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"The Heroic Ideal — A Personal Odyssey" by Diana Wynne Jones

I have subtitled this essay “A Personal Odyssey”. Hackneyed though this is, I think it is relevant in more than one way. I have never been able to think of heroes or the heroic without taking them to some extent personally — particularly when I was asked to talk about these topics in relation to my book Fire and Hemlock.

As a child, I was an expert in heroes. The eccentricity of my parents meant that there were almost no books in the house except learned ones, or books they used for teaching — and I was an avid reader. So before I was ten I had read innumerable collections of Greek myths, including Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales, and the unabridged version of the Morte d'Arthur, in double columns and tiny print, from which, besides being very puzzled about just what Lancelot was doing in Guinevere's room, I made a mental league table of the Knights of the Round Table: Galahad went even below Kay, as a prig — my favorite was Sir Gawain. I also read Pilgrim's Progress and folk tales innumerable from all over the world, including all of Grimm — and also a certain amount of Hans Andersen, but as Andersen reputedly made his stories up, my parents only admitted him to their house in limited quantities. I then went on to the Odyssey, which I preferred to the Iliad.

In all this, I was saddened to find that as an eldest child and a girl I was barred from heroism entirely — or was I? I puzzled long over the story of Hero and Leander. Hero did nothing but let her lover do all that swimming. Obviously the girl was a wimp. But she had that name. When I was nine, much pleading wrung a frivolous book from my parents — The Arabian Nights, bowdlerized. Sheherazade, I was delighted to find, was an elder sister. So even though she did nothing but tell stories (literally for dear life), maybe there was some hope. I found it later in that book, in a tale in which the Sultana’s jealous sisters tell the Sultan that his wife had given birth to a puppy, a kitten, and a log of wood. The log of wood was a girl, and she most heroically set things to rights. Good. It was possible for a girl to be a hero, then.

By this stage, I had acquired a firm mental grasp of what a hero is. A hero, first, is the one you identify with in the story. (Although this is not quite intrinsic to heroism, it is a fuel that keeps flowing back into the definition and influencing it in all sorts of ways. When I later read Paradise Lost, I saw at once that Milton had made the mistake of ignoring this.) Otherwise, heroes are brave, physically strong, never mean or vicious, and possessed of a code of honor that requires them to come to the aid of the weak or incompetent and the oppressed when nobody else will. In addition, most heroes are either related to, or advised by, the gods or other supernatural characters. The gods (even if they only appear in the form of Fate) are important for heroism for two reasons. First, they supply a huge extra set of dimensions that put the hero in touch with the rest of the universe and render his actions significant for the whole of humanity. Second, the fact that the gods are watching over him serves to keep the hero up to his code. If he does chance to behave in a mean or vicious way — or break any of the other rules, for that matter, which are part of the world of that particular story — then he is at once punished and corrected.

But above all, heroes go into action when the odds are against them. They do this knowingly, often knowing they are going to get killed, and for this reason they impinge on a hostile world in a way others don’t. When they die, their deaths are glorious and pathetic beyond the average.

Now this probably sums up Hector of Troy, and Hercules, and certainly applies to King Arthur — who has a double supernatural dimension, since he is guided both by Merlin and the Christian God — but I was aware that it did not quite apply to people like Jason of the Golden Fleece; or to Theseus, who coolly abandoned Ariadne on an island; or to the heroes of innumerable folktales who, like the Brave Little Tailor, start their heroic careers with a gross deception; nor, particularly, did it apply to Odysseus. Odysseus, while being billed as every inch a hero, nevertheless conned and tricked and sweet-talked his way all round the Adriatic. This used to worry me acutely. I was quite aware, of course, that Odysseus belonged to the second type of hero — the foxy, tricksy hero, the hero with a brain — but this being the case, was it proper to regard him as a hero at all? For a long time I felt I only had Homer’s word for it—that he was only a “hero” in the sense of being the person you identified with in the story. Then it dawned on me that the most heroic thing Odysseus does was never properly explained in my translation of the Odyssey (maybe Homer doesn’t explain it anyway). This was to have himself tied to the mast with his ears open, while his sailors plugged their ears and rowed past the Sirens. My translation represented this simply as a sort of musical curiosity on Odysseus’s part: he wanted to hear whatever it was the Sirens did. But if you look at this episode from the point of view of the rules of magic, you see at once that it is a calculated attempt to break the Sirens’ spell. Obviously, if a man could hear their irresistable song and yet resist them, this would destroy the power of the Sirens for good. As soon as I saw this, I realized that Odysseus was a real hero.

