Befriending Griselda

It’s not just tusked lions, witches and battle-scavengers that Meylyne and her friends must face if they are to succeed on their journey. They must also overcome their “Griselda moments” as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used to call them – moments of fear, sadness, jealousy, etc. This series explores the friends’ Griselda moments. These moments show up in every hero’s journey – most likely yours too. Read on and see for yourself but don’t read beyond the chapter you’re up to – these articles may contain spoilers!

Chapter 19: If There Be Thorns

We learn a great deal from our parents. When you are little, you learn how to say words, to read, and even to walk with their guidance. As you get older, your parents continue to teach you many things like how to ride a bike or even when to say please and thank you. In between, there are many lessons they unknowingly give you as well that shape who you become. While following your parent’s actions can be helpful, it’s also important to be mindful of these behaviors.

Can you think of some habits you’ve picked up from your parents?

In chapter 19, Meylyne learns who her enemy, the Thorn Queen, is. This discovery comes as a huge shock to her. She also learns about the Thorn Queen’s secret family history. When we look at the Thorn Queen’s past, we can see the hurt caused by her parent’s betrayal. It’s a natural instinct for parents to take care of their children and protect them. Their betrayal of their daughter is unnatural and causes a rift in their relationship. Instead of growing up in a loving and supportive home, the Thorn Queen had the opposite experience. She was traded around by her parents, the Snake People, and even by Meylyne’s father.


Time To Move On?

My next blog article is going to follow a different format than the others, as it is based one of my reader’s personal challenges vs one of Meylyne’s challenges. In my last blog article, I showed you how my three personas (Francesca, Eva and Kathryn) viewed Meylyne’s inner conflict around confronting the Thorn Queen. In this article, I’ll show you how Francesca, Eva and Kathryn view my reader’s conflict involving one of her best friends.

Dear Francevka,

 I have a very close friend. We’ve known each other for years and we’ve always hung out together a lot but lately it seems like we don’t want to do the same things. Then, when we’re with other people, I feel like she treats them better than me. Because of all this, I don’t want to spend as much time with her, but then I feel bad because she gets upset. What should I do?


 Hannah (not her real name)

Francesca; That sounds conflicting. I’m sorry you’re going through this! Have you tried talking to her about how you feel? With regards to you two not wanting to do the same things any more, there may be some middle-ground areas than you haven’t explored yet. As for her treating others better than you, she may just be getting back at you if she senses that you’re pulling away from her. I think would be good for you two to talk about this.

Kathryn; I think it would be good for her to make new friends. She’s allowed to move on, you know.

Eva; Of course she’s allowed to move on, but we don’t live in a disposable world, Kathryn. You should try to fix something before you throw it away!


Chapter 18: Doing it My Way

In the last blog article, I talked about the importance of tolerating ambiguity. Personally, I’ve always found it quite easy to accept multiple viewpoints—perhaps because I have three different personas living inside me, influencing my thoughts! Personas are aspects of your personality. I have named mine Francesca, Eva and Kathryn, and in this next blog article, I am going to show you how these three view a situation that Meylyne faces in chapter 18.

In chapter 18, Meylyne insists on confronting the Thorn Queen by herself. The reason she gives her friends for this is more complicated than she lets on. If Meylyne wrote to my three personas (whom I’ve clumped together under the name “Francevka”) to discuss this, here’s how the conversation would go;

Dear Francevka,

I have so many doubts about my decision to confront the Thorn Queen by myself. What I said is true— I am afraid that if I try to invisiblize my friends, I won’t be able to un-invisiblize them. Plus they can’t do sorcery so they’ll be in more danger than I will. But deep down, the main reason I want to go by myself is that I just want to do it my way. If my friends come, they might take over and tell me what to do, just like people have done my whole life. What if I’m the only one that can get this right? (Other than my mother, that is.) On the other hand, I’m scared and I want my friends with me. What should I do?



Francesca; It’s understandable that you’d want your friends with you at a time like this—and it’s an opportunity to open up and let them help you…

Kathryn; Oh, please. And get themselves killed? She has to do it by herself. She’s right—she’s the only one that can get this right!

