Beren, Lúthien, and Overcoming Prejudice Aug21

Beren, Lúthien, and Overcoming Prejudice...

Ages before the romance of Aragorn and Arwen, Middle-earth was home to a Man named Beren and an Elf maiden named Lúthien Tinúviel. The story of their romance became one of the pillars for J.R.R. Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth, as well as a foreshadowing of the love between Aragorn and Arwen. The most well-known version of the Beren and Lúthien story exists in The Silmarillion, but Tolkien wrote several versions of the tale—not all of them complete—and this past June, these versions were released in a single compilation, edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. In the earliest version of the Beren and Lúthien story—entitled “The Tale of Tinúviel”—Beren is not a Man, but an Elf of the Noldor race. Like Aragorn and Arwen, much of the tension in the Beren and Lúthien story we know comes from the fact that he is mortal, while she is immortal. You would think that, in a version where Beren is immortal, Lúthien’s father wouldn’t mind Beren courting his daughter. Think again. As it turns out, being immortal doesn’t help Beren’s case at all. Long before his time, the Noldor Elves made the journey from Middle-earth to Valinor, but later betrayed the Teleri (another Elven clan) in order to steal ships and return to Middle-earth. Luthien’s people, the Sindar, are related to the Teleri. By the time “The Tale of Tinúviel” takes place, solid prejudice exists between the Noldor and the Sindar. Lúthien’s people thought the Noldor were “treacherous creatures, cruel and faithless.” In turn, “the lies of [Morgoth the Dark Lord] ran among Beren’s folk so that they believed evil things” of Lúthien’s people. These two clans should have been allies, but instead, they mistrusted each other, hardly better than enemies. In my own life, I’ve seen prejudice...

Darth Vader and Beauty’s Beast: Loving the Unlovely Aug16

Darth Vader and Beauty’s Beast: Loving the Unlovely...

I missed the original release of Star Wars by a decade and the first printings of Beauty and the Beast by several centuries, but both stories have marked me with their retellings and reiterations. Fairy tales are famous for being re-imagined, but “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” has more in common with “once upon a time” than one might expect. The same stories keep getting retold despite an endless appetite for novelty. I believe it’s because people ache to be rescued; humanity keeps telling stories about how we can be saved. The stories of the Skywalkers, Belle and the Beast evoke a slippery mixture of loss and longing that is difficult to articulate but all too easy to identify with. Much like Darth Vader, the Beast lives in a tortured silence; neither is what they once were and each lives a half-life. Vader is the emperor’s weapon, more machine than man, and the beast hides in angry shame. Both villains live with longing, and so Vader disobeys orders and spares Luke’s life while the Beast risks his life to save Belle from ravenous wolves. At the heart of both stories is a tale of redemption, about how the unlovely can be loved better—and become something beautiful. In both cases, these villains choose redemption, not because they were heroes all along, but because of sacrifice. Growing up, I naturally identified with both Luke and Belle. I was an imaginative, bookish kid who longed to go beyond the backyard that was my moisture farm, my little provincial town. As I’ve read and lived more I realized I wanted to be them not because I saw myself in them, but because I wanted to see myself in them. Ever since I discovered...

Living in the Fire Nation Aug09

Living in the Fire Nation...

Imagine that you lived in a world where all nations got along. Then, your nation suddenly attacked the rest of the nations, attempting world domination. According to the opening of Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was what happened in their world. The Air, Water, Earth and Fire Nations lived in harmony, “then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.” Now, a world that didn’t know strife was in need of a saviour—an Avatar, a master of all four elements. It takes a special kind of person to think that world domination is a good idea; and I don’t mean special in a good way. It’s an expensive proposition—it costs lives, money, comfort, safety, and identity. More importantly, it costs your soul. Because, if you are so full of hubris that you believe your way is the only right way, that you are so much better than everyone else, that you should rule all, that other people’s rights and dignities are negotiable according to what suits you… if you have placed yourself in the position to judge others, then you have set yourself up as God and that’s always a losing proposition. We are emperors of our own little worlds, oppressing others not by force, but by indifference. When Firelord Ozai gathered up an army and sent them to take over the world, there must have been some confusion among the people. I have often wondered how the average citizen in such a regime would feel about what was being done in their name. What did the average Roman feel during the rise of the Empire, or the Canadian and American settlers as indigenous people were being relocated or wiped out? Did they believe the Manifest Destiny (or whatever that particular group called it) rhetoric,...

Worse Games to Play: Katniss’s Gratitude and Depression Jul31

Worse Games to Play: Katniss’s Gratitude and Depression...

When you go through a deeply painful and life changing experience, how do you move on? The stories I love answer this question again and again through characters like Frodo from The Lord of the Rings and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games—protagonists who go through traumatic experiences. They lost people they loved. They sustained mental and physical injuries that will never fully heal. Frodo could never completely move on, so he had to leave his world for the Gray Havens to find peace. However, Katniss didn’t have that option of escape and had to find a way to be at peace in her own world. After Panem’s revolution had been won, Katniss married Peeta Mellark and together they had two children, something Katniss swore she would never do at the beginning of The Hunger Games. The Girl on Fire has watched countless people die and even caused death by her own hands. She’s seen her friends tortured and severely injured. Katniss has gone through so much, yet somehow she finds peace. At the end of Mockingjay Part 2, when her son cries as he awakens, she explains to him and the audience what has changed in her heart: Even if I can find one thing to be thankful for that day while everything else seems dark, I count that as a win. “Did you have a nightmare? I have nightmares too. Someday I’ll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won’t ever go away. But I’ll tell you how I survive it. I make a list in my head of all the good things I’ve seen someone do. Every little thing I can remember. It’s like a game. I do it over and over. It gets a little tedious after all...

RWBY Chibi and Escaping into Fiction Jul24

RWBY Chibi and Escaping into Fiction...

When I became a fan of the show RWBY, I couldn’t get enough of the characters, their hilarious one-liners, and their epic fight sequences. So, like other RWBY fans, I was delighted last year when a spin-off series, RWBY Chibi, hit the web. Full of goofy scenarios, lots of laughs, and more screen time for the characters I love, RWBY Chibi became a favourite of mine and I eagerly awaited its new season this summer. One of the best parts of the spin-off is that it reverses some of the heartbreak that occurs in the original show. In Chibi, the characters are still attending school at Beacon (which remains standing), the few enemies that appear are easily and comically thwarted, and even characters that perished in RWBY reappear in Chibi. The episode “The Vacuum” includes my favourite example of “character resurrection.” The JNPR team reintroduces Pyrrha, their fallen comrade, whose tragic end in Volume Three of RWBY caused a lot of trauma for fans. When Pyrrha walks onto the scene in this episode, the members of Team RWBY are shocked and start to question her presence. But Nora, a member of JNPR, shouts down any insinuations about Pyrrha’s death, emphatically stating, “NOPE! Never happened! . . . Everything’s fine. Pyrrha is fine. Nothing bad ever happened. EVER.” If I allow myself to become addicted to escapism, I miss all the beauty and adventure that real life has to offer. While the reappearance of Pyrrha and other departed characters is a wonderful element of Chibi, I find myself wishing these unrealistic resolutions occurred in the regular RWBY show, too. Although good stories can’t occur without conflict, I’m the type of fan who wants everything to turn out perfectly at the end. I want the rosy, Disney-princess...

Why Severus Snape Would Make a Great Therapist Jul07

Why Severus Snape Would Make a Great Therapist...

