Thursday, July 12, 2012

3 Dead Princes: An Anarchist Fairy Tale

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Author:Danbert Nobacon
Danbert Nobacon bills himself as a singer, songwriter, comedian and "freak music legend". He was a founding member of the British anarchist punk band "Chumbawamba", whose most famous hit was "Tubthumping" ("I get knocked down, but I get up again..."). This 2010 book bills itself as "a fairy tale for adults of all ages" and that quite fills the bill. The tone is humorous and satirical but thankfully not pedantic. There is an underlying seriousness to this 192-page novel, which owes less to the tales of modern politically correct children's fare and more to Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and Anthony Burgess "Clockwork Orange" (not in violence but in made-up wordplay in the latter case.)

The story centers on a post apocalyptic kingdom called Morainia--which in geography matches the Pacific Northwest state of Washington where Nobacon currently resides, only this is centuries in the future. The heroine is a thirteen year-old girl, Princes Stormy. She finds herself with an absentee father-King Walterbald and a step-mother, Queen Gwynmerelda. As soon as her dad takes off on a secret mission, the nasty step-mom tries to marry Stormy off to a "toadying prancer" Prince Mercurio from the "Southern Kingdoms".

The story centers around Stormy coming into womanhood, avoiding the clutches of various lustful, dense and power-hungry princes (there is a hint in the title as to what becomes of them all) and, along with her intrepid fellow traveller, The Fool, finding her King-father, Walterbald, and rescuing him in the lands beyond the Great Ice Wall. Then comes the climatic Battle of Bald River Falls, a finish as memorable as C.S. Lewis classic and more conventional "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".

Along the way, she has encounters with invading armies--those darn Southern Kingdoms--giant cats, mermangels, giggle monkeys, a large black bird called the Gricklegrack that makes himself very useful in a pinch and the usual compliment of flying lizards no good work of serious literature should ever be without.

Nobacon surely has a way with words and the book comes with an interesting afterword about the need for "mutual aid" and its role in humanity's long evolution. Alex Cox, a film director of such films as "Sid and Nancy" (1983), "Repo Man" (1984) did the illustrations and they are wonderfully imaginative in the vein of books like Maurice Stendack's "Where the Wild Things Are" .

I have to thank Multiply's own Merlin of the Shire, Aaran Aardvark, for introducing me to more of Chumbawamba's music than I had been given a chance to appreciate before.

This is in fact a good book for anybody thirteen or over and can be enjoyed on several levels.

Critical bias warning: I got a chance to chat a bit with both Mr. Cox and Mr. Nobacon separately at this year Ashland Book and Author Festival last month. Both men were amiable to all who came by and said hello, and asked about their work. Mr. Nobacon, despite having once dumped an ice bucket on a deputy Prime Minister at the British Music Awards show in 1998, showed no signs of any aggressive behavior or intent to those who just stopped by without buying his book or his most recent CD releases. He was quite friendly to the freeloaders among us, which is more than would have been said of a ready ice-bucket flinger like myself.

Here he is at a signing appearence a couple years back.


  1. lol that's a pretty unsubtle hint. I like the sound of this book, thanks for drawing my attention to it.

  2. Whoops...I shouldn't have drawn so much attention to the title. :-)

    You're quite welcome, Iri Ani.

  3. I am listening to this author and very interesting Doug. Literacy still prevails.
    Mutual aid and the betterment - this is most interesting as I do love to write.
    Very decent read Doug as well as visual to go along with it.

  4. No that's all cool. Perhaps I'm ghoulish but I quite like the idea that they wind up dead, I feel like reading the book even more. I must be in a malevolent state of mind.

  5. Thanks Jack. Yes, we still have readers and book festivals and thank goodness for that!

  6. Reading about characters who've gone bad and wishing they get "rewarded" for their bad enterprises I find, Iri Ani, is a good way to exorcise the occasional malevolent feeling. :-)

    Suffice to say, to paraphrase a line from a old Gilbert and Sullivan tune, these particular princes "never would be missed."

  7. Thanks for posting this review of Danbert Nobacon' s book Doug, it sounds like a good read. The bad news is Chumbawamba have 'retired' after 30 years they said a few weeks ago now, so we are now Chumawambaless after 3 decades when that wasn't true.

    Interesting that you should bump into Danbert in your own locality Doug.

    The Kropotkinesque Mr Nobacon seizes the opportunity to extol not only the merits but the fundamental necessity of mutual aid, which to me is a job well done.

    I had not heard about this book before, so thanks for the heads up, I can't keep up with all the books, I think I need to go on retreat for 6 months to clear the backlog. Having said all that, this one sounds like one to watch out for.

    There seems to be thread of synchronicity running through this post Doug, it is strange how much that happens, perhaps we are all just minute chippings flying off one great big thought? Whatever the answer to that question, it was interesting to see the presentation and Danbert in full flow.

    All very good stuff Doug, nothing like anarchist fairy tales to lighten the load, thanks again for the update.

  8. Well, that's bad news about the retirement of Chumbawamba, AA.

    I could name some other popular bands who, artistically, should have thrown in the sponge after three years, but that would be off-topic.

    Yes, I was surprised to see Danbert Nobacon listed as a featured author in semi-rural Ashland, Oregon to say the least! I asked him about his coming over from England on a tour but he said he actually lived in Central Washington state, which surprised me. Alex Cox the director illustrator has been on the radio here a couple times so I was less surprised to know he was showing up. But it was great to meet both artists.

    The afterword of the novel includes some ideas from Kropotkin and has anarchist philosophy. The "mutual aid" aspects of human development and how it has played a role in human evolution seems to be of keem interest to Mr. Nobacon and he articulates that theory well. It's certainly a book I hope to share with others. It is a small press publication, which might be one reason you might not have seen it yet.

    Yes,I have my own backlog of books I'm slowly getting at but seemingly nowhere near the pace I'd like to be setting. I can see from my desk to my right a distressing pile of paper backs and hardcovers, some dusty, crammed into the nightstand and other places where horizontal space is available.

    My only hope is to stay out of bookstoores and the local library completely for a solid year. :-)

    There does seem to be synchronicity afoot here. The blogs and videos you've had concerning Chumbawamba seem to have culminated in the impetus I needed to lok for this artist at the book show and later read this delightful tome.

    You're most welcome for the update, AA, and thank you for introducing me to some of the performances and the politics of the author.