Is Call To Crusade’s Godric MacEuan “Too-Perfect” A Protagonist?
Yes and no. Both are correct depending on the depth of your analysis of his character.
Some of my reviewers have commented that they found Godric MacEuan “too-perfect,” which made him a bit off-putting — certainly not enough to dislike the man or his story, but occasionally just a bit irritating in the way he comes across. And their comments are fair — he can be justly perceived that way.
But hidden in the very point that they raise is the reason he isn’t perfect, and which reveals to us his flaws. Bear with me, and let me explain.
First, I wrote this book to inspire my nephews, as many of the great books of the past, written by the likes of Burroughs, Scott and Verne, inspired me, by offering depictions of manhood as a shining ideal, like John Carter of Mars or Tarzan, rather than poster-boys for tawdry decadence. There is all too much of the latter in today’s literature, and if that is what you seek, I’m not the author for you. Too many forms of today’s entertainment urge us to find the flaws in others so we can feel better about ourselves by comparison, rather than showing us the virtues in others and saying, “now here’s something worthy to emulate.”
I think we are all better people when we are young. Godric is certainly pure and idealistic as a boy, and I wanted his character to reflect that in this book. But in the books that follow, we will certainly see him changed, hardened and (possibly) degraded by the war and violence he endures. I do hope his idealism wins through, though. We’ll see . . .
So, for my younger readers, I wanted Godric to be someone to aspire after, and so buried his kryptonite deep in the story until they were older, (sadly) wiser, and ready to find it.
Secondly, this series present the four-volume memoirs of an old man looking back and recalling his deeds, accomplishments and tribulations, about most of which he is proud. Godric is writing for himself, but the reality is this: Much of what we know of the of the First Crusade comes from accounts written by paid chroniclers (not impartial reporters or historians, but rather what today we’d call media-savvy public relations promoters) as glowing tributes to the bravery, wisdom, leadership and piety of the men who led it. I’ve read those accounts, and believe me, any politician putting out such stuff today would be hooted off the stage — except Donald Trump, maybe. Bohemond’s nearly made me vomit. By comparison, Godric is pretty humble, and nowhere near as over-the-top in embellishment of his deeds, but I wanted to at least stay true to the spirit of the age, so you got a little taste of it. And — since I know first-hand that good steel will keep you alive when bad steel will get you killed — all of Godric’s sword-making claims are really just good marketing. 🙂
And then, there is this. I’m in the same boat as Godric, so to speak. Prior to writing Call to Crusade I wrote 30,000 Leagues Undersea, my own recollections of my life as a submariner and Hydronaut. Like Godric, I’m proud of my triumphs and close calls, and want you to know all about them, the greatest perhaps in winning the love and hand of a great beauty. I’m humble enough, too, to admit some of my mistakes. But NOT ALL of them. I admit to being vain enough to gloss over my imperfections—after all, I hope that book will outlive me by centuries, and I’d hate to be remembered and psychoanalyzed for all time for the sins and errors in my past. So in defense of myself and others, I do not tell all. Of both pride and vanity, I admit my guilt.
And I believe Godric has done the same. You mustn’t expect the whole truth. He may have spent a whole year crying himself to sleep after he was enslaved as a boy, but he’s not going to tell you that. And that in itself is a considerable flaw: call it selective memory, self-deception or a vain dishonesty born of pride. As it is, he admits his youthful mischief-making, and to being a perfectionist. He likes being right and being clever, and in that, some of that vanity does show through.
Then, too, memory fails, and we don’t remember all we thought or felt fifty years earlier. I can’t. Godric wouldn’t. He’s telling his life’s story, and men like him — and I have lived half of my life as a fighting man among real fighting men — leave a lot of the emotional stuff out of their stories. Another flaw we share: emotional stoicism.
Perhaps he wasn’t he roughed up enough? Let’s see: Orphaned at age eleven, nose broken twice, brutally flogged, and forced into years of enslavement at hard labor — all of which inflicted by his own bastard of a half-brother. 5,000 miles in the saddle in all kinds of weather. Two arrow wounds — one nearly fatal — garnered in battle. And all this before he turns twenty. Wile E. Coyote excepted, most cartoons, westerns and Bond movies don’t inflict that much damage on their protagonists!
There is much to like in Godric, and most of my readers agree. I share many of his flaws but not all his strengths, and those I truly admire. I hope in all fairness you will, too.
Still, there is much more to come, and I’ll try to do better going forward. 🙂