While browsing through my manga app, I ran across a manga titled Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund. At first, I was delighted to find that it was a manga based in 14th century Switzerland and that the artwork was quite brilliant. However, it was disconcerting that it began with an execution of a Swiss freedom fighter; yet, stories that begin darkly often feature stronger struggles and make a happy ending more compelling. So, I decided to read the first and then the second chapter.
The first chapter was pretty grim. A knight tried to smuggle the executed freedom fighter’s daughter across the border, because the tyrannical lord wished to execute his entire family. Goaded by a claim I found on Baka Updates saying: “The author pulls no punches to show us just how brutal and inhuman the Middle Ages really were,” I must point out certain flaws in the manga on this point. First off, it would be incredible for a medieval king to wish to wipe out a family’s womenfolk. Most would not even make a serious attempt to kill all the men as long as they no longer posed a threat. Exile and imprisonment were much preferred means of punishment until around the time of the Protestant Reformation, where the masses of people executed on both sides for heresy seems to have dulled people’s qualms about capital punishment.
Anyway, the daughter disguises herself but she and the knight end up being discovered by the noble running a checkpoint known as Wolfsmund (Wolf’s maw). The knight is killed by crossbowmen and the lady executed on a chopping block. Medievals never executed women unless they were found guilty of witchcraft. The attitude of a 19th century American on the topic of hanging a woman differed not in the least with the attitude of a medieval man on the subject. But, in this manga’s favor, I must note that the style of fighting employed by the knights, which uses the hilt and pommel as well as the blade, is very accurate–even if finishing one’s opponent off, which the lady’s knight was compelled to do, was not.
Anyway, having been depressed by these events, I pressed on to the next chapter, wherein it is revealed that the freedom fighters are making great progress in ousting the tyrant ruling over them. A pair of lovers is separated because the woman, a very capable fighter herself, is given a mission to pass beyond Wolfsmund to transport back money from a Florentine bank. Need I say that a woman traveling alone is unheard of in the Middle Ages? Especially in the disguise of an old woman? That’s a very easy way to arose suspicion! Better would have been to disguise herself along with a compatriot as nuns. As it turns out, the poor girl is discovered by a trick the nobleman plays on her and thrown into the dungeon.
From which, she herself manages to escape, only to be cornered atop a wall and killed by a thrown sword. Now, the broadsword, unlike the katana, was never intended to be thrown. The weight is balanced too close at the hilt. The first throw does hit the girl hilt first, which is the most likely way it would land; while the second pierces her back–a blow only possible through incredible good luck. Then, her corpse is displayed on a wheel–I did not turn the next page to see exactly how they displayed her corpse, but it must not have been pleasant. At any rate, though male enemies’ corpses were sometimes displayed and mutilated during the Middle Ages; I doubt that a woman’s corpse ever suffered the same fate. Despite popular opinion, medievals were not barbarians, and I suspect such an action would have brought the censure of the Church.
At this point, I got the picture that the manga would consist of failed attempts upon the gate and the cruelty inflicted on the trespassers by the nobleman in charge of it. No enduring protagonist had emerged yet, with the exception of the female owner of an inn (women owning inns was probably not uncommon at the time), who seems unable to help the good guys. And so, I put down this novel which concerned itself more with exploring human suffering than telling a good story.