Do Story Trilogies Always End in War?

I just blazed through Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I neared the end, I noticed a trend in sequels, especially ones that lead to a trilogy: War.

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I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I read that the peculiars in the book were gearing up for a war against the hollows. (There’re plenty of other twists in the book that will keep you guessing). Now, I don’t know if the peculiar series will be a trilogy or keep going, but I do know they’re following a trilogy pattern set forth by many previous books.

Let’s face it. Sequels need to be more than their predecessor. Bigger. Flashier. With more risk. Some story trilogies handle this by piling on the villains. (Think about the orginal Batman movies. You have Joker in the first one. Then Penguin and Catwoman int he second. By the third, the landscape is littered with villains.)

The smarter story trilogies go for the “war” arc. In the first book, it’s only the protagonist up against the ropes. He or she has to face amazing odds. By the sequel, though, the landscape of conflict broadens. Often book two (or movie two) is a prelude to war. Characters are gearing up. The final payoff comes in the final installment where all hell breaks loose.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples.

Hunger Games: This one is almost the template for the war arc. Book one is only Katniss. By book two, she’s swept up in a conspiracy to use her as a leader for the resistance. Then book three is all about the war.

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Uglies: Still my favorite book series, it too follows the war arc, although a bit more slowly. In book two (Pretties), Tally leaves the rebellion to go “undercover” in the city. Yet it completes the cycle by making her a super-weapon to help fight the war in the third book (Specials).

Lord of the Rings: True, both the second and third books have wars, but the scope expands. Two Towers has Rohan fighting for survival and the force against them seems gargantuan. Yet this battle seems teeny when compared to the epic clash for Gondor in Return of the King. Think about it. This book series started with nine companions, yet broadened to take on the whole world of Middle Earth.

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Star Wars: I’m only going to look at the original movies (Episodes IV through VI), though I imagine this war arc would apply to the prequels. True, the rebellion attacks and destroys the Death Star in Episode IV. Yet this was just Lucus going for broke. Who knew if he’d ever get funding for the remaining movies. Then compare the rebel force from New Hope to the rebels at the end of Empire Strikes Back. A complete scale up. The rebels are preparing for a massive battle that happens, surprise, in the third movie (Return of the Jedi).

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Does this war arc hold true for any other books or films? You tell me. Comment below if you have any other stellar examples.

Tim Kane

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The Year of the Archer

In March we saw Katniss Everdeen skewer a pig in front of the game makers. Her archery abilities weren’t just a throwaway  skill. The bow and arrow were the focal point of the novel. She hunted for game to support her family. Her high score in the Hunger Games made her a target. Likewise, she destroyed the careers’ food with a well placed shot.

Then there’s The Avengers. Joss Whedon skillfully built up Hawkeye’s character from nearly nothing to a character on par with the other heavies of the film. His trick? Make the archer the bad guy for most of the film. Then his skills are forefront for much of the screen time.

A month later we’ll have Pixar’s Brave, featuring a young maiden quite skilled with the bow. I can’t discern the plot yet, but her archery  abilities seem to dominate the trailers.

Then, in December, we have the original super archer: Legolas. Okay, not the actual arrow-slinging elf, but The Hobbit will feature Legolas’s dad. Rumors abound the Orlando Bloom will cameo as Legolas. Perhaps firing a few arrows.

I think archery ranges will be full this year. Prepare for plenty of bows and arrows come Halloween. Nock ’em back if you got ’em.

Tim Kane

Hunger Games as a Force for Good

I earn my benjamins as a teacher. This week kicks off the massive load of state and district testing. It’s our Super Bowl. Our World Series. And, I think, possibly our Hunger Games.

The kids always stress during this time. I work with eleven and twelve-year-olds. Some still bring stuffed animals to school this week to lower their anxiety. I typically purchase candy and little goodies to pass out during testing. Tiny ways to boost their moral. Yet this year, I stumbled onto what I think is a brilliant idea.

The idea sprouted last week when the students were completing our end of unit exams. One boy was terribly sick and miserable the whole morning. I busied myself putting up a hand drawn Finn and Jake picture from Adventure Time, and (because so many kids have read the books) a giant mockingjay. Underneath I penned: “May the odd be ever in your favor.” By recess, the boy had a smile on his face. I asked him about it and he said that Katniss had struggled and not given up. He knew that he could do the same.

That did it. I decided to go whole hog on the Hunger Games theme. Cause that’s essentially what we do to the kids. The Capital (State of California) requires tributes (students) to battle for their entertainment (bubble in multiple choice questions). The same pressure the tributes in the books feel, my students get in spades. There are even careers. You know the kids. The ones that adore testing and always seem to come out on top.

This year, instead of just walking around to give kids treats, I purchased some silver tissue paper. I’m wrapping the treats in aluminum foil. Then their sponsor (me) will drop the silver parachutes on their desks when they need it the most. I’m hoping to put in little notes (like the ones Haymitch delivered) to help inspire the kids.

I certainly hope the testing doesn’t end with most of the kids deceased and two holding poisoned berries.

Tim Kane

Hunger Games: Movie vs. Novel

Often people complain that a movie is nothing like the book. Well of course. A movie unspools images whereas a book delivers content through some 70-100 words. It takes me the better part of a week to finish a book, but only two hours to see the average movie. Given the condensed medium of film, there’s no way to include everything that appears in a book. And no need to really.

There are advantages to each media. A smart filmmaker will realize this and utilize the unique qualities of film to not only condense sections of the book, but also highlight others. If you haven’t read or seen the Hunger Games book or film, you may find sections spoiled.

The movie zoomed through the opening chapters of Hunger Games at light speed. I think they did this to allow them to spend more time on the actual arena combat. Many of the thoughts that Catniss used to express backstory or her attitudes could not transfer to film. For example, her whole story about saving the cat and Prim’s love for it was condensed to a single line: “I’ll still cook you.”

One element I felt they didn’t communicate well was the matter of names and the reaping. The film established that Galen had his name in 42 times, but didn’t go into putting your name in extra times to get food. My guess is that the filmmakers felt this wasn’t as crucial and viewers would get the concept as the film went on. It certainly didn’t bother me.

Rather than put the entire backstory of Peta and the bread and Mom’s zoning out at the start, the film smartly incorporated these into tiny flashbacks. The best was during the tracker jacker delirium scene where Catniss remembered how her dad died and Mom tuned out.

The film also solved a few problems I had with the book. I noticed that Suzanne Collins was one of the screenwriters, so perhaps she took a second look at her material. First, the fact that she never mentioned the position of cameras at any time in the novel really bugged me. It go so that I couldn’t focus on the story. The film handled this with one scene. Catniss climbs a tree and a knot twists to look at her. That one moment alone told us that everything could be a camera.

Also, the novel had a conspiracy plot at the end that felt tacked on. The film provided cut-away scenes with the gamemaker and President Snow that expertly delivered this same feeling without distracting from the plot. The best part of this was the final scene with the gamemaker. The key to films is what they can deliver with a single image. The gamemaker is led to a room and locked in. A bowl with berries (the same that Catniss nearly swallowed to poison herself) were presented on a table. The message was clear. He screwed up and was expected to pay the price. This also underscored the tyranny of the Capitol’s regime.

The film added many scenes showing the gamemaker designing and running the game. This really helped me understand how the arena functioned. I liked seeing them comment on the tracker jackers as well as seeing the dogs being designed. (I didn’t miss that the dogs were former contestants as this bothered me in the book.) One of the best added scenes was the riot in District 11. I know the book was explicit about cutting the scene where Catniss added flowers to Rue’s body so that viewers wouldn’t see it. However, I liked seeing the riots in District 11 and the subsequent put down.

The last element that the film added is a technique I saw before in Green Mile: The Song. Catniss sings a song to Prim at the beginning. I knew right away this would be the same song she’d sing to Rue. It served to create an emotional connection between Catniss’s little sister, and her adopted ward, Rue, in the game.

The next time someone whines about how badly films adapt books, explain to them that a film is not a book. Stories you read and the action unfolds in your mind. The film shows you the action, so it will never match the images in you head.

Tim Kane

10 Words Derived from Greek Mythology

Some words have a distinct pedigree. These words hail from Mt. Olympus itself. Godly in origin, use them to spice up your conversation or writing.

1 Antaean

Antaeus was a gigantic and powerful wrestler, son of Gaea, goddess of the Earth, and Poseidon, the sea god. Whenever Antaeus touched his mother, his strength renewed. He always kicked butt when people threw him to the ground. Heracles, always a crafty fellow, bested him by lifting Antaeus off the ground. Then Heracles crushed the god to death.

In English, this word means mammoth, for Antaeus’ size, and superhuman strength.

2 Caduceus

The Greek god Hermes served as a herald and messenger for the other gods. He carried a winged staff with two snakes twisting around it. There is also another staff, that of Aesculapius, the god of healing. This had only one snake and no wings attached.

