Cut-Rate Mythology

on February 19, 2011 in Fantasy

“Of course I will pay the forfeit of a wager fairly lost,” the trickster purred. “Refresh my faulty memory, though. What was the price to be?”

“Your head,” the dwarf said, hefting his axe.

“Just so,” the trickster said. “But whatever did you bring that axe for?”

“Why, to cut through your deceitful neck,” the dwarf said.

“Deceitful, you say? Such slander! I’m not the one trying to alter the terms of the wager,” the trickster said. “I offered you my one and only head, in its entirety… if you wanted to take any portion of my neck, you should have been good enough to specify up front.”

“But how can I take your head without cutting your neck?” the dwarf asked.

“Well, now, when you figure that out, friend, you know where to find me,” the trickster said, and he turned to leave.

“Hold a moment, friend,” the dwarf said. “Since you’re such a good sport, I’ve decided to cut you a break.”

“You know, I rather thought you might,” the trickster said. “And don’t think I won’t remember your kindness.”

“I daresay you won’t forget it,” the dwarf said. “Just because it’s you… I’ll only claim half my prize.”

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10 Responses to “Cut-Rate Mythology”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hah! Excellent. It always bothered me that this type of solution was never offered up for such things.

  2. zeel says:

    I know. It bothers me when people get out of stuff on a technicality. This reminds me of the merchant of Venice, but the guy gets killed.

  3. drudge says:

    Of course, he still needs to damage the other half, putting him in the same problem as before.

  4. beappleby says:

    Drudge – what do you mean? The head is his by rights, if he wants to cut it in half he can!

  5. drudge says:

    Yes, but he’s only claiming half. He’d need to damage the half he says he’ll leave.

    Of course he could just say “I’ll use this head however I damn well want and I want a meat pi├▒ata!” but that isn’t nearly snazzy enough for a story.

  6. AE says:

    First, he’s entitled to the whole head, so just as long as he’s not damaging anything that is arguably not-head he’s not running afoul of the legal problems in the original story.

    Second… why? Why exactly would he have to damage the other half? Draw a line around the “equator” of the head. Cut just on the north side. Ta-da.

  7. drudge says:

    He said he’d only *claim* half, which means the trickster keeps the other half, which becomes damaged when you cut the first half off.

    It sounds stupid and wouldn’t be taken seriously should a deal actually be made, but then, “you can’t touch my neck!” isn’t exactly a technicality that most people bent on taking your head would stop for.

  8. AE says:

    He owns the whole head, whatever he takes from it or leave behind.

  9. AE says:

    And I’m still not following how you think he’d need to damage the lower half to take the upper half. If his goal is to make sure he gets 100% of the northern half with no wastage, then yes, he runs into the same quibble as before, but the whole point of the story (God, why am I bothering to articulate this?) is that if his goal is to take the trickster’s life and not specifically have a trophy it’s easy to err on the side of “killing” rather than “getting every last physical thing that’s due to me.”

  10. Heh. Classic. Too bad Thor didn’t think of that one when Loki pulled this trick.

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