Ol’ Severus gets a bit of a bad rap in the Harry Potter books. Maybe it’s the way he bullies any student who’s not in Slytherin, or his former status as a Death Eater, or just his scathingly sarcastic personality. However, there’s far more to Severus Snape than first appears. While Snape may not have the sensitive bedside manner of most professional counselors, he does have many other qualities that suit him for such a role. Here are 10 reasons why Sev would make a fantastic therapist: 1. He’s not afraid to tell you the hard truths: “It may have escaped your notice, but life isn’t fair.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 2. As an accomplished Potions master, he’s sure to have something helpful. Need a little Veritaserum to fix compulsory lying? Maybe Draught of Living Death to cure some insomnia? Snape’s got you covered. 3. Snape sympathizes with your problems, even if he can’t fix them. “Unless you wish to poison him—and I assure you, I would have the greatest sympathy if you did—I cannot help you.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 4. His speeches, especially to first-year students, have been known to inspire greatness. “Hermione Granger was on the edge of her seat and looked desperate to start proving that she wasn’t a dunderhead.” —Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book) 5. Snape gets what it’s like to have a rough past. Former Death Eater? Lost the love of your life? Sev knows the struggle. 6. Sev will push you until you get it right, even if he has to use Legilimens a million times. “Control your emotions. Discipline your mind.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 7. He’s uncannily good...

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger Jul05

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger...

From the Night King to Gregor Clegane, there’s no shortage of physically intimidating characters in Game of Thrones, but the ones that are most terrifying aren’t the biggest, strongest, or most brutish – they are the those like Tyrion, Varys, and Cersei, who connive and maneuver themselves into positions of authority, often with ruinous effect on those they perceive as enemies. Perhaps the most dangerous of these thinkers is Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, a master puppeteer who is always several steps ahead of even the most intelligent and powerful players; he manipulates and eliminates “pieces,” as he calls them, on his path toward the throne. When we first meet him, we realize there’s more to Littlefinger than meets the eye. There has to be. He’s a slight man with only a low noble background, but has risen to an important rank as Master of Coin in the small council. As the series progresses, we see that Baelish is involved, sometimes as the mastermind, in so many of the major events, including the deaths of Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, and King Joffrey. He later takes Sansa under his wing, demonstrating to her how he manipulates people and proceedings by issuing bribes, placing his people in positions where they can influence outcomes, and even making “moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you” for a greater purpose. I don’t particularly like Littlefinger, and I know exactly why. He reminds me too much of myself. During my adolescence and into college, I was constantly scheming to figure out how I could use people to get ahead. Like a high school version of Game of Thrones, I plotted and used friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances to gain popularity, increase finances, and achieve...

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster Jun28

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster

“Death feels like a roller coaster,” I remember thinking during a heart-stopped moment. I had rushed out the door, ten minutes late to a Master’s class, brushed off my mom’s hug—too busy to waste three more seconds—and sped out of the driveway with speakers blazing. A few minutes later, the car in front of me stopped—a bit too quickly. I ground to a halt behind it. An instinctive glance in my rearview mirror revealed an F250 twice as tall as my little Buick Century barreling toward me. I tore my gaze away from the mirror, determined to ignore the impending disaster. I thought, “It’ll be fine. Bad things only happen to other people—!” A sonic boom exploded inside my car. Howard Shore cut off mid-crescendo. My seat hit the floorboard, then threw me against the steering wheel, along with a rain of glass. The moment the world stood still again, I forced my jammed door open with a kick fueled by adrenaline. Taking stock of myself for injuries, I realized I was fine. Everyone else involved in the accident was fine too. The next day, I drove to college, just a little more cautiously than usual. Whimsically reflecting on the harrowing incident as I headed for class, I made myself laugh at the way I had been worried about the wreck ruining my “cosplay face” and how my old “Tank” had remained true to its namesake to the very end. It’s easy to get comfortable wearing the blinders of guilt and fear. Then someone nearby slammed a bathroom door. Hard. In the space of a blink, I saw that F250 racing up behind me at 45mph, felt the blood rush to my gut in panic while euphoric vertigo flipped me heels-over-head, and heard a crash like a mountain collapsing in my ears. At the time, I had no idea it would be my only flashback of the incident, just that it was my first. And that worried me. In RWBY Season 4, Yang has a similar experience when she accidentally shatters a glass, triggering a traumatic flashback from the Season 3 finale. Unlike the other three members of her war-torn team, Yang’s developmental arc features no physical fights with fanged monstrosities or deadly assassins. Hers is a battle of the mind, where suddenly her reliable fists hold no sway—largely, because she’s lost one of them to a villain’s blade. I’ve always related to Yang’s tomboyish mannerisms and physical strength, but especially to her golden optimism. She powers through every setback on a smirk and a glimpse of a better tomorrow. In Season 4, though, as Yang idles away in front of the TV and numbly occupy herself with chores, it’s clear that she can’t see a moment beyond her next footstep. “Sometimes bad things just happen,” Yang tells her sister, in an excuse to keep unbearable blame from crushing her broken spirit further. No doubt Yang replays the fatal fight in her mind, wondering if a moment’s thoughtful preparation (or even running away like her best friend Blake) could have helped her survive the battle unscathed. It’s a trap I found myself looped into for days after the wreck—wondering if I could have avoided it if I hadn’t looked down from my mirror like a coward. Yang’s understated anger is all that keeps her moving during her steep depression, and her excuses are the fuel it thrives on. Even when gifted a priceless prosthetic arm of cutting edge technology, Yang refuses to accept it and move forward. “I lost a part of me. A part of me is gone, and it’s never coming back,” she finally tells her father. While Yang’s arm had been replaced, her security was gone. Similarly, I didn’t feel safe behind the wheel of a car anymore; I lost the confidence I had that the next truck to pull up behind me would stop short,...

The Gift of Story May31

The Gift of Story

Sometimes it can seem like moms are made for missing. Any child who has ever lost their mom in the mall knows this; those who have lived through the death of a mother are also familiar with that feeling. While I’ve tearfully lived the former experience and it’s unlikely I’ll avoid the latter, The Song of the Sea reminds me of the hope I share with my mom, a gift she gave me through story. Come away, oh human child to the waters and the wild with a faerie hand in hand for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. The Song of the Sea tells the story of Ben, a young boy who must deal with the loss of his mother. Ben is the son of Conor, a soft-spoken lighthouse keeper, and the storyteller, Bronagh. She paints stories of selkie and the giant Mac Lir on the nursery walls Ben will soon share with his sister. Bronagh is also a singer of songs and she introduces him to the song of the sea on their last night together, playing it on a seashell horn. Ben cherishes the horn and guards it jealously after Bronagh’s death giving birth to Ben’s baby sister, Saoirse. Bedtime was actually one of my favourite times growing up. I remember the stories and the songs—and I hope my mom does too. This nightly ritual of storytelling lasted through several Harry Potter books, and even though I could’ve read them myself they were something we enjoyed sharing. We visited enchanted lands, invented voices, and turned pages with anticipation. And whenever I was scared or sad, she had a song and a prayer ready for me. I can’t claim to understand a loss like Ben’s, but by experiencing...

The Mothers Grimm May26

The Mothers Grimm

I have heard it said many times that, until you become a mother, you can’t imagine the love that you are capable of for your child. Sure, you love your spouse a ton—obviously enough to decide to spend the rest of your lives together, but the love a mother has for her child is fierce. Fierce because of the intensity, fierce because it changes who you are and the way you experience the world, and fierce because you would do anything to protect that little thing even if you had to face the very gates of hell to do it. And speaking of the very gates of hell… the TV series, Grimm, just had its finale a few weeks ago. True to what the name suggests, the show’s faerie tales are dark, gruesome, and highly entertaining. The premise of Grimm is that the creatures from the faerie stories we all love are real—and they live among us. We’re talking werewolves, talking foxes, mice, lizard creatures, the Krampus—all manner of “monsters.” They’re called Wesen. Most of the time, they look like us, but when they become frightened, or angry, or want to be in their natural element they “woge,” and take on their animalistic appearance. The Grimm family has, for centuries, been hunting, killing and recording the stories of these creatures. From the moment pregnancy takes hold, our bodies become something of a living sacrifice. The finale revolves around a Portland police detective named Nick Burkhardt and he only discovered that he was a Grimm in his adulthood. It had been hidden from him for his own protection. Unlike many others, Nick’s more open to judging Wesen by their actions rather than by their genetics. He befriends several Wesen, and seeks justice for and protects good ones....

