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Sept / Oct 2015

Magical Realism


BY RACHEL KOVACINY

Like a lot of Christians, I get a little jumpy around the word "magic." After all, the Bible warns us that when magic refers to doing magic spells and using supernatural power, we're not supposed to get involved. Which is why, although I don't mind reading about magic in fiction now and then, I prefer that it's clearly pretend, not inserted into the real world. I like my magic to stay in made-up places like Middle Earth or Narnia or Alagaesia and not invade London or Paris or Tennessee.

able to see things in the world others miss. It's fantastical enough to be clearly made-up, and it's a cheerful and helpful sort of imaginary magic, nothing dark or scary. The story concerns Felicity Pickle, a lonely sixth-grade girl. She's shy, she sometimes stutters, and oh yeah: she can see

Felicity collects many of the words she sees by writing them down — sometimes in a notebook, sometimes on her shoes or her skin, anywhere she can in order to capture them. She desperately needs the joy those words bring because her life is uneven and unhappy. Her mom is an artist who moves Felicity and her little sister Frannie Jo all over the US. She's done that ever since Felicity's dad left the family a few years ago.

All of this is why I was a little hesitant about A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. I mean, look—it has the word "magic" right in the title! I definitely wasn't going to let my son read it without checking it out first myself. As it turns out, the magic in this book has nothing to do with things like witchcraft, divination, sorcery, or consulting the dead. It's more like a heightened sense of wonder, a metaphor for being 2

around people, around things. Words in car exhaust and melted ice cream and sighs. Words everywhere! Which is a pretty fabulous metaphor for being a writer, I think. I don't physically see words around people's heads like halos or rising up out of a river, but words do pop into my head when I look at something or someone. Words are everywhere for me too.

words. Not just words written in books or magazines or on computer screens -- she sees words as people say them. She sees descriptive words hovering

As the story opens, the Pickles move to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, to stay for a while with Felicity's Aunt Cleo. Midnight Gulch used to be filled with the whimsical, imaginative magic that enables Felicity to see words. There's still a little magic


Magic captivates us. It contains echoes of our destiny, of the pull toward the unknown, of our eternal sense of “knowing” we were meant to be far more than we actually are in our fallen state. There are many extraordinary stories that entwine magic with reality, but we have chosen some of our favorites to present to you here. May you find new ways to look at these books, movies, and television series, or discover a new fascination. Happy Reading! ♥

A Snicker of Magic

Mithermage

The Vampire Diaries

Teen Wolf

Severus Snape

Meet the Writers

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Strange & Norrell

Winter’s Tale

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The Fisher King

Dustfinger

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left in the town, where some people make ice cream that brings back memories, others can capture memories inside objects, and sometimes certain people hear music no one else can hear. But most of the town's magic dissipated decades ago after the music-making Threadbare Brothers dueled with each other and both left town, doomed to wander and roam. On Felicity's first day at school in Midnight Gulch, the most magical thing of all happens: she makes a friend. Felicity has never had a real friend before, and she is thrilled that this boy named Jonah does not care that she stutters, doesn't think it's weird

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she can see words, and genuinely enjoys spending time in her company. Through Jonah, she gets to know the other eccentric people in Midnight Gulch and eventually solves the mystery of why the magic left with the Brothers Threadbare. Like Edward Eager and J. K. Rowling, Natalie Lloyd uses magic not just as a flashy way to get a reader's attention, but also as a metaphor for things we all struggle with. Things like knowing we've got talents and abilities but not being sure if anyone else will value them. Or not realizing how important the love of family members is. Or letting memories of things long

past keep us from enjoying the present. Did I let my seven-year-old son read this? You bet I did! I don't have to worry that he's going to learn any magic spells or supernatural things from it. Instead, I hope it helps him see the world as a fantastic, wonderful place where unexpected joy lurks in everyday surroundings. I hope it teaches him to extend friendship to people who truly need it. I hope it gives him an appreciation for his own sisters and their love and affection. And I hope it confirms his love of words and the power they contain. ♥

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BY CARISSA HORTON

In Teen Wolf, there's a lot of comedy, darkness, maiming, and smooching going on, per the norm. There’s also the predictable hero who does just about everything right and the goofy sidekick who people either love or hate. In this case,

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the latter is Stiles, best friend to Scott McCall a.k.a. teen werewolf who eventually becomes an alpha. Obviously not the heroic lead, Stiles trips over his own two feet, has had a crush on the same girl since he was in the 3rd grade and is always, always, always loyal to Scott, his best friend. Stiles is goofy and kind and jittery and… brilliant. He loves his dad, grieves the loss of his mom, and still has night terrors sometimes, just like when he was little. He's just… Stiles, and you always know where you stand with him. That predictability of character is something fans can take to the bank.


