Was: I Ate'nt Dead -- or That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger Now: TOD

Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 3 20:27:54 EDT 2002

Under the original title of the thread Hallie

>What about TOD?  I think that's part of the 
problem (at least, *my* problem with it),
as it seems that she suddenly backtracks to make 
the Ogre far too nice to fit his earlier
behaviour.  I don't know, that bit just 
never quite worked for me, though I love other
bits of it.>

Jackie replied
<I was struck by this as well, but I read it as 
her forcing us to change perspective, as the kids
were forced to.  That is, I then went back and
reread and thought that maybe some of the really 
awful behavior was not from an omniscient and
neutral perspective, but was specifically
to show the reader how he was perceived by the 
kids when they hated him.>

I agree with this. Another thing that is
happening in this novel is that the Ogre comes to
understand the kids' perspective, not just the
real (magical) reasons for much of their "bad"
behaviour but the part he has played. I think he
realises his misjudgement of the boys' characters
and, crucially, the effect that he has been
having on them. I believe he felt that the boys
were purposely setting out to annoy him and upset
Sally, genuinely did not realise how terrifying
he was to them, and so overreacted at every turn.
And he has to accept that this behaviour has made
things much worse -- in particular leading to
Johnny's actions when invisible. 

Dwj points out that, like Malcolm's, the Ogre's
face doesn't seem made to show his feelings, thus
the kids are not aware of the nuances of his
reactions, they miss it when he tries to lighten
his words with humour, they don't notice when his
anger is driven by real concern. However it is
hard to forgive the Ogre for some things,
particularly hitting Malcolm. I have to say,
though, that children's books of the Ogre's era
and earlier generally had a more accepting
attitude to this kind of child abuse(!). 

Jackie continued
<She's also playing with expectations of form, in

that because it is fantasy, I expected them to
unmask his truly ogre-ish past and rid the
world of him.  But she doesn't let us have this 
fantasy conclusion (one which would possibly
appeal to a lot of preteens and teens who dearly
wish that they could get rid of their "ogrish" 

I never thought of that. I always saw it as
typical of the type of story where the kids get
hold of something magic and instead of leading to
wonderful things it just gets them into trouble
(which is probably a subversion of form in

<Instead she suddenly makes us grapple with some
real world issues, such as how blended families
have to figure out how to live together in
relative harmony, despite lingering resentment
and feelings of abandonment.>

And I thought how clever to integrate ths
"modern" type of story with a traditional form!

Julie wrote
<This seems to be a recurring pattern in her 
books- to have a 
character who seems "ogrish" at first, whom the 
hero must eventually 
learn to trust. Sometimes counterbalanced by a 
character whom the 
hero does trust at the beginning, who turns out 
to be not so nice. 
E.g. Charmed Life, tLoCC, aToTC (Dr. Wilander as 
the ogre). I can't 
think of any instances of a female 'ogre.'>

I can't think of any strong example's of female
ogretypes. There is Astrid in EDoL who initially
seems just as awful as the rest of the family
and, from Howl, Sophie's stepmother who turns out
to have been more benevolently motivatedin her
disposition of the sisters than Sophie thought.
There are also a couple of intrigueingly morally
ambiguous female characters, Querida from DLoD
and Gladys from SWM. There's something
interesting in TOG also: both parents are ogreish
but it's the Mother who finally turns up at the
hospital, even though it's the last
day of term.


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