Remember the Duel with Westley Jan16

Remember the Duel with Westley...

“You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. You’ve been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? I think that’s about the worst thing I’ve ever heard. How marvelous.” Count Rugen’s response to an injured Inigo Montoya, the swordsman looking to avenge his father’s death in The Princess Bride, pained me when I first heard it as a child. Would this horrible man kill Inigo, just as the swordsman was close to achieving his lifelong goal? How unjust! It was difficult for me to watch Inigo, my favourite character in the movie, get stabbed repeatedly by Rugen, the one I most despised. It’s strange for me to think, but I identify quite strongly with Count Rugen. Not the sadistic, child-scarring, torture-inventing aspects to him, but the “Oh, I can’t believe I had such an impact on you” part. Just as Rugen is surprised by discovering that his foe is the boy he “taught a lesson to all those years ago,” I’ve been realizing lately that we all leave impressions—some profoundly strong—on people all around us, whether we intend to or not. The truth is, I have no idea how my words and actions will impact those around me. Unfortunately, just as with Rugen, some of those impacts I’ve made are through actions that are regrettable. As a teenager, I was a relentless bully. I thrived when I could generate laughs at the expense of others, particularly at an overweight classmate. Day after day I would make fat jokes, pushing him down to puff myself up. He and I eventually went to different schools, and when I next saw him, he had lost significant weight. He was also bitter and unwilling to talk to me...

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince Jan06

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince...

Netflix recently released a film version of The Little Prince, one of my favourite books. They placed the story in the context of a meeting between the author and a little girl who really needed to hear the tale. This little girl was being forced to grow up way before her time; she had loss upon loss heaped upon her without any acknowledgment or assistance in processing it. She lost her father’s presence in her life through divorce, with snow globes he would send from his travels as a poor substitute. Her decisions for her life were replaced by her mother’s vision of life—a barren calendar packed with busy tasks but perfectly empty of meaning or joy. The collapse of the mother’s hopes for her own life made her so fearful for her daughter’s future that she controlled every aspect of it that she could. At one point, the stress of future success was so burdensome that the little girl fainted. Her world had become so small and so focused that there was no room for error, no room for failure, and no time for fun, friends, or rest. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” When a life becomes so narrow and so devoid of hope or joy, it can become something of a mini-apocalypse. Here’s a funny thing about that word apocalypse; although the current cultural meaning of it has become “a great calamity” or “disaster,” the true meaning is “revelation.” The association with disaster comes from the Book of Revelation, whose title in Greek is Apocalypse (interpreting it as a disaster is very unfair, but that’s another story for another time). What is more interesting is that when disaster strikes in our lives, it is an amazing...

A Biased Father and His Not-So-Cursed Child Dec21

A Biased Father and His Not-So-Cursed Child...

In the first seven Harry Potter books, sometimes I forget I’m in Harry’s head and can only see things through his perspective. Reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play written by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, causes me to question just how much bias colours Harry’s outlook. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends are grown up with children, and his son, Albus, is one of the main characters. Unlike its predecessors, the play spans several years, highlighting the life of a Potter who is placed in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. To Harry’s dismay, Albus becomes best friends with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, who—despite the fact that he’s a sweetheart—many despise simply because of his heritage. As it is not told through the lens of a single character, the play provides a more objective look into the wizarding world than the seven novels detailing Harry’s childhood. It addresses some of the bias I didn’t even realize was happening in the original series. Harry vs. Slytherin Harry’s prejudice against Slytherin started to bother me when I re-read the Harry Potter books as an adult; I realized that there couldn’t possibly be a house that only churned out evil witches and wizards. The world isn’t black and white; it’s a whole lot of grey that can be tricky to navigate. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid says, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin.” This has to be an exaggeration, and one that Harry takes to heart. As Hagrid is his first guide to the wizarding world, Harry has no reason to doubt the statement. He learns later on that Hagrid isn’t...

Understanding Mental Illness: My Journey with Effie Trinket Oct26

Understanding Mental Illness: My Journey with Effie Trinket...

Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant. I’m a strongly opinionated person. When I believe something is right, it’s hard for me to consider the other side. Only when I am confronted by hard evidence will I believe a new truth, especially when it’s a fundamental truth, something that’s part of my moral standpoint. At times, accepting the truth takes me a long time, just like it does with Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games series. In the first film, we meet Effie as she is traipsing down a dirt road in District 12, wearing a pink dress and high heels. Her lips are pursed in distaste and her eyes coated in mascara. When she conducts the reaping, she does her job with a cheery flair, despite her obvious discomfort at her surroundings. It’s apparent she doesn’t care anything about this district or its citizens and regrets being assigned there. She’s apathetic to their poverty and the brutality of the games, and she doesn’t seem to clue in to the hardships the tributes are going to endure. The changes I go through help me to understand others. Effie’s behaviour reminds me of my younger self. Her attitude towards the tributes reminds me of my attitude towards mental illness. I saw commercials that warned of their seriousness, but I ignored them. I thought things like depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress were all imaginary. I believed it was the sufferer’s own fault for not being strong enough to conquer too much sadness or shifting moods. Effie’s opinion changes after she gets to know Katniss and Peeta. Training them is all duty, but after the two win the games, she begins to care for them. They’ve won, after all, therefore she can become emotionally attached. In Catching Fire, when President Snow announces that the new tributes are to be reaped from the existing victors, she realizes this isn’t a game anymore. As she reaches for the paper with Katniss’s name on it—the single piece of parchment lying at the bottom of the jar mocking the “randomness” of the selection—tears glisten in her eyes. Effie realizes that the Games aren’t fair or right. This time, she is even more committed to her team (to Effie, this means colouring her hair gold and buying trinkets for the others). This time, she’s emotionally invested in her tributes. This time, she hopes and prays that they will win. Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant. Though it may seem like a shallow difference in her behaviour, what’s being triggered inside Effie is real change. By Mockingjay, she joins the rebels and wholeheartedly involves herself in the fight for Katniss and Peeta. She becomes a completely different woman. In the past five years, I’ve struggled with my own mental illness. I was confronted by the reality of depression and I felt weak, hopeless, and beyond repair. I came to realize the emotions I saw people deal with in the commercials were real. I can’t say I enjoyed having my eyes opened in that manner, but now I understand. Now I can relate to friends who have dealt or are dealing with depression. I’ve been able to encourage them. I’ve been able to ask for help when I’m struggling myself. Like Effie, my view of a subject was completely changed and it didn’t happen overnight, but gradually. Effie was the comedic relief at first. She was snooty and cared only about fashion and gossip. Though her love for clothes and quick wit didn’t change, her passions did. She gained compassion for others and that enriched her life. I’m glad I’m not that ignorant person anymore when it comes to mental illness, because I think if I had stayed that way, I could have hurt many people with my misinformed opinion. Sometimes change happens quickly, other times it happens gradually, but if the changes I go through help me to...

Standing Out in a Pack of Wolves Oct19

Standing Out in a Pack of Wolves...

I grew up in a land of extroverted sports fans. As an introverted geek, I didn’t fit in. My love of writing, drawing, fangirling, reading encyclopedias, and spending the day engrossed in fantasy novels didn’t score me a lot of friends. Growing up, many of my friends and family told me my interests were weird and pushed me to like other things. I felt like an outcast, much like Mowgli  in the 2016 movie, The Jungle Book. Mowgli is a man-cub living among wolves. He has a talent for creating things from the materials around him (he makes ropes from vines, a pail from a turtle shell, and a knife from broken rocks, among other things). Bagheera and the pack urge him to desert his “tricks” and be more like a wolf, forcing Mowgli to suppress his interests. He does his best to try to conform, but it just isn’t natural for him. I listened to the Bagheeras around me and tried pursuing different interests. I attempted to be a veterinarian assistant, a skeet shooter, and a softball player, but they just weren’t me. They didn’t feel natural. In fact, the more I looked into them, the more they felt like the opposite of who I am. It’s hard feeling like the only man-cub in a pack of wolves that are telling me I need to be more like them. I have a friend who is the only writer among a family of sports players. It took her years to convince them that writing is a worthwhile career. I lived with a father who didn’t like reading at all. To this day, he still doesn’t understand my passion for writing. Since I’ve started pursuing writing as a career, hearing phrases like “Are you still writing?”...

Fairy Tales are for Grown-Ups Sep28

Fairy Tales are for Grown-Ups...

