Haroun and the Sea of Stories

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Khattam-Shud Character Analysis

The villain of the novel, the archenemy of stories and language and the Prince of Silence. He's described as a clerkish, sniveling man with a monotonous voice. Because "khattam-shud" means "the end" or "it is finished," his name is used at the end of things. He is the Cultmaster of the Cult of Bezaban, which promotes silence and the end of stories. Khattam-Shud's goal is to silence all stories so that he can control Kahani and Earth. He tries to accomplish this by poisoning stories in the Ocean and plugging the source of new stories, the Wellspring. He also figured out how to separate himself from his Shadow, allowing him to be in two places at once. He corresponds to Mr. Sengupta in Alfibay.

Khattam-Shud Quotes in Haroun and the Sea of Stories

The Haroun and the Sea of Stories quotes below are all either spoken by Khattam-Shud or refer to Khattam-Shud. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language, Words, and Naming Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Granta Books and Penguin edition of Haroun and the Sea of Stories published in 1991.
Chapter 2 Quotes

"Khattam-Shud," he said slowly, "is the Arch-Enemy of all Stories, even of Language itself. He is the Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech. And because everything ends, because dreams end, stories end, life ends, at the finish of everything we use his name. "'It's finished,' we tell one another, 'it's over. Khattam-Shud: The End.'"

Related Characters: Rashid Khalifa (speaker), Haroun Khalifa, Khattam-Shud
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Haroun asked Rashid about one of his old stories, when Rashid remarks that he thought they were "khattam-shud" throughout their harrowing bus ride. Rashid answers Haroun’s question with this description of Khattam-Shud.

The novel here brings the idea of "the end" to life in the form of the character Khattam-Shud. Remember that khattam-shud without capitalization is a Hindustani word that means "completely finished," and as Rashid shares here, in Alfibay it's used to indicate the end of something (like saying “The End” when a fairy tale is finished). By bringing an idea to life as a character in this way, the idea becomes more tangible and more easily accessible. The reader is able to engage with the idea by analyzing the idea in terms of character traits, motivation, and relationship to other characters, which transforms the idea of the end into something concrete. Further, this description of Khattam-Shud is echoed through the novel several times, and it takes the meaning of khattam-shud and clearly lays out the goals of Khattam-Shud the character: to destroy stories, enforce silence, and end everything.

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Chapter 9 Quotes

"It's our own fault," he wept. "We are the Guardians of the Ocean, and we didn't guard it. Look at the Ocean, look at it! The oldest stories ever made, and look at them now. We let them rot, we abandoned them, long before this poisoning. We lost touch with our beginnings, with our roots, our Wellspring, our Source. Boring, we said, not in demand, surplus to requirements. And now, look, just look! No colour, no life, no nothing. Spoilt!"

Related Characters: Iff (speaker), Haroun Khalifa, Khattam-Shud, Mali
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Haroun, Iff, and Butt have just been captured by Chupwalas and are being drawn through the weed jungle towards what they'll soon find out is Khattam-Shud's ship. Haroun's story can be considered a cautionary tale for what happens when a culture ceases to preserve and protect their history and oldest stories. The weed jungle and the cold, colorless Ocean act as physical representations of these forgotten cultural texts, while Khattam-Shud's entire operation shows what can then be done to the stories once they're forgotten. Iff is correct that stories can rot and decay if they're deemed boring, surplus, or no longer necessary (and then aren't told), but Khattam-Shud takes it one step further. He sees the opportunity to co-opt these old stories and poison them, and since they're no longer popular and in circulation, it becomes ridiculously easy to turn them around and use them for evil.

"But this is all too fanciful for words," he told himself. "A boat made out of shadows? A shadow-ship? Don't be nuts." But the idea kept nagging at him, and wouldn't let go. Look at the edges of everything here, said a voice in his head. The edges of the poison tanks, the crane, the ship itself. Don't they look, well, fuzzy? That's what shadows are like; even when they're sharp, they're never as sharp-edged as real, substantial things.

Related Characters: Haroun Khalifa (speaker), Khattam-Shud, Iff
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

Haroun and Iff are being shown onto Khattam-Shud's ship in the Old Zone of the Ocean. Haroun and Iff have been warned that since Khattam-Shud can separate himself from his shadow, he can be in two places at once, and here Haroun is confronted with the instinct that he's dealing with the shadow version.

