Tag Archives: 2015

Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

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In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

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But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

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“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

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But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

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Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

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He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

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What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

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After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

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I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

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After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

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As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

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The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

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And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

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“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

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My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

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Not dead, and Mythgard is holding a writing contest!

Not dead. Just run off my feet and as soon as I post this, I’m running off to do more work! I will catch up on important matters, here, as soon as I can, so thank you all for your patience!

I found out through my good friend, David, that the Mythgard Institute is holding a writing contest for microfiction!

Behold: Almost an Inkling Writing Contest

Is that great, or what? It’s short notice for the first entry, but then, how long can 333 words take? (Unfortunately, for me, the answer to that can be years…)

I have submitted an entry, of course, though I don’t think it’s up yet. It’s under my own name, so those of you who only know me as Jubilare might not be able to figure out which one it is unless you just happen to know my style that well. But that is how I want it! If you don’t know which one is mine, you can’t be tempted to favor (or disfavor) it because of me. So much the better.

Voting is here: Almost an Inkling Writing Contest

So go forth and write, and even if you don’t want to do that, then at least have fun reading and cast your vote for your favorite nibblet of fiction.

’till anon, be well!

 


Hymn for the Season

Life is hard. Beautiful, agonizing, wonderful, terrifying, joyous, grief-woven, sublime and small. All at once.

Times of transition, whether external or internal, are tough. Yet without them, we don’t grow. Like Bilbo with the ring, we go on living without gaining more life, and if that goes on too long, we may look in the mirror and find Gollum staring back.*

We’re (skip down if you want to avoid foul language) fuckups.

Even the best of us, even at our best moments. We try to do things, and we fail, we’re self-deluded and we think ourselves wise, we look through a distorted lens and believe what we see to be truth. To use modern parlance, we are Epic Fail.

We are. If you think I am wrong, that’s ok. Maybe you’re right. But if what I’m saying makes you angry, may I make a suggestion? Sit quietly for a while and ask yourself why my words anger you. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you. Be glad of that. I’m a bad enough boss over me.

This probably sounds like I’m down on myself, and on humanity as a whole. That’s the funny thing about life, though. It’s full of seeming-contradictions that somehow aren’t contradictory. They just seem like they should be.

I’m more free when I admit this kind of crap than when I try to deny it. I’m free to love myself and humanity when I admit that all is not well. When I try to pretend that I am fine, that I’m not a rampaging mess, I find myself imprisoned, and I find myself doing more damage to myself and to others. The more control I take, the less I have.

Admission is not the same as acceptance. I admit that I struggle with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, a predilection for addiction, depression, and worse than all of those together, I struggle with selfishness, anger and pride. I do not, however, accept these things. I call them out by name and then I turn and fight. I do all I can to overcome them.

I often fail. If I had only myself to rely on, I probably would have given up long ago. Why fight my nature? Against it, I am outmatched. I can only overcome one part of it by indulging another. To quote C. S. Lewis:

“Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices… The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride—just as he would be quite content to see your chilbains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” -Mere Christianity, Chapter 8: The Great Sin

It’s the admission of failure, coupled with the desire to continue to fight, that makes me deeply grateful for the action of my Savior in my life. I’m dead tired, both from internal and external battles. And here He comes, to pick me up, to hold me while I sleep. In Him I find freedom even in the midst of the raging war. He frees me from my self-inflicted slavery, and from the slavery of the world around me.

I am a mess. But He isn’t asking me to get myself together, first, then come to Him when I am ready. He wants me now, mess and all, and if I will come, then bit by bit, painful though it may be, He will make me into my true, free self.

There are some words that, if spoken to another person, spoken as a “you” instead of an “I” or a “we,” become horrible. The following hymn is an example. If anyone can read it, or sing it and not feel that s/he is one of the “sinners,” then it loses all of its power for good. To me, though, in this place, it is a song of life. Because I am a sinner, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. And if I tarry till I’m better, I will never go to Him at all.

A hymn for the day:

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy – words by Joseph Hart

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Source: Cyberhymnal

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*In case anyone doesn’t know, this refers to characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien


Light Reading -continuation of Prism Sentence

This is a continuation of Prism Sentence. I’m not sure, yet, where this is going, if indeed it is going anywhere, but then that’s part of the fun. Again, this is based on a prompt from BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday: “Light Reading.”


Octavian lifted a hand to his face and noticed that his own arm was draped in layers of dark fabric, the same that covered the inhabitants moving around him. He grabbed the nearest passing figure and jerked back its covering.

A rounded, tortoise-like head blinked up at him before the creature shoved him back with a short, but powerful, arm. It shrugged the covering back over its head and wandered off at a faster shuffle than before.

Again Octavian was aware that the world moved while he remained still. When the tortoise-man shoved him, it shoved itself, and its surroundings, off of him. He took a step back and  nearly lost his balance. The movement felt strange, but he could not remember why.

He pushed the ground under his feet until he shifted it to the nearest doorway. The place had the appearance of a public building, drab with dirt, but decorated in elegant, carved scrolls and fern fronds. It was familiar.

His light came in contact with one wall, and as it did, it shifted into a sconce.

Octavian paused to stare at it. He took a step sideways. The light traveled along the wall in pace with him.

With a shaking hand, he opened one of the large doors and bolted inside. The light followed, silently, now matching the interior fixtures, glass flowers hanging from spiked chains. It was farther over his head, but the increased distance made matters worse. He knew it was present, but could no longer watch it without craning his neck.

The room he entered was a quiet, open gallery with a floor of dark granite, polished to a mirror-like shine. One of the fabric-draped figures was slumped at a long central desk, its back rising and falling slowly, as if in sleep. Octavian ran forward until he hit a flight of stairs, then pushed the whole world down with each step. His feet echoed loudly. When he reached a landing several flights up, he paused.

His instincts were screaming for him to jump off the balcony. Will the world move when I don’t touch it? Or will I move in it?

Jump.

He was over the railing before he had time to think, but the space below made him pause. A soft creaking sound drew his attention and he saw his light sway above him, just barely.

It cast a strange shadow and, turning, Octavian saw the shrouded desk-keeper moving up the stairs. It didn’t shuffle like the other creatures had. It didn’t move as if it had feet.

He released the railing and fell. The stairs rushed past. When the floor hit him, he felt an impact, but not much pain. A bright burst enveloped and blinded him.

 Sight returned gradually. Sparks popped across a dark field, then they shifted into dim fireflies, drifting about on either side. For a long time that was all he could see until, looking up, he found a silhouette of evergreens framing a patch of sky barely lighter than black.

A whispering sound caused him to look over to his left. A firefly, about the size of a grapefruit, was sitting on the ground beside him.

He tossed a handful of pine-needles and dirt at the thing. It flicked its wings, but otherwise did not seem to care.

Anger outpaced his terror and he rolled over and tried to smash the insect with his fists. But touching it filled him with burning pain that centered on his heart and flowed through his whole body. He collapsed, writhing until the feeling abated and he lay still, breathing hard.


Aula pursed her lips as she studied the read-out from Octavian’s prism. Then she laughed.

 “I win!” she scooped up the small pile of coins sitting on the table. Her companion, Sertor, groaned and put his feet up on his desk.

“Dammit. The cocky ones’re usually too cowardly to try that for days.”

“This one’s gutsy, I’ll say that for him, but he won’t try it again any time soon.”

The voice of  Secunda, the on-duty Oneirologist, crackled through the intercom. “Aula, you need to even out prismer seventy-one. At this rate, you’ll give him a stroke.”

Sertor rolled his eyes, but Aula obediently fiddled with her controls, tweaking the light through Octavian’s prism.

“She’s new.” Aula shrugged. “Scared of having an accident on her watch.”

“Maybe I’ll leave his record on her desk. A little light reading might give her some perspective.”

“Bad, huh?”

“You didn’t read it?”

Aula twitched. “You know how I feel about personality violation. If I’m going to do my job, here, I’d rather not have the details.”

