The Dragonbone Chair Part Two, Chapters 4 – 6

Greetings, and welcome back to my re-read of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I apologize for the delay in getting this post up, and can only say that unfortunately, Real Life Sucks sometimes, yo. Let’s not dally.

As with last time, a note about spoilers and this re-read: If you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.

These first few chapters have a lot of exposition, so there unfortunately isn’t as much to talk about yet that I would like really like to delve into, but that shall be coming soon.

Let’s get started!

4 – Cricket Cage

Summary

Simon is searching around Morgenes’ chambers for a suitable place to put his new birds, while the Doctor continued searching for some manuscript. Simon is about to place the birds into a seemingly docile container when Morgenes screams for him to stop, and then shows him that the container actually has a cleverly camouflaged predator at the bottom. He finds an old cricket cage for Simon, and then asks Simon how best they can serve each other on this fine day. Simon glumly realizes that the Doctor fully intends to require work out of Simon in exchange for his “stories” and tutelage in this apprenticeship.

“Ah. A small aversion to menial labor?” The doctor cocked an eyebrow. “Understandable but misplaced. One should treasure those humdrum tasks that keep the body occupied but leave the mind and heart unfettered. Well, we shall strive to help you through your first day in service. I have thought of a wonderful arrangement.” He did a funny little jig-step. “I talk, you work. Good, eh?”

Morgenes fetches a broom for Simon and begins talking about the history of Osten Ard again, while Simon begins ruefully sweeping up dust and debris from various spots around the room. Morgenes coaxes out of Simon the fact that it is currently the year 1163 since The Founding of the Nabbanai Imperium, which once ruled all the human lands of Osten Ard. These humans lived side by side with the Sithi, who reigned primarily in the Hayholt, then called Asu’a. He once again pauses to get Simon back to work, pointing out a footprint-shaped sooty patch on the wall that needs cleaning.

“Ahhhh, many thanks to you. I’ve been wanting to get that down for months – since last year’s Harrow’s Eve, as a matter of fact. Now, where in the name of the Lesser Vistrils was I. . .?”

Morgenes begins to answer Simon’s question about what the Sithi actually are, explaining that they are the oldest beings, and they will be here long after humans are gone. They are very different from humans, and live a very long time. The Sithi long had peace with the humans, trading for things from the Hernystiri humans in the west, the Southern Islands, and –

Simon’s patience was at an end. “But what about the shipmen, the Rimmersmen? What about the iron swords?”

Morgenes explains that the Nabbanai Imperium lasted until the Rimmersmen came to Osten Ard. Nabban pulled from the north and the Rimmersmen occupied most of that now-vacant territory. Simon dozes off for a moment, and with Morgenes’ awakening of him, realizes he has leaned against the wall and the rest of the sooty patch he has been cleaning is now on his back. He attempts to clean himself as Morgenes continues. The Rimmersmen named their new northern kingdom Rimmersgard, and began trying to conquer other lands. As he moves onto this part of the story, Morgenes begins to have Simon move around clutter in the room, often interrupting his “story” with directions on where to move various items. The Rimmersmen often killed the Sithi as they expanded. The Hernystiri, the closest human allies of the Sithi, allied with the Fair Folk against Fingil, king of the Rimmersmen, and in the year 663, the two armies had a major battle. The Sithi and Hernystiri were able to hold on for five days, but they were betrayed by Thrithings-men from the east. Ten thousand Hernystiri died, and many Sithi as well.

“Ten thousand!” Simon whistled. His eyes shone with the terror and grandness of it all.

Morgenes noted the boy’s expression with a small grimace, but did not comment.

The war was basically over, though the Sithi held on for three more years at Asu’a. The Erl-king’s son used a terrible magic spell which saved the few Sithi who could be saved, but most fled. The Rimmersmen ruled the Hayholt for several more centuries, until the dragon came. Simon tries to push Morgenes into telling him more about the Erl-king’s son, as well as about King Prester John, but Morgenes seems upset and won’t tell anymore. When Simon apologizes, and thanks the Doctor for his “story,” Morgenes explodes that it’s “History!” and sends Simon off, to come back the next day and actually work.

Simon makes his way back towards the Inner Bailey, thinking about how boring things look right now, but how this place used to be exciting, where important things happened. As he nears his destination, he looks up to see a beautiful girl standing on a balcony. He stands tall for a moment, feeling as though his burdens are gone, but then remembers that Rachel is waiting for him with a cold dinner.

