In which He-Man doesn’t cut down a tree.
We find our heroes this week in the Palace, where Ambassador Therrin from the Kingdom of East Fen (presumably somewhere near Cambridge) has arrived with a gift. I should mention here that Therrin has a super evil moustache, a huge all-in-one brown body suit, eyes with no pupils, and a weasely voice. You will, therefore, be as surprised as I was when I reveal that he is actually Skeletor in disguise.
But all that’s to come. For now, Therrin presents Randor with a bust of himself, to which Randor immodestly comments, “Why, it’s magnificent.” However, just as Randor is about to start stroking the bust, Man-at-Arms spots Skeletor’s crossbones logo peeping through the body suit, and grabs the bust himself. He is immediately transformed into a crystal sculpture of himself.
Skeletor simply starts complaining that now he’ll have to find another way to claim the Eternian throne, and is swiftly attacked by Teela and a contingent of well-meaning but useless guards. The odds are evened a little more by the appearance of He-Man and Battle-Cat, at which point Skeletor teleports out. Discussion immediately begins on how to bring Man-at-Arms back to life, though no one stops to question whether they should actually bother.
He-Man and Teela take Man-at-Arms to Castle Grayskull, where the Sorceress proves as useless as ever, revealing that the transformation is beyond her power to reverse. She does, however, suggest that Granamyr, oldest and wisest of the dragons of Darksmoke, may have the answer. Teela wants to know where to find Darksmoke, but the Sorceress will not say, as to reveal the whereabouts would break an ancient pact made between the dragons and Grayskull.
Consequently, He-Man and Teela hit the books to find clues in ancient myths as to where Darksmoke is. I’d be impressed if the books they read actually had words or even pictures in them, but no, they’re just blank pages. Finally, He-Man finds a clue: dragons and ice trolls are friends, so maybe they should pop up to the Ice Mountains, find a troll, and start asking questions.
He-Man, Teela and Battle-Cat head to the Ice Mountains, where they navigate a number of icy hazards, including an avalanche and a bunch of mutant polar bears. In addition, both Teela and He-Man comment that it’s cold, to which I’d have far more sympathy if either of these scantily clad characters had bothered to put a coat or at least a jumper on before coming to the Ice Mountains. Finally, they locate some ice trolls, but don’t really bother asking any questions, since by this point they’re standing right next to Darksmoke anyway.
He-Man doesn’t knock and instead simply waltzes into Darksmoke, then yells out for Granamyr, who appears out of a fire pit, looking mightily annoyed. After commenting that he doesn’t respect He-Man, Granamyr reveals that he is indeed able to undo the crystallisation of Man-at-Arms, but he will only do so if He-Man and Teela chop down Skytree, the only living thing on Eternia older than Granamyr himself.
Once our heroes agree to this bargain, Granamyr transports them to the Forgotten Forest, where Skytree can be found. He-Man produces his sword and is about to chop the tree down, when suddenly it develops eyes and a mouth and starts talking. Skytree tells of the history of the Forgotten Forest, how a Man-at-Arms has always existed through Eternia’s long ages, and how it owes one such Man-at-Arms a debt. It solemnly agrees to be chopped down to save the life of the current Man-at-Arms.
He-Man feels guilty, and rightly so. He declines to chop down Skytree, and after moping about for a bit to ease her murderous rage, Teela agrees. They return to Granamyr and explain that trees have as much right to life as Granamyr does. There’s a dicey moment where Granamyr threatens to send them to the Realm of Demons for ever, but in the end he notes that He-Man has displayed honour and wisdom, and thus agrees to save Man-at-Arms.
In today’s adventure…
Teela’s pearl of wisdom this week is that trees near you probably don’t talk, and if they do, you’re on some pretty major hallucinogens. Her point, however, is that all living things deserve respect, as life is a precious gift. This moral fits the story perfectly, as I’m sure you can see.
Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, King Randor, Queen Marlena, the Sorceress, Skeletor, yadda yadda. Also – Granamyr! Hooray! And Skytree. And some ice trolls. And a nutty little leprechaun.
Excuse for Prince Adam’s disappearance:
When Adam is about to transform into He-Man, he mutters to Cringer, “Come on, cat, let’s find ourselves a quiet spot.” It’s hardly an excuse, but it is the best we’ve had for some time.
It’s also worth noting that the episode begins with Adam being late. Randor wants to know where Adam is, and Man-at-Arms says he’s doing some important government business. Teela chips in to say that she doesn’t consider Lady Amanda to be government business, which certainly sounds like she considers Adam and Lady Amanda are up to some Eternian hanky-panky.
He-Man returns to an old favourite, referring to Skeletor as “Bonehead”.
Does it have the Power?
A resounding yes! I thought at first that my reaction was simply because of the contrast to last week’s appalling effort, but in truth The Dragon’s Gift is a successful He-Man story in every way. It’s always good to see Skeletor and one of his typical demented schemes; he’s been sorely missed the last few weeks. The Ice Mountains are an exciting new location, and Granamyr is a very interesting character, being neither friend nor foe. He needs to lose that goofy helmet though.
I liked the various touches of Eternian history thrown in, with the Sorceress’ references to the ancient pact between the dragons and Grayskull, and also Skytree’s monologue concerning a long ago battle with witches. Both of these really help to flesh out Eternia and make it seem more real. The twist in the tale when He-Man refuses to chop down the tree is easy to see coming for you or me, but I can imagine being genuinely surprised if I’d seen this as a child. Though maybe I was just a stupid child. It’s also great to have the respect for life message so often seen in He-Man extended to plants and presumably animals.
And best of all, Orko isn’t in it. Actually, that’s not the best: the best is that the Starchild isn’t in it.