Admittedly, I did not first see Legend until 2003. My husband purchased the Ultimate Edition, which contains both the original 1985 theatrical release and Ridley Scott’s director’s cut version with a new score and enhanced features. I’ve heard many places that true fans ofLegend don’t like the director’s cut version and absence of the musical score by Tangerine Dream, but since the director’s cut version was the very first version of the film that I saw, I’m partial to its clearer story, more complete dialogue, and less (dare I say?) cheesy and flat musical score.
This, however, is not necessarily a look at the differences between the two films, but Legend as a whole. As a writer, I have never been partial to writing fantasy or fairy tales—that is, until I decided to write a continuation of the Cinderella fairy tale. My novella, Cinders, opened my mind to the magical simplicity of fantasy. As I watched Legend (for the first time in years!) with my four-year-old daughter last night, I realized some amazing things about fantasy and what we call the fae, or an assortment of magical creatures like goblins, fairies, and elves.
When I first started writing Cinders, I didn’t intend to introduce any sort of fae-like creatures. It was realistic. It would be an all-human cast. However, I eventually gave up that goal when the story steered me into the direction of sprites and elves and fairies – and ultimately, dark magic. Last night, as I watched Legend, I realized why my brain might have steered into that direction.
Legend is the story of the balance between Light and Darkness. The Lord of Darkness, a demon who can exist only in darkness (imagine that) seeks to banish light from the earth once and for all. He wants the world to be a place where he and his dark creatures can frolic in pleasure. How can he do this? Only by killing off the last two unicorns—the protectors of light and innocence, so to speak. These unicorns can only be found by innocent humans, however, and it isn’t until Jack (a forest boy whom I still can’t figure out where he really comes from) and his friend Princess Lily inadvertently lead the Lord of Darkness’s minions to those beautiful unicorns. This, of course, allows those minions to steal one of the unicorn’s magical horns, and the world begins its decent into wintery darkness as the minions kidnap both Lily and the last unicorn and drag them into the underworld. The only hope of light returning is that the one unicorn still lives, and if Jack and his magical fae friends can retrieve the lost horn, the last unicorn, and Lily, all might be saved.
Legend’s story is based on the simplest plot out there—the fight between good and evil, light and dark, innocence and guilt. Beautiful, innocent Lily is the one who ignores Jack’s pleas not to go near the unicorns. She believes her pure heart will not harm the unicorns, but in touching one, she allows the beast to stand still long enough to be poisoned by a dart from the dark minions. When she discovers that she is to blame for the world’s plunge into darkness, she suffers with feelings of guilt and anger through the rest of the movie. This is where I think the true heart of the story lies—this realization that innocence and light can plunge so easily into darkness, but that in the end, integrity and trust and can restore it again. Even when Jack witnesses Lily dressed as a bride for the Lord of Darkness as she is about to happily kill the unicorn, he reverts to his initial trust in her and does not shoot her as his fae friend, Gump, keeps telling him to do. Despite what he sees, Jack trusts Lily is not lost to darkness. There is still hope. That, to me, is the point of the entire story—even as we still question whether Lily has given in to her dark side or simply been bewitched by it.
Like Lily in Legend, my novella, Cinders, portrays Cinderella as a darker character than readers are used to seeing. I give her guilt and pain for choosing magic to fix her problems. I give her another man who she lusts after (an elf of all things). She has a more human and fallible side than most fairy tales show, and in doing that I believe I accomplish what this amazing film Legend portrays as well—the realization that there is duality in all of us. None of us are purely good or purely evil, and it is a shame when fairy tales present the world to us in this way. Even the Lord of Darkness, the very son of the devil, had a soft spot, a desire to be loved and love in return by the Princess Lily.
The reason I love Legend—both the theatrical version (which in the final scene makes the whole duality theme much clearer than the director’s cut does) and the director’s cut version, is because it manages to keep the innocence and beauty of a fairy tale, but also presents such an innocent story in a more grown-up fashion by showing that darkness must exist in all of us for light to mean anything. Princess Lily will make a stronger queen and person because she overcame darkness, not because she avoided it. Avoiding it altogether wouldn’t allow her to grow or see the world as anything but the overly glittery paradise it is in the beginning. Similarly, my Cinderella character in Cinders will make a stronger queen because she loses those she truly loved—because of her own dark mistakes and fears—and realizes she can love again and grow from those mistakes instead of withering from them.
Legend’s story makes it clear that darkness should not necessarily be defeated, but overcome. By embracing both light and dark, we learn more about ourselves and what truly makes us human. If you’ll notice, the fae in Legend are not the ones who ultimately save light from its demise, nor are they the ones who threaten it in the very beginning. It is the humans who usher the entire story into being. In the same tone, when I introduced the fae into Cinders, I did so to set up the legendary dynamic between humans and magic. In both my story and the beautiful, immortal film, Legend, the human element shows stronger and more brightly because of the fae. They are the glitter that allows us to sparkle.