Friday, April 1, 2016

1: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: I am Jack of Shadows!

No Roger Zelazny poetry month this year, but I'd still like to have a Zelazny themed April. I'm going to feature a quote of the day instead, along with some context or commentary .

"I am Jack of Shadows!" he cried out. "Lord of Shadow Guard! I am Shadowjack, the thief who walks in silence and in shadows! I was beheaded in Igles and rose again from the Dung Pits of Glyve. I drank the blood of a vampire and ate a stone. I am the breaker of the Compact. I am he who forged a name in the Red Book of Ells. I am the prisoner in the jewel. I duped the Lord of High Dudgeon once, and I will return for vengeance upon him. I am the enemy of my enemies. Come take me, filth, if you love the Lord of Bats or despise me, for I have named myself Jack of Shadows!"

Context: Jack is read to return darkside with the information that will let him suborn the machine that thinks like a man, only faster. Before he can depart, he is confronted by Quilian, another professor. Quilian suspects (rightly) that Jonathan Shade is the dayside alias for Jack of Shadows, and is intent on holding Jack at gunpoint until the mortal authorities can arrive to arrest him. For his part, Jack suspects that the Lord of Bats' Borshin has pursued him to the light side of the world, and that it is in fact the window of the building at that very moment, but it is not certain. Jack's declaration allows it to identify him, and it enters. (Quilian's face showed puzzlement at this outburst, and though he opened his mouth and tried to speak, his words were drowned out by the other's cries./
Then the window shattered, the candle died, and the Borshin sprang into the room.

Why I like it: Zelazny draws on mythological archetypes for many of his stories, and that passage above, aside from being a great piece of writing, always struck me as profoundly mythical. Zelazny's characters are similar in some ways, but this piece serves to distinguishe Jack as the Ur-Trickster of Zelaznian literature.


  1. It's a very Celtic sort of declaration. A bit like "I am Taliesin!"

  2. There are many versions and translations. Personally, I like the version in Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising" sequence which deals with "The Matter of Britain". She seems to take it from this version. "I am the womb of every holt." No idea what it means, but it sounds great!