Tuesday, February 21, 2012

N is for Netherworld

We have seen glimpses of this world before. In Heartless, Princess Una, nearly lost in her newly burning dragon-fire, makes her way to the Village of Dragons which lies in a world outside her own.

Now, in Veiled Rose, we see Rose Red take a different path, but a path that leads the same direction: Into the world of Death.

Into the Half-light Realm. The Netherworld.

Here we find the dead, cut off from the worlds of the living, but unable to rest as they wander in shadows. Rose Red herself meets several ghosts and denizens of the Netherworld as she seeks after Lady Daylily, whom the Dragon has down into the depths of his kingdom. Among them is the dreadful Wolf Lord who meets her at the Place of the Teeth.

She knew the story behind the Place of the Teeth, a secret hallow somewhere on the slopes of Bald Mountain to which no one ever ventured anymore. It was a site of sacrifice. Five stones like jagged teeth, carved from the natural rock, rose up from the smooth slab of stone, four of the teeth at the slab's corners, and one jutting from the middle. All were stained with blood, the middle one most of all. For here, in ancient days, the warlike elders had sacrificed ewe lambs to appease the Beast that was their god.
And here too it was that Maid Starflower had been bound and left under the cold light of the moon (p. 257).

This site of evil once was found in Southlands itself. But all dead and dying things are drawn to the Netherworld at last.

Nevertheless, as Rose Red discovers, not all paths through the Netherworld belong to the Dragon. Indeed, even into this place of darkness and despair, the light of the Prince of Farthestshore reaches, comforting and strengthening Rose Red.

This Path you walk is perilous, and Death waits at its end, the Prince, her Imaginary Friend, tells her. Those without hope will not survive. So please, my child, take this lantern. Take Asha in your hand and hold on to its light . . . as long as you carry Asha, no monster of this realm may harm you. It is my gift, my protection (p. 255-256).

So Rose Red passes safely from the Place of the Teeth and on through the door guarded by the ghost of the evil Dragonwitch, firstborn among dragons. She even escapes the cunning Black Dogs, those hellhounds, servants of the Dragon.

But can Rose Red remember to hold on to the Prince's gift even as she faces the Dragon himself?

Well, I'd hate to spoil that!

I had a lot of fun working with and developing the Netherworld, which we will see again in later books. Much of my inspiration for Rose Red's journey to rescue Lady Daylily came from the classic myth, Orpheus and Eurydice . . . with the added twist that Rose Red is not striving to rescue her lover but, indeed, her rival! For all her faults, I'm not convinced I would have had Rose Red's pluck in her place.


Clara said...

I must say that the conversation between Rose Red and the Wolf Lord left me chilled and curious about the dark Beast. Will we be seeing him again? Where did he come from? I know you'll probably explain his origins later, (you might have all ready, I just don't remember) but I can't wait to find our more about him!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

No worries, Clara! You're going to see the Wolf Lord and learn his story come STARFLOWER later this year . . . :)

Galadriel said...

I want more of Rose Red. Not sure what she looks like, either.

Eszter said...

The Netherworld was a little intimidating for me to read. I must admit that I was chewing my nails all throughout Rose's journey. But the characters she meets there are fascinating. I would love to hear, er, read the story behind it all.

I'm under the impression that Rose Red saved Lady Daylily because she loved Lionheart. Am I wrong there?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Nope, you're not wrong, Eszter! Rose Red is devoted to Lionheart . . . and I do believe she is in love with him as well, though she would probably DIE before admit it. But we'll have to wait for MOONBLOOD to see how that might develop . . .