“Fair enough. He’s a dear.” Sarcasm drenched the last three words. “So, when do I get a chance to win my snack-money back?”

“Hm. Well, what’s your newest prismer up to?”

Sertor glanced over at the read out of one of the prisms under his charge. “Not much. She must be worn out after that chase-dream.”

“Ok. If yours gets going first, you get your money back. If mine does, you’ll watch all the prisms while I take a nap.”

“Done.”



Prism Sentence

Results of several InMon prompts from BeKindRewrite! The prompts are: Prism Sentence, Afraid of the Light, and, to some extent, Autoimmobile.

“Any parting words?”

Octavian glared at the ceiling and did not reply. The Lightkeeper pulled the final strap tight around his arms, then stepped back, out of sight.

“For the crimes of dream-theft, subconscious manipulation, and personality violation, you are hereby sentenced to ten years in Prism.”

Ten years. That number was bad enough, but in Prism, time was a variable. Once released, most of its inmates claimed to have wandered for hundreds of years, being pulled from dreamscape to dreamscape, nightmare to nightmare. They would have no more stomach for dream-crimes. Most were afraid to go to sleep, afterwards, and had to be drugged.

Octavian closed his eyes. Soon, the motion would have no effect. There is no closing one’s eyes in a dream.

He heard the first switch flip, and on instinct, opened his eyes again. The doors beside him slid back and he could see the Prism, it’s sharp edges just catching the ambient light. It was such a small thing, about the size of a grapefruit.

The second switch ticked over, and he was bathed in fractured light.

At the sounding of the third switch, nothing happened. He lay there, waiting.

Nothing.

Had he been reprieved? Had his lawyer caught, last minute, some mistake made by the prosecution?

“Hey, you bastards? What’s going on?”

The rainbow flickered. He looked at the Prism again, and his whole body tensed. It wasn’t a prism anymore. It was a lamp, an old gas-lamp with a blue flame in it. He shuddered. The light frightened him.

Without thinking, he sat up. A faint memory crossed his mind. Hadn’t he been strapped down?

But then it was gone. The light flickered again. The lamp had changed into a globe dangling from a curving stalk. It pulsed, bright, dim, bright, dim, as if it were breathing.

Octavian could feel his grasp of time slipping. The lamp had changed. It had, hadn’t it?

A sound came from the darkness on beyond. He stood up and made his way towards it. The light followed, and as he moved it changed again. Now it was a brazier filled with glowing coals. He took a few more experimental steps and realized, to his horror, that he was not moving. When he walked, it was the space around him that moved by him and his inanimate companion.

Dawn, or something like it, broke across the horizon and he watched the first dreamscape unfold itself. He was in a city, streets wet and shining from a recent downpour, air heavy with the humidity. His light-fetter shifted with the surroundings, blending in as an unassuming electric street-lamp.

People, or at least he thought they might be people, shuffled to and fro, backs bowed, heads low, all hidden under layers of dark fabric. One of them bumped into him, mumbled something that might have been an apology, and stumbled on.

Octavian closed his eyes. Nothing changed.


 

Part 2: Light Reading


Cybernetic Mystification

Not sure where that title came from, but I think I love it. BeKindRewrite, that probably needs to be an InMon prompt!

So, I am mystified by the critics of the cyborgs. Of all the things I never thought I would say…

If you like The Terminator, and Terminator 2, go see Terminator: Genisys. Go see it in the theaters. It is well worth your time. But whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE LATEST TRAILER. It spoils a great twist.

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

The critics are raking this film over the coals, even moreso than the abysmal Terminator 3, and Terminator: Salvation. While I grant that the film is not as solid as the first two installments in the franchise, I contend that it blows T3 and T4 completely out of the water, and yet it’s rating from the critics falls well below them. Fan ratings are more mixed, thankfully. My brother and I are not the only fans who enjoyed it.

I’ve heard/seen all sorts of complaints about this film, but here is my non-spoilerific assessment:

Despite what a lot of folks have said, I found the writing to be solid. The dialog is effective, the call-backs are tasteful (which is a very rare thing in sequels) and the plot, though convoluted, doesn’t fall apart any more than that of T1 and T2. In fact, I have some very interesting theories about what is actually going on in this film, and I expect to see more explained if any sequels see the light of day. The writers have given themselves some very intriguing options.

