Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces Part 1: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, they burn the King’s body. The day after, Redival becomes engaged to Trunia. Finally, the palace goes back to normal. As the years pass, the narrator becomes more the Queen and less Orual. Orual has been trapped far within the Queen. The Queen knows that the stories about her reign greatly exaggerate most of what she’s done. In truth, she fights three wars alongside her soldiers. Bardia and another noble really lead the army, and whenever she finds herself in battle, she wishes she weren’t there. The only time she does anything great is once, when Bardia is surrounded and she kills seven men to save him.
Orual quickly gives up any fantasies she had of marrying Trunia, instead acting in the best interests of the kingdom and her power. She manages to repress her old self and become someone new who doesn’t have to feel the guilt of what her past self did. For once, the ferociousness of her love has positive consequences, as it allows her to act with almost superhuman strength to save Bardia. However, even this heroic act is one of violence.
Themes
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The Queen’s strength comes from her excellent advisors, Bardia and the Fox, who are honest and loyal. It helps that they don’t think of her as a woman (essentially due to her ugliness). Her strength also comes from her veil. When people can’t see her face, they find her voice beautiful. As fewer people remember ever seeing her face, they begin to speculate about what the veil hides, guessing that she has an animal’s face or no face at all. Some say her beauty is so tremendous that it would drive men mad or make Ungit jealous. In sum, the Queen becomes an object of mystery and fear, which adds to her power.
Much of the Queen’s power comes from her denial of her femininity, and thus the symbolic denial of her ability to feel emotion. In this situation, her ugliness works to her advantage, even though it also causes her pain for Bardia to think of her as a man. The Queen’s face becomes a frightening object of speculation just like the face of the god was to her. At the same time, people treat her more like Psyche; they are in awe of her possible beauty, and they think it might cause conflict with the gods.
Themes
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Early on, the Queen moves to a different side of the palace to avoid the sound of the chains in the well. But no matter where she goes, she finds that she can still hear the sound at night. She’s terrified of it, but she’s also scared of not hearing it, in case one day it will be Psyche. However, she knows that if Psyche were alive and wanted to return, she already would have. When she thinks Psyche must be dead or a slave, she goes to the Pillar Room to bury herself in work. For years, she has agents all over the world searching for Psyche, to no avail.
The Queen tries to completely block out the old Orual by escaping from the sound of the chains. This sign of her guilt will not go away so easily, though, which indicates that the guilt lives on within her and thus cannot be escaped. No matter how hopeless she knows it is, she continues to almost expect Psyche to show up on her doorstep. No matter how much she tries to become someone new, her love lives on, and so does the pain it caused.
Themes
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In the first year of her reign, the Queen hangs Batta after finding out that she has always blackmailed the other slaves into giving her valuables. She sells or frees many slaves, giving the freed ones their own homes and sometimes letting them marry for love. She sets Poobi free. Many of the freed slaves become successful and loyal subjects.
Batta represents the fears and weaknesses of the Queen’s childhood, as well as a cruel side of the Queen herself. Hanging Batta is another step towards completely killing Orual. The Queen allows love and freedom to reign hand in hand, in contrast to her own personal enslaving form of love.
Themes
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The Queen also makes the silver mines more productive. The King only used them as a place to send people as punishment, and they never made much money. The Queen finds a good overseer, buys strong slaves, provides good living conditions, and lets the slaves go after they have each mined a certain amount of silver. The mines become a source of wealth for the kingdom.
The Queen turns away from the influence of the King upon her, not only reforming his way of running the kingdom but also doing it in a way that denies the violence and cruelty that he passed on to her. The fact that the Fox was a slave undoubtedly helps convince her of their humanity.
Themes
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The Queen gives the Fox pleasant rooms and land, as well as money to buy books. Traders come to Glome once they realize that someone in Glome is buying books, though the books are very expensive. Orual and the Fox manage to buy eighteen books, which is impressive for Glome. They have Homer, Patroclus, Euripides, Socrates, and Heraclitus, among others. Arnom and other noblemen begin to learn from the Fox.
Though the Queen doesn’t realize her love has devoured the Fox’s potential for a happy life at home in Greece, she does help him try to recreate a sense of Greece in Glome. Together, they begin to turn the barbarian kingdom of Glome into a more civilized, learned place.
Themes
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The Queen begins getting to know her nobles, and she meets Bardia’s wife, Ansit. She expected her to be beautiful, but, in fact, she is not. The Queen tries hard to be polite and loving to Ansit, but Ansit speaks little around her. The Queen wonders if Ansit might be jealous of her. The Queen knows that Ansit has borne Bardia’s children, but she has never shared the hardships of war with him. The Queen knows a side of Bardia that Ansit doesn’t. Bardia goes back and forth between them, never thinking of any conflict the two women might have.
The Queen has always believed that her ugliness prevents Bardia from loving her and she has been jealous of the beauty that keeps Ansit at his side, but she finds that these sentiments were unfounded, since Ansit isn’t even beautiful anymore. The Queen begins to see that she might have access to a valuable part of Bardia that Ansit doesn’t ever see, but her love continues to be possessive, as she takes pleasure in Ansit’s loss.
Themes
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Jealousy Theme Icon
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Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
The Queen doesn’t like having to sacrifice in the house of Ungit. At least Ungit is weaker now, she thinks. Arnom has let more light into the temple and he keeps it cleaner. He is also learning from the Fox to see the gods philosophically. He orders a woman-shaped statue of Ungit like the Greeks have—a contrast to the old, blank stone statue.. He has to send away men who have learned from the Greeks to have the statue made. The Queen contributes money, feeling that the new statue helps to destroy the Ungit that used to terrify her. When the statue is finished, it becomes a wonder and an object of pilgrimage.
The Queen still feels uncomfortable around Ungit, probably because she doesn’t want to acknowledge that Ungit’s jealous, destructive love lives within her. Ungit becomes weaker as the mysteries around her are stripped away: the temple is well-lit, and the statue allows her to be viewed as a human-shaped woman rather than as a blank stone that could represent anything at all. As these mysteries are taken from Ungit, the Queen begins to use them for herself, as with her veil.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen realizes she’ll never find a room where she can’t hear the chains in the well, so she builds ridiculously thick walls around the well. She can no longer hear the sound, but for a while she’s tormented by dreams that she has walled up Psyche or Orual. The dreams eventually end, and the next year she defeats the kingdom of Essur.
The sound of the chains continues to pursue the Queen, since it really comes from within her own guilt. The walls around the well act as a sort of veil, hiding the guilt of her old self just as her own veil allows her to hide the ugliness of her true soul.
Themes
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The Fox grows old and plays a less active role; he writes a history of Glome, once in Greek and once in Glome’s language. He doesn’t know Glome’s language as well as he thinks he does, but the Queen doesn’t tell him this. As he ages, he strays from philosophy towards beauty and poetry. Sometimes he mistakes the Queen for Psyche or other people.
The Fox’s philosophy has always represented atheism, and he associates poetry with the foolishness of emotion and misguided belief in the gods. In his old age, as death nears, he begins to fall back on the potential existence of the gods, which suggests that this is a more natural state. In death, his ghost will fully embrace this truth.
Themes
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The Queen doesn’t have much time for the Fox. She makes many changes for the good of Glome, but she doesn’t care much about them in the long run. Every night, she must retreat alone to her own empty being. She hates evenings and mornings, and the days and years feel irritatingly repetitive.
The Queen originally threw herself into her role to distract herself from the sorrow and guilt of her former life. It becomes apparent that she’s still trying to escape that life, and she finds nothing truly fulfilling in her position that can mend her broken soul. She’s still not dealing with her own faults; instead she’s trying not to acknowledge herself at all.
Themes
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The Fox dies, and the Queen writes Greek verses for his gravestone. He is buried behind the pear trees, where he, Psyche, and Orual were happy. Life goes on until the Queen decides she’s sick of seeing the same places over and over. She decides she’ll travel to other kingdoms and let her advisors take care of Glome in her absence, since it’s in such good shape. She leaves three days later, taking Bardia’s son Ilerdia and Poobi’s daughter, Alit.
The Queen’s Greek poetry is a nod to the Fox’s love of his homeland, but she still doesn’t see that she should have let him go home. She has nothing to make her truly happy in Glome. Her desire to see new places echoes Psyche’s old desire to go to the Mountain, as well as Orual’s hope that she and Psyche would wander the world together, either in punishment or to escape Psyche’s captor.
Themes
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