We’re approaching the end of the Swan Lake themed blog posts! Today’s topic is probably the heaviest and the most philosophical, but it also is filled with spoilers so I want to give everyone enough time to read the book before I broached the subject. So, be forewarned if you still haven’t had a chance to read it, this blog entry has some major spoilers about the ending of Swan Lake.
Let’s jump straight into it, Rothbart. Rothbart was one of the trickiest and most difficult villains I’ve written thus far, because he ends up being sympathetic. At the very end of the book you learned that Rothbart was either told to take over the country, or his daughter would be in great danger. As he was unwilling to endanger his daughter, but also wasn’t twisted enough to follow through with whatever darkness is pulling the strings in the background, Rothbart uses Odette to accomplish redemption for everyone… Except for himself. As he dies he breaks the “quick release” strand of his spells that Angelique identified when studying Odette’s curse, freeing everyone and breaking any of his leftover spells. (Unknown fact: He had some nasty spells placed on his castle in case Suzu came sniffing around while he was out. He broke those as well so the castle wouldn’t harm anyone.)
I badly wanted Rothbart to be the reason why the curse was broken, because in the six previous volumes of the Timeless Fairy Tales, the hero and heroine are always responsible for breaking the curse. (As they should be.) Looking ahead, I know I will be writing several more stories that include breaking curses, and everything was starting to look really repetitive. So for the sake of interest, and to keep me from going as crazy as Angelique is over all these curses, I decided to mix things up a little bit.
But although this change made the story much more compelling and interesting, Rothbart’s character was extremely difficult for me to figure out how to write when I first started the book. How could I present him so everyone knew he was a villain, but still give him the freedom and ability to end strongly?
You see, I’m a big believer in darkness and light. I love Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings because they, like fairy tales, show how important it is that you don’t compromise with what is evil. However, one thing I’ve learned as an adult, is that individual humans don’t follow that kind of division. Some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know screw up– just as we all do. And some of the meanest people I’ve met have hidden soft spots. Humans can be gray. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the reality we live in.
More often than not, fairy tales follow the pattern of darkness and light, and the villain is always unsympathetic and horrible. Rothbart was a real challenge for me to craft when I place him in the shadow of every other villain I’ve written thus far. However, I also feel that as the villain he is the one that stands out most. He seems more realistic than the other villains. He was also the most secretive. Now that you know the ending of Swan Lake, if you take another gander at his scenes you’ll see tiny hints of his inner struggle. (In example, he commiserates with the wyvern in feeling imprisoned, the smugglers mention Odette is the only one he’ll tolerate–which you should now know why thanks to the In Search of a Hero extra–he openly talks about how fond he is of Odette and how much he values her ruthless protective streak, etc.)
In a totally unemotional/unrelated note, I’m sure some of you are wondering that if the original Swan Lake ballet said the evil sorcerer’s name was Von Rothbart, why did I drop the von? Kozlovka’s culture is very loosely based off historic Russia–I saw a few of you clever readers picked up on the Russian names, excellent observation! Russia does not use vons in their titles, that’s a German thing, so I dropped the von and kept the Rothbart!
So, please tell me Champions, what did you think of Rothbart? Did you find him interesting, or did you think I was attempting to be too clever for my own good? Until next time, have a lovely weekend everyone–and happy Fourth of July to my American Champions!