Till We Have Faces

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Till We Have Faces Part 1: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Orual goes to check on the King as soon as she wakes. Redival comes in, desperately asking what’s going on in the palace. Orual tells her that if the King dies, Orual will be Queen and will treat Redival as she deserves. Redival immediately tries to flatter Orual, who is disgusted. Orual says she won’t kill her, but she’ll punish her if she disobeys.
On one hand, Orual treats Redival as cruelly as ever, despising her falsity. On the other hand, Orual is beginning to control her tendency towards violence—she once swore she would kill Redival in return for betraying Psyche, so this display of mercy is a change.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Redival leaves and the Fox comes in. He apologizes for using Orual’s love for him to try to force her not to fight Argan. Bardia enters with news that a messenger has come from Argan. They go into the Pillar Room, where the messenger says Argan accepts the combat but plans to hang Orual after disarming her. Orual insults Argan’s age, knowing that word of the insult will spread. They work out the details of the fight with the Fox worried the whole time.
The Fox unconsciously exemplifies the kind of self-understanding that Orual lacks. In comparison to Orual’s use of love to coerce Psyche to return to her, the Fox’s attempt to use love to keep Orual from fighting Argan was extremely tame. Even so, the Fox thinks it was bad enough to warrant an apology, making Orual’s coercion seem even worse.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding 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 the old Priest. Arnom and the Fox talk about the King’s condition, and Orual and Bardia go outside.
By bargaining with Arnom earlier, Orual has taken some control over the affairs of Ungit. For this reason, both Arnom and Ungit don’t have the frightening sense of mystery that hung around the old Priest.
Themes
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Bardia is worried that Orual has never killed anyone, and it’s much harder than it seems, because it doesn’t feel natural to kill. He struggled the first time he killed someone. He worries that she might pause at a critical moment and let Argan get the upper hand. Orual imagines killing her father and says she doesn’t think she’ll pause. Even so, Bardia wants her to kill a pig, and she sees that she must do it to shut out the old Orual. She goes and kills the pig and decides that if she survives the duel, she and her advisors will eat it for dinner.
Orual exhibits surprisingly little trouble with the idea of killing a human, proving how hardened she has become and raising the possibility that if Psyche had refused to look at her lover’s face, Orual really might have killed her. However, she does see her old self as weakened by love, and thus she sees killing the pig as a way to also kill the old Orual.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
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Orual returns to the Pillar Room, where she frees the Fox from slavery. Immediately she hears Bardia and Arnom lamenting the loss of him, and she realizes he’s going to return to Greece. She’s distraught. He imagines how wonderful it would be to go home and begs her to let him think about it. She is overcome with sorrow and wanders through the gardens.
Orual acts well in freeing the Fox, but she has taken his presence for granted. She essentially re-enslaves him to her love, as he knows that she would hate for him to leave, and he loves her too much to be able to cause her this pain. Orual will later realize that she devoured the Fox’s life with her love.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Orual doesn’t understand how much the Fox wants to go home, because she’s never left Glome and she finds her home oppressive. She hates that the Fox might want to leave her, because she has always taken his presence for granted and she thought he did the same with her. She thinks that she’s not an essential part of anyone’s life. Even Bardia cares more about his family. The Fox only liked her because he had no one else. In fact, she thinks, he loved Psyche better. But part of Orual knows this isn’t true.
Orual interprets the Fox’s desire to go home as a betrayal and as proof that he doesn’t love her as much as she thought he did. She can’t understand that he might also love other things and have to make a painful choice between loves. For her, love is all or nothing. Once again, Orual’s jealousy of Psyche becomes clear, as she knows that Psyche was easier to love.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
The Fox finds Orual before bedtime, and she is subdued. He has decided to stay, as he would only be a burden to his family. Orual is overjoyed, but she doesn’t sleep well that night. She feels restless from all of the changes that are happening. It’s as though the King’s illness had disintegrated all the established elements of her world. She can’t even feel her sorrow, and it feels like the Queen is taking over Orual.
Though Orual feels only joy at the fact that the Fox will remain in Glome, she will later regret that she didn’t force him to leave. Her possessive nature kept him from pursuing his other loves. In becoming the Queen, Orual must leave behind her obsession with Psyche, which also means burying her guilt about Psyche.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The next day is the last day before the battle, and it seems like a dream. There are crowds at the gates who have heard what’s happening and they cheer Orual on. Nobles visit to show their support, and they wonder what’s behind her veil. Orual tells Trunia that they have a champion to fight for him. She calls for wine, which Redival brings because she wants to see Trunia. She acts like a perfect, dutiful sister.
Orual has much of what she has desired—attention and admiration in large quantities. Her veil continues to provide her with power and mystery, making her almost like the gods in refusing to reveal herself. Redival has changed little, still constantly seeking love from men, perhaps because she felt cheated of Orual’s love.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
When Redival leaves, Trunia wants to know who Orual is and why she wears a veil. If he survives, he wants to ally with Glome by marrying into the royal family, perhaps even marrying Orual herself. Orual says she won’t marry, but concedes that he might marry Redival.
With her ugliness hidden, Orual receives attention of the sort she never has, which proves that there’s nothing fundamentally unlovable about her, as she seems to think. However, Orual wants to preserve her power for herself, not give it to Trunia just as she wins it.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Later, Bardia has Orual practice her swordsmanship once more. He says that if they were to fight, she would probably kill him. He tells her that if she feels frightened when she’s about to fight, it’s natural and she must ignore it. She needs better armor, so they go to the King’s room to find some. The Fox sits at his bed. As Orual and Bardia are debating about the armor, the Fox tells them that the King has just died. They finish finding armor before bothering about his body, and his death causes little disturbance.
Though the King has played such a major and damaging role in Orual’s life, he becomes insignificant in death. The fact that Orual and her advisors practically ignore the King’s passing seems to be her final blow against him. It’s particularly triumphant that she has already taken over his powers while he still lived, and furthermore, he dies watching her take over the masculine realm that he so valued.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon