Till We Have Faces

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The Priest of Ungit presides over the goddess’s temple and interprets her will to the King. He believes deeply in Ungit’s presence and power, and his faith makes Orual question the Fox’s teachings to the contrary. The Priest frightens Orual with the feeling of holiness that hangs around him, caused by the bird mask he wears on his chest and the odor of sacrificial blood that follows him. Furthermore, he is the one who initiates the sacrifice of Psyche. Neither the King nor Orual likes him, but both have to pay attention to his demands. The Priest eventually dies around the same time that the King does. The Priest is also blind, a condition that carries significance in a novel that focuses often on what sight reveals or fails to reveal—Psyche’s physical beauty; Orual’s ugliness, concealed behind her veil; Psyche’s palace in the valley. The Priest’s blindness seems to exempt him from the sort of doubts that Orual has when the gods refuse to show her anything clearly. It also connects him to people’s inner lives, which are where Ungit resides, more than their physical appearances.

The Priest of Ungit Quotes in Till We Have Faces

The Till We Have Faces quotes below are all either spoken by The Priest of Ungit or refer to The Priest of Ungit. 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:
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of Till We Have Faces published in 2012.
Part 1: Chapter 5 Quotes

And when the Brute is Ungit it lies with the man, and when it is her son it lies with the woman. And either way there is a devouring... many different things are said... many sacred stories... many great mysteries. Some say the loving and the devouring are all the same thing. For in sacred language we say that a woman who lies with a man devours the man.

Related Characters: The Priest of Ungit (speaker), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Priest is explaining to the King how the Great Offering works—in other words, what will happen to Psyche when they sacrifice her. Although the Fox challenges the logic of the way the Priest talks about the gods, the Priest himself feels entirely comfortable with the contradictions and mysteries that make up his religion and he doesn’t believe that contradiction and mystery make faith any less true. This passage shows that the gods are not stable entities, but instead they can instead take on each other’s identities or temporarily become something else. The Brute, the monster that will take the human sacrifice, seems to be an independent entity that is simultaneously either Ungit or Ungit’s son. Later, a similar process allows Orual, Ungit, and Psyche to blend in and out of each other.

Furthermore, the Brute has sex with the sacrifice, but it also consumes the sacrifice, possibly through the same action. None of this makes logical sense, as the Fox would be quick to point out. But throughout the novel, loving and devouring are paired, particularly in association with Ungit. It becomes clear that Orual’s love always involves a devouring of her beloved’s life, since she feels the need to entirely possess anyone she loves. This sort of love is lesser than the pure love that Psyche can feel, which is also the love that the ultimate god at the end of the book demands.

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I, King, have dealt with the gods for three generations of men, and I know that they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them. Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them.

Related Characters: The Priest of Ungit (speaker), Trom (The King), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Priest of Ungit comes to the palace to tell the King he must sacrifice Psyche to solve Glome’s problems, the Fox argues that the Priest’s explanation of situation makes no logical sense. The Priest, however, has no respect for the Fox’s logic, saying that logic doesn’t apply to the gods. The gods deal only in mystery and contradiction, and mortals must accept a state of blindness rather than rage against the gods’ mysteries. Orual essentially spends the entire book coming to accept this truth about the gods, as she always wants them to speak to her clearly so that she can understand what they expect of her.

Additionally, the Priest explains that the gods are not independent entities, but instead move through each other in a way that cannot be fully understood. Thus the Shadowbrute can be both Ungit and the god of the Mountain. Later, Orual will learn that the gods also flow through humans, as she herself becomes Ungit and thus, perhaps, the Shadowbrute.

The Fox deals only with “knowledge and words,” and he later realizes that this is not enough to nourish the human soul. Instead, people need the “life and strength” that the gods can provide, even if the gods will never make sense.

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The Priest of Ungit Character Timeline in Till We Have Faces

The timeline below shows where the character The Priest of Ungit appears in Till We Have Faces. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...bridal hymn, even though none of them speak Greek. As they’re learning, the King brings the Priest of Ungit to hear the song. Orual is frightened by the smell of the Priest, a holy... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 2
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...birth, superstition dictates that no one go to sleep. They sit in the great hall, the Priest of Ungit performing ceremonies around a fire. Orual is afraid, but the Fox tells her not to... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The King tells the Priest of Ungit that he must repay what the King has sacrificed to Ungit, suggesting that he might... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 3
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...makes jabs at Psyche and the Fox and ponders Ungit’s opinion, then threatens to tell the Priest of Ungit what has happened. She commands Orual to give her a certain necklace, and Orual, frightened,... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...the palace. Orual worries that Ungit will be angry, but the Fox assures her that the Priest of Ungit is ill, too, and can’t do anything. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 4
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...until now. Their love of Psyche comforts her somewhat; even if Ungit might be angry, the Priest of Ungit would probably not attack Psyche through mortal means, because he would risk angering the people.... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Priest of Ungit has had a long fight with the fever, but he recovers. A week... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 5
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The King offers the Priest of Ungit wine, but he’s under a vow not to eat or drink until he has delivered... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Orual feels afraid of the Priest of Ungit , who now says that Ungit only gets angry for a reason, and when she... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The King offers to give them the next thief captured, but the Priest of Ungit specifies that they must find the Accursed to die in the Great Offering. He reveals... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...asks to speak and suggests that the shepherd simply saw the shadow of the lion. The Priest of Ungit brushes him off, replying that even if the Brute is a shadow, that... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The King asks how to make the Great Offering. The Priest of Ungit explains that the victim is given to the Brute, who is either Ungit... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Fox asks to speak again and argues that the Priest of Ungit ’s words make no sense. The Priest is contradicting himself—the Accursed is supposed to be... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Fox seems hurt by the Priest of Ungit calling him a coward. Orual would like to kill the Priest and make the Fox... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The King orders Bardia to kill the temple guards waiting outside. Bardia is skeptical, and the Priest of Ungit tells the King that all of Glome is ready to fight, and even the palace... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
When Bardia leaves, the King takes out his dagger and puts it to the Priest of Ungit ’s ribs, threatening to kill him. Orual is impressed by the Priest’s calm. Not moving,... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
The King throws himself back to his chair. The Priest finally reveals that the lots said the King isn’t the Accursed, and Orual is ashamed... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 7
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
When Psyche calms down, she says that the Priest of Ungit has visited her. She wonders if the Fox’s view of the world might be faulty.... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 9
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...supposed to resemble the egg or womb that created the world, and in the spring, the Priest of Ungit ceremonially battles his way out of the temple to birth the new year. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 10
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...she tried to tell the people they were making a mistake, she couldn’t speak clearly. The Priest of Ungit ordered that she be given more of the drug. (full context)
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...comforted Psyche was a vague thought of the Fox’s philosophy about the divine mixed with the Priest of Ungit ’s words about sacrifice. It came from deep inside her. Suddenly the weather changed. It... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 16
Self-understanding Theme Icon
...thinks she’ll be driven out of Glome in the struggle for power. Arnom admits that the Priest of Ungit is also dying, and he himself will take his place unless the King forbids it.... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 18
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Arnom comes in wearing the bird mask, and Orual knows that the Priest of Ungit has died and Arnom is the new Priest—but she doesn’t fear him like she did... (full context)