Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Doctor and the Detective: Doctor Who and Holmes’ Hidden Link

Steven Moffat isn’t the only link between BBC’s top shows. “There’s documentary evidence that in the formulation of The Doctor, there’s an awful lot of Sherlock Holmes influence,” producer Mark Gatiss notes. In fact, both these thin, eccentric mystery-solvers have much in common. They have gadgets, immense intellects, and wisdom far beyond their sidekicks. And the authorities beg them for help when they’re out of their depths. The introductory episodes, “Rose” and “A Study in Pink” do much to emphasize the hero’s briskness, mysteriousness, and uniqueness, while updating the classic stories with the internet, cellphones, and modern storylines. Likewise, the shadowy threats of Moriarty and “Bad Wolf” provide a season arc and an unseen manipulator.

They have a strong ethical core independent of conventional laws but are mostly asexual with awkward social skills. Both seem oblivious to women, especially those like Martha or the hapless mortician Molly who are actively interested. The Doctor clings to his moral center,  offering warnings to his worst enemies and allowing them to leave in peace. The point appears several times that nothing is more dangerous than a good man fighting for those he loves. Holmes, too, offers mercy to sympathetic criminals in the (original short stories) The Devil’s Foot, The Blue Carbuncle, and The Three Gables. At the same time, he threatens to horsewhip a cruel seducer. His television reincarnation chooses his problems by their colorfulness, not their seriousness of crime. He tries to avoid helping Britain’s rulers, stubbornly arriving at the palace in only a sheet. He also suggests paying off Irene Adler and saves her more than once. A threat to his beloved Mrs. Hudson, however, reveals a shockingly cruel side to his personality.
While both these characters appear heroic to readers, there’s a darker edge not shared by the
more innocent companions or even Doctor Watson. Watson and the companions are the ordinary characters, dragged into the world of the unusual and even supernatural. Watson and all the companions, especially Rose, represent the analytical hero’s heart—his link to the people he’s determined to save. Both heroes would be lost without their sidekicks, the ones who remind them that trust and love are the greatest of emotions. “That’s the frailty of genius—it needs an audience” as Holmes notes. But this friend is far more: Holmes and the Doctor are terribly isolated for their uniqueness and “the only one in the world,” as it’s often pointed out—only their one trusted friend can keep them grounded and morally upright.

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The Secret Hunger Games: Adults vs. Kids

The Hunger Games is coded as a battle of adults versus children. Katniss’s parents are useless, from her dead father to her withdrawn mother who forces Katniss to care for herself and her sister. Katniss is the one to hold them together and keep them from starving, and through the book she dwells on her mistrust for her mother. Only Gale, a fellow teen and protector of his own family, can be relied on.

In Katmiss’ world, the older children protect the younger, as she does her little sister, or Rue does for her younger siblings. Since Rue is the eldest in her family, there’s no one to protect her but Katniss. Katniss realizes that Thresh and Rue would be her friends if not for the true enemy, the ones who hold the games.

Her true allies, she ones she shares sympathy with are the tongueless girl in the capital, Thresh, who would have been a friend, her hunting partner Gale back home. Even Madge, the baker’s daughter, gives her the mockingjay pin she wears as a symbol of home, while Katmiss discards her mother’s dress and shoes. Half the children in the games are relucntant to fight, from Thresh, who lets Katniss escape, to Rue, showing her she’s in danger from hornets, to Foxface, darting in to steal and run.

Adults are using her, from Cinna, who selects her dazzling outfits to show off his own talent long before he sees her as a person to Haymitch, who pushes her to shine for the sponsors. The Games themselves are the most fundamental example of this, run by adults to kill children for entertainment. In this world, the president is the ultimate adult and ultimate user, murdering families to control the victors of the games.

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Love Among the Misfits: Twilight and Glee

“I see a future where it’s cool to be in Glee club. Where you can play football and sing and dance, and no one gets down on you for it. Where the more different you are, the better.” Finn says in “Mash-Up.” But of course, the football jocks lock Artie in the Porto-Potty and Finn’s girlfriend calls him gay for signing up, worried that now they’ll never be prom king and queen. Glee, though Will remembers it as cool, is the haven for all the misfits: the gay boy, the pregnant girl, the black overweight girl, the wheelchair kid, the nerds. Into this walks diva Rachel, who appears to have everything in a world of have-nots and broken families. It’s a little hard to take her seriously when she believes she’s friendless and needs a haven to belong. But her tale makes more sense when she’s compared to the remarkably similar Bella Swan.

Many have criticized teens’ beloved Twilight as a wish-fulfillment story. Shy, unattractive Bella arrives at a new high school. Instantly, everyone wants to be her friend, invite her to prom, ask about glamorous Arizona. And creating even more of a stir, she has the attention of the insular teen millionaire Edward Cullen, who’s never even glanced at a girl before Bella.

Glee echoes some of this high-school fantasy attitude. “You’re the best kid in there, Rachel, but that comes with a price,” Will tells her (Pilot). She will have to be the role model for the other kids who can’t sing nearly so well. And he offers her all the solos just so she can feel better. True, high school theater and singing directors give the best parts to the most talented students. But all the solos? When he’s trying to restart this thing?

Though Rachel looks intimidated by the row of blonde cheerleaders in the celibacy club, she quickly stands up on her first day to tell everyone their philosophy is “a joke.” She knows better, and Quinn’s pregnancy certainly supports that celibacy doesn’t work. But Rachel’s always right in her snap judgments, always beloved despite her “high maintenance” personality. When Mercedes protests singing backup for Rachel in the pilot, everyone turns on her—of course Rachel should continue. She’s their diva. And now that Will has conveniently broken all his ethics to threaten Finn, Rachel gets the perfect partner and the pair can begin a perfect relationship.

Rachel pictures them as the hot male lead and the stunning ingénue who everyone roots for. All right, there are some bumps along the way, but deep down, that’s exactly who they are. Here we have idealized teen romance, in which fate and everyone in the story conspire to help the two kids make it. Life for Bella, or the Glee Club for Rachel falls into disaster whenever these star couples quarrel or break up in their “Romeo and Juliet style” romances (“Hell-O,” New Moon).

“I’m so sick of hearing you squawk, Eva Peron!” Mercedes tells Rachel.

“Let her talk!” Finn says, rushing to her defense though he barely knows her (Showmance).

Finn gives up his friends, his top-of-the-school jock status, and his football, all to sing with Glee Club. His miserable girlfriend Quinn calls him gay, and threatens to leave, but Finn won’t budge. Sometimes people change. But in the high school world where reputation and conformity are all, where guys don’t want their friends seeing them as “wimps,” this change feels a little unlikely. Edward, too, risks his secret getting out, and even risks Bella’s life to get close to her, protect her, jump with her among the treetops. And he brings her to the secret haven of the vampires: his adopted family who are just as big a cluster of misfits as the Glee Club.

Esme was an abused wife who lost her child then tried to kill herself. Rosalie, once gang-raped nearly to death, longs for her lost humanity and the ability to have children. Alicewas institutionalized by her suspicious parents. Jasper battled through depression in a hundred years of murder that nearly cost him all traces of humanity. And Edward and Alice are often tormented by their mental gifts, as each learns dire knowledge they’d be happier without. All of them are cut off (by choice) from normal vampire society, and forced to hide their true nature from the surrounding humans. John Granger comments in Spotlight, “In short, we have our postmodern collection of marginalized freaks—a certified rebel, an Appalachian hillbilly, and a Mason, no less! With the Cullen women, they’re all damaged goods who are united only in their struggle to live their lives outside the ‘vampire first’ metanarrative of the Vulturi” (68). These vampires, like the X-Men and other fantastical high school misfits, are more powerful than everyone else, and their abilities separate them from society.

