On The 13 Clocks
I haven’t updated this website in quite a while. I am still writing. Not as often as I’d like, but I am still writing.
Here’s something that I realized recently. And for all I know, I’m the only one who’s realized it. I did search the web to see if this was a well-known thing, but found nothing.
It has to do with James Thurber’s fantasy novel The 13 Clocks. The 13 Clocks has been somewhat in the news recently, thanks to Neil Gaiman’s laudable efforts to bring attention to it and get it back into print. I first heard of the book, I dunno, a bunch of years ago and tracked down a copy at a library discard store. I liked it but I don’t know if I had reread it since that first time before just recently.
When I heard about Gaiman’s crusade, I thought to myself, I should read that again. So I read it to my son as bedtime reading. Now, there’s one part… hold on.
There’s one part where Zorn, the hero of the story, and his friend the Golux have to collect a bunch of gems in a really short time. They’ve heard of a woman named Hagga who cries gemstones, so they figure they should go to her. They use this magical rose that they have to find their way to her, but when they get there, they can’t get her to cry. She’s all cried out because everybody wants her gems.
The good news is, tears of laughter produce gems too. They don’t last as long as the cried kind but Zorn doesn’t mind that. So they try to get her to laugh. This doesn’t work well either, and it looks like they’ve failed. And then, suddenly, Hagga starts laughing like crazy for no particular reason and cries jewels all over the place. Zorn and the Golux collect up the gemstones and thank her and take off out of there.
So, when I read it, I thought that that was pretty weak. They need her to laugh, and she doesn’t, and then all of a sudden she does? Inexplicably? Because of nothing that Zorn or the Golux did? That’s no way to tell a story. So why did Hagga laugh?
But! Then I noticed the last paragraph of that chapter, after Zorn and the Golux have left:
Inside the hut, something red and larger than a ruby glowed among the jewels and Hagga picked it up. “A rose,” she said. “They must have dropped it.”
Obviously this is the magical rose they used to find her in the first place; that part is no problem. The key thing here is, “dropping a rose” is a euphemism for farting. And in the world of The 13 Clocks, the boundaries between the metaphorical and the actual are pretty blurry. So maybe that’s what Hagga was laughing at! Maybe Thurber had the plot of his fairy tale, and the fates of Zorn of Zorna, Princess Saralinda, and the evil duke, all depend on his own fart joke.
Does this hold water for anybody?
I’d really like to know what Neil Gaiman thinks about it. Oh well…