Study Guide

Bridget in Midwinterblood

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Little Merle's mother in 1902 is quite the lady. Not only is she pretty darn knowledgeable about the uses of dragon orchid, she's smart enough to know that the flower isn't really to be messed with:

"We can make different things from the stems. And from the roots, too, but they're different again, do different things, and I don't like to work with them."

"Why not, Mommy? Are they poisonous?"

Bridget considered this.

"Yes," she said, "in a way." (4.3.14-17)

Unlike others, Bridget doesn't fall victim to the desire to use the magic of the flowers for her own reasons. She only uses them to make things that help and heal people—like the tea she gives Eric Carlsson after his fall. She recognizes that the dragon orchid is both useful and dangerous, so she doesn't abuse it. Everything in moderation, yo.

Bridget is also smart enough to know what her young daughter is up to, but doesn't make a big deal about Merle's lies, especially since they come in handy later:

"Merle," said her mother. "You have been naughty."

Merle had been waiting for this. "I know."

"You lied to me and that is very bad."

They stopped walking, Bridget looked down at her daughter.

"I'm sorry, Mommy," said Merle.

"Very well," said Bridget. "We will say no more of it. Anyway, I knew you were lying to me, because I found apples in your bedroom."

Merle blushed. "I'm sorry," she repeated.

"But I want to say something else," Bridget said. "What you did today was good, and very brave. You might have saved the old man's life."

She recognizes that some good has come out of Merle's misadventures and she decides not to punish the little girl. Mother of the year right there.

And one of these good things, of course, is a friendship with Eric Carlsson. Though Merle and Eric are closest, Bridget is part of the friendship circle, too. This is good since Bridget seems a little bit isolated from the other islanders; the dragon orchid has fallen out of style and they don't much trust anyone who would mess with them:

Theirs was the last on the right before the top, which meant that Bridget, Merle's mother, could come and go unseen to the western half.

This was good, because though many people on the island made use of her skills and her preparations, there were others who disapproved of what she did. In days gone by, she knew, her art had been normal, welcomed, supported, but it seemed those days were gone. (4.2.3-4)

Here, we see that these are sort of lonely times for Bridget. Interestingly, the house Bridget and Merle live in seems to be the same location that the witch from the story in 1848 lives. Is one of Bridget's relatives the witch who gives Merle the potion that turns her into a hare? Could Rebecka be one of her descendants? Someone has to be passing on this dragon orchid wisdom, after all.

In the end, Bridget is the one who finds Eric dead and recognizes what's happened to him: He sacrificed everything for his painting and was rejected. Bridget understands this, even if Eric was friends with Merle first and foremost. But what did we expect? Bridget's an insightful lady.

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