The name “Bedlam” was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it obviously implies a sense of chaos and destruction which seemed perfectly in keeping with this character's desire to overturn the established order.
The second reason is more personal. I was born and raised in a part of London's East End known as Bethnal Green, named - I'm told - after the famous Bedlam asylum (the word “Bethnal” being derived from Bedlam/Bethlehem). Bethnal Green was, apparently, the area of parkland where the lunatics from Bedlam would be allowed to roam around for the amusement of the general public. The park I used to play in as a child is still known locally as “Barmy Park” and for years I used to believe the local library there was the asylum itself. (It wasn't!)
Bedlam belongs to the same spiritual order as the Shaman and is, therefore, also covered in ritualistic tattoos. Being an ancient Briton, he has the red hair of the Celts.
Role within the story
Unlike the Shaman, Bedlam has never quite accepted that times change and the world has left the disciplines of his order behind. To some extent he is, therefore, representative of that type of Britishness that constantly harks back to the past, a belief that presumes everything was better in “the old days” and could be better again if we could only turn back the clock. One of his defining characteristics is undoubtedly a deep-rooted love of his country but, in his case, his nationalism goes beyond a pride in his country's achievements, manifesting itself as an arrogant belief in his own superiority.
Weapon of choice
As with the Shaman, Bedlam's powers are almost entirely vested in his staff. The staff is made up of three parts: the oak shaft, a serpents' egg and the mistletoe which binds the egg to the shaft. I chose all three of these components because of their associations in actual Druid/ancient Celtic lore.
For the Druids, oak was associated with lightning and the staff therefore gives Bedlam the ability to call down a lightning strike when in combat. Mistletoe was associated with healing (although, in Shades, we certainly don't see Bedlam doing much of that!)
The serpents' egg is the means by which Bedlam can communicate with, travel to and otherwise deal with the spirit world. According to the Roman historian Pliny, a “Druid's egg” was the “badge” of the Druids. Each egg was supposedly hatched by several serpents acting together. Their hissing would keep it buoyed in the air and, anyone who could snatch it from them and escape without being stung to death, would be courted by those in power and sure to prevail in any contest. In Shades, both Bedlam and the Shaman belong to a (fictitious) order which pre-dates the Druids and I have amended this legend so as to incorporate it into their shared backstory (see Chapter 8).
Character study - Bedlam
DAJB at 3:19AM, April 18, 2008
A WW2 fighter pilot, a First Century warrior queen and a prehistoric shaman. Oh, and their tailor. These are not your common-or-garden heroes!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM
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