Witch of Space==> Ascend
What is Jade Harley’s Story?
Alright here we go I finally get to write about Jade. My biggest Homestuck secret is that for how relatively little I talk about her, Jade is actually probably my favorite Beta kid.
I love the others and Rose and Dave in particular are intensely personal to me but Jade vibed with me in a way pretty much no character in fiction ever did because she’s an unabashed furry and that’s basically the subculture that raised my preteen catholic ass.
So Jade means a lot to me, and the way her narrative grows has always spoken to me as much as Dave’s narrative about overcoming toxic masculinity, or Rose’s struggle to find existential meaning. In a way, Jade’s struggle IS Rose’s struggle! Jade and Rose have narratives that lead us to twin conclusions about the nature of Homestuck’s reality.
That’s getting ahead of myself though, and I’m going to do this wild thing where I try to impose some structure on my approach so hopefully you can come away with a clear idea of what I think Homestuck is doing. (I want to give special thanks to @landofsomethingsomething for helping me out with the feedback that led me to striving to improve in this respect.)
So. This post has three thesis statements that I hope you come away with at least seriously considering, if not outright buying into.
1. Jade’s character arc was as thought out and deliberate as any of the kids’. She was not “shafted” by the story. The two reasons fans most likely seem to think she was were the Three Years trip she spent alone, and that she “didn’t do anything in Collide”. I believe both are misreadings of the canon.
2. Jade’s arc is meaningful both for herself and for the broader narrative, and builds to one of the most important revelations about Homestuck’s universe.
3. Jade and Davepeta are not only canon but deeply romantic, and Davepeta stands to improve one of the biggest reasons fans feel Jade got “shafted”–not to mention that some fans might take issue with Jade’s lack of a romantic arc, and Davepeta…well…is her romantic arc.
But before we can talk about where Jade’s arc succeeds, we need to talk about what it is, which means we need to talk about her title–Witch of Space. For the record, here’s my view on the mythological roles:
They aren’t a pasted on set of superpowers, and they aren’t given to the kids by Skaia. The titles describe the nature the kids had all along, and the way their patterns of thought reflect onto the world around them. They also foreshadow their narrative arcs and trajectories in their entireties–Just like the titles Hussie was inspired by in creating the system, the Hero of Time and Hero of the Winds structure from the Legend of Zelda.
I’ll begin by tracking Jade’s similarities to her fellow Witches and Space players. By pointing these out I believe I should be able to give you an idea of what I think Jade’s arc is about, exactly.
After that, I’ll expand my reading of Jade as a Witch of Space to include her later narrative turns, as well as explaining how I feel Davesprite–and later Davepeta–is inherently tangled up in her arc, as well as being a better romantic partner for Jade than basically anyone else in the story.
Let’s go. I’m hoping this is the beginning of something really excellent.
Where lies the Witch’s magic?
The first striking similarity between Witches is their bond with an outside force much more powerful than they are representing their Aspect. For Jade, this is Becquerel. For Feferi, it’s Gl’bolyb-who is about as Lifey an entity as it gets. It is, after all, defined by being unknowably massive, incomprehensible Living things, with conscious awareness of its own.
It is simply a completely alien kind of Life to our own, and thus the Cosmic Horror. Gl’bolyb also requires the consumption of vast quantities of Life that Feferi has to provide it, tying it to Life’s themes of edible consumption. More on Life stuff when I write about Jane soon, though.
Like Jade, Feferi has little direct power early in her life. But she’s able to accomplish stunning feats through her connection to her guardian–which functions effectively as a Witch’s familiar. Before ascension, a Witch’s power is linked to the symbol that identifies her as a Witch in the first place.
Feferi is also ambitious. Not only did Feferi originally aim to change the rules of Life in troll society imposed by the Condesce’s will, but through her connection to the Horrorterrors, she’s able to fundamentally change the rules of Life on a metaphysical level, allowing Ghosts to exist inside dream bubbles in an unnatural limbo.
Damara has an outside power figure linked to Time, too–Lord English, who she associates with and wishes to work for. She also changes her relationship with Time–turning it into a weapon to use against her friends as revenge as opposed to a tool and series of systems she needs to serve like Aradia and Dave do during their sessions. She’s quite willful and ambitious about both her relationship to her “Familiar” and her use of her Aspect.
