Scarred and scary Murgos

The race of Murgos in The Belgariad by David Eddings, are physically distinguished from other races by their angular eyes, high cheekbones and savage facial scars [1]. It is evident through various hints in the series that these scars are of ritual application and purposefully created. The Belgariad closes with no definitive proof that Murgo scarification is a ritual necessity, however the subsequent series, The Mallorean does [2].

Ritual scarring is often linked to cultural identity, rite-of-passage and status [3]. Murgo men and Grolim priests primarily wear these scars. Their god, Torak was himself disfigured, scarred by attempting to undo the power of the Orb [4] and thus setting the premise for the series. Murgos and Grolims seem to embody their god’s characteristics more closely than Torak’s other followers. It is therefore likely that they practised ritual scarring in an effort to more closely represent Torak.

Torak is also depicted as a bloodthirsty god, requiring sacrifices from his believers [5]. The Grolim priests exact this savagely [6] and as Torak’s most reverent followers, they cut themselves in homage to him too. Before reading The Mallorean I believed Murgos branded themselves with scars. Branding uses heat to create scarification, and as Torak was burned, it was a strong possibility this is how Murgo scars are created. Torak’s lust for blood however, deems cutting as the preferred method for scarring.

Cited Works

Eddings, David. The Belgariad

[1] “His cheekbones were high, and there were several savage looking scars on his face. His eyes looked curiously angular…” The Belgariad, book 1: Pawn of Prophecy, loc 834

[2] “…every Murgo alive slashes his face as a blood offering to Torak.” The Mallorean, book 2: King of the Murgos, loc 5709
[3] Brief explanation here:

[4] “When Torak rose from the water, his right side was still fair, but his left was burned and scarred hideously by the fire of the Orb.” The Belgariad, book 1: Pawn of Prophecy, loc 121

[5] “Bow before my name and worship me with prayers and with sacrifices…” The Belgariad, book 5: Enchanters’ End Game, loc 128

[6] “… bend the Thull backward over the altar, and a third cuts his heart out.” The Belgariad, book 3: Magician’s Gambit, loc 4701

The Bells: Stanza 3 Analysis

In The Bells, Edgar Allen Poe transitions from joyous, tinkling bells in stanza one to the throbbing, tolling bells of the fourth stanza. The more jarring use of bells begins in stanza three where we move from gold and silver bells to bronze/brazen bells.

Bronze was a preferred metal for the clapper of carillon bells[1]. These bells were commonly used to indicate time. At this stage in the poem, bronze effectively demonstrates the passing of time, especially from a carefree state to a more alarming tone. The time of “death” approaches.

Stanza three is rife with words that denote fear, such as affright, terror, horror and shriek. Bells here signify more than a warning of terror, but could be the source of terror as well. In war times, bells were often melted down and made into ammunition[2]. Poe’s line, “how they clang, and clash and roar,” could literally be taken as the bells creating the horrors (death) he writes about, especially as it resonates in the with the use of onomatopoeia.

Stanza three employs an almost abrasive, quickened pace to the reading, heightened by onomatopoeia and alliteration[3]. It is comparable to Anthem for Doomed Youth[4], by Wilfred Owen. Here, Owen also employs the use of bells to signify passing, but laments that the only bells they hear are, “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”. With the analogy of bells providing ammunition, these sounds again hammer out horror wielded by the bells.

Unlike stanzas one and two, where there is merriment in tone, or the melancholy tolling of stanza four, stanza three is on the precipice between both. It holds the fervour of the first two stanzas, albeit horrific instead of joyous, and then links to death with the tolling bells in stanza four. Death/tolling bells were thought to ward off evil spirits from taking possession of the soul[5]. Here, ironically, the possibility of the bells causing death, ring in a peaceful passing as well, demonstrated in moving from loud, “loud alarum bells,”  to solemn “world of solemn thought”.

Works cited:

Poem: Stanza 3 of The Bells, by Edgar Allen Poe

[1] See “ball” and “carillon”
[2] Timeline is unsure, but mention of this act with regard to the Liberty Bell, indicates practise of melting bells for ammunition is quite old
[3] Stanza III, various lines and phrases turbulency tells, desperate desire, clang, and clash and roar, palpitating air, twanging, clanging, jangling, wrangling
[4] First World War Poetry Digital Archive
[6] Funeral Customs: Chapter V Bells, Mourning

A Martian Crisis

Two entries from Iii’s e-diary.

4462853.S.E.C.: A new epidemic has swept Tyrr. This highly contagious disease is manifested by the outpouring of an infectious music in an unknown language; it is beyond the control of the people singing it.[1] The music is a virus that is making people ill.

Crowds of people are flooding the hospital to be treated for this spreading illness.[2] The patients are in an advanced stage of the bizarre flu; many of them believe that they are from a planet called “Earth.”[3] One of them has concocted an entire history for this song[4][5] (I recommend wearing a protective mask while listening to it.) She claims that it was written by someone called “Lord Byron.” Even more puzzling is her translation of the second stanza: “One shade the more, one ray the less,/Had half impair’d the nameless grace.”[6] The idea of a subtle change in lighting having such a large impact seems so strange,  but then again, so does this pandemic;  the victims are dancing into insanity with these simple tunes.

Children have been infected, too. The translation of their song is, “When she got there, Thecupboard was bare.”[7] I don’t know where Thecupboard is, but imagine coming to a city or planet to find it empty! While the children sing, women are panicking.[8]

4462854.S.E.C.: Tonight I heard a strange tale from the day side of Tyrr. The music virus has struck again after a year. The man was delirious as he described the transformation of an entire town; the infection was so great that they even changed the name of the town to “Green Bluff, Illinois.”[9]

The man is covered in itchy spots,[10] which is a more advanced stage of the music virus than what we have seen before. He is currently in isolation, but I fear that it may already be too late; my skin begins to itch and I am humming an unfamiliar tune.

Works cited:

Bradbury, Ray. Martian Chronicles.1.August 2030:Summer Night.”All over the night side of Mars[they]lay humming”2.August 2030:Earth Men.”They pass their insanity over into us so that we see their hallucinations too. Telepathy.”3.August 2030:Earth Men.“There are many of us here from Earth.”

4.August 2030:Summer Night”She walks in beauty[…]”

5.Mazumder, Bhaswati.”She walks in beauty[musical version.]”

6.Byron, Lord. “She walks in beauty”

7.August 2030:Summer Night”the children sang:’—and when she got there, the cupboard was bare'”

8.August 2030:Summer Night”in a thousand villas[…]women awoke, screaming.[…]’Something terrible will happen'”

9.April 2031:Third Expedition“This[…]is Green Bluff, Illinois”

10.June 2032:Moon Be Still as Bright“What killed them?”[…]“Chicken pox.”

Frankenstein: The symbolism of St Petersburg and Archangel

In his first letter to his sister, Walton writes of his journey to Archangel from St. Petersburg [1]. Frankenstein is rich with religious metaphor and these city names are curious in light of this, referring to both an important saint and a rank of angel. It is possible to draw a parallel between this route and Walton’s roles within this metaphor as an archangel and St Peter.

Walton’s role as an archangel extends to the metaphor of Frankenstein as God and the monster as Lucifer [2]. Archangels are often regarded as the most revered of angels, God’s most powerful servants and protectors. Walton is something of a protector to Frankenstein, taking care of him in the weakness of his last days. In his final words Frankenstein dreads leaving his mission, (to kill the monster), in the hands of another [3]. Walton recalls this when facing the monster [4] and while he does not end the monster’s existence he witnesses the monster’s declaration of it’s intent to die [5]. Walton as the archangel, to Frankenstein’s God, thus witnesses the expulsion of Lucifer that is the monster.

St Peter is the guardian of the Pearly Gates, the gateway to Heaven. He therefore decides who enters Heaven. Walton listens to Frankenstein’s tale, and hears his “confession” before Frankenstein passes. Walton is taken by admiration and sorrow for Frankenstein [6], perhaps in this way redeeming the scientist of his vanity and early self-importance. Walton is also present to hear the monster’s confession, the admission of the guilt and self-loathing the monster feels [7]. Walton here parallels St Peter, standing at the gateway between life and death for these characters. He also witnesses the judgement Frankenstein and the monster have on themselves, the recognition of their faults and their resolution of it, however unsatisfying those resolutions may seem as both die (or leave to die) without a final stand off with each other.

It is also fitting that the route from St Petersburg to Archangel runs north, perhaps symbolising ascension for both sorrowful characters.


[1] “…the post road between St Petersburg and Archangel.” Page 5

[2] More info on religious metaphor here:

[3] “Yet I cannot ask you to renounce your country and friends to fulfill this task…” Page 269

[4] “…duty of obeying the dying request of my friend in destroying his enemy…” Page 272

[5] “…I shall collect my funeral pile and consume to ashes this miserable frame…” Page 276

[6] “…untimely extinction of this glorious spirit? What can I say that will enable you to understand the depth of my sorrow?” Page 270

[7] “But it is true that I am a wretch.” Page 275

A brief exploration of trees and the forests that house them

Trees symbolise nature, creation and fertility and in many cultures, are representative of gods themselves. The motif of trees and forest are prevalent in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Two trees in particular, the Hazel and Almond are distinctly named in the tales.

Hazel trees were prominent in Celtic folklore, symbolising wisdom and creativity, qualities that Aschenputtel (p.118) displays when solving the trials her stepmother sets. The tree becomes a surrogate mother, providing aid, comfort and, ultimately, a means to freedom.  Aschenputtel’s deliverance is embodied in the way the young hazel flowers move from parent flowers when maturing. This signifies her imminent adulthood and eventual departure from her mother, the tree.

  The Almond Tree (p.186) effectively demonstrates a strong Christian presence through the tree. Biblically, God is the almond tree of Israel. As the first tree to sprout and the last to lose leaves, it is ever watchful. This mirrors the story’s pious mother and her son, who in death are laid beneath the tree and elevated to an almost angelic presence. The godlike properties of the tree continue to manifest when the boy is ultimately returned to his family.

While some trees were named for their unique attributes, the forests themselves held their own sway within the stories. Forests are a liminal stage for a story’s revelations or transformations. On entering the wood, characters reach a momentary impasse. Woods are the home of magical beings and chatty animals, which fuel the transformation to heroic status when the impasse is overcome. This is evident in Hansel and Grethel, The Golden Goose and The Golden Bird among others.

While seeming dense and mysterious, the longevity of forests primes them as purveyors of knowledge.  Secrets are told beneath trees, identities are uncovered in its isolation and both good and bad take refuge in its darkness. Forests signify strength, sustainability and durability, aspects that reflect in fairytales themselves. These stories haven taken root and manifested in our consciousness and will continue to for generations.


Citations (info referenced from these sites)