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The Almanac: PON Edition / Re: TDTCB, PRLG
« on: April 19, 2013, 02:12:25 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
Fabulous summary Madness, I especially loved your insight regarding the way the §P.1 contains bookends with the first and last sentances.  Great catch.  I also think this primed me to see some other associations from one sentence to the next that I might have otherwised overlooked in my close reading.  I'll get to more of the chapter tomorrow, I'm particularly enticed by the water water everywhere imagery that dominates Kellhus' journey prior to encountering the ruins.


Prince of Nothing Re-Read

I sort of feel that this first section is more of a preface than a prologue; partly because this is the only chapter of any of the books that has chapter header aphorisms in the middle of the chapter.  So I think of §P.1 as sort of the preface and when the next two aphorisms come up and the timeline jumps forward 1970ish years, that’s sort of the start to the prologue.  This will be long; much longer than I’ll probably ever go into again for any chapter.  That is because I’ve reread this chapter more times than anything else in the series—and I tend to think that this may be the piece of writing that Bakker re-wrote more than anything else in the series, I think he does remarkable things with the text throughout these sections.

I never quite know what to make of this Ajencis quote—I think it is the single most important aphorism in the entire series—and I always seem to come up with a different way to interpret.  In terms of what this accomplishes on a first read, it sets up the reader to realize that souls are at stake in this universe, I sometimes feel like souls are rarely referenced in fantasy; this use of souls right at the very beginning--with a new definition of what a soul means in this mileau--is really unique.

§P.1 The first thing I noted was the second paragraph.  I wonder if Bakker had read Orson Scott Card’s ‘How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy’, because this paragraph is a textbook example of how Card describes a Speculative world should be introduced to the reader.  It really is impressively masterful, reminiscent of the master herself, Octavia Butler (Card references her opening to Wild Seed in his text). 
The citadel of Ishuäl succumbed during the height of the Apocalypse.  But no army of inhuman Sranc had scaled its ramparts.  No furnace-hearted dragon had pulled down its mighty gates.  Ishuäl was the secret refuge of the Kûniüric High Kings, and no one, not even the No-God, could besiege a secret.
What is so impressive about this paragraph? The first sentence entices you by telling you something major happened, but it’s teasing, a tactic to keep you reading to find out how a great castle was overthrown—already the second sentence and the book is exciting right?  And before we even get to the end of the second sentence of the book, suddenly the stakes are raised.  “The Apocalypse.” It sends shivers down your back.  Not only is there an epic war going on, but the very term invokes all sorts of biblical and science fiction imagery, it’s not just a war we’re thrown into the middle of, the use of the term Apocalypse implies it is a war for the very survival of the human race.  An end of the world.  This is going to be epic. 

Next we find out who (presumably) the opponent is, inhuman Sranc, and they can scale walls.  It conjures similarities to the word "Orc" and that is what the word immediately conjures for me, the image of Peter Jackson’s portrayal of Orcs.  These Sranc are clearly the enemy.  But wait, Dragons.  Even better.  This really is big.  Dragons and Sranc against the humans, magnificent.  Furnace-hearted, that’s got a nice, poetic ring to it, odd, almost, old-fashioned, it makes me thing of older epics like the Aeneid where elaborate metaphors described the inhuman enemies of man.

(spoilers for the series)
(click to show/hide)
Anyway, back to the second paragraph, Kuniuric High Kings, excellent, I’m immediately reminded of various fantasy High Kings, almost always the good guys, so that’s who I’m rooting for, and they're give the title of 'king' so they’re probably human.  Ah, and it matches the prologue title, Wastes of Kuniuri; so the Kuniuric High Kings rule the Kingdom of Kuniuri and they’re being attacked by inhuman legions.  But wait,  The “No-God,” aha, this must be the Big-Bad, the leader of the Sranc and Dragons.  The Sauron who has brought the Apocalypse and whom the humans are warring against.

The point of this lengthy breakdown is to really highlight just how efficient this opening paragraph is at conveying really essential information, in broad strokes Bakker lays out some of the key terms of what is ultimately the conflict for all three series, The Apocalypse, mankind versus the hordes of the No-God.  It’s a really impressive and compact form of writing that does the heavy lifting of providing a bunch of background information while also enticing the reader to continue onward without overwhelming the reader.   A paragraph like this creates a partnership with the reader because the reader isn't aware of doing any work, but neither does it feel chintzy, everything is smooth sailing from the beginning, other than the foreign fantasy names (and for a genre reader, foreign fantasy names can be comforting in their own right). It’s an incredibly enticing piece of writing and fully within the classic forms of how this genre handles introducing an entirely alien mileau.

