This is the first book I wrote. I did it back to front, which makes it a bit tricky to put it up here in a way that makes sense. Nonetheless, I’ve tried my best. So read on for the thrilling tale of King Moonfred and his Knights…
King Moonfred and his Knights and Other Stories, by Christopher Shevlin
Crest, helmet, visor, gorget, breastplate, cape, sword
(No one in the story wears armour like this.)
Once there was a king. He was called King Moonfred. He had 46 knights of the cross.
Moonfred: Servants, fill up my goblet!
Servants: Yes, king!
Then it was battle time.
Saracen 1: Charge! Charge! Ha ha!
Saracen 2: Ha ha!
Saracen 3: Ha ha! By Saint Andrew!
King Moonfred: By Saint George! Forward!
Wind in the tree: Woooo, woooo.
They (King Moonfred’s knights) lost the Holy Land.
Horses’ hooves (retreating): Clip-clop, clip-clop.
(The knights’ flag has been torn and the flag-staff broken.)
The invaders (the Saracens) won it.
Saracens: HA, ha, ha, ha!
The next day the King was very cross.
King Moonfred: Damn, shit, bugger.*
* I always very clearly understood that the swearing symbols in comic books meant these three words.
The King went through the streets in his gold coach.
Driver: Gee up!
King Moonfred: Damn, shit, bugger.
They fight again.
King Moonfred: Charge! Ha ha!
Knight 1: Ha!
Knight 2: Ha!
Knight 3: Ha!
They meet their opponent.
There were more Christians.
King Moonfred: a critical perspective
So, what have we learned? The story is simple. King Moonfred gets drunk and fights the Saracens. He is defeated. The next day he rides around in his golden coach swearing. Then he attacks the Saracens again, but this time with a clever plan: he takes more knights with him. Finally, he defeats the Saracens.
The moral: don’t drink, and always attack with your full strength.
Young though I was, I had absorbed the classic pattern of story-telling: a hero wants something, he tries to attain it but finds it too difficult, then after undergoing a personal crisis (damn, shit, bugger) he finds a way to overcome his difficulties and succeeds in the end.
The setting is delicately evoked, and the confused religious politics of the time are brought to life on the page – as when we hear a Muslim Saracen calling upon the Christian Saint Andrew. There are also thrilling ambiguities: why didn’t Moonfred deploy more knights in his first battle? And what is his relationship with his rather camp (ooh!) bodyguard?
This startlingly mature work is only now beginning to receive the attention from the literary world that it has so long deserved.