Moon and Unicorn

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Excerpt from

"Light and Shadow:

Origins and Symbolism of The Darkangel"

presented 6 March 1992 at the Florida Reading Association's Children's Literature Conference, Gainesville, Florida

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. . . In addition to mythology and fairy tales, another form of folklore--folksongs--can easily be spotted throughout The Darkangel and its sequels. The most important of these is the second of the three sources of which I had any conscious awareness while I was writing the initial story. It is the folksong "Silver Dagger." The words in part read:


"Don't sing love songs; you'll wake my mother.

She's sleeping here, right by my side,

And in her right hand, a silver dagger.

She says that I can't be your bride.



"All men are false, says my mother.

They'll tell you wicked, loving lies,

And the very next evening, they'll court another,

Leave you alone to pine and sigh.



"My daddy is a handsome devil.

He's got a chain five miles long,

And on every link, a heart does dangle,

Of another maid, he's loved and wronged."


Hearing that song as a very young child, I took it absolutely literally. I thought the narrator's father was actually a devil, who owned a chain five miles in length that had bloody hearts dangling all over it. Each belonged to a woman or a girl whom the demon had loved and therefore (by loving them) somehow--unspeakably--"wronged." The mother who slept with the silver dagger was even more terrifying. My father actually owned such a dagger, a Brazilian hunting knife with an elaborately figured handle and silver sheath. . . .

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This website is © 2 February 2003 by Meredith Ann Pierce