True Villainy in Once Upon a Time: Captain Hook vs. Rumpelstiltskin May17

True Villainy in Once Upon a Time: Captain Hook vs. Rumpelstiltskin...

Of all the fights, feuds, and fisticuffs in ABC’s hit show Once Upon a Time, the private war between Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin is the stuff of vengeance legend—and just as remarkable as their quest to destroy one another is the blame-game they play while doing it. Their troubles begin in the Enchanted Forest, when Rumpelstiltskin is no more than the crippled village coward. When the dashing pirate, Killian Jones—later known as Captain Hook—passes through town, he takes Rumple’s wife, Milah, away to his ship. Desperate to retrieve Milah for their son’s sake, Rumple limps his way to Killian’s ship to beg for her return. Killian agrees—if Rumple can best him in a duel. Rumple, unable to handle a sword or even walk unaided, is forced to return home without his wife. Years later, Rumple gets the chance to face his enemy again, this time with the deck stacked in his favour. During those years, Rumpelstiltskin became the Dark One, an incredibly powerful sorcerer. He originally sought the dark magic to protect his son, but over time he became obsessed with his own power. After all those years of being called a weakling, he loves feeling unstoppable. I have been blessed with plenty of my own talents, but physical strength is not one of them. The thought of being able to defend myself when I feel wronged is alluring. Rumple thought his dark power would defend him and his son, but it became a disguise for his cowardice, a mask that made him a worse monster than those he fought. Sometimes, I let pain turn me into a villain, and I hurt the people around me. Had Rumple been truly brave, he would have let Killian go when he encountered him again. Instead, he...

Invading Worlds in Zootopia Apr14

Invading Worlds in Zootopia...

When you’re a little mammal, the world can be a big and scary place. Stu and Bonnie Hopps know this and go out of their way to emphasize the danger to their daughter, Judy. For her part, Judy courageously leaves the small town of Bunnyburrow for the big city of Zootopia. She’s convinced that she’s going to make her mark on the world as a police officer, despite her parents’ inhibitions. She plans to conquer the world by doing good deeds. As it turns out, there are a LOT of worlds for her to conquer. The boroughs of Zootopia include a variety of cultures and biomes, and each has a distinct vibe and a unique climate. Judy learns to handle the physical challenges during her time at the police academy, but learning to connect with the different species takes a little longer. Her first attempt at being a “do-gooder” doesn’t work out as expected. She encounters a fox by the name of Nick Wilde. It seems like he and his son are being discriminated against in an elephant neighborhood. Judy steps in, asserts her authority, and goes away feeling pretty good about herself. Except the good feeling fades away when she realizes that Nick is a smooth-talking con-man, his “son” is an adult, and the two of them are running a just-barely-legal scam to turn a quick buck. Staying in my own world and refusing to step into others is a challenge. Judy is furious at Nick for hustling her and at herself for falling for it. She had made one of the classic mistakes of a would-be hero; she invaded Nick’s world instead of entering it. I’m often guilty of the same thing. I reach out to help someone, but I don’t take...

