Friday, April 27, 2012

Fire and Hemlock Read-Along Discussion


I'm so excited to have a chance to trade ideas about Fire and Hemlock with some other readers! It's a complex and somewhat confusingly-ended book that is completely awesome. For those of you who haven't read the book and intend to, this post isn't for you. Spoilers will be plentiful. Instead, go get a copy of the book, devour it quickly and then come back and discuss it with us! If you haven't decided if you want to read the book yet (you do) or if you haven't heard of it (really?), here's a brief synopsis --

Nineteen year old Polly is cleaning out her room, about to head back to Oxford, and is reading an old book of hers when she starts thinking that years ago, when she first read the same collection, it possibly had a different title, different authors and even different stories in it. Slowly, that feeling spreads as she notices more things in her room that seem out of place in her current memories until she starts recovering an entirely different set of memories from when she was ten years old. How could she have forgotten Thomas Lynn, the cellist that she met when she gate-crashed a funeral on Halloween? How did the eerie photograph titled Fire and Hemlock that is hanging over her bed get there? And more importantly, what happened four years ago that made her forget all of it?

Doesn't that sound awesome? Well, it is. So, get out, buy the newly re-released book and get to reading. For those who have read it, let's discuss!

Here are some recent(ish) posts from Iris, Teresa, Jenny, Kerry, Amanda, Jean ... (more will be added)

* * * * *

I know we will all have different things that stood out or that didn't make sense for us so here are a few of mine. Feel free to answer all or none of my questions and add more of your own below.

First, I read many versions of both Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer in preparation for this reread. It definitely enhanced the experience of reading this time through when I could actually catch a tidbit and know why it was there. Have you read either ballad or a related story? Is F&H a retelling of Tam Lin or is it far too original to be called that? Side question: Did it bother you that the quotes at the beginnings of each chapter from the ballads didn't really match up with what is happening in the story at the time? I kind of feel now like those could have been left out.

Second, what was the deal with the necklace? It was protection (how?) and then it wasn't. How do they start using it against her? Is it a tracking device?

Third, was Thomas musically gifted before Laurel or did she give him that talent? I know that the horse couldn't help him at the end because it wasn't "truly his" -- it came from the gift of having things come true. But why didn't the cello work? Did he become a world class player because he believed he would?

I think that's a good start. Those are the things that I thought about for more than a few minutes anyway -- well, besides the confusing anywhere/nowhere/somewhere word play at the end -- but I don't even know how to put together a coherent question about that!

And we're off,
K

26 comments:

  1. My review (non-spoilery) is up, Kristen: http://agignac2.blogspot.com/2012/04/fire-and-hemlock-by-diana-wynne-jones.html

    I'm not sure about your questions. I got the impression that they were using the necklace to track her, almost like a listening device, since she said she always went to touch it when she contacted Tom. And I got the impression that the only gift Laurel gave Tom was that of his making stuff up coming true. So maybe he was a fantastic musician, but in stating that his quartet would succeed, guaranteed that sucess? I have no idea about the cello/horse/etc at the end. From when they reached Laurel's house to the end, none of it worked for me. It was just too rushed. I couldn't make sense of any of it. :(

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  2. Amanda - But it seemed like she was touching it a lot of other times too, wasn't she? I thought it was a stress response rather than only related to Tom. That's why I wasn't sure how it worked. "They're using it against me" is somewhat vague. :) And that's kind of what I thought about the quartet -- that he made them successful through his gift. Anyway, I hope some of the end gets clarified for you through discussion. I really did understand more of it on second read!

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  3. I think they were using the necklace as a sort of tracking device, but how that worked is another question.

    I suppose Tom had to stand entirely on his own. Laurel did pay for his education, so maybe that had something to do with it, or maybe the part where Morton could use the equivalent? All his weapons were stronger, but he himself was weaker. I can't claim to understand the end, but I do find it satisfying--it's just that DWJ always makes you work at the end, and this is the most extreme example ever! :) On this zillionth reading, I think I have a better grasp on it...

    F&H is more like Thomas the Rhymer, really, but I'd call it a third story. Tam Lin is used backwards--if Polly hangs on, she loses. Thomas' truth gift is used backwards too.

    I'm a bit interested in the names. Laurel/Lorelei (formerly Titania) has lots of great associations, and Leroy is French for king. Morton sounds like death. Has anyone got an idea of what the name Perry might associate with? How about Polly--or is that just a name?

    I just finished the book over breakfast, so I'll put up my non-spoilery review in a bit.

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  4. Jean - Stone Soup Jenny's link in the post above has a section about all of the names. She says peri is the Persian word meaning fairy. Who knew! DWJ's books are always far smarter than many of us will ever realize, aren't they? And F&H has the sacrifice from Tam Lin but the strong male figure from Thomas the Rhymer, sworn to silence. It's an interesting mix. And I'm looking forward to my zillionth reread. ;)

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  5. I recently read Alan Garner's The Owl Service and he uses an term that I feel applies to Fire and Hemlock's association with Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer - "an expression of the myth."

    About the opal necklace - it's clear that Morton Leroy has been able to get around the protection it offered Polly and began to use it to spy on her. DWJ says on her website that "Polly's charm was only a weak little opal. Strong magic can suck a thing like that dry in seconds."

    "Perry" seems to me suggestive of the Persian word "peri" meaning "fairy." The name "Laurel" means a long (everlasting) life and triumph, as well as also being a type of poisonous plant like Ivy - Polly's mother Ivy is the mundane version of Laurel.

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  6. Ha, I should have known 'peri.' I know the first couple lines of Dard-E-Disco, and it uses that word for fairy. And I never thought of ivy as a *poisonous* plant--that makes beautiful sense. (And I always thought Ivy was such a pretty name...)

    I love the use of Frazer in F&H. So many little tiny hints about temporary kings, and kings killed after a fixed period. Oh, and how Polly despises the girl in the story who does what she's told not to, and gets what she deserves. :)

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  7. Here's another question I have. Polly's gift of knowing things is given to her by Tom at the rehearsal, but she already has it too. She was able to identify Tan Coul's friends, knew their talents, and found Tom at the rehearsal by instinct. So...is that talent really her own after all? Or did I miss Tom giving it to her earlier?

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  8. Jenny - I really like that -- "an expression of the myth". That sounds just about right!
    As for the opal, so it became infused with Leroy Perry magic and then they could track it? Or was it just not protecting her anymore so they could find her more easily? I don't know why I need to know this so badly. Maybe it's because I've always worn opals. ;)

    Jean - It seems like there were two different things going on there. I think the first was Polly's shared ability with Tom -- what made all of the stuff in Stow-on-the-Water and the horse happen. But I think that Polly's ability to identify/know things was solely her own. After all, Tom said that he would have chosen different people to be in his quartet if she had pointed to different people. The question is ... did she know them because they were Tan Audel, Tan Hanivar and Tan Thare or did they become those heroes because she knew Tom's mind and who was in it?

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  9. I think Tom was always gifted musically. "She likes them young, she likes them musical and she likes the name Tom" to totally paraphrase what Granny said to Polly.

    However, he and Polly made up the quartet when they (instigated by Polly) made up Tan Audel, Tan Hannivar and the third one I can't remember the name of. So he couldn't use the cello at the end as it was in a way part of the quartet and that came from Laurel's gift. (Or at least, that's my understanding.)

    There is a great transcription of a speech DWJ gave at the end of the new edition of F&H. In it she talks about Polly's name. I'll have to go and find where I left my Kindle to quote directly, but part of it was that Polly played many roles within the "expression of the myth" (wonderful description that) and so her name came from the "poly".

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  10. "The question is ... did she know them because they were Tan Audel, Tan Hanivar and Tan Thare or did they become those heroes because she knew Tom's mind and who was in it?"

    Kristen - I don't think there is supposed to be a definite answer to that. My reading is that it's a bit of both and that cause and effect aren't exactly linear in this story.

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  11. I think I must read both Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer before rereading this one.

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  12. Here is my post: http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2012/04/fire-hemlock.html

    I'm hoping to get to the bookstore tonight--maybe if I'm lucky the new edition will be there and I can see the essay. :)

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  13. Kerry - I think he was gifted too ... probably why Laurel wanted him and not his brother. And I definitely need to get my hands on the new edition so that I can read the DWJ speech! As for cause and effect, I agree that there is quite a bit of vagueness throughout the book.

