Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tell-Tale Thoughts: Ligeia

If ever there were a Poe tale that I almost gave up on in my youth, it was “Ligeia.” As I started this story for the first time, I remember asking myself where was the Poe that I knew and loved. Where was the neurotic and deranged narrator? Where were the creepy horrors? Why was this guy spouting pages of praise for the beauty of his now-dead love? Romance has no place in my tales of terror.

Of course, I came to realize over the years that there was more depth to Poe than creepy-eyed old men, deadly diseases, living burial and the like, and while “Ligeia” still wouldn’t be my favorite story by a long shot, I came to appreciate it more.

The story tells the tale of a man who loses the love of his life. While he was singing the praises of her beauty and presence, though, the younger me failed to notice that, indeed, this subject does have some of the deranged tendencies of Poe’s unfortunate narrators. If nothing else, he’s certainly obsessed with his lost love, yet for all those lavish details, he claims to be unable to remember how they met and isn’t sure that he ever knew her surname.

Eventually, the narrator marries another woman, Rowena, the polar opposite of his raven-haired princess Ligeia. He locks her away in a room that must surely have sounded quite macabre in his day, and to some still, but sounds like a pretty cool place to me – the kind of place that I’d want to make my own personal space.

Of course, as will happen to Poe’s characters, the narrator’s new bride soon grows ill. As he sits in mourning by her death bed, she seems to revive several times, until, finally, she transforms, shedding her shroud to reveal Ligeia reborn.

Though I like it more, I still think it’s one of the hardest Poe tales to suspend disbelief on. A slower possession, such as in the similar tale “Morella” is a little easier to believe than the sudden manifestation of Ligeia at the end of this story. Then again, though, did Ligeia manifest or was it a combination of the narrator’s opium addiction and grief?


No comments: