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Elantris Reread: Chapters Forty-Two and Forty-Three

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Rereads/Rewatches Brandon Sanderson

Elantris Reread: Chapters Forty-Two and Forty-Three

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Published on November 30, 2023

Header image for the Elantris reread

P: Welcome back after the Turkey Day hiatus, Cosmere Chickens. Lyndsey and I are back at it and wondering… “Can you feel the love tonight, the peace the evening brings?” Because guurrrlll, Raoden is all starry-eyed and lovesick and we are HERE for it. We’ve been waiting for him and his Teo princess with the eyes and the wits and the form… to be thrust together in Elantris at long last—and, as evil as it was to do, we kind of have to thank Hrathen for poisoning Sarene.

Did I just say that? Really?

L: You sure did. I suppose even a broken clock like Hrathen is right twice a day…

P: I suppose it is! So, Chickens, join us for the wuv… twu wuv… and see how loopy our prince is, as well as how arrogant and self-important Hrathen is feeling now that he’s leveled up to HEALED BY JADDETH! ::beckons:: Right this way, you little cluckers. Join us!

(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!

Trigger warnings: (I think we’re safe for this week.)

Last time on Elantris: Connections and Conundrums…

Sarene is tossed into Elantris, and meets Raoden for the first time as an equal. Raoden lies to her about who he really is, but guides her into New Elantris and sets her up with an outfit. That night, Ashe—who has “mysteriously” not gone mad—finds Sarene, and she uses Ashe to contact her father. She refuses to leave Arelon, insisting that these are now her people and she must help them, even from within the walls of Elantris.

Chapter Essentials

POV Character(s): Hrathen, Raoden

Discussion

Chapter 42

Hrathen was back in control. Like a hero from the old Svordish epics, he had descended to the underworld—physically, mentally, and spiritually—and returned a stronger man.

Hrathen was back in control. Like a hero from the old Svordish epics, he had descended to the underworld—physically, mentally, and spiritually—and returned a stronger man. 

P: Oh, he’s so very full of himself after faking the Shaod and pretending to be an Elantrian. Merciful Domi, if he doesn’t get me all agitated with his self-righteous ::ahem:: … nonsense.

L: I have to say, I also really appreciate the little call-out to the Hero’s Journey here. 

On the off-chance that you’re unfamiliar with Joseph Campbell’s theory of the Hero’s Journey/the monomyth, it’s the idea that all mythological narratives are essentially the same once you boil them down to their primary plot points. This structure can also be applied to most fictional narratives. The monomyth goes like this: The hero, secure in their home, is given a call to adventure, which they initially refuse. Once they accept the call (usually with the aid of a mentor figure), they embark on a journey, part of which usually involves delving into an underworld of some sort. While there, they learn something which helps them to overcome the climactic/main confrontation, and then return victorious to their home. This is, of course, a drastic simplification, but you can see the parallel here between our real-world monomyth and the one that Hrathen is referencing. I love the idea that the monomyth is universal, even within the text. How meta!

He would be the savior of this people.

P: And then he shows us that he’s not completely horrible as he really has tried to “conquer” Arelon without a bloody revolution.

L: I meeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaan I’d argue that that in particular makes him a good person. Sure, he’s trying to conquer another country, but at least he’s trying to do it peacefully. He didn’t even kill Sarene, though he could have sent a real assassin just as easily. Hrathen’s really, really trying to do this without bloodshed and save the people from that specific horror, which is—in its own way—noble. The ethical question of whether or not his country should be attempting to subjugate others is a whole other seon of wax.

P: That caveat notwithstanding, I don’t hate him as much as I should because Brandon has made him so complex!

Dilaf backed down unhappily. The arteth grudgingly promised to hold no meetings or sermons without Hrathen’s overt permission. And in exchange for being officially named head arteth of the chapel, Dilaf also consented to relieve his numerous odivs from their vows…

P: Dilaf was brought low by Hrathen’s miraculous recovery from the Shaod. He’s all but groveling. Which is really no better a look on him than gloating.

L: So true. I wonder what his followers think about being demoted like that, though. Can’t be a good feeling.

Dilaf would not, however, relent in his pursuit of Elantris’s destruction.

“Why do you forbid me to preach against them, my lord?” Dilaf’s voice was bitter—now that Hrathen forbade him to speak about Elantris, the arteth’s speeches seemed almost emasculated.

