Tag Archives: Fantasy

Favorite Quote of the Postaday: Magic!

The air was soon thick with flying gnomes.

–Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

How can anybody outgrow the Harry Potter books?!


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Quote of the Postaday: Verity

If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Alice: Through the Looking Glass

My 300-word essay on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ for my course, ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, our Modern World’ provided by coursera.org.

Anthropomorphism is one of the many interesting literary devices seen in the “Alice” books. In ‘Through the looking glass’ especially, the humanized chess-men and the chess-set world are an analogy for real people and the real world respectively. “It’s a great huge game of chess being played all over the world”, Alice says.

In the beginning, Alice receives instructions from the Red Queen, like we receive instructions from our elders before setting out into the world. On her journey she meets many people and learns many things: the White Queen tells Alice to keep an open mind (“I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”), from Humpty Dumpty she learns semantics and that a word means “what (you) choose it to mean–neither more nor less”, she learns self-belief in the face of doubt when Tweedledum tells her “you’re not real” and she realizes that he’s “talking nonsense”. The chess pieces themselves stand for the various types of people in our world. Some, like the queens, go “running wildly” hither and thither; they have great power which they may or may not use wisely (e.g., the White Queen is powerful but helpless and rambling). Some, like the Red King, stay on just one square all their lives. There are the White Knights, kind and helpful; and finally there are people like Alice who sometimes go where fate takes them, and sometimes make their own way, but always have their goal in mind and humility in heart.

We wonder whether the author is telling us to live as though we really were in a chess game. There are specific rules by which we have to play (or live); as a pawn one can only move forward, for one “certainly won’t go back”, and always there is the ultimate goal: that of reaching the eighth square; of fulfilling one’s destiny.


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“You couldn’t (doubt yourself) with eyebrows like yours”

–Jonathan Harker to Van Helsing

I wrote sometime back about this online course I took last year, ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction’. You can find my post here. Each week, we were supposed to read a book and write a 270-320 word essay which would “enrich the reading of a fellow intelligent student”. The essay shouldn’t read like a review, but should be somewhat analytic and definitely informative. So today I present to you my essay on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, assuming there are very few book-lovers who haven’t read it. I started with the quote I’ve placed at the beginning of this post.

Physiognomy is the art of judging an individual’s character by studying their facial features. Though considered a pseudoscience now, it was widely popular in the author’s time. In the novel too, it plays an especially important role. Not only does the description of a character’s facial features paint a vivid picture of the character in our minds, it also tells us from the outset whether that particular character is good or evil, which is of paramount importance in this novel.

Thus, the driver who transported Jonathan to Castle Dracula has red eyes; the devil has red eyes, and so as soon as we read this description we know that the driver is somehow dangerous. The Count has “a very strong, aquiline, [..] thin nose [..] lofty domed forehead”, signifying his strength of body and character, and his pride. But more noteworthy are his “fixed and rather cruel-looking” mouth and his “peculiarly sharp white teeth”. Even his coarse, broad, hairy hands with the long, sharp fingernails further the impression that the Count is more beast-like than human. Although during the first few hours of Jonathan’s visit we have no concrete reason to doubt the Count, his physical description is enough for us to beware of him. Similarly, Dr. Seward’s “strong jaw and the good forehead” tell us of his courage and intelligence. Van Helsing is a “kindly, strong-faced old man”, which tells us that he is mature and experienced, brave and forceful. 

Physiognomy is also a valuable literary device in signifying the change in the characters’ personalities. Jonathan’s gray hair not only symbolize his shock and terrible ordeal, but also emphasize the fact that he is an old soul; he has experience and knowledge way beyond his years. Similarly, the startling change in Lucy’s features (eyes that were “dull and hard at once”, “voluptuous lips”) warn the reader of her conversion into an Undead. Mina too, bears the scar on her forehead as a reminder of her “unclean” status. 

Thus, although much criticized now, the art of Physiognomy proves to be a most advantageous tool in the hands of the author; it helps us in identifying the undercurrent of the novel–the basic theme of the story–the triumph of good over evil.

Have you read the book? If you have, what do you think of my critique? And if you haven’t, do you want a link where you can download it legally from?


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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Disappointment

*Spoiler Alert*

I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogies; both the written as well as the movie versions. I’ve read the books at least five times each and seen the movies about twice as that. So of course, I was looking forward to ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ with a great deal of enthusiasm. Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch were just plain bonuses.

Yes, the movie let me down. The beginning was too slow for a book that had an adventure on almost every page. I was flabbergasted when it took 40 minutes for the dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf to start on their journey! Sure, it was great to see Elijah Wood as Frodo once again, but there is such a thing as too much nostalgia. I suppose the movie-makers had to put in extra stuff, otherwise how will they ever make a trilogy out of a 210 page book? And that’s another thing–I had no idea this was supposed to be a trilogy! Maybe that’s one of the reasons for my disappointment.

Another reason was the non-appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug the Dragon. Ever since ‘Sherlock’, I’ve been madly in love with him. Benedict Cumberbatch, I mean, not Smaug the Dragon. Although I’m sure he’s wonderful too. Ahem. Anyway, even though Cumberbatch only has a voice role in the movie, I’d been awaiting it fervently. So imagine my shock–and remember, I hadn’t the slightest clue it was the first of three films–when the movie came to an abrupt, anticlimactic end! And no Cumberbatch. I could only curse the movie makers to the deepest pits of heck, and berate myself for being so dense as not to guess the to-be-continued nature of the movie, even after 2.5 hours!

Thankfully, the movie had some good things too. Ian McKellen was his own incomparable self as Gandalf, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins was convincingly self-deprecating and–comfortable, that’s how I keep thinking of him. Richard Armitage was as gorgeous as I remembered him from BBC’s ‘North and South’; never again will I view Middle Earth dwarves in quite the same manner.

The movie, unlike the book, tells us about the motivation behind the dwarves’ journey to the Lonely Mountain (which, I think, comes from ‘The Quest of Erebor’, published posthumously by JRR Tolkien’s son). This back story was one of the saving graces of the movie, apart from Richard Armitage and the cinematography.

All this talk of good-looking actors has mellowed me down. Once again, I become a traitor to my own views, and eagerly await the next installment of this movie, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’.

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The Blue

atop a lonely mountain,
a blue swan waits.
Waits to spread her wings–
and fly.
She waits
for the mate of her soul,
the one
who has seen her sky-dreams,
the one who will fly with her.
But the clouds call to her,
they speak to her in the language of freedom.
And she waits no more
And soars.


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Weekly Writing Challenge: EReader Vs. Paperback

I have to confess, I find ebooks and my Kindle Reader app extremely convenient. All I have to do is keep my phone charged, and I can access tons of books anytime and anywhere. Well, they’d be a ton if I had hardbacks for all of them!

Having said that, I still carry my usual, on average, 2.5 books in my backpack for long trips. I can still spend hours in a bookstore (and do so at least once a month), and my library card is always maxed out. That is why for the WordPress poll, my vote went to ‘paperbacks’. However, I don’t really know why I love paperbacks more than ebooks. Probably I’m just a traditionalist and paperbacks remind me of all the great times I’ve had with books: laughing at Suppandi’s antics, having adventures on the Faraway Tree, solving crimes (actually, if I’m honest, ‘being perplexed by’ would be closer to the truth) with Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and Dirk Gently, falling in love with Mr. Darcy and Robert Kincaid and all the various heroes  of the gazillion romance novels I’ve read so far, Hitchhiking the Galaxy with Arthur Dent, and basically doing everything inside my imagination that I’ll possibly never do in real life.

Nostalgia. That’s what makes things precious.

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