Haroun and the Sea of Stories

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Haroun and the Sea of Stories Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The presence of the captured "spy" creates a buzz of horror and outrage in the Garden, particularly when Rashid says that he is a storyteller and a subscriber to the Story Water service. Haroun begins to push his way through the crowd and as he goes, he hears Guppees muttering both about Rashid and Batcheat's poor singing. Iff follows, imploring Haroun to be patient, and Haroun angrily asks Iff what Guppees do to spies, listing several gruesome torture tactics. Iff and the Guppees in earshot are shocked, and Iff says that they've never caught a spy, and would maybe scold him or make him write, "I must not spy" 1001 times. Reaching the palace balcony, Haroun shouts up to Rashid and asks what he's doing here. He continues shouting that Rashid isn't a spy, he's just lost "the Gift of the Gab," which embarrasses Rashid.
Batcheat's poor singing (as well as her extremely ugly facial features) will be a running gag throughout the novel, and her singing in particular serves to make clear that simply being able to speak doesn't inherently mean that one's speech is good, or pleasant to listen to. (The singing princess is also perhaps a twist on Soraya, Haroun’s mother, corresponding to Rashid’s similarly verbose but useless Bolo.) Batcheat will later sing love songs with appropriate content but that sound awful, while Bolo has admirable intentions but is incapable of speaking eloquently. Notice again the reference to 1001 Arabian Nights.
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A young page named Blabbermouth is sent to escort Haroun to the royal quarters of the palace. Blabbermouth wears a tunic with the story “Bolo and the Golden Fleece” written on it. Haroun becomes increasingly puzzled as he sees other familiar stories with the titles changed to include Bolo, but when he asks Blabbermouth about it, he refuses to answer.
The stories on the Pages' tunics are essentially censored to read a certain way. This instance of censorship appears more or less benign (and humorous), but the importance of preserving stories will come up later, and it's interesting to note these changes and consider if the stories are truly being preserved.
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In the Throne Room, Rashid, sipping soup, is telling his story to Prince Bolo, General Kitab, the Speaker, and the Walrus. He tells them that he arrived in Gup thanks to eating certain food that not only induces sleep, but allows the sleeper to travel wherever they wish, and he wished to wake up in Gup. However, he slightly miscalculated and ended up in the Twilight Strip and froze half to death. When Bolo inquires as to what the food is, Rashid offers a mysterious answer. Haroun worries that they'll punish Rashid, but Bolo just laughs.
Haroun is operating on an entirely different understanding of how power works as he worries Rashid will be punished. This instance will serve to further flesh out the defining characteristics of the Guppees: namely that they're open, mild-mannered, and not easily offended by something as simple as a mysterious answer.
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Haroun muses that the Guppees are quite a gentle and credulous people, as well as peaceful, if the worst they'd do to a spy is sentence him to 1001 lines. He thinks then that the Guppees will be a lost cause in a war, stopping short of thinking that they'd be “khattam-shud.”
The idea and the necessity of khattam-shud is intrinsic to Haroun's understanding of the world. He is, however, beginning to parse out the difference between Alfibay and Gup with his realization here.
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Rashid resumes his story, telling his audience that he came across an encampment of the Chupwala Army, cloaked in silence. He continues that Chup has fallen under the power of the "Mystery of Bezaban." In the old days, Khattam-Shud only hated stories and nonsense, but now he opposes speech generally, and upholds the Silence Laws. Wild devotees to Bezaban sew their lips together with twine and die of hunger and thirst. Haroun finally inquires as to what Bezeban is, and Rashid answers that it's a gigantic idol carved out of black ice with no tongue, but a frightful grin.
Khattam-Shud presumably figured out that as long as his subjects were allowed to speak, he was unable to truly enforce a ban only on stories. Moving from there to the Silence Laws represents a major form of censorship, as he's dictating not just what his subjects can or cannot say, but robbing them of their use of speech in general. We'll see later that this extreme censorship has dire consequences.
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Moving towards the light, Rashid encountered Chattergy's Wall, which is full of holes, and there he witnessed Batcheat's capture. Bolo leaps to his feet and speaks foolishly; the other dignitaries look embarrassed. Rashid continues, saying that he saw a boat approach the wall carrying a woman, singing the worst song he'd ever heard, with an awful nose and teeth. The Walrus asks what Batcheat was doing in the Twilight Strip, and Iff offers that many young people go to the Twilight Strip to see the stars.
