THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
Inside the Shadow World
In The Mortal Instruments book series, the world we know holds within it another, hidden world populated by magical beings engaged in a constant struggle of good against evil. Known as the Shadow World, it contains mysteries that go back a thousand years to a time when darkness was threatening to engulf the earth.
Ten centuries ago, the Black Death ravaged Europe and endless Holy Wars tore apart the Middle East. According to Cassandra's Clare's elaborate and meticulously plotted mythology, demonic forces trying to destroy humanity and take over the world for themselves were behind this strife.
Fearing that evil was about to triumph over good, the Angel Raziel took desperate measures. He mixed his blood with the blood of men in a mysterious crystal goblet. Anyone who drank from this Mortal Cup became part of a race of half human-half angel hybrids known as Nephilim or, more commonly, the Shadowhunters.
This singular race, gifted with great strength and magical abilities, has been protecting the human world against demons ever since. That battle has been ongoing in the Shadow World, although ordinary humans live their entire lives without ever knowing it exists.
"The Shadow World is not an alternate universe," says producer Don Carmody. "It's right here, right now. Humans just don't see it, unless they are Shadowhunters who are there to control the demons and other creatures when they get out of hand and try to cross over into our world."
The Shadowhunters pursue their enemies relentlessly, without thought for their own safety. "Their selflessness is what fascinates me," Carmody says. "It's a very difficult life. They're constantly in danger of being hurt or killed themselves, yet they never think twice about stepping in when a demon crosses the line."
For all their strength and unusual abilities, the Shadowhunters remain mortal, with all of the frailties that implies. "It's important to remember that they are humans with human emotions and a thankless life," says Clare. "Humans don't even know they exist, much less risk their lives daily."
Their primary job is fending off demons, the immortal source of everything evil, that continually try to wrest control of the earth from humans. These inter-dimensional beings, who travel from world to world destroying everything in their path, are divided between lesser and greater demons, with dozens of sub-species. When they are 'killed,' they do not actually die, but rather return to their home dimension where they exist in a weakened state until they recover from their wounds.
"Sometimes demons are disguised as other humans and sometimes they're simply invisible to the human eye," Clare explains. "They travel through the world, murdering people, taking over their bodies and destroying what has been created. Shadowhunters are our only protection against these predators."
The Shadow World teems with other supernatural creatures, also known as Downworlders. Downworlders include warlocks, faeries, vampires and werewolves, each with their own unique histories and abilities.
Warlocks, like Clary Fray's protector Magnus Bane, are the offspring of humans and demons, often conceived through trickery. Also known as Lilith's Children, they are immortal and their demon ancestry enables them to perform magic. They can be male or female and are the most powerful of the Downworlders.
Vampires and werewolves are humans who have been infected by demonic viruses. In werewolves, the infection can be passed on through a werewolf bite or from parent to child. Their ability to shape shift from human form to wolf initially depends on the phase of the moon, but with experience, a werewolf can learn to control that power. They live in packs and the New York clan is led by Luke Garroway, who is a close friend of Clary Fray's mother, Jocelyn.
Vampires, also known as the Night Children, are blood drinkers who must hunt between sunset and sunrise. A human can be transformed into a vampire by drinking vampire blood and then being drained of blood by a vampire. Traditionally, vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies, and both were formerly at war with the Shadowhunters, but an uneasy accord is now in place.
"With the Downworlders on their side, the Shadowhunters have a better chance of fighting off the demons," says Clare. "But there's a lot of friction between them. It's not unlike the NATO alliance. They've united against a larger threat, but the constantly shifting loyalties and enmities make it very unstable."
"Because ordinary humans remain oblivious to the mortal combat going on around them, Shadowhunters and Downworlders are a bit contemptuous of them," says Clare. "They refer to them as 'mundanes.' I got the term from friends who play Dungeons and Dragons. It's what they call everybody who doesn't play. I thought it was a terrific and evocative phrase. Anybody who isn't actually a Shadowhunter or a supernatural being is a mundane."
Until she meets the Shadowhunters, Clarissa Fray, known as Clary, doesn't believe in magic. "She is not interested in the supernatural," says Clare, "and then suddenly she starts to see this other world. That's because she is herself a Shadowhunter, but she's also something more."
Clary's quest throughout the series is to recover and protect each of three magical items that are central to the Shadowhunters' struggle. "The three Mortal Instruments are items that the Shadowhunters require to survive and keep their race going," the author explains. "There's the Mortal Cup, which Clary and the others are looking for in City of Bones. There is the Mortal Sword, which Shadowhunters use in battle as well as in peacetime, when it can compel any Shadowhunter to tell the truth. And there is The Mortal Mirror, which has been lost to antiquity. This movie focuses only on The Mortal Cup, but the other Mortal Instruments will take center stage later in the series."
The Mortal Cup is the goblet in which Raziel mixed his blood with the blood of humans. Anyone who drinks from it will become a Shadowhunter. "The Shadowhunters continue to use it to make more Shadowhunters," says Clare. "It also has the power to heal and to bestow unique abilities on Shadowhunters. For centuries, it was kept very carefully by The Clave, the body that oversees Shadowhunters around the world, but it was stolen years before our story starts and the hunt for it is the engine that powers the story."
Each warrior amasses unique abilities that are manifested by elaborate markings that appear on their bodies. These markings take the form of runes, ancient symbols that originated in Northern Europe. Clare says she first learned about runes from a friend in New York who designed a series of markings based on traditional designs.
"Runes originally served as both a sort of alphabet and as magical talismans," she says. "Each has a unique meaning. Warriors wore them into battle because they believed that the runes would protect them against injury and allow them to win out against evil. I thought, what if there was a race of people who used these symbols to fight demons and use magic? They were an important part of the initial idea for the books."
Given to the first generation of Shadowhunters by Raziel to assist them in fighting the demons, some runes are temporary, fading with time, while others remain permanent.
"In our story, once you tattoo yourself with these runes, you acquire a particular type of power," says director Zwart. "You can make yourself invisible or stronger. They can heal wounds or freeze time. The runes are the source and the symbol of the Shadowhunters' abilities."
The mysterious Shadow World remains hidden from mundane eyes through the use of glamours, spells that can make a majestic cathedral appear to be a ramshackle old church, covered in graffiti, as it does the Institute, the Shadowhunters' magical stronghold.
"In every large city there's an Institute, usually built on holy ground," says Clare. "In New York, it is an enormous cathedral that I based on St. Patrick's. For the Shadowhunters it's both a sanctuary and a war room. So when Clary is endangered in the supernatural world, she is taken to the Institute because that is the safest place the Shadowhunters know."
In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare's mythological world has been spun into a rich and fascinating three-dimensional land. "The mythology initially seems very complicated," says Zwart. "But once you get in to it, you see that Cassandra has absolutely made sense of it all. There is a real logic and a beauty to it that works seamlessly in the film."
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