STATE OF THE
readers on the state
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Annotation Elantris Chapter 17
Chapter Seventeen (No Spoilers)
Of all the books I’ve written, I think this one hearkens most closely to our own world. Usually, when I develop cultures and languages, I try to stay away form basing them too closely on any one Earth society or race. I’m not certain what made me do things differently in ELANTRIS. It’s not just fencing–JinDo, with its obvious links to Asian cultures, is a good example too. And Fjorden’s language has some obvious references to Scandinavia. (Dilaf’s name comes from Beowulf, actually. I named him after Beowulf’s heir, Wilaf.)
Anyway, in this chapter we find two very obvious ‘borrows’ from our world. I’ve always been fascinated by fencing, though I’ve never participated myself. The idea of turning swordfighting into a sport intrigues me. In addition, I found the light, formalized dueling appropriate to the tone of this book, so I took the opportunity to write it in. (I do realize, by the way, that Hollywood has done some interesting things to fencing. Most real fencing bouts are much shorter, and far less showy, than what we see depicted. This is pretty much true for any kind of fighting, however. Think what you will, but combat is usually brutal, quick, and really not that exciting to watch.
This kind of fighting is very appropriate in some books. However, I allowed myself the indulgence of doing my fencing scenes a bit more flourish than one would find in real life. It felt right in the context to have the participants spar, parry, and jump about for far longer a time than is realistic. If you need justification, you can assume that in Teod, the rules for fencing are very strict–and so it’s very hard to actually score a point on your opponent, forcing the battles to be prolonged.)
The other item of interest in that scene is, of course, Shuden’s ChayShan dance. As mentioned above, his culture is pretty obviously borrowed from Asia. In fact, the link is so strong that some readers have trouble imagining his features as anything but Asian. (Note, once again, that this is not the case. The JinDo have dark brown skin. Though, I guess you’ll imagine Shuden however you wish.) The ChayShan is a martial art I devised to feel just a bit like Tai Chi–though ChayShan focuses on speeding up the motions and gaining power from them. I’ve always kind of thought that Tai Chi would look more interesting if it slowly sped up.
Sarene’s visit to the chapel is probably the strongest scene in the book dealing with the Korathi religion. I felt this scene was important for the sake of contrast. Hrathen, and therefore Shu-Dereth, gets quite a bit of screen time. Unfortunately, Sarene and Raoden just aren’t as religious as Hrathen is. I consider them both to be believers–Sarene the more devout of the two. Religion, however, isn’t as much a part of their lives as it is for Hrathen.
I’ve actually seen this kind of aggressive religion/passive religion dynamic before. (Referring to the dynamic between the peaceful Korathi believers and the aggressive Derethi believers.) In Korea, where I served as a full-time LDS missionary, Buddhism and Christianity are both fairly well represented. Buddhism is having problems, however, because it doesn’t preach as aggressively as most Christian sects. It is not my intention to paint either religion in a poor light by adopting the aggressive religion as the antagonist in ELANTRIS. However, even as a Christian, I was often troubled by the way that the peaceful Buddhists were treated by some Protestant missionaries. I was there to teach about Christ’s gospel–I believe that Christ is our savior, and that people will gain happiness by following his teachings. However, I think you can teach about your own beliefs without being belligerent or hateful to people of other faiths.
The most memorable example came when I was walking in the subway. Often, Buddhist monks would set up little mats and sit chanting with their bowls out, offering prayers and chants for the people while trying–after the tenet of their religion–to gain offerings for their sustenance. Standing next to one particular monk, however, was a group of picketing Christians holding up signs that read “Buddhism is Hell.” You could barely see or hear the monk for all the ruckus.
I guess this has gotten a little bit off from the source material. But, well, this is a book about one religion trying to dominate another. In the end, I don’t think Hrathen’s desires are evil (it’s okay to want to share what you believe–it’s even okay to think that you’re right and others are wrong.) His methods, however, are a different story.
In other words, I think we should be able to preach Christianity (or whatever you happen to believe) without being complete jerks. (Sorry for that little tangent. I’ll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future.)