Sally here with a look at Anne Simon’s “Song of Aglaia”
I found Anne Simon‘s Song of Aglaia difficult, but in a way, the things I didn’t like about it are what makes it interesting. When I am presented with a female protagonist I want to get behind them 100%. When a female protagonist turns out to be complicated and prone to making decisions that hurt the people around her, I have to adjust my expectations. Such is life, of course.
Simon demands many adjusted expectations with Song of Aglaia. She begins by upsetting a number of traditional tropes that are usually found in myths and fairy tales.
A water nymph, Aglaia, is presented at the beginning of the comic as a fairly typical victim of male violence and oppression. She wants to be happy and loved, and in the pursuit of that finds herself abandoned and with child, rejected by her father, and then forced into a marriage of convienence in order to avoid a punishment of death handed down by a tyrannical ruler.
Switching things up from there, Simon draws Aglaia with more backbone than is usually the case in fairy tales. Aglaia fights back, rescuing her children, killing the tyrant, escaping her loveless marriage – but at what cost? Once she has gained power, Aglaia wields it poorly, decreeing her own opressions and abondoning people who care for her.
The moral clarity that many fairy tales lay claim to is definitely blurry in this comic. It’s easy to root for Aglaia to a point, but when her choices continue to lead to heartbreak, reality sets in and I am forced to consider that Song of Aglaia is NOT a fairy tale. It is a story that asks “what happens next?” After the male oppressors are overthrown and equality is achieved, when women in fact gain the upper hand and are free to build the world they wish for…then what? The example that Aglaia provides is an all too possible result. There is no triumph when cruelty leads to more cruelty, when the abused turn into abusers.
With interesting artwork and good storytelling Simon offers a thoughtful comic, but one that doesn’t answer the questions she brings up. It’s a fairly heavy reminder that in the fairy tale and in real life there are no easy answers. Everyone is complicated and nursing their own wounds, and we are caught in a cycle that often seems inescapable. At best, we can hope to muddle onward, perhaps with a little more grace than Aglaia manages.
Although it may sound as though I didn’t like this comic, I do recommend taking a look at it! Somewhere, hidden between asking these types of questions and imagining the possible answers, there lies the potential for discovering a solution – and examining the “difficult” things always brings us closer to that.