Monsters under the bed just got real.
As kids, many of us were fascinated by stories of toys coming out to play at night when their owners are put to bed. Some of us still enjoy these stories because the inner child in us hasn’t grown up yet. (Yes I am talking about yours truly). Plot twist though. Imagine this scenario. What if instead of playtime there is a full scale war being waged in the nursery under the bed where the souls of all the toys and their owner hang in the balance?
Meet Brom, author of the The Plucker. He has dabbled in illustrations for book covers and video games. As for novel material, he has written four books, The Plucker being his first. His novels aren’t well known probably because there isn’t a lot of writing he has done (most of his illustrative works do the talking) but I really really really wish he wrote more. It is difficult to explain the kind of creatures he creates. They seem to come from different realms altogether (especially when his graphical illustrations aids the reader’s imagination). They have a haunting yet alluring quality to them. They send shivers down your spine and yet you are strangely drawn to them. Each of his novels are accompanied by beautiful graphical illustrations and it must be mentioned that while The Plucker may be about toys, it is an adult novel and NOT your average bedtime story.
Brom introduces you to a toy who is well known in the world of children and yet does not have a story of his own. Thanks to Brom, he now does. Jack in the Box is the awkward and yet heart melting hero of this tale! The villain of the story is the Plucker a spirit doll who Thomas’s father thinking it will ward off evil spirits, gifts his son, Thomas without realizing that in doing so he is signing his son’s death warrant. The Plucker escapes from the Spirit doll after it falls under Thomas’s bed and breaks. Then it starts stealing the essence (soul) of the toys, its ultimate goal being Thomas’s soul. Every villain has his minions, in this case the minions of this story have very inventive names-Foulthings and Stickmen. (I think Brom did it intentionally because their names signify what they actually are). Brom deals with different themes through Jack’s eyes that all of us human readers can relate to.
The fear of being forgotten and being ostracized is beautifully conveyed in the story. All toys are created for their owners to play with. When their owner loses interest in them, the toys lose their essence and going to the Underbed (under the bed) or the attic means death to a toy. Other toys avoid toys who meet with such sentences since they believe that they may catch the bad vibes. Don’t we live with the same fear? We are created to feel appreciated, encouraged and be of value to one another and when we don’t get the same, we feel we lose our importance. We all live with the fear of being forgotten in some way. We tend to avoid other people who are considered awkward and freaks without realizing that in maintaining our aim of not being forgotten, we forget the hurt we cause other people in turn.
In the event we do face ostracization though, we will always find people either going through that same journey, or empathizing with us, who keep us going and tell us to never give up. Jack found his friends through the Old Nutcracker and the Snow Angel reminding us that we are never alone.
In The Plucker, the Red Knight and the Snow Angel are brought in as new toys to the nursery and we soon discover that Red Knight is a secondary villain in the story who makes sure the status order of the nursery is in place. He stands for dictatorship, old fashioned values & morals and the old order of things. We all have our “Red Knights” of the world to contend with. As a young generation, embracive of new ideas and morals we find ourselves dealing with many people who strive to keep us tied to the old order of things, many of us fighting these battles within our own homes. Jack and the Snow Angel, in comparison to the Red Knight, stand for the new order of things, embracive of breaking down old ways of thinking and embracing futures of hope and change.
There’s also the good ol romance and chivalry. Jack’s love interest is the Snow Angel, who is against the whole concept of hierarchy and ostracization that Jack faces but is trapped by the dictatorship of the Red Knight. Even though the Red Knight seems to be vying for her hand he reminds me of an oppressive father figure in this story. Everything Jack does, he does for the Snow Angel primarily and through that love, for the sake of the other toys. Which shows us that the power of love translates from the loving of one to the loving of many.
Brom also brings in the concept of rebirth. After the Foulthings kill Jack, Mable, Thomas’s nanny stitches Jack up and gives him a new heart of a viper. Then he faces a different battle thereon where he has to convince the other toys that he is not a monster but he does intend to slay the monsters under the bed. Rebirth is something we all go through, maybe not the whole dying process (though some people believe that is possible as well), but more one where we start discovering ourselves and our potential to the extent that we change and we are not the same person we were at one time. Sometimes people notice the change and we have a hard time convincing them that the change is a good thing and that we are the same person on the inside, just better.
The importance of the soul is also brought into context in the novel. The Plucker launches an attack on the toys that Thomas loves to steal Thomas’s essence and gusto saying that it is that what brings toys to life and what makes them real. “Pluckers” of this world will always be around to steal your soul, your essence, to drain you of the gusto and innocence that you possess. It is your inner child or rather your “inner jack in the box” who must never let these “pluckers” accomplish that task. For if you look deeper you may find out that you actually have a fighting heart, like Jack.
The serpent seen as an icon of evil is also converted into an icon of goodness when Mable possesses the body of a snake to help Jack in defeating the Plucker. Brom uses this logic in most of his other stories by essentially twisting stories we are familiar with and making us think what if? In Brom’s novel The Child Thief, Peter Pan is actually evil and in Krampus, the creature Krampus is pitted as the good guy against the villainous Santa Claus!!! As opposed to popular belief today.
The last and my personal favourite is how Brom captured our safe-places-our boxes. Jack’s box always sings him a song (Pop goes the weasel) when he is down. Even in his quest to find the Snow Angel and the Plucker, you always find him worried about his box. Because that’s his safe place- which has given him comfort through the worst of times. Nobody can take his box away from him. We should be like Jack and take lengths to ensure that nobody takes our safe-places (that happy place in the deepest recesses of our conscience) away from us.
Sometimes if we’re lucky like Jack, we will find that even when we aren’t sure of where our “boxes” are anymore, we find our “Snow Angels” who have memorized our safe-place songs and guide us back to our safe places by singing us that same song.
And that sometimes people by becoming our boxes, let us feel safe when we decide to step outside our own boxes.
The Plucker (http://www.bromart.com/images/PPlucker.jpg)