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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip

Grof hit in the eye

(The graphic above serves as a live link to the original, at a larger size, in my Flickr photostream. No password is necessary to view a larger size there. The words in Grof's brain are a listing of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins, with their associated colors.)

I have suddenly realized that I have never blogged about one of my all-time favorite books, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip. This is a gap that I wish to fill as soon as I possibly can. (I have blogged about several of her other works. If interested, click on the Patricia A. McKillip tag at the end of this post. Perhaps the most important of these posts is an analysis of Christian themes in a trilogy by McKillip.) I am not alone in thinking that this is a good book. It won the first World Fantasy Award ever given.

I will not try to set forth a summary of the book. The Wikipedia article on it does a good job of that. I will discuss one aspect of the book, which, I have argued elsewhere, is a frequent theme in McKillip's novels. That aspect is the rejection of vengeance. Several of McKillip's characters, although grievously wronged, decide not to take vengeance on those who have harmed them.

The quotation from the book, in the graphic, is found in two places, in both cases spoken by Cyrin, the magic boar. In the first instance, it is spoken to Coren, who is in the process of falling in love with Sybel, the sorceress (and she with him). Coren is full of desire for revenge for a brother who has fallen in battle to the enemy of his family. In the second place, it is spoken to Sybel, herself. She was captured, and her mind examined deeply, by a magician in the pay of King Drede, who is also Coren's family's chief opponent. Sybel comes to see that, in her desire for vengeance, she has been using Coren, her husband, and his family, and that if she continues to be driven by that desire, she will lose everything that is important to her. She withdraws from pursuing vengeance. The statement made by Cyrin is on pages 106 and 249 of the 2006 edition of the book, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Bible has something to say about this matter:
Proverbs 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat.
    If he is thirsty, give him water to drink:
22 for you will heap coals of fire on his head,
    and Yahweh will reward you.

and, quoting and expanding on this:

Romans 12:19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
    If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Both quotations from the World English Bible.)

Thanks for reading.

4 comments:

atlibertytosay said...

Revenge is a hard subject ... even if one doesn't seek public visible revenge do they not think it?

Does Matthew 5:22-28 apply?

Basically saying "If you think it, you've done it."

I believe revenge to be a form of coveting - you envy your enemies satisfaction of doing you wrong.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, atlibertytosay.

I believe you are right about Matthew 5:22-28. I hadn't thought of that.

I believe that it is possible to be grievously wronged, but not even think of responding in kind. I believe that that was true of Jesus and Stephen, and can be true of believers in 2010. (Perhaps after some time, and some prayer.) I hope I would be one of them, if seriously wronged.

atlibertytosay said...

And, likewise I agree with you that prayer is needed to avoid coveting revenge.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. I think I would need it. I'm not sure everybody would. Some people are close enough to Christ, I think, that revenge wouldn't enter their minds. I don't think I'm there.