LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE
THE TUNNEL COMMUNITY
Vincent's chamber with its
stained-glass window and its incredible paraphernalia,
all those little pieces of the world Above he collects.
The world Below is also a community, with its eventful history we will gradually get acquainted with, and its surprising fashion style made of artistically assembled and superposed rags, resulting in a somewhat medieval look. It also has its own communication system, institutions and rules.
The Pipe Chamber, center of communications,
Father's library-study, 'heart' of the Tunnels. That's where the Council meetings are held..
where the concerts take place...
and the children are told stories.
The community is made of wounded people and outcasts who rejected the world Above or were rejected by it. They are united by a utopia, in the best meaning of the word. An ideal of peace, justice, mutual help and fraternity, under the visionary lead of Father, whose life was destroyed by McCarthy's witch-hunt. Modern technology is almost absent, and great importance given to all that can enrich the mind, literature, art, theater and classical music.
Of course, that 'brave new world' is not perfect. All the human flaws, jealousy, violence, avarice, stupidity and mindless fears are also present in the Tunnels, but great efforts are always made to fight them with reason, and with the strong values of tolerance and sharing that cement the community. Sometimes, though, punishment has to be dealt and without going to the extreme, like the banishment inflicted on Paracelsus, there is the Silence, a temporary but harshly felt form of exclusion, inflicted on Mouse for having 'taken, not stolen' things Above and jeopardized the Community's secret.
Both protector and protected, Vincent has a unique place among the Tunnel people. Adopted as a baby by a then fledgling community, one could say that he grew up with it, a living symbol of what distinguishes it from the world Above, and of the necessary secret surrounding its existence. An influent Council member, he is also a friend, confidant and advisor to many people Below. Seen as Father's 'second' and probable successor, he is dearly loved, particularly by the children. But that love sometimes comes at a high price. The community relies on him for its protection, refuses to let him go away even for a few days. And when violence becomes inevitable for the Tunnel's defence, Vincent is always the one burdened with the duty, however much he loathes that 'animal' side of him.
The Tunnel dwellers could not survive without their Helpers. They are people from Above who know about the community, assist them and supply to their needs as much as their own means allow. In return, they can always count on help and support from their friends Below should they need it.
That's a lot of people 'in the know', and the greatest miracle of the Tunnels may be the fact that their existence could remain a secret for so long. There again, a bit of magic...
The Tunnels have their own rituals, like the Naming Ceremony welcoming the newborns.
Or Winterfest, a feast offered every year by the Tunnel folks to their Helpers from Above, to thank them,
and celebrate together the victory of light over darkness.