E - Ecclesiastics

"I always think these traditional stories retain a lot of charm," said another of the rabbits, "especially when they're told in the real, old-fashioned spirit."
"Yes," said Strawberry.  "Conviction, that's what it needs.  You really have to believe in El-arairah and Prince Rainbow, don't you?  Then all the rest follows."
Watership Down, Richard Adams

If you have read my post Are You A Teacher In Israel, And Do Not Know These Things (long title), you will know that I consider at least a recognition of religion in literature to be important: in summation, man is a spiritual being, and without that religious expression, Christian or pagan, he shows up flat and unreal on the page. Adamantine starts you off with moral conundrums from page one.  The lines are cut with a serrated knife between two kingdoms pitted over the universe, a kind of wretched civil war between Heaven and Hell and Earth and for a moment, at the beginning, you get a glimpse into that as one half-witting character puts his foot through where the flooring between this world and that has grown rotten, and falls through where things are awful and stark and take your soul without asking.  For a moment I give you that glimpse - and those figures who contend on that other plane where things are more like living energy and less of animate matter, make reference to what lies on the other side of the shadow things.  But for the purpose of Adamantine those glimpses are just that: glimpses.  As the three stories progress (Adamantine, Plenilune, Gingerune) that veil will get thinner and thinner, but for now Adamantine is in the lowlands of the war, more of flesh and blood: the material things that our spirits hold close about us and are thin but precious to us. 

That is the tone of the arc of the story.  Within the story beliefs break down into a whole myriad of Devil's Mirror splinters.  Historically (in the history of Faerie, that is) there was a long stretch of time in which, like our own world, people wandered in darkness and gave homage to imagined gods of wood and stone.  Some of the gods were really quite stupendous - heroes who had, over time, gathered legend about them like splendour gathering about the sun, and had become the saviour-gods of their peoples, people from the early days when being alive was a powerful, prideful thing, and to set one's hand on the neck of the earth and master it was something worth doing.  Other gods were spun out of those hidden, unforgotten, primal senses: fear of the dark, fear of the grave, a desperate sense of hope in a world that seems to be unraveling at the seams.  Between the instinctive love-fear of the creeping evil of the world, the heroes that had crushed it, for a time, under their heels, and a means simply of satiating that incredible urge to worship, Faerie was practically born with gods. 

And then came Christianity.  It had its heyday for nearly two centuries and then, like the seed among the thorns, got choked out.  For a time it weakened the fairy ideal - a brutal, merciless, practical ideal - and upon the rise of a new Emperor who "knew not Joseph" the worship of the old gods was rigorously renewed, and though Christianity was never abolished or even made illegal, it suffered the profound scorn of the pagan community as a foolish, unpatriotic (among fanatics, treasonous) religion best left to the barbaric Catti in the northern black forests (who, despite their grim, red-blooded temperaments, continued to hold to a simple, faithful breed of Christianity) and placid monks in their mountain enclaves who could really do no harm to anyone and were generally considered good hosts if you needed a place to stop for the night. 

This is the atmosphere of religion into which Adamant stumbles.  From the beings moving, as it were, behind the scenes of her little skirmish in the war, all the way down to people who make mention of the gods but don't really believe in them and consider them nothing more than interesting constructs of primitive creativity, she finds an alarming spectrum of "religion."  Questions of providence, perseverance, shrewdness, charity, forbearance, truth and the lie, throwing down one's life to save it, flood the story even as I step back and look at it from a distance.  Do you think writing religion is boring?

think again

1 ripostes

  1. I was completely unaware of this beautiful aspect of Adamantine until now. <3
    Writing religion is quite difficult, for me at least. I don't want to candy-coat it, and make it sound as though all Christians are perfect, or that we have perfect lives. And yet, I still need to include it, as it is not simlpy a large part of me, but my life. And I want to include my beliefs without sounding preachy...yes, I have yet to find just the right balance of religion-weaving in my writing. :)