The Guardians: Book One
by William Joyce and Laura Geringer
“images began to scroll across the Moon’s surface, as if it were a shadow play, flowing in perfect timing with the story Ombric now told…” (Joyce, 44).
So the children are now safe in Big Root. And inside the giant tree some really neat visual for tons of bunk beds manifest: “Bunk beds materialized from its hollow center, fanning out like the spokes of a giant wheel. Each row was stacked five beds high. And twisting down the center was a spiral staircase” (41).
And best of all, “[c]ookies, chocolates, and warm cocoa hovered in the air by each bed” (41). My child self says ‘yes and thank you’ for that after being scared. Heck, adult me would love a bed with such amenities in the winter in general.
As soon children and parents are settled, Ombric tells The Story of the Golden Age.
We learn that long ago “the universe was ruled by the Constellations – groups of stars and planets led by great, benevolent families who governed with imagination, fairness, and flair” (45). I want to take a moment to think about these traits. Cause they’re not good or wise or powerful.
The first trait is imagination, which means they had the ability to imagine, conjecture, and create fancies from their minds. I should probably say I love the idea of imagination – any wondrous idea in your head giving rise to a load of possibilities. If anything, I can see art and science overlapping when it comes to imagination. That should give some idea of what the Golden Age was like – technologically advanced and artistically beautiful.
The second trait is fairness, which indicates they fostered an even, fair manner for everyone. I don’t have much to say about this one, except I thought it was unique that they seemed to want to produce an unblemished, unbiased environment for those they governed.
The third trait is flair, which sounds like they had a sense of style and buoyancy. They weren’t stuffy; they were flexible, fun, and stylish, as well as perceptive with natural talents. This is also unique to me because it implies that the Constellations had style and talent with which to implement fairness and give birth to their imaginations.
Anyway, I think they sound like rather different rulers, rather than being simply supremely wise or good.
Of all the Constellation families, “the House Lunanoff was the most beloved” (45).
But despite their, and, in particular, Tsar and Tsarina Lunanoff’s, intentions, the “Seas of Space were rife with treacherous bands of outlaws: Fearlings, Nightmare Men, and Dream Pirates” (46). The one who aided in their capture and imprisonment was none other than Pitch himself — a great hero among the Constellations. It became his duty to guard the prison.
Unfortunately, through guile, the criminals got Pitch to open the prison door and they, in an instant, consumed him, transforming him into the Nightmare King.
Once consumed, Pitch set out to destroy all the good the Constellation (and he himself) have built “by turning all good dreams into nightmares” (49).
Let’s think about that for a minute. While people can dismiss nightmares as something to be overlook upon waking, imagine what it would be like if every time you slept, you only had nightmares?
He wouldn’t just be creating fear and possible sleep deprivation through attacking in a conventionally physical way, but he would be attacking a state of being. One which humans, at least, have no control over. When you’re dreaming and asleep, it’s not like you can fight against what happens. And that’s very unsettling idea when you consider it.
To emphasize what I mean, Pitch
“savagely [stole] every dream and replacing it with misery and despair. The dreams he hungered for most were those of children — the pure of heart. He could sense children from seven planets off, and with a mere touch of his hand, he could leave them plagued with nightmares for the rest of their lives. And for some there was a worse fate. Pitch turned some children into Fearlings, glorying in their pathetic moans and cries as he transformed them from humans to dark phantoms” (49).
That seriously freaked me out when I read it. Pitch’s whole approach is just based on enjoying others (especially children’s) misery.
Of all the Constellations, the Lunanoff House were his special targets, and he planned to turn their son into a Fearling Prince. Naturally, his parents did all they could to avoid Pitch, but he found them right above the Earth where they had gone to hide in their Moon Clipper ship which could transform into the Moon.
Pitch is defeated (the story doesn’t tell how just yet) and Lunanoff’s son becomes an orphan who grows up to be the Man in the Moon.
That’s the basic story, and I have a few thoughts about it (of course I do).
First is the Dream Pirates, Fearlings, and Nightmare men in their specific prison. Perhaps it’s the One Piece fan in me, but the descriptions of a prison of “lead in the farthest regions of space” where the Constellations “entombed the criminals of the cosmos in eternal shadow until they became little more than shadows” strikes me as a bit of a head scratcher (46).
On one hand, I get the feeling that these Dream Pirates and Fearlings were actually terribly dangerous. But was it right to imprison them? But if they were spreading terror, shouldn’t they be apprehended?
I suppose it boils down to who makes the rules for justice and/or imprisonment.
In One Piece, I think the Marines’ goal of justice is a fair point — after all, most pirates are terrible and should probably be apprehended. But that doesn’t dismantle the fact that ones making the World Government’s rules are elitist scumbags who deem themselves superior to everything else.
Here, it’s harder to make the argument that the Constellations are misguided because they honestly sound like pretty good rulers.
But is every criminal bad? After all, if being stuck in the Constellations prison turned them (further) into shadows, does that mean some were just misguided? Low level nastiness? Was there any kind of acknowledge of different levels of villainy or were they all just condemned at the same level of sentencing?
I’m going to contrast this to a character coming up next week. It might not be part of that post, but I’ll try to bring it up when it seems appropriate.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention — the idea of the Constellations, majestic dynasties in the stars, evokes a related childhood idea of my own. Just wanted to have a shout out to the remembrance it created.
“‘It can’t get out,’ Ombric assured them. ‘The glass is made from star sand, like the windows in Big Root'” (57).
Joyce, William and Laura Geringer. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. New York: Atheneum Books, 2011. Print.