Next paragraph, note that the sentries are not watching, their ‘thoughts are stricken,’ so they don’t see… something.

Then the plague strikes, suspiciously it takes out the King first. And his entourage sees “wolves” eyes in the light of his bier.  There is some interesting wolf imagery later that this will connect to.

In the next paragraph, Bakker reiterates the sentries are not watching, ‘they saw little,’ so once again, Bakker emphasize that they don’t see… something. 

Also in this paragraph is a beautiful phrase “bloodline to its thinnest tincture.”  But this phrase is also the first glimpse we get of the rather loaded spiritual world that Bakker has establish for us.  Because thinnest tincture refers to the blood of Ganrelka’s concubine and the concubine’s daughter; from the very beginning Bakker is telling us that in this world, women’s blood is not equal to men’s blood.  Also, we should start to get really suspicious here.  The sentries are not seeing something and simultaneously the royalty of the household are mysteriously dying, as though they were targeted first because they are most important.

And the next paragraph we get a catalog of the gruesome deaths that await the elite of the household, All the descriptions are incredibly enticing, for a reread, these names should leap with significance, but I remember zeroing on the ‘sorcerous texts’ part of this paragraph my first time through.  Note that the text does not say that Ganrelka’s uncle suicided, only that he was found hanging from a rope.  And all the elite crème de la crème knights of the household were found dead in their beds.   Note also that the text explicitly avoids saying that this paragraph’s victims died of the plague—the reader just assumes that because we’ve been primed by the earlier paragraph, which suggested it hit the entire household (but household is paired with bloodline so…), but only the first three were explicitly claimed to be victims of the plague. 

Conveniently, only a boy—now the heir, although apparently the plague didn’t target him, despite being part of the bloodline (unless he’s not of Anasurimbor blood…), and a bard survive. 

Is the Bard behind it all?  Perhaps, the text is vague on this point.  Note the transition from “when no one is left alive.” To “But the boy lived.”  Coupled with the ending of this paragraph, “Was it murder when no one was left alive?” Interesting how the boy takes on the exact same rationalization in committing his crime that the bard used in committing his crime.  In a single paragraph Bakker has the victim become the perp and shows how radically changed a person can be, while also tweaking his readers, who will probably justify the boys actions because culture demands that such justifications be used.  These two paragraphs are a really stunning piece of writing, and in a small form—and completely under-the-table, manage to convey one of Bakker’s favorite themes.  Ever are men deceived (which may help explain what the Dunyain is about to tell the boy, the dunyain says, only so long as men are deceived, and the boy realizes that he justified crimes for the same reason the Bard did, that the justification both of them used is unacceptable, and only so long as they are deceiving themselves will they be unable to overcome their circumstances in which they both committed and justified crimes to themselves). 

The boy survives an entire winter on his own, and there are indeed wolves in the woods. And in the next chapter he will describe the Dunyain first as a ‘wolf people’ (this would be the payoff I mentioned earlier to the notations of wolves.’

The Dunyain scale the walls.  What else scales the walls in this chapter?  Sranc.  That’s a deliberate comparison, same words, we don’t yet know that these wolf people are not Sranc—they are a threat.  And in case you didn’t catch the point of comparing them to how Sranc have been described, here’s another hint that is more obvious, “Like the Bardic Priest,” again, this imagry is of threat and danger, predation and so on.  Very interesting. 

The boy seems to pass the test of the Dunyain, and understand his own self-deception, and the Dunyain celebrate… but are they celebrating Ishual, or celebrating the inclusion of the boy in their ranks—the text seems to celebrate the boy, not the place, “The stranger brought him to the others, and together they celebrated their strange fortune.”   But note how the Dunyain deceive themselves,  They repudiate gods but elevate ‘awareness’ to a godlike status, “awareness most holy.”  From the very beginning are we seeing that the cause of the Dunyain is a vain one?  I’m not sure.

I remember well how the second to last paragraph of this section shocked me on the first reread.  They chiseled away the runes and sorcery, they burnt the books of magic, they discarded all that supernatural about them.  I was not ready for that sort of repudiation, it’s very different from anything else I can think of in fantasy.

