Thursday, August 9, 2012

Magical Contracts

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between the main character in a novel and the problem that she solves. In some books, the protagonist solves a problem of his own creation. In others, the main character is tied to the problem by a magical contract.

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo must carry the ring to Mordor because he cannot bear to give it away. The ring’s power over Frodo seals the magical contract. 

Harry Potter is compelled to destroy Lord Voldemort. The Prophesy said, “Neither can live while the other survives,” but the true magical contract involves the horcruxes. Harry harbors a fragment of Voldemort’s soul, and he must get rid of it before he can rid the world of Voldemort.

Sometimes the contract is inherited. In Holes, Stanley’s magical contract was arranged by his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather” who reneged on a promise and started generations of bad luck. When Stanley carries Zero up the mountain, he fulfills the promise and lifts the curse.

In The Iliad and The Odyssey, the magical contract is the marriage contract. Helen abandons her husband and thus launches a thousand ships. Odysseus is determined to return to his wife, in spite of the obstacles the gods place in his way. When he returns to Greece, only he can draw the bow and free Penelope from the suitors.

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