Monday, December 17, 2012

Read-along: Chapter 16

I'm just back from a fabulous weekend away at my dear sister-friend Erin's house (where I got to play with my namesake niece, baby Annie . . . SQUEEEEE!)

But I'm scrambling to catch up a bit now, so I do apologize for posting this a little bit later than usual.

Be sure to leave comments! Everyone who leaves a comment for each day of the week will be entered in a name-drawing at the end of the week. You could win an autographed copy of Veiled Rose, Moonblood, or Starflower!


The Dragon's form. In the original short-story version of Heartless, the Dragon never took this other form. And when I began writing the novel, I had no intention of him being anything other than the classic, fire-breathing monster.

But when I started writing this scene for the first time, it came to be suddenly--in a bolt of inspiration--that the Dragon was not limited to this one shape. Why would he be? He is a being of pure evil, and evil can take so many, many shapes.

So even as I wrote the scene, I watched with horror akin to Una's as he crossed the bridge, folded his wings, and suddenly became a towering man with lifeless skin stretched over the black skull of his head, his eyes blazing with deep, hateful fire.

It was many drafts later that I added in the early scenes of Una's dream that foreshadowed the Dragon taking this form. But when I first wrote it, this was the first that I saw him this way. Shudder!

Vampire mythology. Some of you might notice some loose connections to vampire mythology surrounding the Dragon. For instance, Una is told to "invite him in," etc. I actually didn't realize that I had done this when I first wrote the story! It wasn't until one of my beta readers, librarian Edward Blessing, pointed it out to me that I realized that mythology had slipped in there. I believe I had been reading Dracula for the first time around  then, so that might have had something to do with it.

Once I realized it, however, I decided to leave it. Vampires are another classic symbol of evil that have been, in recent history "tamed." Just like dragons. So I thought it fitting to reclaim some of their malevolence and wickedness in my own literary endeavor.

Oh, Una, you know me. Some people have been confused by this line over time. They've asked me, did this refer to the dream? Or had she actually met him at some point in her life that we didn't know about?

I don't think this line refers to either of those possibilities. I think it refers to Una's unconscious knowledge of her own wickedness. She knows, deep down in a part of her spirit that remains unacknowledged, that she is as evil as he. That his fire lives inside her. And it's only a matter of time until that fire will respond to his voice and come raring to life. So in that respect, she knows him without ever having met him.

Everyone recognizes the Dragon. They all know who he is the moment they see him. Perhaps they don't know him by name, or even know how they know him. But he is as familiar to them as their own faces in a mirror. I think that is part of what makes him so dreadful! It would be one thing if (as in Veiled Rose) he appeared in his dragon-form, all fire and wings and scales. We would understand the immediate terror that vision would create! But this form of a man is somehow more horrible by far, and everyone knows him, and everyone obeys him.

Monster and the Dragon. Even brave Monster feels at the first whiff of the Dragon. I'll bet the Dragon disguised himself somehow so that Monster did not sense his presence long, long ago. We know this knightly cat has highly developed senses so that he can even smell out Una's dreams. But he did not know the Dragon was coming until the Dragon was in the house. So I'll be the Dragon knew he was there and hid himself.

And the Dragon's wicked comments to Una  . . . do you think maybe he knows Monster is a Knight? I think perhaps he does. But he is much more focused on Una at the moment. (For those of you who have read Veiled Rose . . . interesting to note that the Dragon doesn't seem even remotely bothered by Monster, while he is obviously quite nervous of Beana!)

Fidel. The king obviously knows exactly who the Dragon is the moment he sees him. I can't help but wonder if Aethelbald's warnings all flooded back through his mind in an instant upon that sight. How he must have blamed himself! But he is a brave man, and protective of his children and his kingdom. A futile courage, but courage nonetheless.

The man with the white face. I just remembered . . . for most of this scene, the Dragon is referred to as "the man with the white face," almost as though it's his name. Want to know where I got that from? Tuck Everlasting. The villain of that story is called, throughout the novel, the man with the yellow suit. I always thought that dehumanizing title was so chilling, so I liked using that little technique, however briefly, in this introductory chapter of the Dragon. Thought you might find that tidbit interesting!

Una, ferocious. I sometimes get a little frustrated when reviewers talk about my Una as being totally helpless and spineless. Because the fact is, she several times over tries to attack the Dragon all by herself! Look at this moment when the Dragon is kicking Fidel down. Una actually grabs the Dragon's hand and bites it! She literally bites it!

