Elantris Reread: Chapter Sixty


Well, Cosmere Chickens, we’re coming down to the end now. Only three more chapters left after this one, and then one final installment of the reread in which we’ll be discussing Hope of Elantris and our closing thoughts on the book as a whole. The Sanderlanche is in full effect, so we won’t hold you up here with these opening thoughts, except to remind you that we’ll be quoting Past!Brandon periodically throughout the article, pulling in relevant segments from his annotations on the novel. Please note that these quotes are unedited and were written back in 2006, and are being presented here in order to help give a broader understanding of Brandon’s state of mind while writing the book at the time, not his thoughts on it now. That said… read on and enjoy, chickens!

Spoiler warning: This week’s article contains spoilers from the Stormlight Archive and one clearly marked spoiler (in white text that you will need to highlight in order to view[1] ) from an unpublished work. Proceed with caution!

Trigger warnings: Chronic pain, genocide

Last time on Elantris: SANDERLANCHE!

Dilaf finally reveals his terrible secret to Hrathen—he’s actually the leader of the monastery of Dakhor, and he’s led his creepy monks here to begin the invasion of Arelon far earlier than Hrathen had been told.

Meanwhile, poor Raoden is taken captive. When Dilaf offers to parlay with Sarene, he instead sends his monks up onto the wall to capture her, too. Then he stabs Raoden and leaves him to his unending agony as he calls up Sarene’s father and forces him to re-swear fealty before sending his men in to destroy the poor Elantrians.

Chapter Essentials

POV Character(s): Galladon, Lukel, Raoden, Hrathen

Discussion

The last hour had been a horror. Galladon and Karata had been at the library, planning how to lead the people away from Elantris. They had heard the screams even at that distance, but by the time they had arrived at New Elantris, everyone there had already become Hoed.

L: When Brandon goes dark, he really goes dark…

P: Indeed, he does. And he’s GOOD at it.

L: But, what’s this? A POV from… GALLADON? Not Sarene, Raoden, or Hrathen?

The triad system breaks down completely here. Everything is falling apart, and we’re getting wild viewpoints from all over the place. Part of the reason I add the viewpoints is so that I can show the breakdown of the form of the book. However, another–perhaps more important–reason is so that I can show what is happening in places that don’t involve one of the three viewpoints.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

P: Frankly, this is really handy. Since Sarene has been whisked away to Teod and Raoden is incapacitated, it’s good to have another POV so we can see what’s happening.

“Raoden made me vow to give him peace,” Galladon said.

L: Loyal to the end.

P: ::sniffle:: Galladon is so damn underrated. He’s truly a great character. He reminds me of Teft, in a way. Loyal, yes. But also a bit grizzled and reluctantly hopeful.

L: If Raoden is the proto-Kaladin, then Galladon is definitely the proto-Teft.

Lukel didn’t struggle; there was little use in it. His father, however, was a different story. It took three Fjordells to bind Kiin and throw him on a horse—and even then, the large man managed to get off the odd kick at a passing head.

L: Kiin is just amazing. I’d honestly read a whole book about this pirate-turned-chef.

P: Sign me up! Maybe we’ll get some information in the next Elantris book!

Adien walked along behind him, apparently unconcerned. He slowly counted the steps as he moved. “Three hundred fifty-seven, three hundred fifty-eight, three hundred fifty-nine…”

L: There are a couple of things that I’d like to discuss about Adien. First of all, a reminder that he’s been taken by the Shaod and his family’s been hiding that fact, disguising him with makeup in order to keep him from getting thrown into Elantris. Second, he’s quite clearly on the autism spectrum, and as such, I think he’s the first of Brandon’s neurodivergent characters in a published work. This is something that he’s really embraced over the years, with characters such as Renarin, Kaladin, and Steris Harms (to name a few). Brandon’s dedication to representing all kinds of experience and identities, in terms of race, gender, sexuality (or the lack thereof), and neurodiversity is part of what makes his fanbase so broad and devoted. So it’s really cool to see the beginnings of this here, in his very first published book.

P: Oh, absolutely. I think this is one of the things about Elantris that sold me on Brandon from the get-go, since this was the first of his books that I read: A strong female lead character; a magic system like nothing I’d ever seen; a neurodivergent character; and on top of all that, that bit of darkness that spoke to my soul…

Lukel knew that they were marching to their own execution. He saw the bodies that lined the streets, and he understood that these men were not intent on mere dominion. They were here to commit a massacre, and no massacre would be complete with victims left alive.

Let’s hear from Past!Brandon on this…

I wanted to deal a little bit with prisoner mentality in this scene. People allow terrible things to be done to them in situations like this. … It may seem convenient that the soldiers wait to kill the people, but I think it makes sense. You want to gather everyone in an enclosed place, where they will be trapped, before you begin your slaughter in earnest. That way you can be certain there are no escapees.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

P: There’s some more of that beloved darkness.

The Dakhor raised their hands, and the men on either side of Hrathen placed a hand on his shoulder. His heart began to pound as the monks began to glow, the bone inscriptions beneath their skin shining. There was a jarring sensation, and Kae vanished around them.
They reappeared in an unfamiliar city.

L: Whoa. Teleportation powers?! Well that’s handy!

P: What a complete trip. No Elantrian powers, so whatever the Dakhor do is unique to them.

Hrathen did not fail to notice that the man in the center was now missing. … That monk had been fuel, his flesh and soul burned away—a sacrifice in return for the instantaneous transportation to Teoras.

L: Interesting. This works very differently from the way the transportation surge on Roshar does. There, the user is transported into the cognitive realm. It’s more similar to the way the Oathgates work, so I wonder if there’s some Cosmere commonality there… Also interesting to note that the physical matter of the monk was used as energy to facilitate the teleportation. The Oathgates use Stormlight… I wonder, if these monks had access to pure Investiture, could they use that instead?

Arelon and Elantris had been defeated; the next battle was Teod.

L: I have to admit, I never expected that we’d actually wind up seeing Teod. It’s always seemed so distant, I expected all the action of the book to remain in Kae and Elantris!

P: I vaguely recall them going to Teod, but not a full fifty Dakhor monks. Scary!

Dilaf stood at the edge of the roof, scanning the city. A fleet of ships was pulling into Teoras’s enormous bay.

“We are early,” Dilaf said, squatting down. “We will wait.”

L: Well, this is unfortunate.

P: Maybe not. It gives Raoden some much needed time.

Galladon had stood amid the carnage, screaming at Raoden for abandoning them, for leaving them behind. Their prince had betrayed them for Sarene.

L: I can absolutely see how he’d feel that way.

P: I understand, as well. Though deep down, Galladon truly knows how Raoden feels about Sarene.

L: And yet…

Yet he hoped. A part of Galladon still believed that Raoden would somehow make things better. This was the curse his friend had set upon him, the wicked seed of optimism that refused to be uprooted. Galladon still had hope, and he probably would until the moment he gave himself up to the pool.

Past!Brandon has this to say:

Galladon’s hope monologue in this chapter is probably the most powerful, and most interesting, section he gets in the book. This piece is supposed to mimic what the reader is feeling–things are going terribly, but Raoden has always managed to pull out a miracle. He may look bad now, but he can still save them. Can’t he?

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: HE’D BETTER.

P: Please, oh please! I remember lots of running!

Those times [Raoden] got close to the surface of pain, however, he thought he saw images. Visions that might have been real, but were probably just reflections of his memory. He saw Galladon’s face, concerned and angry at the same time. He saw Karata, her eyes heavy with despair. He saw a mountain landscape, covered with scrub and rocks.

It was all immaterial to him.

L: Poor, poor Raoden. He’s been through so much.

P: Sufferedso many wounds, so many hits to his pride and integrity.

L: Not to mention physical wounds.

A few more years, and Dilaf would probably be completely insane.

L: Hrathen has a much more charitable view on Dilaf’s state of mind than I do.

P: Yeah, dude’s already nutters.

