Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Death of a God and Division in Enchanters’ End Game

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Enchanters’ End Game, first published in 1984, is the last book in David Eddings’s Belgariad. While it finishes the series, it doesn’t finish Eddings’s work in this universe. Enchanters’ End Game marks a shifting point in the universe Eddings created. For the first time, we see the Angaraks as more than mindless antagonists. They’re still antagonists mind, but for the first time we can see the human motivations behind their actions. As the Angaraks expand, so does our metaphor. Eddings also dwells on more serious philosophical questions in this installment. We see division amidst the characters, and he debates what happens after the death of a god.

Spoilers for Enchanters’ End Game and the rest of the Belgariad.

What Happened?

The book begins with Garion, Belgarath, and Silk travelling through Gar og Nadrak. They see how the Malloreans impress Nadraks into their army, and how unwilling the average Nadrak is to war upon the west. The three of them also meet Drosta lek Thun, the Nadrak king. He wants to work with the West to avoid the Malloreans absorbing his kingdom. Silk provides him with codes to contact Queen Porenn to facilitate that. The three of them then travel through Morindland and Mallorea. Torak tries several times to tempt Garion away from his path, until he refuses explicitly.

Meanwhile, Ce’Nedra, Polgara, and the Alorn Kings are travelling East. They portage the Cherek fleet up the Eastern Escarpment. The plan is to take the Thull’s capital city so that they have a fortified position. They hope to lock the Angarak forces into place, while the Cherek fleet sinks the Mallorean reinforcements. However, the Murgos and Malloreans anticipated the takeover of the Thullish capital. The Alorn Kings and most of the army survive and retreat, but Polgara, Ce’Nedra, Durnik, and Errand are captured. ‘Zakath, the Mallorean Emperor delivers them to Zedar, who delivers them to Torak, right as Garion and the rest arrive.

Zedar kills Durnik. Belgarath retaliates by locking Zedar into the earth. Garion and Polgara reject Torak’s advances because of Durnik’s death, and Garion defies Torak. That defiance shakes Torak’s confidence, and Garion kills Torak. Durnik is restored to life, and given the power of sorcery to make him Polgara’s equal. The story ends with the weddings of Ce’Nedra and Garion, and Polgara and Durnik.

Division, and Cold War Politics

Alorns vs. Angaraks

One of the things that we see clearest in this book is how different the Angarak and Alorn leaders are. Just simple character choices and traits tell us multitudes. Of the Alorns, the word that best defines them is unity. Fulrach, the Sendarian king, creates and maintains supply lines and manages the practical parts of warfare. Anheg leads the navy, Cho Hag the cavalry, and Brand the infantry. Rhodar is the tactician that manages all of their skills and devises their strategy. They’re a fighting unity that Eddings created to be incredibly compatible.

By comparison, the Angaraks are an utter mess. King Gethell, the Thullish King, is a complete idiot, ruled entirely by ‘Zakath. ‘Zakath orders him whipped at one point because his soldiers fled from battle. Gethell cannot stop ‘Zakath’s power from expanding in his own kingdom. Given this example, King Drosta betrays the Angaraks, and befriends the Alorns. Drosta allows the Alorns to escape ‘Zakath’s trap by breaking the line. The Angaraks are constantly fighting.

The greatest example of this is between Taur Urgas (the Murgo king) and ‘Zakath. These two want to be the ‘overlord of Angarak’. Taur Urgas is a madman, literally described as foaming at the mouth before Cho Hag kills him. ‘Zakath only desires power. He says to Ce’Nedra that he doesn’t believe in prophecy—“I believe in my own power. Nothing else makes any sense.” (280). He also says, regarding Garion that, “When all his illusions are gone and only his love of power remains, then he will be a fit opponent.” (277). ‘Zakath’s strength, juxtaposed against the other Angaraks shows that there is only one powerful king in this side. In the same way, the Soviet Union was ‘the’ enemy during the Cold War.

A Surprising Capitulation

One of the most philosophically engaging moments in the novel is when Torak tempts Garion. Torak offers Garion the chance to become his and Polgara’s child. Torak offers to relieve Garion of his childhood without parents. Garion’s lack of parents is one of the formative things in his life. Garion thinks, “Concerned more with elementals, with those towering compulsions and ambitions which had inflamed him for the endless eons. Torak could not cope with the scattered complexities and conflicting desires that motivated most men.” (296). When applied to the Cold War, we see a peculiar kind of compassion.

If we go back to the history of the Soviet Union, we see it was motivated by massive food shortages. Many people starved to death, and the Czars did nothing. The elemental need of people to eat and an eloquent speaker led them to create the Soviet Union. Consider Torak’s offer to Garion. A family, and given in a tempting voice. By having Garion seriously consider Torak’s offer, Eddings offers a moment of compassion. He considers why these people created this system for themselves. He doesn’t just dismiss out of hand their needs, he sees that they had to do something or die. Eddings accepts why they made the Soviet Union, even if he himself opposes it.

