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04 October 2010 @ 01:24 pm
I'll be honest, I decided to read Ivanhoe mostly because I have this gotta-catch-em-all sensibility about my literary namesakes. And what I have learned is that there are three things to know, if you want to read Ivanhoe. First of all, it is so, so forsoothly. It is THE FORSOOTHLIEST. Even at the bits where it is intentionally funny - and there are quite a few! - it is nonetheless completely flooded with thees and thous and by my halidoms. Sir Walter Scott is WRITING A MEDIEVAL EPIC, GODDAMMNIT, EVERYONE BETTER RECOGNIZE.

The second thing is that even though Sir Walter Scott is explicitly writing against anti-Semitic prejudice, he nonetheless plays into it in ways that are often very disturbing - and I say this as a person who is generally pretty capable of tuning out anti-Semitism in books written before 1900. Rebecca is totally awesome, but her father Isaac is a walking bad stereotype, and even the good guys (sometimes especially the good guys) are horrible to both of them all the time. There is also some casual racism that is even worse because Scott doesn't even realize he's doing it.

The third thing is that Ivanhoe himself is boring. He is SO BORING. Let me put it this way, the serfs musing about the fine points of Anglo-French language distinctions are infinitely more interesting than anything Ivanhoe does ever. Fortunately, he gets knocked unconscious hilariously early on and pretty much spends the rest of the book that way, allowing much more interesting people to take center stage.

If you can deal with all these things, there is a lot to enjoy in Ivanhoe! (Especially if, like me, you have a vested interest in Rebeccas being awesome.) And you should probably not read the below, because it will spoil everything. If you can't - and not everyone can, and I do not blame you -

So basically the book really starts picking up 150 pages or so in, when the villains decide to kidnap all the protagonists and hold them hostage in a castle for a while in an attempt to variously seduce, torture, and demand ransom from them.

MAURICE DE BRACY: I am the dapper mercenary! I am here to marry the beautiful Saxon Rowena, with her consent or no, because she is rich and hot.
BRIAN DE BOIS-GUILBERT: I am the moody, badass-but-morally-corrupt Templar! I am here to seduce the beautiful Jewess Rebecca, with her consent or no, because she's hot and I enjoy stomping on my vow of celibacy and then laughing as it shatters to smithereens.
REGINALD FRONT-DE-BOEUF: I am the obligatory evil third villain, and I'm just in it for the money. You can call me Beefhead.
WALDEMAR FITZURSE: I am the fourth villain, and I am staying out of this because you are all idiots. Seriously, did you just expect to kidnap a bunch of important people and for nobody to care?
FITZURSE: *facepalm*

(IVANHOE: I am unconscious in an upper room! This will be the state of things for quite a few chapters, so get used to it.)

So off our villains all troop to their respective nefarious chambers to accomplish their respective goals. Alas, it doesn't go so well.

DE BRACY: So hey, how'd your seduction of Rebecca go, Bois-Guilbert?
BOIS-GUILBERT: Well, I came on to her, and then I threatened her, and then she got up on the windowsill and told me she would throw herself off if I came any closer and then she gave me a sound lecture on moral rectitude and then I offered to use my Templar connections to take over the world and make her queen of it and I think I'm in love. *___*
DE BRACY: . . . . but she still wouldn't sleep with you, right?
BOIS-GUILBERT: YES. AND I HATE HER omg she is awesome. How'd your seduction of Rowena go?
DE BRACY: Well, I came onto her, and then I threatened her, and then she cried so I got embarrassed and ran away.
BEEFHEAD: . . . . so guys, some guy called Locksley and some guy who is totally not in any way King Richard back from the Crusades are attacking the castle to rescue everybody, wanna go take care of that and stop talking about girls?

So then there is an epic battle, which nobody actually wins because:

ULRICA, WRONGED SAXON WOMAN OUT FOR REVENGE: Beefhead, you have wronged me! I am totally setting fire to this castle. HAHA!
BOIS-GUILBERT: Rebecca, I will save you and then you will love me!
IVANHOE: I am conscious just long enough to realize that Bois-Guilbert has carried off Rebecca! Some-guy-who-is-totally-not-in-any-way-King-Richard, you have to go save her!
SOME-GUY-WHO-IS-TOTALLY-NOT-IN-ANY-WAY-KING-RICHARD: Rebecca, whatever. IVANHOE, I WILL SAVE YOU. *picks up Ivanhoe and carries him tenderly out of the burning building*
(BECCA: . . . so, uh, I'm remembering right about all those historical ballads where Richard totally sleeps with a whole bunch of dudes, right?
BECCA: Well okay then!)


