Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino

For those looking for some light reading, The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino may fit the bill.

I'd never read any of Italo Calvino's work until recently. Amazon had a sale on several of his books and while I'm still reading the Italian Folktales, I managed to finish this one setting. It flows very easily despite the fact that it has a few words I didn't know beforehand. One of the benefits of a kindle book is the ability to engage the dictionary right there in the text.

I had a feeling I'd enjoy this one. It's set during the era of Charlemagne, one of the sources of knights and paladins in the Dungeons and Dragons game and the era of one of the 'greats' of the time, the knight Roland.

I enjoyed the Song of Roland and the 2nd edition Green Historical book, HR2 Charlemagne's Paladins back in the day, available from for $9.99.

The 'hero' of the title, Agilulf, is a knight in shinning white armor that is kept meticulously clean. A knight of great deeds and ability, he is not an actual person. The armor is empty. He exists as a 'mere' suit of armor that goes about keeping order and maintaining his presence through willpower alone.

His story follows through with other characters, each with their own compelling tales that interlink into different adventurers that take place and resolve themselves until the author brings us to the end. One of my favorites is the squire, a buffoon whose main introduction involves a cauldron of soup and him getting trapped in it temporarily and insisting that "all is soup".

The tale told by a 'nun' is charming and entertaining and I'd almost be loathe to see it wind up in the hands of some of the darker corners that authors tend to travel these days.

While certainly not originally intended as anything for say, Dungeons and Dragons, but rather an an allegory for far different things, such a character makes for a great origin for fantasy settings, gonzo settings like Rifts, or super hero settings. A hero that comes out of nothing and is capable and better than the average hero or knight.

For those looking for a little whimsy in their fantasy, The Nonexistent Knight is a solid, quick read.