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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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== Latest comic ==
 
== Latest comic ==

Revision as of 13:45, 4 May 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 1529 xkcd comics, and only -8 (-1%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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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

This 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 musical animated film by Walt Disney is also well known.

In this comic, Megan (in the role of Arthur) pulls out The Sword in the 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, which is very much unlike the Medieval King Arthur and searches on Wikipedia for England and begins to replace the sword into the rock. The title text furthers this plot, having Megan comment on the hassle when the only thing she was interested in was the 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.

A key element of the joke is what Randall implies Arthur (or Megan) would see when he searched for information on England, especially information concerning being an English ruler. English history is rife with monarchic strife, and a brief inquiry into the percentage of British rulers who died in battle or as a result of political intrigue vs those who died of natural causes would quickly lead most sane people to conclude that the risks associated with ruling England far outweigh the benefits. 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 in 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 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 the Arthur in this comic is a 21st century person (a reincarnation of the old Arthur).

The timing of this comic might relate to the excitement of the yellow press about the birth of princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana this week and the burden of a royal of having a whole life in public shaking hands of strangers. It is also probably not a coincidence that this comic was published the day before the UK General Election, which took place on May 7, 2015. This election decides the modern day leader of England and the rest of the UK.

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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