The Buried Giant

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Buried Giant: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A young monk leads Edwin through a forest. Edwin asks him if his “brother’s wounds seemed not to be mortal.” The monk says that Father Jonus said they’re not. Edwin knows this means Wistan “could not be so badly hurt.” According to the monk, Father Jonus instructed him to take Edwin to the cooper’s cottage, which is where Wistan is. Edwin feels bad for having abandoned Wistan, but had only gone in the tunnel because he thought his mother was in there. Edwin ran back to the monastery once he emerged from the tunnel and was very careful not to be seen when he first got there. In the monastery, Edwin sees evidence of a battle: corpses, a blackened stone tower, and what look like pools of blood. Ninian appears behind him and Edwin asks if Wistan is lying in the courtyard. Ninian shakes his head and signs for him to be quiet before leading him away.
Edwin is torn between competing loyalties: loyalty to his mother and her memory and loyalty to Wistan as the man who can help Edwin fulfil his potential as a warrior. Sir Gawain’s revelation that Wistan is using Edwin to find Querig, however, calls into question whether Wistan ever truly planned to train Edwin or if he was only going to use him to further his own ends and then abandon him.
Themes
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
On the previous day, Edwin asked Wistan how he knew the soldiers would come. Wistan said he didn’t know for sure but had a sense that someone would tell Lord Brennus where they are. Edwin was helping determine which bales of hay had wooden slats in them, but Wistan had “given no hint as to the purpose.” Edwin asked if it’s “the old couple” who will betray them, doubting that it could be them because “they’re too foolish and honest.” Wistan said he didn’t think they’d do it but warned that Axl isn’t foolish and is actually “a deep fellow.” Edwin asked why they’re traveling with them and Wistan explained that he wanted to spend some more time with Axl. He asked Edwin to check another bale of hay, then told Edwin he counts on him.
When Wistan calls Axl a “deep fellow” and warns Edwin not to think him too simple, he reveals that he has his own reasons for being suspicious of Axl. Axl’s memories indicate that he was once a soldier for the Britons and it is known that Wistan is a Saxon warrior who had been trained by Britons in his youth. It follows that Wistan recognizes Axl for something Axl did while serving King Arthur, although it is not yet clear whether what Axl did is something Wistan considers good or bad.
Themes
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Edwin regrets having let Wistan down by falling asleep and then going into the tunnel. As he follows the young monk, Edwin thinks of a time he found and freed a young girl who’d been tied up. The girl had told him he was old enough to go rescue his mother. This made Edwin feel ashamed, but Wistan’s arrival and decision to take Edwin had changed that, and Edwin hopes that he will be able to find his mother while traveling with Wistan.
Edwin, like Axl and Beatrice, is motivated primarily by love: he loves his mother and he wants to find her and save her. Coincidentally, he is using Wistan as a means of doing this, meaning they are each using the other for their own ends.
Themes
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
From the moment they entered the monastery, Wistan had been “preoccupied” with a stone tower there. He frequently stopped to look at it and took trips around it to examine it. Eventually, Wistan told Edwin they were going to go inside the tower and examine it. As they walked in, Wistan pointed out that there was a type of moat dug inside the doorway that can only be gotten over with a bridge of planks that had to be put down. Wistan said he believed the tower was a place of slaughter once. It is shaped like a chimney with steps circling up to the open top. Wistan said he thought this was once a trap: Saxons would lure bands of Briton soldiers in after filling the moat with firewood, run up the stairs so the soldiers chased them, and then throw a torch down into the moat, setting a fire from which no one could escape. Near the top of the tower is a doorway that someone can open and jump out of into a cart of hay waiting below.
Wistan is able to recognize the stone tower for what it is: a trap that, used correctly, can kill a large number of people at one time. This implies first-hand familiarity with how the trap works, which explains why Wistan finds it so easy to validate the Saxons’ hatred and his immediate condemnation of Britons. Wistan’s familiarity with the trap also implies that his warrior training has prepared him to use it to his advantage. The reason for Wistan’s insistence on chopping load after load of firewood is revealed: Wistan knows the soldiers are coming and plans to use the trap against them.
Themes
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
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The young monk leads Edwin across a stream and Edwin thinks back to when he met the monk, who cheerfully announced that he’d be Edwin’s guide, near Father Jonus’s cell. On the way, the monk tells Edwin about the soldiers that came and how Wistan had gone straight into the tower with the soldiers behind him. Despite the predictions of the monks, Wistan was not quickly captured, but injured soldiers were brought out of the tower. Suddenly, the tower caught fire and killed many. Ninian found Wistan wandering the corridors and Jonus had secretly treated him before sending him to a cottage. Jonus told the monk that Wistan and Edwin should leave the country together. Edwin continues following the monk, planning on what to tell Wistan when he is reunited with him.
The young monk’s description of the fight between Wistan and the soldiers shows that the monk, at least, did not fully understand what had happened or that the whole thing had been planned by Wistan. This shows that not all the monks in the monastery are as treacherous as Father Brian and the abbot.
Themes
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon