Thursday, March 8, 2012

R is for Rose Red

One of my favorite characters, Rose Red was loosely inspired by a girl I know (who shall remain nameless), a lovely girl with some seriously physical deformities who never let those deformities define her. The more I got to know this young woman, the more I thought, "Now she is a true heroine!"

And so I began to develop the initial ideas for Rose Red, the veiled, outcast goat girl.

While Rose Red is a straightforward personality--a spunky child with a lively imagination and a keen sense of fun--mystery haunts her footsteps. From the first moment we meet her, we are caught by that mystery ourselves. Such a strange creature she seems, swathed in veils, unseen, unknown, unfathomed! And Rose Red herself scarcely knows who she is.

All she has are the hints the Dragon breathes into her dreams.

 "Tell me, my princess. Why should we have secrets from each other?"
"You knows that you hadn't ought to call me 'princess,' don't you?" she says.
"That is what you are," speaks the one in the pool.
"That's a silly game from when I was a bit of a girl! I'm grown up now. I'm nearly ten! I don't need to play games no more. No pretend."
The one in the pool looks upon her with narrowing eyes. Then he says, "You will always be a princess to me." (p. 50)

We get a few more hints as to Rose Red's background as the story progresses. When she is lost in the depths of the Netherworld and encounters the dragons of the Village, she hears one dragon address the Father of Dragons, saying, "Is this not one of the Veiled Folk? Is she not Vahe's lost one?"
"Indeed," the Dragon purred.
"Does he know you have her?"
"Do you think he would have tried nothing by now if he knew?"
The ruby-clothed woman laughed. There was fire in her mouth. "He hasn't long until the Night of Moonblood. He must be anxious." (p. 319)

Oh, boy! Such more foreshadowing of things to come! But I really shouldn't get into that just now.

Princess or not, Rose Red is definitely an outcast. The village of Torfoot lower down the mountain sees her as some sort of local monster. In the real world, only the old man she calls father and her goat, Beana, speak to her. Otherwise, all she has are dreams and imaginary friends . . . until Leo finds her.

In Leo, Rose Red meets her first true friend. And see how childhood obscures complexities like social standing and outward appearance, allowing children to interact naturally. Leo does not have to worry about being Prince Lionheart with her. Rose Red does not have to worry about being a social reject with him. They simply are who they are with each other.

And they form a bond far more deep than either has ever known. A bond that leads Rose Red to defy the Dragon's wishes and follow Leo to the lowlands . . . with disastrous consequences.

Like all of my characters, Rose Red is a little piece of me. I really relate to her stubborn determination to do the right thing . . . but to do it entirely on her own strength. Though Beana offers her counsel, and though her Imaginary Friend lends her aid, Rose Red wants to manage her own life in her own way. And who can blame her? This poor rejected young woman must feel desperate to seize control any way she can!

But she cannot face the Dragon in her own strength. She will have to humble herself and call on a higher power if she hopes to survive. Sometimes that moment of falling to one's knees can be the most painful of all! That moment of admitting that my strength has run out and my ability to cope has ended.

But it is in humility that true strength may flourish.

Some have expressed interest in knowing how Rose Red came to be named Rose Red. Especially since the name is taken from the Grimm fairy tale, Snow White and Rose Red, and yet the story is dissimilar. It may interest my readers to know that I did not choose the name "Rose Red" as a reference to the classic story.

My Rose Red's real name is Varvare, as is hinted in the novel (and overtly stated in the prologue for Moonblood). When I was first developing the character, Varvare was the name I called her. But she needed to have a more "Southlands" appropriate name while living as the veiled goat-girl up in the mountains. Varvare is a name derived from the Armenian word "vard," which is "rose." "Rose Red" is a close translation of the name "Varvare," worked well as a Southlands name, and carried a strong fairy tale connotation. Thus it was chosen.

Roses, as you will soon discover, play a big role in the upcoming novel, Moonblood. We've already seen hints of this (both Heartless and Veiled Rose reference the lack of roses in the mortal world), and we will see that storyline developed.

I particularly like how the name in and of itself creates a link between my work and old fairy tales. The story Snow White and Rose Red includes a man enchanted into bear form. Men and women taking animal shapes is a recurring theme in the Goldstone Wood stories, and I enjoy having a subtle nod to the classic tales that inspired those ideas. Part of the fun of writing, for me, is making these "literary nods," so to speak. A reader with a quick eye might catch references to classic fairy tales, to Shakespeare, to Robert Browning, to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to Edmund Spenser, to George MacDonald, and so many more! It's part of how I like to connect myself to the writers of the past.


Rachel6 said...

I'm about halfway through "Veiled Rose" right now; and while I certainly enjoy your mysterious heroine (I just got to the part where she goes into the Dragon's Cave to rescue her lady!!), I really enjoy the new look at Lionheart.
By the end of "Heartless", I kind of despised him. By the halfway point of "Veiled Rose", you've redeemed him in my eyes.
Are you a Christian?? You've got to be; I'm picking up on gentle theological hints throughout your book! The central romance in Heartless just blew me away completely!

Christa said...

I'd forgotten Heartless made a reference to no roses in the Near World. I need to start rereading it again. =P

Clara said...

I'm with Christa; I'd completely forgotten about the reference to the roses! And I just reread it!!! Now I need to rereread it...:)

Eszter said...

I remembered the reference to the roses and to Rose Red from Heartless. She was the reason Prince Aethelbald first left Parumvir, right? To rescue her? Even then, before I "met" Rose, I remember thinking that that person must be pretty important for Prince Aethelbald to leave Princess Una.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Eszter: Yup, Rose Red was the reason Aethelbald left Parumvir. Good spot! The stories are far more intricately connected than a first reading reveals . . . and as you read more books in the series, you will see EVEN MORE connections! :)

Eszter said...

I can hardly wait to read them. The suspense is killing me! :D

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Rachel6: Oops! Just realized I hadn't answered your question yet. . . Yes, I am a Christian! I'm glad you picked up on the allegorical themes. I hope my stories will continue to bless you! :)

Galadriel said...

Now I want to reread Heartless...