Friday, August 24, 2007

Goodbye to a friend

We haven't known each other for long, little more than a week perhaps, and yet in such a short time I got to know about his whole life, his adventures, his hopes, his frustrations and his world, so different, even if related to mine. Now he is gone, last of a series of friends who come, leave a mark and then disappear. His name was Arn, he was Swedish, coming from a little place called Arnas, and he's now dead. Well, dead for a good seven hundreds years really.

And for the ones who, again, think I've lost a couple of wednesdays, I will immediately put your worries at ease, he is a fictional character in a series of historical novels collectively called "The Crusade trilogy" telling the story of Arn Magnusson, a fictional character of middle age Sweden, brother and relative of various other historical characters like Eskil Magnusson or Birger Brosa.

Not everyone can understand how fictional characters can become dear to someone as real life person, sometimes more. I pity, truly, the ones who don't feel the sadness, and sometimes the pain, of reading the last line of the last book telling the tales of some character that over the time, be it long or short, became familiar and close to us. The ones who, on the other hand, can understand me know that we make a little and special brotherhood and probably all of us have a special affection to the Neverending Story of Michael Ende as all of us must have imagined at least once to just jump into a book and live the adventures along our fictional friends and, more importantly, that a story would, in fact, never end for real.

Personally, the first character I left with downright pain was Long John Silver of the Treasure Island. I was perhaps ten years old and it was a sad goodbye and yet full of hopes, actually, as he escaped a certain death at the gallows for unknown adventures. And it was a lucky goodbye too as, by chance, two decades later I found out a little, great, book called "Long John Silver" by Swedish author called Bjorn Larsson who gave me the chance of another meeting with my childhood controversial hero.

Over the years a few characters (and consequently, books) took their place next to the one legged charismatic pirate: most of the Lord of the Rings' characters (and, even now, I think that Tolkien was so wise to tell of the death of most of them in the book's appendices, despite the chocking feeling I felt reading of the voluntary death of Aragorn and of the desperate and lonely fading away of Arwen), Iliad's Hector and, to some lesser extent, Achilles, Aeneas, Wilfred of Ivanhoe and Robin of Locksley, Tom Builder and Jack Shareburg from The Pillars of the Earth, Atreyu and Falkor (while I never really loved Bastian Balthazar Bux probably out of sheer envy), Merlin and Uther as depicted by Jack Whyte, William Adams and Dirk Struan, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (of whom I still have to read a handful of tales) and so on a few more, moving between different ages and universes, until, for now, Arn Magnusson the templar and marshal.

So, a fond goodbye Arn, if there is a heaven for fictional charachter, I know you are there in good company.

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