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Literature / Miranda And Caliban

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Miranda and Caliban is a novel written by Jacqueline Carey. The story is a Perspective Flip of The Tempest, written from the point of view of the titular characters. Prospero's young and innocent daughter raised in exile, Miranda, helps her father by keeping the animals while he works his secretive magics. When her father plans to capture the wild boy that prowls on the island, the lonely Miranda jumps at the chance to have any companion at all...


This book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Miranda's early narration make it clear that she thinks of her father as loving, but stern and harsh with her to ensure their survival, and deeply immersed in his secretive magical works. One scene takes it beyond "stern" when it's revealed Prospero has a charm that can inflict pain on her. He makes quick use of it when she's lost in her own thoughts and not paying enough attention, then later works himself into a rage and puts her in a coma when she breaks the Replacement Goldfish.
    • Caliban's dead mother Sycorax is revealed as abusive as well when Ariel takes her form to taunt Caliban.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In this version of the story, Caliban is still a semi-feral brute, but is much more relatable. He is nothing but a friend to Miranda, is honestly afraid of his desire for her once they're grown, and most of his darkness comes from years of calling Prospero Master and understanding that he's not free. He is still capable of clumsily plotting Prospero's murder, but given what he sees Miranda go through, it's not hard to see why he thought that was the only way out.
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  • Adaptational Villainy: Prospero still seeks a return from his exile and justice on those who wronged him, as in the original, but the manner he goes about it in this tale sends him flying down the slippery slope.
  • Ambiguous Ending: For the most part, the tale ends as the The Tempest does, but for two key details.
    • Prospero destroys all his magic charms and his sanctum in fire, but Miranda thinks she catches a glimpse of metal tucked up his sleeve, leaving it unknown whether he really could give up his power.
    • Miranda promises Caliban that even though she's stuck with Ferdinand, she will be able to send for him some day, and be together in some fashion. It's left completely open whether or not that ever happens.
  • Arranged Marriage: Prospero's minimal explanation of his plans includes dropping this on Miranda. Miranda bewilderingly wonders whether she's supposed to marry Caliban or Ariel, as those are the only other two beings she knows.
  • Attempted Rape: Subverted. In this adaptation, the incident is entirely consensual. Prospero interrupts before things get too far, and assuming Miranda was forced, comes close to killing Caliban in rage. Miranda has to force him to stop, and point out Caliban is already spelled to do no harm - it was literally impossible for him to rape Miranda.
  • Berserk Button: Prospero pretty clearly has some blame issues over Miranda's lost mother.
    Prospero: You've killed your mother all over again, Miranda.
  • Character Narrator: Both Miranda and Caliban serve as alternating first person narrators. Caliban's early chapters are terribly simple and begin to evolve along with his grasp of language. Later he laments he just doesn't have the skill to put some very complicated emotions into words.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: Prospero's enraged use of his pain charm on Miranda caused enough damage to put her into a brief coma, and lose all ability to walk, talk, or function normally for an extended time. She does recover completely, but builds a towering resentment over the ignorance her father keeps her in and the suffering he caused, along with a paralyzing fear over confronting him on it. This also ends up creating more bonds with Caliban, who knew exactly how frustrating relearning to speak was.
  • Death by Childbirth: Miranda's mother suffered this fate.
  • Downer Ending: The events of The Tempest occur as planned, which means despite their long friendship and budding true love, Miranda and Caliban are fated to be separated. The last ray of hope is that Miranda promises to save Caliban from the island later, but it's left completely unknown whether she does.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: One of the few fairly civil conversations between Ariel and Caliban leads to this angered revelation.
    Ariel: I am set against myself as surely as thou art. Aye, I chafe at the yoke of my captivity under our master Prospero, and it sits ill with me that a man should use his daughter thusly to gain his own ends, use the skill of her hands and aye, the very blood of her womb, and yet my goal is mine own freedom and I cannot attain it save that his plans come to fruition. Those are the horns of the dilemma on which I am hooked.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Prospero's magic sanctum is expressly off limits to the children. It's not even locked, as Miranda is obedient enough to not dare it. At least, until Ariel stimulates her fears of dangerous abominations within, and she sneaks in to calm herself and prove Ariel wrong, leading directly to Prospero hurting her. Her thoughts invoke the trope namer, Eve's Temptation, when Prospero begins bringing her in to assist him, and then seems confused when she's quite hesitant.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The book's finale covers the culmination of Prospero's plan, so anyone familiar with the original work will know how the story ends. The details, however, set a different tone entirely.
  • Geas:
    • Caliban is spelled to do no harm to either Prospero or Miranda. Even accidental harm brings him instant agony.
    • Ariel is bound to obey Prospero's commands until the master's great work is complete, or be sentenced to damnation. He is alternately glad for his eventual freedom and raging that he still has to serve anyone after what Sycorax did to him.
  • Golem: Prospero has a small army of elemental spirits bound into his command, though they are limited to chores that fit their nature.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ariel's first pass at tormenting the two children is to suggest Caliban's simple and wild nature is because his mother gave birth to an ape's child. Once he's off in rage, Ariel also tells Miranda that Sycorax was attempting a half-spirit child, with Ariel himself, and his refusal is what got him imprisoned in a tree.
  • I Know Your True Name: Prospero's first major task is to free Ariel from his tree. To do this, he needs to know whose power Sycorax invoked to bind him there, and Caliban is the only other living soul on the island who might know, thus the attempt to capture and civilize him. Caliban pretends ignorance for a time, not only because he feels Ariel is bad and he resents his Master, but because it's one of the few memories of his mother he has left, and he still believes and worships (in a way) the thing whose name Prospero wants.
    • Interestingly, in a book full of Prospero's binding spells, Miranda and Caliban don't actually know his name until late in plot. To Miranda, he is simply Papa, and to Caliban he is Master.
  • The Ingenue: Enforced on Miranda by Prospero, who only states that there are topics unfit for an unwed virgin woman. This included her period up until she had it, and in a very rare instance of trying to stand up to her father, witheringly wonders why he hadn't simply told her.
  • I Will Find You: Miranda's last promise to Caliban, on freeing him and telling him she's leaving with Ferdinand, is that she will eventually be able to use her position (princess to a spellbound lovesick prince) to send for him. As she boards the boat, and realizes the scope of change in her new life, she begins to have doubts, but resolves to nonetheless.
  • I Will Wait for You: Caliban resolves to take care of the island until Miranda can retrieve him, and to put aside his hate that festers. Ariel makes one last appearance to him to tell him he's completely foolish to do so. It is left completely open whether or not the promise is kept.
  • Karma Houdini: Prospero, having his justice and return to Milan, and his daughter married to royalty besides, gets everything he ever wanted, regardless of the personal consequences to anyone he used to do it. Then again, with his abandonment of magic, and the secrets of his behavior he keeps from the royal court, Miranda has the potential to serve karma if he does not change his ways .
  • Love Potion: Prospero uses Miranda's menstrual blood in a love potion to bind Ferdinand, the King's son, to Miranda, cementing his plan. Miranda discovered this beforehand, but it happens so quickly she's helpless to prevent it.
  • Mind Rape: Prospero's constant fallback plan when unable to work with Caliban is a permanent binding, that won't leave much of a individual or a mind left, just a thrall. He did the same thing to a stubborn goat, giving Miranda enough idea how it works to get desperate, and break his rules to convince Caliban to comply.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Prospero is desperate to revive Miranda from her coma, and prays to God over both her and the burial of the tiny homunculus. Caliban's thoughts naturally wonder where his prayers were when he hurt Miranda.
  • Narcissist: Prospero shows fairly strong signs. Whenever Miranda begins to question him, he becomes angry and demands her trust, which he will not return. He claims his grand plan requires her innocence to avoid tainting the magic, which she realizes was never true when she learns key details from other sources, yet nothing changes at all. The most standout example is her painting, which Prospero asks her to do to help his art but becomes her one true joy. Prospero whitewashes her entire body of work without a second thought once he needs new displays, and acts confused as to why she's upset about it.
  • Replacement Goldfish: One of Prospero's attempted projects is to recreate Miranda's mother by growing a homunculus from a strand of her hair. The attempt fails miserably, but he ends up keeping the tiny barely-alive misshapen thing in his sanctum and treating it like her Soul Jar. Ariel tricks Miranda into entering his forbidden sanctum, she's naturally mesmerized, and the jar breaks when Prospero interrupts her.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Miranda gains a measure of this in the finale. Realizing that between Prospero not wanting the royal party to know the depths to which he arranged events, his abusiveness, or his secret attempt to recreate his wife, and that being the lovestruck target of a prince, she has far greater influence than Prospero does. She promptly frees Caliban and uses this leverage to guarantee his freedom, planning to retrieve him from the island later.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Miranda and Caliban's relationship is doomed by the events of The Tempest, and there is no possible way they can stay together. Miranda promises it won't always be thus, but it's unknown if she keeps that promise.
  • The Trickster: Ariel, of the dangerous variety. Prospero calls him a mercurial spirit from the start, and Caliban outright calls Ariel bad. Ariel plays the dutiful and extremely efficient servant to Prospero, while undermining him by twisting the kids around any way they can spin, insulting and baiting them, while highlighting - and occasionally providing - all the knowledge Prospero keeps them ignorant of.
  • Time Skip: The book opens on a six year old Miranda (by her vague reckoning), spending some time as Caliban is caught and educated, Ariel is freed from the tree, and Miranda is injured and recovers. Once the household stabilizes, the book skips ahead several years to Miranda at fourteen, encountering her first period, as Prospero declares her a woman grown.
  • Trauma Button: A literal one - Prospero's pain charm, after punishing Miranda to the point of brain damage, is now a desperate trigger. Seeing him consider using it is enough to make her seize up and nearly piss herself.
  • Virgin Power: In the middle of explaining (barely) the concept of women's periods and fertility to a bewildered and frightened Miranda, he stops to give her instructions and tools to collect her virginal menstrual blood, as it can be of great use to him in his magics. This later turns out to be highly relevant.
  • Virgin Tension: Miranda and Caliban's long-term friendship is put on abrupt hold due to this. Miranda's period starts, she gets informed she will be married off as a virgin, but is otherwise kept in complete ignorance as to what that means or entails. Caliban gets an accidental view of her naked, and this flames his desire of her, but Prospero has forbidden him to touch her. With "help" from Ariel, he views this new desire as part of his monstrous nature, and treats her coldly to keep that desire in check.
  • Wild Child: At first, Caliban is completely feral and nonverbal. Prospero weaves a spell to compel him into a cell, seeking information only he has, but cannot get anywhere. It takes Miranda, desperate for any companion, to calm him with kindness and get him to remember his name, and she takes the lead in trying to teach him language again.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Once Ferdinand is spelled and clearly besotten with Miranda, she admits to herself there's zero way out of her situation and she will end up leaving the island. She does realize, however, that her position going forward is not so weak after all...


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