Eva; Stop bossing everyone around, Kathryn. I happen to agree with you—it would be easiest to do it by herself—but you don’t know everything, you know. And maybe Meylyne wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if she trusted others to help her. You are such a control freak.


Chapter 17: When Your World Tilts

In this chapter, Meylyne learns that the Tusked-Lions—creatures she has always feared—are not the savages she was brought up to believe. If anything, the royals are the ones at fault with all their secret-keeping and suppression of those that threaten them. Meylyne takes the knowledge in stride, saying,

“I’m starting to think anything is possible.”

This is a key attribute in any Hero’s Journey—the hero’s ability to learn and grow with experience. The hero then returns to their “ordinary world,” armed with knowledge that they use to better their world.

For most of us, however, un-learning previously-held beliefs is hard to do. As young children, we absorb information like sponges. The lessons we learn from our parents, their friends and our teachers are presented to us as the truth, and we take it at face value. As we get older, we learn to form our own opinions but still some of those early lessons are difficult to dislodge. Even when we think we’ve unlearned them, they linger in our unconscious. It’s altogether possible that if Meylyne ever makes it back home, and tells people how good and wise the Tusked-Lions are, no one will believe her.

“Why should we?” they might say. “We haven’t had your experience.”

True. But they have never experienced the Tusked-Lions at all. Every belief they hold about them, they’ve learned from hearsay! They could be open to the new information, but instead they stick with what they first learned.

In part, this is because most people don’t like ambiguity. It’s easier to think of issues as black or white, with no pesky shades of gray. For example, if a man robs a store of a loaf of bread, it’s easy to say, “he’s bad.” But what if you learn that he has a sick, starving child at home and his child needs the bread to live? Is he still bad?


Chapter 16: When Your Castle is a Prison

“Don’t think that because your prison is a castle, it’s any less of a prison.”

I read this writing prompt the other day and I loved it! As a theme, it shows up in many stories, movies, fairy tales and poems. In modern stories, it often shows up as the trappings of power—like when Spiderman says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” You might think it would be cool to have super-powers, but think of the expectations placed upon you! For many of us, this responsibility looks scary, so we avoid it.

For some, however, avoiding responsibility isn’t in the cards. Take Meylyne, for example. In this chapter, she reveals the secret she has taken pains to hide her entire life. She has always believed that she is a freak for this secret (and for her alchemical powers) but to her surprise, those around her are impressed by them, not disgusted! Still, she doesn’t believe them. Not only because she can’t accept the piece of her that makes her feel so different from the others, but also because she’s afraid of the responsibility that comes with these powers. She has spent her whole life hiding in her brilliant mother’s shadow. I suspect she’s quite comfortable there! Now she’s the one to whom others are looking to defeat the Thorn Queen and save Glendoch from falling into shadow, and she’s terrified that she’s not up to it.


Chapter 15: Overcoming Shadows – Part Three

In the first two parts of this article I talked about the importance of overcoming the shadow, and using affirmations to achieve your goals. Now I want to talk about the importance of understanding the intentions behind our goals. Consider the following;

“Shivering but rapturous, the warrior stood in the snow on a wind-beaten path in the Alps. His olive skin was chapped and his eyes were watery from the icy wind. But he felt no discomfort. As he looked across the white peaks, he saw faint green plains in the distance. Those plains were Italy, and the twenty-nine year-old warrior, named Hannibal, had been dreaming about this moment since he was nine years old.”

These are the opening lines from one of my favorite books, called HANNIBAL AND ME.  Hannibal was an amazing military leader who, at the insanely young age of 29 had already almost achieved a lifelong goal of conquering Rome. He led battles resulting in the death of one in four Romans. Many Italian cities switched sides, swearing their allegiance to him. All that had to happen for his success to be complete was for Rome to surrender to him. And that, it seemed, was his ultimate goal.

But what was the intention behind Hannibal’s goal of conquering Rome?


Chapter 15: Overcoming Shadows – Part Two

Katie,* just turned ten, sits in the audience, her hands cold with sweat. When her name is called, she hurries toward the piano. Her mind is a blank—her focus solely on getting through her piece as quickly as possible. Opening her music book, she puts her fingers on the keys and they begin to fly. Somehow, they make no mistakes and before she knows it she has finished! She turns, beaming at the audience as they applaud.

A few children later, it is Jonathan’s* turn to play a piece on his violin. He is in Katie’s grade. She has never heard him play but she’s heard from his teacher that he’s very good. The minute his bow touches the strings however, he goes too fast. The violin squawks and screeches. He stops playing half-way through his piece, red-faced and shaking as he returns to his seat. It is obvious he is mortified by how badly he did. Katie feels bad for him. He must know the piece inside out, so what happened?

It’s possible that his shadow had something to do with it.


Chapter 15: Overcoming Shadows – Part One

“Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” – Jung.

I love this quote by Carl Jung in which he addresses the importance of knowing yourself in order to have a fulfilling life. In the Hero’s Journey, the Hero (or Heroine, in Meylyne’s case), has to overcome myriad external obstacles (demons, curses, hurricanes, etc.) in order to reach their destination. But often those external obstacles are not nearly as tricky as the internal obstacles they have to overcome, such as fear, jealousy, a lack of self-worth and so on. For these latter obstacles, it is essential to face up to one’s personal demons and that is a lot easier said than done!

Carl Jung said that we all have a shadow—a part of ourselves that we refuse to accept. Often this is because we are ashamed of it. Maybe it’s a longing to be adored by our peers or family. Maybe it’s a desire for revenge. In fairy-tales, the shadow is often represented by the ugly crone that does not get invited to the party, so she places a curse on the parties’ hosts, like in Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast.

Similarly, when we refuse to accept our shadow … refuse to invite a part of ourselves to the party that is our life, our shadow curses us. This usually shows up in bad, self-destructive behaviors like deliberately doing badly in school, bullying, smoking, vandalism and so on. Do you know anyone like this?


Chapter 14: Why we can’t help but look those gift-horses in the mouth.

In this chapter, Grimorex offers Queen Scarlet the gift of Meylyne’s alchemy and she asks what he wants in return adding, “this sort of generosity rarely comes without strings attached.” In this case it is normal for Grimorex to bargain with the lions in this way, but do you think that expectation happens in other situations too? If you give your friend a gift, or do your friend a favor, do you expect something back in return?

You might say no—that generosity with strings attached isn’t generosity at all—it’s a debt. I had a friend once who, when we fought, used to bring up all the favors she did for me to illustrate how I was a bad friend. “I did this for you and I did that for you,” she would fume. I remember thinking afterward, “if I’d known your friendship would come at such a price, I never would have accepted it in the first place.”

As my resentment grew, I reciprocated with list of my own—all the acts of friendship I’d done for her that she had failed to appreciate.

In other words, we both turned our relationship a scorecard.


Chapter 10: When It’s Okay To Take Your Eye Off The Ball

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “keep your eye on the ball.” In sports, it tends to mean exactly that—keep your eye on the ball! Outside of sports, it’s a metaphor for staying focused on your goal or task and not on the myriad distractions bombarding you.

Generally it’s an excellent rule of thumb to follow. But let’s say another, equally important ball bounces into the picture. Which ball do you keep your eye on?

Meylyne faces this dilemma in this chapter. Up until now, her goal (aka her ball) has been to find a cure for Prince Piam so that she may return home. But when she discovers that Glendoch’s guardian has been poisoned, her friends are convinced that they must abandon their search for Piam’s cure to find a cure for the guardian instead. Meylyne is torn. Piam’s cure has been the object of her desire for so long that it’s hard for her to switch tracks.

At this point, she could dig in her heels and say, “No—we came on this journey to find a cure for Prince Piam and we must finish what we started.” I don’t think she could be blamed for wanting to stay her course. She’d be keeping her eye on the ball, right? (more…)



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