Department header
Bewildering Stories

Challenge 388 Response

“The Embrace of the Four-Armed Houri”

by Bill Bowler

In Danielle L. Parker’s “The Embrace of the Four-Armed Houri,” how would the story be changed if the Houri were entirely human?

It would be much less interesting. Romantic or sexual attraction to a non-human breaks taboo. It introduces a layer of psycho-emotional duality, as the forbidden fruit is always sweetest. The fact that Blunt disregards the taboo with scarcely a thought is part of his character.

Copyright © 2010 by Bill Bowler

Well, yes... but what is Blunt’s character? Is he a reckless taboo-breaker and plucker of forbidden fruit? True, his initial reaction to the Houri is perhaps too realistic for readers who prefer that heroes be less than human.

Blunt appreciates the Houri’s kindness as much as her beauty, and he returns her favor of shelter from the storm. Meanwhile, the Houri explains in a brief, bitter aside her status as an outcast — a “Mule” — in human society. Thus, Blunt is passionate and no prude; he is also grateful and fair-minded; and most of all, he is above any taint of social prejudice and racism.

The Houri could not have been depicted as being entirely human without resorting to present-day social prejudices. By avoiding vague social commentary, the story remains firmly centered on Blunt’s gallantry.


Home Page