Motivation — A Close Reading of Tea Time "I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinking: maybe six feet ain't so far down?"
Chapter V of Weathered
2002 BS Click Here for the Introduction to the essay series.
Prelude to the Close Reading
Why, hello there, again. It’s been a few weeks but I promise that this endeavor is still moving forward. For those that don’t know, this essay is a part of a collection I’ll be putting together which investigates the Eleint, their blood, and sorcery within the Malazan shared secondary universe. We’re still laying down our foundations, and today we’ll be covering a sequence of scenes in Chapter 8 of Toll the Hounds
My intentions were to cover all of the scenes in a single post, but that has proven itself to be difficult. As such, I’ll cover the first scene in this sequence in this post. There’ll be one or two follow-up posts.
There are ten scenes that are in this sequence:
- Nimander 1
- Desra 1
- Desra 2
- Skintick 1
- Desra 3
- Nimander 2
- Desra 4
- Kedeviss 1
- Nimander 3
- Kedeviss 2
I’ll be approaching these scenes (including the one discussed today) through a few lenses.
A ringing of bells.
In his musings on writing
, Erikson discusses the notion of a bell. I’ll let him speak for himself.
In the scenes we’ll be looking at, some of the bells that I believe are used are (and not all of these are represented in this first particular scene):
- Past versus present — ancestors/parents vs. living/children
- How others see us, and how we see others
- The word ‘beast’ and its many meanings
- The words ‘child/children’ and their many meanings
- The relationships between gods and mortals
Particularly the genealogy of continental philosophy that led to Sartre’s existentialism and the shared/adapted/bifurcated philosophies of his contemporaries (such as de Beauvoir, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty). This wasn’t my initial intention when I decided to use this sequence of scenes as a launch pad into my collection of essays. However, the beauty of close-reading is that you go into a text with a hypothesis seeking evidence and support, and then end up with new insights.
Some of the concepts that will be brought up are:
Genre conventions as grammar.
Particularly, we’ll look at Erikson’s use of genre conventions from the likes of Gothic literature and Weird Fiction — namely the Sublime, cosmic horror, and the Weird — as the subtle language used to convey tension that is congruent with some of the other subtexts. If these grammars are subverted, we’ll try to point that out too.
We will later delve more into Malazan’s literary genealogy in other essays, but I want this lens to be present during the reading to see how Erikson aligns or subverts these genre conventions.
We’ll be using Professor Michael Moir’s YouTube lectures
on Weird Fiction as reference.
What the fuck is happening?
This is a question about plot that I will answer at the end of all of the scenes, but keep it in mind as we go through. It has less to do with existentialism and Gothic literature and more on what Gothos was trying to do during these scenes.
We first meet Nimander and his siblings (unnamed) in House of Chains
on Drift Avalii. By Bonehunters
, they had left Drift Avalii and ended up at Malaz City, where they then joined Tavore Paran’s fleet while fleeing Malaz City. In Reaper’s Gale
, we find the siblings had been ‘adopted’ by Sandalath while they traveled to Lether with the Malazans. Phaed wanted to kill Sandalath. Nimander stopped Phaed from killing Sandalath. Withal (Sandalath’s husband) throws Phaed out a window. The murder is taken as a suicide. The siblings intern Phaed and then meet Clip, who offers to lead them to Anomander in Black Coral via Kurald Galain.
This gets us to Toll the Hounds
, where Nimander is being haunted by Phaed. They’ve left Kurald Galain and are now on Genabackis (but not yet to Black Coral). Nimander fears the future meeting his father and the rest of the Tiste Andii. The siblings and Clip ‘stumble’ on Morsko, where Clip is curious about its cult of the Dying God. A ritual takes place there. Nimander and Skintick are nearly enthralled, but are saved by Aranatha (and thus Mother Dark herself). The group then find Clip, who is in a coma. They collect him, and set off in a wagon to follow the Dying God’s priests to Bastion. Along that journey, the siblings stumble upon the High King, Kallor, who reluctantly chooses to not kill them and instead travels with them.
The sequence of scenes in Chapter 8 that we’ll be discussing follows some time after Kallor joins the siblings. Now that the administrative stuff is out of the way, let’s dive into the first scene.
We start this sequence thrust into Nimander’s introspection on ‘rage’ as a breaking of a vessel, impossible to fix. He recalls Deadsmell’s musings that ‘rage in battle’ was a gift while the two drank rum. Rum that awakened memories once ignored by Nimander.
(Note: in Scene 2, we’ll see Desra’s view of Nimander, and we’ll see that Nimander’s ruminations on rage here are what inform Desra’s view of him, and not in the way that Nimander’s doubt imagines.)
In the previous post, we discussed memories and their decay. So much of this series and the lore surrounding it is driven by the memories of ancient beings. Nimander is younger with respect to ancient beings (but ancient nonetheless), and even he struggles with his memories. Perhaps this is a result of the traumas he’s experienced with respect to his being in diaspora and perceived abandonment by his father (a symmetry itself with Rake’s — and the Tiste Andii as a whole — relationship with Mother Dark).
