Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 42: An American Allegory

Chapter 42 begins with Ash and Holly bitching about Merry’s magic. They’re no longer standing in the field with all the dying Red Caps, but rather are in some new place, surrounded by standing stones and serene peacefulness. Merry tells them that she didn’t bring them to this place, but of course neither believe her and call her a liar.

Finally the Goddess appears and tells them that they’re in “a place between”. Instead of being awed by the Goddess, Ash threatens Merry, telling the Goddess that they will kill Merry unless they’re taken back to the field. Which is hilarious because it’s always Ash who wants the power and Holly who’s reluctant about it. The Goddess tells them that Merry is the key to them gaining more power, but who cares, right? Holly attacks.

Holly lunged toward the figure. A sword clanged down the length of his blade, pushing it against the grass, and a body was on the other end of that sword. He was tall and short, muscled and not, dark and light, all men and none. He had thrown off the cloak that they were to save our minds so that you simply had to see all the many forms at once. He stood bare in all his beauty and terror, for a long, muscled body can be just for pleasure, but that same muscled weight can thrust a sword and spill blood. He was the greatest of tenderness and the greatest of destruction all at once. The potential was all there in that swirl of images, shapes, scents, and sights.
He disarmed Holly, but he had to cut the goblin’s hand to do it. It spoke of Holly’s skill or the God’s impatience. His voice was deep and rumbling as gravel, and the next light and airy as any, all men echoed in his voice. “Who am I?”
Holly went to his knees with the sword point at his neck. “You are the God.”
“Who is my consort?”
“The Goddess,” Holly answered.

Another thing I’ve always disliked about this series is “The God” and “The Goddess”. They’re such fucking nothing characters who are supposedly pulling strings behind the scenes, but then when they show up they’re all OMG I’M POWER but no subsistence. They’re just major deus ex machinas who get Merry out of binds constantly. Also, “the” God and “the” Goddess is stupid and I hate it.

Ash and Holly begin arguing over whether or not they want sidhe power. Ash still does, but Holly is content to remain a goblin. There is a way to get the goblins back their power, and it all rests in what Merry desires. Merry is unsure – the goblin’s magic was taken from them by the sidhe in order to end the last war between the goblins and the sidhe. Merry asks the Goddess if she agreed with that decision, but the Goddess responds that no one even thought to ask them before it was done. Merry is still confused and isn’t sure what to do. If she allows the goblins back their power, they could easily overtake the sidhe. But it was wrong of the sidhe to take the goblin’s power in the first place.

“Would you give them their sidhe-side powers, daughter?” Now I was answering voices.
If I said no, would the Goddess retreat from me, from all my people again? I looked at Ash, and he would not look at me. I glanced in front of us at Holly. He was glaring at me. His face showed plainly that he thought I would deny them. But it wasn’t his anger that I saw, it was the reason behind the anger. Years of looking in the mirror, and seeing all that sidhe blood looking back at you, and knowing that you would forever be denied. It didn’t matter how sidhe you looked. If you had no magic, then you weren’t real to the sidhe. You were simply not one of them. I knew what that felt like, to be among them but not one of them. I looked less sidhe than the brothers did. At least they were tall, and until you saw their eyes they could have passed. I would never pass for pure-blooded sidhe, not with a thousand crowns on my head.
“Will you give them their birthright back?” the voices asked.
For politics, I should have said no. For the safety of my world, no. For the safety of everything we’d signed treaties for, no. But in the end, I gave the only answer that felt right. “I will.”

I really want to make a point about how it’s fairly obvious to me that there’s A LOT of symbolism here in regards to the goblins (black America) and the sidhe (white America), but I don’t want to give LKH that much credit. I really, really don’t think that’s what she intended back in the late 2000s when this was written/published. I think it’s definitely more a sign of the current race relations in America. However, I do think it’s pretty telling how deep down Merry knows the right thing to do is restore their power, but there’s layers of political nonsense covering that decision. It doesn’t make political sense for the goblins (blacks) to get their power back. It would be unsafe if the goblins (blacks) get their power back. Et cetera. However, Merry, being someone who has been treated as lesser by the sidhe her entire life, can relate, and knows that in order to make faerie a better world, she must do the right thing and get the goblins back their power.

I’m probably reading way too much into this than what the author intended, but with the insane injustices that black people face in their daily lives being at the forefront lately, and with the desire for change that many in America are seeking, it’s just a little something to think about.

So do your part and donate to groups trying to make things better.

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