Around this time, my grandmother gave me a book she had won at the age of six as a Sunday School prize (which she confessed she had chosen for its grand and incomprehensible title). It was called Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages. It contained almost every heroic legend from Northern Europe that was not part of the Arthurian cycle: the Charlemagne cycle, the stories connected with Dietrich of Berne, the entire Nibelung cycle, including the bits that Wagner did not use, the story of Beowulf and of Wayland Smith, and many more, all illustrated with wonderful woodcuts but otherwise in no way adapted for children. I read it until it fell to pieces. Many of the stories were unutterably sad, particularly those in which the gods took a hand — so much so that, when I later heard the saying “Those whom the gods love die young,” I thought that, though thoroughly unfair, it was probably a profound truth.

Out of all this reading I had by now the basic hero-story well plotted. Your average hero starts out with some accident of birth, parentage, or person which sets him apart from the rest and often, indeed, causes him to be held in contempt. Even if he seems normal, he has at some point to contend with his own physical nature (as when Beowulf fights the dragon as an old man, or when Odysseus listens to the Sirens). Nevertheless he sets out to do a deed which no one else dares to do and/or at which others have horribly failed. The story often does not state the heroic code that demands this. That code only manifests itself when, along the way, the hero’s honor, courage, or plain niceness cause him to befriend some being who will later come powerfully to his aid. (This is one of the places where being a hero overlaps with "being the person in the story with whom we identify,” because your hero is after all also your Goodie.) After this, he may well make some appalling mistake — as Christian strays from the strait and narrow path, or Siegfried forgets Brunhilda — and this lands him deep in trouble. He can then end tragically. Or he can call in the debt from the powerful being he befriended earlier and, with difficulty, prevail.

So much for the male heroes. But it seemed to me the women were a mess. All over the world they were either goaded into taking vengeance, like Medea, or Brunhilda in my grandmother’s book, or they were passive, like Hero or Andromeda or Christiana. A medievalist I consulted about this opined that Christianity had substantially affected the heroic ideal, especially where women were concerned, by introducing ideas of patience and endurance and the solitary personal struggle against one's own fleshly instincts. But you have only to look at the stories I have cited already to see that all these things are there in pre-Christian heroic stories. There seems to have been an overwhelming acceptance that meekness was the lot of a good woman, until she was goaded into turning evil. In the Odyssey Penelope can only stay good by tricksy passive resistance, which doesn’t do much to get rid of her suitors. But at least she is using her mind — like her husband.

By this time I was adding the rest of an education to this childhood reading. This involved studying Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. And here I found a man writing who was more subtle than Odysseus, playing with the kind of narratives I had previously enjoyed, telling them in different styles, delicately deflating the typical hero, altering the balance of the tale with sophisticated touches (not least of which was making some tales almost too appropriate to their tellers, as in the “Clerk's Tale,” where he has the ultimate female wimp, Griselda). And most ironical and sophisticated of all, he tells the most truly and obviously heroic story — “Sir Thopas” — pretending it is from his own mouth, and makes it an utter joke, a complete send-up. It was as if a super-Odysseus had passed that way, listening with a delicate and caustic ear to the Siren-song of my childhood stories and breaking their spell entirely. I didn’t quite see this at the time, but I was left with an uneasy sense that the heroic ideal was awfully banal and naive and straightforward.

