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2012 Reads > TIG: The Ember War/Nights and Night Walkers *spoilers*

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Dustin (dustincorreale) I've been thinking about the Ember Nights and the Ember War and I don't think I really understood them.

For the nights, they kept saying the "dead went abroad" or the dead walked etc but there wasn't any evidence of that actually happening (in the real world). Was that something that actually happened or was it just superstition? Or was it referring to the ember war?

I didn't fully get the ember war at all. A magical second world that was also a linking place for other unknown worlds? A yearly battle between ethereal and amorphous creatures led by Brandin against a small band of villagers who are bound together by an unexplained necklace and use magic corn swords, and the outcome of this battle affects the well being of the real world? This was something I wasn't sure if I had missed some explanation of or if it was left super mysterious.

Was that actually Brandin on the hill or just a shadow and representation of Brandin's power?

Where were they?

What's in those bags around the night walkers necklaces?

Was there any mention of Baerd's having or getting that necklace before hand?

What was the actual impact on the world from these battles? The harvest or something right?

I guess I feel like it was a pointless sidetrack of the story. Obviously the linking of the night walkers became important, but otherwise it just feels weird. Again it's possible I missed something so I wanted to get the groups thoughts.


Karly (karlycay) | 79 comments Heh. High fructose corn swords. Heh.

I wish I could make sense of it. At that point I just suspended my disbelief and went with it, I guess.


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Sam Erwin | 26 comments The necklace was actually described, though I don't remember if they mentioned Baerd having one before that night. All the people who had one were born with an amniotic sac or caul (that's the term used in the book) covering them/their face. The necklace is made from/contains that caul.

Turns out, from another thread, they're actually based on a real Italian fertility cult from the 16th and 17th centuries called the Benandanti.


Dustin (dustincorreale) gross!


Richard | 221 comments The bag itself is the important thing, being the preserved birth caul they were talking about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caul

Baerd was born with it but this is the 1st time it comes up in the book.

The ember days war represents the spring fertility rites intended to drive away evil spirits & insure a good crop yield at harvest in the fall. The hooded figure on the hill represents, I think, the curse itself that was laid down on Tigana. It's all a way of saying that Baerd's real fight is a spiritual battle to lift the curse from the land.

To understand it, you have to understand the concept that the fate of the people is tied to the fate of the land. Anger the gods, the land is cursed; the land is cursed, crops fail; crops fail, everyone starves. How do you appease the gods when you don't know squat about the science of fertilizers? This is also what The Wicker Man was all about if you saw that film & didn't understand it.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Of the entire book, this section was the one that felt simply 'tacked on.' We, the readers, weren't even particularly aware that Baerd had been missing from the party...then, all of a sudden, starting off a chapter, we are with characters we've never seen, engaged in a cryptosorcerous battle that has never been hinted at, and which is never explained, using (important point here) *an entirely different system of magic* than we've seen in the book up until this point.

My guess: Kay wrote "Tigana," then realized "oh crap, there's not really much 'fantasy' in this supposed fantasy novel...I got two spells cast in the whole damn thing. Crud, better throw some magic in somewhere..hey, I've got this old fragment of a short story I was working on in an entirely different setting, I bet I can shoehorn that sucker into the novel somewhere."

It's jarring, to say the least.


Dustin (dustincorreale) Yea that's pretty much how I felt about it. It was so out of nowhere and went nowhere. Felt really out of place and I thought maybe I'd missed some connection that would have made the edges less sharp.


Javier Quintana (javier_quintana) | 43 comments I greatly enjoyed reading that part, and would like to read a whole book about it, but yes, it was too much detached from the rest of the book, even with the closure to Baerd and the battle of the Deisa, and the relationship between the curse and the shadow figure.

The way I see it, more or less: The Night Walkers fight that "virtual" battle every year. They don't know what they are exactly supposed to do, but they do it anyway. They know that if they lose the battle, it will be a bad harvest, and famine and plague will be worse.

I think it's all an allegory, but it's real at the same time, and that's something only a fantasy book can do. The Others take the form of the things the Night Walkers hate. So the Night Walkers fight Hate itself, the hate that threatens to take over their world, the World, all the Worlds. And as master Yoda says, there is a relation between hate and fear. You fear what you don't know, and that's why Baerd saw that names were so important in the fight. When Baerd said the name of the shadowy figure, he stopped fearing it, so it started vanishing, but then he started doubting, and fearing, and lost his power, and that's when the rest of the Night Walkers fight back, stop fearing, and make the shadow, the fear and the hate retreat.

The Night Walkers didn't seem to know that they could regain lost ground, which seemed strange and incongruent to me, when they have talked about driving the Others away some day.

In fact, I didn't like the ending of the whole thing. Elena advised Baerd to talk with Donar about Tigana while still in the other world, but then it seemed more important to… well, what they did. Which could be an allegory again, with sprouting white flowers all around and them performing the act that brings new life to the world… but the ending let me wanting some answers: Did Baerd talk to Donar? Did he advice anything about Tigana and the curse? What happened when they woke up from the drug induced trip? We know what happens with the dead, but what happens with the wounds? Did Baerd simply left Elena behind?

Maybe I'll get some of those answers when I finish the book, but I think lots of things are left unspoken in the book on purpose. When you do that, you encourage thinking and debating, which is what we are doing here, and that's why I think Kay was successful with his ambiguities.


Chaz | 32 comments For me, this was probably the best sequence in the book. I agree that it is detached from the rest of the novel but it makes a great short story. I also like how at the very end the connection is made that the people of the Palm must learn more about their magic and this is a part of it. It shows that their magic is ancient but not understood at all but that the magical legacy of the Palm has been neglected for centuries. I also think it puts the Triad in a good context.

The characters in this sequence are very quickly compelling unlike some of the others when they are first introduced (looking at you Alessan, Dianora and Sandre). Their struggle is interesting and the stakes are high.

In the conclusion of this section, Baerd admits that the Ember Wars are bigger than the Palm but also that the coming of both the Tyrants and the loss of sovreignty in the Palm is contributing to the struggle of the last 20 years. The figure on the hill is not Brandin in my view but rather a representation of an alien power usurping the land that has been strengthened by the conquests of Brandin and Alberico.


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Chaz | 32 comments Javier wrote: "I greatly enjoyed reading that part, and would like to read a whole book about it, but yes, it was too much detached from the rest of the book, even with the closure to Baerd and the battle of the ..."

There are a few answers to come, but not as many as you probably want.


message 11: by Javier (last edited Jun 15, 2012 06:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Javier Quintana (javier_quintana) | 43 comments Thank you, I don't really want to know everything about everything. It kills the magic.

(Edit: I meant it when I said I disliked that ending when I was reading that part, it was a bit frustrating, but frustrated is how the characters feel, and I like me some mysteries)


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Page 312:"All over this world, and perhaps beyond, or it is said that ours is not the only world scattered by the Powers among time and the stars."

I got the impression the author was mixing in the entire Middle East history of myths on the planet Earth, up to Christianity - if you take college classes or read Joseph Campbell's books on the history of religious myths, you can see as you go back and back in time that there always seems to be an older religious myth system that the newer gods replace. Everyone knows about the Greek and Roman gods, generally, but there are older Mediterranean/Middle East gods going back centuries more before them. They all seem to be represented here under new names. I think the author, in trying to squeeze ALL versions in had this, to me, the clumsiest plot insertion.


Molly (mollyrichmer) | 130 comments Just finished the book, and I agree that this part felt tacked on. It was very interesting and came in handy at the end, but I would have liked the Night Walkers to be a little more integrated into the story. With all the shifting viewpoints, it wouldn't have been hard to give Elena a chapter.

On the other hand, as a history buff, I appreciated the inclusion of a real life religious sect. I remember reading about this particular one in a freshman year anthropology class, and it made me smile to stumble across it in a fantasy novel.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Dd you like the other books?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Thank you Darren. I believe I'll request these books from the library. I like intelligent and entertaining fantasy, although there are types I also find make me grind my teeth for no good reason. Some Alt-universe, particularly about the Civil War (America) where the South wins and slavery goes on or Hitler wins WWII (not really fantasy, I guess) and Harry Potter clones where the author only changes names annoy me endlessly. I'm a little sick of wizards, actually, but the ones in Tigana, were great.


Seamus I thought the shadowy figure might have been Baird's son who is a ghost/ still on the Palm possibly because of his fathers spell.

I liked the section mostly because it was a way of showing how important the connection between people and the land they live in is so important which is why the regaining that is so important to the characters from Tigana


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Erick Taggart | 71 comments Chaz wrote: "In the conclusion of this section, Baerd admits that the Ember Wars are bigger than the Palm but also that the coming of both the Tyrants and the loss of sovreignty in the Palm is contributing to the struggle of the last 20 years. The figure on the hill is not Brandin in my view but rather a representation of an alien power usurping the land that has been strengthened by the conquests of Brandin and Alberico."

I felt like that was a bit of Kay's purpose in this section; to put the whole story of Tigana and the coming of the sorcerors onto a much larger backdrop and say, "Yeah, it is bad, but there's a lot more out there and this is just a moment in time," with Baerd's response being that it's all connected, man. It also allows Baerd's story to have more resolution, so maybe Kay was looking for a way out for him? Otherwise, he'd just be the haunted boy still looking for his sister.

It was an interesting aside and had a whole mystical dream element to it that might be some people's thing, but I'm generally not a fan, and I kept thinking, "This probably wouldn't make the cut if this book were a movie."


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Chaz | 32 comments Erick wrote: "This probably wouldn't make the cut if this book were a movie."

You're right about that.

I like it though. I don't mind the convolution to the plot, I am a huge fan of Eriksen after all. I feel that in a book you can take detours to explore themes and hint at worlds beyond which the film format won't usually allow, particularly if you want your film to make money.

I guess, and bear with me here, this ties into my love of Pink Floyd. They were a band who didn't constrain themselves to 3 or 4 minutes for a song but would explore and contrast musical elements over 25 minutes (see Shine on You Crazy Diamond parts 1-9) and explore broader themes over an album. That room to expand and explore your ideas that can resonate beyond the bounds of your plot I can enjoy if it is done well.

I think it is done well here and for me this was one of the strongest sections of the book.

If you've seen any of my comments on other threads you may think I am contradicting myself but for me: convoluted plot that explores and experiments with themes = good; convoluted language that hinders communication = bad.


message 19: by Surly_duff (last edited Jul 03, 2012 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Surly_duff | 13 comments Hi folks... sorry to be late to the party.

For those of you interested (or intrigued, or even weirded out) in this Night Walker portion of the tale, you might find yourself wanting to read Carlo Ginsburg's non-fiction work "The Night Battles." I was lucky enough to have read this in one of my courses before I read Tigana, so needless to say I was both surpised and delighted to find such an obscure historical tidbit recreated in popular fiction. Kay drew heavily upon this work for the portions of the book with Beard in the night lands. Here's an excerpt from the start of the intro (page ix):

"Some time in the late 16th century the attention of a perplexed Church was drawn to the prevalence of a curious practice in the region of the Friuli, where German, Italian and Slav customs meet. This was the ritual association of the 'good walkers', a body of men chosen from those born with the caul, who fell into a trance or deep sleep on certain nights of the year while their souls (sometimes in the form of small animals) left their bodies so they could do battle, armed with stalks of fennel, against analagous companies of male witches for the fate of the season's crops..."

Similar customs were found way to the north, in Lithuania. The argument is made by the author that this is a cultural holdout, a piece of pre-Christian ritual that was once widespread, and that survived only in marginal regions where the Church's dictates were not enforcced as rigorously as in more heavily populated and urbanized areas. (This is kind of like how in Ireland, leaving out milk and bread for the 'Little People' survived completely in concert with Catholicism until well into the 19th century, if not later).

I hope this bit of historical nerdery was as fun for you as it was for me :)


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Surly_duff | 13 comments Darren wrote: To me this part of the story is part of Kay's attempt to pin his other works back to the The Fionavar Tapestry. Brandin even mentions "Finavir... or Fionvar" (spelling not exact, but that's the point). Kay does the same thing in A Song for Arbonne, though to a lesser extent. But after that he seems to have abandoned doing so. I haven't read Under Heaven yet, but afaik, he stopped.


I don't think he stopped, Darren - he just has gotten a bit more subtle with it. He doesn't come straight out and talk about 'Fionavar' (or Fionvarre, or Finavir), but he alludes to it. In "Lions of Al-Rassan" he has a mystical Kindath wanderer talk about the first world of all worlds spun out into the stars. He gets even more oblique in "At Last Light of the Sun" where he has two brothers have a scene that precisely echoes Diarmuid's final scene with Aileron. As for "Under Heaven" I *know* he does have another of those subtle echoing scenes (because I marked that page)but sicne I lent out my copy of the book, I just don't remember what it was.

My point is just that he hasn't given it up - he's just gotten less heavy-handed about it.


Surly_duff | 13 comments Darren - I don't have a problem with self-referential fantasy either. I revel in looking for Kay's Fionavar references (or any other references - he does a bit of Sarantine mosaic referencing in At Last Light of the Sun) in his latter books. Maybe 'heavy handed' was a bad word choice on my part. I guess I was going for obvious vs. subtle.


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