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The conditioning of Kellhus posted 31 Mar 2004, 14:03 by Euron, Commoner

Hi everyone. This is my first post, though I've been lurking about, peering at you all for a little while! Just a quick question for the author if he gets a chance to look, or anyone else who has an opinion on it. First off though, I want to say how much I loved the first book! Right away it nestled comfortably behind asoiaf at the top of my list of favourite fantasy works. In fact, I'm reading it again at the moment and the things I reckon Bakker (Scott?) does even better than GRRM are mounting by the moment. Most of all I love the dirty politics and scheming in tdtcb. In particular, the personal interaction between characters trying to overpower each other is great. The contrast between what individuals say and what they mean, how they appear and how they actually feel, is probably my favourite thing about the book. The sordid mess that is the Emperor's relationship with his family is maybe the best example! Anyway, to the question. Kellhus is a great character, but I was thinking about his conditioning. I understand that the whole culture of the Dunyain is built around training mind and body. But I was wondering how Kellhus is able to read and influence men of the world so totally when his society is so separate form the rest of the world? To understand men's hopes and dreams and behaviours (down to their facial expressions) so entirely, I would have thought the Dunyain would need some exposure to those men? Otherwise, wouldn't ordinary men just seem completely alien to them? Does that make sense? Anyway, I'm interested in any opinions, and sorry for the long post! view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 18:03 by Replay, Auditor

Theres an old saying that goes something like "When you understand yourself, you understand others". This would certainly be true for Kellhus who, having spent time observing his own mind in action, would come to understand how others minds work as well (though it is over exaggerated a little in the book). Deep down humans are all pretty much the same, and all our thoughts spring from the same roots (it is only the individual thoughts which are different). Once you have observed and understood them for yourself, it is easy to see how they affect others actions. So, just because the Dunyain have not been in contact with anyone for a while, it does not mean they would not understand them. The only thing they would be a bit puzzled at at first would be the other land's culture. But with a bit of observation that would soon change (as i believe it does in the book) My only problem with Kellhus is that i dont really believe he has understood these roots all that well (if he had, he would not be acting the way he is). Plus, while i understand where the author was coming from when he talking about that which comes before, if Kellhus had really understood himself, he would have had at least an idea of that which truely comes before. But hey, hes only a character in a story (and one of the best i have ever read), so these things are not really that important. view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 18:03 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Welcome, both of you! I think you've both hit upon important nerves. The problem you mention, Euron - that of Kellhus being 'too outside' to effectively gain the power he does - was one that concerned me quite a bit in TDTCB - in fact you might say the entire prologue is concerned with it (though whether it does the job or not is a different matter). Remember that Kellhus 'suffered' emotions as a child, and that he uses his perfect recollections of these as the basis of his study of the trapper, who ends up being his first world-born test case. As far as adequately understanding the roots, Replay, I think you're right. But I'll have to let Kellhus answer that one... :wink: view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 19:03 by Replay, Auditor

Yes, i can understand how you'd be concerned with that. I have been working on the idea for a series over the past couple of years (its about all layed out, i just dont have the skills to write it yet), and have come across a similar problem. It has a character who, much like Kellhus, has spent years training himself and has come to certain understandings, yet has misunderstood some vital points. The question becomes how to make that misunderstanding believable (as once a person reaches a certain point in self examination, it is almost impossible for them to act in certain ways). I think that i may have worked that out for the most part, but have taken some liberties with it. After all, its is a fantasy book. p.s. Forgot to mention it before, but congratulations on such a great first book. I don't read all that much fantasy, but when i do i like it to be of very high quality, and the TDTCB certainly has that. view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 21:03 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

There's the rub: belief (with desire) forms the basis of action, so even if it is a fantasy, you need some kind of consistency between what your characters believe and what they do - especially when their actions are extreme. I should qualify: it depends on what your goals as a writer are. For me, epic fantasy is - in an important respect - about awe (or the memory of it), and an important condition of awe is believability. If your goal is, say, the exploration of a certain 'possibility space,' then these rules need not apply. What's the founding premise? view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 22:03 by Euron, Commoner

Thanks for the replies. Interesting stuff. Thinking about the prologue, I reckon it definitely works as an illustration of how Kellhus learns to apply his skills to men of the outside world. And, of course, a lot of time passes before we see him again, during which he crosses half a continent and gathers a massive band of followers. So this would certainly give him loads of experience of handling men of the world. I wonder how much of his ability to dominate others would rely on understanding universal human emotions and their signals, and how much would rely on the context? Quite often Kellhus seems to manipulate others by knowing what it is they most desire. And I suppose this would require him to understand at least something of the culture he is working in (which will obviously change as he travels to different lands). I think this is portrayed consistently in the book, as Kellhus certainly observes and learns about cultures as he goes, and he admits that Cnaiur is still useful to him as he knows more of the world etc. view post

posted 31 Mar 2004, 23:03 by Replay, Auditor

I agree that believability plays a big part in what makes an epic fantasy great, and it is also one of the reasons that i do not read all that much in the genre. There is nearly always some dark lord who has lived for millenia, yet never changes and continues to act evily just for the sake of acting evily. I guess its a common problem with the fantasy genre, in that the writers can get so caught up in the great freedom they are allowed when creating their worlds and characters, that they often overlook just how believable what they have created really is. The genre can be pretty forgiving though, esepcially if you have believability in other areas. Steven Eriksons books are a good example of this, where he has created such a vivid world and history, that you can overlook the fact that some his characters are hundreds of thousands of years old yet still act like spoilt teenagers (Kallor for example). As for myself, the series i have been planning will be as real as i can make it in every single area. Even what you would call the magic can be considered in the realm of possibility. Of course, readers will still have to suspend belief while they consider the possibilites presented in the book, but i think thats a good thing as it is often where the wonder and awe of the world/story you have created seeps through. view post


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