Dreams Of The Last Flight
© Sarah Allegra
This is not my first self portrait inspired by Robin McKinley's incredible Spindle's End, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It's not even my first self portrait inspired by the same minor, but very important, character of the great white hunting merrel and his touching lines. But I still felt the need to create it, so repetition be damned. And with the world the way it is right now, I think this is the perfect time for the merrel.
The merrel is a beautiful, huge, deadly hunting bird who Rosie (our Sleeping Beauty heroine) talks to, as she has the gift of beast speech. He is enigmatic and tragic, and his story moves me deeply. He resonates with me deep down, in an emotional, physical, mythic way. The tedium and frustration he endures daily, as a wild creature forced into captivity, culminates in a extreme example of making lemonade out of lemons. And of course I can sympathize with an outside force coming along and stripping away your freedom, your dreams, your desires, your ability to move freely. The forced isolation he's put into, the seemingly pointless, yet unending life. I suspect we all can to some degree more now than usual. For most though, this time of quarantine and social distancing will end. Outside of a miracle happening, for those of us with chronic illnesses, that is to be expected for the rest of our lives. Remember us when life returns to normal.
I would not dream of trying to paraphrase Robin McKinley's breathtaking words, so I will let her writing speak. And of course I would encourage you to pick up your own copy :)
"[Rosie] thought of the merrel stretching its wings, silently, in the dark peak of Lord Prendergast's Great Hall; she thought of how carefully it moved among its cage of the rafters, so that the chain around its angle did not clink; so carefully that any of Lord Prendergast's guests who did not know it was there would never look up to find it... She thought of the story of the huntsman told her, of how it had been wounded - they guessed - by a dagger of falling ice in the mountains... and how Lord Prendergast's hunting party had found it, but that he had stopped them killing it. Even with a broken wing and half dead of starvation no one liked to approach it. The huntsman threw a net to tangle its feet, and Lord Pren himself had hooded it... and then had it bound and brought home, and its wing set. But the wing had not healed as it should, and so it was was given the vaulted height of the Great Hall to live in, where no one dared trouble it, and it was fed by a falconer with a very long pole.
The merrel also knew its wing had not healed. But I could reach a great height once more before it failed me, it said. And from there I would fold my wings and plummet to the earth as if a hare or a fawn had caught my eye; but it would be myself I stooped toward. It would be a good flight and a good death. And so I shall eat their dead things cut up on a pole, dreaming of my last flight."
Read my blog post for more about this image! sarahallegra.wordpress.com/2020/04/02/dreams-of-the-last-flight/