Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Magic

In which Tim explores the world of Magic: The Gathering one
card at a time, courtesy of Gatherer's "Random Card" button.

Bloodletter Quill (Ravnica: City of Guilds, 2005)

So apparently the gimmick is that this is an evil pen that gives you access to forbidden secrets, at the measly cost of . . . your soul! Makes sense: you get to draw a card, pay some life, and then repeat. It requires blue and black to be used properly, which - since this is a Ravnica card (and Jesus, what's with all the Ravnica block cards? this is like the third one I've pulled for this) - means it belongs to the mysterious and sinister Dimir guild. Dimir is all about secrets, dwelling in the shadows and striking silently, so paying a high price for proscribed knowledge (read: extra cards) is well within their wheelhouse. From a purely mechanical standpoint, both colors are really good at increasing your card advantage, so it makes sense that an artifact built to support the color combo would enable you to draw more cards easier.

This card came out in 2005. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out in 2003 (my favorite of the series, incidentally). That book featured the introduction of Dolores Umbridge, the latest in a long line of Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, and one who took a particular dislike to Harry. Her preferred form of punishment was to write "I must not tell lies" over and over again onto his own flesh with a devilish torture instrument called the blood quill:

This motif originates most likely in Franz Kafka's 1914 short story "In the Penal Colony," built around a (fictional) method of execution that consists of inscribing / tattooing the body of a convict with his sentence repeatedly, until he finally dies after somewhere around 12 hours of excruciating pain. But that story does not feature a little eyeball and sac of blood sinking its tendrils into the Admiral's writing hand. (Why the Admiral? I don't know, but it sure looks like the dude is wearing an admiral's dress uniform.) Robert Crumb provided an excellent illustration of "In the Penal Colony" for his great book on Kafka:


Anonymous said...

I'm going to derail wildly and say that I would be really curious to hear your thoughts on Harry Potter. Among the people I know who've discussed it, OOtP is widely disliked; I'm sure you'd have a fascinating perspective...

Tim O'Neil said...

That's odd - I'm really not plugged into HP fandom, but OOtP has always been my favorite. That was the one where the situation became drastically worse, and people started to treat Harry like more of an adult so he had more agency. I loved the dynamic of the Order itself, Harry being in the center of another surrogate family, only to end up losing his surrogate father in what I think is the most crushing death of the series, at least until we get to the back half of book 7.