    Amanda - I thought it lent a richness to my reading this time through. Definitely worth doing!

    Jean - I'm going looking for it too. :)

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  14. I know it's a lazy way to do it, but I've put the notes and highlights I made on my Kindle up on my blog. It's just a direct copy and paste of the MyClippings.txt file so I hope it makes sense (some of the punctuation gets lost).

    The last few highlights (from Loc. 4850-52 onwards) are from DWJ's speech I've mentioned before.

    Of course, all text except my notes belongs to Diana Wynne Jones and her estate.

    Link

    I've password protected the page because that my policy on posts that include spoilers. The password is "here be spoilers" (take out the quote marks and include the spaces). The password is also given in the sidebar.

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  15. My impression was that Tom was musically gifted in the first place (like Leslie), but he couldn't use the cello and stuff against Laurel because Laurel was the one who put him through school. I.e., he wouldn't have had the quartet, expensive cello, etc. if he hadn't gone to the special music school that Laurel paid for. This comes out really vague, but my notion was that Laurel wanted Tom in order to make his musical talent hers in a way -- if that makes sense!

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  16. I have an opal necklace that I still wear all the time, but it always does make me think of Polly's. :) I am very fond of opals and a long time ago did some research about opals in folklore.

    In Australian mythology, opals brought the gift of fire to mankind, much like the Prometheus myth. When I read that, it made me think about the DWJ essay where she talks about how the "fire" is imagination and redemption (the Nowhere), and "hemlock" is spiritual death (the Nothing).

    "Two sides to Nowhere, Polly thought. One really was a dead end. The other was the void that lay before you when you were making up something new out of ideas no one else had quite had before. "

    From the DWJ essay: "She has to love Tom enough to let him go-hurtfully. This is the only way she can harness Tom's innate strengths of character, and only hurting can he summon the full force of the fire - which is to some extent physical passion and to an even greater extent the true strength of the heroic world of the imagination Polly and Tom have built together."

    Opals got their bad reputation from the Sir Walter Scott novel "Anne of Geierstein," where the heroine's demonic grandmother died when a drop of holy water touched her enchanted opal and put out its fire.

    Opals can't really be harmed by being sprinkled with water. I suspect Granny told Polly as a sort of symbolic hint. If Polly's creative spark gets put out, she (and therefore Tom) will die a spiritual death and end up in Nothing. Granny might have thought that the opal would protect Polly's creativity.

    Morton Leroy and Laurel have been able to "get around" Polly's opal because of the subversive nature of Tom's gift, in the way the Laurel turns whatever Tom and Polly imagine into truth, but altered.

    (This is all just my interpretation, you know.)

    I haven't got any good reason why in F&H the time period is nine years rather than seven, except that nine is a power of the fairy-tale magical number three. I thought it might have something to do with The Odyssey, but Odysseus was gone ten years, not nine, correct?

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  17. Kerry - I'm just catching up on everything online so I'll be reading your notes soon!

    Jenny - That makes sense. Obviously this is the link to Thomas the Rhymer and his harping.

    Stonesoup - I've always loved opals and wear them quite frequently -- mine are even Mexican fire opals which have some beautiful red that comes through regularly. Now I'll probably think about the Fire and Hemlock link when I wear them!
    And I think I want to look more into why it could have been nine years ... it was interesting that Granny mentioned that they got it wrong -- that it was nine years not seven. Why did DWJ make that change?

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  18. I just posted this comment to the wrong post. My apologies. Here it is again in the right place.

    My theory on the 9 years instead of 7 thing is that it was to give Polly a better age range.

    If the story had to start at one funeral and end with the next death, then using 7 years would either have meant she was only 17 at the end, which made the hint of an adult relationship between her and Tom inappropriate, or she was 12 at the beginning, which was perhaps a bit old for the kind of enthusiastic imagination DWJ wanted her to show as the "making up" of things began.

    By making it 9 years instead, the age range of 10 to 19 for Polly works better.

    That's my guess anyway.

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  19. Wow. And everyone got so much more from this book than I did... (that's my thought after going through the comments, anyway). My review will be up tomorrow.

