Things are just really getting interesting for my poor little heroine . . . let's get back into the story!
Practical Nurse: Once more, Una and Nurse butt heads. This time, I have to say, I'm more on Una's side, however. I wouldn't want to agree to marry someone I had only met earlier that very day! But Nurse, ever the voice of practicality, thinks that princesses should marry princes and can't understand what more Una wants. But Una gets even more angry with Nurse's prodding and ends up more frustrated than she might have been had she processed her thoughts and feelings on her own.
The wood thrush: In this first scene of chapter 4, we get our second reference to the wood thrush. It must have overheard Una's declarations that she would never marry Prince Aethelbald. And when she goes back inside, it sings sadly to the moon . . .
Una's canopy: In a complicated fairy tale story with its own world, history, and traditions, one of the more difficult tricks is figuring out how to slip information about the world in without sounding heavy-handed.
Lumé and Hymlumé are important features of the series. While they don't have a big role in Heartless, I knew I needed to introduce them in this first book so that they would be established for all the stories to come. Una's canopy, embroidered for her by her mother, served as a fun way to introduce the Lord Sun and the Lady Moon, singers of Melody and Harmony. This way, we also learn for the first time about the Sphere Songs.
Obviously, Parumvir is steeped in mythology and traditions, though Una doesn't believe in them anymore.
It would be fun to see the image on Una's canopy . . . Any of you talented fan artists out there want to tackle it? J
Monster: Una and Monster's little battle over the pillow makes me smile! Can you tell I have cats? I've had this pillow-battle myself . . .and it is impossible to convince them to do anything they don't want to do!
The dream: Now we meet the Dragon and his dark sister for the first time! They both wear human-like shapes, but they are monsters even so. Una sees them in the realm of dreams, before the Lady's throne. And they play dice for Una's life, a game which the Dragon wins. Then he takes flight . . . And we must expect that he is now on the hunt for Una, the Beloved of his enemy!
Una's burning hands: Following the dream, Una sees the burn on her fingers once more. It is searing and painful! Yet more evidence to us of the dangerous reality that is the Dragon . . . but Una still doesn't believe.
A secret revealed! Monster can talk! We knew already that he couldn't be an ordinary cat, coming out of Goldstone Wood as he did. But now we know that he can talk, and he is very sentient! Aethelbald calls him Sir Eanrin . . . and so we first meet the most famous immortal bard in all history (not to mention the fan-favorite character of the series).
More than that, we also learn that Monster is a servant of Prince Aethelbald sent to guard Una. Aethelbald is very aware of the Dragon and his search for the little princess. But he is also aware that Una is going to have to experience some awful pain and danger before all can be made right.
My Personal Favorite Lines:
"Look who's talking." (p. 50)
Suddenly [the cat's] head popped up and he started grooming his paws. The movement annoyed her. She shoved him off the bed, counted to ten, and felt him hop back up again. He returned to the pillow, plopped down, and flicked his tail over her nose. She pinched the end of it. He tucked it around his body, and that battle ended for the night. (p. 52)
The air shivered with vapors. She saw them moving in the moonlight, and even the moonlight boiled. (p. 52)
Questions for the text:
1. What did you think when you learned the Monster was Prince Aethelbald's servant? Did it take you by surprise when the blind cat started talking?
2. What did you think of the scene between the Dragon and the Lady? Do you think they work together or against each other? Why or why not?
3. What were your favorite lines?
"Where did the idea for the dragon and his sister first originate? So excited to hear your thoughts on "the game" in chapter 4! Really chilling." -- Meredith
The Dragon and his sister first originated when I was seventeen and encountered Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" for the first time. It's an epic poem about a cursed mariner, and there is one amazing sequence where the mariner encounters a ghastly apparition:
Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.
The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
`The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!’
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
I was so thrilled when reading that sequence--and the whole of the poem, actually--that I began at once incorporating Life-in-Death into the mythology of the world I was then creating . . . the world that went on to become Goldstone Wood.