[DWJ] Fire and Hemlock: so many questions

rohina rohinax at gmail.com
Tue Nov 26 20:55:31 EST 2013


I just put Fire and Hemlock on my class reading list for next semester, so
I am very interested in seeing more discussion. I also recently read DWJ's
essay about it, which was absolutely brilliant, and confirmed my love for
F&H as my favourite.


On Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 4:04 PM, Elizabeth Evans <er.evans at auckland.ac.nz>wrote:

> It's ages since I last read Fire and Hemlock, but these thought-provoking
> questions are making me think it's time for a re-read.
> Thanks very much, Roberta and Dorian.
> Regards
> Elizabeth
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net] On Behalf
> Of Dorian E. Gray
> Sent: Wednesday, 27 November 2013 9:57 a.m.
> To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion
> Subject: Re: [DWJ] Fire and Hemlock: so many questions
>
> Roberta said...
>
> - Is Seb actually attracted to Polly, or is this all part of his and his
> > father's plan?
> >
>
> I always had the impression that Seb really does fancy Polly himself, but
> doesn't really know how to express/deal with that, because of everything
> else that's going on there.
>
> - When Polly tries to read the fairy stories Tom gave her, she is disgusted
> > by the heroine of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," and fails to find
> > the one true fact Tom assured her would be there. On reading the little
> > summary of the story and Polly's reaction to it, I was struck by how
> close
> > it is to Polly's eventual transgression that leads to her losing her
> > memories: "The girl had only herself to blame for her troubles. She was
> > told not to do a thing and she did." It feels to me that Tom is trying to
> > indirectly give her the tools she needs to protect herself and him, but
> she
> > fails to notice this one--because she's too young? too arrogant?
> >
>
> Absolutely, that's what Tom's trying to do.  And it does work; the stories
> he sends her, that she reads at an impressionable age, remind her that
> magic - "Nowhere" - is real, and I think she remembers that subconsciously
> even when Laurel gets her to forget.  And she keeps all the books and is
> able to find the information she needs when it comes down to brass tacks.
>
> In the case of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", I think she
> dismisses it out of, as you say, arrogance - she's at the stage where she
> thinks she's too old for fairy-tales, so she reads it with prejudice to
> begin with, and then seizes the first excuse to dismiss the heroine and the
> story.
>
> - Is there any significance to the fact that Polly initially mistakes
> > Laurel for Nina?
> >
>
> A veiled reference to fairy glamour, maybe?  I hadn't thought of that
> before.
>
> >
> > - What draws Tom to Polly to begin with? Why does he take an interest in
> > her at the Will reading? Is he already hoping that she will become his
> > savior, or does he really just want to save her from boredom and give
> > himself an excuse to stay outside? Just how much does he plan out her
> > eventual rescue of him? Is he really making a concerted plan?
> >
>
> Hard to say.  He obviously wants an excuse to get out of the will-reading,
> and a bored child will do well enough.  I suspect he probably likes and
> gets on with children in general anyway.  Then Polly, a normal child with a
> normal imaginative life, probably seems a wonderful antidote to Laurel and
> all her works - don't forget that at this stage he has only just won
> (mundanely) free of her.  I'd think he'd be a bit premature to think of her
> as possibly his non-mundane saviour at this early stage...I'm not sure how
> much he even knows at this stage about what he'll need or that he'll need
> anything non-mundane.
>
> - In the big denouement, Polly ultimately does the opposite of Janet in the
> > poem--she pushes Tom away instead of clinging to him. But in reading the
> > chapter epigraphs I realized that all the intervening years she was
> holding
> > onto him, rather than in just a moment at the end. Instead of Tom
> changing
> > into a serpent or a snake in her arms, she has to deal with Leroy's
> malice.
> >
>
> And by holding on to him all those years, she enables him to become himself
> - she's the one who encourages him to form the quartet, and finds the right
> people in the picture, don't forget.  So maybe by holding on to him in that
> way, she gives him what he needs to save himself without her help, at the
> end.  Morton has no self, really, and that could be what dooms him.
>
> - In the scene at the fair, why does Seb try to lure Polly into the Tunnel
> > of Love? Does he think he can kill her more tidily there, or is he trying
> > to protect her from his father's plan? Why is he arguing with his father
> > afterwards?
> >
>
> I think he's trying to get her away from Tom and what's about to happen to
> him, because, as I said above, I think Seb really does, in his stunted and
> disastrous way, care about Polly, and he doesn't want her to get hurt too.
>  He probably also has hopes that if Tom is injured or killed, maybe he can
> get Polly to forget about him.
>
> - Is Seb an ordinary person who is actually four years older than Polly? If
> > Leroy Sr. hadn't gone tumbling into the abyss, would Seb have lived out
> his
> > life and died in the usual way?
> >
>
> I think so.  Unless, of course, Laurel found some other use for him.
>
> Hm, I think it's time I reread F&H - it's been nearly a year!
>
> Until the sky falls on our heads...
>
> Dorian.
> --
> dorianegray at gmail.com
>
> "The Imperial Service could win a war without coffee, but would prefer not
> to have to."
> -- Lois McMaster
> Bujold<http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16094.Lois_McMaster_Bujold>,
> * Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
> <http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/18158616>*
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