“Without the dark parts it’s just some silly f—” Chronicler froze halfway through the word, eyes darting nervously to the side. Bast grinned like a child catching a priest midcurse. “Go on,” he urged, his eyes were delighted, and hard, and terrible. “Say it.” “Like some silly faerie story,” Chronicler finished, his voice thin and pale as paper. Bast smiled a wide smile. “You know nothing of the Fae, if you think our stories lack their darker sides.” Not long ago, I was reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and I stumbled upon this quote. A rush of mischievous emotion washed over me, and I caught myself cracking a wide smile. Two things dawned on me that day, which I swear I’ve known and forgotten a thousand times: 1) I was reading a fairy tale, and 2) Fairy tales are not just for children. My favourite half-memories are from when I was a child visiting a carnival. The world was new to me then, and I was just beginning to develop an understanding of its shape and turnings. There was not yet enough room in my expanding imagination for things so alien, exotic, and joyful. Flashes of neon illuminating the dusky dark; the atmosphere of popcorn and hot dogs; the Ferris Wheel under starlight; the taste of danger and adrenaline on the roller coaster. I don’t see this as running away from real life, but rather deepening my appreciation for it. This was a time and a place where the barriers between the worlds of child and adult were thin. The giddy anticipation and the thrill of discovery were electric, euphoric. The English language does not seem to have a word to fully capture what it was like, although “nostalgia” comes...

A Lannister is Forgiven Sep07

A Lannister is Forgiven...

I found myself falling for Game of Thrones right from the start. And “falling” really is the appropriate word, because my addiction began right when Bran was thrown out of the window by all-world dirtbag Jaime Lannister, who in that moment instituted himself as the central foe in the television series. Or so I thought. Part of the beauty of Game of Thrones is that almost nothing is as it initially seems. By the time Brandon hit the ground, I had Jaime pegged as an antagonist because by that point he’d already established himself as a (literal) backstabber, regicide, incestuous adulterer, and as far as I knew, a child murderer. However, three seasons later I was openly rooting for Jaime. He became a redemption project, proof that there’s hope for even those who do the vilest deeds. Still, it’s not roses and daises in Westeros for Jaime. He’s incurred so many debts due to his past treachery that it’s a wonder he’s still alive (especially without the protection of his fighting hand). More frustrating is that Jaime’s course through the show hasn’t been linear. It isn’t until after he starts down the road of repentance that he rapes his sister. It’s after he’s become a better man that he breathes murderous threats at Edmure Tully while declaring his love for Cersei. Just when you think he has it figured out, Jaime retreats back to being the villain he once was. Watching Jaime transition from bad guy to good guy to bad guy again doesn’t just exasperate me—it makes me uncomfortable. Because in Jaime, I see more than a fictional character on screen and page. I see myself. Why bother trying to be a “good person” when it’s so difficult and I make so many...

Kubo and a Life Defined by Story Sep02

Kubo and a Life Defined by Story...

“If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to what you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away even for just one second, then our hero will surely parish.” These words, repeated throughout Kubo and the Two Strings, indicate the movie is all about story. Most specifically, the way that stories shape who we are. Kubo begins each day by telling tales of warriors, monsters, and quests to the villagers with the power of animated origami. But his story is tied to his wounded mother, a fear of his grandfather in the moon, and a father who gave his life to save him. While he has heard the stories of these things, he doesn’t fully believe them until he meets the people who stole his eye. Kubo’s Mother Kubo’s mother has a story as well. She was an assassin sent to destroy Hanzo, the brave warrior, who was searching for three magical artifacts that would give him the power to care for the people of the world. She was cold, calculating, perfect in her hardness, and her story would have continued on that way but for four simple words spoken by Hanzo: “You are my quest.” Her story is invaded by love and through love she is forever changed. Her sisters and her father think that love has made her weak, destroying the perfection of the porcelain life her sisters still live, but her love has made her strong and gives her the power to overcome, as well as to protect and defend others. Some say that we are the sum of our choices, but that feels like it reduces who we are to a mathematical equation. I have known love and it has changed me. My...

All About a Baby Aug19

All About a Baby

There once was an evil queen whose destruction was foretold in legend. The bringer of her destruction was to be an infant, and this infant would be known by a birthmark. And so, when the prophesied time had arrived, the queen inspected every child born in her kingdom. When the baby was found, she sought to kill her, but a good midwife placed the child in a basket in the river where it was discovered by a kindly halfling wife who, naturally wanted to adopt her. The baby’s innocence and vulnerability evoked compassion from the good woman; and so, to the dislike of her husband, Willow, the baby was taken into their home and given asylum. Until… Well, the story features unlikely heroes, alliances, conversions, epic battles, faeries, magic and monsters—you know—all the things that make a fantasy story great. The baby isn’t really a main character, because babies don’t do much. But, she is the main theme. Her safety, and the hope that she represents, are what spur the characters on. The baby is at first hated—the evil queen, Bavmorda, believes that if she kills the baby, her monarchy will remain intact. To end a young, innocent life is convenient and so she has no qualms about doing it. That’s the thing about evil, it has no concern for another’s welfare. It is devoid of nature, because our nature is to love. A few relatively powerless people get involved—first the midwife, then Willow’s family, and two silly sprites. But, it’s not power that will win here—power is what Bavmorda has. When the baby is at Willow’s house, Bavmorda’s scary dog creatures ransack his village looking for the baby. When he reveals that he has what the dogs are looking for, Willow is charged...

The Definitive Harry Potter Fan Art Collection Aug11

The Definitive Harry Potter Fan Art Collection

In honour of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘s recent release, feast your eyes on this collection of amazing fan art from the original Harry Potter series! Share your favourite piece on social media with a link back to the artist and the hashtag #SupporttheGeeks. And tell us what you thought of the play. Did you read it? See it? Hate it? Love it? 1. Back at Hogwarts by Alea-Lefavre 2. Harry Potter by HitoFanart 3. Harry Potter by tsulala 4. Winter Hogwarts by kissyushka 5. HP – Ginny Weasley by dido6 6. Harry Potter VS the Horntail by JoniGodoy 7. McGonogall by Lasse17 8. Hogwarts and the Whomping Willow by danidraws 9. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy by auroreblackcat 10. Severus Snape =3 by speedportraits 11. The Death of Fred by viria13 12. Harry Potter VS Voldemort...

Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire Aug03

Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire...

I love thinking about what sort of character I would be in another universe. I’m pretty sure most geeks do, and we love talking about it—whether it’s retelling a recent exploit as a rogue in Dungeons and Dragons, choosing a lightsaber colour, or picking our backpack in Pokémon Go, we are fans of character specialization and creation. Therefore, after watching an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender at one of Geekdom House’s Bible study nights, I was immediately intrigued by the question, “What kind of bender would you be?” It didn’t seem like a very in-depth question for study, but I was immediately too busy customizing my personal avatar (see what I did there) to focus on that. I hadn’t thought about this one before, and my answer was unexpected. My first inclination was water, and it’s true I do have some waterbending traits, like a calm personality and a desire to keep the peace. But then my mind went to earthbending and I realized that had to be me. Like all other bending, earthbending comes with its pros and cons. Recognizing them, being more aware of my personality traits, tendencies, and habits, can help me be a better friend, worker, leader, and God-follower. I can be incredibly stubborn and I don’t like change. I can dig in my heels when I don’t want to do something (which can be good if it’s something that is bad for me, but less good if it’s something I need to do). I face problems head-on, not because that’s my natural response—I’m more inclined to Aang’s trying to find different paths around an issue—but because I make a conscious choice to do so. I don’t like my tendency to indirectness, to hinting at an issue, to passive-aggressiveness,...

Call Me Treebeard Jul01

Call Me Treebeard

Call me Treebeard. Hrum, Hoom… If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d be an Ent. Like Treebeard, my motto is “Do not be hasty.” But, also like Treebeard, I might take you for a small orc and step on you if I don’t first hear your voice. I’m also cautious—if I’m going to develop a relationship, I won’t rush into it, and I prefer to ask the questions rather than reveal a whole lot about myself before I know who I’m dealing with. And to make matters worse, I’m a Christian—and not just any kind of Christian, but the slowest of all Christians—I’m Catholic. And nothing is slower than the Catholic Church at making decisions. The language of my faith is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking the time to say, and to listen to.” If you don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass. Or read an encyclical. Or an exhortation. Like the Ents, we take forever to make a decision—the Church will “room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum” for years and years before we change anything. I recently participated in a three-day meeting as part of a process in my diocese to re-imagine the way we “do Church” on a parish level. It was a response to declining numbers in all things Catholic because, no matter what was going on around us, we were doing the same stuff over and over, hoping for a new outcome. Many of our trees are getting sleepy and less Entish… But, getting Catholics (clergy and laypeople) to think about doing things differently—even when it’s a matter of self-preservation—is like convincing Ents to storm Isengard;...

