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The White-Luck Warrior II (spoilers)


Spring Bass

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salt is such an intriguing topic in bakker world.

I had some responses to the Bakker and Women posts, but as always the individual responses got blown out of my mind by the fanatical shrieking such conversations always quickly induce.

I don't think Serwa was sexualized in the manner of Bakker's prior female characters at all. She's an object of Sorweel's subjective lusts, and thus we have a skewed view of her, but it's abundantly clear that she's manipulating Sorweel from the second he's invited into her bower and she's wearing sexy lingerie. I think Sciborg said it all regarding serwa very effectively. I also don't think she's engaging in freaky incest sex. Bakker even goes to a painful explanation in order to CLARIFY to the reader and to orweel that there is utterly no blood/biological relationship between Serwa and Moe jr whatsoever. I don't think she's being degraded by choosing to fuck Moe jr. I don't see anything all that wrong with Sorweel jerking off when the peeper finds them--the dude was watching the equivalent of porn, of course he's going to jerk off. I don't get how his jerking off degrades Serwa, in my mind it severely degrades Sorweel's character. But hey, if folks like Kalbear want to think that a guy inappropriately jerking off degrades women and not the guy, that's their prerogative, I just don't understand Kalbear's need to blame Serwa.

Was it necessary to hide Esme in the whorehouse? Who cares? Why is it necessary for Kalbear et al to make Esme's entire character and arc dependent upon the brief time in the whorehouse? There was a hell of a lot more going on with her character, and the time actually provided a fascinating literary examination of the evolution Esme has gone through over these five books. It also gives observant readers an illustration of the unnatural level of Kontrol Kelmomas has over her in the Konditioning he's wrought. The need to reduce all of Esme's character, in particular from TJE through WLW, into being defined only by her whorehouse experiences is something unique to those so virulently obsessed with the bakker+whore hypothesis. Her arc in this entire book was fascinating, and I don't think it was degraded by visiting a whorehouse.

Mimara is an interesting case because she's so damaged by her past, I may have read the book wrong, but my memory of it was that in this volume she reflected much more on her years spent in Momemn than in her years spent as a whore. Additionally, we see her take some agency in fucking Nil Giccas and plying him for information. perhaps this is too degrading, because women don't ever never use sex like that, but she was making the choices to fuck him, even if it wasn't for one the reasons modern women can choose to fuck. I also thought her control over the rape situation as the Skin Eaters fell apart was fascinating. By choosing to strip she knew she was stoking their lusts, attempting to provoke them into fighting each other over her. That's her best strategy for surviving ten rapists, and she manages to pull it off. Sure this can also be viewed as oh so very damning, but only if you're using the "Bakker is bad" lens to look at the text.

There is a lot more going on with the portrayal of women than reducing it all to the level of whores and sex scenes, Bakker gives his female characters a lot more screentime than the sex scenes, but for some reason, a hell of a lot of readers want to define the female characters and define Bakker by the sex scenes and only the sex scenes.

And considering the male viewpoints for a moment, I don't think that all the men go around in this novel thinking about how badly they want to fuck every female they come across. I don't think Akka lusts after Mimara hardly at all in this book, and if/when he does it's tied up in memories of Esme, and not really about her, but about the memories she evokes in him. Sorweel lusts after Serwa, but that was planted from the very first scene with Serwa in TJE. There aren't any other women for him to lust after on the GO, it seems to be free of the camp followers from the PON trilogy. If you're inclined to think Bakker writes only about men wanting to fuck, then you'll probably only see those times when men are thinking or talking about fucking women, but I don't think it's as pervasive as it is made out to be here.

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Man, that would be awesome.

I've brought that scene up before because it still confuses me. I'm not sure if we're supposed to think that Aurang was just being creepy before killing the boy or something or if he actually had something interesting to tell him about the salt. I suspect the latter, but the scene is too ambiguously written to be sure.

And then there's chanv, which, at this point, has to be something creepy. Forget Tolkien and Herbert and McCarthy, I think we'll eventually discover that the whole series is an homage to Soylent Green.

By the way, good call on Nil-G, Triskele. I know you're not one to want credit for such things . . . ;)

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But hey, if folks like Kalbear want to think that a guy inappropriately jerking off degrades women and not the guy, that's their prerogative, I just don't understand Kalbear's need to blame Serwa.
The fuck?

I specifically pointed out that Serwa is an object of lust by Sorweel but it's clear that she's not just about her sex and that it's his perception, not the actuality, that exist. If you want to go out of your way to be categorically wrong, I guess that's your perogative - but I don't understand your need to blame me for it.

This is what I wrote earlier today:

She was wholly sexualized in his mind the first time he sees her in her tent wearing a light robe and when she spreads her legs. She's pretty well sexualized almost immediately; she's referred to as beautiful and exotic, then there's the scene where she's naughty with her legs...she's not the best example, though I'll note that at least Serwa isn't all about using her sex appeal or her sex to gain power. Sorweel wants her to be and sees her as such, but I always thought that was Sorweel's PoV and not the actual truth. Serwa is first and foremost a very powerful Mandate sorcerer. She's fucking Moe because it gives her pleasure, not because it's the only way she can have agency. And she is uncautious around Sorweel because she doesn't care, not because she sees that it gives him wood.

It's still a bit offputting that every male sees every female as a slit, but he's remarkably consistent in this regard. And at least in Serwa's case it's clear that that's not remotely all she is...unlike Esme or Mimara.

Was it necessary to hide Esme in the whorehouse? Who cares? Why is it necessary for Kalbear et al to make Esme's entire character and arc dependent upon the brief time in the whorehouse.
Why was it necessary for the empress of the realm to have to hide in a whorehouse? I didn't write the book, and I certainly wasn't complaining after TJE that Esme was okay, but it'd be really great to have her hang out in a whorehouse more. There are any number of places in the empire that she could have hid out. Instead, we have her going to a place that's pretty much like where she lived before she was an empress, and then a long chapter that has her reminiscing (and apparently getting sexually excited about) on her whoredom days.

It's not Esme's entire arc, though Esme's arc in this book isn't exactly all that much past this; she gets manipulated by her sons into fucking over Maith, makes some bad tactical decisions about Fayanal, gets outplayed by Maith, hides in a whorehouse and then ends as the empress as the capital is being attacked. There wasn't a lot of growth there anyway. But in all that, the whorehouse is where we actually get the most pages about just Esme. In the rest it's about the other characters mostly - about Maith and Kelmomas and Inrilatus and Thelliopia.

It's only in the whorehouse do we get Esme's reflections.

Furthermore, Esme is basically the least competent person around by comparison. As the reader we know how horribly out of touch she is. She is blind to Kelmomas' monsterdom, she is blind to Inrilatus' manipulations and she gets smacked down hard when she actually tries to go against Maithanet, despite basically having planned to get rid of him. Her arc is essentially incompetence lined with desperation. That's interesting but ultimately not all that flattering.

But yes, I question the whorehouse because like I said in the review: ESME IS A WHORE? I DID NOT KNOW THAT. Why repeat this again and again? Why is it so important that we know, no matter what, that Esme is a whore? What does it add to have her think about taking custom that we haven't seen before? It just struck me as blunt and crude in the book. It doesn't help that it's very dull.

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It doesn't help that it's very dull.

Yeah, it was disappointing that Esme's narrative went where it did, but it was absolutely tedious to have to be there with her. In general, I wish Bakker would concentrate his energies on things other than sex/gender issues because I find Bakker on sex/gender just . . . boring. (See also "how men deceive themselves").

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What would make you think this? One of Bakker's basic premises seems to be that pre-modern patriarchal societies are driven by specific (usually religious) ideologies. If we're going by ideological thinking, then it seems much more "modern" for individuals to think about sex all the time. But if it's simply physiological, as you claim, then the historical/ideological differences shouldn't matter.

