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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
 
We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
 
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Revision as of 01:59, 30 October 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1526 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Sword in the Stone
That seems like an awful lot of hassle when all I wanted was a cool sword.
Title text: That seems like an awful lot of hassle when all I wanted was a cool sword.

Explanation

In this comic, Megan pulls a sword out of a stone. A flash of light comes down and music plays, and a heavenly voice tells her she has ascended to the throne of England. Megan then pulls out her phone and searches on Wikipedia for England (proving the comic takes place in a time period with Wikipedia). After having read for a while she begins, while reading on, to replace the sword into the rock.

The comic references the fables of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In Arthurian legend, whoever can remove The Sword in the Stone is the lawful king of England. Arthur is an orphan being raised in secret; he notices the sword, removes it, and is proclaimed king. The sword is sometimes identified as Excalibur, although in other versions Excalibur was acquired by King Arthur from the Lady of the Lake. The most familiar version of this story is The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White which is based on Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. The animated musical by Walt Disney is a well known version of this fairytale.

A key element of the joke is that as Megan begins to read about England, especially information concerning being an English ruler, she quickly thinks better of this and begins to put the sword back in its place. The punchline that Megan puts the sword back after reading about England suggests that the "gift" of being the leader of England is not worth the risk and/or work associated. It is also likely intended to suggest some degree of antipathy towards England and/or English people on the part of the character or author.

English history is rife with monarchic strife, and a brief inquiry into their causes of death will show that almost one in three British rulers have died either in battle or from murder, etc. This would quickly lead most sane people to conclude that the risks associated with ruling England far outweigh the benefits.

The title text furthers this plot, having Megan comment on the hassle when the only thing she was interested in was the cool sword. Apparently Megan is not enthusiastic about power, and her choice is made when she sees how problematic it could be to reign over the country of England.

From the time of the Roman Empire all the way up to Charles II's reclamation of the throne, England was one of the most contested and most difficult to hold chunks of real estate on Earth. Besides the constant threat of usurpation, as evidenced by the numerous wars for the crown, such as the Norman conquest and the War of the Roses, there were also constant difficulties in managing the frontier regions. This can be seen from Hadrian's Wall, a creation of the titular Roman Emperor designed to keep the ever difficult Scots out of the areas of Roman control (the Scots would be a constant problem for England up until the reign of King James; think of the movie Braveheart for a good example of the regular headaches they caused, seen from the English point of view), as well as the Welsh uprisings that occurred with such consistency that you could set your watch to them.

It should be noted that in Arthurian Legend, it is stated that Arthur would return when England most needed him. It is possible that Megan in this comic is a 21st century version (reincarnation) of the old Arthur.

The timing of this comic might relate to the birth of princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana on May 2nd, 2015 just four days before this comic, and the burden of a royal of having a whole life in public shaking hands of strangers. Since 2013 the line of succession was changed to absolute primogeniture, meaning that she will keep her current position in the line (4th after her older brother) even if she later gets baby brothers. Before this year, that would not have been the case, as the male gender took rank over birth order.

It is also probably not a coincidence that this comic was published the day before the UK General Election, on May 7, 2015. This election decides the modern day leader of England and the rest of the UK. And the problems they face today, may even be more likely to cause Megan to give away the throne, than the risk of untimely death she would have faced in Arthur's days.

Transcript

[Megan walks up to a sword in a stone.]
[Megan tries to pull the sword out of the stone.]
[A flash of light and music plays as she removes the sword.]
[While standing with the swords a voice from heaven speaks in gray shaky letters:]
Heavenly voice: The Throne of England is yours
[Megan takes out her smart phone and writes:]
Wikipedia
England
[Megan reads on her phone.]
[Megan starts to replace the sword back into the stone.]


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