“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan PoeIt was many and many a year ago,In a kingdom by the sea,That a maiden there lived whom you may knowBy the name of Annabel Lee;And this maiden she lived with no other thoughtThan to love and be loved by me.I was a child and she was a child,In this kingdom by the sea,But we loved with a love that was more than love—I and my Annabel Lee—With a love that the wingèd seraphs of HeavenCoveted her and me.And this was the reason that, long ago,In this kingdom by the sea,A wind blew out of a cloud, chillingMy beautiful Annabel Lee;So that her highborn kinsmen cameAnd bore her away from me,To shut her up in a sepulchreIn this kingdom by the sea.The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,Went envying her and me—Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,In this kingdom by the sea)That the wind came out of the cloud by night,Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.But our love it was stronger by far than the loveOf those who were older than we—Of many far wiser than we—And neither the angels in Heaven aboveNor the demons down under the seaCan ever dissever my soul from the soulOf the beautiful Annabel Lee;For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreamsOf the beautiful Annabel Lee;And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyesOf the beautiful Annabel Lee;And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the sideOf my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,In her sepulchre there by the sea—In her tomb by the sounding sea.
There it is, my friends. As promised, here is the lovely “Annabel Lee,” which has so influential in my recent work with Guardian. And Guardian really has been in need of some influencing from someone whose work is way better than mine. In this case, that individual happens to be Edgar Allan Poe, who is one of my favorite people to get inspiration from. His work is always so dark and creepy, but still so beautiful. This was one of his brighter pieces, but it still had darker, more painful undertones.
The poem itself might not appear very sorrowful, but when you look at it just a little more deeply, you can see it. Even though the last stanza would seem to cast the narrator’s loss in a positive light, saying that he would never be apart from her, it’s full pain. The narrator said that he and she would never be separated because their love was too strong to be broken, but why do we assume that’s a good thing? The speaker would never be apart from his love because he loved her too much to let her go. He would remain in mourning for the rest of his life, growing bitter because the happiness that would never be his again. The one solace the narrator had was that his life would come to an end someday, and he would be truly reunited with his love.
So imagine if that solace was stripped away.
What if the speaker was immortal?
Just about anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time around me and my stories knows I love playing with immortality, and it’s featured strongly in Guardian. Multiple characters end up immortal, including my protagonist, Eniryt, his wife (tentatively named Erynnah), and their son (whose name is definitely gonna change, but for now, he’s Yavlek). Of course, in a normal world where most other people are mortals, immortality means a whole lot of loss.
Just because someone can’t die of natural causes, though, doesn’t mean they can’t be killed. So, because artistic licence and not wanting to give spoilers, it’s safe to that either Eniryt or Erynnah is going to die. One of them is going to experience not only the heartrending agony of losing a spouse, but they’re also stuck with that pain for eternity, and there is no escape for them, no matter how badly they want it.
The characters and plot weren’t the only thing influenced. It made me want to give Guardian a fairy-tale-like tone, because “Annabel Lee” had such a gorgeous fairy-tale-ish-ness to it! Obviously, Guardian couldn’t be quite as completely fairy-tale-ish as “Annabel Lee” — it wouldn’t fit the story. Still, I want to try to incorporate it as much as I can. Guardian will be such a dark story in places that it might need that fairy tale lightness to contrast against the rest of it.
That need for some light is probably the reason stars are going to feature so strongly in Guardian. I’ve loved them for a long time, and they were part of Guardian before I read “Annabel Lee,” so their being part of the poem just reinforced that “Annabel Lee” needed to be one of Guardian’s main wells of inspiration.
Something else that “Annabel Lee” influenced was the setting. Before reading the ballad, I’d been having such a hard time pinning a setting down, but the “kingdom by the sea” made it click into place. Eniryt’s home city-state is by the sea. Its architecture bright and beautiful and strongly resembles Ancient Greek architecture. The sea glistens beside it and the mountains rise behind. Aesthetically, it is the perfect ancient-times fairy tale setting. Beyond that, though, very little of it is quite so idyllic as the typical fairy tale. Ancient cities are not so beautiful as they appear from afar. There’s always a slew of problems within, and this city is no different.
Another piece of setting that was influenced by “Annabel Lee” was the tombs of royalty. Erynnah is, after all, a princess, so both she and Eniryt would be buried in those tombs. The lines,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—In her tomb by the sounding sea.