The Thinking Quill

Buenos Dias!

It is indeed I, Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV, writer, agony aunt and astrologer to the famously credulous.  The renowned author of the speculative fiction classic ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’.

One had been racking one’s cranium for a topic for this week’s tutorial (yes, even I sometimes find inspiration needs to pursued vigorously), when a question from Claire prompted one to consider the vital importance of symbols and symbolism to those who would create literature.

Even that bastion of unthinking vulgarity, that outpost of alien mindset, that epitome of hard-handed hard-headedness, that creature one calls Mater has in the recesses of her underused and underdeveloped brain a vestigial understanding of the importance of symbols. Only last week, she was watching some interminably boring panel programme sur le téléviseur, upon which the current Archbishop of somewhere was being castigated about yet another cover-up of ecclesiastical child abuse. Mater looked across the room at me and smiled a twisted smile.

“Moons,” she said a thought sadly. “Moons. If that churchman was to have worn his episcopal regalia, instead of sitting there like a mouse in a poorly fitting lounge suit, I reckon most of them oiks would’ve been a lot more respectful. It’s the symbols of office doncha know.” Then she refilled her gin and Guinness and no more was said.

But that brief moment of lucidity is proof, if proof were needed that the power of symbols reaches deep into the psyche – even of those as sunk into alcoholism and depravity as one’s unlovely parent.

However. En avant.

Lesson 30: The Write Symbols

When one seeks to create literary magic one needs many tools at one’s disposal. Not the least of which is the noble quest. A device by which your hero may be dispatched wherever your imagination chooses in search of some artefact or some creature without which the story can progress no further. But what does that have to do with symbols, do I hear you cry? Yes, of course, I do as your tiny crania cannot hope to make the leaps of understanding that come to one’s mind as easily and gently as a bluebottle lands on a plate of rotting meat.

Of course, the noble quest is to do with symbolism. It is one of the most symbolic of all the storylines.

First. The quest itself is a metaphor (or symbol) for the struggles that beset all humans from cradle to grave.

Second. Your hero’s solid helpmeet – uplifted from the lower orders to become his right hand – is symbolic of the common clay’s need for a god to worship and of the need gods have for worshippers.

Third. Whatever or whoever is searched for, the vicissitudes of the search are the symbolic harbingers of events in human life which must be overcome with stoicism and bravery. Tempting though hysteria and Tia Maria may be.

And finally. That which is sought is the most powerful symbol of all. It symbolises human love and human endeavour. It shows us the beauty that may be found in the depths of the human soul as we try ever harder and climb ever higher in our quest for perfect beauty.

Some common symbols explained
The dragon. Strength, coldness, avarice, and sex.
The virgin. Unattainability, truth, and the desire for sex.  
Water to cross. The struggle to be loved, and the desire for sex.
A cup or grail. The thirst for knowledge, and the desire for sex.
A dove. Hope and sex.
A raven. Despair and sex.
A knife. Cutting the thread that binds a child to its mother, or sex.

One could continue almost infinitely, but I am sure you are following by now.

So, my bambinos, choose your symbols with care and write them with delicacy.

Until next. Do not have nightmares and ecrit bon.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

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