the smashing & dashing character awards, 2022

Hello and welcome again to the woods!

Ahem. Well, welcome to my blog, anyway. As you may have noticed, the name at the top of the page changed, but the url didn’t, because some unknown fellow Chesterton fan possesses the url “” already. (If you don’t know what gaily in the dark means, go read Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse instead of this post. It’s definitely a better use of your time.)

Anyhow, despite the fact that this little blog doesn’t know if it wants to be a Chesterton fan site, a roundabout reference to a hymn, or a secret Gerard Manley Hopkins tribute, I’m back to talk (again) about some good books I read this year, because that’s always fun. This is a tag I stole from Katie.

most relatable character

Frodo Baggins, from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, probably. I have been compared to him before, and I think I share the Baggins’ longing for adventure mixed with desire for a cozy home and lots of books and good food. I am truly a hobbit in all but size (despite my aspirations toward being an elf).

images in this post from Pinterest

most pure animal companion

I’m in the middle of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and I think Mole is quite the nicest of the animals in that book. Mr. Bultitude from Lewis’ That Hideous Strength is also a lot of fun. I don’t really like animals in books all that much, though.

fiercest fighter

This award definitely goes to Evan MacIan & James Turnbull of Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross, who manage to keep fighting about God (with literal swords, mind you) despite becoming the best of friends on a mad journey across England. It’s the sort of story only Chesterton would write, and I am very glad he did.

Year after year went by, and at least a man came by who treated Mr. Turnbull’s secularist shop with a real respect and seriousness. He was a young man in a grey plaid, and he smashed the window.

surprised that I loved you

Frederic Henry from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms: a character who is equal parts lovable and despicable, the lonely and purposeless modern man. I hated him for a lot of the novel, but there were moments I found him wonderful, and in the end I pitied him. I still wonder what happens after he walks home in the rain.

best sassmaster

I mean, this is always going to be Eugenides of the Queen’s Thief novels by Megan Whalen Turner (this being the third year in a row that I have read at least some of them). To be fair, Benedick & Beatrice from Shakespeare’s As You Like It also deserve this title. They are the best bickering couple I’ve read about in a long time, and as they predate all the others they deserve this title.

Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.

Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.

I took no more pains for those thanks than you take
pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I would
not have come.

You take pleasure then in the message?

Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s
point…You have no stomach,
signior: fare you well.

Ha! “Against my will I am sent to bid you come in
to dinner;” there’s a double meaning in that…

best antihero

Well, I’m not sure exactly what an antihero is. I’m going to go with Sunday from The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton (and if this bothers you, well, Sunday is a bothersome character and I’m still not sure I approve of Chesterton’s characterization of him, so you can take up your complaints with Sir Gilbert Keith). He’s good — but is he? He’s the villain — or not. Even though the plot twists were predictable I really loved this book, and Sunday was a perplexing mystery still worth pondering.

I know what you mean, and it is exactly that that I cannot forgive you. I know you are contentment, optimism… an ultimate reconciliation. Well, I am not reconciled… We wept, we fled in terror, the iron entered into our souls—and you are the peace of God! Oh, I can forgive God His anger, though it destroyed nations; but I cannot forgive Him His peace.

best friends

Of course I must mention Achilles & Patroclus, who appear in Homer’s Iliad and also my friend Anne’s retelling of the story, Patroclus O My Rider. I’ll also say that MacIan & Turnbull (already mentioned above) are good friends too, and (I think) a good portrayal of how to be friends with someone you disagree with (maybe minus the whole duel-to-the-death bit).

best villain to hate

All of N.I.C.E. from That Hideous Strength (Lewis), definitely. I do not like them.

best/worst YA parents

This is a well-warranted category to exist. I must admit that, while I read a fair bit of YA this year, my faith in the category as a whole is steadily waning and (with the exception of historical fantasy) I am mostly going to be avoiding it in the future. Anyway, worst parents goes to all of them, the whole infuriating lot, for letting their kids do all the ridiculous things YA main characters are prone to do and not being there to comfort them afterwards and setting terrible examples. As for best, Serilda & Gild from Marissa Meyer’s Cursed seemed to actually care for their daughter and want to protect her, so that’s nice.

ship of all ships

Hannah & Nathan Coulter from Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter are wonderful and I loved the way he wrote their relationship.

My life with Nathan turned out to be a long life, an actual marriage, with trouble in it. I am not complaining. Troubles came as they were bound to do, as the promise we made had warned us that they would. I can remember the troubles and speak of them, but not to complain. I am beginning again to speak of my gratitude.

Honorable mention to some couples from rereads: Shasta & Aravis (Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy), Eugenides & Irene (Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels), Emma & Mr. Knightley (Austen’s Emma).

most precious, must be protected

I was going to say Madeline from The Ball and the Cross but then I remembered this line, and I decided she doesn’t need my protection:

She was not in the least afraid of loneliness, because she was not afraid of devils. I think they were afraid of her.

Also, Bevis from Knight’s Fee by Rosemary Sutcliff deserves all the love and protection in the world.

honestly surprised you’re still alive

Cyrus from N.D. Wilson’s Ashtown Burials, of course. I reread these for the first time in a while and remembered how dearly I love the characters and the world and the worldview, but also how crazy and terrible the characters’ lives are, and I don’t know how Cyrus is still alive, honestly. (He does basically die, but then there’s this thing called the dragon’s tooth.) (Dear author, please write the rest of The Silent Bells, thank you.)

makes the worst decisions

Nina from Leigh Bardugo’s Nikolai duology, who decides not only to take up major space in a series that isn’t supposed to be about her, but also falls in love while she is on a trip to bury her dead boyfriend. Yeah. There’s a lot to unpack about the terrible Nina POV sections in these books.

most in need of a nap

Shasta from Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, who is up for at least 40 hours, sleeps for less than 10, then is up for another 24 or so on his wild heroic adventure to save Narnia.

want to read more about you

Nikolai & Zoya in Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo (did I mention Nina took over this book? and the main characters fell to the wayside and we didn’t get any completion of their narrative arcs?). Also, I am looking forward to reading more of Plato, Kierkegaard, Shakespeare, and Cicero in the near future.

These words were spoken by Him to whom, according to His own statement, is given all power in heaven and on earth. You who hear me must consider within yourselves whether you will bow before his authority or not, accept and believe the words or not. But if you do not wish to do so, then for heaven’s sake do not go and accept the words because they are clever or profound or wonderfully beautiful, for that is a mockery of God.

I hope you all enjoyed that rollercoaster trip through my varying book tastes (a handful of YA romances and a large dose of philosophy & classics, among other things), and feel free to steal this tag if you want to talk about your favorite characters this year!

Before you leave the woods, let me know if you think I should a) find a new url to go along with the new name (and if so, what url?), b) go back to the old name, or c) find a different new name that isn’t already taken by someone else.

Now, go gaily in the dark, friends.



8 thoughts on “the smashing & dashing character awards, 2022”

  1. Yes!!! So glad you did the tag, and I loved reading your answers, Maya! ❤

    MacIan and Turnbull are MY BOYS. I adore them. I love how they become best friends through the very forces which seem to drive them apart–their honesty and their convictions. That's some brilliant character work, that is. I take off my hat to you, G.K.

    Ha! I think "antihero" is a very fair categorization of Sunday 😉 And that quote you included ("I can forgive God His anger, though it destroyed nations, but I cannot forgive Him His peace") has been eternally burned into my brain since I was fourteen years old. I take comfort in the knowledge that I will never be capable of writing anything that raw.

    Yes, I have been… disappointed with recent YA offerings as well. I fear the genre's heyday may be behind us (har, har, listen to me talking like an old curmudgeon at the age of twenty-eight). But seriously, they ain't writing 'em like they used to.

    Thanks again for doing the tag! This was a lot of fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ahhhh yes, Mole is a dear darling. N.I.C.E. is the very opposite of a dear darling (Fairy Hardcastle being primest of prime examples of Not A Dear Darling). And SHASTA and EUGENIDES ❤

    I like your url and your Chestertonian blog name and don’t mind the mismatch at all…so there’s my two cents, anyway. 🙂


  3. I love both your Chesterton reference and your Gerard Manley Hopkins reference! ❤ The Balled of the White Horse is SO FABULOUS.

    Aww, Mole. I love him dearly! (Dulce Domum is definitely my favorite chapter of that book, although there are a lot of close seconds, and it's mostly because of Mole.)

    Eugenides is the sassiest of sassmasters, for sure, although Beatrice and Benedick are also great fun!

    Hmm. I don't think Sunday is an antihero, BUT it's been so long since I read Man Who Was Thursday that I don't really have a good counterargument up my sleeve. XD

    Awwwwwww Hannah & Nathan Coulter are SO CUTE and I also love their marriage SO MUCH!

    Shasta does definitely need a nap–and I love that he's sleeping on the book cover picture you included. 🙂


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