Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Part 6, Chapter 3 - The Riddle of Numph: The Windsplitter

Jonnie has gone hunting after checking on the girls, who are doing as well as they can. "Pattie had come out of it a bit more, but she hadn't laughed when he told her she would marry the king of the mountains--it was an old personal joke."

And that's all the explanation we get. Yes, it's nice that L. Ron is trying to build a history for these characters, hinting at past interactions and private humor amongst them. But some details would help. "King of the mountains" - what does this mean? Is it another tribal legend? A historical reference? Is this prophetic foreshadowing? You can't bring something like that up and just move on, it's the literary equivalent of a hit-and-run.

Anyway, Jonnie's out with Windsplitter and the other three horses: Dancer, Blodgett - the wounded horse, and whose name is probably a reference to someone or someplace, since a Wikipedia search on it only brings back proper nouns - and Old Pork, so named because he grunts. So if you were dying to know the names of these animals... well, now you do.

Jonnie's got a deer and antelope prepped and ready, and is looking for kinnikinnick (an old name for bearberry, which makes me wonder why the Village of the Idiots remembers it over the simpler "bearberry"), when suddenly a plane swoops down on Jonnie and his horses, spooking the animals, especially when Terl starts strafing the ground in front of them.

Some things we learn from the passage: the vehicle's shooting causes explosions and eruptions in the ground, but there's no mention of streaks of light or whizzing shells. For all we know the weapon fire is invisible. Also, the plane is able to hang almost stationary in the air, probably making it a hovering vehicle. And of course there's no actual description of what the plane looks like. Does it have wings? Is it sleek lines or bulbous gun turrets? Spines of weapon batteries or deceptively innocuous?

Knowing Hubbard, it probably resembles a F-15, just without the turbines.

A laughing Terl lands and disembarks, saying that he's proven how easily he could turn Jonnie into "a pale pink mist!" He then orders him to send the horses home and get in. Jonnie complies, telling Windsplitter to go to Chrissie, and Terl sagely thinks to himself that "the animal does have a language with other animals."

Next chapter, flying lessons. Rest assured, Jonnie will catch on to how to pilot an alien aircraft with predictable ease, despite never having flown before.

Back to Chapter Two

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