When I got to Oxford as a student I came to see that this was how these stories seemed now to everyone once Chaucer had done with them. No respectable writer dared for centuries to write a straightforward heroic narrative. If you wanted to, you had to show that your narrative had a purpose that was not heroic — either to strip the illusions from a naive hero like Candide or Tom Jones (Tom Jones, interestingly enough, being based on the Odyssey); or to make a moral and social point aside from the story as, say, Dickens does. And the bad things to be conquered had to be reduced to credible everyday targets, like the Government. Not surprisingly, tricksy Odysseus-like heroes came to be preferred by the twentieth century (Chandler's Marlowe is typical) — that is, if you still stubbornly wanted any element of heroism or naive story-telling. And the whole thing reached an apotheosis in a non-heroic non-story by James Joyce, called, appropriately enough, Ulysses. In the midst of all this I was very grateful to come across Edmund Spenser who had managed to retrieve at least six genuine heroes from this mess and put them in a narrative called The Faerie Queene. This is an allegory. Even in Tudor times you couldn't do it straight and be thought serious (I may remind everyone that Shakespeare didn't consider his plays serious: his serious stuff was Venus and Adonis, where the decoration almost hides the story).

To my joy, one of Spenser's heroes was a woman. Britomart. Now I haven't space to go into everything I ]earnt from Spenser — things such as how to organize a complex narrative, or how to implant the far-off supernatural into the here-and-now — but I must pause a bit on what a discovery Britomart was to me. A woman who was a proper hero (this may be a commonplace now, but it certainly was not in the fifties). True, she was also an allegory of Chastity and dressed in armour like a man; but the significant thing to me was that she had a vision of her future lover and set out to do something about it as a hero should. The vision of the future lover is of course a common folktale element. But in The Faerie Queene the vision serves as the high ideal, the thing to strive towards, and it is also, in plain human terms, love. And here I began to see just what Christianity had really added to the heroic tradition. It had reinforced the high ideal — for God is love — though heroes have always had that, even if they do not know it when they begin. But, more importantly, Christianity had modified the tradition that a hero is guided by a god or gods. For God watches over everyone. Thanks to Britomart and Spenser, I now knew that every ordinary man or woman could be a hero.

But the heroic ideal, I thought, had gone sour. It was not until I had children of my own and through them came to read the children's books I had never had as a child, that I realized that here was the only place where the ideal still existed. It flourished alongside the story, since children will not read much without a narrative, in a way that leads me to suspect the two things are closely connected. (Both ideal and story have since begun to flourish again in adult fantasy, but this hardly existed at the time I’m talking of: Tolkien had published only part of The Lord of the Rings.)

I think the reason that the heroic ideal had, as it were, retreated to children's books is that children do, by nature, status, and instinct, live more in the heroic mode than the rest of humanity. They naturally have the right naive, straightforward approach. And in every playground there are actual giants to be overcome and the moral issues are usually clearer than they are, say, in politics. I shall never forget the occasion when I was visiting a school as a writer and the whole place suddenly fell into an uproar because the school tomboy — a most splendid Britomart of a girl — had beaten up the school bully. Everything stopped in the staffroom while the teachers debated what to do. They wanted to give the tomboy a prize, but decided reluctantly that they had better punish her and the bully too. They knew that if, as a child, you do pluck up courage to hit the bully, it is an act of true heroism — as great as that of Beowulf in his old age. I remember passing the tomboy, sitting in her special place of punishment opposite the bully. She was blazing with her deed, as if she had actually been touched by a god. And I thought that this confirmed all my theories: a child in her position is open to any heroic myth I care lo use; she is inward with folktales; she would feel the force of any magical or divine intervention.

On the other hand, it is clear to me that all children don’t actually demand magical events in their reading. They differ as other people do. But it is a fact that all children’s books that endure are fantasies of some kind. These do seem to strike the deepest note.

Anyway, you must picture me in the seventies all set to write according to these discoveries. But there was a snag. In 1970 no boy would he seen dead reading a book whose hero was a girl. Children were then — and still are to some extent — rather too inward with the heroic tradition that heroes are male and females are either wimps or bad. Girls will read male-hero stories and (wistfully) identify, but not vice versa, not in 1970 anyway. I took this up rather as a challenge: I love a challenge. For instance, I made David in Eight Days of Luke a boy, but I put him in a situation with his relations that both sexes could identify with. In Power of Three, I provided Gair with a sister with apparently greater gifts, and the same in Cart and Cwidder; and I sneaked a female hero past in Dogsbody by telling the story from the dog's point of view. But a desire was growing in me to have a real female hero, one with whom all girls could identify and through that, all persons — a son of Everywoman, if you like. This is the reason for the name Polly, when I eventually came to write Fire and Hemlock. The Greek poly means "more than one: many or much,” and this, as we shall see, has more than one significance for the book. Another thing I had also long wanted to do was to show children how close to the old heroic ideal they so often are. I'd had a stab at it in Eight Days of Luke, by using the days of the week, and the Norse gods they were named after, to indicate that the big things, the stirring events — the heroic ideal — were as much part of modern everyday life as Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are. But I knew that what I wanted to do really was to write a book in which modern life and heroic mythical events approached one another so closely that they were nearly impossible to separate. I also longed to base something on the ballad Tam Lin, because that had a real female hero, one of the few Britomart-like heroes in folklore.

Meanwhile, feminism had become a force and was slowly changing the climate of opinion. I looked one day at a picture I own called Fire and Hemlock. It is a very peculiar picture, because sometimes there seem to be people in it and sometimes not. And I realized I was about to write the book. If anything sparked it off, it was probably the saying “Those whom the gods love die young." (I often find my books are founded on a saying or proverb. The maddest is Archer's Goon, which is founded on a dire pun: "urban gorilla.”) But there was another consideration. Janet, the hero of Tam Lin, behaves throughout the story like a woman and not like a pseudo-man. I wanted a narrative structure which did not simply put a female in a male's place — and, oddly enough, the structure I came up with was no other than that twentieth century favourite, the Odyssey. I think at least part of the reason for this is Penelope, who, as I said before, is in her way as tricksy as her husband: she clearly has a mind. And Odysseus is a thinking hero. I knew my story was going to be a journey of the mind to some extent, both for Polly and for Tom.

Now you must understand that l came to writing Fire and Hemlock not only with the Odyssey in mind. My head was always with myths and legends, hundreds of them, and they all contribute, but there are three which underlie it principally. The most obvious of course are the ballads of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, seen as parts of a whole. This gives the emotive aspect of the story: that of a foray into the supernatural world of the imagination to rescue the one you love (and this love is seen in the same way as Britomart's —as being the same as the heroic ideal). As to the second and third underlay, you must bear with me if I hold the third up almosl to the end. But the second is the Odyssey, of course. The Odyssey accounts for the shape of the story, and the way it had largely to be told in flashback. For Homer's Odyssey starts in what we have to call present-day Ithaca, and when Odysseus himself finally appears, at least half of his story is in flashbacks. We find him disentangling himself from Calypso, a possessive supernatural woman, by telling his story. This gave me several elements. By association with Sheherazade, it made me see that Polly would be telling the story. It gave me Tom's recent divorce from Laurel. And Calypso, when she finally agrees to let Odysseus go, tells him he has to visit Hades first. This could be her way of saying “I’ll see you in hell first!” but, since she is a nymph and semi-divine, it becomes literal truth and means “You’ll have to pass through death first.” This ties in wonderfully with the “tithe to hell” that the fairy folk have to pay in Tam Lin and gave me the ending of the book. It also gave me an important fact about Laurel: this way she has of bending the truth to her own ends. Put this together with the gift of true-speaking the Queen gives Thomas the Rhymer, and you have Lurel’s gift to Tom: that everything he imagines will come true. It is not only a hellish gift from a supernatural female: it is the mark of a particularly terrible type of woman — I’m sure we all know at least one such person — a woman who confuses fact and fiction impartially for her own ends. For Laurel is Circe as well.