    I didn't catch that the necklace was for tracking - I just thought it was useless, and Polly eventually realized that using it was a crutch.

    I haven't read anything on Thomas the Rhymer or Tam Lin (gap in my education!), so the references at the start of every chapter didn't make much sense to me and I didn't have any comparison.

    And perhaps I didn't read the synopsis closely at the beginning - I was NOT expecting a 'romance' between Tom and Polly. Was rather put off by that aspect at the end.

    Ah well, it's DWJ - it lives to be mystifying.

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  20. Kerry - That's a good idea about 9 years. I think you're probably right on both ends.

    Celia - I didn't get the quotes at the beginnings of the chapters either when I first read it. Sometimes I wish there were pre-reading lists in the front of books like this. ;)

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  21. Part 1 of my run-down of what happens in the book.

    As with all of DWJ’s books, a lot of it is very subtle, or intuition-based, or only implied.
    Laurel is the fairy queen, and Morton Leroy is her king, and as such is the only one who can counter Laurel’s power, but more on that later. Unfortunately for Mr. Leroy, fairyland is a matriarchy, and he is portrayed as much weaker than the undying Laurel. In the final showdown, Laurel is the arbitrator of the dispute, and calls the final shots.
    Every nine years, fairyland needs to send a tithe of one soul to hell – presumably the price of their immortality. Laurel, as the queen, only needs a female soul every 81 years (that is, every nine cycles) whereas Leroy, as the weak king, needs a male soul every 9 years in order to survive. Granny’s friend specifically states that every 81 years it’s a female. The way it seems to work is that the fairy queen (or king) has to seduce a male (or female), at which point some sort of bargain is struck, and the pair are married. What happens after that seems to be that the victim is turned out of fairyland with a gift for all their trouble.
    When we seem Thomas Lynn at the very start of the book, he has recently divorced himself from Laurel, and because he has fought so hard to stay away from her, she gives him a gift with a sting – whatever he makes up comes true, and tends to come back and cause trouble for him. Meanwhile, the funeral is that of Seb’s mother who was mortal, and Leroy’s victim. So Laurel has taken her one female soul and is now at the height of her power. Leroy, on the other hand, grows steadily weaker because instead of getting a soul every 9 years he has to skip one cycle so that Laurel can take one. This is why he’s so weak and elderly at the end of the book.
    Thomas Lynn has escaped Laurel’s clutches, but she still owns his soul, because of the gift she gave him. In fairy mythology, fairies can never take from you without giving something back, which is an important part of the book. For fairies, everything has a price – especially immortality. Tom’s life is also sacred – no matter how dangerously he drives, no matter how many fights he gets into, he cannot be hurt until it is time for him to be sacrificed. The only person that has the power to hurt him is the fairy king, Leroy.
    The only way for Thomas to keep his soul is if his true love holds on to him. Why this is so is never really explained, but I suspect it has to do with laying a claim on someone. By falling in love with someone, you have a right to their soul.
    So Thomas meets Polly at the funeral. She’s wandered all the way into Hundson House (it is implied that not everyone can do this, and more, that this has opened up the way for interactions with the fairies. Leroy mentions that Mary Fields hasn’t been to Hundson House, which is why she is no threat). She’s at the funeral, and more, she doesn’t eat or drink anything. In fairy mythology, food and drink tends to be enchanted. Again, since Polly doesn’t accept a gift from the fairies, they can’t take anything from her, either.
    Somehow, Thomas sees his chance. By talking about them being heroes, his magical gift comes in to play, and from this point on, they are both entwined. Since they are both creators of their hero story – or rather, because Tom lets Polly dictate a lot of the story, some of his gift seems to pass on to her. She invents Thomas Piper, and Leslie, and Edna, who all turn out to be real people, but she also at one point wishes in a fit of anger that his cello would break, and sure enough, he ruins it soon after. Furthermore, she mistypes the villain Legris’ name as Leroy, which irrevocably makes Mr. Leroy the villain of the piece, and probably forces him to try and kill Polly later on (which she later uses against him at the fairy court).

