Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coming Home

When I was young, books with strong female characters were hard to find, especially in science fiction and fantasy. Such books, when I found them, were read over and over, treasured inspirations of who and what I wanted to be when I was older. Robin McKinley first grabbed my attention with her book "Beauty". But it was "The Blue Sword" and later, "The Hero and the Crown", that I made sure to add to my shelves.

The problem with this particular song is that it involves a spoiler, so beware! If you haven't read this book, then you might not want to read further.

*******Spoiler Space*******

Harry is from Homeland, a place that we are told little about, although descriptions make it sound rather like Victorian England. After her father dies, Harry comes to Daria/Damar (reminiscent of colonial India) to live with her brother Richard, a soldier in the Homeland forces occupying Daria. She soon finds that she is drawn to the desert in a way that is highly unusual among the Homelanders unhappily stationed there.

"The desert, with the black sharp-edged mountains around it, was as different from what she was accustomed to as any landscape could be; yet she found that after only a few weeks in Istan that she was falling by degrees in love with it: with the harsh sand, the hot sun, the merciless gritty winds. And she found that the desert lured her as her own green land never had - but what discovery it lured her toward she could not say.

It was an even greater shock to realized that she was no longer homesick. ... She didn't dream of honeysuckle and lilac. She remembered them with affection, but she looked across the swirled sand and small obstinate clumps of brush and was content with where she was. A small voice whispered to her that she didn't even want to go Home again. She wanted to cross the desert and climb in to the mountains in the east, the mountains no Homelander had ever climbed."

Later Harry finds herself in those mountains, although somewhat unwillingly. She has been kidnapped by the Damarians for the power that she doesn't yet realize she carries, and is being taught to be a lady warrior, a damalur-sol.

"Corlath took her right wrist in his hand and then turned her around till she was standing next to him; he rearranged her fingers on the hilt, curled her thumb under it for her. She felt at once, wearily, that this was the way it was supposed to be held; and wondered if swordsmanship, like riding a war-stallion and speaking a language strange to her, was suddenly going to awaken in her blood like a disease."

What Harry doesn't know, and doesn't find out until the end of the book is that her great-grandmother was a Damarian princess, and the magic she is able to use is a result of that heritage. In coming to Damar, she has come home, and fits in there in a way she was never able to the land of her birth.

I was given a Celtic Woman CD for Christmas, and there's a song, "The Voice", that I think fits Harry's unexpected response to Damar perfectly.

"Listen, my child," you say to me
"I am the voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call, and I'll set you free"

I am the voice of the past that will always be
Filled with my sorrow and blood in my fields
I am the voice of the future, bring me your peace
Bring me your peace, and my wounds, they will heal."

Book: The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
Music: The Voice, by Celtic Woman

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