“She thought I was the most handsome man she’d ever seen, even though my body had been twisted and destroyed to fit the mold of an Arelene.” …

“When she fell sick, I took her to Elantris,” Dilaf mumbled, his legs pulled tightly against his chest. “I knew it was pagan, I knew it was blasphemous, but even forty years as a Dakhor wasn’t enough to keep me away… not when I thought Elantris could save her. Elantris can heal, they said, while Dakhor cannot. And I took her.” ….

The monk was no longer looking at Hrathen. His eyes were unfocused. “They changed her,” he whispered. “They said the spell went wrong, but I know the truth. They knew me, and they hated me. Why, then, did they have to put their curse on Seala? Her skin turned black, her hair fell out, and she began to die. She screamed at night, yelling that the pain was eating her from the inside. Eventually she threw herself off the city wall.”

Dilaf’s voice turned reverently mournful. “I found her at the bottom, still alive. Still alive, despite the fall. And I burned her. She never stopped screaming. She screams still. I can hear her. She will scream until Elantris is gone.”

L: Hooboy. That’s a lot to unpack.

P: Truth. But in retrospect, there had to be some reason he hated the Elantrians so fiercely.

L: Let’s turn to Past!Brandon to tell us a little about what he was thinking…

He is a man who betrayed his religion when he thought it would save the woman he loved–only to find himself, in turn, betrayed by the Elantrians. His wife became Hoed, and he himself burned her. This would have something of an effect on a man’s psyche, I think. Now, recall that Elantris was at the height of its power when Dilaf took his wife in to be healed. I mentioned her earlier in the book, in a Raoden chapter. He found a story in one of his textbooks about a woman who was improperly-healed, and it turned her into what the Elantrians now are. This is Dilaf’s wife.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: As far as the magic system goes, I’m curious as to what exactly happened here. “The magic went wrong” is awfully vague.

P: Raoden had talked of Aons being drawn incorrectly, so perhaps it was something along those lines?

L: Right, but a simple case of user error then being blown up on this huge of a scale to everyone else? Seems, as the kids say, sus.

Angry, the soldier slashed at Adien with a sword, leaving a large gash in his chest. Adien stumbled, but kept walking. No blood came from the wound… Adien approached the pile of Elantrians and joined its ranks, flopping down among them and then lying still. … Adien’s secret of five years had finally been revealed. He had joined his people.

L: And there we have the textual revelation of that twist!

P: Poor, poor Aiden. An incomplete Elantrian and not even aware of the fact.

L: Now, Brandon goes on to elaborate on this a bit:

I’ve left the Adien twist in for a single reason. However, it’s a bit of a spoiler…

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: MAJOR spoiler here for unpublished works, so if you’d rather go into future Cosmere works blind, I recommend that you not highlight this block of text:

BEGIN SPOILER (highlight to read):

Adien is my planned hero for book two. I like the concept of a healed autistic being the hero of the next book. And, since he’s so good with numbers, he would be incredibly powerful at AonDor. I think he’d be a compelling character to look at, so I left him in this book in case I wanted to use him in the next one.

END SPOILER.

Adien has been an Elantrian for some time. That’s why Kiin’s family knows so much about Elantrians. Read back to the earlier chapters, and you’ll see a scene or two where Sarene wonders why they know so much about Elantris and its occupants. They hid Adien’s transformation with makeup, and his autism kept him out of social circles anyway, so no one really paid much attention to the fact that he was never around.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

Now back to the text:

“I remember you, Hrathen.” Dilaf was smiling now, his grin cruel and demonic. “I remember you as a boy, when you came to us. It was just before I left for Arelon.”

Hrathen felt chilled. “You were there?”

“I was gragdet already, Hrathen,” Dilaf said. “Do you remember me?”

L: We can hardly blame Hrathen for not remembering. Trauma can do a number on memory.

P: It certainly can. And Hrathen most definitely experienced trauma at Dakhor Monastery.

…you demanded that one of your monks use his magic and send you to Wyrn’s palace. The monk complied, giving up his life to transport you a distance that you could have walked in fifteen minutes.”

L: Ugh. What a waste of life. (And by that I mean Dilaf, not the unfortunate monk.)

P: Okay, you made me snort-laugh.

I particularly like Hrathen’s story about Dilaf making someone die so he could travel to a place fifteen minutes away. It characterizes Dilaf perfectly while at the same time giving a clue to how strict and obedient his order is. This isn’t a group of people you want to mess with. It’s the ultimate exaggeration of Derethi beliefs on loyalty and structure

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

I worked hard to bring about his rise to power in the book, and I hope that it worked. Pulling off the Dilaf/Hrathen reversal was one of my main goals in the story.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: I’d say it was a success.

P: It definitely was. Though they’ve been years apart, I’ve done multiple rereads and I forget this fact every time.

“I have only one duty remaining—the death of King Eventeo.”

L: Something gives me the feeling that a certain princess is going to have something to say about that.

It was Aon Rao. A large square with four circles around it, lines connecting them to the center. It was a widely used Aon—especially among the Korathi—for its meaning. Spirit. Soul.

L:  Aon alert!

…Raoden’s mind tried to discard the image of Aon Rao. It was something from a previous existence, unimportant and forgotten. He didn’t need it any longer. Yet even as he strove to remove the image, another sprung up in its place.

Elantris. Four walls forming a square. The four outer cities surrounding it, their borders circles. A straight road leading from each city to Elantris. Merciful Domi!

L: Oh ho! It does look strikingly similar, doesn’t it?

P: ::trumpets sounding:: Here it is, people! Finally!!

So, this moment—where Raoden is nearly dead, looking down on the cities, and finally makes the connection–was one of the scenes that made me want to write this book. In each novel I write, I have some important scenes in my mind. They’re like… focuses for the novel. They’re the places I know I need to get, and they’re usually very dynamic in my mind. In a way, I tell the rest of the story just so I can make my way to these moments.

If it requires explanation, Raoden is thinking about Aon Rao. Then he notices that Elantris and the cities around it form a pattern–the exact pattern of Aon Rao. The cities form an Aon on the ground. At this moment, Raoden realizes why Elantris fell, and why the Elantrians went with it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I won’t spoil it for you.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

A map of Kae and Elantris City from Brandon Sanderson's Elantris

King Eventeo stood in the distance, a small honor guard surrounding him. He bowed his head as Dilaf approached. The monk smiled, preparing his knife. Eventeo thought he was presenting his country for surrender—he didn’t realize that he was offering it up for a sacrifice.

L: Major props to him for coming out to meet this lunatic with just a small honor guard, though.

…because Hrathen was so sympathetic a villain through the entire novel, I think I can make Dilaf more raw and unapproachable. It’s nice to have sympathetic villains, but with Hrathen in the book, I didn’t feel that I needed much sympathy for Dilaf.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

P: You succeeded, Brandon. We have zero sympathy for Dilaf.

He was being pulled toward something round and blue.

The pool.

NO! he thought desperately. Not yet! I know the answer!

L: What a great moment!

P: And he’s unable to speak!! ::screams::

The pool, actually, simply grew out of my need to find a way to put Raoden on the slopes of the mountains near the ending of the book. I like how it turned out in the final story–it added a dimension of mysticism to the Elantrian belief system, and it worked very well into the plotting I had developed.

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

Back to the action:

Raoden screamed suddenly, twitching. Galladon was so surprised that he dropped the body.

Raoden stumbled forward, trying to get his footing, and fell directly into the pool.

L: And of course that’s where we’re left until next week. What a cliffhanger!

P: Although we know he’s not gonna dissolve, I’m still thinking in my mind: “Please don’t dissolve, please don’t dissolve!”

So, things look pretty grim, eh? Sarene about to be murdered, Teod about to fall, Elantris about to be burned, Raoden in the pool.

Hum. Guess the good guys lose. There’s no reason to read the last three chapters…

Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: Brandon…

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 Chapter 61.



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