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  22. I guess I’ll post a run-down of what really happens in the book and how I think it makes sense. As with all of DWJ’s books, a lot of it is very subtle, or intuition-based, or only implied.
    Laurel is the fairy queen, and Morton Leroy is her king, and as such is the only one who can counter Laurel’s power, but more on that later. Unfortunately for Mr. Leroy, fairyland is a matriarchy, and he is portrayed as much weaker than the undying Laurel. In the final showdown, Laurel is the arbitrator of the dispute, and calls the final shots.
    Every nine years, fairyland needs to send a tithe of one soul to hell – presumably the price of their immortality. Laurel, as the queen, only needs a female soul every 81 years (that is, every nine cycles) whereas Leroy, as the weak king, needs a male soul every 9 years in order to survive. Granny’s friend specifically states that every 81 years it’s a female. The way it seems to work is that the fairy queen (or king) has to seduce a male (or female), at which point some sort of bargain is struck, and the pair are married. What happens after that seems to be that the victim is turned out of fairyland with a gift for all their trouble.
    When we seem Thomas Lynn at the very start of the book, he has recently divorced himself from Laurel, and because he has fought so hard to stay away from her, she gives him a gift with a sting – whatever he makes up comes true, and tends to come back and cause trouble for him. Meanwhile, the funeral is that of Seb’s mother who was mortal, and Leroy’s victim. So Laurel has taken her one female soul and is now at the height of her power. Leroy, on the other hand, grows steadily weaker because instead of getting a soul every 9 years he has to skip one cycle so that Laurel can take one. This is why he’s so weak and elderly at the end of the book.
    Thomas Lynn has escaped Laurel’s clutches, but she still owns his soul, because of the gift she gave him. In fairy mythology, fairies can never take from you without giving something back, which is an important part of the book. For fairies, everything has a price – especially immortality. Tom’s life is also sacred – no matter how dangerously he drives, no matter how many fights he gets into, he cannot be hurt until it is time for him to be sacrificed. The only person that has the power to hurt him is the fairy king, Leroy.
    The only way for Thomas to keep his soul is if his true love holds on to him. Why this is so is never really explained, but I suspect it has to do with laying a claim on someone. By falling in love with someone, you have a right to their soul.
    So Thomas meets Polly at the funeral. She’s wandered all the way into Hundson House (it is implied that not everyone can do this, and more, that this has opened up the way for interactions with the fairies. Leroy mentions that Mary Fields hasn’t been to Hundson House, which is why she is no threat). She’s at the funeral, and more, she doesn’t eat or drink anything. In fairy mythology, food and drink tends to be enchanted. Again, since Polly doesn’t accept a gift from the fairies, they can’t take anything from her, either.
    Somehow, Thomas sees his chance. By talking about them being heroes, his magical gift comes in to play, and from this point on, they are both entwined. Since they are both creators of their hero story – or rather, because Tom lets Polly dictate a lot of the story, some of his gift seems to pass on to her. She invents Thomas Piper, and Leslie, and Edna, who all turn out to be real people, but she also at one point wishes in a fit of anger that his cello would break, and sure enough, he ruins it soon after. Furthermore, she mistypes the villain Legris’ name as Leroy, which irrevocably makes Mr. Leroy the villain of the piece, and probably forces him to try and kill Polly later on (which she later uses against him at the fairy court).

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  23. Part 2

    Thomas Lynn has a compulsion on him not to talk about the fairies or their powers – Granny mentions that they lay it on the men not to tell – so he has to make do by sending Polly lots of mythological stories, like the Golden Bough (which explains the reigns of kings and the passing of power through sacrifice), the fairy tale stories (which is just background knowledge) and the Oxford Book of Ballads (which includes the ballads of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer). Furthermore it seems like he is training her to stand up to Laurel, by teaching her to avoid being sentimental and more importantly, by recognizing that being a hero is ignoring how silly you feel. Unfortunately, Polly’s pride is her greatest flaw, which Laurel eventually exploits by shaming her and making her agree to forget Tom.
    So Tom lays all these plans to try and save his own life by using Polly. This is in contrast to Seb, who is the other man trying to win Polly’s love and use it to save himself. It is made very clear that Tom uses Polly because he has no choice, and that he doesn’t have to like doing it – and more importantly, that he gives back to her by helping her deal with the harsh reality of her family life by writing stories and reading books. Whilst Seb does his best to manipulate her to save his own skin without the same regard for Polly that Tom shows. Tom earns Polly’s love, Seb tries to force it.
    Meanwhile, Mr. Leroy is in a perilous position. If Polly falls in love with Tom, and succeeds in holding on to him (like Janet and Tam Lin), then Leroy will be devoid of a victim to steal the soul of, and will succumb to old age and lose his immortality. Seb is similarly motivated – if Leroy dies, then Sebastian will have to take his place as fairy king, and will forever be forced to sit at Laurel’s side, under her power, having to sacrifice humans to stay alive. This is his greatest fear, as stated at the end of the book.

