Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bilbo Baggins and the Beatitudes

September 22 is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday! Happy birthday, my dear hobbits!


          Bilbo Baggins Birthday Cake | For reference, this is the cake I was working from, Bilbo's Cake from ...
To celebrate, I'm posting an essay I wrote earlier this year. It placed third in the Third Annual Tolkien/Lewis Celebration essay contest, hosted by Aquinas College in spring 2017.  Here it is!

Bilbo Baggins and the Beatitudes

De la séptima bienaventuranza: bienaventurados los pacíficos, porque serán llamados hijos de Dios
C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "No story is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond." Our modern world would do well to remember this quote. Glancing into the juvenile section of the library or  flipping through the kids' channels on television will reveal a plethora of entertainment which an adult could never consider truly entertaining. It would be a mistake to think that this is an entirely modern issue—there have been bad children's stories throughout history; our idea of "old-fashioned books" usually translates to "the classics," books that have survived the test of time rather than ones time has proven insignificant. However, there is at least one element of the deficiency in children's literature which may be considered a modern phenomenon: the great emphasis currently placed on "educational entertainment."

Teaching children through fiction is not a bad idea. Indeed, it is a very natural one. Stories have always been used as a means of enlightening and enriching the mind and instilling moral virtues in the heart. Hector and Beowulf are examples of patriotism and courage, dutiful models for ancient audiences to emulate. There are lessons to be learned from Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. However, in these classic works, the lesson is never "preachy." More often than not it is extremely subtle. The characters and their story comes first; the theme flows naturally from that. In much of the entertainment modern American culture offers its children, the theme—whether it is the importance of telling the truth or how to count to ten—comes first and foremost, making the story of secondary importance. It seems many of today's writers are so eager to make their stories educational that they neglect to make them good stories.
Perhaps we have forgotten the significance of fiction. Stories are the food of the imagination, which is in turn a faculty of the soul. It is an integral part of the human person. If it is fed on a steady diet of virtuous ideals and heroic role models, it will help man in his journey towards Heaven. If it is starved, it will be no more good than a crippled limb. If it is perverted, it will be worse than a crippled limb. Our children need stories more than anyone. Their impressionable and growing young minds need something solid to feed on, just as their growing bodies need good vitamins and minerals. They need stories about real heroes, flawed but noble people who set out on dangerous adventures and learn hard lessons. They need stories with real Christian values at their core. These values need not be immediately evident—the stories themselves, above all, should not be preachy—but they must be there. They should be such a crucial part of the story that the story itself would collapse without them.
by Daniel Reeve #Wetanz.... Hmmm.... Tattoo???? Man there are so many I want from Tolkien haha
Among the many examples of children's stories which meet this criteria towers J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. This simple story about an unlikely hero has long been respected and loved by children and adults alike—and for good reason. It is a fascinating story, featuring endearing characters and an exciting journey set in a masterfully constructed world. Though the novel has a very lighthearted feel to it and is sprinkled with humor, it is serious; the dangers and villains lurking beneath the Misty Mountains and in the shadows of Mirkwood are real and hideous. Children appreciate such danger; they feel cheated by a story in which nothing truly bad happens. The characters are lovable—Bilbo is as dear a friend as anyone could wish for, Gandalf's crusty kindliness and wisdom are priceless, and Thorin's brooding grandeur makes him a fantastic and unforgettable figure. Always these characters and their adventures are at the forefront of readers' minds. But running through the story, as inseparable from it as water is from a river, are solid Christian values. These are not immediately apparent and are easily overlooked by the unsuspecting reader; but they are there as surely as the elves are in Rivendell. No one can read The Hobbit without being subtly infused with Christian ideals. The character of Bilbo Baggins, for example, exemplifies each and every one of the Eight Beatitudes.
First of all, Bilbo is meek. He is, without a doubt, the least important member of "Thorin and Company." His small size is merely a reflection of his profound insignificance. In contrast to the fearless, sturdy, and grandiose dwarves, Bilbo is timid, flabby, and commonplace. We may presume his dreams of the future go no further than toasting his toes by the fireplace and eating well for the rest of his days. If it hadn't been for Gandalf, the dwarves never would have asked him to come along. Nor would Bilbo have offered. He knows better than anyone he is not cut out for adventures.

Бильбо  Bag End от TracieGraceRiesgo на Etsy
Gandalf can see farther than anyone else, however. There is something about Bilbo that qualifies him for the job of "burglar"—something that leads Gandalf to him, and not to any of the other hobbits in Hobbiton. The fact that Bilbo is insignificant and knows it only enhances his suitability. Humility has been called the queen and foundation of all virtues. It is the groundwork which must be laid before a hero can be built. Perhaps Gandalf saw that. Perhaps that is why he allows Bilbo's pride to be trampled upon so often throughout the adventure.

J.R.R. Tolkien - illustration for The Hobbit
For Bilbo's pride is trampled upon. Initially, it seems he has nothing to offer the dwarves and the dwarves have no use for him. When he is first sent on a "burglaring" mission, he bumbles into three trolls and nearly gets everyone killed; when he tumbles off  Dori's shoulders in the caves of the Misty Mountains, he is left behind and all but forgotten; whenever something goes wrong, the dwarves grumble at him. Bilbo soon becomes too accustomed to humiliation to let his eventual successes go to his head. If pride goes before a fall, then meekness is a safeguard against stumbling. Humility makes one strong. Had Bilbo ever been arrogant, he wouldn't have persevered far enough to be respected.  As it is, by the time he gets to the Mountain, we have begun to see other sides of his character. All that painful buff and polish from the Queen of Virtues has shined him up. Now he is ready to glitter.

No sooner has Thorin's Company reached Smaug's Hoard than one of the most crucial differences between Bilbo and the dwarves comes into sharp focus. It is a difference hinted at from the story's beginning, when the dwarves sing of their love of treasure in Bilbo's little hobbit hole; but now it leaps up at us like Smaug's fire in the night. The dwarves are consumed by greed. "The mere fleeting glimpses of treasure which they had caught as they went along had rekindled all the fire of their dwarvish hearts; and when the heart of a dwarf, even the most respectable, is wakened by gold and by jewels, he grows suddenly bold, and he may become fierce." Thorin in particular has an ugly case of avarice, intensified by his stubborn pride. It only gets worse as the story progresses. Thorin wants his treasure, all of his treasure; he would rather starve to death or see the men of Esgaroth slaughtered in battle than give one gem or gold coin away. Tolkien refers to this state as "dragon-sickness," and it transforms Thorin into a practical villain towards the end of the adventure.