Both witches are driven primarily by their own ambitions and desires, and both witches are also fundamentally Changed by their Aspects. Feferi loses her life and becomes a ghost, her will becoming almost indistinguishable from the Horrorterrors’. And Damara’s primary use of her Aspect coincides with a drastic change in outlook and personality, making her cynical, bitter, and willing to serve her Familiar over connecting with others.
Now–if Witches are ambitious about and defined by both changing and being changed by the domain of their Aspect, then what is Jade’s field of ambition in this regard? To answer this question, it’ll help to look at her fellow Space players.
The weight of Space
We don’t see Porrim pre-session, but from their introductions, Jade, Kanaya and Calliope are all defined by a unique passion for Sburb. This makes sense–Sburb, after all, is the construct that defines the Space they will exist in their entire lives.
Waking early on Prospit also essentially makes them grow up in two environments–places–at once, meaning that they grow up influenced by the culture inherent to two different environments.
This is particularly notable with Kanaya, who is uniquely untouched by Troll culture compared to her friends. Her morals are much more aligned with Sburbs’ spirit of growth and cooperation, and she takes a passionate interest in fashion–which is to say, the expression of ideas about oneself through clothes.
This kind of self-expression is something Sburb encourages constantly, and is in fact it’s core philosophy. Kanaya internalizes it completely to such an extent her identity is created by her relationship to Sburb–and Space–much more than by her relationship to Troll culture. Calliope, too, is so inspired by Sburb’s philosophy of cooperation and possibility that it works against her Cherub sociology.
This connection also allows them to use the insight gained from one environment to influence the other. Space players tend to set the stage for their own sessions, laying the Setting for their games in their own unique ways.
Calliope–the Muse of Space–inspired Dirk and Roxy to set the stage for the Alpha session, and influenced Jake into setting the stage for the Beta session as well. Lord English’s particular exploitation of Trolls was also influenced by her, setting the grim stage for both the troll sessions as well. Kanaya used Rose’s guide and her visions to help set up her session, too.
Finally, all Space players seem to end up somehow becoming entities they surround themselves with and are influenced by in life, in this sense being drastically affected by their own environments. Kanaya grew up influenced by troll rainbow drinker novels, and just so happened to develop an affinity for the Alternian sun.
And once she died, she was outright reborn into one. Sylphs being the Passive Creation class, this makes sense–Kanaya heals and Re-Creates herself as her own ideal image. If her ability to do so is intrinsic to her being, that’s no surprise, since Sylphs are considered a kind of Fairy or Elemental, and so are intrinsically connected to and created by their Aspect.
Once she transforms, she gains super speed–ie: an increased ability to navigate space– and the ability to fill her environment with Light, which she always found highly desirable. This pattern is repeated across Space players–Calliope is able to inspire others to see her as a Troll, while Jade is able to deliberately Change herself into a Furry. More on that later in this essay.
Now a picture begins to emerge.
The Witch is the Active Change class. One could parse the title as:
One who Changes X, or Changes through X.
With the corollary attribute of One who is Changed By X.
And as Sburb defines everything about the setting of Homestuck, and the enviroments of Space players growing up. And given Witch’s ambition and zeal, it makes perfect sense to think Jade’s ambition and execution would concern Changing not just Space, but Sburb itself.
Which is true! Among the main kids, Jade is uniquely passionate about actually playing the game. She sets up her session, gets Rose interested, and takes charge of orchestrating and executing the plan that leads to the Beta’s victory.
And she is uniquely changed by the environments the game exposes her to–the divide between Jade’s Dream Self and her Waking Self is by far the widest of any Player.
Dream Jade is relatively pampered and aloof, and while having access to a whole other world makes Waking Jade’s life far less distressing and lonely than it might otherwise have been, she still ends up more practical.
And once the game really gets going, also more demanding. In her desire to protect people and be an asset, Jade holds herself to a very high standard. As such, she actively tries to be strong and keep an upbeat attitude, and in execution Jade’s approach to this is quite similar to John’s–she ends up coming off as weirdly emotionally detached from the consequences of what she’s doing.
