“The finest thing under the sun and moon is the human soul. I marvel at the small miracles of kindness that pass between humans, I marvel at the growth of conscience, at the persistence of reason in the face of all superstition or despair. I marvel at human endurance.”
– Anne Rice, Pandora
People often judge an author by the emotional strength of his/her most prominent female character. Recently this question was asked of Anne Rice: Has she incorporated any strong female characters into her work? If so, whom? The question would seem to be answered by the most glaringly overwhelming woman to span the chronicles: Pandora.
Her tale, like so many others, started for us in The Vampire Lestat, where we received but snippets from Marius’s early history. We were to meet her again in Queen of the Damned, and granted a fuller description of her character; one in which she is dedicated, loyal, and calm, in spite of being treated somewhat unkindly by Marius (still suffering from something of a bruised ego from being tricked and mistreated by Akasha, and earlier arguments with Pandora which are only hinted at).
Pandora’s story was finally told to us in full in the novel Pandora, regarded as a part of the New Tales of the Vampires series, a departure from the original Vampire Chronicles, but still closely linked. As is to be expected – being introduced to a character in the smallest details possible, and then gaining the opportunity to hear the story from her side – readers were thrilled to read this particular novel.
“This is not another novel of a Vampire in Rice’s collection, this is the story of Pandora. A woman whose mind rivaled that of a scholar, her thirst for knowledge and the meaning of what it is to exist, her main quest in this life. She is a woman who is betrayed, but that will not stop her. She embraces her induction into vampire hood, because this way, she can savor her love of life and feel it all the more.”
– Susan Shams, Mesmerizing
As with Armand, one cannot help but feel for Pandora. Her strength of will is great, as is her pride, and this element of her, combined with those same tendencies in the character of Marius, drives the two apart. And being that they are so closely tied by blood, neither one can hear the other. It is merely accidental and fortuitous when they meet again in the future. Though both are too filled with pain from previous wrath to admit that they have been lost without each other.
Whereas Marius is rational to a fault and reasoned to the extreme, Pandora is spiritual and exuberant. Countless arguments later, these clashing perceptions drive them from one another and leave them to pine for centuries to come.
But, as is most clear to us in Queen of the Damned, Pandora handles her cold-war status with Marius with far more maturity than he does. She makes deals she does not feel at ease with, to find him as he lies somewhere beneath the snow, and continues to assist him, even though he fobs her off (assumedly for slighting him at their last meeting). The history between these two characters is remarkable. It would seem that fate will not allow them to be apart. Initially, the two met when both were still human; Pandora a child, and Marius seeking to marry her. Separated by circumstance, they rediscovered one another in Antioch after Marius had become a vampire, and, by the still hand of Akasha, were bound together.
Some people (as is always to be expected from reviewers) found the book to be wanting. One reader, in particular, was disappointed that the character of Pandora was so beautiful:
“And, of course, Rice has once again fallen back on her old standby of making every notable character in the story unbelievably beautiful, even before they got their vampire makeovers. Heavens forbid that any of Rice’s hero(ine)s should suffer a pimple or (gasp!) split ends.”
– K. Carpenter “Mettle,” Don’t count Anne Rice back in the game just yet…..
A character that inspired an immortal man to paint portraits of her feverishly for entire nights on end for far too many centuries to count… Yes, you are absolutely right. She should be hideous.
I don’t see Pandora’s beauty as a reflection of her outward appearance. The character herself, with her generous (if occasionally dark) nature, is the true beauty.
And, naturally, this character brings a bit of life to Anne as a person, and not just a writer.
All the strongest characters of whatever gender, most accurately resemble their creators, don’t they?