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18 March 2012 @ 01:45 pm
Tragic Heroes  
A couple of incidents recently have caused me to ruminate upon the Tragic Heroes of my youth.

I was leaving a comment on a piece of Hamlet fanfic which I realised amounted to "wasn't Hamlet an idiot and trying with it! I'm sure he deserved all he got.*" I don't think this was my view of Hamlet as a teenager and its possible that I would think differently were I actually to re-read the play. I don't think I've read or watched Hamlet in a decade and that means, of course, that my memory of the poor man has become filtered through the lens of the Twilight phenomenon. I can't help feeling, though, that Hamlet would have been somewhat at home among sparkly vampires.

In a related incident I've been slowly GMing my way through an old MERP module based on Gondor's Kinstrife. One of the central NPCs in this module is Neithan, who tragically disobeyed his father, got manoeuvred into a situation where he was forced to behead his best friend, and then more or less accidentally fell in with the forces of darkness. My party took a somewhat different view of Neithan's tragic history than I recall having when I first played through the module or indeed, as the character was originally described to me. In the party's view, Neithan had entirely brought his troubles on himself, was petty, vindictive and would make a terrible ruler. After several years of clearing up his messes they took the step of challenging him to a duel and then burying his body in an unmarked grave. This single action has, in fact, vastly simplified matters.

I'm wondering how many of the heroes of my youth are doomed to this kind of re-evaluation in the light of impending middle age. Or is it just me? I do recall horrifying a cousin of mine years ago by describing Anna Karenina as a very silly woman: "The greatest tragic heroine in western literature!!" he stuttered in outraged tones...

*I believe Very Bad Things happened to him in the fanfic in question, though I skipped those bits so I couldn't say for certain.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/63621.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on March 18th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Hmm, "impending middle age"? I've already given up that fight and admitted that I'm middle-aged. Once one reaches the answer to the ultimate question, I'm not sure one can really avoid it any more.
wellinghallwellinghall on March 18th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
Reaching 45 did it for me. And now that was a whole year ago!
a_cubeda_cubed on March 18th, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)
You lasted longer than I did. "Middle-Aged, Middle-Class, Radio 4 Listener". Well, I used to listen to Radio 4 a lot before moving to Japan. It's just a little awkward to listen regularly now. Between studying Japnese 1-2 hours per day and caring for $DAUGHTER I don't seem to have the time to download and then listen.

Edited at 2012-03-18 02:43 pm (UTC)
wellinghallwellinghall on March 18th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
I don't have a new language to learn or a child, but my days are still too full! But I've been a solid Radio 4 listener for 28 years now.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
*snap* (perhaps not quite 28 years but certainly more than 20) I actually think my R4 listening has reduced if anything.
wellinghallwellinghall on March 18th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
My mother used to listen to Radio 4 sometimes, but I started properly when I went to university (so almost exactly 27.5 years ago). Evey day, I would get back to my room, put Radio 4 on, and start reading / working.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
Well I've been listening to radio 4 since my late teens so I'm not sure that's really a marker of middle age. I probably listen to less of it these days than I once did.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
I work on the assumption I'll definitely be middle-aged when 50 - up until that point the term is up for grabs and I intend to deny the reality for as long as possible.
adaeseadaese on March 18th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
Your memories of Neithan are surprisingly tolerant and mellow, given that (if IIRC) it was your beloved fiance he beheaded, and that whenever the party ran into him, he would try to tell us how deeply messed up and penitent he was, before turning around and betraying us to the local goons. I can see that eliminating him would indeed lead to a much, much more straightforward campaign.
louisedennis: tolkienlouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
I think I was very much buying into the tragicness of it all. My PCs decided they had had enough when they worked out that his plan of action in Osgiliath involved being allied with the cult that had just murdered his parents, his uncle and one of his cousins in order that he could take revenge on the three lieutenants he perceived as having betrayed him when Osgiliath fell to Castimir - which, they felt, was entirely his fault for allying with Castimir in the first place.

At this point they slipped him a mickey finn, deprived him of his magic items and asked him to explain himself. After a speech involving how hard done by he was, the party noble finally snapped. They've decided they need to destroy his magic jewell, which is probably a good thing otherwise the campaign would be over by this point. They've decided to take said jewell to the Mirror of Fire in the Raj where one of the great lamps fell, in the hopes that it may still be alight (which I think is a terribly good idea) - the other option they discussed was Mount Doom, but only the noble thought that was a good plan and he got out-voted in favour of random adventuring in the far south.
Elaine of Astolatladyofastolat on March 18th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
I had some similar musings the other day about the Tragic Lovers of my youth. When I was 14 or so, I loved stories in which two young lovers instantly knew that, OMG, we are made for each other! and proceeded to defy all the odds and generally mess up the lives of everyone they knew in their entirely justified desire to be together for ever on the basis of their 5 minutes' of acquaintance, and then died horribly and tragically, making me drip heartbroken tears into my pillow.