The difference is that Jade willfully uses that detachment for her own benefit, like Jake does. After all, reviving Dream Jade this way directly leads Jade to becoming a God Tier, and embodying Space as a First Guardian.
Dream Jade, meanwhile, dies, and is greatly changed by the stagnancy and fatalism inherent to the Dream Bubbles. Jade tries to comfort Jadesprite, but this also brings us to another core facet of Jade’s. Jade has a habit of bottling up her emotions in a big way, like Jane. Jade wants to be reliable and useful, and to her that parses as a focus on practicality and solution-oriented thinking.
So when Jadesprite–who’s another version of her–fails to live up to her standards, Jade tries to be caring… but tries to find practical solutions which go ignored as Jadesprite copes with the trauma of her circumstances. Jade’s frustration with the game, with Jadesprite’s defeatism, and with Jadesprite as a reflection of herself build until finally she gets fed up and…
Blows a gasket. Jade’s got self-loathing issues just like anyone in Homestuck, and for her they manifest as being angry at what she could’ve become under different circumstances. She hates Jadesprite for being so malleable to her environment, and for being something she sees in herself–Selfish. Jade didn’t think too much about Becquerel before creating Jadesprite, after all, did she? Active classes are intrinsically self-motivated, and Jade is no exception.
Jadesprite is the only character Jade is quite this cruel to other than Karkat, who torments her for years and exhausts her with hyperemotional debates that distract her and waste her time. But this attitude is still something she carries across her relationships. She’s kind to Tavros, but his logic turns circular for long enough that she gets frustrated and turns their attention towards practical matters.
She extends much more time and patience to her friends, consoling Rose when her Mom dies…but even then is immediately concerned about what she will do with her feelings. In this pesterlog she also begins to question the nature of the game they’re playing, beginning to note Sburb seems outright cruel at times–foreshadowing her more intense struggles with the nature of the Space she inhabits.
Which brings us to Davesprite. Dave and Jade had a special relationship growing up, and Davesprite is a Dave brought into being by the game Jade is so invested in. And Davesprite is the one who finds Jadesprite at her lowest, and comforts her. He then makes her aware of her own power…
And encourages either Jade’s first great feat of magic as a Witch of Space. Immediately after this, Jade ascends, becoming one with Jadesprite and bringing the entire session under control–an action Davesprite bears witness to in it’s entirety. Soon after, Jade and Davesprite start dating during the three year’s boat trip. But…
It doesn’t work out. Why?
Well, there’s two reasons. The first is that Dave is an abuse victim, and that isn’t really the kind of trauma Jade could easily relate to–she’s been exposed to neglect and isolation, but the experience of being subjugated under an overbearing guardian would be alien to her– and she never takes it particularly seriously growing up.
Grimbark Jade clues us in on the second. Davesprite also feels set apart from the kids, distanced by his Sprite status. He considers himself auxiliary to Alpha Dave, the same way Hal does with Dirk. John even rubs it in a couple of times, and openly wonders about Davesprite’s importance relative to Alpha Dave himself. And of course, Davesprite himself admits it.
This is something Jade can relate to to some extent–she was solely a Sprite for a time, and distanced and set apart from all society besides that. But the game fixed both of those for Jade, through bringing her closer to her friends and God Tiering. Not so for Davesprite.
Note what these issues have in common, though: Neither abuse trauma nor existential marginalization are problems that come with practical, tidy solutions–which are Jade’s instinctive method of dealing with things.
Jade wants to look for something to Do about everything, but there’s nothing to really Do for Davesprite. So Jade bottles her feelings of frustration up, only to have them come out when she goes Grimbark. But even while evil, brainwashed, and pissed off about Davesprite breaking up with her…
She still sticks up for Davesprite’s validity and personhood. Now, let’s move on to the retcon.
Davepeta happens, obviously–Nepeta acting as a Rogue to “Steal” Dave’s Heart for his own benefit. Davesprite transcends both his issues with his Bro and his tortured sense of auxiliary identity. Nepeta benefits from this arrangement, too–but we’re talking about Jade, so let’s see how the retcon treats her.
