Thursday, December 13, 2012

Read-along: Chapter 12

Welcome back to the Christmas read-along of Heartless! Things are getting tense for Princess Una now as her dream becomes more vicious. The story itself is also getting more complicated, so be sure to ask questions if you have any, and I will answer them in the next post or two!

Don't forget to leave a comment each day of the week. Everyone who does will be entered in a namedrawing to win a free book! I'm giving away copies of Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower.


The dream. All right, prepare yourselves, my dear readers! The former Literature Major is about to rear her ugly head and literacize at you. (Yes, I just made up that word. It's a Lit. Major thing.)

Some of you may be interested to know that many of the themes and moments found in this first scene of chapter 12--the scene of Una walking in her dream--were directly inspired by Robert Browning's epic poem, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," one of my favorite poems of all time. I've memorized huge chunks of it. At one point, I was really trying to memorize the whole thing, but got sidetracked (met a handsome stranger) and never got back to it (got married). Maybe I should finish that memorization project now?

Anyway, that was a rabbit trail. Back to the point in hand.

This little scene of Una's dream is something I like to call a "literary nod." These are when I take a moment within the text of my own manuscript to acknowledge the great writers whose work inspires (and awes) me with a subtle reference. Una's ring could be considered a "literary nod" to George MacDonald and his own Princess Irene's opal ring found in The Princess and the Goblin. The Game played by the Dragon and the Lady of Dreams Realized is another literary nod, this time to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the first example, I use an object. In the second, I use an event and even a couple of borrowed lines.

This particularly literary nod is more subtle still. In this scene, I use ideas.

Take for instance this line: "No growth grew higher than Una's knees before it was chopped and trampled, as though some brute force could not bear to catch a glimpse of thriving green and had blasted all to grays and blacks." (p. 133)

Compare that to this stanza from the amazing "Childe Roland":

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
Were jealous else. (XII)

Do you see how the idea, the theme, is mimicked from "Childe Roland" into Heartless? Browning's poem created in my mind such a ravaging hopelessness . . . something I desperately wanted to communicate in this scene. Even the landscape itself is full of jealousy and brutality . . . testimony to the jealous brutality of he who devastated it.

Moving on, you find this line in my novel: "As she looked, Una felt hatred rise in her soul. What a wicked place this must have been, what an evil house to deserve such ruin. Never had she loathed a place so much." (p. 133-134)

Compare that to this line from Browning's work:

          One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
          Stood stupefied, however he came there:
          Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

          Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
          With that red gaunt and collop'd neck a-strain,
          And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
          Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
          I never saw a brute I hated so;
          He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

That passage illustrates, I think, the descent of the narrator, Childe Roland, himself. He has become so overcome with the despair of his surroundings that he can feel no compassion for the skeletal horse he comes across. Instead, he looks upon its gaunt frame and feels only hatred and condemnation. Whether or not the horse deserves it, who can say? Might not Roland himself, for all his pious intent, ultimately find himself prey to the same fate?

This mood was what I wished to capture with Una as she approaches the shell of this unknown, decimated house. The ash, the lingering dragon smoke, even in her dreams sinks down into her very heart so that she cannot look upon the house and feel compassion. Only hatred. Only condemnation. It must deserve this, else how could it suffer so?

We, the savvy reader, may interpret this as a foreshadowing of what's to come to Una herself. Whether or not this strange house deserves its fate, we cannot say. But we do know that, ultimately, Una does deserve hers . . . which makes that fate far, far more dreadful!

All right, there was a little "Oh, dear, this was written by a Lit. Major" moment for you. I hope some few of you found it interesting!

Moving on . . . 

The house in the dream. Una does not know where this house is or to whom it belongs. But based off of what we just heard in the chapter before about Southlands--and Fidel's somewhat callous remark that it can "burn to dust for all he cares--this is probably a location in Southlands, recently dragon-savaged. And, as we'll learn in Veiled Rose, it was not necessarily an evil place, nor did it deserve this ruin.

And the man with the dead-white face says to the apparition of Una, "Princess, you have come to me."

But, does he speak to Una here? We assume so, of course. But come Veiled Rose, you might find yourself developing another opinion . . .

Dreams recalled. For the first time, Una remembers her dream up on waking. The desperate landscape and the face of the dead-white man haunt her even as she scrambles out of bed and seeks comfort, first from water, then from the night air. But there is no comfort for her that night. Not even Monster and his sweet little chirrups can ease her troubled mind. She feels she must get out, must get away from this room where dreams press too close.