So, yeah. I don't think she's as spineless as all that. She's a princess, yes. She's been sheltered, sure, and she's no warrior maiden. But she is fiercely protective of her family!

She's simply no match for the Dragon.

He will come. The one thought that gives Una peace, even as the inferno face of the Dragon leans in upon her. "He will come."

But who does she mean? Leonard seems an obvious choice. But Leonard wasn't the only one who promised to return to her . . . And she doesn't say a name here.

Whoever it is, the thought itself is enough to make the Dragon pull back, saying, "You'll be ready in time."

Alone in Oriana. So Una shuts the door, and she is alone in the enormous palace that was her safe home.

My Personal Favorite Lines

1. This is another one of those scenes that changed very little from the original scene I scribbled out by hand in the first draft. It came to me so clearly, so vividly, so horribly, and I really could hardly improve upon it. I still think it's some of the best writing in the whole book, outmatching even many of the later scenes that I composed as a "better" writer. So I'll not pick favorite lines because I really (perhaps arrogantly) love this whole section!

Questions on the Text

1. What do you think . . . did the Dragon compel Una to invite him to her home, or did she secretly, deep down inside, want him to come into her home?

2. Who do you think Una means when she thinks, "He will come?"

3. What do you make of the contrast between the first half of the book and the events taking place now? Do you like it? Is it perhaps a bit too jarring? A good sort of jarring?

4. Favorite lines?


Emily Bennett said...

2. I believe she thinks she's thinking Leonard, but deep inside perhaps it's Athelbald she's hoping for.

Beka said...

1) I think he both compelled her and she felt simply too powerless to stop him.

2) I think she thinks she means Leonard, but it's possible subconsciously she means Aethelbald.

3) It is very jarring; I remember looking back and feeling as though the story did a complete turn-around. But that also makes the events of the last half more poignant and terrifying, because it shows how much their world turned upside down.

Carmel Elizabeth said...

Ugh, how I wish I could say I had read these book so I could join in on this intriguing discussion! Unfortunately, I will have to watch from the distance as an outsider, and hope to pick up a clue here and there. ;)
You have thoroughly intrigued me, though, Miss Stengl. ;D

Anna C. said...

1. I know what I want to say in answer to this question, but I don't know how to say it... I think she might have wanted him before she saw him, but when she saw his face, she knew she was in huge trouble. If you think about it, evil always seems attractive until you are completely immersed in it. But when you come face to face with the horror of evil, there is no way a sane person would choose it over good. I think that's what happened to Una, to a certain extent. Does that make sense?

2. I always thought she meant Leonard, but I'm reconsidering that position...

3. It's a good sort of jarring, definitely. I'll admit to being put off by it at first (I picked up the book in one of my "fluff reading" moods, when I didn't want to think too much, and I was enjoying the relative lightness of the story up until that point), but when I got used to the idea, it was so incredibly cool! I've been really frustrated with a lot of the fantasy novels out there that paint dragons as misunderstood good guys. I love an evil dragon! And your Dragon is pretty much the definition of evil. :) When he showed up, it changed the whole story, but it was an awesomely epic change.

Hannah said...

1. Anna C., I totally agree with you!

2. I think Una meant Leonard, but maybe she meant Aethelbald deep inside. Whatever the case, "He will come" brought Aethelbald to the Dragon's mind.

3. I really like the dramatic difference in this book. It serves as a powerful reminder that even "good" people are not safe from evil.

One of my favorite lines was "Sticks and stones, dear king." Gah! He's SO bad!

And I never thought of the fact that the Dragon was mocking and careless of Sir Eanrin, and was very uneasy around Lady Beana! Talk about a wound to Eanrin's ego! And what did Beana do that made the Dragon afraid of her?

Jennette said...

1. I think the Dragon compelled her, but since you asked, it might suggest a twisted form of self-punishment. If she knew him, because she recognized the evil within her, then it could also be suggested that she, despite the conflicting feelings, Una might have wanted him to come, because she felt she deserved it, to be punished. Maybe?

2. I don't know. On one hand, could Leonard have given her any true peace that she could hold on to and resist the Dragon...yet it is Leonard's betrayal that breaks her and...oh, we'll wait until we get there

3.The first part was nice, getting to know the characters, but now the action was happening. This and the rest of the book made me LOVE the story. I did not think it was too jarring.

Anonymous said...

1. I think the Dragon compelled Una to invite him to her home. Her voice scraped painfully through her throat. "I don't want you in my home." -pg. 172

2. At first Leonard, then later Aethelbald.

3. It is jarring.


Eszte said...

Wow, all of your tidbits are so light shedding. Kind of gave me more of a background for the story. And I never thought of Una as spineless, or helpless. She kind of reminded me of myself in some ways, and I admired how she was willing to accept the help that she needed, even if it was painful. Love this book-Still in the process of reading it to my family.

Eszter said...

There's an "r" at the end of my name. :D

Meredith said...

1. The more I reread this amazing scene, I think the Dragon was toying with Una by goading her into inviting him into her home. After reading Veiled Rose, it is obvious he could have come in since he forcefully entered Southlands. However, I think he knew Una's weakness and preyed upon it for his own amusement.

2. Una probably thought she meant Leonard, yet, like the others have so wonderfully said, perhaps she subconsciously thought of Aethelbald.

4. Lines:
Una cried out and tried to run to her father, but the man put out a hand, blocking her. Una grabbed the hand and bit into it, and animal sounds snarled in her throat, (I remember actually cheering the first time I read this part!).

The Dragon turned on Una, who hung on the door, all but fainting. Great red eyes pierced her own, gazing deeper and deeper, until she thought her spirit and soul were consumed in fire.
But somewhere deep in the recesses of her heart, something remained unburned. She grasped at it, gasping with the effort. The Dragon leaned closer, flames licking through his teeth, and she collapsed on her knees. Yet a small knot of peace lingered beyond the flames, cool and unspoiled. She took hold of it in her mind, clutching it close. "He will come," she whispered. (Such a graphic yet amazingly profound word picture!)

I love Tuck Everlasting!
I'd also never thought about the fact that the Dragon was unconcerned by Monster's presence. He certainly does appear to be fearful of Beana. So interesting. Perhaps the Dragon underestimates Monster's capabilities. I know Beana is a strong and wonderful heroine, and I think Eanrin is a hero as well. They just serve Aethelbald in different ways, and perhaps the Dragon is not aware of Eanrin's importance.

Have any of you read John Donne's poetry? One of his Holy Sonnets, (I believe it's Sonnet XIV), reminds me so much of this chapter. "Like an usurped town, I labor to admit you, Yet I am betrothed unto your enemie". The Dragon's forceful entrance reminded me of how Satan always gains entrance into our lives, yet God always reaches out for us. God bless.

Camryn Lockhart said...

I didn't remember that the Dragon was nervous around Beana, but that is certainly interesting! Poor Monster. :(

#1 - I think the Dragon compelled her. Deep down inside she may have wanted to, but she didn't seem to act that way.

#2 - When Una says, "He will come," I think she means Lionheart. He professed the desire and implied the skill to kill a dragon and she knew he was searching for it. However, she could mean Aethelbald, in the same way that she actually wanted the Dragon to come to her home.

#3 - I think the book led up to this part well. It's a stark contrast, yes, but not a bad one.

I loved this whole scene! I couldn't help picturing it as a movie. The description was so clear and the Dragon was so bad, but so in control. It was scary yet amazing! The Dragon makes for a very good bad guy, if that makes sense.

In Christ,

Rebekah said...

2) She is telling herself it is Leonard, but a part if her thinks of Aethelbald.

3) Good jarring. Every time I read this book, this is one of my favorite chapters.

And he know's Monster is a Knight. But is probablly a little more weary of Beana because he has actually known her.
And how do you pronunce Leonard, by the way. LEO-nard, or LEN-ARD?
I would assume the first.

Anonymous said...

1)The Dragon, like, scares her into it.

When Nurse would talk about her 'Uncle Balbo', was that a nod to Uncl BILBO of Tolkien fame?
And how, in the Hobbit, it's a WOOD THRUSH that show's Bilbo how to get into Smoaggs lair.
"You, thrush, a mere bird and yet so much more..."

Courtney said...

I am finally coming back to leave comments. =D Thanks again for the signed copy of Moonblood!

3. I thought the change was pretty drastic. I think it is because Una changes so quickly. It is a delicate thing because really, after the dragon comes, it is plausible that big changes would happen. It still is a little confusing though...

Molly said...

1. I think that secretly, deep down inside, Una wanted him to come into her home. But, a sensible side of me reasons that perhaps the Dragon helped compel Una into inviting him, so almost half and half...