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My mother is pretty much the most awesome human being ever. The worst thing about living in Việt Nam is being away from her. I keep coming back to one especially fond – and recent – memory of the two of us together.

It was during the last winter vacation I had, in December 2009. I was busy being super lazy; I was supposed to be researching for my thesis, but I’d had enough of obscure Finnish poems. So I hunkered down with a quilt and watched *the entirety* of the SyFy channel’s Merlin Series 1 marathon. That’s about ten straight hours of Merlin. My mom watched it with me, and we laughed a lot about how Merlin looks like a scared deer.

Merlin: Scardest Deer in the History of Ever

Like Bambi, but British.

Ah, Merlin. He is forever being too clumsy to live. He goes about banging into brooms, dropping vials of Important Potions, and stuttering every time he’s caught doing something Sneakily Magical. Happens every episode. I should know, I watched them all in a giant chunk. And when do you do something like that, patterns stick out to you. This sort of clumsiness doesn’t just happen in Merlin, it happens in *so many fantasy adaptations.* Why? Read the rest of this entry »


Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, dear readers! We here at Lit.Scribbles are off celebrating the spirit of Christmas, but cunningly wrote this post in advance and scheduled it to be published today. No matter what you celebrate – we’re of an interfaith family ourselves – we hope you’re having a lovely season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without Gregory Maguire. In fact, it wouldn’t be a fairy tale blog without Gregory Maguire, now would it? NPR had Maguire write a new take on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Little Match Girl, which he calls Matchless.

Matchless by Gregory Maguire

Matchless: Heartbreak for the Holidays

First of all, Andersen’s original tale is about a little match girl who happily freezes to death while seeing visions of her grandmother in heaven. It’s heartbreaking:
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Well. I have just finished the book. And boy oh boy oh boy oh boy…it was quite a ride. Please note: this review is also being posted in the Book Review section.

Disclaimers and Warnings! This review contains spoilers! I will tell you the ending. But don’t worry. I’ll writing “WARNING: ENDING REVEALED” before I get there. This review also contains ADULT CONTENT in the form of really bad kitty-kitty sex descriptions. You stand warned.

My Review

It starts off very well, actually. Yackle is in the Mauntery of St. Glinda, getting ready to die. She is lain in a crypt, and tells the maunts to come back a year later to sweep up her bones. However, that old crone just won’t die and is still alive (though blind) after one year without food or water in a smelly old crypt.

Enter: the Cowardly Lion. Sir Brrr, actually. Working (as we will discover) as a secret service member of Emperor Shell’s Loyal Oz. Remember Shell? Elphaba’s brother. He’s the Emperor now. Sorta an absolutist despot.

Loyal Oz is on the brink of war with Munchkinland, which has seceded from the state. And the mauntery is right on the border between the two states. Brrr doesn’t have much time – but he has to collect Yackle’s history before returning to the Emerald City. He’s been charged with finding out the whereabouts of Liir, anything about Elphaba, but especially…the location of the Grimmerie. That magical text. Where is it? And how can Shell use it to his advantage?

Here’s where Maguire is at his best. Political intrigue has always been his forte. It would seem that (because of stuff I’ll talk about later) Brrr is out of favor in the Emerald City. And not being cut out for life in the wild, he has no choice but to try and rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the State, so that he can re-enter Ozian society. So this information means a lot to him.

But (and here’s where the story really starts) Yackle won’t give up any information to someone she can’t trust. So, she brokers a deal with Brrr: she’ll tell him her story if he tells her his. And so the tale begins….

A Lion among Men

A Lion among Men

So far, so good. Brrr tells us about his childhood. He meets his first friend, Jemmsy (a soldier) when Jemmsy is stuck in a trap, dying. Brrr decides against going for help, and instead to watch over the man as he dies. Then he decides to go off in search of Jemmsy’s hometown, to tell his father of the son’s death. This, he thinks, will be a very useful thing to do, and someone will finally love him and be his friend. The way this part of the story is told is quite touching: we end up feeling for the Lion, both because of his stupidity (in letting Jemmsy die) and because of his patheticness (in trying so hard to be loved).

Unfortunately, the rest of the story (and Brrr’s character) never really moves on from this characterization. Throughout the novel, we feel sorry for Brrr (because the guy really is pretty stupid) and a little annoyed too (he’s ridiculously pathetic as well). And Brrr never really evolves as a character.

Anyway, Brrr ends up being responsible for a massacre of Glikkus trolls in the town of Traum (he refuses to help them get away from their attackers, and chooses to literally play dead instead of taking action). He thus earns the sobriquet “the Cowardly Lion.” Then its off to the Emerald City, where he uses money that the city of Traum gave him (as a sort of pay-off for his role in the massacre, but being stupid, Brrr doesn’t see this) to set himself up as a kind of interior decorator.

So far, its all right. We’re still waiting for the story to start, but we’re entertained.

Then come the Animal Acts (remember those from Wicked?) and Brrr, like so many, is forced to leave civilization. He goes out into the wild and has several unremarkable encounters. That is, until the book gets really terrible.

I mean really terrible.
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May 2018
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