BEEFHEAD: Oh man, I am burning alive along with the woman I most wronged! This is terrifying!
(BECCA: Kudos, Walter Scott, this scene is actually scary!
WALTER SCOTT: I know, right? Allow me to insert some Epic Fake Saxon Poetry to heighten the atmosphere.
BECCA: . . . and suddenly it's scary for a whole different reason.)

Everyone pretty much makes it out okay except for Rebecca, and they all hang out in the greenwood for a while feasting and celebrating and being total dicks to poor Isaac.

SOME-GUY-WHO-IS-TOTALLY-NOT-KING-RICHARD: So hey, guess what, guys! I'm totally King Richard!
EVERYONE: . . . yes. We are totally shocked.
LOCKSLEY: Okay, if we're being honest, I guess I should confess: I'm totally Robin Hood.
EVERYONE: . . . we are still totally shocked. Really!
DE BRACY: Oh, uh, hey, Rowena. Sorry about . . . all that. Back there.
ROWENA: This is the most awkward day ever.
DE BRACY: I am so embarrassed I am going to disappear for the rest of the book.
ROWENA: Pretty much likewise!

And then, hilariously, Robin spends about five hours trying to figure out how to tactfully hint to King Richard that maaaybe he should go take care of the rest of the plot and let the outlaws get on with their thing, while King Richard oblivoiusly boozes it up. Royalty, man!

Meanwhile, Rebecca is a prisoner in the Templar stronghold rebuffing Bois-Guilbert, when the Grand Master shows up and is like OMG AN EVIL WITCH JEWESS BURN HEEEEEEEER.

REBECCA: Look, just because I'm the best doctor ever and have saved a million people with my medical skills, that is no reason to call me a witch and you are all prejudiced assholes. Especially the guy who would not take no for an answer and brought me here to be accused as a witch. NOT THAT I'M NAMING ANY NAMES. Anyway, my point is: I'm awesome, haters to the left.
BOIS-GUILBERT: hsssst Rebecca ask for trial by combat
REBECCA: Uh, okay, I ask for trial by combat!
GRAND MASTER: Okay, Brian will be our champion for the Templars, and hopefully someone else will show up to fight for Rebecca!

BOIS-GUILBERT: so pssst Rebecca, if I stand up for you I am probably doomed and definitely my career is. But I'll totally do it! Just say the word! We could run away somewhere with no anti-Semitism and get married and rule the world together and really you still owe me from saving your life from the fire a few chapters ago, so -
REBECCA: OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST GO THERE. First of all, if you only saved me because you wanted to sleep with me, do you know what that means I owe you? ZERO. And it is gross when you assume otherwise. Second of all: it is your fault that I am about to get burned at the stake in like twenty-four hours, so you don't get any points for saving me from that either. Third of all: NO MEANS NO.
BOIS-GUILBERT: So . . . if you won't let me throw away my life and career to save you, and you won't run away and rule the world with me, can we at least be friends?
REBECCA: . . .
BOIS-GUILBERT: Look, I am going through painful and difficult character growth, okay? I am learning that women are people and not just for sex! I am overcoming my anti-Semitism! I really, really respect you as an individual! Throw me a bone here!
REBECCA: As long as it is understood that I do not OWE you any bones, of ANY kind . . . FINE. We can be friends. At least for the twenty-four hours until I go to a horrible painful death at the stake, thanks to you.

(SIR WALTER SCOTT: Admit it, you totally kind of ship it now, don't you.
BECCA: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING. I hate abduction romance! Rebecca is awesome and Bois-Guilbert is an asshole! This goes against everything I believe! . . . wow, I kind of hate myself right now.

IVANHOE: REBECCA! Despite being mortally wounded and having spent the last half of the book unconscious and lying on a chaise, I am here to be your champion, and to save you!
REBECCA: . . . that's a nice gesture, but wow, I am so doomed.
(BECCA: Wait, wasn't there a whole other plotline with Rowena and the Saxons and Prince John and . . .
SIR WALTER SCOTT: Yeah, I took care of that in about a chapter. We all know that everyone is mostly invested in what's going on here with the Templars anyway.
BECCA: Okay, fair.)
AUDIENCE: This is it! This is what we've been waiting for, the epic battle where Ivanhoe truly shows his mettle and -
BOIS-GUILBERT: *totally has a stroke due to his ~agony~ over what's going on with Rebecca and FALLS OVER DEAD*
REBECCA: . . .
IVANHOE: . . . what the hell, that was my one chance to do something the whole book! DAMN YOU, BOIS-GUILBERT!
REBECCA: And then boring Ivanhoe married Rowena, and I wandered off to be an awesome Jewish fake nun, in a traditional Jewish institution that Walter Scott totally made up, but oh well. By the way, I know you're still out there shipping me with Bois-Guilbert, and I AM JUDGING YOU.
(BECCA: So remind us why this book is called Ivanhoe again?
NOBODY: *has a good answer*)
Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants Tobookblather on October 4th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
I have shipped it ever since I read Half Magic, because Rebecca and Bois-Guilbert were totally sort-of flirting with each other in that book and the main characters were all "NOOOO IVANHOE MARRY REBECCA" and I was all, "... but she and Bois-Guilbert are into each other!" So even as a wee one I was into that, clearly.

