Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Winter Metaphor

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy

Welcome to our Winter Paranormal Week on Here Be Magic!

We kicked off the theme with Nicole Luiken's take on Jack Frost. I'm going to continue with some thoughts on the role of the winter landscape in the first two books of The Twelve Kingdoms.
First,  in The Mark of the Tala, my heroine Andi - Princess Andromeda - is plagued with visions of a man dead in the snow.

The smell of blood saturates my memories, the crimson circle widening in the snow around his body, just as I’d seen it, over and over in visions. 

The image makes little sense at first, partly because she is unaware she's inherited the gift of prophecy from her long-dead mother, but also because it's late summer and there's no snow. As the story progresses, however, and Andi leaves her home to live in a foreign land, it begins to snow.

As we climbed, the trees broke the wind and the ice crystals became fat snowflakes. The ground disappeared under the fall of white, all sound but ours muffled.

Snow dominates the next few scenes as they travel through the mountains - until they enter Annfwn. Crossing the magical border into another land is moving from icy winter to tropical summer. This transition is key in all three books, moving back and forth between the seasons, demarcated by magic.

Waiting in the cold, wrapped in layers of furs, were thousands of Tala, all in human form. They stretched into the forest and down the ravines on either side. Countless sets of fierce blue eyes focused on me, their expectation strong in the air. They ranged along the border, which seemed to sparkle in the air. My blood sang with it, a low hum of recognition. Even if I didn’t have that, or the abrupt line where the crowded people ended and open land began, the other side made it clear. Where we stood in frozen, high-mountain early winter, the land beyond appeared to be in the bloom of late summer. Verdant trees spread enormous leaves to the setting sun. The forest floor, velvety moss studded with jewel-like blossoms, became a great meadow, waving with tall emerald grasses.
When Andi's vision comes true, it happens in winter, in the snow, though not exactly as she'd seen, largely because the choices she makes changes the order of events.

In the second book, The Tears of the Rose, Ami, Princess Amelia, follows a similar journey. Most of her story takes place in the dead of winter, which echoes the bleakness of her life. She moves through a winter landscape, from the storm-tossed shores of her home in Windroven, back to where she grew up - and then also up through the mountains to Annfwn.

Sometimes snow sifted down from the branches and the wood creaked when a hand of wind fisted through the limbs high against the wintery sky. It seemed other things moved there, too. Wrong things. My memory flashed onto those strange oily creatures that had invaded Ordnung when the Tala attacked and came after Andi. I tried to get a better look, but they were like the childhood monsters that disappeared when you lit a candle. 

When she reaches the place of Andi's vision, she finds an odd juxtaposition of winter and summer.

Not sure what I was looking for, I spotted a clear patch that held, of all things, a spot of green. Bright, acid green, like the White Monk’s eyes when he was most amused—or most hateful. Kicked-up snow mounded around it, but now melted, sliding off and making a damp, muddy ring. A patch of grass, incongruous in the frozen landscape, with a flower inside. A forget-me-not, but larger than it should be, the vivid summer-sky blue of Hugh’s eyes.

For Ami, also, entering Annfwn is a turning point in her life. The movement from the hibernation of grief into living again.

In Greek mythology, winter is the season of Demeter's grief, because her daughter Persephone was abducted to the Underworld, where she must forever spend six months of the year. The Twelve Kingdoms stories echo much of theme of that myth - about mothers and daughters, leaving home and finding home, about the stages of a woman's life and the emergence of life again out of death.


  1. I'm really enjoying all the symbolism in this series, Jeffe.Can't wait for Ursula's story.

    1. Thanks PG - thanks great to hear that it's working for you. :-)


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