The Favorite Child

As you may or may not have noticed, there was no post last Saturday. That’s because I got throat punched by life and didn’t get my stuff together in time. Because of that, you’re getting a double post today. (And because I’d really like to keep on schedule.)

So, I was supposed to have a really long, in depth post today about my favorite character I’ve written and why I love them so much.

But life happened. It was unfortunate.

Instead of what I had planned, you’re gonna get an essay. It’s still about my favorite character, but it’s not exactly what I wanted.

At the beginning of the year, while I was working through IEW’s The Elegant Essay, I was supposed to write a character essay about a real person. Well, here’s the thing about homeschooling. I can do pretty much anything I want as long as I’m learning. So I took the word ‘character’ literally and wrote about a character: Sometimes I really, really love homeschooling.

Now, this essay only begins to describe Ragnar Lupeson, and I could go on and on and on about him. But I won’t. I promise. Rambling isn’t my best feature and I usually attempt to hide it. But here I am, rambling anyways, so I’ll just shut up and give you the essay. (Don’t be wary of the word essay. It’s still entertaining.)

The Character of Ragnar and How He Raised the Stones

“We don’t love characters because they’re perfect, we love them because they’re utterly broken but still try to be good people.” – Me

In the series Magic Stones, which focuses on the Stone siblings and their interactions with the magical world of Eninones, one of the key supporting characters is Ragnar Lupeson, a werewolf and assistant caretaker of the Elysian Estate. Without Ragnar and his actions, there would be no story to follow. However, the story rarely shifts to Ragnar’s point of view, and it is easy to overlook how critical he is in the Stones’ lives. His behavior shapes everyone around him and spurs the Stones on to even greater challenges. And just how does he behave? Like one who knows not only how to give help, but what it’s like to truly need help as well. 

Often the people who come form a horrible background are unbelievably kind because they know how valuable a single caring person can be to those who are alone. Which is why Ragnar puts his time and resources into others who most people would call hopeless; a handicapped or addict sibling, a divorced man who’s been hollowed out, a teen with a rap sheet longer than his name, and four foster children who have given up on adults. All the things he never had, a stable home, educational success, a real childhood; those are the things he tries to provide for others. No matter how difficult or broken a person might be.

For the first fourteen years of his life, Ragnar lived in what could only be described as Hell. Starved, beaten, molested, neglected; such was th daily reality for Ragnar and his brothers. They lived in constant fear of their father, knowing what he had done and what he might do again. 

But when Ragnar met Phillip and Joni Stone, caretakers of the Elysian Estate, his life finally took a turn for the better. He was able to escape his father’s tyranny and was given a glimpse of a normal family. For six years, Phillip and Joni raised Ragnar along with their two children, Mildred and Roger, helping him stabilize. They enrolled him in school, they found him a therapist, they gave him a purpose in life other than just surviving. During those six years, Ragnar was able to push away the guilt of being the of being the only one of his brothers to escape. 

Then tragedy struck. Phillip and Joni both died in a unexplained accident, and Shelly, the girl Ragnsr had been in love with since he met her, moved away her new husband, Roger Stone. Ragnar and Mildred were left to grieve and run the Elysian Estate on their own and the temporary home, family, and happiness Ragner had built for himself was torn to pieces.

Unable to keep up with the work, Ragnar and Mildred, put out an add for an assistant caretaker and ended up with Petri; a sixteen year old, computer-hacking, utterly deceptive, compulsive liar who was willing to forge legal documents in order to get away from his family. And despite the burden a troubled teen would be, despite desperately needing a competent adult as assistant caretaker, Ragnar convinced Mildred to let Petri stay. His situation was too close to what Ragnar’s had been, and he couldn’t send him away. 

Ragnar took up the same challenge Phillip and Joni had. He forced Petri to go to school, to take part in extracurricular activities, to see a counselor; refusing to let him stay home and work the way Petri insisted he should. 

Soon after Petri arrived at the Estate, Rostov, one of Ragnar’s brothers was added to the household as well. Rostov had been cursed by a River Lord to remain in his wolf form indefinitely, and with the loss of his human form, his human mind began to go as well, permanently handicapping him. 

And if a troubled teen and a handicapped wolf weren’t enough to deal with, Ragnar soon became the sole support for Lars Bjarneson; a werewolf from Ireland who was running from the most abusive marriage of the century. Upon his arrival at the Elysian Estate, it was clear that Lars was too unstable to be placed in a pack. Against their better judgment, Ragnar and Mildred offered to let Lars stay at the house. 

Lars remained almost catatonic for months, barely eating, hardly sleeping, never speaking. But it wasn’t the first time Ragnar had seen that sort of behavior. He’d lost count of how many times his brothers had been like that; some of them never recovering. He waged a long and weary battle, making sure Lars ate, talking to him even if he didn’t respond, hunting down proper medications, and always monitoring his behavior. In the end, Ragnar won as he almost always did. Slowly, painfully, Lars crawled out of his stupor. Three years later, he was an entirely different person and permanent part of the household. 

Through all of these hardships, Petri, Rostov, Lars, and all the others, Ragnar kept tabs on Roger, Shelly, and their growing family. Roger and Ragnar hated each other with a passion only rivaled by Mildred’s hatred for Roger. 

