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Author Topic: PC270: The Secret of Calling Rabbits  (Read 3182 times)
Talia
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« on: July 24, 2013, 01:19:57 PM »

PodCastle 270: The Secret of Calling Rabbits

by Wendy Wagner.

Read by John Meagher. For more of John’s narrations try his Tales of the Left Hand saga.

Originally appeared in The Way of the Wizard, edited by John Joseph Adams.

The breeze shifted as Rugel ran, and he caught a scent upon it, sweet and strong, a scent that reached into the depths of his memories and twanged them. He lost his footing at the power of it, and
he threw himself into a bush beside the path, gasping. He preferred running to hiding, but he couldn’t run with that scent thickening the air.

His pursuer shouted again. “Wait! Show me how you did that!” Her voice distracted him from the smell of the past; it focused his mind on the pressing problem of survival. He should have never
come back to this place.

She came closer, and Rugel peeked out at the little girl in the path. At his eye level, her knees, bared by her too-short shift, were scabbed and grass stained as she spun a slow searching
circle. The little man–no, _dwarf_, although “dwarf” was a generous measure of someone his size–crouched further down inside the currant bush. He had a gift for going unseen. Perhaps the girl would lose sight of him.

“Please!” She stopped in front of the bush, picking out his gnarled face from the tangle of undergrowth. “I saw you call the rabbit.”

Rugel cursed to himself. He should never have summoned the hare, or at least if he called it, he ought to have killed it. Now he’d go hungry, and this Big creature had seen him.

But it was a child Big, he thought with a measure of hope, and children were easily scared.

“Go away!” he growled.

She stood solid, brown eyes fierce.

He tried again. “I’ll kill ya!”

Her lip trembled, but not much.


Rated R for violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 08:34:30 AM by Talia » Logged
ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2013, 01:17:30 PM »

I am the king under the mountain (oddly appropriate for this story), and I have returned!

And also this is the first post on this thread.

So... I have mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, it was very well-written. I enjoyed and was sympathetic towards both of the main characters - the sad nomadic dwarf, the curious little witch-girl. The craft and the pacing were both very well done. I always appreciate a story where doing the right thing leads characters to rewards that they didn't even dream of.

On the other hand, this story tripped on one of my personal pet peeves. I have very little patience for content-free conflicts. If your villain is going to be a force of nature - ruthless and merciless and implacable - then you damned well better make it worth it! I expect pillars of ultra-violet death-force, burning disembodied eyes, the very idea of evil given form and will. If your villain is going to be a person - and Rachel's people were definitely people - then you have got to explain their motivations in ways that make sense.

"They thought we were stealing their luck" just doesn't cut it. Who thinks things like that? Where does it come from? Even the most basic and absurd human stereotypes are based on some kind of truth, even if it's a highly biased truth with serious sampling errors. I'm quite certain that even a primitive tribe of humans wouldn't massacre a bunch of dwarves for absolutely no good reason.

So, that took me out of the story.

But did it overall, overshadow the story? I don't think so. If this had been a novel and the content-free conflict between humans and dwarves been part of the blurb, I probably would have passed on it. But it was a short story, and I enjoyed it well enough for the time it took. I give it three, tiny, magical zeppelins (out of five).

Before I hit "Post" I want to say to Dave: Tirion is not a dwarf. I mean, he's not a Dwarf dwarf. He's tiny deformed human. In a human-only context you can call him a dwarf, but if we're talking about Dwarves, he's not a dwarf. Let me put it this way: in a world with humans and elves, if there was an elf born with a deformity that made him ugly and cost him his magical abilities, would he be a human? No! He'd be a screwed up elf! And the humans would probably be offended at the comparison.

Hey, that's an idea...
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Moritz
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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2013, 12:28:36 AM »

I loved the story, because I am fond of more fairy-tale like fantasy compared to the Tolkienesque. I'll say more about this later. I didn't see the problem that ElectricPaladin had, but maybe that was because I was listening to it at 2AM. What I remember is that the humans were harvesting the mandrake for the various magical properties it had.

The whole thing reminded me a lot of Peter S. Beagle's work, especially the whole waning of magic motif. Which brings me to David's introduction. The dwarves - apart from Tyrion who isn't a fantasy dwarf - he mentions are all Tolkien style dwarves: small, sturdy bearded men who are good at crafts etc. From my childhood, I also remember a different kind of dwarf. In Central and Northern European folklore, there is kind of a continuum between creatures like brownies and dwarfs. In Grimm's collection of stories, there are dwarves with magical powers, evil dwarves, dwarves children would be afraid of. Dwarves would cover their feet because they had claws etc. This is what this week's story reminded me of, not the axe-wielding little warrior I know from Lord of the Rings, Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons and so on.
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jpv
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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2013, 05:44:36 PM »

Overall, I liked it.