A certain indefinable weight climbed back into its accustomed seat, bending his neck and slumping his shoulders as he trudged toward the servant’s quarters.

Commentary

Phew, that’s a lot of exposition, folks! In fact, I really don’t feel I’ve done this chapter justice, but I believe that’s the best I can do for right now with summarizing it. There is a lot I have left out, including specific place and people names, such as some of the Imperators of Nabban who later have important historical significance. There is also a lot of the humor of the Morgenes-and-Simon interactions – especially pertaining to Morgenes directing Simon around the room, finding things for him to clean – that I have purposefully left out, because it simply wouldn’t be the same reading it in summary form, and I’m not going to write the entire chapter!

The main thing I take from this chapter is that once again, Tad Williams has done an amazing job in crafting a world, and he has used a brilliant literary technique to give us, the readers, history lessons – he has made the main character to be a young boy who has no idea what is going on in the world, and must therefore have things explained to him in great detail, and often! It’s a beautiful and calculated move on Tad’s part, and it worked perfectly, in my opinion.

I think the most important part of this chapter, though, is the connection between Simon and Morgenes, even this early in the story. Morgenes is very obviously Simon’s fatherly influence in these early chapters, and many of the things he says here, to teach and prepare Simon, are expanded upon much later, in much greater detail.

The last paragraph, and in particular, the last quote I posted above, are very important to me as well. They seem to show that Simon certainly has the aspirations to be great, and feels that he should be, but is possibly knocked down a few pegs here and there by those who believe him to simply be unsuited for anything other than scullery-type work. It’s an unfortunate truth that this is a Real Thing, which happens to Real Humans in the Real World, and makes it that much more easy to relate to.

5 – The Tower Window

Summary

King John has taken sick again at the end of the year, and the word has spread to all the lands of Osten Ard – Prester John is dying. Each of the kingdoms, dukedoms, etcetera sends delegations and honoraries to be at the Hayholt when the end comes, and most of the people get along fine. Prince Elias’ soldiers and Prince Josua’s retainers are the exception, often quarreling with each other.

Simon is given the task one fine Satrtinsday of taking several pennies to the market to pick up some kitchen essentials for Judith the cook. She has also given him a fithing piece to spend on himself, which has him very excited. He runs and skips out to the Nearulaugh Gate, and is almost run over by a carriage. He looks inside as it passes.

He had a brief glimpse of the driver, dressed in a dark, hooded cloak lined with scarlet. The man’s eyes raked him as the cart hurtled past – they were black and shiny, like the cruel button-orbs of a shark; although the contact was fleeting, Simon felt almost that the driver’s gaze burned him. He reeled back, clutching at the stone facing of the gate, and watched as the cart disappeared around the track of Outer Bailey.

The gate guards shoo Simon on after making sure he is not hurt, and Simon runs off towards the market. He sees many people on Main Row, off all nationalities. While admiring the pomp of some Nabbanai legionaries, and looking closely at their swords, he gets accused of attempting to cut their purses. Several of the legionaries bully him for a moment before heading on, and Simon then finds a man looking at him.

“Your pardon, my young lad,” he said, with a Hernystirman’s crackling burr, “I only wished to find out if you were safe, then, if those goirach fellows had done you harm.” The stranger reached out to Simon and patted him, as if searching for damage.

Simon tells the man he is fine, and the man introduces himself as Brother Cadrach ec-Crannhyr, of the Vilderivan Order, and tells Simon he is in town with Prince Gwythinn. They chat for a moment, and Simon is about to take his leave, when Cadrach asks if Simon can show hm around town. Simon accepts, hoping to hear stories from this seemingly-nice man.

The two wander around the city, with Cadrach poking fun at various people, or telling stories. He buys Simon and himself some sweets, they watch a play about Usires being hung upon the Execution Tree, and eventually Cadrach says farewell. It is only after the priest is gone that Simon realizes he no longer has his purse, and must return to Judith in shame. Even Morgenes seems surprised at Simon’s carelessness, and Simon feels very low.

******

A few days later, Simon is in a mood. Morgenes is busy working on something with Inch, which leaves Simon needing something to do. He decides to take his dinner and climb Green Angel Tower. He heads up through the throne room, having to sneak to avoid priests, and pauses to admire the Dragonbone Chair – made from the bones of the dragon Shurakai, whom Prester John had slain in his youth – as well as to look at the six statues of the previous Hayholt kings. He remembers a rhyme, taught to him as a young child, that gives a singsong history of the Six Kings of the Hayholt.

