Author: Cygna-hime (cygna_hime)
Spoilers: For the book, The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper.
Personal Website: Castle Deneb
Every Step in Faith Betrayed: Merriman/Hawkin
I Cannot Find the Words: Introduction
Before I start, I want to mention that yes, this is technically a children’s book. Yes, it is a fond not-very-distant memory. This does not mean that there cannot be subtext that children do not pick up on, or that I cannot look at the same story from a slightly different viewpoint. This is a slash pairing, meaning two men in a romantic relationship. I don’t find any moral questionability here; those who do need not continue.
In a disclaiming sort of vein, I must admit that I, not being Susan Cooper, do not own the Dark is Rising sequence. Moreover, I have been unable up to now to sneak back through time and rewrite the copyrights. This can be seen by the fact that my words are completely insufficient to describe the story or characters in the way they were written. I strongly encourage anyone reading this essay to read the entire sequence, on the grounds that this essay is highly unlikely to make you cry the way the books can.
Arms of the Angels: Merriman Lyon
Merriman is the oldest of the Old Ones, warriors of the Light that protect humanity against the fell power of the Dark. Except not so cheesy. Physically, he’s tall and imposing, with silver hair, dark eyes, and a very sharp, aquiline face. As far as personality goes, Merriman is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery. He is older than Will, the eleven-year-old main character, can imagine, and it seems to be second nature to him, if not first, to keep secrets.
What we do know, or can deduce, however, is strangely revealing. Merriman gets along well with the children who call him their great-uncle by treating them as adults, capable of thinking for themselves. He tries his best to keep them from getting involved with the battle between Dark and Light, and does his utmost to protect them. It is obvious that he does care for the people whom he considers family. To Will he is stern, almost paternal, like a teacher to a student of whom he expects the best. Most of the time, Merriman is very impassive, but perhaps half a dozen times in the course of the book something makes him show emotion so that Will can see it.
Merriman is capable of doing things that even he describes as cold or heartless; he plans the possible sacrifice of someone he loves as a safeguard against the Dark. And yet, he is also seen to care for people, even people who are not his allies, enough to protect them rather than let the Dark attack them. His memory goes back beyond Arthurian times, and still he finds the ability to care about the people who could easily become casualties in the war of the Light.
So who is Merriman Lyon? A powerful wizard fighting the greatest war against darkness his world has ever known. A crusader willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to his cause. An uncle watching over his family. A teacher preparing his successor.
Above all, a man loving and hurting as other men do.
Fear is Black and White: Hawkin
Hawkin, just Hawkin, nothing more, was born in the thirteenth century A.D. The first time Will is introduced to him, he is in his early twenties. Courtesy of Merriman, who had taken him in after the death of his parents, Hawkin was brought forward into the year 1875 for the purposes of the Light. He is a small, energetic man with a lively face, wrinkled though he is still young by our standards. The layers of personality in his face and the perceptiveness in his dark eyes disturbs Will, as if he can tell that there are equally many layers to Hawkin as he presents himself to the world and as he is.
Hawkin is a cheerful man, whose face is often laughing. He is a sorrowful man, who threw away everything he ever had. He is an ambitious man, who sought to be as great as an Old One. He is a humble man, used to serving others. He is a brave man, willing to risk his life at his lord’s behest. He is a frightened man, chased here and there through the centuries by Light and Dark both.
No one can quite tell who Hawkin really is from reading, but it is obvious that he has a certain cynical sense of humor, that he is capable of undying hatred, and that he is fallible.
Nothing more than an ordinary man.
Cross From a Faith that Died: The Dark is Rising
This is not by any means a summary of the book, since I’m no good at making things short. It’s merely a summary of the Merriman and Hawkin portions.
Merriman is introduced almost immediately, as a dark, mysterious man who explains to Will the purpose of the Old Ones and Will’s place therein. He has a gift for appearing at the right time, showing up again to rescue Will after he has retrieved the second Sign from a ragged man known only as the Walker—a man who seems to recognize Merriman with an emotion that seems to be one part fear and one part something else. Merriman gives Will a short, sharp lesson in the correct use of his power and vanishes once more, not to appear again until Christmas Eve. Then he brings Will back through time to 1875, where this essay’s story really gets started.
Hawkin is there already, waiting, a dapper man in a green velvet coat who serves most of the Old Ones with deference and Will with brotherly affection, or close enough. Out of habit, he begins to treat Merriman as the liege lord he allegedly is, but stops. Almost, one could say, as if the habit he has had for long years of being a servant is no longer appropriate. As if something in their relationship has changed recently. Merriman introduces him to Will as his foster son and liege man, and Will is sufficiently distracted by asking questions that he does not particularly notice the number of glances, touches, and smiles the two exchange.
