Sunday, December 23, 2012

Read-along: Chapter 22

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A favorite! Oh, hoorah. This chapter introduces one of my favorite characters in the series! Lovely Dame Imraldera, Lady of the Haven. I was writing stories about her several years before Heartless came into being, so of course I wanted to give her a role in this novel. It's not a very big role, but you do have to love her as she ministers to young Prince Felix.

The Between. This scene with Felix waking up from poison-filled fever is our first glimpse at the Between: that realm that separates the Far World of Faerie from the Near World of Mortals, and is part of both and neither.

This is represented in the room in which Felix lies. At first, he believes he's looking at a ceiling painted with a lovely mural. But then he believes that the mural is in fact real, and leaves lace a blue sky above his head. Both are true at the same time. This is very difficult for a mortal mind to grasp, however!

Una and the Dragon. I feel that this conversation between Una and the Dragon is the real heart of this novel. It is the crucial turning point of everything, the moment to which all the rest of the story, both before and after, points. In the original short story version of Heartless (which can be read HERE), this conversation was the most important and flesh-out moment. It was after writing this conversation that the rest of the story began to take shape in my mind.

Really, the whole book that is Heartless was written because of my desire to couch this scene in a context. It's just such a horrible scene of Una's sin, reflected in the voice and eyes of the Dragon, tearing her to pieces from the inside out.

Yes, this scene went through revisions. It was not one that I was able to get exactly right the first time. I worked it and reworked it and reworked it again. But I always knew what it needed to be. And I feel that, of all the scenes in this book, this is the most successful.

Interesting to note. Una receives more negative reviews from readers than any other character I ever wrote . . . including Lionheart, surprisingly enough! People can't stand her for being weak. And I find it interesting to note that the Dragon hurls the same abuse on her that she receives from those critical readers. "Not what he mistook you for, are you? Look at you--a crying, sniveling wretch, dirty and ugly. A princess? Hardly."

Una is not the tough, plucky warrior maiden. She's not the girl who will grab a sword and defeat this dragon with her own strength and courage. She's not stunningly beautiful so that every man in the book is falling over himself for love (or lust) of her. She's not what modern audiences expect of a heroine.

And boy, does she know it. And boy, do I know it! Every word of the Dragon pierces her heart, just as the critical slams of reviewers pierce mine. Both of us, as seek our own self-worth from the wrong sources, find ourselves battered down and defeated before such attacks.

Worthless. Dull. Spineless, etc.

But that's why I am still glad, despite those reviews, that I wrote Una as I did. Because she is honest. She is a real reflection of me, of you. And her story is a real reflection of our stories.

Because the Dragon's words may be true . . . but they aren't the whole truth.

The ring. As proof of his words, the Dragon shows Una the very opal ring she had given Lionheart to help him in his quest. The ring her mother gave her, the ring which symbolizes her heart.

And Lionheart gave it up. It now rests in the Dragon's claw.

Fidel. We see Fidel readying himself for one last, desperate attempt to rescue his daughter. He is determined, despite their weakness, to do what he can. I cannot blame him, though I also feel for General Argus, trying so hard to reason with his king!

And Fidel does not yet know what has befallen his son . . .

Una rejects comfort. We know that Una is truly lost in the poison when she rejects the sunlight and the song of the wood thrush, from which she has taken comfort up until this point. She does not recognize it for the only thread of safety remaining to her.

My Personal Favorite Lines

1. The Dragon settled himself comfortably, adjusting his vast wings to wall her in on both sides, intensifying the heat. "Now, little mouthful," he said, "tell me about your jester-prince." (p. 221)

She lost herself in reverie, and although her skin gleamed with sweat in the dragon heat, Una felt cool and distant. (p. 222)

"And so he asked you to trust him."
"Yes, and I do trust him."
"And you gave him your heart."
"My heart is his."
"But he never gave his in return."
Una's lips parted. No words came out.
The Dragon lifted his head and barked a great laugh. "Foolish girl, what kind of exchange was that? You gave him your heart for nothing, and now you have nothing, do you?" (p. 222)

She fell upon her bed and cried as she had never cried before. With each tear that fell, Una felt her soul shrivel. (p. 224)

Questions on the Text

1. What are your thoughts on the symbol of the Dragon "kissing" Una to transform her? What do you think this means?

2. At what point did you believe the Dragon? At what point did you believe that Lionheart had actually betrayed Una and abandoned her?

3. What do you think the sunlight and the wood thrush's song represents during these scenes of Una's captivity?

4. Who among you was taken by surprise by Una's transformation? Had you guessed what was coming for her?

5. Favorite lines?


Camryn Lockhart said...

#1 - I'm not sure what to think about the Dragon's kiss. The thought came to mind of Judas kissing Jesus before betraying him, but that doesn't seem right...

#2 - When the Dragon showed Una her opal ring, then I knew that Lionheart had betrayed her.

#3 - I think the sunlight and thrush represent the Holy Spirit, come to give her hope and encourage her to hold out a bit longer.

#4 - I was surprised, I think. I had read a dragon book before Heartless the first time through and it was completely different than this. So pretty much everything involving the dragons surprised me! :)

#5 - "He spoke of his trials, of the dangers he had endured and had yet to endure. He spoke of his quest to kill..."
"To kill me," the Dragon said.
"Yes, to kill you. To kill you, to reclaim his kingdom, to put things right for his people... So brave, so good is he! But you see, with such a vision before him, how could he let himself be distracted?"
"Not even by you, little princess," the Dragon murmured.
"Not even by me."
"His goals were far greater than his love for you."
"Of course, as it should be."
"You wouldn't want to get in his way."
"Never. He would not be the man I loved if he were to turn aside for me." (p. 222)

This scene made me so sad! I have felt exactly the same as that before, but I know better now and to see Una that way... I want to jump into the book and tell it'll be okay! But that's impossible, so it's frustrating. ;P Haha!

In Christ,

Beka said...

1) I think it sort of goes back to the fairy tale motif of the prince kissing the princess; usually the kiss transforms her from one state to another--sleeping to waking, pauper to princess, etc. Here the Dragon's kiss replaces what Lionheart would have given Una, because the Lionheart gave up that 'right' to be Una's prince when he gave up her heart. So instead of True Love's Kiss, she gets True Hatred's Kiss, and it transforms her into its form.

3) I think the sunlight and the wood thrush's song represent hope during Una's captivity--hope that someone is there for her and will come for her, if she just perseveres.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

GREAT answer on #1, Beka! That was a like a literature major's answer . . . I'm impressed!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Little Brown Sparrow: I'm glad to be introducing you to the world of dragons! There are so many different takes on dragons these days, and lots of great dragon books to read. :)

Beka said...

Thanks, Anne! I think you actually mentioned something along those lines somewhere, whether on your site or in your interviews... so I can't take all the credit! :P (I am majoring in English lit at university, though, so I do like to think about these things a lot!)

Hannah said...

1. Beka, I agree with you 100%!

2. When the Dragon had the ring I think I knew Lionheart had failed, but I still wanted to see him come out all right.

3. The Wood Thrush was representative of the Holy Spirit bringing hope (sunshine).

4. "So you gave him your heart..."
"My heart is his."
"But he never gave his in return."

"Poor little Una. You are heartless now aren't you? No better then a dragon yourself."

About that time, I was like, "Ahhhh. So that's why the book is called Heartless."
4. I believe I was surprised. I've read tons of dragon books (I wanted a pet dragon so much when I was little. There's few things cooler then a good dragon!) and though I had even read about half-dragon-half-humans (???) I had never read something in which people turn into dragons!

Emily Bennett said...

2. When the dragon showed Una her ring I knew Lionheart had betrayed her, but I had a hard time believing it to start with, though I knew it must be true.

Meredith said...

1. I think Ms. Beka did a superb job answering this question. The Dragon's "kiss" is evil's twisted and counterfeit way of corrupting true love. The Dragon offers a distorted form of life: a transformation that brings only pain. Interesting that the kiss is described as a brand and that it is upon Una's forehead. Scary.

2. I thought Una had ben betrayed when she dreamed her first dream about Leonard, yet I was hoping that I was wrong. It was so heartwrenching when the Dragon showed Una her mother's ring.

3. The wood thrush and sunlight represent the Holy Spirit's continuous offer to guide and strengthen us. So often, we reject his offer of help.

4. I knew that something would happen to Una, but I was shocked at how far you took the scene. (That doesn't make much sense, does it?) I mean that I was so very surprised that she completely transformed into a literal dragon. That scene was a true depiction of our own depravity and helplessness.

Please don't let the critical reviewers discourage you. I love Una simply because she is not your run-of-the-mill sword-wielding heroine. She's so real and relatable. Those reviewers don't like her because she's too close of a representative of themselves and us all. Keep up the great work.

God bless you all.

Christa said...

I definetely didn't expect Una to turn into a dragon! When I thought back to when the Dragon said he wated her for his child, I realised, "Oh... THAT'S what he meant!"
And like Hannah said, it's when I read the part when the Dragon calls Una "heartless" that I understood how the book got it's title.

Christa said...

#5) "Then your trust is misplaced, for he has forgotten you. He no longer owns his own heart, for he gave it to another and keeps hers in return. Did I tell you how lovely his betrothed is? I saw her the day I first met you prince. She came from the gardens to drag him away when he fainted for dread of me. Plucky little thing, she was. Beautiful, too."
I just realized right now he's talking about Rose Red. :D

Jennette said...

2. I think him producing the ring solidifies my suspicions of Lionheart.

4. I did not guess that she would be turned into a dragon.

Courtney said...

3. I think that the sunlight and the wood thrush were signs that Una was not forgotten. That she was still loved.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Una IS my least favorite character (sorry). But only because I don't like to read about her and compare what I might have done in these situations. I don't like to see how much I am like her. Lionheart, Lionheart I can say I am better than (though I guess I couldn't really know, could I?). But not Una.

1)I was going to say how it's like the Prince kissing the Princess... but Beka said it already. Ooops.

Anonymous said...

2. At the end of their conversation. When the Dragon showed Una her ring.

3. Comfort.

4.Yes, I was.

5. "Poor little Una," said the Dragon. "You are heartless now, aren't you? No better than a dragon yourself." pg. 224

"A group of five men, hand-selected by him, were to slip into Oriana Palace while the attention of the duke--and hopefully of the Dragon--was diverted. Perhaps they could find the princess and steal her away." pg. 225

Was that a literary nod to the old(er) princess stories locked away in a tower?