May 29 2013 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Toll the Hounds, Chapter Twelve (Part One)

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen Toll The Hounds Steven EriksonWelcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twelve of Toll the Hounds (TtH).

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

A few notes: Amanda is off in NYC for Book Expo (Have fun Amanda!) and thus will miss the next two or three posts. So Amanda misses less, and since this is one of our longer chapters, we’re going to split this one and Bill will be commenting solo today and Friday. We’ll also be splitting Chapter Thirteen (one of the two longest ones left, along with Seventeen). Going forward, Chapter 17 definitely will be split, while Chapters 15 and 18 may be as well; they are long, but sometimes the split is determined as much by what happens as by how many pages. Finally, fair warning that Bill will be hit and miss as we near the end as he’ll be driving to Alaska, then around central Alaska, then back from Alaska (assuming the grizzlies have behaved themselves).




Endest flashes back to a scene in the old forest (Suruth Common) he was sent to witness by the High Priestess back in Kharkanas. In the near distance, the forges and factories of the city belch out smoke and fire as they ready materials for war. Andarist, Rake, and Silchas Ruin arrive and greet him contemptuously. When Ruin objects to discussing matters in front of the temple representative, Rake says perhaps it will keep the Temple “neutral.” When Ruin asks why the Temple would have more faith in the three brothers than other Andii, Endest replies, “You three are not standing here trying to kill each other.” They discuss their plans and alliances, mentioning other Andii such as Hish Tulla, Vanut Degalla, Manalle, and others. Silchas notes he is “speaking of the greatest crime of all, the spilling of kin’s blood,” and asks Rake, horrified, what they are doing. Rake answers they’ll deal with it, adding, “The one who will break our hearts stands before us. Andarist, who chooses to turn away.” Andarist mocks the idea it was a choice, saying “One of us, it must be, at least one of us, and I have no desire to walk your path. I have not the courage for such a thing. The courage and the cruel madness. Mine is the easiest task—I am to do nothing.” To which Ruin tearily replies, “Until I betray you.” Endest thinks how centuries down the road he is still unsure if everything that ensued was planned: “such destruction, the sheer audacity of the treachery—could they have meant all of that.” He remembers when he reported back to the priestess, she merely “turned away.”


Brood and Endest discuss gifts, Endest saying, “We give so that we can then justify taking it back,” arguing that’s the way of all races/worlds. Brood disagrees, saying not the Jaghut, who “gave far more than they took. Excepting the Tyrants, of course.” He also argues against the Endest’s characterization of them as “stewards,” saying it implies an arrogance that wasn’t present. He calls the Forkrul Assail the Jaghut’s “opposites . . . the purest manifestation of arrogance and separation.” When Endest asks if there had been war, Brood implies it continues still, “far way from here.” Crone’s arrival interrupts the conversation, telling Endest Rake summons him.


Seerdomin kills what he thinks is the last of the conspirators (Harak). He ponders the agony of soldiers who have fought an unjust war, the ravaging guilt that often leads many to suicide, though he hasn’t taken that path. He thinks he will fight for justice, for Black Coral, for humanity, despite no hope of redemption for him, though he believes it a paradox, as “one cannot murder in the name of justice.”


Salind considers redemption and morality and justice, the lack of a “moral compass” in the Redeemer faith as he embraces all, punishes none, and thinks it an “abomination.” She imagines building up a church and how it would become corrupt over time, breed cynicism, lead to a loss of faith in religion. She walks to the Barrow, thinking, “There was meaning in Seerdomin’s refusal of the easy path. In his prayers that asked either something the Redeemer could not grant or nothing at all.” She stops at the Barrow to demand answers of the Redeemer, but is grabbed by Gradithan, who orders Monkrat to get some saemankelyk so she can open up a “path straight to [the Redeemer].” They make her drink.


Spinnock finds Salind missing and heads out to the Scour tavern. Seerdomin enters, smelling of blood. Spinnock confesses he’s lost his heart and Seerdomin mistakenly believes he means the High Priestess. When Spinnock corrects him (not saying it is Salind), Seerdomin calls him a fool. Seerdomin explains he’s killed eleven people (“so far”) that were conspiring against the Andii. Spinnock says it was unnecessary and Seerdomin agrees, but says he did it to show humans could take care of their own problems sometimes and to keep the blood off Andii hands. Spinnock recalls the tale of Whiskeyjack trying to keep from Rake the burden of killing the Pannion witches. They return to discussing Spinnock’s love and when Seerdomin realizes it is Salind, who has gone back to the Barrow, he is horrified at what awaits her there. Seerdomin rushes out.


