Jun 28 2013 12:00pm

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

Toll the Hounds Welcome 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 of Chapter Sixteen 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.

Bill is going to be in and out until Wednesday 7th August, doing various fun things with his family on vacation. I will be doing the chapter recaps and posting alone (apologies in advance)—Bill has said that he will try and drop in here and there to make comments, but we shouldn’t rely on it. And, indeed, he should be enjoying his holiday!



Our narrator Kruppe meditates on the nature of evil and the way that it can be represented, pointing out that it doesn’t always wear the form of scales and talons. And that behaviour that seems evil can often seem reasonable at the time. Apparently Murillio seems to be about to embark on that behaviour, going by his expression. Bellam Nom follows him from the duelling school.


Speaking of evil... The next scene deals with Snell, who is contemplating selling his siblings for coin and worrying that his Da and Ma will find out what he did to Harllo because they’re going to the Temple of the Crippled God.


Bellam Nom has realised that something is wrong at the duelling school, that the heart of Stonny has been broken, and that Murillio is equally shattered because he loves her. We are informed that Bellam Nom is particularly sharp, has been keeping his mouth shut and his ears open, and is able to read lips. Consequently, he knows that Murillio is embarking on something daft and so plans to be there in case he is needed. Like a hero.


Seba, Master of the Guild of Assassins, does not like Humble Measure, the person who hired the assassins to do away with the Malazans. Now Humble Measure has offered a new contract to Seba, and it’s important enough that he advises Seba to concentrate on it. The task is to make sure that a certain councillor dies, in order for Humble Measure to be elected to the Council. “Now, you will assault this particular estate, and you will kill the councillor and everyone else, down to the scullery maid and the terrier employed to kill rats.”


Councillor Coll is accused of either giving or accepting bribes by Hanut Orr. The latter is trying to discredit the former. Coll rather neatly forces Orr to back off. Coll and Estraysian D’Arle then discuss the fact that the Malazan embassy’s reasons for expanding are incredibly flimsy, and refer to keeping Hanut Orr and his two cronies as busy as they can on various committees while they conduct the real business.


The three councillors—Hanut Orr, Gorlas Vidikas and Shardan Lim—snipe at each other outside, passing various insults. We learn that Vidikas is dealing with the Ironmonger, and this name is familiar because Humble Measure was referred to as such. We know that Humble Measure is taking rather fatal steps to get a seat on the Council, even though Lim is pretty sure that he won’t.


Seba Krafar heads down into some cellars on his way back to the Guild, and is accosted by someone who we are not given a name for. Someone who has managed to follow the Master of the Guild of Assassins without him noticing at all. This person pays five councils to buy out the contract against the Malazans.


We learn that the person who bought out the contract is none other than Fisher kel Tath. On his way back to K’rul’s Bar, he in turn gets accosted by one Iskaral Pust, who passes on a convoluted message from Shadowthrone that Fisher should “seek out the eel,” or something similar!


Bedek and Myrla are standing amidst a mob of people waiting to see the Prophet of the Crippled God. Bedek starts to get worried about the nature of the help they might receive from the Crippled God, but Myrla is determined to stay.


Snell is busy trying to create a sling in order to take his sisters to a man who would buy them no questions asked, when Murillio enters the house and finds out from Snell what actually happened to Harllo. Bellam comes in as well and offers to watch Snell while Murillio tries to find Harllo’s trail.


Bellam begins a “delicate and precise form of torture” on Snell, in that he allows Snell’s imagination to fill in the gaps as to what Bellam might do to him.


Gorlas catches Challice as she returns from her tryst, and deliberately lets her know that he will be away at the mining camp for three days, meaning two nights’ absence. They have a chat about Challice’s new lover—Gorlas letting her know that he wants to know who it is, so that he can picture him.


Murillio starts out on the trail to find Harllo, and comes upon the shepherd who sold the boy to the mines.


Some stuff about the mysterious ox. As ever, I am mystified.


Snell tries to escape from Bellam, who catches him with ease and then drags the boy to a slaver called Goruss—who turns out to be his uncle. They fool the boy and throw him in a cell, so that Goruss is able to break Snell’s secrets from him without actually hurting him.

Amanda’s Reaction

I love the section where Kruppe muses on evil, especially where he indicates that, really, it is a concept to describe a capability that is within all of us. It is not fire breathing and talons; it is, rather, “an innate proclivity towards indifference, towards deliberate denial of mercy, towards disengaging all that is moral within us.”

And poor Murillio—it seems he is prepared to sacrifice something within himself, to take a step onto the path that might lead to evil behaviour, because of love for a woman who just doesn’t care. It’s a sad story.

It doesn’t seem strange at all to have been musing on the nature of evil and then move straight across to Snell’s part of the story! The horrible little psychopath: “If Ma and Da just vanished, why, he could sell them both and make good coin.” Sell his sisters. Sell them into slavery and who knows what. Evil little bugger. And almost a caricature of evil, to be honest. Murillio’s brand of insidious, growing evil is that much scarier.

This is rather cynical for me: “People don’t change to suit their god, they change their god to suit them.”

But this made me pause, and wonder at how important Snell’s idle thought is: “The Crippled God: how good can a god be if it’s crippled? If it can’t even heal itself?” Well, I figure that this god would know better than any other god what it must feel like to be less than whole. This god would have more understanding and compassion.

I instinctively like Bellam Nom, from this first real look we’re given of him. Wouldn’t be the first of the Nom family that I’ve got behind though! They’re a gem of a family, really, with the entertainment provided thus far. Erikson is a teeny bit heavy-handed in inviting us to look fondly on this latest Nom: “Mark him well. These are the thoughts of courage, unquestioning and uncompromising, and this is how heroes come to be.”

Then from one likeable fellow to a distinctly unlikeable one—Humble Measure certainly isn’t endearing himself to me. I guess that’s what happens when you take out a contract to assassinate some of my favourite characters!

We are given a look at the fact that the Assassins’ Guild has been utterly weakened by their attempts at the Malazans—I wonder if that is going to come back to them later.

Since Humble Measure mentions a particular estate when it comes to the councillor that needs taking out—would that be the estate that Scorch and Leff are currently trying in their own way to guard?

I do love the way that Councillor Coll gets the better of Hanut Orr so easily, and just how pale he goes at the idea of having his file looked at by independent parties. Coll and Estraysian D’Arle then prove through dialogue that they are deliberately trying to keep the horrible little trio of councillors busy while they conduct the true business of Darujhistan.

And a nice quick little reminder that Gorlas is in the pocket of Humble Measure, who is involved in some of the darker political currents in Darujhistan. I do like the politicking that Erikson writes.

However much I don’t like Seba, I have to accept that as Master of Assassins, he should have some fair skills when it comes to stealth and working out that someone is following him—so whoever this mysterious person is certainly does have some very rare skills.

I like the set up here of Fisher being the one to buy out the contract on the Malazan lives, but I’m unsure as to why the mystery when his name is revealed in the very next section. It seems secretive for the sake of it, rather than entertainment. Do you think that sometimes Erikson did fall foul of adding in obscurity when it wasn’t warranted?

Kruppe’s asides can be useful and add real foreboding, like with this: “Even a man such as Fisher kel Tath, for all his formidable, mysterious qualities, was quite capable of grievous errors in judgment.” And isn’t Fisher the mysterious one! This supposedly elderly bard is now not only the lover of Lady Envy, but perhaps immortal, and manages to both track down and surprise a Master Assassin—and then holds him aloft with just one hand.

Iskaral Pust really does add gold to certain scenes: “...eke out the eel—no, wait—er, seek out the eel. Seal? Damn, I had the message memorized and everything! Peek at—eat an eel—seek and peek the bleak earl—perk the veal, deal the prick...” Why does Shadowthrone want Kruppe and Fisher meeting? This is certainly not the first time we’ve seen someone start the process of looking for the Eel in recent chapters.

Poor Bedek. I think he is the one that realises that they are wanting something that the Crippled God can’t give, that he probably can’t give any of these people waiting to see the Prophet. And who didn’t get chills at the Prophet taking away a man’s pain by smothering him? Offering him escape through death?