No, IMO, that's all wrong. Bakker's basic premise seems to me to be that men are base and driven by biology and instinctual biases. Their political actions and ideology can be manipulated by religion and emotion, though it doesn't change their baser nature which, at least at the level of Earwan modernity, is unfettered by our own enlightenment.

Men in both pre-modern patriarchal societies and men in our modern society think about sex all the time. But in the pre-modern patriarchal societies their is no enlightenment holding back the majority of their thoughts and actions.

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Ser Bryar - I'm a bit confused.

On the one hand you say that we shouldn't see a lot of Cnaiur fantasizing about men because he's conscious of homosexuality being bad and wrong, and thus filters this out. Right?

On the other hand you say that the other men should think about sex MORE because they're not as self-aware and enlightened as we are, and thus are more primitive. But...both of these things can't be true. Either both groups are fettered by their customs (and dealing with whores, lusting after women, etc are big sins too, and in their world gods are literally real) or they're not. Either men are controlled by their base instincts and show them left and right or they're not. It can't be the case that that's what drives them in some cases but not in others.

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Ser Bryar - I'm a bit confused.

It happens to the best of us.

On the one hand you say that we shouldn't see a lot of Cnaiur fantasizing about men because he's conscious of homosexuality being bad and wrong, and thus filters this out. Right?

No. Its not that he's conscious of homosexuality being badwrongfun, its that he himself truly believes it is shameful. It doesn't mean he can will himself to not be gay, but it does mean he has a powerful reason to subsume it below the surface. Obviously, Cnaiur doesn't find hetero sex to be shameful, right?

On the other hand you say that the other men should think about sex MORE because they're not as self-aware and enlightened as we are, and thus are more primitive. But...both of these things can't be true. Either both groups are fettered by their customs (and dealing with whores, lusting after women, etc are big sins too, and in their world gods are literally real) or they're not. Either men are controlled by their base instincts and show them left and right or they're not. It can't be the case that that's what drives them in some cases but not in others.

IMO, you are building a false equivalency here. The heteros of Earwa obviously don't feel that dealing with whores, or lusting after women is as shameful as Cnaiur thinks being a butt-popper is. One of the foundations of the Cnaiur character is his self-loathing and shame for what he is.

Now its my turn to ask a question. Do you really see an equally powerful force acting on the hetero men of Earwa that should subsume their own sexual urges to the same degree?

Both Cnaiur and the hetero men of Earwa have the same base sexual urges only Cnaiur has a powerful reason to subsume them from his foremost thoughts. Its pretty simple.

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Now its my turn to ask a question. Do you really see an equally powerful force acting on the hetero men of Earwa that should subsume their own sexual urges to the same degree?

Both Cnaiur and the hetero men of Earwa have the same base sexual urges only Cnaiur has a powerful reason to subsume them from his foremost thoughts. Its pretty simple.

Actually I see a more powerful one for the hetero folks.

For the Scylvendi, there is no god. It's been killed. All they have is their cultural norms - and Cnaiur, of all people, understands that these are completely meaningless. To him, these norms are useless and binding in a way that is actually harmful.

For the Inrithi, God is real. Really, really real. They have absolutely every reason to suppress their base urges and make sure they don't enact them because they have very real reason to believe that if they fuck up, they will be tortured in hell forever. And not just a vague notion; they have people who can show them hell, who can conjure it from the world and present it to them. They can go to places where hell leaks through. Hell is around them like smog is in LA. To me, that's a hell of a lot better reason to suppress urges than societal norms.

Now, you do have a point that the negative aspersions towards using whores, towards rape, towards murder - they are not as strong as against homosexual sex, though it's not quite clear that homosexual sex is the hugely negative thing that (for instance) witchcraft or prostitution is. Cnaiur certainly takes it that way, but I'm not sure that that's the case with the Empire or the Inri followers, and there's good evidence (like Akka's relations with Inrau) that it's at least about as accepted as using whores and the like.

Mostly, I'd argue that it's pretty difficult to subsume thoughts of desire, period. As you said, it's a physiological reaction. You don't get to control that, and Bakker's fond of pointing out that we don't decide to do something; we do something and then rationalize why we did it after.

