Monday, August 8, 2011

Question #1

All right, dear readers, today I begin my question-answer series! The first question is from my #1 facebook fan, Laura, and it’s a good one! Here it is:

In Veiled Rose, Rosie takes the path in the Netherworld/Near World to find Daylily. How were you inspired or motivated to write that section of the book? Also does that scene symbolize something in real life for people today?


For those of you who have not yet read Veiled Rose, you might want to skip this post until you have . . . wouldn’t want to ruin climactic moments for you!

My Answer:

The scene of Rose Red pursuing the path into the Netherworld to find Daylily is a loose retelling of the classic Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice. A very loose retelling, and with a significant twist.

In the original story, Orpheus descends into Hades, the realm of Death, to seek his lost wife, Eurydice. He risks his life in Death’s own realm for the sake of the one he loves . . . and, tragically, fails and loses her. They are not reunited until he dies. A beautiful and sad story.

But my Rose Red walks the long path to Death’s Realm seeking after, not her true love, but the girl who has (Rosie believes) captured the heart of her true love. If she rescues Daylily, she loses Lionheart once and for all.

Not that she ever believed she had a real chance with him. He is a prince! She is a lowly chambermaid who dares not show her face in public. But we see in the scene of the Dragon’s Ball that she does cherish secret feelings for the prince. The Dragon shows her a vision of him in which he tells her that she is beautiful and that he longs for her kiss. Rose Red, realizing this is false, refuses and breaks the illusion . . . but not before she reveals to the Dragon her hopeless love. Which, of course, the Dragon (sweet guy that he is) uses to manipulate her as the scene progresses.

You see the sad difference in the stories here. Poor Rosie is desperate to rescue Daylily from Death’s clutches. If she succeeds, she loses her prince to a lady she knows does not truly love him. But if she fails, she will live forever with the guilt . . . always wondering if she allowed her personal feelings to interfere with her duty to Lady Daylily, whom she has sworn to serve. And ultimately, Daylily has done her no harm. She has every right to marry Lionheart, and Rose Red has no claims on his affections. So she walks into the Netherworld, determined to accomplish a task that will mean the death of her own dream.

Rose Red’s journey is distinct from Orpheus’s in most ways, but there are some definite similarities as well. Orpheus faces dreadful Cerberus, the three-headed dog, at the gates of Hades. Rose Red must pass through the hideous Black Dogs on her way to the Dark Water. Just as Orpheus paid Charon the ferryman to cross the River Styx, so Rosie pays the Wolf Lord with her glove before she is permitted to go along her way.

These themes are meant to be reminiscent of the Greek myth, but not direct retellings. To me, they create a sense of authenticity in this world and mythology I am creating because they allude to aspects of our own history, of mythologies that are so ingrained in our Western culture that most of us can’t even remember when we first heard them. The Wolf Lord, the Dragonwitch, and the Black Dogs are all figures of Southlands’ lore, instantly recognizable to Rose Red and therefore so much more terrible. She would have been frightened by any monsters along the way . . . but because she knows who they are, she knows what they have done, she is that much more afraid, even though she knows that the Wolf Lord and the Dragonwitch, at least, are merely ghosts.

So that was the source of inspiration for that section! As to the second part of your question . . .

Rosie believes that she is walking Death’s path. She feels hopeless and cannot see how this can possibly turn out right. Even if she succeeds and brings Daylily back, her heart will be broken. Everything is dark in her sight, everything is hopeless.

But then the Prince appears. He gives her Asha Lantern, full of the light of pure hope. And he tells her that, despite what she sees, she is not walking Death’s path but indeed the Prince’s path! Though she “walks through the valley of the shadow of death,” she need fear no evil. He is with her and he is guiding her.

This is an important lesson that I need to be reminded of on a daily basis. How often, when life gets difficult, when my heart is broken, when the future looks bleak, do I forget that ultimately my life is in God’s hands? That He is the one in control. That He has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him. From our human perspective, we may not be able to understand. And perhaps we will never know in this life how our disappoints and heartbreak work into the bigger story God is writing.

Sometimes we are blessed with that new perspective . . . sometimes we are given insight and can look back on the Valley of the Shadow and see how God worked powerfully for our good and the good of those around us. But not always. Does this mean that God is not loving? That He is not good? Certainly not! It only means that we are too small and self-focused to understand.

That is the message I am trying to put across in Rose Red’s journey. What looks hopeless and evil to her is not beyond the Prince’s control. So he gives her Asha. Even as she walks through the dark places, he will let no evil harm her as long as she holds onto that light, that hope. Though the Dragon may tell her that she is walking Death’s path, the Prince sings the truth to her heart . . . this path is his. This is the way he would have her walk. She must accomplish what she came for in his strength, deliver Daylily, and trust him with the results.

As he tells her later, just because her battle is won does not mean her war is over. And this is so true, as Rosie swiftly discovers. She rescues Lady Daylily and stands up to the Dragon . . . but scarcely has she returned to the Near World before she is being chased and pursued as a monster by those she served so loyally. Sometimes the paths of the Prince are bitter. But she is beginning to learn his true character. She is beginning to trust that he does have a greater purpose in mind.

I do hope this story will encourage my readers the same way. Everything does not end in happily ever after for Rose Red. But does that mean it is the end of her story?

Great questions, Laura! Remember, dear readers, this is an ongoing series. Feel free to post any questions below to which you would like to see answers!


Anonymous said...

I love your books so much! Thank you for sharing your passion with the world. I cant wait for the next one. I am 11 almost 12 I have written before my grandpa works at Brethren High School. Keep writing these wonderful books.
Ashley Cashman

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Thank you for the sweet note, Ashley! I will keep writing them as fast as I can! :)