Monthly Archives: September 2011

Who’s got your back?

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“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” – Albert Camus

The role of the companion, friend, consort, sidekick, is an extremely powerful one in fiction. Many films, books and tv series have left me wondering who the real ‘heroes’ were. Quite often I would argue that it was the sidekicks, the support crew who facilitate the heroes success. The unsung heroes of the day.

I did some digging into this. And the role of ‘companion’ is hidden away half way through a seemingly never-ending list of literary archetypes. Archetypes were conceived of originally by Plato, and later built on by Carl Jung and it’s quite a fascinating area of study. Archetype means “first moulded” and it refers to a universally understood concept, behaviour or symbol that can be built on and copied. It is essentially a stereotype and as such an extremely useful literary tool.

Companions provide some sort of assistance to the main protagonist. They are usually weaker in some ways than the hero but often bring complementary, rather than competing qualities to the relationship. They are normally extremely loyal and long suffering with the ability to keep the hero on the straight and narrow. Of course, this also means that they are particularly well placed to turn on their friend and become the Villain.

I’ve put together a short list of some of the companions who have entertained me over the years. This is most definitely not an exhaustive list!

My rules for this list are:

  • No (overt) love interest
  • No equal partners at least not on the surface
  • No ‘jester’ sidekicks

1) Harry, Hermione and Ron – Harry Potter – Books and Movies

Could Harry really have won all those battle without Hermione and Ron? Hermione’s research and magical skills get the three out of more than a few scrapes and Ron seems to stumble into the role of perfect backup.

2) Buffy and Willow – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – TV Series

Swotty, nerdy Willow grows over the series to become a powerfully strong ally, so much so that she tips over into ‘enemy’ at one dark point, proving herself every bit Buffy’s equal. But the friendship prevales, loyalty wins out and in the end we see Willow return to her position beside, and (crucially) one step behind, Buffy.

3) Frodo and Samwise – Lord of the Rings – The movies (I’ve not read the books! Sorry)

This relationship fascinates me. Samwise is reliable and loyal under the most extreme conditions and in spite (or perhaps because of) Frodo’s emotional roller coaster. Throughout the story their relationship blossoms and grows in a way reminiscent of the friendships formed in the trenches of the first World War I. In his deeds and confidences Samwise is every bit Frodo’s equal, yet he is rarely presented as more than a manservant. He knows his place and sees no need to challenge it. Perhaps indicative of the upper middle-class male life and friendships at the time, that your closest companion would be your man servant?

4) Sherlock and Watson – Sherlock Holmes – ‘The myth’.

Brilliant but insane Sherlock, unable to function in the ‘real’ world is perfectly counterpoised by Watson’s calm, steady and methodical approach. Watson may not be as exceptional as his colleague, but he could likely give the criminals a run for their money, yet he never steps out from Holme’s shadow.

5) Robin Hood and Little John – Robin Hood – Ballads and Stories

Little John famously barred Robin Hood’s way on a narrow bridge, finally knocking Robin into the river. Despite this he joined Robin’s band and went on to become one of Robin’s closest confident. As seems to be a theme in such relationships Little John leaves Robin after being attacked by him, but returns to lead the rescue of Robin when he’s captured.

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Getting published

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I mentioned a while ago that I’m writing for Women’s Views on News, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few by-lined features published on the website. The best thing about this is that I have really enjoyed researching and writing the pieces, simply for the sake of it, to then have the work appreciated and published on the site has been extremely rewarding.

With that in mind I thought I’d share the two latest (related) features with you.

“What? £900 for a blouse and another £900 for the matching trousers!

One of last weekend’s broadsheet magazine’s ‘fashion’ pages featured  women wearing clothes that must surely be significantly out of the price range of the paper’s readership, yet even were they within my grasp, I wouldn’t buy them because of the photographs.

Why? Because the poses of the models were so unnatural that it was actually impossible to appreciate the clothes.

The line between art and function is a blurry one in the fashion world.  A recent project by Spanish artist Yolanda Dominguez has looked at the ridiculous positions into which models contort themselves in the name of  fashion and glamour.” Read More – Model poses – art or dysfunction?

 

Following on from this feature I contacted Yolanda and she was kind enough to answer some questions for me:

WVoN: One of your stated goals is to challenge the established attitudes of women. What are these attitudes and who do you feel presents the greater challenge when it comes to change?

I think it is the job of each and every person to see what they can do to contribute to change. Many women talk about “patriarchy” and what is “imposed on us” and believe it is men who have to change whilst maintaining attitudes that don’t benefit or help that change.

Gender roles are not independent and must be modified in both directions. This added to the social changes (legal, cultural, ideological) will enable a movement. Everything counts. Read the whole interview – “Art can change the world” – an interview with Yolanda Domínguez

Civilising Nature

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I wrote this short short story a few years ago as part of a creative writing course and have been meaning to go back and tidy it up ever since. I’ve made some minor changes and now post it here for your perusal. I do hope you enjoy it.

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It had been six months since Stanley had died, enough time apparently. Certainly that is what the children thought. Iris had dreaded this day but now it was here she felt at peace, calm. She had a short while before the children arrived, the sun was high in the sky but a gentle breeze kept the temperature balmy. She relaxed into the chair and watched a butterfly flit across the garden, happy at the simple joy of being alive.

When she and her husband, Stanley, had moved in to the little house just a few weeks after marrying she had fallen in love with the plot almost as intensely as she loved him. Back then it was penned in by a six foot wooden fence and laid to lawn. It took ten years for the elder and hawthorn hedge to grow high enough and thick enough for them to be able to rip down the fence, much to the annoyance of the neighbours.

When their first child was born Iris had Stanley plant an apple tree.  Two years later they planted a plum and another year and half later a cherry. By the time the children were old enough to be climbing trees and building dens the little orchard was big enough to oblige. The cherries would be eaten fresh from the trees, if you could get to them before the birds, and Iris and the girls would make apple pies and plum jam as the summer waned. Read the rest of this entry