Force and Flow — Destroy and Create
Key Verb: Destroy
Copacetic Sub-Verbs: Reduce, Erode, Delete, Diminish, Decrease
Unifying Myth: Royalty
Since Calliope just gives us the definitions for Prince and Bard, I get to use this as a freebie space — no Unifying Myth prove here.
I did EVENTUALLY find the Unifying Myth for Prince/Bard, and I think it’s interesting, but you can click through to the hyperlink if you want to read about that.
Since we can take this pair as a given, I’ll mostly use this section to lay out some of the foundation for how this system actually works in practice.
For now, let’s get to establishing that Selfless/Selfish thing. Notice Dirk describing Roxy as selfless here, and distinguishing himself as someone to whom that doesn’t come naturally.
In this sense we can immediately distinguish Dirk not just from Roxy, but from Gamzee. Gamzee is a horrible, evil, vicious person — but he’s also extremely selfless, given that literally everything he does is in service to Caliborn’s goal of becoming Lord English.
Gamzee will become Lord English, too — but note who the Dominant/Yang personality is once they’ve combined. Caliborn is the Active force. Gamzee is the Passive one.
Ok I guess I should stop making that sound so homoerotic for now.
Let’s change the subject before your desire to read this is destroyed completely. Sorry about that. Just…Gamzee, you know? What can I do. Fuck that guy.
I know what I can do actually. Present a new concept!
The easiest way to imagine the Active/Passive spectrum as I see it — at least, that I’ve found so far — is as a sort of See-Saw. The more existentially intensely opposed a pair of verbs is, the further down the See-Saw they are.
This is because the verbs themselves are more intense — the effect on the whole of reality exerted by someone Stealing something is less intense than the effect exerted by Destroying it. Knowing a lot about a thing is even less impactful onto reality than stealing it is in turn.
This is what determines the Spectrum, in my view. A Prince is not more “Selfish” than a Witch or a Page, or even necessarily more effective — but their natural role is both more specific and dramatic in it’s effect, Removing something from the world, where it can’t be easily reclaimed or fixed.
This means that all else being equal, with two players both playing to their strengths and in tip-top condition…
A Destroy class could be expected to win an outright firefight with most other classes, riding on the intensity implied by their Verb.
But this focus on specialized power comes at significant cost. The classes at these extremes are less versatile as a result of their extremity. The full implications of the loss of that versatility will become clearer as we compare this quartet to those that will come later, but here’s a good place to start:
The more intense the existential dichotomy between the two pairs, the less likely it’ll be for an Active class to act Passive, and vice versa. And with verbs as extreme as Destroy and Create, we can expect the shifts between Yin and Yang to be extremely intense the rare times they happen, and often greatly unpleasant for the Player when they do.
This means that Create and Destroy classes tend to be fairly all or nothing. They tend to struggle between extremes, either rendering themselves almost totally irrelevant or practically dominating the plot with their wills.
Finding a balance between the poles tends to be a hallmark of successful versions of these classes, and in some cases is the main challenge they face.
This is certainly true in Gamzee’s case. As a Bard, he starts off incredibly Passive — allowing the Destruction of his own Rage, benefiting the entirety of the troll party. Going Sober temporarily puts him in an intensely Yang position, resulting in his damn near taking over the story — which also marks the moment Gamzee ceases thinking about benefiting his game partners and begins thinking about benefiting Caliborn instead.
His dominance over the story doesn’t last, though, and the rest of the time Gamzee manipulates the story from the margins — typically by inviting Rage in other people.
He invites the destruction of Jane’s Sprite through Tavrisprite’s Rage, invites the destruction of Prospit through Union Jack’s Rage, and, if you listen to Tex Talks (you should), invites Rage in the reader by using plot contrivance to undermine our faith in the story.
Dirk is similarly nuanced, but I’ve already written waaay too much about Dirk and Jake so I’ll largely be referencing those sources here.
The long story short is, the few times Dirk acts as a Yang force — sending Jake the Brobot — he’s simultaneously being reactive to Jake’s will, and attempting to benefit him. This actually works out, though the execution is muddled by Hal’s later interference.
For most of his narrative, however, Dirk actually remains static, inactive, and thoroughly Yin-positioned in a way deeply unhealthy to him — just like Jane and Jake. Almost all of the Yang behavior of Active Destruction carried out in his narrative is actually committed by Hal, who plays an integral part in Dirk’s evaluation of himself and his mythological role.
When Dirk finally takes action on his own, turning Yang/Active himself, he threatens to destroy Hal (and, implicitly, himself). Dirk’s narrative role is complicated somewhat by Jake, so I’ll pick up a bit of this thread in the Page/Knight section.
Eridan is a clearer example, as he’s constantly simultaneously destroying his own Hope — rendering himself angry, miserable, and skeptical — AND Actively destroying his relationships through his Hope for romantic reciprocation with practically anyone. And when his misery and self-centeredness come to a head, nobody is able to dissuade him except by force.
And nobody manages to do that until he pisses off the reactive, stable, Passive Sylph enough to make her take action. Who is much more pleasant to talk about and who I actually have to prove points about anyway, so like, let’s cut to the chase and get to the Creators.
Key Verb: Create (Make?)
Copacetic Sub-Verbs: Make (Create?) , Improve, Heal, Repair, Increase, Grow
Unifying Myth: Fairies
(Note: The Create/Make nuance is a pedantic one on my part. Nothing much changes, but I may expand on it in the Jane essay.)
Fairies are beings mythologically described in tons of different ways, and are an extremely old and varied cultural figure. But some consistent themes surrounding them include an unearthly Fairy realm of their own to inhabit (which certainly describes Aradia’s relationship to the Bubbles) and an interest in meddling in the affairs of mortals.
(Kanaya and Aranea. Nuff said).
Crucially, every Fairy-type player is at some point described as a kind of Fairy, and pretty much exclusively…with one exception. We’ll revisit Kanaya and her role as a “Fairy God Troll” in a little while, but first I wanted to use this moment to segue a little.
Because this “Fairy God Troll” reference leads us to the only real muddying of the waters as far as Maids and Sylphs exclusively being related to fairies, and it points out some interesting stuff about how Classes work in Homestuck.
So Kanaya’s one reference to being a fairy is here, where she’s described as being a Fairy God Troll. This is a designation that Doc Scratch explicitly notes doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a kid’s patron troll, although it’s used in the context of Kanaya attempting to be Rose’s patron troll.
So there we go — Kanaya gets a fairy reference, mythology secured, I’m right about everything and Homestuck is great. Good job team. Except wait —
Doc Scratch isn’t talking about Kanaya in that line.
He’s talking about Tavros.
Tavros ALSO gets the Fairy God Troll designation once, when he talks to Jade. In this conversation, Tavros attempts to act as Jade’s Patron troll…but unlike Kanaya, he fails at this! It doesn’t work out, and Karkat assumes the role instead. In this sense, Kanaya succeeds — thereby securing coherence between the mythology she was trying to live up to and the role she was trying to play. Fairy God Troll reference achieved.
But that’s not all Tavros does here. This is also the one conversation where Tavros flirts with embracing Vriska’s ideology of doing what’s best for others even at the cost of their own wills. But hang on — what does Vriska have to do with fairies? This Unifying Myth thing is starting to sound an awful lot like bullshit!
Well, quite a lot, actually. Vriska actually has by far the most references to being a Fairy out of any individual character, and gets several visual motifs referencing her playing out the role of a Fairy as well. So what gives? Doesn’t this kill my whole argument?
Not exactly. 100% of Vriska’s references to Fairies come about while she’s trying to live up to a Sylph’s legacy--Mindfang’s. She references the dress she used trying to get Tavros to like her (a sequence which has a bunch of fairy references, not including it here cause it’s pretty uncomfortable) as being a Fairy dress, and her entire rationale for being interested in Tavros' is Mindfang’s past tryst with the Summoner.
Like Dirk trying to play the role of the Knight, or Eridan that of a Wizard, this is another instance of that I’m taking to calling Mythological Roleplay.
This is Vriska trying to force an identity onto herself that doesn’t quite fit. As a result, she comes off kind of try-hard about a thematic motif she later drops completely after her death/The Retcon, at least in terms of trying to do things exactly as Mindfang would do them. And this is reflected not just thematically, but mechanically as well.
After all, one of Vriska’s main goals as a Fairy is to make Tavros stronger, more assertive, more…Important. Vriska is trying to act like a Sylph, increasing the Light in another. This does not play to Vriska’s strengths, and is a terrible idea! She is not successful at all. Which is worth noting here, simply because this exact thing is something Aranea can do basically effortlessly.
Aranea engages in the same role play as Vriska, but to her this role comes naturally, and she’s far more successful at achieving the particular goal of making a Page more relevant…even if it’s also to the Pages’ detriment.
