The Knight


  • First publication 2004 by Tor.



Complete plot summary -- SPOILERS


  • The basic mythology is Norse, at least to the level of Skai. The Valfather is Odin and "The Lady" is Freya, goddess of the Moon and love. The two highest levels, Kleos and Elysion, seem to be Christian -- the angel Michael is a "man from Kleos" (p. 12).
  • "There was one wanted three hearts 'n three lions, all on the one shield. We done it, but it cost the world" (p. 230). This is a reference to Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson, also a story of a man from modern times transported to a fantasy world.
  • "When someone is of gentle blood... and someone else who isn't claims it, or claims to be a knight when he is not, for instance... we're supposed to beat him" (p. 211). Most fantasy works ignore class distinctions based on birth, but they were very important in those times. The fact that Bram Burt in Pirate Freedom, the son of a grocer, says he is a gentleman is an important clue (see this theory page).
  • The ghost witch speaks by using the sound of the rain (p. 344). This is similar to Apheta in The Urth of the New Sun and Dr. Island in The Death of Dr. Island.
  • "Garvaon would have been all right, but no Garvaon was better, because he was really Setr" (p. 392) is strange. I found a Rambles article that claims this is a typo (Garvaon for Garsecg). It could also be interpreted as Able's mistaken conclusion after a dream (p. 380). He might easily have thought that Setr killed Garvaon and took his place using a glamour. (In fact, the dream showed Garvaon receiving terrible wounds from Garsecg and falling into the sea, but not his actual death. He was apparently healed by a miraculous intervention of some sort.)
  • General comments on place in Wolfe's corpus
  • Sources of quotes
  • Meanings of names
  • References to other works
  • Etc.


Unresolved Questions


  • Able, the protagonist. An American (teenager?) who is kidnapped by faeries and transported to Celidon in the realm of Mythgarthr. He is given the title Able of the High Heart by the witch Parka.
  • Benjamin, Able's brother back in America.
  • Gylf, Able's dog. One of the Valfather's hunting dogs, lost as a puppy and adopted by Able. Gylf can speak, but usually only to Able.
  • Ravd, a knight in the service of Duke Marder. His squire is Svon. Ravd teaches Able the meaning of honor, and is described by Able as, "The best knight I ever saw."


  • From the front cover:
    "Important and wonderful."
    --Neil Gaiman
  • From inside the dust jacket:
    "If any writer from within genre fiction ever merited the designation Great Author, it is surely Wolfe…[who] reads like Dickens, Proust, Kipling, Chesterton, Borges, and Nabokov rolled into one, and then spiced with all manner of fantastic influences from H.G. Wells to Jack Vance, H.P. Lovecraft to Damon Knight... Overall, one of America's finest... Modernist or postmodernist, formal allegorist or anatomist of the deepest complexities of the human soul, he is a wonder, yes, a genius."

--The Washington Post Book World

  • Back cover:
    ""Gene Wolfe's The Knight breaks like a thunderclap over the safe suburban sprawl of franchise fantasy. This is the real thing, boys and girls. Are you ready? It will scare the daylights out of you, take your breath away, make you laugh aloud and give you honest-to-goodness tears. You will devour it and discover just how hungry you have been... You have been warned. It will spoil you. For you are in the hands of a master storyteller with an unforgettable tale."
    --Patrick O'Leary, author of The Impossible Bird
    "It took me about a page and a quarter to completely enter the world Wolfe creates in The Knight. Having arrived, I believe I'll spend the rest of my life here." --Steven Brust
    "Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today, in genre or out of it. If you don't read this book you'll have missed out on something important and wonderful and all the cool people will laugh at you."--Neil Gaiman
    "An absorbing meditation on honor and manhood that's not only Wolfe at his literate best, but romantic, charming, and exciting to boot." --Delia Sherman
    "Wolfe is a wizard. In The Knight, he resurrects the Epic Quest from a graveyard of hackneyed abuse and imbues it with all the original energy and wonder of Mallory or Ariosto."
    --Jeffrey Ford
    ”In this dazzling return to form, Gene Wolfe manages to create heroic fantasy in a truly different fashion.” -—David Drake
    "Gene Wolfe is as good a writer as there is today....I feel a little bit like a musical contemporary attempting to tell people what's good about Mozart." --Chicago Sun-Times
    "Sentence by sentence, Mr. Wolfe writes as well as anyone in science fiction today."
    -- The New York Times
    "Wolfe is quite simply a supurb writer." -- The Washington Post Book World