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The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed

 
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:51 pm    Post subject: The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed Reply with quote

Fetim of the al-Hetal is not a particularly admirable protagonist at the start of this story. He's spoiled, lazy, and lacking a conscience about upsetting the marriage of usurer Selmet Abulbul in order to achieve a sexual conquest with Selmet's self-centered youngest wife.

Selmet is too old to threaten Fetim physically, and has too few (or no) friends to support him due to general distaste for the way he makes a living. So Selmet applies a curse on Fetim.
Quote:
In the name of the great father of djinn, let all that he loves be killed. Let him be readily loved--and let all those who love him die in anguish. Let all his seed and all his blood be brought to ruin. Let horror cover the heads of all who befriend him. Let his friendship be a surer sign of death than any plague-spot.
And let the djinn who watches over the accursed protect him. so that his sufferings cannot end.

Fetim leaves Selmet's house thinking it's all a joke.

Fetim's response to his family dying from the curse upon himself is more like self-pity than grief for his family. The djinnn who watches over him from that point onward rightly observes that his family has been more unfortunate, telling him, "You're merely accursed. They're all dead." Fetim's not ready to listen at that time to this or any other viewpoints the djinn would like him to consider. Nor is he when the city of Niswan where he first seeks sanctuary gets destroyed, nor when his newfound love Saliandra and her family dies of poison for the crime of aiding him. But soon enough, he realizes how the curse upon himself can be used to bring more justice in the world. He simply has to allow himself to be loved by "the wrong people".

This plot point I found to be clever, as is the choice of having the djinn narrate the story.

Nevertheless, the surplus of sexual sub-plotting in this story makes me too uncomfortable to recommend it to anybody. If that makes me a prude, so be it.

Stephen R. Donaldson states in his introduction to Reave the Just and Other Tales that this story was written "on demand" for a program book at the World Fantasy Convention (1985), and not inspired by love for the story. And it shows. His characterization seems a little flat compared to his other works, although his creativeness in imagining an interesting plot is still evident here.
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just finished re-reading this one. It seems to me that the critical passage of this short story occurs when the djinn blocks Fetim from killing himself after his wife Saliandra and all her family have painfully died from consuming poisoned wine.

Quote:
"Help me," he beseeched. "I must put an end to myself, or I will cover the world with ruin wherever I go."

"You know who I am," I replied. "I'm part of the curse. I can't help you. If I tried, the great father of the djinn would tear me apart and scatter every portion of my being to the four winds." After a moment, I added foolishly, "You've got to stop thinking like a normal man. You've got to start thinking like one of the accursed."

He drank a large flagon of the tainted wine while he considered what I had said. His bitten features seemed to undergo a number of changes, passing from self-pity and anger to emotions which were more obscure. The he commanded peremptorily, "Repeat the curse."

I complied. "'In the name of the great father of djinn, let all those he love be killed. Let him be readily loved--and let all those who love him die in anguish. Let all his seed and all his blood--'"

"Enough. I have heard enough." He consumed more of the wine. Now it seemed to have no effect upon him. "I have received both decency and love aboard this vessel, and those who gave it to me have been poisoned. I must 'start thinking lie one of the accursed.' Very well. Do you work, djinn, I will do mine."

He did not speak again that night. The River Kalabras bore the ship of the dead through the dark, and he rode the vessel alone, as though he were its rightful master.


From here on out, the only emotion Fetim seems able to feel is a grim satisfaction that he can use the curse against him to right wrongs in the world. But grim satisfaction is better than self pity or despair! A happy ending for him only if he becomes a djinn, though (and the djinn apparently thinks he will do so).
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Rigel
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funny, I remember liking this one much more than you did Very Happy


I found something satisfying in the protagonist's ability to make use of his curse; it's the story of someone learning to play the hand they were dealt, and quite effectively.
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad you enjoyed it Rigel, and thank you for responding (people tend to ignore the SRD short story threads I've started, and you're one of the rare few who hasn't)!

I don't really hate this story, and I consider Stephen R. Donaldson's writing ability in all cases to have its impressive aspects. Here, the idea of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" comes across strongly. It's just that, relatively speaking, I think SRD's characterization is weak here compared to his other works.

But again, Rigel, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Smile
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Above, I wrote wrote:
Here, the idea of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" comes across strongly.


I suppose another metaphor for this story's theme might be, "when life throws tomatoes at you, make a tomato salad"...for some reason, I'm craving tomatoes more than lemonade today, so this metaphor suits me better!
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