“Preaching against Elantris no longer has a point,” Hrathen said, matching Dilaf’s anger with logic. “Do not forget that our hate had a purpose. Now that I have proven Jaddeth’s supreme power over Elantris, we have effectively shown that our God is true, while Domi is false.

P: Of course, he won’t relent. There are other kinds of hatred that are as potent as religious hatred, but religious hatred is pretty high up the ladder. 

L: Personally speaking, I’m of the opinion that hate should never “have a purpose,” as Hrathen is saying here. Understanding and compassion are far better motivators, ethically and logically speaking. Hate is by its very nature a quick way to inspire people to action; but it’s also self-feeding and, like a fire, can quickly grow out of control. Empathy, kindness, understanding, compassion… this is a slower, but much more efficient method of enacting change.

Now… one could argue that Hrathen didn’t have time to use such methods due to his deadline, but I’m not sure if such things would even cross his mind as possibilities. He’s far too calculating and cruel to be truly empathic.

P: Very true, and as much as he might agree with Dilaf about Elantrians, has his eye firmly on the ball now. (The ball being the conquest of Arelon, but you knew that.) He won’t let Dilaf upset the boat now that they’re sailing along so smoothly.

It’s over, he realized. I actually did it—I converted the people without a bloody revolution. He wasn’t finished yet, however. Arelon was his, but one nation still remained.

Hrathen had plans for Teod.

P: Without a bloody revolution so far… 

And I can’t help but think that the sneaky gyorn’s poisoning of the princess has something to do with his plans for Teod. “Look what Jaddeth did for her when I appealed to him, he saved her, too!” Note, that I don’t recall if that’s what his plan is, but we’re soon to find out!

L: I wouldn’t put it past him.

L: I have to say, I also really appreciate the little call-out to the Hero’s Journey here.

On the off-chance you’re unfamiliar with the concept of story structure and Joseph Campbell’s theory of the HJ/the monomyth in particular, it’s that all mythological narratives are essentially the same once you boil them down to their primary plot points. This structure can also be applied to most fictional narratives. The monomyth goes like this: The hero, secure in their home, is given a call to adventure, which they initially refuse. Once they accept the call (usually with the aid of a mentor figure), they embark on a journey, part of which is usually delving into an underworld of some sort. While there, they learn something which helps them to overcome the climax/main confrontation, and then return victorious to their home. This is, of course, a drastic simplification, but you can see the parallel here between our real-world monomyth and the one that Hrathen is referencing. I love the idea that the monomyth is universal, even within the text. How meta!

He would be the savior of this people.

P: And then he shows us that he’s not completely horrible as he really has tried to “conquer” Arelon without a bloody revolution.

L: I meeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaan I’d argue that that in particular makes him a good person. Sure, he’s trying to conquer another country, but at least he’s trying to do it peacefully. He didn’t even kill Sarene, though he could have sent a real assassin just as easily. He’s really, really trying to do this without bloodshed and save the people from that specific horror, which is—in its own way—noble. The ethical question of whether or not his country should be attempting to subjugate others is a whole other seon of wax.

P: That caveat notwithstanding, I don’t hate him as much as I should because Brandon made him so complex!

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Mislaid in Parts Half-Known
Mislaid in Parts Half-Known

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known

Dilaf backed down unhappily. The arteth grudgingly promised to hold no meetings or sermons without Hrathen’s overt permission. And in exchange for being officially named head arteth of the chapel, Dilaf also consented to relieve his numerous odivs from their vows…

P: Dilaf was brought low by Hrathen’s miraculous recovery from the Shaod. He’s all but groveling. Which is really no better a look on him than gloating.

L: So true. I wonder what his followers think about being demoted like that, though. Can’t be a good feeling.

Dilaf would not, however, relent in his pursuit of Elantris’s destruction.

“Why do you forbid me to preach against them, my lord?” Dilaf’s voice was bitter—now that Hrathen forbade him to speak about Elantris, the arteth’s speeches seemed almost emasculated.

“Preaching against Elantris no longer has a point,” Hrathen said, matching Dilaf’s anger with logic. “Do not forget that our hate had a purpose. Now that I have proven Jaddeth’s supreme power over Elantris, we have effectively shown that our God is true, while Domi is false.

P: Of course, he won’t relent. There is other hatred as potent as religious hatred, but religious hatred is pretty high up the ladder.

L: Personally speaking, I’m of the opinion that hate should never “have a purpose,” as Hrathen is saying here. Understanding and compassion are far better motivators, ethically and logically speaking. Hate is by its very nature a quick way to inspire people to action; but it’s also self-feeding and, like a fire, can quickly grow out of control. Empathy, kindness, understanding, compassion… this is a slower, but much more efficient method of enacting change.

Now… one could argue that Hrathen didn’t have time to use such methods due to his deadline, but I’m not sure if such things would even cross his mind as possibilities. He’s far too calculating and cruel to be truly empathic.

P: Very true, and as much as he might agree with Dilaf about Elantrians, has his eye firmly on the ball now. (The ball being the conquest of Arelon, but you knew that.) He won’t let Dilaf upset the boat now that they’re sailing along so smoothly.

It’s over, he realized. I actually did it—I converted the people without a bloody revolution. He wasn’t finished yet, however. Arelon was his, but one nation still remained.

Hrathen had plans for Teod.

P: Without a bloody revolution so far.

And I can’t help but think that the sneaksy gyorn’s poisoning of the princess has something to do with his plans for Teod. “Look what Jaddeth did for her when I appealed to him, he saved her, too!” Note, that I don’t recall if that’s what his plan is, but we’re soon to find out!

L: I wouldn’t put it past him.

Chapter 43

 A dark stairwell lay hidden within, ten years of dust coating its steps. A single set of footprints marked the powder—footprints that could have been made only by feet as large as Galladon’s.

“And it goes all the way to the top?” Raoden asked, stepping over the sodden wreck of a door.

“Kolo,” Galladon said. “And it’s encased in stone the entire way, with only an occasional slit for light. One wrong step will send you tumbling down a series of stone stairs as long—and as painful—as one of my hama’s stories.”

P: And so Raoden and Galladon get back to the whole “let’s climb to the top of the wall” plan to see if they can guess what happened to the Elantris City Guard. Sounds like a harrowing climb when a slip will turn you into a Hoed. 

Oh, and is anyone else wondering why this stairwell INSIDE the wall is covered with dust instead of slime? Hmmm??

L: When reading this, all I could see in my head was the staircase inside the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland (246 steps, if you’re wondering, and yes I’ve climbed it. Twice). Granted it’s not quite the same, as the Elantrian version clearly has a big empty space in the middle, but…

Raoden had been atop the walls of Elantris dozens of times, but never had the sight of Kae looked so sweet. The city was quiet; it appeared as if his fears of invasion had been premature.

P: Fear of the type of invasion Raoden has imagined may be premature, but as our fallen prince will find out next week, there are other types of invasion.

L: A peaceful coup d’état is still a coup d’état.

“We did it,” Raoden said, resting against the parapet.

“Took us long enough,” Galladon noted, stepping up beside him.

“Only a few hours,” Raoden said lightly, the agony of the work forgotten in the bliss of victory.

“I didn’t mean cutting through the door. This is the third day I’ve tried to get you to come up here.”

“I’ve been busy.”

P: Our Lord Spirit has been stuck to Sarene like glue, it would seem. Raoden is all starry-eyed, I bet! All twitterpated

L: The only appropriate gif for a time such as this…

“Sule, the only time in the last three days I’ve seen you two apart is when one of you had to go to the privy. She’d be here now if I hadn’t snatched you when no one was looking.”

“Well,” Raoden said defensively, “she is my wife.”

“And do you ever intend to inform her of that fact?”

“Maybe,” Raoden said lightly. “I wouldn’t want her to feel any obligation.”

“No, of course not.”

P: Yup, stuck like glue. And, of course he wouldn’t want her to feel any obligation but I’m betting she would say the exact same storming thing. When they would both want SO MUCH to go through with their obligation!

L: Given that he’s someone who was brought up in a position of power and wealth, I don’t really blame Raoden for wanting his wife to get to know the real him without all the trappings and expectations of his title. Even if that title’s gone now, he’s still a prince, and I bet the opportunity to get someone to fall for you based solely on your personality and nothing else is a nice change for him. Now…deliberately withholding things from your intended so they can’t really get to know you (seeing as how your background and title are huge parts of who you are) is also a consideration here, but we know that Raoden’s gonna tell her eventually. I suppose we can’t blame him for going a little “Princess Jasmine” on Sarene, for a while at least.

Raoden nodded, remembering back to their short conversation two days ago. Has it really been that long? he wondered. He’d barely noticed. Perhaps he had been spending a little too much time with Sarene. However, he didn’t feel a bit guilty.

P: And why should he? The man got the rawest deal around and now he’s finally got access to his wife when he never thought he’d ever even see her.

L: After losing the life you thought you’d had, your riches, your family, your friends, your health… hell, practically everything, it must be real nice to get a win for once. We can hardly blame him for indulging in this one bit of joy that’s been thrown his way.

“There,” Galladon said, squinting and pointing at the city.

“What?” Raoden said, following the Dula’s gesture.

“I see a flag,” Galladon said. “Our missing guards.”

Raoden squinted, recognizing the building over which the banner flew. “That’s Duke Telrii’s mansion. What could the Elantris City Guard possibly have to do with him?”

“Perhaps he’s under arrest,” Galladon said.

“No,” Raoden said. “The Guard isn’t a policing force.”

“Why would they leave the walls, then?” Galladon asked.

Raoden shook his head. “I’m not sure. Something, however, is very wrong.”

P: Why would they leave the walls, indeed? Because their captain is corrupt and taking money from Hrathen, who is pulling all the strings, maybe? Ugh. The whole Telrii storyline is tiresome.

L: You’d think that Raoden would be more suspicious of Telrii, having grown up around the snake, but maybe the arrival of Hrathen and everything else that’s happened is just so far outside his consideration that he can’t imagine it. You know what they say…  truth is often stranger than fiction. Sometimes things happen that we’d never expect.

There was one way to find out what was going on with the Guard. Sarene was the only Elantrian to be thrown into the city since the disappearance of the Guard. Only she could explain the current political climate of the city.

P: Lucy! You got some ‘splaining to do!

L: Poor thing. At least we know that Raoden’s going to be asking the questions, and will do so with care and compassion.

The truth was, he really did enjoy his time with Sarene. Her wry wit made him smile, her intelligence intrigued him, and her personality encouraged him. After ten years of dealing with women whose only apparent thought was how good they looked in their dress—a state of forced obtuseness led by his own weak-willed stepmother—Raoden was ready for a woman who wouldn’t cower at the first sign of conflict.

P: Brandon, stahp. We all know how perfect they each thought the other was prior to Sarene taking sail toward their wedding. And now Raoden can see the reasons why, up close and personal-like. And it’s so wonderfully romantic and nauseating. ::giggle:: I don’t really think it’s nauseating… I’m over here sighing into my tea. 

L: Same, except coffee. I do love me a good romance, and while I’m not a fan of the “she’s not like the other girls!” trope being used here, I’m willing to give Brandon a pass for it because he was so young when he wrote this book. He’s come a long, long way in his portrayal of strong female characters.

However, that same unyielding personality was the very thing that had kept him from learning about the outside. No amount of subtle persuasion—or even direct manipulation—could pry a single unwilling fact out of Sarene’s mouth. He couldn’t afford to be delicate any longer, however. The Guard’s strange actions were troubling—any shift in power could be extremely dangerous to Elantris.

P: Indeed, it could. Don’t worry, my prince, your little songbird will sing. You just may not like the song.

L: But as Raoden says, it’s so very important to hear it. They’re in less danger than they were before Sarene was thrown in here now that Hrathen’s plans have come to fruition (or so he thinks), but it’s only a matter of time before things even out and he and Dilaf turn their attention back to the “unholy” denizens of Elantris.

The current Wyrn would have to be a fool not to strike soon. All he needed was an opening.

Internal strife would provide that opening. If the Guard had decided to betray the king, civil conflict would throw Arelon into chaos once again, and the Fjordells were infamous for capitalizing on such events. Raoden had to find out what was happening beyond those walls.

P: Oh, my sweet summer Elantrian child… your world is going to get so rocked. I feel so bad for next week’s Raoden! 

L: Yeah. But, knowing our Raoden, he’s going to pivot swiftly from shock to problem-solving mode. And now that he’s got his witty, beautiful genius of a wife by his side…

P: ::titters::

Raoden wasn’t able to keep himself from remarking again at her beauty. The dark-splotched skin of an Elantrian was prosaic to him now; he didn’t really notice it anymore. 

P: You’ll just have to allow us the sheer glee at all of Raoden’s heart-eyes in this chapter. We’ve been waiting a long time!

L: Finally.

Sarene’s body seemed to be adapting remarkably well to the Shaod. Further signs of degeneration were usually visible after just a few days—wrinkles and creases appearing in the skin, the body’s remaining flesh color dulling to a pallid white. Sarene showed none of this—her skin was as smooth and vibrant as the day she had entered Elantris.

She claimed that her injuries didn’t continue hurting the way they should—though Raoden was certain that that was just because she hadn’t had to live outside of New Elantris.

P: ::ahem:: Take two. Then take another two (such as the fact that she can’t draw aons), then put them together and you’ll get four. Wake up to what this means, Raoden!

L: Give the poor love-stricken boy a break. He’ll wake up to the signs eventually. Remember… Raoden’s really not that old. Late teens, early twenties at the most.

P: I would have thought him older than her and doesn’t she say she’s twenty-seven at one point? Do you remember, Chickens?

Their supplies wouldn’t last more than a month, but there was no reason to stockpile. Starvation was not deadly to Elantrians, just uncomfortable.

L: I guess it’s a good thing that we know that Sarene’s poison is going to wear off soon, because if she were stuck in here when the food ran out, she’d be in trouble with a capital T.

P: She would be. I wonder if they have water for her because, if I recall correctly, they don’t need it.

Most beautiful were her eyes—the way she studied everything with keen interest. Sarene didn’t just look, she examined. When she spoke, there was thought behind her words. That intelligence was what Raoden found most attractive about his Teo princess.

P: “You see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue.” Pardon my Elton John lyrics, you’re just lucky I don’t lyric you to death every week! I love that he thinks of her as “his” princess. Ahh, l’amour… 

L: I also love the fact that, unlike most romances, when he speaks of how beautiful her eyes are, he’s now talking about their physical beauty. He’s referring to how her intelligence shines through them. How refreshing!

Sarene held up the book, showing him the spine, which read Seor’s Encyclopedia of Political Myths.

“… it’s amazing. I have never read anything that so soundly debunks Fjorden’s rhetoric and manipulation.”

“Now that Fjorden is religious, they can’t have it sounding like their greatest historical king was a pagan, so the priests went through and rewrote all of the poems. I don’t know where this man Seor laid hands on an original version of Wyrn, but if it got out, it would provide a major source of embarrassment to Fjorden.” Her eyes sparkled mischievously.

P: I don’t believe this went anywhere… just an opportunity, I think, for Sarene to fear she was boring Spirit with her studies.

L: I love seeing how the religion has evolved over the years and been changed by its followers. Such good worldbuilding on Brandon’s part.

“You may have read a version of Wyrn the King,” Sarene said, shaking her head. “But not this one. Modern versions of the poem make references to Jaddeth in an almost Derethi way. The version in this book shows that the priests rewrote the literature from the original to make it sound as if Wyrn were Derethi—even though he lived long before Shu-Dereth was founded.”

L: Hmmmm. I wonder if there’s any connection here between this religion and Adonalsium? Like, did they originally worship Adonalsium under a different name? There’s no textual proof of this, just an interesting little Cosmere-rabbit hole my brain decided to wander into.

“Galladon and I just climbed to the top of the city wall.”

Her face grew perplexed. “And?”

“We found the Elantris City Guard surrounding Duke Telrii’s mansion,” Raoden said. “We were kind of hoping you could tell us why. I know you’re reluctant to talk about the outside, but I’m worried. I need to know what is happening.”

”I guess the important part began when I dethroned King Iadon—which, of course, is why he hanged himself.”

Raoden sat down with a thump, his eyes wide.

P: I think she’d have stunned him less had she whacked him in the forehead with Seor’s Encyclopedia of Political Myths. Poor, poor Raoden. Sarene wasn’t trying to be callous, of course, but what a way to learn your father is dead… Even if the jerk did exile you to Elantris.

L: Yeah, I do really feel bad for Raoden in this moment.

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapters 44 and 45.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. Between work and school and the SA5 beta read, she’s trying to work on book 3 of a YA/Crossover trilogy with just a hint of the supernatural. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

Lyndsey lives in Connecticut. She makes magic wands for a living and will be helping out Santa Claus this season in Essex, CT. If you enjoy queer protagonists, snarky humor, and don’t mind some salty language, check out book 1 of her fantasy series. Follow her on Facebook or TikTok!

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Paige Vest

Author

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. Between work and school and the SA5 beta read, she’s trying to work on book 3 of a YA/Crossover trilogy with just a hint of the supernatural. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.
Learn More About Paige

About the Author

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Lyndsey Luther

Author

Lyndsey lives in Connecticut. She’s in the process of closing on a house (yes, in this dreadful market) so please wish her the best of luck, and follow her on Facebook or TikTok!
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