Chaos Walking #3: Todd Hewitt, ‘Hewn Heart’

Life is short, art is long; let’s get right to the alchemy, then, if you don’t mind.

As discussed previously, the books’ penchant for Christian and biblical names makes me think ‘Todd’ is meant to be understood as ‘Thaddeus,’ the Aramaic word for ‘Heart,’ the spiritual faculty of the human person, or “breast,’ as in ‘bosom buddy.’ The last name of our hero, ‘Hewitt,’ is a not especially opaque telling of “hew it,” which translates as “roughly shape or fell the hard object.” Together, I think the Dickensian cryptonym gives us “the stone or wooden heart’s felling” or, better, “the revelation of the heart out of stone.” His story is a postmodern Everyman tale of the spiritual journey to human perfection or apotheosis.

If you’re a newcomer here, that must seem a real stretch. Old hands, however, I’m sure, have already started asking themselves, “If Todd is the Stone/Heart being perfected, are the three books the three alchemical stages of the Philosopher’s Stone?” Indeed, they are. [Read more…]

How to Film the ‘Breaking Dawn’ Birth Sequence

The marriage of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen is the Alchemical Wedding of Red King and White Queen. The child they conceive, the so-called ‘Philosophical Orphan,’ is supposed to cause their deaths, at least according to the rubrics of literary alchemy. The orphan is a character stand-in for the Philosopher’s Stone and is meant to be an incarnation of the contraries needing resolution in the story’s setting. Renesme not only has a name that screams “resolution” (at least as much as “melange” does), she is also the human-vampire androgyn and alchemical Rebus that unites vampires, shape-shifting werewolves, and hapless humans. Really, in the allegorical story of Latter-day Saint divinization embedded in the last three Twilight novels via the hermetic symbolism of alchemy, the marriage and apotheosis-in-sacrificial-childbirth scenes are essential — and wild. (All of which is explained in detail in Spotlight: An Up-Close Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.)

But how do you film Bella’s bone-breaking and bloody-beyond-belief birthing? And keep a PG-13 rating?  The discussion is on in earnest at this mommy weblog; I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comment boxes here. Usually, I don’t care for movie versions of book scenes for which I have pretty vivid images in my head already. In this case, though, I think I may see the film only to displace the ones I have from the printed page and my imagination. (Hat Tip to Arabella!)

St. Hedwig’s Beaker and the Alchemists

Headwig BeakerTwo alchemy notes from HogPro All-Pros in the mailbag today: one from Lynn and another from Library Lisa of Accio Quotes. Let’s start with Lynn and some links to the obviously relevant St. Hedwig’s Beaker:

I meant to send you this information long ago-after Convention Alley 2008. I stopped by the Corning Museum of Glass on the way home. They had an exhibition opening soon called Glass of the Alchemists: Lead Crystal–Gold Ruby, 1650–1750

Here is the link to that exhibition.  And here is the link to the Exhibition Guidebook which had these entries: [Read more…]

From the Mailbag: A Student’s Senior Thesis

I get on average a letter every other day from a reader who accepts the invitation to write me that I put in the introductions to my books. Most of them are very kind — I guess folks who hate books prefer to vent to the world on a tome’s Amazon page rather than to the author — and some ask questions or for help. The bulk of the help requests come, as you might expect, from students. It takes more time than I want to admit to answer these notes, but, of course, the whole Gilderoy experience is so flattering that it is a delight I can’t resist.

Earlier this week I received this kind of email note from a student, a Christian attending a Classical School who is writing her senior thesis on the artistic merits and spiritual content of the Hogwarts Saga. She has met some resistance at the school in even speaking about Harry Potter and asked for some advice and ideas. Here is her letter and my response:

[Read more…]

Literary Alchemy at a Virginia Library

I spoke at the library in beautiful Christiansburg, Virginia, earlier this month to help them launch their activities around the National Library of Medicine’s traveling exhibit “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine.” They were more than gracious hosts to me and Mary while we came south to visit our VMI daughter in Lexington. Pamela Hale, the library director, sent us this review of my literary alchemy talk, a review written by Timothy Scripa. Please feel free to share it with your local librarian if you want me to come and give a talk out your way! [Read more…]