S0 having cleared up the references surrounding Fairies, it’s time to ask…what does being a Fairy even mean?
Well, Fairies are typically described as beings made of magic. Fairies in general were also sometimes considered a species of Elemental, being a broad term sometimes used to describe Gnomes, Undynes, Salamanders, and….Sylphs. Sylphs in particular are a kind of Wind Elemental, meaning a being literally made from the force it derives its essence from.
And just as Kanaya is by implication, Aradia personally claims to be Made of Time. This absolute connection to their Aspect also explains why Sylphs are more magical than Witches. A Magician can use magic, but a Fairy is literally made of it.
Kanaya and Jade also give us another clear indication that Passive classes are group oriented or selfless, as Kanaya — like her fellow Sylph, Aranea — finds herself eager to help and meddle in the affairs of others.
They are typically shut out from doing so, however, and considered “nannying” or “meddling” for their trouble, which tends to frustrate them and make them unhappy. Finding a balance between focusing on themselves and their desire to get involved with and help others is part of a Sylph’s struggle, at least in the context of the Sylphs we see in Homestuck.
This is one aspect of the Maid/Sylph dichotomy, so keep it in mind for when we get to Aradia.
For now, let’s revisit this Fairy God Troll thing with Kanaya, because at turns out, just like with Tavros emulating Vriska, there’s a double-meaning to her actions in this pesterlog, too.
Because this isn’t just a reference to Kanaya acting as a Patron troll.
This also happens to be the pesterlog where she “trains” Eridan. And in so doing, she also happens to fulfill the role of a Fairy Godmother. That is to say, a Fairy who acts as a mentor or guide, at least partly by
providing magical boons.
Think about it. Eridan had access to Alchemy, just like Kanaya did.
And he could presumably watch Rose alchemize her own wands, too.
Why should he need Kanaya to alchemize a Wand at all?
Well, come to think of it… do we ever see ANY Princes alchemize new weapons for themselves? No. And Princes are a Destroyer class, while Alchemy is a process of Creation or Recombination. Is it possible that different Classes have unique relationships to the Alchemy system?
And if Princes are less inclined or able to make magical items…is it possible that a Sylph, being a Creator class noted as being “More Magical” than even a Witch, might have an easier time using Alchemy — a Sburb construct, ie: an element of the setting, and thus an element of Space — to create objects Imbued with magic?
Couldn’t that action be parsed as Creating through Space, for the benefit of another?
I’m going to say the answer is yes, and I’m also going to say Rose, as a Seer, has a relationship to magic that makes it easier for her to more accurately roleplay the idea of a Witch, relative to Eridan — one that has to do with her positioning on the Class spectrum. Take me at my word on this until you can read the essay on the Change/Know classes, for now.
Obviously, helping out Eridan doesn’t work out for Kanaya. But once Kanaya is reborn through Space as a Rainbow Drinker, she also gains unnatural “rainbow drinker fastness” that she hardly seems aware of — Almost as if she had an increased ability to navigate space.
And when she goes on her rampage of revenge — temporarily becoming a Yang force that, again, dominates the narrative for as long as it lasts — she kicks Gamzee off a cliff, sending him deeper into the Meteor and increasing the Space between him and the rest of the cast, to all their benefits. She proceeds to Punch Vriska further away, too — putting her at a distance from her showdown with Eridan, before finally….
Increasing the Space between Eridan’s two body halves. Note that Kanaya’s weapon is the only one that consistently does this — the only other weapons used for severing in the story are Dave and Dirk’s swords, but even those are much more often used for puncturing or stabbing. Kanaya’s weapon, uniquely, only severs.
Aranea is another obvious example of Creating being a powerful offensive force. Aranea describes herself as a Healer, and her skillset certainly includes the ability, but all Aranea really does to Jake is make him more important.
She increases his relevance both literally and figuratively, making him Light Up so much he becomes the brightest object in the Session and draws all eyes to him. In other words, she Creates Light in him.
Aradia operates similarly, bringing us to Maids. Aradia’s main psychic power is to summon the souls of the deceased. In effect, that can easily be interpreted as giving more Time to the departed, allowing them periods during which to continue existing in the mortal coil.
However, Aradia summons these ghosts specifically to exert her own will by making Vriska Pay. Note that Terezi dissuaded her from doing so, and Aradia expressly didn’t listen. Aradia’s patterns of thought are ultimately self-directed, Yang focused rather than Yin.