Samar Dev resents the easy companionship Karsa and Traveller have fallen into as they trade tales (Traveller telling of Ereko, Karsa of his two friends Bairoth and Delum). Traveller discusses the old history of the Empire, Kellanved’s Napan commanders, all secretly sworn to Surly as the heir to the crown of Nap Isles, though Traveller isn’t sure she really was. He calls Urko, Crust, Nok, “all of them quick to fanaticism, willing to do anything and everything to advance the Empire.” Karsa wonders if they were just using Kellanved to advance Surly, but Traveller explains after Kellanved’s “death,” all of them save Nok “drowned.” Samar reminds them there was also Dassem Ultor, who was Dal Honese, saying Laseen had him assassinated. They discuss how the Edur occupied Lether while the Malazan conquered Seven Cities, saying Kellanved knew the difference. Karsa declares his intent to destroy civilization and Traveller quotes Duiker: “The first law of the multitude is conformity. Civilization is the mechanism of controlling and maintaining that multitude. The more civilized a nation, the more conformed its population . . . until multiplicity wages war with conformity. The former grows ever wilder, ever more dysfunctional in its extremities, while the latter seeks to increase its measure of control, until such efforts acquire diabolical tyranny.”


Bill’s Reaction

I don’t recall if we’ve ever had such a vivid image of Kharkanas before (please correct me if I’m wrong). It seems to me this comes as a sharp contrast to what we might have expected—the belching forges, the rain of ash, the almost Dickensian or Blakeian vision. The defoliation and extinction. It’s all a bit “Scouring of the Shire” isn’t it? I know we’ve had these environmental issues arise before, these warnings about what happens to those who destroy the world around them, but I don’t remember it being linked to Kharkanas in earlier books. I find it interesting that the same society/civilization that is unwise with regard to its treatment of its natural surroundings is also unwise as evidenced by its civil war. Not necessarily a cause and effect, but perhaps both symptoms of the same problem.

And here is another example of that near-science we’ve seen a surprising amount of in this novel: the Andii scholar’s treatise on the carbon dioxide-oxygen-plant cycle. Though more poetic, in true Andii fashion—the “blessing of breath, the gift of life.”

I find it humorous that even millennia ago, Endest is feeling bewildered by Rake.

I know we’re getting a lot of this backbackbackstory in the Kharkanas trilogy (or I should say, a version of this story), so there might have been some idea of actually telling it at the time of writing this. But I’m not sure there are many authors who would give us such precise details, such maddeningly precise details—names, plots—of events that we’re not going to read about. It seems to me that usually these sort of legends are wholly removed from events of the main narrative or they are fully explained (think of the long songs in LotR, for instance). I always like how this sort of frustrating reference, despite its frustrating effect, adds to the richness of this universe.

But arrggh, how frustrating, huh? What was the plan? What was the betrayal? What was the turning away? Why did Endest expect the High Priestess to be “outraged”? Did it go as planned? At least we’re closer to finding out now than we were when some of us read this scene for the first time.

I loved that with prescient symbolism—“she had but turned away.”

Another nice scene shift—from the fires of the blackwood trees to Brood’s campfire.

Reading these lines: “Until the forging of the ice—defending against the Imass—the Jaghut gave far more than they took. Excepting the Tyrants, of course, which is what made such tyranny all the more reprehensible in the eyes of the Jaghut,” and the lines about how (in Brood’s mind) the Jaghut showed no arrogance. It might be a good idea to cast one’s mind back to how we were first introduced to the idea of Jaghut and how far we’ve come from that image of them. And perhaps to keep that in mind with others as we keep reading.

“If you destroy the things around you, eventually you destroy yourself. It is arrogance that asserts a kind of separation, and from that notion that we can shape and reshape the world to suit our purposes, and that we can use it . . . “ So glad fantasy is “escapist” literature, with little to say about the real world we move in. Sigh.

It’s been a while since we’ve had any real talk of the Forkrul Assail, and this is a bit of a bombshell, this idea of an ongoing war involving them. File away. These lines are also interesting in that passage:


“Far away from here friend, which is well. Imagine what your Lord might elect to do, if it was otherwise.”

He would intervene. He would not be able to stop himself.

One might wonder, is distance alone enough to stop Rake from doing anything?

I find it more than a little ironic that Seerdomin’s night of slaughter, while effective in the most concrete way, is actually driving the “liberators’” thoughts right down the exact wrong path—this is all the Andii, see how they have secrets, brutal tyrannical police, etc. Well, while the liberators have thoughts, that is. Which doesn’t appear to be for long.

Another small little throwaway detail that shows some richness of worldbuilding, but more importantly in my mind, some integrity of world building. The fact that the battlefield from the Pannion war isn’t simply glossed over—it still exists as a lengthy reminder of what horror happened there, filled still with “charred trees, fragments of mangled armor, the occasional leather boot, and here and there in the dead soil, jutting bones.” Sure, as we’ve seen again and again, nature will eventually reclaim much, then most, then all. But it takes time, and too often those things are ignored in other works. It’s like you can still wander Civil War battlefields, battlefields from the Native American wars, even a picked over one like Little Bighorn, and still find these remnants. The world takes longer to recover from our personal horrors of civilization than we like to think.

Seerdomin’s thoughts on war and unjust war and the effect of either on the soldiers who fight in them is another layer of reality over this fantasy world and we certainly have our historical and contemporary versions (numbers may vary depending on point of view). As a sidelight, I’ve just finished Daniel Abraham’s The Tyrant’s Law—part of his The Dagger and the Coin series—and this book depicts a perfect example of how one society tries to ensure this problem doesn’t exist by manufacturing the “just” part of the war they’re about to embark on. Something again with real-world analogues. If you haven’t read any Abraham, my the way, I highly, highly recommend it, as I consider him one of the top five or so fantasy authors going today.

Given what comes soon, Seerdomin’s lines about how “He could fight for . . . the Redeemer—no, that cannot be. What I do here can never be healed,” are a bit ironic, in that he literally does just that—fight for the Redeemer.

Hmm, “We were put in an impossible situation, and at least for us, the tyrant responsible is dead—has been punished. It could have been worse—he could have escaped retribution, escaped justice.” (cough cough Burn’s Cavern! cough cough Memories of Ice cough.)

“There was trauma in war. Some people survived it; others were forever trapped in it. For many of these, this circumstance was not a failing on their part . . . It was, in truth, the consequence of a profoundly moral person’s inability to reconcile the conflicts in his or her soul.” These lines remind me of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (absolutely great, great book, a must read. Hmm, it must be reading recommendation week here at Tor): If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.”

“One cannot murder in the name of justice.” Talk among yourselves. (No really, what do you folks think?)

It’s quite the contrast in style from where this scene began—a heart-pounding chase scene in the POV of the prey, to the more philosophical musing of Seerdomin and then to Salind. These few pages are almost a microcosm of the series as a whole. And it certainly makes for a smooth scene shift as both Seerdomin and Salind are focused on questions of justice, punishment, and redemption.

Salind’s question re the impact of promised, guaranteed redemption has long been debated with regard to faiths that have redemption as part of their religion. Is it, as she wonders, a Get Out of Jail Free card, with “culpability and consequences neatly evaded”? Is the Redeemer’s religion a version of Christianity but without the idea of sin, heaven without the hell? Not being religious, I’m kind of curious how folks (religious or otherwise) see this religion—any mirrors to real life? Direct or indirect? Is that “first bag of silver” a hint of indulgences? Anyone take offense at it? Or if not at the Redeemer’s religion, Salind’s idea that the creation of a priesthood—that which takes the more amorphous, abstract spiritual/religious concept and makes it concrete, grounds it in rules and rites, which almost automatically starts to separate “them” from “them”—is this evolution of the “idea” into the “church” an automatic first step toward corruption and cynicism? Big ideas here.

This is one of the better uses of a POV, not simply relating a clear thought or intent, as one often sees, but watching a character actually work through a thought, climb clumsily, awkwardly after something and chew it around, as when Salind realizes her image of Seerdomin as “an animal pounding its head against the bars of a cage,” unaware of the wide open door right next to it, didn’t make much sense and so she must be reading something wrong. And then she comes to the idea that he didn’t seek the Redeemer’s embrace at all.

The same with her idea that maybe the Redeemer simply hold everything “in abeyance until when? The redeemed’s death? What then, did some hidden accounting await each soul?” Is this like a double deus ex machina?

“She would not bargain. No, she had questions, and she wanted answers. She demanded answers.” Anyone else suddenly picture Jack Nicholson as the Redeemer here?

You want answers?

I think I’m entitled.

You want answers?

I want the truth!

You can’t handle the truth.

Poor Seerdomin: “You damned Andii—you live so long it’s as if you’re incapable of grasping on to things in the here and now.” He’s about to find how horribly true that is in a moment.

So many pages later, not to mention time, and still that called up scene with Whiskeyjack, Rake, and the witches has such power to move.

A reminder as we watch Spinnock listen to Seerdomin’s despair, of just what Seerdomin means to him—from Chapter Two:

Seerdomin, for all his grief, was somehow holding despair back, defying the siege that had long ago defeated the Tiste Andii . . . A virtue that although Spinnock could not find it within himself . . . he could draw a kind of sustenance from none the less. At times, he felt like a parasite, so vital had this vicarious feeding become, and he sometimes feared that it was the only thing keeping him alive.

What effect will this have on Spinnock’s ability to hold off his own despair, now?

After these opening scenes so fraught with tension, violence, blood, deep thoughts, it’s a good shift into some humor with Samar’s irritation at how well Karsa and Traveller get along, their boy talk about sex and weapons, their practice swings. Though it isn’t all light—Traveller tells his sad tale of Ereko and Karsa his of his two friends’ deaths. And then we get some details about the early Empire (and tell me you don’t want to read that trilogy—the founding of that Empire, the meeting of Kellanved and Dancer, etc.). I don’t think anything new comes out of this discussion (did I miss anything?).

The description of how Kellanved viewed occupation vs. conquering reminds me of how the smarter Empires did things in our world—kept the locals in power as much as possible, allowed for religions, cultural touch points, etc. to still exist.

And back into deep thoughts. What do people think of Duiker’s theory of civilization and conformity?

This was a pretty “talky” half of a chapter, more conversation and monologue/philosophy than not (don’t worry hack and slay folks—lots comin’ in the next section!). Reactions? As comes as no surprise by now, I eat these scenes up for the most part. Take the Redeemer part—look at how Erikson can raise a whole bunch of questions that touch at least in some part on the role of religion in our societies/lives but worry less about offense because it’s all about some made up god in some made up world. It’s like parents sneaking medicine into candy. Or questions about occupation, in a world filled with occupiers and occupied, but again, it’s just some made up Empire in some make up land, right? I mentioned Tim O’Brien earlier and he has a great story in that collection where he talks about the difference between accuracy and truth, and how as an author he will toy with accuracy because he’s far more interested in the gut truth (“How To Tell a True War Story”), truth rather than facts. And it seems to me Erikson is working in that same mode but just more removed from accuracy. Why do we think soldiers who come back different/changed are “broken”? Wouldn’t the ones who come back unchanged have been the “broken” ones? What constraints does “civilization” puts upon us as individuals, what do we sacrifice as we become more collective and where does that line become problematic? Is civilization on an inevitable march toward tyranny, even if it’s “soft” tyranny? How do we find redemption in our lives? Is redemption even a good thing? What does it say about us if we create a god of redemption who doesn’t ask much? What does it say if we create a god of punishment? Can one kill in the name of justice? These are day-to-day questions in our world, though we often don’t or prefer not to think of them day to day, and I love that there are books out there that force us to confront them. And if there are dragons and magic swords and millennia-old folks, and giant wagons pulled by demons, all the better.

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for

1. Tufty
Salind’s question re the impact of promised, guaranteed redemption has long been debated with regard to faiths that have redemption as part of their religion. Is it, as she wonders, a Get Out of Jail Free card, with “culpability and consequences neatly evaded”? Is the Redeemer’s religion a version of Christianity but without the idea of sin, heaven without the hell? Not being religious, I’m kind of curious how folks (religious or otherwise) see this religion—any mirrors to real life? Direct or indirect? Is that “first bag of silver” a hint of indulgences? Anyone take offense at it? Or if not at the Redeemer’s religion, Salind’s idea that the creation of a priesthood—that which takes the more amorphous, abstract spiritual/religious concept and makes it concrete, grounds it in rules and rites, which almost automatically starts to separate “them” from “them”—is this evolution of the “idea” into the “church” an automatic first step toward corruption and cynicism? Big ideas here.
I wouldn't necessarily call it a Christianity without sin. There is still the concept of sin, there's just no hell or divine punishment. It's merely a matter of being redeemed or not, and this religion offers only redemption and nothing else. It's a very streamlined religion, and I think the appeal (point?) of it is, as Salind sees, that since the religion is so focused there doesn't need to be any churches or networks of priests and bureaucracy. But, to expand the religion's purpose and scope would be to invite that priestly system, so keeping it narrowed to just redemption prevents it from being tainted or corrupted.

Of course, there is then the issue of the religion being vulnerable to a quick destruction, as we are seeing here by Gradithan.

Furthermore, you have to ask, what is the value in redemption if there is no judgement? If anyone and everyone can be redeemed through almost no effort of theirs? The answer to that is coming later in the book, and I think it is an appropriate answer...
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
I think that is the first direct look at Kharkanas. It was quite different that what I was expecting, also. It does really set the stage for a world in conflict and rather points towards why everyone might have been leaving.
Tricia Irish
3. Tektonica
I, too, love these philosophical chapters. SE's various "takes" on religion, throughout the books, is very questioning. Rules. Hierarchy. Separation.
One might also add: dogma, judgement, reproach. (I'm not a fan of religion either, can you tell?)

I often tell people who inquire about my obsession with High Fantasy, that it's an excellent way to discuss current philosophical, ethical, political, and economic problems in a safe (read alien) world. Ericson uses this genre masterfully for these explorations.
4. Karlreadsthesebooks
I don't necessarily think that SE is commenting on the direct nature of religions or faith in those religions. Indeed Christianity has been so corrupted by the people who claim to represent it, that it no longer is what it is meant to be: the idea that a physical manifestation of the only true creator died to absolve people from their sins, and that the belief and faith in this act allows the faithful to live forever in a blissful afterlife. Yes it is incredibly hard to swallow, but what isn't these days? Time itself is relative. Can we have faith in that? Can we have faith in a humanity that murders and steals and lies? How about animals? Trees? Goat legged flute playing tricksters? Faith is a beguiling thing, and fully understanding it is a lifelong endeavor. No, instead, what I think SE is commenting on is the the corruption and deception of others USING that faith. The comment is on US, and how we will use any means to get what we want, no matter the cost to our souls, which cannot be proven to exist. Religion is only the interpretation by other flawed humans, but its the faith in its underlying message of hope, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, gratitude and love that provides a calming influence to help explain, or even negate the necessity of an explanation of, the unknown and the feared. I think SE perfectly captured this in this book, and no doubt as he was wrestling with his own personal feelings with his fathers death.

Shit is deep.
karl oswald
5. Toster
"one cannot murder in the name of justice"

this i find to be true. but i can't help but start splitting hairs, and i'm not sure if i like myself for it.

take WJ and Dujeks conversation in MoI about capital punishment in the military. they have tribunals, there are advocates and and the man who passes the sentence does not kill the victim. the blame is shared around the military hierarchy so nobody is made to feel the guilt. when the executioner carries out the sentence passed down by the judge, is it murder? is it justice? is it neither, or both? i feel like executing a multiple rapist is justice, but it's not is it? it's retribution, and are the people that they raped any better off for it? usually not.

in canada, a lot of the native american reserves use, or would like to be able to use sentencing circles for the criminals in their community. elders and the families of the 'plaintiff' and 'defendant' are gathered and as a group, a sentence is worked out for the criminal. this is kind of like the malazan situation, but capital punishment is never doled out, of course. if it was though, could it truly be called murder? if a group consisting of the aforementioned multiple rapists family, his victims families, and the leaders of the community, all agree that killing this person is justice, are they right? who are we on the outside to point at them and say they're wrong?

too bad this post came on a wednesday since it probably wont get much attention after tomorrow, but i feel like this was a great opportunity for a debate that is being passed up.
Bill Capossere
6. Billcap
I would agree it’s a very streamlined religion (and you’re right—there is still sin). I think what that does (in the outside world, not the interior world of the novel) is allow it to become a point of debate to our own religions, a touchstone sort of for them, as it’s so broad that we can bounce it off real religions, so to speak. Whereas once you get bogged down in details of dogma, it’s easy to just say “eh, some fantasy religion, no connection, move on.” I’d also say it’s too reductive to simply say it’s an analogue for one religion, whether Catholicism or more broadly Christianity. After all, many (most?) religions have an idea of redemption to them, since any afterlife is sort of a redemption/do-over, which would seem a kind of automatic redemption, as opposed to just becoming nothing or going to hell or some version of hell. Even coming back as a rat or dung beetle is better than not coming back at all.

In the novel’s world, I think the appeal is just that redemption without judgment, at least if one doesn’t dig too deeply into that idea. It’s interesting the choices of religions we have here—redemption without judgment (the Redeemer as presented so far) and surrender (the Dying God as presented so far): both religions of “ease,” so to speak. And of course, there’s no reason to limit those choices to a purely religious context, either.

I see what you mean, but I wonder, is it always merely the corruption of what grows up around a faith? Is it not possible for the idea at the core of the faith itself to be corrupt or corrosive?
Bill Capossere
7. Billcap
Even the phrasing of that line is interesting, as "murder" is so much more loaded than "kill" (to me at least). In my mind it has a connotation of intent and premeditation, which makes it even more questionable an act ethically.

There's also the idea that allowing an exemption for murder--"justice" opens the door to all sorts of rationalization and expansion of that definition (of justice, not of murder). And also, in your example, makes it quite difficult to say to anyone "you're wrong" (though not impossible)

As you might guess, I'm not a fan of capital punishment for just those reasons, among others.
8. Karlreadsthesebooks
Bill -

Absolutely, but ususally because its interpreted by humans. Once we get our dirty paws on it, there is no stopping the corruption. Im not getting all fanatical, though, i just think thats what SE's point was; the misuse of the faith by anyone in power-in MBotF it includes gods- is inevitable, and thereby inherent, in all religions and should at least be recognized, and possibly dealt with, exposed, eliminated or balanced.
Bill Capossere
9. Billcap
I never even considered "fanatical" as a description. And I agree that corruption is just about inevitable when one puts together humans and power structures. I was just asking a more philosophical rather than sociea question about the ideas themselves--the singular even idea even--before structures build up around them.

For example, I wonder if monotheism brings with it an inherent problem, a "corruption" if you will, though I'm using that term differently here just to keep the language going, of an idea of humans as moving in a world filled with significant spiritual life that is to be respected--if trees have spirits, if rivers do, etc.
10. Karlreadsthesebooks

Ahhh! I see what you are getting at. Perhaps as a religion with a singular supreme being to aquiesce to, yes I see a problem there. But then there is the responsibility of the worshiper to respect a monotheistic creator's designs. Are these trees here for us to make houses out of them? How many would (a) God be willing to sacrifice so we can have shelter? What about polluting a river, if the run-off comes from a factory that produces antibiotics and vaccinations that save lives? These are certainly complex questions with no discernable answers, which makes me feel like Erikson is trying to get us to think, rather than influence our opinions towards his own. I sensed a huge internal struggle here from SE regarding right and wrong in the context of faith and religion, brought on by having to deal with mortality in a more intimate way than he probably had to before.

"I never even considered "fanatical" as a description."

Thanks for that. I'm used to getting a load more crap from less erudite comment threads for my "not-the-devil's advocate" positions I take. Please forgive the unecessary defense. Great conversation, btw. Can't wait for the post re-read Q&A on this one.
Sanne Jense
11. Cassanne
Erikson makes very strong points about the 'suffering is good and leads to heaven' religions, which indeed tend to produce - or be produced by, hard to separate cause and effect there - tyrants. Yet he also manages to show the seduction of giving in to that kind of thinking, or rather to stop thinking I'd say.

About murder and justice: it's a really complicated question, and your examples about solving issues within the group hit a nerve. We don't have groups like that anymore, we have a 'civilization', and a justice system that doesn't even seem to know if it's about revenge, rehabilitation or 'repayment' ( I mean restoring the balance, repairing the damage).
Personally, I could imagine murdering someone to protect others or myself from them. Yet if that meant I'd get punished for the murder, I would not necessarily find that unjust. In fact, I'd only hide such a murder in order to protect others - I guess I just value love/loyalty more than justice. ( Ha, I just finished the series and I guess you can see it affected me...)
- -
12. hex
One cannot murder in the name of justice.
Murder is unlawful killing. Laws are an attempt to codify the common view of justice. If one operates outside the law you abandon the common view, and it becomes a question of perspective. Allow me to grease that slope for you.
Not being religious, I’m kind of curious how folks (religious or otherwise) see this religion—any mirrors to real life?
The Redeemer's religion does call to mind Christianity. "Redeemer" is a title ascribed to Jesus. The Shield Anvils functioned kind of like a Christ figure- a mortal redeemer to the souls of faithful adherants.
Nancy Hills
13. Grieve
Sorry to jump in so late, but wanted to mention a couple of things. I am not religious either, but do realize the impact religion has on society and all relationships, individual and group.