At the opening of the book, Polly as well as Tom is in thrall to this woman. She has to perform a strenuous and truthful act of memory to break that thralldom. This is in itself intended to be an act of heroism akin to Odysseus confronting the Sirens. As a girl, one would expect Polly to be in the role of Penelope — and she is, by and large, in that Tom ranges the world, while Polly stays at home. But there is another hero in the Odyssey, Odysseus’s son, the young, naive Telemachus. Polly takes the role of Telemachus on herself when she first meats Tom, by naming herself Hero; and this begins a long series of heroic roles both she and Tom take on. (Another reason for her name — she is many people.) Polly does this semi-knowingly at age 10, because she knows instinctively that her only contact with Tom that Laurel cannot break is that of the imagination. At 10 children are good at knowing such things. Polly first expresses this knowledge in the naive made-up story of Tan Coul and his friends, with herself as assistant hero. As she grows older and recognizes the complexity of life, the naive make-believe becomes more and more marginal, so that as she searches for her ideal in a new form, she takes up a whole series of heroic roles. She is Gerda in The Snow Queen. Snow White, Britomart, St. George, Pierrot, Pandora, Andromeda, Janet from Tam Lin and many more, in a sort of overlapping succession.

Tom appears to cling to the role of Odysseus, which he takes on himself with the letter about the giant in the supermarket. Anyone reading that section closely may have noticed that the giant has only one eye, like Polyphemus the Cyclops. But in fact Tom loses that role to Polly around the time he discovers his alter ego in the hardware shop — and becomes in turn Leander, Kay kidnapped by the Snow Queen, the knight of the Moon, Artegall, Bellerophon, Prometheus/Epimetheus, Harlequin, Perseus, Orpheus, and of course Tam Lin. He and Polly are continually swapping active and passive roles and, in fact, sharing the part of Odysseus between them.

Now the way I did this was something else I learnt from Spenser. Spenser's allegory ranges from large overt personifications (Pride is a woman who lives in a palace with a filthy back yard), to correspondences so subtle that it is sometimes hard to call them allegory. And at other times the allegorical role is shared about among many characters, each of whom is some aspect of it. I tried to do the same with the heroic personifcations and actions of Polly and Tom. I needed to find some way, you see, to call on the magical or god-guided aspect of all heroic careers. So sometimes I made the action overtly supernatural and sometimes so close to mundane factualness as to be indistinguishable from everyone's ordinary acts. And sometimes halfway between the two.

In order to organize this, I found that the narrative moved in a sort of spiral, with each stage echoing and being supported by the ones that went before. I had to work very hard in the final draft to make sure the echoes were not repetitions, because at the same time I was establishing another set of resonances that had to be hidden in the same spiral. These were directly concerned with gods and the supernatural. All the female characters are arranged in threes, with Polly always at the centre. There are Nina (who is silly), Polly (who is learhing the whole time), and Fiona (who is sensible); there are Granny, Polly, and Ivy, old, young, and middle-aged respectively. The first threesome may not strike people as significant, but taken along with the second, I hope it begins to suggest the Three-Formed Goddess, diva triforma. Towards the end of the book, Granny takes on the role of Fate and Wisdom quite overtly, shearing fish and explaining the riddle of the ballad of Tam Lin. Laurel is of course an aspect of this Goddess. Consequently, the most important threesome is Laurel, Polly, Ivy. Ivy is the mundane parasitical version of Laurel, evergreen and clinging — Laurel as the Lorelei in Suburbia, if you like. And Polly — make no mistake — is intended to be an aspect of Laurel to — Laurel as Venus and the Fairy Queen. But she is the aspect that appears not in Tam Lin but in Thomas the Rhymer, the good and beloved Queen than Thomas first mistakes for the Virgin Mary and then submits to. The adventures Polly and Tom have together fairly carefully echo this second ballad. I did this not out of perverseness but because of what I had learnt from Spenser, through Britomart, of the Christian contribution to the heroic ideal: that the deity is for everyone. There is God in all of us as well as with us. It follows that the major part of a hero's quest is to locate that deity within and to live up to its standards. And if the hero is female, it also follows that the deity is likely to be female to, in some sense.

(If anyone wonders about the male characters, yes, they are surreptitiously arranged in the same way.)

You will possibly be thinking by now that I had a rich mix and a complex structure to control. This is true. You are maybe also wondering about the third underlying myth that I mentioned. Before I come to this myph, however, I have to mention another factor. I needed a conscious, organizing overlay to this narrative. As you can probably see by now, it could well have run out of control without one. And, unlike the mass of myths and folklales in the story which came surging into the narrative almost unbidden, this had to be in my conscious control. The organizing overlay I chose was T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. This, on a purely technical level, gave me a story divided into four parts and featuring a string quartet. It also gave me the setting and atmosphere for the funeral Polly gatecrashes in Hunsdon House:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden…
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner… Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush?...
So we moved…
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly…

Chapter two is full of echoes from Burnt Norton. The vases come from here. I chose the poem because it combines static meditation with movement in an extraordinary way, to become a quest of the mind away from the Nothing of spiritual death (Hemlock in my book), towards the Fire which is imagination and redemption — the Nowhere of my book. A heroic journey from Nothing to Nowhere is what Polly takes.

Though I was always aware of Eliot’s poem as an overlay, I only, as it where, turned the sound up on it from time to time. I kept it low until the Bristol section after this initial forte, where Polly, now in the role of Snow White, Euridice and Britomart — is turned out, lost and looking down into the river Avon.

I think the river is a strong brown god…
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel (Here is Penelope again.)
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending…
Wheie is there an end of it, the soundless wailing…?

I turned the sound down on Eliot again after that, until Polly remembers what it was she did lo lose Tom and put them both in Laurel’s power. Now here I must remind you of my childhood discovery that all heroes are likely to make one horrible mistake. On the human level, Polly's mistake is to behave like her mother, with possessive curiosity, and spy on Tom. On the mythical level, it throws the story back to the tragedy and failure of Hero and Leander, with which the story started. This unjustified curiosity, which leads the hero to spy on his or her partner, is a molif in dozens of folktales — “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” being the one which is mentioned in the book. Here the young wife sees her husband in his true shape in the night, and loses him. This summary will no doubt remind you all of a much beller known story — the story which is, in fact, the third underlying myth in Fire and Hemlock — the story of Cupid and Psyche. From long before C. S. Lewis this was a myth of the human soul in search of a beloved ideal, which is what Tom has now become for Polly. Tom in fact has Cupid's attributes, although few people seem to notice. When my British publisher was unable to see this, l simply asked her, “Who is mostly blind and goes to work with a bow?” and she said, “Oh, I see!” But, to go back to human terms, and Polly’s loss of Tom, people do lose sight of their ideals quite often in adolescence and young adulthood; they tend to see life as far too complex and then come up with the idea that things are only real and valid if they are unpleasant or boring. The myth of Cupid and Psyche is certainly about this. Or, as Eliot says, “human kind / Cannot bear very much realily…“ and the defense is to deny the imagination any reality at all. But Cupid and Psyche is not mentioned in the book on purpose, because Cupid and Psyche are both in their way gods, not heroes — and anyway, it always seemes to me that powerful stories like that one always pull their weight better for only being hinted at.

Once Polly knows she has lost Tom, her quest becomes more urgent. So the narrative moves back to the present time, just as it does in the Odyssey, and becomes traditionally heroic in that Polly finds she can call for help on those she has helped in the past. This includes the one she nearly misses because it is too close to her: Fiona. This sort of thing may be a traditional motif, but it does also happen in real life — you can be very blind to people close to you, both for good or evil. Polly has accepted Seb in the same blind way. But al last, having called in her debts and made her heroic act of memory, Polly sets out to retrieve her mistake. Now here I found I had to leave the tradition represented by Janet in Tam Lin, because it was precisely by hanging on to Tom and being overcurious that Polly had lost him. Anyway she has already done her hanging on as a child. It was clear to me that the only redress she could make was the reverse of possessiveness — complete generosity — generosity so complete that it amounts to rejection. She has to love Tom enough to let him go — hurtfully. This is the only way she can harness Tom’s innate strength of character, and only hurting can he summon the full force of the fire — which is to some extent physical passion and to an even greater extent the true strength of the heroic world of the imagination Polly and Tom have built together. But Tom has to do it himself. He has depended on Polly too much.