The sixth statue, closest to the throne’s right arm, was Simon’s favorite: the only native Erkynlander who had ever sat on the Hayholt’s great seat. He moved closer to look into the deep-cut eyes of Saint Eahlstan – called Eahlstan Fiskerne because he came from the fisher-people of the Gleniwent, called The Martyr because he, too, had been slain by the fire-drake Shurakai, the creature destroyed at last by Prester John.

Unlike the Burned King on the throne’s other side, the Fisher King’s face was not carved in a twist of fear and doubt: rather the sculptor had brought radiant faith into the stony features, had given opaque eyes the illusion of seeing faraway things. The long-dead artisan had made Eahlstan humble and reverent, but had also made him bold. In his secret thoughts, Simon often imagined that his own fisherman father might have looked like this.

Simon spooks himself a bit by thinking of the statues coming to life, then continues on his journey to Green Angel Tower. He has to climb up to and jump over some pretty dangerous and snow-slippery walls and paths, and manages to hurt his knee with a band jump. He eventually makes it into the Tower and the winding staircase which leads very high into the sky, thinking about the castle and Tower.

The castle folk said that this tower was the only part of the original Sithi stronghold that remained unchanged. Doctor Morgenes had once told Simon that this was untrue. Whether that meant that the tower had indeed been changed, or simply that other unsullied remnants of old Asu’a still remained, the doctor – in his maddening style – would not say.

Simon eventually makes it to the bell chamber, which is as high as the staircase goes. Simon gazes out across all the lands for a little while, trying to keep himself warm in the chilling wind, and occasionally munching on his food. All around, he can see parts of the city itself, and miles away.

He stays up in the Tower for several hours, and eventually begins heading down, nursing his injured knee. When he makes it back to the place where he first entered the Tower, he hears retreating footsteps even further below himself. This makes Simon curious as to who else would be leaving the Tower, and speeds up to see who it may be. At the bottom, he looks around, and sees two feet sticking out from beneath a tapestry. He tries to surprise the spy by pulling the tapestry aside.

Instead of flying open to reveal the spy, the massive hanging tore free of its stays and billowed down like a monstrous, stiffened blanket. Simon had only a momentary glimpse of a small, startled face before the weight of the tapestry knocked him to the ground. As he lay cursing and struggling, badly tangled, a brown-clad figure shot by.

Simon stumbles to his feet and catches the person, demanding to know who he is. It is a small boy, with dark hair, who says he is Malachias. Simon demands to know why Malachias was following him.

The youth turned and stared sullenly. His eyes were quite dark.

“I wasn’t spying on you!” he said vehemently.

As the boy averted his face once more, Simon was struck by a feeling that he had seen something familiar in this Malachias’ face, something he should recognize.

Simon asks again who Malachias is, trying to find out if they know one another, but Malachias pushes himself away, causing Simon to fall hard. Malachias runs through a door, closing it behind him very loudly. Simon is still stunned when sexton Barnabas comes in to investigate, surely landing him in trouble yet again.

Commentary

Hello Cadrach, you crazy, crazy monk, you! We welcome you to our re-read, even knowing that you will contribute much to the grindings of our teeth as the story continues!

This is the very first place we ever heard of Cadrach, which isn’t that surprising if you think he’s just a minor character. Of course, as well know, Cadrach is very, very far from the minor, throwaway character he seems to be at first. I believe I remember Tad saying in an interview, or online somewhere, that originally, Cadrach was not meant to have quite as large a role as he ended up having. I don’t know what changed Tad’s mind, unless he just had decisions to make on how to progress the story, and using a character who had already been introduced seemed smarter than creating new characters, but I’ve always liked Cadrach’s character and role, and am thus happy Tad did make him more important to the story.

Even though we do not get to know Cadrach very well in this first book, I believe even the most casual reader can see the deep sadness within him, and can see that he is not all that he seems, especially from his thoughts on Usires, Crexis, and “the Manipulator.” My father being the minister that he is, I believe I would have to do some double-takes if I ever heard him speaking of God the way Cadrach does of his own God.

I must say, even though I did not know Cadrach’s character, even the first time I read this story, I was immediately suspicious when Simon’s purse turned up missing. I won’t say that I proclaimed, “Oh, it was Cadrach, that filthy thief,” but I may have thought, “Huh, it sure was awfully suspicious when Cadrach was patting Simon down like that…”

Onward!

