Whether you see this week’s setting as Eden, El Dorado, the Temple of Doom, or Mysterious Kôr, it is laborious to disclaim the hyperlinks to H. Rider Haggard’s 1886-87 novel She. Mostly that is as a result of She, a couple of British tutorial/explorer who discovers “lost city” dominated by a robust 2000-year-old lady, is without doubt one of the foundational books in a number of genres, with crucial for our functions being “Adventure Romance,” AKA the Indiana Jones style. (Romance, it needs to be remembered, initially meant one thing nearer to how we use “fantasy” in the present day.) Haggard himself mentioned that he wrote the guide on the theme of “an immortal woman inspired by an immortal love,” and that is one thing that final week’s episode made abundantly clear was at play in Abel’s obsession with Helena, whom he conflates along with her daughter Fena, and who additionally has a hyperlink to Jeanne d’Arc, making her one thing like immortal. Meanwhile Yukimaru is the love Fena has chosen for herself, kind of, establishing a battle between the interpretations of who she actually is, one thing Fena herself hasn’t fairly found out.
One factor she appears to be is skilled from infancy to open the gates to Eden, which at this level can also be wanting an terrible lot like Atlantis or possibly Lyonesse, the drowned metropolis of British mythology. From the tune her father sang her to the dance she was clearly taught, every thing about Fena’s pre-brothel childhood was clearly prepping her for this touchdown on the island risen from the ocean. That ought to most likely make all of us very suspicious, if solely as a result of nobody concerned appears to be in any respect cautious about the entire thing. I’m not saying that Shitan is about to get his face melted off by the treasures he is simply discovered (one in all which seems prefer it may very well be an ark), however there’s positively one thing off about your complete place. Even if we are able to clarify issues like “autumnal trees with all their leaves after being submerged” away with “magic,” there is a very odd disconnect about what everybody sees as soon as they’ve gotten by the ruined metropolis. How do Kaede and Enju see sufficient gold to swim in when Karin and Makaba see solely sufficient to barely cowl the bottom? How did Makaba discover a golden dish whereas Karin sees largely cash from totally different occasions and locations? And how did Shitan handle to seek out exactly what he hoped to when Fena and Yukimaru simply handed it by? Is it doable that the island solely exhibits folks what they need to see or that solely Fena – and Yukimaru by extension since he is so centered on her – can see what’s actually there?
We most likely will not get a solution to that till we get some perception into what Abel sees, as a result of if that is true, he’ll be following Helena’s specter. Given that She offers with themes of imperialism in addition to feminine energy, it’s extremely becoming that the British have landed on the island on Fena’s heels, as a result of they’re nonetheless very a lot of their imperialist part within the 18th century. (Here’s hoping they did not carry a flag!) But it additionally brings us to a different work that references Haggard’s novel, Elizabeth Bowen’s brief story Mysterious Kôr from her 1945 assortment The Demon Lover and Other Stories – on this piece, she likens bombed-out London to a misplaced metropolis whereas exploring themes of the standard lady versus the trendy lady. The story takes place on a full moon night time whereas WWII remains to be raging, so there is a very actual hazard that the Germans will reap the benefits of the moon to bomb town once more. With Abel and his males bearing down on the unsuspecting crew of the Bonito, the wonder and the thriller of the island are distracting them from the hazard, whereas Fena herself stands in distinction to Abel’s recollections of Helena – the true lady versus the male best of 1, 18th century type. It’s a extra earthy hazard than in Haggard’s novel, and it positions the present as half of a bigger physique of works that performs on the themes and genres Haggard pioneered.
That implies that I’ve to provide this present credit score for by no means leaving me with out previous works to attract from or issues to debate. Yes, we’re treading on more and more weird and goofy territory because the plot goes on, and sure, I can not cease making Indiana Jones jokes in my head, however there’s one thing fulfilling about how Fena: Pirate Princess simply takes its inspirations and runs. I do not see it turning into an important present, or perhaps a much less problematic one, in its ultimate few episodes. But as Andrew Lang’s poem impressed by Haggard’s novel (which, I ought to notice, has by no means gone out of print) says, “in whatever spot,/In town or field, or by the insatiate sea,/Men brood on buried loves, and unforgot,/Or break themselves on some divine decree,/Or would o’erleap the limits of their lot,/There, in the tombs and deathless, dwelleth She!”
I daresay not less than one Dr. Jones would agree.