And so it begins. The future is finally here, in the final book of the Mallorean. No more endless cycles, no more war between light and dark. Or so The Seeress of Kell, written in 1991 by David Eddings promises. In this book, Eddings takes the reader through the climactic meeting of the prophecies and Cyradis’s choice. He also finds the space needed to discuss the philosophical ramifications of this meeting. The characters dissect both the events leaning up to it and the future they anticipate.
Spoilers for The Seeress of Kell and all of Eddings’s other works.
So What Happened?
The Seeress of Kell picks up where Sorceress of Darshiva left off. Our heroes head straight for Kell, because they know Zandramas can’t follow them there. Belgarath finds out The Place Which Is No More is Korim. Which fell into the sea when Torak cracked the world. Cyradis tells them that they will find their answers in Perivor, an island of transplanted Mimbrates. When they arrive at Dal Perivor, they find that Naradas insinuated himself with the king. Naradas tricks Garion and Zakath into participating in a tourney. All the other knights eventually yielded en masse.
However, their reward for winning the tournament is that they get to fight a dragon. Garion stabs it in the left eye, and it injures neither of them. It retreats, Naradas talks about how it could come back, and Sadi poisons him. Cyradis and a Dalasian necromancer raise his spirit to convince the king that ‘Erezel’ was a Grolim. The king gives them access to the map they need to find Korim. Apparently in the decades between the breaking of the world and the present, people renamed Korim reef Turim reef.
The wolf travelling them reveals herself to be Poledra, Polgara’s mother and Belgarath’s wife. They all travel to Korim. They fight Zandramas’s Grolims, and then the dragon overlaid with a Demon Lord. The dragon kills Toth. Zandramas chooses Geran to be the New God of Angarak, and Garion chooses Eriond. Cyradis chooses Eriond, and Zandramas and the Sardion explode into stars. They all travel to Perivor, and meet up with Varana, Anheg, and more nobility and friends. They draft peace accords, and deliver them around the globe. Ce’Nedra gives birth to a daughter back in Riva. In the epilogue, Garion travels to the Vale, where Polgara gives birth to twins.
Looking to the Past
One of the more common elements of this second series is the concept of cycles. When the accident that divided the Universe occurred, the universe couldn’t move on to the future. In this book, it starts from the prologue. It covers the entirety of human history from the Dalasian perspective. But, more significant than that, is the conversation that Beldin, Belgarath, and Garion have about these recurring events.
“Why don’t we take this theory of yours a step further?’ he mused. ‘Let’s look at the notion that these repetitions crop up at significant points in the course of events’ … ‘Let’s suppose that these signposts point at really important things that are right on the verge of happening—that they’re sort of like warnings.’ … They took some special precautions when they set up their encampment that evening. … Garion and Silk took the first watch. … ‘A surprise is better than living with this sense of dread.” (274).
We’ve talked a lot about how the Cold War created a sense of tension for the people living then. They always felt Silk’s ‘sense of dread’, and they lived with it for longer than they all did. Of course, that dread wasn’t caused by anything as prophetic as cyclical signposts. They just had the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the constant threat of nuclear annihilation… oh wait…
Asharak and Cleansing
Another thing that happens in Seeress of Kell is that Garion does a lot of reminiscing about previous events. Polgara drove Naradas off in the shape of an raven, and he recalls Asharak. Everyone tells Zakath about Asharak and how he was Ctuchik’s underling. But this particular moment isn’t just for Garion, it’s for the reader as well. When we think of Asharak, we think back on all the schemes that he initiated. We remember the red gold he used to fund all of those schemes. We’re going back to the beginning of the story, back to Asharak, back to Faldor’s farm.
As Garion says later, when they arrive at Dal Perivor. “Once again that strange sense of recurrence struck him. With a start he realized that in recounting past experiences to Zakath, he had in fact been reliving them. In some obscure way this seemed a kind of cleansing.” (346). That cleansing and recounting happens because this is the last time these events will occur. No more will there be a confrontation with a Grolim in a Mimbrate palace. No more will there be a gold hunter in the mountains. And no more will there be a farmstead with a competent farmer who receives mysterious travelers.
Eddings prepares his characters for the future by constantly reminding them of the past. It’s that same old maxim, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense). But now there won’t be any more repetition, now they’re preparing for the future.
Once again, Torak returns to the forefront because of this reminiscing. In the prologue one of the Dals “Ages of the World” ends upon the realization that Torak was an error. Another ends when Garion kills him. Torak was a mistake of the Universe, but he was still significant.
In addition, when Garion and Zakath fight the dragon for the first time, he stabs it’s left eye out. He then things, “It was the same eye. Torak’s left eye had been destroyed by the power of the Orb, and now the same think had happened to the dragon. Despite the dreadful danger they were in, Garion was suddenly certain that they would win.” (364). Consider that people called Torak the ‘Dragon God of Angarak’ and the irony becomes almost painful. Belgarath once told the story of the dragons, how there were three of them in the beginning. The two males killed each other, and the only female remained alone, just as Torak was alone. That the dragon dies ties up that last loose end, along with the Dark Prophecy.
Also, Korim used to be a Temple to Torak, and the iron mask that stared down over all his temples remains there. It watches as they fight, as the Grolims and the dragon dies. Eriond turns that mask into an image of his own face, and decorates the bloodstained altar with flowers. It turns a place of evil, of darkness, into one of healing and growth.
But his legacy still provides one last evil. When they fought the dragon, the Demon Lord Mordja overlaid it. “The Demon Lord … strode forward with monstrous steps wielding Cthrek Goru, Torak’s dread sword of shadows.” (438). It is that sword that kills Toth, the last victim of the quarrel between light and dark.
Philosophy on Light and Darkness
While this book is chock full of plot, Eddings also works a lot of philosophy into it as well. Considering the topic and the penultimate Event, a lot of that philosophy centers on the differences between Light and Dark.
The Philosophical Components
There are four moments that are key to deciphering Eddings’s message. After the interlude with Naradas, Cyradis talks about the nature of the two prophecies. Garion asks why Zandramas is alone. Cyradis replies. “The Prophecy of Dark hath ever chosen one and one only; and hath infused that one with all its power. The Prophecy of Light, however, hath chosen to disperse its power among many. Although thou art the principal bearer of the burden, all of thy companions share it with thee. The difference between the two prophecies is simple, but it is profound.” (382).
The morning of the choice, everyone talks about the dreams they had the night before. They were all nightmares. Garion talks about how Torak influenced his dreams, trying to claim that he would be Garion’s father. Polgara and Belgarath reminisce about the Battle of Vo Mimbre, and how everyone “went sort of crazy.” (421). They finally decide that the Child of Dark offsets the numerical advantage of the Child of Light with, “Nightmares, hallucinations, and ultimately madness.” (421).
Attendant on those hallucinations are illusions. Zandramas used illusion magic to conjure the King of Hell. Garion remembers something Eriond said to break through. “It was only an illusion. That’s all evil ever really is—an illusion. … It was a powerful weapon, but very fragile. One ray of light could destroy it.” (435-6).
The final difference, as Garion discovers while walking with Zandramas to the Sardion.
“He perceived that it did not change because it could not. … Light could change. … Dark could not. … The Dark sought immobile stasis; the Light sought progression. The Dark crouched in a perceived perfection; the Light, however, moved on, informed by the concept of perfectaility.” (444).
The Meaning of These Differences
Obviously, we have the established metaphor of Light equals Capitalism and the US, and Dark equals Communism and the Soviet Union. All of these elements tie in to that metaphor.
The first element, that the Child of Dark stands alone in prophecy initially confused me. That the communist side of the metaphor would only have one person, when their entire message was equality, confused me. Then something one of my professors said struck me, and everything made sense. He said that the Soviet Union lasted as long as it did because it controlled the media outlets. They said that everything was equal, and hid the fact that it wasn’t. The Premier, and the council members wielded more power than their followers. Zandramas being able to stand alone, with nameless underlings makes sense in that regard. Capitalism has multiple perspectives, a competitive market so to speak, and the democratic political structure has a similar underpinnings.
The Soviet control of the media makes sense in light of the third and then second point and fourth as well. That illusion of control translates nicely to Zandramas’s illusions to offset the numerical advantage of Garion and company. The numerical advantage of the capitalist countries as opposed to the few communist states is also relevant. Once that media control started shifting, once other perspectives entered the Soviet’s minds, then things changed. The figurative “ray of light” that was the Berlin Wall falling lead to the political overthrow of the communist system. That moment in the past lead to the future we now live in, just as Cyradis’s choice eliminated the Dark Prophecy.
Cyradis’s Choice and Immutability
One of the things that I have some doubts about is Cyradis’s choice. I don’t thing that it was the wrong one. But, I am not quite sure that it was as important as Eddings and the rest made it out to be. It doesn’t work practically. Let’s dig into it.
There are two things that bother me about Cyradis’s choice. One is the fate of Zandramas, and the other is the fate of Cyradis herself. From the last book and the beginning of this one, we know that Zandramas’s skin grows starry. She dreams of the accident that shattered the universe in two. “And that was the horror that brought Zandramas bolt upright and screaming. … the sense of another presence when always before there had been the perfect solitude of eternal oneness.” (282).
Then, after Cyradis makes the choice, Zandramas explodes into stars along with the Sardion. The voice in Garion’s head tells him that she and it are to fix the hole left in the universe after that fateful explosion. It then says that if Cyradis chose differently, “you and the Orb would be moving to a new address about now.” (462). But Zandramas started turning into stars months ago. If Cyradis’s choice were absolute and uncertain until then, either both of them should have developed starry skin or neither of them should have.
The problem about Cyradis’s fate is the same. Eriond tells us that Zakath has to take care of Cyradis, because that’s fated. Otrath, Zakath’s Dark counterpart survives, but that’s because Eriond is a kind god. If Cyradis chose Geran, there is no way Zakath would have survived to take care of Cyradis.
The Philosophical Reasoning
It makes sense from a philosophical standpoint. Neither capitalism or communism can exist in a world where the other one does. There can only be one, to borrow from an eighties movie tagline. But, if Cyradis’s choice was the only determiner of who would win and who would loose, then why is there a bit in the Ashabine Oracles that describes Zandramas’s skin condition? Why do Cyradis and Zakath have an immediate connection?
The obvious answer is that Light should always win. But Cyradis says that she had no clue who she would choose standing there. Even though Cyradis traveled with them and there were always clues that the light was going to win. Even though they saw Cyradis helping the Child of Light and never Zandramas. Although Toth traveled with them from the very beginning…
In the metaphor of the Cold War though, it makes sense. Eddings was an American, who grew up getting indoctrinated in the belief that America and Capitalism were the gold standard. Even though he didn’t know he this story was a metaphor for the Cold War, it still comes through. I was grasping at the concept of generational indoctrination in the last article, with Geran. But here we find that indoctrination in the very framework of the story.
In short, on a purely Watsonian level, it works, because Cyradis, the Prophecy, and Eriond explain it all away. On a Doylist level it doesn’t. I don’t quite know what the Reader Response, on a general level, is, but I know it works and doesn’t for me.
Into the Future
The Accords of Dal Perivor
One of the most important things that happens after the destruction of the Sardion is the accords of Dal Perivor. After everything that happened the day of the Choice, Barak, Mandorallen, Lelldorin, Hettar, and Relg show up on the Seabird. Anheg and Varana followed them in an attempt to stop them from destroying everything the Prophecy said would happen. Two of Zakath’s loyal followers also arrive at the same time. Because of the glut of nobility that arrived, and in Garion’s company, the obvious thing is a peace treaty.
“Finally, the Accords of Dal Perivor were reached. … They were subject, of course, to ratification by those monarchs not actually present. They were tenuous and based more on goodwill than on the rough give-and-take of true political negotiation. They were nonetheless, Garion felt, the last, best hope of mankind.” (479).
But the accords in and of themselves aren’t the only thing. Afterwards, Garion travels about, and he and his friends deliver copies of the Accords to various monarchs. When they reach Arendia, a most curious thing starts to happen. The Arends start to think about internal peace. As one old duke puts it. “How may we hold up our heads in a peaceful world so long as childish bickering and idiotic intestine war do mar or relationships with each other?” (489). Yes, he says intestine war. It doesn’t make sense to me either.
Nevertheless, it’s a vast improvement on generations of internal squabbling. It means that in the future, the Arends might not be a complete wildcard.
Alorn and Angarak
Speaking of squabbling, the tentative between Angaraks and Alorns finally comes to fruition. Early in the book Garion and Zakath talk about the Orb’s powers again. Garion says it could write his name in the stars if he wanted it too. He then metaphorically stomps on the Orb when it twitches in interest. After a few moments of horrified staring Zakath says, “I’ve always believed that someday you and I would go to war with each other. Would you be terribly disappointed if I decided not to show up? … He had taken the first few steps towards ending five thousand years of unrelenting hatred between Alorn and Angarak.” (294).
The peace between Garion and Zakath also prompts disbelief from other quarters. When Mandorallan hears about it from Silk, he says, “It pleaseth me, … to have lived to see near-universal peace restored to all the world.” (466). Near universal peace is the mindset in which everyone in the story carries into the future. Generational hatreds start to disappear, and camaraderie strikes up in their places.
Even more miraculous than the friendship between Garion and Zakath is Hettar’s forbearance in the face of Urgit. Hettar is infamous for wanting to kill every Murgo he can get his hands on. They killed his mother, you see. But he manages to walk right through Rak Hagga, all the way to Urgit, without killing a single Murgo. “We aren’t going to be unpleasant to each other, are we?’ [Urgit] asked… ‘No your Majesty,’ Hettar told him. ‘For some reason, you intrigue me.” (483). This is a sign of a more peaceful future than we might have otherwise seen.
Back to the Beginning, to the Future
As mentioned above, when they arrive back at Riva, Ce’Nedra gives birth to a daughter, named Beldaran. Beldaran was Polgara’s twin sister, Garion’s ultimate grandmother. Afterwards he and Poledra head to the Vale for Polgara’s birth to her children. While Garion, Durnik, and Belgarath wait outside, they have a final conversation about cycles.
“The accident made it impossible for the future to happen. … Anyhow, that’s changed now. Cyradis made her Choice, and the effects of the accident have been erased. The future can happen now.’ ‘Then why is everybody going back to the place where he started?’ Garion asked. … ‘When you’re starting something—event the future— you almost have to go back to the beginning, don’t you?” (513-4).
It’s something that I always appreciate about Eddings’s work. It can be humorous, sardonic, and truthful by turns. Here is where it shows the truthful nature, how everything needs to start from the beginning, wherever that may be. Eddings’s cycles and this moment where they cross into the future are strangely poignant. It’s a good note to leave our characters heading into the future from.
This is the place where Eddings’s metaphor culminates and everything comes out right. Garion rescued Geran, he’s home again, and he has a pair of baby cousins he’s heading to meet. He has a daughter who he and his wife adore, and the future holds only peace and Tolnedran anguish over Silk’s trading machinations.
Everything plays out, and all the twists are over and done with. Eriond has a large task ahead of him, but anyone raised by Polgara and Durnik is ready for anything. Belgarath has his wife, Beldin married Vella, Liselle pinned down Silk and got him to propose. Happiness is the rule of the future. After generations of war in fiction, and decades in reality, it’s well deserved.