The Buried Giant

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Buried Giant: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Axl is woken up by Father Brian shaking him. Beatrice is already awake, and Edwin is getting out of bed while Father Brian urges them to hurry. Axl hears voices outside and Father Brian assures them that he is going to try to save them, but they have to hurry and do as he says. Father Brian says the “older Saxon brother” is trapped but is distracting the soldiers. Father Brian tells them to leave their stuff and follow him quietly. The three follow Father Brian to a room full of boxes and broken furniture. Axl asks what has happened and Father Brian says it’s “a mystery” and the soldiers had simply appeared and demanded the two Saxons. Beatrice expresses anxiety about Wistan’s safety, but Father Brian says they have very little time and must go down through a trapdoor and escape the monastery through some secret tunnels.
Wistan was right to be suspicious of the monastery, as shown by the presence of soldiers there. Furthermore, the presence of soldiers provides yet another striking contrast between what the monastery is supposed to be and reality. Once again, a Saxon is being targeted there by Britons just as Wistan described happening in the past.
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Axl helps Father Brian lift the heavy door so they can go down, but Edwin initially refuses and insists on going to help Wistan. Axl tells Beatrice to tell Edwin whatever she has to in order to get him into the tunnels. Beatrice says something and Edwin goes straight down the ladder into the tunnel. Beatrice and Axl follow him and then hear the trapdoor slam shut. Beatrice says that this seems a bit strange, especially because they can hear furniture being moved back over the door. Axl agrees but reminds her of the soldiers and says they should go forward in the tunnels.
Beatrice and Axl both blindly trust the goodness of the monks just as they blindly trust appearances. However, as has been seen, appearances can be deceiving: the monastery appears to have been made for prayer and peace, but Wistan had been able to recognize the hidden truth that it had initially been a scene of gruesome violence.
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As they walk, Axl, Beatrice, and Edwin notice a “feeble light” that allows them to see each other a little bit. Edwin suddenly comes to a stop and Beatrice grabs Axl’s hand and asks if he also hears the noise, saying that there is something in the tunnels with them. There is a sudden loud sound and some flashes that make a flame before Sir Gawain announces his presence and tells them he’s relieved to see them. Beatrice asks what he’s doing in the tunnels and he explains he’s been walking in front of them to protect them from a beast that lives in the tunnels. He says the monks deceived them and sent them into the tunnels to die, but Ninian got word to Gawain about the plan and brought him to the tunnels earlier.
Sir Gawain’s account further justifies Wistan’s suspicions. This highlights how dangerous it could be to be too trusting in England at the time even though there is peace and, seemingly, no further reason for violence between anyone. Still, Beatrice and Axl find themselves with few choices other than to continue trusting those around them, especially Sir Gawain. 
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Axl asks about the monster in the tunnel and Sir Gawain explains that the monks, and even the abbot, “send down here those they wish dead” rather than poisoning or stabbing them. Beatrice asks if the monks want them dead, and Sir Gawain says that they certainly want Edwin dead because he is a danger and they would have Beatrice and Axl killed to keep them from being witnesses to their crimes. Sir Gawain assures them that he, as a knight of Arthur, can keep them safe from the monster and that Ninian told him the tunnel had an exit.
The monks rely on their appearance as holy and pious men to avoid suspicion of the truth that they are dangerous, treacherous, and guilty of committing some of the worst sins. In this, they resemble the very monastery they live in: peaceful on the surface, but full of darkness within.
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As they walk, Beatrice is alarmed when she feels her foot hit against what she thinks is a child. Although Sir Gawain tries to keep them moving, Axl uses the candle to look around and sees a dead bat for a moment before the candle goes out. Beatrice, however, insists she saw a child’s bones and Axl tells Sir Gawain he thinks he saw bones under the bat. Sir Gawain insists he saw no bones and asks Axl if he ever stood “beside the great Arthur,” because Sir Gawain had. Sir Gawain then admits that he told the abbot about Wistan but asks if he was to know “how dark the hearts of holy men could turn” before insisting again that there are no bones.
Sir Gawain’s dramatic response to Beatrice and Axl claiming to have seen human bones reveals that Gawain is being weighed down by a guilty conscience. Sir Gawain considers the most noble time of his life to have been when he was fighting alongside the supposedly just and wise King Arthur, which is why he brings up the fact that he had been with Arthur once. Sir Gawain’s guilt is associated with the fact that he had turned Wistan in, and the bones Beatrice found remind Sir Gawain that Wistan may be killed and, if he is, it will be Gawain’s fault.
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Sir Gawain continues talking loudly despite Axl’s warning until they hear a sudden noise down the tunnel. For “several moments” the group stands still and listens, but no more sounds are made. Beatrice says she wants to get out of the tunnels and Sir Gawain tells them they have no choice but to keep going forward. Eventually, they find themselves “in some sort of mausoleum” with pillars and traces of murals on the walls. They also realize that they are now surrounded by human bones, which Sir Gawain no longer tries to deny. He says, “our whole country is this way,” with bones from times of slaughter lying just beneath the surface of the earth. Sir Gawain says he and Horace have “grown weary of it.”
The fact that Sir Gawain and Horace are “weary” with the evidence of past slaughter means that he is able to recognize the signs of it just as well as Wistan is. Furthermore, Sir Gawain extends the concept that, despite surface appearances of beauty and peace, the entire country is pervaded by an undercurrent of darkness and bloodshed that can only be recognized once one actively tries to dig beneath those surface appearances.
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Sir Gawain and Axl realize that there is a portcullis that can be raised or lowered with a pulley, but it is currently raised so they can pass through it. Sir Gawain believes this is how the monks stay safe while they feed the monster. Sir Gawain also notices that Edwin has begun to sing what sounds like a lullaby while facing the wall and rocking his body. Sir Gawain notes that Edwin sounds bewitched. Axl then decides to cut the rope holding the gate open to let it close, in the hope that the monster will come forward and they can see what it is before fighting it. Sir Gawain agrees and cuts the rope. Relaxed now that the gate is closed, they wander around the chamber.
Not only do the monks use these tunnels to trap people so they can be killed by a monster, but they actively feed that monster to keep it alive so they can carry on with their work. This means that the monks are always prepared to betray someone when needed. Ironically, the monastery—supposed to be an immensely peaceful place—is one of the most dangerous and treacherous places any of them have been.
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Referring to the skeletons, Beatrice asks Axl if “this beast” really killed so many people. Sir Gawain turns to them and asks if Beatrice is suggesting that he “committed this slaughter,” but he says it “tiredly, with none of the anger he had shown earlier.” He says that he had seen himself kill hundreds at a time in a dream once. He tells Beatrice, “I acted as I thought would please God.” Sir Gawain then explains that as soon as he found out what was in store for Axl, Beatrice, Wistan, and Edwin, he had asked Ninian to put him in the tunnel to protect them.
When Sir Gawain hears Beatrice mention a “beast” that has killed a lot of people, his immediate conclusion is that she is talking about him. This reveals that, on some level, Sir Gawain considers himself a beast for the things he has done in the past, including killing people. Sir Gawain is trying to right some of his past wrongs by volunteering to help protect Beatrice and Axl now.
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Edwin starts singing again and Axl says it’s because the boy is overwhelmed before asking Sir Gawain why the monks want Edwin dead and if it has to do with the ogre bite. Sir Gawain explains that the bite came from a dragon, not an ogre, and that this bite will compel Edwin to “seek congress with a she-dragon.” This, Sir Gawain explains, is why Wistan is interested in Edwin: he can lead Wistan to Querig. Edwin suddenly rushes to the gate and Sir Gawain grabs him. Edwin resists, but soon they both step back and the monster reveals itself. It is the size of a bull, but with a wolf-like head. Sir Gawain, however, says he had imagined worse and, despite Axl’s warnings, is confident that he can slay it.
Wistan had feigned interest in the boy as an innocent person in need of protection, but Sir Gawain’s story means that Wistan has been exploiting Edwin for his own ends from the beginning. This calls into question just how honorable and just Wistan (who has consistently argued in favor of fairness and justice) actually is.
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They form a plan for Axl and Beatrice to pull the rope that opens the gate while Edwin stands and back with Sir Gawain so that when the monster charges at Edwin, Sir Gawain can step out and kill it. Although Axl and Beatrice initially struggle with the gate, eventually it opens, and the beast charges out as planned. Sir Gawain swings his sword, but it seems as if he misses and the creature continues running down the tunnel. Axl tells them to run and he’ll distract the beast, but they ignore him and stare at something on the ground near Sir Gawain’s feet: the beast’s head, although the body has kept running and the jaw keeps snapping. Axl congratulates Sir Gawain, who says they should hurry out of the tunnel.
Despite evidence of Sir Gawain’s treachery and the danger having Edwin has put them in, the whole group is able to work together towards a common end. Furthermore, Axl’s initial reaction to seeing the beast keep running is to get everyone else out of the tunnels and leave him to distract the monster, which highlights his selflessness and concern for others that was first implied in his disgust with his former companion’s violence towards other people.
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Soon they reach the end of the tunnel and find themselves in the forest. Axl and Beatrice sit down, but soon notice Edwin is gone. Sir Gawain tells them the boy immediately ran off—he believes Edwin is going back to help Wistan. Axl is upset, but Sir Gawain insists there was nothing he could do to stop Edwin. Beatrice asks Sir Gawain if they’re to understand that he turned Wistan in, but instead of an answer Sir Gawain asks, “Why go through it again, mistress?” Axl tells Sir Gawain he thanks him for protecting them and then asks if they were “comrades once long ago.” Again, Sir Gawain doesn’t answer, but says he must go to Horace. Axl tells him the talk of King Arthur “stirs long-faded thoughts,” but Sir Gawain simply tells him to go to his son and that the fastest way is to sail downstream.
Axl’s questions about his shared past with Sir Gawain shows that Axl is beginning to understand and accept that he once lived a very different life from the one he leads now. On the other hand, Sir Gawain loses interest in reminding Axl of all they went through together under King Arthur, a possible act of mercy on Sir Gawain’s part because he does not want to cause Axl undue pain by reminding him of the darker elements of their past.
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