I think I realised something, a reason for why I love about Neil Gaiman’s work so much that I never realised before. Many of his main characters are very…wallflower. At least,
they have been
in most of the stories I have read. They aren’t celebrated. They aren’t suave or extra clever or grand in any way. They just are. Richard is a man with an okay job and an iffy girlfriend. Shadow is a down on his luck ex-con. The Narrator in Ocean is a man questioning life in his late 40′s, in a not too different way from how one questions in their 20′s. Barbie too, is just a girl. They all lead wallflower existences, unnoticed by those not looking, easily passed over by the random on the street.
And then these wallflower heroes of his go on to see fantastic things, have reality warping adventures. Adventures on scales so abstract and so vast, and so, so beautiful. And then they come back. Then they come back to a normal life, or at least, a life normal enough. No one knows of what they’ve done. They aren’t congratulated or patted on the back. They come back and live more of their wallflower lives.
And I think the reason I really love this trope of his is because, as time goes by, I too feel more and more wallflower. As children, we dream big. I was going to be the next Tesla, re-invent electricity based technology for the world. Right now, I’d be happy to get a job out of uni that pays okay. Life lowers our expectations and makes wallflowers out of most of us, meant to go just watch the world swing madly on. We contribute to it, but in small ways, ways that seem insignificant. And when we pick up a book, we hide ourselves in awe behind heroes like Vin and Daenerys who can decimate armies and change the course of history in minutes. Which is fine - it’s a lovely escape. But sometimes, we need something a bit less from our heroes. Sometimes, we just need someone to see ourselves in, to stand by, to walk with, to fight with, and in the end, come back with to our everyday lives, with a world none the wiser, and feeling no more changed. Sometimes, we need Shadow, and we need Barbie, and we need Richard. And we need Gaiman.
what about gendry and ned?? or meera & jojen and cat?? do the big starks like their kids friends and suitors?
Oh man LET’S GO STARK PARENTS WITH THEIR KIDS’ BAES:
See, Meera tries to make small talk with Ned and he responds politely but inside he’s just screaming because oh dear god why are they talking about the weather right now? He really, really hates small talk.
He really respects her though because she has a great head on her shoulders, and she and Jojen were Bran’s first non-family friends and are very respectful and helpful to Bran.
Cat adores Meera; Meera gets on with Arya and Sansa and Cat loves that Meera can bring the two girls together (Ygritte relates to Arya more and Talisa more with Sansa, but Meera connects so wonderfully and equally with the both of them).
Ned and Cat are very protective of Theon and Gendry; they’ve practically adopted the two into their home.
We all know about Theon’s shitty father, and Ned’s dealt with him more often in their business dealings so he understands and is completely fine with Theon coming over practically every day.
Gendry is his best friend’s son, and while Ned loves Robert, it’s hard because Robert just refuses to acknowledge Gendry and Ned figures if Robert isn’t going to parent his son, he will.
There are rooms made up for the both of them; Cat has a guest room set up and they tend not to stay over on the same days so they alternate using that bed.
Margaery is interesting; she’s polite as hell but she puts Cat off because she reminds her of the popular girls she used to go to school with. She always lowkey expects Margaery to do something drastic and it never happens.
Ned doesn’t have those same reservations; he finds Margaery to be incredibly respectful and she has opinions that she’s always backing up with facts.
Cat likes this too; all three of them have definitely had a politics talk and they left it feeling not angry do you know how amazing it is to walk away from a talk about politics and not be pissed off???
Ygritte (and by association, Tormund) make Cat and Ned nervous because she’s so closely associated with Jon’s rebellion phase + running away from home, but they’ve learned about how rough her home life is and why she’s on her own now.
They don’t approve of her actions, and Cat is always encouraging Ygritte to go back into school, but while they make clear the things they dislike, they both also tell Ygritte that if she runs into any trouble or needs advice on anything she can go to them, no matter what.
Sam’s also vouched for Ygritte, and they both think very highly of Sam, so Cat and Ned have accepted her in.
Cat is a bit put off by Jojen though tbh.
“Ned he’s just so….quiet.” “I know, isn’t it wonderful?” “But don’t you ever feel like he’s just watching you in the meantime?” “Honey, as long as he doesn’t make small talk, he could be planning to rob a bank for all I care.”
Ned is fond of Jojen because while every other S.O. asks questioons about his life, Jojen is quiet. Not that Ned doesn’t enjoy talking to Margaery/Theon/Gendry/Ygritte, but he despises small talk; if you’re going to talk, Ned thinks it should be about something of substance.
Their longest conversation was this: “Oh, hello Jojen. You waiting for Bran?” “Hello Mr. Stark. I am, he said he’d be out in a minute.” “Well I’m off then, goodbye.” “Bye.”
See that? No questions about his day, no small talk, no meaningless chatting about the weather. It’s b e a u t i f u l.