Division and the Death of Torak

“Hear me, maimed and despised God… Your people fear you, but they do not love you. … You’re a God, but you are nothing. In all the universe, there is not one person — not one thing — that loves you. You are alone and empty, and even if you kill me, I will still win. Unloved and despised, you will howl out your miserable life to the end of days.’ … This was why Garion had come to this decaying ruin — not to fight Torak but to reject him.” (325-6).

Such is the death of the Dragon God of Angarak. The novel begins with a prologue written by Torak. He explains how he stole the Orb, and how it burned his face. It details how Torak hid his ruined face behind an iron mask. From that prologue, we can tell that Torak believes he is beloved by all his people. Torak honestly believes he is the center of the universe, that he will prevail and make the Orb submit, make everything submit. Torak’s greatest desire is to unite the world under his rule.

Garion’s purpose in life is to make this god aware of how divided his purpose has become. Torak burnt every bridge he had with his brother gods when he claimed the Orb. He burnt every chance of a people who would love him when he made them offer human sacrifice. He burnt any chance he had at Polgara’s love when his disciple killed Durnik. Torak willingly divided himself from everything, and that division is ultimately what leads to his death at the hands of Garion and the Orb.

The Death of a God and Trying to Move On

Fear and Confrontation

Before the confrontation that would lead to his death, Torak tried to tempt Garion. The reason that he did so was that he was afraid of Garion and what he represented. “Of course he’s afraid. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen any more than you do, and he’s just as frightened of you as you are of him.” (293). The failed temptation of Garion and the fear that prompted it show the uncertainty between these two ideologies. Both believe that it has to be all or nothing. There has to be one or the other, and that the existence of the other is a threat.

The fear of Garion is also echoed by someone that is not Torak. ‘Zakath sends well wishes to Garion and Ce’Nedra’s wedding. Silk explains that, “He was badly shaken by the fact that you killed Torak. I think he’s actually afraid of you, so he wants to stay on your good side.” (353). ‘Zakath’s place as the greatest of the remaining antagonists, and his fear of Torak invests him with our overarching metaphor. ‘Zakath is the new representative of the Soviet Union and Communism, and will carry that role into the next series. But, the events of this book changed ‘Zakath. Where Torak was compelled to face Garion, ‘Zakath is avoiding that confrontation for a time. This makes him already more palatable than before.

Father and Daughter

After the death of Torak, the other gods come to give him a funeral. Garion resurrects Durnik at their direction. Belgarath talks to Aldur before the gods leave, and after Durnik returns. He says, “I think my life’s going to be different now Master … Pol’s always been there, ready to come when I called her – not always willingly, perhaps – but she always came. Now she’ll have other concerns … I suppose our children all grow up and get married sometime. … Polgara’s been almost like a son to me,’ he told Aldur, ‘ but perhaps it’s time I let her be a woman. I’ve denied her that for too long.” (337).

One of the things that happens when you are nigh immortal is that things stagnate. Belgarath and Polgara’s primary relationships have been with each other for thousands of years. Everyone else was ephemeral and each other was a constant. Now the cycle of life is continuing for the two of them. Polgara’s primary relationship isn’t going to be her father now, it’ll be her husband. Things are changing for them, for the first time in forever. But things are changing in a predictable manner. As Belgarath puts it, it’s merely a generational shift. Things still aren’t wholly new for them, and this is reflected in the narrative.

Moving On, and Not. Or the Cyclical Nature of the Universe

The very last scene of this novel is Belgarath in conversation with the Orb of Aldur. He dwells on how the Orb has been his companion through centuries. He talks, like with Aldur, about how things will be different now. But they aren’t really that different. There’s the generational cycle of Belgarath and Polgara’s relationship, and ‘Zakath’s fear of Garion. In addition to that, there are so many references to the past in this novel. Between the compassion offered around the creation of the Soviet Union, and the threat of ‘Zakath not entirely being quelled, there is something else. As has been previously established, the Orb of Aldur is this metaphor’s answer to nuclear weapons.

This war ended the way it did because of the Orb of Aldur. Eddings cannot draw parallels to the end of the Cold War yet. Instead, the end of this book echoes the end of World War II. This plays into the cyclical nature of Eddings’s universe. Eddings didn’t intend to write a second series. This was supposed to be the final installment, but you can see hints of his sequel series in the conclusion.

We’ve discussed the existential dread of an unending war several times in the creation of this world’s history. But even though the cycle supposedly ended, all we see is a new beginning. A new cycle yet to come. Because although Eddings wanted an end to the conflict in his universe, he couldn’t reflect the end to the conflict that was central to his life. The time an author writes a piece in is central to what becomes of  that piece. Things started to cool down in the Cold War when this was published, but not a complete ending.


Even though the death of Torak lead to a period of calm for our heroes, there are questions left unanswered. History keeps marching forward, and this ending returns us to the beginning. Division among enemies and unity with allies. Eddings leaves us with the death of a god, and a weakening of ideologies. The institutions that supported that god still remain, and this next cycle forces us to ask questions about how we can best move forward. We see Eddings’s philosophical ideas develop through the compassion around the creation of the Soviet Union. We see not just a cycle that leaves us where we started, but a generational one. There’s still hope, even though Torak’s death didn’t fix everything, and that is the most important thing.

Image Courtesy of Del Rey Books

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