In my middle-grade chapter book, The Right Hand of Velachaz, the twelve-year-old hero asks his companions a question that no one else seems to have considered…if dragons are intelligent, why not talk to them before attacking with sharp pointy things? Taking the time to do that winds up saving the day.
Similarly, in Mutiny on the Moonbeam, one of the most misunderstood characters in the story proves key to the final resolution because our heroine bothers to be kind to her. Who is this mysterious creature?
The spider Queen Mab.
Mab is seen, when we first meet her, to be a fearsome, untrustworthy menace good only for supplying the silk to mend the pirates’ sails. She is locked in a crate when not working so that she will not hurt Branwyn—though to be fair, the elves do like to keep people in cages—and considered to be dangerous and insane.
When Branwyn bothers to be kind to her, however, she finds companionship behind Mab’s behavior, and learns that there is intelligence and wisdom behind those multi-faceted eyes.
Johnny is shocked to find she can talk—but no one had ever bothered to ask before. And the story she tells is heartbreaking.
The spider is the last of her family on the ship. Her children were all taken from her—it’s enough to drive anyone mad! But when Bran, and then Johnny, actually listen to her, they find an entirely different creature than they had originally surmised.
This lesson of taking time to listen, of learning to accept and adapt to new circumstances is something I like to come back to time and again in my work. It is a lesson that serves all of us well.