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The Runes, the Staff, and Wildwood's Question
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:38 am    Post subject: The Runes, the Staff, and Wildwood's Question Reply with quote

[**Thread title edited because I think CW's question is the most important part of the Last Chronicles.]

I haven’t seen this discussed yet. Caerroil Wildwood demanded an answer from Linden to a question “she couldn’t answer.” His demand relates to the Runes on her Staff, and to the resurrection of Covenant. It also relates directly to the transformation she has just undergone at the end of part 1. Not only that, we get the line from which the book III was supposed to get its title (before it was changed). So clearly, this event is crucial to both the plot of FR and the overall story of the LC.

Right after Linden sees “the Truth” of her son’s suffering, she is remade like her Staff. Blackened by righteous rage, she became someone who doesn’t forgive, someone who can contemplate revenge. Just like Caerroil. The mound of Gallows Howe stirs her with recognition. The death soaked up by the soil doesn’t feel evil; it feels just. Here the slayers of trees met their rightful end.
Quote:

“She had not known that she contained such possibilities until she had beheld her son’s suffering. Here, however, she found that she welcomed the taste of retribution. It made her stronger.”


CW says to Linden:
Quote:
“I have granted boons, and may do so again. For each, I demand such payment as I deem meet. But you have not requested that which you most require. Therefore I will exact no recompense. Rather I ask only that you accept the burden of a question for which you have no answer.”

Linden replies:
Quote:
“Just tell me what it is. If I can find an answer, I will.”


CW:
Quote:
“It is this. How may life endure in the Land, if the Forestals fail and perish, as they must, and naught remains to ward its most vulnerable treasures? We were formed to stand as guardians in the Creator’s stead. Must it transpire that beauty and truth shall pass utterly when we are gone?”


That's his question. The point of giving Linden the Runes: presumably so she can bring back Covenant. At least that's what she does with the possibility he enabled with the runes. So he's looking for an answer to entropy, how to stop the end of all things. At one time, Donaldson said this is what he's trying to explore with his Chronicles--a human answer to this inevitability.

Mahdoubt says:
Quote:
“He asks only that she seek out knowledge, for its lack torments him. The fear that no answer exists multiplies his long sorrow.”


Quote:
“I will,” repeated Linden, although she could not guess what her promise might cost her, and had no idea how she would keep it. Caerroil Wildwood was too extreme to be refused.

CW:
Quote:

“Then I will grant that which you require.”

Then CW takes her staff and says,
Quote:
“This blackness is lamentable” –his tone itself was elegiac—“but I will not alter it. Its import lies beyond my ken. However, other flaws may be amended The theurgy of the wood’s fashioning is unfinished. It was formed in ignorance, and could not be otherwise than it is. Yet its wholeness is needful. Willingly I complete the task of its creation.”

The task of its creation. The runes were necessary to complete it.

After these Runes, Linden felt
Quote:
“. . . a renewed severity in the wood, a greater and more exacting commitment, as though the necessary commandments of Law had been fortified.”

“And now Caerroil Wildwood had given her new power. Gallows Howe itself had made her stronger.”

Now fast-forward to the end:
Quote:
“The actions of Linden’s friends were like Caerroil Wildwood’s runes: they articulated her resolve.”

“Now instinctively she understood the runes with which Caerroil Wildwood had elaborated her Staff. They were for this. The Forestal of Garroting Deep had engraved the ebony wood with his knowledge of Life and Death. Indirectly he had given her a supernal relationship with Law. For a moment, at least, his gift enabled her to commingle wild magic and Earthpower without losing control of one or falsifying the other.”

“It should have been too much. Either alone will transcend your strength—Human flesh had not been formed to survive such forces. Yet Linden felt no danger. She was hardly conscious of strain. Perhaps her mind had already shattered. If so, she did not recognize the loss, or choose to regret it. Loric’s gem drew immeasurable might away from her mortal blood and nerves and bones. Caerroil Wildwood’s runes imposed a kind of structure on potential chaos.


