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Copyright 2001 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Is Aranur Dead?  and
Why Did Aranur Have to Die?

Why did Aranur have to die?  Is Aranur really dead?  I keep getting these questions from readers.  

There are two answers to these questions.  The first answer is really about philosophy and life.  The second is the story-answer, and you can find that yourself in Wolf's Bane or in Silver Moons, Black Steel, Aranur's story.

First, I am a storyteller, but my stories are reflections of my life.  Because of this, my stories sometimes deal with issues and events that are painful.  A reader recently asked me if, in my stories, the only way a person can learn or move on is through death.  But I don't interpret it that way.  What I feel is that life and death are intertwined.  You cannot live until you die.

You can exist, yes.  You can claim that you appreciate what you have and what you are, yes.  But you cannot truly live until you have faced the loss of that life--the cessation of your self, so that you understand the extent and boundaries of life.  In the same manner, you do not truly understand what a future is until you lose it.  Wolf's Bane is an outgrowth of all of this.  Dion is not me; I am not Dion.  But the expression of grief, the conflict between life and death, the resolution of or the decision to continue living--those issues are real.

My stories can be read, on one level, as simple adventure stories.  I suspect that most people read them simply for that.  However, I have always tried to avoid trivializing violence, grief, and the achievement of goals.  Because of this, those aspects of my stories which deal with violence (Cat Scratch Fever - enslavement;  Cataract - loss/slavery;  Storm Runner - obligation and tyranny; etc.) are often raw and real--not because I like raw violence, but because I don't want to walk away thinking that violence is easy, that it is painless, or that it won't affect you when you encounter it.  I want to remember that violence is usually terrifying and horrible and should be a last resort, not one's first or favorite reaction.

Many novels and media stories trivialize pain, suffering and death.  I realize that most readers don't care about this--that they read for enjoyment and escape, and they that do not want to encounter real descriptions of such things.  However, I do not write strictly for enjoyment and escape.  I write because it is an expression of who I am.  And I cannot allow these things--pain, suffering--to become just glib phrases on a piece of paper.  They are real.  People are real.  And those people should matter, not just those trivial words.  The actions and intentions of a person are the things that makes the difference, not just some slickly described image packaged so attractively with the latest media techniques.

In Wolf's Bane, the message to you, the reader, is not one of despair, although the despair described in the story--like the grief--is real.  The real message is one of surmounting despair---of facing despair and of finding a way through or around it.  It may be that I have described the grief and despair too realistically, and so it is difficult for readers to get beyond it--just as Dion struggles with getting beyond it--to realize that there can still be a future for her and her family.

So the answer is really that the people in my stories have found that they can set goals and surmount many obstacles--only some as great as death, to achieve their goals, to make their worlds better places.  Dion's tragic flaw (in the classic sense of the phrase) should not prevent you from also seeing her strength, integrity, and will--and also from seeing those things in the other characters as well.

However, there is another answer, and it is this:

I feel that I am always seeking the essence of the answers to my own questions.  That essence often seems to come down to this:  in the end, when the issue has been distilled to a black or white, yes or no, bottom-line question, what do you choose?   Are you willing to risk your beliefs, your comfort, your safety--even your life--to choose the ethical path over the comfortable?  Which is more important:  to do the right thing and die, or to live the lie of comfort--to hide behind the falsehood of untested integrity?  Can you live with the real you if you do not help protect those who cannot protect themselves, or do you blind yourself with selfishness and place yourself out of danger, behind the strength of others?  Is it better to insist on self-righteous beliefs, or to acknowledge Chance, which makes us so disparate, and Humanity, which makes us all so similar?  To acknowledge that, if you will not personally fix the problem, that you will at least choose so that the greatest good can be achieved by others?  To strive for the impossible goal--to reach for a dream, or to make excuses for one's failings and fear?  And to live fully with every moment--even if that includes facing death, or to live without passion at all?

You cannot be as active as Dion and Aranur without encountering death.  You cannot spend so many years courting violence and danger without those things touching you.  Dion's great flaw is that she does not know how to live outside of that environment, and so her best efforts to avoid danger and violence are ironically the same efforts that put her family into danger.  She lives in a world in which she cannot escape such things, and if she draws her family into that world with her, they will also pay the price of that life.  Dion, with her upbringing, her skills, her ability to heal herself, and the advantage of a wolf to warn her of some types of danger--Dion has been able to survive where others have died.  She has forgotten how different she is from others--her family and friends, and in that difference lies their danger.

It is Noriana, the daughter of Dion and Aranur, who is the balancing of the greatness and flaws of both characters;  and it is in Noriana's stories that I find the true happiness of Dion and Aranur.  Dion and Aranur do not abandon their beliefs or change themselves in order to raise this child, so much as they finally recognize how to live with their failings and create the the better world for Noriana.

Why did Aranur have to die?  Is Aranur really dead?  All I will say is that the epilog in Wolf's Bane, as well as the packsongs throughout the story, provide several hints about his fall from the seawall.  The conflicts behind those questions began before Aranur was born, and they touch on the goals of Ramaj Ariye--whether it is better for humans to reach for the stars and again risk the alien death, or better to turn their gazes to the ground, build a culture strong enough to withstand the aliens who share the planet, and live as best they can on the world on which they are trapped.  Aranur has been emboiled in this conflict since birth.  His world will not allow him to escape that struggle, just as the wolves will not allow him to leave Ember Dione, his beloved.  Aranur did not die to illustrate a point for Dion.  What he did and what he becomes are as entwined with the wolves as is Dion.

If you want to know what happens next,
read Silver Moons, Black Steel, available now!

Copyright 2001 Tara K. Harper
All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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