Swan Lake: Rothbart

We’re approaching the end of the Swan Lake themed blog posts–though the review special will continue to run! Today’s topic is probably the heaviest and the most philosophical, but it also is filled with spoilers so I want to give everyone enough time to read the book before I broached the subject. So, be forewarned if you still haven’t had a chance to read it, this blog entry has some major spoilers about the ending of Swan Lake.

Let’s jump straight into it, Rothbart. Rothbart was one of the trickiest and most difficult villains I’ve written thus far, because he ends up being  sympathetic. At the very end of the book you learned that Rothbart was either told to take over the country, or his daughter would be in great danger. As he was unwilling to endanger his daughter, but also wasn’t twisted enough to follow through with whatever darkness is pulling the strings in the background, Rothbart uses Odette to accomplish redemption for everyone… Except for himself. As he dies he breaks the “quick release” strand of his spells that Angelique identified when studying Odette’s curse, freeing everyone and breaking any of his leftover spells. (Unknown fact: He had some nasty spells placed on his castle in case Suzu came sniffing around while he was out. He broke those as well so the castle wouldn’t harm anyone.)

I badly wanted Rothbart to be the reason why the curse was broken, because in the six previous volumes of the Timeless Fairy Tales, the hero and heroine are always responsible for breaking the curse. (As they should be.) Looking ahead, I know I will be writing several more stories that include breaking curses, and everything was starting to look really repetitive. So for the sake of interest, and to keep me from going as crazy as Angelique is over all these curses, I decided to mix things up a little bit.

But although this change made the story much more compelling and interesting, Rothbart’s character was extremely difficult for me to figure out how to write when I first started the book. How could I present him so everyone knew he was a villain, but still give him the freedom and ability to end strongly?

You see, I’m a big believer in darkness and light. I love Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings because they, like fairy tales, show how important it is that you don’t compromise with what is evil. However, one thing I’ve learned as an adult, is that individual humans don’t follow that kind of division. Some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know screw up– just as we all do. And some of the meanest people I’ve met have hidden soft spots. Humans can be gray. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the reality we live in.

More often than not, fairy tales follow the pattern of darkness and light, and the villain is always unsympathetic and horrible. Rothbart was a real challenge for me to craft when I place him in the shadow of every other villain I’ve written thus far. However, I also feel that as the villain he is the one that stands out most. He seems  more realistic than the other villains. He was also the most secretive. Now that you know the ending of Swan Lake, if you take another gander at his scenes you’ll see tiny hints of his inner struggle. (In example, he commiserates with the wyvern in feeling imprisoned, the smugglers mention Odette is the only one he’ll tolerate–which you should now know why thanks to the In Search of a Hero extra–he openly talks about how fond he is of Odette and how much he values her ruthless protective streak, etc.)

In a totally unemotional/unrelated note, I’m sure some of you are wondering that if the original Swan Lake ballet said the evil sorcerer’s name was Von Rothbart, why did I drop the von? Kozlovka’s culture is very loosely based off historic Russia–I saw a few of you clever readers picked up on the Russian names, excellent observation! Russia does not use vons in their titles, that’s a German thing, so I dropped the von and kept the Rothbart!

So, please tell me Champions, what did you think of Rothbart? Did you find him interesting, or did you think I was attempting to be too clever for my own good? Until next time, have a lovely weekend everyone–and happy Fourth of July to my American Champions!

16 comments on “Swan Lake: Rothbart

  1. Your decision to have Rothbart end the curse and his other spells and engineer his death added a depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. This book isn’t my favourite one out of all your works, but you’re right–humans are gray.

    • Thank you for your comment–it really made my day! I really wanted a chance to explore my villains a little more with Swan Lake. My books are so packed I don’t usually have time to really portray the baddies. I’ve actually been pouting a bit because I had barely any time to reveal things about Tenebris in the Snow Queen books, so I was determined to make Rothbart a deeper character.

      • If you want you can totally expand on Tenebrism in some short stories or blog posts. I’d read and love and appreciate them. 😀

      • That’s great to know! I actually will be writing some more Snow Queen shorts for an anthology this December, and I was pondering Tenebris and wondering if anyone would be interested in learning more about him, so thank you for the shout out! 😀

  2. I love Rothbart. I mean, he’s not my favorite character or anything, but he’s more deep, more interesting, more misunderstood. A good villain. There was nothing wrong with your previous books, but Swan Lake certainly shook things up! 🙂 love your books!

    • It’s so great that you found him interesting! I was trying to break the pattern of my other books, so in the beginning I was crafting him just to suit my needs. But by the end of the book he had become a much more rounded character. I was pretty happy with the result, but I was a little apprehensive that he would mess up the mechanics of the book because he was a big change for me. So I’m really glad you liked his twist!

      • Haha, I completely understand! It happens all the time to me when I’m texting my cover artist or Editor #1. (Rothbart almost eternally labeled Rust beans!)

    • I do know what you mean. There’s actually quite a bit of foreshadowing in Rothbart’s scenes, but it’s the type of foreshadowing that you won’t pick up on until the second read-through. I knew it was probably too subtle, but I wanted Rothbart to be a genuine surprise instead of the more obvious twists I’ve done in my more recent books. (Foreshadowing is a tricky thing!)

  3. I love what you did with Rothbart! It is nice once in a while to read a good villain, one you wish could have turned their life around. Kinda like Winter in Santa Claus is Coming To Town. Lol an oldie, but a goodie. Anyway, great job with shaking up the villain in his one!

    Will there be a wedding scene for our couple in this story? And will the Imperial Prince ever settle down? Lol personally, I am rooting for Benno to tame him 🙂

    • I’m glad you liked Rothbart! I became surprisingly fond of him by the end of the book–or perhaps I should say sad for him? His story was sad, but no matter how I spun it, I knew he wasn’t the type who would seek redemption. If Odette and Odile had known I think they could have dragged him into it kicking and screaming, but that was why he worked so hard to keep them in the dark. 😦

      As for the other chracters, Benno’s got her eyes set on another (She’s far too smart to saddle herself with Yakov) but Yakov will get tamed sometime in the near future! You will see Odette and Alexsei get married, but not in the last short. (I’ll be fleshing out the side stories and actually writing out the Summit and some side missions with various characters, and then you’ll see Odette and Alexsei tie the knot!)

  4. I loved what you did with Rothbart as a villain, it’s a shame though that he never got to turn things around, as I felt sorry for him in the end. As much as I did enjoy the book I think maybe there was a little bit more focus needed on the other main characters to give them a bit more depth for us to better understand their characters.

    • I’m glad you liked him, CP! Rothbart was such an unusual villain for me, I had a hard time not getting attached!

      As for more characterization, based on feedback I’ve decided that after I tie up this arc with Angelique, I’ll probably split my fairy tales into two books. Snow Queen really showed me that people are interested in getting to know characters–even side characters–on a deep level that I can’t tackle in a single book. (Not just due to length, but also pacing and plot!) So Sleeping Beauty, the Twelve Dancing princesses, Snow White, and my secret unnamed fairy tale will all be single books, but after those, all bets are off! 😉

      • You are doing a 12 dancing princesses! That fairytale is my favorite. Please tell me when it is coming out. If you know. Thanks.

      • Hi Grace! The 12 Dancing Princesses will probably be released in June 2017, so about a year away. 🙂 I’m looking forward to it is one of my favorite fairytales as well!

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