This is where I turned the sound up again on The Four Quartets. Polly has to take the same road that T. S. Eliot describes in his quest:

In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy,
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

Nowhere, you see.

But l was talking about everyday life as much as Eliot was. I was also following the Odyssey, where Odysseus does at last come home, to a partnership and a personal relationship. And I wanted to indicate, however briefly, that though a relationship was possible between Polly and Tom, such a relationship is only likely to be maintained through continuing repeated small acts of heroism from both. This is what I tried to do in the Coda, where the structure of the Odyssey most remarkably echoes what Eliot has to say:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

And this is the beginning and the end of my personal version of the Odyssey.

Источник (ссылки на сканы статьи в конце страницы)
Да тут вообще полно такого, о чём я как-то не задумывалась. Читай дальше :)

Кстати, вот у Миядзаки девочек в сияющих доспехах очень даже есть. Интересно, как он к этой идее пришёл?
Слушай, я тут, добравшись до финала, в некотором шоке пребываю. Оно, конечно, понятно было, что и интертекстуальность здесь, и редкостная для детской литературы насыщенность смыслами (а детская ли это книга вообще?), но что до такой степени, было неожиданностью.
Надо мне ее дочитать -) Заинтриговали -) Начала и бросила.
Мне предрекали непонятный финал и доля истины в этом в общем-то есть. Поэтому-то я и отправилась на поиски объяснений. Но бросить читать не хотелось :)
Спасибо огромное. Прочитала и загорелась её перевести. но перевод уже имеется, конечно. Если интересно)

По статье -да, некоторые аллюзии лежат на поверхности - например, сказки, мифы и баллады я просекла сразу, а вот про Одиссею почему-то даже не задумалась. Хотя с самого начала было понятно, что тут переплелись и детские впечатления автора, и куча прочитанных книг по теме (а то, что Диана "книжная девочка" - это же давно понятно) и большая личная эрудиция.

Ещё раз спасибо. Получила огромное удовольствие.
Да, народные британские сказки и баллады там сразу в глаза бросаются, а Одиссея вообще не всплывает.

Но это наверное нормальное явление. Например, переводчик "Девочки, которая объехала волшебную страну на самодельном корабле" считает, что там полно аллюзий на "Маленький, большой" Краули. А я, хоть и читала этот роман, сама этих аллюзий не заметила. Хотя, сопоставив, одно и другое, вполне с ним согласна.

Пожалуйста. :)

Вообще я думаю, что сейчас невозможно сказать "а", не затронув какого-то "б", давным-давно сказанного. Мир настолько плотно напичкан всевозможными внутренними переплетениями смыслов, начиная сказками, что было бы удивительно не замечать этого. Просто я не ожидала, что она специально это сделала, намеренно, что это был её личный такой вызов тогдашней действительности. Ведь нынче в героизме женщины как бы нет ничего революционного. Но зато теперь я чётко понимаю, почему Джонс не так популярна, как Роулинг) Всё-таки многие её книги не дотягивают до той самой планки, которую она задала "Болиголовом". У Роулинг как-то поровнее всё.
Это точно. :)

Кстати, вот интересно, читала ли Джонс "Железную хватку" ("True grit") Чарльза Портиса, вышедшую в 1968. Вот где девочка так девочка. Не всякого героического мальчика рядом поставишь.
Ой. Я и сама не читала. Возьму на заметку. Спасибо.
Очень советую. Фильм Коэнов по ней тоже хорош, кстати. Но сначала лучше прочитать. :)