The wood thrush sings to Una briefly as she makes her way through the moonlit gardens of Oriana that night. And when she turns toward the sound, she sees Prince Aethelbald coming up the path toward her.

Leaving. Aethelbald announces his intention of leaving. He is journeying down south where he says, "one of mine is threatened." We never learn what he means by that in this book. But in Veiled Rose, we learn how vitally important what he just said to Una is.

One critique I have received several times over on this book was that Prince Aethelbald cares for no one but Una and is really very selfish. Even some who have recognized that this story was meant to be an allegory have said it is a very poor one because of his fixed focus on Una and her family. I would like to counter that, yes, in this story, since Una represents the Bride of Christ, that is true.

But in the series, it is not true at all. We see the Prince reach out in concern to many of those around him. Here, we see him leaving Una, even though he knows the peril she is in, because of someone else who needs him. Someone who--we will later learn--does not want to need him, but does need him so desperately. And he will not leave his own to suffer, not in the end. So he leaves Una and ventures down south to rescue his own. We don't learn that story until Veiled Rose, of course. But we know it exists even here in Heartless.

Una's Pain. I think the pain in Una's hands as she talks to Aethelbald indicates that she knows she needs him. That she knows she needs his healing touch and his love to make her whole. Look at the way she allows him to take her hand. With the presence of the evil dream so near in her mind, she is much softened to Aethelbald. But she is so stubborn and resisting! She fights what she knows is true.

The more Una resists, the more she forgets her need of the Prince's help. Even the images of the dream fade, and she can't remember why she's out in the garden. How strongly I relate to Una in this moment, as much as I would rather not!

This is another moment of the story where allegory may be seen. The longer I resist God's call for me to turn my troubles over to Him, the more I forget my need. Soon, I become so lost in my sin, in my anxieties, in my selfishness, in my pride, that I don't even remember that God is right there, ready to relieve me of the burden.

Una really is a picture of me. I'd forgotten how clear a picture! And I suspect, she's a picture of you as well.

Una weeps. After her angry outburst, Una begins to cry. I wonder if those are tears of rage, or if she is actually very sorry for what she has just said? I believe deep down inside, she knows that his is the only real love, the love she needs most desperately. I believe deep down inside, she knows that she wants to love him. But still, she is so stubborn!

Aethelbald leaves. Though he declares his love for Una once again, Aethelbald still leaves Parumvir the next they. He has promised to return, but Una is probably left wondering if he ever will after her angry outburst.

Felix. Felix is really sad to see the Prince go! I don't care what protests he makes. "I don't care. Let him go, I say. It's not like we ever needed him." Whatever, Felix. You're glum that Aethelbald left!

The Prince of Farthestshore left an impression on all of them.

Leonard with a mop. Here we discover that lively Leonard the Jester was not hired purely for his jesterly talent. He's expect to earn the rest of his keep through menial labor as long as he wishes to stay on at Oriana. He is obviously not at all pleased with it. How bitter he sounds, when he speaks to Princess Una. And how condescending, really!

Then, Leonard steps way out of his place by telling Una his opinion on Prince Aethelbald. He does not think she should accept him.

My Personal Favorite Lines:

No growth grew higher than Una's knees before it was chopped and trampled, as though some brute force could not bear to catch a glimpse of thriving green and had blasted all to grays and blacks. Even the sun, where it shone through an iron sky, appeared as a red scar overhead. (p. 133)

Sitting up, she tore the coverlet away; it seemed to cling and suffocate her like a snake squeezing her in its coils. (p. 134)

Again she tried to speak, but her tongue was thick in her mouth. Her frowned deepened, and her fingers curled as though forming claws. (p. 136) Foreshadowing!

"Can't I even take a stroll without you hounding my footsteps?" (p. 137) Foreshadowing! But this time to a later novel. Starflower, anyone? J

Questions for the Text:

1. How often, in your daily life, do you act like Una and resist the truth, even when you know it is best? I know I do so all the time! I sink into anxiety and stressful grouchiness, even when  I know that God is close, waiting for me to turn all my anxieties over to Him in prayer and let Him carry them for me. But sometimes, odd though it might be, I stubbornly want to cling to my sinfulness. Even when I know it hurts. How about you? Do you relate to Una (and me)? Do you think Una makes a good symbol of Fallen Humanity?

2. So, literary nods . . . what do you think? Can you see the difference between a literary nod and outright literary theft? How might you be able to use literary nods in your own writing?

3. Favorite lines?

Reader Questions:

1. "Quick question: I read in one of your interviews that Eanrin has one of the more tragic stories, and this concerns me. Do you mean that he has a tragic background, or that... that... he might-might... die... by the end?!" -- Anonymous

Oh, dear! I did not mean to inspire concern for the fate of a fan-favorite character! Let me assure you, Anonymous, and all of you readers, that I have no plans to kill my poet-cat . . . at present. (As the author, I do reserve the right to change my mind if I see fit!) But he's my favorite, so I fully intend to keep him around for a nice looooong while. By his tragic background, I was refering in part to how he loses his eyes, and the immediate consequences of that loss. But I can't tell too much about that story just now!


Bookishqueen said...

2) Literary nods show respect to another author were thefts claim someone else idea as their own. In stories I write, sometimes I use a well known quote from an author. When I do, I try to make it obvious that it is not mine.

Jennette said...

1. oh my. YES! I can't even explain how this book swept me away. Una is a reflection of me in so many ways, the struggle against sin and accepting God's truth, especially being a momma to 2 little ones. The flesh rears its ugly head more easily and the struggle continues. The story really demonstrates what I've tried to create in my own stories about bondage in our sin/flesh, but know the Truth, the Truth shall set you free.

2. I love the literary nods. I think it makes the story richer. I think the difference is your capturing the idea, the essence of what is said/shown, to highlight a deeper sentiment/meaning. And like Bookishqueen said, when a person claims something that is not theirs, that's outright literary theft. I've not thought about using literary nods in my own writing. I'm sure I'm influenced by others work, but I've not intentionally tried to weave it into my writing. When I read over my stuff again, I will keep an eye out for it and see if these "nods" are there.

3. Even the sun, where it shone through an iron sky, appeared as a red scar.

Jennette said...

Oh, as I was listening to some music I was reminded of "literary nod" I have in one of my stories, although, it was more to music. Delirious sings a song called, Find Me in the River. LOVE that song. And it influenced me in my story as to where my characters would find & be lead to an elusive ingredient.

Clara said...

One of the many reasons why I love your books is because I can relate to the characters; especially to Una. Even though it is so absurd, I do (as you said) "cling" to my sinfulness, making myself miserable even though God is there all the time just eagerly WAITING to take care of me! I amaze myself at how stubborn I can be. I think Una is an excellent symbol of Fallen Humanity.

You are one of the few authors who have created a character that I feel is...well, me. I loved "The Two Princesses of Bamarre" because I could relate to Addie. She was shy, quiet, and didn't have much self-confidence. And then she had an adventure, and came out a better person! Much like your loveable Una. (yes, I do love Una. Aside from all her faults, she really is a wonderful person!)

Now I just need to have an adventure... ;)

Beka said...

1) I find myself in Una in many ways. Especially when studying for university exams, which can be very stressful, it's easy to forget that God is with you every step of the way. You just need to realize, accept and make to time to embrace His peace and carry it with you wherever you go.

2)I love literary nods. Personally, I use them all the time in my writing--usually Biblical allusions.

Anonymous said...

1. Yes, I can relate to Una. Yes, she does make a good symbol of Fallen Humanity.

2. Yes, I think it is interesting. Now I'm even more interested in reading George Macdonald.


Hannah said...

Ah, I'm glad to hear that there are no doomed plans for our favorite blind/cat poet. I've been confident that you weren't thinking on killing him because I know that I simply can not kill a favorite character. Once I thought I had to, but I did everything in my power and successfully spared him. WHEW!
But, GAH! What does "immediate consequences" mean? Was it the pain? The despair? The frustration? The helplessness? I think I shall go mad if I do not hear that story soon.

Anna C. said...

First, I want to say that I fell in love with your series because of the awesome literary devices/references that you sneak in (though the stories are quite compelling also! Ok, more than compelling; more like "life swallowing" or "all-devouring"). I want to major in literature in college, so I really do appreciate the depth of your writing, as well as all the nods to the great writers of the past. :)

1. Ugh, yes! It's so hard to let go completely and just TRUST. I love having control over my life, and it's really hard for me to remember that I actually don't HAVE control... He does. It would be so nice if God would just hit me over the head with a 2x4 every once in a while to remind me to get back on track. *Headdesk*

2. Literary nods are AWESOME!!!! There's some books that I read just for the nods that are included in them. :D
I think the difference between nods and theft is actually quite big. Nods are subtle (or not so subtle) references to great works/literary themes which practically everybody who reads enough would recognize. Theft is taking the plot or characters of another author and changing minor details to make it seem like it's not plagiarism. I think the biggest difference is intent... nods are meant to acknowledge the awesomeness of someone else's writing, while still giving it your own personal spin, while theft is just another way of saying "deprived imagination."
I don't write enough to actually use literary nods in my own writing, but if I was a good enough writer, I would love to be able to use the themes of great poems in my stories.
I totally geeked out when I saw what poem was used for Starflower (I won't name it so I don't spoil anything for anyone else)! It's the best Catholic Christian poem EVER WRITTEN! I'd studied it for school last year, and when I saw the theme running through Starflower, I was like, "Oh my goodness! She's referencing that poem!" So I went back and reread the poem... and started memorizing it (because I'm kinda geeky that way...)So, I suppose I want to say thank you, because you made my day! :D

Rebekah said...

I love the Starflower foreshadowing!

1)I am like Una. We all are.

2)Yes, I actually did a nod to you, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, in something I'm writing.

I'd like to point something out. Aethelbald may be with Una as Aethelbald. But he is with others as the wood thrush, i.e., Rose Red.

Courtney said...


""He gave me a peacock, he was so pleased by my foolishness." Leonard coughed modestly. "Of course, his grand vizier showed up on my doorstep the next morning to reclaim the bird, declaring the young emperor rather too enthusiastic in his gift giving. But it is the thought that counts yes?""

Love it. =D

"Fidel nodded and crossed his arms. "Another lost creature lugged in from the Wood, Una? Does this one just need a good meal and a bath as well?""

Meredith said...

1. Oh, my. Una is so relatable in her stubborn resistance to Aethelbald's offer of assistance. I, too, often find myself thinking, "I don't need to bother God with this temptation. He's got betther things to do than focus on me". I also am stubborn and often don't like to admit when I am drawn to something forbidden, (and that happens too frequently). Love Una because, like another commenter says, "Una is in all of us".

2. Literary nods emphasize respect for other authors, and they also illustrate how all stories somehow embody the age-old struggle of good and evil. In my novel, Crimilia, one of the main characters struggles with addiction to food. While this is something I struggle with myself, I also was inspired by Christina Rossetti's outstanding poem, Goblin Market. I also couldn't help but think of Edmun Pevensie and his insatiable craving for Turkish Delight. I love Browning's works, and the inspiration for Una's dream was absolutely amazing.

For those who critize Aethelbald for being selfishly focused on Una, I'd like to point them toward his interactions with his knights and with Leonard. And, like you said, even though I've only read Veiled Rose, you really see how he is involved in the lives of every character, (I refer particularly to the gardener's discovery of the infant Rose Red beneath a tree with a wood thrush singing melodious songs above her). Aethelbald is an outstanding character.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

1. Oh, how I hate to say yes. I couldn't believe how much Una reminded me of how many times I stubbornly fought God. And yes I think she is quite a good example of Fallen Humanity.

3. "Preeowl?" Monster loped ahead of (Una), scampering to Aethelbald's feet. The Prince knelt down and stroked the cat's head, murmuring something that Una could not hear. Monster flicked his tail and gave several chattering squawks. Then he dashed off into the bushes as though he'd suddenly heard a mouse. Una felt abandoned by her pet as Aethtelbald straightened and continued up the path to her.


Camryn Lockhart said...

#1 - I relate to Una a lot. Her story is actually very close to my own personal experience. I liked a guy (Gervais) who turned out to be less than desirable. Then I liked a guy like Leonard - charming, funny and overall a great guy (other than his dark past, of course). However, all along God was there, and he was who I should have been focusing on, but I was distracted and I *chose* to be distracted, to ignore the trouble I was in. Thankfully all that drama and those problems are over now. :) Starflower helped open my eyes, too.

Heartless has such an impact on me because no matter how much I yell at Una for her foolishness and wish I could give her a sound shaking, I was just like her and had to come to realize that God (Aethelbald) was all I needed all along. :)

#2 - I think literary nods are subtle. They hint to the former work from which they were inspired without quoting or copying them outright.
Theft would be less subtle. Copying an idea but only changing names, some situations or the setting is more like FanFiction, not something to be published. But it is so hard not to copy something when you admire it so much! Many writers that I have admired throughout the years of my life often influence my writing a lot and I've had to be extra careful. ;-P

Wow, these were some big questions! Or rather, small questions that invoked big answers from me. Bah.

#3 - "Preeowl?" Monster loped ahead of her, scampering to Aethelbald's feet. The Prince knelt down and stroked the cat's head, murmuring something that Una could not hear. Monster flicked his tail and have several chattering squawks.