Bilbo's conversation with Smaug, illustration by J.R.R. Tolkein for 'The Hobbit'
Bilbo is touched by the dragon-sickness. But he is never so desperately ill as the dwarves. "Long before the dwarves were tired of examining the treasures, he became weary of it and sat down on the floor; and he began to wonder nervously what the end of it all would be. 'I would give a good many of these precious goblets,' he thought, 'for a drink of something cheering out of one of Beorn's wooden bowls!'" Gold does turn Bilbo's head when it is all he has in mind. Indeed, the Arkenstone later induces him to something akin to treacherous theft and secrecy. But gold is not Bilbo's god. When asked to choose between Smaug's hoard and a good dinner, he would much rather have the dinner. He values a simple, peaceful life over any treasure, and that is what eventually gives him strength to give up the Arkenstone. Treasure has no hold on his heart. Thorin's last words acknowledge the beauty of this: "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
Being "poor in spirit" goes hand in hand with being "pure of heart." Tolkien's other favorite phrase for "dragon-sickness" is "lust." Although "purity" and "lust" are usually thought of in terms of sexuality, Tolkien's innocent story reminds us that true purity of heart goes deeper than mere bodily chastity. To be pure of heart means to have no desire for sin. Thorin's all-encompassing yearning for gold leads him to wish for dark and evil things: he would rather see unnecessary bloodshed between men and dwarves than show charity and aid towards the suffering and homeless people of Esgaroth. He views the possibility of violence with grim satisfaction: "'Winter and snow will bite both men and elves,' he said, 'and they may find their dwelling in the waste grievous to bear. With my friends behind them and winter upon them, they will perhaps be in softer mood to parley with.'" Bilbo, however, surveys the possibility of battle with horror. He has no desire for evil; his heart is pure.

Tolkien's illustration (one of) of The Shire.
Bilbo "hungers and thirsts for righteousness." When Bard lists the reasons the men of Dale and Esgaroth have a right to a share in the gold, Bilbo sees the reason in their claim and hopes Thorin will, too: "Now these were fair words and true, if proudly and grimly spoken; and Bilbo thought that Thorin would at once admit what justice was in them." He sincerely hopes that Thorin will give Bard a share of the gold. As he tells the elves regarding the treasure, "'Personally I am only too ready to consider all your claims carefully, and deduct what is right from the total before putting in my own claim.'" Bilbo always cares about doing the right thing, whether it is sticking staunchly with his friends unto death or keeping his promise "'to wake old Bombur at midnight.'" His conscience troubles him every time he does wrong, and this leads him to such gestures as paying the Elvenking for the food he stole while imprisoned in his caves. As he puts it, "'I may be a burglar—or so they say: personally I never really felt like one—but I am an honest one, I hope, more or less.'"

Near the end of the book, Bilbo laments that he could not set everything right: "'You are a fool, Bilbo Baggins, and you made a great mess of that business with the stone; and there was a battle, in spite of all your efforts to buy peace and quiet, but I suppose you can hardly be blamed for that.'" This is a touching scene, showing Bilbo's deep desire to do right. He tried his best, and that seems to be all we can do. Christ does not say, "Blessed are the righteous," but "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." Although Bilbo is unable to keep tragedies from happening, he has done all in his power to do what is right. He is not yet perfect, but he has been greatly perfected.

"Blessed are the peacemakers." Perhaps Bilbo's finest moment in The Hobbit is his act of peacemaking: his surrender of the Arkenstone to Bard. At first glance this may seem dishonest and treacherous of Bilbo—he has doubts about it himself, as evidenced by his interior debate about whether the Arkenstone is included in his fourteenth share. But his motive of making peace was a noble one, and he sacrificed much for it. First of all, in giving up the Arkenstone he was giving up the only part of Smaug's treasure that had ever had a hold on him, and thus breaking free of the dragon-sickness: "Then Bilbo, not without a shudder, not without a glance of longing, handed the marvelous stone to Bard." Secondly, he was willingly risking the wrath of Thorin. The elves warned him of the dwarves' anger, but it did not dissuade his choice: "'the dwarves can do what they like to me.'" That peace should be kept is more important to him than monetary wealth or bodily security.

One of Tolkien's Hobbit Illustrations
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice's sake." Thorin's wrath is not to be taken lightly. Because of Bilbo's efforts to secure peace and justice for men, elves, and dwarves, Thorin throws him out of the company in a rage. He denounces Bilbo, calls him a "descendent of rats," and is only stopped from hurling him onto the mountainside by Gandalf's intervention. Worst of all, Thorin names Bilbo a traitor, gives his share of gold to Bard, and sends him to his enemies with biting words: "Take him, if you wish him to live; and no friendship of mine goes with him. Get down now to your friends!...or I will throw you down.'" Poor Bilbo deserves a reward for his heroism, but instead he "departed with nothing for all his trouble, except the armour which Thorin had given him already."
As well as an author, poet, professor and linguist J.R.R. Tolkien was an accomplished artist.
"Blessed are the merciful." Bilbo's pity in not killing Gollum is later praised in The Lord of the Rings; but sparing Gollum's life is not the only instance of Bilbo's mercy in The Hobbit. He also shows forgiveness to the dwarves. His long-suffering nature is in stark contrast to the dwarves' own brooding temperament—they have spent hundreds of years nursing hatred for Smaug and plotting revenge for all they lost. Despite all the times they grumbled against Bilbo, sent him into the most dangerous places alone, and blamed him for their problems, he remains staunchly loyal to them. Thorin in particular he could have held a grudge against, for Thorin wronged Bilbo deeply. But when Bilbo is brought to Thorin's deathbed, they part as friends, with no bitterness on either side. It may look simple in print, but to forgive Thorin so readily and completely had to be hard for the hobbit.

Readily and easily does Bilbo forgive, however; for after Thorin's death: "he wept until his eyes were red and his voice was hoarse. He was a kindly little soul. Indeed it was long before he had the heart to make a joke again." Only those with love in their heart can weep over the misfortunes of others; and perhaps that is why Christ said, "Blessed are they who mourn."

"Our Lady said to Saint Bridget one day, “Whenever I used to contemplate the beauty, modesty, and  wisdom of my Son, my heart was filled with joy; and whenever I considered his hands and feet which would be pierced with cruel nails, I wept bitterly and my heart was rent with sorrow and pain.” - St. Louis de Montfort
Thus The Hobbit is a lesson in the Eight Beatitudes. The theme is so beautiful because it is so natural. Tolkien was not trying to make his kids memorize the Beatitudes when he wrote The Hobbit. He was interested first and foremost with telling a story, a story about a simple little hobbit doing his best to measure up to the adventure fate has thrown at him. In the process, he wrote a book which sets forth an example of the Eight Beatitudes as beautifully as can be.

Tolkien took his children's stories seriously—in every way. Not only did he put enough heart into them to steep them with Christian values. He also loved it enough to pay careful attention to such literary details as the language and architecture and people of the world. We don't get the feeling he threw out the terms "mithril" and "cram" simply because they were the first words that popped into his head. He put some thought into it. And because he took the time and effort to make the world of The Hobbit into a beautiful and believable one, he was later able to set his great epic The Lord of the Rings in the same world. The drawing together of a children's story and a complex fantasy trilogy is really a very unusual occurrence. It's certainly hard to imagine a piece of modern children's entertainment blossoming into anything as ambitious as The Lord of the Rings. But for Tolkien, building his children's story into an epic was not only possible, but natural.

el senor de los anillos
Children should be given stories they can grow into, not stories they must grow out of. They hunger for something noble and challenging, something beautiful and true, something deep and good—something that feels real. We shouldn't cheat them of a good story just because they're young. They need heroes and epics more than any of us. As C. S. Lewis said, "Since it is so certain children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of  brave knights and heroic courage."

Where are today's Tolkiens and Lewises? Is there anyone out there who will write a story that adults can enjoy as thoroughly as do their children? Is there anyone who is able to weave Christian values and Gospel truths into their stories without making them sound preachy? Step up, dear writers; we need you. We need someone to take children's literature seriously and make a brave contribution to it. We need more heroes who live the Beatitudes as simply and courageously as Bilbo Baggins does.

And now let us throw a birthday party for Bilbo! And Frodo--we don't want to forget him!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Five Historical Heroines

Dear oh dear dear me! No sooner do I announce that I am officially back from hiatus and plan to post weekly than I disappear for half a month. Goodness, am I undedicated.

Or simply very busy. Busy, you ask? What have I been doing with my life if I am neither blogging nor attending college, you ask? Quite simple, my dear Watson: I have been working in the deli. An occupation which has taken up so much of my life that I am seriously considering doing a post on it sometime.

But I ramble. Today I have brushed up a post I meant to publish months ago. Here it is for your enjoyment. (Or, perchance, penance.)

Back in February, I did a post on five of my historical heroes. And I thought it'd be fun to do another one, this time on historical heroines. Because it isn't just the dashing young military men that I'm quite taken with. :)

Some of these are so well-known they're cliché, but several are pretty obscure. At least one of them I've admired all my life, and others are more recent.

As usual, none of the images are mine.

Queen Clotilda
St. Clotilda: 475-545; Saint Clotilde was the second wife of the Frankish king Clovis I, and a princess of the kingdom of Burgundy. Venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church, she was instrumental to her husband's famous conversion to Christianity and, in her later years, was known for her almsgiving and penitential works of mercy.

I liked learning about this woman so much in 8th grade that I named my first 4H hen after her.

Clotilda (or Clotilde) was the Christian wife of Clovis, the pagan king of the Franks. When her first baby was born, Clovis allowed her to have it baptized. It died soon after, and Clovis blamed Clotilda's God. Despite Clovis' disapproval, Clotilda had her second baby baptized as well. This baby, too, fell ill; but at Clotilda's prayers it recovered.

Clotilda's courageous commitment to her religion had an effect on Clovis. Once when he was hard pressed in battle, he prayed to "Clotilda's God." The tide of battle turned, and Clovis was baptized. This sparked the conversion of the entire Frankish tribe to Catholicism.

And that mass conversion is the reason France is often called "the Oldest Daughter of the Church."

Thank you, St. Clotilda!

Queen Isabella
A beautiful posthumous painting of Isabel of Castile; Renaissance Queen of Spain along side her husband Ferdinand of Aragon II. Isabel was mother to Juana of Castile & Katharine of Aragon.

Here's another royal one who's captured my imagination! (My sister's first 4H hen was named after her.) I don't know what it is about Isabella...it all started when I read a short but dramatic account of her life in one of the school books lying around the house. I suppose she's just, in general, a very good queen and a champion of the faith. Uniting Spain through her marriage to Ferdinand, finishing up the Reconquista, furnishing Columbus' voyage to the Americas, encouraging evangelization of the New World, and strengthening Catholicism in Spain--what's not to like?

Sr. Blandina
Sr. Blandina, nun of the wild west! She stood for the dignity of all people;  outlaws, and Native Americans.

This is the little nun who stood up to Billy the Kid! She was a missionary sister out West, and had several encounters with that infamous outlaw. She once nursed back to health a member of his gang when none of the town doctors were brave enough to do it. Another time, Billy the Kid held up the stagecoach on which Sr. Blandina was traveling; but when he saw her, he tipped his hat and rode away.

From these and other stories about her, it's easy to see Sr. Blandina must have had one great personality. She had the determination to live life on the frontier, the courage to face outlaws, the charity to care for ruffians, and--I'll bet--a generous dose of feistiness. (Once, when she was teaching children in a non-Catholic school, she was told she had the choice between abandoning her habit or losing her job. She packed her bags and left.) Needless to say, I would love to read a novel featuring her as a character . . . or perhaps write one myself someday.


Harriet Tubman
"If you want a taste of freedom, keep going" - Harriet Tubman
This one needs little explanation. Anyone who has the courage, not only to escape from slavery herself, but become an operator of the Underground Railroad and a Union spy, is pretty darn cool. And the above quote says it all.

1st Lieutenant Mary L. Hawkins
1st Lt. Mary L. Hawkins. (U.S. Air Force photo)

I learned about Mary L. Hawkins while writing a paper on the topic "Women in the Air Force" in 2013. I'll polish up the paragraph I wrote about her then.

The USAAF flight nurses not only had to be caring and courageous, but resourceful as well. The first line of the Flight Nurse's Creed says, "I will summon every resource to prevent the triumph of death over life." 1st Lt. Mary L. Hawkins must have taken this line to heart. In 1944, she was evacuating 24 patients when the plane had to make an emergency landing. In the process, a patient's trachea was severed by a propeller. Hawkins had no suction tube; she improvised and fashioned one herself from materials on the plane, such as part of a Mae West lifejacket.* She managed to keep all the patients alive until help came 19 hours later. For this amazing feat, Hawkins received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

*Anyone watch the old 80's show "MacGyver"? Because maybe Mary L. Hawkins' resourcefulness reminds me of MacGyver's. :)
    
Well! There we go. Five historical heroines whom I, personally, like to squeal over. Who are your historical heroines? Are any of these fascinating ladies new to you? Does anyone else out there want to run and write a novel the minute they come across an interesting piece of history?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

August's Books (and I'm Officially Back!)

Hello, everyone! Can you believe it's September already? And since it's September, I've decided to officially end summer hiatus and make an effort to post regularly. Hopefully once a week, although I've been so busy lately that might not work out.

I hope you all had a wonderful summer! Mine was full of unexpected twists, notably the fact that I decided to take a gap year instead of going to the college this fall. So now I'm diving into a school year of working, studying, tutoring my siblings in history, and continuing my college search. Hopefully there will be plenty of reading and writing this year, too. :)

Speaking of reading and writing! Here are the five books I read in August and what I thought of them.

Louisa May Alcott is the best! I must needs read her more often. Finished in August; favorite character...oh, Rose? Uncle Alec? Charlie? No, I only like Charlie because of Rose in Bloom.
 
Have I mentioned how much I love Louisa May Alcott? Eight Cousins was typically sweet and enjoyable. Rose was a dear, her cousins were delightful, and I so loved Uncle Alec. It was especially interesting for me to read this, because although I'd never read it I had read the sequel, Rose in Bloom (a book I highly recommend to anyone who likes horribly sad Louisa May Alcott deaths).
 
Oh, what a wonderful, unique book! And the conclusion was an awesome surprise, which is always good. Finished in August; favorite character, probably Hugo. (I liked Etienne, too, for some reason. And Isabelle. But Hugo was probably my favorite.)
 
Ooh, this was an interesting one! Not only because the premise of the story was delightfully unique--it centered around an orphaned boy who spends his time working the clocks in the Paris train station and stealing parts from the toy shop--but it was written with illustrations as much as with words, which made it a fast read in spite of its thickness. I loved it.
 
Soooo good! Put me right back in my awesome high school history class. Makes you feel like you're living in history.
 
If you're a Catholic with a love of history, then this book is obviously for you. (I might recommend it even if you're just a Catholic or just love history, because it was that good.) Diane Moczar takes us through the years from the infancy of Christianity to the 20th century, highlighting how God has intervened in human history again and again to save us sinful creatures from disaster. Engagingly written and eloquently argued, the ending leaves you feeling as though you are part of a Great Drama which is not only still playing out, but swiftly rushing towards its climax.
 
Another thing that made this book fun for me was that I could tell my high school history teacher had used it as a source for her awesome lectures--once I even came across a quote she'd read aloud in class. So that made me happy. :)
 
Louis de Wohl is amazing! Finished in August; favorite characters, Helena, Constantine (he was so believable! I'd like someone to do with Cortez what de Wohl did here), Hilary, and Favonius.
 
I think it was the chapter about Constantine in Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know which finally prompted me to commit to this book, which I'd been looking forward to reading since I got it last Christmas. I had high expectations, because it was written by the author of Lay Siege to Heaven. It did not disappoint. If anything, I enjoyed it even more than Lay Siege to Heaven because in this one, the cast of characters remained constant throughout rather than shifting a bit, meaning I could really get attached to them. While Lay Siege to Heaven was primarily a saint novel with the historical details stunningly handled, this book about St. Helena and her son Constantine struck me as more of a historical novel that happened to be about a saint. (If that makes any sense at all.)
 
If there was one thing I appreciated more than anything else in the book, it was the portrayal of Constantine's character. It neither whitewashed nor demonize him; rather, it used his mistakes and flaws to mold a truly compelling and believable character. While reading a straight historical text that focuses on bald facts, you see the accomplishments of a great man side by side with his most heinous acts and think, "How can such a great guy do such horrible things (or vice versa)?" Historical writers like Moczar can give you their explanation, which may be quite reasonable and correct. But it isn't as satisfying as a novelists' explanation. In Moczar's account of Constantine, I'm given the excellent but cool argument that God works through flawed humans. In de Wohl's, I'm shown the same truth--I feel Constantine's frustration mounting until I can understand his moral failings, and see him writhing in shame for the mistakes he's made. It just makes him so real.
 
Oh, it was wonderful! Philosophical, yes, but also romantic and super enjoyable. I think G. K. Chesterton would approve. :) Finished in August; favorite character...probably the Man in the Wing Chair, although I also loved Miss Prim.
 
Oh, I think this was my favorite book of August! It was recommended to me by the same dear friend who recommended The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
 
I don't know where to start a brief review of what I loved. This book was written recently (2013, I think) and is an international bestseller; however, it reminded me (in the best way!) of something written a hundred years ago. I didn't know they still wrote books like this, beautiful and delicate and gentle without being at all boring. I guess I just need to explore the romance genre more, huh? But this wasn't primarily a romance--there was a love story woven into it, but it was mostly about a young woman of the modern world coming into a town with a culture totally different from anything she's used to. It's a town where the feminist club is composed of women who consider it their duty to find a husband for certain single ladies, where families take an active part in the education of their children (yay homeschooling!), and where people take their sweet time about going through life. And Miss Prim--well, the educated and beauty-loving Miss Prim is shocked by it all . . . at first.
 
But oh, I'm not doing it justice! I must stop now, before I give the wrong impression. Just know that this book is just plain lovely. If you like G. K. Chesterton or Louisa May Alcott or anything similar, you should probably try it. :)
 
Well! There we are, the five books I read this August. Tell me, have you read any of these gems? Any wonderful books you'd recommend for my growing TBR? Did you have a delightful summer? And are you ready for September and the rest of fall??
 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Beautiful People--Cap

'Tis the very end of August, and I had given up hope of ever getting around to doing Beautiful People this month...BUT! Along comes a writing session during which I suddenly realize I have been away from my characters waaay to long and need to get to know them again. So. Here I am, answering this month's ten questions about my character Cap.

A little background: Cap is about thirteen years old and lives in a poor fishing village in the futuristic world of Erdania. He kinda takes my protagonist under his wing after said protagonist undergoes an unpleasant ordeal involving an exploding submarine. Cap also shows up in the two sequels as a grown-up revolutionist leader, and just in case you were wondering he is nothing like Captain America.

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_n

What is he addicted to/can’t live without? 

Cap doesn't have much in the way of material possessions or comforts, but he loves it when people (his sister, his father, the boys in the village) treat him with respect. He's seen as a natural leader, and you might say he can't get along without the recognition he gets from people because of that.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

Positive: he has a strong sense of justice, he isn't afraid of pain, and he'll do anything to build a better world for the people he loves.

Negative: his sense of justice has a tendency to corrupt into hate; he can be a little callous; and when I say he'll do anything for the people he loves, I mean literally anything. He believes in the maxim "the ends justify the means."

Is he holding onto something he should get rid of?

Eventually he's going to be clinging to his grief over a lost family member or three.

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where does he fall on the scale?

The shack where Cap lives is so totally bereft of possessions that it's hard to say. There's just nothing to be messy with. But considering the fact that he grows up to be a revolutionist leader, I'd say he has a pretty good head for organization. Let's say an 8.

What most frustrates him about the world he lives in?

Everything.

I'm serious. Well, almost serious. Most of all I guess he's frustrated that in his village, people drop like flies to everything from starvation to childbirth and no one makes a fuss. The people who could do something about it don't care, and the people who care can't do anything about it.

