Till We Have Faces

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Ungit Symbol Icon

Ungit represents the potential for jealous, devouring love that lies within all mortals. Although she is worshipped as a god in Glome, the Fox does not acknowledge her as one of the “true gods” at the end of the book; instead, she is “an image of the demon within” everyone (295). It’s unclear whether she ever exists entirely independently of humans, or whether her essence simply lives within and works through them. Even her demand, as related by the Priest, that Psyche must be sacrificed could be interpreted as the people’s jealousy of Psyche’s beauty and popularity.

The uncut hunk of stone that supposedly is Ungit herself shows that jealousy and possessive love are very primitive parts of human nature, so engrained that the people of Glome find Ungit a comforting goddess and feel that the stone makes her relatable, unlike the idealized Greek-style statue that Arnom has made.

In a Christian context, Ungit can represent the Devil working within Orual to harm Psyche (a Christ figure) and the god of the Mountain (the Christian God). Thus, the message of the book becomes one of redemption from Satan: Though he works in all mortals, if they can recognize their own sins they can be redeemed and come to God, as Orual does.

Ungit Quotes in Till We Have Faces

The Till We Have Faces quotes below all refer to the symbol 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 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 20 Quotes

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.

Part 2: Chapter 1 Quotes

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.

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Ungit Symbol Timeline in Till We Have Faces

The timeline below shows where the symbol 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
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...of Glome lies on the river Shennit, and near the city is the temple of Ungit. Beyond the temple rises the Grey Mountain. The god of the Grey Mountain is the... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...and curiosity, and he learns all about the land of Glome. Orual tells him about Ungit and the sacrifices that the people make to her, including human sacrifices in bad years.... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...but even so, Orual perceives that the Greeks’ Aphrodite is just as terrible as Glome’s Ungit. (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...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
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
...survives less than a year. She becomes pregnant, and the King is ecstatic, sacrificing to Ungit frequently. Once, Orual overhears the King tell his wife that her father has cheated him... (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
...only exist in poets’ imaginations. Redival 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... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...beauty. They begin to say she is a goddess, and one woman says she is Ungit. For hours, Psyche walks through the crowd, touching everyone as they kiss her feet and... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...some don’t, but the people leave offerings for Psyche outside the palace. Orual worries that Ungit will be angry, but the Fox assures her that the Priest of Ungit is ill,... (full context)
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Redival suddenly begins going to the house of Ungit frequently to make offerings. Orual assumes she’s praying for a husband and trying to get... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 4
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...little about the people 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,... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...state, and one day she finds Redival returning with Batta from visiting the house of Ungit. Redival makes fun of Psyche being regarded as a goddess and reveals that she saw... (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 later, he... (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 does,... (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 or Ungit’s... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...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
...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, he... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 6
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...looked in it. Now, the King forces her to look at herself. He says that Ungit demands the best, so she doesn’t want Orual. He sends her away. (full context)
Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...Orual leaves her. She blames Redival for spreading word about Psyche to the house of Ungit. Even if Redival is sorry now, Orual knows she won’t be sad for long. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 8
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...a threat to Glome. One day Orual asks the Fox whether he still believes that Ungit doesn’t exist. Orual thinks the changes in Glome immediately after Psyche’s sacrifice prove she does,... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 9
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...insistence, and they share a horse. The city is quiet. They pass the house of Ungit, which is built with huge stones in an oval shape. No one knows how the... (full context)
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Orual feels better once they pass the house of Ungit. She has never been this way before, and she sees dawn coming. They pass the... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 11
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...realizes that Psyche likes her situation and tells her she should have been one of Ungit’s girls, living in darkness among the holy rituals. (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 12
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...why she should interfere when Psyche is happy. But as they approach the house of Ungit, Orual realizes that there is a deeper way to love than only seeking happiness for... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 14
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...Psyche wants to talk about her kind of love, she should talk to Redival or Ungit’s girls. Orual’s love is different. Psyche is sad to hear Orual talk this way, and... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 16
Self-understanding Theme Icon
...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)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Arnom brings up the long conflict over the “Crumbles,” land claimed by both Ungit and the King. Orual has always thought Ungit should have it so the priests won’t... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 19
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...wants to be angry, but instead she gives him a fine ring to offer to Ungit for his wife’s sake. Orual behind thinks bitterly that she is nothing more than Bardia’s... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 20
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...Some say her beauty is so tremendous that it would drive men mad or make Ungit jealous. In sum, the Queen becomes an object of mystery and fear, which adds to... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen doesn’t like having to sacrifice in the house of Ungit. At least Ungit is weaker now, she thinks. Arnom has let more light into the... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 21
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...black veil over her face. The Queen likes this much better than the house of Ungit. A priest appears and asks for an offering, which the Queen gives, inquiring as to... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 2
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...days later, there’s a ritual for the new year. Arnom stays in the house of Ungit overnight and then ceremonially fights his way out, although everything happens symbolically. The Queen goes... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
She sits on a flat stone opposite the stone that is Ungit. Arnom sits to her right, and the temple girls sit in rows at the doors... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The story goes that the stone, Ungit, pushed herself out of the earth at the beginning of the world. She has no... (full context)
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen asks Arnom who Ungit is. He replies that she represents the earth, a way of thinking that he’s gotten... (full context)
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...with a personal matter. She’s crying and holds a pigeon, which a priest kills over Ungit. She lies weeping in front of the stone for a long time, but when she... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
The King asks who Ungit is, and drags Orual to the mirror that used to hang in the palace. She... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. Even so, she knows that she truly is Ungit, and she has devoured the people around her. She declares that she won’t be Ungit.... (full context)
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...goes out without the veil, thinking that if anyone sees her, they’ll recognize her as Ungit. Maybe they’ll even worship her. She is now holy. (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...to jump. Having heard a god before, she can’t mistake it. The god says that Ungit is also in the place people go when they die, and so the Queen must... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 3
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...philosophy in Socrates’ way, by being calm and stoic, in order to rid herself of Ungit’s influence. Although she tries, she always finds herself reverting to her negative emotions, and she... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Orual doesn’t think she’ll ever rid herself of Ungit. She continues going about her duties, making very fair judgments when she presides in court,... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...a desert, carrying a bowl that she must fill with water from the afterlife because Ungit has ordered her to. Eventually she comes to the base of some rocky mountains. She... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...says the gods will claim that she should know that the real gods aren’t like Ungit, because she saw a real god. She would have preferred if they were like Ungit;... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 4
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
...the blame for teaching Orual that gods didn’t exist—he encouraged her not to believe that Ungit represented humans’ own sins, and to doubt that real gods do exist. He never told... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
...down into the earth. The Fox explains that everyone is born into the house of Ungit and must escape it. Ungit has set Psyche a series of tasks, of which this... (full context)
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...says Orual must stand up so that she can give her the casket to make Ungit beautiful. When Orual stands and looks at Psyche, she is overwhelmed by her beauty, which... (full context)