Only two more chapters to go on this read-along. I'm a little sad. A little relieved--it takes a good chunk of my work time to do these write-ups each day!--but also sad. I've really enjoyed this, particularly all of your insightful comments and answers to the questions. You've proven yourselves willing to read on a deeper level, willing to plunge with me and explore. It's so very satisfying!
Keep asking questions as you have them. I'll be answering them over the next two days, I promise. And let me know if I forgot to answer something you asked a while back.
After his promise. Una stares down at the burned bones, lying where Aethelbald stood only moments before. You know in that moment she was thinking through the promise he just made to her. "No matter what happens, I will come for you." How can he come for her now? How can he if he is . . . gone?
See, little princess? The Dragon, having separated Una from everyone else, bringing her into the desolation of ruined Sondhold, taunts her. See what the Prince's promises came to? Nothing! Just like all the other promises made to her. Just like everyone else she chose to depend on, this suitor has also abandoned her. Once more, it is just her and the Dragon, as it was always meant to be!
Take back my fire! The Dragon urges Una to take back the fire of dragonhood, to become the evil he wants her to be. But Una, despite her despair, closes her eyes and listens . . . and she hears . . . .
The voice of the wood thrush. It has been calling to her since the beginning, always present, always comforting. And even now, through the heat and hatred, Una hears it singing into her mind, "I love you. Won't you return to me?"
And so she faces the Dragon and tells him that she would "rather die" than take his fire.
First reading. I remember when I let my roommate, Charity, read this manuscript for the first time. I had been plunking away on it for a few months, and after finishing a draft or two, I finally printed it out and let her read it. I happened to walk in on her at one point, and she was lying on the couch, staring at the page. I hadn't spoken to her about it since handing it to her, so I casually asked her, "How's it coming?"
She turned to me with saucer-eyes. "Prince Aethelbald is in the Dragon's mouth!" she gasped. "I didn't know he was the wood thrush!?!?!?!"
Timing. Great timing.
She shooed me away, and I had to let her finish it before she would speak to me again!
The Dragon's death. With thrust of his sword, Aethelbald slays his great enemy. And in the thrashing fire of the Dragon's death agonies, Una flees to the pier and leaps into the ocean. There she shivers in the water until at last fireballs cease to fall from the sky. Then, there is nothing left for her to do but make her way back and discover what she will.
You promised! At the sight of the Prince's sword, twisted and ruined in the mouth of the Dragon, Una begins to weep. She begs Aethelbald not to leave her, declaring that she would rather die than live without him now.
A ghost? When Prince Aethelbald comes to her and speaks her name, so gently, Una cannot believe it is him. After all she has been through, she is still afraid! She refuses to look at him, even sharply says, "No!" when he asks her to. He reaches out to take hold of her, but she struggles to get away, still weeping.
So he holds out his hand and shows her. She sees the two stripes of red, fresh blood on the palm of his hand where he grabbed the Duke's sword. And Aethelbald asks her, "Does a ghost bleed?
Stigmata symbolism. Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands and feet. When I was in my last year at University, one of my English professors--a brilliant man, by the way--had a way of finding stigmata symbolism . . . but not always in places they were meant to be!
For instance, I took a creative writing class with this doctor of English. I cannot tell you how many times, as we discussed the works of classmates, Dr. V. would mention the stigmata symbolism used here and there. "Did you see how the mother cut her hand while preparing dinner? That's stigmata symbolism." "Did you notice how the little girl accidentally got paint on her fingers? That's stigmata symbolism."
And so on and so forth.
Most of the time, you could tell by the looks on the faces of the students that stigmata symbolism was probably the furthest thing from their minds. Many of them probably didn't even know what it was!
A year after that class, when I sat down to write this climactic scene in Heartless, I grinned to myself. I was, after all, writing an allegory. And my hero was a Christ-figure. Would there ever be a more perfect time to insert some stigmata symbolism?
So that's what I did. When Aethelbald shows Una the wounds on his palm, it is a direct correlation to Jesus showing doubting Thomas the wounds on his hands and feet. A little overt, perhaps . . .
But this one's for you, Dr. V.!
"Dawn found the black carcass of the Dragon. The light of the sun pierced through the fading dragon smoke, disintegrating the body to ashes. A sweet breeze carried the ashes away to the desert and scattered them across the sand."
So what would you say if I told you that, in the first draft of this novel, that was the last line?
I seriously got to the end of this enormous climactic scene (which remained pretty much the same from the first draft through to this final print version) and was so exhausted that I simply typed "the end" and didn't bother with anything more than that! I sent it off to my mother and my best friend to read, figuring I'd write an ending of some sort later.
A day or two after sending it, I got a call from my best friend: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE END?!?!?!?"
Oops. I'd forgotten about that.
Wrapping up a satisfying conclusion was possibly the hardest part of writing this entire novel, however! It took me a good several drafts before I finally managed to sit down and write the next two chapters you hold in your hand . . . .
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. The Dragon's voice hissed, filling the air and echoing down the long, dark, dead streets of Sondhold. It seemed as though a thousand demon voices repeated each word, flinging them at her like knives. (p. 349-350)
2. Her hands clutched her chest, feeling beneath her skin the heartbeat so strong inside her. It was his heart, not her own, but she felt it must break. (p. 352)
Questions on the Text
1. Why do you think the Dragon carried Una down into the city, away from the Oriana Palace? What do you think this might symbolize?
2. Favorite lines?