In Anger, Infinite. In Rage, Eternal Or Yes, I’m annoyed, why?

It’s funny how people can read the same things and get completely different things from the text.

For example, one of my favorite modern books is a short novel called The Dogs of Babel,  written by Carolyn Parkhurst. The novel addresses  the thoughts and behavior of a grief stricken linguistics professor after his artist wife’s death. The main character, Paul, travels some fairly hellacious ground before finally realizing the way out of his grief is to just feel it.

Dark? Yes, very.

Parkhurst uses one of my favorite quotes from an even older story as a theme through out the novel.  “The Ballad of Tam Lin” is also a dark little Scottish ballad that has a happy/not happy ending and a bad ass villain in the form of the Fairy Queen. To sum “Tam Lin” up in seven lines or less- Girl meets boy. Boy is consort to fairy queen, to whom he owes his life. Boy and girl fall in love and conceive a child. Girl saves boy from the clutches of the hithertofore generous and loving (to the boy) fairy queen. Fairy Queen issues the worst benediction and curse to the new couple.


It goes like this:

had i known, had i known, tam lin
long before, long before you came from home.
had i known, i would have taken out your heart
and put in a heart of stone.

had i known, had i known, tam lin
that a lady, a lady would steal thee.
had i known, i would have taken out your eyes
and put in two from a tree.

had i known, had i known, tam lin
that i would lose, that i would lose the day.
had i known, i would have paid my tithe to hell
before you’d been won away.

I love this particular curse. I love it to teeny tiny bits.  The why of loving it so is really simple.

We’ve all felt this way.

Poor doomed Lexie in The Dogs of Babel loses her grip on reality and leaves this as a puzzle for her hapless husband, as a quirky suicide note. Her uncontrollable sadness and rage cause her to kill herself.  That delivery is shocking for the purposes of writing the novel, but the Faerie Queen’s utterance of these words, in a dark forest, watching her recent consort/lost sacrifice cling to a shivering mortal girl, is a echo from a  much more timeless place.  It’s both angry and miserably sad, especially coming from an immortal creature. It’s weary, bitter and weighted with a thousand other nights where it all went as planned.  Feeling powerless, the Queen speaks in a way that sounds like she could have somehow saved Tam Lin from the fate he chose with Janet.What would she be saving Tam Lin from by replacing his heart with a stone and his eyes with wood?

Preserving him for sacrifice?

No. I tend to think of it as coming from another place – something rooted in the deep desire to keep a beloved person from hurling themselves into a world where you cannot protect them, even though they insist they have to.  Tam Lin was immortal with the Queen. What did he open himself up to by loving Janet?

Heartbreak. Tears shed for the loss of a mortal woman, or perhaps a child. All pain he would have been spared if Tam had been a good little guy and kept himself away from the local chieftain’s daughter.  She sees past that moment, and into a future where losing this errant knight affects the rest of time.

The Queen’s wrath is palpable, it’s eternal and infinite.  So is her grief.

In another translation, the Queen looks among her company and back at Janet and says something along the lines of ‘Perhaps, one more dear…’

More dear to whom? To Janet? To the Queen herself? Whomever the sacrifice will be down the road, the Queen is warning everyone in her presence to be on their guard. And, not in a good way.

I’ve been this angry.

I’ve been this angry with my own child, who certainly is not going to be sacrificed to the depths of Hell for whatever reason. He’s only 14 and I feel powerless to stop him from marching down a path that he will regret someday, because he’s too hard headed to wake up and see I’m trying to guide him before it’s too late.

I’ve been this angry many times, so many times when the future is sooo clear and the consequence of one little choice opens up repercussions that won’t be felt until years go by. When the shit hits the fan, what happens?  It’s too late to go back and change it. I’ve been so angry that I wished I had eyes of wood and heart of cold marble so that I didn’t have to see or feel anything again. Because then I couldn’t lash out, couldn’t hurt anyone else with that anger or overwhelm them with that sadness. I think Parkhurst got something very different than I did from “Tam Lin”. I’d rather be the Queen than Lexie Randall.

The Queen lives at the end of her story. Sadder, wiser and swallowing back her rage long enough to make a new plan.

Lexie just gave up.

Not a very cheery return to my blog for you all, but it will get better, I promise.

Christmas is coming. 😉





2 thoughts on “In Anger, Infinite. In Rage, Eternal Or Yes, I’m annoyed, why?

  1. But “damn it, Janet! I love you!” Sorry, um, little classical reference there. She probably was making him tops for a sacrifice….being how those ancient fairy queens rolled and all. Being angry all the time is just something that beats you down — you know I know that. As far as the CHB goes some people just have to learn everything the hard way and 14 through 16 is a difficult age for some boys. It was for me but I made it through okay … nobody died and nothing burned and no prison time lol. CHB will be okay eventually. I think if the fairy queen is trying to send you a message it goes something like this “it’s not easy having a good time. Even smiling makes my face ache.”

    Liked by 1 person

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