The Buried Giant

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Mist Symbol Icon

Throughout The Buried Giant, the characters speak of a mist that descends upon them and robs them of both their short-term and long-term memories and they discuss what the cause of the mist might be, why it occurs, and how it can be stopped. This mist symbolizes the collective forgetting that results from rewriting history. The mist is actually created by the breath of a dragon, Querig, who had been put under a spell by Merlin on orders from King Arthur after he broke a treaty with the Saxons that forbade his armies to raid Saxon villages and murder women and children. In essence, King Arthur rewrote history even as it was happening in order to ensure that his future reputation would remain immaculate. Mist obscures one’s view of something—it can be thick and impossible to see through, but it doesn’t entirely erase what one can’t see. In this sense, the mist represents exactly what rewriting history does: it obscures the truth, but it doesn’t change it. Because the past was hard to see, both Britons and Saxons stopped looking and forgot all about it. No one questioned when Sir Gawain spoke of the wisdom and judiciousness of King Arthur. However, in the end, the mist rises after Querig is slain and people gradually begin to remember the past. When history exists as firsthand memories in the minds of much of the population, it can no longer be altered or rewritten. So, with the disappearance of the mist, the rewriting of history ends, and the truth being obscuring from view is revealed.

The Mist Quotes in The Buried Giant

The The Buried Giant quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Mist. 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:
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Buried Giant published in 2015.
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 6 Quotes

“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 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:
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The Mist Symbol Timeline in The Buried Giant

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Mist appears in The Buried Giant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...says he can’t remember their son’s face and assumes it is “the work of this mist” that gathers in the area and makes people forget. Still, Axl believes either he or... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...she’s afraid. When Axl asks why, Beatrice tells him about the time she discussed the mist that makes people forget with a strange woman whose husband had also been taken to... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...tells Beatrice that their memories aren’t lost, “just mislaid somewhere on account of this wretched mist” and they’ll remember everything when they find their son. Beatrice says she hopes that’s true... (full context)
Chapter 3
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Beatrice remember more than “the younger ones” and asks Ivor if he knows where the mist that makes them forget comes from. Ivor says he’s heard a lot about the mist,... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
With Ivor gone, Axl and Beatrice wonder what he would have said about the mist. Axl asks Beatrice if Ivor has always lived with the Saxons and Beatrice tells him... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and stops him, asking him to finish what he had been saying earlier about the mist. Ivor says that a strange Saxon had come through the year before and was really... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...Beatrice asks Axl if he thinks there was anything to what Ivor said about the mist the night before. Axl says he doesn’t know what to think and Beatrice tells him... (full context)
Chapter 6
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...in the conversation between Jonus and Wistan, Beatrice tells Jonus about her conversation about the mist with the medicine woman. She asks Jonus if either he or Wistan knows where the... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...identify the emotions he felt when he and Beatrice were told the cause of the mist, but he is unable to. Jonus asks Beatrice questions about her pain and where it... (full context)
Chapter 13
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...to happen because it would be “a fine thing” for Querig to die and the mist to be lifted. (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...girl’s head. Beatrice asks Axl if he’s afraid of what they will remember when the mist clears, but he tells her their story already has a happy ending. Beatrice agrees but... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...is and Axl tells her that if they kill Querig and get rid of the mist, he wants her to promise not to forget how she feels about him in this... (full context)
Chapter 15
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...begins struggling to get away, although it soon stops, prompting Beatrice to ask if the mist makes goats forget, too. (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...horse while Beatrice questions whether Axl really wants to see the dragon slain and the mist lifted, and Sir Gawain asks if Axl thinks that no “tender flower or two” had... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...on, Beatrice tells Axl she’s beginning to think she’s “the one to fear most the mist’s clearing” and is afraid she betrayed Axl somehow in the past. Still, she is determined... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...says that if this was him, he only remembers it “through the haze” of the mist. Wistan thanks him for his honesty and Axl requests some honesty in return before asking... (full context)
Chapter 17
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...Beatrice swears she can hear the sea nearby and says they forgot because of the mist but she knows their son is there. Axl thinks it’s just her fever, but the... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...if she thinks the only reason their love has grown so strong is because the mist had erased their pasts long enough for old wounds to heal, but she says that... (full context)