Daily Archives: January 4, 2011

Touring Fantasyland, Part 4: Once Upon a Time, a Long, Long, Long, Long, Long, Long…

In honor of the new year, it is often a favored tradition not only to make resolutions and speculate upon the upcoming year and what it will bring, but also to reflect with nostalgia (or, perhaps, relief) on what has gone by.  This is why we so often sing an adaption of Robert Burns’  “Auld Lang Syne”  at New Years’, which actually simply means “old long since.”

Yes, this guy.

So let’s think about a long time ago.  And, of course, when I think about a long time ago, I don’t mean the ‘90’s (I know that seems like a long time ago to some people). I’m thinking about a few years before that, when a certain king named Arthur rode out with his knights, defeating warlords and miscreants and bringing peace to the tribes of Britain.  You know, the most famous king in all of England who brought about its gloriously beautiful, but tragically transient Golden Age?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  Perhaps you are one of those very dull people whose first thought upon reading my earlier posts on dragons was to point out that “Dragons aren’t real.”  Luckily, neither dragons nor fabulous kings fall down dead like Peter Pan’s fairies when you disclaim their reality.  What you have fallen victim to, poor soul, is the faulty habit of relying entirely on history at the expense of discounting the value of legend.

However, if you are to pay heed to our friend Diana Wynne Jones, you would know quite well that majoring in legends is quite a lucrative field:

Legends are an important source of true information.  They always turn out to be far more accurate than History.  Listen and attend carefully if anyone recounts you a Legend.  The person telling it may be an old Herbwoman, a Bard, a bad King, one of your Companions, or just someone in an Inn.  But no matter how improbable the story, it will always turn out to be the exact truth, and only by following it accurately can you hope to succeed in your Quest.

Now, as often as absurd and ridiculous legends are overused in fantasy literature to drag heroes unwillingly to their pinnacles of glorious greatness, the importance of legends, and the seed of truth that they so often possess, is something that really should not be forgotten.

King Arthur lives in that “once upon a time” realm of legend.  He is not chronicled in the history books where you might find Henry V or Richard the Lionheart or any of the other great kings of England, but somehow, his name inevitably comes to mind when you envision a king – a true king.  Camelot represents the Golden Age, not one that existed in history, so much as in that strange, fantastic world where history and myth come together, which is much more pleasant, because Arthur’s stories can be so frequently relived and rewritten, as Sir Thomas Malory, Howard Pyle, T.H. White, Stephen Lawhead and a host of other great authors have already discovered.

So when I think back on “auld lang syne” as we go into this new year, I think about legends, not because they happened the way Henry V and Richard I happened, but because they happened the way really good stories happen, and because they keep happening as long as we want them to.

“Auld Lang Syne” (the original)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.