Cowardly and Courageous




Just the name breathes magic. His hair shaggy, his long coat dusty, his horned marten Gwin on his shoulder, biting at passerby’s fingers—those scars adorning his left eye. The perfect image of a mysterious, tragic figure from our imagination.

Ever since I was a kid I always imagined what it’d be like for a story to step out of its pages and color in ordinary life with the intrigue and mystery of its own lifeblood. Would colors be brighter, ordinary things seem more extraordinary? Would I begin to hear whispers from under shadowy shrubs and glimpses of fairies? Inkheart… in itself a beautiful title… brought it together in an un-romanticized, but still beautiful reality.

When I first heard of the story Inkheart, it was from a friend who had seen the movie, and was now interested in the books. Shortly after that I got to see the movie and saw why it had made such an impression. It truly brought the magic of stories into the real world—quite literally. And one of the people a part of that magic was Dustfinger, a fire-breathing performer who is both cowardly, courageous, heartless, and self-sacrificing. To me he was the most human of any of the characters—the most tragic, the most heroic, who through his desperation, is led to do both his worst, and his best.

Sadly only one movie was made, with Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. He played him quite beautifully —and it was his quirks and voice that I envisioned when I rushed to read the books. His story (the one I was most interested in) carried on from the first book with him (something that was changed in the film, which was okay with me) searching for another Silvertongue to read him back home.

The second book is my favorite. It takes us into the magic of Inkworld, and we get to see Dustfinger in the place that is his home. In the first book he went from a self-serving, cowardly ass to someone who walked away, looking for hope again. Not necessarily with the promise that he was a changed person, he had just made a choice. He was still mixed. This story really made me consider what it means to be a coward, and to be so desperate.

Like everyone, he is given numerous choices along his road. Many he makes that seem harsh and selfish, fearful (understand-ably, in many) but he is such a mix that we aren’t sure whether to root for him or condemn him. Which makes the final choice he makes all that much more redeeming, because it is what we hope for ourselves. In our desperation, we make the choices we do, always making excuses, as we watch the consequences… and a part of us is hoping through it all that somehow, and at some point, we can redeem ourselves.

It wasn’t out of redemption that Dustfinger makes his final choice. And that’s why we love him. Out of love, he trades his life for another’s—finally gives up on looking out for himself and goes to meet that which he has been running from for so long—his foretold death. Although it isn’t as it had been written.

Over the course of the stories he goes from a self-serving wanderer in search of a way home to someone who does something all of us hope we’d have the courage to do. He was the most human—he was the most selfish, the most caring. The most cowardly, the most courageous. He was beautiful not only for the fire that he spoke to and shaped, but because of the part he played in the lives of others, and the hope—not just a fairytale hope—but a real hope that our talents and what we do are a reflection of the possibilities and hopes of what we are and can be. ♥


Elora Shore is a long time writer and has published a short story (Eloise) and her first collection of poetry, A Road to Count the Days By, available on Amazon Kindle. Her poems have appeared in several magazines. She is working on a romcom and a fantasy trilogy. Follow Elora online at Pendragon and Out My Front Door.


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