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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion—he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.
This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.
In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well—the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.
When I was designing this book, I knew I wanted a religious antagonist. Actually, the idea for the Derethi religion was one of the very fist conceptual seeds for this novel. I've always been curious about the relationship between the Catholic church and the Roman empire. While Rome itself has declined greatly in power, the church that grew within it—almost as a side-effect—has become one of the dominant forces in the world. I wondered what would happen if an empire decided to do something like this intentionally.
The early Derethi leaders, then, were a group who realized the problems with the Old Fjordell Empire. It collapsed upon itself because of bureaucratic problems. The Old Empire was faced with rebellions and wars, and never managed to become stable. The Derethi founders realized the power of religion. They decided that if they could get the nations of the East to believe in a single religion—with that religion centered in Fjorden—they would have power equal to, or even greater than, the power of the Old Empire. At the same time, they wouldn't have to worry about rebellion—or even bureaucracy. The people of the other nations would govern themselves, but would give devotion, loyalty, and money to Fjorden.
So, these men appropriated the teachings of Shu-Dereth and mixed them with some mythology from the Fjordell Old Empire. The resulting hybridization, added to the Fjordell martial work ethic, created an aggressive, intense religion—yet one that was 'constructed' with a logical purpose in mind. The Fjordell priests spent the next few centuries converting and building their power base. The result was the New Empire—an empire without governments or armies, yet far more powerful than the Old Empire ever was.
Okay, now, I know you're going to laugh at me here. However, I suppose you deserve to know the whole story of this book. After all, I told you about the whole 'Adonis' thing.
Well, the thing is, the first version of the book included about two pages of poetry from WYRN THE KING. I think every prose writer goes through a stage where we think, for some reason, that we have a talent for poetry. It's doubly bad in fantasy, where we've all read Tolkien, and fell like adding poems, songs, and the like to our stories.
The thing is, most of us aren't very good at it. WYRN THE KING was a narrative alliterative poem patterned after BEOWULF, and it was TERRIBLE. I might be masochistic enough to post it in the 'deleted scenes' section of the website. I'm honestly not sure yet. (Actually, I wrote the poem as a college assignment. I wiggled out of doing something research-oriented by somehow convincing my teacher that I deserved to do a creative project instead. When I finished, I felt a little bit obliged to stick it in my current book, as I'd told my teacher I would. Sorry, Dr. Thursby, but. . .uh. . .it didn't make the final cut.)
Anyway, there was a point behind sticking the poem in the text, even if I completely overshadowed it by including so many lines of poetry. This section is really all we get in the book itself about Fjorden's past. As I've explained in the annotations, Fjorden switched to Shu-Dereth to do its conquering, relying on religion rather than armies. When they did so, they went back and rewrote many of their great classics. (Orwell would be proud of them.)
This is actually based on some events in our world. Some scholars think that BEOWULF underwent similar revision, the monks who copied and translated it adding Christian symbolism to the text. After all, no great artist could possibly have been a true pagan. Everyone knows that Aristotle was a Christian—and he died before Christ was even born!
So, all of Telrii's characterization through the novel has been pushing toward this chapter. I knew I wanted him to throw a huge wrinkle into Hrathen's plans, and so the basic thing I had to decide was what Telrii could possibly do that would be as disastrous as the Mad Prince's uncontrollability. In the rewrite, then, I made certain to make Telrii a more unpredictable character. He's not just wasteful, he's arrogantly wasteful. At the same time, however, he's not as much a fool as people assume. He likes his spending, but he also likes how that luxury makes him look. It makes other people underestimate him, and makes them assume that he's predictable. That lets him pull little coups like the on he throws at Hrathen in this chapter.
Hrathen is, of course, right. Telrii doesn't have any clue how great a misjudgment he just made. The idea is not that Telrii is brilliant—he's just smart enough, just wily enough, to be surprising. He's just dangerous enough to do something disastrous like this.
I've only mentioned Gragdets a couple of places. Hrathen never thinks much about them, since he doesn't consider them part of the traditional Derethi structure. In truth, they aren't—but they do have authority over a Gyorn in their own small sphere. I don't think that the reader needs to understand the entire social structure of the religion, however. Hrathen understands what is happening, and knows that he should probably let himself be under Dilaf's authority. That should be enough for most readers.
And, yes, Dilaf always had bones that were deformed. That's why I mention that they're not terribly disfiguring—they would be quite easy to hide under robes. And I often pointed out in the book that Dilaf was wearing his enveloping robes.
Hopefully, these moments—Dilaf's unleasing—have been building for you through the entire book. By now, you should have realized that Dilaf was always the main villain of the story. He's the one with true hatred, and true instability. Hrathen is an antagonist, but he's no villain. Dilaf, however, has been built-up as someone who can do some truly terrible things. Now he's unleashed, and he has an army of demonic monks at his control.
And yes, we'll get to more about how Dilaf was able to imitate an Arelene later.
Hrathen's conditioning is manifesting here. We've always seen him as the leader of the area, but he spent many years as a lesser priest beneath other leaders. In the Derethi religion, you do what you're told by your betters. As soon as it is established that Dilaf is in charge, Hrathen's training would force him to become a follower.
Lukel isn't as interesting as Galladon, but I still enjoyed giving him a viewpoint. He has the perfect personality to show what I wanted in these chapters. He's not a warrior—like Kinn—or a king—like Raoden. He's just a regular person caught in a nightmare.
I wanted to deal a little bit with prisoner mentality in this scene. People allow terrible things to be done to them in situations like this. Part of it is because they fear what COULD happen more than they fear what IS happening. In this case, hope proves their enemy. The Dakhor stop killing the people and start rounding them up instead. The reason for this is simple—after seeing and hearing such terrible things, the people would run and fight. However, if the Dakhor back off, the people can hope that the worst is over. For this reason, they let themselves get rounded up and gathered in Elantris.
It may seem convenient that the soldiers wait to kill the people, but I think it makes sense. You want to gather everyone in an enclosed place, where they will be trapped, before you begin your slaughter in earnest. That way you can be certain there are no escapees. The only one I fudged here was Kiin. A Dakhor probably should have killed him. However, I've had enough corpses in this book. Randomly killing off Kiin seemed like too much. (Some readers are already in rebellion over the people I've killed—or, rather, will kill shortly. . . .)
Anyway, I get past part of this concern by throwing in the 'purification rites' line. This hints that there is some sort of ritual that needs to be preformed before the people can be killed, and therefore explains why the Dakhor don't just slaughter them immediately. (I still think that control is the greater reason, however.) Another explanation of why the slaughter starts is mentioned by Lukel. Most of the Derethi left in Arelon are regular soldier-monks, not Dakhor. They don't have the same. . .zeal for destruction as Dakhor.
I actually didn't plan to use the 'teleportation' aspect of the Dakhor magic. However, I wrote myself into this chapter, then suddenly realized that I needed to get the group Teod in a real hurry. I couldn't let days pass while Sarene, Hrathen, and Dilaf sailed to the peninsula as I'd originally intended. (I have no idea what I was thinking.) So, I added in teleportation. It ended up working out very well in the book, as it let me add another dimension to the Dakhor magic—that of having it cost a life to create some of its effects.
This, more than anything, should instill in the reader a sense of disgust regarding the Dakhor. I particularly like Hrathen's story about Dilaf making someone die so he could travel to a place fifteen minutes away. It characterizes Dilaf perfectly while at the same time giving a clue to how strict and obedient his order is. This isn't a group of people you want to mess with. It's the ultimate exaggeration of Derethi beliefs on loyalty and structure.