Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
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."
Logged In (0):
Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,
Tell me about Elantris.
Elantris is an interesting book. In epic fantasy, it’s usually all about the big series. And I like big series. I love reading books where you can read book after book about the same character. But I also love the concept of the standalone. I particularly think that a single book that wraps up its entire plot-line is its own special art. I thought that, breaking in with my very first book, the thing I would want to do most is have it be a standalone so that people could give me a chance and try one of my books without having to get into something really big. They could try a single book and know how I would plot, how I can do a climax and bring things to an end. So it’s different in that it is a standalone, and there aren’t sequels to it: I later did a trilogy set in a different world, but this is a standalone. It also is interesting in that it doesn’t follow some of the standard cliché plots of the fantasy genre: There’s no quest, there’s no young hero searching for a magical object. It’s something different.
Elantris is the story of a magical city, “City of the Gods” it was called amongst these people. What would happen is, in this kingdom, there was this force that no one understands, but it would randomly choose people and grant them divine powers. Their skin started to glow; they could draw ruins in the air that would do these powerful magics. Once you were chosen by this force, you became one of the gods of these people, you move to the city of Elantris, which was the capital, and from there you would rule with all the other Elantrians, as they would call them: there were hundreds of them.
Well, the book is unique in that that’s not the story. The story starts ten years before the book actually start, and something goes wrong. The magic stops working. All these people, who had these divine powers, they lost them all. They caught this sort of “magical leprosy,” this disease, that turned them all into these poor wretches. They lost all their powers, and the kingdom just about collapsed. Imagine what would happen if not only your ruling class, but the divine gods of your religion, just suddenly were cast down: to a person, they all lost their abilities, just became the lowest of the low. So the common people and the merchant class took all of these people who were their gods, frightened that what they have might be catching, and they locked them in the city of Elantris and just tried to forget about them, turned it into a big prison city.
Well this force keeps picking people, and now it curses them with this disease. The book is about the crown prince of this kingdom, who catches this disease: whatever it is, the force chooses him and turns him into one of these poor wretches, this terrible disease. His own father covers up what happened, throws him into the city with all of these people who used to be gods. It’s the story of him trying to survive in there while also trying to figure out what happened ten years ago: where did the magic go? What when wrong? It’s his story and the story of his fianceé, who is living outside in the new capital city: she’s trying to figure out what happened to him because of the big cover up. So it’s political intrigue on her part: searching for what happened to him, trying to keep an invading force from conquering, and he is on the inside just trying to discover the secrets of what happened.
This is kind of a different story for the fantasy world. Instead of being about a peasant who becomes a king, it’s about a king who essentially becomes less than a peasant, becomes less than a beggar. His own religion says that he’s now damned for eternity, he’s lost his soul. It’s kind of the story of what it means to be a king or to be a pauper, what does it mean when everything turns against you? How do you see yourself in the world now? Can you be happy as one of these poor wretches or do you have to just give in to your fate?
It did very well, went through three hardcover printings—sold in I think fourteen languages—I was just incredibly excited about how much people have enjoyed it because it was a little bit risky, I thought, in a genre populated by the big twelve-book epic, to release a stand-alone. But we’ve been very pleased with how it was received.
History and Use
All Aons exist independent of humankind, their symbols inherently tied to their meaning, but few have distinct origin stories explaining how the Aon was first discovered. Some modern scholars scoff at such tales, but Aon Ehe's origin myth is well known among the common people and believed by most.
The story tells of the first princess of Arelon. This was some years after the founding of Arelon following the migration of the Aonic people from other lands. Elantris, of course, had already existed as a city when that migration occurred, and had been discovered empty. While some people assumed it haunted, Proud King Rhashm (later renamed Raoshem) determined to conquer the fears of his people and set up a kingdom centered on Elantris.
The transformation of the first Elantrians happened beginning several decades later. Princess Elashe—the first of Raoshem's line to be chosen as an Elantrian—claimed to have seen the pattern of this Aon inscribed on a coal in her hearth the day after she underwent the transformation. Whether or not this story is true, a coal or rock written with Aon Ehe on it is considered good luck and a ward against winter spirits. (Though this kind of superstition is frowned upon by the Korathi priests.)
Other uses of Ehe are plentiful. It is one of the primal elements, and is often used in scientific writings. It is a ward and warning against danger. It is used on signs in conjunction with other Aons to mean warm food or warm beds available. Some artists and poets choose it as their symbol, both to hint at the dangerous nature of artistry and to speak of the passion of artistry.
In this chapter, I also go a little bit into the linguistics of the novel. If you'd been able to figure out that 'Dor' wasn't an Aon, then you were a step ahead of Raoden at this point. I realize it's probably too small a thing to have been of note, but I do actually mention the 'Dor' one time earlier in the book. It's in the discussion where Galladon discovers that the republic has fallen. He says, "Only outsiders—those without any sort of true understanding of the Dor—practice the Mysteries."
There are a lot of other clues sprinkled through these chapters. If you're really clever, you could probably figure out from this chapter what is wrong with AonDor, and from that extrapolate why the Shaod went bad.
Anyway, if you want more on linguistics, head over to the 'goodies' section of the website. I've got a whole essay on the languages in ELANTRIS over there.
Those of you who've read the book before should recognize the case study Raoden mentions in this chapter. The woman who was miss-healed by the Elantrian is none other than Dilaf's wife—he speaks of her near the end of the book. This event—the madness and death of the woman he loved—is what drives his hatred of Elantris, and therefore Arelon and Teod.
If we were in Sarene's viewpoint here, we'd probably see her thinking about the time this very thing happened to her—at her wedding.
I think her speech makes some good points. However, I think the people of the city have also been through so much lately that they're ready to accept anything. The combination of moving speech and unresponsive crowd is what let them get away with making Raoden king. Honestly, so many people have been popping in and out of Elantris lately that I suspect the people of the city are beginning to lose their edge of fear. They know that the Shaod isn't contagious, and they now know that many Elantrians aren't dangerous. The would see the illusion drop, and finally make the connection between Raoden and the Elantiran Spirit that helped them distribute food.
In this case, hope overcomes fear.
Oh, and yes, Elantrians can go unconscious. They can fall asleep, after all. The Elantrian brain is the one organ that continues to work very similarly to the way it did before the Shaod. So, taking a large amount of trauma can make it black out. The Elantrian won't remain unconscious forever—but when he wakes up, the actual physical damage will be there. That's why Raoden loses his sense of balance and everything gets fuzzy.
Um... There is a way to do basically anything.
So it's kind of a RAFO? Will we ever find—
No that's not what they asked, they asked if there is a way. Yes there is but how reasonable a way that is is very—
Especially with the Lake where they can release themselves in.