this story's no good for heroes

classical voice student currently fixated on Critical Role and Dragon Age + sometimes traditional japanese fashion

Last update
2021-04-02 16:42:55

    The human heart
    I do not grasp, bu
    in my old home flower
    fill the air with scen
    like in the days long gon

  • Hyakunin Isshu 35: Ki no Tsurayuki (as always, link to the poem analysis is in the notes below)
  • 人はいさ 心も知らずふるさとは 花ぞ昔の 香ににほひける Hito wa isa / kokoro mo shirazu / furusato wa / hana zo mukashi no / ka ni nioikeru

    Even if I came back after a long while, at least the flowers in my old home would still smell the same  Sorry for a long absence. I really needed some time off.

    I feel like I’m having a slightly different interpretation of the Caleb and Frumpkin scene than most people, so I’m going to try and explain it.

    What hit me so hard about it wasn’t that it’s a sign that Caleb is finally “moving on” from his past. I’m thinking of it instead as him finally facing his past.

    Caleb has spent most of the campaign (and, indeed, the 5 years we know he spent alone prior to meeting Nott in jail) not allowing himself to grieve. It’s not just that he wasn’t “moving on” from what happened – he also wasn’t allowing himself to process it. By framing any remembrance of his family not as “I need to process that they are gone,” but instead “I have to fix this,” Caleb shut down any ability to fully face his trauma and allow himself to feel sadness untempered by blame and self-loathing.

    Being able to say to Frumpkin “hey, you have been a great and appreciated coping mechanism, but I need to face that my cat is dead,” Caleb is opening the door for himself to think “my parents are dead, and I am sad about that.” It sounds simplistic, but that’s literally what he’s not been allowing himself to do. It’s less “moving on” from his past, and more “finally acknowledging it in a healthy way.”

    Delayed and compound grief, as well as survivor guilt, have always been a central part of Caleb’s narrative, and I think they are themes Liam has been tackling deliberately. Caleb appreciates Frumpkin, and Frumpkin (along with his friends) helped him get to a point where he could think about his family without framing it through self-loathing. But acknowledging that directly and deciding to face his past is a sign that Frumpkin the coping mechanism worked. Which also means it’s time to acknowledge the new support system, and start to think about how best to engage with and face his grief.

    Caleb and the asylum. I have 2 main thoughts: 1) of course Caleb is angry. Anger about this part of his past has been there the whole time. He’s just not had a way to act on it before and has tried to bury and downplay it. 2) I don’t think this is a “regression” at all and frankly I think it’s weird to frame it that way.

    And also, he’s totally justified. 

    I’ve been struggling to have much to say on this topic which so many other people are framing as a Big Deal for Caleb because I guess I just don’t think of it as one? 

    Caleb was always party to the idea of talking to Astrid and was on board with breaking into the Sanatorium. Now, has this been the wisest plan the group has ever come up with? Definitely not, but Caleb’s been part of all the planning and knew what he was getting into. Perhaps the level of his own emotion at returning there and seeing those guards again surprised him, but if anything I think Caleb being able to acknowledge “hey, fuck these guys” during the infiltration might have been validating. He knew they were terrible and complicit and to see them guarding a torture room? This verifies his own horrific memories of his time there. Which is important, because all of Caleb’s experiences with Trent are suspect and part of what’s so scary about thinking back on his time with Trent is that Caleb can’t fully trust himself or his memories. But this part? This part just got confirmed.

    I won’t argue that perhaps Caleb wasn’t in the most healthy headspace when terminator/Darth Vadering down the corridors, but honestly it didn’t feel that different to me than Determinator Caleb we’ve seen in a few other high stakes scenarios. Caleb has switched into “do whatever it takes to get the job done and Feel Things about it afterward” mode a few times this campaign, including during the Iron Shepards infiltration (Caleb’s blunt plan of “we go in there while they’re sleeping and we murder all the guards” feels incredibly similar to this Sanatorium heist, to me) and his fixated exploration of the Happy Fun Ball. 

    (I hate to totally meta this, but also I don’t think Caleb was being particularly more violent than usual here, looking back on the whole campaign. I just think Matt was having a ton of fun gruesomely describing the effects of a new spell.)

    So that’s why this doesn’t feel at all like a “regression” to me. Both because I don’t love that kind of terminology for trauma recovery more generally (recovery is not linear) and because “stay on task so we can get out of here” to the extent he submerged himself in that mindset is a survival technique as much as a trauma response, and an effective one.  

    If Trent hadn’t caught them, I imagine a successful theft from him would have felt incredibly empowering. Caleb’s trying to prove to himself he’s not under Trent’s control, and what better way than to jump into his most private torture palace and humiliate him by enacting some vengeance under his very nose and disappearing again?

    Finally, I think it’s interesting to see the contrast between Veth abstractly pushing for Caleb to get revenge/confrontation/burn his past - and then being appalled when actually presented with what that would look like. Other people have pointed out that Veth, who typically doesn’t have a problem with violent solutions to problems, was more concerned to see this type of thing coming from Caleb than to see it at all, but in that case I’d wonder why she was surprised. We have seen Caleb go full determinator like this before. And faced with the need to quickly move forward and solve a problem in a place and against an institution that harmed him so greatly? Surely an understandable outcome.

    OH!  I just realized what Astrid’s whole “yes I’m totally a suave put together badass spy everything is under my control” –> *immediately falls apart in an alley* bit was reminding me of!

    It’s Caleb!  In Shady Creek Run!  When Fjord and Jester were gone and he had to be the party face and talk to Ophelia Mardun, and he turned on his fuckin smooth-ass charming persona and got through a whole conversation like he knew what the fuck he was doing and then went outside and threw up and had a breakdown in the woods.


    The exact moment I fell in love with Anders


    those hands on the hips though “well fuck i-… hmm well…oh dear…”


    …I never noticed before the way he shakes out his hands after. Well done Anders, you discovered that fire is hot.


    Once he’s added to the party you see that he doesn’t actually have a fire spell unlocked, though. That’s what gets me. 


    Dude backpedaled so hard he unlearned the spell talk about commitment

    The Masked Empire on Felassan: “And for all that, he didn’t bother to put on boots, and he wore clothes that would better suit a woodsman than a living myth.”

    Dorian on Solas: “What are you supposed to be, some kind of woodsman?”

    Codex poem on the Fell Wolf: “…in size like a Woodsman’s Death, within its eyes burned eldritch fire, the Fade in every breath.”