From Hogwarts to Heaven Apr12

From Hogwarts to Heaven

You’ve probably seen a post like this one on social media: “Which fictional world would you want to live in?” Answers abound, from a galaxy far, far away to Middle-earth, from the Enterprise to Hyrule. Hogwarts seems like a pretty common answer. Butterbeer-flavoured drinks abound, and Facebook filters let us proudly display our house affiliations—Gryffindor for me. Part of what makes Hogwarts so appealing is how much Harry loves it. I’ll never forget the image in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone of Harry jumping for joy and swatting at flying envelopes as they fill his living room—and he doesn’t even know their significance yet. Even small glimpses of magic are better than his dull, miserable days with the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia pretend he doesn’t exist, Dudley picks on him, he lives in a closet under the stairs, and people think he’s a freak when magical things happen to him. When he was younger, he “had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away,” but after he receives his letter, his wildest dreams come to life. Being unable to imagine Heaven’s perfection is the point. As a fantasy writer myself, I pondered J.K. Rowling’s choice to give her protagonist such a terrible childhood. Attending Hogwarts is not a trial he has to overcome; his parents left him both his magical gifting and the funds to afford Hogwarts. And why keep any knowledge of the magical world away from him for eleven years? I realized the answer was simple: to make the magic in her books even more magical—both for Harry and for us. If Harry’s life had been easier, if Harry had loving parents, nice siblings, and hadn’t experienced embarrassing magical accidents, then Hogwarts and everything with it—leaving home, meeting new people, confronting a mortal enemy, and intense schooling—would have been an everyday matter. But to Harry-who-lived-under-the-stairs, Hogwarts is a blessing and an escape. Hogwarts represents so many amazing things to Harry—making friends, gaining wisdom from caring teachers, learning astounding skills, discovering his parents, having a house to belong to, and being treated as an equal. A giant, soft, four-poster bed awaits him every night. The food appears out of nowhere, never runs out, and disappears without leaving dirty dishes behind. Harry could never have imagined somewhere so wonderful. The mystery and magic of a place like Hogwarts make me wonder if there are similar surprises for me in the afterlife. I believe I’ll go to Heaven after I die because of my faith in Christ, but I don’t exactly know what to expect. I know a few things. There will be no pain, no crying, no shame, no death, no evil, no deceit, no darkness, and life forever, for starters (Revelation chapters 21 and 22 discuss that). Why keep any knowledge of the magical world away from Harry for eleven years? To make the magic in her books even more magical. How can I even imagine something that perfect? The answer is: I can’t. And it’s hard to get excited about it when I can’t picture it. Instead, I seek the things this life offers. I have a job, an apartment, a car, plenty of food, a loving family, and more books than I know what to do with. I have my friends, my passions, my hobbies. I don’t want to miss out on life’s experiences, because they’re all I know. Heaven is going to be great, but it feels so abstract. Picturing sitting on clouds and strumming a harp is easier than trying to grasp the truth. But if I believe it exists, shouldn’t that knowledge affect my life somehow? How do I live like Heaven is all I’ve ever dreamed of and more? I think being unable to imagine its perfection is the point. I have to act on my faith, not on what I can see now. I...

When Life Begins with Fear Apr07

When Life Begins with Fear...

My comfort zone is my safety zone, and it’s my favorite place to be. I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, in order to do something outside of it. I’m not a risk-taker. I like playing it safe. I hate the idea of gambling, because there’s such a big risk of losing. I like staying in my own little world with my laptop and the internet where my life is unexciting most of the time. It’s where I’m comfortable. When I saw Tangled for the first time in theaters, I immediately related to Rapunzel. She’s a girl with many talents and interests I share, including art and cooking. We both have long hair. Mine’s not that long, but still. And we both really like our comfort zones. Rapunzel longed to leave the tower and see the lights on her birthday. Anytime in her eighteen years, she could have left on her own to see them. Mother Gothel persuaded her to stay by telling her about all of the scary things beyond the tower, but she still had a choice. She chose to listen to fear. There are so many things I want to do in life, but often fear holds me back. There are so many things I want to do in life, but often fear holds me back. Whether it’s fear of a new job, talking to someone I’ve never met at a party, or even trying a new ride at an amusement park, it keeps me from doing things I want to do. When Flynn arrives, Rapunzel gains the courage to leave her home and see the world. At times she regrets leaving the tower, because doing so made herself vulnerable and she gets hurt. But if she hadn’t stepped out,...

Trollhunters and Two Worlds Apr05

Trollhunters and Two Worlds...