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Actually I see a more powerful one for the hetero folks.

For the Inrithi, God is real. Really, really real. They have absolutely every reason to suppress their base urges and make sure they don't enact them because they have very real reason to believe that if they fuck up, they will be tortured in hell forever. And not just a vague notion; they have people who can show them hell, who can conjure it from the world and present it to them. They can go to places where hell leaks through. Hell is around them like smog is in LA. To me, that's a hell of a lot better reason to suppress urges than societal norms.

I was thinking about that, but then I remembered, lots of catholic people masturbate and have premarital sex even though they are taught that for doing so they will burn in a lake of fire for eternity.

How real is the God, really, to the everyday Inrithi? How many of them see a topos or sorcery? To the everyday Inrithi, god probably seems about as far as the god of Jehovah does to masturbating catholics.

Mostly, I'd argue that it's pretty difficult to subsume thoughts of desire, period. As you said, it's a physiological reaction. You don't get to control that, and Bakker's fond of pointing out that we don't decide to do something; we do something and then rationalize why we did it after.

Now I'm confused, I thought above you were vehemently insisting that most men do subsume thoughts of desire even though they have the physiological reactions?

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I was thinking about that, but then I remembered, lots of catholic people masturbate and have premarital sex even though they are taught that for doing so they will burn in a lake of fire for eternity.

How real is the God, really, to the everyday Inrithi? How many of them see a topos or sorcery? To the everyday Inrithi, god probably seems about as far as the god of Jehovah does to masturbating catholics.

See, I disagree completely with this. Most people in their lives in Earwa will see sorcerers of some note. Many will know people who have chorae. You can see the literal Tusk and be a pilgrim to it. More importantly, everyone around you can see the same thing. It's one thing when you hear that someone can perform miracles; it's another when you can see those miracles. Or when almost everyone around you HAS seen those miracles.

Now clearly Bakker's humans aren't quite so above this; they do whore, they do rape, and they do damn themselves. Mimara sees this clearly. Thus they're not able to suppress those urges despite fairly large societal norms saying they shouldn't do them, and (more importantly) actual consequences of those actions. Bakker's humans are very much products of their base desires and are willing to sacrifice future gains for present needs far more than we are. Which again...why is Cnaiur repressed? He's the one human in the story other than Kellhus who knows how stupid these thoughts are and should be the least represssed of the lot. Why wouldn't we see his desires in his PoV when we see so many others that are 'bad'?

Now I'm confused, I thought above you were vehemently insisting that most men do subsume thoughts of desire even though they have the physiological reactions?
I do. But if you're going to publish said thoughts of desire, they're going to be there regardless. My internal dialog isn't FUCK FUCK KILL FUCK FUCK most of the time, and it's not that way when I see a woman that's particularly hot either. I certainly am not thinking about how much I'd like to fuck a woman while I'm talking with her, and most of the time it's not on my mind. I'm not constantly sizing up women and evaluating them - or if I am, I'm not doing it consciously. I don't think most men do it consciously either. But they really, really do in Bakkerland.
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Furthermore, Esme is basically the least competent person around by comparison. As the reader we know how horribly out of touch she is. She is blind to Kelmomas' monsterdom, she is blind to Inrilatus' manipulations and she gets smacked down hard when she actually tries to go against Maithanet, despite basically having planned to get rid of him. Her arc is essentially incompetence lined with desperation. That's interesting but ultimately not all that flattering.

Totally agree with this. Yeah, Esmi's arc falters under more scrutiny. At one point she blurts out that the Hundred are against the Empire, which I thought after decades by the side of the master manipulator she'd be careful not to do. That seems like the biggest secret.

Also, her paranoia against Maith, based largely on her son's manipulation, seemed over the top. I never got why she was so sure that he was after her, after the throne, ESPECIALLY when she seemed happy to surrender power over to him. I sort of get that she is at the mercy of the Dunyain minds around her, but again Esmi was chosen for her intellect, and quickly rose to expectations in TTT. I keep harping on it, but the speed at which she learns to read, to the point she can get through the Sagas while they approach Shimeh seems to be astounding. She's at minimum gifted, if not some kind of prodigy.

Then she lives with a man she knows is a manipulator for decades as the NE is consolidated. In this time she doesn't ask, "hey teach me a little about this face reading thing you do" or get some basic Machiavelli type lessons from her husband?

She is supposed to be a great-for-humans level intellect against the Dunyain. Likely not even Cnauir had an opportunity to understand them as much as she did, given his youth and short time with Moe. I would have loved to see that woman, the woman she seemed primed to become at the end of TTT, go up against the Dunyain. Yeah, probably still get her mental-ass kicked, but that would have been far more realistic.

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Apologies if someone made this point (reading on bberry), but my read is that Serwa bangs Moe and sets it up so Sor sees it almost exactly for the reason that Kel bangs the original Ser and arranges for the Cnaiur to catch him. The parallelism is very strong. It's about Kel better contolling Cnauir and Serwa better controlling Sorweel.

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Good catch unjon. I'm very interested in Serwa as a character. I really wonder how much humanity she retains. One of the more interesting revelations is that the Dunyain don't master their passions as have them snuffed out. The stable, undamaged half dunyain like maitha also seem to be them same. maitha basically was faking his humanity to better capture esmenet.

I think serwa might be somewhat different though. The fact that she touched seswatha's heart and experiences the horrors of the first apocalypse nightly can't help but change her compared to her siblings. Although she's always undoubtedly manipulating sorweel in all their interactions, i'm inclined to believe that her earnestness in her 'mandate' zeal for preventing the second apocalypse is real as well as her suffering and whimpering from the dreams. Her geeky enthusiasm for the historical sites of the ancient north was also amusing. very akka like.

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Apologies if someone made this point (reading on bberry), but my read is that Serwa bangs Moe and sets it up so Sor sees it almost exactly for the reason that Kel bangs the original Ser and arranges for the Cnaiur to catch him. The parallelism is very strong. It's about Kel better contolling Cnauir and Serwa better controlling Sorweel.

Definitely, hence the conversation that Bakker earlier where Serwa say the Dunyain try to achieve the Absolute - the God of Gods. He's trying to show us that Serwa is both half-Dunyain by her manipulation of Sorweel, but at the same time she's actually woefully uninformed on the true purpose of Dunyain. The odds are Serwa only knows about the Dunyain through Esmenet, and Esmenet only knows what Achamian and Kellhus have told her. The truth of the matter - that the Dunyain are totally focused on the mundane (and determinism), and that a True Dunyain would actually side WITH the Consult, is unknown to Serwa. I think, again, this is something Kellhus intends, and sending Serwa to Consult-controlled Ishterebinth may be to simply remove Serwa from the playing field when:

1. Kellhus' false prophethood is revealed and/or Kellhus lying about the damnation of sorcery is revealed.

Kellhus thinks that Serwa would definitely, at that point, turn against Kellhus and his Ordeal, but by making her a captive of the Consult, she won't be there for the Reveal, and will actively oppose the Consult while in captivity.

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Am I the only one that thinks Kellhus never said that the Dunyain were damned? I thought he was specifically referring to Moe, presumably because of the countless number of women and children he sacrificed to sate the lusts of the captive skin spies. With everything we know of damnation and the Dunyain, is there anything an average Dunyain would probably do to damn himself/herself? Besides the faceless room, the only thing I could think of is their atheistic bent. Without a direct or indirect (i.e. Zeum's) way into the heavens of the Gods, it seems they'd fall to the spaces between the Gods' realms which I suppose is hell since the Nonman worship that and they're damned. Makes me wonder, is there an Earwan version of the pearly gates?

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No, the Dunyain, except I guess the Pragmas or whoever who actively culls the population, aren't all damned I'd imagine, but they'd still try to close the world, not because of damnation, but because the Outside totally screws up their philosophy.

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