In the Post-Retcon version of the three years trip, Jade ends up completely alone and isolated. Fans usually hate this about her arc, but hear me out, because this is where I make my case for the first point I laid out at the beginning of this:
This isn’t just about tormenting or “shafting” Jade. It isn’t Hussie being lazy or not caring about her. Jade is struggling with her Aspect, the same way Dirk is tormented by his Splinters, Terezi by her Choices, and so on. And as she struggles with Space, she also struggles with the Game–and the label it seemingly “assigns” her. Space.
She dreams about and meets Alt!Calliope, who tells her the Game has ordained this tragic reality for her, and as a result Jade feels distanced and set apart from her friends–just as Davesprite once did. When she meets Alt!Calliope again, she reinforces this notion, seemingly telling Jade that it is in a Space player’s nature to be alone.
But that’s not all she tells her. As she’s exposed to the fully-fledged Muse of Space the longest, Jade is also uniquely privy to the deepest secret of the nature of all of the entire Homestuck multiverse. A secret implied and built up to literally from the moment John first bites Sburb’s apple and enters the game(citation pending–I’ve got that video recorded already):
That Paradox Space is composed out of the abstractions of thought called the Aspects. This is the root of my second point, that Jade’s narrative is important both for herself and the wider Homestuck story–not to mention our understanding of it’s Multiverse.
The implications of this stunning revelation are enormous. Calliope literally states that ideas are made up of the Aspects, and what the Alchemy system does is make physical objects out of ideas. All of Paradox Space grows outwards from these twelve tiny elements of thought, and so reality is literally something created by those perceiving it. In Homestuck, existence is created by thought–and so too is all physical matter.
This is why I argue all depictions of Light in Homestuck symbolically contain the Light Aspect’s fundamental ideas–because Light as a physical presence is simply a concentrated enough amount of Light aspect abstractions to be visible in physical reality. The same is true of every Aspect–in this same sense, you can argue all food is made out of Life, and all absence out of Void.
Imagine being granted the key to understanding the entire universe. That’s what is happening here. Jade doesn’t understand all of it right away, but the core idea gets across. And understanding the true nature of reality this way could take Jade’s interest in science to an entire other level. There’s practically no limit to what she could do with this information, I mean–if all of reality is created by thought, then what are the real limits of what’s possible for anyone?
Having delivered this information, Calliope leaves–leaving Jade as close to the biggest symbol of Space in the comic–the Green Sun–as she could get. Jade lingers, waiting, under the impression she is inherently meant to simply comply with the will of her Aspect and Paradox Space, when along comes…
Davesprite, freed of all the issues that made their relationship originally unworkable. Only now it’s Davepeta, and Davepeta is a wholly new entity, completely and utterly defined by their relationship to the Game that functions as one of Jade’s primary domains of power and influence. It would be literally impossible for Jade to have met any version of any person even remotely like Davepeta elsewhere. It had to be here. It had to be through Sburb.
Davepeta also has unique insight into the nature of the Player’s ultimate reality, and is one of the few characters with more insight into that reality than Jade herself.
In keeping with the Light motif with Homestuck’s romantic relationships, Jade lingers in the dark Void of her loneliness, not knowing whether she should Do anything, by a hyper-incandescent 2xSprite, an entity literally created to provide aid and information as well as giving off Light physically.
As if that weren’t enough, Davepeta is also a twice over Passive player–a Knight who serves their friends Time, or serves them through Time, and a Rogue who can Steal Hearts for the benefit of others.
And Davepeta is also coded as a cat and a bird, simultaneously–the two animals most commonly associated with Witches.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Now that Jade is a fully ascended Witch who has mastered Space, along comes Davepeta, framed perfectly to act as the Witch’s Familiar. A Familiar whose existence reflects not just dominion over Physical Space, but mastery over both Sburb and the nature of Paradox Space.
And what does Davepeta do when it’s, for once, Jade at a loss for what to do next, trapped in a circular spiral of logic on whether to even move forward? Davepeta says that’s dumb, and that Jade should do whatever she wants to, and offers her a practical solution to help her do it. Making it clear that Davepeta is capable of being a partner and aid to Jade’s desires and ambitions.