Which is what makes the last 12 episodes of the 3rd season so utterly terrifying. Suddenly, Stiles isn't Stiles anymore. He's something else, something evil, something manipulative, dark, and abusive that delights in tricking his friends. It evokes a petrified sense of loss as he starts to change, as the nightmares consume him and he can no longer determine if he’s sleeping or awake. But let's go back. Let’s return to that single moment when Stiles opened a door that should have never been opened. He, Scott, and Allison Argent (Scott's once-girlfriend) must perform a ritual to prevent all hell from breaking loose and to save their parents. They literally drown themselves in a tub of ice in order to trigger a dreamlike state so they can find something that needs finding. They are warned that this act has consequences and they will feel darkness around their hearts. For Scott, it means not being able to control when he changes into a wolf. For Allison, it means suffering visions of her dead aunt and having her once-steady hands shake. For Stiles, it means night-terrors and not being sure when he's awake or asleep. Weeks later, Stiles hallucinates a terrifying figure who begins telling him riddles. One of them is, "When is a door not a door?" and the answer of course is "when it's a jar." The ritual of dying and coming back to life left a door ajar in Stiles' mind,

something he can't shut, and that lets outside influences in. How often do we play around with things we have no business messing with? You know, those spiritual vibes you sometimes get when you’re watching a movie or a TV program? The vibes you push away because it’s a show you like and you must be imagining this reaction? Like certain episodes of The X-Files or the Johnny Depp film Secret Window does for me? There’s a reason for those vibes. It feels like watching or reading or listening to certain things can leave a spiritual door ajar in your mind, opening yourself up to evil influences beyond your control. While this being, this evil Stiles that wreaks havoc for so many episodes, is not really Stiles, it is something Stiles had to let in. He did that by playing around with spiritual powers and truths that should have been left alone. Life and death are not things to be taken lightly. His mind became vulnerable to evil influences, and he had no control over those influences. None, whatsoever. He could not save himself. In a moment of profound insight Teen Wolf stumbles across an important truth. We all need someone to lead us back to the light. Stiles lost himself by leaving the door to his mind ajar. He wandered and couldn’t find his way back to the father who loved him or to his friends who are being plagued and tormented by the being who has taken his place in their lives. It takes a

savior figure to call people back from a life of sin and torment, an existence devoid of any depth or meaning. For Stiles that moment came when Scott reached him. Across a long white room in Stiles’ mind palace, Scott can’t make himself seen or heard. Then Lydia (Stiles’ eternal crush), also there in his mind, reminds Scott that Stiles is in his wolf pack. He may not be a werewolf, but Stiles is an integral part of the pack, which means Stiles will hear him when Scott howls. So he does. And Stiles hears him. That is the moment, when there seems to be no hope, when the savior figure bellows and the member of his pack hears the call. That moment pulls Stiles up and out of himself, out of the darkness and the terror and into light. This scene is one of the most profound renderings of a salvation experience I have ever seen in television. No amount of opening doors, of letting evil influences in, of Ouija boards or dark rites or sinful acts could keep Stiles from hearing Scott’s call. Such is the same with Christ. He continues to call, and He will not stop calling because He loves humanity even more than Scott loves his best friend. But like Stiles, it means hearing the call and responding to it. It is possible that Stiles could have just sat there, unresponsive in his own mind, ignoring the call of his alpha. But he didn’t. He responded. And that’s all it takes. ♥ 5


BY CHARITY BISHOP

One could write an endless series of essays on the depths, nuances and meanings found in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a literary sensation and miniseries centered around the return of magic into an alternate England during the Napoleonic conflict. The story is a hodgepodge of Dickens-esque characters (all quirks, memorable names, and at times preposterous behaviors), fantastical historical switch-ups (one of the reasons Napoleon failed to invade England was the use of magical sea barriers), satire on the level of Jane Austen, and the richness of old faerie lore, tossed about with a decidedly sarcastic air. One could write about the title characters and their duality, being one another but inverted; the faults of one are the strengths of the other, for example (one a cautious man, the other arrogant and rash). Or one could discuss the many influences and sources of inspiration Susanna Clarke drew upon when creating this magnificent world full of many figures. 6

But no, what struck me upon a reading (and many viewings) was not merely the hilarity of it, or the quirks of it, or even the charm of talking statues and horses made of “horse sand,” but a single remark that settled upon me as the story drew near its end. Since the start, the magicians of Strange and Norrell have assumed themselves in control of their own fates, and dare to “summon the Raven King” in the hopes that he might defeat the Gentleman With the Thistledown Hair, a mischievous and malicious faerie king, who is making their lives miserable. Throughout the story, the Raven King has been spoken of with fear and reverence, an unseen force that once brought magic into England for a time and then simply… departed from it. He is gone but not dead; presumed vanished into the worlds beyond the mirrors of England. Now, they dare to summon him forth… and when he appears, he does not do their will or even speak to them, merely resurrects his prophet from the dead and rewrites the prophecy written into his skin.

Before the two magicians vanish, the prophet remarks to Norrell’s faithful friend and servant that they have never been in charge of their fates at all; all along, the magicians have been part of the Raven King’s story… they are his servants; he is not theirs. They do his will, for his purpose. And suddenly in my mind, the threads of an entertaining story became more interesting, for I saw an analogy probably not intended but that is profound. In Strange and Norrell, I see reflections of the arrogance of mankind, in assuming because it can, it should, and that mankind controls its own destiny, when in reality, we can neither “summon” nor “direct” the ways of divine Providence. Their story, its ending, its repercussions, and the spread of magic into society, was intended by the Raven King all along. Magic existed once, the Raven King intended it to exist again, and used two magicians to reinstate it. Having fulfilled the prophecy, it is written anew by its creator, leaving us to wonder … what happens next? ♥


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BY MARIANNA KAPLUN

The Fisher King is a 1991 American comedy-dramafantasy film written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by the amazing Terry Gilliam, about a radio shock jock who tries to find redemption by helping a man whose life he inadvertently shattered. In the beginning, Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), is riding the crest of a wave, his radio show popular enough for him to be offered a sitcom role, only for his entire world to fall apart when one of his onair comments inspires a depressed listener to shoot a group of innocent people drinking in a New York bar. In short, careless talk costs lives. Three years later, Lucas is working in his girlfriend’s video rental store, a morose and distant misanthrope, and regularly drinks himself into near-oblivion. Attacked by two teenagers and doused in gasoline ready for immolation, Lucas is rescued in strange and amusing 8

style by Robin Williams’ Parry and his troupe of singing homeless men. Parry is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, and tries to convince Jack to help him. It transpires that the two

“It’s important to think. It’s what separates us from lentils.”

men are linked, their present situation stemming from the same mistake in Lucas’ past. Jack learns that Parry’s real name is Henry Sagan and he was a teacher at Hunter College. Following his wife’s death, Henry

slipped into a catatonic state. When he emerged, he took on the persona of Parry and got obsessed with the legend of the Fisher King, a form of which he recounts to Jack. It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. While spending the night alone, he’s given a sacred vision—out of the fire appears the holy grail, a symbol of God’s divine grace. A voice said to the boy, “You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.” But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power, glory and beauty. In this state of radical amazement, he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and it vanished, leaving him terribly wounded. As the boy grew older, his wound grew deeper, until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He


couldn’t love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. A fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. Being a fool, and simple minded, he didn't see a king—he only saw a man alone, in pain. He asked the king, “What ails you, friend?” The king replied, “I’m thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat.” So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. He turned to the fool and said with amazement, “How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?” And the fool replied, “I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”

Echoes of the legend recur throughout the film, but in a continually shifting manner, so it sometimes appears that Lucas is Percival to Parry’s Fisher King, sometimes vice versa, and

Lucas: Well, that’s a bad... that’s a bad example.

Arthurian mythology and modern day decay seem perfect complements to each other in this fantasy drama. The rickety, and patently unrealistic stand that insanity is just a wonderful place to be and that the homeless are all errant knights, wears thin, but there are many moments of sad grace and violent beauty in the story. The screenplay by Richard LaGravenese launched his successful career and his smart wordplay helped garner Mercedes Ruehl an Oscar as Lucas’s girlfriend.

sometimes that one or the other is reenacting part of the story with another character (most obviously in Parry’s self-assigned quest to obtain the Grail from the man he believes is its guardian).

Williams’ portrayal of Parry is such that you cannot help but almost immediately empathize, which is key to capturing an audience. Vulnerability, love and sweetness characterize Parry, making his schizophrenic

Lucas: Where would King Arthur be without Guinevere? Parry: Happily married, probably.

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BY CAROL STARKEY

Runnel has never known love. His mother liked him well enough, but with so many brothers and sisters, he got lost in the shuffle. As he got older, the regular beatings he endured from his father increased in frequency and strength. Rather than die at his father’s hands, Runnel left home for the city of Mitherhome. After finding a way in and making acquaintance of

one of the servant girls, he works hard to fit in and save some money so he can set out on his own. It takes time, but he grows accustomed to the way of life in Mitherhome. He works in the home of a powerful mage, and as a result, neither he nor any other servant can admit to having magic. Though only stone magic is expressly forbidden in Mitherhome, no magic of any sort is tolerated. It is into this world that Runnel walks, unprepared for the truth he learns about himself as well as the people around him. This story is set in Orson Scott Card’s Mithermage series. Mages form a clant, their way of performing magic. This magic is different from anything you may see in a typical fantasy story. A clant is a way of casting out part of your body to do your magic— some mages control birds, others stone, and, as in the case one of the greatest mages, gates from this world to another. Runnel has a hard time adjusting. His look and tone of voice are proud, though his heart is humble. Through Lark, the servant he befriends, he learns to keep his eyes down and

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his face less rigid. Slowly, he learns he has magic, and the forbidden stone magic, at that. He works in the kitchen until he is thrown out. He helps with the laundry until given a different job. He is used throughout the household, doing what he’s told, quietly observing everything around him. The magic in this story is interesting and believable, but that’s not what makes the story good. Runnel is sympathetic. He comes from a broken family and doesn’t make friends easily, but he tries to do right and is a quick learner. As he learns more about himself, he integrates into the household, doing whatever chores are asked of him. Every night, he sleeps in the basement with his hands pressed to the stone. Near the end of the story, he finds that he is a stone mage, and not just any stone mage, but the most powerful kind, a Stonefather. He had no training as a child, which is why he recognized none of the signs that pointed toward his power: he can easily scale any cliff side, he loves the feel of stone in his hand, he dreams of becoming one with the stone in the basement when he sleeps. And when he tries to sense the living from the dead stone under


his master’s house, he realize that it’s all living because of him. He could run. His master tells him to. But the people of Mitherhome have long outlawed stone magic. The water mages overthrew the stone mages and took away their power, going back on their word and it is up to Runnel to make things right. He does, but at great cost to himself. He must become one with the rock in new ways, and keep the water mages from destroying him. He’s just a boy, but he must quickly become a man. Card is a master at weaving new worlds. The one in which Runnel lives is not so different from ours. Though the people have no indoor plumbing, no cell phones, and no motorized vehicles, their world is like ours hundreds of years ago. And people never change. They fall in love, fight, choose what they think is right, and keep going even when it’s hard. That’s what the author most brought to life: people. Runnel is a misunderstood boy, Lark a mischievous girl, and the master a good man at heart. They each make what they think are the right choices, and in the end, we see that though the cost to win is high, if it is good, it is worth the battle. ♥

moments all the more jarring. Alongside voices, Parry consistently imagines a rider on horseback, masked and wearing surreal clothing. The director blends comedy, drama, romance, and elements of fantasy and magical realism very, very well. His camera tricks and the way he works with actors makes his style unique and he really gets some amazing performances out of them. There’s strange stuff here, but it doesn’t overpower the story at all. The flights of fantasy are made all the more potent by their isolation in a real world setting. The waltz sequence in Central Station, for example, is so impressive that it became a regular event in New York’s new year’s celebrations. The Red Knight, shrouded in mist and flame, riding through Central Park is another jarringly memorable image. Gilliam brings his stylistic visual tics to more mundane settings: a long pull-back shot follows a homeless cabaret singer through a publisher's offices to serenade Lydia, the clumsy and slightly sociopathic object of Parry’s affections. Later, as they walk to a restaurant together, sparks fall behind them like rain. The

finding of the fantastic amidst the everyday is perhaps more impressive than the steampunk futurisms of Brazil, or the unreliable, ostentatiously fantastic narrations of Baron Munchausen. With a few notable exceptions, this is not a twisted version of the real world holding a mirror up to reality, it is the New York of 1991, and no less dark a vision for that. This movie has a lot to say about the power of friendship and love in general in our lives, how it can transform anyone. As master Gilliam once said: “I really want to encourage a kind of fantasy, a kind of magic. I love the term magic realism, whoever invented it— I do actually like it because it says certain things. It’s about expanding how you see the world. I think we live in an age where we’re just hammered, hammered to think this is what the world is. Television’s saying, everything’s saying ‘That’s the world.’ And it’s not the world. The world is a million possible things.” A million possible things for a knight on a special quest… ♥

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BY RACHEL SEXTON

The idea of the extraordinary existing in our ordinary world has always had a pull on the human imagination. When magic is placed in the “real world,” we find it relatable and intriguing— probably due to a bit of wish fulfillment on the part of the audience. A magical narrative is at its best, however, when the qualities of good storytelling in general are present. With regards to character, this means that alongside the hero and villain, there can also be the anti-hero. He or she does good things but has aspects to their personality that are off. One such character does feature in a tale of magical realism, to exceptional results. Severus Snape in Harry Potter is a complex, compelling character who feels magical and real at the same time. The first book in the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone in the UK, published in 1997). By now, everyone knows the story is about an orphan who discovers he’s a wizard and attends a school for magic while making 12

two best friends for life and facing a confrontation with the evil wizard who murdered his parents. Harry first sees Severus Snape almost immediately after arriving at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Snape is the Professor of Potions and is an increasingly important figure as the series continues until the stunning events involving him in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In 2001, a film adaptation of the first book was released starring respected veteran British actor Alan Rickman as Snape. It is said that author J.K. Rowling handpicked Rickman to play Snape and he completed the role throughout all the films in the series. Rowling brilliantly makes the choice from the beginning to present Snape as an anti-hero, and makes many of the events surrounding him ambiguous so that the reader is pulled into the mystery of whether this man is good or bad until the very end. Leading up to the final book, bad and good things simultaneously struggle for dominance in Snape. The following discussion has SPOILERS—so be warned!

When Harry first sees Snape, the scar on his head from the night his parents died hurts him; thus Harry begins to associate pain with Snape. Snape exhibits an unpleasant attitude toward Harry in his first potions class. This treatment does not change through subsequent books. As the Head of Slytherin House, Snape is blatantly biased towards students from his own house. Slytherin is the House of witches and wizards who sometimes turn to dark magic; this is another clue that Snape is bad in Harry’s mind. When Harry and his best friends put together that the school is the hiding place for the Sorcerer’s Stone and someone is trying to steal it, Harry assumes it is Snape. In later books, Snape is vocal about his bigotry, refuses to let go of the past, and holds Harry responsible for the sins of his father. Harry learns Snape was once a follower of evil Lord Voldemort, and that Snape is undercover as a Death Eater. Snape has the ability to not only read people’s minds through the skill of Legilimency, but is expert at Occlumency, or the ability to block people from his mind. Finally, in one of the most


dramatic moments of the entire series, Snape kills Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts and Harry’s loved mentor. As far as Harry is concerned, Snape is evil. Yet, at the same time, Snape also proves his good side. He was one of the teachers protecting the Sorcerer’s Stone, and does not hesitate to protect Harry, Ron and Hermione from a dangerous werewolf against his will. The lessons Snape tries to give Harry on Legilimency and Occlumency are well done and useful if Harry would only listen, and Harry sees that his father truly did torment Snape during their time at school together. Dumbledore insists he trusts Snape throughout the novels, especially in Half-Blood Prince, and Harry is stunned by the revelation at the end of that book that the previous owner of the Potions book that has been helping Harry all year with scribbled notes, also called the Half-Blood Prince, is none other than Snape himself.

mother Lily since they were children and turned away from Voldemort upon learning it was her son the Dark Lord meant to kill in response to a prophecy that the boy would destroy Voldemort. Dumbledore was already dying in the aftermath of destroying one of Vodlemort’s Horcruxes (pieces of soul transferred to another object) and forced Snape to appear to kill him to preserve Snape’s cover. Snape’s Patronus is a doe, just like Harry’s mother, and Snape used it to aid Harry in his quest to destroy Horcruxes. The memory shows Dumbldore recognize the Patronus and say, “Lily?

After all this time?” Snape’s response is “Always.” Severus Snape is a central character in Harry Potter and occupies the position of antihero until the end, when even Harry acknowledges his bravery. Harry gives his son the middle name “Severus.” There are antihero characters in other books, television shows, and films but with one word (“Always”), Snape entered the highest level of fame. He will be unforgettable and compelling to readers…always. ♥

With all this going on at once, it is no wonder that during the rampant fan speculation leading up to the publication of the final book, one of the major topics was Snape’s true allegiance. With a game-changing and revelatory chapter called “The Prince’s Tale,” Rowling gave us answers. Killed at the hands of Voldemort, Snape gives Harry his memories as he dies. They show Harry the real Snape. Snape loved Harry’s 13


BY CHARITY BISHOP

In the world of Winter’s Tale, angels can appear in the form of magnificent white horses, humans each possess a “miracle” intended to change a life that they choose to freely give to one another, and souls become stars in the heavens. Mortals do not die until their miracle is spent, and demons live and thrive in the seedy underworld. Pearly Soames is the demonic overlord of New York City at the turn of the century, and becomes angry with one of his orphans, Peter Lake, because he has learned to take the ring without the finger! The purehearted Peter flees from the darkness Pearly intends to envelop him in, and runs straight into Beverly Lewis, who is dying of consumption. It is instant attraction that soon becomes true and lasting love. Pearly intends to stop Peter from being 14

the “miracle” Beverly needs to survive her illness, but none of then anticipates the true design that ties them together. Told as a “fable,” this story has many different elements of magic and spirituality, some pagan and others mindful of Christianity, but what truly struck me the first time I watched it is how profound it is in its profession that each life is magnificent; we are all worthy of someone crossing a century to save us, even if we are never the “savior” of anything. Pearly loathes the humans and their ability to become stars, to pass on love, light, and miracles, but he is so fixed on Peter that he fails to see true miracles in unexpected places. He anticipates that “the” miracle Peter possesses is meant for “someone important”; as we mortals are inclined to do, we too


anticipate that this girl will “be someone” in the future… that Peter is saving the person who will one day cure cancer, or who is destined for greatness… but as Beverly illustrates in the final moments, the act of “doing” a great thing does not make a person great; each life has value and the most “unimportant” of us all is still worth saving. There are many beautiful and touching elements to this story, but it always serves to remind me that the greatest of miracles are often those we cannot see; that our lives entwine together in ways we cannot imagine, and that while God makes us wait, His grand purpose is always in play… Peter thought his miracle was meant for one girl, when in reality it was intended for another. He thought he had a miracle to give, without realizing that he too is a miracle, in and of himself. Each of us has a unique purpose in life, a unique gift that is ours alone, to give and serve in a higher purpose. We can spend all our time focusing on how we believe our lives and gifts should go, and miss out on the more subtle and profound events of our lives. What if we approached each day with the belief that we possess a miracle for someone we meet; what if we had that gift to pass on through an act of kindness, a listening ear, a gentle word? What if we could become part of the miracle? How might our life change? How might theirs? Might that love that is divine also survive the centuries? ♥ 15


