I recently had the serious misfortune of needing to reread Ivanhoe for work. My good friend, who is known on the internet as VictorianMasculinity (follow her on Twitter: @VictorianMasc or read her blog here), had to listen to me moan about it for ages, so she cheered me up by sending me pictures of the campiest, most ridiculous Ivanhoe covers she could find. What follows is our first collaborative(ish) post!
Recap of the Novel
Uggh, do I have to? Okay, let’s make this shit quick.
This is set after the Norman invasion of England where most of the Saxon aristocrats have been disenfranchised by their new Norman overlords and everyone is generally shitty to each other. There’s Robin Hood and Prince John and all the usual assholes from that mythos, and King Richard is captured on his way back from a failed crusade, and even though everyone hates each other, they all hate England’s Jewish citizens the most, because nothing brings cultures together quite like antisemitism.
There’s a hot Saxon princess named Lady Rowena, but she is dull as shit, and there is this hot Jewish lady named Rebecca, and she is NOT dull as shit, and there’s this dude named Ivanhoe, who is the son of this hard-as-nails Saxon lord named Cedric, and there’s a Norman lech named Bois-Guilbert who tries to put his penis in literally anyone in this book with a vagina, and if you resist him he’ll try to set you on fire for being a witch, a la Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
There a lot of jousting and sword fighting and horseback riding, which SHOULD be exciting, except Sir Walter Scott has this amazing talent for injecting his prose with grade-A barbiturates.
At the end of the story the evil Bois-Guilbert is defeated, and King Richard comes back, and Ivanhoe is forced to choose between hot, competent Rebecca, or vapid Rowena, and to everyone’s deep chagrin he has to choose Rowena (because Rebecca is Jewish so there’s a weird nineteenth century racial component in the text that her hotness is not allowed to overcome). Rebecca and her father ditch that racist-ass popcicle stand and go off to Moorish Spain where people were more tolerant of other religions.
1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.
2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself (although in this instance, much as with my last Bad Book Covers post on Pamela, I loathe this book).
3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.
Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonstone, Dracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, Jekyll and Hyde, and Pamela.
ON TO THE COVERS
We’ll do some Good Covers first, yeah?
It’s a bit on the nose, but it captures all of the major themes pretty nicely.
I really like this one, not only because it puts the exciting “knight in shining armor” image off to the side, but also because of its use of St. George’s Cross. Not only was St. George a warrior saint, whose cross became associated with medieval crusaders (which this novel discusses at length), but it’s also the English national flag. This novel is extremely concerned about what is or isn’t England, and who is or isn’t “English”, so it’s nice to have this right at the forefront.
While this isn’t the most interesting cover in the world, and while there are precisely one billion other (dull) Ivanhoe covers depicting jousting, I’m a sucker for any cover art where it appears that you, the viewer, are being charged. It’s ominous and it doesn’t glamorize the book in ways the other covers do.
Again, this one is just a bit more interesting than some of the other jousting covers. Plus, the clear color schism between the jousters on the left and the jousters on the right show just how divided everyone is in the book. The more of these posts I do, the most impressed I am with Penguin’s art department. They tend to produce pretty solid cover art.
Now on to the bad covers!
This first category I like to call Accurately Boring Covers.
“What color should we make the Ivanhoe cover?”
“Shit brown, for a stinking turd of a novel.”
The new novel by Sir Walter Scott: Hushed Woodland Whisperings.
Per VictorianMasculinity: “so dull our hero has fallen asleep“.
On the flip side of this, we have a category called Exciting Battle is Exciting, in which the book is made to look 100X more dynamic than it really is, leading to generations of disappointed readers.
As VictorianMasculinity says: “The one where everyone took a lot of acid and Robin Hood looks like Lord Farquaad.”
Ivanhoe, Or: A Fight So Unfair That It’s Straight-Up Murder
“Put that flail down, or I shall prod your armor with extreme vigor from my vulnerable position!”
I am DYING at the expressions on the horses’ faces. There is clearly some subplot to which the audience is not privy:
“I’m so sorry, Bernice. You know I never wanted it to end up this way.”
“Oh, Kevin, you know I love you, but after what you did, I’m glad. This was the only way it could end for us.”
Then, of course, there is a good ole Fancy Man category. To be fair, Sir Walter Scott spends precisely 83% of the book talking about people’s clothes and how fabulous they are, so this isn’t necessarily an inaccurate thing.
“BEHOLD MY GLORY!”
All I can think about is Robert Preston in Victor/Victoria, teaching Julie Andrews how to dance like a gay man. “Make it broader! With TONS of shoulders!”
“Personally, I don’t think my horse is baring enough cleavage. I didn’t even know that horse cleavage was a thing, but it turned out to be everything my life was missing.”
VictorianMasculinity says of this cover:
“Feathers, feathers EVERYWHERE! or, The Flounciest F*cking Horse in all Creation”
“Look at that poor sucker. His feathers are pathetic, he doesn’t have an artfully-balanced lance, and there’s no hot trophy-biddy on his arm. He didn’t even bring a sash. A sash, for god’s sake. He disgusts me.”
GET A GLIMPSE OF THESE GQ-LOOKING MOTHERFUCKERS, GODDAMN
In a related category, art departments love themselves some Poorly Hidden Phallic Imagery.
That peasant’s expression is, “Eh. I’ve seen bigger.”
VictorianMasculinity says: “Hey, get off my stick, peon!”
It’s a well-known fact that poor people in medieval times were legally prohibited from owning anything that could be construed as penis imagery, as masculinity leads to freedom.
“My giant dick and I will stand on a mountain of corpses of lesser, smaller dicks.”
“My THREE giant penises (feather, scabbard, and lance) and I will stand like this, and laugh manfully at you, like so: HA HA!
“See how I dwarf the tower, the other fighters, and even the mighty oak tree, which looks puny in the shadow of my magnificent thighs! For truly I have the most swiggity-swag in ALL the land!”
Last but not least, a catch-all category of General WTF-ery.
In this version, Rebecca is the missing Evanescence band mate.
Is that supposed to be Robin Hood?
He is butt-ugly.
I mean, that dude is as ugly as a BUTT.
I know this is supposed to be a version for kids, but I think even kids would go, “Mmmm, I’m not sure this is how physics works . . .”
“IVANHOE TOLD TO THE CHILDREN”
LET’S PICK AN ATTEMPTED RAPE SCENE FOR THE COVER
OF ALL THE COVERS
THE RAPE SCENE IS THE MOST CHILD-FRIENDLY
I . . .
I honestly have no idea what’s happening.
Is this Rebecca after she fucks out of England, chilling in Moorish Spain and looking fabulous? Because even though we don’t get to see her in Spain in the book, I would be down with that for a cover.
Okay. I’ll say it.
Ivanhoe, your horse is a fucking nerd.
Right, that’s all from me today, but you’ll probably have at least one more ‘Bad Book Covers’ post to look forward to this month. Let me know if you have any suggestions for books!