Bolo thus far has said nothing useful, further cementing him as a character who provides comic relief and a kind of parody of lovesickness and verbosity, but is relatively useless within the logic of the story. The Guppees will later discuss their love of sharing secrets, so the fact that young people secretly go to the Twilight Strip and successfully keep that quiet adds questions to how open the Guppees truly are.
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Rashid assures Bolo that Batcheat wasn't there to meet another man, as she was just with her handmaidens. They tried to touch the wall, and suddenly a group of Chupwalas seized the ladies and carried them off. Bolo angrily asks Rashid why he did nothing, and the other dignitaries look pained. Iff, seeing Haroun's anger, whispers that they don't let princes do anything important and not to worry about it. Rashid points out that had he tried to save Batcheat, he would've been killed, whereas now he can bring Bolo news of Batcheat and her whereabouts. Bolo is forced to apologize. Rashid adds one final thing-- the Great Feast of Bezaban is coming, and the Chupwalas mean to offer Batcheat as a sacrifice and stitch her lips closed. It is decided that the Guppees must certainly go to war, and Haroun insists Rashid take him as well.
Notice the censorship at play here: Bolo is permitted to say whatever he likes by virtue of being a prince, but Iff indicates that he doesn't actually "do anything important"; in other words, Bolo's words aren't censored, but he himself is. The rest of the dignitaries seem perfectly willing to listen to Rashid and take his story as a highly useful piece of intelligence, while Bolo is insulting and rude. However, Rashid's final item has a galvanizing effect on his listeners, as it adds a sense of urgency to rescuing Batcheat and unites them in this cause. Haroun is gaining confidence too as he insists on participating.
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Haroun, despite his protests, is sent to bed, and Blabbermouth is told to lead Haroun to his room. He leads Haroun through winding passageways, spouting anti-Batcheat tirades all the while, explaining that Batcheat changed the Pages' uniforms to be all about Bolo rather than the actual protagonists of the stories. Blabbermouth, reaching a doorway, tells Haroun it's his bedroom, but the doors burst open to reveal King Chattergy's bedroom instead. Haroun and Blabbermouth are sent on their way, and Haroun asks if they're lost. Blabbermouth admits that it's a complicated palace, and Haroun, frustrated, swings at his head and knocks his cap off. Shiny black hair cascades down, and Haroun realizes Blabbermouth is a girl.
Batcheat evidently has the power to exert her own form of censorship in the control she's granted over the Pages' uniforms. Despite Blabbermouth's disdain, we see here that the thought behind this action is one of love and not a malicious bid for control, as Khattam-Shud's acts of censorship are. The stories Blabbermouth mentions are primarily stories from 1001 Arabian Nights, returning again to that motif and indicating that those stories exist in this world too.
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Haroun asks Blabbermouth if she's a girl, and Blabbermouth, incensed, drags Haroun behind a curtain to tell him how hard life as a Page is for a girl. The two finally resolve their argument and Blabbermouth offers to show Haroun the view from the palace roof. When they arrive at the roof, Haroun takes in the view and Blabbermouth pulls three balls from her pocket and begins to juggle. She's a skilled juggler, and keeps adding balls until she's reached 11. Haroun thinks that her juggling reminds her of Rashid's storytelling, and says as much. He says that he always thought storytelling was like juggling because you have different tales in the air and if you're good, you don't drop them. Blabbermouth puts her balls away, shrugs, and says that she just wanted Haroun to know who he was dealing with.
Blabbermouth is shown to be many things in these passages, and what we're presented of her character sets us up to understand her actions later. She has evidently worked very hard to get where she is, and she's proud of both being a page and her juggling. Haroun again remarks that juggling and storytelling share certain similarities, which Blabbermouth brushes off but doesn't deny. She's also not entirely the angry person we saw when she began yelling at Haroun, as she's willing to share with him the gorgeous view from the palace roof.
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Many hours later, Haroun wakes in his darkened room with Blabbermouth sitting on his chest, squeezing his throat. She whispers that if he tells anyone about her, she won't stop squeezing next time. Haroun promises, and Blabbermouth smiles and says that the army is gathering in the Pleasure Garden.
Blabbermouth has a flair for the dramatic in addition to her penchant for verbally abusing her princess. Her headstrong nature will continue to be developed later.
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