threatening the king and seizing Rymenild

 

Horn defeats Fikenild

 

He marries Rymenild

 

SECOND REVERSAL OF FIKENILD’S ACCUSATION

 

 

This narrative is about the winning of kingdoms, but we would expect an exciting account of brave enterprise and opportunities seized. What we get is an account of a hero who fails to seize opportunities and puts uninteresting obstacles in his own way. If he is a prince, why pretend to be a thrall at a foreign court, ineligible to marry the princess? Why does he not tell the king the fate of his father? We are never told. Motivation is the most glaring problem. It is hard to see why there is any progression and yet there clearly is. Horn returns from exile highly effective.

 

I find that the plot of King Horn progresses in steps which I call ‘moves’, each move depending on the performance of the previous move. Two of the moves, Moves 3 and 6, are replays of Move 2. In Move 2, at King Aylmer’s court, Horn is accused by Fikenild of planning to kill the king and marry the princess. In Move 3, at King Thurston’s court, he defeats an invader threatening to kill the king and seize the princess, and then he refuses the offer of the princess and kingdom. Finally, at the court of King Aylmer once more, he saves the king and his daughter from the very same character who has accused him of planning to kill the king and marry the princess in Move 2. The outcome is that the king’s son who has pretended to be a thrall without explanation wins both his father’s kingdom and King Aylmer’s. I also find that the accusation against Horn is reversed in Move 3, when Horn becomes Goodmind and saves a king from an invader without accepting the rewards of the princess and kingdom, and that it is reversed again in Move 6, using the accuser Fikenild as the traitor. There is another strategic relationship, too, between Moves 3 and 6. In Move 3, surrogates – King Thurston and his daughter – are used for the reversal, while, in Move 6, the exact situation of the second move, Aylmer’s court, is used, rather than surrogates. This pair of moves appears in many of my plots, and seems to be about a building up of power in the narrative.

 

This text copyright © 2008 Dr Anne Wilson

 

Please do not copy or quote from this text without acknowledging the author.