On the subject of Wicked Women

Nat Case ncase at hedbergmaps.com
Tue May 22 11:05:28 EDT 2001


Melissa wrote:

>Here's what I think about Laurel.  I don't like her as a *person*.  If I met
>her in a dark alley, I'd be scared and revolted.  I really really hate a
>certain recent trend in writing about vampires, for example, that makes the
>vampires the good guys and the ones the reader is supposed to sympathize
>with and want to be like (Anne Rice would be the most obvious example).
>Ugh.  Here are these creatures that look on humans as basically meat on the
>hoof, and so many readers are thinking it's cool and wonderful and why can't
>I be a vampire too?  That really bugs me.  So I don't worship Laurel.

DId you see SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE? Besides the wonderful high-camp 
quality to the movie (I suspect the cast had a hoot making it), I 
like that it revives the darkest of film vampires, the one that 
really gives me nightmares (the shadow of the hand with the long 
fingernails... aieee!), the 1922 NOSFERATU.

>On the other hand, I do like [Laurel] as a *character*.  I agree 
>that she looks
>like the kind of privileged wealthy debutante snob who assumes that she
>deserves more, is more worthy, because of her position and wealth.  But
>because she isn't human, I think it's reasonable (from her point of view) to
>think so.  (Sidebar: The idea that Laurel is not human is, in my mind,
>implicit in the text.  It's possible that she IS in fact human with
>otherworldly powers, but I think this is one element which is lifted whole
>from the faerie stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer.)  I don't *agree*
>with her.  But there are ways that she genuinely is different from other
>humans.  She behaves the way she does because that's how the Faerie are.
>Which is why I say it hints at aspects of the Faerie realm that we never
>see.  Laurel's evil because she does things for her own benefit that make
>humans suffer.  But to me that seems a lot like a spider preying on a
>fly--something she does because of her nature.

If you look at Faerie as defined in the Child ballads (Tam and Thomas 
included), they are invariably associated with places where mankind 
is not: tops of mountains, under the hill, under the sea, etc. I 
think of them as personifications of the inhuman in Scots (and 
presumably other Celtic) culture.

If you look at many of the versions of "Thomas the Rhymer", it is 
clear that Faerie is a different order of things from humanity in 
part because it IS amoral: the "three roads" speech is a clear 
example: there's Heaven and Hell, an there's Faerie. The convenient 
omission of the fourth road back to the world of humanity may point 
up the opposition even more clearly: the world is to Faerie as Heaven 
is to Hell. We don't go to either one (except that as the Hell-tithe 
in "Tam Lin" and other similar stories point up, that doesn't mean 
they can't escape moral consequences or God's judgement entirely.)

>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
>gets all snobbish, I want to say "what makes you so special?"  And yet the
>fact remains that I like her as a person better than Laurel.  Laurel is, as
>I keep saying, an alien.  The Lady is human.  So although I think she has
>less "right" to set herself up as superior than Laurel, I'd still back her
>against the alien Faerie any day.

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.

>[F&H i]s such a good STORY that it took me several
>readings to realize that it's also one of the best young adult novels I've
>ever read--in form, in content, in everything.  What did Philip say recently
>about telling someone that "everyone seems to think DWJ is a children's
>writer except her readers?"  Absolutely true.

Hear hear. It's still among my favorite books, period.
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