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Literature / La Belle Dame Sans Merci

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La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a short fantasy story by blogger Anna J. Roberts about a struggling writer who meets a mysterious Irish girl one night. They start a relationship, and she re-energizes him creatively. Then, about halfway through, things get scary.

The story was written for the Something Awful forums as a response to a fanfic by Troper Enemy Mayan, which was rooted in a similar concept—a mythical Irish being called a Leanan Sidhe (pronounced "lawn she") which instills, but also feeds off of, creative energy. Roberts liked the idea of deconstructing the Leanan Sidhe, but was disappointed both with Enemy Mayan's story and his attitude towards fiction and creative writing in general. There are stabs at the concept of tropes, Mayan's value of quantity over quality, and stereotypical man-child writers in general throughout the story, but its greatest appeal comes from reconstructing the Leanan Sidhe as an unspeakable horror, rather than a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

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Not to Be Confused with the poem by John Keats or the other poem by Alain Chartier.

Read the story here.


Includes examples of:

  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: John Keats was another of Caitlin's victims, and his early death was caused by burning out fast. The title implies that the poem of the same name was inspired by his relationship with her. And so many more...
  • Historical In-Joke: Yeats was clever, and figured out her real name. She had to serve him until he died, and complains at one point that no matter what else he had, he never shut the hell up about Maude.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Caitlin looks human. Mostly.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Caitlin feeds on human creative energy, and apparently, life force. She also quite literally kills and eats a minor homeless character introduced earlier on when the protagonist attempts to starve her to death.
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  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ruthlessly deconstructed. Caitlin jumps into the protagonist's life, and kicks him into creativity and opening up to new experiences while being a sexy woman in love with him... but, it's part and parcel of her parasitizing and feeding on him at the same time. And under it all, after centuries of playing the part for countless writers to keep herself fed, she's come to hate them, with their interchangeable angsty whining about their chosen professions, to the point that she enjoys burning out and destroying them when she tires of them. Further, it's implied that, rather than gentle introverts who need to be helped to open up, most of these writers are just plain ol' self-centered at best, or self-obsessed narcissists at worst.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Enemy Mayan's main character was a struggling writer. Roberts kept that part. After centuries of it, Caitlin's ridiculously sick of writers whining on and on about themselves and their writer problems.
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  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: From his almost-completely-fictional memoir that sparked a feud with Oprah to his towering ego and high opinion of himself and his writing that seems at odds with his actual abilities, the protagonist is clearly based on James Frey, infamous author of A Million Little Pieces and Katerina. Amusingly, this story predates Katerina while at times reading like a point-for-point parody of it.
  • Smug Snake: The main character is a thoroughly and intentionally unpleasant person who likes to feel like his writing talents set him above normal people. But by the end of the story, it's plain how completely he's lost control of the situation... if indeed, he ever had any.
  • Villain Protagonist: The main character is quickly established as a sleazebag when the first paragraph describes his autobiography as a pack of lies. At the end of the story, when Caitlin's given him cancer, his last thought is that he hopes she makes other writers like him as miserable as he is.

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