Becoming Stone May25

Becoming Stone

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel emotions at all. Sure, the good ones are great; who doesn’t want to feel joy, hope, satisfaction, or delight? But the bad ones terrify me. Grief, fear, regret, loneliness… no, thank you. In the Song of the Sea, Ben begins his life as a happy child with a loving father, Conor, and a gentle mother, Bronach, who loves to teach her son stories and songs. One of her many fantastical tales is about the Owl Witch Macha. Long ago, Macha’s son endured a great tragedy, plunging him into despair. Because Macha couldn’t bear to see the pain in her son, she turned him into stone. However, she didn’t stop there. On Halloween night, she sent out her owls to cleanse faeries and humans of their emotions. Soon after telling her son this story, Bronach dies while giving birth to Ben’s younger sister, Saoirse. Years later, Ben has grown bitter and jealous of Saoirse. Negative emotions surround him—from his own jealousy and terror of the sea that surrounds their lighthouse home, to a grieving father, to a cynical granny. I imagine there were many times he wished he could be turned to stone like the faeries in his mother’s story. It is when Granny takes Ben and Saoirse to the city that he learns his sister is a selkie and that she has the ability to play a shell that releases faeries from stone prisons. His mother’s story is true. After Macha captures Saoirse and Ben, he confronts her. The Owl Witch feels that she needs to rid the world of “nasty emotions” because “nobody needs them,” that they make everyone “feel awful.” So deep are her ideals, she even draws the good and bad emotions out of herself...

10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour May23

10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour...

I sit a helpless bystander watching the dysfunction and horror play out on the screen. I am a powerless observer of a tiny underground bunker, bearing mute witness to the horror of humankind. I watch a young woman named Michelle move about an environment less and less safe, while her “saviour” Howard seems to become a monster; my suspicions are reinforced by his quiet little voice and pathological lack of emotion. I can’t offer escape, I can’t yell for help, I’m a bound observer to a monster sitting in front of me masquerading as a protector. He speaks nice words and presents his case in a fair way. He’s saved Michelle from death; there had been an unknown attack on the outside world and he was keeping her safe. So he’s a little old fashioned, a bit unusual, somewhat reserved… wouldn’t anyone who had the forethought to build a bunker in case of the apocalypse be a little less normal? Maybe he’s just misunderstood. I mean, he’s got a family and a story and good reasons for all that he is doing. Is it wrong to expect a little respect for saving everyone from death? You can’t blame him for being a little closed off, after all he doesn’t know them very well. For all he knows, they are the psychopaths in the room… Yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. We’ve seen this story play out time and time again. Oh sure, he doesn’t mean to get angry, he’s just passionate. He doesn’t mean to lash out, he doesn’t mean to scream, he doesn’t mean to cause so much damage… except as time goes on, the excuses wear thin and you realize he does intend harm. He does mean to hurt. He does...

The Sacred Texts of Geek Culture May11

The Sacred Texts of Geek Culture...

There are certain texts (and I am using the word “text” here to encompass TV shows, movies, books, and games) within geek culture that have achieved “sacred” status. Some of these include The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Firefly, Chuck, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Offer any critique of these texts and the fandom takes up arms, calling for the heads of those who dare to say a bad word about them. But can’t I critique something and love it at the same time? Engaging a text critically means asking questions about characterization and representation. How are women, people of colour, and body types portrayed? Do the female characters have agency? For people of colour, how many of them appear in the text? Do they have meaningful dialogue, or are their lines just filler? (See these videos of “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in ‘Harry Potter’” and “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in ‘The Lord of the Rings’“). In terms of bodies, what types are included; are fatness and ugliness signifiers for evil characters? “Critical” also means being aware of the privilege and biases you bring to a text. For example, I recognize that, as a white person, I will read any character as white unless they are assigned a specific race. This is because “white” is my bias, and “white” is also the default race in the majority of books and films. But can’t I critique something and love it at the same time? Big Ideas vs. Subtle Codes I recently had a conversation with a friend about how the portrayal of women as weak in early sci-fi contributes to the larger problem of misogyny in geek culture, and his response was that...