I agree with ElectricPaladin that the humans in the story were a faceless mass with no real clear motivations which I didn't much care for. After all, the little girl seemed fine enough and I would bet that the witch was more in tune with the older things in the world. So what about everyone else? Is it supposed to be a tale about how humanity is just rotten that way?

I did like the hints at the magic system. Gaining power by tying yourself to the earth? That's neat. I would have liked a bit more, but I always want more of a decent magic system. Smiley It was a good amount of information for the short story format.

On another note, the connections between the mandrake roots and the dwarves was a nice touch. I didn't really pay much attention until the very end (and it was hard not to then), but I liked it. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a sad or happy thought though. On one hand, his family lives on (more or less). On the other, there goes the last dwarf...

Speaking of which, I'm not a fan of 'last of' stories. It's just so hard to believe that you're really ever the last of anything, particularly for so long as he was. One of the last few? Perhaps. But last? Meh. Although I guess the implication later in the story was that he may just have been the last one in the area.
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2013, 12:14:45 PM »

Didn't really like this one. It had one too many tropes that I don't really like (innocent little girl who just wants to be friends, last-of-his-kind old curmudgeon whose heart of stone is melted by said little girl, big bad humans who are the real monsters, wise old witch lady) and although the writing itself was good, I just couldn't get into it. For me, it felt like a rather forced tromp to the "aha" moment of the secret of the mandrakes. I though that twist in itself was clever, just didn't particularly enjoy the journey there.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2013, 06:43:50 PM »

I'm not sure, from the narration, if Rugal is dead or not.

I was also put in mind of the story of Ishi, the last Yahi. It is possible to be last.


"They thought we were stealing their luck" just doesn't cut it. Who thinks things like that? Where does it come from? Even the most basic and absurd human stereotypes are based on some kind of truth, even if it's a highly biased truth with serious sampling errors. I'm quite certain that even a primitive tribe of humans wouldn't massacre a bunch of dwarves for absolutely no good reason.


I disagree. Many cultures have concepts of "stealing luck", and I can see a tribe of humans - primitive or otherwise - slaughtering what they don't understand.
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Cynandre
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2013, 02:00:19 AM »

This one made me cry a little. It touched the Outsider in me.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2013, 10:36:04 AM »

I'm not sure, from the narration, if Rugal is dead or not.

I was also put in mind of the story of Ishi, the last Yahi. It is possible to be last.


"They thought we were stealing their luck" just doesn't cut it. Who thinks things like that? Where does it come from? Even the most basic and absurd human stereotypes are based on some kind of truth, even if it's a highly biased truth with serious sampling errors. I'm quite certain that even a primitive tribe of humans wouldn't massacre a bunch of dwarves for absolutely no good reason.


I disagree. Many cultures have concepts of "stealing luck", and I can see a tribe of humans - primitive or otherwise - slaughtering what they don't understand.

You know the thing that occurs in my brain in reading these comments and listening to the the story is some the atrocities commited by our U.S. Soldiers during the Vietnam War. Some cut off the ears and toes of the enemey and wore them as badges of pride. I am not sure they were good luck charms but they were something.

However, to me, the violence in this story was out of place in what was otherwise a very heartfelt and moving piece.
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2013, 04:33:50 PM »

While I loved the magic system, I also felt like every point was made multiple times, such that it seemed less like I was being told a story and more like I was being repeatedly slapped in the face with a wet moral.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 01:25:21 PM by Whiskerwing » Logged

Devoted135
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2013, 12:08:22 PM »

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, despite the fact that Tyrion is not a dwarf in the fantasy sense. Smiley John Meagher's narration was fantastic, and the story did an effective job at getting me right inside Rugel's head. I found him to be a very interesting point-of-view character.

There were a couple times when I wasn't sure why Rugel made the choices that he did though. For example, I really thought that he would use his magic to save the girl instead of carrying her into the village, and I'm still not sure why he didn't except that the story needed him to make that choice. I'm glad that becoming a mandrake at least seems like it was a pleasant end for him. Smiley


Edit: Was anyone else disappointed about the "secret" to calling rabbits? I was disappointed that there wasn't really anything to that part.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2013, 04:10:29 PM by Devoted135 » Logged
evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2013, 07:30:16 PM »


Edit: Was anyone else disappointed about the "secret" to calling rabbits? I was disappointed that there wasn't really anything to that part.

I was! It seemed really built up, what with being the title of the whole piece, and then, splat, it's actually kinda boring how easy it is.
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Mouseneb
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 07:56:41 AM »

Who's my favorite dwarf? First one that came to mind was Sneezy but then I felt a little silly when the Tolkein dwarves etc. were mentioned. Somehow Ms. White's seven seem somewhat less "real" but as they are all fictional after all, think I'll stick with Sneezy. He and I go way back.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2013, 01:16:21 PM »

"Our story is read to you by John Meagher"
And my brain tuned out the rest to go "John Meagher... John Meagher... where have I heard that name before? He's a good narrator, I can almost hear his voice in my... TALES OF THE LEFT HAND!"
It's an awesome series, I had started listening in the middle of the first book (I started from the beginning, while the first book was being podcast and very quickly caught up) and had thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great. The storytelling is brilliant, the characters are wonderful and the narration is truly top quality. Except... well, it took so long for book 3 to start being podcast (don't worry John! Good things come to those who wait, I can wait) that I had forgotten to look for it periodically. Thank you Dave for letting me know that the next book is out.

EDIT:
Our story, right. The thing with rabbits and mandrakes.
Tropey, but fun. I liked how the secret to rabbit calling is as simple as all that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll make like a tree and leave.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 01:18:16 PM by Max e^{i pi} » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2013, 12:36:50 PM »


Edit: Was anyone else disappointed about the "secret" to calling rabbits? I was disappointed that there wasn't really anything to that part.

I was! It seemed really built up, what with being the title of the whole piece, and then, splat, it's actually kinda boring how easy it is.

Easy if you can do magic.  Otherwise...ehhhhhhhh...not so much.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2013, 12:14:18 PM »

Errr-

It seemed a bit...foreshortened? Standing at the beginning of the story it seemed like you could see a beginning a middle and an end coming but when viewed from another angle (the end) there just wasn't any real meat in the middle.

 Like a part of a larger tale that couldn't fit in the novel but didn't quite stand alone and was sort of mashed up and prodded into this shape. But, like over-kneaded dough came out a bit flat after baking.

Help, I'm stuck on a metaphor and I want to get off.

If this had been presented in the context as the young girl as an old witchy woman telling a tale about the discovery of her powers and the way-back-when of it all, with the unreliability of the narrator being more obvious (old witchy woman telling just-so stories) then I would have somehow found it more palatable. As it was....it was sad, but not anchored enough in anything for me to get really worked up and involved. My reaction at the end was more "Huh? Really? Huh. Ok." Huh
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Talia
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« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2013, 09:54:02 PM »

I liked this one, though I found it very depressing. Sweet and simple. I don't care about tropes if I'm made to care about the characters enough, and this story did that for me (at least with Rugal).


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« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2013, 09:54:19 PM »

My left brain and right brain had different reactions to this.

Left brain: Yeah. Mandrake roots look like creepy midget people. Anybody who saw Pan's Labyrinth knows that ::eyeroll::. Right. Humans are exploitative inconsiderate jerks, except for the young ones who don't know any better. Old hat, man. Old hat. And while we're at it how about being consistent in your ideology?
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Right brain: Wow! This is just like Pan's Labyrinth from the mandrake root's perspective! What a unique take on the exploitative nature of humanity and how we struggle to preserve something of the culture of our childhood in the face of people in positions of power. And nothing ever changes. Life is a series of cycles, but yet there is something that lasts after all, isn't there?
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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quasidoza
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« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2013, 01:00:32 PM »

My favourite dwarf (that should so be a website btw) is my GF, who being a smidge under 4'10" qualifies - according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarfism

I was chasing her around the house for ages with a tape-measure when I read this, quick and violent little blighter that she is, in the end I had to sneak up on her and got a bruise for my trouble.  Cry

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« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2013, 08:37:13 AM »

This story was all right, but I agree with evergrn_monster that it did rely heavily on a lot of tropes.  It just felt too familiar in some ways.  Overall, not bad, though I did wonder how any of the dwarves had ever used magic enough to learn how to use it without finding themselves rooted.


I realize I'm not the first one but:  Tyrian is not a dwarf in the sense that the others mentioned are dwarves.  Although that does bring to mind another Peter Dinklage character from the movie "Elf" in which Buddy insists that the Dinklage character must be a Christmas elf because of his stature.  And then Dinklage's character beat the tar out of Buddy.
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