Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Post: A Beast And A Monster; DARK TRIUMPH's Fairy Tale Influences


We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, one whole week devoted to celebrating the His Fair Assassin series and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph.

Today we have another guest post from the creator and author extraordinaire of the His Fair Assassins series, Ms. Robin LaFevers, in which she discusses the fairy tale influences behind Dark Triumph. As someone who adores fairy tales, I was delighted to learn how some of my favorite tales came together to shape Sybella's story.

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A Beast and a Monster; The Fairy Tale Influences of Dark Triumph

by Robin LaFevers

While Dark Triumph is not a true retelling, it does contain echoes of at least two of my favorite fairy tales: "Beauty and the Beast" and "Bluebeard."

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I suppose it’s inevitable to be influenced by "Beauty and the Beast" when one has a hero named Beast. I was drawn to his character in the first book because as a child, one of my greatest early literary disappointments was when the beast turned into a handsome prince at the end of that tale. I was heartbroken and felt I’d been cheated. I had grown attached to that kind, ugly, dear monster and I greatly resented the boring handsome dude who replaced him. So when I was casting around for some of Duval’s companions in arms, I came up with Beast. Like Sybella, he was larger than life and threatened to take over the story in Grave Mercy. That was when I realized he would need his own book. And who better to pair him with than a tortured beauty who also threatened to steal every scene she was in.

Also, I thought the themes touched on in the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale worked well for the story I was telling in Dark Triumph—that love can see beyond the external to our true essence. In fact, I think that is what makes a compelling romance; when the hero/heroine is able to see things in the other that no one else can. They recognize our secret hidden selves and respond to that. But there is a strong influence of another fairy tale in Dark Triumph as well. As I researched the history and folklore of Brittany, I discovered that the two historical seeds of one of the most fascinating fairy tales of my childhood—"Bluebeard"—had its roots in ancient Breton history.

The earliest seed for the "Bluebeard" tales can be found in Conomor the Cursed, who had been told that he would be slain by his own son. Consequently, whenever one of his wives became pregnant, he killed her. The second historical basis for Bluebeard occurred only fifty or so years prior to the events in Dark Triumph. Gilles de Reitz had been the Marshal of France and a nobleman who fought alongside Joan d’Arc in the Hundred Years War. But once the war was over and he returned to his holding, he is rumored to have been at the root of over a hundred gruesome child murders, and was tried and hung for those crimes.

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"The Tale of Bluebeard" fascinated, even as it horrified me and hinted at a darkness and depravity my seven-year-old mind could only guess at. I was outraged on behalf of the young wife whose only sin was curiosity, and equally outraged that such a blood punishment should await her. And Bluebeard himself gave me nightmares, with his aggressive, bristling blue-black beard and the fleshy lips that were so often portrayed in the accompanying illustrations. I felt there was a warning there, although I was too young to grasp it.

All of those elements were definitely echoing in the recesses of my mind as I wrote Sybella and Beast’s story. Since Sybella’s story was so dark and dealt with many of those very themes I was so disturbed by when younger, it seemed especially important to give her a message of hope as well; that love had the ability to see beyond the façade she presented to the world and recognize her true essence.

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Thanks, Ms. Robin!

I personally am overjoyed that one of my favorite characters of all time (Beast) was inspired by my favorite fairy tale of all time ("Beauty and the Beast"). I had always hoped it were so but never knew for sure. Beast is everything a character with such a name should be. He's gruff and ugly, scary and fierce, but also kind and even gentlemanly. 

He's a great counterpoint to the true "beast" of the story, the Bluebeard-esque d'Albret. D'Albret, Conomor, and de Reitz would have had quite the vile little tea party back in the day. Believe me when I say that d'Albret is one of my most loathed villains of all time.

Be sure to grab a copy of Dark Triumph for all your lovely and loathsome cravings when it releases on April 2. Also, check out the other events scheduled during this week's Attack of the Assassins! blog tour for a chance to win your own copy, including today's concurrent event at In Which Ems Reviews Books.