Introduction and then to Fire & Hemlock (now with vague spoilers for lots of books)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Thu Sep 16 06:12:07 EDT 2004


>I've been lurking in an odd way, reading the digests from the very beginning
>as well as the current ones - well, the beginning of what's online, that is:
>did you start before 1999? I'm a little peeved to have missed the start, DWJ
>having been my very favourite author for many years now. I'm a great fan of
>buying secondhand, and she's the only person I buy new, *and in hardback

Nice to have you here!  Or nice to have you delurking - not sure how 
long you've been reading those digests. ;)

>A lot of people seem to share my frustration that what should feel like a
>happy ending doesn't, and I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

I'm not one of them, but your post got me thinking about this a bit 
more - both why I love the ending and how it compares to other DWJs. 
I think the reason it seems so perfect to me - happy enough to be 
satisfying without being unduly wrapped up - is that it fits in so 
well with what Polly thinks about Nowhere when the Quartet is playing 
at the end: 'the void that lay before you when you were making up 
something new out of ideas no one else had quite had before.'  It's 
not as cozy or comfortable as settling for whatever's easiest, but it 
offers a hell of a lot more.  And so the fact that they only won 
Tom's life, and have no guarantee of a 'happy ever after' ending 
seems both right and hopeful.

I tried thinking about other endings, and realised I'd have to narrow 
it down to the 'for older readers books' for the moment at least! 
Hexwood for me has at least as much of a sting in the happy ending 
tail - although there are the funny moments, what lingers (again, 
this is just personal) is the chill of Vierran's statement that 
Mordion was hurting and always would be.  Deep Secret seems more 
definitely happy for Rupert and Maree, but then that's somewhat 
modified by the switch to Nick and the realisation of what he's had 
to give up to save Maree and no guarantee he will find a way to get 
it.  Time of the Ghost - definitely less happy ending, IMO!  Dark 
Lord I just don't know -  I really can't evaluate it properly as I 
always get a bit squidged out by the whole breeding children part.

>Polly and Tom have managed is to save Tom. They forgot to do anything about
>Leslie (doesn't Polly kick herself for not telling Nina, at least?), and
>they didn't manage to do much damage to Laurel beyond the temporary

Polly does say that, although I think Tom's tried to do everything he 
could about Leslie (he brushes it all off as the bitterness of an 
ex!), but I always wonder if Polly wasn't rather overestimating her 
own ability to solve things there.  It's pretty clear that Nina has 
trouble trying to hang on to Leslie when it's only a 'normal' female 
she's competing with, and seems unlikely to have had any kind of 
chance against Laurel.

>And outten spoke the Queen of Elfenland
>From the bush wherein she stood
>"I should have tore out your eyes Tam Lin
>And put in two eyes of wood, of wood
>Put in two eyes of wood."
>It's a harsh, shocking ending that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
>Perhaps it's meant to remind you that, well, they've been lucky this time
>but the threat is always there.

In our house 'had I only known' comments always tend to become 'had I 
but known', with (spoken or unspoken) 'Tam Lin, Tam Lin' following. 

>But it struck me that this is exactly what happens in F&H. Tom and Polly win
>his freedom, and Laurel disappears with some last nasty comment, and then -
>going one step further than the ballad - they're left there, bruised and
>dripping, trying to puzzle it out and work out whether they really *have*

Well, I agree they're bruised and dripping, but I think of the Coda 
rather as their having the imagination to outthink Laurel's rules and 
bindings, so I see it as their having won twice over.

>Well, that's quite enough for a newbie, I think. Does anyone think there's
>anything in this?

Oh goodness 'no' to the first and 'yes' to the second!

Hallie (*always* up for more discussion of Fire and Hemlock!)
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list