One of the main characters of the Chiril Chronicles is Jayrus, dragon-keeper and prince of something. A wizard proclaims him to be Chiril’s Paladin.
What is a paladin? According to my Dictionary, it is “a champion of a medieval prince”. According to Donita K. Paul, it’s some sort of spiritual leader who, by the by, is also a military champion.
Before joining the CSFF blog tour, I had never read any of Mrs. Paul’s work. When I saw that Dragons of the Valley was the second book in a series, I read the first. I understand she wrote another series with another Paladin, whom many readers took to be a Christ-figure. I am not going to consider Paladin as an archetype of Jesus. I have not read the previous books, and the Paladin of the books I did read never struck me as a Christ-figure.
He made me think instead of human deliverers God sent – the judges, the priests, the prophets, the kings. This is the angle I’ll be considering him from. (And luckily Fenworth will not see that last sentence!)
As I said, Paladin is a military champion. God sent many champions to Israel, and they had a curious habit of becoming – if they were not already – rulers.
Let us make a distinction: There were many – Jonathan, Barak, the Mighty Men – who were known for their exploits. Sometimes they brought about great and even miraculous victories. But it was the judges, not they, who were said to be sent by God to deliver Israel (Judges 2:16-19). For the judges, delivering Israel was contingent upon, or a presage to, their rule over the whole nation. The pattern holds with other men: Joshua, chosen to lead Israel into their inheritance, governed the nation as well as the conquest; both David and Saul, after being anointed king, saved their people from oppressors and invaders.
It didn’t seem to be assumed that Jayrus’ elevation to Paladin meant he was on his way to ruling Chiril. Indeed, he always submitted to King Yellat. However – spoilers, people – his marriage to Tipper pretty much locks up the country. Which happens after he becomes a military savior. Hmm.
Still, Paladin is not equivalent to a judge. The Paladin is even more strongly a spiritual figure than a military one. The judges were occasionally spiritual leaders: Deborah was a prophetess, Samuel a prophet, Eli the high priest. But these were cases of dual roles; they were the exception, not the rule. In the Paladin, champion and religious leader are one.
But what sort of religious leader? Not a priest, as Aaron was and Jesus is; not what we now call pastors or priests. Not even, really, a prophet. A prophet is defined by proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord.” As far as I can recall, Jayrus never did.
A closer biblical archetype is apostle. Jayrus is chosen to bring the message of Wulder into Chiril, as the apostles first introduced the Gospel to the world. And he does seem to be the leader and founder of true religion in Chiril, as the apostles were leaders and founders in the Church. Yet playing deliverer and ruler would be wholly alien to “those reputed to be pillars”.
There are two things that set Donita Paul’s Paladin apart from all these figures. For one, he teaches largely through the use of parables. “He never seemed to make a point without using a story” – an obvious echo of Matthew 13:34, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.”
Secondly, Paladin has powers that seem more magical than miraculous. Three examples:
(1) The illusions he weaves at the end of The Vanishing Sculpture. It was a nice effect in the story; you simply can’t see it being done by any prophet or apostle.
(2) His healing of Tipper’s foot. I don’t think any miracle was more often performed by Jesus and His apostles than miracles of healing. It is the execution that is different. Jesus and the apostles healed with a word; Jayrus seemed to have to work at it.
(3) Paladin interrogates a prisoner and causes bile to rise in his mouth whenever he lies. Later he threatens the man with a worse punishment if he disobeys. The flavor of this is fairy tales and fantasy – and not at all Scripture. Paladin’s powers as deliverer and spiritual leader greatly resemble Verrin Schope’s powers as wizard. It could be – I’m not sure how it works in Mrs. Paul’s world – that wizards and Paladins alike receive their abilities from Wulder.
Paladin is a unique creation – somewhat like a judge, somewhat like an apostle, a little like a wizard, and not exactly like any of them.