04 October 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Eleven!

Welcome to the Return to Faerie Land Challenge!

On every other Saturday of October and November, Locus Focus will be all about settings from retold faerie tales. I want to feature four books . . . and to cap the challenge, one movie! If this sounds like something you'd like to do, too, feel free to grab the badge, write a post on your own blog, and leave me and everyone else a link in the combox. =)

The Gentle Lord's Castle
Cruel Beauty
by Rosamund Hodge

We went back to the ballroom we had passed through earlier. I recognised it by the gilt mouldings on the walls, for in the darkness I could not see the ceiling--and the floor was utterly changed. Gone were the mosaics; gone was the floor. Instead, still water filled the room from end to end, deep blue with white-gold glitters--for swirling above the water were tiny pinpricks of light.

"It's beautiful," I whispered.

Shade caught my hand again and drew me forward. I followed him two halting steps, expecting my feet to splash into the water--but instead the soles of my feet touched something cool, firm and smooth, like glass. I looked down: the water rippled around our feet but held our weight. So we walked to the center of a midnight lake and watched the lights swirl around us like a flock of birds.

Can we still talk about the "original" faerie tales? They all started out orally and must have gone through many changes before they were finally written down: those first copies just became the standards against which we hold up all the rewritten takes. Now we can only wonder about the very first version of the Beast's enchanted castle. But given that Beauty and the Beast is itself another form of the myth of Eros and Psyche (which was written down even earlier), we can be fairly sure that it always had invisible servants making sure that the unlikely pair within its mysterious walls have everything they need while still making them feel lonely.

Enchanted rooms were really the next logical development. I mean, why do you need an invisible servant to draw your bath when you could have a bathroom with a magic tub? (Apart from keeping the invisible Luddites quiet, of course. =P) And since we're talking about a castle, why stop at the basic rooms? The first really detailed version of Beauty and the Beast that I read included a room with chairs in front of screened recesses in the walls: when Beauty sat in a chair, the screen in front of it pulled back and she got to watch miniatures perform a dance or a drama for her. Does it sound familiar? If you've never thought of your TV set as a magic servant, then you really should! LOL!

Then again, you probably shouldn't . . . or else you might end up smashing it in order to set the trapped spirit inside it free. And if you think along those lines, you'd sympathise with the beautiful but cruel Nyx Triskelion, whose mission is to destroy the Gentle Lord's castle, trapping him inside and freeing the kingdom which he has held in thrall for centuries. Easier said than done, of course: would you enjoy wrecking a castle with an enchanted ballroom that lets you dance on water, tiny pinpricks of light swirling around you, all night long?

Even the less beautiful rooms have a charm about them . . . like a maze of roses in which you always stay lost only twenty-three minutes . . . a room with mosaics of mythical sea creatures on the walls and the smell of salt in the air . . . a chamber full of empty birdcages but the faint echo of birdsong . . . and at least two others suggestive of another faerie tale and of another Greek myth . . . all of them constantly, silently shifting their locations, even as Nyx walks through the halls. And now you may be wondering about the library.

You might recall that the first time I featured Beauty and the Beast on Locus Focus, it was to say that the Disney movie "raised the bar on faerie castles" thanks to its library alone. The Gentle Lord's library doesn't attempt to go head to head with it, but is instead a nightmare version of it. The "invisible servants" in this room reserve their loyalty not for the castle's resident readers, but for those who don't want those readers to learn the truth about the castle from its books.

For as beautiful as the castle is, it is also a prison: the Gentle Lord is as bound to it as Nyx's people are bound to him. Even if she can bring herself to destroy a place that is already starting to feel like home, how can she bear to bring it down upon a monster whom she is already starting to love?

Question of the Week: Which of your household appliances is your favourite "invisible servant"? (And just for fun, which of your "invisible servants" most likely has a different master? Bwahahaha!)

Image Source: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Itinérante said...

- Have you ever read the book by Bruno Bettelheim, The use of Enchantment?
- I love faerie tales (just thought to mention that as a little warning that I might be spamming the comment box duing this series hehe)
- I will have to think about the question of the week and come back later... (oops!)

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Itinerante! I haven't read Bruno Bettelheim's book, but it has been referenced a lot in all the other analyses of faerie tales that I have come across. =)

"Spam" away! ;-) As you can tell, I love hearing from people who find something interesting in what I blog.

mrsdarwin said...

I am so glad you found such rich food for thought in the book!

None of my appliances are being particularly ill-behaved (at the moment), but I sure would love to know where exactly the leak in the master bedroom shower is without having to rip tile out of three inches of concrete and opening up the hall wall underneath the bathroom.

My favorite appliance, though, is my electric kettle. The stove is more essential, the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer are more useful, but they haven't brought me the happiness my kettle has.

Enbrethiliel said...


Cruel Beauty was the main inspiration for the "Return to Faerieland" theme! =D

I've been thinking of getting a kettle as well. =) I hope that you figure out that leak.