And I have to say that Madness really hit a major homerun noting the beautiful literary way that Bakker bookends §P.1 with “One cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten,” and “And the world forgot them for two thousand years.” And to emphasize this point for the reader, Bakker follows this up with a quote that tells us that “Man Forgets”

The Almanac: PON Edition / TDTCB, PRLG
« on: April 19, 2013, 02:11:47 am »
Quote from: Madness
Some thoughts post-writing. I definitely see the point of lockesnow's suggestion that we break things down in simple sentences to have a sequential way to refer to the sectionals in each chapter, though I haven't done so here. This is the point of immersing ourselves and trying individual ways to do these write ups. Even though I started late, I do think that for the Prologue posting and discussion we limit ourselves to the 19th, Ch. 1 can begin on August 20th. Rather than post specifically first like this, I will probably just make a new topic on the first day of each reading "week."

Here goes. I invite everyone to join at their leisure. Let's consider this a soft start - I have relatively few expectations as I like to approach the evolution of these communications as organically as possible. I advocate adopting our own styles of posting and see what emerges. I do ask that references to anything past the thread title be spoiler tagged. Anyone is welcome, of course, to join in at any time during our experience of this epic. For the moment, we'll consider this the active thread until end of day August 19th - I'm working from EST, I believe the forum is GMT. Then onto TDTCB, Ch. 1 August 20th to the 24th.

I am reading from the small black TDTCB and my page numbers will reflect that.

Cheers everyone. Strength on the journey... Journey well.

The Wastes of Kûniüri

2147 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

If it is only after that we understand what has come before, then we understand nothing. Thus we shall define the soul as follows: that which precedes everything.


The prologue begins with a short tale of Anasurimbor Ganrelka II's household. The citadel of Ishual is described as the secret refuge of the Kuniuric High Kings and having fled the Apocalypse, plague finds Ganrelka within its walls.

In the end only Ganrelka's bastard son and the Bardic Priest survive the disease. The Priest catches the bastard and molests him in some fashion, muttering "there are no crimes when no one is left alive" (p3).

Following the winter snows, a group of refugees finds Ishual. They scale the walls and in finding the bastard, one asks, "with a voice neither tender or harsh ... 'We are Dunyain, child. What reason could you have to fear us?'" (p3) to which the boy responds "'so long as men live, there are crimes!' ... 'No, child ... only so long as men are deceived'" (p4).

This passage also mentions that these Dunyain have "repudiated" (p4) the Gods. "Here awareness most holy could be tended. In Ishual, they had found shelter against the end of the world ... And the world forgot them for to thousand years" (p4).

A few interesting notes.

Firstly, this passage very much seems to focus on the introduction of the Dunyain. It also seems to suggest that they are a threat - "one cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten" (p1) resonates with the last sentence of the passage, quoted above.

Secondly, Ishual is apparently a secret of the Kuniuric High Kings yet these Dunyain are the only refugees of the Apocalypse who stumble upon the citadel.

Lastly, Apocalyptic Dunyain have voices "neither tender nor harsh" (p3) and yet "the man's eyes filled with wonder" (p4).

This is a history of a great and tragic holy war, of the mighty factions that sought to possess and pervert it, and of a son searching for his father. And as with all histories, it is we, the survivors, who will write its conclusion.


Late Autumn, 4109 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

The second set of passages in the Prologue begins almost two thousand years later with a set of recurring dreams, which are viewed by the dreamers as desecration. Someone demands that their son be sent to them, to the holy city of Shimeh.

The son in question is Anasurimbor Kellhus, seemingly descended from Ganrelka's bastard of the year 2147. Our first encounter with Kellhus is as he looks back upon the Elder Dunyain, decending into the Labyrinth called the Thousand Thousand Halls of “unlit depths” (p5).

According to the text, it is Kellhus’ father, whom Kellhus seems to think travelled as he himself now travels, who has sent the Elder Dunyain, the “dreamers” (p5), the dreams that desecrate. In Kellhus’ perspective the Dunyain return to the Thousand Thousand Halls in order to die, to limit the connection Kellhus’ father has with their fastness.

“What comes before determines what comes after” (p6). This is described as being paramount to the Dunyain who seek “to know what would come after … the hallowed communion of intellect and circumstance – the gift of the Logos” (p7).

