Author Topic: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion  (Read 2668 times)

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« on: September 27, 2013, 08:25:07 AM »
There are two characters in this contest that I think we are intended to question.  However, in reading over my fellow reviewers' opinions, it seems that we've all been content to take one view or another without ever considering the opposite side.  I'd like to get a discussion going on this!  The two, in question, are Nyika and Istvan. 

Nyika first. 

Since the beginning, I feel like we've all pretty unquestionably accepted that she truly sees dead beasts.  Sure, it's a little strange, it sets her apart, and it isn't quite a part of the universe that's been created here, but it's happening, so it must be, right?  Right? 

I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

At multiple points throughout the story, there are hints of an alternate explanation.  In week 2's post, "Frozen Flame", it was pretty well hashed in the discussion forum that she could very well have known every bit of information she disclosed without having any special powers. 

In the Week 3 post "Nyikramancer in a Daydream", Clarence makes an appearance. Not only did Nyika meet Clarence when he lived, giving her prior information on his relationship with Goragula, but I noticed throughout the ghost's entire envolvement that he says virtually nothing but, "Kill the toad."  This might not seem strange, at first, but when you compare it to psychological symptoms of mental disorders, it takes on a different light.  Many people who have schizophrenia or bipolar I disorder describe hearing voices that "tell them to do bad things" (for example, "don't take your meds", "They're crazy, not you", "You should take that knife and stab yourself".)  These voices sound as real as any other, and if one is not aware that he or she is hallucinating, it can be impossible for them to tell the difference between what is real and what is in their mind.  To me, the content of Clarence's dialogue can be viewed two ways; either Nyika is truly seeing the ghost of Goragula's victim, who seeks vengeance even in death, or Nyika is just able to put together the pieces of what she knew of Clarence in life to try to use it against Goragula.  The fact that she sees and hears Clarence the entire time just convinces her that she is right. 

In the same post, Nyika encounters what appears to be the ghost of her mother.  But wait; this ghost is unlike any other.  Its form has changed to something gruesome and inconsistent with what Nyika knows of ghosts.  There is no explanation for this.  Unless, of course, Nyika is hallucinating... and there is no ghost at all.  In which case, her mind will probably fill in the blanks with an explanation that makes perfect sense to her and keep her from questioning the change. 

In the Week 4 post "Valley of Shadow", before Nyika ventures into the ghost town, she hears children's laughter. 

Quote
It was when the flames had died to embers and no light filtered through the cracked windows save for the stars and moon that Nyika heard the sound of children's laughter ringing in her ears.

I realize that it's used as a device to get her away from the main group, but there is no logical explanation for it - it really makes more sense as a hallucination.  What's more, the scene that follows with Effy and Effly, while charming and a favorite of mine, could go completely either way.  There are no witnesses and no prior knowledge of any of the stoats, so we can either choose to take Nyika's visions as truth, or, well, visions. 

In an excerpt from one of Zevka's posts, we see this exchange:

Quote
"Well," Nyika said, interrupting her thoughts. "There may be one…"

"One?"

"She comes and goes … never lingering long, but she always comes back. I can't tell who she is, or what she looks like. She doesn't want me to look at her and she keeps her distance, but when she's here she's always watching you."

Zevka's ears perked up in excitement, and before a more rational part of her mind could stop her, she blurted out "Who is it? Is it a really brawny stoat jill? Another pine marten? Or...could it be an elderly vixen? Please tell me, Nyika!" She winced a bit as she realized what she had done.

_Dammit, Zevka! Now you've given her all of this information! How will you know if she's really seeing them?

Nyika frowned. "I'm not sure, but she has always given me the sense of a rufescent wisp." Zevka's ears twitched and Nyika continued. "But as I said, she keeps her distance, and she does not like it when I try to look at her." She narrowed her eyes off in the distance, and smiled. "She could be a fox, with a big bushy tail?"

Zevka's eyes twinkled, and Nyika continued. "Is she an old friend? One who may have taken care of you?"

Notice that Nyika really doesn't offer any information here.  She does ask a lot of questions.  If this is her usual pattern for readings, then I'm not too surprised that the others question her abilities.  BUT, of course, we must keep in mind; if Nyika truly sees the dead, then she can only see what's there.  And I imagine that what lurks around isn't always the neat little package that the living want to hear about. 

Last, in her most recent post, "Mistress of Spirits", Risk makes an appearance after Nyika knocks Ruark unconscious.  She says nothing.  And yet, without any communication, Risk comes out with, "Cut him."  In other words, from my perspective, Risk has read her thoughts.  Or, you know, he's just incredibly intuitive.  Which is also a perfectly valid explanation. 

