Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

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

Summary
Analysis
A few days later, there’s a ritual for the new year. Arnom stays in the house of Ungit overnight and then ceremonially fights his way out, although everything happens symbolically. The Queen goes into the temple an hour before the ceremony. The weather is beautiful, which makes her not want to enter the oppressive and smelly atmosphere of the temple.
Ungit is ceremonially birthing the new year, and the Queen’s participation in the ritual implies that a new time is beginning in her life, as well—perhaps even one in which she’ll fight her way out from Ungit’s influence.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
She sits on a flat stone opposite the stone that is Ungit. Arnom sits to her right, and the temple girls sit in rows at the doors to their rooms, where they live their whole lives. The Queen thinks that men’s semen goes to waste on these girls when it could produce healthy children. Men also waste their money here, and the girls are consumed and wasted.
The Queen’s position across from Ungit implies that they are reflections of each other. The Queen perceives the devouring quality of Ungit’s love, pondering how so much is wasted for the sake of Ungit. She doesn’t yet see her own relationship to this waste.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The story goes that the stone, Ungit, pushed herself out of the earth at the beginning of the world. She has no face, but that means that the lumps of the rock form countless faces. Now blood has been poured over her, and the Queen sees a very vivid face that almost reminds her of Batta. The Queen remembers running to escape from Batta’s smothering embrace.
Ungit is a very primitive goddess, and the imagery surrounding her shows that she is a fundamental part of humans. Since she has no face of her own, her face can become any face. Batta’s cruel, rough love for the princesses is similar to Ungit’s love, and the Queen hates both.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen asks Arnom who Ungit is. He replies that she represents the earth, a way of thinking that he’s gotten from the Fox. The Queen asks how Ungit can be both the mother and wife of the god of the Mountain, and Arnom says that these are all metaphors for natural phenomena. The Queen thinks it strange that these tales try to be so cryptic about simple, everyday occurrences like rain.
Arnom has begun to think of the gods in the symbolic way that the Fox did, rather than in the literal way of the old Priest. This way of thinking erases the power of the mysteries surrounding Ungit, making them into nothing more than metaphors for straightforward acts of nature.
Themes
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
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Eventually a peasant woman comes into the temple to deal with a personal matter. She’s crying and holds a pigeon, which a priest kills over Ungit. She lies weeping in front of the stone for a long time, but when she gets up to go, the Queen sees that she feels calm. In response to a question, the woman confirms that she feels much comforted. The Queen asks whether she always prays to the rough stone rather than to the Greek-style sculpture. She says she does, because the Greek Ungit wouldn’t understand a commoner like her.
Despite the changes that Arnom has made, the peasant woman proves that the mysteries of the more primitive Ungit provide some spiritual fulfillment that the Fox’s civilized rationality cannot. The Greek sculpture of Ungit seems too far removed from the common people, too divinely perfect, while the rough stone version speaks to something fundamental within everyone. Even the Queen’s fear of it proves that it moves her.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
When they emerge from the temple, a crowd greets them with celebration. The Queen is amazed at the people’s joy. They’re so happy just because a man dressed as a bird whirled a sword around and came out of a door. Even enemies are celebrating together.
The people get satisfaction from a crude religion that has never fulfilled the Queen. While the scene confirms the power of ceremony, it also gestures to Lewis’s Protestant dislike of elaborate rituals.
Themes
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen goes home to rest. She hears a voice and opens her eyes to find her father beside her. All the years she’s been Queen seem to disappear. The King tells her to leave her veil off and come to the Pillar Room. Once there he looks around for the mirror that used to hang there, but the Queen has given it to Redival. He produces pickaxes and a crowbar and makes her help him take up the floor. They expose a deep hole.
The King represents a cruel part of the Queen that she has long tried to deny, since she hated him. Now, however, he has power over her again, particularly as she obeys his order to leave her veil off, which was actually his first order she directly disobeyed in real life. The fact that the Queen got rid of his mirror shows that she didn’t want to see herself truly.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The King makes Orual jump into the hole with him. They land safely far below in a smaller version of the Pillar Room made out of dirt. The King produces shovels, and they dig a hole in the clay floor. Orual pleads with her father not to make her jump down it, but he does anyway. They land in another Pillar Room, this one carved out of rock. It’s shrinking around them. Orual cries out, but realizes that the King doesn’t care if he’s buried, since he’s already dead.
As the King and Orual descend into the earth, they symbolically descend into the depths of Orual’s own being. The Pillar Room was the site of some of her worst humiliations under the King, but also has become the site of her power as Queen. Thus, it represents both her strengths and weaknesses, but the King forces her to dig through all of these to find her true self.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
The King asks who Ungit is, and drags Orual to the mirror that used to hang in the palace. She tries to get away, but fails. In the mirror, her face looks like the face of Ungit that she saw that day in the temple. The King poses his question again, and she wails that she is Ungit.
Orual has avoided seeing her true character for years by veiling the face that would reveal her nature and getting rid of the mirror that would make her see herself. Now, instead of seeing the physical ugliness that her father always pointed out, Orual finds moral ugliness—the devouring love and cruelty that Ungit represents.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
The Queen suddenly wakes in her room and realizes it was a dream, but from now on the gods send her so many visions that she can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. Even so, she knows that she truly is Ungit, and she has devoured the people around her. She declares that she won’t be Ungit. She takes out her old sword, intending to kill herself, but she’s no longer strong enough to wield the sword effectively.
The Queen realizes that she embodies everything that she has always hated about Ungit, and she sees her own sins truthfully. She has considered killing herself in the past as a sort of sacrifice, to bring about others’ pity of her, but now she simply can’t stand how much she despises herself. She’s disgusted at being united with Ungit, whom she has always loathed.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen isn’t sure whether anything that happens afterwards is real or a dream, and the only distinction she sees between the two is that more than one person can experience reality, and only one can experience a dream. Yet dreams might be truer.
In Psyche’s valley, Orual couldn’t accept the truth of anything that only Psyche could see. Now she begins to accept the mysteries of the gods and the subjective nature of reality.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
That night, the Queen gathers a cloak and a cane. She realizes that her veil now distinguishes her, and no one will recognize her if she doesn’t wear it. She goes out without the veil, thinking that if anyone sees her, they’ll recognize her as Ungit. Maybe they’ll even worship her. She is now holy.
The Queen has become defined by her concealment of herself, and so in revealing her true self she becomes unrecognizable. She believes that she has truly become Ungit both physically and spiritually. To her, holiness is disgusting and only another reason to hate herself.
Themes
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
The Queen goes out into the city, thinking of herself as a nightmarish monster, perhaps even the Shadowbrute. She walks to a high bank of the river, intending to jump in and drown herself. She ties her ankles together and hops towards the edge. Just then, the voice of a god tells her not to jump. Having heard a god before, she can’t mistake it. The god says that Ungit is also in the place people go when they die, and so the Queen must “die before she dies.” The Queen points out that she is Ungit, but no answer comes. She no longer thinks she can rebel against the god as she used to, so she goes home. When she wakes, she’s unsure whether it was all a dream or not.
It could be argued that Orual has been the Shadowbrute all along, devouring Psyche. The fact that Ungit is in the land of the dead supports the idea that she naturally occurs within all people. The god’s command that Orual must “die before she dies” seems to reference Psyche’s philosophy of every change in life being a small death in which one leaves behind one’s old self. The Queen must recognize her old self (and Ungit’s presence within it) and allow that self to die before she can fully die.
Themes
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon