Till We Have Faces

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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 2 Quotes

The Fox clapped his hands and sang, “Prettier than Andromeda, prettier than Helen, prettier than Aphrodite herself.”

“Speak words of better omen, Grandfather,” I said, though I knew he would scold and mock me for saying it. For at his words, though on that summer day the rocks were too hot to touch, it was as if a soft, cold hand had been laid on my left side, and I shivered.... I knew it is not good to talk that way about Ungit.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), The Fox (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Psyche is still a child, and she, Orual, and the Fox are looking towards the Grey Mountain, where Psyche imagines having a palace. The Fox exclaims over Psyche’s beauty. This passage presents the main conflict that leads to Psyche’s sacrifice: Ungit doesn’t like mortals to be considered more beautiful than she is.

Though the Fox insists that the Divine Nature isn’t jealous, Andromeda, one of the mythical figures to whom he compares Psyche, suffered due to the gods’ jealousy of her beauty, which bodes ill for Psyche’s future. When Andromeda’s mother boasted that her daughter was prettier than certain sea nymphs, the god of the ocean sent a sea monster to the coast of their country. Similarly, Ungit will send lions to terrorize Glome. An oracle tells Andromeda’s father, the king, that he must sacrifice her to appease the gods, which is exactly what Psyche’s father will also do. Since the Fox says Psyche is prettier than Aphrodite (the Greek form of Ungit), he essentially makes the exact fatal mistake that Andromeda’s mother did in the same breath that he summons up her story.

Orual, who doesn’t shun belief in the gods the way the Fox does, seems to sense Ungit’s displeasure. As it later becomes evident that Orual is closely connected to Ungit; perhaps she is more sensitive to Ungit’s jealousy than others would be. This scene marks only the beginning of Ungit’s anger, which will tear apart all of their lives.


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Part 1: Chapter 3 Quotes

Her beauty, which most of them had never seen, worked on them as a terror might work. Then a low murmur, almost a sob, began; swelled, broke into the gasping cry, “A goddess, a goddess.” One woman’s voice rang out clear. “It is Ungit herself in mortal shape.”

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

When the people of Glome come to the palace gates, demanding that Psyche heal them of the fever because they have heard that she healed the Fox, many of them have never seen her before. When she comes out of the palace, they are struck dumb by her beauty and hail her as a goddess. Their worship of her eventually brings Ungit’s wrath down upon Psyche, as Orual fears it will.

Psyche’s beauty initially affects the people in a way similar to how Orual imagines her own ugliness works, making them terrified. Furthermore, though they hail Psyche as the goddess Ungit, Orual is the one who will eventually become Ungit. Ironically, the people believe Ungit is distinguished by her beauty, but, in fact, the ugliest woman in the kingdom more truly represents her. The fact that people see in Psyche the goddess who eventually possesses Orual also connects Psyche and Orual through this divine presence, acting as an early indication of the link between the sisters that will allow them to complete Psyche’s tasks together later on. As seen here, the gods flow through humans, connecting humans to one another and to the gods.

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.

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.

Part 1: Chapter 7 Quotes

Since I write this book against the gods, it is just that I should put into it whatever can be said against myself. So let me set this down: as she spoke I felt, amid all my love, a bitterness. Though the things she was saying gave her (that was plain enough) courage and comfort, I grudged her that courage and comfort. It was as if someone or something else had come in between us. If this grudging is the sin for which the gods hate me, it is one I have committed.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 74-75
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual goes to visit Psyche where she has been imprisoned until her sacrifice, Psyche seems quite undisturbed by her impending doom. She even points out that she’s always longed to go to the Grey Mountain and suggests that this is her fate. Orual, who by the time of writing her account is a just Queen, knows that she must be as honest as possible in telling her story in order to receive a fair judgment from her reader. She admits that, in this situation, she doesn’t want Psyche to be happy.

Orual’s love always includes jealousy, and this passage shows her jealousy of the gods, who she feels have “come in between” her and Psyche. Psyche essentially expresses her willingness to go to the gods, which Orual sees as a diminishment of Psyche’s love for her, simply because Psyche doesn’t rage against anything that separates her from Orual. This scene marks only the beginning of Orual’s resentment of Psyche’s happiness. Though she won’t acknowledge her own jealousy until the end of the book, she will eventually realize that reactions such as this one come from her jealousy of the gods’ ability to have whatever mortals they want for themselves.

Part 1: Chapter 9 Quotes

While I was in there, one of the other soldiers... came into the passage and said something to Bardia. Bardia replied, I couldn’t hear what. Then he spoke louder: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter, she’d make him a good wife.” And that is the nearest thing to a love-speech that was ever made me.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Bardia
Related Symbols: Faces
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

After Bardia gives Orual her first lesson in swordsmanship, she goes into the dairy to get a drink of milk and overhears this conversation. This is a painful moment for Orual. She has known from a young age that everyone agrees that she is ugly. Her father, in particular, has often insulted her appearance, making her believe that she is unlovable. Orual never actively pursues romantic love because it seems absurd to her to think anyone would give it to her. She does eventually come to love Bardia and wish she could marry him, but this is the closest she comes (not very close at all) to hearing him echo the sentiment.

Though Bardia compliments her, he also insults her very casually, saying that he would only marry her if he never had to look at her. This is the sort of sentiment that convinces Orual she will never be loved and makes her cling so jealously to anyone who does love her. His attitude here also explains why he so often expresses a wish that she were a man: he values her character, but not her appearance. If she were a man, her appearance would matter much less, while her character would get her farther.

Part 1: Chapter 10 Quotes

And he took me... and pulled me right out of the iron girdle... and carried me up into the air, far up above the ground, and whirled me away. Of course he was invisible again almost at once. I had seen him only as one sees a lightning flash. But that didn’t matter. Now I knew it was he, not it, I wasn’t in the least afraid of sailing along in the sky, even of turning head over heels in it.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), West-wind
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual finds Psyche in the valley, Psyche tells the story of her sacrifice and how she came to be the god’s lover. In this passage, she describes the god of the wind freeing her from the chains that tied her to the Holy Tree and bringing her to the god’s palace. Her reaction to the god shows a faith that Orual lacks. Before the sacrifice, neither woman is entirely sure of the gods’ existence, due to the Fox’s atheistic teachings. However, the moment that Psyche sees West-wind she believes wholeheartedly in the gods and trusts them to keep her safe, even though she only sees West-wind for a moment before he disappears again.

Orual, on the other hand, sees Psyche’s palace for only a moment before it disappears and she refuses to believe in it afterwards. The sisters’ contrasting reactions to the gods’ revelations display more fundamental differences. Psyche is trusting and pure of heart, happy to accept the gods’ influence. Orual, by contrast, often twists her perception of reality to suit her own jealous ends and resists giving in to the gods’ power over her.

Part 1: Chapter 11 Quotes

For the world had broken in pieces and Psyche and I were not in the same piece. Seas, mountains, madness, death itself, could not have removed her from me to such a hopeless distance as this. Gods, and again gods, always gods... they had stolen her. They would leave us nothing. A thought pierced up through the crust of my mind like a crocus coming up in the early year. Was she not worthy of the gods? Ought they not to have her? But instantly great, choking, blinding waves of sorrow swept it away....

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 120-21
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs after Orual realizes that Psyche lives in a divine palace that Orual cannot see or feel. It seems worse to her that they should be in the same physical place but living apparently on different planes—mortal and divine—as opposed to being separated only by distance. Orual exhibits her jealousy of the gods, choosing to believe that they kidnapped Psyche rather than acknowledging that Psyche went to them more or less readily. She seems to imagine a struggle of mortals versus gods in which the gods take everything wonderful from the humans, and she hates them for their ability to draw the best people willingly to their realms.

For a moment, Orual does find herself wondering whether she’s being unfair. She considers Psyche’s rightful place, which, by implication, would be the one in which Psyche would be most happy. However, Orual’s way of loving doesn’t allow her to put her beloved’s happiness before her own. Her grief at the thought of entirely losing Psyche to the gods overpowers any consideration of what would be best for Psyche.

“Get up, girl,” I said. “Do you hear me? Do as you’re told. Psyche, you’ve never disobeyed me before.”

