'86 Rabbit

A FANGirl's Forkstress of Solitude

The Host

You asked for it, ArtisticPhilosopher, and you got it. Here’s my blog entry about The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. I figure I can blog about other SMeyer works on my All-Twi-All-The-Time blog. My blog, my rules, and I say it’s close enough.

(courtesy of StephenieMeyer.com)

(courtesy of StephenieMeyer.com)

It had been nearly a year since I read The Host, so I reread it. What the heck. It’s not like I have the money for new books at the mo’. By the way, this is the only non-series book I ever gave a second read. I’ve read Harry Potter and Twilight four times each.

Let’s start with the cover. Read on if you don’t mind a few spoilers…

Haunting, isn’t it? At first you see this fierce eye watching you. It’s creepy. Is she stalking you? Hunting you? But like those drawings in which you look at it once and see a goblet and look at it again and see a lady, this cover can been seen two ways. Look at it again and you might see someone shy, timid. Not someone glaring at you, but rather someone sort of staring down-then-up at you. It really is the essence of the book.

The plot, in simplest terms, is a tale of body snatchers. Do not judge it too quickly though. It’s no 70’s distaster. It’s no action adventure. It’s a post-apocolyptic tale of human nature told from the alien’s point of view. Earth has been invaded by slug-like alien parasites, called Souls, who take over host bodies. They live as we lived, but without money, without violence, without illness. It is not genocide to them, it’s improvement. They even clean up the environment. Besides, they will continue breeding as we do, so our genes will survive even if the offspring is intended to be given over as a new host. It is only our consciousness that dies. They even keep our memories.

The alien we come to know and love is named Wanderer. She is not typical for her kind. Not only was she born on The Origin, their home planet, but Earth is her ninth planet. Most of her species live on two, maybe three worlds before finding a world to call home. Wanderer has never lived as the same host species twice.

Wanderer’s host’s name is Melanie Stryder. Melanie is not typical of her kind either. Her consciousness doesn’t disappear when Wanderer takes over the body. She is trapped inside her own head, forced to watch Wanderer go about her boring everyday life, and desperately trying to keep her secrets to herself.

This is where I’m going to start analyzing names because I could not help but think of The Fellowship of the Ring’s All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

 

 

 

I was much interested in Wikipedia’s little reminder that the poem first appears in Chapter 10: Strider. I knew that the poem was about Strider, but I didn’t remember it being in a chapter named for him. Anyway, Stryder/Strider, Wanderer/Wander. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I wonder what else we might learn about The Host by examining this poem.Continuing my foray into Wikipedia I find that the poem, unsurprisingly, is about appearance versus reality. Line one is a variation of All That Glitters Is Not Gold. Line two is about rangers, who are not trusted but who guard against evil. Three and four are about endurance . Five and six are about renewal. Seven is about Narsil, an esteemed sword. Finally, eight is about Strider accepting his birthright, revealing himself to all as Aragorn, and taking the crown.

Well that’s all great, but does it relate to The Host? Let’s explore that. All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter. This could relate to the early stages of colonization. A drastic reduction in violence. The terminally ill getting up and walking out of cancer wards, miraculously cured. It sounds great, but it was at the cost of the consciousness of the host bodies. Is the value in the body or the mind? If you say the mind, then these improvements definitely are not gold. Not All Who Wander Are Lost. I always loved that line, being somewhat of a wanderer myself, but that’s beside the point. Like Tolkien’s Strider, Melanie and Wanderer are rangers of sorts. Melanie escaped the Souls, wandering the desert with her kid brother, protect them both from what she can only see as evil. She wanders, but she is not lost. She has amazing focus and determination.

The Old That Is Strong Does Not Wither, Deep Roots Are Not Reached By The Frost. This is Wanderer and Melanie. Wanderer is centuries old and despite her fear that she is weak, she is far from it. She keeps going when others of her kind could not. Most of all she is true to herself, even with Melanie whispering in her head that it’s the wrong way to do it. Similarly, Melanie retains her consciousness when most humans could not. Her roots truly do run deep. It is her love of her brother and her lover that keep her mind alive.

From The Ashes A Fire Shall Be Woken, A Light From The Shadows Shall Spring. Until this point I’ve said only things about the characters’ personalities that you’d get from the first few chapters of The Host. They aren’t much as spoilers go. These lines point more toward what happens in the book rather than who the book is about, so beware, I’m about to spoil some things. It’s not like Wanderer was emotionally destitute or anything; she had just never experienced emotion quite like human emotion. Her host body’s passion for Jared was often described as a fire. This was a level of emotional intensity like Wanderer had never felt. Ian’s feelings for Wanderer, I would say, were a definite light from the shadows, literally at times.

Finally, Renewed Shall Be Blade That Is Broken, The Crownless Again Shall Be King. It’s tempting to think of Melanie and Wanderer as the ones who are broken and will be renewed, but they aren’t what I would consider a blade. Wanderer can’t even stand the thought of weapons. The only ones who wield weapons among her kind are Seekers. Their Calling is to seek out wild humans and give them up as hosts. There is a particularly nasty one following Wanderer. She is also unusual among Souls. She is downright unpleasant. I believe her to be the broken sword. There is talk of sequel books. I believe we might see her renewal at some point. The King, I believe, points to Wanderer. She is referred to as being a sort of royalty, she is so revered among Souls. When she embarks on her adventure that brings her so far from her fellow Souls she could be considered crownless. During this time she is viewed with as much suspicion as Tolkien’s Rangers. Will she give herself up for Motherhood, or will she find another way to give Melanie back her body? I’ll never tell, but if she can do either she may again be royalty, adored by a new family of humans.

I did promise some name analysis. This was somet thing I had a lot of fun doing for the Twilight Saga. I hope the name choices are as meaty in The Host. Let’s start with the Host herself. Melanie means “dark, black”. She is described as being quite tan. In fact her tan never goes away, Wanderer thinks at one point. She also has dark hair. She is hidden in the shadows of what was once her mind. Sometimes her thoughts are quite dark. This name suits her perfectly.

Wanderer is given the nickname Wanda. Sure, it is just a simple, and human, version of her given Soul name, but it is still worth examining. Wanda is Slavic for ‘a Wend’ which refers to the Slavic people from eastern Germany. I think it is probably a coincidence that the daughter of King Krak of Krakow was named Wanda, that Krakow later became home to death camps, and that our Wanda is essentially a one-woman death camp to Melanie. I find it more interesting to reinterpret the word Wend. Aside from referring to a Slavic people, it can mean ‘to proceed or to go’. This describes Wanderer completely, as she earned her name by going from planet to planet and from host to host.

Jared, Melanie’s love, and thus Wanderer’s, is tough but kind. He is described as happy and given to smiling. When he lost Melanie he descended into darkness. This is exactly what the name Jared means: Descent. Another interesting meaning of descent is a, “sudden raid or hostile attack.” Jared is the best at raiding. He always brings back what his fellows need, though sometimes there is violence because of it.

Jeb is Melanie’s uncle. He is a Stryder so we may consider him a Ranger. He has been look at as a crazy old loon for a long time. He is paranoid, a conspiracy theorist, but that is was kept him alive. Jeb is short for Jebediah. This is and Americanization of Jedidiah/Jedediah which means ‘Friend of God’ or ‘Beloved by Yahweh’. Jeb, which he is referred to most often, is a diminutive of Jacob, The Supplanter. Maybe it’s Jacob that is the most important interpretation here. I think that the Old Testament’s Jacob being the father of the twelve founders of the twelve tribes of Israel is important. Jeb is the father of this “tribe”. He is also a supplanter of sorts, keeping people from doing what they would often like to do, but for their own good.

Jamie, brother of Melanie, nephew of Jeb, is a mystery to me. We don’t know if that’s his full name or a nickname. If it’s a nickname it’s short for either James or Benjamin. James is another version of Jacob. He holds no one back but Wanda, who only stays in her uncomfortable surrounding out of love for him. He is no leader, being a kid. Benjamin fits a bit more. Benjamin in the Old Testament was the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons. Jeb is a father figure to him, so this makes sense. Also, as a male descendant of Jeb’s it is plausible that he will one day lead their group.

Ian. I love Ian. I hope this works out beautifully. Yes, I am looking this stuff up as I go. It turns out that Ian is the Scottish version of John, a New Testament name borne by two saints, meaning “Yahweh is gracious.” So we have a lot of God-loving around here. It makes sense. The people we are talking about were spared a horrible fate. Ok, so Ian’s name isn’t so exciting, but I still love him.

There are a bunch of other names I could check on, but those are the majors, and I’m tired. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Thanks for reading this far.

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June 11, 2009 - Posted by | Essays, Stephenie Meyer | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. the eye creeps me out. i need to actually finish ‘the host’ it’s still sitting on my bedside table.

    oh and “forkstress’ of solitude?! AWESOME!

    and another thing… i was just thinking about the good old days today and made me think of you! XO love ya!

    Comment by themoonisdown | June 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Forkstress of Solitude. I still love that. My brain amuses me when I’m tired. This is one of the things that really cracked me up one night, and I had to use it.

    I think of the good old days often. Love ya back!

    Comment by '86 Rabbit | June 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. Great post!

    Comment by macromedia | July 7, 2009 | Reply


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