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Monstrous: physically, mentally, morally. Castrated men are often portrayed this way in fiction. What’s the “evil eunuch” stereotype, and why do novelists reproduce it?
In Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains, Tucker Lieberman explores the stereotypes that fashion these cruel, warped characters. He encourages fiction writers to change the game.
From Taita, in Wilbur Smiths Egyptian series to Lord Varys in Game Of Thrones, the fictional representation of eunuchs continues to fascinate readers around the world but it’s their villainous manifestations that seem most intriguing. It is a universally acknowledged truth that we all love a villain. We can’t help loving to hate, or sometimes simply loving, them, giving us the opportunity to explore our dark side, to indulge in the cruel without any real-world consequences, but what makes the eunuch character so villainous and what underpins their enduring appeal? A rigorous exploration of eunuchs in classical and modern fiction Lieberman gives us the answers and it proves a fascinating read. Quickly dispelling popular fictional bias he takes us back through the annals of time to explore their origins. Presenting us with the facts from which fiction has plundered he is quick to point out that many cultures engaged in castration and had varying attitudes on the practice and those who went through it. From the Italian Castrati who did it for the sake of opera to those instances where it was used as punishment or a tool of oppression. Lieberman not only enlightens but challenges authors to abandon their fictional tropes and create rounded personas that more accurately reflect the historical facts whilst acknowledging our greater awareness and understanding of gender identity.
A timely and well-researched book from start to finish, Lieberman has made a significant contribution to the world of literary criticism. Of special interest to academics and the LBGT community, Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains is recommended without reservation.
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We Must Never Forget
"His baby breath hung milky white.
Soft downy hair within my sight.
But as I bent to kiss his head.
Behind my eyes the horror spread.
The acrid smoke of bullets past.
The stench of blood, gut wrenching blast.
The begging eyes, and smell of fear.
Hands clutching hope on coming near.
His soapy skin, flushed pink and new.
Eyes clear and bright with mother’s hue.
Softest skin and gurgling smile.
Now overspread by all things vile.
With shaking hands and eyes shut tight.
Memories of each haunting sight.
My comrades brave with babes and wives.
Torn to shreds before my eyes.
As tears spill out to soak his head.
I gently lay him down to bed.
Watch softly as he sucks his thumb.
And pray for all the orphaned young."
From The Fallen - Poem by Pixie Woodstock