    So Mr. Leroy and Seb do what they can do stop Polly from contacting Tom. At first they just watch her – perhaps the opal pendant’s weak magic was able to keep them at bay – but after she refuses to stay away from Tom (Morton asks her three times, and she refuses three times. In fairy mythology, refusing to do something three times, or breaking an oath three times, or asking for a boon three times can be very binding and very costly). This opens her up to attack by Leroy, although it is really only after she steals the painting of Tom from Hunsdon House that Leroy tries to actually kill her (she has taken something from the fairies, so they have the right to take from her. Leroy mentions this at end, to Laurel). At first, Leroy simply tries to limit Polly’s ability to interact with Tom, by putting Tom in financial difficulties (by asking for the valuable paintings back). When this doesn’t work, Leroy sets about turning Polly’s parents against her, by seemingly exacerbating their own flaws. Ivy thinks everyone is being secretive, so Leroy makes her think that her boyfriend David is giving Polly presents (it is of course Tom giving her the books). So she gets thrown out of her mum’s place. Her dad is similarly weak (he is an expert at weaselling out of things) and Polly discovers she cannot stay with him either. She feels ashamed about this, and Leroy uses her own pride against her, culminating in her (subtly) considering suicide on the bridge in Bristol. When this fails, and Polly finds Tom, Leroy uses Tom’s power of truth to send a trash monster to attack them in order to kill Polly. This fails, but he manages to hurt Tan Hanivar, and thereby also the Dumas Quartet.
    When this fails, he tries a different tactic – he uses Granny’s over-protectiveness to make her chastise Tom for allowing Polly’s teenage crush to continue (when this is exactly what he needs to survive, her love). Tom feel ashamed, and leaves for Australia for a year, presumably to give Polly a bit of time to grow up.

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  24. Part 3

    When he comes back, he is still oddly distant, but still arranges a meeting with her, which culminates in Leroy’s final attempt on Polly’s life – the murderous horror ride at the carnival they visit. Unfortunately for Leroy, this ends up hurting Tom instead. But since Tom’s life is sacred by lieu of Laurel, and Leroy the fairy king is the only one that can hurt him, so this is used by Polly as a way of bargaining for Tom’s life in front of the fairy court. By hurting Tom, Leroy has left himself open to the judgement of Laurel, which is why she allows them to fight to the death at the end instead of just taking Tom’s life.
    Polly allows Seb to goad her into casting a spell using the Fire & Hemlock painting (which later is revealed to contain a powerful enchantment on Tom) which alerts Laurel to the threat Polly poses for the first time (up until here, she has only faced Seb and Leroy) but also leaves her vulnerable to attack from Laurel. So Laurel invites her over and masterfully manipulates Polly - again by taking advantage of her pride – and Polly agrees to forget Tom. Again, Laurel can’t just take Polly’s memories, she needs permission first.
    But Laurel isn’t omnipotent, and didn’t cover her tracks properly enough. Tan Audel (or Ann Abraham) is stated to be part-Leroy (and thus part-fairy). Fairies are able to manipulate memories well – Granny is made to mostly forget about her own husband being taken, and Laurel is able to steal pretty the memory of Tom from all of Polly’s friends and family. But because Ann is part fairy (and also was stated to have the gift of memory by Polly, boosted by Tom’s truth magic), Ann’s name is left in the book of short stories which triggers Polly’s memory in the first place.
    So I’ve almost explained everything, except for the Charles Lynn – Thomas Piper connection. Thomas Piper, a.k.a. Charles Lynn is Tom Lynn’s older brother. Their parents died at a young age (perhaps Laurel was involved, who knows) and they were adopted by Laurel. Laurel wanted Tom Lynn’s soul, but was only able to seduce and entrance Charles Lynn. But then she was able to strike a bargain with Charles for Tom’s soul – and since they didn’t have any parents, Charles as the older brother presumably had the power to trade his own soul for Tom’s.
    He did this by taking the Fire & Hemlock picture – which Tom Lynn took – as well as a lock of Tom’s hair – and giving it to Laurel, who enchanted it. This is the Obah Crypt, and is basically Tom’s soul. It’s probably also how Laurel bestowed the truth gift onto Tom, and probably also the magic that kept him (mostly) safe. But because the photograph truly belongs to Tom, he is able to take it from Hundson House when Polly tricks him into taking it, and because he gives it to her, they cannot take it back. So from the get-go, Polly had Tom’s soul in her hands, which is what made Mr. Leroy so afraid of her in the first place. Once Polly discovers the lock of hair behind the painting, Granny states that the charm may now have been broken, but that destroying the hair will probably still destroy Tom. So this is the first part of Laurel’s hold on Tom that Polly breaks.
    The second part is when she finally meets him again, on the train, and he pretends not to know her. Unbeknownst to Polly, Tom struck a bargain with Laurel that would keep Polly safe. The exact terms of this bargain aren’t known, but I suspect Laurel made Tom promise to try and forget Polly, which is why he pretends not to know her on the train, until she tricks him into admitting he knows her. This is the second part of Laurel’s hold on Tom that Polly breaks (although breaking a bargain with a fairy is usually a bad idea. This, in conjunction with the fact that Polly stole the photo of young Tom from Hundson House is probably why Laurel makes it impossible for Polly and Tom to be together at the end).

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  25. Part 4

    So Polly arrives on Halloween and brings her case before the fairy court: Morton Leroy has forsaken his right to sacrifice Tom in order to keep his immortality because he harmed Tom at the carnival, despite the fact that Laurel decreed Tom’s life to be sacred. Ann backs up this claim, and because she is part fairy, this is enough to make Laurel consider the situation.
    But because Tom has broken a bargain with Laurel, and because Polly has stolen from her, Laurel doesn’t spare Tom’s life, but instead pits him against Leroy in mortal combat. Polly knew from the get-go that it wasn’t going to be as simple as holding onto Tom the way Janet did in the ballad.
    But Leroy is very weak, and complains about this, so Laurel makes up the rule that Tomas can use anything that is truly his, and Leroy can use the exact opposite. Now things get a little fuzzy, but I think I know how it works.
    First off, Tom tries to use his music against Leroy. But Leroy can’t play music, and since he gets to use the exact opposite of what Tom throws at him, this is entirely ineffectual. Furthermore, Laurel did pay for Tom’s musical education at Wilton College, so it is somewhat in doubt whether he can entirely call it his own.
    Polly tries to help Tom, because she loves him, and as such, Tom can use her. But no one loves Leroy, he has no Polly to use, so this also doesn’t work (because the opposite of love is hate, and since Leroy is loveless and so hateful, he can throw this right back at Tom).
    Polly starts to work this out, as the quartet try and help Tom, but again, the power of friendship isn’t enough, because Leroy, as a fairy king, has no friends, only subordinates and servants. The way it works is that whatever Tom has, if Leroy doesn’t have it, Leroy wins. Tom tries to call up the horse, which is a symbol of his wild strength, and of course, because Leroy is weak, this would only doom him.
    So Polly rushes into the pool and tells Tom that she doesn’t love him, that she won’t fight for him, that he used her and should be ashamed. At this, Tom thinks he doesn’t have her love anymore. So now Tom is the one without love – and Leroy can only use the exact opposite of what is thrown at him. Tom throws his lack of love at Leroy, and Leroy doesn’t have any love, so he cannot fight back, and gets sent straight to hell.
    So by the end, Tom survives, but it has cost him his one true love. Or has it? It’s implied that they can’t lovers in the real world(Now Here), or the fairy world (Nowhere), so maybe if they find another realm (Here Now?) they can be lovers.
    Goddamn I love this book.

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