I did think of Jesus when the Shield Anvil concept was first introduced. However, Jesus did have a criteria for forgiveness, I do believe. He required you to believe in Him and His Father as the Son of God and God. That's a hefty requirement. When a priesthood or ministry gets involved in forgiveness, it becomes a business and a weapon of power. One of Martin Luther's big complaints was the selling of absolutions, I'm pretty sure, not that Protestant religions have avoided corruption. In all discussions about religion in these books, one stumbles on the corruption of power that is created by being the aribitor between the flock and the god. Hence, the chasm between the purity of the concept vs the execution by humanity is vast. I have to ask in the Malazan world, what does forgiveness do? There does not seem to be a Heaven or Hell. The concept seems almost more like a Humanisitc concept of alleviating guilt as a burden. There are no evil people, just evil deeds type thing. I can see Itkovian when he was alive as more a short-hand form of a therapist rather than a bestower of some kind of religous reward. Remembering Itkovian, a most humble man, and seeing how he being used here is heartbreaking..

Toster - I would also like to point out having groups of people judge someone based on what that society beliefs is right or wrong can go well for those who act in a manner people find understandable based on their values and prejudices. A woman who kills her husband who beats her and who fears for her life might not do well in such a system in a Patriarchal society. It is like everyone says they hate rape, but then rarely considers anything as rape when a particualr instance is presented to them. Most people have no idea what deep beliefs they hold that lead them to their decisions.

Hence, the Shield Anvil only works if he or she accepts without judgement. If there is judgement, then there is a thumb on the scale and unfairness ensues. And does forgivness eliminate the need for reparation of the deeds being forgiven? So, what does forgiveness entail in the MBotF?

Sorry, didn't mean to go on so long.
shirley thistlewood
14. twoodmom
May I suggest that justice is largely a secular concept. A lot of the difficulties come about when religious authorities, or secular authorities under their influence, require secular consequences for religious disagreements.
Sanne Jense
15. Cassanne
It has to do with relative power. In a group of equals, things work quite different than between a god and a mortal, or a parent and a child. In those cases, it's not justice, it's punishment ( or reward). Alas, the state also has this kind of relationship with its people.
Yet, the followers of the redeemer have nu justice system and no protection - except maybe Seerdomin. If someone murdered Gradithan, would that be justice? Would it matter who did it?
Amanda Rutter
16. ALRutter
Thanks for your patience in waiting for me, guys! BEA was a blast, but, damn, it's a busy few days... I've read through your comments and discussion above, and I think I grasped every second word there *grins*. I'm afraid my look at the chapter may be a little more lowbrow than Bill's discussion of religion and choice and big deep important things!

Oh! Our first glance at Kharkanas seems to show a more modern interpretation of life than what we've found in the other Malazan novels. With the factories, and with Endest being aware of the notion that oxygen is required by plants to survive.

And then it also indicates that this is a damaged version of the Andii - those that left the purity of the forest and laid down the stones of the city. It's Tolkien and his ruralism all over again *smile* "Born to give breath to the sacred wood, and that the first fall of his people occurred the moment they walked out, to set down the first shaped stone of this city."

Well, it seems at some point Silchas, Anomander and Andarist were willing to work together towards the same goal - although Andarist's part of that was to do nothing. I'm confused. And was this goal the severing of Mother Dark? Or was it seeking a new world for the Tiste Andii? I am looking forward to Forge of Darkness so that I can fill in some of these gaps.

I think the bit that affected me most in that scene - knowing what we know of him - is when Silchas' eyes are wet at the idea of betraying Andarist. Real emotion from a draconean Lord. Or was this before they took on their dragon aspects?

Ah, I think me and Caladan Brood could be friends, when he says: "See? Already my skull aches." His and Endest's conversation has little moments where I think I should be taking note, such as the bit about the Jaghuts giving more than they took (except for the Tyrants) but it's all wrapped in such philosophical leanings that I do find it hard to take what is needed from the scene. And there, I think, is my biggest problem with Erikson getting all philosophical through his characters - I never know what is just the characters being a mouthpiece for Erikson's thoughts and ideas, and what is useful in terms of the themes in the over-arching story.

Huh! The Forkrul Assail are still at war with the Jaghut! Where abouts is this war occurring? When Caladan Brood says far away, does he mean in terms of physical distance, or in terms of warrens, or in terms of worlds?

