The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight,
by Gerald Morris; Houghton Mifflin Company:
New York, zo04; $16
Medieval times are full of knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress from gruesome fates and bringing them back to glorious kingdoms. Almost unheard of are medieval tales with women as saviors. However, Gerald Morris puts a spin on the ordinary Arthurian legend in The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight.
Unlike most stories in medieval times, The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight features a girl, Sarah, a poor orphan who, with the help of a few familiar characters like Sir Lancelot, and a few unfamiliar like Ariel the faerie, rescues Queen Guinevere and Sir Kai from the clutches of the evil Lord Meliagant. What I love about Sarah's general personality is her zeal for fighting until the end and her thirst to prove she is more than "just a girl." Besides her determination, Sarah's character has everything that makes for a thrilling story. She is smart enough to outwit those much bigger and stronger than she and has the bravery within her to fight even the most skilled swordsmen. Sarah also comes through for Ariel and Sir Lancelot countless times. As soon as Sarah came to the rescue when anybody was in danger, relief would flood through me for I knew everything would be all right. Sarah gives off a sense of individuality; she is probably the only girl in the land to carry a sword that she has used against innumerable enemies. In fact, many characters think that Sarah's swordsmanship is what makes her special.
The sword itself turns out to be special, which was the one aspect of this story that constantly nagged at the back of my mind as I read the book. Sarah's sword was actually a magical weapon crafted by faeries. You may wonder how this could be a bad thing. The fact that Sarah possessed a sword that crushes anything it connects with takes away from her heroism. This point aggravated me because, if the weapon was the reason for all of Sarah's talent in swordsmanship, it would mean she didn't do anything at all. If you ask me, in a way, Sarah had far too much help from the sword for this to be considered a book about the strength of women.
I tend to find that books are more absorbing when you can connect with the characters. This is one reason I couldn't put this book down. Sarah was frustrated with the world for being so centered on the power of men. She saw no reason for men to be considered stronger than women, and I agree. I, too, am irritated when people treat others like inferior beings for no real reason. Like Sarah, I feel it just doesn't make sense. I realize now that Sarah probably had an even harder time fighting her way to the top because in her time, a girl saving the day was simply unheard of. Today, it is easier for women to be important, although people who believe women are the weaker sex are not gone from the world. Even though it is better for women now than in Sarah's lifetime, there still hasn't been a woman President or Vice President in the United States, a sign that women are still not considered completely equal to men.
The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight is a page-turner that receives my highest recommendation. It’s intriguing plotline, beautifully chosen words, and thoroughly satisfying closure make this a necessity on every bookshelf.