Stephen R. Lawhead discussion

Pendragon Series > Feb 2011 Read -- TALIESIN -- Book One: A Gift of Jade

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message 1: by Werner (new)

Werner Michael, I'm up to p. 106, so about as far into the book as you are. There are quite a lot of initial thoughts that have come to mind so far --maybe more than can be put into one post!

One big thing that's noticeable here, as you've said, is the intertwining of two different stories, drawn from two entirely different literary/legendary traditions, Atlantis and the Arthurian mythos. To put the two together, Lawhead has to do a drastic job of reinterpreting the basic Atlantis material, all of which goes back to one single source, Plato. Writing in 360 B.C., Plato treats the cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis as an event of the very remote past: "9,000 years before Solon," which would put it at about 9600 B.C. Lawhead has Atlantis still thriving on down into the Christian era! He's also done some reinterpretation of Welsh historical and legendary material. Interestingly, the bard Taliesin (c. 534-c. 599) was an actual person, and according to Welsh sources, an Elffin, son of Gwyddno Garanhir, actually was his adoptive father. But most scholars who believe Arthur was real date his great victory at Badon Hill in about 500 A.D., so he was already a king decades before Taliesin was born; which, we know, is not the chronological scheme Lawhead is using here.

Lawhead is a serious scholar of Celtic history and culture, so his world-building in Caer Dyvi is mostly a matter of bringing actual Celtic society to life. His Atlantis has to be more a product of imagination; and for models, he's clearly using mostly (besides Plato's descriptions) classical Greek culture, with some Semitic and pre-classical Bronze Age borrowings. The vivid description of the bull-leaping (which he took from ancient Crete) was one of the most thought- provoking elements for me. (It's not just some weird thing people used to do in the dim past, but are too civilized to do any more --I've seen bull-riding on TV, in rodeo settings, that isn't much different and carries as much risk of being killed or maimed.) It really makes you think about the psychology and ethics of wanting to accept a challenge that's life-threatening (but that has its rewards), and of wanting to watch somebody else do it.

message 2: by Werner (new)

Werner Michael, I'm no expert; but being a librarian, I often know where to look stuff up. :-) Plato mentions Atlantis in two of his "dialogues," Timaeus and Critias. It's never alluded to in any earlier writing, so most scholars believe he made it up to illustrate some of the philosophical points he wanted to make. (Most of his readers in ancient times took it that way, as well.)

The book The World's Last Mysteries (Reader's Digest Assn., 1978) has a good discussion of Atlantis. There are also informative articles about both Atlantis and Taliesin on Wikipedia; the links are: and .

message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner No problem, Michael!

message 4: by Werner (new)

Werner So far, I'm only up to p. 155; so I don't have any inside information on what's to follow! That said --am I the only one here who doesn't trust Seithenin?

message 5: by Werner (new)

Werner One added comment I'll throw in: Charis was initially a bit hard for me to relate to, because Lawhead doesn't tell us her age at the outset --indeed, he never does; you just have to figure that out from her perceptions and relations to the people around her. I started with the assumption that she was a young woman, perhaps 19 or 20 years old; but I soon revised this downward, and I'm now guessing her age to be around twelve. Is that roughly what the rest of you think, too?

message 6: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 62 comments Mod
OK -- I'm catching up slowly :-D
I also thought about 11 or 12, back in the day if she was 14 or 15 she would be married. As a princess, I think that she would be allowed to wander around since everyone would know who she actually was and she would be watched over.

message 7: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 62 comments Mod
What do we think that Gift of Jade refers to? It is the title of the section. What do we think that the star fall signified? We know that a star guided the 3 wise men to Bethlehem, but I think that the placement in history is probably around 400 AD given that Arthur is roughly 500.....Any ideas? Both the Atlanteans and the Welsh (or should I say Britons) saw the starfall event.

message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner Jolene, "Gift of Jade" refers, in the first instance, to the homemade jade bracelet that the little lisping princess gives to Charis. But the full meaning of it doesn't become clear until the very end of Part 1.

Both the Atlanteans and the Druids see the star fall as an omen --and as to its significance, remember what's supposed to have finally happened to Atlantis!

message 9: by Werner (new)

Werner Regarding the point raised about the date of the events in this book, 407 A.D. was the year the last Roman troops in Britain crossed over to Gaul to repel a barbarian invasion there. So that would give us a rough terminal date, though there was actually no large Roman military presence in western or northern Britain after 383 --except at Hadrian's Wall, and the garrisons there were withdrawn for the last time in 402. Of course, Lawhead may be treating this chronological data loosely.

message 10: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 62 comments Mod
Werner --- Thanks for the reminder about the gift from the little princess; how could I forget the adorable lisp.

SPOILER (not sure how to use this feature):
I do understand what happened to Atlantis (and wasn't that imagery spectacular), but I guess that I was looking for a specific event that tied to the timing of the starfall --- not a 7 year in the future event --- I guess that one could speculate that it was either the murder of the high king or of Briesis. Although I shouldn't, I can't help but look through the "christian lens" --- there are many instances in the bible of God's destruction, usually with warning (so that could be the 7 years to turn things around), but I didn't necessarily see anything terribly immoral about the Atlantean culture (besides worshipping a sun god) -- but if they had never been exposed to Christianity, I'm not sure this would be the issue.

message 11: by Werner (new)

Werner JoLene, you have a good point about Atlantean culture not coming across in the book as terribly immoral per se, or certainly not more so than any other culture of the time. I'm not sure that Lawhead (who also has a "Christian lens") intends us to understand it that way. From a biblical perspective, natural disasters may be a divine judgment for particular sinfulness (as with Sodom and Gomorrah), but they aren't usually; they're generally just a part of the curse upon the creation as a result of the shared sinfulness of the whole human race, like disease.

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