Throughout the novel, Haroun has been on a journey in which he's not only attempting to save his father and stories, but in which he's also learning to trust himself. Haroun makes many observations about his surroundings, but this situation is extremely important to his growth and development. Through this mental nagging, Haroun is learning to trust in not just the logic he grew up with in Alfibay, but in the nonsensical, storybook logic of Kahani. This, in turn, allows Haroun to triumph, as he wins the war by accepting and working within the absurdity of Kahani.

"That's him? That's him?" Haroun thought, with a kind of disappointment. "This little minging fellow? What an anti-climax."

Related Characters: Haroun Khalifa (speaker), Khattam-Shud
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

Haroun and Iff have just been escorted onto the Dark Ship and are about to be introduced to Khattam-Shud, who has just appeared and is a disappointing villain. In this situation, the novel is engaging with conventions of how villains are supposed to look—scary, imposing, and evil, and not like an office clerk in fancy dress, which is how Haroun describes both the Chupwalas on the ship as well as Khattam-Shud himself. The novel, then, takes the position that evil isn't always obvious, expected, or easy to identify. It can indeed take the form of a clerk—and in the same vein, someone who looks perfectly normal may be wholly capable of doing intensely evil deeds. Note also that the word “minging” and the general description of Khattam-Shud links him to Mr. Sengupta, the “villain” of Haroun’s other story.

Chapter 10 Quotes

We must make a great many poisons, because each and every story in the Ocean needs to be ruined in a different way. To ruin a happy story, you must make it sad. To ruin an action drama, you must make it move too slowly. To ruin a mystery you must make the criminal's identity obvious even to the most stupid audience..."

Related Characters: Khattam-Shud (speaker), Haroun Khalifa, Iff
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

Khattam-Shud is explaining to Haroun and Iff how he and his Chupwala minions are going about manufacturing poisons to target individual stories in the Ocean. This is one situation in which the novel engages in a very direct way with storytelling elements and conventions, and asks in a more roundabout way what makes a good story. Khattam-Shud has evidently figured out how to make individual types of stories into bad stories, which will in turn mean that those stories aren't then told. This take on censorship varies greatly from what Khattam-Shud is enforcing in Chup with the Silence Laws, as he doesn't need to enforce silence to end these stories—he must merely make them unlikable, unsuccessful, and boring.

"But why do you hate stories so much?" Haroun blurted, feeling stunned. "Stories are fun..."
"The world, however, is not for Fun," Khattam-Shud replied. "The world is for Controlling."
"Which world?" Haroun made himself ask.
"Your world, my world, all worlds," came the reply. "They are all there to be Ruled. And inside every single story, inside every Stream in the Ocean, there lies a world, a story-world, that I cannot Rule at all. And that is the reason why."

Related Characters: Haroun Khalifa (speaker), Khattam-Shud
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Khattam-Shud is explaining to Iff and Haroun why he's poisoning all the stories in the Ocean and how he's going about this task. Through this exchange, we can compare how Khattam-Shud and Haroun view their worlds. Haroun, who sees stories, and by extension, his world, as existing for fun, has a much easier relationship to his world. It is there for him to try to understand and enjoy where possible, but most importantly, he's integrated into his world. This stands in stark contrast to Khattam-Shud, who sees himself as separate from his world. This puts him in a better position to control it, and his preferred method of trying to control the world (or worlds) is through censorship, halting language, and turning stories from fun into nothing.

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Khattam-Shud Character Timeline in Haroun and the Sea of Stories

The timeline below shows where the character Khattam-Shud appears in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Mail Coach
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...Haroun asks Rashid about a story he used to tell, and Rashid slowly responds that Khattam-Shud is the enemy of stories and of language itself, and because everything ends, people use... (full context)
Chapter 4: An Iff and a Butt
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...the Cultmaster of Bezaban, the leader of the Chupwalas. Iff says that his name is Khattam-Shud, and Haroun's blood runs cold. (full context)
Chapter 5: About Guppees and Chupwalas
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Haroun asks Iff to tell him about Khattam-Shud, and Iff replies with Rashid's exact words, that Khattam-Shud is the archenemy of stories and... (full context)
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...General Kitab adds that she's most likely being kept prisoner in the Ice Castle of Khattam-Shud in Chup City. The Speaker then says that the Guppees have sent messages to Khattam-Shud... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Spy's Story
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 8: Shadow Warriors
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...to them, as well as the Champion Warrior of Chup, second in command only to Khattam-Shud. Bolo suggests they capture him, which General Kitab harrumphs at. Rashid explains that Mudra has... (full context)
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...foot placement, eye movements, and face twitching. Mudra says that many Chupwalas are terrified of Khattam-Shud and don't worship Bezaban, and if Khattam-Shud were defeated, the Chupwalas would follow Mudra. The... (full context)
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Mudra picks up the narrative and says that Khattam-Shud has made trouble with shadows, as Khattam-Shud's black magic has turned him into a Shadow... (full context)
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General Kitab asks Mudra if he will help them overthrow Khattam-Shud, and Mudra agrees, but says they must make a decision. Blabbermouth whispers to Haroun that... (full context)
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...South Pole, where the fabled Wellspring, the Source of Stories, would be, as that's where Khattam-Shud will likely be. (full context)
Chapter 9: The Dark Ship
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...on their dismal state. Butt wails about the hopelessness of their situation and of what Khattam-Shud will do to them, and Haroun tries to be light-hearted. He reprimands Butt, saying that... (full context)
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...Butt, and Haroun, and all of these are scrawny and "weaselly-looking," with black cloaks bearing Khattam-Shud's insignia of the Zipped Lips. Haroun thinks that they look like a gang of office... (full context)
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Iff and Haroun are pushed towards a large hatchway, and out of the doors comes Khattam-Shud. He looks like the other Chupwalas—skinny, sniveling, and clerical, but at his presence the other... (full context)
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Haroun thinks that Khattam-Shud looks a little fuzzy or shadowy. He thinks this is likely the Cultmaster's Shadow, although... (full context)
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Suddenly, Haroun thinks that Khattam-Shud reminds him of someone. Khattam-Shud comes close to Haroun and begins a dull tirade on... (full context)
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Khattam-Shud seems not to notice Haroun's outburst, but says that stories have warped Haroun's brain. He... (full context)
Chapter 10: Haroun's Wish
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...and turns to twilight, and Iff and Haroun can see into the ship. They follow Khattam-Shud into the ship's belly, and Haroun thinks that the Chupwalas look like rock stars as... (full context)
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Khattam-Shud begins to explain that each story in the Ocean requires its own type of poison... (full context)
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After 11 minutes, Haroun stops listening but continues following Khattam-Shud and Iff. He starts paying attention again when he hears Khattam-Shud mention "the Plug." Khattam-Shud... (full context)
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Haroun asks how the divers can survive in the water without being hurt, and Khattam-Shud shows him a cabinet of protective suits, and then points out their Generator, which is... (full context)
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Haroun, noticing that Khattam-Shud's attention is not on him, bites the Bite-a-Lite. Light pours from his mouth, scattering shrieking... (full context)
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Haroun wonders out loud what happened to Khattam-Shud, and Iff shrugs and says that he certainly melted like the other shadows. Haroun thinks... (full context)
Chapter 11: Princess Batcheat
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The messenger addresses the commanders and tells them that Khattam-Shud released him from his vows of silence to deliver his message. He says that they're... (full context)
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...the Guppees, calling them liberators. Bolo, riding in front of the Army, begins shouting for Khattam-Shud to come out, and crying out for Batcheat. Chupwalas shout at him that if he'd... (full context)
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...Bolo, Mudra, and several Chapters of Pages rush the Citadel, calling for Batcheat. Servants of Khattam-Shud rush around in blind terror at the sun and the collapse of the Citadel. Batcheat... (full context)
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...the rest of the Guppee forces. Suddenly, Rashid shouts "look out!" to a scrawny, clerkish man—Khattam-Shud himself—as the head of Bezaban bounces and crashes into him. The Cultmaster is never seen... (full context)
Chapter 12: Was It the Walrus?
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...and even sings along with Rashid when he sings Mali's songs. When Rashid talks about Khattam-Shud, the audience stares at Mr. Buttoo and his henchmen, who look very unhappy. After the... (full context)