Before anyone who disagrees with me decides to launch grenades, hear me out (it’s amazing how fast a fan-base can fall to vicious infighting). From the very beginning, The Terminator was a paradox. (Spoiler for the original Terminator film): You have John, born well before his own father, who sends his father back in time to protect his mother from a cyborg that would not have been sent to kill her if he, John, had not been born in the first place (/T1 spoiler). Terminator: Genisys complicates the timeline, but it does not hand me anything less believable than the original paradox. Enjoying the Terminator films at all requires suspension of belief.

Being familiar with the first two films will, most definitely, contribute to one’s understanding/enjoyment of this one. I did not watch it, the first time around (yes, I plan to see it again in the theaters), with an eye to how it would strike a newcomer.  My guess is that it would be overwhelming. Even with my background of being very familiar with the 1st 2 films, the pace in the second-half was a bit hard to follow.

The call-backs and references to the earlier films are everywhere. I am VERY picky about call-backs in sequels. It is easy for them to feel forced, to be used as a crutch to prop up a weak copy. Done right, though, call backs can act as a touchstone for fans, or even an inside joke. This film, for the most part, uses them right. It reverences the first two films, but it manages not to rely on them. I like the way James Cameron puts it in his (The video contains SPOILERS!) Featurette endorsing the film:

I start to see things I recognize. It’s being very respectful of the first two films. And then, all the sudden, it just swerves, and now I’m going on a journey.

The writers paid attention to the first two films. I think they must even have loved them in order to get the feel of this one right. Terminator: Genisys, feels like it belongs with T2, it works as a continuation. It has a similar style of dialogue and humor. Where Genisys drops the ball is, in my opinion, in the pacing. There is so much crammed into this movie that by the time we reached the climax, we were still, mentally, lagging a few scenes back. Said climax is confusing, and fails, on some level, to work for me. However, it wasn’t enough to break the film. It’s several pegs below T2, in my mind, but that does not make it a bad film. It still works. I still enjoyed it, and I am still thinking about its implications.

I found the twists intelligent and interesting. I won’t go into them more, here, because spoilers, but I will allow spoilers in the comments, so if anyone wants to pick my brain, feel free.

Oh, and as a note, if you know anything about helicopters, you might want to shut your brain off when the whirlybirds show up in order to enjoy the scene. It’s fun, but it laughs in the face of physics.

The acting is effective. Reese was the least-right, in my mind, (a very different Reese from T1), but even he didn’t grate on my nerves. Watching how Arnold handles his role in this film is gratifying, (yay development!) and Emilia Clarke is very fun to watch. They managed, shockingly, not to sexually exploit her very much. The film focuses on her as a person rather than focusing on her physical attributes… yes, I am glaring at you, T3. In good Sarah-Connor fashion, she’s a person with agency, not an object. I’ve not seen Game of Thrones, so I’m not biased about Emilia one way or another.

So the long and the short is this: It’s a fun, non-cringe-worthy film. No, it’s not perfect, and no, it doesn’t measure up to its first two predecessors, but really, who was expecting that? It is smart enough to hold up under discussion, and I had a roaring good time when I went to see it with my brother (to whom I owe my introduction to the Terminator films). Also, lots of Dakka, but some very interesting non-dakka stuff goes on as well. Terminator: Genisys has earned a place on my dvd shelf, which is something T3 and T4 never even came close to doing. I finally feel like we have a trilogy of Terminator films, and I have some hope that any that come after this have a chance of also being good.

For those who are curious, my ratings of the franchise are as follows: T1: 9/10, T2: 9.5/10, T3: 3/10, TS: 5/10 (ok film, but NOT a Terminator film), TG: 8/10

I cannot vouch for the comments! Spoilers will be allowed. I do ask that spoilers be marked as such.

If you’re curious, here are some reviewers who have a similar opinion. I’ll add more as I find ones I like:

Angry Movie Review (Spoilers)

The Examiner

Bandit Incorporated (Despite what it says, a little spoilerific)

The Leisure Time Blog (a little spoilerific)

And, of course, James Cameron’s Featurette mentioned above.

For Fun

HISHE: Terminator – One of my favorite mashups ever

ERBoH: Robocop vs. Terminator  – be advised, this video contains some adult themes and foul language. But the Geek in me doesn’t care, it’s great!

Honest Trailers: Terminator 2: Judgement Day – contains spoilers (duh!)


Dose of Tolkien

Because, you know, I can’t let this blog go too long without something Tolkien-related.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled.
He walked along and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.

He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
In the wintry woodland wavering.

He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.

When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinuviel! Tinuviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinuviel
That in his arms lay glistening.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O’er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.

– J.R.R. Tolkien


Elemental Surprise

I want this to be an alchemical post about the discovery of a new element. I consulted my main alchemist character about it, and he replied with raised eyebrows, and then a good laugh.

I suppose that writing is a sort of alchemy, though, and surprise is definitely one of its foundational elements.

Recently, I re-watched Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).  As a kid, I didn’t like it, but someone was talking about its music and so I decided to give it another try.

I was very surprised.

It would be easy to say that I didn’t understand it as a kid. That is certainly true, but I was 14 when it first came out. I was well-aware of the interplay of sex, violence, bigotry, and abuse (it is one of Disney’s darker animated films). I disliked the film because I thought it was trite and self-contradictory.

Now, I can see why 14-year-old Jubilare thought so, but I also think she simply missed the point. Getting back to surprise, there are a few ways this element manifests… perhaps it has a solid, liquid, and gaseous form? There are jump-scream surprises, surprising twists in plot and character, and then there are the surprises that come from delving into the layers of a work. I’m interested, here, in the last of these.

This film is thickly layered, with complex themes and little bonuses (like the Latin and Greek embedded in the soundtrack). Now, I rather like a lot of Disney’s animated canon, but the themes are generally straight forward. Perhaps that is why I originally misunderstood this film. I took it at face-value.

One thing that originally annoyed me with tHoND was the seemingly broken-Aesop (or family-unfriendly Aesop) of Quasimodo. The main point of the film seems to be that beauty and ugliness come from within, with Quasimodo and Frollo acting as foils (Frollo isn’t nice on the outside, either, probably because pretty villains gain sympathy points no matter how horrible they are within). My teenage self felt that this message was undermined when Quasimodo failed to get the girl.

It wasn’t that I wanted Esmeralda to end up with Quasimodo, or anyone. It was that the message seemed to be “no matter how nice you are on the inside, what is outside matters, too” which is sadly true, but also contrary to the apparent point of the film: “Who is the monster, and who is the man?” The answer seems to be that Frollo is a monster, but Quasimodo still looks like one, and he will suffer the consequences.

14-me did not think Disney would make a film that brutally honest. I thought, instead, that they decided the general public wouldn’t accept a non-handsome “prince” and so they added the sub-plot romance, and then glossed over the pain this causes Quasimodo by making him miraculously “ok” with it at the end.

Seeing it as an adult, I realize that there is a lot more going on. Frollo and Quasimodo are, once again, foils, but they are both foils for Phoebus.

At one extreme we have Frollo, who is filled with lust and hates/blames the object of his desire (yeah, dark). He sees her as an object of temptation and a source of evil. At the other end of the spectrum, Quasimodo calls her an outright angel. She is, perhaps, the first person, and definitely the first woman, to be kind to him. But the problem is that she is on a pedestal, and his love for her is worship.

Then there is Phoebus, who sits in the middle. He engages her as a person (even though he starts out as a terrible flirt). Given this dynamic, the romantic element made a lot more sense to me this time around. Though it is still possible to see the Aesop as broken, it is, perhaps, only tinted with more depth and reality than I had seen before. Quasimodo and Esmeralda would not work, not because of his physical appearance, but because of their personalities and because of how they view each other. The writers were dealing with a more complex theme, and different moral/life questions than 14-me thought.

I give the team who worked on this film high marks for this. Relationships that make sense haven’t always been a Disney strength.

Another depth that surprised me (and the only other one I will deal with, for now) was the villain. Disney cartoon villains, though I love ’em, are not a complicated lot. Frollo, however, stands apart. His “hidden depths” are quite nasty, and I do mean nasty. This is not going to be an “oh, poor villain with a freudian excuse!” rant, but rather an awed “holy cranberry catfish, look at the abyssal depths they carved into when they created this guy.”

In a cursory look around the internets I see that, of the Seven Deadly Sins, Frollo is most closely associated with lust. Not surprising, considering that his Villain Song mostly deals with his desire for (and hatred of) Esmeralda. Also, the surprise (ha!) and shock of seeing a Disney film for kids deal with the issue so directly makes it stand out.

But hang on a minute. As some others have pointed out, it should be clear from the very beginning that Frollo is a nasty piece of work. Watch the opening scene:

I don’t see any lust at work there, just bigotry and pride. Ah. There it is.

Now, listen to the first few lines in his villain song (and also notice that, again, Quasimodo and he are foils, Quasi’s humility and, sadly, self-loathing, manifest in worship of Esmeralda as an “angel” and Frollo’s pride manifests in blaming her for casting a spell over him. For, otherwise, how could such a “righteous” and “pure” man be so consumed with lust? *facepalm*):

“Beata Maria, you know I am a righteous man. Of my virtue I am justly proud. Beata Maria, you know I’m so much purer than the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd.”

This guy’s problems may end in uncontrolled lust and wrath, but they begin in what is, perhaps, the deadliest of sins: Pride.

Self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, judgement of others, and pride in himself are his chief sins. They set him up for everything that comes after. A more humble man might have truly felt guilty at the end of the opening sequence, might have been softened by Quasimodo, might have questioned his own actions, and might even have dealt with his lust in a sane way. It would, at least, have been possible. But no.

Frollo only shows self-doubt, I think, twice in the film. Once, briefly, when the Archdeacon calls him out for murdering a woman and trying to murder her baby, on the steps of the cathedral where she was trying to gain sanctuary (daaaaark), and once during his aforementioned villain-song. The latter is one of the reasons “Hellfire” is now high among my favorite Disney songs.

Most of the delightfully dark canon of villainy that Disney has produced sing cheerful songs about their villainous plans. Frollo, instead, is going through a spiritual battle that is anything but fun. He’s very mistaken about the nature of that battle. He thinks he is a righteous man being tempted by a foul, lustful witch. From the outside we can see that he is already well into the Enemy camp. He is just facing a new kind of sin, one that he still recognizes as sinful.

In other words, he is trying to resist the devil with the help of the devil. His mouth says “Maria,” and his heart seems to recognize his guilt despite his words: “It’s not my fault! Mea culpa! I’m not to blame! Mea Culpa!,”  but unless he recognizes the underlying state of his soul and repents, he is fighting a battle he cannot win.

The last lines are tortured: “God have mercy on her. God have mercy on me. But she will be mine or she will burn!”

The funny thing is, for me, that I usually pity the tortured ones, even if they are despicable. It is hard to pity Frollo. He is so utterly self-satisfied, such a vicious Knight Templar, so abusive, manipulative, and so corrupt in his obsession with Esme, that his death is a release. The only glimmer of pity I have is during his song, when the “God have mercy” lines come off as the dying breath of anything human in him. I can’t think of another Disney villain that is quite this complex and terrifyingly believable, while still existing in the best tradition of over-the-top villainy. Muahahaha.

For what it’s worth, his villain song also sets up what is, to me, one of the funniest lines in the film, just to make sure we don’t get overly serious.

“I had a little trouble with the fireplace.”

Indeed.

If it were not for the horrible effects, one would have to laugh. Frollo’s self-importance and self-righteousness are so ludicrous that they would be hilarious if not for the effect they have on his own soul, and the lives of everyone around him.

