The Strange Old Man Stories
By Forrest Wayne Schultz
There are two Strange Old Man stories*. Each one is a short story; each one has the same protagonist; and each one is narrated by the protagonist. The Strange Old Man (The S. O. M.) is a character I developed for the first of these stories, "An Unlikely Weapon", written in 1987. In that story the protagonist is a junior in high school. In the second story, written in 2008, he is thirty-eight years old. The S. O. M. was 60 years of age in the first story; he is 81 years old in the second one.
In the first story the S. O. M. is an important character and a very striking character, but he is not the main character. The protagonist is the main character. In the second story, the protagonist is only one of several main characters, one of them being the
S. O. M., for which reason his name is part of its very title: "The Strange Old Man and The Purple Ring". The relationship between the protagonist and the S. O. M. is also very different in the two stories. In the first story the S. O. M. merely TELLS the boy what will happen (which will be in a "far away" land), and he does treat him as a boy, which is in striking contrast to the opening scene of the second story, in which he treats him as a man and COMMISSIONS him to undertake his task (which begins immediately and happens here) and presents him with The Purple Ring he will need. The S. O. M. then re-appears at the end of the story to help instruct the Queen-designate and to thank the protagonist for successfully accomplishing his mission.
In both stories the fate of a kingdom is at stake. In the first story, the danger to the kingdom is external -- a giant mage/warrior threatens to conquer it. Here the task is simple -- kill the giant! In the second story the danger to the kingdom is internal -- decadence leading to a revolution & counter-revolution which only deal with superficial matters. Here the need is the recovery of vitality, in which the restoration of the monarchy will play a key role, with the monarchs setting a good example for the people to follow. We catch just a few proleptic glimpses of that example in the person of Corrie Belle.
I wrote "An Unlikely Weapon" as a stand-alone story, i.e. I did not intend for there to be any sequels to it. Therefore it would not be correct to regard it as a prequel to "Purple" or to regard "Purple" as a sequel to it. Likewise, "Purple" is its own story. I have always been fascinated by stories in which the intent of a villain to wipe out a family is foiled when a baby is spirited away and grows up not knowing his ancestry. This was how I began developing the story. In this "backstory" there is a group of conspirators who learn of the baby who escaped and they track down its lineage to Corrie Belle right before the story opens. It was only later in my thinking that I decided to include the S. O. M. The "Purple" Ring is, of course, the Nordlander Royal Ring, which was also snuck out of the palace and kept by the monarchists, the latest custodian being the S. O. M. I chose the S. O. M. for this role because he was a character I had already developed and could easily use again provided that the protagonist would be the same as the protagonist in "Unlikely". Since the S. O. M. was well known to the protagonist, and esp. since he was highly revered, he was the ideal choice to be the Grantor of the commission. The protagonist has no hesitation whatever in accepting the commission because of who the S. O. M. is, which was strongly impressed upon his mind during his childhood. Therefore, it is only in that very limited sense that "Purple" can be considered as a sequel to "Unlikely".
*They are these stories listed in the Abstracts of My Short Stories:
5. Feb. 18, 1987 An Unlikely Weapon
A boy uses an unlikely weapon to defeat a powerful mage. F 6 pp
17. June 1, 2008 The Strange Old Man and The Purple Ring
The Purple Ring delivers a worthy young woman from two very different assassins and then reveals her glorious destiny. F 12 pp