Fire and Hemlock again (LONG, and With Spoilers!)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Mon May 24 16:53:15 EDT 2004


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>>> spoiler space...
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>> Not sure that that's the only reason why Laurel's annoyed, or that it's
>> the one thing that breaks the contract.  Part of it is surely just that
>> Laurel's the queen of the roost - she doesn't want *any* signs of
>> initiative from her underlings.  (With some reason, admittedly, as 
>> Leroy
>> messes things up for her so by trying to kill Tom!)
> Okay, you're probably right there.  *One* of the reasons she's annoyed.
> But...if Laurel had not been forced into a position where she was no 
> longer
> leaving Polly alone, would/could Polly have remembered Tom?  What else 
> might
> have broken that particular contract?  Would *just* the book have done 
> it?
> I'm personally inclined to think not, though of course it's pretty much
> impossible to say for sure.

This is interesting - made me re-think the contract!  I agree that it 
was important that Polly never said she'd give Tom up, and it makes 
Laurel seem - almost incompetent.  Except for the fact that they thought 
they'd got at everyone around Polly who would also remember Tom, 
(leaving the Fiona loop-hole), so didn't need the contract to be that 
water-tight.  And of course the way Laurel wangled the contract out of 
Polly rather precluded an exact spelling-out of the terms, didn't it?

Also I think it's relevant that part of the way Laurel gets at Polly 
causes her to reject the world of the imagination ('She had thought 
there was something supernatural - but how stupid and babyish!  There 
was no such thing.').  Perhaps it would have been more than enough for 
most people, but Laurel underestimated the strength and reality of that 
world to Polly and Tom.

BTW, do you remember where it says that Laurel agreed to 'leave Polly 
alone'?  I only came across the bargain 'not to harm you'.  (But this 
wasn't a full reread by any means!)

>> Not so sure about the giving of the soul bit - can you convince me?
> Hm.  This is, to be honest, a bit gut-feeling-ish.
> But...well, first of all there's the bit where Polly decides (and Tom
> agrees) that the heroes are on a quest for the Obah Cypt.  But neither 
> of
> them knows what it is.
> Then there's Tom's two stories in the anthology, both about the Obah 
> Cypt -
> in one, the Obah Cypt keeps turning up in odd places and getting its 
> owner
> in trouble until the Queen orders it burned (and now that I think of it,
> that may be a reference to Laurel and the tithe to hell).  In the other,
> it's an evil thing, but no-one ever sees it or knows what it is.  It's 
> a bit
> tenuous, I admit, but much of those descriptions could be applied to a 
> soul.
> Then there's the fact that whatever about the other pictures that Tom 
> got
> that he shouldn't have, Laurel never takes the Fire & Hemlock picture 
> back -
> as Granny says, "it must have been his to give, and he gave it you".  
> And
> then Polly opens the back of the picture to find the bit of Tom's hair, 
> and
> she recognises it as the Obah Cypt.  And Polly's gift, don't forget, is
> knowing things.

This part confuses me - if his soul were in the picture, and if Laurel 
had got him by being given the picture, then why would she still own him 
after Tom gave the picture to Polly, as it was his to give?
> I do think that that picture - the Obah Cypt - does somehow hold Tom's 
> soul,
> but I admit the textual evidence I've just provided is sort of slim.  
> (Two
> more even smaller bits - when they're first trying to decide what an 
> Obah
> Cypt is, they suggest that it may be a receptacle for something
> exceptionally valuable; and Polly thinks when reading Tom's stories in 
> the
> anthology that he seems to have become obsessed with the Obah Cypt.)  
> You
> could, I'll grant, take all those bits and come up with a completely
> different interpretation of what the picture/Obah Cypt is.  But I think 
> it's
> some important part - perhaps the most important part - of Tom's self, 
> and
> "soul" seems to me to be the best word for it.

It's probably just the terminology that makes me squidgy about this - 
saying someone can't even call his/her soul his/her own is so horrible, 
and it's right for Laurel owning him, but freaks me out if it's been 
passed on to Polly!  I'll have to try to keep this in the front of my 
head for the next reread.

> Well, yes, she does.  And she says that "Morton needs a strong life".  
> And I
> do think that this is a minor reason and it should probably have gone 
> at the
> bottom of the list.  But Tom isn't Laurel's only choice, just her best 
> one.
> She *can* make do with someone else.  And I also see her as a
> dog-in-the-manger type.  If *she* can't have Tom, no-one else is going 
> to
> get any good out of him, including himself.

Oh, I agree with the last part, I just think she'll be good and sure 
she's no hope of winning before she even thinks about settling for 
second best!
>>> And this one, I think is the killer.  On this one, I think I was dead
>>> in the
>>> black.  Tom, due probably to all that Laurel influence in his early
>>> years,
>>> has never really got the idea that he can do things on his own.
>>> Throughout
>>> the book, he does things with Polly's help - he doesn't even start the
>>> quartet without consulting her, and after that, he sticks quite 
>>> closely
>>> to
>>> the other members of the quartet.  Even when the final showdown 
>>> starts,
>>> he
>>> consults Polly and the rest of the quartet.  He really doesn't ever
>>> seem to
>>> have relied upon himself.  Until, at the point when it counts like it
>>> never
>>> did before, he's forced to.
>> Well, except for getting away from Laurel, which was huge, surely?  In
>> fact, it says it in the end - the horse was 'all the wild strength he
>> had summoned up to get loose from Laurel.'  I'm not sure I think this 
>> is
>> just dissmissable as irrelevant quite so readily.
> Ye-es.  But getting free from Laurel the first time was not as big a 
> thing
> as this.  It *didn't* count as much, first because at that time I don't
> think he knew what he would be ultimately in for, and second because I 
> don't
> think he knew that Laurel's men never get entirely free (look at Thomas 
> the
> Rhymer).  It would have felt to him less important than this situation,
> because his soul wasn't (as far as he knew) then on the line, and it 
> would
> have been easier for him to do, because Laurel knew then that she could 
> reel
> him back in later.  I think.

I think this is all the reasons I'd have said the first time was much 
harder!  :)  First just because it was the first time he was doing 
anything like that, second because he knew Laurel less well (and there 
must have been, at first, a lot of guilt about her taking care of him), 
and third because the situation didn't seem quite as drastic.  Look at 
poor Polly's first attempt at the hero business - 'crouching on the 
pavement screaming "Mr Lynn! Mr Lynn!  Help!''

> And as I said further on, I suspect it was his
> music that gave him the impetus first time around to tear away from 
> Laurel.

Yes, but she'd have welcomed his musical talent, as long as he hadn't 
gone professional, surely, so he still had to be determined to break 
free of her.  I think that doesn't detract from his heroic achievement 
and its being really his.

>> But
>> ringing all kinds of Maree bells now - with her being the tough little
>> fighter who is SO selfless when push comes to shove, that she ends up
>> costing someone else a huge desire.  Not that it doesn't make for a
>> better story. :)
> I'll save that one for a different discussion. :-)

Ok, any time you want!  ;)
>>> But Tom did not renounce Polly, and has no wish to.  And
>>> by
>>> setting him free, Polly has granted him free choice, and he chooses 
>>> her.
>>> And Laurel, I think, can't do anything about it because their seeing 
>>> one
>>> another now has less to do with Polly's choice than it has to do with
>>> Tom's.
>> Oh, but that would have been too simple - Tom *always* wanted to be 
>> with
>> Polly - I don't think Polly could have evaded Laurel's rules just by
>> having Tom choose.
> No, no, I wasn't saying that it was only now that Tom decided he wanted 
> to
> be with Polly - though I do hope he wasn't thinking in terms of romantic
> relationships when she was younger!  But one way or another, he *has* 
> always
> loved her and I wasn't saying otherwise.  Just that now, he can finally 
> make
> a truly free choice, and he makes the choice he's always wanted to make.

What about his previous renunciation of her - after Granny tells him 
off?  I didn't think you were saying he hadn't always loved her (enough 
negatives in there, you think?) btw, just that his choice being free 
still seems insufficient to be the different factor which resolves 
things.  And also, now that I think of it, it's not until *after* the 
contest that he says he's finally free to ask her if they can be 

> Just as Polly loves Tom, and always has.  But she has already repudiated
> him - or apparently so; as I said, there's more than one meaning 
> behind "I
> never want to see you again".  So whether or not they now get to be 
> together
> is down to his choice.  Polly may well live in fear for the rest of her
> life, that Laurel will somehow get Tom back, in fact.

Noooo!  What a horrible thought!  But she doesn't make more than one 
bargain, right?  So she's surely held by that as much as she holds 
others - though just to be safe they'd better keep track of any photos 
he takes.

Just to second what you said earlier - there aren't that many books 
which warrant quite *this* number of discussions and reconsiderings, 
often by some of the same people!


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