If you haven’t seen this film, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth a watch. With the exception of one irritating song, the soundtrack is delightful, rife with beautiful high-church choral themes, at least some of which are actual Latin prayers, bells (of course) and wonderful orchestration. And the story ain’t half-bad either. There are more interesting twists and turns than I’ve dealt with, here.

Fair warning for any who might actually expect (out of inexperience perhaps?) Disney to follow canon – This film has very little to do with the novel by Victor Hugo.  I’m curious to know what other people have gotten from this film, or if they disagree with me. Also, I’m always open to discussions on other films, Disney or otherwise.

I have a lot to think about in terms of narrative, relationship dynamics, and villainous roads to pyromaniacal insanity.

Wow. This is a super-long post, for me. Sorry, guys! If you happened to make it this far, I hope you did so because it was interesting!


Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

dragonsloyaltyaward1

With a glassy rustle, a dragon stretches a great green wing of feather-like translucent scales. It yawns, revealing several rows of sharp teeth and a pair of upward-curving, no-nonsense tusks. Resettling its wings, it pricks a pair of mule-like ears forward and peers out of the blog with emerald eyes.

Right, blog award.

Hello! My author, Jubilare, has asked that I not give my name here. She’s trying to keep her WIP’s mostly private until they are, ah, more prepared for the world, or the world is more prepared for them. I forget which.

But considering the name of this award, she felt that I should be the one to accept it. I don’t see why. I have very little to do with the day-to-day running of the blog, but she insists that she never would have started writing but for me. So here I am.

From the limited information she has given me, (research, dear, always research), the Dragon´s Loyalty Award is “presented to blogs with exceptional content.”

It is a great honor to accept this award. From the name, I assume that, lost somewhere in the shadowy (ahem, un-researched) history of this award is either a dragon who awarded it to a particularly loyal blog, or else it was awarded to a particularly loyal dragon who blogs. Not being a blogger, myself, I can’t really relate.

Jubilare: Um, buddy? can we try to get this in under 1000 words?

Not it you interrupt me we won’t.

Jubilare: Maybe I should’ve asked one of your brothers…

Which one? The one who makes me look laconic? The one you’d have to bribe? Or the one who’d actually make you do hours of research beforehand? Oh, or how about the one that hates you?

Jubilare: …Carry on.

Wings are re-shuffled, and the dragon draws a long breath.

Right. Well, as I was saying, it is an honor to accept this award on behalf of this blog. It, the blog, I mean, was awarded this prize by one Stephencwinter, whose blog my author greatly enjoys. Thank you, Mr. Winter! Visit my home some time. I’ll buy you a drink and show you around.

This award carries with it several requirements. Hold on.

The dragon holds out a scaly hand, complete with talons, and accepts a  poster-board from Jubilare. It looks like a post-it-note in the dragon’s grasp.

First: Display this award on your blog.

Jubilare: Done.

Great. Next we announce our win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded us. …I’m doing that right now, yes?

Jubilare: yep

Excellent. Now, we present this same award to 15 meritorious bloggers. Fifteen? This thing must multiply faster than rabbits.

Jubilare: I, uh, only have 12.

I see. Well, it looks like we don’t get to accept the award because my author doesn’t know how to follow rules.

Jubilare: Hey! Stephen didn’t do fifteen, either, and he still got to accept it.

The dragon grins toothily and flicks one ear. Oh, all right. If the award police come for me, though, I’m giving you up. I won’t go down for your crimes.

The twelve blogs Jubilare would like to nominate are… flips the poster-board and thrums the fingers of one taloned hand on the ground like a snare-drum-roll

Bekindrewrite – All shall love her, and despair!

Dreaming of Other Realms – an epic storyteller from “Kiwiland”

The Egotist’s Club – A magnificent menagerie of muses.

Grimmella – How can she not be awesome with a blog-name like that?

Lovethebadguy – Delightfully wicked

Pages Unbound – They read books. Lots of books. And tell us about them!

A Pilgrim in Narnia – already has one of these, that should tell you something

Res Studiorum et Ludorum -Profoundly Geeky, and Geekily Profound

Soughing of Pines – This dragon’s particular friend. Writer and Renaissance woman.