Well, now, there is a real look at prejudice in action - Harak automatically assuming that the killer is one of the Tisti Andii: "He'd always known that the unhuman demon-spawn were far from the innocent, benign occupiers they played at, oh, yes, they were rife with deadly secrets."

I wish that Harak had had his prejudiced notions disabused by realising that Seerdomin was the one behind the killings. Oh well. And there is yet another name that comes and goes in a flash. Erikson does like his named deaths, rather than just giving us faceless and nameless characters that we're unable to attach any feelings to.

I wonder how many who lived in Germany during World War II felt like this during the years that passed afterwards: "If one had any conscience at all, there was no escaping the crimes committed, the blood on the hands, the sheer insanity of that time - when honour was a lie, duty a weapon that silenced, and courage itself was stained and foul." I realise that I use the example of WWII a fair amount as I read through these chapters and I don't mean to be offensive or derogatory as I do so. The same accusations could be put at all sides in a war, depending on which side you look at it from.

Poor Salind - and poor Seerdomin. Her introspection about him and her desire to return to the Redeemer has played her straight into Gradithan's hands. Here's hoping that Seerdomin - or someone - will rescue her before things go too far.

Ah, I love this quote: "Love could be such a squalid emotion: burning bright in the midst of pathos, the subject of pity and contempt, it blazed with brilliant stupidity all the same."

Well, I for one do not like the new Seerdomin - and I hope that Spinnock's revelation about Salind and that he loves her, and that she's now unprotected, will make the real Seerdomin come back. I like people to find absolution as much as the next person, but I somehow feel that one like Seerdomin will not find it in murder.

I love, love, love the idea that Traveller and Karsa are swapping war stories and getting all chummy - and I adore that Samar Dev finds this just revolting behaviour. I love every part of it, because it feels so exactly right for these characters, but you still don't expect it when it comes.

And I like that Samar Dev tells Traveller seriously that there was another member of the Old Guard: one Dassem Ultor. Does she know? Or guess? Or is it just happy coincidence that she tells Traveller that he was also taken out by Laseen?

Anyway, I do love that last scene!
Gerd K
17. Kah-thurak
I very much doubt that Samar Dev knows that Traveller is Dassem Ultor - it is a funny moment though.
George A
18. Kulp
Great discussion guys. I love the different takes on faith and what it means to different people/cultures. Instead of adding to that already lengthy discussion, I'll comment on Karsa and Traveller.

I get that this chapter is mainly about philosophy, but how can you not comment on how awesome it is to see Karsa and Traveller together? It seems to me that Karsa always challenges anyone of power to a duel when he meets them (Icarium in HoC, Rhulad in RG, etc.). I feel like SE was setting us up for a showdown in the previous chapters through the comments made by Traveller and Samar. I was braced to see two of my favorite characters go head to head, and possible have one of them die. But to see these two form a fast friendship is so fulfilling as a reader. Karsa is laughing a lot more in this book than he's ever done, and seeing them open up to each other is great. I'm sure this partnership won't last long but I can't wait to see where these two go together.
Michael Friedman
19. lycophidion
Re: the science connection. I noticed that. Erickson's anthro side is showing! He also refers to DNA and coevolution in this book (maybe the last, as well)! He also dealt with the war/environmental destruction theme in Midnight Tides, I believe it was. And in two other books, I can't remember which ones. In one of these allusions, I was struck by his oblique reference to global warming.

Here, again: P. 421 ToH: The battered Mage Quell, following a harrowing Trygalle trip through a warren says: "... it's starting to trouble me, this way of travel. I think we're scarring the whole damned universe. We're making existence bleed. Oh, it's just a seep here and there, amidst whatever throbs of pain reality might possess." Just five minutes ago, I was reading a piece by Naomi Klein, which began, "I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most news stories. I told myself the science was too complicated and the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my "elite" frequent-flyer status."

FTR: Here's Erikson on co-evolution (I'm a biologist and did my thesis research on this stuff!): "She shrugged. 'The way so many animals are made to match their surroundings. I wonder, if all this grass suddenly gre blood red, how long before the markings on those antelope shift to patterns of red? You'd think it could never be the other way round, but you would be wrong. See those flowers - the bright colours to attract the right insects. If the right insects don't come to collect the pollen the flower dies. So brighter is better. Plants and animals, it goes back and forth, the whole thing inseparable and dependent." Wouldn't surprise me if Erikson made the Red Queen one of his characters!

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