I'm really not trying to claim that one side or the other is the "right" side; I simply feel that this hasn't been argued enough here.  Let's change that, yeah?

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2013, 09:32:45 AM »
With that, let's get on to Istvan!  I feel that people have been even less vocal on this front, and frankly, I'm ready to get some of this off my chest. 

I seem to be within a minority that thinks Istvan is mentally unstable.  I would like to try to explain why.  First, I want to talk about cults. 

The defining characteristics of a cult, as obtained from this source:  http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

Quote
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

I think this one is pretty obvious. 

Quote
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

Some of you may not agree with me.  I think self injuring definitely counts.  It is even used (unhealthily, I want to emphasize) by those with mental illnesses to alter their mood.  Many people with PTSD have used it to stop flashbacks or dissociative episodes.  What's more, it becomes addictive over time, so what was once a coping method becomes a drug. 

Quote
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

It is not to the same extreme, but Istvan clearly has very strict ideals of how one should live.  He also ascribes to the idea that one's body does not belong to them, but to the Mother - something I am all too familiar with, I am sad to say.  It is a form of control through guilt ("why would you do something that could be harmful to your body when your body is not yours to harm?")  It's interesting to note, however, that self harm is just as dangerous, if not more so, than the activities that Istvan is against - again, something I'm familiar with.  Cognitive dissonance at its best.

Quote
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

The All Mother is the ONLY true goddess.  Istvan's religion is the only true religion.  Istvan also appears to be the only true priest...

Quote
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

Being that it's really a group of one (two?) at this point, this is more subtle.  Istvan is very careful to set himself a part.  He does not wish to blend in.  He wants to be different, possibly so that others will ask questions and he can convert them. 

Quote
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

I think this is less prevalent.  Istvan at least seems less corrupt than the leaders I dealt with. 

Quote
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

This is part of why I was so happy with the end of Istvan's last post.  Up 'til now, he has very much been in the mindset of, "The Mother's will must be done at any cost".  It's awesome to see him question that and realize that Nyika's life is more important to him.

Quote
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

Remember that whole exchange with Poko?  Where he "persuaded" her to sacrifice for her "sins"?

Quote
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

Again, since Istvan's group is so miniscule, there's no way of knowing.  I would assume that he would command his followers to cast off their old ways/friends/lives, though.

Quote
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Istvan's crippling fear of a life without his religion is what keeps him grounded.  To question is to invite change, and change is terrifying.  What if there IS no purpose to his life?  What if he is not special?  What if he is just like everyone else? 

(continued)

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2013, 09:36:41 AM »
Which brings me to: even with all of that, why would I feel that Istvan is mentally unstable?

Plenty of people are drawn to cults.  But they have one thing in common; whether it be financial problems, health problems, mental health problems, family problems, etc, they are struggling in one or more areas of life.  They want an answer.  They want to feel accepted and safe.  And cults offer all of that.  "Do what we say and you will be blessed."  And then, when they aren't blessed... "Well, that's because your faith wasn't strong enough.  You need to repent of your sins and renew your faith in God." 

Cults promise a better life, and when it doesn't come, they teach you to blame yourself.  They offer no real support, but the illusion is what keeps people coming back. 

So, Istvan may not be crazy.  But there's a reason he believes and behaves the way he does, and I may not know what it is, but it's there. 

Balmafula

  • MO Coordinator
  • Endangered
  • ****
  • Posts: 389
  • Gentlebeast and Scolipede
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2013, 09:39:00 AM »
About Nika, these are really valid points. I've considered the same. Nyika wants to kill Goragula and is driven to violence against others and herself because of voices that only she hears.

Honestly, and I feel like a cheat saying this, but when it comes down to it I guess I just decided to believe in there being real ghosts and spooks instead of them being voices in her head. On the sliding scale of idealism vs cynicism I'm probably more on the idealistic spectrum. Plus, I find that I think most writers would have gone the "she's just crazy" route because that's more tragic, but I don't really like outright crazy characters. It just seems like a cop out. "I don't have to explain their behavior because, well, they're just nuts." It seems like a waste because in the end all the drama was just in their heads, so why even bother?
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 09:44:16 AM by Balmafula »

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2013, 09:42:36 AM »
I definitely hear you, but I think "true" crazy is so much more interesting than the crazy that most people spit up.  I am biased; more of the people I associate have hefty diagnoses following them around than not.  To me, "crazy" is virtually normal - people just haven't realized it yet. 

Personally, I have also been leaning on the side of Nyika really seeing the dead, but I don't like to close the door on the alternative because it offers plenty of really interesting possibilities as well - possibly more interesting. 

