I’ve been honored by the observation that I portray an interesting Benedict. As would be true of any of the Elder portrayals, this is a nice thing to know.
Elsewhere, M said:
What’s she referring to? Well, the Visual Guide and a number of other interpretations either on the web or in print make a big point of Benedict living within an Asian cultural style; using a katana blade, wearing kimono, and/or being surrounded by Asian personal effects, etc.
The canon does call his blade a ‘sycthe like’ weapon, obviously meaning curved single edge. Benedict draws it reaching up over his shoulder to pull it up in a sweeping arc. Certainly you could say Zelazny intends this description to imply the katana.
In particular what puzzles me about the ‘Asian Benedict’ is that it often seems to overwhelm the portrayal when it shows up instead of being a small reflection of the man.
For example: I can see Benedict having philosophies, or adopting habits, or wearing gear, or employing expert people of Asian culture, while still being very, very Amber in doing it.
The fallacy, if there is one, is trying to define Amber only by examining shadow. Isn’t it really the Asian culture taking something from Benedict, not the other way around? So Benedict must be much larger than the Asian element.
As observers, this is part of the Earth-centric fallacy that can really rob the myth from Zelazny’s work. Yes, we are stuck with our Earth images, but we don’t have to limit our imaginations to copying those images without re-dressing them into something more wondrous.
It might be noted that Benedict does not dwell overmuch on the past, only enough to carry its lessons into the present.
Benedict is not the first born of Oberon, IMC, but he is the first-born of Cymnea. He is also the Eldest scion that Amber acknowledges of Oberon. He is the oldest son of the first queen Oberon had. No woman ruled in Amber before Cymnea. Cymnea was not Chaosi.
As such, and with Oberon dead, there really is no commentary on the early Benedict. There are no journals, no cherished observations, and Cymnea, as well as Benedict’s brothers, Osric and Finndo are all long dead. Benedict holds the unique position of being living history.
Without conflicting commentary.
Corwin is the oldest commentor living, baring Dworkin who hardly ever makes a valuable or consistent pundit on Oberon’s children. Most then who know Benedict know him as a survivor of Oberon’s reign, a savant of war, and a man old before they were born.
What is generally known about the early Benedict is that he grew up in a kingdom still hammering out a civilized life. Cymnea was Amber’s first queen. Many years later, his mother left Oberon with some unresolved dispute between them and returned to her family in shadow. That family, in distant shadow, had power enough to influence Oberon in the timing and choice of his next Queen. Whoever they were, they were strong in their power, strong enough to give Oberon solid sons, and to make the King think twice before offending them by acknowledging Eric by Faiella out of wedlock.
If that shadow family still exists— is just one of those things Benedict does not talk about.
Many think Benedict a man of few words. This is a misinterpretation. Benedict prefers not to waste words. He usually does not discuss history in a manner of dry facts subject to interpretation, because this is not a valuable way to learn and leads to more questions that layer less meaning. When Benedict wants to know something, he seldom asks, he goes and finds out what he wants to know. And as Corwin points out, if he mistrusts the answer, he looks again and again until he has drawn a thousand answers from the present possibles.
Like Oberon, Benedict does not seem to be a man of easy trust.
Yet he is a man who takes risks. He tests the memory-damaged Corwin. He accepts Martin. He acknowledges Dara. In a family where the unknown is always dangerous and Corwin warns us to never trust family, Benedict takes chances all the time.
He loses an arm.
It isn’t the only thing he’s lost at dear price. Yet he still risks himself in pursuit of his goals.
From Benedict, the sons of Oberon know leading from the front lines. They know never pledging your word to something you will not do. From Benedict, they know when to stand and when to fall back and when to run. They know how to survive.
Benedict seems a man apart from the politics of Amber. The queens have not exiled him. The courtiers have never sought him. And Benedict asks that family politics are not bandied about in his hearing, else he will absent himself.
And so as queens rule down through the centuries, there is the tall thin son of the King moving elsewhere, traveling widely, and often gone unless he is called back to Amber by Oberon. Where usually the King asks him to train a new son in the art of war. Benedict does this. He does it well and provides many of his brothers with skills that make them legends among men.
Always a part of the family, but often gone from Amber.
Intrinsic to Amber’s strength, but largely undefined.
Where the sons of Oberon are known for their vibrant qualities, Benedict is known for his acts and being ‘wide of mind’.
He does not seek the throne.
There is an issue there.
An unknown doom.
There is, one must say, something different about Benedict. Something sometime in the past that demanded a cost because of a risk. Certainly it had to do with Amber. Perhaps it had to do with his mother, or his brothers, or even some other members of the family that no longer are even remembered.
Benedict accepted the risk. He paid a price. And that is that.
For Amber survives Eternal and that is a fact.
During the dark years of Oberon’s absence from Amber, Benedict was gone as was his wont. Gone so long that even his friends, like Moire, thought he might be dead. And there I note that Rebma, that judges the men of Amber harshly, is respectful of Benedict. Moire says openly she would support Benedict were he not missing and his bones lying unregarded.
Except that this was not true. As it became clear later, Benedict was always in contact with certain people and current with events in Amber from afar. It is even likely that Moire, Gerard, Julian and others were keeping Benedict’s movements a secret at his request.
Misdirecting for him, if not at his specific direction.
The stage was set for the family struggle that became the PatternFall War.
When Amber’s safety prompted Eric to the regency, and then throne, there were many who felt that Prince Benedict had a better claim to the crown. Eric was still unacknowledged by the King’s choice and it was clear that if Benedict threw his support to a candidate, that person would be first among choices.
It wouldn’t be such a stretch to imagine that if Julian or Gerard questioned Benedict about supporting Eric, that there were thoughts shared on this. Strategies were discussed. Options for the protection of Amber were considered in depth.
In the crisis, Benedict appeared and rallied Amber’s forces.
And at the point where everything could be lost in a single night of the full moon, Benedict stood in exactly the place that Brand needed to pass in order to succeed.
Wait, you say? Certainly this was Oberon’s manipulation since he was already on the scene in disguise?
Think again, please. It is not mischance or manipulation by Oberon, who has been mostly elsewhere. Neither were Corwin, Random, nor Benedict moving to nudges of a shadow man called Ganelon—for Oberon’s disguise was good enough this makes no sense, and to preserve that disguise it could make no sense.
Trains Martin. Tests Dara. Advises Gerard and Julian.
Puts Corwin on trial in the glade to measure his honor and passion and commitment to Amber.
Asks Random to do the surgery needed to attach the silver arm.
Gives Brand his final chance to consider his betrayal. Takes the Jewel from him then, when Brand is too far gone to save himself.
Directs the surprising battle against the overwhelming forces of the Chaosi while Oberon repairs the Pattern. And on that field against a great show of Chaosi best, he grinds the foe to pieces.
He also salutes the new king with his blade, but then there is no doubt that this is only what follows from all the rest.
In some ways, you could look at this history and see that Benedict is the father figure that Oberon never was. He certainly set the standard for what the princes became as warriors. Benedict, steady and resourceful, is the model for which all other princes are but…
I close with these words, which I feel show that Benedict is yet a man of peace and sentiment in spite of his duty as warrior: