Beauty Isn’t Like Sugar

“Beauty isn’t like sugar.”

So says the character of Fiddle in Dianna Wynne Jones’ excellent novella, The Game. Such a simple, poetic statement, but one with the deepest of meanings.

Now, to give some context, this is what leads up to that phrase: the main character of the story, Hayley, has just met a nameless musician who she calls “Fiddle.” Fiddle, it turns out, is able to traverse the Mythosphere, a sort of extra layer of reality that most people can’t see. The simplest way to explain it is probably to say that the Earth is like a loose, round basket, and the Mythosphere is like a net of fine threads woven between the basket’s gaps. These threads consist of all the myths and legends and stories of humanity, and certain people can see and travel on them. Now, this is Hayley’s first trip into the Mythosphere. She is at first awed by how beautiful and magical it is, and decides that this must be the most beautiful place in existence. Hayley and Fiddle meet a young boy in the forest, who is training a pack of h0unds. The boy and his dogs are happy and cheerful and in love with life. They seem innocent and kind, just another part of the Mythosphere’s beauty. But Hayley and Fiddle eventually make it to another strand in the Mythosphere, one in which several years have passed for the boy. Now, his dogs are hunting him. He has angered a goddess, and her punishment is for the boy to be hunted down and devoured by his own pets. Hayley is, naturally, horrified, and says that she thought the Mythosphere was beautiful. Fiddle’s response: “Beauty isn’t like sugar.”

This struck quite a chord in me. I wished very badly that it had been my character who said that line! I’ve never seen this simple truth stated so plainly, yet poetically–the truth that Beauty is not just the things that look, sound, smell, or taste nice. The truth that real Beauty is deeper, stranger, and more powerful than anyone can ever know. The truth that Beauty is often as sharp as pain, as terrifying as the crushing depths of the sea, as incomprehensible as the inner workings of the Sun. It is, in fact, ugliness itself which makes real Beauty stand out so strongly. Beauty ultimately triumphs over ugliness, because it uses the ugliness to display its own power. There is nearly always something among the ugliness to make it beautiful in some way or another, which means that there are very few–if any–things which are truly not beautiful.

However, there is a lie about beauty that is very prominent in modern culture. The lie is that beauty is like sugar. That beauty is only those things kind, sweet, and attractive. You see it every day in the things that are glorified by society. But is it not true that many of the most beautiful stories have, at their hearts, a deep sadness and melancholy? An evil which stands strong in contrast to the beauty brought about through their endings? And is it not true that some of the most beautiful manifestations of nature–volcanoes and great storms–are not also some of the most deadly?

To sum up: beauty isn’t like sugar. That’s the best way to say it.

Gosh, all my posts are so serious… I never come up with good ideas for light-hearted, amusing ones. :P

~ Jared

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