Ungit represents the potential for jealous, devouring love that lies within all mortals. Although she is worshipped as a god in Glome, the Fox does not acknowledge her as one of the “true gods” at the end of the book; instead, she is “an image of the demon within” everyone (295). It’s unclear whether she ever exists entirely independently of humans, or whether her essence simply lives within and works through them. Even her demand, as related by the Priest, that Psyche must be sacrificed could be interpreted as the people’s jealousy of Psyche’s beauty and popularity.
The uncut hunk of stone that supposedly is Ungit herself shows that jealousy and possessive love are very primitive parts of human nature, so engrained that the people of Glome find Ungit a comforting goddess and feel that the stone makes her relatable, unlike the idealized Greek-style statue that Arnom has made.
In a Christian context, Ungit can represent the Devil working within Orual to harm Psyche (a Christ figure) and the god of the Mountain (the Christian God). Thus, the message of the book becomes one of redemption from Satan: Though he works in all mortals, if they can recognize their own sins they can be redeemed and come to God, as Orual does.
Ungit Quotes in Till We Have Faces
The Fox clapped his hands and sang, “Prettier than Andromeda, prettier than Helen, prettier than Aphrodite herself.”
“Speak words of better omen, Grandfather,” I said, though I knew he would scold and mock me for saying it. For at his words, though on that summer day the rocks were too hot to touch, it was as if a soft, cold hand had been laid on my left side, and I shivered.... I knew it is not good to talk that way about Ungit.
Her beauty, which most of them had never seen, worked on them as a terror might work. Then a low murmur, almost a sob, began; swelled, broke into the gasping cry, “A goddess, a goddess.” One woman’s voice rang out clear. “It is Ungit herself in mortal shape.”
And when the Brute is Ungit it lies with the man, and when it is her son it lies with the woman. And either way there is a devouring... many different things are said... many sacred stories... many great mysteries. Some say the loving and the devouring are all the same thing. For in sacred language we say that a woman who lies with a man devours the man.
I, King, have dealt with the gods for three generations of men, and I know that they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them. Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them.
My second strength lay in my veil.... [A]s years passed and there were fewer in the city... who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid.... Some said... that it was frightful beyond endurance; a pig’s, bear’s, cat’s or elephant’s face. The best story was that I had no face at all; if you stripped off my veil you’d find emptiness. But another sort... said that I wore a veil because I was of a beauty so dazzling that if I let it be seen all men in the world would run mad; or else that Ungit was jealous of my beauty and had promised to blast me if I went bareface. The upshot of all this nonsense was that I became something very mysterious and awful.
Oh, Queen Orual, I begin to think you know nothing of love.... Perhaps you who spring from the gods love like the gods. Like the Shadowbrute. They say the loving and the devouring are all one, don’t they? ...You’re full fed. Gorged with other men’s lives, women’s too: Bardia’s, mine, the Fox’s, your sister’s—both your sisters’.
“Do not do it,” said the god. “You cannot escape Ungit by going to the deadlands, for she is there also. Die before you die. There is no chance after.”
“Lord, I am Ungit.”
But there was no answer.