From: Bunny Batzri
Subject: The Dance of Hours.
Today's question comes from ALESSANDRA TRENT, recently of Widderweary but currently of Eildon, who asks:
"Hey, Bunny, you're the Queen of the Internet (...) I was wondering if you knew anything about the Dance of Hours."
Let this be a lesson to you, kids: flattery will get you EVERYWHERE. Annnyway...
The Dance of Hours is the story of one celebration held on the edge of Arcadia in the days just before the Sundering. Over the course of the celebration, a lot of things go wrong, a lot of people die, and three unidentified virtues are lost to the denizens of the castle where the celebration was held, presumably forever. It's not a cheerful story; it's closer to Poe or King than Disney or Dreamworks. And unlike most stories set in magical kingdoms and centering on secret plots to undermine the throne, it ends badly. There are no known versions of the story that have what can be considered a genuinely 'happy ending'.
It's also an almost exclusively fae story. While some mortal versions have arisen, they're pale little things, and they never caught on with any real success. This is a story that we alone seem bent on maintaining, for whatever reason.
The biggest controversy relating to the Dance is basically this: is it a legend, a parable, or a fairy tale? (This is the part where half my readers go 'huh?', but bear with me for a second.) A fairy tale is something invented. Linda Degh calls it 'a magic story which cannot be true'. A parable is a short moral story, sometimes built around a grain of truth, but more frequently designed to provide a quick, easily digested moral message -- in this case, the moral might be 'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions'. And a legend is something that we can't prove or disprove, but which may well -- like Arthur and his Knights, like Robin Hood and his outlaws -- have grown up from the distorted retellings of a genuine event. If the Dance is a fairy tale or a parable, we can dismiss it. If it's a legend...
Well, if it's a legend, it may be a distorted look at fae history. And maybe it can tell us what went wrong.
The basic structure of the Dance is this: the inhabitants of a castle at the edge of the mortal and fae worlds find out that the Sundering is on the way, and decide to have a big-ass party to celebrate the fact that their world is ending. A character they call 'the Fool' is put in charge of preparing the celebration, and he does so. But there's a man they call the False Lord who wants them to rage, rage against the dying of the light, and he subverts several characters to help him change the dance, so that the Sundering won't happen. (Why it's the BAD guys who want to prevent the Sundering is never entirely clear, but our sympathies are definitely not meant to lie with the False Lord.) This subversion includes, among other things, murder, mayhem, and making a play for the virtues -- whatever those are meant to represent.
The Lady of Sorrows (our heroine, if we have one) goes under the False Lord's nose, freeing the virtues to prevent him from harming them. In the end, pretty much everybody dies, no one's happy, the Sundering comes, the end.
Great bedtime story, huh?
Adding to the confusion of the Dance, you have the fact that at some point -- either before the real-world celebration, according to the legend-makers, or sometime in the past several centuries, according to the fairy tale camp -- someone actually went back and wrote the music for the Dance...which was supposedly a whole day and night in length. Twenty-four hours worth of orchestral music, written either for a real event that went sour, or because someone was epic in their boredom. I don't have access to any of the music, but a few inquiries with musical acquaintances of mine confirmed that a) it's old, b) it's complicated, and c) it's a work of musical genius. Even if it was written long after the story, it's still complex enough to be someone's masterpiece. My hat is off to you, long-dead composer-guy.
Hope that answers your question, Alessandra. If not, let me know, and I'll try to help.
C'mon, SOMEONE had to say it!