American Survivor: William Faulkner's a Fable

By Miller, Ryder W. | Mythlore, Spring-Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

American Survivor: William Faulkner's a Fable


Miller, Ryder W., Mythlore


WHILE BAPTISM OF FIRE FOCUSED ON BRITISH FANTASISTS, there were also a number of American realists who spent time on European soil during the conflicts of World War I and II and were inspired by their times in the overseas conflicts. Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I who was wounded and wrote about some of the struggles there (including The Spanish Civil War (July 17, 1936- April 1, 1939). John Steinbeck covered World War II for New York newspapers as well as Vietnam years later when two of his children were soldiers. Steinbeck also wrote a King Arthur book that was published after his death and is worth reading, especially given the theme of the 2015 Mythcon, but he is not otherwise a fantasy author. More unusual however was the story of William Faulkner (1897-1962) who was part of the Canadian Air Force during World War I, and returned later to that time with A Fable (1954) which followed his receiving the Noble Prize in Literature in 1949. Faulkner made forays into genre subjects like crime stories, the Southern Gothic, and war stories. He was reacting to some of the same things the Inklings were in A Fable, which was a reaction to World War and doesn't quite fit together with Faulkner's other books. In this effort it is clear that the fires of war were still burning in him.

A Fable tells of a failed effort at lasting peace during the trench warfare of World War I. Corporal Stephan orders his troops to desist, an action which is copied by the other side. Some have considered Stephan a resurrected Christ like figure. But his men are later overruled and the conflict begins again. His superiors argue that aggression is part of human nature. Stephan is later executed; the Signet Modern Classic Book cover shows him on the cover being taken down from where other soldiers are still hanging on poles. The message is that humankind will endure and prevail, in part because the soldiers are not all or always blood-thirsty. The inner fires can be put out.

Faulkner may be said to share a literary style with The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion; both Faulkner and Tolkien really require a second reading to be fully appreciated. …

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