38. Sidetracked by Mark Twain

200px-Beowulf.firstpageMark Twain said:     (see posts 18, 19, and 20)     “(In the beginning a writer) has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He . . . can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself . . .”      

Been there; done that. Spirit Deer and Jandrax presented themselves to my typewriter with reasonable speed and ease. My third work, Valley of the Menhir, was a kakai of a different color.

          (Kakai – the native riding beast of the World of the Menhir.)

VOTM actually came to me about three years before I had any idea of becoming a novelist. I was stationed at a California naval base and my wife was with me. She was working at the base library and taking a reference librarian class at a local junior college. I took it with her, for company. One night in the college library, waiting for her to finish her work, bored, I took down a copy of Beowulf. I opened the book and the words “all that lonely winter . . .” jumped out at me.

I slammed the book shut and put it away. I didn’t know what part of the story I was in, or what the actual context was, and I didn’t care.

I had had a vision of a young boy in the open window of a stone tower, looking out across a leafless, snow bound landscape. He was newly an orphan. The master of the tower had saved him, but in doing so, the boy had become captive to his world’s expectations. He would now have to spend his childhood in preparation for gaining revenge on the slayer of his father. But he wanted no revenge. His only feelings for his cold and distant father was a vague fear, even now that he was dead.

I wasn’t a novelist yet, but I knew a story when I saw one. I didn’t know I would still be haunted by it forty-some years later.

More next post.

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