Tuesday, February 14, 2012

L is for the Lady Life-in-Death

Well, Klahan is more than a little pleased at the response to his post! I don't think he ever expected to be quite that popular, and it is most gratifying even to a nine-year-old emperor.

Now we'll see if our L feature can generate as much interest. Not as much popularity, I'm sure, but interest, maybe . . .

The Lady of Dreams Realized. The Life-in-Death. The Dragon's sister.

Personally, I find her much more terrifying than her fire-breathing brother. She is the more insidious of these two terrifying entities, creatures living beyond time in realms of their own dominion.

. . . he crosses into the world where dreams come true. There they ceased to be dreams and dissolve into nothingness. No color exists in this land, only shades. Even nightmares dare not venture past its borders for fear of losing themselves. It is a solitary world, wherein only one being can dwell.
She is the Lady of Dreams Realized.
The Lady Life-in-Death.

Where the Dragon himself is all fire and destruction, the ruination of all hopes and dreams, the Lady is their fulfillment. She gives to mortal man what he believes he desires. And in so doing, she destroys him. Far from being the opposite of her brother, she is rather his completion. Though seemingly at odds, playing with dice for the souls of mortals and Faerie folk alike, this brother and sister are two sides of the same coin.

"All yours must come to me," says the Dragon. And this is true. For all to whom the Lady grants dreams are granted also their ultimate death.

In Veiled Rose we see her mostly in a woman's shape, white hair, black skin, and eyes filled to the brim with emptiness. The opposite of her brother, with his skeletal face, black hair, and fire-filled eyes. But while her brothers also takes the form of the Dragon, we don't see the Lady of Dreams Realized assume another guise. Perhaps she has one that we haven't seen, however. Perhaps a shape more deadly even than that of her dreadful brother . . .

But we will have to wait to learn more about that! In the meanwhile, we watch her seduce Lionheart into the realm of dreams come true; we watch her manipulate his all-too eager heart into a place of self-justified cowardice. For the sake of his dream, he is willing to give up everything, even his honor. And this, I believe, is a worse fate even than that which met Princess Una at the hands of the Dragon.

The Lady Life-in-Death was initially inspired (as I have stated elsewhere) by a moment in Samuel Taylor Colleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Though I have posted them before, I will again share with you those epic lines:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that Woman’s mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.
In the scene that follows, we see Death and Life-in-Death playing dice for the soul of the titular Ancient Mariner. Life-in-Death wins, so the Mariner lives  . . . or rather, he dies in living form. He is given his desire, to live, and in that, he enters true hell. It is a chilling poem, and that moment with Life-and-Death is the most chilling of all.
Perhaps Collerige himself was inspired for this awesome image by a passage in St. Augustine's Confessions.
"For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this life-in-death. Or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know. And yet the consolations of thy mercy have sustained me from the very beginning . . ." (Chapter VI)


Anonymous said...

Yes i do think that the lady life in death is MUCH more creepy than the dreagon oooo! She gives me shivers

Jenny Freitag said...

I was getting ready to reply to this when my tea-timer went off, and I knocked over a water-glass, and only now, after all that havoc has been taken care of, can I reply properly.

I do realize that Lady Life-in-Death was inspired by someone else. Most of our brilliant notions do seem to be inspired by other people and not wholly of our own creation. All the same, I am blown away by your ingenious duality of death - not that either death is more or less death than the other, but your split shows aspects of death I never quite saw before. How insidious! how dreadful! how brilliant!

I was just asked by my friend via letter if I had read Augustine's Confessions, (due to a remark I had made, she was sure I had) but I haven't. Now you come advancing on me with an excerpt from it, and there is a very suspicious convergence of coincidence here...

Well, whoever started the imagery of life-in-death or death-in-life, or brought the states to consciousness in the human mind, your use of it was brilliant. A part of me is jealous. A larger part of me lifts my tea-mug to you.

Galadriel said...

I suspected that when I read Veiled Rose, but wasn't sure. My class had been discussing the Rime, and I'm sure we discussed who was less lucky--the Mariner who lived or his friends who died. From a literary standpoint, she was quite interesting as a foil, because at first you think she's good, but it becomes clear she isn't.

Eszter said...

I've never read Rime of the Ancient Mariner, so meeting Lady of Dreams Realized/Life-in-Death was a little intimidating.

I would fear her more than I would fear her brother-mostly because we know so little about her. Its the hidden mysteries of people that can make them dangerous, yes?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Jenny: Hahah, I know how those days go! And with multiple kitties around, that usually serves to magnify each mini-disaster . . .

I'm glad you enjoyed the dichotomy of Death in my story. I'd been working with various ideas for it since before reading Ancient Mariner, inspired by somethings I'd read in Norse Mythology, but none of those ideas took me anywhere. It wasn't until RIME that I really felt inspired to take it that direction. And then, reading Augustine was icing on the cake! I do recommend him, especially in small doses for part of a medetitive quiet time. Not a book I particularly like to sit down and read in large chunks, but full of beautiful thoughts and holy truths.

Thanks for the tea-mug lift! I am honored. :)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Galadriel: That's cool that you were studying the RIME! I hope you will find such studies inspiring for your own writing. :)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Eszter: I heartily agree. The Dragon, while dreadful, is a known dread at least. Who knows what, when, where, or why about the Lady Life-in-Death?