Poor Murillio—this makes me upset: “And Snell saw in those deadly eyes something dark, a lifeless whisper that could flatten out at any moment, and all thoughts of lying whimpered away.” In a book that shows what a loving and equal relationship can accomplish, Erikson is also showing with Murillio and Stonny—and Challice and Gorlas, for that matter—how a sick relationship can change a person.

Bellam is a curious chap—someone who knows the value of pretending to be evil but never taking that last step: “Bellam Nom, being cleverer than most, knew that true terror belonged not to what did occur, but to what might occur. He was content to encourage Snell’s own imagination into the myriad possibilities, which was a delicate and precise form of torture.” Heh, my own parents did this to me, and I can report back that it works tremendously.

Speaking of Challice and Gorlas, here is a nasty little scene showing how very damaged their relationship is. I shudder when I think about them trapped together, and what repercussions their actions have on other people here in Darujhistan, Cutter chief among them.

Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

B Back
1. QuickBenjen
Between Bellam (who I really enjoy for some reason -- maybe it's just so satisfying to see Snell get bullied?), Fisher, Pust, and Kruppe's narration, I loved this chapter.

"Poor Murillio", indeed.
2. endymion
I'm with you on indifference as the ultimate evil, it also contrasts well with the series' theme of compassion
Darren Kuik
3. djk1978
I don't think there is anything mystifying about the ox. I gather it's the device that Kruppe/Erikson uses to let us know that outside the plot threads regular life just goes on. The ox doesn't know a thing about all the convergences and undercurrents of the plots in Darujistan. Neither do the regular citizens.

The mystery around Fisher grows. He's clearly more than just a bard, but his exact nature is still pretty hidden. More than a match for an assassin or two though, even a master.

Apart from making him more sinister and unlikable I really don't get Gorlas and Challice's relationship here. I understood him using her to control Orr and Lim, although that too was repugnant. But the way he handles Challice, knowing about Cutter and almost encouraging and threatening her all at once. I'm not sure I follow why he is doing this, unless as I said, its just to establish that he's a sadistic villain.
Chris Hawks
4. SaltManZ
"Gather close, and let us speak of nasty little shits."

One of the best chapter-opening sentences ever. :D
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
Comment #3000:
We begin with a poem on the dangers of relying too much on form and instruction versus actual experience and then see an angry Murillio walking from the dueling school. Bellam Nom follows him. We also get a brief narrative discussion on the nature of evil and the opening line of:
Gather close, and let us speak of nasty little shits.
Is evil a thing or a category; internal or external or the end result of a pattern of events drawing to its final inevitable sorrowing conclusion? We then see Harllo's family. There has been blame and sorrow since Harllo vanished. Da and Ma are now on their way to the temple of the Crippled God. And, speaking of nasty little shits, we see Snell thinking that if Da and Ma go away he could just sell Mew and Hinty.

Back to Bellam Nom as he follows Murillo. Bellam plans to be there when whatever it is that is about to occur happens. The narrator reminds us to mark him well as this is how all kinds of heroes come to be. Is Murillo pursuing an evil path? We'll have to follow him as well.
This half of the chapter is about all of the little things that set evil events and eil people in motion.

Humble Measure tells Seba Krafar (master assassin) to shift his focus from K'rul Templ (bar) to a councilor. Humble Measure is already far down the paths of evil.

Coll bests Hanut Orr in the council chambers and then Hanut, Shardan and Gorlas bicker. I wouldn't have minded at all had they saved everyone a lot of trouble and killed each other. Such, alas, was not to be as Gorlas seems to have other plans and walks away. Another set of evil pebbles falling amongst the landslides that Erikson is starting in motion.

Seba Krafar is a brutal man. We've seen other master assassins who are not sunken into quite so low a state despite their profession. Topper, Kalam, Vorcan, all are hard people, but not in this petty brutal fashion. So, when someone (Fisher we find out quickly) pins him against the wall, it felt quite nice. We also learn that Fisher is quite strong and capable in his own right here if we had any doubt before.

Iskaral Pust is always good for a tension break. Iskaral Pust with spiders in his hair, even more so. While often used to comedic effect, it is always good to pay attention to what Pust's seemingly insane monologues are actually talking about.

