Part #2: The Neverending Story —
Muse/Lord & The rules of Paradox Space
[Spoilers for The Neverending Story]
I’m not the first to note Homestuck’s references to AURYN, the magical amulet from The Neverending Story. The symbol of the intertwined black and white snakes is directly referenced only twice in Homestuck’s story, and both times it tells us a mind-boggling amount about the nature and function of Homestuck’s universe.
And even that only scratches the surface. So instead of starting off with Homestuck, let me tell you a little bit about The Neverending Story.
The Neverending Story is a book split in two. In the most commonly printed version, it comes in Red and Green text halves. The real world, the realm of humans where you and I live–those sections are printed in Red. Fantastica, the world of fiction and stories and all things imaginary, is printed in green.
And as with two sections, The Neverending Story is split into two central figures:
The Childlike Empress, and Bastian Balthazar Bux.
Muse & Lord
In the green-lettered plains of Fantastica, The Childlike Empress rules over all. Although her authority is accepted by even the most evil and mostrous in Fantastica, she never gives orders. Even so, she is both eternal and eternally childlike. Good and evil are equal in her eyes. She sometimes called the Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes, though she gives no orders.
She is the embodiment of Fantasy itself, inspiring others to act out her will.
She is a question, a mystery, a wonder. She is, in short…A Muse.
And she has a direct parallel in Calliope, who similarly draws no distinction between good and evil (people forget that she read what was likely the worst of Vriska without being exposed to her growth, and seemingly wanted to be friends with her anyway)…
And who similarly has absolute power over reality, yet never gives orders, even as the entire narrative is shaped around her. Just as with the Childlike Empress, without Calliope’s existence, none of the other characters in the comic can exist either.
Everyone is entangled in and created by Lord English’s Alpha Timeline, but that web is Calliope’s as well, and she’s causally entangled in the creation of all four of the universes we follow.
And again like the Childlike Empress, Calliope bestows her Symbol on others, granting AURYN to humans–an emblem which endows in the wearer the ability to make any wish come true.
Hell, Calliope even seems not to grow up normally in Act 7 and [S] Credits. A Childlike Empress indeed. And as for her counterpart? Bastian may not be as much of a jerk as Caliborn, but the parallels between them are even more explicit:
Where The Childlike Empress is a Muse only by implication,
Bastian is textually and demonstrably a Lord.
But let’s back up a bit.
Bastian Balthazar Bux is a little boy who steals a book named “The Neverending Story” from a bookshop and hides in his school to read it in one sitting. His sections, those taking place in the Human world, typically feature text colored Red.
However, around the halfway point of The Neverending Story, he realizes that the story is not only aware of him, but calling out to him. And he eventually finds himself pulled into the realm of Fantastica.
Bastian is a human, you see, and only humans can create stories–the inhabitants of Fantastica themselves cannot. And once the Childlike Empress is reborn with a new name, Fantastica must be reborn as well. So The Childlike Empress meets Bastian in the void between the two realms of Fantastica, and gives him the amulet AURYN, the symbol of her power.
And so, she entrusts him with a quest:
To fulfill his wishes in Fantastica, and re-create the realm of Fantasy as he goes.
Incidentally, receiving AURYN also changes Bastian’s race. Bastian is explicitly white, but upon arriving in Fantastica transforms into “a young prince from the Orient”. I’m not sure why that even happens, to be honest? Let’s note that this book is from, like, 1979 and definitely not perfect.
Anyway, I only mention it because this lends some credence to my assertion that Trickster Mode’s whiteness is not at all tied to the “actual race” of the kids– since whatever that race is, changing it would be within AURYN’s power.
To be honest, I should’ve noted that was explicit earlier, since Homestuck all but explicitly states that Tricksterfied Cherubs would look like Lil Cal, which definitely entails a primary skin color swap. And there, as with Humans, the transformation always renders the subject Caucasian-looking.
Now, where were we?
Ah, right. So, the first thing you might notice is that Bastian’s ascent to Lordship also coincides with him leaving the World of Men and entering the World of Fantasy/Ideas.
Which strikes his first echo with Caliborn. Both characters’ entries into power are marked by changing their text color to Green–the color of their respective Muse figures. And like Calliope dies for Caliborn to Enter, The Childlike Empress disappears from Fantastica as soon as Bastian becomes it’s Lord.
Bastian spends most of his adventure in the realm seeking to meet her once more, on some level–just as Lord English spends an eternity in the Void, trying to find and destroy the Calliopes.
And during his search, Bastian also accrues subjects and followers who carry out his will. Bastian is adored for his ability to create stories–which instantly become Real– across Fantastica. With The Childlike Empress’ AURYN around his neck, nothing can resist his will. Bastian becomes, for all intents and purposes, a God.
Although he loses his humanity little by little with every wish he makes.
The memory of being weak, the memory of being ugly, the memory of being scared– as Bastian travels, he grows more self-satisfied and arrogant, desiring the adoration of others without true regard for their feelings and hearts.
Until in the end, he’s exploiting those he calls friends through sheer force of will.At this point, Bastian seeks to replace The Childlike Empress entirely, attempting to become the Childlike Emperor–just as Lord English seeks to emulate Calliope through a multitude of stylistic choices in his personal aesthetic.
I think banditAffiliate puts it well in this forum post:
“Doc Scratch was born to serve as Lord English’s other half, replacing the role Calliope served when the two shared one body. From Caliborn’s warped perspective, the two share many similarities. They’re both wordy, intelligent, and (as Caliborn saw her) quite smug. He scrapbooks with a ~ATH book like she did, and carries her weapon.
In addition to being a pastiche of his sister, Scratch is also a symbol of his other weakness, the cue ball. Both are heralded to be the key to his defeat, after all. He does double duty then by killing Scratch, hatching out of his body and growing more powerful (by assimilating Scratch’s first guardian powers), “predominating” over him and asserting his dominance over both his vulnerabilities once again.”
And Bastian, well…
Sound familiar at all?
By the end, Bastian is at risk of becoming what is essentially a Yaldabaoth–an arrogant God with full dominion over his material reality, but blind to the world of ideas outside of him.
Luckily, Bastian escapes this fate, and goes on to live a happy life, becoming a world-renowed storyteller. His path is not the path of the Lord forever. But that is another story, and shall be told another time.
There’s one last thing to note about AURYN, because it appears in two places in Homestuck. There’s the Lollipop, yes–and by linking AURYN to the Cherubs, we learn a great deal about both Muse and Lord, Calliope and Caliborn.
But AURYN’s impact is a bit more far-reaching than just them.
The emblem is also depicted during the mating ritual of Cherubs, remember? And it’s important to view this image in context, because as Aranea tells us…
Mating Cherubs tap into the forces of power presiding over all that is eternal. Cherubs are linked to the primordial forces of reality by their nature. The source of Cherub’s powers is their intrinsic connection to the flow and nature of reality.
Which suggests that the principle that AURYN is inscribed with, the principle that guides the power of its magic, is also the fundamental principle of Homestuck’s universe. Cherubs are simply beings with a unique ability to tap directly into it. And that principle is…
“Do As You Will.”
Nothing in Homestuck’s reality happens except by the Will of someone living inside it. Individual will is the backbone of all events and objects, all circumstances and beings, all people and universes in Homestuck. In Homestuck, everybody always gets what they want–one way or another.
That is what AURYN– placed here, at the center of the forces of creation and destruction– suggests. A good example of this is Lord English’s creation, where Caliborn and Gamzee’s wills to become Lord English meet Arquis’ desire to have a heroic moment of unfathomable impact onto reality:
Thus resulting in a scenario that fulfills all of their desires, and results in the creation of Lord English and Doc Scratch:
I’m not going to list a bunch of other examples because this kind of stuff is literally always what happens in Homestuck. The only thing that trumps a person’s desires in Homestuck is the desires of another willing to undermine or exploit the former.
And that kind of authoritarian behavior is the closest thing to “Sin” Homestuck’s setting has. It always comes with consequences. This is also why Karma exists in Homestuck’s causality, as noted by Latula. This is what the cycle of revenge was about.
Not even killing someone can truly erase the impact of their will on reality in Homestuck’s universe, and usurping or denying others their wills always comes with a whiplash effect back on yourself. So what does that mean for Lord English, who has so thoroughly usurped and denied the wills of every other member of the cast?
Well that… is another story, and shall be told another time.
Next time, we’ll talk about the Mother franchise’s two later installments:
Mother 3, and Earthbound. There’s much to discuss. Perhaps we’ll even find an echo of Lord English’s karmic punishment there?
Ah well. That’s all for now.
I hope you’ll check in next time.
Originally published at revolutionaryduelist.tumblr.com.