He recalls the rum lighting “a fire in [his] brain, casting red light on a host of memories gathered ghostly
round the unwelcoming heart.” He reminisces on the time after Kurald Galain (but before Drift Avalii) and his father’s emotional indifference. He recalls the pranks him and his kin would pull on Endest Silann; the arrival of Andarist and his arguments with Anomander. It is unclear what the arguments were — if you’ve read Forge of Darkness
, you might be able to infer what’s likely, but I’m curious if the argument is Andarist asking to take the siblings and Anomander refusing, or Anomander asking Andarist to take the children and Andarist was reluctant? Was the argument about Anomander thrusting the Hust blade, T’an Aros/K’orladis (i.e., Vengeance / Grief), onto Andarist or did Andarist already possess the blade? We don’t know exactly to my knowledge, but it’s fun to speculate.
Regardless, Nimander recalls, like a certain inscribed hearthstone, there was peace. Andarist was to take them all through a threshold, a portal elsewhere
(as mentioned, portals end up being a rung bell
, so pay attention). Nimander remembers Endest’s weeping as the children were pulled through a “portalway into an unknown, mysterious new world where anything was possible.”
Andarist raised the Tiste Andii children on that portal’s other side, on Drift Avalii. We know (or can infer) that this was a task to protect the Throne of Shadow, but Nimander and his kin didn’t understand this as children. But Andarist led them with his pragmatism, he ensured they learned how the world was. With our knowledge of Kharkanas, this is so powerful. We know Anomander’s hubris was abused as a motivating factor for Hunn Raal’s despicable acts. We know that Andarist likely lacks children of his own in response to this, and so his taking on guardianship over the children of his brother — that very same brother that rejected Andarist’s grief in favour of vengeance (and materialised in the T’an Aros/K’orladis dichotomy) — is a stark, challenging, and ultimately selfless decision.
But this pragmatism created child soldiers. The collision of reality’s necessity to survive and carry out the duty of protecting the Throne of Shadow came at the expense of what little remaining childhood innocence Rake’s brood still had (even as a people on the run, exiled from their home due to a sociopolitical schism). Andarist became a stern teacher, juxtaposed to the echoes of Endest’s gentleness. “The games ended. The world turned suddenly serious.” Nonetheless, the Tiste Andii siblings grew to love Andarist.
Nimander continues his introspection:
See a bored child with a stick — and see how every beast nearby flees, understanding well what is now possible and, indeed, probable.
This reminds me of a general rule of advice: ‘never fuck around when a child has gun.’ Tiste Andii or not, children can be cruel especially when mixed with unknown doses of trauma and violence. Regardless, I want to call attention here that this notion of children and beasts are each bells rung
. To Nimander, Andarist “unleash[ed] them, these children with avid eyes.” He “had made them good soldiers,” ones that know rage
As such, from his own experience, Nimander suspects that the Dying God is a child. He speaks to the dialectic between gods and their worshippers (another bell rung
The mad priests poured him full, knowing the vessel leaked, and then drank of that puerile seepage. Because he was a child, the Dying God’s thirst and need were without end, never satiated.
The group stumbles on desiccated bodies staked among fields: dried up, tapped of their libations. This speaks to a particular exploitation between mortal and god, symbolised literally as worshippers feeding a god to then become the harvested. This perpetuates the Dying God’s power to accumulate more worshippers via addictive kelyk. The language here shows that the Dying God has stumbled upon a sort of cheat code, an exploitation of the god-mortal dialectic that allows him and his priests to arbitrage power. Like a cancer that, via the law of large numbers, is equipped with the mechanisms to divert a body’s resources to it while it slowly destroys the body.
The scarecrows being in fields is such a perfect choice of this analogy: things to be harvested. A product, a commodity — a thing with both use-value and exchange-value, for our Marxians out there. I believe Erikson has said that he was thinking of oil here, and that is fine by itself, but I do like the mirroring to Eucharistic transubstantiation in Catholicism (due to my being a very-very-lapsed Catholic). Especially with wine, an extremely addictive substance, transcending into God’s blood to cleanse us as cannibalistic sacrament.
Dal Honese burial practices.
Nimander sees these fields as “bizarre cemeteries, where some local aberration of belief insisted that the dead be staked upright, that they ever stand ready for whatever may come." This makes him recall some shipwrecked Dal Honese on Drift Avalii. He thinks on the ancestor cult and burial practices of Dal Hon: literally constructing their homes with their dead in the walls as both material and essence, the building stretching out with additional rooms as time moved on and kin died.
This reminds me of the Neolithic proto-city, Çatalhöyük, found in Anatolia within modern-day Türkiye where ancestors have been found to be buried beneath platforms in living quarters. See: Chapter 6 of The Dawn of Everything
by Graeber and Wengrow.
With or without intention, I like to view this ritual via an existentialist lens, particularly Sartre’s notion of the Look. To Sartre — in contrast to other phenomenologies — being is in flux, some path of a given chaotic double-pendulum switching to and from poles of being-in-itself***\**1
* and being-for-itself***\**2
*. The Look, to Sartre, is a sort of symmetry breaking — a realisation by being-for-itselves that decentralises it, the sudden awareness of its being an object, an Other, to Other consciousnesses.
