Little Lotte (1994)
by Carrie Hernandez
from Angel of Music: Tales of the Phantom of the Opera, 2005
I love fairy tales, as anyone who spends any time around me can tell you, and this is a sweet and full-fleshed one, wearing the clothes of Christianity over its bones like something out of a Brothers Grimm collection but with less random mutilation.
After a rash of dealing with creators setting the time period all willy-nilly everywhere they pleased, it was a real breath of fresh air to see that Hernandez had set Christine's age at eight years old in 1869, making her about twenty or twenty-one in Leroux's novel. Hernandez's writing style is a little bit dry here, but it's very reminiscent of Leroux's reporting-style writing. The fairy tale conceit could have used a little more flowery style, maybe, but it works well as it is.
This little prologue illustrates the childhood meeting of Christine and Raoul, from the moment that he rescues her scarf from the sea and becomes a temporary part of their little family. Interestingly, while I normally see the scarf portrayed as red (possibly to make it more visible in stage productions, or just because it's a portentous color), Christine chooses a white scarf here to represent the angel she's so fond of hearing stories about. Raoul's plunge into the sea is adorable and terribly disconcerting for his chaperone, and his arrogance is just childish enough to be endearing instead of grating, especially when Christine's good nature smooths it out of him in fairly short order.
Raoul is referred to here as both the "Viscount Raoul" and as "Monsieur le Vicompte". Alas, the general confusion over whether to use Raoul’s native French title or an English equivalent never seems to go out of fashion in Phantom literature.
The Story of Little Lotte
The bulk of the short story is a tale-within-a-tale conceit with Papa Daaé spending some time telling Christine and Raoul a story about the Angel of Music while Raoul's clothes are being dried and his chaperone is being decorously embarrassed about the whole thing. There's quite a lot of direct or almost-direct quoting from Leroux's text going on, but Hernandez integrates it deftly into her own text in a way that is seamless and story-serving.
The fairy tale itself is charming, a rustic, almost animist sort of a story in keeping with Daaé's preference (mused upon in his internal monologue but not too often acted upon for Christine's sake) for the open road and the joys of the wilderness. The story itself, which concerns a little girl visited by the Angel of Music and directed to perform several tasks for it in order to prove herself worthy to receive the gift of true musical talent, is clearly written by a musician; not only are all the tasks musical in nature (and, again, usually concerned with the music of the wilds and nature rather than man-made sounds), but the story's action frequently includes elements of interpretation, percussion, spirituality, fugue, and counterpoint even when music is not expressly involved. It's all very well-done, and eminently appropriate to instill the sort of dreamy, devout naïveté that Christine is so well-known for in later life.
The story ends with Raoul being dressed by his chaperone and reluctantly herded back off, but the children have already formed a close friendship and it is made clear that they will continue to see one another for the remainder of the summer.
As a stand-alone story, it manages to hold its head high, but this little tale really shines when it's set as a prologue to Leroux's novel; the childhood romance between Raoul and Christine is set up beautifully and believably, and it lends perspective to Christine's devout beliefs later when the reader may need a little bit of help to swallow her unquestioning devotion. All in all, it's a lovely little piece.