She looked up (wetter every moment) and said, very tender in voice but hard as stone in her determination, “Dear Maia, I am a wife now. It’s no longer you that I must obey.”

I learned then how one can hate those one loves. My fingers were round her wrist in an instant, my other hand on her upper arm. We were struggling.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral) (speaker), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Page Number: 126-27
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual meets Psyche in the valley, they argue about whether the palace really does exist and whether Psyche should stay there or come home with Orual. When it begins to rain, the fact that Psyche gets wet seems to Orual to prove that the palace is a figment of Psyche’s imagination, since Psyche insists that they’re inside, sheltered from the rain. Orual commands her to come under her cloak to stay dry, but Psyche refuses.

Though Orual technically only commands Psyche in reference to their immediate situation in the rain, her sentiment applies to their entire situation. Orual, in her position as an older sister and mother figure, believes Psyche should obey Oural’s will and abandon this imagined palace. The fact that Orual becomes so enraged when Psyche declares that her allegiance has shifted to her husband, the god of the Mountain, proves the existence of the jealousy that Orual denies she feels. Orual can’t stand the idea that Psyche might belong to someone else, as Orual’s love makes her want to possess and control Psyche. Furthermore, Orual’s love mixes dangerously with hatred, meaning that no matter how much she insists that she acts for Psyche’s own good, hatred motivates her actions just as much as the love she claims to work for.

Part 1: Chapter 12 Quotes

I must lie on the steps at the great gate of that house and make my petition. I must ask forgiveness of Psyche as well as of the god. I had dared to scold her (dared, what was worse, to try to comfort her as a child) but all the time she was far above me; herself now hardly mortal.... if what I saw was real. I was in great fear. Perhaps it was not real.... Then as I rose... the whole thing was vanished.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Related Symbols: The Palace on the Mountain
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

In the brief moments of the early morning during which Orual actually sees Psyche’s palace, she perceives all of her mistakes and repents. She understands that Psyche is no longer under her power, but in fact is far superior to her in every respect. In effect, Orual realizes that she has offended the gods for no reason and she must make amends. However, even as Orual understands all of this, she also doubts her own perception of reality. In contrast to Psyche’s immediate faith when shown a glimpse of the god West-wind, Orual isn’t sure that she can trust her vision of the palace any more than she could trust its invisibility earlier. It could be a trick of the gods, or it could be her own mind fooling her. Her concerns become even more pressing when the palace vanishes.

The rest of the story actually hinges on this moment, as Orual manages to convince herself that the palace was only an illusion. Deep down, she knows it was real, but it works to her advantage to deny its existence and insist that Psyche isn’t really living with a god. Though Orual complains that the gods don’t speak clearly to humans, this moment shows that even when the gods do speak, the real problem lies in humans’ faulty listening skills.

I perceived now that there is a love deeper than theirs who seek only the happiness of their beloved. Would a father see his daughter happy as a whore? Would a woman see her lover happy as a coward? My hand went back to the sword. “She shall not,” I thought.... However things might go, whatever the price, by her death or mine or a thousand deaths... Psyche should not—least of all, contentedly—make sport for a demon.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral), The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

On the trip home from the valley, Bardia tells Orual that he believes Psyche is sleeping with a monster, and Orual tries to decide what to do about it. She knows that Psyche is happy in her current situation, no matter how much Orual may hate it. She doesn’t often examine her way of loving, and when she does now, she consciously chooses to love in a destructive way, thinking this the best and truest way to love.

Essentially, Orual decides that she knows what is best for Psyche, and she has a responsibility to guide Psyche towards this path even if it reduces Psyche’s happiness. In fact, her sense of responsibility is so strong that she would rather kill herself or Psyche than see Psyche remain in a situation that Orual finds dishonorable. Bardia’s wife, Ansit, will later expose the faults in this way of thinking, insisting that those who love must allow their beloveds to live their lives as they wish. Love is not a contract of possession as Orual wants it to be. Orual’s logic here begins to push her love towards hatred.

