Jumper Cable (2009)
A spider called Jumper – a descendant of the spider of the same name in “Castle Roogna” – is transported, by a narrative hook, from the micro world of spiders and bugs to the macro world, where he finds himself to be a giant spider amongst the humans of Xanth. He recognises that he is in the same realm that his ancestor had been in.
[“Narrative hook”? That’s a bit lame. I much preferred the way the original Jumper entered the macro world.]
He rescues a woman who is being harassed by a loutish man. She gives him some leaves which provide him with the gift of tongues, so he can speak the human language. She introduces herself as Wenda Woodwife: woodwives look like real women from the front, but their bodies are made of wood and are hollow. Also, her accent reflects her forest origin; she pronounces words as their forest-related homonyms: “you” as “yew”, “would” as “wood”, “not” as “knot”, “do” as “dew”, etc. (This is a running joke in the Xanth series: the characters of Xanth can hear the difference between words that sound the same but are spelt differently. Such jokes are apparent to a person visually reading the books, but not to a person hearing them read.)
Wenda notices a paper stuck to Jumper’s back. It is a cryptic poem, with a heading “Prophecy”. They don’t know what to make of it, and Jumper tucks it away under a fold in his carapace.
Wenda wants to become a real woman, with a complete body. Also, Com Pewter wants to use her as a Mother Board, so she needs to escape from him. Jumper suggests that she will look more like a real woman if she wears clothes. So they harvest clothes from nearby plants, and he helps her dress in them.
Jumper says he just wants to return home. Wenda suggests they both go to Good Magician Humfrey to ask about their problems. So they set off along the enchanted path.
Along the way they meet a stork. He is looking for a maenad called Maeve, to deliver a baby. Wenda finds this surprising: the maenads are the wild women of wine; they are more likely to attack and eat men than signal the stork with them.
Jumper and Wenda continue along the path and come to a campsite. Inside the shelter they find Maeve Maenad. Jumper and Maeve look at each other hungrily, but Wenda tells them not to eat each other. Maeve tells them her story:
As a baby she had been delivered to the maenad community. She learnt that when men approached, the maenads should attack and eat them. As she reached her teens, she noticed that men were often fascinated with her naked body; this made them more vulnerable and easier to catch and eat.
One day a man had approached her, who seemed not to be fascinated with her body. She hesitated, and he invited her to come with him. They came to a pool and swam in it. But this was a love spring: under its influence they made love. When she returned to her community they explained that she had signalled the stork. And 9 months later the stork had come looking for her, so she had fled.
Wenda invites her to come with them to the Good Magician with her problem. And they disguise her so the stork won’t recognise her: they dress her in clothes, tidy her hair and give her wax teeth to hide her pointed ones. And Wenda tells her to act as a sweet innocent girl.
The next day, as they continue along the enchanted path, they meet a highbrow harpy called Haughty. She is also on her way to the Good Magician; at times she changes to her alter ego, Hottie, who is shamelessly seductive. She is afraid that, in her other persona, she will signal the stork, who will deliver a baby. Maeve sympathises.
Haughty tells them that the enchanted path is out ahead; monsters are waiting at the break to attack travellers. They will have to take a detour.
As they take the alternative path, they see Fracto, the worst of storm clouds, in the sky. Fracto expands and a storm builds up. They have to take shelter in an inn called the Bra & Girll. (This should be the Bar & Grill, but the proprietor, Crater, has trouble with his Rs; they tend to shift in the words he says.)
They wonder how they can pay for room and board. Crater says that two of his workers, Phanta and Olive Hue, wish to visit the Good Magician. They could travel safely with Jumper’s group, since Jumper could protect them, and this would serve as payment.
Phanta is a woman who becomes a ghost in darkness. But Gheorge Ghost has been chasing her. She has to keep a candle burning at night to prevent him taking possession of her.
Olive has the talent of creating imaginary friends with real talents. But they fade when her attention flags. She wants a friend she can keep.
Haughty is afraid of becoming Hottie when night falls. Jumper asks Olive if she has an imaginary friend who can help. Olive summons a man called Censor, who will take care of the problem.
As night falls, Haughty transforms into Hottie, a prettier and more seductive harpy. She starts flirting with one of the male guests. But suddenly he loses interest. The Censor has taken action.