Kellhus wanders even as he begins to lose all semblance of self as he travels horizon to horizon. Nature inhabits and possesses him. I find it interesting that, as this seems to be Kellhus first journey into the world from Ishual’s walls, Bakker seems to evoke a sense of Tabula Rasa - the idea of the mind as a blank slate at birth, that experience then writes itself upon.

Kellhus eventually finds ruins and seeing his reflection – probably the first time ever – and some animals he makes his first distinction: “I am not one more animal … I am a man. I stand apart from these things” (p10).

Finally, he is too weak to travel and walks “until he could no longer … The way is too narrow, Father. Shimeh is too far” (p10).

He is found buried in the snows by a trapper named Leweth. Since Kellhus is our introductory perspective to Bakker’s story, we are as captive to Kellhus’ interpretations as Kellhus is to Leweth’s perspective.

We also learn that Leweth is little more than a child to Kellhus, in that Kellhus can read some measure of Leweth’s thoughts and emotions through the man’s face.

Leweth is an alcoholic and Kellhus, in needing more than “drink-exaggerated passions” (p13) to study, pours the casks of whiskey into the forest.

Bakker takes a passage it seems to showcase Kellhus’ power over Leweth, his ability to manipulate the man as his mission requires. More importantly, it also serves to suggest Kellhus’ father’s requisite import: “Thirty years, Father. What power you must wield over men such as this” (p16).

“Why, the ancient Dunyain had asked, confine the passions to words when they spoke first in expression? A legion of faces lived within him, and he could slip through them with the same ease with which he crafted his words. At the heart of his jubilant smile, his compassionate laugh, flexed the cold of scrutiny” (p16).

Throughout much of Kellhus and Leweth’s interaction at the cabin, Kellhus’ perspective refers to much of Leweth’s description of the world as myth and superstition. We’re told of the No-God and his Consult, the Gods, Sorcery, and the Apocalypse, much of which Kellhus dismisses outright until finding the Kuniuric Stele of Celmomas II – in a language almost identical to his own.

Eventually, Leweth and Kellhus are forced to leave Leweth’s cabin and his dogs to creatures called Sranc, whose tracks Kellhus finds returning from the Stele. Having not seen them in-text, for us and “for Kellhus the threat existed only in the fear manifested by the trapper” (p23).

They are tracked through the forests by a number of these creatures until they can run no longer. We are granted a perspective from Leweth, who watches while Kellhus manages the impressive feat of killing some of the Sranc pursuing them. Finally, when Leweth tells Kellhus they can shelter in some Nonmen Ruins west of them, Kellhus drops Leweth in the snow and leaves him for the Sranc.

This I believe is the first mention of creatures called Nonmen (p26).

Finally, in sheltering in the ruins and fighting the remaining Sranc beneath an immense dead oak, Kellhus encounters one of these Nonmen, who owned and commanded the Sranc chasing Leweth and Kellhus.

The Nonman tells us that one of the Sranc was his “elju … our ‘book,’ you would say in your tongue” (p30). He seems very concerned with memory and remembering. He corroborates for Kellhus and the reader some ideas concerning the No-God and the Apocalypse.

However,  in this final passage the existence of sorcery seems most important. After Kellhus defeats the Nonman in traditional combat, the Nonman simply blows Kellhus away with an example of what Kellhus deems to be sorcery, before Kellhus flees.  “Sorcery? Is this among the lessons I’m to learn, Father? (p33)


News/Announcements / Re: Welcome to the Second Apocalypse
« on: April 19, 2013, 02:05:21 am »
+1 all.

Our avatars are too damn small, please adjust the size limits, thanks.  ;)

Let me know if it's changed for the better? You may have to refresh or reload avatars?

News/Announcements / Welcome to the Second Apocalypse
« on: April 18, 2013, 01:58:09 pm »
Hi everyone,

Make yourselves at home, restart old topics anew - and I will be working to transcribe the old Forumer posts to the threads that do and don't pop up spontaneously here.

Kick up the feet, grab a drink, light a cigar, perhaps a bowl. Hydrate ;).

If anyone has any suggestions about the forum, content, or even a Fansite: let me know.

My capabilities in terms of administration have become unparalleled :).


EDIT: Apologies, if Forumer AdminCP spammed your e-mails with duplicates like it did mine.

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