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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - Peter Pettigrew




Peter Pettigrew is one of the villains of the Harry Potter series. He was at school with Harry’s parents and was one of the four Marauders, “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs”. That’s Remus, Peter, Sirius and James. The boys are all very good at their magic and learn to turn into animagi- shapeshifters - to help Remus Lupin when he turns into a wolf once a month. 


We never find out how Peter - Wormtail - became friends with the others, but it led to James and Lily, Harry Potter’s parents, being killed by the evil Voldemort and cost Sirius Black several years in Azkaban, the wizarding prison. It would also be interesting to find out how Peter became a member of the Gryffindor house, which is supposed to be for “the brave of heart” when he is such a coward. I have a theory, based on reading all the novels - and seeing the play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child - that in the end, the students are sorted by the Sorting Hat into the house they want to belong to. So, Peter wanted to be in Gryffindor for whatever reason. Maybe because that’s where he’d get protection from bullies, but it seems he was happy to hang out with bullies who were not having a go at him. If you’re familiar with the series you will know what I mean. Harry’s heroic Dad and his buddies were bullies in their time.


He first appears in human form in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. That’s the story in which Sirius Black, the innocent man who had been locked up in a horrific prison guarded by the terrifying Dementors, escapes - and he is not at all happy. Before this book, Peter was hiding out in the form of a rat. He had been living as Scabbers, a pet with the Weasley family, kept by Harry’s best friend  Ron Weasley. It’s not until this book that it occurs to anyone to wonder how a rat could live so long. 


When Voldemort was after James and Lily Potter, to get at their child, Harry, Sirius offered to be their Secret Keeper, using a charm called the Fidelius charm, which would ensure that the enemy couldn’t find them unless the Secret Keeper told him. Unfortunately, Sirius got the bright idea of switching Secret Keeper from himself to Peter, thinking that Voldemort would still be looking for him instead of such an unlikely person as Peter. By this time, though, Peter was working for Voldemort. 


He not only passes the information on, but transfers the blame to Sirius, and blows up a dozen Muggles, leaving behind a finger for the wizards to find. 


So, Peter is awarded a posthumous bravery award while Sirius goes to prison. 


After being exposed in Prisoner of Azkaban, Peter goes to his master, who doesn’t yet have a real body, and helps him get one in Goblet Of Fire


If he is ever sorry, it’s not for what he has done, it’s for being stuck with Voldemort. 


But there is a scene which I suspect the author pinched from Lord Of The Rings. In LOTR, Gandalf has a chat with Frodo, saying that he will one day be glad he didn’t harm Gollum, who snatches the Ring at the Cracks of Doom and ends up dead instead of Frodo. Harry has a similar conversation with Dumbledore, who tells him he will one day be glad he spared Peter, who was about to be killed by Sirius and Remus. And so he should be, despite all the dreadful things that happen before this day comes. Peter hesitates just a few seconds when ordered to kill Harry and finds himself choked to death by the silver hand Voldemort gave him. So Harry manages to escape.


Really, nobody misses Peter when he is gone. He’s not a tragic figure, just a coward who, for a while, had the support of three stronger people.


Tomorrow, watch for another Harry Potter villain - Quirinus Quirrell!  

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - O Is For Orcs




Orcs are the redshirts of Middle-Earth - you know, the ones who are there to get killed off, as in Star Trek? In their case, they mostly seem to be there for heroes to kill off rather than defending anyone. In The Lord Of The Rings they are working for the baddies, like Sauron and the evil wizard Saruman.


When we first meet them, in The Hobbit, though, they are villains in their own right. They have their own community underground, as Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves find out when they camp in a cave that turns out to be what the orcs call their Front Porch. There must be orc women somewhere in the background of this novel, although Tolkien has a tendency to forget women; his original dwarf origin story has the Fathers of the Fathers of the Dwarves being put to sleep - he did rewrite so that each Father had a mate. Gollum kills and eats a young orc, so presumably it has a mother.


We are told that orcs - called Goblins in The Hobbit - love technology and loud bangs. They are very good at creating machines. This is not the compliment it might seem, though, because Tolkien was not keen on modern advances, which wrecked the peaceful landscapes he loved.  


Orcs will eat just about anything; one sad thing is that somehow nearly all the horses and ponies in this book end up dead and eaten. The ones who survive are okay only because Bjorn the bear shifter, who lent them to the dwarves, takes them back. 


Thorin, the Dwarf king, is called Oakenshield, because when he was fighting the orcs at Moria, where his grandfather died, he snatched up an oak branch, using it as both a shield and a weapon. There is a named Goblin leader in that battle, Azog.


In The Hobbit, the dwarves and Bilbo are captured and taken underground by orcs and dragged before the Great Goblin, who is not named. They are terrified by Thorin’s sword, Orcrist, “Goblin-cleaver”, which has a reputation for killing people of their kind. 


Fortunately Gandalf turns up to rescue the adventurers before the Goblins can do any of their threatened things, though this is when Bilbo gets lost and meets Gollum.


The Goblins, however, do turn up in the Battle of Five Armies near the end, and Gandalf reminds Dain, another dwarf king, that there is an orc, Bolg, who remembers he killed his father in Moria. They are a warrior culture like the dwarves, but they are always evil - and destined to lose, though not without killing some of the good guys first.


I find it rather sad to think that there is an entire race doomed to be the baddies. And in the sequel, they aren’t even fighting for themselves, they are just minions of the bad guys!


What do you think? 


Tomorrow’s villain is Peter Pettigrew of Harry Potter infamy.


Monday, April 15, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - N is for Nazgûl

 



The Nazgûl, also called the Black Riders or the Ring Wraiths, are the main villains of The Lord Of The Rings. There are nine of them, riding around on black horses, serving Sauron the Dark Lord. The horses are ordinary animals, stolen from the land of Rohan, which is why they can be drowned early in the novel, when the Nazgûl are chasing Frodo across the river Bruinen, on the way to the elf colony of Rivendell. Unfortunately, the Nazgûl are just fine. Being washed away by the elf Elrond is just a nuisance for them, making them temporarily lose shape.


They are the nine mortal kings who were silly enough to accept rings from Sauron. Well, were mortal - they are still around after centuries. And they are scary! Even orcs can be uncomfortable with them, as Sam Gamgee, hero Frodo’s servant, overhears when two orcs are talking nearby (We will talk about orcs tomorrow). 


The rings of power they wore corrupted them and, while they got a lot of power and wealth in their mortal lifetimes, they eventually found themselves working for Sauron. They wear black robes, but are more or less invisible otherwise, except to Frodo when he puts the Ring on. Actually, wearing the Ring is what lets them see him!


What he sees when he is wearing the Ring terrifies him. While fighting them on Weathertop hill, he is wounded by a Nazgûl blade. He is taken to Rivendell and treated, but he never really recovers from the wound. 


Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, suggests that people who accept these rings really turn themselves into Ring Wraiths. I see his point. The Black Riders were ambitious and greedy in the first place. They were, let’s face it, not nice people even as human.


Their leader is known as the Witch King of Angmar, the one who wounded Frodo. He is very self confident because a prophecy has said he can’t be killed by any man. Boy, is he surprised when he is confronted on the battlefield by warrior maiden Eowyn, who says, “I am no man!” as she pulls off her helmet and stabs him. 


And part of his destruction is caused by a stab in the leg by hobbit Merry Brandybuck - also no man! Those two were not supposed to fight. Eowyn was supposed to stay home and be acting ruler, Merry is rather too short and is told he can’t go. But Eowyn, disguised, whose men certainly know who “Dernhelm” is, smuggles Merry with her. Both of them are badly wounded, but save the day. 


Really, it serves the Witch King absolutely right! It’s a bit like “Macbeth, you’ll be fine as long as Birnam Wood doesn’t come to Dunsinane” and that “no man of woman born” can harm him. And then the army creeps up to the castle with branches, and it turns out that Macduff was born by Caesarean section. Both Macbeth and the Witch King should have paid attention to the technicalities. By the way, Tolkien hated that scene about Birnam Wood, he thought it was cheating. It’s how he got the idea for those walking trees the Ents.  


The Ring Wraiths are truly scary. I’m wondering if J.Michael Straczynski sneaked them into his SF TV series Babylon 5. There are the villainous Shadows, who capture people and connect them to black spaceships, to do their bidding. Of course, the “Black Riders” of Babylon 5 are not willing or corrupted, they are captives, including a woman loved by Alfred Bester, the show’s main villain. But there are other Tolkien elements in the show, so I wouldn’t be surprised. 


The Ring Wraiths are not people who can inspire sympathy or even pity. They did it to themselves. The fact that even orcs are not fans says something about them.


Tomorrow- orcs! 




Sunday, April 14, 2024

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - M Is For Medea

 



Medea is a sorceress from Greek mythology. She has connections with the gods. Her grandfather is the sun god Helios. Her aunt is the goddess and sorceress Circe. She is a princess of Colchis, where the Golden Fleece is kept. 


When the Argonauts turn up to steal it, she falls in love with their leader, Jason, and helps him steal it. On the way back to Greece, she kills her brother, who has followed them, then persuades the daughters of an elderly king, Pelias, to cut him up and cook him to regenerate him to his youth. Of course, it doesn’t work. 


She and Jason marry and settle in Corinth, where they have children, but after ten years he decides to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon, for political convenience. 


Medea is understandably angry, but honestly,  why not kill Jason? Instead, she sends a gown and crown to the new bride, which kills her horribly, like napalm. (There is a similar story somewhere in the Morte D’Arthure, with a cloak sent by Morgan Le Fay, only it kills her servant). Creon hugs his daughter and dies with her.  


She kills two of her children by Jason so he won’t have heirs, and escapes.  


Her next husband is Aegeus of Athens, the father of Theseus. When the young man arrives in Athens, she has persuaded his father to hand him a cup of poisoned wine, so her own son by Aegeus will inherit, but Aegeus recognises Theseus and stops it. 


Again she flees, and after several more adventures and killings, she eventually lives happily ever after and, as an immortal, has an afterlife in the Isles of the Blessed, with Achilles. 


Jason roams the earth, nobody likes him and he eventually gets knocked on the head and killed by the prow of the Argo as he is sitting sadly under his legendary ship. Actually, I’m sadder to think of that ship, which had been created for adventures and sailed on an amazing quest, rotting away, abandoned and forgotten. 


Medea appears in Euripides’ tragedy and quite a lot of modern fiction - and, of course, in that amazing film Jason And The Argonauts, special effects by Ray Harryhausen and music by Bernard Herrmann, best known for The Day The Earth Stood Still. The most famous scene, in which sown dragon’s teeth pop up as skeletons to fight Jason, was humorously sent up in an episode of TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In another episode Hercules’s mother tells him she is planning to marry Jason. 


Jason And The Argonauts has a happy ending, no killing or maiming, Medea asks Jason to look after her because she has no home to go back to, and they kiss, while watching gods approve. 


Aussie author Kerry Greenwood, best known for her Phryne Fisher adventures, wrote a novel called Medea, showing the story from her viewpoint. It was published back in 1997, but has been republished by Clan Destine press, so is easily available in both print and ebook. 


She appears briefly in Madeline Miller’s Circe, in which she visits her aunt - part of the myth - but refuses to take Circe’s wise advice.


I’m just reading Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero: Heroes Of Olympus #1 in which she appears as a villain along the route taken by a group of teenage demigods(in the Percy Jackson universe) out to save the world. She has a department store which sells all sorts of goodies, including, of course, potions and poisons, and still has the two dragons that helped her escape in the Greek myth. She is definitely not friendly to our heroes, especially not their leader, who is not only called Jason, but was named after her Jason! 


So, how much of a villain is she? She does do some dreadful things, though it’s also hard to find much sympathy for Jason. 


See you tomorrow! 

Friday, April 12, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - L Is For Lady Of The Green Kirtle and Loki


 The Lady of the Green Kirtle appears in C.S Lewis’s Narnia novel The Silver Chair. We don’t find out where she originally comes from, but she is ruling Underland, enslaving the gnomes who live there. 


At this stage, Prince Caspian, hero of two previous books, Prince Caspian and The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, is King, and an old man. His beloved wife is killed by a giant green snake while in the forest and his son Rilian disappears after going to find out what happened. 


The two child heroes of this novel, Jill and Eustace, are drawn from their boarding school, where both have been bullied, to find Rilian. They are accompanied by Puddleglum, a Marshwiggle, part of a race of pessimistic beings. His people think he is rather too cheerful! 


Along the way, they meet the beautiful Lady and her accompanying knight in black armour, who doesn’t say a word. She advises them to go to a nearby castle of giants, for the Autumn feast. Not nice, Lady of the Green Kirtle. It turns out that they have their own version of To Serve Man - a recipe book. 


Escaping, they end up in the Lady’s realm underground, from which she is planning to invade Narnia, with Rilian - the black knight they saw before - as her general, then become his Queen. Rilian has, in fact, been brainwashed by a spell. He tells the children and Puddleglum that one hour a day he will go crazy and must be tied to a silver chair for everyone else’s sake. They must not release him, whatever he says.


In fact, that one hour a day is when he overcomes his brainwashing. He begs them to release him, in the name of Aslan. As they have been told to do what is asked of them in Aslan’s name, they release him. He destroys the silver chair. The Lady arrives and tries to persuade them that where they are is reality and  Narnia and the sun and sky are imaginary. Puddleglum tells her that even if what she says is true, he would much rather believe in Narnia than her so-called reality. She tries to brainwash them with a green smoke, which Puddleglum stops. When she turns into the giant green snake, Rilian recognises her as his mother’s killer, and uses his sword to kill her. 


The gnomes thank the adventurers for freeing them and go down to their home realm. 


Rilian does have just enough time to see his father before Caspian dies.


There are quite a few fans who think the Lady is Jadis, but C.S. Lewis never said so, or even hinted at it. However, the BBC TV miniseries did have the same actress, Barbara Kellerman, in both roles. 

What do you think?


L is for Loki. In Norse mythology, he is - as Neil Gaiman says in his book Norse Mythology…complicated. Sometimes a villain, sometimes just a trickster - one who fixes the gods’ problems. True, sometimes those are problems he caused in the first place, but not always. 


As far as I know, there weren’t any temples to him or worship. But we don’t know much; Norse myths are written down in the Eddas, by Christians. There are only a few left. You can probably read them in one volume. 

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Loki’s children by his wife, Sigyn, were normal, but his other partner, Angrboda, gave him three scary children, the Fenris wolf, Jormungandr, the world serpent, wrapped around Midgard, and Hel, the goddess of death, who was a beautiful girl on one side of her face, a corpse on the other. Fenris and Jormungandr were destined to fight and kill gods at Ragnarok, the end of the world. 


There is the story of the gods wanting a new wall and hiring a builder whose required payment in the form of the sun, the moon and Freya. Loki suggested they limit the time he had to do the job and that if he missed the deadline he wouldn’t be paid. They thought this was a great idea till it looked as if the builder would make the deadline. Then they yelled at him that it was his fault. You probably know what followed: Loki turned into a mare and lured the builder’s stallion away, slowing the job - and gave birth to Odin’s eight legged horse Sleipnir. The builder turned out to be a giant and Thor returned to Asgard and killed him.


I’d say all of them were villains in this story. At least Loki fixed it.


The story of Sif’s hair is almost as well known. Loki cuts the hair of Thor’s wife Sif for no explained reason. Well, he is a trickster, after all…Thor threatens him and he goes to two groups of Dwarves, challenging them to produce amazing items, including golden hair which will grow like real hair - and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. He does cheat a bit, because one of the dwarves says he will claim Loki’s head if he wins the competition against the other group. He does win, but Loki must have been reading some Shakespeare because he argues that he didn’t offer his neck, so the dwarf stitches his lips shut.


The thing is, whatever he did to make this happen, he gets the dwarves to produce amazing magical items for other gods, not himself. Complicated… The story of Sif’s hair appears in an episode of the MCU series Loki, in which Sif, who is dark haired, turns up to yell at him that he deserves to be alone and always will be. Well, he does end up alone, but it’s a self sacrifice to save the multiverse. But he admits he did it because he thought it would be funny.


There are some more - humorous - stories, but his ending is sad. He kills the beloved god Baldr, and while the others had never liked him, that’s the last straw. They catch him and tie him up in a cave to be tortured by a snake’s dripping venom. The bonds are made from the guts of his innocent sons. His loyal wife holds a bowl under the snake, but every time the bowl fills up, she has to go and empty it and then we get earthquakes as he writhes in agony. However, at Ragnarok he will escape and fight the gods from a ship made of nails of the dead.


Is he a villain? Sometimes, but not always. 


He is very popular in modern fiction, though. In the original Marvel comics he really is nasty - and ugly. In later ones, he is a likable rogue, the hero of stories like Agent Of Asgard and Loki: The God Who Fell To Earth. In Agent Of Asgard he is being sent on missions to wipe out his previous evil deeds - and is enjoying it. Unfortunately he has taken over the body of Kid Loki, the deed that cannot be forgiven. He ends up as the god of stories instead of lies, but not as in the TV series. Instead, he entertains humans over the centuries.


Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat, wrote a series of Loki novels. They are a delight. In 

Parke Godwin’s novel The Tower Of Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is a daughter of Loki, and it is she, not Sigyn, who takes care of her father in that cave.


As you almost certainly know by now, the MCU Loki starts as a villain in Thor and ends up, in Season 2 of Loki, as a hero who sacrifices himself for the good of others.

See you on Monday!