The Latin translation for herald is karyx, modified into karykeion. Is should only refer to the winged staff with two snakes, but in practice is also refers to the one snake healing staff as well. The staff of Aesculapius as well as the staff of Hermes are used as medical symbols.

3 Chimera (pronounced Kymera)

This was a fearsome beast with a lion’s head, goat’s body, and dragon’s tail. It breathed fire and terrified the people of Lydia. Finally, their king, Iobates, called in the hero Bellerophon. He didn’t actually want Bellerophon to win. The king’s son-in-law wanted the hero killed and the king thought the chimera would be the trick. Trouble was, Bellerophon summoned reinforcements: the winged horse Pegasus (not at all related to Perseus). Bellerophon then took down the creature from above.

Chimera lives on in Enlglish as an illusion or fabrication of the mind. It’s also an impossible dream.

4 Cornucopia

Zeus wasn’t always master of all the gods. In fact, he once was a baby too. As an infant, he was suckled from the horn of a goat. Later, this horn was filled with flowers and fruits and given as a present to Zeus. This filled horn then served as a symbol for abundance.

Besides as serving as a climactic battle scene in the Hunger Games, the word now means an inexhaustible store of something or simply abundance. That’s why it so often appears during Thanksgiving.

5 Halcyon

Alkyone, the daughter of the god of the winds (Aeolus), learned that her husband had been killed in a shipwreck. Her grief was unbearable, so she threw herself into the sea and was changed into a kingfisher. The Greeks call these birds alkyon or halkyon. Legend also has it that kingfishers build floating nests on the sea. Because of their heritage, the wind god clams the sea until the eggs have hatched.

The legend prompted people to associate calm and peaceful with the word halcyon. (Actual kingfishers make nests in tunnels dug into the ground).

6 Nemesis

Nemesis was the goddess of vengeance. She doled out rewards for noble deeds and cruel punishments for evil acts. She didn’t punish offenders instantly. Rather she might wait generations, inflicting her wrath on a descendant to avenge the crime.

In English, the word originally referred to someone who doled out just retribution, much like the goddess herself. Modern usage has transformed the word into someone (or something) that frustrated another person’s efforts (much like a curse or an adversary).

7 Paean

The Apollo sometimes disguised himself as Paean, the physician of the gods. Later, musical hymns were sung at to praise Apollo. These were called paeans. They evolved into songs sung at events ranging from  funerals to drinking festivals, as well as traditional marching songs for armies.

Now a paean is any song mean to celebrate joy, praise, or thanksgiving. It can also mean a tribute.

8 Promethean

Probably one of the most recognizable Greek myths is that of Prometheus. One of the Titan giants, he modeled humans from clay and taught them agriculture and how to live together. His final gift was fire that he stole from the gods so that humans could cook and have warmth and light. Zeus, however, wanted the humans to perish, so he punished Prometheus by tying him to a rock. An eagle tore at the giant’s liver every day for eternity.

The modern word bears out its heritage. Promethean means daringly original and creative (in the way that Prometheus helped create civilization). The word can also mean defiant of authority or limits (because Prometheus stole from the gods). Finally, Promethean signifies suffering on a grand scale (to represent the torture inflicted on Prometheus by Zeus).

9 Rhadamanthine

Three judges hold court in the the underworld: Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus. Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa. He had been the kind of Crete before dying and becoming supreme judge of the underworld. Aeacus, another son of Zeus (he got around) was king of Aegina before shuffling off the mortal coil and doning judges robes. Rhadamanthus was brother to Minos and king of the Cyclades Islands. He was known for being especially inflexible when handing down his judgements.

The word in English means rigorously strict or just.

10 Thanatology

Thanatos was the personification of death. His twin brother, Hypnos, was the personification of sleep (the root for hypnosis). The ancient Greeks began to use thanatos as a generic word for death.

Thanatology is the study of a description of death. It’s also the psychological methods for coping with death. In 1935, Thanatos came back to describe people with an unconscious tendency toward self-destruction.

Tim Kane

Camp Hunger Games

Tired of that outrageous tab at Ralphs? I mean, $3.50 for a gallon of milk? Seriously. Time to cut your loses. Send your little bundle of joy to Camp Hunger Games. Let that grocery bill of yours fight for survival. Think about it, it’s a win-win situation. If your child vanquishes the other children, clawing and scraping her way to the top, then your family is heaped with glory and honor for years to come. (Not to mention the free grocery trips). And if not…? Them’s the breaks. At least you can set one less place at the table.

Tim Kane