"Just respect the rules and we'll get along fine." (2.15)
Famous last words, Grandpa. Setting out rules for kids to follow might seem simple, but things are rarely that easy. Of course, it's a little odd that Grandpa's hoping the kids will think outside the box enough to taste the milk and thus be exposed to magic. But there's no rule against drinking milk, is there? Just exploring where they shouldn't be.
"Don't blame me," Grandpa said. "You locked yourself up by disregarding the rules." (4.150)
For every action, there is a consequence, and this is especially true when it comes to breaking the rules in Grandpa's household. He wants to confine the kids to their rooms for the rest of their stay, and in the end that might be safer for them—but Kendra manages to argue for a reduced punishment, saying that they'll follow the rules from then on. Do they?
"The fundamental premises of the law are mischief for mischief, magic for magic, violence for violence. They will not initiate trouble unless you break the rules." (5.152)
Grandpa lays it out for Kendra and Seth: if humans follow the rules while interacting with magical beings, they should be safe. Emphasis on the should. As we see later in the book, there are ways to break rules without even realizing it (like when Seth captures a fairy, or when he opens the window on Midsummer Eve… hm, funny how Seth seems to be the one breaking all the rules around here).
"Breaking the rules can include trespassing where you are not allowed. There are geographic boundaries set where certain creatures are allowed and certain creatures, including mortals, are not permitted. The boundaries function as a way to contain the darker creatures without causing an uproar." (5.156)
Thanks, Grandpa, for giving us a glimpse into why the rules exist (hint: it's not just to annoy Seth). Apparently it's important to keep order where magical beings are involved, especially the "darker" ones. We're guessing he means darker as in more evil, not as in, like, skin tone—Grandpa doesn't strike us as racist.
"These nights of revelry are essential to maintaining the segregation that normally prevails here. On Midsummer Eve, the only limits to where any creature can roam and work mischief are the walls of this house." (9.39)
And here we get another clue about why order is so important in Fablehaven. If you're gonna be strict all the time, like about the boundaries keeping magic critters to certain parts of the preserve, there needs to be a time of release and transgression to balance it out. There are still some rules in effect though, like the ones keeping the house safe for humans during that time (in theory).
"Many other sinister entities were admitted to preserves only on condition that they would agree to certain limitations—agreements they entered voluntarily. A common restriction is that they are not permitted to leave the preserve, so the Society considers many of these creatures also incarcerated." (15.111)
Here Grandma explains why some of the rules of the preserve can be viewed in both a good and a bad light. A lot of not-so-nice magic creatures gain protection when they live on preserves, but it comes at the cost of following restrictive rules. From the perspective of the Society of the Evening Star though, this is not good at all, since it means the critters are basically locked up. Is it a fair trade to accept limitations in exchange for your survival?
"Killing a mortal is not quite as grievous a crime as killing a mystical being, but it would still dissolve most of the protection afforded me by the treaty. I would probably have to banish myself from the preserve." (15.132)
Grandma is not keen to kill Muriel in order to protect the preserve from her, but she'll do it if she has to. Here she tells Kendra and Seth why killing someone is Serious Business—it's a violation of the rules, and it'd mean that Grandma would be vulnerable to attack from others unless she left.
"Stan has kept the rules pertaining to bloodshed, and so, even on their night of revelry, the dark creatures of the preserve would not be able to kill him […] Imprisoned, tortured, driven insane, turned to lead—maybe. But he has to be alive." (15.140)
Well isn't that cheery? Grandma knows that her husband has to still be alive, since he's kept all the rules governing Fablehaven. But what kind of condition he's in is another matter entirely—just because you can't be killed doesn't mean you can't be harmed. We're not sure if we'd like living under these rules.
"They can't touch you, Kendra," Grandpa called from where he hung shackled to the wall. "You have caused no mischief, worked no magic, inflicted no harm. Run, Kendra, they can't stop you!" (16.69)
Of all her family at Fablehaven, Kendra's the only one who's still kept all the rules, and as such can't be harmed by magic creatures. Grandpa is obviously hoping that she'll save herself, since it's not looking so good for the rest of them.
Getting the tears from the statue—that was magic, right? Her protected status was finished. And Mendigo had come to apprehend her. (17.99)
Kendra realizes the drawback to setting a plan in motion to save her family: it basically counts as doing magic. If not getting the tears from the statue, then making the elixir will do the trick, which'll leave her vulnerable. Having to neutralize Mendigo before he can get to her is a scary prospect, but Kendra is up to the challenge—it seems like she's not doing too badly for someone who normally follows the rules instead of breaking them.
Her parents were leaving on a seventeen-day Scandinavian cruise with all the aunts and uncles on her mother's side. (1.11)
The reason for Kendra and Seth's journey to Fablehaven in the first place is family-based. Their mom's side of the family has to go on a trip that was mandated in their grandparents' will. It's kind of morbid, but hey—whatever works.
Everyone was surprised when Grandpa Sorenson showed up at the funeral. It had been more than eighteen months since either of the Sorensons had visited. He had apologized that his wife could not attend because she was feeling ill. There always seemed to be an excuse. Sometimes Kendra wondered if they were secretly divorced. (1.29)
The Sorenson grandparents are pretty distant, which is part of why Kendra dreads having to go stay with them—it must be weird to know that you're related to somebody, but not have any real idea of who they actually are. Plus we see here that Kendra is perceptive, since she wonders if maybe there's a reason why she doesn't see much of her grandparents, and then rarely together. It seems like this kind of thing happens in a lot of families, and kids are able to figure out that something is up.
"Stan, I don't want to go on this cruise. It was important to my parents, so we're going. I don't mean to twist your arm." Mom sounded on the verge of tears. (1.41)
Here we see how Kendra's mom is not actually that thrilled about going on the cruise that was part of her parents' will. Kendra's sure not thrilled about it, nor is Grandpa—it seems like nobody in the family is happy about the way things are going down… so at least they all have that in common?
"They go the extra mile to discourage visitors," Dad said. "Me, Uncle Carl, Aunt Sophie—none of us have ever spent much time here. I don't get it. You kids are lucky." (1.65)
Yeah, this is definitely making our weird-family-issues sense tingle. Why would the grandparents not want their own kids visiting them? And then why would it be okay for the grandkids to come and stay? Something is afoot here for sure.
Unlike her little brother, Kendra was not a natural rule breaker. (4.55)
Clearly genes don't determine everything, since Kendra and Seth are pretty much opposites, at least when it comes to rules. Seth is adventurous to the point of being foolish, and he also doesn't tend to do well with orders and rules—while Kendra, on the other hand, gets good grades and always follows the rules. Both kids seem to be stubborn, though, so it's not like we're not saying one of them was secretly adopted.
"That is my right. I am your grandfather. And this is my property."
"I am your grandson. You should tell me the truth. You're not setting a very good example." (4.140-141)
Here Grandpa and Seth duke it out over whether Grandpa should punish the kids for breaking his rules about not going into the forest. Grandpa plays the whole I'm your elder relative, you should do what I say card, while Seth counters with a since you're older, you should be setting a good example by not lying or concealing the truth card. An interesting play on both parts.
There was definitely some mystery surrounding the milk. But all the talk about bacteria made her reluctant to try it. She needed a guinea pig. (5.67)
Kendra pulls a typical big-sister move here when she realizes that she needs a test subject for something potentially dangerous or icky… and thinks of her younger brother. Hey, that's what younger siblings are for, right?
"Unbeknownst to most of the family," Grandpa said, "a few of your cousins have visited me here. None of them came close to figuring out what is really going on." (7.145)
Ah-ha—so Kendra and Seth aren't the only relatives in living memory to be invited to Fablehaven; they're just the first ones to figure out what's actually happening there. Maybe curiosity isn't passed on genetically. Try telling that to cats.
"You should know," he went on, "I didn't let you come here merely as a favor to your parents. Your grandmother and I are getting on in years. The day will come when somebody else will need to care for this preserve. We need to find heirs." (10.30)
Turns out Grandpa is interested in Kendra and Seth as potential heirs to Fablehaven. It's not stated explicitly, but we're guessing that the caretakers prefer to keep it in the family if at all possible.
For the first time, the fact that Seth was going to die fully entered her mind. She thought of moments with him, both endearing and annoying, and realized that there would be no more of either. (17.81)
Kendra's love for her brother is a big deal. It's part of what gives her the courage to set foot on the Fairy Queen's island shrine, and also beg for help in order to save her family (which includes Grandpa and Grandma as well as Seth, but let's be honest, she doesn't know them as well as she knows Seth). So in the end, family is a pretty big deal is moving the plot along here in Fablehaven.
There was no way she was really seeing this, right? There had to be an explanation. But the fairies were everywhere, near and far, shimmering in vivid colors. How could she deny what was before her eyes? (5.97)
Kendra's first time seeing fairies is pretty amazing and confusing—she's never encountered supernatural creatures before, and we see no indication that she already believes in fairies, witches, ghosts, or whatever. But her eyes are definitely showing her something that's hard to deny. What's she supposed to do with this visual evidence?
"Fablehaven?" Seth repeated.
"The name the founders gave this preserve centuries ago. A refuge for mystical creatures, a stewardship passed down from caretaker to caretaker over the years." (5.114-115)
And now we get to put a name to this place, this refuge for mystical creatures that Seth and Kendra have stumbled upon. We also learn that Fablehaven always has human caretakers, and they pass on responsibility for it over the years—their Grandpa is the current caretaker. Which, you know, explains a lot.
"In a world where mortal man has become the dominant force, most creatures of enchantment have fled to refuges like this one." (5.148)
According to Grandpa, the majority of the world doesn't have anything to do with magic anymore—humans are the dominant force, and they've pretty much taken over with all their technology and science. This means that magic creatures need extra protection, the kind that they can get on preserves.
"The only other known jinn harp has her own shrine in a Tibetan sanctuary," Grandpa explained. "She was thought to be unique. Fairy connoisseurs travel from all corners of the globe to behold her." (6.161)
Once we begin to learn about magic creatures, we see that there's a whole subculture there. Fairy connoisseurs are apparently their own little branch of tourism (because jeez, Tibet is a pretty far-off destination)—and then there are fairy brokers like Maddox, who make a living by trapping and trading fairies (his presence is what prompts this conversation).
"The brownies have a special hatch that admits them to the basement, and they can use this door to enter the kitchen. They are the only magical creatures with permission to enter the house at will. The brownie portals are guarded by magic against all other creatures of the forest." (7.88)
Here Lena explains to Kendra why brownies have access to the house: they'll fix things for the humans, and they're less dangerous than the rest of the magic critters in the forest. But Lena is careful to make sure that Kendra knows that it's not because they want to be helpful, and they're not necessarily "good" either—it's just in their natures to fix things. It seems like a lot of magic works this way, where magic creatures act according to their nature, which doesn't fit into tidy boxes like human ideas of morality.
Kendra stared at the bushes and trees, expecting to find spiteful eyes glaring back at her. What creatures would come into view if all the greenery were removed? What would happen if she raced off the path? How long before some gruesome monster devoured her? (8.133)
After Seth has been transformed into a mutant-walrus thing by the fairies in an act of revenge, Kendra sees the dark side of the world of magic. If she strays from the path, violating the boundaries set to keep humans safe, anything could happen to her. Needless to say, it's not a nice thing to realize.
"Powerful magic holds the knots in place. When released, Muriel can channel that magic into granting the favor." (8.197)
Muriel is bound by magic, which most humans view as a good thing because she's kinda evil. But when people need a favor that can only be accomplished by magic—such as transforming Seth back to human after the fairies take revenge on him—they need to go to Muriel. Sounds like a dangerous trade.
"Our presence is essential to the magic that protects these walls. If you are ever going to be involved with the work on this preserve, you will need to learn to cope with certain unpleasant realities." (10.31)
Grandpa again gives the kids an explanation of how magic works and why it matters to them. On Midsummer Eve, the humans who reside on Fablehaven stay in the house, in part because it's their job to, and in part because their presence is part of the magic that keeps the home's boundaries intact. If the kids can learn to deal with magic, the nasty side as well as the beautiful side, maybe they'll have a place at Fablehaven someday too.
"How did you become a chicken in the first place?" Seth asked.
"Pride made me careless," Grandma said. "A sobering reminder that none of us are immune to the dangers here, even when we imagine we have the upper hand." (14.9-10)
Seth is curious about the details of how Grandma was magically changed into a chicken, but she doesn't give 'em up here. We know that keeping Seth curious isn't necessarily a great idea, but maybe Grandma has her reasons—it's not like she's thrilled to admit that pride made her careless around dangerous magic.
The air stirred again, still redolent with potent aromas. Kendra inexplicably sensed a presence. She was no longer alone. (17.87)
On the island shrine of the Fairy Queen, Kendra experiences some of the most powerful, and most mysterious, magic that we see in all of Fablehaven. The Fairy Queen is somehow invisibly present when Kendra makes her plea for help rescuing her family—it's not a physical presence, but it speaks to Kendra and gifts her with knowledge and the ingredients for an elixir. If that ain't magic, we don't know what is.
Seth resurfaced at the edge of the pool and threw his arms up onto the flagstones, trying to drag himself out of the water. Kendra stooped to assist him but shrieked instead. One arm was broad, flat, and rubbery. No elbow, no hand. A flipper coated in human skin. The other was long and boneless, a fleshy tentacle with limp fingers at the end. (8.57)
Kendra's right: this is definitely an ew moment in the book. When Seth becomes a mutant-walrus-thingie it's gross to look at, and probably not very fun from his perspective either. It must feel really weird (if not also painful) to have your body rapidly transform itself into shapes it's not meant to occupy.
"Seth was altered by magic imposed upon him. But the potential to fall and become an imp is a fundamental aspect of being a fairy […] Muriel might be able to undo the enchantments forced upon Seth. Reversing the fall of a fairy would be far beyond her capacity." (8.130)
According to Grandpa, there are magical rules about transformations and how they work, and for fairies, the possibility of becoming an imp is always there—it's just part of who they are. Since this is so ingrained in their magical identities, you can't just undo it with a spell. What happened to Seth, on the other hand, was imposed from the outside (by super-annoyed fairies), and so in theory a spell could reverse it.
The baby dove into the room, transforming grotesquely as it landed on the floor in a deft somersault. The child was replaced by a leering goblin with yellow slits for eyes, a puckered nose, and a face like a dried cantaloupe. (10.138)
This kind of rapid transformation, from cute to gross in 0.3 seconds, must be the work of some kind of magic. An illusion spell? An actual bodily transformation? We're not sure, but either way, we don't like it.
"How did this happen?" Seth asked. "Somebody transformed you?"
The chicken bobbed her head. (13.44-45)
Grandma-in-chicken-form finally gets a message through to the kids, but since she can't talk, they (and we) don't learn how she was transformed into a chicken, just that it happened. Even when she's returned to human form later on, she doesn't go into the details. It must be embarrassing to be transformed into a chicken against your will. Bok bok bok…
The fun-house Muriel began to ripple, as did the startling image of Goldilocks shedding feathers as she expanded into a person. The scene grew dim, as if clouds had blocked the sun, and a dark aura gathered around Muriel and Grandma. (13.165)
This whole magical-transformation business is pretty freaky, and when the kids bring Grandma-as-chicken to Muriel in order to have her undo the spell, everything becomes visually distorted. It works though, since the kids get Grandma back in human shape. But of course there's a price to pay: Muriel's freedom, which turns out to be bad news for everyone.
A fairy with raven black hair and bumblebee wings approached the bowl. Mimicking Kendra, she dipped a finger and tasted it. In a whirling shower of sparks the fairy grew to nearly six feet tall. (18.38)
Whoa—by this point in the story we know that fairies have the potential to fall and become imps, but that involves remaining roughly the same size. We don't have a clue that fairies can grow to be six feet tall until this moment. The transformation is temporary (which is probably a good thing—a six-foot-tall fairy could be a nuisance), but it's still pretty surprising.
Kendra saw a silver fairy with blue hair plant a kiss on an obese imp. The imp instantly metamorphosed into a plump fairy with coppery wings. As the silver fairy glided away, the plump fairy tackled another imp, forced a kiss, and in a flash the imp became a thin, Asian-looking fairy with hummingbird wings. (18.62)
Now here's another unexpected transform-y moment in the book. At first we'd learned that fairies that transform into imps aren't supposed to be able to change back—but now they're doing just that.
"I'll be curious to know what other changes the fairies wrought in you," Grandpa said. "I've never heard of such a thing. You'll let me know if you discover any other oddities?" (19.19)
After all the action goes down, Kendra doesn't have to drink milk anymore in order to see magical critters—this strikes Grandpa as odd, and potentially worrisome. Is this the only thing that interacting with the Fairy Queen has transformed about Kendra? Or will there be other surprises down the road?
Grandpa shrugged. "The fairies might have known that once they restored her, she would change her mind. Looks like they were right. Remember, the fairies experience existence like the naiads. From their point of view, Lena was out of her mind wanting to be mortal. They probably thought they were curing her insanity." (19.56)
Lena's transformation from aging mortal back to youthful naiad is puzzling and a little sad (at least from a human point of view). As a mortal, Lena got to have all kinds of cool experiences traveling the world, and she got to hang on to her memories, which she treasured. Back in the naiad world, all that vanishes, and she lives in the ephemeral, day-to-day, immortal world of fairies and naiads once more. Can we really attach a value (good or bad) to this kind of transformation?
Kendra sighed… The only person she could share it with was Seth. Anyone else would think she was insane. (19.93)
The experience that Kendra has at Fablehaven is transformative in more ways than one. Yeah, it leaves her with the freaky ability to see mystical critters unaided… but it also, in a strange way, makes her grow a little closer to her brother. After all, they went through this whole bizarre experience together, an experience they can't really share with other people because it'd sound crazy.
"Very well, my arrogant young adventurer. Why not test your courage? Every explorer deserves a chance to prove his mettle." (3.50)
Muriel seems to think that Seth is out to prove something, and so she basically dares him to stick his hand in a shady-looking box—but Seth, acting sensibly for once, doesn't do it. Does this mean he's not that brave after all? Or just that common sense sometimes overrides courage?
"I need you kids to be brave and responsible for me tonight," he said. (10.28)
Right around here, Grandpa is giving the kids a speech about how important it is for them to follow the rules on Midsummer Eve. But it's not a situation where you can just follow the rules and expect everything to turn out all right, since Grandpa is telling the kids to also be brave. Caving in to fear could apparently have negative consequences too.
"We need to find heirs […] You kids have impressed me so far. You are bright, adventurous, and courageous." (10.30)
During the pre-Midsummer-Eve speech, Grandpa praises the kids, telling them that they're smart and brave. It seems like these are good traits to have if you're going to potentially be a caretaker at Fablehaven—after all, there's plenty of unpleasant stuff out there, and you can't be afraid to face it and still do your job.
Seth jumped off the bed. Crouching, he scooped up two handfuls from the circle of salt and charged the wiry goblin. (10.146)
Once Seth lets the monsters into the house on Midsummer Eve, he realizes that Goldilocks, their pet chicken, is in danger. So what does he do? He mounts a rescue mission and faces down a freaky-looking goblin, with only salt to protect him. That's pretty brave if you ask us.
"Can he do this?" she whispered.
"He has a good chance. He's really brave, and pretty athletic. The height might not get to him. I would freak out." (14.98-99)
Here Kendra reassures Grandma that Seth actually has a decent chance of climbing Nero's logs and making it to the troll's lair so that bargaining can happen. Grandma is worried, but Kendra thinks Seth has it. After all, he's brave like that—and Kendra thinks that she, in comparison, is not. Interesting.
In her current situation, her family would die if she failed to act. She had to stand by her previous decision and carry out her plan, regardless of the consequences. (17.52)
Kendra is really freakin' scared to take the boat to the island with the shrine to the Fairy Queen—and with good reason: the last human who tried it was turned into dandelion puff. But here she realizes that she has to take action, even if she's scared, because at least now she has a shot at saving her family. In a weird, roundabout sort of way, that's pretty courageous.
"Want to see my second decisive move of the night?" she asked […] Unconsciously biting her lower lip, she grabbed both arms just below the shoulders, unhooked them, and dashed away from the limberjack. (17.112)
Kendra goes for not just one, but two really brave actions this night: making contact with the Fairy Queen, and disabling Mendigo the limberjack. When she first realizes that he's been sent to get her, Kendra reacts with fear—no one wants a creepy animated wooden puppet following them around—but then her inner courage kicks in, and she thinks of a way to neutralize him after all.
Kendra had always hated needles, the idea of being fully aware that something was about to hurt but having to endure it calmly. But today was not a day to be squeamish. (18.23)
Again we see Kendra plow on ahead with courage in order to save her family, facing things that are scary, and things that she really doesn't like. There's no getting around this stuff, though—she has to be brave and take action.
But what about when they got there? Bahumat was supposed to be incredibly powerful. Even so, considering the legion of fierce fairies surrounding her, Kendra liked her odds. (18.55)
Funny how being surrounded by a bunch of supernatural warriors can make you feel more courageous, eh? Kendra is obviously not thrilled about having to face down a demon, but at least she's not doing it alone anymore.
"What you did was so brave, and so doomed to failure, I can't think of anyone I know who would have even tried it." (19.12)
Grandpa's compliment to Kendra seems a tad double-sided. On the one hand, yeah, she was totally courageous in seeking out the Fairy Queen's help—but on the other hand, it was kind of dumb, considering that humans don't have a great track record of surviving encounters with the Fairy Queen. Maybe Seth doesn't have a monopoly on foolishly courageous acts after all.
Grandpa became very serious. "None of these creatures are good. Not the way we think of good. None are safe. Much of morality is peculiar to mortality. The best creatures here are merely not evil." (5.158)
Right after Kendra and Seth drink the milk, Grandpa spells it out for them: cute doesn't necessarily equal good. Fairies, for instance, aren't to be considered good creatures just because they can enter the yard and frolic in the garden. Interesting that magical creatures seem to resist easy categorization.
"The fairies aren't safe?" Seth asked.
"They aren't out to harm anyone, or I wouldn't allow them in the yard. I suppose they are capable of good deeds, but they would not normally do them for what we would consider the right reasons." (5.159-160)
Again Grandpa has to spell it out for Seth: Fairies are nice to look at, and they're great gardeners, but that doesn't necessarily make them safe or nice or good. Fairies aren't really malicious, and they won't try to actively hurt you, but this—again—doesn't mean that they're good at heart.
Seth scooted forward in his chair. "I want to hear about the evil creatures. What's out there?" (5.172)
Oh, Seth—so young, so predictable. Does every preteen boy have a fascination with dangerous, scary, violent stuff? Grandpa does his best to sidestep the issue, but later in the book, it's gonna come back and haunt everyone (which might be a terrible pun depending on whether any of the bad guys at Midsummer Eve turn out to be ghosts).
"I am told Seth even left a mirror with the fairy, so she could behold herself after she fell. The fairies considered that act particularly cruel." (8.100)
Grandpa relays what the fairies told him about the act of vengeance they wreaked on Seth. Apparently, from the fairies' perspective, Seth was incredibly cruel—perhaps even evil by their standards—in how he caused the captured fairy to fall, and then have to witness her own ugliness as an imp. This raises the question: can unintentional actions be cruel, or evil?
"On the festival nights, nightmares take shape and prowl the yard. Ancient entities of supreme evil patrol the darkness in search of prey." (9.45)
According to Grandpa, festival nights are not particularly fun because they're when evil creatures get to run loose and do whatever they want. Of course that doesn't stop Seth from being curious about what goes on though, which causes problems later in the book.
Gazing into those empty, searching eyes froze Kendra where she stood. Babbling whispers filled her mind. Her mouth felt dry. She could not swallow. (10.139)
Kendra's encounter with the scary, gauze-wrapped lady sure seems scary—and we might even go ahead and say this apparition seems pretty evil. Entrancing someone and then filling their head with whispers sure seems to fit the definition.
"I know the mistakes you made were not deliberate or malicious […] Your grandfather must share the blame for placing you children in a situation where opening a window with kind intentions could cause such harm and destruction. And clearly the fiends who abducted him are ultimately the most culpable." (15.67)
Grandma lays it out for Seth and Kendra: intentions aren't everything when it comes to telling good from evil, but they sure do matter. Seth didn't mean to cause any harm by opening the window on Midsummer Eve, and in fact he thought he was doing something good by rescuing the baby on the roof—the supernatural critters that abducted Grandpa, on the other hand, most certainly went in with the intention of doing harm, and so they can carry the most blame for the way things went down.
"Muriel is a student of evil. She was originally imprisoned for tampering with such things." (15.98)
We don't know if all witches in this world are evil, or if Muriel's a special case, but the way Grandma says it, we're starting to get worried about what Muriel wants with Bahumat. Evil witch + evil demon = evil sandwich of evil that we don't wanna mess with.
"The most violent and malevolent demons are imprisoned, yes, but that is for the safety of the world. In pursuit of endless carnage and unlawful dominion, they clashed anciently with good humans and creatures of light, and are paying a heavy price for losing." (15.111)
Grandma is just a treasure trove of information about evil. Apparently some supernatural creatures are pretty darn evil, and when they used to run amok, that was bad news for everyone else—so the not-so-evil creatures imprisoned them. Though now we're wondering… if the creatures of light are essentially good, why are they so into punishing evil? Something about that doesn't seem very good to us.
"Let's get this over with as soon as we can. Evil likes darkness." (16.14)
That's a cheery thought, Grandma—but in her defense, it seems to be true, at least in the world of Fablehaven. After all, the time when chaotic creatures have their run of the preserve is called Midsummer Eve, not Midsummer Morning or Midsummer Afternoon. Still, this doesn't make us feel too optimistic when Seth, Grandma, and Kendra descend into the basement of the Forgotten Chapel to face Muriel and hopefully neutralize the threat she represents…
Why would Grandpa Sorenson keep a place like this a secret? It was magnificent! Why go through all the trouble of maintaining it if not to enjoy it? Hundreds of people could gather here with room to spare. (4.84)
When Kendra and Seth discover the hidden pond on their grandparents' land, they're puzzled because it's so beautiful. Why hide something so amazing instead of putting it to use? Of course, they don't know about magic yet, so they have no clue that even very beautiful things can be very dangerous.
"Fairies are vain, selfish creatures. You may have noticed I drained all the fountains and the birdbaths outside. When they are full, the fairies assemble to stare at their reflections all day." (5.162)
According to Grandpa, fairies are really concerned with how they look. They can spend hours upon hours just staring at their reflections: in a pool of still water, in a mirror, or whatever. So fairies and appearances go together like peanut butter and jelly.
"They despise me there, all the more intensely because of their secret envy. How they would laugh at my appearance! They have not aged a day. But I have experienced many things that they will never know." (6.38)
When Kendra and Lena are talking about Lena's past as a naiad, Kendra asks if Lena ever goes back to the naiad pond. The answer is nope. Part of this is because the naiads secretly envy/hate Lena, and part of it is because they'll mock her for getting old—apparently in naiad-land, being forever young is the only way to go. They must love Barbie.
"Their personalities remain the same," Grandpa said. "Shallow and self-absorbed. The change in appearance reveals the tragic side of that mind-set. Vanity curdles into misery. They become spiteful and jealous, wallowing in wretchedness." (8.94)
Imps are like the flipside of fairies, not just in terms of appearance, but also their personalities. According to Grandpa, they go from being fun-loving and frolicking to miserable and wretched, but both mindsets are rooted in how vain and shallow they are at heart.
Muriel extended a hand over Seth […] His blubber rippled as if he were boiling inside. It looked like thousands of worms were under his skin, squirming to find a way out. Putrid vapor fumed up from his flesh. His fat appeared to be evaporating. His misshapen body convulsed. (8.175)
This is not a pretty sight. Seth looks pretty strange after the fairies take revenge on him for transforming one of them into an imp—and while we get why the fairies are bummed, this seems like a pretty extreme response. We don't learn if it hurts Seth or not, but we're guessing it doesn't feel pleasant.
"Some of the most insidious tricks employed tonight will involve artifice and illusion. Without the milk you could be even more susceptible. It would only broaden their ability to mask their true appearance." (9.169)
Right before Midsummer Eve, Kendra asks Lena whether they should've skipped the milk that morning—that would mean they wouldn't be able to see any of the magic creatures for what they are. Lena disagrees with that thought, saying that the magic creatures will already be trying to fool the humans into doing, well, whatever—probably not good things. So any insight the humans can have into the creatures' true appearances may be helpful.
Kendra saw everything as if through fun-house lenses. Muriel appeared distorted, first stretching broad, then tall. Seth became an hourglass with a wide head, a tiny waist, and clownish feet. Rubbing her eyes failed to cure her warped vision. (13.164)
When Muriel disenchants Grandma from chicken-form, everything looks all crazy—Kendra compares it to being in a fun-house, which doesn't seem too far off base. Why does the appearance of everything around them become distorted when magic is being used? We're not sure, but it's kinda freaky.
A tall, beautiful woman with a lustrous cascade of honey-blonde hair stood beside the recess blowing on one of the many knots. She wore a spectacular azure gown that emphasized her seductive figure. (16.34)
What is this sexy lady doing in the basement of a chapel? Turns out she's Muriel, but Muriel with a very different appearance—she's no longer an old hag, and instead she's young and beautiful. Is this an illusion? Did she actually manage to change her body composition? We have no idea… but even if it's a superficial illusion, we're still a little freaked out by Muriel's ability to manipulate appearances.
The fairies were uniformly tall and beautiful, with the lithe musculature of professional ballerinas […] They still had magnificent wings. They still emitted light, although the gentle twinkle had become a brilliant blaze. The biggest change was in their eyes. Merry mischief had been replaced by something stern and smoldering. (18.40)
When Kendra carries out the Fairy Queen's instructions to make an elixir, the fairies that drink it become human-sized and a little intimidating—their appearances on the surface are more or less the same, they're just bigger. The main change Kendra notices is in their intensity, and in how their eyes are suddenly very serious.
Then a face rose almost to the surface of the water, right at the end of the dock. It was Lena. Her hair was still white with a few black strands. Though she looked no younger, her face had the same ageless quality. (19.36)
At the end of the demon-binding, the fairies snatch Lena up and bring her back to the naiad pond. This takes away Lena's memories of her human life, essentially making her into an immortal yet ephemeral being once more. As Kendra sees, Lena's appearance hasn't really changed, but at the same time, the fact that she's living and breathing underwater is a pretty big clue that she's no longer the friendly housekeeper she once was.