Roger did his absolute best to keep Ragnar, Mildred, and the Estate out of his family’s life, and he almost succeeded. When he left Shelly and his four children, Jasper, Jasmine, Ruby, and Emerald, his children had never heard of the Estate and hardly remembered that they even had an aunt. And when Shelly died in a car crash a year later, the four Stone children expected no aid from their relative. 

Not that Mildred was planning on helping the Stones. Her hatred for Roger went deeper than his abandonment of the Estate, and she didn’t reserve her hatred for Roger alone. In her mind, the four children were the reason Roger left on the first place. But in Ragnar’s mind, the children weren’t Roger’s, they were Shelly’s. And like him, they were in a hopeless situation.

It took Ragnar almost four years of battling with Mildred and the foster system, of redoing rooms and reading up on anything and everything about raising children before Jasper, Jasmine, Ruby, and Emerald were placed in his custody. 

Petri had been difficult, but he was nothing compared to the Stones. Jasper and Jasmine, thirteen year old twins, both held a string mistrust of adults specifically, but the world in general. Jasper struggled with anger issues, getting into fights at school on a weekly basis. Jasmine was unable to connect with anyone, putting on a falsely cheerful exterior, seeking validation from everyone; all the while drowning in depression. Her desperation for approval lead her to doing things she never would’ve done on her own; partying, drinking, acting out in every way possible. Ruby, only eleven, suffered from crippling anxiety, hardly talking to anyone but her siblings. She woke up almost every night, screaming and in tears, unable to escape her night terrors. And little Emerald, seven yeas old, was strange. Strange in the way small children in horror movies are strange. Staring endlessly, talking about things adults didn’t understand, always knowing what others were thinking and feeling. Ragnar had handled difficult children before, but only one at a time. Now he had four. 

As much as Ragnar wanted to provide a good homelife for the Stones, he knew from personal experience that school could be just as harmful as a poor home. Educational success was something Ragnar never achieved. Having received next to no education the first fourteen years of his life, highschool proved to be a trial of herculean proportions for Ragnar. The first three months of school were nothing but confusion, frustration and suffering. Eventually, with the help of compassionate teachers, skilled tutors, Phillip, Joni, and Midlred, Ragnar was able to succeed on his own terms. But as much help as he had, there was no way to make for over a decade of ignorance in only four years. He managed to graduate, just barely, but he had no chance of ever being accepted to a college. At least, not right out of college. But to and eighteen year old, the future is too far away and Ragnar was convinced that he would never go to culinary school. 

Not wanting the Stones to face the same disappointment, Ragnar made their education one of his top priorities. When he had to make the decision to homeschool Emerald, he began to relearn everything he had done in highschool. And when she surpassed his level knowledge, something that happened quite quickly due to her accelerated mental development, Ragnar was ready to find her a proper tutor, not once offended that Emerald, and everyone else, no longer thought he was capable of teaching her. He always pushed the Stones in their studies, helping them build a work ethic more than a knowledge base. 

Despite the many battles Ragnar had with the Stones, especially Jasmine, over homework and school in general, they succeeded. Jasper double majored in sociology and business, finishing college as top of his class, Jasmine majored in literature, and Emerald topped them all with a Doctorate in Psychology and half a dozen other majors and minors; all before she was thirty. Ruby never went to college, despite doing well in school, and instead established a life with her husband, Grimm. 

But Ragnar didn’t want them to just do well at school, grade wise. The most important things he got out of school were friends, and he knew the Stones needed the same. Knowing he couldn’t make friends for them, Ragnar was very subtle with his influence. He was lenient with playdates, letting the Stones invite people over or stay out for considerable amounts of time. He dropped names of kids he knew that the Stones might like as well, he ured them to participate in after school activities, he helped them plan parties. 

However it wasn’t the things he consciously did that best helped the Stones build friendships. Whenever they had friends over, Ragnar always interacted with them. He would remember them mentioning tests or games and ask them about the next time he saw them. Ragnar didn’t just encourage the Stones to bring their friends over, he befriended them as well. 

Even though Ragnar stressed the importance of education and gave hours of his attention to the Stones various issues, he had one real goal in mind. He wanted the Stones to have a childhood. When they had had a long week and just wanted to watch movies and eat snacks on Saturday evening, he let them, even joined them on occasion. He let them go off and hide away in their rooms, content to let them have the time to enjoy themselves and discover themselves. When they got too caught up in stressing over school work or took on more than they could really handle, he made them take breaks, he made them scale back, he made them realize how important it was to have time with others in the house. 

When holidays came around, even ones Ragnar didn’t celebrate like Christmas and Easter, he let the Stones choose what they wanted to do. He let Sheikara, Petri’s wife, take them to Christmas Eve church services and carolling, and even participated himself when they asked him to. 

Ragnar prepared the Stones for the world with all the knowledge of a man older and more troubled than he should have been, but still let them revel in wonder and play the way he wished he had. He gave them swords to fight off the dark and eyes to see the light. Everything he did, he did for them, and never asked for a single thing in return. Which is why, as the Stones aged, they had more and more love and appreciation for him and repaid his kindness in every way they could. Ragnar had sewn the seeds and the Stones handed him the fruit. He lived up to the saying, “There are two things we should give our children. One is roots and the other is wings.” The steady home, his unshakable determination to help, his gentle urging and reminders kept the Stones grounded in what was truly important and let them soar to heights they never thought they could reach.

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