Monday, March 19, 2012

“Beginning” of the Week #6

This week’s “beginning” is among my favorites. It's the opening passage of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. This is a great novel, and its beginning, in my view, sets the tone perfectly for the story that lies ahead:
The small boys came early to the hanging. 
It was still dark when the first three or four of them sidled out of the hovels, quiet as cats in their felt boots. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the little town like a new coat of paint, and theirs were the first footprints to blemish its perfect surface. They picked their way through the huddled wooden huts and along the streets of frozen mud to the silent marketplace, where the gallows stood waiting. 
The boys despised everything their elders valued. They scorned beauty and mocked goodness. They would hoot with laughter at the sight of a cripple, and if they saw a wounded animal they would stone it to death. They boasted of injuries and wore their scars with pride, and they reserved their special admiration for mutilation: a boy with a finger missing could be their king. They loved violence; they would run miles to see bloodshed; and they never missed a hanging.
– Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth

Is this the best "beginning" yet?

5 comments:

HelenR said...

This is a perfect beginning (and in my opinion, the best so far) to one of my all-time favorite bookds.

HelenR said...

Should read "books."

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks for the comment HelenR! This may be my favorite beginning too -- although I really like the beginning to The Gunslinger as well.

Alex Villasante said...

That's so good, I got shivers. "They never missed a hanging." There's a bloodthirstiness to children that never ceases to fascinate me! I'll have to check The Pillars of the Earth out.
By the way, I tagged you in the lucky 7 meme!

Joseph Finley said...

Alex – thanks for the tag and the comment! I agree – the way that Follett sets the tone is brilliant, and it’s consistent with the entire novel. Even better, this initial description foreshadows the last chapter of the book. The two work together masterfully.