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Headscratchers: The Decemberists
  • What happened to Margaret's baby in the Hazards of Love concept album? It's implied that she went to the forest to give birth, but her pregnancy and the child are never mentioned again. Did she miscarry? Did the Forest Queen take it? Did The Rake murder it while kidnapping Margaret? And if it was still alive, why the hell would Margaret and William drown themselves?
    • You know, that has always bothered me. It's my belief that either she miscarried, or (more likely in my mind) the baby died during her kidnapping. I think I tried to work this out simply because I could never bring myself to think of Margaret and William abandoning their child by drowning themselves. Though, I never considered the Forest Queen taking it. That's actually an interesting idea, given that that's basically what happened with William. Maybe it means that when the child grows up (if that's what happened), then the whole story will begin again or something? Hmm...
      • When Margaret goes to the forest, she is explicitly going to see William, and not very long after she begins to show ("And when young Margaret's waistline grew wider ... And so our heroine withdraws to the Taiga", and then "And all this stirring inside my belly / Won't quell my want for love"), and the lyrics in "Wager All" suggest that she is still pregnant and William feels the baby kicking ("And all my life I've never felt the tremor / And all my life, that now disturbs my fingers"). Since we can probably assume that the rest of the story takes place over a single day (since William only bargained for one night of freedom), she would still be pregnant when she was kidnapped. Then the violence of the lyrics of "Margaret in Captivity" suggest that she was beaten badly during her kidnapping, probably miscarried, and buried the baby during the first verse of "The Drowned".
    • It's open to interpretation. I've heard one person say that the first verse of The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned) describes Margaret burying their stillborn child. I think it either miscarried, or she was still pregnant by the end of the story.
    • This troper's interpretation had been that she was still pregnant at the end. William had promised the Annan River that it could take him after he crossed, so I had believed that the river itself was assaulting the fortress that the Rake took Margaret to (rather than Margaret and William committing suicide in the river or anything like that). Thus "array the rocks around the hole"- the fortress is leaking as the river rises. Though on the subject of the Forest Queen, what IS William? A human boy rescued and given the form of a fawn by day? A dead child reanimated? Something entirely made ("How I made you... from ore, I labored you...")?
      • I'm not sure about William. I usually go with the dead/abandoned child theory (should "cradle of clay" mean anything special?) since this isn't the first time The Decemberists has used the idea of a baby found floating in the river. There's a wilder theory that William is the reanimated corpse of Isaiah, which I don't buy myself. ...For that matter, what's Margaret supposed to be?
      • Actually, I've come to the conclusion that William was drowned as a baby and given new life by the Forest Queen... thus making babies drowning in rivers a theme of the tale. Eek.
      • I hear it that Margaret is the River's daughter, but not immortal or fey or anything like that. She lives in a cloister with some nuns, but because she's the river's daughter, she has a wild streak. When she turned up pregnant with William's baby, the nuns cast her into the forest, and she had to flee into the Taiga to escape the queen's wrath. William is the ghost of a child drowned by the river. During the day, he inhabits the body of a fawn, but at night, he has a body similar to a man's, though it is a construct. Margaret's baby is born alive, but she kills herself because she has postpartum depression, and the baby is raised by the queen.
      • There's a very good fanfic (The Sister's Bargain, read it now!) that suggests the Queen adopted the child for her own, and Margaret's sister later came to try and reclaim the child.
  • Speaking of "The Hazards Of Love," am I the only one who believes that The Rake is the same Rake from "The Mariner's Revenge Song?" Because Colin is specific to a fault when it comes to the chronology of both songs, I've figured out that it works very well together: at 18, the Rake seduces the three-year-old Mariner's mother, bankrupts her and gives her a fatal case of tuberculosis before fleeing. Then at 21, he marries and has four children, the last of whom, Myfanwy, is stillborn and her mother dies in childbirth. By this time he'd be about 25, assuming the pregnancies happened in quick succession, although it's possible that Charlotte and Dawn were twins. Presumably, his lack of desire to remain a father after his wife dies causes him to kill his children, and then he kidnaps Margaret. Although his children's ghosts haunt him at the end of The Hazards Of Love, it is never mentioned that he dies, so he could have gone to the sea and eventually become "the captain of [a] ship...known for wanton cruelty." Meanwhile, the Mariner is 18 when he overhears the confession in the church where he works that reveals the Rake's location to him, and he spends 20 months sailing toward him, making the Mariner 19 or 20 when they meet again, and the Rake 34 or 35—and that's where they have the duel to the death in the whale's belly after being swallowed! Sure, it's far-fetched, but I like the idea of all the songs in Decemberists World being interconnected.
    • Congrats, we have the first musical WMG I have ever seen! But no, the song T Ho L 4: "Revenge!" is pretty clearly the Rake's kids getting, well, revenge. To a lethal extreme, presumably.
  • Still on the subject of Hazards of Love: Why does the Rake need the Queen's help anyway? If he needs to cross Annan Water to get back to his fortress, then presumably he needed to cross it in order to kidnap Margaret in the first place. You could perhaps argue that the Queen asked him to kidnap Margaret in order to save William (and so flew him across the first time in exchange for his help), but if that were the case, it seems like she wouldn't devote the first two verses of "The Queen's Rebuke" explaining who she is, as he would already know. (Unless the explanatory two verses are directed at Margaret rather than the Rake).
    • IIRC, the Queen goes on about herself a fair amount during the first song where she appears, when she's talking to William, who would know who she was if anyone would. So maybe she just likes talking about herself.
  • So...what exactly is it that's happening during the song in Hazards of Love where William goes to bargain with the Forest Queen? It's probably just me not paying close enough attention, but I was never able to quite figure out what he was asking for-he says "my life for the evening", but given that he'd already impregnated Margaret and all, he seemed to be doing whatever he wanted before that anyway. And what was it he promised her that got her to agree to it? She seems to rather abruptly go from being pissed at him to calmly accepting the deal. And, while we're at it, why was she so angry with him in the first place?
    • The queen thinks William owes her his life, since she rescued him from certain death in the "reedy glen". While he'd previously had the freedom to do what he wanted at night, the queen appears to have just found out about Margaret (it's possible she walked in on them, since "Isn't it a lovely night?", where the two are reminiscing about making love in the forest and dreaming about their child, comes just before this), and is jealous that William would love someone other than her. She is appeased because William essentially promises to see Margaret for this one night and then never again.
    • Another interpretation is that William wants to leave the forest to see Margaret (and ultimately, to rescue her from the Rake), where previously they had always seen each other in the forest. The Queen may be afraid that if she lets him go outside the forest he will not return to her, and that Margaret will tempt him into the "world of men". He is assuring her otherwise.
      • That does clear things up a lot. Thanks very much.
  • Why does Billy Liar have both his hands in his pockets and his knickers down?!
    • That lyric (and much of the song) is about masturbation.
      • Yes, but what's the point of having his hands in his pockets if his own knickers are down around his ankles (and his pockets with them)?

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