We receive yet another clue (this time in a sneaky bit of foreshadowing) about Simon’s heritage, and his relationship with Eahlstan Fiskerne. I just point this out so that we can make sure to keep count of the numerous clues we are given that Simon has royal heritage, so that it doesn’t seem at the end of the series that Tad just threw this in as an aside.

Re – Simon’s climbing of the Tower, I must admit, I’ve never gotten a very clear picture of just how tall the Tower really is. There are hyperbolic examples of “how long one would fall from the top to the bottom,” and the likes, but is it ever mentioned in feet, yards, cubits, or whatever exactly how tall the blasted Tower is?

I love the description of the bell chamber. I’ve been inside a bell chamber once before, probably not nearly as grand as this one, and it struck me as a sacred-kind of a place. We learn much later that it is indeed, a very sacred kind of a place, but even before its importance is revealed, it seems like the kind of place where I would like to just sit in silence and contemplate the world (if I did things like that).

And finally, Hello Miriamele! We’ll visit you more later, you mean little spier-on-people, you!

6 – The Cairn on the Cliffs

Summary

Because of his capture by Barnabas, Simon is punished by confinement to the servant’s quarters. He is miserable for the last few days of Novander. Finally, by week two of Decander, Simon is allowed to continue his apprenticeship with Morgenes, though he was still required to be back in the servant’s quarters by dinnertime each evening. Morgenes begins teaching Simon to read, which Simon finds very painful.

On Decander 21, Saint Tunath’s day, Simon is sent to Morgenes’ chambers for a second time to help find some essentials for the Aedonmansa festivities and preparations. At Morgenes’ door, it takes awhile for the Doctor to answer, and Simon can hear voices inside. Once he does, Simon enters the room to see that Prince Josua is in the room, discussing Prester John’s sickness with Morgenes. Simon notes that Morgenes seems agitated:

Now Morgenes, whom Simon had not seen in this sort of mood, plucked an object on a golden chain out of his robe and handled it agitatedly. In Simon’s knowledge, the doctor – who loved to scorn pretension and show – had never worn jewelry of any kind, either.

Simon hears that Morgenes is writing about the life of king Prester John, and notes that Morgenes seems full of secrets this morning. Josua continues asking the Doctor for help with the king, even if it’s just something to ease his pain. They are interrupted when one of Josua’s retainers, Deornoth, runs into the room with grave news.

“The king, Lord, your father the king . . . Bishop Domitis said . . . that he is dead.”

Josua rushes out of the room, with Deornoth following.

When Simon turned to Morgenes, the doctor was staring after them, his old eyes shining and brimful.

******

There are forty days of preparation mandated before Prester John’s body is lain into the ground. During this time, the kingdom weeps and grieves. John will be laid to rest on Swertclif, where the six mounds of the other Hayholt Kings are. Many mourning parties gather in the city, including the Lector of the Holy Church himself, Lector Ranessin.

******

Lector Ranessin and Father Dinivan are discussing the gaudy litter that has been brought for the Lector to be carried in, which they send away. Ranessin despises unnecessary pomp, having little good to say of the guards and escorts required to walk with him.

Ranessin thinks to himself that there is hope for Elias, John’s successor.

The prince was undoubtedly courageous, decisive, bold – all traits rare in the songs of great men. The king-to-be was also short-tempered and somewhat careless, but – Duos wulstei – these were faults often cured, or at least softened by responsibility and good counsel.

Ranessin decides he will send a trustworthy advisor to assist the new king – perhaps Velligis – to counteract “Elias’ bloody-minded young nobles, and that blowing idiot, Bishop Domitis.”

******

On the first of Feyever, Simon – hiding in the unused choir loft – watches the nobles in resentful fascination. He feels that it is wrong that those who live(d) in the castle with King John should be scurrying around, while all these people from far away have the best seats for the funeral.

Lector Ranessin says numerous prayers for the fallen king, speaking first in Nabbanai, but then changing to “country-plain Westerling,” Prester John’s language. The Lector tells the story of Lord Usires hanging upside down on the Execution Tree, and his last moments before dying, reminding those in attendance that John is now with their holy Lord.

After the Lector finishes speaking, and everyone leaves the chapel, Simon watches again as body servants dress the king and do the final preparations. He is dressed in his ceremonial armor, and taken away.

******

Duke Isgrimnur watches Prester John’s body pass by him on the journey up to Swertclif, remembering the times they had battled together against Thrithingsmen.

He watches then as Elias, the Lector, Josua, and Miriamele – Elias’ only child – follow the procession. John’s body is lain out on his boat, Sea-Arrow, and then forty soldiers lift the boat up by poles and bear it the half a league towards the Swertclif grave. The boat is lowered into the massive hole, and then honoraries from all the surrounding areas each bring gifts with which to leave so that John may take them with him to the afterlife. Isgrimnur brings to the king his black war-boots, and places them onto the dead king’s feet. Backing out, he nearly steps on Prince Josua.

Isgrimnur was shocked to see that Josua carried John’s sword Bright-Nail on a gray cloth.

What happens here? Isgrimnur wondered. What is he doing with the sword?

As the Duke reached the first row of the crowd and turned to watchi, his unease deepened: Josua had lain Bright-Nail on the king’s chest and was clasping John’s hands about the hilt.

Isgrimnur is very disturbed that the sword is being buried, as it should be kept with Elias, and at the very least, Elias should be laying the sword in the grave himself, not Josua. He then watches as Elias walks into the grave to say goodbye.

The heir to the throne bent over the gunwale of the boat. What he sent with his father no one could see, but it was noted by all that although a tear sparkled on Elias’ cheek when he turned, Josua’s eyes were dry.

Final prayers are said, and then the grave is closed, ending the ceremony.

******

Simon is in attendance as a servant for the feast that night, where it is noted that Isgrimnur, “one of John’s most faithful knights,” is slighted by having to sit away from the high table with Prince Josua, while around Elias’ table sit others who had not been known to be John’s friends. At the high table are Guthwulf of Bhutanese, Fengbald the Earl of Flashire, Breyugar of the Westfold, Skali of Kaldskryke, and others. Eventually, Simon notices a newcomer come into the room and wedge himself between Elias and Guthwulf, who sit at the high table.

The newcomer was robed in most unfunereal scarlet, with black and gold piping wound about the hem of his voluminous sleeves. As he leaned forward to whisper in Elias’ ear, Simon watched him in helpless fascination. The man was completely hairless, without even eyebrows or lashes, but his features were those of a youngish man. His skin, tight-stretched on his skull, was notably pale even in the flaring orange rushlight; his eyes were deep-sunken and so dark that they seemed only shiny black spots below his naked brows. Simon knew those eyes – they had glared out at him from the hooded cloak of the car-driver who had nearly run him down at Nearulagh Gate. He shuddered and stared. There was something sickening but enthralling about the man, like a swaying serpent.

Simon is interrupted out of his staring by a young man who introduces himself as Sangfugol, who is simply looking for some more wine. The two speak for awhile, with Sangfugol making jokes at Isgrimnur’s expense, and the two share a drink. Sangfugol is part of Josua’s retinue, and is the prince’s personal harpist, which surprises Simon, who assumes Josua wouldn’t like music.

They continue talking, and Sangfugol informs Simon that the scary man he had been looking at is in fact Pryrates, Elias’ counselor. He jokes with Simon that Pryrates is born of a demon, then takes leave of the youth, clasping his hand and saying farewell. Simon is then called out to serve more wine at the high table, where Earl Fengbald and Guthwulf are having an arm-wrestling match. Simon pours everyone’s wine, including Pryrates, then notices a little puppy from a litter of dogs, scrounging around near Pryrates, trying to dig some food out from beneath the alchemist’s feet.

“Come!” Simon hissed, backing farther away adn slapping his knee, but the dog paid no heed. It began to dig with both paws, its back bumping against the priest’s red-robed calf. “Come along!” Simon whispered again.

Pryrates turned his head to look down, shiny skull pivoting slowly on his long neck. He lifted his foot and brought his heavy boot down on the dog’s back – a swift, compact movement finished in a heartbeat. There was a crack of splintered bone and a muffled squeal; the little dog writhed helplessly in the stray until Pryrates lifted his heel again and crushed its skull.

Simon gazes in horror and the priest smirks at him, before turning away, with Simon running away in terror and disgust.

******

That night, just before midnight, crowds of people were called outside with people yelling about something in the sky. It turns out to be a red comet, flying across the sky. Many people cheer, believing the star to be an omen of a new age with a new king. Simon also follows outside, and sees Morgenes looking out at the sky as well.

The old man, wrapped in a heavy robe against the chill air, did not notice his apprentice – he, too, was staring up at the bearded star, the scarlet slash across the vault of Heaven. But unlike the others, there was no drunkenness or glee upon his face. He looked fearful and cold and small.

He looked, Simon thought, like a man alone in the wilderness listening to the hungry song of wolves . . .

Commentary

That’s a long damn chapter, and a lot of very important things happen, which may be obvious from the amount of quotes I have above.

Of particular note, we get a few character-building scenes in regards to Josua. Looking back on the series after having read it multiple times, I have to wonder if Tad Williams actually wanted us to think Josua was the “Bad Prince,” and possibly Elias was the “Good Prince.” We see various descriptions of Josua as “cold,” “cynical,” “gloomy,” he didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and his conversation with Morgenes could be taken in a way which suggests he would like a potion from Morgenes that will not only “end John’s suffering,” but “end it, like, now.” I’m just sayin’

During this first meeting with Josua, Simon, and Morgenes, we get our first mention (minus the Foreword) of Morgenes’ history on Prester John’s life, which will be an extremely important part of the story. And it is simply mentioned in passing. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I don’t recall the manuscript becoming uber-important until the very end of this book, or even next book.

It was nice to see the first two “real” non-Simon POVs in the book so far. We get an immediate feeling of the warmth of Lector Ranessin, and his caring for those around him. Isgrimnur is filled with confusion, disappointment, sorrow (at the loss of his friend), and many other things which will play into the story later on.

And a very important clue for later, we see the first sign of Elias shunning Bright-Nail. About that…

First of all, we know that Elias doesn’t have Sorrow yet, which means he hasn’t started his weird Sithi-transformation and aversion to iron yet, so it seems unlikely that that is actually what is going on here. Yet Towser does tell a story later about how he tried to present the sword to Elias, as Prester John had requested of him just a few chapters before, Elias dropped the sword, almost as if in pain. I’m pulling this from memory, so we may review this once we reach that chapter. Anyway, it’s interesting to me that at that point, I’m pretty sure Pryrates wouldn’t have been giving Elias his potion either, so what is that all about?

You could possibly look at it from an emotional point of view – Elias wants nothing to do with his Father, his Father’s Legacy, and the like – wants to be his own ruler, or whatever, but that doesn’t seem to warrant the what-I-remember-to-be-a-physical reaction he has to the sword. Anyone have some info on that?

So anyway, the good Duke reminisces about his times with John, and we get a good indication of the level of their friendship, which makes it all the worse when we find out he and Josua (and others) have been shunned at the party that night. We’re seeing the first formings of alliances at this point, with Josua and Isgrimnur at one table, and Elias, Fengbald, Guthwulf, Skali, and Breyugar at the high table. And on that, I found it to be particularly interesting that, when Pryrates joins the table, Tad goes to extra effort to describe that the priest had to push himself between Elias and Guthwulf. Foreshadowing for later on, methinks?

In a little bit of light before the (very) dark, we meet the character of Sangfugol, who is one of my favorite and least-favorite characters at the same time. Favorite, because he is a cheerful, happy man (seemingly, anyway) who provides a very important thing to Simon – an of-age male friendship – which no other character really does. Sure, Binabik is close (and certainly more important), but I still picture Binabik as a young adult, maybe 20-30 years old (in human years), while Simon is just 15/16 and I picture Sangfugal as high teens. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but that’s what I think. However, I feel like his character changes into too much of a comic-relief, sassy whiner-type of a character by the end of the series. Many of the lines he says (later on, books 2 and 3), make me think of that snarky sidekick character on some sitcom whose only purpose in speaking is for the audience to go, “Whooooooo!” or “Uh, Oh! Sangfugal, you crazy man!” Maybe I’ll think differently by the end of the series this time, but I do remember liking him a lot in the first book, and not liking him nearly so much in the later books.

Then, the dark comes. We get to finally meet Pryrates. We’ve had a slow build-up of what he’s all about. Josua calls him something like, “That mad priest,” others refer to him the same way, Simon is almost run over by him, and then… this. Seriously. Crushing a puppy’s back and skull – and not because it was bothering him, but because that was the quickest, most efficient way to be rid of the little thing. Then, he just grins at Simon. Simon’s reaction is probably acceptable in these circumstances – it wouldn’t have bothered me if the priest had been beheaded for a crime like that, but by this point in the story, we’re already being introduced to the fact that the kingdom may be on a downward spiral soon, so it’s unlikely anyone in authority would have cared about Pryrates’ act anyway. Except poor Simon.

Hello, Conquerer Star! We’ll see you more later!

Tad uses a great literary technique here, as well. What is the best way to show you how bad-ass some ninja Sith Lord is in a Star Wars movie? Have him kill someone like Qui-Gon Jinn, whom at this point, we have considered much more bad-ass.

How do you make Simon (and the readers) fear something? You show them that the stalwart, strong, and good people in the story are gravely and terribly afraid of something, like Morgenes was of the star.

Oh, and Morgenes is teaching Simon to read. Cold, calculated move, knowing Simon will be needed in the future, or warm, fuzzy move out of caring and friendship? Or both?

******
Aaaaaand, that’s a wrap. Again, I apologize for the delay, but I’m honestly not promising a schedule anyway, so why should I apologize? The next one should be out in a week or so. Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “The Dragonbone Chair Part Two, Chapters 4 – 6

  1. “Tad Williams has done an amazing job in crafting a world, and he has used a brilliant literary technique to give us, the readers, history lessons – he has made the main character to be a young boy who has no idea what is going on in the world, and must therefore have things explained to him in great detail, and often! It’s a beautiful and calculated move on Tad’s part, and it worked perfectly, in my opinion.”

    Well, of course I agree. If you expect your readers to immerse themselves in a 3,500 page master-work, you better give them a lot of exposition! I’ve seen this technique used effectively before, particularly by Geoorge R.R. Martin (where the Stark children have everything explained to them by their elders), but Tad takes it to a new level. The first 12 chapters are pages and pages of exposition for the intricate story that follows!

    “Of course, as well know, Cadrach is very, very far from the minor, throwaway character he seems to be at first. I believe I remember Tad saying in an interview, or online somewhere, that originally, Cadrach was not meant to have quite as large a role as he ended up having. I don’t know what changed Tad’s mind, unless he just had decisions to make on how to progress the story, and using a character who had already been introduced seemed smarter than creating new characters, but I’ve always liked Cadrach’s character and role, and am thus happy Tad did make him more important to the story.”

    From what I remember, Tad said Cadrach was originally just going to be a one-off character, with no later staoryline, but he somehow wormed his way back into the story.

    “I must say, even though I did not know Cadrach’s character, even the first time I read this story, I was immediately suspicious when Simon’s purse turned up missing.”

    I don’t remember my thoughts, but I was 14 at the time I first read the story, so I doubt I was suspicious of the monk. He was a monk, after all. Who would suspect a monk?

    “Re – Simon’s climbing of the Tower, I must admit, I’ve never gotten a very clear picture of just how tall the Tower really is. There are hyperbolic examples of “how long one would fall from the top to the bottom,” and the likes, but is it ever mentioned in feet, yards, cubits, or whatever exactly how tall the blasted Tower is?”

    Yes. Chapter 1, page 5 states the tower is 200 cubits tall, from the Angel’s outstretched hand to the moat below. Different measurements of cubits exist, but a cubit is roughly 2 feet. This would make Green Angel Tower 400 feet tall, making it between 1/3rd and 1/4th as tall as the Empire State Building, about 1/2 the height of the Trump World Tower, and taller than the World Building, a skyscraper built in 1890.

    “I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I don’t recall the manuscript becoming uber-important until the very end of this book, or even next book.”

    Morganes’ manuscript becomes uber-important about 2/3rds through this book.

    “You could possibly look at it from an emotional point of view – Elias wants nothing to do with his Father, his Father’s Legacy, and the like – wants to be his own ruler, or whatever, but that doesn’t seem to warrant the what-I-remember-to-be-a-physical reaction he has to the sword. Anyone have some info on that?”

    Not info, but theories. The Three Swords seem somewhat “alive”, and have wills of their own. Bright-Nail wasn’t *meant* to go to Elias; in the Grand Plan, Sorrow was to go to Elias, and the other Swords would find other bearers. Note that later in the book, Thorn rejects Sludig and Haestan, sticking quite firmly to the floor like a giant magnet: they cannot budge it from the floor. But it accepts Simon, becoming light-weight in his hands. Elias wasn’t the “right” person for Bright-Nail, just as Sludig wasn’t the right bearer for Thorn.

    “However, I feel like his character changes into too much of a comic-relief, sassy whiner-type of a character by the end of the series. Many of the lines he says (later on, books 2 and 3), make me think of that snarky sidekick character on some sitcom whose only purpose in speaking is for the audience to go, “Whooooooo!” or “Uh, Oh! Sangfugal, you crazy man!””

    This made me laugh hard. I think it’s fairly accurate, too: Sangfugol somewhat becomes the comic relief, unfortunately. “Oh no you di’int, Sangfugol”! (It’s one of the reasons I think the third book is not quite as good as the first two volumes… that and the ruination of Sludig’s storyline).

    “Oh, and Morgenes is teaching Simon to read. Cold, calculated move, knowing Simon will be needed in the future, or warm, fuzzy move out of caring and friendship? Or both?”

    Not the first choice, I don’t think: although he *had* to prepare him as best he could. I think he probably thought it was very, very unlikely that Simon would ever come into his own inheritance, but it just wouldn’t do to have the descendant of King Eahlstan not even able to read.

  2. Email never told me anyone replied, sorry this response is so long in coming!

    From what I remember, Tad said Cadrach was originally just going to be a one-off character, with no later storyline, but he somehow wormed his way back into the story.

    I would certainly like to hear sometime more about his “worming back into the story.” I wonder where and when Williams decided this, as well as if Cadrach is based off anyone in Williams’ life that may have made his inclusion in the story more necessary.

    I don’t remember my thoughts, but I was 14 at the time I first read the story, so I doubt I was suspicious of the monk. He was a monk, after all. Who would suspect a monk?

    I grew up in churches, so the inner-workings of those of religious faith is viewed a little differently by me. Let’s just say, *I* would suspect a monk, and leave it at that. 🙂

    Yes. Chapter 1, page 5 states the tower is 200 cubits tall, from the Angel’s outstretched hand to the moat below. Different measurements of cubits exist, but a cubit is roughly 2 feet. This would make Green Angel Tower 400 feet tall, making it between 1/3rd and 1/4th as tall as the Empire State Building, about 1/2 the height of the Trump World Tower, and taller than the World Building, a skyscraper built in 1890.

    Ahh, just missed it I guess. Interesting that it’s not really that tall by modern-day standards, but as a work of pre-industrial society (with a bit of help from magic, I imagine), it would be quite a feat. I wish there were good pictures of the Tower standing over Erkynland and the Hayholt.

    Not info, but theories. The Three Swords seem somewhat “alive”, and have wills of their own. Bright-Nail wasn’t *meant* to go to Elias; in the Grand Plan, Sorrow was to go to Elias, and the other Swords would find other bearers. Note that later in the book, Thorn rejects Sludig and Haestan, sticking quite firmly to the floor like a giant magnet: they cannot budge it from the floor. But it accepts Simon, becoming light-weight in his hands. Elias wasn’t the “right” person for Bright-Nail, just as Sludig wasn’t the right bearer for Thorn.

    And by that theory, that would insinuate that Bright-Nail just didn’t want Elias messing with It, and instead of being too heavy, just made Itself somewhat nauseating to behold. Interesting.

    This made me laugh hard. I think it’s fairly accurate, too: Sangfugol somewhat becomes the comic relief, unfortunately. “Oh no you di’int, Sangfugol”! (It’s one of the reasons I think the third book is not quite as good as the first two volumes… that and the ruination of Sludig’s storyline).

    Agreed, and I hate that degression. Though, what ruination of Sludig’s storyline are you referring to? I think my liking of Sludig went down in the later books as well, but I don’t remember a specific reason for that off the top of my head.

    And as an aside, I definitely like the third book less than the other two – not for the ending which people like to castigate, but for the fact that I just feel like some of the characters lost their mojo, and a lot of the story was streeeeetched a bit.

    Thanks so much for the comments, hope to have the next part up soon.

  3. I’ve complained a bit about Sludig’s storyline in a previous MS&T re-read, so I’ll be as brief as possible. Sludig is a great character who was well-written and interesting throughout The Dragonbone Chair and Stone of Farewell.

    His storyline in To Green Angel Tower, though, is tiny and makes no sense. He has a horse at Sesuadra, then he has no horse. There are indications that he will be honored when Duke Isgrimnur reaches Sesuadra, but when the old Duke reaches the stone, there’s no mention of any honors. Sludig’s storyline just… fades away, and he plays no important part in the third book. He becomes a background character with no lines for about 1,000 pages. Binabik, Miriamele, and Simon head to Green Angel Tower, and strangely Sludig apparently is content to let them go, after traveling with Simon and Binabik for 2,000 pages. I say “apparently” because we don’t actually know what he was thinking, after being demoted from ‘major character’ to ‘moving scenery’ or ‘background Rimmersman #6’. It strikes me as odd and artificial when I read TGAT.

    I only complain because the rest of the story is so well written that oddities like this stick out to me.

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