Part 1: Chapter 13 Quotes

Then I did a thing which I think few have done. I spoke to the gods myself, alone, in such words as came to me, not in a temple, and without a sacrifice. I stretched myself face downward on the floor and called upon them with my whole heart. I took back every word I had said against them. I promised anything they might ask of me, if only they would send me a sign. They gave me none. When I began there was red firelight in the room and rain on the roof; when I rose up again the fire had sunk a little lower, and the rain drummed on as before.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker)
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

After Orual’s visit to Psyche in the valley, she struggles to figure out what she should do about the situation, since she doesn’t know whether Psyche’s story is the truth, or whether Psyche is being deceived. Bardia and the Fox both have opinions, but Orual doesn’t know which to believe, so she asks the gods directly for guidance.

Orual’s decision to speak to the gods herself, rather than through a priest or sacred rituals, is reminiscent of certain Protestant religions that encourage their followers to interpret God’s word for themselves rather than having to rely on clergy for interaction with God.

This is a rare moment in which Orual turns to the gods in trust and faith rather than raging against their unfairness and cruelty. However, neither approach gets her any closer to getting divine guidance. She blames them for refusing to speak to her and letting her blunder into an unwise course of action; she doesn’t recognize, though, that even if the gods did speak to her, she wouldn’t accept their words, because she can’t yet face the truth of her own motivations and character.

Part 1: Chapter 14 Quotes

You are indeed teaching me about kinds of love I did not know. It is like looking into a deep pit. I am not sure whether I like your kind better than hatred. Oh, Orual—to take my love for you, because you know it goes down to my very roots and cannot be diminished by any other newer love, and then to make of it a tool, a weapon, a thing of policy and mastery, an instrument of torture—I begin to think I never knew you. Whatever comes after, something that was between us dies here.

Related Characters: Psyche (Istral) (speaker), Orual (The Queen)
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual is trying to convince Psyche to look at her lover’s face when he comes to her that night, Orual stabs herself in the arm to show that she feels desperate enough to kill both herself and Psyche if Psyche doesn’t obey. Up until now, Psyche has mostly tried to be understanding of Orual’s position, but at this point she can no longer deny that Orual does wrong.

Psyche recognizes that Orual’s way of loving verges on hatred. Orual is abusing Psyche, but she can’t fool Psyche into thinking that she owes Orual this act against her husband. Psyche sees that Orual is using Psyche’s love for Orual to coerce Psyche into doing her bidding, since Psyche obviously doesn’t want Orual to kill herself. Orual doesn’t see anything wrong in this, as she believes that the outcome will be for Psyche’s own good. In fact, she thinks that she’s committing an act of love herself. Not until much later will she realize that for love to be true, it cannot be used to control the beloved’s life.

Part 1: Chapter 15 Quotes

He made it to be as if, from the beginning, I had known that Psyche’s lover was a god, and as if all my doubtings, fears, guessings, debatings, questionings of Bardia, questionings of the Fox, all the rummage and business of it, had been trumped-up foolery, dust blown in my own eyes by myself. You, who read my book, judge. Was it so?

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral), Bardia, The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

When Psyche looks at her lover’s face, he destroys the valley and appears to Orual. He seems to know everything about her, and he makes it seem that she knew the truth all along and willfully denied it. As Orual is writing her complaint against the gods, the god’s apparent changing of the past forms one of her accusations of wrongdoing. At the same time, the fact that she asks for the reader’s judgment should make the reader really consider this question. Although she seems to expect the reader to side with her, once the god raises the question, one can see the truth in his interpretation of events.

Orual never wanted Psyche’s lover to be a god, because she didn’t want to give Psyche up to anyone else, much less to someone so clearly superior to Orual herself and someone who is likely, in Orual’s eyes, to take up all of Psyche’s love and leave Orual nothing. But Psyche would never lie to Orual, and she seemed perfectly sane. Furthermore, Orual did see the palace for a moment. This evidence probably made Orual know the truth on some level, but she made the situation seem much more complicated in her own mind so that she could find reasons to tear Psyche from her lover and have her all to herself again.

Here, the god causes Orual to come close to self-understanding, but she’s so deep in denial that even when he describes her character to her, she cannot recognize the truth of the portrait. Later, Orual will realize that this is exactly why the gods don’t speak to humans—even when they do, humans can’t listen properly until they can see themselves truly.

Part 1: Chapter 18 Quotes

“Fool!” I said to myself. “Have you not yet learned that you are that to no one? What are you to Bardia? ...His heart lies at home with his wife and her brats. If you mattered to him he’d never have let you fight. What are you to the Fox? His heart was always in the Greeklands. You were, maybe, the solace of his captivity. They say a prisoner will tame a rat. He comes to love the rat—after a fashion. But throw the door open, strike off his fetters, and how much’ll he care for the rat then?”

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), The Fox, Bardia, Ansit
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual becomes the Queen, she frees the Fox from slavery. When she realizes that he’s considering going home to the Greeklands, she feels betrayed. She can’t imagine her life without the Fox, and she thought that the same was true for him.

To Orual, the fact that the Fox would consider leaving her for his homeland proves that he doesn’t love her as completely as she thought. She hates that everyone could live just fine without her, as she knows she couldn’t live without them. She can’t understand that the Fox can love her and also have people and places he loves elsewhere. She loves him possessively, thinking that her love gives her the right to keep him from leaving. Later, she’ll realize that if she loved him truly, she would have forced him to leave and seek what he was missing rather than using her love to guilt him into staying.

Furthermore, Orual thinks that if Bardia really loved her, he would have prevented her from dueling Argan, because he wouldn’t have wanted to see her put in danger. To her, love means doing whatever it takes to keep the beloved at one’s side, even if it doesn’t make the beloved happy. In truth, Bardia supported Orual’s decision to fight because he respected her abilities and knew that the duel would do her good as Queen. He allowed her to live her life as she wished, which is a much more genuine form of love than Orual’s form of love.

Part 1: Chapter 20 Quotes

I must now pass quickly over many years... during which the Queen of Glome had more and more a part in me and Orual had less and less. I locked Orual up or laid her asleep as best I could somewhere deep down inside me; she lay curled there. It was like being with child, but reversed; the thing I carried in me grew slowly smaller and less alive.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:

After Psyche’s exile, Orual becomes the Queen and finds that the work of running a country beneficially distracts her from her grief at the loss of her sister. She also finds that she can become someone new as Queen and thus completely bury the old Orual, whom she thinks of as being weak and full of pain. Though she doesn’t acknowledge it, the old Orual is also wracked with guilt at the role she played in ruining Psyche’s life. In burying Orual inside the more noble and stoic role of the Queen, she can also deny her guilt and avoid examining the awful deeds she has committed in the name of love. Though the gods will eventually force Orual to recognize what she has done and who she really is, making herself into an entirely new person allows her to delay this painful process.

Orual likens the process of repressing her old self to a sort of inverse pregnancy. As she becomes more the Queen and less Orual, she also taps into conventionally masculine aspects of herself. She kills a man in a duel to affirm her reign and, by veiling her face, denies everyone the ability to judge her based on her appearance, which is how women are typically judged. She even feels that Bardia and the Fox work better with her because they treat her like a fellow man. It seems, then, that in exercising her masculinity, she also represses her femininity, particularly her ability to feel emotion. In trying to kill the more feminine Orual, the Queen performs the opposite of the process that is seen as the ultimate feminine one—pregnancy. Her femininity withers, and instead of growing a life, she shrinks one to nothingness.

My second strength lay in my veil.... [A]s years passed and there were fewer in the city... who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid.... Some said... that it was frightful beyond endurance; a pig’s, bear’s, cat’s or elephant’s face. The best story was that I had no face at all; if you stripped off my veil you’d find emptiness. But another sort... said that I wore a veil because I was of a beauty so dazzling that if I let it be seen all men in the world would run mad; or else that Ungit was jealous of my beauty and had promised to blast me if I went bareface. The upshot of all this nonsense was that I became something very mysterious and awful.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Veil, Faces, Ungit
Page Number: 228-29
Explanation and Analysis:

Orual is discussing how her reign as Queen proceeds after she kills Argan and becomes a powerful ruler. She has begun to cover her face with a veil at all times ever since Psyche went into exile, and she finds that the veil makes her particularly mysterious, giving her a certain authority over her subjects. Before, she was simply ugly. Now the absence of certainty as to her appearance means that anything at all could be behind her veil. Even if she’s still ugly, her ugliness has become mythic, giving her power in what used to be her weakness.

