Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.
JIREL MEETS MAGIC (1935) – First off, let me say that is a bizarrely bland and unfitting title for this wildly imaginative tale. It also ignores the supernatural elements of Jirel’s first two adventures by implying this is the first time she “meets” magic.
The story opens up with Jirel on horseback leading her army in a bloody assault on Castle Guischard, the stronghold of the sorcerer Giraud. When our heroine leads the way into the castle itself, even her bravest men are a bit intimidated by the dark history of the place, but charge in along with her.
When the last of Giraud’s men are slain and all secret passageways from Castle Guischard are covered, Jirel and her men scour the entire castle for any sign of the sorcerer, whom she has sworn to kill over his double-dealing with her.
At last, in a high tower of the castle, Jirel finds what must have been Giraud’s hiding place and sees how he apparently fled.
Behind plush curtains is a window with impossibly large ivory shutters. Once opened, those shutters reveal that the window leads not to the outside, but to another dimension in which Giraud has sought shelter.
Still boiling with a desire to kill the sorcerer, Jirel of Joiry climbs through the window into the other realm, letting her men choose for themselves whether to follow. None of them have the courage to do so, and our heroine sallies forth alone.
Jirel explores the strange land with a violet sun that shines down upon vast green meadows and forests. A bolt of enchanted lightning draws her to a spot in the forest where she finds that the lightning was called down by a sorceress named Jarisme. She used the lightning to inflict a mortal wound on a dryad named Irsla and toys with the dying beauty.
Disgusted at the cruel display, Jirel drives off Jarisme so that Irsla can die in peace and be out of her misery. As the dryad dies she pulls from her green hair a talisman that she gives to our heroine. The talisman will lead her to the lair of Jarisme and her prince consort – the sorcerer Giraud.
Jirel lets the charm lead her to a tall white tower in which dwell Jarisme and Giraud. Giraud now becomes almost an afterthought as the main conflict rages between Jirel and the sorceress. Dialogue among the three characters reveals that Jirel may be the woman foretold to be the one who destroys Jarisme.
Giraud attempts to dissuade Jarisme from trying to defy fate but the haughty enchantress ignores him and the war is on between her and our heroine.
Once again, C.L. Moore takes readers on a mind-blowing adventure that combines cosmic horror, sword & sorcery and haunted castle elements. I’ll avoid spoilers for newcomers to Moore’s work, but suffice it to say that her descriptive powers are at their peak in this story. Just not in the title. (Even a simple title like Jarisme would be better than the childlike Jirel Meets Magic.)
At any rate, the clash between Jirel of Joiry and the sorceress Jarisme finds our woman warrior facing a huge purple snake, a golden-hued saber-tooth tiger, coal-black amoeboid blobs and doorways into otherworldly realms that C.L. Moore describes with excruciatingly unwholesome details like she’s a mad tourist from those regions.
Since we know that Jirel is a pulp heroine from a series of tales it’s surely no spoiler to mention that she wins out in the end, destroys Jarisme and gets her revenge on the second-rate Giraud.
Another Jirel of Joiry story awaits us next time.
FOR OTHER NEGLECTED PULP HEROES CLICK HERE.