Classics Without All the Class discussion

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May 2015- Till We Have Faces > Book 1, Chapter 5

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) May 2015 book discussion --> Till We Have Faces

In this chapter we learn more about the ways of the goddess Ungit and her priest. The Priest tells the king that mortals have been "aping the gods and stealing the worship due to the gods." This was so serious that the sacrifice of "bulls and rams will not win Ungit's favor."

The king understands that a human sacrifice is being demanded. When he suggests offering a thief, the Priest says, "We must find the Accursed. And she (or he) must die by the rite of the Great Offering." The victim must be given to the Brute, and the Brute is "Ungit herself or Ungit's son, the god of the Mountain, or both."

The Priest proceeds to explain the Great Sacrifice. Whether man or woman, the victim is also the Brute's supper. Either way "there is a devouring." "Some say the loving and the devouring are all the same thing."

The Fox pounces. The contradictions of the religion of Glome make it nonsensical. How can a shadow be an animal which is also a goddess who is also a god? How can loving be eating? How can the Accursed be both wicked and perfect? The Priest's response: "Why should the Accursed not be both the best and the worst?"

Orual sees things differently than the Fox. "Our real enemy was not a mortal. The room was full of spirits, and the horror of holiness." She believes in the gods and both fears and hates them.

What is the proper relationship between human reason and religious mystery? The Fox views religion as a priestly creation to oppress others but the Priest is unafraid of the King's threat to kill him. He believes in Ungit.

What say ye about any of this?


message 2: by Charlotte (last edited May 04, 2015 02:03AM) (new)

Charlotte | 6 comments Does it really matter whether the Fox or the Priest is right? While of course I as a reader know the Priest is in the right, I would think the Fox was right if this were not a story about gods.
But everyone in Glome is upset with the King and hopes for a change if Psyche is sacrificed. So whether Ungit exists or not is not an issue. If the citizens of Glome believe in Ungit, the King must act accordingly to please them - even if that means he has to sacrifice his own daughter.


message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) No, in the end it doesn't really matter who is right. I just think it is interesting to examine the two viewpoints. Clearly, in this story, most everyone believes in Ungit and fears the Priest, so he wins. I agree with you. The King has no choice but to go along with the sacrifice, and that's why the truth doesn't really matter.


message 4: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte | 6 comments Oh yes of course it is. And the people seem to have reason to believe in Ungit's existance because of the inexplicable things that happen. And it does give them hope. But I believe the Fox is right in thinking the religion of the people of Glome a means of oppression for there is no hard evidence to support the theory that Ungit exists. It's no different from modern religion really, in that the motives of a lot of believers and non-believers are the same as they seem to be in the story so far.


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) Yes, but do the "inexplicable things that happen" come about by Ungit, or do they just happen. The people may have hope, but it could be a false hope. Like you, I enjoy taking this story and seeing how it relates to modern religion. There's a lot of similarity.


message 6: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte | 6 comments Nothing just happens, just like the Fox points out (but that's of course only my (and his) two cents). But because people are unable to come up with an explaination for some happenings, they turn to religion, because it offers the simplest explaination available, in both the story and life, and because they don't like to think us humans incapable of explaining all of life's mysteries. And sure, it could be false hope, but it's hope nevertheless and hope makes life just a little easier. In this case it gives the people a reason to go on. They "know" that life will get better soon.


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) Excellent points. Thanks for sharing.


message 8: by Lizbeth (last edited May 11, 2015 04:10PM) (new)

Lizbeth | 23 comments I think that it does matter who is right, in terms of the King's decision. The priest is demanding the life of Psyche, and the Fox is trying to save it. The Fox gives a list of things that he would do in the King's place. The King does have a choice regardless of what the people want to have happen. But he can't know the Truth of what is the best course in advance.

We can't know that if the King were to have tried to save Psyche, based on an alignment with the Fox's notion of Kingly and parental sacrifice, or based on his own notions of honor and love, that he would have been successful in that attempt.

The pleading of the Fox is indicating that the King does have a choice in how to respond. There is an infinite number of realities that could have come out of those choices. Although he has divine blood in him, he seems to lack an imagination. Both the Priest and the Fox have to provide that for him, and he just sort of thrashes around among their visions without any real faith in anything they're saying.

Even though the King appears to Oural to be relieved that the lot did not fall with him to be sacrificed, and that he clearly hopes that all of the fuss will die down once she is offered for expiation, he loudly and violently emotes the heavy burden of decision that rests upon a ruler.

He sort of reminds me of a Pontius Pilate type of character, who can't see the logic of what the Pharisees and the mob are demanding of him, but just wants it all to be over, so he can put it behind him.


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) Terrific analysis! You really put a lot of thought into your responses. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.


message 10: by Lizbeth (new)

Lizbeth | 23 comments Thank you, Jim, for putting so much into our understanding and appreciation of this book. I don't think I would have ever gotten around to reading it, otherwise!


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jborland) You're welcome. I've never been in a book club before so I don't really know how they work, but I imagine that the group would dig deep into the details of a book to understand what the author was trying to communicate. Also, I want to look for ways that the book can teach me something about life or anything relating to our current circumstances. Everybody sees things differently, so by sharing our insights we all learn more than we would by reading it alone.


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