Terry Pratchett in his obtuse novel Witches Abroad uses mirrors as a focal point of in a symbolic nature not commonly seen in stories. There is the classic use of mirrors in the tale as well, with the evil witch Lilith using it as a mean of obtaining her power and as a means of communication. First instance in the very beginning of the novel the dying witch Desiderata Hollow is approached by her evil fairy godmother counterpart, Lilith, to discuss her coming death and failure. It was earlier mentioned that Desiderata was always taught never to get between two mirrors, a practice that Lilith manipulates to achieve control of the city Guana. This taboo of mirrors is explicitly described in the very beginning as being part of a superstition that mirrors “steal a bit of a person’s soul and there’s only so much of a person to go around” (5). It is also discussed that those who spend their lives reflecting themselves in various images thus, “develop a thin quality” (5). The fundamental theme of this kind of superstition is vanity, and how when one is so engrossed with themselves they lose track of who they are. It as if one forgets to look inward, discovering who they are in a metaphysical way, rather than basing one sense of self on the outward reflection, seeing them on the superficial level. It is reminiscent of the mythology of Narcissus, who stared at his reflection through a pond and fell in love with it so deeply that it leads to his death. He was only concerned with his outward reflection, yet there’s another interpretation of the tale in which the lake he would gaze into was weeping and the goddesses of the forest asked the lake why he wept, the lake responded because within Narcissus’s reflection he saw his own beauty. Seeing one’s beauty inwardly through a reflection seems to be more what Pratchett would profess. Using mirrors and reflections as a means of exposing vanity is also heavily prevalent in the fairytale, most likely being parodied in this novel, Snow White. The evil witch, similar to Lilith, begs the mirror to tell her that she is the most beautiful reflection he had ever seen, yet he cannot and her vanity takes over giving power to the evil inside her. With the Snow White fairytale the superstition of losing one’s soul from gazing into mirrors tool long withstands, for the vanity that ensues causes her to give into evil which destroys a person’s soul. She even goes to length of trying to kill Snow White, an act that wounds a person’s soul beyond repair. Lilith therefore goes an extra mile in destroying her soul because not only does she gaze into her reflection constantly, but she utilizes mirrors to fuel her power of controlling people’s lives. She does this by not only reflecting herself in one mirror, but two, causing her reflection to go on till infinity. This creates an infinite tunnel of vanity, that is not easily broken or escaped from.
Author Archives: kredmile
Harry Potter, a name famous in the real world as well as the secondary world that J.K. Rowling creates in her series based on the boy wizard. In the series and outside of them Harry is depicted as the hero of the wizarding world, being “the boy who lived” and by the Prisoner of Askaban a young boy who had defeated and escaped incarnations of Voldemort twice. Yet, when looked at with a deeper understanding of his circumstances and his character as a whole, Harry is not really the hero everyone has projected him as. He has demonstrated extraordinary amounts of bravery in his three years of being in the wizarding world, and has surmounted many of his peers when it comes to defensive spells, such as preforming a full formed patronus charm, however, these attributes hardly make him hero worthy. The fact that he still has the capability to love someone to the point that he would risk his life to ensure their safety, after all the love he has been withheld makes him hero worthy. In fact, his ability to cast a patronus is based purely on him producing a powerfully happy memory to focus on, he loves his friends to such a great extent that thinking of them allows him most often to achieve this goal (in later books), that is a rare gift to possess, especially from someone who had an upbringing completely void of any real affection “Harry cast his mind about for a happy memory. Certainly, nothing that had happened to him at the Durselys’ was going to do” (237). In the end of the Prisoner of Askaban also, his rescuing of Sirius from the horrifying punishment of the dementor’s kiss makes him a hero. Rescuing his godfather did nothing to benefit the wizarding world, and nothing to prevent Voldemort from executing any of his plans, but it is still one of Harry’s most heroic moments. Harry’s heroism is even tested at the end of the third installment of the series, when he has the chance to decide the fate of the true betrayer of his parents. He could have let Lupin and Sirius kill the traitor Pettigriew and avenge his parents, but he does not, instead he decides for him to be sent to Askaban under the justification that he does not want his father’s true best friends to be on the level of Pettigriew, “I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them to become killers – just for you” (376). For a 13 year old boy to understand the power killing someone does to one’s soul when two of the most skilled and decent wizards is outstanding and gives another example of how Harry is a hero, since even though his decision ultimately leads to Pettigriew returning to Voldemort, he saved the souls of Lupin and Sirius which would have been tainted with the murder of their once friend. Harry is seen as a crusader of justice and a warrior against evil in the wizarding world, and to an extent he is, but not with his abilities, but with his motivations, his bravery, and above all his love. As Dumbledore said at the end of the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “It is not our abilities that show us who we truly are, it is our choices”. Harry’s choices show that heroism lies with compassion and not any one great skill he possesses or because of the circumstances of his birth.
Tolkien’s epic tale The Hobbit is centered on a quest to find the lost treasure of dwarves ancestors. Yet, the retrieving of the gold itself turns out not to be the main benefit the quest produces, in fact the gold is quite a side factor in the grand scheme of things. What is more curious is that Bilbo’s title on this grand quest is “the burglar” when by the end of the book it is clear that his expertise did not lie in thieving in the most literal sense.
The original intent of the quest was to retrieve this treasure of the dwarves that was stolen by the greedy dragon Smaug. By the end however, their journey to the Lonely Mountain, where the treasure was guarded, solved conflicts between the races that had festered for ages. The intense and overwhelming greed of dwarves surfaces when the treasure was vacated from the dragon and Thorin refuses over and over again to compensate the men of the Lake Town with some of the riches, since their village was just destroyed, “The price of the goods and the assistance that we received of the lake-men we will fairly pay-in due time. But nothing will we give, not even a loaf’s worth under threat of force” (286). This stubbornness resurfaces an ancient division between dwarves, and elves and men. It seems that war is fast approaching between the two races, for Thorin will not even truly concede when he is presented with his most sought after and valued prize, the Arkenstone, as means of compromise, “the knowledge that the Arkenstone was in the hands of the besiegers burned in their thoughts; also they guessed the hesitation of Bard and his friends, and resolved to strike while they debated” (302). Yet, news from Gandalf unites the foes against one great foe, the goblins. With the help of the eagles they win the fight. Thus, the epic ends with the slaying of Smaug, who had been a cloud of fear over the Lake Town for ages, and a victory over the goblins, another constant source of fear. Not only were these matters resolved, but the fight itself brought a improbable understanding between two unlikely creatures; Thorin on his deathbed turns and says to Bilbo “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” (312).
This quote is also very important to the underlining theme of Bilbo’s purpose in the quest. For as mentioned, he was the burglar to the journey party, but his helpfulness did not consist of thievery. In fact, it seems that Bilbo had something much greater stolen from himself, and that was his quiet life and quiet understanding of himself. Before the journey he had only been acting on the Baggins side of his heritage, the side that only wished for comfort, after the journey however he acts on the adventurous Took side. Through this change his wit and cleverness proves to be his most vital contributions to the quest, along with of course his courage.
There is a recurring theme in all three Bluebeard stories, “Bluebeard” by Perrault, “Fitcher’s Egg” by the Brothers Grimm, and “Bluebeard’s Egg” by Margaret Atwood, and that is sex, in so many words. In Perrault’s story it is the key, in the Grimm’s it is the egg, and again in Atwood’s story the egg reappears. First in Perrault’s story there is the key, the mischievous key that unlocks the little forbidden room. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, the wife is drawn to its taboo implications, driven by curiosity. One can interpret this little room that ironically is filled with women’s body parts, as being symbolic of a woman losing her virginity. Thus, by opening the door the woman is opening herself up to forbidden pleasures. The key therefore can represent an extension of the woman herself, who is forever tainted by her deed. She cannot hide her shame from her husband who did not consent to her delving into her curiosity, yet another reiteration of which gender was perceived as being dominant during the times. Luckily for this heroine, she had some nice manly brothers to come and rescue her from anxieties and the consequences of her experiencing the forbidden fruit of desire. Then in Grimm’s tale, obviously an egg is connected to womanhood and all that that entails, but also symbolizes the purity of woman before their marriage. When the first sister marries the sorcerer and opens the forbidden door and drops the egg, she is in a way exposing her fertility to “scary” act of giving into desire, it is therefore marked permanently. She was careless with her womanhood and paid for the consequences with her life, though it would be reborn by the hands of her sister. Finally, however, the third sister realizes the plot, and takes care of her egg, or womanhood, per se, and from such careful consideration she is able to give back the lives of her sisters. She outsmarted the cruelty of her husband, keeping in control of her fertility and/or womanliness, and was rewarded with a happy ending. The egg can also show that fertility and purity is reserved for woman, since it was the sorcerer who originally tried to use it as a weapon to lead women to their deaths, but was ultimately unsuccessful in the end. Then in the modern version, “Bluebeard’s Egg” the egg is believed by the heroine to be representative of her husband, since he is pure and wholesome. Yet she finds out that she was grossly mistaken about his character and the egg she visualized before is now crimson red and pulsing. In this case the egg just represents sexual acts, for it was after she realized he was probably cheating on her with her best friend that the egg turned to this red terrifying member. Finding out that she was cheated on however though has ruined her ideas of her own sexuality as well, for she will always feel mediocre and ruined for not seeing the signs or being able to act on them. Her anxiety is heightened and her proud womanhood destroyed.