Seriously, though, if redemption didn't equal death, I would totally ship that. In a "I am your friend and totally in love with you but I'm going to be your FRIEND first and I'm going to go through painful and long character growth and be totally in love with you the whole time but I am your FRIEND and you don't need to assume anything and wait a second did you just kiss me?" way. It would have to be long and drawn out and adorable, though. I INSIST. And then she could never, ever let him forget that he abducted her. Never. Every argument. "WELL THIS WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN'T ABDUCTED ME, BRIAN."
the real kwon: drama!!!bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
What is hilarious about Knight's Castle is that I am pretty sure that if Edward Eager were writing circa-2010 fanfic as opposed to circa-1950 fanfic (because let's face it, Knight's Castle is 100% fanfic and it's adorable) he would have been shipping OT3. He already puts them all in a castle together and has them come out BFF, that is straight-up OT3 fanfic trope right there.

I would love to see that fic! (I won't lie, when he literally asked her "LET'S BE FRIENDS" I pretty much started laughing and did not stop. OH BOIS-GUILBERT. You are kind of ridiculous.)
(no subject) - bookblather on October 4th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookblather on October 4th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookblather on October 4th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rymenhild on October 4th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookblather on October 4th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rymenhild on October 4th, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookblather on October 4th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rymenhild on October 4th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - evil_little_dog on October 5th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
excellent taste in trapdoorsnewredshoes on October 4th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
...are you secretly Kate Beaton? I have to know.
the real kwon: sneaky like hepburnninjabookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
omg I ONLY WISH. Best secret identity ever! *_____*
the most saint-obsessed Jew you'll ever meet: Archibald Craven Vampire Hunterrymenhild on October 4th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)


I want to write something here about Walter Scott's impact on the early formation of medieval studies, which was significant. (Among other things, Scott popularized ... for certain values of popular ... the reading and study of the Auchinleck MS, editing its Sir Tristrem and convincing people that they actually wanted to read good old romances in archaic dialects.) But mostly I just want to say LOL.
the real kwon: rose oops?bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
From an academic and historical perspective there is a lot that I think is fascinating about Ivanhoe! (I actually really thought all the time he spent on linguistic digressions was completely fascinating - especially since I recognized some of Wamba's jokes from medieval studies lectures.) So I would be thinking about that, and then Walter Scott would be like BY THE WAY, IVANHOE AND RICHARD BICKER LIKE AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE and I would get distracted and crack up again. In short: SCHOLAR FAIL.
VULVA LA REVOLUCIÓN!!!aamalie on October 4th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
You are better than Cliffnotes. ♥

(Not that I've ever actually used Cliffnotes, but you see my point.)
the real kwon: modern major generalbookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
:DDDD This is totally all the most important information about Ivanhoe you will ever need. (Rest of the plot, what rest of the plot?)
Mercuria: y/y?mercuriazs on October 4th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)

You are.

My favorite.
the real kwon: EAT YOUR HEAD (with love!)bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
Kate: Will dollceitfianna on October 4th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
I haven't read this but I read The Black Arrow, which isn't that difference just with more crossdressing and fake Robin Hood.

Oh Sir Walter Scott, I blame you partly for my love of Robin Hood and desire to write better medieval stories.
the real kwon: land beyond dreamsbookelfe on October 4th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I gotta say, Walter Scott takes himself much more seriously than Robert Louis Stevenson, which I think is the biggest difference between Ivanhoe and The Black Arrow. Stevenson is writing, I think, at least a semi-subversive Medieval Adventure; for all the lulz, Walter Scott plays it straight. (And much as I enjoyed Ivanhoe, it would totally have been better with some crossdressing.)
(no subject) - ceitfianna on October 4th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ceitfianna on October 4th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Jodi Davisjodi_davis on October 4th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
OMG - CACKLE!!! - Thank you!
the real kwon: ando says ok!bookelfe on October 4th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Hee - glad you enjoyed!
Most vulgar and indecent rime: medievalistcursor_mundi on October 4th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
*dies laughing* This review is the best thing about Ivanhoe, and I say this as a Robin Hood scholar who has spilled a great deal of ink--and will likely spill more--about Scott's impact on perceptions of Robin Hood and making the medieval accessible and, dare one say it?, trendy.

