miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2016


One of the things that fascinate me the most about Andersen is that he lets his villains escape scot-free. The Snow Queen herself is a great example (Gerda and Kai leave the palace and she is never heard of since her second southward venture told of: "she could come if she pleased; the proof of his freedom lay on the ground, written in glittering ice"), and so is, to put another similar example, the Mer-Witch who took the Little Mermaid's voice in exchange for legs and lungs. Or the red-haired soldier who cursed Karen to dance until she died and even afterwards as a corpse. Or the Swamp King who deflowered the princess in the Wild Marsh. The bad guys survive and maybe even thrive--while the heroes also manage to get either their happy ever after or a dying redemption.
Yet I had never thought of this before until the winter when I began this blog and watched the screen version of Les Misérables. The track of the Thénardiers is lost, ostensibly for good, in the uproar of revolution --snatching Marius's ring in the catacombs is the last thing they do before disappearing into the shadows-- ...until, at the lovely and enticing wedding of Cosette and Marius... we are introduced to the Baron and Baroness de Thénard. From their surname, faces, and voices I could see these were the same scoundrels as before, now decked in silks and brocade, handing Marius his ring and sowing doubts about Cosette's adoptive grandfather in his ears, while also telling the young bridegroom that his brand new wife's guardian saved his life. Last seen when Marius ushers them out and shuts the door behind them --but the villains have obviously thrived in this case as well.
The Snow Queen, the Mer-Witch, the Thénardiers... ah, and Iago (Othello's right-hand-man, not the macaw). The last thing we hear about the original literary psychopath is, when being seized and taken to torture, is "I will never speak word." Somehow lingers the same idea that he will escape, flee Cyprus somehow, and turn over a new leaf elsewhere. The novel Iago, by David Snodin, has a disabled Cassio tracking down the man who ruined his life --a pretty elusive Iago who is always one improbable turn ahead of his persecutor, as if Snodin's Iago were Raito Yagami and Cassio were L: I was instantly reminded of the catch-me-if-you-can premise of the famous anime Death Note, as well as of Moby Dick with a human quarry. (I took part of this premise for my 2016 Foorth Centennial edition of The Travesty of Othello; specifically Iago getting away scot-free... my Cassio does not go Ahab after losing his leg, considering that to him Iago is now out of sight and out of mind, like the Thénardiers/de Thénards to Cosette... or the Snow Queen to Gerda and Kai).
These are stories where the villains, the antagonists, survive. The final conflict these characters have to face is actually within themselves; after that, exit Iago/the Mer-Witch/the Snow Queen/the Thénardiers stage left, for these characters are no longer needed.
This aspect is also what makes Andersen's allegorical tales, Othello, and Les Mis so endearing and so true to life; it is what has ensured their staying power. My Frau Schierling may have lost a meth lab in that explosion, but it's hinted that she is a member of the regional elite and into several lucrative activities, legal or illegal --for instance, she owns several clubs similar to the Manoir des Miroirs, is a frequent guest at the Solsbury Hill golf course (though not the tennis court) and clubhouse, and she mentions an orange grove in the lowlands when she leaves Kai alone in the lab. She's a corrupt socialite, indeed, but that's what makes Valencian politicians and high society get away with the money and keep on pulling the strings in the shade, in real life. Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist until he died; so did Castro in Cuba. Countless psychopaths like Iago and the Thénardiers are still afoot all over this little blue ball of rock and mainly water. There is no poetic justice --but the lack of it feels more natural than the endings of our usual fairytales in which ogres, wicked witches, big bad wolves, dark fairies, false brides, et consortes are offed in more or less gruesome ways.

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