I need to explain that last quote, not necessarily for my two readers, but for myself. Why, indeed, would I post such a quote with all of its two-bit philosophical ramblings? Well, because if you read the entire book, you would get a feel for the person eliciting the quote. And the person who elicited the quote is a complex person who ultimately does what is right regardless of his desire to live. He is what I would call a hero. Yet, he is a flawed hero.
While it is common in most hero stories that the hero must stand against the face of evil, it is also common that the hero be a fractured character, a troubled man who fuzzes the line occasionally to bring about the greater good. Is this concept not central to the recent summer blockbuster The Dark Knight?
Corwin of Amber had just chased down a thief who had murdered a woman and taken her bracelets and rings. Corwin dispatched the murderer, retrieved the stolen items and then buried the woman. Once finished he thought the quote. In my mind his actions were simply retribution for Melkin’s evil deeds. Especially in a medieval setting, were his actions not appropriate?
For me, with years of reading hero stories under my belt, there is something right about the lone hero who fights evil and rides away alone into the sunset, the hero who sheds blood in order to keep blood from being shed. We love this man, don’t we? His story is everywhere. He has been played by Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, and Matt Damon. He is the lone cowboy, standing against the rustlers, shooting them dead, and then riding into the sunset. He is Aragorn as a Ranger, doing what is right, but in the shadows, protecting the weak with brutal, efficient violence.
I realize that all of the above really doesn’t matter to anyone reading this, unless they have read the chronicles of Corwin of Amber. But, there is one sentence in my previous quote-post that makes me think of a biblical character who also had a lot of blood on his hands. “Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.” I can picture King David saying this as he looked forward to the building of the temple and peace in Israel, riding out to battle with his Mighty Men.
Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands! There was blood on David’s hands, to be sure. David avenged more than one evil deed. David wanted to usher in the new kingdom of peace, but was kept from it. David wanted to build the temple. He dreamed of it, he designed it, and he gathered the materials for it. Yet, God did not let him build it because he had blood on his hands.
David was a man after God’s own heart. David wrote ballads and played the harp. David was a lover. And David killed people. David was a hero who was necessary for the kingdom of Israel. God rewarded him by promising that his son would sit on the throne forever. Yet, he was not allowed to build the temple.
I don’t know if he fully knew all that would happen when his reign was over; maybe he did. Even still, he still did what was necessary for the kingdom. “Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.”