Previous Letters: Helen to Pollux, Pollux to Helen, Letters from the Kings, Helen to Theseus, Theseus to Helen, Letters between Theseus and Pirithous.

 

When I began writing Helen, I was certain that she loved Menelaus. Part of the history and the myth is that Menelaus and Agamemnon spent some time in Sparta/Lacedaemon during their youth, after a usurper took the throne of Mycenae. Tyndareus helped them to reclaim it. Later, Tyndareus marries both his daughters to these Sons of Atreus– Helen to Menelaus, and Clytemnestra to Agamemnon– which made me wonder exactly what kind of relationship Tyndareus had with these men.

 

Was it just that Agamemnon was so powerful a neighbor? Or could it have been something more? A relationship between Tyndareus and these orphaned boys that was like a father to his sons? And if Tyndareus cared for them, brought them into his home, helped them to reclaim their own city, might not Menelaus and Agamemnon have had relationships with Tyndareus’s children too? That would certainly have an affect on any marriages arranged, and I was certain that Helen must have been relieved, even pleased, to be married to a man who had been a friend and brother to her in her youth, rather than some stranger twice her age who only wanted her for her beauty.

Unless of course there was some mitigating factor– like a foreknowledge of what was coming. If Helen knew that marrying Menelaus would result in such a terrible war, how would that affect her relationship to him? And if Tyndareus loved Menelaus as a son, would he listen to the warning Helen brought him? Helen, just a girl, and with only dreams to back up her argument, probably would not have swayed her father if he was determined to make Menelaus his son in marriage as well as friendship.  This is the warning Helen gives Theseus in the earlier letters, telling him that if he wants her as his bride, he must act immediately, and ultimately I believe it is what convinces him to abduct her, though he could not have known who Helen was meant for.

But Menelaus knew. And watching Helen become friendly with Theseus, a son of Poseidon, and a great hero, could not have been easy on his ego. Menelaus was not a king, nor could he claim any divine heritage. He was just a man. And in comparison and competition with Theseus, how confident could he really be about his chances?

 

My Lovely Helen,

Since you were a child, we have been good friends, Helen, and it grieves me to know that you are troubled. Your brother Pollux told me of your nightmares, but I wish you had felt you could come to me. Your brothers are brave and Pollux is well grown, but they can not protect you as I can.

Helen, you know my brother is powerful. Mycenae’s influence stretches throughout Achaea, swelling and encompassing more of these lands with every passing day. I swear to you that if your father grants me your hand, you will be kept safe. No matter what comes. Mycenae will protect you, and if ever the day comes that you are taken, the man responsible will not live a moment longer than it takes me to find him.

I am sorry that I have not found reason to see you during this week. You must be aware that your father keeps me from you, so that the others seeking your hand will not see his favor for me. I will find a way to meet with you tonight that you might be reassured in person as well. I hope to bring with me news that Tyndareus has agreed to our marriage, and I ache to prove to you my love.


Every evening I see you sitting with Theseus at the banquet I am driven to distraction. You do not realize the power you have over men, Helen. If you did, you would be more cautious of your smiles. You would not laugh so freely with other men. If you think that Theseus wants anything more than to bed you, you’re mistaken. No other man can love you as I can. No other man has known you as I have, from child to woman grown. And I will have you for my wife, Helen. That much I swear to you.

With the greatest of affections,
Menelaus, Prince of Mycenae.

*****

Menelaus,

If you truly love me, you must let me go.


I have told you my dreams. Of the fire and the death that will come. And in my dreams, it is you who I am stolen from, and you who looks at me without kindness, without love. I would not see our friendship so soured, so ruined. I would not see you look at me with nothing but hate and lust.

It is true that we have been friends a long time. And you have been a brother to me in every way. Protector and teacher. But whatever bond there is between us, it is not worth a war that destroys everything we love. I will not see my brothers dead, Achaea in ruins, just for this.

You know that I care for you, and I appreciate all that you have done for me, but I can not marry you, Menelaus. Not if it costs us the world. I beg of you to consider my words and withdraw your suit for my hand.

Pollux told me of your suffering. Of how pained you have been by my attentions to Theseus. He told me too how you spent your evenings, relieving the stress my very presence causes you with other women in your bed. If I am expected to ignore such behavior without emotion, surely you can accept that it is my duty to make my father’s guests, Theseus among them, welcome in our home. Especially when I am not yours to be watched so jealously.

Please, do not try to speak with me. It will not serve either one of us in any way but to cause more pain. Just let me go, Menelaus. Please.

In friendship,
Helen, Princess of Lacedaemon

How much of your novel is based off the supposition of “what if?” Have the relationships of your characters become more complicated than you anticipated when you began? Going into the last weekend of NaNoWriMo, are you feeling as though you have a good handle on where to go next, and how things will wrap up, or are you just going to power through and hope you make it across the finish line, whether the story has a cohesive ending at 50K or not?