Jade then wakes up, and decides to follow Davepeta’s (and Calliope’s) advice: She has fun.
In Collide, Jade chooses not to fight, but rather to use her space powers to play with Bec Noir and PM, distracting them and keeping them busy. Doing this leads her to Changing the game in the most powerful way possible.
The two First Guardians are completely equalized by Bec’s influence on them, making them equal in power…but also giving them equally powerful feelings of love for Jade.
This gives PM the advantage. PM is the one able to control her own emotions, find nuance in her situation, and take a middle solution between really hurting Jade and complete inaction–which Jack is unable to do.
By setting up this situation, Jade turns the core fatalism of Sburb on it’s head — setting up a scenario where White can do the impossible and defeat Black itself. That’s about as “Changing” the nature of “Space” as it gets–a Witch of Space, fully realized.
And now Jade is hanging out, happy with her friends and not lonely or isolated at all. Jade is having fun and enjoying herself on Earth C. That’s a pretty satisfying narrative, as far as I’m concerned.
Jade struggled, but she also gained unique insight and knowledge entirely in keeping with her Aspect. At the very least, considering the importance of the information Jade got from her journey and all the thematic imagery surrounding it, I think it’s likely that approach was intentional and not a byproduct of Hussie “not caring about Jade” or “shafting” her.
Whether you guys do or don’t like where he took Jade’s arc is another conversation, albeit one I’m willing to have–I’m just arguing there was intent behind the chaos.
That said, now I’m going to do something I don’t usually like to do, and speculate about Jade’s future a little.
I personally think Jade’s “arc” is complete enough as it stands now–Davepeta’s a compelling romantic partner, but it’s not like Jade necessarily needs a romance in the first place. I won’t be upset if I end up wrong about this stuff–
I just think the nature of all this build up between Jade and Davepeta makes it more likely than any alternatives I can think of.
So here’s some thoughts about the Epilogue you may want to consider:
Whether Davepeta will survive to meet up with her again is, admittedly, an open question…but considering all this narrative buildup, the fact that we already know Sprites exist past the end of the Game, and that Davepeta already fought Lord English and survived, I have a hard time believing they’re going to be killed off at this point.
Especially considering [S] Credits is clearly setting up the Masterpiece, and if we see the Beta kids get sucked into that Juju it’s likely we’ll also see them pop out the other end…in the Void, where Davepeta is.
And one last thing:
We already saw Roxy steal something from nothing, so it’s not impossible to think Davepeta could reach across the Timelines they already see, and steal the Heart or Time Game Over Jade spent with John and Davesprite in the original timeline back from the Game that took those experiences from her–fitting into Jade’s motif of Cheating the game to suit her desires.
This is the nature of my third and final point–that on top of everything else Davepeta adds to Jade’s narrative, they could subvert the lasting pain and suffering the Game inflicted on Jade across those three years, enabling her to remember her relationship with Davesprite, and also potentially giving John and Roxy another person who remembers the old timeline.
No idea if that’s gonna happen, or be shown in detail if it is. I just think that given the sheer depth in which Davepeta’s and Jade’s arcs are interwoven, it’s not impossible. If it doesn’t, I’m personally pretty happy with Davepeta giving Jade some good advice and helping her out at the end. Feel free to let me know what you think! :)
Alright, that’s all I got on Jade for now, guys. Hoping to write one post about Jane soon, but I’m going to be refocusing back towards video editing and job hunting, so these written posts may slow while I devote more energy to making videos. This has essentially been a side project to my Homestuck, Explained series as I gathered my thoughts on the endgame enough that I thought it warranted posting some more of them.
If you’re interested in enabling me to write more of these posts and making more videos, it’d be cool of you to check out my Patreon. We’ve got a neat little Discord community of Homestuck aficionados thinking and talking about a bunch of different Homestuck analysis topics, and doing so can also get you perks like previews of my video scripts and previews of the videos themselves.
That’s all for now, peeps. As always, thanks a ton for reading.
See you again soon, everyone.
Until then, Keep Rising.
Originally published at revolutionaryduelist.tumblr.com.