Sidelong Glances At The PCU Characters: Raymond Land
The character of unit chief Raymond Land in the Bryant & May books has an unexpected genesis that began with ‘One Thousand And One Nights’. The archetypes from those tales gathered from Persia and Arabia (names so much more evocative!) inhabited a fanciful world of jinns and sorcerers, but their bawdiness, realism and the tales’ variety of subject matter also anchored them to everyday life. For every emperor there was a lowborn thief, for every princess a harem girl.
One of my favourite characters from these tales is the archetype of the lazy sultan. Easily confused and easily amused, happy with his many wives and his quiet life of luxury, he was kept a virtual prisoner in his apartments while the kingdom was run by the Vizir. The character had its basis in truth; the weakling sons were imprisoned by their matriarchs, the Grande Valide Sultanas, while their stronger brothers ruled.
From the excitable, childlike sultan in ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ to the silken-robed midget in ‘Amarcord’, you find this not unintelligent but sybaritic archetype in many surprising forms. Mr Grace of Grace Brothers in ‘Are You Being Served?’ is the sultan, of course.
I wrote about one such sleepy ruler in ‘The Man Who Wound A Thousand Clocks’, and again in ‘Calabash’. Artist Keith Page tackled some sketches for ‘The Foot on the Crown’, my half-finished fantasy epic about London, and found himself drawing from the same Arabic sources that attracted me.
Raymond perfectly fits the role of sultan without the sybarite side; disingenuous, naïve, easily sidelined and distracted, virtually a prisoner of his kingdom, he absolves responsibility to his foot soldiers but can’t resist interfering. And as I have with the sultans, I have a soft spot for him, so I allow him moments of redemption.