The Buried Giant


Kazuo Ishiguro

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Buried Giant published in 2015.
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Chapter 1 Quotes

I have no wish to give the impression that this was all there was to the Britain of those days; that at a time when magnificent civilizations flourished elsewhere in the world, we were not much beyond the Iron Age. Had you been able to roam the countryside at will, you might well have discovered castles containing music, fine food, athletic excellence; or monasteries with inhabitants steeped in learning. But there is no getting around it. Even on a strong horse, in good weather, you could have ridden for days without spotting any castle or monastery looming out of the greenery. […] I am sorry to paint such a picture of our country at that time, but there you are.

Related Characters: The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker)
Page Number: 4-5
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

“But isn’t it hard, sir,” Beatrice asked, “to see what truly lies in people’s hearts? Appearances deceive so easily.”

“That’s true, good lady, but then we boatmen have seen so many over the years it doesn’t take us long to see beyond deceptions. Besides, when travelers speak of their most cherished memories, it’s impossible for them to disguise the truth. A couple may claim to be bonded by love, but we boatmen may see instead resentment, anger, even hatred. Or a great barrenness. Sometimes a fear of loneliness and nothing more. Abiding love that has endured the years—that we see only rarely. When we do, we’re only too glad to ferry the couple together.”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:

“But Axl, we can’t remember those days. Or any of the years between. We don’t remember our fierce quarrels or the small moments we enjoyed and treasured. We don’t remember our son or why he’s away from us.”

“We can make all those memories come back, princess. Besides, the feeling in my heart for you will be there just the same, no matter what I remember or forget. Don’t you feel the same, princess?”

“I do, Axl. But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn’t like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I’m wondering if without our memories, there’s nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Beatrice (speaker), Axl and Beatrice’s Son, The Narrator / The Boatman
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

“It was just a thought. That perhaps God is angry about something we’ve done. Or maybe he’s not angry, but ashamed.”

“A curious thought, princess. But if it’s as you say, why doesn’t he punish us? Why make us forget like fools even things that happened the hour before?”

“Perhaps God’s so deeply ashamed of us, of something we did, that he’s wishing himself to forget. And as the stranger told Ivor, when God won’t remember, it’s no wonder we’re unable to do so.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Beatrice (speaker), Ivor
Related Symbols: The Mist
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Even so, sir, isn’t it a strange thing when a man calls another brother who only yesterday slaughtered his children? And yet this is the very thing Arthur appears to have accomplished.”

“You touch the heart of it just there, Master Wistan. Slaughter children, you say. And yet Arthur charged us at all times to spare the innocents caught in the clatter of war. More, sir, he commanded us to rescue and give sanctuary when we could to all women, children and elderly, be they Briton or Saxon. On such actions were bonds of trust built, even as battles raged.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker), King Arthur
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

What had brought the pair of them to that village that morning? Axl remembered the cries of outrage, children crying, the looks of hatred, and his own fury, not so much at Harvey himself, but at those who had handicapped him with such a companion. Their mission, if accomplished, would surely be an achievement unique and new, one so supreme God himself would judge it a moment when men came a step closer to him. Yet how could Axl hope to do anything tethered to such a brute?

Related Characters: The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker), Axl, Harvey
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

“I speak of people at the end of a brutal road, having seen their children and kin mutilated and ravished. They’ve reached this, their sanctuary, only after long torment, death chasing at their heels. And now comes an invading army of overwhelming size. The fort may hold several days, perhaps even a week or two. But they know in the end they will face their own slaughter. They know the infants they circle in their in their arms will before long be bloodied toys kicked about these cobbles. They know because they’ve seen it already, from whence they fled. They’ve seen the enemy burn and cut, take turns to rape young girls even as they lie dying of their wounds. They know this is to come, and so must cherish the earlier days of the siege, when the enemy must first pay the price for what they will later do.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Axl
Page Number: 141-142
Explanation and Analysis:

“How can you describe as penance, sir, the drawing of a veil over the foulest deeds? Is your Christian god one to be bribed so easily with self-inflicted pain and a few prayers? Does he care so little for justice left undone?”

“Our god is a god of mercy, shepherd, whom you, a pagan, may find hard to comprehend. It’s no foolishness to seek forgiveness from such a god, however great the crime. Our god’s mercy is boundless.”

“What use is a god with boundless mercy, sir? You mock me as a pagan, yet the gods of my ancestors pronounce clearly their ways and punish severely when we break their laws. Your Christian god of mercy gives men licence to pursue their greed, their lust for land and blood, knowing a few prayers and a little penance will bring forgiveness and blessing.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Father Jonus (speaker)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

“Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”

“It may be so for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together. To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”

“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”

“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker), Father Jonus (speaker), Axl
Related Symbols: The Mist
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“What are you suggesting, sir? Skulls? I saw no skulls! And what if there are a few old bones here? What of it, is that anything extraordinary? Aren’t we underground? But I saw no bed of bones, I don’t know what you suggest, Master Axl. Were you there, sir? Did you stand beside the great Arthur? I’m proud to say I did, sir, and he was a commander as merciful as he was gallant. Yes, indeed, it was I who came to the abbot to warn of Master Wistan’s identity and intentions, what choice had I? Was I to guess how dark the hearts of holy men could turn? Your suggestions are unwarranted, sir! An insult to all who ever stood alongside the great Arthur! There are no beds of bones here!”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, King Arthur
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

“We need not quarrel, Master Axl. Here are the skulls of men, I won’t deny it. There an arm, there a leg, but just bones now. An old burial ground. And so it may be. I dare say, sir, our whole country is this way. A fine green valley. A pleasant copse in the springtime. Dig its soil, and not far beneath the daisies and buttercups come the dead. And I don’t talk, sir, only of those who received Christian burial. Beneath our soil lie the remains of old slaughter. Horace and I, we’ve grown weary of it. Weary and we no longer young.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, Horace
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

“What do you suggest, mistress? That I committed this slaughter?” He said this tiredly, with none of the anger he had shown earlier in the tunnel, but there was a peculiar intensity in his voice. “So many skulls, you say. Yet are we not underground? What is it you suggest? Can just one knight of Arthur have killed so many?” He turned back to the gate and ran a finger along one of the bars. “Once, years ago, in a dream, I watched myself killing the enemy. It was in my sleep and long ago. The enemy, in their hundreds, perhaps as many as this. I fought and I fought. Just a foolish dream, but I still recall it.” He sighed, then looked at Beatrice. “I hardly know how to answer you, mistress. I acted as I thought would please God.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker), Beatrice, King Arthur
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

“So many skulls we trod on before coming out to this sweet dawn! So many. No need to look down, one hears their cackle with each tread. How many dead, sir? A hundred? A thousand? Did you count, Master Axl? Or were you not there, sir?”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Gawain’s First Reverie Quotes

“These cursed Saxons. Why fight on this way with only Death to thank them for it?”

“I believe they do so for sheer anger and hatred of us,” he says. “For it must be by now word has reached their ears of what’s been done to their innocents left in their villages. I’m myself just come from them, so why would the news not reach also the Saxon ranks?”

“What news do you speak of, Master Axl?”

“News of their women, children and elderly, left unprotected after our solemn agreement not to harm them, now all slaughtered by our hands, even the smallest babes. If this were lately done to us, would our hatred exhaust itself? Would we not also fight to the last as they do, each fresh wound given a balm?”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker)
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

“Master Axl, what was done in these Saxon towns today my uncle would have commanded only with a heavy heart, knowing of no other way for peace to prevail. Think, sir. Those small Saxon boys you lament would soon have become warriors burning to avenge their fathers fallen today. The small girls soon bearing more in their wombs, and this circle of slaughter would never be broken. Look how deep runs the lust for vengeance! […] Yet with today’s great victory a rare chance comes. We may once and for all sever this evil circle, and a great king must act boldly on it. May this be a famous day, Master Axl, from which our land can be in peace for years to come.”

“I fail to understand you, sir. […] This circle of hate is hardly broken, sir, but forged instead in iron by what’s done today.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker), King Arthur
Page Number: 213-214
Explanation and Analysis:

Yet I was a good knight who performed his duty to the end. Let me say so, and he will see I do not lie. I will not mind him. The gentle sunset, his shadow falling over me as he moves from one side of his vessel to the other.

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

“There are Britons who tempt our respect, even our love, I know this only too well. But there are now greater things press on us than what each may feel for another. It was Britons under Arthur slaughtered our kind. It was Britons took your mother and mine. We’ve a duty to hate every man, woman and child of their blood. So promise me this. Should I fall before I pass to you my skills, promise me you’ll tend well this hatred in your heart. And should it ever flicker or threaten to die, shield it with care till the flame takes hold again.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Edwin, King Arthur
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Axl, tell me. If the she-dragon’s really slain, and the mist starts to clear, Axl, do you ever fear what will then be revealed to us?”

“Didn’t you say it yourself, princess? Our life together’s like a tale with a happy end, no matter what turns it took on the way.”

“I said so before, Axl. Yet now it may even be we’ll slay Querig with our own hands, there’s a part of me fears the mist’s fading.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Beatrice (speaker), Querig
Related Symbols: The Mist
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

“Should Querig really die and the mist begin to clear. Should memories return, and among them of times I disappointed you. Or yet of dark deeds I may once have done to make you look at me and see no longer the man you do now. Promise me this at least. Promise, princess, you’ll not forget what you feel in your heart for me at this moment. For what good’s a memory’s returning from the mist if it’s only to push away another? Will you promise me, princess? Promise to keep what you feel for me this moment always in your heart, no matter what you see once the mist’s gone.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Beatrice, Querig
Related Symbols: The Mist
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“I accuse you of nothing. That great law you brokered torn down in blood! Yet it held well for a time. Torn down in blood! Who blames us for it now? Do I fear youth? Is it youth alone can defeat an opponent? Let him come, let him come.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, Wistan
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

“Will you not understand the acts of a great king, sir? We can only watch and wonder. A great king, like God himself, must perform deeds mortals flinch from! […] Who calls me a coward, sir? Or a slaughterer of babes? Where were you that day? Were you with us?”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, King Arthur
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

“A dark man he may have been, but in this he did God’s will, not only Arthur’s. Without this she-dragon’s breath, would peace ever have come? Look how we live now, sir! Old foes as cousins, village by village. Master Wistan, you fall silent before this sight. […] Her breath isn’t what it was, yet holds the magic even now. Think, sir, once that breath should cease, what might be awoken across this land even after these years! Yes, we slaughtered plenty, I admit it, caring not who was strong and who weak. God may not have smiled at us, but we cleansed the land of war. Leave this place, sir, I beg you.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Wistan, King Arthur, Querig, Merlin
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

“Foolishness, sir. How can old wounds heal while maggots linger so richly? Or a peace hold for ever built on slaughter and a magician’s trickery? I see how devoutly you wish it, for your old horrors to crumble as dust. Yet they await in the soil as white bones for men to uncover.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Sir Gawain, Merlin
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

“You and I longed for Querig’s end, thinking only of our own dear memories. Yet who knows what old hatreds will loosen across the land now? We must hope God yet finds a way to preserve the bonds between our peoples, yet custom and suspicion have always divided us. Who knows what will come when quick-tongued men make ancient grievances rhyme with fresh desire for land and conquest?”

“How right to fear it, sir,” Wistan said. “The giant, once well buried, now stirs."

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Wistan (speaker), Beatrice, Querig
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“What did you hope to gain, sir, preventing not just your wife but even yourself grieving at your son’s resting place?”

“Gain? There was nothing to gain, boatman. It was just foolishness and pride. And whatever else lurks in the depths of a man’s heart. Perhaps it was a craving to punish, sir. I spoke and acted forgiveness, yet kept locked through long years some small chamber in my heart that yearned for vengeance. A petty and black thing I did her, and my son also.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker), Beatrice, Axl and Beatrice’s Son
Page Number: 312-313
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.