Bedek realizes that the mercy of the Crippled God may not map one to one with the mercy that people expect out of the word. Myrla seems to be proceeding down a path that may no longer include Harllo as an end goal. Snell forms a sling to carry the unconscious toddlers in. Snell really needs wrapped up tightly in a sling himself. Murillo gets the truth out of Snell and Bellam volunteers to watch as Murillo goes in search of Harllo. Bellam administers some justice unto Snell. Snell will learn nothing fro this.

Gorlas and Challice continue a sad death and more pebbles get added to the top of our avalanche. Meanwhile, Murillo finds the shepherd to whom sold Harllo to the Iron Mines and sets out. "A thousand paces along, the horse throws a shoe." This reminds me very much of:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
What will be lost here? The ox abides as ox are want to do. His burden becomes a bit heavier as someone (Murillo perhaps?) joins after walking far in boots. Boots that aren't meant for walking and feet that are the worse for this.
Nisheeth Pandey
6. Nisheeth
I like the set up here of Fisher being the one to buy out the contract on the Malazan lives, but I’m unsure as to why the mystery when his name is revealed in the very next section. It seems secretive for the sake of it, rather than entertainment. Do you think that sometimes Erikson did fall foul of adding in obscurity when it wasn’t warranted?
I wasn't bothered by this one as much becuase it made sense to me. Seba doesn't know Fisher. And since this past is in his POV, Fisher's name is not mentioned.
Kartik Nagar
7. BloodRaven
I don't think there is anything wrong about the relationship between Murillio and Stony. In fact, apart from his friendship with Rallick, this is probably the only honest relationship that Murillio has had, where he seems to genuinely have feelings for the well-being of Stonny.

I think Murillio is one of the few characters in the series whose life has been in a downward spiral towards doom and gloom since GotM. Even in GotM, he is very irritated with his lifestyle and what he does for a living, and just when he thinks he is done with all the lies, he loses his best friend and all purpose to his life. He continues to indulge in activities that he doesn't like and almost gets killed in the process. And now, when he seems to have finally settled into a job that he is good at, and near a person that he has feelings for, he still can't catch a break, since he will never be able to have a normal relationship with this person. One can almost guess how this story is going to end. The only other major character in the series that I can think of who had bad things happening to her one after another was probably Felisin Paran.
8. Craig G
Toc might be another of the bad things happen to them people.
Bill Capossere
9. Billcap
Does anyone find or recall anything positive about Snell? I find it interesting that this young boy may be one of the most evil, as in no grey area, characters in this entire series. Is he just the example of the unexplained evil--the psychopath that seems to pop up now and then, missing some part of whatever it is that makes people human (usually said to be empathy, in terms of what psychopaths lack--appropriately enough). I do like the quick dismissal of the attempt at delusion which is the argument for an "external source"--a Satan, an Adversary, or the like. The way such an argument/belief allows us not to look inward. Though Kruppe does end up with a pretty dim view of human nature--which he claims tends toward "an innate proclivity towards indifference." If so,this would be one argument for religion (going back to our earlier conversation in the comments)--as a hedge against such proclivity or as a goad out of it. Though I like to think our innate nature goes the other way (while being willing to acknowledge lots of evidence otherwise)

Boy I like Bellam. A character I wouldn't mind spending more time with. All the Noms, really. Good genes in that family maybe. I like the shift we make from the utterly lacking in empathy Snell (and really, with a name like Snell, could he have turned out any other way?) to the much more empathic Bellam, who thinks "On a purely personal selfish level, all this was frustrating, but one would have to be an insensitive bastard to get caught up in that kind of thinking."

It's a nice bit of suspense to leave us unsure of which councillor is being targeted by Humble Measure. Not only have we met more than one, but with these type of people, one can't even eliminate (no pun intended) supposed allies, because who is to say they aren't turning on each other? I think we mentioned a ways back how Humble Measure was presented (typically) in somewhat grey fashion, as one could understand how he might see things, why he might for instance be against the Malazans. But here his casual brutality, his willingness to kill innocents, such as the "scullery maid" and even (though I assume he's now exaggerating for effect), the dog (never good in Erikson's books to turn on poor animals), it's hard to feel much for him here.

