In this short story the ancient Tale of The Bloodthirsty Brothers is examined by a modern commentator who uncovers in the mystery of Lord Aelfric's murder not only a prototype of the detective fiction but also an unusual rendering of Christian Eschatology.
Were I writing to the uncultivated masses that passively accepts, without the least criticism, the endless stream of stereotyped Hollywood blockbusters, each one distinct from the other only by minimal, insignificant details, it would not be necessary to justify my insistence on writing about a subject already as much exhausted as the one I have before me. As is the nature of my public, that is, women and men to whom criticism is a profession and a way of life, logic and good manners dictate a more cautious introduction. Indeed, let’s start this study with the question my Reader probably starts to formulate in his mind at this point, just a few seconds after reading the title of this work. Why yet another retelling of the “Tale of The Bloodthirsty Brothers”?
My unique approach is why. It may sound a little too bold a statement after hundreds of years of endless discussions, and dozens of different instantiations of the myth by poets and playwrights in ten different languages — but it is precisely true. My effort is unique because, strictly speaking, it is the only historical approach to the legend ever tried. It means not, though, that I made the recurrent scholastic mistake of believing the crimes involved to be factual murders. To our purposes the factua or fictitious nature of such events has little value, given that our aim is the analysis of the narrative structure of that pre-historic fossil of a detective story, and its implicit premises. The “historical” in this work refers rather to our moral consideration of the acts of the protagonists, which I try to undertake from the moral perspective of the very society that gave birth to the tale, that is, of medieval Europe.
In its whole critical fortune the Brothers have been characterized as vicious, revengeful cowards, who took pleasure in the torture and slaughter under the pretext of avenging their tyrannical father. I’ll try to prove that, on the contrary, they were almost saints. Drawing directly or indirectly from the theological speculations of Aquinas, all versions of the Tale up to now, from the depiction of the sufferings of the wicked souls of the Brothers in Dante’s Inferno to the many twentieth century movie adaptations, fail to properly address the question of the Blood Feud — the social institution which drives the entire plot, and the immense power and utter centrality it had in the ethics of the Middle Ages.
I concede to the Reader that the above assertions seem by now too farfetched. Unfortunately, though, he will have to wait until my narrative comes to an end to be completely cured of such incredulity. For now, I hope the prestige I enjoy in the academic world is enough to ask him for a little bit of faith and to keep his attention through the following pages.
About Lucas Nicolato
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Published January 4, 2012
History, Religion & Spirituality, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction.