“I live lies because I cannot endure the weakness of anger, and I cannot admit the irrationality of love.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
In the universe of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and in the small social group known as the Coven of the Articulate, archetypal pedestals are noted, upon which certain characters stand. Lestat is, of course, the ‘fool’ character who plays to his own tune and inevitably winds up in trouble which affects them all. Armand is the silent sentinel character, strong and reliable, in spite of his tendency towards quiet solitude. Even Pandora fits an archetype of quiet wanderer; her tale so steeped in mystery that she is seen in so many rural cultures as a goddess.
Marius is by no means the eldest of the ancients, though, for a long time, he was perceived as such by younger vampires, such as Lestat, in their respective quests to find the truth of their immortality and the stories which preceded them. In fact, by rights, Khayman, ought to be the leader, the rule-maker, the father to them all, as he is the eldest, following Enkil and Akasha’s demises. Maharet and Mekare, though they both are fine adjudicators, a grand jury to whom wronged blood drinkers can turn when they need vengeance, are too old and terrifying to offer true, parental guidance. It is a given fact, however, that Marius is the disciplinarian of the society. His mortal age before becoming a blood drinker, blended with his worldly knowledge, his tranquil demeanour, and his tall, commanding presence, easily compound into a paternal façade that is both welcoming, and trusted.
Through the early novels of the series, Marius de Romanus was precisely this figure in the eyes of the main protagonist, Lestat, and thus, in the gaze of the audience as well. He mentored his pupil in unspoken rules which Lestat then proceeded to etch into his moral code, he cared for the eldest of his kind with a dogged, unwavering loyalty which, even when tested, was never truly broken, sacrificing his own contentment and liberation for the sake of their sanctity; and, when the world of the blood drinkers threatened to crash down around them, despite his anguish, he argued vociferously for appropriate decisions to be made. Moreover, when their lives were restructured, he set in place rules for them to live by. He argued the necessity for these rules with his one-time student, Lestat, and he granted this immortal hellion his disapproving gaze when Lestat then chose to break all of those rules in The Tale of the Body Thief.
Marius, as a character, was steady and unwavering, entirely reliable. A figure to which a younger character may turn in times of strife and be offered unlimited guidance and the gentle approval that one could come to expect of a father. But, as much of a cliché as it may seem, the phrase ‘still waters run deep’ is perfectly applicable to what this build-up created of our paternal Marius. It stands to reason that somewhere, beneath those red-velvet folds of affection and behind that guiding hand, lay a darker face. For there is no such thing as a perfect individual and this almost-perfect immortal man was bound to have some hidden flaws that he had painstakingly kept from the world he was trying to mould to his approval.
“No matter how long we exist, we have our memories. Points in time which time itself cannot erase. Suffering may distort my backward glances, but even to suffering, some memories will yield nothing of their beauty or their splendor. Rather they remain as hard as gems.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
Marius’ novel, Blood and Gold, was received with a mixed reaction. It can be argued that he was not a ‘real’ character, bearing dimensions and indicative of a shifting, continuously altering personality, until his story was told from his own lips. Until he could, within the secure boundaries of a patient stranger’s sympathy, reveal his own flaws as he knew he possessed them. Own up to them and try to decipher why he was, after all these centuries, still on his own.
Placing the Master into a first person perspective voice altered the dynamic between Marius and the reader quite drastically. The character slipped into his own mind and beckoned the audience to follow. His mind which, up to this point in the series, had been relatively filtered by the subjective nature of his storytellers, his companions. It is this novel which enlightens one to the self-assurance, the intellect, and also, the raging temper which is coded into him. The impetus which drove him to leave Pandora in a fury, to ignore the plight (what he saw as his own failure) in his child, Armand, to risk losing Bianca, and finally to force Lestat from his sight.
Numerous reviewers have been caught in the trap between first person narrative and reported speech from the lips of Lestat, Armand, even Pandora. It has been said that Blood and Gold is a wholly unnatural change in the character of Marius, that he completely spun to show an angry mask in the place of his usually serene countenance. That he is too devious, oftentimes, cruel. However, it is clear that the strains of this behaviour were present even before he spoke for himself.
To be specific on the clear discrepancies between stories told by his companions and then again from his own lips, Armand describes Marius as being loving, nurturing and paternal… Marius, later, describes whipping Armand for bad behaviour. Clearly Armand comes to associate love and protectiveness with what he receives at Marius hands, those times which both combined affection and discipline. We must also then consider Armand’s familial situation and further background. A, drunken, rambunctious father and a near-miss life of slavery will make a masochist of anyone, at least one eager to please and be only with the man who rescued him. Utter devotion. Marius saved him from sexual slavery, of course he will imagine only divinity at his maker’s hands. Marius, of course, perpetuated this belief in his soon-to-be child. He admits to wanting a person he can mould to his designs, prepare the boy to receive the blood. And he goes about doing so in finite detail. Beginning with creating of himself as a God in Amadeo’s eyes. The name itself means to be Beloved of God.
If the reader should opt for one word to describe Marius de Romanus, it ought to be self-assured. Not arrogant, most certainly not; he can frequently be seen bemoaning his actions, second-guessing his behaviour and reprimanding himself for letting his fury get the better of him. He is quick to anger in the face of his pride and his response to discomfort seems to be to pick up and leave rather than confront. He has a history of neglect. He left Pandora, he was forced to leave Armand (though when the opportunity arose, he did not choose to return to him), Bianca left him after he promised a distraught Pandora that he would leave the courtesan in a heartbeat if she willed it, and he forced Lestat from his company and tutelage. Always under the guise of protecting Those Who Must Be Kept. However, he never fails to admit to himself in the end, that he went away out of pride.
“And so this young one, this young one whom I had so loved, I had to forsake, no matter how broken my heart, no matter how lonely my soul, no matter how bruised my intellect and spirit.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
The true tragedy is that Marius IS paternal and affectionate. And because of this, when he does eventually leave, which he always does, the consequences are so much heavier for the ones he leaves behind.
The neglectful, abandon-driven side of Marius was never the fine core of the character’s being. He has forever had this glorious manner of swooping in like a white knight and rescuing those who need him from certain death or worse. His manic mannerisms of painting feverishly when things start to balloon slightly out of his control are one of the aspects of him that create a sense of adoration in the readership so devoted to him.
Even past Blood and Gold Marius remains a father to those that need one, a cold reprimanding guardian, and a loving Master.