|The Glass Blower|
cover image on FIMFiction, by the author himself
|Writer(s)||Cold in Gardez|
|Date published||November 24, 2011|
Style and presentation
The story is narrated in the past tense and in the third person. The author originally intended to write the story in a somewhat flowery, "almost Victorian" style, but thought better of it after the first scene. The original version is reproduced as a bonus on the story's FiMFiction page.
The google document linked to from Equestria Daily uses the traditional three consecutive asterisks as a section divider, but the version on FiMFiction uses a custom graphic that resembles broken shards of glass. There are 14 sections in total; discounting the very short last two and the first section, which introduces the premise, they follow a definitive pattern and can be grouped into four "chapters" with three segments each:
- The protagonist, a master glass blower from Canterlot, conceives and works on an idea for about three weeks;
- a friend of his comes into the shop to watch the artisan apply the final touches and to voice his apprehensions; and
- the resulting artifact is presented to Rarity at the Canterlot bazaar, who rejects it as insufficient.
The perspective starts out as all the glass blower's, but the more obsessive he becomes, the more the perspective shifts towards his worried friend. The story's structure reflects this, because the regular pattern is broken in the fourth and final run-through: the workshop segment, which used to be reserved entirely for the craftsman's thoughts and feelings, is skipped. This makes the friend the viewpoint character from the lighting of the artificial sun (see below) until the coda.
"The Glass Blower" resembles the literary fairy tales of the 19th century, in which structures and motifs from originally oral folk tales were transposed into new settings, including sometimes the then-contemporary city. Cold in Gardez' story matches this genre quite well:
- It is set in a specific city at a specific time as opposed to an unnamed village at an unspecified point in the past. However, the story's Canterlot is entirely devoid of the modern technology sometimes visible in the show, thus retaining some, but not all, of the timeless feel of oral fairy tales.
- The protagonist is never named.
- The motif of a protagonist having to brave a number of consecutively more difficult challenges to win the fair maiden's hand is a common one.
- The protagonist is an artisan and not a knight, prince or farmer, and the challenges are an expression of his craft moreso than an expression of his physical strength or cunning.
- The story's ending contains no explicit moral lesson and does not end in harmony, but in heartbreak.
The story opens with a chance meeting. While at the Canterlot bazaar, an Earth pony glass blower - established enough to have his own business and several apprentices - bumps into Rarity. From the moment he sets eyes on her, he falls in love with her beauty, but especially her grace; "a living sculpture", the narrator calls her. They exchange a few words, and Rarity leaves. A merchant warns the protagonist not to waste his time pursuing the unicorn; the glass blower is not the first pony to become infatuated with Rarity, and the merchant has witnessed how cruel she can be when a suitor does not meet her standards.
The artisan, however, does not heed the merchant's advice. He sets all other work aside for a new project: a piece of art so well-made that Rarity couldn't help but give herself to the glass blower. He toils for weeks, and the end result is an exquisite glass hummingbird nipping nectar from a glass orchid. Particularly astounding is the fact that the sculpture appears to have a life of its own: the flower has roots, and the bird can fly. This goes unexplained, though the glass blower mentions to a friend of his that the magic powering the bird comes from his love for Rarity.
A month after their first encounter, he meets Rarity again, and offers her his bird. She is clearly taken with it, but when the glass blower asks point blank whether he has passed her test, she rejects him. It is implied that she does so because he is not a unicorn. Instead of admitting that, she says that, like her own designs, any artwork worthy of winning its creator her favor must be both well-crafted and functional. The glass blower should try again.
So he does. For another month, he pours his energy - and his money - into the project, fashioning a perfect glass comb: both artfully made and useful to a pony with a mane like Rarity's. Presented with it at the marketplace, Rarity is skeptical; she has many combs already, after all. But like the hummingbird, the artisan has given the hairdressing implement an innate magic of its own, as everybody realizes when Rarity hesitantly combs her hair with it: It makes her mane "perfect", straightening out any impurities by changing the color and quality of individual strands of hair.
Rarity is so shocked she loses telekinetic control of the comb, and it clatters to the ground. Proudly, the glass blower picks it up again; it is unscathed. And still the unicorn is not satisfied. She gives the glass blower a third challenge: he is to create a work that is truly timeless and "will be celebrated for generations". Then, and only then, will she agree to give him her heart.
To the worry of his friend and his apprentices, the glass blower takes the news in stride; he's giddy, even, for he knows instantly what kind of work he can and must produce that fulfills all three criteria. Another month later, and he presents Rarity with an armillary sphere. Its sun casts its own light, and when it is stopped in its course, it darkens the sky in the real world, essentially stopping time for everyone but the pony who possesses the astrolabe. The artifact is so powerful that it is later seized by royal guards and locked away in the palace.
Just like he was warned, Rarity breaks her promise again and demands yet another challenge: the criterion of beauty is added to craftsmanship, usefulness and timelessness. Once more and a final time, he spends a month in his workshop, hard at work at a "perfect mirror", designed to show the viewer who he or she is inside. He is convinced that the only beautiful object Rarity would be impressed by is Rarity herself, the "true" Rarity, like he imagines her to be. He does not believe his friend when he is told that Rarity is in love with a Prince and could never give herself away to somepony else.
At the bazaar, the protagonist's friend tries to dissuade Rarity from looking into the mirror, fearing what she might see. He wants her to admit that she wants nothing to do with an Earth pony, especially not a commoner. But her pride wins out, and she steps in front of the artifact. The reader is not privy to what she sees, but it confuses, shocks and frightens her so much she topples the mirror and stomps on it until the glass shatters. From what she says, it appears the mirror showed her true self to be neither beautiful nor honest nor morally good.
Rarity, the reader is told, never returns to the marketplace after that fateful day. The glass blower does return to his work, but it is now merely work for him, not passion nor art. The magic is gone.
- ↑ Cold in Gardez (2012-04-23). A new chapter and another random aside. Retrieved on 2012 April 28. “I still think 'The Glass Blower' is the best of my stories, but for some reason no one wants to read a tragic fairy tale.”