html>Way Three (The Way of Oracle): Down and Out to an Ending

Way Three (The Way of Oracle)

Chapter 23: Lorel's Passenger List

Most of the next stretch Shandon is on his own, and he doesn't like it. Golias indicates a highway marker pointing his way to Usher's Tarn, The Dark Tower, and Gnipa Cave, but explains that Delian Law requires Shandon to do this pilgrimage alone. Shandon regards this as abandonment by Golias, and reverts to his original cynicism. His cynicism and despair is reinforced by his next encounters: the easy lust of Becky Crawley and the satirical mockery of C. Lorel and his Ship of Fools.

Usher's Tarn is the "small lake among mountains" into which the house of Usher falls at the end of the Edgar Allen Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher. It is also the setting of a Scottish traditional ballad, Child 79, The Wife of Usher's Well; this story of what befell when a woman cursed the sea for bereaving her of three sons may have been read by Poe.

The Dark Tower is the object of the hero's quest in Robert Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. He in turn took the reference from Edgar's mad song in King Lear, by William Shakespeare, which refers to an old English ballad Childe Roland and Burd Ellen, where the Dark Tower is the castle of the King of Elfland.

Gnipa Cave, in Norse myth, is the cave at the entrance to the Underworld where the hound Garm is chained.

Becky Crawley is a character from Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.

Cock Lorel was the captain of a boat that carried rogues and vagabonds through 16th century England in Cock Lorel's Bote, anonymous satirical verse c. 1510. His boat, here in the Commonwealth, is called the Menippus; Menippus was one of the Cynics memorialized by the Greek Lucian. The home port of the Menippus is described as Narragonia, at the southern tip of the Commonweath -- the land of fools in the 1494 German didactic The Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant.

Chapter 24: Men and Horses

Shandon's cynicism deepens into despair as he experiences the the self-righteous evils of the Inqusition, Voltaire's foolish philosopher Pangloss, and Swift's Houyhihym, who address him as a Yahooand challenge him, as they did Gulliver, to defend the dignity of mankind.

Chapter 25: A Guide of Sorts

No examination of despair would be complete without a visit with Job. Job delivers a monologue that completes the destruction of all Shandon's hopes that there is anything in life to hope for, yet he goes on with his quest. The guide he comes across, to take him into Gnipa Cave, is named Faustopheles -- a mingling of two names implying that the wizard-philosopher Faust, after selling his soul to the demon Mephistopheles in return for knowledge, took over the role of Mephistopheles in hell.

As sinister as his guide is, he does lead Shandon on the right track at last. They pass Usher's Tarn, and he watches as a lightning bolt strikes down the Dark Tower and one lone maddened survivor flees in terror. They then enter Gnipa's cave, where one sign says "Beware of the Dog" and the other says "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

Chapter 26: Into the Pit

Garm, The Void,Dante's Inferno,Rodya Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky)

Chapter 27: Going Down

Ganelon, vs Roland, Oliver and the Companions,Oedipus,Hamlet

Chapter 28: At the Bottom

Faustopheles does try to avoid one room of Hell, so Shandon perversely insists on viewing it. The demon in charge, incidentally, refers to F. as "Virgilio".

Anna Karenina

Scarlet Letter. In this case, both Shandon and Faustopheles see Hester as the woman they most care for -- Shandon sees her as Rosalette, and F. as Gretchen.


Chapter 29: A Brace of Courts

When Faustopheles has Shandon at the very bottom of the Pit, in front of the Infernal Court, and is presenting him as a new subject stripped of all belief in any higher purpose, Shandon cries out, "I don't believe there is nothing more than this!" And he is answered -- by the song of Orpheus, bursting through the halls of the dead with a celebration of life, lust and good beer.

Song references:
Tammuz, Gilgamesh, Innini, Ekidu, Erech, Khumbaba, magic cedars, Anu's bull

Orpheus (another name of Golias) demands a trial, before the three judges Rhadamanthus, Minos and Aeacus. Faustopheles quotes the poet's line "drink deep or taste not" and argues that the Hippocrene spring is only for the worthiest of seekers; he points out that Shandon has not seen Xanthus, King Noble, Bazarov's grave, Goriot or Genji ....Golias (Orpheus) adds that Shandon has not forced the door of Jason's house, lounged at Shandy Hall, hid out with Martin Fierro, hunted the Sampo, backed up Charudatta .... But, Golias winds up, Shandon has done enough to test his character against the range of the Commonwealth. A fane too well protected becomes no fane at all. He creates a reasonable doubt.

Chapter 30: Good Company and Hippocrene

Orpheus and Shandon go out through the Gate to Orcus, past a dog as big as Garm but with three heads. Shandon recovers during Dione's Watch, while Golias explains how the cavalry arrived in the nick of time.

Golias had heard from Tiresias that Shandon had gone into the pit but hadn't come out. Being unable to navigate the Tartarean lake, Golias hoped he would find Shandon in the Court. "Fortunately, Glasgerion and Amphion aren't the only ones who can do things with a harp."

The two friends stay in the village of Gandercleugh at the Red Lion Tavern, presided over by the landlord Ambrose who delivers another comfortable essay upon the joys of good liquor. A party is forming to journey to Rider's Shrine, which is on the way to Hippocrene. The characters (Falstaff, Dinadan, Alcestis, Helias, Biron, Maeve, Fiametta, Tartarin, young Juan, Captain Suggs, Glycerium, Disli, Mrs. Slipslop, Miss Emma Watson) are as colorful as Chaucer's, and pass their journey telling stories to each other.

Fiametta's Tale:
In fair Chang-an, his capital, Ming Huang
Once loved and lost to death the Lady Yang

Golias's Tale  refers to Angel's Camp in Calaveras County

Shandon manages to take two drinks of the Hippocrene, but not the third. Is this modesty on the part of Myers? I confess, I would be embarrassed to claim that I had taken the Maker's Drink myself, even in the person of a fictional character. It's the sort of thing you can only have someone else claim for you, like proving your rights in the Commonwealth after Annexation Day. But Shandon is content with what he has won. As the last line of the book reads, "Until the body melts and the brain starts to gel, a man who has come out whole after having been put through his paces by the Delian has a heart for living."

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