Thursday, January 20, 2011

Soldier Stories & Songs

As I read through the first few chapters of 'The Curse of Chalion', by Lois McMaster Bujold, I was reminded of another epic I had endeavoured to read some years back called 'The Deed of Paksenarrion' by Elizabeth Moon.

The Curse of ChalionBoth stories relate the lives of soldiers who have won and lost and starved and sacrificed for their superiors. Both are incredibly touching stories containing broken souls struggling to make their ways in a world that has forgotten their existence.

In the first few pages of 'The Curse of Chalion' you follow the weary footsteps of Cazaril, a broken former soldier who was sold into slavery by his commanding officer to cover up a crime. All Cazaril wants in the world is to find a place, any place, that will remember who he is. A place with food and a bed.

The Deed of Paksenarrion: A NovelLikewise, Paksenarrion is the story of a girl who runs away from home to become a soldier. During parts of this series I found myself consumed by wracking sorrow for her trials. As equally as Cazaril, Paksenarrion finds herself alone, without a person in the world who recognizes her. At a crucial point in her existence she is standing before the altar of a god and placing all that she has left in the world upon it. Planning to go into the forest and die.

Both books show the powerful will of the human spirit. The ability to sink to the lowliest of states and still rise from them.
"Events may be horrible or inescapable. Men have always a choice - if not when, then how, they may endure."
— Lois McMaster Bujold (The Curse of Chalion)
"Even if a tamed wolf makes a good sheepdog, he will never understand how the sheep feel....You are most fortunate. For having been, as you thought, a coward, and helpless to fight - you know what that is like. You know what bitterness that feeling breeds - you know in your own heart what kind of evil it brings. And so you are most fit to fight it where it occurs."
— Elizabeth Moon (The Deed of Paksenarrion)
I couldn't come up with just one song for these two books. Instead I was reminded of a soundtrack that once I loved and now I can barely bear to hear. The We Were Soldiers soundtrack is filled with songs about the sacrifices made by soldiers and their loved ones.

Most striking is the powerful US Military Academy rendition of 'The Mansions of the Lord':
We Were Soldiers - Original Motion Picture ScoreTo fallen soldiers let us sing
where no rockets fly nor bullets wing
Our broken brothers let us bring
to the mansions of the Lord

No more bleeding no more fight
No prayers pleading through the night
just divine embrace, eternal light
in the mansions of the Lord
I don't know why I always end up reading stories about soldiers. They always rip my heart out and dash it to the ground. Yet I return time and time again to the beautiful humility that each of these stories shows the world. I love the portrayal they show of the power of moving forward.
"This wasn't prayer anyway, it was just argument with the gods.
Prayer, he suspected as he hoisted himself up and turned for the door, was putting one foot in front of the other. Moving all the same."
— Lois McMaster Bujold (The Curse of Chalion)
In This Post:
Books: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (series), The Curse of the Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
Music: We Were Soldiers Soundtrack


Shelley said...

If you're reading stories about soldiers, then you're doing exactly what we all should be doing, which is trying to educate ourselves in some small way about what life is like for our troops overseas, and after they come home.

Cari Hislop said...

I can't read, watch or listen to war stories. They set me off. I can't concentrate on the story for thinking of all the people who died over the centuries. One of my little brothers served six years as a military policeman...every day he was in Iraq was a nightmare. I hate war. Of course sometimes we have to fight, and I would fight if I had to, but still I hate it. The stories do need to be told though. Thankfully not everyone is as big a sissy as me!


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