Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, where we’ve reached Dalinar’s penultimate flashback: Gavilar’s funeral. We have ardents, highprinces, family, and a recently-discovered ancient book, all combining to start Dalinar down a new path.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread—if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
In this week’s reread we also discuss a small thing from Mistborn: Secret History in the Stories & Songs unit, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11 (Just a little over 6 years ago from the current storyline)
Dalinar is at Gavilar’s funeral. Some keteks are spoken, and Gavilar’s corpse is soulcast into a stone statue by a Soulcaster. As Elhokar swears vengeance on the Parshendi, Dalinar leaves, sending Adolin back to swear for their house. He pauses outside his room, looking for a key, when he hears Jasnah reading aloud from The Way of Kings. He hears something in those words that gives him hope, and begins planning his trip to the Nightwatcher.
Title: Spirit, Mind, and Body
“Spirit, mind, and body,” the wizened ardent said, her voice echoing in the stone catacomb. “Death is the separation of the three.”
A: We’ll discuss the rest of the statement below, but for now we’ll just note that this is the source of the title. The ardent is speaking of Gavilar, but I think the chapter itself is dealing with Dalinar’s spirit, mind, and body—all three of which need help.
A: Jezrien is the sole Herald on this chapter, which seems quite appropriate for the funeral of one king, and the reading of a profound, life-changing book by another king. And of course, the title of that book is “The Way of Kings.”
Kholin Glyphpair, Inverse, tell us (as if the “Six Years Ago” didn’t) that this is one of Dalinar’s flashbacks.
Stories & Songs
A: Continuing the quotation from the chapter title, the ardent goes on:
“The body remains in our realm, to be reused. The spirit rejoins the pool of divine essence that gave it birth. And the mind … the mind goes to the Tranquiline Halls to find its reward.”
A: This is the Vorin version of Realmatic theory, and it makes me chuckle. The body being “reused” is sort of hilarious; normally, you think of the “dust to dust” or “pushing up daisies” version, where your body breaks back down into organic material which is used by plants and all that, but Gavilar’s body is apparently being “reused” as a statue. In point of fact, however, Kaladin told us (WoR chapter 2) that if you didn’t rank high enough to get turned into a statue, your body is burned… so I guess it would be more “ashes to ashes,” eh?
The bit about the spirit sort of fits with what we saw in Mistborn: Secret History, in that most people seem to just… go into the Beyond after they die. So, maybe? And then there’s the Tranquiline Halls thing, which is definitely a Vorin twist on the afterlife. I can’t help wondering if this theology is based on what was once known of the Heralds, whose Cognitive Shadows returned to Braize to hide, to fight when they couldn’t hide, and to return to Roshar when they could fight the torture no more. Obviously Braize isn’t the Tranquiline Halls; the Heralds returned to Damnation, and as far as we know no one returned to Ashyn, but it’s the kind of mythos people develop. It’s not much of a reward to go to Damnation every time you win, for one thing. For another thing, while there is (as far as we know) no actual battle going on to reclaim Ashyn, in one sense the Heralds did fight for a sort of “Tranquiline Halls” in the sense that they were fighting for the survival of humanity on Roshar, which is their refuge from the destruction of Ashyn. But … we really don’t know what happens in Roshar’s afterlife, for non-Herald people. So this is all speculation.
“An old text. Ancient, once well regarded. It’s associated with the Lost Radiants, so nobody references it anymore.”
A: From the text, it seems that Dalinar had heard about the book, and had heard bits and pieces of it when Gavilar talked about it, but this is the first time he actually listened to what it had to say. Granted that we only have a few tidbits, I find myself confused. If Gavilar was listening to Nohadon’s book so much, trying to follow that example, and trying to follow the Codes… how is it that he was turning so dark, messing with trapped Voidspren, trying to trigger a new Desolation? The activities and aims of the “Sons of Honor” seem to be in conflict with everything Nohadon said; it’s hard to feature Gavilar on that path and developing the beginnings of a Stormfather-Bondsmith bond as something that could be happening simultaneously.
L: I don’t know… I could see him completely misreading things and jumping to the wrong conclusions. We see that sort of selective misinterpretation of the message of religious texts all the time IRL, after all.
A: True. Culture, mindset, worldview, and personal proclivity all play into how you interpret a text. It seems that maybe Evi’s influence over Dalinar was larger than we’d thought, if he gets such a different message than his brother did. Cultivation, too, would affect his later reading; here, though, he’s just got himself and what he’s learned along the way.
Relationships & Romances
He sought out Navani, and knew instantly that the ketek had been hers.
A: We’ll talk about the ketek a little more in People & Places. Here, I wanted to talk about Navani and Gavilar. I find it … odd, I guess, that Navani could write such a stirring and passionate poem, when we have all sorts of indications that she and Gavilar were not exactly united anymore. Just last week, she thought about how dark he’d grown in his last days; back in The Way of Kings, she claimed that though she was never unfaithful to him, she’d had ample reason to be. Was this just for form, or was it written with their early days in mind?
L: I think it’s entirely possible to be wholly in love with someone in the moment, but then to realize in retrospect the problems in the relationship. Hindsight is 20/20 after all, and when you add in the societal expectations of being a good wife/queen…
When she read the last word, Dalinar found himself weeping again. Jasnah dabbed at her own eyes. She had always been so much stronger than he was, but here they shared an understanding. This was their send-off to Gavilar’s soul. This was their farewell.
A: I’ve been so influenced by Navani’s hints about Gavilar, that I keep forgetting how much Dalinar and Jasnah loved him. (Also, the cynic in me wonders how much of Jasnah’s reaction here was grief for her father, and how much was anger at herself for failing to protect her family despite her assassin network.)
L: I definitely read this more as anger on Jasnah’s part. When she left the funeral she seemed more angry than anything. My theory is that Gavilar might have been trying to awaken Knight Radiant traits in her when she was young (all those hints we have seen about some traumatic event in her childhood) and hence she has a very complicated emotional response to his death. But… that’s just a theory.
A: Uh… I’m sure I must have heard that theory, but I don’t recall thinking about it much. It would fit so well with the sort of “snapping” we saw in Mistborn, and even more with Jasnah’s thought that “people she loved could still hurt her.” It was one of the things that seemed terribly twisted in Mistborn, and it’s almost more so here, if that’s what happened. At least there it was something the nobles’ kids expected, and had a potential reward they could see…
“I’ve been a poor father these last few years,” Dalinar said.
“Nonsense,” Adolin said. “You—”
“I’ve been a poor father,” Dalinar repeated, raising his finger. “To you and your brother both. You should know how proud I am of you.”
L: About time, Dalinar. I’ve so very glad that he said it, even though it’s come at the eleventh hour.
A: Hear, hear! I find it fascinating that he’s finally able to say it only after he’s made the decision to change. The effects of his visit to Cultivation are immense, but I really think his journey starts in this chapter, and this acknowledgement is evidence.
Evi had said the Old Magic could transform a man. It was about time he started trusting her.
A: A little on the late side there, dude. Still, she was right about a lot of things, and there are still the living to consider.
Bruised & Broken
Dalinar had started controlling his vices; he’d confined his drinking to monthly trips away from Kholinar, visiting outer cities. He said the trips were to let Elhokar practice ruling without Dalinar looking over his shoulder, as Gavilar had been spending more and more time abroad. But during those trips, Dalinar drank himself to oblivion, letting himself escape the sounds of children crying for a few precious days.
A: You know, back in Words of Radiance when Dalinar was telling Kaladin about “the Roshone affair,” he said that he “was … away at the time.” Many of us assumed the apparent reluctance to talk about his absence was because he’d gone off to see the Nightwatcher. It seemed reasonable at the time. Now it’s apparent that it happened when he was off on one of his drinking escapes, since “the Roshone affair” was at least a year before Gavilar’s death. That’s actually kind of awful, to realize that both Kaladin and Moash had their lives thoroughly messed up by something that probably wouldn’t have happened if Dalinar hadn’t gone off to have a private bender.
And of course, he wasn’t really controlling himself as well as he claimed. He may have stopped drinking as much, and he quit yelling at his sons and tried to be kinder to them, but he was still totally smashed when Gavilar died.
L: Alcoholism is a terrible disease and I do respect him for getting a handle on it, with or without supernatural assistance.
He pretended he was better these days, kept telling himself he was in the process of finding a way out of this mess. Of returning to the man he’d once been.
But that man had been a monster. Frightening, that nobody had blamed him for the things he’d done. Nobody but Evi, who had seen what the killing would do to him. He closed his eyes, hearing her tears.
A: These moments of honesty with himself are what keep me from hating Dalinar at this stage. He’s a shambles, but even prior to hearing Nohadon’s book and deciding to take a new step, he’s self-aware enough to see a) that he was a terrible person when he fought; b) that his society (nor even his sons) would never condemn him for it; and c) Evi, the outsider, was the only one who could see the damage he did to himself by being the Blackthorn. (Well, he did a lot of damage to other people, too…)
L: The fact that society would never condemn him for his actions, but he has grown to do so, is super important. Breaking free of everything you have ever known is a HUGE, huge step!
Bliss waited inside.
No, not bliss. Oblivion. Good enough.
A: That’s painful.
L: And understandable, honestly. Anyone who’s ever dealt with depression or trauma will understand this sentiment intimately.
A: There’s one other thing I wanted to quote here, though it’s out of order. It’s a separate thing, but it’s … well, here:
“After we win back the Tranquiline Halls? What then? No more war?”
Is that when we finally get to rest?
“You needn’t worry, Blackthorn,” Jevena said. “Once that war is won, the Almighty will certainly provide for you another conquest.” She smiled comfortingly, then moved on…
A: That was such a stark contrast in expectations. Dalinar is at the point where he hates everything that made him the Blackthorn; the ardent assumes that he’s just worried about winning too much and having nothing left to fight. Good grief.
Places & Peoples
A: What can you tell about a people by looking at their funeral traditions?
I don’t have an answer to that, by the way. All I can do is observe. The ketek, of course, is not limited to funerals; it’s considered the highest form of poetry—in Vorinism, anyway, with it’s symmetry and wordplay. But it does seem to have been the choice for a state funeral, since there are a whole series of them read, ranging from traditional funeral keteks to those composed for the occasion. Like this:
“You, always about dreams.
My soul weeps.
Farewell, weeping soul.
always, about you.”
A: This is a powerful bit of poetry. Isn’t it amazing what can be done within the restrictions of the ketek form?
L: Yes, I am consistently impressed with this form of poetry. Honestly I wish this were a thing IRL, because it takes a lot of skill to compose one of these in a meaningful way.
A powerful pose; the mortuary sculptors had done a fantastic job.
L: This is so cool. In the real world we have similar things in undertakers who make the corpses look better for open casket funerals/wakes. This is so much more permanent.
A: Quite permanent, indeed! I had to giggle a little about the soulcaster brushing the hair off Gavilar’s forehead, though; what if that little gesture messed up some very careful sculpting??
“You will love. You will hurt. You will dream. And you will die. Each man’s past is your future.”
“Then what is the point?” I asked. “If all has been seen and done?”
“The question,” she replied, “is not whether you will love, hurt, dream, and die. It is what you will love, why you will hurt, when you will dream, and how you will die. This is your choice. You cannot pick the destination, only the path.”
A: It’s a little shocking to realize that this is the first time Dalinar has heard the beginnings of the “journey before destination” motif that will shape his life so dramatically from here on. The effect on him is profound; he finally makes a decision to turn away from the oblivion-seeking, and instead try something that might change him.
L: It’s pretty sobering to realize just how much something can affect you, even at an older age. I am reminded of all the messages that I see on social media channels about famous writers or actors who didn’t get their start/big break until after they were 30, or 40, or 50. It is entirely possible for one event to completely change you for good, regardless of how old you are.
“I must,” Dalinar whispered, “go on a journey.”
Paths. Dalinar could not choose his end.
But perhaps his path …
The Old Magic can change a person, Evi had said. Make something great of them.
A: Earlier in the chapter, Dalinar thought about how he’d managed to get his drinking under control and be a more civilized person while he was in Kholinar, but it’s pretty obvious that it wasn’t enough; he was completely passed-out drunk at the feast the day before. This is the moment when he decides to seek outside help, not knowing what might happen, but knowing that nothing he can do is adequate.
L: The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Dalinar obviously realized this, but the choice to seek outside help is a big one. Even if his chosen help is… shall we say, on the over-powered side? He had people he could have turned to, but Dalinar has never seemed to be the type who would burden others with his emotional difficulties. So, it makes sense that rather than talking to his family or his friends (soldiers), he would turn instead to a higher power.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
A: It should be pointed out, shouldn’t it: the Soulcaster we see here bears a certain resemblance to the stonespren we saw in Shadesmar.
The Soulcaster might have been male, might have been female. Hard to say, with that hood up over their face. The skin beneath was colored like granite, cracked and chipped, and seemed to glow from within.
A: Like… that’s not creepy or anything. But it sure sounds like this, from chapter 102:
There were other spren with skin like cracked stone, molten light shining from within.
So… do Soulcasters (i.e., the people who use the Soulcaster fabrials) end up turning into spren?
L: Hooboy. That’s a loaded question. When Syl talked about baby spren, she mentioned that they just… show up, right? So maybe this is accurate.
Next week, we’ll do Chapter 106 by itself. It’s not a terribly long chapter, though there’s a lot in it, but the following chapter is too long to combine the two. So… just one.
Alice is done with her share of the volleyball season; her daughter’s team plays in the state tournament this week, but she’s not going along this time. Life. Still, they made it to State!
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