A heuristic often used to showcase Sartre’s notion of the Look (or Gaze) is that of a voyeur peeping through a keyhole into someone’s room that hears a noise down the hall. Regardless if that noise is from another person (another being-for-itself) or not (say, the house settling), the subjective voyeur suddenly objectifies themselves, collapsing the chaotic pendulum from being-for-itself (nothingness as "no thing-ness") to their facticity — their being-in-itself, their thing-ness — whose meaning to Other being-for-themselves is relative to a separate centre than the voyeur’s own.
To Sartre, the resulting anxiety experienced snapping from subject to object is a proof against any nihilistic approach to solipsism. The fact that we can Other our own being-for-itself means that we can also recognise being-for-itself external to us since those we Other too can Other us as we Other ourselves. The reflexivity as a result of the Look is evidence against solipsism to Sartre.
As a result, this Dal Honese practice is a cultural self-burdening via Sartre’s Look by literally having your ancestors clay-filled bodies decentralise your subjectivity and externalise you as an object that can be judged by its facticity. This results in a sort of collective Dal Honese being-for-others
, Sartre would argue. This isn’t inherently good or bad to existentialists, but it does necessitate a calculus that discerns if the living descendants are authentically
expressing their freedom
with each moment they accept this practice, or if they are living in bad faith
Regardless, though, this is a haunting
of the Past. This haunting isn’t something that is only important to existentialism or other philosophical traditions (such as post-structuralism — see: Derrida’s hauntology
), but to the genre conventions and tropes of Gothic horror and its descendants (such as cosmic horror, weird fiction, and their influences on sword and sorcery, etc.).
There are mappings (some more subtle than others) between the Sublime and the existential anxiety and dread experienced in phenomena similar to the Look. The experience of looking upon the vastness of the sea, of stumbling upon an ancient statue, of learning of the size of the universe — which are described as the Sublime
, the Weird
, or Eldritch
in some literary traditions (e.g., Romantic, Gothic, Horror, the Weird, etc.) — are the same experiences that are often analysed in continental philosophies using words such as angst/anxiety/despaiabsurdity/alienation
Nimander goes on to further expose the relationship between this Dal Honese ancestor cult and inter-tribal conflicts that lead to deaths and stolen bodies that leave physical voids in Dal Honese architecture. He muses how this physical representation of wounds begets a cycle of vengeance (a cultural tradition, a product of facticity and bad faith): “blood back and forth,” he says. He mentions that this cycle is what pushed the shipwrecked Dal Honese from their homes, an act of revolt and perhaps even authenticity to Sartre. Eventually the Dal Honese recovered and “paddled away — not back home, but to some unknown place, a place devoid of unblinking ghosts staring out from every wall.
I love that Erikson has this whole little short story in this scene, especially in the contrast of its being some rum-induced reflection by Nimander on his own past’s haunting of him and his siblings. Moreover, these Tiste Andii are travelling with Kallor, the Undying Unascendant: a being-for-itself that literally manifests the past’s haunting on the present — a man cursed, jaded, who carries the past with him wherever he travels. All of these together show that one’s freedom can have one flee (even be redeemed — which balances with other plotlines in TtH), but that doesn’t necessarily — nor sufficiently so — annihilate the past.
Finding a tower.
After this, Nimander’s reminiscing is interrupted by his hearing Kallor nearby (like a footstep in a hallway). Kallor comments on the use of the corpses and notes that the flora “[is] not even native
to this world, after all.” Nimander replies that the corpses are being used for saemankelyk. The mention of the plants not being native to this world should orient the reader back to the Weird, especially since it brings upon a sense of unease, an Othering — the house settling that again serves to reduce both Nimander and the readers to our thing-ness
‘The past’ versus ‘the present’ versus ‘the future’ (and their hauntings of one another) bubble up again with some banter between Skintick and Kallor about the state of things. Kallor states ‘nothing changes.’ Skintick counters ‘it keeps getting worse,’ to which Kallor claims is but an illusion.
I find this dialogue to be a comical little conflict between Kallor’s perceived-postmodern, nihilistic judgement of the state of things being inert versus Skintick’s pseudo-Rousseauian, inverted-Hegalian, modernist grand narrative of things getting worse.
Again, it alludes to a haunting of the past on the current generation. Interestingly, this is a trend within the Book of the Fallen in general: not as an espousing of the ‘old vs. young’, but Erikson’s decentering/challenging/deconstruction of that binary. Think of Raest in GotM; Menandore, Sukul and Sheltatha in RG; Karsa in HoC; the Witness trilogy. He does this via a sort of Ancient's Hubris colliding with its differences to the Present’s Ingenuity, and this being dual to the Present’s Naivety colliding with the Ancient Wisdom.
Kallor eventually hits a sore spot with the Tiste: he brings up Rake. Unlike the Dal Honese whose freedom had them flee the cultural practices of letting their ancestors haunt both literally and figuratively, Nimander and his siblings were pulled/pushed away from their father (and people) as children — by what very well could be their father’s request. The Tiste siblings are haunted by Anomander’s active
absence. Their continued distance from their father isn’t an act of expressing their freedom against an Ancestor’s Gaze — it isn’t an act of revolution — it is their facticity and a source for their Othering of themselves. We often see this from Nimander’s POVs up to and including this sequence.
Kallor sniffs out this weakness and presses upon the wound. Nimander gets flustered and retorts. To which Kallor responds:
'Anomander Rake is a genius at beginning things. It’s finishing them he has trouble with.'
Also, I didn’t need my ADHD called out so harshly, dude. What the fuck.
Without diving into what Erikson was dealing with while writing this book, this hits hard for Nimander, and is an interesting commentary nonetheless. His father, Anomander, is the leader of a diasporic people who’ve been without home, without a centre, for 400,000 years. I think Kallor’s words hurt Nimander so much because the Tiste siblings don’t know Anomander’s current plans nor have they experienced the "settling-down" from the unveiling of Kurald Galain in what is now Black Coral. They are unaware of Rake’s teleology for his people, for himself even. Regardless, we see again and again that Kallor isn’t just a strong skirmisher, his words cut nearly as well as his blades.
Kallor goes on to confirm that he knows Rake before the group notices a ruined tower among the alien plants and scarecrows. Kallor says its Jaghut. Kallor trudges forth indifferently, pushing corpses out of his way as he bee-lines it to the ruined tower. I don’t think such a sequence of action has ever described Kallor’s whole raison d’être and modus operandi so well: just a man seemingly indifferent to the corpses in his path as his will pulls him forward.
We get a small interaction between Skintick and Nimander that reveals Skintick’s acuity in reading Kallor’s take on Rake. Kallor sees their father as an equal (it isn’t just the readers that need to be keen to subtext, characters do too).
Skintick offers the idea of sicking Kallor on the Dying God, hoping he “decid[es] to do something for his own reasons, but something that ends up solving our problem.” I like the use of “deciding to do something for his own reasons
,” as this aligns so well with authenticity in existentialism (and the absence of some absolute morality for authenticity).
As Nimander approaches the tower behind Kallor, both Nimander and the readers get a great sense of horror, the weird, the uncanny, and the sublime with how Erikson describes the scenery:
Drawing closer to the ruin, they fell silent. Decrepit as it was, the tower was imposing. The air around it seemed grainy, somehow brittle, ominously cold despite the sun’s fierce heat.
The highest of the walls revealed a section of ceiling just below the uppermost set of stones, projecting without any other obvious support to cast a deep shadow upon the ground floor beneath it. The facing wall reached only high enough to encompass a narrow, steeply arched doorway. Just outside this entrance and to one side was a belly-shaped pot in which grew a few straggly plants with drooping flowers, so incongruous amid the air of abandonment that Nimander simply stared down at them, disbelieving.
Nimander notes an incongruity of this place — its aesthetic of abandonment juxtaposed with a curated garden. “The cold despite the sun’s fierce heat.
” This evokes a certain unsettledness to Nimander (and thus, the reader). These genre conventions are sources of tension and anxiety, similar to non-diegetic violins building up to a real or false jump-scare in a slasher flick.
Arrogantly, Kallor chooses to go out of his way and insult the presumed Jaghut within the tower. Classic Kallor. The Jaghut replies “nothing changes,” resulting in Kallor shooting Skintick and Nimander a “pleased smirk.”
Tea time, but before falling into a rabbit-hole and not after.
Before Kallor can announce himself, the Jaghut lists off Kallor’s titles, his facticity. Kallor’s reputation precedes him and there’s an asymmetry here in which the Jaghut knows who Kallor is but Kallor doesn’t yet know who the Jaghut is. This is our first hint that this meeting isn’t serendipitous, and is instead an intentional interaction with regards to the plot. And if this Jaghut knows of Kallor, does he know those who Kallor travels with? Who is this Jaghut’s intended audience among those options?
I also like the play here with facticity: the Jaghut lists out things about Kallor, but is Kallor some sum of those thing-nesses? How many are true, how many are manufactured myths? It’s an act by this Jaghut to Gaze upon Kallor, to show to Kallor that he’s being seen. It’s a deliberate tactic to destabilise and decenter Kallor: an offensive.
We as readers are informed of Kallor’s limitations from the Azathanai curses via Draconus, K’rul and Nightchill, but these limitations on Kallor don’t necessarily restrict his freedom until Kallor allows them.
We get a flash of Jaghut humour and guest rites — this ancient dismisses Kallor while inviting everyone in for tea. Interestingly, Erikson has this Jaghut use the proper noun of ‘Others’ which lends me to think that an existentialist lens hasn’t been the worst pick (not that ‘Othering’ is strictly existentialist by any means).
So, we’ve had corpses drained dry for kelyk, alien plant-life, a ruined tower of an unknown age stumbled upon beyond the urban, a preternatural creature to Nimander and his kin (something they’ve maybe only witnessed a handful of times) and then we get this description:
The air of the two-walled chamber was frigid, the stones sheathed in amber-streaked hoarfrost. Where the other two walls should have been rose black, glimmering barriers of some unknown substance, and to look upon them too long was to feel vertiginous — Nimander almost pitched forward, drawn up only by Skintick’s sudden grip, and his friend whispered, ‘Never mind the ice, cousin.’
Ice, yes, it was just that. Astonishingly transparent ice–
I love this. First: “it was just that” screams “no it isn’t” to anyone paying attention to the words Erikson is using to make the reader uncomfortable. We know: Jaghut + Ice = Omtose Phellack. The atmospheric setting here is directly being called out in not just a sublime way, but his description has an added layer of horror to Omtose Phellack.
Erikson uses “vertiginous
,” giving both Nimander and us a sense of vertigo, being decentred and unoriented. This isn’t too different from descriptions found in works like Vandermeer’s Annihilation
or other New Weird authors. This ice wall calls to Nimander, draws from him feelings of unknown when he’s caught himself staring for too long — emphasis on staring.
For all intents and purposes, this ice wall is a thing, a being-in-itself, neither active nor passive. But its effect on Nimander is similar to the Dal Honese ancestors’ Gaze — this ice wall objectifies him, calls to him, evokes his being-for-others, and emotionally alienates him. The pull Nimander feels is his submitting his being-for-itself with the freedom of those that Gaze upon him. A justification of his facticity, his bad faith. This will be important later.
Eventually we get this awesome line from the Jaghut host:
’Once, long ago, a wolf god came before me. Tell me, Kallor, do you understand the nature of beast gods? Of course not. You are only a beast in the unfairly pejorative sense — unfair to beasts, that is. How is it, then, that the most ancient gods of this world were, one and all, beasts?’
There’s so much going on to unpack in this paragraph.
- He’s called Kallor a beast, but says his doing so is unfair to beasts (damn, this ice orc just roasted Kallor).
- It calls back to Nimander’s thoughts on children wielding sticks and beasts fleeing as a result. With or without knowing it, this Jaghut is calling Kallor a child, too, in the pejorative sense, unfair to children.
- He says the first gods were beasts, but does he mean these early gods were explicitly Beasts (in essence, not the pejorative sense) or that they were beast-like akin to the pejorative sense used on Kallor (or some combination of both)?
- Interestingly, we know that this wolf god is possibly an Azathanai d’ivers from FoL — with this knowledge, would Fanderay and Togg count as a Beast-as-literal-beast beast-god?
Later, again, we get this Jaghut saying Others as a proper noun, and then the Others are called Tiste Andii.
‘Ah, and what of the Others with you? Might not they be interested?’
Clearing his throat, Skintick said, ‘Venerable one, we possess nothing of worth to one such as you.’
‘You are too modest, Tiste Andii.’
'Each creature is born from one not its kind. This is a wonder, a miracle forged in the fires of chaos, for chaos indeed whispers in our blood, no matter its particular hue. If I but scrape your skin, so lightly as to leave but a momentary streak, that which I take from you beneath my nail contains every truth of you, your life, even your death, assuming violence does not claim you. A code, if you will, seemingly precise and so very ordered. Yet chaos churns. For all your similarities to your father, neither you nor the one named Nimander — nor any of your brothers and sisters — is identical to Anomander Dragnipurake. Do you refute this?’
Above, the Jaghut goes on to describe genetics, but also calls out the fact that they are children of Anomander — dude definitely knows more than he’s leading on, that’s for sure, and is winking directly to us readers, seemingly going over the heads of both Kallor and the Tiste. Also, the bit about chaos in blood will come up again and again in later scenes and later essays.
Moreover, we see that the Jaghut says that which he scrapes "contains every truth of you, your life, even your death" — our genetics are facticities, among our thing-nesses. "Yet chaos churns," the Jaghut rebuts. That chaos in our blood is a source of our "no thing-ness," from which we may express our freedom against the determinism of genetics — of facticities — and transcend.
For each kind of beast there is a first such beast, more different from its parents than the rest of its kin, from which a new breed in due course emerges. Is this firstborn then a god?’
I love this for two reasons. One, it speaks to a criticism of the assumption that a prime-mover is necessarily divine. But, through the existentialist lens, it’s a challenge and criticism of the presumed Authority of Genealogy. Jumping back to the early musings on ancestry: if ancestors haunt us and dictate our facticity as a result of suppressing our being-for-itself, then where does that chain of dictating/suppressing end? And is that terminus also an Authority above all generations below it just due to its being something new
, something sufficiently different from its own genealogy, its ancestors ‘behind’ it?
I also like the subtext of trauma as hereditary here with the double entendre behind ‘beast’, we can think of this Jaghut as asking if the primordial source of generational trauma has authority over its descendants? What does this dialogue mean for Nimander and his siblings and their place with respect to their father and the rest of the Tiste Andii people? Does this inform an analysis of Nimander’s chaotic double-pendulum between being-in-itself, being-for-itself, and his being-for-others?
thing I would like to point out here, too, is that neither Skintick, Nimander, nor Kallor have used the Tiste Andii’s names, yet this Jaghut knows them by name. Kallor could deduce they were Rake’s children, but he didn’t know their names. Even though Skintick showcased an acuity to subtext when considering Kallor’s opinions of Rake, he doesn’t catch onto this subtlety. This Jaghut not only knows of Kallor, he knows of Nimander and his siblings. The evidence that this meeting isn’t serendipity continues to build.