Will was quite probably right to be distracted, because more is going on than a pleasant Christmas party. The goal of his visit is to retrieve and read from the Book of Gramarye, receptacle of the knowledge of the Old Ones, which has been put aside for his coming. Merriman draws it out past the pendulum of a grandfather clock, where the slightest contact would destroy it and anyone mortal in the room. Hawkin is there, kneeling by Merriman’s side as he does so, and it seems certainly that he is aware of the risk he runs, for as soon as the Book is safely in Merriman’s hand Hawkin staggers to his feet, clearly relieved and yet not quite content. Merriman, for his part, gives the Book to Will before turning to Hawking and leading him out, clearly grieved by something Will cannot understand.
What Will cannot understand is explained once he has finished reading the Book of Gramarye, and it has been destroyed. To touch the pendulum of the clock while holding the Book means its destruction, but also, as Merriman explains sorrowfully, the book could only be removed because Merriman was touching Hawkin at the time. This is a safeguard, Merriman says, to protect the Book at the last from the Dark. He gambled Hawkin’s life on never taking out the Book under the Dark’s command, but more: he also risked his liege man dying if Merriman should touch the pendulum accidentally. This is one of the cold things that the Light must do, Merriman says painfully, though he seems to only half believe that it is right. And through what Merriman describes as a mistake, through trusting Hawkin too much, though he knew that it was an error to put more trust in a mortal than he has strength to bear, he has put them all in peril. Merriman put them all in danger, because he was trusted—the sentence makes far more sense with ‘loved’—Hawkin to the point of foolishness.
The foolishness, so Merriman says, lay in forgetting that Hawkin was an ordinary mortal man. And he loves as a man, asking that proof of love be returned. For him, the realization that Merriman, whom he loved, if not in one way, then in another, is willing to sacrifice him without hesitation is too much for him to bear. He cannot forgive what he sees as far less love from Merriman than the love and devotion Hawkin has given him. Though it hurts Merriman horribly to say it, Hawkin is turning on the Light because of him, and because of what he views as a betrayal of his love and loyalty.
While Merriman begins to explain this, he is watching as Hawkin talks with a servant of the Dark. He is watching, clearly, something he has been expecting, and yet in his impassive face even Will can see a pain, which must be far the deeper than is visible. Hawkin, as the Old Ones can hear, is being enticed to the Dark by words that support and encourage his own feelings of betrayal. Merriman was using him, the Dark girl says, Hawkin is nothing to him. She offers him the life of an Old One, and Hawkin all but jumps at the chance to be immortal, like Merriman. He vanishes with her, well on his way to joining the Dark, and leaves Merriman and Will watching, Will, unhappy and frightened because he cannot understand, Merriman bleakly miserable because he can. Hawkin’s punishment will be terrible, he says grimly, so that he will often wish to die.
And it is terrible. Hawkin, laughing Hawkin, is he who has become the Walker, carrying the Sign of Bronze through seven hundred years, running from the Light and from the Dark both. He is now the Walker, whose dark, dark eyes hold more pain than Will can imagine, such pain and dread that nothing can touch him anymore. Nothing except that same old anger, that fury of love to hatred turned, that would make him call the Dark in upon those who once were his friends, and perhaps a hidden longing for the unutterably precious thing that he had lost so long ago. The anger makes him call in the coldness of midwinter on the Old Ones, but the longing makes him falter.
Merriman appeals to him, then, to return to the Light for the sake of the love and trust that once was between them. Hawkin will have none of it. The long betrayal of his reduction to less than a man, to a cowering animal always fleeing, is far too strong for that. Even though Merriman, guilt-stricken over what he sees as his fault, surrenders his pride and begs him to turn back, Hawkin or the Walker will not. He calls in the Dark, gives himself up to the Dark, rather than the Light that took everything he had ever loved for the sake of Will’s learning. He does not turn back any longer. The anger and bitterness overtake him completely, and he becomes a part of the Dark.
And yet, no one and nothing can make a man more or less than that, not even the Dark, not even the Light. In the end, Hawkin is thrown from the Dark Rider’s saddle and broken on the ground. Will is there to see him and Merriman at the last. Hawkin, finally beyond all hope, and Merriman, who always knew there was none. There, at last, on Twelfth Night, Hawkin lets go of the anger that drove him so long. No words of love pass between them, only a long, deep look full of all that no words could say, and then Hawkin is no more. The last right of man is to die, and that cannot be taken away.