The women go to their rooms and Jumper sleeps at the bottom of the stairs. But during the night he is awoken by a scream. Gheorge is abducting Phanta, who is in ghost form. Gheorge must have learnt how to blow out the candle. Gheorge carries Phanta out through the inn door. Jumper follows and makes a lasso out of spider web, and catches a star in the sky and brings it down. The light enables Phanta to revert to solid form and escape Gheorge. Jumper and Phanta return to the inn.
In the morning Jumper and the five girls set off. They all enjoy their time together on the way, and after another night come to the Good Magician’s Castle.
They tackle the Challenges as a group. Then Wira, the Good Magician’s daughter-in-law, takes them to the courtyard to meet the Good Magician, as there are too many of them to fit in his office. They each ask their Questions.
Humfrey tells them they will all get their wishes. As their Service, they must go on a mission together. Demon Pluto had lost a Demon Bet and been downgraded to a Dwarf Demon. In his anger he had severed the cable which joins the Mundane Internet to the Xanth Outernet. (The connection is necessary for Xanth to supply magic to Mundania – for rainbows, perspective, the romantic appearance of the moon, and the randomness that accounts for free will – and for Mundania to supply Gravity to Xanth.) Their job will be to repair the cable. However, it is not clear whether Pluto had done it accidentally or deliberately, and he and his minions are likely to oppose their efforts.
The Prophecy found on Jumper’s back had used the phrase “Like the Ogre”. Humfrey believes that Jumper should emulate the ogre. There is only one ogre who has done anything of note in Xanth’s history; that is Smash Ogre, whose adventure is given in “Ogre, Ogre”. They should go and consult with him.
Humfrey brings out a box of potions. They should each take the appropriate potion, which will grant their wish for the duration of the quest. If they succeed, their wishes will become permanent. If they fail, or if any of them opt out of the quest, they will all lose their wishes.
Also, to match the number in Smash Ogre’s party in the “Ogre, Ogre” adventure, two more women will be added to the group. These are the 19-year-old Princesses Dawn and Eve, who are being grounded for fighting over a boyfriend. (This “grounding” takes the form of requiring them to participate in this quest.)
They take the potions.
- Wenda becomes a real woman – a forest nymph.
- The stork has been banished from Maeve.
- Haughty now has control of her alternative personas.
- Phanta’s ability to change into a ghost is now under her control.
- Olive’s imaginary friends will now remain until banished.
Olive conjures up an imaginary friend, Angie Ina. She is drop-dead gorgeous. She can cause young men to drop dead. Jumper can feel her power. She goes for a walk around the place.
Humfrey has a different set of vials for Jumper. The red ones transform him into a human man; the blue ones transform him back into a spider. At times during their quest it will be better for him to be in human form. He takes the red potion and transforms into a man. Over the next couple of days, before they leave the Magician’s Castle, he has to get used to being human: having less limbs and eyes, wearing clothes, and following human conventions etc.
And he has to learn to sleep in a bed. But in the dark, Angie Ina comes to him. Olive had forgotten about her, and had not banished her. Angie shares his bed, and educates him in human lovemaking. Because it is dark, her power to make men drop dead is reduced.
The next day the two princesses turn up. Dawn’s talent is to know everything about any living thing. As a result, she only needs to touch each of them to know their names and everything about them. Eve’s talent is to know everything about any non-living thing.
The next day they set off on their quest. Jumper is back in spider form. Olive has a compass painted on her wrist that shows the way to the Ogre residence.
They come to a mountain called Mountain Bike, with a nearby corral of bicycles, a kind of machine none of them had seen before. Eve touches one and determines its nature. She works out how to ride it, and soon they are all riding bicycles, which enables them to travel more quickly. The exception is Jumper, who as a giant spider can travel quite quickly without a bicycle.
But soon they have to leave the path. They leave the bicycles at another corral and continue on foot.
They eventually come to where Smash and his wife Tandy are listening to an outdoor performance of cows singing “moosic”. Jumper discusses with Smash their respective quests, but can’t find much in common. Smash remembers his friend Dor referring to the original Jumper.
But then they are attacked by Drakin – dragon-headed winged humans. But between them all they are able to defeat all of the Drakin. This must be a warning from Pluto not to continue with the quest. But they all resolve to continue, and Tandy suggests that this stubborn commitment is what is common to both Smash’s and Jumper’s quests.
They return with Smash and Tandy to the Ogre’s Den. The next part of the Prophecy is cryptic. Eve touches the paper and discovers some subtext between the lines. They must go to the Lost Path in the gourd (the dream realm), and recover some lost objects.
But how can they find the Lost Path and the lost objects? Smash suggests they seek help from Sammy, Jenny Elf’s cat, who can find anything except home. But this would require another journey.
Phanta suggests Olive can conjure Jenny as an imaginary friend. Jenny is not imaginary, she is real, and Olive doesn’t know her. But this means that Olive’s friendship with her is imaginary, so this might qualify her as an imaginary friend.
They all lie down on mats, with Jumper touching all of the others with his several spider’s legs, so they will end up in the same place in the gourd. Smash has brought a basketful of hypnogourds in, so they all look in the peepholes.
They find themselves in the dream realm. Olive summons Jenny and her cat Sammy, and they appear, along with another cat, Claire Voyant, who is Sammy’s life partner, and their kitten, Kaboodle. Jenny vaguely remembers Olive, and Olive introduces the others to her, and explains what they are looking for.
Sammy takes off, and they hurry to keep up. They come to the Lost Path, and follow it along to its end, where they find the Found Cabin. They find several objects in the cabin:
- Maeve finds a sword labelled Courage. Eve identifies it as the symbol of a man’s lost courage.
- Wenda finds a large red heart. Dawn identifies it as the lost love of a man or woman, who is slowly dying for lack of it.
- Olive finds a statue of a human head. It seems to be alive. Dawn identifies it as the symbol of a lost mind. Someone is going crazy without it.
- Phanta finds a small tombstone, engraved with the words, “What’s the point?” Eve identifies it as the lost will to live. The person it relates to is very unhappy, and will die if he doesn’t recover it in time.
- Eve finds a model of a human hand. It is the symbol for honour. Someone has lost his honour and is most unhappy.
- Dawn finds a statue of a unicorn. It is alive but unhappy. A girl has lost her innocence.
They must each, in turn, return the object they have found to its owner. Jumper will go with them as protector. Sammy will lead the way. The others will wait in the cabin for each party to return.
Jumper transforms into a man. A giant spider would alarm the recipients of the objects.
The Sword of Courage
Eve tells them the sword belongs to Warren Warrior, a mercenary.
Maeve and Jumper set off following Sammy. They come to a castle. But before they can enter, a flying creature comes down from the sky. He is a winged lion; he gives his name as Fletcher Flion. Fletcher says he has challenged Warren to combat, and will not let them enter the castle until Warren comes out to fight.
Then two female flions land as well; their names are Sharon and Sharoff. They attack Jumper and Maeve. But Jumper has his spider strength and Maeve has her maenad strength and viciousness. They defeat the two flions. Sharon turns into a human woman; she is a shapechanger. Then both Sharon and Sharoff turn into snakes and slither away.
Fletcher is flying around the castle, shouting challenges to Warren, so Jumper and Maeve enter the castle. They follow Sammy, who leads them to a bedroom closet, and they find Warren huddled inside. Maeve hits him on the head with the flat of the sword; the sword sinks into his body, and suddenly Warren regains his courage. He asks Maeve to marry him. She agrees to, after he defeats the flion.
Warren goes out – the sword has now appeared in his hand – and he defeats the flion. Maeve tells him she must complete her mission before she marries him. He gives her an amulet in the form of a miniature sword on a string; she can invoke it to return to him for an hour.
Jumper, Maeve and Sammy return to the Found Cabin. The whole group (including Jenny and the cats) returns to the waking world.
The Heart of Love
The next day they arrive again at the Found Cabin. Maeve decides to spend time with Warren; she invokes her amulet and disappears.
Wenda and Jumper follow Sammy, who leads them to a royal bedroom in a palace. A maid is combing the hair of a prince. He is Prince Charming; her name is Mercy.
