Friday, March 20, 2015
The Curse of Arianrhod, by Michael Hooten
I'm going to start light, and then I'm going to get heavy; probably as heavy as I have gotten in reviewing.
Here's the light part: thus far, in reviewing Michael Hooten's Bardic Tales, I have managed to avoid hard names. Cricket's Song was easy; I just called him Cricket. And I discovered just now that when I reviewed Bard Without A Star that I wrote the review without once using the main character's name, or any character's name actually. That's because they've got these long consonant-ridden names like Cwddngkrg Twndfrgkn of Lndgdwnggth, and I'm a redneck. Bubba, Bill Andy, Ruby Jo, and Beulah; those are all family names. Those I can do. I've avoided the tough stuff, but I can't do it any longer. Here are the main three characters: Gwydion, the Bard; Llews, his son; Arianrhod, Llews' mother. There, I got that out, and I wish that I could say with certainty that I spelled them correctly, but if not, your spell check will be returned uncashed.
Now for the tough stuff.
In A Bard Without A Star, Gwydion begins by being a rather shallow young man, and he harbors a long time fascination/infatuation with Arianrhod. She won't give him the time of day, which initially is a pretty good choice, since he's the sort of lad who needs to buy a watch and be responsible for time-telling himself. However, Gwydion is given many challenges, and he grows into them, and receives a great deal of power, which he uses responsibly. His infatuation for Arianrhod remains, however, and when he finally is given the opportunity, he confesses his love for her, and wins her body, if not her heart. The heart question remains unanswered, because immediately after they bed each other, he is called away by circumstances he cannot control. It is years before he is able to return to Arianrhod, and when he does, he finds that she hates him. They conceived a son on their single night together, and Arianrhod chose to interpret his absence as rejection, and to reject their child as a means of gaining vengeance. She not only refused to have anything to do with their son, she refused to allow anyone else to care for him, either (not everyone is compliant to her demand).
Despite that, he is a sweet-natured child. When circumstances finally permit it, and Gwydion returns, he takes the boy into his care. Arianrhod responds by cursing the boy, denying him a name until she gives him one. This is more than merely the lack of a name, however; in the curse is the power to render him invisible, unnoticed by those around him. Gwydion alone can see him, and that requires significant concentration on his part.
The story continues; there are numerous adventures and significant plot points. However, the aching core of the book is this: the vicious rejection of an innocent boy by his mother. It remains; even when Gwydion is able to trick her into removing the consequences of the curse, that's a technical point. She immediately places another curse on Llews, because her heart is still set on rejection.
I'm a father of three grown children. I know the importance of the relationship between a father and a son and between a father and a daughter. In this latter portion of my life, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA and I are raising another young boy and girl, and I know that they love me and need me. But the one they turn to when they skin a knee, either literally or figuratively? It's always Vanessa, their mom. The very concept of a mother vindictively rejecting her child, and persisting in that rejection, is a perversion of all that is best, and all that is natural.
And so, this story, even though it is filled with little victories, is fundamentally a tragedy. It's as if all the nurturing care Arianrhod should have lavished on her son has instead been given to the bitterness in her heart. That has become her child, instead of the son she carried and gave birth to.
For every child rejected by a mother, I weep.