“The monster tested her, pulling at her soul and rending her spirit. She clung to life, and in the clinging she might have become a monster too, except she chose the path her story would take.”
– From A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
It is a sad, terrible truth that we live in a world with monsters. The damage they do, the harm they inflict, defies the power of words to capture. They run rampant, it seems, in every corner of society, and the danger they bring is very real. Faced with such mad malevolence, good men and women are often driven beyond every limitation just to survive. That’s often all they want, to save themselves and their loved ones from the wicked which this way comes. Yet, how many stories are there? Even that simple desire can drive heroes to become monsters themselves.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It doesn’t need to happen that way.
It is true, when faced with darkness, with overwhelming destruction and despair, it can be so very easy to give in to it. The mind can break, our will can be shattered, and our noblest desires can be corrupted. But, on the other hand, even the worst may be weathered, may be endured. It is difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing in the world, but it can be done.
There is no need for the hero to become a villain.
It all comes down to choice. The choice we make for ourselves, who and what we choose to be, what story we choose to make of our lives.
In the case of the above quote, the choice of a young woman was one much like that of Luke Skywalker when faced with Darth Vader. She was put into a position where everyone she loved and everyone they knew was in imminent mortal danger. But her enemy made an offer, if she would join him, and rule with him, not only would all these people be spared, but together they could also annihilate the monsters he himself had brought to threaten them, and thus end their danger forever. Just like Vader offering to work with Luke to destroy the Emperor, and then they can rule all that they see forever.
Also like Luke, she refuses.
She quite rightly sees the betrayal her enemy is willing to commit, so she clearly can’t trust him. She is not going to do what he wants or give him what he wants. Instead, she does things her way, and uses every ounce of her power to protect her people and stop the monsters. She saves many lives and alters the course of history in an instant, towards something hopefully better than they had before.
In the heart of a crisis, at the peak of her ordeals, she chose to make her own story, instead of letting it be dictated by the circumstances around her.
The lesson I take from this: we do not need to become a monster just because we are faced with one.
No matter what that monster may be named, what it may do, we do not have to forfeit our own humanity to match it. It is our humanity which is our strength.