Part One – The Winding Path
Before I start, is it just my imagination or has the font changed? And I just checked this is 20 pages long. Also I’d like to thank everyone who comes to my blog, as we have reached over 2000 views!!
We begin with Elspeth sitting bathed in firelight, reading a message, that has been written by Dameon in their form of Braille. Elspeth comments that Dameon, though lacking sight, his other senses have compensated and are strengthened. I have never been sure whether that is not just a myth and is reality, because everyone says that this happens, but I have never had any experience with someone telling me it is true, though that doesn’t make it fake either. Anyway back to Elspeth. She has been missing her friend, Dameon, and he is still in Sador. She has been carrying around his letters with her for a while, and has been re-reading them whenever she can. I have to wonder is this what ‘just friends’ would do, or is Elspeth romantically attracted to Dameon (now I say this, because I have seen elsewhere online, suggestion that Dameon and Elspeth should be a couple, now this could just be fandom shipping based on nothing but fantasy, but it could be based on evidence in the text, like this passage). But it is not just Elspeth who is lamenting Dameon’s absence, Miky, Angina, Kella and even Rushton feel as though they have lost something without Dameon in Obernewtyn.
We are ‘introduced’ to Maruman (in case we have forgotten him, but I guess if you hadn’t read any Obernewtyn for four years, you might need a quick reminder of the history and behaviour of Maruman, but for those times when you read the stories continuously these ‘reminder’ section, can become annoying, as I would much rather get into the plot and read about something new). Though I think this is the first time Elspeth has seen the irony of the beast world, where they, to escape humanity, require a human saviour. But Maruman tells her that unlike humans who must know the why behind everything, beasts are happy to go with what is, and accept that they need a human to save/free them. This is part of the continuing commentary of humanity (in the real world) where we are obsessed with constantly thinking and analysing, and believing whatever we are doing is vital simply because we are actually doing it, definitely a recurring theme in the series.
I find it interesting though that Elspeth (and everyone in the Land) regard the Beforetimers as a seperate entity, as though they are not their ancestors (which they are). Clearly the world is very different now, but as Elspeth notes, humanity has not changed, the same ruinous traits are still there, and there are still evil, destroying people. The only difference, is ‘civilisation’ has been pushed back a hundred or so years. She sees it as ‘impossible’ to think of them as their ancestors, and I don’t understand that thinking. Sure, everyone right now, is not responsible for the Great White, as they were not alive at the time, but can the Beforetimers be blamed for what happened? Considering that many of them, did not set up the foundations for their own civilisation, but were born into a world where destruction, pollution, violence and greed were the norm, and so they could see no issue with the way of things. Yes, people could rebel and create a revolution of sorts, but to completely change the entire way of living for the world, and how that world operates, and what it values, is an immense task, and no individual can do anything to really change things (I want to stress, that this does not mean, I do not think our own world can change, because it can, and it has to, otherwise it won’t survive). But most of the Beforetimers were ‘innocent’ of creating the Great White, they did not create the nuclear weapons, they did not launch them, and many of them did not directly destroy the earth (though their actions, and purchasing habits obviously would have). They were just naive and gullible (maybe like us) that that way of live was sustainable and the best way to live. So is it really their fault that it happened, and is it bad for Elspeth to disregard her ancestors? Then again, what can Elspeth do about the past? Nothing.
What Elspeth does do, is acknowledges what the Beforetimers did, and that they were clearly ‘intelligent’ (or simply more advanced) to create such ‘wondrous things’ as they did, but she cannot figure out why the Beforetimers created weapons that would be their downfall. It is a good question, why do we willing allow weapons of mass destruction to exist? Why do we allow weapon technology and development to advance? One answer is that we want to control something, have a weapon, before the other guys do. And if we have this weapon, and then they have this weapon, then we will live in some sort of situation where we won’t use it on them, because they will use it on us. Not really the smartest way to run things, but it is what is happening. Garth thinks it is to do with pride, that because we can make them and are capable of making them, we do it and that we gain pleasure from trying to control such danger and power. Again another reason for such weapons, is power (and of course greed and ambition, which are all basically the same thing).
Rushton is the only character that ‘gets it’ he knows they were for wars, and to make sure that whoever had the best technology would win. But Elspeth (it is almost like a child, who is ‘innocent’ to the world, as in they don’t understand how things work and haven’t been conditioned into accepting things, questioning why we do this and why do people do that. To an adult these questions are usually brushed aside, as a child speaking out of place, as they don’t understand the world, but really, it could be that we don’t understand the best way to live) asks why would having weapons that would destroy everything, including the user, be good? Fantastic question, why would a weapon that would destroy everything (including whoever used it) be a good idea? I can’t think of an answer to that.
This is all of course related to Elspeth’s ultimate quest to destroy these weaponmachines, that were the downfall of the Beforetimers, before anyone else could use them (the Destroyer). But for Elspeth this is not the time to dwell on these things for too long, as the Beast guild begin to arrive, ready for a meeting. Well the Beast guild and maybe the Beastspeaking guild, not sure yet. We are introduced to a new character, in the form of a female dog, who lead a pack of dogs to Obernewtyn in the middle of winter. At first they were dismayed to find humans in the ‘freerunning barud’ but were in need of food and a place to sleep. It was an amazing feat for the group to get to Obernewtyn, as they were all domestic animals, who were led by ‘Smoke’ (the female dog) who killed her master. Smoke was the only reason they survived, when they would have starved, been killed off by wild beasts or captured by humans.
Once the pack was healed, many of them wanted to stay, and those who didn’t were taught how to survive in the wild. Even Smoke, who could have survived alone, chose to stay. What Elspeth couldn’t understand was why she rescued the others, when she could have gone on her own and saved herself some trouble. Elspeth mind while this is happening, reached out to Smoke, and she provided some answers in the form of a memory. The memory was of a man cutting the neck of a cow, in front of the cow’s calf and Smoke. The man then turned to cut the neck of the calf, and Smoke built up so much rage that she attacked, this intense rage, which is transmitted to Elspeth, sets of her own animalistic killing power, and it begins to ‘activate’. Elspeth quickly put a clamp on the power, and pushed away the dog. Smoke explains that the man killed the cow for having only one ear, and to any normal person or beast, we know that everything is born differently, but for this man, he saw the one ear as a sign of mutation, and was probably driven by the fear of Lud, who apparently hates mutations. Even if he was Lud-fearing, he would have seen the sign of mutation, as a loss of profit, as others wouldn’t want to buy anything that is not ‘normal’.
Elspeth wonders why Smoke showed Elspeth these images, Smoke explains she wants humans to know what their animal victims go through, but also because she sensed Elspeth’s killing power, which is a sign of Innle. Elspeth tries to explain that she used it only in defence of her mate, as if it is a shameful thing to kill (that sounds really bad, people should not go around killing others, let me explain in the next sentence). Smoke understands that it is normal for beasts and humans to protect their mates, and she knows that it is the way of the world, that some animals are hunted, and some are hunters. Killing beasts in itself is not the issue of humans, but it is the manner in which they/we go about it. Smoke says we have no courage, because we trap, breed, chain, fence animals until we are ready to kill them, and when we kill them, we do so without any respect or dignity. Clearly other beasts kill for food, but no other beasts kills freedom, as humans do. As the past, and human nature are themes of the series, so is animal rights. And this passage here is evidence of the appalling way humans treat animals. Our culture, which is meat eating (there is nothing wrong with eating animals, I do it, it is the killing and treatment of animals that is the issue), is based on agriculture and farming. So we farm animals and eat them, restricting any natural rights of the animals, who would normally roam free and eat what they want and do what they want, as Smoke says, we kill freedom. Obviously the more ‘intensive’ the farming practise, the less freedom animals have, like battery farming chickens, but even ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ (which aren’t always truthful either) still restrict animal freedom, and the method of killing is again questionable. It may sound like I support going out and hunting/catching your own meat/food, which I guess I do, but (a huge HOWEVER, I was going to say a huge BUT, though, you know) hunting with sophisticated equipment such as fishing rods and guns, and even bows, is not really giving animals dignity. This isn’t really the forum for an animal rights debate (though opinions are welcome, rude, aggressive, oppressive, spam, hate arguments are not) but this is a theme in Obernewtyn, and is hence discussed.
Back to the plot, and Elspeth says that no one here eats animal flesh (which clears up a question I had earlier, about whether they ate chickens or anything) and that at Obernewtyn they do not think it is ‘natural’ for humans to kill for any reason (I wonder what happens if someone doesn’t agree with this rule, do they have to leave, or do they go and hunt food themselves?). Elspeth asks why Smoke killed the man, when he did not harm one of her kind, but she says that she is unnatural because of her human interaction, and so she isn’t acting how she should if she was wild. Elspeth asks why she came here, and why she stays, and Smoke says that she is here to seek her death. Interesting, that raises many questions. Before Elspeth can ask her to elaborate, Gahltha interrupts that everyone is heading towards death, because that is where life leads, but right now, Avra would like to address everyone.
And with this change in the chapter, I will end my review (which may or may not be over 2000 words…). This chapter has already been quite interesting, and has opened up the opportunity for a lot of moral and thematic(al?) discussion, I hope you have some opinions and will share! One last thing, I am surprised, that even though Elspeth was reading Dameon’s letter, we did not find out what it said, I guess that will be later.