How would he dress for a night out? How would he dress for a night in?

Cap's lucky to have a shirt on his back. His plans for the night make no difference--you'll always find him in the same tattered tan shirt with ripped-up pants to match.

How many shoes does he own, and what kind?

Zero. Unless you count the calluses on the soles of his feet. Those work pretty well. 

Does he have any pets? What pet does he WISH he had?

No pets. I don't think  he wants one or ever considered having one. There'd be no way to feed it, and the last thing he wants is to love another living thing. Living things die. 

Is there something or someone that he resents? Why and what happened?

Does the whole rest of the world count? But then, I guess it's not the entire rest of the world. Mainly the aristocracy. Because they have everything (as far as he can see), and he has lost the only things he ever cared about due to their negligence. 

What’s usually in his fridge or pantry?

Maybe you can guess by now? :) There's no fridge, and never much in the pantry. Most of the people in the fishing village live on an unappealing gruel which is thin, murky, oily, and tastes like fish.

So there's Cap! I hope you enjoyed meeting him. Did you do Beautiful People this month? If so, I'd love to see your posts!

(And oh dear the registration for BP this month has expired. Oh well.)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Versatile Blogger Award

I've been nominated for  The Versatile Blogger Award, by Hope @ The Reader Addict! Thanks so much, Hope! This is going to be fun!

THE RULES

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers of your choice.
4. Link your nominees and let them know of your nomination.

Seven facts about myself. Oh dear, how boring. Well. Let's give this a shot.

All the images are from Pinterest.

1. I held a baby wallaby once. (An adorable experience. If you ever get a chance, snatch it up.)
Kangaroo secret:

2. When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, I'm strange in that I prefer ones with fewer chocolate chips.
The BEST Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies - no overnight chilling, no strange ingredients, just a simple recipe for ultra SOFT, THICK chocolate chip cookies!  ♡ pinchofyum.com

3. My 4H chickens were recently killed by some mysterious predator. Pity me. But don't pity me too much, because I just got too old for 4H anyway.
silver duckwing old english game bantam rooster
My rooster looked like this! Rest in peace, Alexander.

4. After resisting the Marvel movies for a ridiculously long time, I finally saw Captain America: The First Avenger the other day. And...let's just say I loved it.
one of my favs. has anyone ever thought that the reason shield was named shield because since captian was the 1st avenger and his weapon thing was a shield that was the reason they called it shield?

5. The copy of Jane Eyre which I am currently reading (or currently not reading may be more accurate) was printed in 1847, as far as I can tell. It amazes me that the library lends out these antique books like that. Just think! The book I'm holding now was in all likelihood held and read by some long-dead person who lived through the Civil War era! It's a fascinating thing to think about. Books...the physical copies of the books, not just the stories that are their souls...are such cool links to the past.
“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”  ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

6. Although I share a room with my two sisters, our walls are pretty much covered in my stuff. Stuff like drawings of Robin and Underdog, who are supposedly my heroes. (In case you're wondering, the Robin thing is a family joke. But I'm serious about Underdog.)
Underdog he was my hero as a small child .. And when I married I found out.. He was my husband's hero too! <3 We were both under the U ..

7. I'm an introvert. In the blogging world as well as in real life. Therefore #3 in the rules above is well-nigh impossible for me to obey.

So! Rather than obeying and leaving links, I'm just going to tag anyone who's reading this and thinks this tag looks fun. :)

Now that I've talked about myself, it's your turn! Do you like wallabies or roosters better? (I won't be offended either way. Wallabies are awful cute, after all.) I won't even ask if you've seen Captain America, but have you read Jane Eyre? (If so, advise me as to whether I should give up now or slog through the rest of it. I'm sure it has value and all, I just...don't tend to like stories that begin with children being mistreated...) And how do you feel about Robin and Underdog as superheroes? (Them? Superheroes? I have a feeling my definition of that word is going to undergo a drastic change if I continue watching Marvel movies. Not that I don't like Underdog still!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Be a Saint!

The other day my little brother came up to me with a picture book in his hands and asked, "Why are those boys throwing rocks at him?"

I glanced at the picture--an illustration of an incident in the life of St. Dominic Savio--and explained that the boys weren't throwing rocks at Dominic, they were throwing rocks at each other, and Dominic had stepped between them with a crucifix to make them realize they were hurting Jesus. Then I went back to sweeping the kitchen.

My brother must have been stewing over the story, however, because a few minutes later he said, "If I was a saint--"

"You can be," I interrupted.

"I can?"

"Yes. We all can be. We were all made to be saints."

He was surprised by that. And when I thought about it, so was I.

It's the very simple thoughts that are the most flabbergasting.

We're all made to be saints. Like Dominic. That's the very reason we were made.

“If I do not become a saint, I am doing nothing.”    St Dominic Savio (Memorial 9 March)
From Pinterest.

It sounds daunting, doesn't it? And yet--how hard is it really?

Very hard, from a human standpoint. Impossible, in fact. Jesus' statement about the camel going through the eye of a needle comes to mind.

But so does another Bible verse: "All things are possible with God."

If we surrender ourselves to God, won't He give us the grace to be a saint? All of the grace we need to be a saint?

In my younger days, my sisters and I were part of a Little Flowers girls' group dedicated--well, quite simply, dedicated to making little saints. At the beginning of every meeting we sang a song, the refrain of which went:

My only desire: to be a saint!
I'll only aspire to be a saint!
Never to tired to be a saint!
Just reach one step higher and be a saint!

As I thought about it while sweeping the kitchen that afternoon, that one line "Just reach one step higher and be a saint" really jumped out at me. Because reaching "just one step higher" makes it so simple. It means little things, like speaking kindly to someone when it would be easier to snap, or taking an extra minute to do a household chore well. St. Therese's famous "Little Way" is really a great secret to sanctity.

St. Dominic Savio, pray for us. #catholic
From Pinterest.

I was reminded of a line in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, taken from a scene in which one of the characters is awaiting execution:

"It seemed to him, at that moment, that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted--to be a saint."

"A little self-restraint and a little courage." A little charity, a little piety, a little selflessness.

We just need to surrender a little more to God with each passing moment. And He will show us the way to perfection.

With God's help, it's possible, because anything is possible.

Let's give ourselves to our Heavenly Father--and begin.

"Ask Jesus to make you a saint. After all, only He can do that. " Saint Dominic Savio
From Pinterest.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Books of June and July

Hullo, everybody! Are you having a wonderful summer? Isn't it going far too fast?

I said I might post occasionally during my hiatus, so here are the books I've been wrapped up in all summer so far.

June

An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
Oh, Louisa May Alcott books are the best! I loved Polly and Tom, and all the rest, too. Finished in June; favorite character, Tom (or Polly).

What a wonderful writer Louisa May Alcott is! I tend to forget how much I love her until I pick a volume of hers up, and then I'm swept away for a day or two until I've finished it. Her old-fashioned prose is delicious, her characters endearing, and her stories just the sweetest things. This one is about the country girl Polly Milton and her city friends the Shaws. Visiting them one winter, Polly feels out of place, for the Shaws seem to have everything except for the firm family life that makes Polly's own poor home so warm and bright. Of course, Polly's cheery and selfless ways soon have a favorable effect on the entire Shaw family--from elegant Fan to mischievous Tom. (Tom, incidentally, was one of my favorite characters.)

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
Oh, I love the King Arthur legends so much! Someday I'd like to rewrite them as a series of middle grade novels. Finished in June; favorite character...oh, I think I like Gareth best, but there were lots of ones I like. Why does the ending have to be so sad??? I mean, it's perfect, but...Lancelot and Guinevere ruin everything!

Do you enjoy the chivalrous and romantic tales of medieval heroes? Then--well, you've probably already read the King Arthur stories. But if you haven't, be advised that Roger Lancelyn Green's retelling is quite satisfying, handling the legends with simplicity and grace.

I certainly enjoyed this read! It put me in the mood to write an entire series of children's books (or possibly books for older readers) based on the King Arthur legends. But oh, why must it end so sadly??? Dash it all, Lancelot and Guinevere! Why'd you have to go and ruin everything?

The Scarecrow of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
I finally read the last few chapters which have been waiting for years! Finished in June; favorite character...well, I remember feeling sorry for Pon if that was his name, and of course I've always liked the Scarecrow.

I'll be honest: I only read the last few chapters of this after (for some inexplicable reason) putting it down years ago. But! L. Frank Baum's fairy tales are very cute and whimsical (if to such extent that there aren't high enough stakes to keep a reader invested), and I wouldn't mind reading more of the Oz series sometime.

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury 
This time opening it, I found it lovely and finished the whole thing in a few days. Finished in June; favorite character...Tom or Doug I suppose, but what I really liked was the prose and the setting and the themes of memory and life and death.

I'd tried this one several times before and always been discouraged by the slow pace of the story. This time around I embraced the slowness of it and therefore enjoyed it much more. :) It's almost as though this book isn't meant to be a story--at first glance it doesn't seem to have a plot at all, and the cast of characters is filled in with dozens of figures who are featured heavily for a chapter or two and then disappear practically forever. What really let me enjoy this book was the lovely prose and the thought-provoking themes of life and death.

Favorite book of June: probably An Old-Fashioned Girl.


July

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
This was such fun to read! Wonderfully drawn, quirky characters and a bunch of great twists--I don't know if you can ask for much more from a mystery story. Finished in July; favorite character...golly. Maybe Turtle? Or Angela? I liked a lot of them.

If you're looking for an engaging mystery with plenty of twists and lots of quirky characters, you want to check out The Westing Game. The plot revolves around the will of the eccentric millionaire Sam Westing, which has summoned sixteen unlikely "heirs" to solve the mystery of his death in a limited amount of time and thus vie for the reward of his inheritance. Every bit as delightful as the mystery itself (which I, at least, found full of surprises) were the characters--homely little Turtle who kicks those she doesn't like, her uppity mother Grace Windsor Wexler, the friendly old doorman Sandy, and a dozen others. 

G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, by Dale Ahlquist 
Chesterton!!! My favorite writer, definitely.

Here's a good one for anyone interested in getting into Chesterton! It was written as an introduction to the man Dale Ahlquist claims to be the best writer of the 20th century. First it gives a brief overview of his life and character, then it goes into a short explanation or introduction to some of his most important works. Especially interesting to me were the chapters on eugenics (I hadn't realized Margaret Sanger was so closely linked to the Nazis) and economics (I hadn't known there was an alternative system to socialism and capitalism). I already knew I loved Chesterton; this book cemented him as my definite favorite writer.

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
I'd liked the movie, but the book was even better. (And much different.) I especially appreciated the representation of war as ugly and the British as human. Finished in July; favorite character, Rab. Definitely Rab.

Oh, my heart! This was probably the "feelsiest" book of July. Only because of the ending, which I shan't spoil for you. (Funny. Until the climax I'd really enjoyed the book, but hadn't gotten too emotional about it.)

Anyway. It's a really good historical novel about a 14-year-old Boston apprentice who burns his hand so badly he can't hope to be a silversmith anymore, and then gets swept up in the events leading to the Revolutionary War.

There were several things which intrigued me about the book, but what interested me the most was the character Rab. (Isn't that an excellent name? Rab?) He definitely wasn't the main character--that was, as you might guess from the title, Johnny Tremain--and yet he struck me as the most important character for some reason. He was the one who made the most of an impact on Johnny, I guess. I don't know. I may have to do a separate Rab-inspired blog post one of these days.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott
I enjoyed reading this, though it made me feel cheated in some ways. Finished in July; favorite character...mm, I wish Ivanhoe had been in it more. Maybe Rebecca? Oh oh oh! Wamba. Definitely Wamba.

Y'know what, I had mixed feelings on this one. Of course I loved the general setting, premise, and characters--knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, tournaments, despots, King Richard, etc.--and yet, I felt cheated by it in some ways. I think it was the title. I was expecting it to be about Ivanhoe, and it was, except--Ivanhoe doesn't show his face as Ivanhoe until a third of the way into the book, and then *mild spoilers* he's put out of action until about the last third of the book, and--well, I liked Ivanhoe. If it had been entitled "Rebecca" or "Richard's Return" or something I wouldn't have felt cheated like that. But as it was I was hankering for the hero to show up for most of the book and he never really came in as much as I'd wanted him to.

I also suspect Sir Walter Scott's portrayal of the middle ages must be taken with a grain of salt. Not that I disbelieve there was a lot of discrimination against Jews and corruption of the clergy, etc. in the middle ages, but--the picture painted in Ivanhoe just felt a little too black to be taken hook, line, and sinker. (I might be wrong, of course. Just sayin', I have my doubts.)

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
One-day read in July, very good. Favorite character, Peter...because I like heroic tragic young men characters...

Ooh, I really liked this one! It's another premise I can't resist--anti-Nazi Underground during WWII. When the Jews of Denmark are put it deadly danger, ten-year-old Annemarie and her family work together to get her friend Ellen to safety. Since this was a children's book it only took me a day to read, but it had a nice emotional impact nonetheless. (Short, powerful books are the best, aren't they?)

And I was really surprised when I realized this was written by the same author who wrote The Giver. (Which I have yet to finish.)

