The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

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Stonelore Symbol Icon

Stonelore, the passed-down wisdom about how to survive Fifth Seasons, symbolizes the limitations and mutability of human knowledge and history. In other words, it reflects the idea that history can be literally rewritten to suit those in power.

According to Stillness tradition, ancient people originally inscribed stonelore in stone tablets, and stonelore’s teachings have been passed down for millennia as the wisdom necessary to survive a Fifth Season. That it’s written in stone implies that it’s permanent and unchangeable, and there are many stories told about people who ignore stonelore and suffer for it. Stonelore is taught to all children in the Stillness, and its authority is seemingly never questioned.

Eventually, Syenite and the reader come to question the truth of stonelore’s unchanging nature. Alabaster tells Syenite that ancient tablets have been discovered that completely contradict what is accepted as the current stonelore text, and that the prohibition on changing stonelore might itself be a recent addition to its commandments. Nothing is ever truly written in stone, the novel implies, and history and the law are written by those in power at any given time. This suggests that the ruling classes would feel no compunction about destroying or discrediting stonelore that might go against their current policies, or rewriting history to make ancient laws seem to support the current hierarchy. Only a few fragments of stonelore are directly quoted in The Fifth Season, but many of them deal with orogenes, and the compulsory learning of stonelore is a central reason that people throughout the Stillness hate and fear orogenes so much. If stonelore itself might be misinterpreted or have even been altered, then it is because a group in power wants people to keep hating orogenes, and for orogenes to continue to feel themselves less than human. This then invites the novel’s characters and readers to question everything that might be accepted as universal knowledge, particularly when it benefits those in power and keeps the oppressed at the bottom.

Stonelore Quotes in The Fifth Season

The The Fifth Season quotes below all refer to the symbol of Stonelore. 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:
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orbit edition of The Fifth Season published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Tell them they can be great someday, like us. Tell them they belong among us, no matter how we treat them. Tell them they must earn the respect which everyone else receives by default. Tell them there is a standard for acceptance; that standard is simply perfection. Kill those who scoff at these contradictions, and tell the rest that the dead deserved annihilation for their weakness and doubt. Then they’ll break themselves trying for what they’ll never achieve.”

Related Symbols: Stonelore
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“They kill us because they’ve got stonelore telling them at every turn that we’re born evil—some kind of agents of Father Earth, monsters that barely qualify as human.”

“Yes, but you can’t change stonelore.”

“Stonelore changes all the time, Syenite.” He doesn’t say her name often, either. It gets her attention. “Every civilization adds to it; parts that don’t matter to the people of the time are forgotten. There’s a reason Tablet Two is so damaged: someone, somewhere back in time, decided that it wasn’t important or was wrong, and didn’t bother to take care of it. Or maybe they even deliberately tried to obliterate it, which is why so many of the early copies are damaged in exactly the same way.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker)
Related Symbols: Stonelore
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Season LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Season PDF

Stonelore Symbol Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stonelore appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: you are here
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...all the delicate movements of the city’s millions of inhabitants. He speaks aloud about how “stonelore” was originally written in stone so that it couldn’t be changed. The man’s companion is... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...its center. The townspeople know that this means a “rogga” is in Tirimo, as their stonelore tells them to “Look for the center of the circle.” Hearing some of the rumors... (full context)
Chapter 1: you, at the end
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...Rask, the town’s headman, isn’t letting anyone enter or leave Tirimo. Essun quotes something from stonelore, and Lerna asks her if she really thinks the situation is that serious. Essun knows... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...come for her soon enough. The chapter ends with a quotation from a tablet of stonelore: “The shake that passes will echo. The wave that recedes will come back. The mountain... (full context)
Chapter 2: Damaya, in winters past
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...had. The chapter ends with a brief and partially obscured quotation from a tablet of stonelore: “[obscured] the icewhite eyes, the ashblow hair, the filtering nose, the sharpened teeth, the salt-split... (full context)
Chapter 3: you’re on your way
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...there instead, talking to some people who are probably shoring up the town’s well, as stonelore advises. Essun knows that if he’s not here, Rask will be at the library, so... (full context)
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...escape death, because she herself is death. The chapter ends with a brief line of stonelore: “Never forget who you are.” (full context)
Chapter 5: you’re not alone
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...not yet ready to accept that they might be living in the apocalyptic times that stonelore warns about. (full context)
Chapter 8: Syenite on the highroad
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...at this, but Alabaster says that people only hate and fear orogenes because centuries of stonelore have taught them that all orogenes are evil monsters. Syenite says that stonelore can’t change,... (full context)
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Syenite is shaken by this, but she still tries to cling to the idea that “stonelore is as old as intelligence” and that anyone who tries to go against it inevitably... (full context)
Chapter 9: Syenite among the enemy
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...try it without dying. Quickly drifting off, Alabaster quotes something that he says is from stonelore, but a tablet that Syen has never heard of. He then says that he’s been... (full context)
Chapter 10: you walk beside the beast
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...walking. The commless woman follows them close behind. The chapter ends with a quotation from stonelore: “Beware ground on loose rock. Beware hale strangers. Beware sudden silence.” (full context)
Chapter 11: Damaya at the fulcrum of it all
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...her guard down as he jokes with her and talks about “lorists” who don’t teach stonelore, but rather perform plays just for fun. Maxixe seems bitter about their life at the... (full context)
Chapter 12: Syenite finds a new toy
Power and Control Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...tries to process everything that has just happened. The chapter ends with a quotation from stonelore saying that Father Earth never sleeps, and he never forgets. (full context)
Chapter 13: you’re on the trail
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...spot, and just hope that she finds Nassun. The chapter ends with a quotation from stonelore about everyone being judged for their usefulness, ending with “a few strong backs to guard... (full context)
Chapter 16: Syen in the hidden land
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...kill their roggas—instead, they make them their leaders. The chapter ends with a quotation from stonelore saying that “the stone eater is folly made flesh,” and to “learn the lesson of... (full context)
Chapter 17: Damaya, in finality
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...indeed pass the test for Schaffa’s sake. The chapter ends with an obscured verse of stonelore, ending with “They are not masters of themselves; allow them no mastery of others.” (full context)
Chapter 21: you’re getting the band back together
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
Disaster, Violence, and Survival Theme Icon
History, Storytelling, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...unable to survive. She can’t help feeling that Castrima should have just done things as stonelore says to do, instead of gathering stone eaters and roggas into a single underground chamber.... (full context)