Jim Lake is an unremarkable teenager living in Arcadia Oaks, an equally unremarkable town (despite it’s cool name). There wouldn’t be much left to say about this character or setting if they weren’t the subject of Guillermo Del Toro’s colourful Trollhunters. As it is, adventure is afoot. Right under Jim’s feet, actually. As the story opens, Jim’s 15-year-old problems appear unremarkable. He wishes he owned a cooler ride, hopes he won’t get detention, and finds it easier to stare at his crush than speak to her. Things get complicated—and more dangerous—when the magical amulet of the fallen Trollhunter calls out to Jim and pulls him into inescapable peril. Jim’s adventure straddles two worlds and brings to mind my own engagement with other worlds. Although the ones I escape to are found in books, TV and film, and video games rather than a kingdom under my feet, their effect on me is no less real. Once I see the truth in a work of fiction, it’s hard to un-know it. Fans of fantasy are familiar with the charge of escapism. It’s “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy,” and can become a bad habit if abused. Fortunately, enjoying other worlds doesn’t need to be escapism; other worlds can help prepare us for the things we face in this world. Rule number one of being the Trollhunter is to never be afraid; rule number two is fight to the death. When Jim faces his first real challenge in the Troll world, he has trouble getting past rule one.  A sparring match with disappointed Trollhunter-hopeful Draal ends in an embarrassing loss which prompts Jim to abandon the “sacred obligation” of being the Trollhunter. However, he quite...

Adulting After Narnia Apr03

Adulting After Narnia...

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was grow up so I could make my own decisions and start having some fun, already… geez. Adults had it all. They had money and cars, got to choose what they would be, where they lived, and how they were going to spend their time. Of course, if I had paid even a little bit of attention, I would have seen that my dad’s sometimes two and a half hour commute to and from New York, the work phone calls he got during dinner, and my mom’s exhaustion from dealing with five unruly and needy (and sometimes ungrateful) children, I might have noticed that the adults in my life weren’t really choosing very much in their lives at all. They did what they had to do to make life safe and comfortable for us children, catching only moments where they could actually do what they wanted; and even then, what they “wanted” was limited by what was best for the family. As the millennials would say, adulting is hard. And they’re right. The first inkling I had of this (remember, I completely ignored what my parents were experiencing) was the time that Peter and Susan had aged outside of Narnia. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—they were the High King and Queen of Narnia—how do you age out of that? And yet, Aslan said that they couldn’t come back. They were too old. When you’re an adult, certain things that are available to you as a kid are no longer available. Now, the Toys “R” Us commercial whose jingle included, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toy’s R Us kid…” and a song by The Ramones called, “I Don’t Wanna...

The Paris of My Childhood Mar24

The Paris of My Childhood...

The live action version of Beauty and the Beast does character backstory well. One subplot concerns what happened to Belle’s mother and why she had to move to this “poor provincial town.” In this version, the Beast has a magical map that can take people to the place they truly want to go. He allows Belle to use this item to take the two of them to a windmill attic on the outskirts of Paris where Belle was born. Belle remembers this place with fondness because this is where her family was together and happy. This is the Paris of my childhood These were the borders of my life In this crumbling dusty attic Where an artist loved his wife Easy to remember, harder to move on Knowing the Paris of my childhood is gone. In this simple song, I felt Belle’s yearning for wholeness in her life, especially as she discovers the true reason why her father fled Paris and had to leave his dear wife behind. When I think of the home I grew up in before my parents’ divorce, I tend to elevate that place. I remember days in my childhood when drama between my parents and how I’m going to pay my bills weren’t at the forefront of my mind. Like Belle, I also left my home abruptly without the chance to say goodbye when my parents separated. I suppose we both needed closure. Home doesn’t necessarily mean the four walls around me. When Belle returns to the crumbling attic, devoid of life only filled with shadows of what once was, she realizes that this home she had in her head, the place she wanted to go back to for years, is no longer her home. She makes this clear...

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island Mar17

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island...

Be ye warned: spoilers ahead. Fear is an effective motivator. The problem is that it doesn’t always motivate us toward what is right. In Kong: Skull Island, a very fearful man, Bill Randa, leads a federally funded “mapping expedition” just as the Vietnam War is wrapping up to a previously unknown island that he claims the Russians are about to get to. He’s granted a science team, military escort, and photographer, and hires an ex-British Special Forces tracker as well. Almost everyone on the expedition believes that they’re there to map and explore the island for the benefit of humanity. But, it’s later revealed that Randa’s true purpose is to hunt down and kill a monster, one that he suspected was living on the island. I openly defy anyone who would dare call King Kong a monster—he is a good, kind, very large ape who has made it his life’s work to protect the people of his island. Naturally, he’s feared because he’s big—but anyone who would take the time to observe his behaviour would see immediately that he’s all about protecting the weak. The first time we see Kong, he appears in front of two World War II pilots, born into nations at war with each other, who have crash landed on Skull Island and are facing off on a precipice. They are each trying to kill the other when Kong suddenly appears, towering over them. We don’t know exactly what happened next, but their encounter with Kong, who had no intention of harming them, made them brothers, and afterwards they found a new community to care for them in the native inhabitants of the island. They were placed in safety, while Kong kept every danger, in the form of vicious monsters who...

Curses of Blood in The Lord of the Rings Mar08

Curses of Blood in The Lord of the Rings...

Middle-earth is a bloody place. The generational struggles of elves in the First Age, the War of the Ring, and even the adventures of a certain handkerchief-less burglar are all bloody stuff. Blood isn’t just for wetting swords, though; blood tells us something about who we are. But it doesn’t have the final word on who we’ll be. Middle-earth holds two tales that reveal the powerful pull of blood. In the First Age of Middle-earth, the elven prince Fëanor created jewels of unsurpassed beauty called the Silmarils. Fëanor was the greatest of the elves; he was exceedingly beautiful and unsurpassed in skill and understanding—he knew it, too. It was his pride that drove him to swear an irrational oath of vengeance against anyone who withheld the Silmarils from him after Morgoth, the dark enemy of the elves, stole the Silmarils and murdered Fëanor’s father. But the burden of blood tends to outlive its source; Fëanor’s sons nursed their own pride and took up the oath as the mantle of their house, following their father to war: “They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not . . . vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.” (The Quenta Silmarillion.) Pride was the weakness in Fëanor’s blood, first exploited by the subtleties of Morgoth and then passed on to Fëanor’s sons. When pride demands its right and blood is spilled, a...

I May Fall: RWBY and Isolation Mar06

I May Fall: RWBY and Isolation...

At times I fall apart. Sometimes I feel so beat down by life I just want to curl up in a ball and cry “a million tears.” Just like the lyrics from the RWBY soundtrack (“I May Fall,” sung by Casey Lee Williams), the “skies rain blood”, “the moon is gone,” and the “sun won’t rise.” Creatures of darkness seem to triumph in my life, taking the form of doubt, worry, and fear; my shields are shattered in the fight against them. Sometimes they all seem to beat me down and I “succumb to fear.” I feel like “help won’t arrive” to mend a problem that seems unfixable. Ruby, Yang, Blake, and Weiss reach many low points during their adventures. When Beacon Academy is destroyed, instead of leaning on each other, the girls separate. Yang loses her arm, Weiss’s father forces her to return to a toxic family life, Blake runs back to her home, and Ruby travels with another team, feeling shunned by her sister. Team RWBY has spent three seasons nigh inseparable, doing everything together. They’d survived many rough times, but this one finally broke the camel’s back. Instead of coming together, team RWBY races apart. When we lose our faith and forsake our friends, the song lyrics say. Funny how those two actions can go hand in hand. Instead of coming together, team RWBY races apart. Yang suffers from depression because of the loss of her arm. She feels so down that she even rejects a very expensive replacement her father found for her. Blake rejects help from Sun as he tries to be there for her as she adjusts to being with her family again and feeling ashamed about the loss of Beacon. I know I’ve reached low points where...