This near-duel between Coll and Orr characterizes both of them nicely, but it is also acting as a nice harbinger of later events.

as a small sidelight, Coll's discussion of the censure reminded me so much of the horrific Independent Counsel/Special Prosecutor we sometimes get here in the States (I'm thinking especially of Clinton and Ken Starr) which sounds good on paper but often turns into this undeing digging: "Such examination inevitably propagates, so taht all manner of personal information comes to light."
"That Ironmonger will never get on the Council, Vidikas . . . There's no available seat and that situation's not likely to change any time soon." Or is it? Wouldn't it be such great irony if Orr or Lim were Humble Measure's target?

"Back when the notion of poisoning one's own air in the name of brainless convenience seemed reasonable." Boy, glad we don't do that in the real world!

Fisher. The man. The mystery.

And here's is a little reminder that this is Kruppe telling the tale after the fact to his audience, in case we'd forgotten: "Even a man such as Fisher . . . was quite capable of grievous errors in judgement." And a reminder as well that this ends in tragedy and grief. Probably a good reminder after we feel so good about what Fisher just did.

But when we're sad, there's always Pust to the rescue. Love the spiders in the hair.

Bedek does a nice job of concisely encapsulating at least some of the complexity of why religion exists I'd say: Bedek suddenly saw her--and himself--as meaningless, insignificant. . . . Each of them seeking to be singled out, to be guided out, to be raised up from all the others . . . the eyes of a god--eye brimming with pity and knowledge, eyes that understood injustice and the unfairness of existence. A god, yes, to make them right . . .Whole." That recognition, (from our "low perch") that we are in some terms at least, in the face of the universe "insignificant"--what is a life amidst all the billions now alive, the billions dead, the 4 billion years of the Earth, the 13.7 billion years of the universe, the trillions of years left with all the trillions of stars. Not just "insignificant but mind-boggingly so. Why not formulate the idea that the universe has a creator and he/she/it is interested in you? And that there is some sort of plan, though it is beyond you, so your life is not "meaningless"? And if you don't see pity and understanding in the eyes of your fellow humans, see it in god's. And if your fellow beings won't deal with injustice, make a god who will.

But does it make sense to vest one's hopes in a god? Bedek at least decides not this god at least. And from there to Snell who has a not-so-inherently different view of the world. A Darwinian sense and also the idea that the world won't/can't be changed. But rather than seek solace or change in a god, he is his own god. Unto him, everything.

Did I mention I really like Bellam?
10. worrywort
Yes, personally, I do believe Snell is exactly that, in that the evil he seems to represent seems to be pretty much self-generated. I think SE has established enough grey area characters that Snell is deliberately meant to stand out (as is Harllo, on the opposite end of the spectrum). And I like the decision. 99.9% of people -- good, bad, or ugly -- aren't this, of course, but that last tenth of a percent shouldn't be discounted. Reminds me of another great character like this -- a child solipsist from Stephen King's IT named Patrick Hockstetter. Very unsettling.

Now I'm not sure that means SE is dismissing the nature vs. nurture argument even in Snell, or suggesting that in no way is Snell the product of his environment. Maybe he's inclined this way naturally, but he still echos the sentiments of adults in his society -- those who'd buy kids for their labor, a concept that could only have been introduced to him from outside sources. So even if Snell is 100%, irredeemably, innately evil while most people aren't, he'll still find his collaborators. The old man with the cart who finds Harllo is more grey than Snell, perhaps, but that didn't help Harllo any. So how much better is grey that dips its hands in evil, or looks the other way? Is that a worthwhile society? Thus, Karsa.
11. Eoin8472
Yes, agreed, but we must never forget that Karsa's "solution" is basically outright genocide. And Karsa is only seeing black instead of grey.

Now, lets think about Snell again in the context of how many innocent people Karsa is dead set on killing. Along with how many people he did kill, along with his casual rape of women in HoC. I would argue that at a certain point, the weight of numbers of the many innocent people who were killed by Karsa trumps the incredible cruelities of Snell towards his limited number of victims. Never mind that Snell intends in the future to sell his two siblings, whereas Karsa in the future plans to murder every "civilised" person. And who will decide if they are "civilised"? Karsa the infallibale judge of course.
Darren Kuik
12. djk1978
Indeed, Karsa isn't the answer. Although he is currently quite likable the reader should not forget his objectionable past, nor indeed his even more objectionable future plan.
Nadine L.
13. travyl
Though I don't contradict Karsa's violent nature (and past), I'd like to point out, that despite his future plans for civilization, right now, he doesn't stand true to his intention. When he encountered the "nomadic tyrant" he did kill those who opposed his declaration of the slaves being free, but otherwise would let the soldiers (who'd enslaved said slaves) go.
Darren Kuik
14. djk1978
Well what he basically said to them was go enjoy your lives until I come back with my army and destroy you all. It seems more like expediency than generosity to me.

Until he has his Teblor army he isn't able to carry out his plan.

I can't put Karsa into the hero category. He's entertaining for sure, but I can't forget that Erikson very often makes the point about certainty being a flaw. There are few characters more certain than Karsa Orlong. He can be swayed off his certainty but it takes some doing.
15. worrywort
"Expediency" is a good word when it comes to Karsa. He's always going to be a big question mark about whether the ends justify the means. He's a walking revolution, guillotines and all. Right or wrong, it's seductive.
16. Eoin8472
Sociopath sometimes can be very seductive. I'm sure Snell was able to get by manys a time with his parents by turing on some charm. And I dispute both Karsa's ends AND his means. I question whether civilisation needs to be destroyed and whether Karsa's childish "solution" is the means to do it. (Whats he going to do if he succeeds? Police the world to make sure that the surviviors don't pass some
imaginary civilised level? Thats the action of a petty Snell)

I've always prefered Kallor to Karsa because at least Kallor doesn't bullshit his horrible repugnant actions by cloaking them in the veneer of "freeing" people from civilisation. Kallor is contemptible, but at least he knows he is.
17. worrywort
But it seems you made the opposite point in your Snell/Karsa comparison. Karsa has killed/hurt way more people than Snell, so he's the bigger monster. Kallor dwarfs Karsa's number thousands of times over, but at least he isn't lying to himself?

I'm also not sure we should be taking Karsa's word choice so literally, or assume he thinks linearly about "civilization" (as in a hierarchy, or "levels" as you say). He obviously has the ability to grasp concepts that he can't or won't necessarily verbalize. And "destroy" is a funny word. If his goal is to destroy the lie that civilizations -- as they exist where he's seen them, and so as the word has been defined for him -- are truly civil, then you'll find plenty of people willing to grant him that "end" as reasonable, even if they debate his means. And I would hesitate to say we even know his means, or his "solution", at this point. The notion that his plan includes genocide is entirely unfounded IMO.
18. Eoin8472
Oh no, don't get me wrong, I think Kallor is pure unadulterated evil. He is an utter fucking monster. But he isn't self-rightous. Thats his one saving grace compared to Karsa.

I think we have enough evidence of Karsa's sayings that he means destroying civilisation literally. Not the lie that they are civil, but the eactual entity itself. I'm looking at chapter 12 again and Samar clearly states that Karsa intends on destroying every city in the world. SE also mentioned in his post on Derrick Jensons' Endgame that Karsa thinks that " He ultimately concludes, after numerous travails, that civilization is an abomination, and so he vows to destroy it." Destroy it, not change it, not figuratively take its pain like what Itkovan did, but destroy it. Karsa is almost the most literal character in the Malazan books. When he means "destroy" it, I think we can safely take that literally. So what would destroying civilisation entail, epsecially if many of the people in a civilisation don't want to be "de-civilised"? Genocide, like the Pannon Domin, bar the cannibaliistic tendencies, though if Karsa destroys all the fields and hood-harvesting places, some of that may happen too. If not genocide, its the threat of force if people bow down and leave their cities (and sanitation/medicine and all that civilised stuff behind)
19. worrywort
Oh I agree his plan is to destroy civilization as he understands it, using violence where necessary. By destroying the lie, I was including that, not just referring to metaphor. But I meant his plan isn't to rampage through towns setting them ablaze. He definitely has social structures in mind, not laying people to waste, and in that light has at least some kinship with Tehol. And for the record, as far as I'm concerned, destroying "civilization" is the means, not the end. So that might be where we're not seeing eye to eye? That's why I brought him up in light of Harllo/Snell anyway...his method is destroying civilization, his goal is to end social structures that allow, accomodate, or downright collaborate with the Snells of the world, and lend such injustices institutional legitimacy in the trappings of civilization. Which is why, regardless of method (and hey, he might surprise us, and Samar Dev knows less than she thinks), I think he'll have his following.
20. Eoin8472
Sure, I agree that his plan is to upend the social structure like Tehol did. The problem is that I don't believe that Karsa has ever actually said what he will replace civilisation with. Whats his plan if he succeeds? What sort of world view does he envisage? Thats why I say that destroying civilisation is his end, becasue if it isn't, he hasn't said what that end is.

Also, the problem for Karsas mindset is that why civilisation accomodates people like Snell, it also accomodate people like that good guard who investigates the murders in Toll The Hounds, Kruppe and the Pheonix Inn regulars, people like the Parans and all the families of the soldiers. essentially people who are not bastards or victims. Now this was something that was lacking in Letheras where there was no middle class, it was either all poor people/victims or rich people/exploiters but outside that continent there are civilisations where not everyone is falling on the "bad" side. I don't think Karsa sees this yet. Or if he does, he ignores it? Karsa is looking for evidence to support his world view, not to challange it.
- -
21. hex
I don't think there's any comparison between Karsa and Snell. Karsa is a far more important character, and has come a long way since HoC. That he's still talking about destroying civilization (whatever that means) shows he still has a long way to go but I see the possibility of change there.

Karsa is written as a grey character, Snell is not. Snell is cruel and self serving, and that's all there is to him.
22. Eoin8472
But lets not forget that Karsa was a rapist. Of humans and Teblor. Snell has never done anythng of that magnitude of evil. True Karsa has killed many evil people which you could say is redress, but Snell has never violated anyone to the extant that Karsa did in the start of HoC. Snell...has never killed anyone I think? I could be wrong there I guess. There are thoughts and feeling and then there are actual deeds carried out.
David Thomson
23. ZetaStriker
Snell thought he killed Harlo, and was going to sell his sisters into slavery to get raped. And he showed no sign of repentance. Karsa on the other hand was under the influence of a mind altering drug, and while that hardly eliminates any responsibility for his actions it does play a role there. He's also distanced himself a great deal from that sort of behavior, whereas Snell is getting progressively more vile with each passing page. At absolutely worst, you might be able to compare Snell to the Karsa we see in the first pages of House of Chains, but certainly not the one we see in this novel.
24. Eoin8472
Hmm, I must have forgotten the fact that Snell actually knew that his sisters were going to ge raped. My bad there. I had thought that Snell was only unsure that he had killed Harllo.

You are also going to have to refresh my memory of the chain of events of Karsa's mindaltering drug. My rcollection is that Karsa knew perfectly well what it did, and that awhen he tried his first escape attempt in the villiage, he drank the bloodoil up, attacked through the village and took the time to rape a human woman when he could have been making his escape. And while he may have distanced himself from that behaviour he certainly has never apologised for it. Given that Snell is a minor and Karsa (though its admittedly different for Teblor) at the start of HoC may debatebly have not been, I still consider that Karsa at the start of HoC was worse. Given that the bloodoil violated the human woman's mind, his actions were pretty horrific and grotesque.
Brian R
25. Mayhem
One key difference between the two which you are overlooking - Karsa's actions at the start of HoC were in line with the cultural mores of his society as taught by his grandfather. They were wrong, but he didn't know that, so was behaving in a fashion he considered would bring honor to his name. As he has learned about the world, he has come to realise what was good and what was bad about his upbringing and seeks to bring that knowledge back home.

Snell on the other hand is acting in a fashion completely opposed by the cultural mores of the Daru. Hes sole purpose is that of complete selfishness, of making the most of his sorry situation and damn the consequences to all around him. He is one of the very few indisputably evil characters at this stage - he's the classic unloved young bully who hasn't yet met a bigger bully.
26. worrywort
I would consider it a key similarity, not a key difference, because I don't think Snell is behaving outside cultural mores either, even if he's at the extreme boundary (and outside his own family's mores). I mean, Harllo wasn't the first kid to end up in the mines, and it wasn't Snell who got him all the way there. Who owns the mines anyway? And who benefits from their existence? Who's just looking the other way? It doesn't have to be every individual Daru if the society as a whole collaborates. It's not as easy as absolute guilt or absolute innocence, and there's plenty of blame to go around. Just as there is, in the real world, with the collapsed Bangladeshi sweatshop. You can't just blame the construction company and everybody else has clean hands. That's the kind of thing that's incensing Karsa Orlong. Agree or disagree with his methods (or something more nuanced than just two polar opposite choices) -- even consider him a hypocrite and a monster while you're at it -- but that is the level of injustice that's in his sights.
27. Eoin8472
Unfortunatedly while Karsa does see the many injustices that civilisation does perpetuate, he never seems to think about the good in civilisation. Or just doesn't see it. That guard I mentioned, the Pheonix regulars, all those Daru festivals (if that counts as civilisation), the families of soldiers and what they do. Soldiers themselves , (where would the world have been without the Malazan Empire itself creating the Malazan armies which often did unify squabbling minor regimes in Quan Tali for example). Plenty of good that civilisation in the books has accomplished. Which I'm often mad isn't pointed out to him in a more forceful manner. I'm disappointed that Dancer, Traveller and Samar are not making these points when they talk to him. Well Samar did at the start but often just seems to acquisce to him these days.

As for Snell, well what if we was to go on a mind-expanding trip like Karsa did in HoC, and become a better person. Its possible you know. I really dislike the notion that he is catagorically evil through and through. As Worry said, it wasn't just him causing all the evil in his surroundings.
Brian R
28. Mayhem
I don't think the Daru are as bad as appears - see the reaction of Bellam's Uncle Goruss - he never takes youths under 15, and knows which marks he is taking - those that won't be missed. The youths are on-sold as galley slaves, but for fixed term contracts. And it all ties in nicely with what we know from Torvald of the family Nom being middlemen for anything and everything ... "We broker the ransoms" ... they're crooked, but more scoundrels than truly nasty types.

The mines are a different story, but then, they belong to Gorlas Vidikas, and he appears to be wringing all he can from them.

It's less evil and more indifference in that case - noone cares about those working there, or they may have been forced to sell their children into slavery. But the nature of the mine is it demands children - they fit into smaller holes so can follow the veins easier.
Its a definite reflection on mining practices in many historical locations where people were cheaper than technological solutions, that only really died out with the advent of industrial mining systems. Even victorian coal towns in Wales had boys going down into the pits at an early age, though that died out as the century came to a close.
Gerd K
29. Kah-thurak
Child labour was quite common in the days of the industrial revolution. Ironically, it was (at least in germany) the military that used its influence to limit and later ban child labour - not out of altruism though: The reason were concerns over the aptitude of their recruits.
George A
30. Kulp
Regarding the Karsa discussion, I think his viewpoint reflects what Erikson has said in the past about cultural relativism. For Karsa, the brutalities carried out in a civilization are unacceptable regardless of culture. I wonder if this is Erikson relating his feelings on cultural relativism through the extreme viewpoint of Karsa.

Snell is clearly one of the most black/white characters seen in this series so far. I like the inclusion of this character, as there are people like this in our world. My favorite part of this series has been watching characters I feel I have a handle on change from book to book. I don't think Snell is one of those characters, he's just a terrible little person. Harllo is clearly his opposite.

Who/what is Fisher?
Stefan Sczuka
31. moeb1us
Hey there. I bowed out of the reread for a couple of weeks, and am in the process of catching up with you guys.
Just wanted to comment that I really enjoyed your discussion of Karsa and Snell and the mores/philosophical part. It is a pity that it was not continued, it probably smothered with the release of a new blog post I assume. I would not mind if you continue, gents!

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