The entire Glee team echoes this. “We’re the outcasts but we’re also better than everyone else” is an echoing theme. In the first episode, Will recalls an idealized Glee Club, filled with spotlights, trophies, and adoration. Glee club? The world of singing, especially small-town high school singing, is unlikely to lead to stardom. Traditionally, Glee Club has been a place for fun and acceptance, a safe place for Rachel to practice her songs in front of peers and Kurt to wear fun costumes, not somewhere where Broadway-class stars get discovered. In a more honest moment, Will admits that the jocks are unlikely to join and Finn points out that maybe Glee still is the “lamest place on earth.” But it’s not about that—as he also adds, it’s about finding a place to express their talents. It’s a haven for Rachel and the other gleeks, just as the Cullen clan is a haven for Bella.

The Twilight series ends with Bella outshining all the vampire clan. As a newborn vampire, she is stronger than her muscle-bound brother-in-law. Even her clumsiness and closed-off mind are revealed as her hidden power—she is a shield who can protect her entire family. Rachel, too, goes on to discover her mom (Idina Menzel!) and lead Glee Club in competition. After three years of leading the group, Rachel continues as star, “President of fourteen clubs” and even Prom Queen (though she wasn’t elected!). As even marginalized Tina accepts that Rachel should indeed be their diva, her old boyfriend-enemy recommends her as the greatest star he’s known, New Directions beats out the more talented Vocal Adrenaline, and one of the world’s top acting trainers shows up to Rachel’s performance to give her a second chance, the perfect wish-fulfillment current of Twilight returns.

Rachel has been the narrative voice of the series, so it’s quite tough to imagine Glee without her. She’s been the leader as all the misfits stand up for one another, making it clear that an attack on one is an attack on all. Like the vampires of Twilight, they form a community where their prima donna and her true love can be teens in love together forever, casting themselves as supporting characters in her drama. And that’s the fantasy.

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Katniss and the Heroine’s Journey

The classic heroine’s journey appears in many beloved books, like Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. It features in works by Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolen, and Juliet Marillier. And it permeates The Hunger Games, casting Katniss as a classic heroine beside classic heroes Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

The true goal of the heroine’s journey is to become the all-powerful mother. Thus, many heroines set out on rescue missions in order to restore their shattered families: Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time quests to save her father then her little brother. Coraline tries to save her parents, Meggie of Inkheart, her mother. Alice and Dorothy struggle to return to their families. Katniss is protector of the family from her earliest years, as she feeds and cares for not only her little sister but her mother. She extends this protection to Gale’s family, her own district, and finally all the people of Panem, as she provides food and support for her loved ones and protects the innocent.

Katniss, like Artemis or Percy Jackson’s friend Annabeth, shoots a silver bow. Silver is the color of moon magic, perception, and feminine strength, while a bow is the elegant distance weapon of the classic warrior woman. Even Susan in the Narnia series is called “the great archer.”

In many fairytales from Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to “The Six Swans,” the heroine’s most dire struggle takes place high in the prince’s castle, far from the magical protection of her forest or ocean home. This, like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, is the masculine world of law and tyranny, where the young heroine is truly helpless. The Hunger Games themselves are a similar fortress of the tyrant’s power, where the Gamemakers can torture Katniss with firestorms and viciously changing rules. In the final book, Katniss enters the Capitol itself to assassinate Snow on his home ground. She sneaks through the city-sized trap he has created, filled with mutts and deadly “pods” to find him awaiting her in his palatial mansion in the center.

By realizing that the tyrant’s power over her has ended, the heroine finds independence and strength. Just as Dorothy discovers the Wizard is a humbug, or Lucy and Susan see Aslan dead and helpless, Katniss perseveres through Snow’s threats and traps to see him die in the Capitol square.

However, the patriarch is not the real power in the heroine’s tale – he’s little more than a pompous blusterer who melts away when confronted. For the heroine, the true threat is the evil witch, murderess of the innocent. She is Mrs. Coulter of The Golden Compass, the Wicked Witch of the West, the White Witch of Narnia who tortures Edmund and keeps the land bound in sterile winter. Though Katniss realizes it too late, this adversary is rebel president Alma Coin. Coin, like Snow White’s stepmother, resolves to destroy the young heroine through jealousy and to maintain her own rulership. Katniss is a beloved symbol of revolution, Katniss could name another to be president, therefore Katniss must die.

Discovering the dark matriarch’s power, understanding her, confronting her, but not becoming her is the key to adulthood. Katniss destroys Coin’s influence over herself and over Panem, her world, and then retreats into the simplicity of the countryside. There she becomes, not a warrior woman, but a mature adult, protector of her family and figure of morality. This is the key to the heroine’s journey—traveling toward acceptance, balance, and nurturing love.

More information on the heroine’s journey, from charts to a booklist can be found at http://vefrankel.com

 

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne/dp/146996824X

 From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend http://www.amazon.com/From-Girl-Goddess-Heroines-Journey/dp/0786448318/

 

Comparison of Models

The Steps of the Journey

 

Campbell‘s Hero’s Journey The Heroine’s Journey Stages
The World of Common Day The World of Common Day Innocence and Discovery
The Call To Adventure The Call To Adventure Innocence and Discovery
Refusal of the Call Refusal of the Call Innocence and Discovery
Supernatural Aid The RuthlessMentorand the Bladeless Talisman Innocence and Discovery
The Crossing of the First Threshold

The Belly of the Whale

The Crossing of the First Threshold

Opening One’s Senses

Journey through the Unconscious
The Road of Trials Sidekicks, Trials, Adversaries Journey through the Unconscious
The Meeting With the Goddess
Woman as the Temptress
Wedding the Animus

Facing Bluebeard

Finding the Sensitive Man

Confronting the Powerless Father

Meeting the Other
Atonement with the Father
Apotheosis
Descent into Darkness

Atonement with the Mother

Integration and Apotheosis

Meeting the Self

 

The Ultimate Boon Reward: Winning the Family Meeting the Self
Refusal of the Return
The Magic Flight
Rescue From Without
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Torn Desires

The Magic Flight

Reinstating the Family

Return

Meeting the Self

 

Master of the Two Worlds Power over Life and Death

 

Goddesshood and Wholeness
Freedom To Live Ascension of the New Mother

 

Goddesshood and Wholeness

 

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Katniss, Queen of Children

The classic heroine’s journey sees girls questing to rescue their lovers and families from danger, questing into fairyland to retrive a stolen child, or stealing a husband from the troll queen. The most quintessential quest is protecting a daughter or little sister—the other half of the self.

Prim is both these to Katniss, the tiny sister she has mothered when their own mother withdrew from them, the girl she spends each day providing with food. As Prim bids her goodbye in Katniss’s own baggy dress, she’s Katniss’s younger most innocent self, the self most needing protection.

The Hunger Games is coded as a battle of adults versus children. Katniss’s parents are useless, from her dead father to her withdrawn mother who forces Katniss to care for herself and her sister (before abandoning her in the final book). Katniss is the one to hold the family together and keep them from starving, and through the book she dwells on her mistrust for her mother. Only Gale, a fellow teen and protector of his own family, can be relied on.

In Katmiss’ world, the older children protect the younger, as she does her little sister, or Rue does for her younger siblings. Since Rue is the eldest in her family, there’s no one to protect her but Katniss. Katniss realizes that Thresh and Rue would be her friends if not for the true enemy, the ones who hold the games.

Her true allies, she ones she shares sympathy with are the tongueless girl in the capital, Thresh, who would have been a friend, her hunting partner Gale back home. Even Madge, the baker’s daughter, gives her the mockingjay pin she wears as a symbol of home, while Katmiss discards her mother’s dress and shoes. Half the children in the games are reluctant to fight, from Thresh, who lets Katniss escape, to Rue, showing her she’s in danger from hornets, to Foxface, darting in to steal and run.

Adults are using her, from Cinna, who selects her dazzling outfits to show off his own talent long before he sees her as a person to Haymitch, who pushes her to shine for the sponsors. The Games themselves are the most fundamental example of this, run by adults to kill children for entertainment. In this world, the president is the ultimate adult and ultimate user, murdering families to control the victors of the games.

However, Katniss fails to become a leader. Book one sees her outsmarting the game to save Peeta as well as herself, but she has no message of rebellion for her audience. She charms the president into publically sparing her by using, of course, childish charm. In Catching Fire, she disturbingly never rises above a pawn, as Haymitch arranges with most of the other winners to protect Katniss and Peeta and smuggle them to safety.

At the end of book three, Katniss finally embarks on hrer own mission, leading the adults to go assassinate President Snow. However, a group of children including Prim are deliberately murdered as the final casualties of war. When Katniss realizes that rebel president Coin is the culprit, and that Coin plans to restart the Hunger Games and kill even more enemy children, Katniss decides who her enemy is and breaks every adult law and expectation to shoot the real target. She turns from the protector of living children to the champion of the dead, even as she leaves her own childhood behind forever.

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Prejudice in Harry Potter

Salazar Slytherin, one of the four Hogwarts founders, wanted to deny entry to students of mixed blood, and centuries later, his ideas still linger. The first time Harry meets Draco, Draco asks about Harry’s parentage and says, “I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same; they’ve never been brought up to know our ways…I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families” (Rowling, Philosopher’s Stone 61). All Slytherin characters begin with the assumption that pure-blood wizards have more talent, showing how far the stereotype has spread. Even the “good Slytherin” Horace Slughorn apes this attitude, as Harry considers him “much too surprised that a Muggle-born should make a good witch” (Rowling, Half Blood 74). These ideas reject evidence in favor of prejudice, employing ignorance and false science to support their claims. Still, there is a deeper issue here, as the Muggles persecuted wizards long ago. Now the two groups must learn to trust before the Wizarding World disintegrates completely.

The house-elves, however, are treated far worse than the Muggle-borns. Dobby gets death threats five times a day at the Malfoys, and a flogging for burning dinner. The greatest problem is in fact psychological: even an elf like Dobby who longs for freedom and betrays his hated masters, the Malfoys, at each opportunity, passively waits for clothing in order to be freed. He feels he is bound, thus he cannot escape. Even when he’s freed, the other elves regard him as a dangerous rebel. The problem is the house elves’ conditioning: they see it as their duty to love and protect their masters, and a betrayal to leave. After centuries of elf subordination, both masters and slaves believe this is the natural order, and perpetuate the unjust system. Only Hermione, an unindoctrinated bystander, can see elf-life for the vicious exploitation it truly is, and she devotes her life to changing it. This will take time: The Hogwarts elves view her as “mad and dangerous” and feel insulted by her gifts of clothes, showing how uncomfortable they feel outside their well-defined roles in the kitchen. Clearly, the damage that the wizards have caused for centuries won’t disappear overnight.

It’s no wonder goblins, merfolk, and centaurs remain hostile and apart: they have limited choices in the Wizarding World: brainwashed servitude like house elves or classification as dangerous monsters. The goblins have found in niche in the banking system where they work well, despite Bill’s warnings that they shouldn’t be trusted, thanks to all the bad blood and hostility between species. Werewolves, however, are forbidden work, pushing them toward criminal behavior. The merfolk and centaurs keep themselves apart, though they willingly help the kindly Dumbledore, who provides the exception to every racial rule.  The greatest problem is the lack of governmental representation, allowing wizards unlimited exploitation.

Without an overwhelming change in perception, the false stereotypes and exploitation will continue indefinitely.

