(urth) WK psychological cosmology

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 2 14:26:52 PST 2005

I am pretty sure I am not inventing this idea myself - though I didn't find 
it in a cursory search of the archives - but one semi-obvious way to look at 
the layered worlds in the Knight is as a sort of map of the human mind, a 
sort of psychological theater. I couldn't tell you where to find it, but I 
am pretty sure that I've read someone, somewhere, present this as a way of 
explaining certain myths.

In any event, just looking at the lower realms, you have:
Aelfrice, the level of base desires (as represented by the Aelf)
Muspel, a subconscious level filled with massive, ancient and frightening 
urges (as represented by the dragons)
Niflheim, the layer of the id itself (the Most Low God)

It is more difficult to place the higher realms, especially since I don't 
have any background in psychology. Mythgarthr seems to a layer corresponding 
to the conscious will or ego. Skai seems a layer populated by our higher 
ideals of virtue, and Kleos seems an inherently religious realm. I can't 
even begin to speculate about that.

Certain things become intuitively obvious when you look at the universe of 
the Knight this way. For instance, the problem with "worshipping" in the 
wrong direction - action is led by base desire instead of rationality or the 
higher impulses. Also, the seeming omnipresence of the mother figure, which 
at least one other poster here has commented on.

Able's relationship with Disiri becomes correlated with erotic or courtly 
love, which compels him more than any other type of love in his life. Note 
that there is no question of marriage, offspring, or families when it comes 
to their bond; it is an overly romanticized love, eternal and free of 
consequence. They wander the gardens of Aelfrice as playmates and eternal 
children, in a certain sense. This also puts Able's act at the end of the 
Wizard in a different - and I think better - perspective. It is not that he 
is lifting up or redeeming the woman: in my mind there have already been too 
many stories of "the good man who steps in and redeems the helplessly base 
woman". What he is elevating is his own love from something base and selfish 
to something... well, at least *slightly* higher.

Incorporated as well is a theme of the need for self-restraint that runs all 
the way through the story, in different ways, from beginning to end. Able 
has the power to impose his will on the events of the story - it is not a 
question of whether he CAN (whether he is Able), it is a question of whether 
he MAY. And the difference between the questions of "can" and "may" is 
constantly being brought up by Able throughout both books.

But this does bring up some other questions. First of all why does the 
Valfather demand that Able not use his power, and yet when Able does break 
his promise at the end he does so with the Valfather's blessing? Perhaps 
this is some indication that we cannot tame our baser instincts by force, 
that the issues must be wrestled with at their own level first. I don't know 
whether this counts as an adequate answer or not.

Another question is where the giants (of all levels) fit into this schema. 
It seems an important fact that they can love, but cannot be loved (and thus 
are fundamentally at odds with each other), but I am at a loss as to what to 
make of it. Similarly I find it difficult to place Kullili, even though we 
know quite a bit about her relationship with the Aelf. And, for that matter, 
what is Able's nature? He seems to inhabit Skai, Aelfrice, and Mythgarthr 
equally well. Perhaps this is some reflection of the different roles that 
the knightly ideal has played, from some perspectives being something to 
aspire to and yet also (at least for many on this list) something to look 
down upon. It is interesting that after Able restores Berthold and retires 
to Aelfrice, he sees him again from below; it is Berthold (a more modern 
heroic ideal) and not any knight who slays Schildstarr.

This post is quite scattered, and much of what's in it will be either 
painfully obvious or staunchly denied, but I wanted to throw some of this 
out there and see if anyone else could help elaborate on it.


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