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BY ELORA CARMEN SHORE

ustfinger. Just the name breathes magic. His hair shaggy, his long coat dusty, his horned marten Gwin on his shoulder, biting at passerby's fingers—those scars adorning his left eye. The perfect image of a mysterious, tragic figure from our imagination. Ever since I was a kid I always imagined what it'd be like for a story to step out of its pages and color in ordinary life with the intrigue and mystery of its own lifeblood. Would colors be brighter, ordinary things seem more extraordinary? Would I begin to hear whispers from under shadowy shrubs and glimpses of fairies? Inkheart… in itself a beautiful title… brought it together in an un-romanticized, but still beautiful reality. When I first heard of the story Inkheart, it was from a friend who had seen the movie, and was now interested in the books. Shortly after that I got to see the movie and saw why it had made such an impression. It truly brought the magic of stories into the real world—quite literally. And one of the people a part of that magic was Dustfinger, a firebreathing performer who is both cowardly, courageous, heartless, and self-sacrificing. To me he

was the most human of any of the characters—the most tragic, the most heroic, who through his desperation, is led to do both his worst, and his best. Sadly only one movie was made, with Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. He played him quite beautifully —and it was his quirks and voice that I envisioned when I rushed to read the books. His story (the one I was most interested in) carried on from the first book with him (something that was changed in the film, which was okay with me) searching for another Silvertongue to read him back home. The second book is my favorite. It takes us into the magic of Inkworld, and we get to see Dustfinger in the place that is his home. In the first book he went from a self-serving, cowardly ass to someone who walked away, looking for hope again. Not necessarily with the promise that he was a changed person, he had just made a choice. He was still mixed. This story really made me consider what it means to be a coward, and to be so desperate. Like everyone, he is given numerous choices along his road. Many he makes that seem harsh and selfish, fearful (understandably, in many) but he is such a mix that we aren't sure whether to root for him or condemn him. Which makes the final choice he

makes all that much more redeeming, because it is what we hope for ourselves. In our desperation, we make the choices we do, always making excuses, as we watch the consequences… and a part of us is hoping through it all that somehow, and at some point, we can redeem ourselves. It wasn't out of redemption that Dustfinger makes his final choice. And that's why we love him. Out of love, he trades his life for another's—finally gives up on looking out for himself and goes to meet that which he has been running from for so long— his foretold death. Although it isn't as it had been written. Over the course of the stories he goes from a self-serving wanderer in search of a way home to someone who does something all of us hope we'd have the courage to do. He was the most human—he was the most selfish, the most caring. The most cowardly, the most courageous. He was beautiful not only for the fire that he spoke to and shaped, but because of the part he played in the lives of others, and the hope—not just a fairytale hope—but a real hope that our talents and what we do are a reflection of the possibilities and hopes of what we are and can be. ♥

17


BY JESSICA ELIZABETH

T

he Vampire Diaries has evolved throughout its run. It meant to appeal to the idea of a vampiric romance and the heroine, Elena Gilbert, was to be a refreshing take on the empathic girl archetype. It runs this theme in a skillful way, but there is a dark undercurrent under the initial teen theme of dealing with loss and finding yourself again. It is realistic in its themes of sexism and abuse, and that often shocks us. Throughout the series, magic amplifies 18

dangerous social constructs and displays them on an extreme level. Essentially, Elena seeks the approval of men over women and understands that having these beings in love with her makes her unique. After the death of her parents, she is in a stage of grief and sees herself as ‘the girl whose parents died’ instead of her true self. The danger of vampirism is the idea of being special and unique and Elena is one of the most complex antiheroines on television.

This is where real life is reflected in the supernatural: the men are aware of hierarchy and take brutal, cynical advantage of it. Elena is objectified throughout, from simply being a special girl to a doppelganger (another magical construct), and finally an inverse of her status at the end of her arc. In the same way, other female characters pay prices the male characters do not. In the pilot, Caroline Forbes says everyone always picks Elena


over her. When Bonnie tells her it isn’t a competition, Caroline answers, “Yes, it is.” Caroline is aware of what she is lacking, in the minutia of her reality; she knows she has no real social power compared to Elena (after all, Elena’s parents died) and what is disconcerting about her is that she never conceals it. Most of the characters comment on her falsity and judge her harshly, but Caroline’s social disparity has very real life and death consequences. Damon

Salvatore, overhearing her words in the Mystic Grille, picks her as a victim. Here, the show is in danger of victim-blaming if read superficially, but instead is a reflection of the undercurrent of active sexism in the vampire world. Damon choosing her tells something about him. Compared to Stefan, Damon is “never the one” anyone picks, despite how far he goes and how much selfsacrifice he goes through to be “the one.” Damon’s targeting of Caroline is a reaction to his own

feelings, but Caroline pays a higher price than Damon ever does. Her friends even cast some blame towards her more than Damon (“shaming” her for her behavior, even though she was controlled against her will, where Damon’s actions are ignored). After a twist of fate turns her into a vampire, her characteristics, per the rules of vampirism, are enhanced, and heightened. She soon realizes she makes a better vampire than a human being, 19


because her kindness and sweet nature helps her avoid hurting people. But this doesn’t mean her survival is guaranteed; Caroline has been targeted by Katherine Pierce, her father, and most of all, Klaus Mikaelson. Because Klaus is romantically interested in her, Caroline is often used to gain information from him for her friends and is abused by him in the process. Klaus echoed the general dynamic of the male vampires: he told her she was special and then took out most of his rage on her when it counted. In a key scene, Caroline has to convince him to save her after enduring his bite: as a hybrid, Klaus can kill vampires with a bite alone. She must convince him through very similar appeals to those Elena has used in the past to save her life. He relents. In this, Caroline’s arc changes again. She has become much more vampiric and gains social competence to survive an extreme world. She must sacrifice quite a bit to do it. What’s what makes her story fall on the more cynical side of honest—and it is powerful. When we first meet Bonnie Bonnet, she is very enthusiastic about her emerging power. As a witch, she has an incredible well of power and resources within her. In an early scene, she shows Elena her ability in a beautiful way by lifting a feather with her force of will and magic. In subsequent seasons, Bonnie’s power has often been used by her friends, especially Elena. As with the gender dynamic, the racial 20

implications are heightened. Mystic Falls even has references to its South Heritance. In the original books, Mystic Falls is a Northern town. In the show, it is reframed to show multiple Civil War references from the modern day to the actual birth times of the Salvatore Brothers. Bonnie-Elena’s dynamic is meant to echo EmilyKatherine’s dynamic. Bonnie is quickly isolated in her group dynamic. Her grandmother passes away trying to help Elena and Stefan during a spell. Suddenly her support system is actively stripped away from her. She finds out about vampires by Damon physically attacking her. Her instinct is to do whatever she can for her friends because she should. As the show progresses, she gets close to death itself. Bonnie loves her power and she loves to use it to help, but in the face of the Salvatore brothers, her life is often in danger. She nearly dies fighting Klaus for Elena. Her life compared to her birth mother’s is decided by a coin flip by the Salvatores. The newest season had her sacrifice herself along with Damon to the prison world.

Now, here is where Bonnie’s arc changes. Her bond with Damon helps, as he does see her as a person now. Before, her life was of little value. However, the real change comes in the form of Kai, an evil magic user trapped in the prison world with her. Bonnie relies only on herself and finally begins to feel the bitterness—true anger—towards her situation. When Kai escapes, leaving her alone, she gets the point of even being tempted to take her own life instead of staying there alone. Bonnie walks through an unjust and unfair hell to realize her own pain. When she returns, she allows herself to show Damon exactly how it felt to be hurt by Kai. In the end of her recent arc, Damon chooses to save her rather than wake Elena up, as Kai tied their life forces together in a spell. The very visual effect of this physical choice is what supernatural shows can offer us. Elena remains asleep and her friend has a chance to choose life. Bonnie’s story ends on hope. She


has gained agency, at extreme cost, and often her storyline is uncomfortable—but like Caroline’s, unfailingly honest. Lastly, we must speak about doppelganger objectification. Elena Gilbert is one of the best antiheroines in recent television history as is Katherine Pierce, her doppelganger. This storyline explores how much life one girl is entitled to. Elena does grievous things to stay alive, because she has the power to do them. At first, Elena embodies the concept of being alone and having to rely on other people to survive. Her very being, the doppelganger, is objectified by magic itself. The system she tries to navigate often depowers her. She has an aspect of borrowed life and death, and while it doesn’t justify her more unfair decisions, she’s an excellent character who is more cynical than she lets on. She chooses to embrace her role in events rather than being purely vulnerable. Her life is focused on herself and her friend’s bonds with her. Powerful men find her worthy of being protected. This is where her tragedy of gender dynamics manifests in a brutal way. When she becomes a vampire, her social role changes. She becomes uncontrollable and abuses her new authority. Elena lives up to her doppelganger and is a true reflection of Katherine, who also

victimized and objectified others. Their power lies in what they make people feel about themselves, never their own personhood, and if that changed, they’d be abandoned. Katherine and Elena understand each other more than anyone else. They see the real person they are and hate each other for it. They realize the impossibility of both existing in one place at the same time. Katherine knows her face is what brought Damon to Elena, the same as Stefan. Her own painful past is constantly ignored in comparison to Elena. Their objectification, their constant contrast of Madonna/ Whore trope, ends up being their final end. Katherine alone is judged to be worthy of hell in contrast to the other characters (all of whose crimes are just as bad) and Elena is put into a magical slumber, a callback to sleeping beauty as defined by her face, her superficial appearance.

