Okay, so I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts about the works that inspired me the most when creating the characters and places in the world of Brave Albion. Since I’ve been mainly talking about characters recently, I figured I’d wrap up that theme today by talking about the character who was my initial inspiration for Áine: Tess Durbeyfield, who was the titular character of Thomas Hardy’s classic novella Tess of the D’Ubervilles.
If you haven’t read this novel, you really need to pick it up. It’s very short, but the main character is unforgettable and has some of the greatest quotes in classic literature. In my humble opinion, that is. During the time of its publication, the story was met with some controversy. In the late nineteenth century, the time when the story takes place, there was this shift in the role of agricultural workers and a crisis in the identity and value of noble bloodlines. The story spoke about these things, and in a way that most of the aristocracy at the time didn’t appreciate. Nevertheless, it’s become one of Hardy’s greatest works in recent years and gives us one of the best female protagonists in the world.
Tess is intelligent, passionate, and strikingly beautiful. But she is anything but a Mary Sue, or a model of perfection. In fact, there are those that believe she was the representation of original sin and the epitome of those who suffer for crimes that are not their own or out of their control. It is true that she is almost mythic in her role within the story. More than once she is referred to by the name of an ancient Greek goddess.
Tess was born to a farm family, long withdrawn from their supposed noble lineage. She works as a milkmaid, and a farmhand. But she isn’t content to this life, the way her parents were. No, her mind has been poisoned by the greatest disease of all. Dreams. And like any good dreamer, she reads and reads, hoping to understand more the nature of her disease, not realizing that books are simply adding to the poison in her veins. She is well-read, with an inquisitive mind. And when she discovers that she has nobility in her blood, she goes to work at the mansion of the D’Ubervilles, of which she is related. Her life is changed and she finds herself around the people her mind has always craved to be around. She is a thinker, a reader, and this is the group for which she was always meant.
In my story, Áine is the daughter of a Librarian. Librarians act as servants to the Emperor, and then to the nobility. As the House Librarian to Lord Caraway, he has the ability to read and is often sent to collect, find, and deliver certain novels. Librarians are discouraged from having children, but Áine and her brother were born before he took on the role. Understanding the beauty of books, he taught his children how to read. But it was his daughter who was the dreamer, and as I said before, books only further the poison of dreams. Infected in her heart and soul, she was addicted to reading, but in a world where that was a right only permitted to nobility and to Librarians.
She has been filling her mind with ideas and histories, stories and dreams, for most of her life. And much like Tess, it has given her an inquisitive mind and a longing heart. Also, much like Tess, she is extremely committed to her family. So, to keep them together, she must constantly hide the symptoms of a dreamer. She has learned never to ask too many questions, never to say words she shouldn’t know, never mention ideas that wouldn’t be natural for a girl of her position. Of course, as the story goes on, Áine differs much from the tale of Tess, but the heart is still there. She goes to live at a manor, she finds herself around nobility, and she discovers that it is nothing like what she may have imagined, though in ways that are very different than the story of Tess.
What great characters and novels inspired and influenced you in your books? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear them. Pick up a copy of Tess of the D’Ubervilles and give it a read sometime, as well. It’s a great story by a very talented writer. As always, thanks for reading.