Monday, January 11, 2010

Battle Fury

I have recently finished reading The Iliad. I can't even claim to have re-read it, since I stumbled through whatever excerpts were assigned in high school andcollege, skipping much and understanding little.

But now! The rage of Achilles, his poisonous pride, the helpless skittering towards fate of Hector and Patroclus and Achilles himself. And the terrible gods, childish and petty and bickering. To me they were the real villains of the book.

What I found most fascinating was how war -- battle, fighting, hand-to-hand, with all the gruesome violence and immediacy of Bronze Age weapons -- was portrayed. It's terrible, no doubt, but there's also a kind of savage joy, a brotherhood of war that glues together even enemies.

It reminds me of "battle rage" -- a term I first saw in some Dungeons and Dragons manual -- that refers (we decided) to the tantrum-like fury resulting from a stubbed toe or an inoperative tool, or a sweater that doesn't fit right, or a too-small sleeping bag that constricts. Really anything can set it off; there is a kind of joyous release in roaring like a grizzly, baring teeth, and making little hook-fingers like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Not the sort of thing one does at work, though sometimes I am sorely, sorely tempted.

And it got me thinking about my own book, where the two main characters encounter a similar hazy berserker rage, not only in the villains but also -- worse -- in themselves.

Is there a cleansing simplicity in a fury that's so bright it blinds? Or does it simply insulate its bearer from the horrors of war until a different kind of cleansing is needed?


Peter S said...

Hold on. I realize I am adding +10 to my nerdism and -10 to charisma by pointing this out...but I think battle rage was what Yazarians flew into in Star Frontiers.


S R Wood said...

Hmm, that's possible. I may score a charisma penalty myself when I reveal that I cannot even Google "battle rage" without giggling.