‘You spoke of a wolf god,’ Skintick said. ‘You began to tell us a story.’
‘So I did. But you must be made to understand. It is a question of essences. To see a wolf and know it as pure, one must possess an image in oneself of a pure wolf, a perfect wolf.’
‘Ridiculous,’ Kallor grunted. ‘See a strange beast and someone tells you it is a wolf — and from this one memory, and perhaps a few more to follow, you have fashioned your image of a wolf. In my empires, philosophers spewed such rubbish for centuries, until, of course, I grew tired of them and had them tortured and executed.’
This sequence of dialogue is fantastic and reminds me of arguments foagainst the strong/weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis/es. We see the Jaghut musing on a seemingly prescriptive Platonic idealism that Kallor interrupts with a more descriptive, pragmatic, empirical framework in which he follows with a jest of torturing and executing philosophers (remind me to never live in the Kallorian Empire).
Kallor speaks as if his words contradict the Jaghut and show the assumed idealism to be wrong. But, by Kallor’s own argument, the Jaghut’s words of ‘pure’ and ‘perfect’ are just as empirically contingent to one’s memories as ‘wolf’ is. The combinations of signs and symbols language users use give flesh to those signs’ and symbols’ own meaning — but bury that meaning beneath the flesh by doing so. The concept of a ‘perfect wolf’ (i.e., ‘perfect’ + ‘wolf’) emerging from one’s own contingency with the notion of ‘perfect’ and ‘wolf’ is entirely possible without that imagined ‘perfect wolf’ being actually some idealisation, i.e., some Platonic Perfect Wolf.
The Jaghut responds with laughter to Kallor’s absurdity: both in his misinterpretation of the Jaghut’s musings as well as the nature of Kallor’s brutal reaction to those that question things he finds to be rubbish. This pairs well with Skintick’s future POV in this sequence, but the contrast between Kallor and this Jaghut is entertaining nonetheless. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish when Kallor is telling the truth about his brutality or if his mutterings are just words congruent to his reputation.
The two then have a pissing contest. We find out the Jaghut was in disguise — I don’t have the evidence or time here to say, but there are ideas that this particular Jaghut is a d'ivers and it is fucking awesome even if untrue. The discussion here points to some T’lan Imass’ Jaghut War. It being the Kron, I’m inclined to wonder if there is a relationship with the bones Karsa stumbles upon in HoC (where he and his war party find Calm).
Skintick squatted to pick up two of the cups, straightening to hand one to Nimander. The steam rising from the tea was heady, hinting of mint and cloves and something else. The taste numbed his tongue.
take candy from strangers
tea from Jaghut, people.
We find out that Raest is this Jaghut’s child. We find out that this Jaghut took on 43 T’lan Imass and a Bonecaster, killing them all. This is a threat rallied back against Kallor’s assertion that he’s killed Jaghut.
Teeth bared, Kallor bent down to retrieve his cup.
The Jaghut’s left hand shot out, closing about Kallor’s wrist. ‘You wounded that wolf god,’ he said.
Oh shit. What follows is one of the first times I can recall that Kallor is scared
. Contrast with his earlier treatment of Rake as equal.
'Oh, be quiet, Kallor. This tower was an Azath once. Shall I awaken it for you?’
Wondering, Nimander watched as Kallor backed towards the entrance, eyes wide in that weathered, pallid face, the look of raw recognition dawning. ‘Gothos, what are you doing here?’
‘Where else should I be? Now remain outside — these two Tiste Andii must go away for a while.’
The revelation: the Jaghut is none other than the Lord of Hate himself, Gothos
. You can understand why Kallor, always so arrogant, submits to Gothos and listens to his instruction.
Immediately after the reveal, Skintick and Nimander succumb to the effects of whatever extra ingredient Gothos had slipped into their tea. We get this final sequence:
Nimander’s eyes were drawn once more to the walls of ice. Black depths, shapes moving within.
He staggered, reached out his hands–
‘Oh, don’t step in there–’
And then he was falling forward, his hands passing into the wall before him, no resistance at all.
‘Nimander, do not–’
Again, the readers eyes are drawn along with Nimander's to the icy, abyss-like, objectifying, Gazing threshold. Here's where the sublime and the weird really flavour the setting in this scene.
There's a bell’s echo here from the start of this scene: this sequence starts with Nimander discussing the uncertainty related to moving through a portal with Andarist away from the rest of his kin, a breaching. During these final lines of this first scene, we get a tension between us and the unknown, between what has happened and that-which-is-to-come, between what we’ve imagined about Malazan’s cosmos and some contorting of those assumptions. What’s beyond the veil decentres not only Nimander in its draw and pushing him to being-for-others, but it decentres the readers too. Hic sunt dracones
, terra incognita, the sublime, the enigmatic, the terror. We’re made to feel small and inconsequential by this icy threshold.
It isn’t mysterious because it evades our Gaze like other fantastical things (e.g., many renditions of some archetypal tricksters found within various folklores), instead it invites our Gaze eventually since It Gazes back (almost Nietzschean).