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
CHESTERTON. According to Dale Ahlquist you must read Orthodoxy more than once, so I reread it in July. Need I say it was delightful, humorous, and profound all at once, as Chesterton always is?

IT'S A CHESTERTON BOOK!!!

Need I say more? Go read it, dear ones. Go read it right now. :)

Pilgrim's Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge
Found an old copy of this in Grandma's basement, and oh! oh! oh! I want to write books like this. Finished in July (on vacation); favorite character...oh I don't know. Possibly Sally or David. It wasn't really the kind of book where one single character jumped out at me; I was equally interested in all of them, even Scarlett-O'Hara-esque Nadine.

I found the original (1948) edition of this book in my grandma's basement, with her maiden name inscribed in the front. Upon picking it up, I had to smile at the opening scene, because one of the first pieces of writing advice I ever learned is that it's cliché to begin a book with a pretty young heroine waking up in the morning.

But, of course, a cliché opening scene is no reason to give up on a book in my opinion--especially not when you find even the cliché sweet and enjoyable, and when the book is one your grandma read when she was young. And, oh, oh, oh, am I ever glad I read this one through to the end. At one point I groaned in delight to my mom, "I want to write books like this!"

It's a story set in an England recovering from WWII and about a family recovering from what was too close to being an adulterous love affair. Between the love of good-hearted friends and the welcoming shelter of a house that was once a medieval hostelry, wounds are healed and new resolutions made--but is it enough to save a marriage still tottering on the brink of disaster?

After finishing this book and loving it, I was surprised and overjoyed to discover that it's actually Book 2 in a trilogy. So it looks like I haven't seen the last of my beloved Eliot clan!

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
Rather too gritty for me to really enjoy, but it was very interesting and the ending was really good. Finished in July; favorite character...eh, one of the minor ones like the little boy (Luis?).

This one, a book about a sinful "whiskey priest" trying to do his duty in the midst of the persecutions in Mexico, was rather too grittily realistic for me to enjoy. Not only were the details about rotting teeth and prison toilets downright gross, but the characters were depressingly flawed human beings. The ending almost made me forget that, though--it's one of those stories where the concluding sentence leaves you quietly pondering.

No doubt about it, Graham Greene's a good writer. (If you have a few minutes, check out his short story "The Hint of an Explanation." It's one of the best short stories I've ever read.)

Favorite book of July: Pilgrim's Inn.

Have you read any of these books? Any summer reads you'd recommend? Has your summer been lovely and full of wonderful words? I certainly hope so!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Hiatus

Hello everyone!

It has come to my attention that summer is short and there is not enough time to do everything there is to do. Therefore, I am going on hiatus.

...There is a chance that this will be, not a complete absence of blogging, but rather blogging at a verrrrry sloooooow pace. As in, posts once or twice a month. Maybe. Of course I might decide to pick up again at any time.

And then, there is the very sad possibility that, with college looming in the fall, this hiatus might last forever. (Although I certainly hope that isn't the case.)

Regarding Fatima posts, I really hate the idea of discontinuing them, but! if anyone is interested in learning more about Fatima, the "Fatima" tab above has several links to some really great websites that explain the apparitions and the message much better than I ever could. So I encourage you to go check those out. :)

So au revoir, my friends!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Give Me a Hero!

Dear Writer Within Me:

Give me a hero!

You've been shying away from heroism, writer within. You've been mesmerized by the concept that every character should be flawed. You've been fascinated by anti-heroes and morally gray protagonists. And you've begun to forget how dreadfully important the good characters are.

Don't be alarmed; I still want my wandering characters, my struggling souls, my sinners in need of conversion. Keep the traumatized drunkard, the quick-tempered outlaw, the dashing revolutionist.

But don't be afraid of making some characters perfect. In each and every story, give me at least one out-and-out hero.

Image not mine.

Before you rebel, O well-trained writer's mind, let me explain what I mean by "perfect." I don't want you to write cardboard cut-outs who find it easier to be good than to breathe. Spare me the goody-goody character who sails through life without ever knowing the winds of temptation! By all means, send trial after trial his way, give him his own demons to face--but don't be afraid to let him conquer. Don't be afraid to let him triumph.

Give me a hero.

Oh, the flawed and conflicted and wandering ones are close to my heart--languid Sydney Carton who hates himself for being languid; tragic Charlie Campbell who hasn't the strength to fight his alcoholism; erring Jay Gatsby who might make something splendid of himself if he wasn't so hopelessly lost.

But even closer to my heart are the perfect ones: Beth March, whose gentleness and humility in the face of death give me a flaming desire to be like her; Dym Ingleford, whose selfless devotion to a brother who doesn't love him back make me ache with admiration; Sam Gamgee, whose total loyalty to Frodo challenges me to be a better follower of Christ.

These characters are heroes, and they are the ones I love most. It doesn't matter that their flaws are small and few. It is enough that their struggles are real.

We need more heroes like them. Gray characters and tragic figures might teach us a lesson about human frailty or simply be fascinating to pick apart. But it's the heroes who inspire us to climb just one more step to perfection.

And in the end, isn't that the only thing a story is good for?

Don't be afraid to write a saint.

Give me a hero!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Mayly Book Report

Get it? The Mayly book report? Instead of the daily book report? Get it?

Oh never mind, I'm a goose.

Well! The first half of May was filled with the last days of school, and the second half with theater camp and a weekend of rehearsals. (Our Town was so much fun! and the play itself is so interesting it gave me several ideas for blog posts, although whether or not I'll ever get around to writing those remains to be seen.)

I did manage to finish several books in May, though. Here they are.

The Fellowship of the Ring, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Reread this for literature class, and oh! I've decided The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book. It has to be. It's quite simply the best. Finished in May; favorite character, Sam. Always and forever Sam.

This was the last book we studied in my high school literature class. *sobs softly* I loved that class so much. It was really interesting taking a look at such a well-beloved book in a studious setting.

I've decided that The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book. It's just so--so epic, in the best sense of the word. It's so big and deep and well-rounded and rich that you can bury yourself in it for weeks.

My favorite character, of course, is Sam. That didn't change with this reading, and I don't expect it ever will. :)

A Triumph For Flavius, by Caroline Dale Snedeker

A delightful book--this author understands that children's stories can and should be just as full of heart and drama as stories for grown-ups. Finished in May; favorite character...Ariphron.

Okay, so, the target age group for this book is apparently 3rd-5th graders, but don't let that fool you. The author of this book understands that children need serious stories with high stakes and suffering and sacrifice just as much as adults do.

It's the story of a Roman boy whose father, a general, presents him with a Greek slave as a present. As time goes on, the boy gradually befriends the Greek...and then comes the test of their friendship.

