The herpetological debate continues...
Date: 26-Aug-94 12:58 EDT
Subj: letter in BOTC #9
In response to a letter printed in the last issue of BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS which I picked up this past Wednesday in reference to her problem with the migrating snakes in a previous issue. I have to say that I agree with her perspective. I don't remember what was the story line in that issue, but I do remember the phrase that went through my head when I read it: "Snakes...don't do that." I have seen very few wild snakes in my life, and when I have it hasn't been for long because they bolt the moment I come near them.
I know the world of Two Moons is not Earth, but it does seem to have been created along the lines of what would be a parallel universe, if not a place elsewhere among the stars that has the same types of plants and animals. I might be getting a little too deep for fantasy, but I too would like to see consistency in the activity of animals. When Nightrunner was cast out of the pack because he got too old, I initially asked why until I realized that is what wolves do. It's not wrong, it's just how it is. What the snakes did in BOTC are not the actions I have ever heard of any snake anywhere.
I admit that I've been kind of ho-hum in my personal reactions to NEW BLOOD and BOTC, but HIDDEN YEARS and WAVEDANCERS have kept me thirsting for every issue. With SHARDS coming out, I'll be that much happier, but I'm curious as to if your and Wendy's attentions will be drawn away from HIDDEN YEARS as a result. (Is that why it's going monthly?) I've always considered NEW BLOOD and BOTC as "what if" type books, with BOTC as a means for printing versions of the paperbacks' stories as well as other stories, so my focus has always been on the other books. I'm not going to get too upset over controversial snake activity. Here's my two bits anyway.
I enjoyed being able to send e-mail to you this summer and know that you were actually reading it, rather than hoping that something I sent through the post office might see print in a letters page. This is the last day of my internship, so don't bother to respond to this. I do look forward to getting an Internet address when I get back to UConn. Shade and sweet water.
I am writing in response to Jean McGuire's letter about BLOOD of TEN CHIEFS #7. I've been reading ELFQUEST for over seven years, since the old Marvel issues, and I hardly ever read the letters pages. But I couldn't miss this one. I must respond to what I per- ceive as a gross misunderstanding of the storyline of #7 and the whole idea of ELFQUEST in general. (No, I'm not getting carried away - just let me explain.)
First of all, I'd like to point out that this entire story, all that is ELFQUEST, takes place on a different planet. Therefore it cannot be assumed that the creatures of Two Moons are exactly like those of good old Mother Earth. In other words, just because it looks like a snake and is called "snake" does not mean it is a snake as we know it. Maybe Earth snakes "don't hunt humans" or "cannot hibernate in the mud of the 'Muchcold Water'" but these snakes apparently do and can. We cannot take Two Moons' snakes and say "reptile." A different planet means different creatures. Period.
Secondly, these elves were following a fairly simple line of reasoning. Snakes bite elves. Elves die. Kill snakes so it doesn't happen again. I strongly object to the use of the word "orgy" to describe what these Wolfriders were doing. The word itself implies that the elves were enjoying what they had to do.
Ask any soldier who fought in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. Ask any woman who has been raped. It is another simple truth: When you are fighting for your life, you generally don't enjoy it. There is nothing so grim, so despairing as the knowledge that despite all you do, you may die. I have been lucky. Both times I've been snake bitten, the wounds turned out to be superficial. I was literally saved by a sock. Neither of the snakes that bit me were killed, frankly because I was more interested in seeking medical attention than in hunting them down. That doesn't mean I didn't want to kill them. I'm sure the Wolfriders wouldn't have killed snakes for pleasure. They only killed when they were threatened. They had cause.
I'm sorry that Jean McGuire's bubble was burst. But no one should expect that every story has a happy ending, or that all events in the story will please us. More simple truths: Life is hard. Life is not fair. Life hurts. Yet we move on and we grow stronger, or at least we should. If ELFQUEST was merely a showcase for incredibly gorgeous artwork and empty stories, it would never be so well loved and read as it is. ELFQUEST is here to mirror the realities of life, not cater to the storybook ending. Its realness, its grit is what keeps us picking up every copy we can lay hands on. Richard and Wendy have given us a wonderful gift, something I will be forever grateful for.
And I know, as sure as I put pen to paper, that no one who can give life to these beautiful Wolfriders and all their kin can possibly be ignorant of the beauty of life, all life, and all of nature. For this, I will always be grateful.
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I would like to point out to Jean McGuire that the world of Two Moons (or should I say Abode) is not Earth. Therefore the snakes of Two Moons are not necessarily the same as the snakes of Earth. Possibly they could hibernate in the mud. Also, these snakes, like some people I know, are just plain grumpy when they wake up, eh?
Besides, nature can be a brutal, violent place. The Wolfriders are a part of this nature, they share their blood with wolves. From my point of view, the elves were only defending themselves; they felt threatened. I failed to see the "savage orgy of killing" or the "slaughter," and I recall Freefoot saying "let them pass freely, unless they strike." It wasn't exactly senseless aggression.
So I have to defend this story. It was good. Oh yeah, BoTC #9 was very cool too. Keep it up!
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In fairness, I have to say that we received about equal response pro and con on issue #7. I am continually amazed at the diversity of the responses that some Elfquest stories generate. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't change that for the world!
Now that both sides have had some "air time," let me toss my own editorial two cents into the pot. True, the world of Elfquest is not the world of Earth. Some things happen differently there, and it is those differences that give Elfquest its flavor, that make it just "bent" enough away from daily terrestrial life that we want to go there, or at least think about what it's like to be there. We human beings can't send or heal (at least, not yet), but what would it be like if we could? Elfquest is one answer.
Perhaps the snakes in BoTC #7 are different enough from their earthly counterparts that they might behave unlike those that Jean McGuire wrote about. That would justify the story all by itself. Yet she has a valid point as well. Fantasy is not carte blanche to rewrite nature on a whim. For many years, people have responded very positively to ELQUEST'S treatment of wolves. The wolves that are allied with the Wolfriders are not earthly wolves, yet readers point to those "fantasy" creatures as an example of how we humans should get along with canis lupus here on this planet.
So while I maintain that the tale as presented does work, for the reasons given in the letters above I also realize that every so often everyone here connected with ELFQUEST should take a moment to ponder the power that their stories have. Thanks to all for bringing that back into focus. - RP
BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS #9 was okay in many ways. The art was 90% satisfying, the coloring a clean 100%, but I think the story and dialogue had some shortcomings. In my humble opinion, whether or not it counts for anything, elves should not use expressions or display behavior that signify a background in Western culture. Examples:
Acorn wants a friend who will always be there for him. Acorn is lonely, he has "troubles," he would like to "be free from responsibilities"?! Somehow, this does not strike me as either the thinking or the reality of a hunter/gatherer tribe unconstrained by closed-minded morals inhibiting the free expression of love, sexuality and personality. Not to mention that we're dealing with elves here - not humans. Acorn would have to be hugely antisocial and selfish if he didn't take his "responsibilities" toward the tribe for granted. Personally, I don't even think the elves perceive their loyalty and devotion to the tribe as "responsibilities."
"Make the beds"?! As if a Wolfrider holt had actual beds with actual bed sheets! Geddoudahere!
And a bigger mistake: When asked how she is, Goodtree says, "You want an honest answer? I'm exhausted." Now, in saying that first sentence, she has implied that in normal small talk, elves, when confronted with the question "How are you?" reply "I'm fine" as humans often do, whether or not they are fine. The notion that such superficial relations should exist in a Piniesque elf tribe is sacrilege. When asked how they are, they will always, instinctively, give an honest answer! Goodtree should have replied, "Exhausted," quite simply. "You want an honest answer?"! Gimme a break!!
Tue Sorensen c/o Waage
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OK, where would you like it? Arm? Neck?
Seriously, you have a good point. Not only the look, but the "sound" of ELFQUEST important to its own internal truth. Speech coming out of the charac- ters' mouths has to maintain a fine balance between colloquial, contemporary English and formal, almost- Shakespearean discourse. Too far in either direction, and it just doesn't sound right. (It's sort of like the famous Supreme Court definition of obscenity - I can't define "off" EQ-speak, but I know it when I read it.)
How does this sort of thing get through? That's easy. From time to time, yr. editor's brain becomes onion dip. I shall endeavor to move up the scale, at least gastronomically. See you in 30! - RP