There were two dangers associated with using both Law and wild magic together: her physical body couldn't take such power, and her mind would go crazy. The krill allowed her to physically managed such powers, but the runes enabled her to retain her sanity. It "imposed a kind of structure on potential chaos." The kind of chaos which can drive you crazy. But this also hints at the opposite of entropy. Holding chaos at bay.

So here we have Linden bringing her dead lover back from the dead, and she's able to do so only because of the payment given to her in exchange for her promise to try to find an answer to the question of all things ending. Which, of course, is now the new title of the next book.
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Last edited by Zarathustra on Thu Dec 13, 2007 4:44 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, my theory is that the runes represent the addition of lore to the constituant components of the staff. Lore always meaning, to me, skill + knowledge + wisdom + experience.

It was formed in ignorance, and could not be otherwise than it is: this seems to bear up that theory. Linden had no lore, as the Lords had, when she constructed her staff.

The Forestal of Garroting Deep had engraved the ebony wood with his knowledge of Life and Death. Knowledge: Lore. The skill to manipulate the possibilities of those Laws. To weild Earthpower, guided by Law, to achieve a desired end.

Note that the runes were added during a time when the Laws of Life and Death were unbroken. Lore from this time is untained by the effects of Law which has been weakened. It is "pure". I bet half the author's reason Linden was sent back in time to get these runes lies in their being formed for the whole, strong versions of these Laws.

It "imposed a kind of structure on potential chaos": That's what lore does, it allows you to manipulate rather than be at the mercy of powers; it makes sense of them, lets you exert some control over them.

On the other hand, the blackness is the stamp of Linden's passion. This may be good, this may be bad, depending on whether the passion, as Mhoram taught us, is used to feul your power or to chooose your actions.

I cannot decide which of these the blackness represents.

But there is no doubt that the answer to the Shall Pass Utterly question is coming. I have said elsewhere, Donaldson is navigating a difficult path, where the Earth will end, and yet we will feel triumphant. That cannot happen unless we have a satisfactory answer to the question.

Which in turn leaves me no doubt that Linden and Covenant will find it.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
“This blackness is lamentable” –his tone itself was elegiac—“but I will not alter it. Its import lies beyond my ken. However, other flaws may be amended The theurgy of the wood’s fashioning is unfinished. It was formed in ignorance, and could not be otherwise than it is. Yet its wholeness is needful. Willingly I complete the task of its creation.”


Am I the only one that is bothered by the line at the end of WGW that says that the new Staff had no need of runes?
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend, but it really is a question that can't be answered, not without violating the laws of this universe. The 2nd law of thermodynamics. It's something as sure as life and death. The universe is running down in spite of temporary renewals.

I don't see how Donaldson can make this series end happily and still maintain authenticity. Not unless they are all singing happily, holding hands, as the world ends. Shocked
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's some hefty smack coming from one whose avatar shows 2 skeletons locked in loving embrace... Laughing
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DW, lol! Yeah, I do think there is beauty in our perseverance, in our ability to love in spite of death. But at the same time, it's not a "happy ending" whenever something beautiful passes away. And ultimately, it is only triumphant on a "spiritual" level--the enduring human spirit in the face of futility. But that's completely different from finding a way to preserve or remake the Land's world. By saying I don't think Donaldson can pull off a happy ending without sacrificing authenticity, I mean that I don't think the Land will be around after he's done. And perhaps none of the main characters, either. I don't think CW's question will be answered, unless the answer is, "Okay, I accept it."
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re: Am I the only one that is bothered by the line at the end of WGW that says that the new Staff had no need of runes?

That was Linden's perception, and she was partly right: the Staff did not need Runes for her to invoke the Earthpower with it, or heal the Sunbane.

Re: ...The 2nd law of thermodynamics.

The 2nd Law applies only to closed systems. Whether our Universe as a whole is closed or open is very much an unanswered question.

Re: But at the same time, it's not a "happy ending" whenever something beautiful passes away.

Maybe not, but leave open the possibility that something more beautiful may tale its place. In our world's distant past a prehistoric Forestal might have lamented the passing of his vast forests of cycads and tree ferns, unaware that forests of flowering trees would someday take their place.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a sharp pickle for the author, no matter which way he decides to take it. If LF is permanently defeated, won't that make the Land over into an instant Nirvana? The answer that TC and others eventually accepted - that we all have the capacity for Despite, and can overcome it - is an essential truth of the human condition. If Linden and Co can permanently extirpate the outward metaphor of Despite in the Land, won't that rob them all of part of their humanity?
And of course if LF isn't defeated in some satisfying way, many of us will hurl down our books in varying degrees of outrage.
No matter whether the world of the Land "ends" or not at first, I feel that is going to be remade - in a way that answers CW's question, thus repaying the boon of his gift of Runes.
I suspect that I will be satisfied with that answer, because I have lots of faith in Mr. Donaldson - faith which has not been swayed the tiniest bit by his signing over a dozen of my SRD books at E'Fest 2007 Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
Wayfriend, but it really is a question that can't be answered, not without violating the laws of this universe.

Sure it can. It just might not be the kind of answer you're looking for.

... And if darkness should fall upon us, still the beauty of the Land endures. If we are a dream - and you the dreamer - then the Land is imperishable, for you will not forget.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If LF is permanently defeated, won't that make the Land over into an instant Nirvana? The answer that TC and others eventually accepted - that we all have the capacity for Despite, and can overcome it - is an essential truth of the human condition. If Linden and Co can permanently extirpate the outward metaphor of Despite in the Land, won't that rob them all of part of their humanity?

I don't think so. Even if you don't give any credence to the fairy tale version of how Lord Foul ended up inside the Creator's work, I never got that impression from the Creator himself. If Foul was something he intended, I don't think he'd need to bring in outside help. And in one part of FR, it does say (I wish I could remember where) that the people of the world were meant to look upon it's beauty and horror. No, I think the message is that despite bad things happening, humanity itself is strong enough to survive it.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 4:58 am    Post subject: Re: The Runes and the Staff Reply with quote

Malik23 wrote:
So he's looking for an answer to entropy, how to stop the end of all things. At one time, Donaldson said this is what he's trying to explore with his Chronicles--a human answer to this inevitability.


Upon reading this, my first reaction was that the second half of the the Gap sequence might well give us some clues as to where this is going. Maybe I should re-read it again, as that was an overarching theme.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Aleksandr"]Re: Am I the only one that is bothered by the line at the end of WGW that says that the new Staff had no need of runes?

That was Linden's perception, and she was partly right: the Staff did not need Runes for her to invoke the Earthpower with it, or heal the Sunbane.
quote]

Linden never saw the first Staff, so she had no idea of the existence of runes on it.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Donaldson is going to think way outside the box on this one. I can fee it in my bones. Things are not going to survive intact. But things will survive in other ways.

In Lord Foul's Bane was wrote:
Something there is in beauty
which grows in the soul of the beholder
like a flower:
fragile-
for many are the blights
which may waste
the beauty
or the beholder-
and imperishable-
for the beauty may die,
or the beholder may die,
or the world may die,
but the soul in which the flower grows survives.


I really think that the answer is in there, someplace. The similarities of theme and word are too much to ignore.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:

... And if darkness should fall upon us, still the beauty of the Land endures. If we are a dream - and you the dreamer - then the Land is imperishable, for you will not forget.


Oh I can live with an answer like that. But do you think that's the kind of answer Caerroil was looking for? I thought he wanted an effective way to end death and decay.

Also, it still isn't a very happy ending, which was my point. I don't think this can end with everything okay, and Caerroil's problem solved. The Land will end, and the main characters will die. I'll be fine with that as long as Donaldson pulls the "triumphant" twist to such an ending. But how is that different from the conclusions he's already drawn? Why does he need to raise Covenant from the dead in order to prove, once again, that it's okay for things to end? That triumphant death/ending was already achieved at the end of the 2nd Chronicles. How will it be different this time? And if it's different, won't that violate the point of WGW?
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crossed threads.

CW's question is not asking how people will survive, how the flora and fauna will survive, or how the Land will survive. He's asking about how truth and beauty will survive.

Intangibles. The food of the mind and the soul.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, CW's question has to be read figuratively. I agree. But that's from our perspective. From his perspective, I think he really does mourn the loss of the forests, and that the forests (or life in general) embody truth and beauty. To him, Truth and Beauty are literally the forests. To us, the forests of the Land--and the Land itself--symbolize these concepts.

I don't think he wanted mere concepts to survive the destruction of the world. CW wants more. He can't wish for the survival of mere concepts, unless he is reading the book right along with us--which I think is a "level-violation" somehow (if that makes sense).

And while, admittedly, I was arguing in another thread that the literal nature of the Last Chronicles was one of its faults, I don't think that's the case in this instance. You have to have both. In the Land, Lord Foul is a literal character. That's why TC can walk up to him and fight him. From our perspective reading a novel, LF is an archetype. [Yet, in the Land, Jeremiah is a literal boy, and also from our perspective, he's a character of a literal boy. There's no conceptual counterpart to his character, no deeper level.] So while I agree that CW's words will have figurative import to us as readers, something "transcendental" or triumphant which we'll take away with us, I want to know what the literal reference from CW's perspective might be. Because for him, finding a way to preserve the forests forever would be the fantasy equivalent of preserving Truth and Beauty forever.

So either Donaldson must break down the barrier between the "literal level of the fantasy world" and the "figurative level of our interpretation"--thus making the fantasy characters themselves come to the same conclusions we do--or CW must have a more concrete answer in mind. (Or, option 3: he really doesn't expect it to be answered at all.)

While such a breakdown between the levels would be exciting, it would be exceedingly difficult to pull off without being cheesy. It would be like Vonnegut writing himself into Breakfast of Champions, sitting there witnessing his characters. However, if anyone could pull it off, Donaldson could. I honestly hope he goes this direction.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We keep coming back to the same idea and as far as I can tell nobody has ran with it...so here goes: If it is a dream then as long as someone survives it's ok. They will remember the truth and beauty of the land, but if it's real than it should have a "happy" ending but is that really needed? I mean we as the readers will still carry on the land even if it all goes kablooy in the end. Isn't that the point of this series? That the reader will take something transedent away from it? and be changed(hopefully for the better) by what we have learned and lost? Or have I gone completely around the bend? I wish I could tell. Confused
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wayfriend wrote:

I bet half the author's reason Linden was sent back in time to get these runes lies in their being formed for the whole, strong versions of these Laws.


Amen... The One Tree anyone?
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sherlock_525 wrote:
Or have I gone completely around the bend? I wish I could tell. Confused

Not around the bend. It's other authors, King with his Dark Tower most famously, who have gone around that bend. Bleck.

I cannot see Donaldson taking that path. And besides ... how is that "hard to write"? He coulda done that twenty years ago... and beat everyone else to it ... and killed his career IMO.

One thing I noticed at the beginning of Runes was the strong sense that the boundaries between realities were breaking down. That even Covenant's real world might be in danger. Certainly, small miracles are occurring there (Linden awoke with Covenant's ring, for one) which can only be attributed to some sort of leakage.

If you combine the two ideas ... it creates some interesting possibilities.

That somehow the Land-iverse ends ... but something escapes into our world ... maybe as part of someone ... who we thought had died ...
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oooo...chills!!!! good idea wayfriend. And by the way whats wrong with the dark tower? (besides it's loooong length for a not so good payoff. Sorry Stevie your still [almost] the man Twisted Evil )
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