Literature: The 13 Clocks
"We all have flaws," [The Duke] said, "and mine is being wicked."The 13 Clocks
is a fantasy novel by James Thurber
. A modern Fairy Tale
, recounting the tale of the evil duke who thinks he killed time, in whose castle the 13 clocks never move, and the impossible tasks he sets to those who would marry his niece, the princess.
Full of whimsy and word play. And containing the Golux — the only Golux in the world and not a mere device.
Thurber also wrote three more tales in the same vein, Many Moons
, The White Deer
and The Wonderful O
The story is a favorite of Neil Gaiman
, who wrote the introduction to the current edition and narrated a short animated film of the first chapter (which can be viewed here
It contains examples of:
- Aristocrats Are Evil: But not all; most of the major characters, including the Love Interest and the hero, are noble or royal.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- Blessed with Suck: Hagga's tears turn into jewels. This doesn't work out quite as well as hoped.
- Card-Carrying Villain: See the page quote, said by the Duke.
- Changeling Fantasy
- Children Are Innocent
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: The Duke will slit you from your guggle to your zatch and feed you to his geese.
- Damsel in Distress: See Wife Husbandry, below.
- Deus ex Machina: Or, strictly speaking Golux Ex Machina. Lampshaded by the Duke.
- And lampshaded well in advance by the Golux himself: from his first appearance, the Golux declares that he is "no mere device" and the Duke constantly refers to him as "a mere device."
- Description Porn: Thurber is clearly having a lot of fun with his prose.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The Duke has people killed and fed to his geese for the most minor transgressions, including not complimenting his wines or staring at his gloves for too long.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Todal, which is only ever described in the most oblique of language.
- It moves like monkeys and shadows.
- It makes a sound like rabbits screaming and smells of old unopened rooms.
- It gleeps. *shudder*
- It's made of lip.
- Engagement Challenge: The entire plot
- Ermine Cape Effect
- Everything's Better With Princesses: Saralinda.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: The Duke goes on and on about this, to the point where even Hark gets annoyed.
- Evil Uncle: The Duke. Subverted when it's revealed that he actually kidnapped Saralinda.
- Eyepatch of Power: The Duke has one of these due to an unfortunate encounter with a bird in his youth.
- Fairy Tale Motifs: Of course.
- Girl in the Tower: Princess Saralinda.
- Happily Ever After: Literally, in that the last shot of the hero has him sailing away "to the shores of Ever After."
- Haunted Castle: By at least three ghosts
- High-Class Glass: The Duke's working eye is adorned by this.
- Impossible Task: The Duke sets these to all the suitors of Saralinda, if he doesn't slit them from their guggle to their zatch first.
- Inept Mage: The Golux's father, who lacks the power of concentration, and mother, who, "when she changed her rivals into fish, all she ever got was mermaids." The Golux keeps up the family tradition.
- Kick the Dog: Literally; the Duke is lame because he "spent his childhood drop-kicking puppies and punting kittens."
- King Incognito: Xingu turns out to be Zorn of Zorna.
- The Lady's Favour
- Locked into Strangeness: Just hearing the Todal's name mentioned causes people's hair to turn white with terror. Even Hark's black mask turns gray.
- Love at First Sight
- No Name Given: The Duke is only ever called The Duke.
- Now Do It Again Backwards: The way Saralinda starts the clocks. The Golux's logic seems to work this way.
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: From guggle to zatch. Also gleeping.
- Prophecy Twist: In Saralinda's nurse's spell.
- The Quest: Find ten thousand jewels before ninety-nine hours are up.
- Race Against the Clock: Xingu must complete his quest by making all thirteen clocks strike five.
- Reverse Mole: Hark, the Duke's spy.
- And Listen, who is the Golux in disguise!
- Rhymes on a Dime
- Royal Blood: Saralinda and Zorn of Zorna
- Sword Cane: The Duke owns one.
- Take Our Word for It: The Todal. Especially when it gleeps.
- Tongue-Tied: Saralinda in the Duke's presence, thanks to a spell.
- The Tourney: In the backstory. The traveler recognizes the minstrel from them.
- Unusual Euphemism: A non-sexual variety. Even the hero wonders where his guggle and zatch are. Turns out, they're his throat and stomach, respectively.
- Wandering Minstrel: Xingu, when we first meet him. He alludes to The Mikado several times, calling himself "a thing of threads and patches". This is also a hint that he's really royalty, just like the wandering minstrel who delivers that line in The Mikado.
- We Help the Helpless: "Then you're helpless and I'll help you."
- Wife Husbandry: The Duke is doing this to Saralinda.
- You Have Failed Me: Any minion who fails the Duke is fed to his geese.
- This is the function of the Todal, an agent of The Devil who punishes evildoers for not doing enough evil. One stalks the Duke, causing him to be terrified of what will happen to him if he isn't villainous enough.
- Youngest Child Wins: Zorn of Zorna