All right, dear reader, I am finally getting back to finishing these posts! Just a few more to go. As I type, I have a foster kitten crawling all over me and my keyboard, so do please excuse any unusual typos.
Exactly. That was courtesy of Marbles, in case you were wondering. Anybody want to adopt a kitten from me? Please?
All right, Marbles is sent off to play with his Blue Rat with Bell, and I can try to figure out this latest post as I go.
I have decided to go with “Veil,” even though veils are nowhere near as important symbolically in Heartless as they are in Veiled Rose (go figure). But there is nothing else with a “v” that I can think of, so this will have to do!
Do you recall the scene, dear reader, where Una, in dragon form, flies to Southlands and lands in the gorge below the tablelands. There she transforms back into her human form, but this time, the transformation is incomplete. Her arm is marred by ugly dragon scales. Already, she is finding it more difficult to disguise her true nature . . . that nature which, the Dragon says, has been hiding inside of her all along.
Una begins the climb up from the gorge, which she finds difficult with her dragon fire low inside. But she is met partway and aided by the strangest, possibly the most enigmatic character in the entire story. A girl covered in veils. Una, rather harshly (for there is little of the princess left in her at this time), demands to know who the girl is.
The only response she gets is, “I’m nobody.”
I love the comparison created between the two characters here, the one character known, the other a mystery. Una is slowly losing the veil she has worn all her life—veils of naïveté and thoughtlessness—and revealing who she is underneath. Though she wishes to hide the truth by shoving her disfigured arm beneath the tatters of her gown, she cannot conceal it in the end.
The stranger, meanwhile, in an effort to reach out in help, strips the glove off her hand and displays her disfigurement. “Please, m’lady,” she says to Una, “I am not one to judge you. Will you look?”
How different from Una is this girl! Una would give anything to hide her shame . . . but this stranger, in an effort to reach out in help, is willing to humiliate herself. She is willing to let her weakness show if it will make the difference to Una.
And it does. When Una sees how ugly, with hard skin and claw-tipped fingers, the hand of the other girl is, she allows herself to be helped. If she thought this stranger were perfect, were beautiful, her own pride would have prevented her from accepting aid, though she desperately needed it.
What an example this is to all of us. How often do we hide behind veils? We put on displays of ideal marriages, sweet friendships, uncluttered lives, always afraid that the truth might show. How could we bear for people to know that we fight with our spouses, that we gossip about our friends, that we struggle with sin on a daily basis? The world expects perfection, and we would rather die, smothered beneath those veils, than show the truth of our inner lives.
We are selfish creatures. Our pride will carry us so far, but it will always prevent real connections. Our focus on ourselves and how we must appear to others will always stand in the way of true intimacy. Opportunities for service will be lost the longer we pretend that we can get by on our own goodness, the longer we insist on our own perfections.
What a difference it would make if I were willing to strip off my glove and let my neighbor see that we are, indeed, very alike. I struggle with the same sins. I am, at heart, just as foul. But in my weakness, God may be strong. In my humility, God may pour out His grace.
“I'm nobody,” says the veiled girl. So great is her humility. She does not matter in this moment. She does not care what perspective Una might have of her . . . what she cares about is Una herself. Even though she sees what Una is, she sees the deformed dragon arm, she does not turn from helping. She does not turn from offering grace, no matter how ungracious Una is in return.
I like the continued parallels and contrasts between these two that aren’t so readily apparent. For instance, as the story progresses, Una loses her name.
“Have you a name?” asks the yellow-eyed dragon.
“No,” she answers.
“Neither have I.”
Like the veiled girl at the gorge, they have no names. But unlike her, they have lost theirs. They have consumed themselves in their self-obsession. She simply refuses to make herself of first importance.
The veiled girl at the gorge has such a tiny moment in Heartless that I often wondered if I should remove it altogether. It seems so very incongruous, yet another plot thread apparently winding to nowhere. But bear with me, dear reader! Continue with my series, and see how these threads will ultimately come together in a pattern by the end. For she will return, and she will have a name, yes, and an important role to play in the greater context of this tale.
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18