Friday, September 16, 2011

New Old Magic Item

It was a tape of human skin, cut from the silhouette of the dead man. That is to say, the cut had been begun at the right shoulder, and the knife—going carefully in a double slit so as to make a tape—had gone down the outside of the right arm, round the outer edge of each finger as if along the seams of a glove, and up on the inside of the arm to the arm-pit. Then it had gone down the side of the body, down the leg and up it to the crotch, and so on until it had completed the circuit of the corpse's outline, at the shoulder from which it had started. It made a long ribbon.

The way to use a Spancel was this. You had to find the man you loved while he was asleep. Then you had to throw it over his head without waking him, and tie it in a bow. If he woke while you were doing this, he would be dead within the year. If he did not wake until the operation was over, he would be bound to fall in love with you.

--Once and Future King,
TH White


  1. First thought: You want to hit him with a Sleep spell first.

    Second thought: Someone waking up in the middle of a Spancel application could make a weird setup for a revenge story.

  2. Very creepy. Also seems like a lot of trouble for a love spell.

    Avram: "He only had 365 days to find his KILLER!"

  3. Oh my God that's so fucked. What kind of person would use this thing? is what I wonder. Whose corpse would you use? How would a person learn about the Spancel?

    Actually I can easily imagine a PC doing something like this. PCs happily do totally fucked up shit all the time, half because they love to complain about how fucked up it is, and half because most of the time the fucked-up-shit is an easier avenue to completing a quest than the alternatives.

  4. This is the second best magic item ever.

  5. Yeah, this is great stuff. It very much reminds me of some of the unsanitized fairy tales I've run across, and that's my favorite kind.

  6. Everything about that book was fantastic.

    The spancel wasn't half as creepy as the invisibility spell, though it makes a better magic item - the other one was mostly in the presentation.

  7. GROSS. But I'm superstitious enough about sex to probably do it, lol!


  8. I have heard White's "Once and Future" book described as kids novels... usually by people who have not read them.

  9. @John Evans -- it does seem like a lot of trouble over a love spell, but historically, that's a huge percentage of what people have made spells, charms, talismans, etc., for. Attracting a lover. Securing a lover. Wracking a straying lover with magical torments. That, protection against travel mishaps, death in childbirth, and good old fashioned moneymaking were hugely in demand.

    I've been meaning to do a post on erotic magic/binding spells/love philtres, etc. for a while now, and this just might be the fire I needed lit under my ass to do it.

    Thank you for providing the ass fire, Zak.

    Also, I need to read T.H. White again. I haven't read *Once and Future King* since High School, and I have a copy of *The Goshawk* beckoning from my shelf.

  10. @Celt: It is a kid's book, in the sense that it's an excellent book for kids. It's also an adult's book, in the same sense. There aren't very many novels you can say that about.

  11. That's enough to make me actually want to read that book.

  12. It is one of the most boring and annoying books I've ever tried to read. I did not finish it.

    It seems like I missed at least one cool thing. Too bad it was buried in crap.

    Thanks Zak!

  13. I agree with John.

    As an adult I read it and am amazed by the subtleties that must have whizzed right past me when I was a kid even though, as a kid, it was definitely impressing me

    A lot of people on the D&D blogs seem to judge books based on the characters or the plot or the tone or the genre, but all I care about is style: is it well-written? OAFK is one of the most well-written, stylish novels of any sort I have ever read.

  14. The characterization of Lancelot, I remember, is the most interesting and nuanced treatment of the character I've ever read.

  15. Is that "See, it's like I just said. Everyone harps on everything except style?"

  16. @jeremy

    Kinda, but:
    I would not say you're "harping" (one comment isn't harping).

    Mor would I assume you don't appreciate the book's writing style.

    Nor do I assume that just because you are talking about something I wouldn't that this is some kind of problem or makes you dumb.

  17. I get that. Looking back at my post a minute ago, I realize how defensive it looks. I'm not sure why that should be, and it seems a bit silly, now. I don't know if I started with this chip on my shoulder, or if prolonged exposure to the internet has somehow enlarged it.

  18. I know I'm kind of picky when it comes to literary style. I absolutely hated Peake for example. T.H. White irked me in the same way.

    Many consider it wonderful but for me it's just style as a hindrance, as to much in your face. I don't suggest the author didn't knew what they were doing, but it just don't work I'd say.

    This is very much a problem, since as Zak have shown, there are lot of gems hidden there. My problem is that they are hidden.

    But, at least it's not TSR/FASA/whatever game fiction... :)

  19. I'm curious to know, in a non-judgmental way, what about White and Peake's respective styles you thought was too "in your face". If you had to narrow it down to just one or two specific things, what made you unable to enjoy the books? Something about the narrative voice?

  20. Yeah, too much flowery feel to the prose, I guess. I know quite a few of my friends love it, but I just can't stand it. Nothing was ever just stated, it was overstated and rephrased, I felt.

    I used to love Hemingway and Coetzee, so maybe White and Peake just isn't my kind of writers. Oddly enough, I have tried to read James...

  21. @andreas

    yeah, if you like Hemingway, don't read any book I recommend. You won't like it.

  22. Zak,

    Did I notice a border being crossed there? Now I diverged to much from White for our tastes to be comparable, maybe?

    I have met quite a few readers who dislike Hemingway as much as I dislike Peake and White. Must be a dividing line there.

    Could be. Good to know, though! :)

  23. @andreas

    Hemingway is a less-is-more guy. All my favorite writers are more-is-more guys. It's just a different sensibility I guess.