The memory of the funeral made Kendra shiver […] The Larsens were the grandparents who had been part of her life. They had shared many holidays and long visits. (1.27)
Kendra feels close to her grandparents on the Larsen side, which is one of the reasons she doesn't remember their funeral with joy (that and because she's not a bad person). This also serves to highlight the fact that she doesn't know the Sorenson grandparents very well (hence not looking forward to the visit).
"She has been trapped in that shack ever since, held captive by the knots in the rope you saw. Let her story serve as another warning—you have no business in those woods." (5.182)
Thanks, Grandpa, for this history lesson about Muriel turning into an evil witch and being imprisoned for a long shmooping time. It has such a nice moral about how you're not supposed to mess with magical stuff you don't understand, or else there could be serious consequences (though it's not like Seth is gonna listen anyway).
"Mortality is a totally different state of being. You become more aware of time. I was absolutely content as a naiad. I lived in an unchanging state for what must have been many millennia, never thinking of the future or the past, always looking for amusement, always finding it. Almost no self-awareness." (6.40)
Lena can compare and contrast the mortal and the naiad perspectives on time, since she's lived on both sides. Humans are apparently really aware of the passage of time and their relationship to the past, while naiads don't have a clue—but then they don't really need to, since they're more or less immortal. It's kind of like comparing apples and oranges when we think about it this way.
"The Society of the Evening Star is an arcane organization that we all hoped had gone extinct decades ago," Maddox explained. "Over the centuries, their relevance has waxed and waned." (6.127)
Brief history lesson: There's this secret society; they're probably up to no good; they've been around for a while. Now we're one step closer to understanding the past, but how much good will it do us? Especially with the whole emphasis on it being a secret society?
"I should not speak of what used to be. With my fallen mind, I see the changes much more clearly than they do. I feel the loss more keenly." (7.119)
Here Lena's reminiscing about the past, when magic critters used to be kinda all over the place. With humans taking over the globe these days though, there isn't much space for magic creatures to thrive, so they're mostly hanging out in hidden corners of the world, or on preserves. Lena clearly feels sad about this, but she also thinks she's more aware of the contrast between the past and the present because she's more or less mortal right now.
"Beauty withers. Organs quit. You remember yourself in your prime, and wonder where that person went." (9.20)
Lena's thoughts here are maybe a tad morbid. She's saying that part of the problem with aging is not just your body getting old and starting to lose its functionality, but also that you remember how you used to be, and you can't be that awesome anymore. Maybe this is a caution against living in the past too much. Or maybe getting old just stinks no matter how you slice it.
"You say it is June. My last clear memories are from February, when the spell was enacted […] I lapsed into a twilight consciousness, incapable of rational thought, unable to interpret my surroundings as a human would." (14.3)
Apparently being a chicken really messed with Grandma's perception of time and her memories—she couldn't really keep track of when time was passing, or how much of it. She didn't precisely seem to lose her human memories, though, and instead it was like she couldn't access them as readily.
"I'm not sure she even remembered me," Kendra admitted. "At first I thought she did, but I bet she was faking, trying to get me close enough to drown me." (19.49)
Kendra goes to the naiad pond after the stuff with Bahumat goes down because she wants to see if Lena's okay there. But she doesn't really get a straight answer. Lena's a naiad again, which means her human memories are gone and she likely doesn't remember Kendra. Is it bad to lose all your memories? Perhaps. But at least Lena doesn't end up as demon-food, right?
"What's it like for her?"
"No way to be sure. For all I know, this is a unique occurrence. Her memories of mortality are apparently distorted, if she retains them at all." (19.63-64)
Kendra wants to know how Lena is doing now that she's a naiad again, but Grandpa, who's usually a wellspring of information, doesn't have anything to offer here. It seems like naiads turning into people and back again might not be that common an occurrence. The Lena they knew and liked as a human is effectively gone, and her memories probably are gone too.
Kendra crossed the room to the painting she had done of the pond […] Yet she hesitated to bring it. Would the image stir too many painful memories? (19.95-96)
Sometimes objects can bring up memories, reminding us of experiences associated with them. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on whether those memories are happy or sad (or maybe both)—and in the end, Kendra chooses to bring along the painting Lena designed for her. She'd rather remember Fablehaven, both the good and the bad, which makes sense since we have a feeling she'll be back.