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The Price of Beauty in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies

Far in the future, teens can design their own looks, from pulsing heartbeat tattoos to eye shape. The only guarantee is that they’ll leave the world of being Ugly—unmodified—far behind. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series explores this dystopian future, showing what teens will become in a world in which appearance is the only status. Even the terrible Specials live by appearance, with needle-sharp teeth and frightening aspects.

As the heroine, sixteen-year-old Tally, discovers, becoming Pretty changes more than a face. The operations that make the teens fascinatingly appealing to behold also make them easy to control – frivolous perpetual teens interested only in parties and fun. Beauty becomes identity, as teens no longer resemble their families or bear the marks of experience on their features, but instead recreate themselves according to their childish whims. With the surface becoming such a priority, less and less remains beneath.

Other books like The Hunger Games or Brave New World address one society genetically altered to be unnaturally beautiful and youthful, who are conditioned to care only for luxury and entertainment. The cities of the Uglies and Pretties alike have disposable clothes, gadgets free for the asking, and a society filled with unnecessary inventions designed only for pleasure, from hoverboards to bungee jackets. There’s unlimited food and medicine. The other side, the have-nots, are condemned to live without genetic modification as they struggle for resources. This literary trend seems to contrast our own society of beautiful people with the have-nots of our own culture. This isn’t just a dystopic future—it’s the dystopic future of America

When Tally leaves the city, she’s struck by how differently the outsiders of the Smoke live. They hand-knit their sweaters and grow their own food. Unlike in her throwaway culture, items have value and must last. There are different manners in the outside world, different priorities and values. Love is forever, and the only unmodified young man she’s ever met, David, loves her for her unmodified face.

From this moment, discovering she’s lovable without artificial beauty and the vapidity that comes with it, Tally becomes a freedom fighter. She fights through four books for the right for each person to choose his or her destiny—Pretty or Ugly, they have the right to think for themselves. She provides a bridge between different societies, even counseling the primitive forest dwellers to venture beyond “the edge of the world” and find freedom from exploitation. She’s escaped her own conditioning, so she insists on a world that carries the same strength.

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Max Guevarra the Mockingjay

In the twenty-first century television show Dark Angel, nineteen-year-old Max Guevara dispenses street justice, all while protecting her friends and seeking her divided family. In Katniss’ world, she would be called a mutt, a human creature re-engineered to be a supersoldier serving the government’s will. However, like the mockingjays, she escaped and found a way to thrive outside the government’s control. Becoming another Katniss, she rescues children and young women in danger.

In both stories, the females are active and males more passive—intriguing as the action and science-fiction genres are traditionally marketed to boys. In fact, with their constant action, clever comments, and bravery, both heroines have strong male followings. Romance is difficult and treated as secondary to hunting down the villainous patriarch—the traditional goal for the male hero.  The post-apocalyptic setting lets the heroines escape traditional gender roles, Katniss as a poacher and Max as a thief before both become freedom fighters.

Though lawbreakers, the protagonists owe allegiance to a higher morality: Max lets a woman walk away after murdering her own father, but destroys the payoff she was given. She covers for her cheating friend but assures him he’ll be dangling from a window if he does it again. Katniss fights to save the prep team who, though Capitol citizens, were kind to her, and insists on saving the brutal career tribute Enobaria because it feels wrong to let her die. In today’s shifting world, with often no clear right choice, teens are guided to seek a deeper wisdom. Both young women contend with an uncertain life on the cusp of poverty, which is nonetheless preferable to the institutionalized violence and near-certain death of the Capitol’s Hunger Games or Seattle’s Project Manticore. This fight to survive, while entertaining, also reminds the audience of the many types of cruelty in existence – some crimes of neglect and others more purposeful. Both are means of subjugating a population, which the true heroine must battle.

Both women prefer to dress androgynously, but are often forced into alluring dresses by society. Max and her friend Original Cindy act like sultry feminine airheads in a gambling club, complete with an offer to wager lapdances. Katniss spins in a glittery red dress, thanking her audience for giving her such an opportunity. Thus, they conform to expectations while revealing the artificiality of traditional femininity. In fact, the girls lack female role models and define themselves outside of conventional society, focusing on earning money to support their chosen families rather than looking beautiful or staying at home. Without traditional family structure, they bond with friends, venturing into the forest or onto the streets to keep them safe. Back home, their domesticized boyfriends are the ones who cook.

The message for teens is clear: Katniss and Max are strong, clever, creative young women who always save the day. As they struggle against the patriarchy and at last discover the stronger female who has been the true enemy, their stories emphasize that women can be just as powerful as men, if not more.

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The Downside of Horcruxes

o all those readers seeking to construct their own Horcrux, a font of deadly evil allowing the creator to preserve his life unnaturally, beware!  Such meddlings in works man should not know split the soul asunder and mar the perpetrator for all time.  They also so don’t work!

The following addresses a number of flaws in the Horcrux system, as demonstrated throughout literature and folklore.

Even the evil Overlord (eviloverlord.com) notices the futility of such a system, commenting thusly:

The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

Well, with such a brilliant observation to start us off, let’s examine some scenarios:

Sauron creates a set of rings tied to his power, whose bearers must serve him. He then forges the One Ring, placing much of his power in a single alluring object.

Upside: When he’s defeated, he isn’t permanently destroyed and returns within a few thousand years.

Downside: Anyone can use it! Boromir, Frodo, Gandalf, Galadriel, and even Sam contemplate using Sauron’s power to destroy him and forge a new empire.  Further, Sauron doesn’t notice Frodo has it, doesn’t notice the ring’s in Mordor, and doesn’t notice it’s being destroyed until it’s too late!

Davy Jones in Dead Man’s Chest removes his heart so it won’t pain him with emotion.

Upside: He’s safe from harm and emotion.

Downside: Jones turns into an unfeeling tyrant and neglects the job he’s entrusted with.  Worse yet, people dig the heart up from its predictable buried location, and the East India Company controls him and forces him to do their bidding.

Numerous ogres, giants, and basilisks in European folklore hide their hearts inside an egg inside a chicken inside a swan inside a wolf…you get the idea.  These are tale type 302, “The Ogre or Devil’s Heart in an Egg” with 260 versions around the world.

Upside: The hero can’t kill them

Downside: The hero always sneaks off and kills all the animals (which are mostly just hidden and flee rather than fight). He then can destroy the heart or trade it for the princess, or occasionally both. An intensive character study, evesdropping, or inteligence from a disgruntled slave generally reveals the location. (See Drink Down the Moon by Charles de Lint).

The Graeae of the Perseus legend pass a single eye and tooth around.

Upside: The three witches can share them and squabble over them equitably.

Downside: Perseus steals them for bargaining chips.

Medusa’s head petrifies heroes at a glance.

Upside: Instant weapon

Downside: Perseus kills her so he can take her head. Additional downside: many games and derivative works suggest showing Medusa a mirror and watching her turn herself to stone.

Dracula relies on a coffin with special earth where he can retreat each night.

Upside: He can’t be killed by conventional methods

Downside: bloodsucking, harassing young ladies in nightdresses, fear of sunlight and all the other unnatural side effects.

Many wizards place their power in a single item.

Upside: Sharing power with one’s buddies, additional strength and concentration.

Downside: The power frequently ends up in the wrong object: (See

“The Frying Pan of Doom” or Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot or The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede.)

Other Downsides: Often the villain steals this object. Thus, he can hold it for ransom, control the wizard, slurp up his magic, or do other unpleasant villanies.

Some creative wizards place themselves in an item.

(Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, The Mage Winds Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey)

Upside: Extended life past the usual expriation date.

Downside: As a “person” no longer living, the wizard can be overly controlling or insensitive with those still alive. Eventually, the wizard must recognize the need to let go. In Sourcery, the wizard’s young son refuses to take orders from his staff any longer and rejects it. Lackey’s magic sword (Need) is helpless without someone guiding her. She tends to fall asleep and be unable to commnicate if her bearer isn’t magically gifted.

Better yet, place someone else in an item

Upside: Extra power and/or advice

Downside: Slaves of lamps and mirrors are known for conforming to the letter of the order and not the spirit, or for betraying their masters as soon as possible. MOre than anything, they want freedom, and can only be strung along for a time

Sending one’s power into an animal familiar

Upside: Unique perspectives and skills (and occasionally cravings)

Downsides: Terry Pratchett’s frequent “borrowing” suggests a person who travels in an animal too long will lose all grasp of humanity, as does Mercedes Lackey’s exploration of bondbirds. Jennifer Robeson’s Cheysuli books add that if your animal companion dies, you die.

Splitting yourself into twins

Creating an unnaturally powerful offspring

(See Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card or The Fionavar Tapesrty by Guy Gavriel Kay)

Upside: As an heir, he can continue your legacy. Or in a pinch, he’ll make the most powerful sacrifice you’ve ever seen.

Downside: Frequently this magical child rebels against his father and helps the opposition.

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Gallery of Heroes who Tried to Cheat Death

Voldemort is determined not to die. However, he’s hardly unique. His mission is shared by characters throughout literature and myth…let’s see what happened to them all.

Gilgamesh:

Tries to stay awake long enough to become immortal, but fails through human weakness.  Is given a magical plant as a consolation prize, but he fearfully hoards it and a snake eats it.  He’s left sadder and wiser.

Sisyphus:

When he offends the gods, death’s servant, Thanatos, comes to collect him.  Sisyphus chains up death so no one can die, but this causes great suffering in the world. Eventually, Sisyphus relents. On his second attempt to cheat death, Sisyphus warns his wife not to give him a funeral or make offerings to the gods. Once in Hades, Sisyphus begs Persephone to let him return to life long enough to rectify this mistake and thus escapes.  The third time, Hades collects him in person. For Sisyphus’s arrogance, he’s forced to roll a boulder up a hill throughout eternity, only to watch it crash again to the bottom.

Eos:

This Greek Goddess of the dawn, is enamored of a mortal named Tithonus (a prince of Troy and the elder brother of Priam). She bears him away to her eastern palace, and begs the gods to grant him immortality. They assent, but she neglects to request eternal youth. Tithonus grows older and more bent through the centuries, until he becomes so crooked and small that he shrinks into a cricket, forever chirping dryly around her beautiful palace.

Achilles:

That one vulnerable spot on an invulnerable body. Never works– someone always finds it and clobbers it.

Dracula:

His coffin with special earth and supernatural powers give him unnatural strength and immortality. Still, he’s a creature of evil, doomed to feed on the living to prolong his own existence. In the famous novel, a group of heroes track and destroy him.

Voldemort:

His Horcruxes make him immortal, with all six heavily guarded pieces standing between him and death. However, his soul is so fractured he’s no longer human. Unicorn blood, likewise, preserves one through a cursed half-life that most judge undesirable.

Urshima Taro and visitors to Fairie:

When they return from their charmed, timeless lives, they find hundreds of years have passed and all their loved ones have gone. The price for this magical, timeless world is never being able to return.  Often, their ancient bodies can’t sustain them and they die. Notably, a Star Trek episode featuring suspended animation found the same result. (The Neutral Zone).

Death Wish, Requiem for Methuselah, New Frontier:

Several Star Trek episodes have addressed characters alive for centuries who only want to die, since life has nothing left to offer them.

The Holy Grail

Drinking from it can preserve people from death or allow them to live forever.  Few drawbacks, rarely pictured as evil or unnatural. The largest flaw is its inability to be found.

The Philosopher’s Stone

Creates an elixir that makes people younger, prolonging death.  Few drawbacks, rarely pictured as evil or unnatural. The largest flaw is its inability to be found.

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