The Valdemar Reread

Follow Your Arrow: Songs of Valdemar

Last week, we finished the story in Arrow’s Fall, but we’re not quite entirely done with the book. In the final pages of the volume, Lackey has provided an appendix of Valdemaran songs. These were recorded on the album Heralds, Harpers, and Havoc, and distributed Off Centaur Publications, the Filk powerhouse of the 1980s, which went out of business the same year Arrow’s Fall was published.

It’s difficult to find a copy now, but some tracks are available on YouTube and on Grooveshark. The recordings I have found show clear signs of the degradation of the original cassette tapes. If you have fond memories of playing the tape over and over back in the day, you might not want to ruin them by listening to the songs now. If you never got to hear them in the first place, rest assured that these were slightly less musically interesting than most amateur performances of “The Wild Rover.” The song lyrics are a fun set of extras that expand on some scenes and ideas from the books.

“Her Father’s Eyes”

Expanding on the scene from Arrows of the Queen where Selenay explains what being Chosen means to Talia, Selenay sings about her relationship with her ex and her problems with Elspeth. Selenay is clearly projecting her issues with her dead husband on to her relationship with her daughter. The song seems like a weak excuse for leaving your child in the care of an abusive nanny. I remember having more sympathy for Selenay when I was 13.

“First Love”

Jadus sings to his harp.

“Holderkin Sheep Song”

This is one of the songs Talia and Jadus sang together when he starting giving her music lessons in Arrows of the Queen. It’s also the only artifact of Holderkin culture we see without a lot of baggage about Holderkin beliefs and practices attached. The gentle humor here suggests a softer side to Talia’s people.

“It Was a Dark And Stormy Night”

Talia and Jadus performed this song at a Midwinter celebration for the Palace’s servants. It’s a funny little locked-room mystery about the inexplicable death of a woman whose singing tormented her household. Valdemarans are sharply intolerant of people who sing off-key.

“Musings”

Builds on the scene in Arrows of the Queen where Talia comforts Selenay after a Herald is killed. Selenay envies Talia’s emotional strength and marvels at her good nature.

“Philosophy”

SKIF! If you don’t like Skif at this point, you’ve been reading the wrong trilogy. Here, Skif describes some of the adventures associated with his childhood of crime and reveals the details of his Choosing. He tried to steal his Companion.

“Laws”

Skif explains that Heralds are better than people who make small children rob houses.

“The Face Within”

Kris and Dirk sing about Alberich. This builds on a conversation Kris and Talia had while they were trapped in the Waystation in Arrow’s Flight. Kris explains that Alberich’s work as weapon master requires him to be hard-hearted. Being gentle with his students would leave them defenseless when they go into the field, and when a Herald dies, Alberich feels he has failed them. Alberich is enigmatically silent for most of this trilogy, and this song goes a long way towards defining him in heroic terms.

“Arrow’s Flight”

Talia laments the loss of control that dominated the middle half of the book of the same title.

“Fundamentals”

Kris demonstrates the educational strategy he created to deal with Talia’s Gift going nuclear. It’s mostly nagging. We’re clearly supposed to consider this in the light of the song about Alberich, and that does help explain why Talia worked so hard to keep from killing Kris. That, and her incredibly forgiving nature.

“Otherlove”

A soliloquy in which Talia addresses a sleeping Kris. She explains that their ongoing sexual relationship is meaningless because Dirk.

“After Midnight”

A soliloquy in which Kris addresses a sleeping Talia. He explains that he finds her desperation appealing. Kris is a fallen hero who tends Talia’s wounds and brings her flowers from beyond the grave, and I am a cynical hater of people who find desperation sexy.

“Sun and Shadow: Meetings”

This is the prologue to Valdemar’s favorite ballad ever, and it reveals that Valdemarans are huge fans Ladyhawke.

“Sun and Shadow”

HUGE fans of Ladyhawke.

“The Healer’s Dilemma”

In Arrow’s Fall, Devan the Healer provoked Dirk to confess his love for Talia. Here, he sings about how Healing sometimes causes people pain. Which is not quite as interesting.

“Herald’s Lament”

Dirk mourns Kris. This fits nicely with my head-canon, in which GhostKris acts as Talia’s personal version of Vanyel, defending her against all threats.

“For Talia”

The Heralds of Valdemar trilogy builds the Talia/Dirk love story so slowly that readers barely get to see them interact. In this song, Dirk attempts to fill this gap in the narrative by singing about how grateful he is that Talia puts up with him.

“Kerowyn’s Ride”

Expands on our understanding of Valdemar’s folk culture by outlining the opening chapters of By The Sword. This piece also introduces us to Need, described here as a powerful sword. Which seems a little understated, but hey, it’s a short song.

“Threes”

A mysterious, unnamed pair of women (plus a wolf) take on some bandits. There’s also a somewhat conspicuous sword. These last two pieces are clearly meant as a gateway to the Tarma and Kethry stories, and are very effective.

 

What’s your favorite ballad? Tell me about it in the comments, and tune in next week when we start the Last Herald-Mage trilogy!


Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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