Wenda explains that they are returning the lost Heart of Love to its owner. Mercy says it is not hers, but she appears stricken. Charming says his wife has left him, but he is supported by Mercy and his sister Sharon. He calls Sharon in: she is the same woman that Jumper had seen the day before!
Sharon uses magic to display a scene from the past. In it Mercy is shown to be a mermaid in the sea. There is a storm, and Prince Charming is swept into the water from his ship. Mercy rescues him and takes him to shore, and then returns to the sea. When Charming regains consciousness, he sees a princess on the shore, and assumes she has saved him. So he marries the princess. But Mercy has fallen in love with him; she learns how to form legs and walk on land, then she makes her way to the palace and becomes the prince’s maid. (You will of course recognise this as an adaptation of the fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid”.)
Charming takes the Heart, and asks Mercy to marry him. But Mercy just wants to return to the sea. And she departs.
So then Charming proposes to Wenda.
While they work this out, Sharon leads Jumper out of the room and takes him to her own bedroom. She confesses that she is a Minor Demoness, the sister of Demon Charon, the associate of Demon Pluto. Her goal is to frustrate Jumper’s mission. But in the meantime, they can enjoy themselves.
Afterwards they return to the prince’s bedroom. The prince has given Wenda an amulet in the form of a magic ring.
Jumper, Wenda and Sammy return to the Found Cabin. Maeve had returned in the meantime.
The Head of Mind
Olive and Jumper follow Sammy, who brings them to a castle which, oddly, is sunk into a chasm instead of being on a mountain. The man within it is supposedly crazy; in fact they can sense the craziness of the region themselves. They see a piece of paper with a piece of chalk; the paper has the words “Draw Bridge”. Jumper uses the chalk to draw a bridge on the paper, and a bridge appears, leading across to the castle. They cross and enter the castle. Sammy leads them to a room in which there is a wild-eyed man scribbling on paper.
Olive gives the man the Head and it turns him sane. But he says this is a disaster.
Sharon appears; she seems to be sister to this man too. She explains that he is the infamous writer, Dick Philip. His madness had enabled him to write crazy stories. [This is an allusion to the author Philip K. Dick. There are allusions to some of his story titles here too.]
When Dick Philip learns that Olive can conjure imaginary companions, he wants her to stay with him to be his inspiration for writing his crazy stories.
While they work this out, Sharon takes Jumper to her own bedroom so they can spend time together.
Afterward they return to the writer’s den. Dick has given Olive an amulet in the form of a miniature pen.
Jumper, Olive and Sammy return to the Found Cabin. The whole group returns to the waking world.
The Tombstone of Death
The next day they arrive again at the Found Cabin.
Phanta and Jumper follow Sammy to a field of grazing sheep and then to a nearby grim building. The inside of the building is a scene of horror, with the stink of death and blood splashed around. There is a man there.
Phanta offers him the tombstone. He refuses to take it and tells his story.
His name is Shepherd; he is the guardian of the sheep. But he had offended the Night Stallion (the ruler of the dream realm) who had cursed him. Now, every night, he must summon ten of his sheep, and club them to death and butcher them. He is compelled by the curse, but he also feels he must stay with his flock to protect them.
Phanta tries to talk to the sheep, but they pay no attention. Then she throws the tombstone into their midst. Now they pay attention. She tells them about Shepherd’s curse and urges them to break out of the corral. They do so, and are no longer affected by the curse. Phanta tells them to choose a new leader.
Shepherd’s sister Sharon arrives and asks what is going on. Jumper leads her away to the nearby barn.
When they return, the sheep have chosen to forgive Shepherd and keep him as their leader. Shepherd wants Phanta to be with him. Sharon leads Jumper away again, while Phanta and Shepherd work this out. When they return, Shepherd has given Phanta an amulet in the form of a shepherd’s crook.
Jumper, Phanta and Sammy return to the Found Cabin.
The Hand of Honor
Sammy leads Eve and Jumper to Centaur Isle. (This is a copy, within the gourd, of the real location in Xanth.) There they find King Clark Centaur. Eve gives him the Hand.
King Clark is dismayed. He has come to this high position amongst the centaurs through dishonesty. The Hand has restored his honour. He insists that Eve stay with him to help him out of his mess. They get into an argument.
Jumper, suspecting Sharon will be in this scene as well, calls to her. She appears, in the form of a female centaur. She asks the King to apologise to Eve. He does so, gourd-style, which involves an intense embrace.
While they are working things out, Sharon and Jumper retire to her bedroom. Sharon transforms into human form.
When they return later, Clark and Eve are working out ways for Clark to govern honestly. They hope for a close liaison in future. He gives her an amulet in the form of a tiny silver horseshoe.
Jumper, Eve and Sammy return to the Found Cabin. The whole group returns to the waking world.
The Unicorn of Innocence
The next day they arrive again at the Found Cabin. They are wondering by now about the legitimacy of the Prophecy. Their activities so far have got them entangled with members of the opposite sex, with the risk of being distracted from the mission.
Dawn asks Sammy to lead them by the scenic route this time. So Dawn and Jumper set off, following Sammy. They come to a corral of bicycles. Jumper and Dawn get on bikes and ride after Sammy.
Then suddenly Dawn veers off the path and stops. She says she has run out of energy. Jumper sees a sign which says “Para Site”. A parasite is making her weak! He transforms into a spider and picks up Dawn and the two bikes and carries them away from there. He stops at a lake and splashes water over her, and she revives.
They spend the night by the lake.
The next morning they continue on. They come to a castle. Jumper transforms back into a man. They are met by a girl called Sati Sfaction. But Dawn detects that she is not what she appears to be, and Sati admits that she is actually Demoness Sharon, but within this scene, she is performing the role of an innocent girl, the daughter of King Belial.
Sammy leads them into the castle, and to a bedroom, where they meet the King. He tries to redirect them to the banquet downstairs, but Sammy walks up to a closet door, which is locked. Dawn suggests that Sati shows Jumper around while she persuades the King to give her the key.
Sati leads Jumper to her bedroom. Jumper wishes that he could have a permanent relationship with Sharon. She offers to marry him if he gives up the mission. She tells him that when a demon marries a mortal, the demon gains half the mortal’s soul, and therefore a conscience.
They return to the King’s bedroom. Dawn has the key to the closet. She unlocks the door; it is a portal to Mundania. Sammy goes through and Dawn and Jumper follow. They arrive in the room of a young girl. She is sitting on her bed sobbing. Beside her is a box. She says her name is Dora. Dawn tries to give her the unicorn, but it shies away.
Dawn tells her to come with her to Xanth and bring the box. They return through the portal and meet Belial and Sharon again. Dawn tells them that the girl is Pandora; she had opened the box and released all the evils into Mundania. But in Xanth she can start again with renewed innocence; Dawn offers her the unicorn again, and this time the unicorn accepts her. Dora opens the box again and out comes Hope. Jumper feels the effect: he has hope that the mission will succeed. Dawn persuades Sharon to allow Dora to return to Xanth through the portal any time she wants.
Dawn asks Sammy to lead them back to the Found Cabin via the direct route this time. On the way, Dawn tells Jumper that her talent, to learn everything about any living thing, had not completely worked on Belial, because he is a Demon. But she had detected that he was actually Demon Pluto. In fact all of the men that the women had encountered had been Demon Pluto! Playing six different roles and seducing six different women. The others would not be pleased.
They arrive back at the Found Cabin. Since Sammy will no longer be required, Jenny and the cats depart. The others all return to the Ogre’s Den in the waking world, and spend the night there.
In the morning, they set off again on their bicycles for Castle Roogna, as the next part of the Prophecy mentioned Button Ghost, one of the ghosts who reside in the castle.
They stop at a shelter, and Jumper tells the others what Dawn had found out about Pluto. And Dawn admits that the boyfriend that she and Eve had fought over had been Pluto too!
The women all resolve to take revenge on Pluto. They will practise their flirtations on Jumper as they continue on, in preparation for using their wiles on Pluto.
On their way, they encounter various obstacles. Pluto must be trying to hinder their progress. But finally they arrive at Castle Roogna. They spend the night there.
The next day they proceed to contact Button Ghost. Dawn calls him, and Phanta transforms into a ghost to communicate with him. Button leads them to a high turret in the castle and indicates a panel in the wall. Eve touches it and it opens; it is a chute which leads down to the dungeon.
But Dawn is afraid of depths (as Eve is of heights); she won’t be able to enter. She stays behind as Button and all the others jump into the chute and slide down.
They exit into a strange landscape. They ask Button a series of questions about the Prophecy; he is mute, but can nod or shake his head to indicate yes or no. They learn that the Prophecy was written by a Demon, but not Pluto, who has been confined because of a Demon Bet, but can be released by some action such as marrying a princess.
They continue on their way, following Button. But as they encounter difficulties on the way, one by one, members of the group have to stay behind to keep the way open.
Finally only Jumper and Phanta are left, following Button. They come to a world of ice. And they meet a beautiful woman, the Demoness Eris. Button is actually her trace spirit identity, the only aspect of her able to escape confinement. She needs to marry a prince to escape her confinement. She takes them into her parlour in her ice palace.
Eris explains that a century ago, she and Pluto had both been Dwarf Demons who were contenders for a position of full Demon Status. The winner would the one whose planet was first discovered by mortals. Sharon had been Eris’s girlfriend; Eris asked her to guide the astronomers of Earth to look in the part of the sky where Eris’s planet was located. But Sharon betrayed her, and guided the astronomers to find Pluto’s planet instead. It turned out that Sharon had been Pluto’s lover.
Since her confinement, Eris had sent out lots of copies of the Prophecy, hoping that a prince would come. In fact the Prophecy had nothing to do with their current quest to repair the cable!
But maybe they can negotiate for Eris’s help in the mission. The princesses may know a prince who can come and marry Eris.
Eris sends Button back to all the other women telling them to come to the ice palace. He also leads Dawn via another route which doesn’t require her to take the chute. And soon they all arrive. And Sharon arrives too.
Sharon tells how after she had betrayed Eris, she had hoped to marry Pluto. But Pluto had married Persephone instead. And since Persephone had left Pluto, he has found another mortal princess, whom he had met in a dream.
And Eve confesses that it was her. But she would only marry Pluto after the mission is complete.
Sharon admits she is now interested in Jumper.
Dawn tells Eris she might be willing to persuade a prince to come to her if Eris completes the Prophecy (that is, writes additional lines in it) to help them in their mission, and satisfies her companions in relation to their dream men.
Then Sharon tells them that Pluto had based all those men on real live men; and those men had actually dreamed that they were with their female companions. Eris can trace those men and conjure them here. (Eve says she would rather have Pluto than the Centaur King.) They can meet at a ball to be held here in the palace.
At that point Charon turns up to take his sister away. But Haughty flies across, transforms into Hottie, and kisses him. Charon decides to stay. He transforms into a harpy.
Four men appear, conjured by Eris: Warren Warrior, Prince Charming, Dick Philip and Shepherd. They pair up with the women they love.
Then Pluto arrives, looking for Charon. Eris tries to banish him, but Dawn and Eve persuade them to hold a truce, with Eve using her feminine wiles on Pluto.
The chamber is transformed into a ballroom, and they all dance with their partners. Dawn dances with Eris, Eve dances with Pluto, Jumper dances with Sharon, and the others with their chosen partners. Haughty and Charon fly overhead in an aerial dance. During the dance, Eris cuts in and dances with Jumper. They both transform into spiders and dance in that form. Jumper wonders if he would prefer to be with Eris rather than Sharon.
After the dance they negotiate.
- Jumper and his companions have their mission to repair the cable. But they know that Pluto will oppose them.
- Eris wishes to escape confinement, which requires that she marry a prince.
- Eris will complete the Prophecy, providing guidance for Jumper’s party to complete their mission.
- If the mission is successful, Dawn will provide a prince for Eris.
- If the mission is successful, Eve will marry Pluto. If not, Eve will become Pluto’s love-slave. In the latter case Pluto will not receive a half soul from Eve, and so will not be bound by a conscience.
- If the mission is successful, Jumper can marry Sharon. If not, he will become her slave.
- Pluto will place three horrendous obstacles in their path, to hinder their mission.
Jumper and the seven women find themselves back in Castle Roogna. Jumper has the modified Prophecy, indicating they should head for Ogre-fen-Ogre Fen. They set off again.