Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces Part 2: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Not long after finishing writing Part I, Orual begins to write again. She is dying. She can’t rewrite the book, so she has to add to it. She now understands herself much better, partly from the very process of writing. She has had to write down emotions that she had forgotten, and, in the end, she realized that her memories had not been truthful for many years. But this was only the beginning of the change in her.
The Queen’s new perspective shows the reader that something has happened since the Queen ended her story. In part, the very act of writing her story down has led her to examine her own motivations in the conflict with Psyche and find that she has long deceived herself.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
When the Queen is writing about her happy childhood years, she receives word that an embassy is coming from another king. When they get to Glome, she finds that their leader is a monstrously fat, conceited eunuch. He seems familiar, and eventually she realizes it’s Tarin, who was once Redival’s lover. He reminds her that it was her father who made him a eunuch, luckily for him, since eunuchs are valued at his king’s court. Tarin says he’s glad the Queen’s father’s temper got him out of being a guard in a backwards little kingdom like Glome.
Even while in the process of telling her story as the reader has heard it in Part I, the Queen was experiencing events that changed her view of the past. Tarin is a figure who belongs securely in Orual’s youth, as she has hardly thought of him since he left Glome. However, he now appears to modify the Queen’s understanding of that past. The Queen’s lack of anger in the face of Tarin’s insults shows that she has moved away from her similarity to the King.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Tarin asks about Redival, and the Queen tells him she’s the Queen of Phars. Tarin remembers Redival as pretty, though he only took pity on her because she was lonely. She used to say that Orual loved her until the Fox and Psyche came, and then Orual stopped loving her. The Queen isn’t sure whether to believe him, and she still doesn’t like Redival. But she’s never considered how Redival felt about her loving Psyche and the Fox—she’s always thought she was the one who should be pitied, since Redival had beauty.
Orual always saw Redival as very self-satisfied and entirely dismissive of Orual’s personal value. Tarin, however, paints her in an entirely different light; her cruelty to Psyche came in part from her jealousy of Orual’s love for Psyche, which Redival felt had been stolen from her. Orual has always seen herself as the wronged and unlovable one, but Tarin’s story forces her to see that others have desired love that she refused to give.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The Queen continues writing, sorting through her own motivations. At night, she dreams of sorting a pile of seeds, knowing she’ll be punished if she stops or makes a mistake. She’s pretty sure she’ll fail, but there’s the slightest chance she’ll succeed, so she must continue. Sometimes she’s an ant, and has to carry the seeds like huge stones.
The dream indicates that the Queen’s writing is a sort of divine punishment by which she must discover truths about herself; it will later become clear that sorting seeds was a punishment that the gods sent to Psyche. Orual, however, takes on Psyche’s pain, helping Psyche as an ant.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
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The Queen is so focused on her work that she hardly thinks of Bardia, except to be angry that he isn’t around to work on affairs of state so that she has more time to write. When she finally finishes her book, she actually listens to Arnom and realizes that Bardia is far sicker than she thought. She wants to go to him immediately, but Arnom tells her that a visit would only make Bardia think of all the work he needs to be doing and thus further tire him out. The Queen accepts this, since she would do anything to help Bardia live.
Just as Orual failed to appreciate Redival’s love for her, she now fails to recognize that Bardia needs her, as she’s so wrapped up in herself. Arnom recognizes that Bardia associates the Queen with work and stress, mostly because he’s so loyal to her. Ansit will also emphasize this aspect of the Queen’s relationship with Bardia. To her credit, the Queen denies herself the comfort of visiting Bardia in order to preserve his health.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Five days later, Bardia dies. The worst part is that the Queen never told him she loved him. At the funeral, she can’t beat her breast for him because she isn’t family. Three days later, she goes to visit his widow, Ansit. She feels like Ansit is her enemy, but also the only person she can talk to about Bardia’s death.
The Queen has always kept her love for Bardia a personal secret, essentially hoarding it for herself rather than letting him feel its warmth. Her jealousy of Ansit has also poisoned her relationship with Bardia.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Ansit seems very calm, and she is beautiful in a proud way. The Queen offers words of sympathy, but Ansit is deferential and distant. The Queen begs her to be more familiar, since she also feels the loss of Bardia painfully. They sit, and the Queen says that Bardia’s death was very unexpected. Ansit tells her that he wasn’t strong to begin with, which shocks the Queen. He worked himself too hard, Ansit says, and should have retired years before. The Queen says he never seemed old, but Ansit replies that he would never have shown his weariness in front of her. In fact, he has been worked to death in the wars and the affairs of state.
Though Ansit is no longer physically beautiful, the Queen recognizes a beauty in her that comes from her inner character. The different ways in which the Queen and Ansit loved Bardia become apparent, as Ansit has seen clearly the fatigue in Bardia of which the Queen was entirely unaware. The Queen was too wrapped up in the supposed injustice of the fact that Bardia couldn’t love her romantically to see all the ways in which he sacrificed himself for her.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
The Queen doesn’t know whether to believe Ansit. She says she’s worked just as much as Bardia did. Ansit replies that women are tougher than men, and the Queen is younger. The Queen blames Bardia for not telling her he needed rest, but Ansit says he would never have done that, and her servants have loved her very much.
The Queen doesn’t want to accept that she might have played some role in Bardia’s death. As she always does, she blames the object of her love for his own demise, though her love and his own love for her actually caused his overwork. Ansit recognizes the love that Orual denies out of self-pity.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The Queen spits that she has never had love except from her servants. She thinks Ansit has had all the love she herself hasn’t. However, Ansit feels she only had the part of Bardia that the Queen left her. The two of them shared so much in the wars, and he always came home older and more tired and went right back to the palace to advise her. The Queen suddenly realizes that Ansit is jealous of her.
The Queen has never been able to recognize all of the love directed at her, preferring to believe that she has been wronged. In fact, Ansit also feels wronged, which shows the Queen that she had much more of Bardia’s love and devotion than she ever realized. Both women have been jealous of each other, neither able to find satisfaction in what she had.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
This seems so preposterous that the Queen pulls off her veil, asking whether Ansit is jealous of her face. Ansit stares at her, but not in fear of her face. She begins to cry as she sees that the Queen has also loved Bardia and suffered from it. Suddenly they’re holding each other. Now that Bardia is dead, they can’t hate each other for loving him; instead, they’re the only ones who understand each other’s pain.
The Queen has shown no one her face in many years, and obviously still believes it makes her unlovable. When she does reveal her face, it becomes evident that it shows her inner character. For this brief moment, the pain of love overwhelms both women’s jealousy, and they are united in their grief.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
However, their sympathy doesn’t last long. The Queen puts her veil back on and Ansit’s face hardens again. The Queen says Ansit has had her revenge by calling her Bardia’s murderer. She asks whether Ansit really believes this, and Ansit replies that she knows it. The Queen asks why she didn’t tell her earlier. Ansit says that she couldn’t take Bardia’s life’s work away from him for her own comfort. They didn’t belong to each other; they each had to do what was best for their own lives. She points out that the Queen will also lead her son Ilerdia away from her with his work, but she would never do anything to stop it.
Ansit contrasts her pure form of love, similar to that of Psyche and the Fox, with Orual’s devouring love. Ansit never interfered in Bardia’s life, even though she saw that the Queen was working him to death, because she knew that it wasn’t her place to control Bardia. Orual has never understood this aspect of love; she believes that love naturally implies a right to keep her loved ones at her side.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
The Queen asks whether Ansit can bear doing nothing to keep her loved ones by her. Ansit exclaims that the Queen must not understand love, or perhaps her love is different than commoners’. The Queen loves like the gods and the Shadowbrute, loving and devouring at the same time. Angry, the Queen points out that she saved Bardia’s life in a battle. Ansit retorts that she only saved Bardia’s life for her own use. She’s consumed the lives of everyone around her.
Ansit recognizes that the Queen’s way of loving mixes with hatred and depends on jealousy. The Queen hates the gods for taking Psyche from her, but she herself loves in just as possessive a way as Ungit does. Ansit finally makes the Queen see that her love is not true love, but in fact a cruel form of emotion that destroys those she loves.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen imagines torturing Ansit to death. She tells her that the King would have cut her tongue out, but she leaves. As she rides home, she thinks she’ll send Ilerdia home to be a common farmer so that Ansit can’t blame her for consuming his life. But in the end, she doesn’t.
The Queen’s first reaction to Ansit’s honesty is to let the violent part of her that comes from her father take over. She still doesn’t entirely understand that Ansit doesn’t want Ilerdia to abandon his dreams; Ansit’s love allows Ilerdia to find his own happiness.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The gods are working on her. The Queen soon realizes that Ansit’s words are true. She has always given Bardia extra work to keep him from leaving her. Furthermore, she often pushed conversation in directions that would lead to others mocking him about his faithfulness to Ansit. She thinks that her love was almost entirely hatred in those moments. At night, she used to imagine Ansit gone and Bardia begging her forgiveness, which she wouldn’t give easily.
The Queen is forced to eventually recognize this part of her that she has denied for so long, and she believes the change is due to the gods’ intervention. This is part of her punishment. She sees the cruel forms that her love took, even recognizing instances that Ansit didn’t know about. She only wanted to control Bardia. For her, love and hate were not opposites.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Once the Queen works through all of these thoughts, she has stopped longing for Bardia. Perhaps the strongest passions aren’t necessarily the most deep-seated. Mostly, her love for Bardia has become disgusting to her. She realizes that she never gave him anything, and the jealousy of the women in his life undoubtedly made life hard for him. But when she no longer wants Bardia, she feels as though her entire self is gone.
When the Queen sees herself truly, she realizes that she never loved Bardia truly, and her relationship with him can only represent all the bad parts of her. Her entire life has centered around her love and the sense of wrong done to her by those she loved; thus, when she recognizes the falsity of this point of view, she hardly knows who she is. This makes way for a new Orual to arise.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Jealousy Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon