On the subject of Wicked Women

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Fri Jun 1 17:09:14 EDT 2001

On Tue, 22 May 2001 11:18:29 -0400 (EDT), Kyla Tornheim wrote:

>On Tue, 22 May 2001, Nat Case wrote:
>> Melissa wrote:
>> >The Lady of the Perilous Gard is a different case.  There, it's clear that
>> >she's a human who's been raised in a different culture.  There's nothing
>> >intrinsic about her that makes her more or less human than Kate; when she
>> This is why I didn't like PERILOUS GARD the first time I read it; I 
>> felt like it was "explaining away" Fairie, which to me seems beside 
>> the point. Faerie may not be real in the same sense that George Bush 
>> is real (OK, bad analogy...), but the ways in which it is/they are 
>> real seems cheapened to me by saying in effect, "No they were real 
>> people who thought they were different." Takes away all the otherness 
>> that to me is such an inherent part of Faerie as an idea.

>Okay, I totally didn't interpret it that way. Or, rather, I *do* think the
>Faerie were real people, but not *human* real people. I definitely felt
>that there was "other" there; I thought the "oh, they were real people
>bit" was "oh, they actually exist, they're not a myth, they *do* live
>under the hill."
>I can see how it's valid to interpret the Lady as being human, but I
>prefer not to. It all seems kind of pointless if she is.

That's not my preferred interpretation; it's just my reading of what Kate
believes.  At one point, when she learns about the people the Herons served
for all those years, she tries to figure out who they could be.  Her line of
reasoning is: there couldn't have been pagan gods, because Christ is the
only God, so they're not Faerie.  But there could be people who worshipped
the false gods.  Her conclusion is that the people under the hill *are*
human, but pagan humans.  And as far as I can tell, the reader is meant to
accept this as truth--that in the universe of this novel, the people living
under the hill aren't worshipping a power that really exists.  This is
supported by showing the pilgrims to the well as credulous fools, by the
Lady's power being mainly hypnotism and drugs, and by the
superstition/rationalism theme that runs throughout.  So basically, I'm
assuming that the "truth" is that there is no such thing as real Faerie in
this book.

Still, there's that Thing that lives in the well, and he's never really
explained away.  If the body they find is "something that's been dead a long
time," does that mean it was an undead creature?  That the power of Faerie
was holding him together, and when the ritual failed, he came undone?  Or
that it was a trick they were playing to unnerve Christopher?  I don't know.

Melissa Proffitt
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