The Da Vinci Code 37-38: Into The Porno Woods

Last time on The Da Vinci Code, Bish Bling tragically succumbed to the plague of unnecessary flashbacks, Robert Langdon outed himself as a Disney fan and a sniffer of keys, Sophie pretended to get on a train to Lille and our heroes discovered that Sauniere had written an address on the back of the key they discovered behind the Madonna of the Rocks. We left Langdon about to Explain Things, but before we crack the crust on this infodump, we’re going to go to the porno-woods. No, really. We are.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

The heavily forested park known as the Bois de Boulogne was called many things, but the Parisian cognoscenti knew it as ‘the Garden of Earthly Delights’. The epithet, despite sounding flattering, was quite the contrary. Anyone who had seen the lurid Bosch painting of the same name understood the jab; the painting, like the forest, was dark and twisted, a purgatory for freaks and fetishists. At night the forest’s winding lanes were lined with hundreds of glistening bodies for hire, earthly delights to satisfy one’s deepest, unspoken desires – male, female and everything in between.

Oh my. Professor Whitebread’s going to come down with the vapours, isn’t he?

Ahead, two topless teenage girls shot smouldering glances into the taxi. Beyond them, a well-oiled black man in a G-string turned and flexed his buttocks. Beside him, a gorgeous blond woman lifted her mini-skirt to reveal that she was not, in fact, a woman.

Excuse you, Bob. As a well-hung lady once said, some of the most beautiful women in the world have gigantic penises.

Sophie prods Langdon to talk about the Priory of Sion once more and I’m not sure which thing I want to hear less about – the Priory and the inevitable Augean landslide of bullshit that goes along with all that, or another paragraph about well-oiled buttocks. On the whole I’m leaning towards the buttocks.

He wondered where to begin. The brotherhood’s history spanned more than a millenium…

Well, you can start by explaning why it’s a fucking brotherhood, Bob. Seriously – when I think about societies for the preservation of the sacred feminine or whatthefuckever I immediately think of frizzy haired wiccan ladies, not brotherhoods.

“The Priory of Sion,” he began, “was founded in Jerusalem in 1099 by a French king named Godefroi de Bouillon, immediately after he had captured the city.”

According to Bob (and *COUGH*HolyBloodandHolyGrail*COUGH*) Godefroi possessed a powerful secret that had been in his family since the time of Jesus, and in order to protect this secret he founded the Priory of Sion and…uh…passed on the secret from generation to generation?

I think this book has already broken my brain. I had to explain this entire scenario to someone as yet untainted by The Da Vinci Code in order to gain confirmation that Godefroi de Bouillon’s secret-keeping strategy is – in fact – really, really dumb.

While in Jerusalem, the Priory learned of ‘a stash of hidden documents’ which had been buried beneath the ruins of Herod’s temple. Supposedly these documents corroborated Godefroi’s secret and the Priory vowed to get at them and protect them so that the secret would never die. This was when the Priory set up their military shell corporation – the Knights Templar.

You see, the Templars were only pretending to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. What they were actually up to – according to Bob – is rummaging around in the temple ruins trying to find the secret documents. Sophie asks if he knows if they found them.

Langdon grinned. “Nobody knows for sure, but the one thing on which all academics agree is this: The Templars discovered something down there in the ruins…something that made them wealthy and powerful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.”

Like blueprints for an early but remarkably effective system of banking?

But no, apparently the Templars were hanging out at the Temple because of the secret Priory documents, and for ten years these nine Templars hung out beneath the ruins turning into some kind of holy mole people in their subterranean quest. Then, Langdon claims, whatever the Templars found down there was powerful enough for them to blackmail Pope Innocent II into doing whatever the hell they wanted, whereupon they became the Pope’s unofficial heavily armed boot boys.

After that, as we all know, it went spectacularly tits-up for the Templars, probably a) because they got far too powerful for the likes of Clement V and b) because the King of France owed them an eyewatering sum of money and quite rightly feared the holy shakedown he had coming to him.

In a military manoeouvre worthy of the CIA…

Bay of Pigs, anyone?

…Pope Clement issued secret sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe on Friday, October 13th of 1307.

I love the little urban legend sprinkles on top of this shit sundae of a book.

On that day, countless knights were captured, tortured mercilessly and finally burned at the stake as heretics. Echoes of the tragedy still resonated in modern culture; to this day, Friday the thirteenth was considered unlucky.

Yeah, okay, Dan. I don’t have the energy to get into the Friday the thirteenth shit right now, because I’d really like to focus on two words in that paragraph above.

Tortured mercilessly.

That part is true. When the Vatican hit squads got hold of the Templars they held their feet over the fire until they were so thoroughly cooked that the bones slid out like in a well-prepared lamb shank. Consequently the Templars confessed to – well, just about everything. They copped to everyday infractions like usury and homosexuality and then took it all the way up to the kind of Grand Guignol gibberish that torturers used to delight in yanking out of ‘witches’ – devil worship, black masses, heresy and offering their tender pink anuses up for the delectation of Satan himself. Eventually – as it turns out – people will tell you pretty much whatever you want to hear if they hope it means you’re going to stop pulling their fingernails out sometime soon.

“The Templars potent treasure trove of documents, which had apparently been their source of power, was Clement’s true objective, but it slipped through his fingers.”

In other words, you’d better believe that when the torturers were going to town on Templars they asked about the mole people antics under the ruins in Jerusalem. And yet not one of them gave up the secret. Not only that, but apparently the Templars managed to squirrel their secret documents out from under Pope Clement’s nose and smuggle them to France. Yes, France – that country whose king was – even in this version of events – absolutely up to his debt-addled neck in the sting operation against the Knights Templar.

“For a thousand years,” Langdon continued, “legends of this secret have been passed on. The entire collection of documents, its power and the secret it reveals have become known by a single name – Sangreal. Hundreds of books have been written about it, and few mysteries have caused as much interest among historians as the Sangreal.”

Yeah. Few mysteries. Like the identity of Jack the Ripper, or what happened to the princes in the Tower. Or how they built the pyramids. The collapse of the Maya. The sudden death of Tutankhamun. Or what happened to the Roanoke colony. None of these things have ever preoccupied historians – you know, people who are concerned with things that actually happened – quite as much as some King Arthur shit cooked up by Chretien de Troyes or whoever.

Because, yes – that’s where we’re going. We have passed through the porno-woods and we are now on a quest for the Holy Grail. Like most quests for the Holy Grail, it promises to be completely ridiculous. So gird your loins, strap down your tracts of land and holster your Holy Hand Grenades of Antioch, because we ride…for Camelot!

Chapter Thirty-Eight

No, I’m joking. We’re still in the back of a taxi. And we’re not going to Camelot. (It is a silly place.)

Sophie scrutinized Langdon in the back of the taxi. He’s joking.

Not nearly as much as Dan’s joking with that sentence. Why are you telling me they’re still in the back of a taxi, Dan? I read the previous chapter. I know they’re in the back of a taxi. Presumably they’re also still deep in the porno-woods, with well-oiled tits and bottoms mashing up against their windows and windscreen every time the car goes over a speed bump. Also – and I’ve never noticed this until now – but if you add ‘in the back of the taxi’ to a verb it makes it sound sleazy beyond imagining. Try it. It’s fun!

Langdon nodded, his expression serious. “Holy Grail is the literal meaning of Sangreal. The phrase derives from the French Sangraal, which evolved to Sangreal, and was eventually split into two words, San Greal.”
Holy Grail. Sophie was surprised she had not spotted the linguistic ties immediately.

I wouldn’t be too surprised, Sophie. He’s probably talking complete shit, like when he asserted that the Mona Lisa was a deliberate anagram of the names of two Egyptian Gods. I seem to remember Holy Blood and Holy Grail coming up with a more convincing etymology than this, but I just can’t be bothered to look it up, although all this talk of Sangrails has left me with a distinct hankering for some Saki.

Langdon explains that the Holy Grail is not a cup at all but the cup is just a metaphor for the friends they made along the way for whatever explosive secret it was that got the Templars/Priory members tortured and set on fire.

Sophie, who is currently having one of those chapters where she don’t brain so good, asks again that if the Grail is not a cup, then what the hell is it?

Langdon had known this question was coming, and yet he still felt uncertain how to tell her. If he did not present the answer in its proper historical background, Sophie would be left with a vacant air of bewilderment – the exact expression Langdon had seen on his own editor’s face after Langdon handed him a draft of the manuscript he was working on.

Bob, you are an insufferable douche. I can’t sugarcoat the truth any more; in fact I’ve probably hardly even tried at all, but yeah. You’re a shallow, pompous, know-nothing windbag who thinks that a Harris tweed jacket and a pair of hornrims is the only path to enlightenment that you’ll ever need, because God blessed you with half a brain, a distinct lack of melanin and a penis.

Come to think of it, I think you might have been my personal tutor at one point.

“This manuscript claims what?” his editor had choked, setting across his half-eaten power lunch. “You can’t be serious.”…

“…this is practically identical to the bestselling Holy Blood and Holy Grail by Michael Baigent and Henry Lincoln. Are you insane, man? We’ll get sued to the point where we can no longer afford to buy toilet paper.”

You know how Bob just did that wildly condescending paragraph about how he’s going to have to explain something lengthy and reeking of bullshit to Sophie? Yeah, well – guess what happens next.

a) the taxi slows down and there’s another description of buttocks.
b) Bob explains the lengthy and bullshit-reeking thing to Sophie.
c) Bob explains the lengthy and bullshit-reeking thing in a flashback to another character who is not only not even in this scene but is making his first appearance in the book just now, thus necessitating Bob having to explain the lengthy and bullshit-reeking thing to Sophie at some other point in the book.

I’ll give you a clue. It’s not about buttocks.

Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee. Faukman no doubt had heard some wild book ideas in his illustrious career, but this one seemed to leave the man flabbergasted.

Yep. He went with option C. God help us all.

It turns out that Langdon pitched a shocking book idea to prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman. A book that could set the world on fire.

“No book has yet explored the legend of the Holy Grail from a symbologic angle. The iconographic evidence I’m finding to support the theory is, well, staggeringly persuasive.”

It sounds thrilling, doesn’t it?

In the course of this conversation Langdon hands Faukman a bibliography of works by ‘real historians’ to lend credence to his assertion that the search for the Holy Grail is more than just the province of Monty Python comedies and the wild-eyed ravings of cranks, kooks, Nazis, dingbats and people who got far too invested in the adventures of Indiana Jones.

Faukman was still staring at the list. “My God – one of these books was written by Sir Leigh Teabing, a British Royal Historian.”

Fact: There is no such title as a British Royal Historian.

“You’re telling me all of these historians actually believe…” Faukman swallowed, apparently unable to say the words.
Langdon grinned again. “The Holy Grail is arguably the most sought after treasure in human history. [snip] Throughout history, the Holy Grail has been the most special.” Langdon grinned. “Now you know why.”

I don’t, and we don’t. Because why would we use words to convey information in a book? That would just be stupid. Also he really needs to stop grinning. Is he coming down with tetanus or something?

Then Sophie screams ‘put it down’ and Robert comes out of his flashback to find himself still in a taxi in the Porn Woods.

Langdon jumped as Sophie leaned forward over the seat and yelled at the taxi driver. Langdon could see the driver was clutching his radio mouthpiece and speaking into it.
Sophie turned now and plunged her hand into the pocket of Langdon’s tweed jacket. Before Langdon knew what had happened, she had yanked out the pistol, swung in around, and was pressing it to the back of the driver’s head.

Don’t you just hate a backseat driver?

No, but seriously. What the fuck just happened? Since when was Yawny Mcdroneface packing heat in his Harris tweed? I’m guessing they grabbed it from the security guard at the Louvre, but by that point I was starting to skim the Louvre scenes in the desperate hope that they’d finally leave.

So yeah. That just happened. Sophie whips out a pistol and holds up the taxi driver, because reasons.

It was then that Langdon heard the metallic voice of the taxi company’s dispatcher coming from the dashboard. “…qui s’appelle Agent Sophie Neveu…” the radio crackled. “Et un Americain, Robert Langdon…”
Langdon’s muscles turned rigid…

…see? I told you it was tetanus. That or he’s still got that fainting goat thing going on.

They found us already?

Yes, Bob. They did. You’ve spent what feels like a short Ice Age driving very slowly through a wood full of well-oiled tits and bums, all the while talking loudly about secret societies and how you’re on the run from the law and how you just escaped from the Louvre. Also the people chasing you through the pages of the book occasionally – and I do mean occasionally – do things that look a lot like things they might do in real life, like sealing off the routes to the Embassy or putting an APB out to taxi services and other public transport.

So anyway, Sophie jacks the taxi and…makes Langdon drive? I don’t know why. Presumably this is so we can enjoy the hilarity of watching Langdon attempt to drive stick when he’s used to an automatic.

I wish Dan Brown wouldn’t try to do jokes.

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