Misery Made Beautiful: Pairing
I, personally, was firmly on the side of this ‘ship from the moment I reread the book and realized that the subtext was so strong it was creeping into the punctuation. The potential for a romance is evident even in my pathetic summary of the text, which leaves out a solid half of the interactions and all of the dialogue. It’s possible to read it as a familial affection, I suppose, but it takes a lot of effort. Merriman shows more emotion toward and regarding Hawkin than with anyone else, from shared laughter to deep grief. And Hawkin is drawn to the Dark by words that sound a great deal like declarations that Merriman did not love him. If that is not love, or something close, then I must have been misinformed about what love is.
As a pairing, Merriman/Hawkin is inherently tragic, because we can write all the fluff we want, but we know that it will not work out, that it will never work out, and that there is fundamentally nothing we can do about it. Hawkin is going to die, and Merriman never will. No amount of wishing on the part of the writer can change that. But there is a lot to be explored in the brief time we do have for them.
Little to nothing is known about Hawkin’s background, or about his and Merriman’s life together before the Book of Gramarye. Why, one wonders, did Merriman take him in after the deaths of his parents? Could he have been planning so far in advance? Or was he simply making a kind gesture that broadened into affection? There is so much left to be said about what they might have been thinking during the course of the novel. Will’s point of view is intriguing enough to lead one to suppose that there is still far, far more than he sees. The thoughts of the characters are unknown, but what must they have been thinking to do what they did? When we know most of their actions but none of their thoughts, there is such a great opportunity for deepening and expanding the characters as we are given them.
The pairing is tragic, not only because of its inevitable end, but because Hawkin’s great flaw, the flaw that leads him to betray the Old Ones, is nothing more or less than his humanity. He loves as we do, and that is his downfall. Can there be a more painfully touching reason for tragedy? Love, in this world, it seems, solves nothing and saves nothing by itself. No matter how much you love, you can still be lost; no matter how high you are, you can still fall. That is the silent theme of the story.
Unfortunately, it seems that tragedy is insufficient to produce fans. Merriman/Hawkin, the single most canonical slash pairing in the books, is also probably the single most unappreciated. The total number of stories about the couple can be counted with ease on the fingers of one hand. Why? I certainly don’t know, not having the faintest idea why a reader of discernment would fail to appreciate tragic romance of this caliber. Presumably, since Merriman and Hawkin are not attractive teenagers, they do not appeal to the less discerning fan. And, since the DiR fandom is in itself small, the usual minority is too small to be noticed, or else does not write much.
Personally, I focus a lot on Hawkin, because he is my favorite character, probably of all the books, and just plain fun to write. Besides, I can write all the angst I could possibly want, and still be well inside the bounds of canon. I have yet to see any really good Merriman-centric stories, which is a pity, since I would like to see other people’s interpretations of him. I write, badly, as much as I can for the pairing, but I can’t do it all myself.
Archive of Our Failures: Fanfiction
The ficlist on one archive really says it all: Bran/Will—14, Merriman/Hawkin—0. Such is life. Here are the ones I have managed to find…or write, mostly.
Metheglyn by Rymenhild. Hawkin drabble. Gen-ish.
Comfort by Gunbunny. M/H fluff.
Requiem by yours truly. Hawkin remembers. Angstangstangst.
Cantare, also by me. More Hawkin, more angst. Pseudo-songfic.
All the Dark is Rising LJ communities (that I know of):
The DiR Slash Archive. Fic of all slashy types, though M/H is sadly underrepresented.
The DiR section of Fanfiction.net. There’s some good stuff there; unfortunately, Sturgeon’s Law abounds.
That is, unfortunately, all the groups I know of or can find. If anyone knows of any more, please let me know!
Too Much I Can’t Say: Conclusion
Merriman/Hawkin is a beautiful pairing with a beautiful, tragic story behind it. I can’t describe it for you, because I don’t know or cannot put into words the way each word in the book calls to something else like a perfectly tuned, golden harp. The mountains sing, and the story comes.
However, I seem to be the only diehard fan in this fandom to agree, or at least to make noise about it. This is not an acceptable state of affairs. Therefore, I encourage all of you who might read this to go back to the book and think, for a moment, about the stories never told. Then tell them, because I want to know what you think and a fandom of me is boring.
Enjoy the read!