Calling back to the genre conventions, this extended scene is one that definitely plays with the established conventions of Gothic literature and its descendants. Constantly, Erikson hits us with tension sewn into his choice of words in Nimander’s ruminations, his angst associated to diaspora, the notion of Dal Honese ancestors gazing upon their descendants from clay walls, absent ancestors that too haunt the same, the fields of scarecrows as desiccated (and harvested) bodies of worshippers, the alien plant-life, the ancient Jaghut tower, the ice threshold. Each of these (and those unmentioned) add onto to the dissociation (de-centering) of both Nimander and us, the readers. Each of us seem small and inconsequential to the dynamism of the cosmos: everything we know, including that of what we already know about the Malazan universe (and our own) can be challenged. We’re each just travellers who have stumbled upon a shattered visage in the desert that reads: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
This stands in contrast to — almost a revolution against — the modalities one can garnish from the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment that favour an almost religious rationalism and positivism. This is why I believe (and hope I have shown) that the existentialist (and those schools of thought peripheral to it) lens is apt. The genealogy of Gothic literature serves as a grammatical sandbox that gives way to exploring the things that existentialism tries to frame in its study, such as the dread and anxieties — the nothingness (no thing-ness) — of being.
Not only are the Dal Honese clay-filled ancestors present to alienate the reader by entertaining a certain ‘exoticism’ (by the readers’ juxtaposing such practices against what we consider ‘normal’ — here's where Sartre is applied to White or Male Gazes), but they are there as conduits for understanding how Nimander is affected by Others, by their Looks — his siblings, his absent father, his dead uncle, Kallor, Gothos, and the icy threshold — even if this ‘othering’ is one done only by Nimander onto himself (the house settling perceived as a footfall). This becomes more important in the scenes that follow.
So, how does this relate to the Eleint, dragonblood or sorcery? If you want to know now, please read ahead in the text — i.e., he future scenes in this sequence in Chapter 8 of TtH — you’ll find out. Otherwise, I’ll attempt to provide more clarity in the follow-up post(s). Until then, I just want put forth some questions:
- Are the Eleint actually dragons in the usual fantastical/conventional sense, or are they something different, something alien, something terrifying, something that evokes horror?
- If meaning-making (and, as such, essentializing) — according to my reading of existentialism — is a choice of ascribing/burying the Real with its facticity, what does this mean for K’rul’s warrenification and the birth of sorcery? What does this mean for aspecting, particularly for the Eleint and the Azathanai?
Beyond those questions (which align with my grander narrative shared in this collection of essays) — in regards to the plot, I think it is smart to continue asking, ‘why has Gothos ensured that Anomander’s children and Kallor would stumble upon his tower?’ 1
the facticity of what can be understood as objective states ascribed to things, including social constructions — thing-ness — e.g., how things are thrown into the world, a mode of existence that simply is, the contingent being of ordinary things, such the language(s) one speaks, one’s occupation, etc. 2
the mode of existence of consciousness that stands in contrast to being-in-itself, “no thing-ness”, that which negates being-in-itself
Or big population. I know San Bruno, CA; Carson, CA; and Salt Lake City/West valley City, UT are them
I am not, nor have I ever been the biggest fan of Daniel Craig as James Bond. I don't hate Craig and he is a great actor but I only like him in Casino Royale (my 2nd favourite Bond film after OHMSS) but whenever I watch his other Bond films I feel like I'm watching a second rate Jason Bourne. My problems with the Craig era are,
The lack of gadgets: It's fine in Casino Royale as it was an origin story but I wish the rest of his films had gadgets. We came close to it in Skyfall and Spectre but still I wish we could have had more.
No fun: Craig’s films are so serious and dark. My favourite Bond is Roger Moore so that might be the reason. I know that Craig fans love the grittiness of his films but Timothy Dalton did the gritty Bond first and did it best, as well as even his films are still fun. As much I love the gritty espionage of Casino Royale, Licence To Kill and From Russia with Love. At least those films I can have fun with them and I like having some fantasy with Bond like in films like Moonraker and Die Another Day. His films are also overly emotional, while I like emotion in Bond, OHMSS my favourite Bond film and Tracy’s death is sad (shame when the Bond theme kicks in it ruins the moment). The death of Vesper is also emotional but his other films are emotional overload and ruins the fun.
For the rest of his films: As I said Casino Royale is my 2nd favourite Bond film but his other films I have problems with and often rank them near the bottom. His era is a cinematic universe which interconnects his films together meaning unless you have watched Casino Royale then you won’t understand Quantum of Solace, unlike the previous 20 films you could watch Thunderball and then The Spy Who Loved Me and you didn’t need to remember anything from Thunderball. Some continuity is fine like with linking the Bond actors remembering the death of Tracy in Majesty's or reintroducing Valentin Zukovsky from Goldeneye in The World Is Not Enough.
Quantum of Solace is overhated for just being ok, it's not good but it's not bad. Also I find Skyfall overrated. I don't get why some Bond fans love this film, it feels more Bourne than Bond, I also don’t get how people find Silva's escape more believable than the invisible car from Die Another Day. Spectre was trying to course correct the problems and nearly did from the pre title sequence in Mexico City to the car and plane mountain chase in Austria the film is really good. But the Bond-Blofeld brothers thing is stupid and Madeleine Swann is one of the weakest Bond girls. And the idea that she is Bond's true love falls flat. I buy Bond falling in love with Vesper Lynd but not with Madeleine. And No Time To Die is the worst film I have ever seen in all the years I have been alive so that doesn't help, but that is for another time. I don't blame Craig, it's just bad script writing which is odd as his films were written by the same guys who wrote the Brosnan films which I love, as I’ve learned to blame the script writers not the actors.