Strange Figures – Painfully honest, in a world in desperate need of honesty

Technicolorlilypond – Just as colorful as it says it is

The Warden’s Walk – Should be called “The Warden’s Fabulous Hat”

Now I must link them?

Jubilare: I just did.

And… let them know of their being awarded.

Jubilare: We’ll do that after we finish here.

You mean I will, don’t you.

Jubilare: I’ll help!

Alright. Last item on the list.

The tip of the dragon’s tail swishes.

Write seven things about you. …is that me-you or you-you?

Jubilare: I think it’s supposed to be me, but make one of them about you, just in case.

Hm. Well, Jubilare is obsessive. And I do mean obsessive. When she’s trying to work through a scene, she will sometimes listen to the same song, or handful of songs, for HOURS. IT’S HORRIBLE. And when she’s found something to obsess about, it is very hard to derail her to anything else.

She also loves almonds. She eats them all the time. Perhaps that ties in with the obsession issues.

What else… despite being obsessive, she is also easily distracted. While it is hard to get her off something she is obsessing over, it is equally hard to get her to focus on tasks. Very annoying when one is trying to get her to write.

I also think she is rather sweet, even when she’s glaring at me, like right now.

That’s what, four? Hm. Five would be that she is something of a pyromaniac. Not an arsonist, mind. She’s been well taught not to burn other people’s things without permission, but she loves fire. As a dragon, of course, I approve.

Six. She has a thing for creatures, like dragons, bats, creepy-crawlies and such, that are often reviled. Even as a kid, I was her imaginary friend. Every child should have a dragon, don’t you think?

Seven needs to be about me? Well, I love apple fritters and whiskey, not necessarily together. Please send apple fritters and whiskey by way of my author.

Thank you all. It’s been surprisingly fun.

Are we in under 1000 words?

Jubilare: Shockingly, yes. Thank you, oh dragon-mine. Here’s the list of “requirements,” that are optional, and will break the 1000 word limit, alas!

  1. Display Award on your Blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with Award
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Late InMon!

Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite assures me that even late InMon submissions are acceptable. I have, therefore, used last-week’s prompt: “Narrow Future.” Here is a grim, but determined submission from my only character, as of yet, who absolutely insists on a first-person perspective. If nothing else, it is good practice.

Though the hall was full of Death’s Clerics, it was nearly silent. My sharp hearing caught the sound of their breath, but no one shuffled or sniffed, there was neither whisper of cloth nor creak of sandal. Only staring eyes and pricked ears. They all waited to hear my answer.
     Where once I thought of my future as an open field, full of roads and possibilities, I now saw that each turn, each choice made, had narrowed it down to a single forked path. Each drop of blood, each dying breath had closed a gate, not only on those I killed, but on me. Rhos tried to tell me, she saw the walls closing in, but she was young, it was easy to dismiss her worries. At least, until Bre killed her. That was when I finally understood. It was the turn, the fork in the road that lead me here, to one final choice.
     Two paths left, and one would be very short. How I wanted that way. Execution, judgment, to be shut out of the world.
     The other path was a narrow hunter’s track; I could not see the end of it. I shuddered.
     There was work to be done and I was suited for it. I had suited myself for it, all unaware. The clerics had, in their mercy, given me a choice, but I knew I did not deserve it. I had forfeited any right to my own life, they had every reason to bind me to their purpose, yet they gave me a way out.
     But to ask for execution was the coward’s way. To choose death over work would be, as ever, to avoid responsibility.  I am a murderer and a kinslayer, but I was not then, and am not yet a coward.
     “I will hunt at your bidding until the task is done or I am killed.” I had not spoken loudly, but in that silence my words startled like shattered glass.
     The high priestess stamped to quiet the flood of whispers, then she spoke.
     “You will not hunt at our pleasure, but at Death’s. But first you must face the fire and be purified. Remember the suffering you have brought upon others, it will help you to bear your own.”
     I shivered and bowed my head.
    But I am not yet a coward.

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