“Secretly, no doubt, his heart may have been rending in twain at the thought of bidding farewell to Silver Bud” (Langley, 142).
All right, let’s finish this story.
So Abu Ali’s situation is even worse than before. But he hits on a plan: if Boomalakka Wee goes back, then Khayyam can rub the Lamp and summon Abdul, who’ll surely save him. By chance, Kublai Snoo visits Abu Ali to give him a banana as a going-away present (since he’s going to die). Conveniently, he asks Abu Ali if he has any final messages to responds: “Would you ask [Khayyam] to rub the Lamp for Abdul?” (136).
When Kublai Snoo first showed up in the fifth chapter, I wasn’t expecting him to be an actual character. He seems nice, if a bit too nonchalant about things. He’s nice enough to bring Abu Ali a banana, but is very blase about making sure he’s got the message right.
As for the banana, sadly, “a particularly mean-spirited guard even went so far as to snitch the banana” (137). Poor banana (and Abu Ali; he could have eaten it).
Thankfully the Mouse shows up to counter Kubali Snoo’s possible incompetence. She offers to take the message to Khayyam herself. Because yes and she’s awesome (but I’ve said that multiple times). Unfortunately (but understandably), Khayyam and Boomalakka Wee are also anxious about Abu Ali and march toward Sulkpot’s house. They miss the Mouse and are captured.
So — the execution of boiling oil begins, now including Abu Ali, Omar Khayyam, and Boomalakka Wee. Meanwhile, Kublai Snoo and the Captain finally arrive at Khayyam’s home. When Kublai Snoo sees the Lamp it reminds him of his granny’s so he tries to polish it. Abdul appears instantly and frightens the daylights out of the pair.
Now here’s my question: when Abdul appears, he loudly proclaims that “‘I am the Slave of the Lamp! Ask what thou wilt and it shall be done!'” (139). So he isn’t free? I mean, he is still bound to obey whoever holds the Lamp and do whatever they ask. So why did the first chapter say that Aladdin “‘gave him his freedom'” (9)? And how can Abdul put limits on how many rubs Abu Ali has, if – when a complete stranger rubs the Lamp – he can declare he’s the “Slave of the Lamp”? I can’t understand the consistency.
I’ll also say that this chapter has not got the most engaging opening. I mean, I was glad that the Mouse showed up (because she’s awesome and does everything). And I felt sorry for Abu Ali when he lost his banana, but overall, I didn’t have much respond to the first half of the twelfth chapter. I have no idea why.
But then the story takes us back to the execution and the narrator contemplates heroism:
“May I digress here for a moment to suggest to you, gentle reader, that the real test of a true hero is not how boldly he behaves when all is going well, but how nobly he behaves when all seems lost?
Suppose, for example, you were standing in chains, on a trap-door over a vat of boiling oil. As a true hero, you would have to rise about your station, would you not? And show your detractors how a truly brave man dies” (141).
Okay. There’s a lot packed in this.
On one hand, I respect the sentiment I think the narrator is suggesting. Instead of railing at the world and flailing helpless, it’s better to face misfortune with a sense of nobility or dignity. And more importantly, it’s how one behaves in bad times that is a mark of heroism. If someone talks bravely when life is going well for them, it doesn’t show a lot of fortitude. Which is a big component of heroics – endurability in the face of misfortune and disaster. Cause that’s prominently what heroes’ lives are about.
So, yes. I understand what I think it’s saying.
On the other hand, it also suggests that:
1. A true hero is a “he”
There’s something jarring about reading a sentence talking to me directly but then find it’s not talking to me. It’s talking to the he-pronouns of the world. Which I don’t identity with. So can a “she” be a true hero? Can she behave nobly “when all seems lost”?
The fact that the text uses “he” to generalize what true heroes do enforces the image of (conventional) cismen-as-heroes. Look at most epics. The Iliad has Achilles, Hector, Diomedes; the Odyssey has Odysseus; the Ramayana has Rāma, Lakshman, Hanumān, Sugriva; Gilgamesh has Enkidu, Gilgamesh; the Shahnameh has Rostam, The characters who do mighty deeds are male designated.
I’m not sure if the narrator means to only imply male designated individuals can be true heroes, but that’s probably a fair assumption considering the history of heroics.
2. What noble behavior entails
True heroism is how one acts. If life is going badly, how does one react to misfortune? Calm and collected or panicky and angry? And while I sort of see the narrator’s point — facing one’s demise in a dignified manner is probably good1 — I also find the implication that a type of stalwart exterior is noble bothersome.
This may be because I feel noble behavior is a manner of principles and good-heartedness. It’s not about how well one acts in bad situations. It’s how one behaves to others and the world at large that shows nobility. Sticking to one’s beliefs and values (as long as they’re not bigoted); defending and protecting the values of loved ones.
It’s difficult for me to precisely describe what nobility is to me except I think Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena, Aladdin from Disney’s Aladdin, and Ali ibn Abu Talib are the best examples of what I mean.
Furthermore, there’s just something off (to me) about true heroism being linked to how one responds to distress. Why is that a register of heroism? It just seems limiting. Surely a true hero is more expansive that that?
continued in pt.2 next week
1 reminds me of Sarte and Existentialism – humans have ultimate free will, so how we choose to behave is completely on our own shoulders
- grille: n. 1. 3.
Abdul: “‘I don’t move a step until I’m satisfied it’s not another wild goose chase! …I’ll take you first, miss! Do you have your credentials with you? If so, kindly produce them!'” (141).
Langley, Noel. The Land of Green Ginger. Jeffrey, NH: David R. Godine Publisher, 1975. Print.