With her veil, the Queen puts to her own use the mysterious quality of the gods that has always so frustrated her. Ungit, particularly, has no face, as she is only an uncut rock. As a result, her followers can see her face in everything and see any face in the crevices of the rock that represents Ungit. She is not confined to being one thing. The Queen’s veil gives her a similar power and suggests that she’s already becoming Ungit even before she comes to truly believe that she is Ungit. However, the veil also allows comparisons between the Queen and Psyche, as some people say that the veil hides a beauty that makes the gods jealous, like Psyche’s. Near the end of the novel, Orual will see that she has in part become Ungit, but has also been living Psyche’s life alongside her and taking on her pain. The Queen’s veil makes her into a blank slate on which her links to both Ungit and Psyche can begin to make themselves known.

But the change of my quarters, and later changes (for I tried every side of the house) did no good. I discovered that there was no part of the palace from which the swinging of those chains could not be heard; at night, I mean, when the silence grows deep. It is a thing no one would have found out who was not always afraid of hearing one sound; and at the same time (that was Orual, Orual refusing to die) terribly afraid of not hearing it if for once—if possibly, at last, after ten thousand mockeries—it should be real, if Psyche had come back.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Related Symbols: The Chains in the Well
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual becomes Queen, she begins to be haunted by the sound of a girl crying outside, which she rationally knows is only the sound of chains creaking in the well. Part of her always hopes that it really is Psyche, returned from exile. Though she tries sleeping in all different parts of the palace, she can always hear the sound of the chains. The fact that she can’t escape it suggests that the sound really comes from within her, representing the guilt that she feels at having caused Psyche’s exile.

The Queen feels frightened of the sound because it forces her to consider parts of herself that she doesn’t want to acknowledge—particularly her own ability to cause such harm to someone she loves. The sound also prevents her from completely killing her old self, Orual, and becoming entirely the Queen. Orual still fiercely loves Psyche and feels the pain of her loss, so as long as the sound of Psyche’s crying tortures the Queen, Orual lives on within her and she must deal with the faults of her true character.

Part 1: Chapter 21 Quotes

For if the true story had been like their story, no riddle would have been set me; there would have been no guessing and no guessing wrong. More than that, it’s a story belonging to a different world, a world in which the gods show themselves clearly and don’t torment men with glimpses, nor unveil to one what they hide from another, nor ask you to believe what contradicts your eyes and ears and nose and tongue and fingers.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), The priest of Istra, Daaran
Related Symbols: The Palace on the Mountain
Page Number: 243-44
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Queen comes upon a temple to the goddess Istra, the priest there tells her a story that almost exactly parallels her own life, with a few essential changes that anger her. In particular, Istra’s sister in the story is able to see the god’s palace, so when she forces Istra to betray her lover, it comes entirely from jealousy. Orual has always justified her actions with the fact that she couldn’t be sure whether Psyche’s story was true or whether she was under a delusion, so she objects to the priest’s interpretation that Psyche’s exile was due to Orual’s desire to make her sister miserable.

The Queen believes that the gods have started this false version of the story to spite her. In this version, her main complaint against them, that they refuse to guide humans clearly, doesn’t hold. In the story, all of the gods’ mysteries that so frustrate Orual vanish. Her sense of injustice at their twisting of the truth leads her to write down her own version of the story. However, it eventually becomes clear to her that the priest’s tale has a lot more truth in it than she wants to admit, as she denied what she saw in order to convince herself of a reality in which her actions were acceptable.

Part 2: Chapter 1 Quotes

And so take away from him his work, which was his life... and all his glory and his great deeds? Make a child and a dotard of him? Keep him to myself at that cost? Make him so mine that he was no longer his? ...He was to live the life he thought best and fittest for a great man—not that which would most pleasure me.

Related Characters: Ansit (speaker), Orual (The Queen), Bardia
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

When Bardia dies, the Queen goes to visit his widow, Ansit. Ansit accuses the Queen of working Bardia to death, and the Queen doesn’t understand why Ansit wouldn’t have told her earlier, before it was too late. Ansit explains that she had to allow Bardia to do what gave him happiness and fulfillment, even though it took him away from her.

Ansit exhibits the pure form of love that Orual cannot understand or practice. While Orual thinks love entitles her to possess and control her beloved, Ansit argues that love must allow the beloved to retain his independence. True love requires sacrifice and pain from the lover and true love aims at all times for the happiness of the beloved. Orual’s way of loving reduces her beloveds to objects that she jealously guards, while Ansit’s love supports Bardia in becoming more himself than he could be without her. Ansit recognizes that possessive love only makes bitterness grow between the lovers, since they cannot pursue their own desires outside of their desires within the relationship. Orual has done to Psyche exactly what Ansit has refused to do to Bardia, and it has ruined both of their lives.

Oh, Queen Orual, I begin to think you know nothing of love.... Perhaps you who spring from the gods love like the gods. Like the Shadowbrute. They say the loving and the devouring are all one, don’t they? ...You’re full fed. Gorged with other men’s lives, women’s too: Bardia’s, mine, the Fox’s, your sister’s—both your sisters’.

Related Characters: Ansit (speaker), Orual (The Queen), Psyche (Istral), Redival, The Fox, Bardia, The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 264-65
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Queen is visiting Ansit after Bardia’s death, Ansit accuses her of devouring the lives of everyone she’s ever loved. She speculates that, since the royal family is supposed to have divine blood, the Queen loves in a similar way to the gods. In the Great Offering in which Psyche was sacrificed, the Priest of Ungit said that the Shadowbrute would both lie with and devour Psyche, and now Ansit likens Orual’s love to that of the Shadowbrute.

The Shadowbrute is linked to Ungit, who is also associated with this devouring love. Later, the Queen will see herself as Ungit due to the similar way of loving that Ansit perceives here—in this circumstance, the Queen will also wonder if people might see her as the Shadowbrute, which confirms the truth of Ansit’s accusation. Ansit forces Orual to see a part of herself that she has long denied. Orual defines herself by her love for others, so she doesn’t want to acknowledge that her possessive love destroys the lives of those she loves. However, this is the essential self-realization that she must come to accept in order to fulfill the god’s prophecy and become purified.

Part 2: Chapter 2 Quotes

“Do not do it,” said the god. “You cannot escape Ungit by going to the deadlands, for she is there also. Die before you die. There is no chance after.”

“Lord, I am Ungit.”

But there was no answer.

Related Characters: The god of the Grey Mountain (the Brute/the Shadowbrute) (speaker), Orual (The Queen)
Related Symbols: Ungit
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

After the King comes to Orual in a dream and forces her to see that she has become Ungit, Orual goes to the river, intending to commit suicide to rid herself of the goddess she hates—or, more accurately, to rid herself of the part of herself that she has been forced to recognize and cannot stand. However, a god appears and tells Orual that she can’t rid herself of Ungit through death. This truth suggests that Ungit makes up an integral part of all humans, but Orual especially, and that part of Orual will still exist within her even if she dies. Instead, Orual must first rid consciously herself of that cruel part of herself in order to be purified in death.

Orual doesn’t yet understand all of this, and so she thinks that since she actually is Ungit, she won’t be able to separate Ungit from herself. In fact, Orual does have an existence outside of Ungit, just as Ungit lives through all humans and does not depend solely on Orual for her existence. The gods flow through humans and through each other.

Additionally, Orual will later see that Psyche, too, came to the river to kill herself. When she sees this happening, Orual says, “Do not do it,” just as the god says to her here. Since Orual and Psyche share the burden of the tasks Psyche must complete as the gods’ punishment, it seems possible that they flow through each other just as Ungit flows through Orual. Thus, the voice of the god telling Orual not to jump may also be Orual’s own voice as she tells Psyche not to jump. Though this may not make logical sense, the gods’ constant mysteries make it possible.

Part 2: Chapter 3 Quotes

But to steal her love from me! ...Do you think that we mortals will find you gods easier to bear if you’re beautiful? I tell you that if that’s true we’ll find you a thousand times worse. For then (I know what beauty does) you’ll lure and entice. You’ll leave us nothing; nothing that’s worth our keeping or your taking. Those we love best—whoever’s most worth loving—those are the very ones you’ll pick out.... It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We’d rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We’d rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

When Orual comes in a vision to the divine court in the mountains, she reads her complaint against the gods before a judge. However, she finds that what she reads isn’t what she wrote; in fact, she reads the truth of her motivations that she has concealed from herself for her entire life.

Orual’s speech here explains her jealousy and resentment of the gods when they took Psyche from her. She knows that as a mortal, she can hardly hope to compete with the gods for Psyche’s love. In fact, the more beautiful the gods are, the more mortals will hate them. Orual can’t stand the fact that Psyche was happy to go to the gods and that she was happier with her divine lover than she was with Orual. Orual would rather have retained complete possession of Psyche than have Psyche become loyal to someone else, but the gods’ beauty made this entirely impossible.

This passage also seems to have echoes of Lewis’s own conversion to Christianity. He converted reluctantly, only when he could see no other truth. Here, he suggests that people resent their loved ones’ faith because God is far better and more fulfilling than any human can ever be.

Part 2: Chapter 4 Quotes

The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.... When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Faces
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Orual has read out the truth of her motivations in her conflict with Psyche and the gods, she realizes that she actually has no accusation to make against the gods, though she has long sought justice for the wrongs she believed they did to her. Instead, she sees that she is to blame for everything that happened.

Orual’s main complaint against the gods was that they refused to guide humans clearly towards right. However, seeing herself truly for the first time, she realizes that humans are at fault for the gods’ silence. Even if the gods did try to speak to mortals (as, in fact, they have tried to speak to Orual, giving her signs such as the vision of the palace), mortals wouldn’t accept what they had to say. The gods can see the essential truth of each person that people can’t even see in themselves, and there’s no reason that gods should try to speak to the false persona that humans wear in order to keep from acknowledging their own faults.

Throughout the book, faces represent people’s true characters. Orual now realizes that she has had no face until now; in other words, she has hidden her true character from herself. She has actually denied her face in a more physical way as well, by veiling herself. Now, her veil removed, she finally sees her own face and can meet the gods. Essentially, Lewis argues that in order to find God and faith and to allow divine wisdom to be a guide, a person must first understand who they truly are.

Each breath I drew let into me new terror, joy, overpowering sweetness. I was pierced through and through with the arrows of it. I was being unmade. I was no one. But that’s little to say; rather, Psyche, herself was, in a manner, no one. I loved her as I would once have thought it impossible to love, would have died any death for her. And yet, it was not, not now, that she really counted. Or if she counted... it was for another’s sake. The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming.

Related Characters: Orual (The Queen) (speaker), Psyche (Istral)
Page Number: 307
Explanation and Analysis:

Orual and Psyche finally meet in Psyche’s palace when she returns from completing the tasks the gods have set her as punishment. Psyche has become a goddess, and Orual has recognized all her own faults. Then the god comes to judge her, apparently to decide whether she has purified herself of the influence of Ungit and can become like Psyche, just as he prophesied when he exiled Psyche.

Orual has always seen herself as the center of the universe, interpreting anything she didn’t like as a human or a god showing their dislike or lack of appreciation for her. Now, in her more purified state, she can recognize that she is nothing in comparison to the god. In fact, even Psyche, whom she reveres as perfection itself, is nothing in comparison to the god. Furthermore, Orual finally loves Psyche in a way she never has, a way that does not try to possess Psyche but instead sees her as an independent and superior being.

This scene can be described as a theophany, meaning a moment in which a god appears to a mortal. The complete ecstasy of this theophany suggests that Lewis is bringing his story into a more Christian frame at the end. Though Glome exists in a polytheistic world (meaning that there are multiple gods), Christianity is a monotheistic religion, meaning that it teaches that only one true God exists. Here, Orual seems to anticipate the appearance of a single God around whom everything in the world centers. She calls him “the only dread and beauty there is,” which suggests that no other god exists. She feels complete faith and love for him. Orual experiences conversion to a monotheistic faith.

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