I do believe there is a faux-sequel / spoof called Rebecca and Rowena, by Thackeray. Which is ALSO out of copyright, and which might provide excellent fodder for your fic ambitions. :D
the real kwon: elizabeth bookbookelfe on October 4th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I love that he totally trendified Robin Hood and the Middle Ages and the whole forsoothy thing. I mean, I don't thank him necessarily for starting the forsoothiness trend, but I think it's kind of hilarious that he did! (I also love how in his introduction he totally feels the need to justify himself - "LOOK IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT SCOTTISH ROMANCE OKAY, BRITISH PEOPLE HAD EMBARRASSING MEDIEVAL ANCESTORS TOO")

Haha, I totally found out about Rebecca and Rowena from *mutter*the Ivanhoe tvtropes page*mutter* and I am SO CURIOUS. (Oh Thackeray, I respect that you are a die-hard Ivanhoe/Rebecca shipper . . . and yet I don't, because Ivanhoe continues to be SUCH A BORING CHARACTER.)
Barking at the windevil_little_dog on October 5th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
I totally have been considering reading Ivanhoe simply for Loxley. Because. You know. Robin Hood seriously is my hero.
the real kwon: nine ayupbookelfe on October 5th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
Locksley is pretty awesome in the book, no lie! Especially if you picture him as Cary Elwes the whole time. >.> (What, Men in Tights is a VERY RESPECTABLE Robin Hood movie.)
(no subject) - evil_little_dog on October 5th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bookelfe on October 5th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - evil_little_dog on October 5th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
the real kwon: drama!!!bookelfe on October 5th, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
Rebecca and her awesomeness is a good thing to remember! (Bois-Guilbert is TOTALLY your type of character, Viv. *laughing aloud*)
ten million fireflies: [fma] book attack!oneechan19 on October 5th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
How much do I love these type of book reviews (with the characters and everything)? *attempts to hold hands farther apart than they actually go* THIS MUCH.
the real kwon: EAT YOUR HEAD (with love!)bookelfe on October 5th, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
Hee! As always, I am glad I entertain someone besides myself. <3
Haflhafl on October 5th, 2010 06:49 am (UTC)
I've last read Ivanhoe some ten years back and now I kind of want to read it again. Only I'm afraid it won't be as much fun as your review.
the real kwon: crackbiblebookelfe on October 5th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
Haha, you totally should! It really is fun - I didn't even have a chance to include all the most lolarious parts!
Even pantless? Or ESPECIALLY pantless?jezrana on October 5th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I've never read Ivanhoe, but I have vague memories of watching a miniseries where Bois-Guilbert was played by Ciarin Hinds. I will totally blame any sympathy I remember feeling for him on that fact, because: Ciarin Hinds!

(Said miniseries also features a scene where Christopher Lee, as one of the Templars, tries to non-consensually baptize Isaac and then has him thrown in a cell, which is kind of awesome because Christopher Lee baptizes people as solemnly and ominously as he does everything else.)
the real kwon: ando says ok!bookelfe on October 5th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
I find this 100% justified and might have to hunt down this miniseries as well.

(. . . of course Christopher Lee played the evil Grand Master Templar. IT IS HIS DENSITY. *___*)
the high four-and-a-halfnextian on October 5th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
I really feel like Ivanhoe in many ways shares personality traits with Brian de Bois-Gilbert. First you think it's a classic and honorable thing, then you start reading and you're like "oh actually you are kind of gross and weird," and then SUDDENLY, AGAINST YOUR BETTER JUDGMENT, IT'S ACTUALLY REALLY ADORABLE.
the real kwon: group hug!bookelfe on October 5th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
SO TRUE, omg, this is the best analysis of Ivanhoe I have ever read. *_____*
Kattakattahj on January 1st, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Got here belatedly from your year-in-review and enjoyed it muchly. And not only because it gave me an excuse to look up old pictures of Olivia Hussey. ;-)
the real kwon: nine ayupbookelfe on January 1st, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
*giggling* That is ALWAYS a good thing to have reason to do.
Dammit - (Anonymous) on October 3rd, 2012 06:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Dammit - bookelfe on October 3rd, 2012 11:55 am (UTC) (Expand)