Balmafula

  • MO Coordinator
  • Endangered
  • ****
  • Posts: 389
  • Gentlebeast and Scolipede
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2013, 10:04:01 AM »
Yeah, definitely. I think that Nyika's writer is strong enough to be able to handle writing a crazy character in a believable way at any rate.

One thing I find interesting too is that, in the story, especially at the start, everybody was quick to call Istvan a dangerous lunatic, but for Nyika it was more like "well, she believes in what she sees and that's okay." Even when more characters begin to suspect that she's not all quite there, they kind of mentally check themselves, like they don't want it to be true. Like it CAN'T be true, almost.

For a while I kept saying that I felt that her powers were real, but honestly, even if they were hallucinations it would still be just as "real." I was thinking about the scene in the apothecary with her and Istvan and how meaningless it would be if the ghosts weren't there. She'd just have been chatting with herself about the All-Mother and then Istvan bleeds for nobody and they go on their merry way. But would it really have been meaningless? In their heads they have made a difference and done good in the world, which is the same conclusion they would come to if it actually happened. It's just a lot more bittersweet if they weren't there, and that would make me sad. CAN'T HAVE THAT NOW CAN WE?!

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2013, 10:08:51 AM »
For a while I kept saying that I felt that her powers were real, but honestly, even if they were hallucinations it would still be just as "real." I was thinking about the scene in the apothecary with her and Istvan and how meaningless it would be if the ghosts weren't there. She'd just have been chatting with herself about the All-Mother and then Istvan bleeds for nobody and they go on their merry way. But would it really have been meaningless? In their heads they have made a difference and done good in the world, which is the same conclusion they would come to if it actually happened. It's just a lot more bittersweet if they weren't there, and that would make me sad. CAN'T HAVE THAT NOW CAN WE?!

This!  I'm so glad you pointed this out.  Because you're absolutely right; even if it only happens within their perception, it still happened to them.  It might not be "real" in the strict sense of the word, but even if the entire experience was fueled by their combined mental instability, it was pretty incredible.  But just think, how INTERESTING that sad twist would be if they were both just sitting there bleeding for no reason :D

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
  • Near Threatened
  • *
  • Posts: 199
  • Perceptive Possum
  • Accolades An award given to a user whose writing has earned them victory in a Mini-Contest. This medal upgrades as your win count increases.
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2013, 11:05:46 AM »
I'd like to hear either or both of you pitch Istvan and Nyika. Three sentences at most for each of them. Like I'm a newcomer and you're selling me the glory of these characters. What's their draw? What tale are they telling? What will a person come away with from their story?

I have my answers but yours will help me gain a bit of perspective on this conversation.

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 10:28:20 PM »
Nyika I see as a young adult, desperate to find her place in the world and a family of her own.  If we go down the mentally ill route, her rejections and hardships only make her cling to the hallucinations and the ghost world she has unknowingly created for herself - a world she is unquestionably superior in.  Her struggle, while very relatable, has infinite potential endings; virtually anyone can influence her if they show her the proper attention.

Istvan is harder for me.  From my perspective, he clearly has some kind of trauma in his past that has led him to create/follow (unclear?) his religious cult.  At every obstacle, he clings more tightly to his faith, using it as a weapon and a shield all at once.  His first duty, of course, is to save as many souls as possible by taking whatever steps necessary to make that happen, but I think truly, he just wants to feel that *he* is saved; nay, accepted, though I don't think he realizes it yet.

I very much hope both authors aren't staring at me in appalled horror now.  :D

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
  • Near Threatened
  • *
  • Posts: 199
  • Perceptive Possum
  • Accolades An award given to a user whose writing has earned them victory in a Mini-Contest. This medal upgrades as your win count increases.
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2013, 08:33:07 AM »
Interesting. By your descriptions they're both trying to find their place through their individual oddities.

But what makes Nyika's spirit-based struggles more relatable than Istvan's? What makes it "harder" when considering Istvan? What makes Nyika "very relatable" in general? Personal anecdotes are welcome but I'd prefer story examples.

Poko

  • MO Contestant
  • Vizon
  • Endangered
  • *
  • Posts: 437
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2013, 09:03:41 AM »
But what makes Nyika's spirit-based struggles more relatable than Istvan's? What makes it "harder" when considering Istvan? What makes Nyika "very relatable" in general? Personal anecdotes are welcome but I'd prefer story examples.

How about Nyika didn't try to slice up anyone early on in the game? Some beasts don't appreciate being forced against their will to "donate blood" ya know. At least Ny-ny keeps her violence to herself (well...up until recently).

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
  • Near Threatened
  • *
  • Posts: 199
  • Perceptive Possum
  • Accolades An award given to a user whose writing has earned them victory in a Mini-Contest. This medal upgrades as your win count increases.
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2013, 10:31:54 AM »
They're both violent beasts (Nyika in her self harm at first then secret agent stuff later and Istvan in forcing rites at first but then keeping the ritual to himself later) but Nyika's is relatable because she doesn't hurt anybeast else at first? I'm not sure measuring violence is the right avenue. I'd argue they're both equally relatable under the violence scope since Istvan eased his initially wonton tendencies off through careful, relationship-based development and Nyika justified her increasingly violent ways through the hell that is their journey.

Are there any other suggestions as to why Nyika's trials by spirit are more relatable?

carelesswhisper

  • Vulnerable
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2013, 10:57:34 AM »
But what makes Nyika's spirit-based struggles more relatable than Istvan's? What makes it "harder" when considering Istvan? What makes Nyika "very relatable" in general? Personal anecdotes are welcome but I'd prefer story examples.

Hey.  You're the one who gave a three sentence limit.  :P

Nyika's spirit struggles are, to her, completely tangible.  Istvan's, on the other hand, lie completely in faith.  And while I might have related more to Istvan five years ago, now, I just see a person who has so completely deluded themselves that every move they make only entraps them further.  Nyika's oddities, to me, are more relatable, because I think most people in her shoes would react similarly.  Istvan, on the other hand, has taken an extreme route that fewer people have experienced.  What's more, his allegiance is to a single deity at the cost of those around him, whereas Nyika seems to work for the greater good (or what most of us would interpret as the greater good.) 

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
  • Near Threatened
  • *
  • Posts: 199
  • Perceptive Possum
  • Accolades An award given to a user whose writing has earned them victory in a Mini-Contest. This medal upgrades as your win count increases.
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2013, 12:48:10 PM »
Good answer. I think the key is in the last portion of what you said. We've all struggled with our various walks. Tried, failed, turned around, and turned around again. This is what we see in Nyika. But few of us have experienced a life-encompassing walk that has us bludgeoning aside social boundaries. This is what we saw (keyword is saw since he's really softened through the group) in Istvan. This must be one of the differences.

I also think it's because we don't know as much about Istvan's past as compared to Nyika. Not that knowing everything about a character's past is necessary, but it certainly helps the audience relate since we all have family in one form or another. Istvan doesn't have many common points of connection for us besides his overall tale: the stranger adjusting in a strange land.

I also also think some if it stems from how each author is playing the game. Istvan's slow burn, steady approach isn't as readily connected with compared to Nyika who is fluctuating rapidly as far as character development is concerned. We simply see more of her.

But I could be missing something else. Anyone else have some ideas on what may or may not make one spiritual dynamo more relatable than the other?

Nyika

  • MO Contestant
  • Endangered
  • ****
  • Posts: 428
  • Scaredy Cat
    • Awards
Re: Crazy, all powerful, or just misunderstood? An open discussion
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2013, 12:51:14 PM »
Sorry to interject here. I'm only sticking my nose in to clear up a misconception I think has pervaded the ROC community in general. I'm having quite a time reading all this speculation, and I'm sure Istvan is, too. =^.^=

Quote
Since the beginning, I feel like we've all pretty unquestionably accepted that she truly sees dead beasts.  Sure, it's a little strange, it sets her apart, and it isn't quite a part of the universe that's been created here, but it's happening, so it must be, right?  Right?"

I don't think it's not necessarily a part of the universe. I think a lot of people forget that there is magic in Redwall in lots of different forms and varieties. It's just never been the focus. Throughout the books, it's always a side character who is kindly and smiles and talks to nothing and everyone is always like "Oh, isn't she sweet and she makes such good bread let's not bother her." Others are more enigmatic and eerie.

Polleekin and Grissoul are two of the most notable that come to mind. Real seers with real powers that are never fully explained in the books, but there's enough mysticism and doubt that one could easily make the conclusion that yes, seers are real and there is real magic going on, here. While Jacques spends a lot of time on false seers, seers that trick and deceive and change their omens to their own purposes, there are still a few that he leaves unanswered. Authentic, if you want to believe it.

Ublaz Mad Eyes could hypnotize other creatures, controlling the lizards and the coral snake on Sampetra. And what's more, he did it with his eyes, not any actual hypnosis trick.

What brings the badger lords to Salamandastron? Why do they get the calling to wander and who carves the history and future of the mountain in the room past the forge?

And let's not forget the most famous ghost of the Redwall series, Martin the Warrior, who regularly haunts Redwall Abbey in nearly every book.

The point I'm trying to make is that mysticism is a very real thing and is constantly explored in the series. I've gotten a general vibe that what I'm doing is not considered canon, but I disagree. If I didn't, I never would have written Nyika in the first place.

*throws powder in the flames and disappears*
« Last Edit: September 28, 2013, 12:53:58 PM by Nyika »