The new Queen survives less than a year. She becomes pregnant, and the King is ecstatic, sacrificing to Ungit frequently. Once, Orual overhears the King tell his wife that her father has cheated him by not revealing that Caphad was doing poorly. The Queen is homesick and ill, but affectionate to the princesses in the way of a sister.
The Queen is an object of pity rather than a mother figure for Orual. The King makes no attempt to disguise the fact that he married her for the power advantages it would give him, and he’s already disappointed in the results of the marriage.
On the night the new Queen gives birth, superstition dictates that no one go to sleep. They sit in the great hall, the Priest of Ungit performing ceremonies around a fire. Orual is afraid, but the Fox tells her not to fear anything related to nature. She falls asleep, and when she wakes up, she hears women wailing. The King has left the hall, and there has been a sacrifice.
Religion and reason conflict in the different reactions of the Priest and the Fox to the birth. While the Priest engages in mysterious rituals that frighten Orual, the Fox insists that birth is a natural and explainable process that need not induce fear. When Orual wakes up, the wailing and the sacrifice suggest that the Queen has died.
Orual has the wild idea to visit the new Queen. As the Fox tries to stop her, the King comes out of the Queen’s chamber in a dangerous rage. He calls for wine, but the slave who brings it slips in blood from the sacrifice and drops the wine. The King immediately stabs and kills him.
The King has already been revealed as unkind, but this scene proves that anger can completely unhinge him. There is no justice in the slave’s death. The King is violent and too self-centered to even consider the slave as a person.
The King tells the Priest of Ungit that he must repay what the King has sacrificed to Ungit, suggesting that he might instead kill the Priest and destroy Ungit’s stone. The Priest warns that Ungit will punish the King’s descendants. The King asks who killed the slave, and then suddenly screams about having only female children. He shakes Orual and throws her from him, then attacks the Fox, ordering him to go work in the mines.
The King’s anger exposes his hatred and frustration with the world. His feeling of powerlessness over his lack of male children leads him to take power in the immediate situation in every way he can, demonstrating dominance over the Priest, Orual, and the Fox. He once again makes Orual seem entirely worthless. Additionally, the Priest speaks of Ungit as a vengeful goddess, which is how Orual sees her for the rest of her life.
The King throws everyone out of the hall. Orual begs the Fox to run away, but he says he’s too old. Orual insists that she’ll go with him and take the blame. The Fox says that the plan wouldn’t work; instead, he must kill himself. Orual worries that those who commit suicide will be punished in the land of the dead, but the Fox assures her that there is no land of the dead. Orual thinks that some part of the Fox must believe in the gods, though, because he’s shaking.
Orual displays her true, selfless love of the Fox as well as her deep-seated fear of her father. Despite the Fox’s rational teachings, she still fully believes in the religion she’s grown up with. The fact that the Fox might actually believe in the gods despite his insistence to the contrary suggests that there’s some primal human fear of the gods that can’t entirely be wiped away by philosophy.
They then hear horses and see that messengers from the kingdom of Phars have arrived. The Fox is called to the palace, and when he and Orual go to the Pillar Room, it is crowded with strangers. The King sends Orual away. Although he sounds less angry, she is terrified for the Fox for the rest of the day. Batta shaves Orual’s head along with Redival’s and confirms that the new Queen has died. The baby, a girl, lives. Orual thinks of her cut hair as a sacrifice for the Fox’s impending doom.
Many changes happen at the palace in quick succession. Orual experiences fear for the Fox at her father’s hands (which echoes her later fear for Psyche). As she will with Psyche, she wants to experience some pain or loss to be in sympathy with the Fox as he’s in danger, even though cutting her hair won’t actually help him.
Later, the Fox comes to tell Orual that he won’t be sent to the mines. He has just bargained well with the King of Phars, and Orual’s father has decided he needs the Fox as an advisor, particularly because of his way with words.
The Fox uses his wits to get himself out of danger and into a position of power in the palace that he will hold for the rest of his life. Orual sees the practical value of quick, reasoned thinking.
The King names his baby daughter Istra. Orual knows that in Greek, the name is Psyche. There are babies all over the palace who belong to the slaves or are the King’s illegitimate children. Although the King sometimes threatens to kill the children, he actually respects the male slaves who get women pregnant. Orual goes to see Psyche and finds her a beautiful, quiet baby. The Fox likens her to Helen of Troy.
The King’s attitude towards the children and the slaves in the palace demonstrates, once again, his cruelty and the value he places on masculinity. He doesn’t seem to care much more about Psyche than about these slave children, and his threat to kill them foreshadows his later willingness to sacrifice Psyche. The Fox’s comparison of her to Helen of Troy suggests future trouble, since Helen’s beauty inspired the jealousy of the gods and caused the Trojan War.
Orual takes on the raising of Psyche, finding her a nurse and having both of them constantly in her chamber. The Fox warns her not to work herself too hard, but Orual doesn’t see it as work. She is always laughing and gazing at Psyche. The Fox loves Psyche, too, and acts like a grandfather to her. Orual, Psyche, and the Fox are always together, and with the King’s mind elsewhere, Redival stays away from the trio.
Though Orual hasn’t had a strong mother figure in her life, she becomes one to Psyche. She completely dedicates her life to Psyche, and she and the Fox become the loving family that Orual never had. Although Orual doesn’t find out until later, Redival feels rejected by and jealous of Orual’s attention.
Psyche’s beauty is natural and astonishing once an onlooker leaves her presence. She seems to be the ideal woman, and she makes everything around her beautiful. For a while, the world seems wonderful to Orual, and she devotes herself entirely to Psyche, wanting to love her in every possible way.
Orual’s description of Psyche’s beauty as natural connects it to the Fox’s philosophy of God as nature, rather than to Glome’s conception of the gods as dark and strange. This is the happiest time of Orual’s life, but already her love is rather obsessive.
The King now completely trusts the Fox, who often brings Orual and Psyche to a hilltop where they can see all across Glome and the Grey Mountain. Psyche loves the Mountain and dreams of one day marrying a great king who will build her a palace on top. The Fox says she is more beautiful than Aphrodite, but Orual thinks that his words are bad luck, seeming to feel a coldness in the summer air. The Fox tells her that the divine nature is not jealous, but Orual is not comforted.
Psyche’s attraction to the Grey Mountain and desire for a palace there makes it seem that she fated to marry the god who lives there. Even when she and Orual are perfectly happy together, Psyche is already looking off towards this imagined future, away from Orual. Orual’s fear of the gods intensifies, particularly in relation to their potential jealousy of Psyche. The seeds of Psyche’s sacrifice are planted in this scene.