fire and hemlock people

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Sun Aug 21 07:23:28 EDT 2005

Melissa replying to Deborah:

>I don't know about others who aren't fond of it--not being one--but it
>strikes me that whatever it is might be determined by looking at some of the
>other facets of your favorites as well.  I like _Archer's Goon_ for more or
>less the same reason you do; does that mean that what I like about it is my
>primary reason for liking anything?  Maybe what you should be considering is
>something lower down the taxonomic tree, like character interaction.  I'm
>not entirely sure why I like _F&H_ myself.  Every reason I've come up with
>turns out to be not true...or at least, not Truth.

I like Archer's Goon a lot, but I love Fire and Hemlock, Deep Secret 
and Howl (in that order.  I think.  Today.), and have been trying to 
figure out something about these responses, after Deborah's query. 
And I think Melissa's point about character interaction explains some 
of the complicated layers of reasons for the degree to which I love 
these.  Basically I'm ready to love any book which draws on myth 
and/or fairy tale in ways which work for me, which all three of these 
do.  But there are only a few myths or fairy tales which contain a 
romantic relationship which I like *for* that relationship, and what 
makes F&H and DS work so well is the way their interweaving of a lot 
of different stories allows the romantic relationship to grow into 
something that feels emotionally right.

So, Tam Lin is a wonderful story for Janet and her courage and 
honesty and willingness to take responsibility for her actions and do 
what she can to achieve happiness for herself and Tam - but as a 
relationship story? Yuck.  Polly's and Tom's story on the other hand, 
retains the elements I love, yet also has shared friendship and 
compatibility of interests, among other things, totally lacking in 
Tam Lin.  Other elements of the Tam Lin story are dispensed with 
totally, which also works.  (This is without even beginning to look 
at the Odyssey and East of the Sun, West of the Moon, The Snow Queen 
and all the many other rich joys of F&H!)  In Deep Secret, there are 
elements of the Beauty and the Beast story (among others) - but so 
changed in some respects, and again interwoven with many other 
wondrous things  - that the relationship between Rupert and Maree at 
the end feels entirely right.*  In Howl,  the relationship could 
arguably be said to be directly taken from fairy tale, if not 
necessarily a specific one, and I don't find that romance all that 
convincing.  But like _Northanger Abbey_, with which it shares a lot, 
I think, it has tons of humour and riffs on a variety of other 
literary forms, and a core story of a heroine learning to read the 
world around her, which is much more significant to me than the 
romantic relationship.

Archer's Goon has humour and myth and all kinds of fun, but the core 
relationships seem mostly (to over-simplify horribly) to have to do 
with power struggles, and that isn't something that appeals enough 
for it to rank in my very top-level favourites.

* Cue for my expressing my inability to accept the Beauty and the 
Beast relationship played straight in McKinley's _Beauty_, which I 
have successfully resisted!


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