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Success! I polished off Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland last night. I’ve seen the old Disney movie, the recent movie with Johnny Depp, and even gone to the local Cinemark theater to watch a ballet version! But I had yet to read the original tale.

Carroll’s writing style reminds me of the quirkiness of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Taking what we know and twisting it around makes for a satisfying read. Clever writing layers mirth over funny little truths and questions.

Why is a raven like a writing-desk? (Ask yourself sometime and get back to me.)

As I journeyed deeper into Wonderland, I noticed that my attention kept coming back to Alice, our main character. To my surprise, I discovered that I had been analyzing her and trying to place just exactly what kind of little girl she was.

Then it occurred to me. I’ve seen this sort of little girl before. Not the same little girl, mind you. But a similar one who could even be friends with Alice if they hadn’t chosen separate worlds within which to reside.

Alice dear? (Hmm?) Meet September. (Hello.) She’s the very sort of girl you are. (How would you know we are the same sort of little girl?) Why, haven’t you ever met other little girls the same sort as you? (Silence.)

I’ll tell you about September then. Her book is titled The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and her author is Catherynne M. Valente. September fell out of her window instead of a rabbit hole (or rather stepped out of the window by taking the hand of the Green Wind).

In her travels inside Fairyland, she encounters characters similar to the ones in Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. They challenge the life she led before coming to Fairyland, but she crosses her arms (so to speak), juts out her chin, and holds her own in the conversations.

What have you noticed about main characters in the books you’re reading? Do you find yourself analyzing them to find out what sort of person they are? Leave me a comment below.

 
 
Greek mythology has caught my attention lately, and I spent a few hours reading through The Bacchae, a play written by Euripides. It’s an ancient Greek tragedy that follows Pentheus, the king of Thebes, as he attempts to manage the unrest in his civilization – the crazed worshippers of the god Dionysus.

As I grappled with this ancient Greek text, I noticed the following points:

*SPOILER ALERT*

A MOTHER’S HORROR AT MURDERING HER SON. When Pentheus’ mother, Agave, hoots and hollers all over Thebes with her “prize,” I couldn’t help but cringe.

The entire play has been laced (poisonously, some would venture to say) with Dionysus’ plot for revenge (since someone has been spreading doubts about his divinity!).

In the scene with Agave and her “prize,” Dionysus altered Agave’s perception of reality. At last, the mother has a moment of devastating realization. She murdered her son in a frenzy of madness and now holds his severed head.

The sorrow fairly bowls me over. (I suggest you read The Bacchae, too, to get the full effect.)

OUR FEAR OF MADNESS. A major component of Dionysiac worship was that element of madness. Revelers would lose themselves in worship (often to the extent of Agave – no longer in control of their own minds).

Euripides paints madness in a strange and ominous light through The Bacchae. We do not meet the maenads (another name for Dionysus’ worshippers) in the beginning. Instead, they are portrayed in a far away sense – almost a fog of eerie cries and writhing silhouettes.

The creepiest part about madness is that it can impact anyone. Even our steady, stable, sturdy main character, Pentheus, winds up in the middle of the madness and succumbs (in a way) to a reversal of identity (dresses up as a maenad to sneak into their gatherings on the mountain).

Be aware, all you ghouls, as Halloween approaches! Watch out for maenads. :) How are you managing your own madness/horror? Tell me in the comments about the fiendish frights you’re planning.