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom May09

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom

When I found out that there was a trilogy of graphic novels, The Search, that told the story of Zuko’s Mom from Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was desperate for it. The relationship between Zuko and Ursa appeared to be very tender and very formative of Zuko’s young life. I was intrigued by her character and was dying to know what happened to her. The Search takes place after the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai and the establishment of Zuko’s reign. Things are pretty peaceful in the Fire Nation, so having received some info on his mother, Zuko decides to go looking for her, leaving the kingdom under the watch of Uncle Iroh. He takes along his friends and Azula (who is completely nuts and seeking revenge on her mother) with him. Before Ursa had disappeared, she had been in some of the worst circumstances a woman could find herself—forced to marry a cruel and abusive man she didn’t love and required to publicly play the part of a princess that she never wanted to be. She attempted to protect her children from her husband’s tyranny and ultimately had to abandon them for their own sake. So much of motherhood is forgiving and being forgiven, forgetting and choosing not to forget. After she runs away, Ursa goes back to the town she grew up in and reconnects with the man she wanted to marry, Ikem. Having rediscovered her true love, she also becomes aware of a spirit called the Mother of Faces. The Mother has the ability to change the appearance of anyone, which seems like a good idea for someone being hunted by the Fire Lord. Ursa is conflicted with whether she should stay away or watch her children from afar. Ursa: There’s so much about my life in the royal palace that I want to leave behind…but I’m a mother now. You understand? I can’t leave my children behind. But, if I got a new face… a new identity… maybe I could return to the capital city undetected! Maybe I could at least see my children again… make sure they’re okay! Ikem: But what then? Would you stay in the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of them from time to time? Watch them grow up from afar? What kind of life is that? Ursa: You don’t know what it’s like. They’re always here. A part of me wonders what they’re doing… wonders if they’re happy or sad or in pain… always. It’s torture. The Mother of Faces offers Ursa a new mind, as well as a new face. She will have the opportunity to forget all of her painful memories. I’ll admit—I’ve spent my whole life wishing for a different face, and the idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive (I have not been above threatening to run away from home from time to time). But I know because of the crazy love I have for my kids, I couldn’t actually go through with it if I was offered the opportunity. Ursa, on the other hand, makes the choice to forget herself and her children—she takes on a new face, a new mind, and a new name. Zuko and the gang are successful in discovering Ursa (now named Noriko) and when she is confronted with the story of who she really is, her memory is recovered. She is able to be reconciled to who she is, and to her son who never stopped loving her and never gave up on finding her. I believe that his selfless love, in part, made her able to embrace her true self—to become who she was meant to be. In their recovery of one another, they are both healed in memory—not losing it, but being restored to joy by accepting it. The idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive. Motherhood is...

Galadriel and the Long Defeat Apr27

Galadriel and the Long Defeat...

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. Those are Galadriel’s words at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. I recently re-watched it and, as with every re-watching, something new struck me. First, how awesome it is that the first voice in a movie dominated by men is a woman’s. And, second, that it is actually incredibly fitting for Galadriel to be the narrator, to fill the audience in on all the events that have contributed to the Ring’s birth and rule. A Brief Portrait Not much of Galadriel’s story is told in The Lord of the Rings. For that, readers have to dig into The Silmarillion, several volumes of The History of Middle-earth, and a few of Tolkien’s letters (there’s also a good summary of her life here. Some of the main details: Galadriel was born in Valinor (Tolkien’s word was “awoke”). Her father was Finarfin, youngest of the three sons of High King Finwë.  She defended her mother’s people of Alqualondë against Fëanor and his sons during the First Kinslaying. She made the incredibly difficult journey over the Helcaraxë (the Grinding Ice) into Middle-earth. She settled in Doriath, where she met Celeborn and learned the mystical arts from Queen Melian. She survived the fall of every Elven kingdom in the First Age. During the Second Age, she and Celeborn lived in in Lindon, then Eregion (where the Rings were forged) and then Lindórinand, which became Lothlórien. She is the keeper of one of the Three Rings, Nenya. There are two reasons why I mention these details. One, it is important to know just...

The Heart of a Girl on Fire Apr25

The Heart of a Girl on Fire...

Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire, is a symbol in her dystopian world of Panem. In the story, she touches the hearts of the districts, yet I’ve often heard people who’ve seen the movies describe her as calloused, mean, and even heartless. How can someone with those descriptors be a positive emblem of hope for a fictional nation and millions of viewers across our globe? I believe that despite Katniss’s harsh exterior cultivated by her background, she has a compassionate heart that surpasses even Peeta Mellark’s. Self-Sacrifice in The Hunger Games Katniss volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Prim, in the Hunger Games. This is the catalyst of the entire story, but she furthers this sacrificial nature in her protection of Rue during the Games. Katniss doesn’t even know Rue well, but the District 11 girl’s innocence and similarities to Prim spur Katniss to fight for her. This movie brings out Katniss’s sacrificial nature the most. The scene where she decorates Rue with wildflowers after her death is her way of showing her love for a girl she barely knew and rebelling against the Capitol. Compassion in Catching Fire When the Peacekeepers raid District 12, Katniss notices the elderly Greasy Sae is injured. Katniss takes the old woman aside and gently uses a cold cloth to help her eye. During tribute training in the Capitol, Haymitch and Peeta urge Katniss to ally herself with the bigger, stronger victors. Who does Katniss choose? The rejects and the elderly. She connects with these “lesser” individuals—namely, Mags, Beetee, and Wiress. She sees past their seemingly weak exteriors and recognizes their skills. More importantly, she values them as human beings. Amidst the 75th Hunger Games, Wiress is in shock after enduring a trap that coated...

Cheat Taxes, Not Death Apr15

Cheat Taxes, Not Death...

When I was young, I wanted to live forever. That would be so cool, I thought. I could use all that time to learn languages, read all the books I ever wanted to read, see all the movies I wanted to see. Let me be clear here. When I talk of immortality, I mean physical immortality. As in NOT dying. I’m not talking about an afterlife or heaven. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to hang around on earth and continue living this life. Now, obviously my definition of “cool” left much to be desired, but I think there is something quite profound about my childish wish to live forever. Though I didn’t realize it at the time (I hadn’t gotten around to reading all those books), the desire for immortality is at the heart of various myths, legends, and stories: from the Gilgamesh’s question for immortality in the epic that bears his name, to the quest for the Holy Grail, to the stories of alchemy and the mythical fountain of youth. Many people have told stories about the search for a method to cheat that most mysterious of all human experiences, death. And I think that it’s that very thing that makes death so important: it’s something we all go through. They say the only two certainties are death and taxes. Well, some people have been able to cheat on their taxes. No one I know has cheated death. In an attempt to live forever, Voldemort loses his human life. And I don’t think my younger self was out to cheat death. I can’t remember thinking that. Certainly I am not aware of an experience of death that would have triggered that kind of response. I just felt there was so much...

Of Mice and Words Apr13

Of Mice and Words

It all started with a mouse. No, not that round-eared rodent in red shorts and yellow shoes. A much meeker mouse in a green novice’s habit and over-sized sandals. A mouse whose simple courage sent him on a quest to find an ancient sword (because what is fantasy without an ancient sword quest?) and who saved his abbey from an army of evil rats. His name was Matthias and he taught ten-year-old me that even the smallest person could change the course of the world if they were willing, kind, and brave. The Redwall series—a literary franchise where gallant woodland warriors overcame evil vermin invaders—not only kickstarted my love for fantasy (and furries), but also built a safe-haven for me to learn and grow in. Author Brian Jacques was like a grandfather to me and a household name to my family. I’ll never forget volunteering at my local library the day after his death, reverently sorting his books in the YA section and thinking that the world would never see another of his magnificent novels. He wrote for blind children, and as a result also reached children-at-heart and cynics who had turned a blind-eye to better things. Fifteen years after picking up my first Redwall novel and inhaling the musty smell of its pages, Jacques is still my favourite author. That’s more than my nostalgia talking. A part of me feels indebted to Jacques and his woodland warriors. Like Aesop of old, Jacques used familiar animals to express big ideals in a way even the smallest person could grasp. Mice were his favourite. They weren’t as tough as badgers, as skilled as hares, or as agile as squirrels, yet Jacques most often chose mice to inherit the famed sword of Martin the Warrior throughout...