For quite a few years now, I have looked upon such lovers, and wanted to shake them soundly, and point out that, no, 5 minutes' acquaintance does not a proper relationship make, and could you stop being so spoiled hormonal drama queens, please.

Edited at 2012-03-18 06:52 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! And some of my favourite romances (Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey, Gen and Attolia) come perilously close to this trope - I reckon most of the Harriet books are really Harriet going exactly through the motions of giving Peter a good shake and then feeling embarrassed when it turns out he was right in the first place. As for Gen and Attolia, I suspect they were lucky to have some gods prodding them in the right general direction.

But Romeo and Juliet? Definitely in need of a good shaking!!!
bunnbunn on March 18th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
I think there is something very dark and disturbingly kinky going on with Gen and Attolia, myself.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
Well, yes, but there was no guarantee they would have even that much at the outset - all they had was some vague obsession on Gen's part based, it would seem, on a glimpse he had of her in childhood.
bunnbunn on March 18th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Could be misremembering, but I thought it was more than that? Didn't he spend loads of time creeping around the secret spaces of her palace as a child?

I read it as a marriage of state to a long-term stalker...
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
Yes he did. I seems to have been triggered by the childhood glimpse.

"Marriage of state to a long-term stalker," would seem to sum it up very nicely.
Elaine of Astolatladyofastolat on March 18th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
I've been rereading the Thief series this last week, and have just finished The King of Attolia. It's one of my all-time favourite books, and I do like the relationship between Gen and Attolia as it plays out in book 3, in all its strange and complex glory... but, yes, you're right that it really shouldn't have worked. But at least they don't go round swooning and shouting in capitals about how they're MEANT TO BE, which is a very big something in their favour.
louisedennislouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
Gen and Attolia definitely get points that you at least see them work through it all and although it seems terribly unlikely that it would all work out, at least you can see why it does. Eddis and Sounis irritate me more, though only in a "how many marriages of state do you expect me to believe are going to conveniently end in true love?" kind of a way, and because Sounis is, fundamentally, nice but dull.
Elaine of Astolatladyofastolat on March 18th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
Nice but dull, yeah. Although I said I'd just finished book 3 - my favourite - I actually finished it several days ago, and have spent the days since then eyeing book 4 with a vague sense of duty, but not quite getting round to picking it up. Sophos is a nice chap, so I feel as if I ought to enjoy his story, but it doesn't win me over the way the other books do.
wellinghallwellinghall on March 19th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Who is your youth, and why do you allow him to have tragic lovers?
Pollyjane_somebody on March 30th, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, I must have been middle-aged in my teens, since I had the wanting-to-shake reaction even then. *Especially* with Romeo and Juliet, and especially given Romeo's undying true love for Rosalind only 5 minutes earlier. And indeed the wanting to give Hamlet a good smack, though not quite so much, since angsty pretty men was my weakness. (*completely denies it still is, oh yes*)
louisedennislouisedennis on April 2nd, 2012 08:09 am (UTC)
I don't' recall having any real opinion about Romeo and Juliet as a teenager, beyond thinking the play had a surprisingly comic first half given what was to follow.
bunnbunn on March 18th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
I can remember finding Hamlet quite frustrating, even as a teenager. I really wanted to give him a slap and tell him to sort himself out...

Twilight? Sparkly vampires? I've managed to mostly avoid Twilight, in so far as one *can* - so I have to ask - what is it about Hamlet and sparkly vampires...?
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
Well, it must be said, I've not read Twilight though I have seen a lot of spitting about sparkly vampires and so extrapolating from Buffy, Interview with a Vampire and too many Whitewolf games, I have come to the conclusion that Twilight is probably full of self-obsessed centenarians in the bodies of improbably pretty young men, who hang around dressed in black and looking doom-laden. I don't know if they actually sparkle per se, or just look terribly pretty in an eyelashes and cheekbones kind of way.

Hamlet is, generally, an improbably pretty young man who hangs around dressed in black looking doom-laden - ergo sparkly vampire.
Elaine of Astolat: Library ladyladyofastolat on March 18th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
They do sparkle. When they pose languishly in full sunlight, they sparkle all over the place, as if sprinkled with fairy dust. I read somewhere that the entire series derived from a dream the author had of some handsome pale young man lying sparkling like a thousand little jewels in the sun, or something like that. It's my duty as a children't librarian to read these things, so I know. :-)
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on March 18th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
Oh god! I thought the sparkly vampire thing was just generic abuse!! I can't believe they actually sparkle!!