disparity in this magical realism medium. Magical realism works the best when it echoes real life power dynamics as a way to explore issues in a way that is universally understood. Our storytelling can help us learn and acknowledge our world. The dynamics shown on The Vampire Diaries have been told before in other media but not as often with the full intent to their meanings. ♥

When Elena awakes, she’ll start her life anew. She’ll live on her own terms, no matter how dark. Life demands a price from her and she won’t be able to be herself truly… but like Katherine, I think she can live with it. Due to changes in power dynamics, she would have been far too vulnerable as a human. Elena’s arc is the most uncompromising statement on television tropes and gender 21


Charity Bishop is an editor. Her free time is spent writing novels & movie reviews, blogging, and typing fictional characters on tumblr. She is known as an allaround contrarian who is only serious about her faith. Carol Starkley has a husband, three daughters, three cats, five fish, and a hamster. She’s also a Christian Blogger. Carissa Horton spends her working hours at Compassion International whose tagline reads “Releasing Children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” She is an avid crafter, a prolific blogger on Musings of an Introvert about all things literary and film-based, and dreams of getting her stories published.

Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is a philologist specializing in Ancient Russian drama and theatre. She’s also a film and television critic by calling and librarian by profession. You can find her essays on her Facebook page and on Lumiere. She also blogs in English and Russian.

As a long time fangirl, Jessica Elizabeth has loved all kind of stories and that hasn't changed. A feminist and college student, she is interested in science and art. She loves to draw, dabble in photography, and write. She hopes to write a story of her own one day...

Elora Carmen Shore is a long time writer and has published a short story (Eloise) and her first collection of poetry, A Road to Count the Days By, available on Amazon Kindle. Her poems have appeared in several magazines. She is working on a romcom and a fantasy trilogy. Follow Elora online at Pendragon and Out My Front Door.

Rachel Sexton is from Ohio and has a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Arts. She loves her parents and her dog Lily. But what you really need to know is that she has to have acting, film, reading, and dance in her life and her favorite fandoms are Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, and Once Upon a Time. Plus, she is most described as quiet and her biggest vice is cupcakes. Her main hobby is editing fan videos.

When she's not writing, Rachel Kovaciny passes the time by reading, baking, watching movies, crocheting, blogging, and homeschooling her three children. Her least favorite activities are house-cleaning and wearing shoes, and she's been known to go to great lengths to avoid both. She blogs about books, and also has a personal blog that talks about movies and other important things. 22


Young people gifted with supernatural abilities for a divine purpose encounter all manner of conflict and spiritual awakening in this terrific new book series by Femnista editor Charity Bishop. A haunted assassin’s academy, a would-benun, an army of ghosts, and Napoleon Bonaparte feature in Ravenswolde Purchase at Amazon

A family curse, a band of Romani, the famous Dr. Joseph Bell, and Jack the Ripper feature in The Giftsnatcher Purchase at Amazon

A cleric with a closet full of weapons, a mysterious aunt she has never heard of, a villainous neighbor, and a cunning cat feature in Thornewicke Purchase at Amazon

A diabolical past, a possessed house, a secret organization, and the RMS Titanic feature in The Secret in Belfast Purchase at Amazon

Due to intense themes and violence, the series is recommended for ages 13+. 23


NEXT TIME: The Evil Queen Hamlet’s Gertrude Jadis of Narnia Dolorus Umbridge Oz’s Wicked Witch Catherine de Medici Morgana Maleficent Asajj Ventress and more.

“Villainesses”

NOV/DEC: “Renaissance” Michelangelo Ever After Jodhaa Akbar Thomas Becket Queen Elizabeth I Katherine von Bora Luther Da Vinci Shakespeare and much more! © Charity’s Place. No copyright infringement intended. All written content is original and may not be reproduced without consent. Disclaimer: the opinions of the individual writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Charity’s Place or Femnista; the stories and entertainment mentioned is not always appropriate viewing for all ages.

Femme Fatales. Evil Witches. Malicious Stepmothers. Murderous School Marms. Literature and film are full of diabolically dreadfully delicious female villains. Join us for a dark look at some of our favorites. WANT TO CONTRIBUTE? Claim your topic before someone else does! femnista@charitysplace.com

Coming on Halloween!

Femnista Sept Oct 2015  

A Snicker of Magic, Teen Wolf, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Fisher King, Mithermage, Severus Snape, Winter’s Tale, Dustfinger, The Vam...

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