And once Vriska kills her, Aradia Re-Creates herself the same way Kanaya did. However, for Aradia this is implied to be an Active process. The most likely case for why she was ever a Ghost in the first place is that her dream self was sleeping on Derse and summoning herself into the mortal plane, effectively Buying herself Time.
But just like Kanaya’s transformation into a Rainbow Drinker was a byproduct of the environment Kanaya grew up in, Aradia’s transformations fit into Time’s visual motifs.
First she dies, experiencing the one change Time will force on everyone.
Then she combines with a frog as her Sprite self, resembling a tadpole. That links her to one species known for undergoing metamorphosis over time, but the trend continues as she encases herself in a metal shell — as if a kind of Pupa — before finally bursting forth as a full-grown Butterfly/Fairy.
Tadpole to Frog, and Caterpillar to Butterfly. Aradia’s character arc includes Double Metamorphmetaphors.
Aradia’s greatest act in the session proper is to Create thousands of time duplicates of herself — something she does willfully and knowingly, not “through the will of the Aspect” at all. These clones then create more Time for the trolls to survive — first by subduing the psychic pressure of the Vast Glub, and then by serving as a distraction against Bec Noir.
But now we come into a point of conflict for many. Being a Maid, like being a Knight, comes with an implication of Servitude — and that leads to many seeing Maid as Passive class. In my view, however, this focus on servitude is something to overcome for Maids, or at least to find a sort of balance with.
Servitude does not leave Maids feeling fulfilled the way it does for Knights and Sylphs — they have more in common with Pages in this respect. It is something to overcome to a large extent, and when embraced, it is only because it is tangential to the goals they have decided on.
All this imposed servitude to Time leaves Aradia miserable, fatalistic and empty. It’s only once she God Tiers that she becomes happy, and at that point her priorities become notably different. Aradia takes to a different kind of service — one she chooses herself, by acting as a psychopomp for the dead ghosts in the bubbles. But Aradia starts doing something else at the same time — something decidedly Homestuck.
She begins creating Time in vast, incomprehensible amounts for herself.
As the story of Homestuck progresses, the sheer amount of Time Aradia spends in the bubbles informs more and more of our reading of her, making her alien and incomprehensible.
And while she uses her Time to help ghosts out, she’s notably unconcerned when they start getting murdered and stuff! Aradia’s reasons for staying in the Bubbles aren’t quite just to help her friends out, though they can include the activity. They’re far more specific, as we come to find out through John.
Aradia wants to know what happens next. She wants to be there to witness the end of the story, and the beginning of whatever comes after. And in the meantime she lingers in the bubbles, uncovering the entire history of the massive time loop that informs the story in it’s entirety.
By the end of her arc, Aradia’s not operating as a Passive class according to either definition. She’s not fundamentally reactive to her Aspect, since she actively uses it to get what she wants. And she’s not particularly motivated by helping other people either, although she’ll be happy to if it lines up with her goals and desires.
This particular post will receive one big follow-up when I talk about Jane, because I really think Jane merits the space for an entire essay by herself, and this monstrosity of a project is already too long.
But I wanted to note that she is in fact referenced as a Fairy once--in an interesting context. Gnomes are also sometimes described as Fairies, and like Sylphs, are a species of Elemental--in this case, of the Earth.
But Jane discards this role, claiming it makes her look stupid, and that it’s unfunny. Jane embraces a different role instead…that of the Heiress.
Suffice it so say, I think it helps to read her arc as one where she finds herself serving Life, much as Aradia does Time. For Jane, that servitude is enforced through a role she’s encouraged to play, one that doesn’t play into her strengths and causes her to struggle with her true nature.
that her struggle is one of finding the balance between imposing her Life onto others and repressing her Life entirely. I also think it maps onto this reading of Maids and Sylphs perfectly.
Once it’s available, I will hyperlink that expansion here:
Consider that foreshadowing, I guess. For now, feel free to check out the other pairs:
This series of meta posts is a passion project, but also just a side project to my youtube series aimed at making Homestuck to both new fans and old ones.
That means these very posts will be showing up with updates and more polish in Youtube Video form, and if I have my say they’ll do so as soon as possible.
If you like my writing and have a buck to spare, you could really help me make that reality possible sooner rather than later by throwing me a buck on Patreon. Doing so will also give you access to the main community that has helped me craft this analysis series, although I also got plenty of insight through conversations on the public Hiveswap server I help moderate.
See you again soon, everyone. Until then,