There were a couple sentence-long instances when the writing sounded like something out of a textbook rather than a story book, but all in all it was splendid. It can be read in one setting, but it packs an emotional wallop nonetheless.

The Secret of the Rosary, by St. Louis de Montfort

A truly excellent little book! I love St. Louis de Montfort's style--so simple and yet profound. Great spiritual reading. Finished in May.

If you're a Catholic looking for a good spiritual read, then this is for you! St. Louis de Montfort has a wonderful style--simple enough to keep a child engaged but absolutely profound. This book is basically a primer on the rosary--how and why to pray it, with dozens of lovely anecdotes thrown in. It isn't very long, and even reading a little bit of it at a time is well worthwhile. I definitely recommend it.

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens

I finally finished it! After about...four years.... Finished in May; favorite character...uh....Maybe Harry Maylie? Or Rose? Or Nancy? Or the Artful Dodger?

Congratulate me, friends. I finished it. After about four years reading it out loud to my siblings in uneven spurts, we finally finished it. Phew.

.....I wish I could say something intelligent about how good it was, but honestly it'd been so long since we'd read most of it that the last few chapters didn't really affect me in any way. Except for a sense of profound relief that now I can finally say "I've read Oliver Twist."

...I obviously need to reread this one someday, huh?

Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie

Oh I loved it! But I think I'm a little scarred! This'll be a fun one to read over and over again, I think, but I may decide to skip the last chapter or two. Finished in May; favorite character...Peter Pan, I suppose? I liked all of them, though!

Now this one I thoroughly enjoyed! I've been meaning to read it for forever, because of course I'd seen the Disney movie and thought I was familiar with the story, but knew in my heart of hearts I wasn't because everyone told me "The book is really different." And now I can finally speak of Peter Pan with confidence!

In some ways it was exactly what I was expecting, and in some ways it was a surprise. The general storyline is very similar to the movie, and ever and anon I was stumbling upon lines that sounded oh so familiar. But it was much....darker than the movie. There's something a little off about Peter, a little bloodthirsty and wild and unnerving. But that's as it should be. I suspect that the theme of Peter Pan is actually that it's not a bad thing to grow up eventually, and the touch of weirdness about Peter enhances that theme.

The back of my copy of Oliver Twist says something about Dickens "giving us daydream and nightmare at once," but I actually think that phrase could be much more aptly applied to Peter Pan than to Oliver Twist. It was a delightful hodge-podge of the comic and the tragic, the nonsensical and the serious, the delightful and the startling. I just know I'm going to want to read this one again and again!

And my siblings need to read it, of course. So there's a good chance I'll be rereading it as soon as this summer!

What books have you read recently? Have you read any of these? If so, what do you think of them? Squeal to me about themes and settings and favorite characters!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beautiful People Parents Edition: Dar

Eep! Beautiful People (hosted by Cait and Sky) is back! I haven't done one of these in way too long... That is, I was absent from blogging in February and there was no BP in April. So I guess it wasn't that long.

But anyway! I've been forgetting how much I love these, so I'd better hop back to it.


10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_n

I usually agonize over which character I should feature for BP, but...as I was copying the questions it struck me that it'd be really fun to answer these for Dar, the protagonist from my space opera tentatively entitled One of the Rabble (that title, as the word "tentatively" suggests, will most probably change...so if you have suggestions, I'm more than glad to hear them!).

Dar

Overall, how good is his relationship with his parents?

Um. Not good. Not good at all. In fact, his relationship with his parents doesn't really exist at this point (the beginning of the novelette).

Does he know both his biological parents? If not, how does he cope with this loss/absence and how has it affected his life?

He knew both of them intimately until he was eleven years old, when his mother was assassinated. Then he ran away from home, and he hasn't seen his father in over ten years.

As you can imagine, this has affected his life to a ginormous degree. He went from being a prince to a street rat overnight. It's changed the friends he has, the life he leads, and the convictions he holds. It's the reason the story exists.

How does he cope with it? Oh, pretty well, he'd say. Ha, he never even thinks about it anymore. This is the life he's used to. This is the life he wants.

So he says.

“What's done cannot be undone.”  ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Image not mine.

How did his parents meet?

Well, his father was the crown prince, and his mother was the daughter of a prominent courtier. They both grew up in the capital city and saw a lot of each other as kids, and it just sort of blossomed into courtship and marriage.

How would he feel if he was told "you're turning out like your parents"?

He would be flabbergasted. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but he'd kind of stare at you and blink and be thinking, "I'm turning out like my parents? But they're--responsible, and regal and poised and--and law-abiding! I'm nothing like them! I'm a revolutionist, for Pete's sake!"

Although "for Pete's sake" might not be a very futuristic phrase, huh?

What were your character's parents doing when they were his age?

They definitely weren't living in tunnels beneath the palace slaving away as part of a revolutionist movement, I'll tell ya that.

At twenty-one, Dar's father was (as the prince) a very active political figure--always at meetings with the nobles, always consulting with his father, always trying to learn more about how to run a country. He barely had time to woo Dar's mother, who, at that age, divided her time between courtship, social functions, and a quiet but aristocratic life at home with her family.

Is there something they adamantly disagree on?

Sure. Dar has come to believe that having an aristocracy is an inherently bad thing and plans to help overthrow the ruling powers himself. His father the king, as you might expect, adamantly disagrees with that point of view.

Is this just a game for a rich young boy to play? The colors of the world are changing day by day.
Image not mine.

What did the parents find hardest about raising your character?

My dear Dar was not an easy child. He was a prankster, a troublemaker, an imp. It was all his mother could do to keep him from driving the servants distracted. (Actually...she couldn't do that.) And on top of it all, he kinda hated school.

His twin, Alphonse, was much easier.

What's his most vivid memory with his parental figures?

With his mother: his rare quiet moments with her in the garden. She used to sit with him and his twin, Alphonse, and tell them stories there. He'll always associate gardens with his mother.

With his father: probably one of the times his father was stern with him. There were a lot of those.

What was your character like as a baby/toddler?

He was a happy, bubbly baby--and a happy, bubbly toddler, too, for that matter, but one of those toddlers who you can't leave alone for more than two seconds for fear that he'll climb out of a window and kill himself.

Kudalu and Elané
Image not mine.

Why and how did the parents choose your character's name?

Dar's full name is actually Adario Salvadoro. I don't think there's any special reason for the name other than the fact that his parents liked it and thought it sounded like a good, strong, aristocratic name for a prince. (And also, because it started with A, it went well with his twin's name, Alphonse.)

"Dar" became an irresistible nick-name for the kid because it's one syllable as opposed to four.

So! There's this month's Beautiful People. Dar will probably get another one all to himself sometime, since this was primarily focused on parents and he is my pet character. Now talk to me! Are you doing Beautiful People this month? What are some of your characters' parents like?