The lack of the Bond theme: Up until Skyfall they rarely use the Bond theme, it's ok in Casino Royale as its an origin story but they could have used it in Quantum of Solace to make it more Bond and less Bourne.
The MI6 cast: Judi Dench is the best M, it was a stroke of genius to bring her back from the Brosnan era and Ralph Fiennes is also great when they do the reboot they should keep him as M. But the rest of the cast I have problems with, Ben Whishaw's Q is very underwhelming and the lack of gadgets doesn't help either. He feels more like a computer geek than a Quartermaster if they had found a way to mix the two together like with the character Walter Beckett from Spies in Disguise. Naomie Harris's Moneypenny is underwritten and the whole former field agent who becomes M's assistant doesn’t make any sense. Why would someone leave the field for a desk job? Rory Kinnear's Bill Tanner is also underwhelming and underwritten, I wish he had a bigger role like Michael Kitchen's Tanner or Colin Salmon’s Charles Robinson from Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.
Weakest villains: Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre is one of the best villains up there with Goldfinger and so is Mr. White, but the other villains are the weakest in the series. Dominic Greene is boring and underwritten. Raoul Silva is fine if not a bit overrated and his whole escape from MI6 is just stupid. When they finally got the rights to Spectre and Blofeld it could have been a great comeback for the character especially with Christoph Waltz playing Blofeld but what did they do, rip off Austin Powers. Just like with Blofeld, Rami Malek's Lyutsifer Safin could have been good the plot involving nanobots is an interesting idea, however his goals and motivations are unclear where he seems like he is just being evil for the sake of being evil, which might work for a cartoon villain but not for a Bond villain.
Weakest Bond girls: With the exception of Eva Green's Vesper Lynd and Monica Bellucci's Lucia Sciarra from her small role in Spectre, his other Bond girls are either underwhelming and underwritten, Camille Montes doesn't even sleep with Bond, I kinda like Strawberry Fields, mostly because of The Beatles connection. Skyfall doesn't have a Bond girl, Sévérine could have been but she’s out of the film as soon as she comes in and don’t say M is the Bond girl because she is more like a mother figure to Bond. Madeleine Swann is one of the worst Bond girls and has no romantic connection or chemistry with Bond.
The films posters: (Yes really) They are so bland and dull look that the previous 20 films posters compared with his posters, they aren't in the same league.
The lack of care from Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson: They just don't seem to care about making Bond films as it also feels like a chore for them. Also it takes them so long to make the films I can understand why NTTD took so long as the pandemic but back then they would get a new Bond film every 2-3 years with the only gap from 1989-95 Licence to Kill to Goldeneye but that was legal trouble. Their father Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli would be pissed at how lazy Barbara and Michael have become at making Bond films; they should either sell the rights of EON and James Bond or hand it over to their children if they can't be bothered. Don't give me "ThEy ArE oLd" BS because Cubby worked on the film until he was in his 80s. And don't give me the quality over quantity because that gave us NTTD.
There are somethings I like about the Craig era:
Casino Royale. He has some of the best title songs (My favourite is You Know My Name by Chris Cornell). Bring back Judi Dench as M and her death in Skyfall is heartbreaking. Eva Green's Vesper Lynd is one of the best Bond girls after Tracy. Jeffrey Wright is tied with David Hedison as the best Felix Leiter. Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre is one of the best villains up there with Goldfinger. Goldeneye Reloaded for the Wii. His films have some of the best Cinematography in Bond. The modern Aston Martins and the return of old Aston Martins, My favourite is the DB10 (the DB5 is still the best). And I like Craig in other films like in The Adventures of Tintin, Knives Out, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cowboys & Aliens and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Maybe since my mum loves Craig and Skyfall, I’m desensitized to how great he is to some people. But to me Craig is a Bond without class, I have nothing against Craig personally he is just my least favourite Bond. I think if he had better scripts like the video games Blood Stone, Quantum of Solace or Goldeneye Reloaded he could have been really good. I feel sorry for him because he deserved better. I don't know if this means I'm gonna be hung, drawn and quartered by the Bond fandom but sorry It's just my opinion.
Does anyone have any info on the carson city plaza and event center in Nevada? We stayed there for a celebration of life event for our grandparent. Around 3am-ish, my partner had no reception on his phone and also couldn't even get the hotel's wifi connection. He restarted his phone and did the airplane mode off and on. I guess he felt uneasy ever since when we were there. Then another night after my other family left our hotel room to go back to theirs, we heard a loud banging on the wall like they were hitting it. We asked them what they were doing and they had a puzzled face so we knew they weren't doing anything.
I was just happy we checked out the next day. Was it just faulty phone connection? Was it just maybe loud pipes (it stopped after maybe 5 or 6 times and never happened again).