Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Yemets on the Soul

"New Russian fantasy" is sure as heck turning out to be entertaining. What really kills me is how quickly the children of the intelligentsia of the godless Soviet Union are turning into good little mystics of the Russian Orthodox Church.

I submit for your consideration the following passage from the prologue to Methodius Buslayev: The Midnight Mage, the first book in Dmitry Yemets' newest children's fantasy series. (Actually, the kid's name is Mefody, just as Martha in Russian is Marfa. But my English-speaking tongue has a good deal of trouble even saying Mefody without it turning into Methody, and at that point....) This series exists in the same universe as his earlier Tanya Grotter series, though the people involved rarely seem to cross paths. However, the infodump in the prologue is provided by the mage instructors from the previous series. It seems that there are other, more powerful beings around which do not get their power from ordinary magic, but from the eidos.

And what is an eidos?

"This eidos which the Guardians of Gloom hunt is the nucleus, the essence of the ensoulment of matter, the ticket to eternity, the key to immortality, the soul. Most vitally important, they are the same both in every normal human and every one of you... Each person has only one eidos. It cannot be counterfeited or copied even with the help of magic. A human who has lost his life and body, but saved his eidos, loses nothing. But a person who loses his eidos loses everything, even if his body, mind and life are out of danger," explained Sardanapal.

"Mm-hm...And what does it look like?" asked Tararah.

"Almost nothing. An eidos doesn't have weight or shape. Or maybe it does. Mages have been arguing about this for several thousand years so far. Avessalom the Flattened thought that the eidos was an invisible jewel which is thousands of times more valuable than any diamond, even the biggest one. Ekril the Wise was certain that it was a second heart which controls the beating of the first heart. Hugo the Cunning asserted vaguely that the eidos is 'that which is not'. In other words, the eidos does not exist in time; during dormancy its existence is not detected by any concrete personality. Only when its existence is recognized does it appear. However, the majority of scientists, which include your obedient servant, have converged in the opinion that there's an eidos in everyone, independent of whether one realizes it or no. The eidos is like a small bluish spark or a piece of grit. This spark has an incomparably enormous force with which it introduces us to eternity, and does not leave us in the putrefying flesh after death. An Eidos is the eternal particle of existence, part of the One Who created us with a Word. It cannot be destroyed by a brigade of gargoyles or a nuclear explosion or the end of the universe -- nothing. And this is the power inside even a single eidos!

"This is exactly what the Guardians of Gloom are after. The more eidos inside one's darkth, the greater its ability and hence, the higher it is in their hierarchy. It doesn't bother the guards at all that they are taking eternity from a human along with its eidos. For them, it's a target -- nothing more."

"They take the eidos by force?"

"An eidos cannot be stolen by force. But eidos can be given away voluntarily. It is possible to be given one, or to sell one, or to trade one for a diamond, a kingdom, a bite of apple -- whatever you think it's worth. You will already have decided to have nothing to do with this. But already, over hundreds of years, millions of humans have given up their eidos, and added to the darkth of the Guardians of Gloom," said Sardanapal darkly.

Horrid translation by me, of course. The iffy bit is that the mistaken mages are dark (tyomniy) and the guards or guardians are of a worse darkness (mrak). You can also translate 'mrak' as 'gloom', but Gloom Guards or Guardians just sounds way too cutesy for what are essentially hosts of demons. (Btw, they are opposed by the Light Guards, who are essentially angels. The Light Guards protect and defend the human eidos.)

Yemets is not out there writing Christian fantasy for the sake of writing Christian fantasy, folks. He's a bestselling children's writer who could be writing whatever he wanted to. He's writing stories with these elements because he likes them and thinks they will sell. He's been right so far; his publisher EKSMO seems to be doing very well both on this book and its sequel, Methodius Buslayev: The Wish Scroll. So obviously kids do want to read about angels and demons battling for human souls, and a kid who has to use his free will to pick which side he'll be on. I'm not quite sure where this is going...but like the anime series Full Metal Alchemist, it seems to be going somewhere good.

UPDATE: The more you read a book, the more you figure out what's going on. The baddies of the Mrak are headquartered in Hades, which definitely counts as a land full of Gloom. So I guess "guardians of Gloom" isn't quite so dumb after all.

However, they do not seem to be demons so much as a very bad crew of superpowerful beings. At least one of these seems to be on a story arc about redemption, though,
so they're not demons. Likewise, the guardians of Light seem to be more in the way of magical beings than angels. We'll see what happens later on, but Ares and Daphne don't seem to be particularly supernatural. :)

I'm also going back to calling the kid Mefody. His nickname is Mef, and turning that into Meth would just imply really wrong things. ;) Also, I found that if I rhymed his name with Melody, it wasn't quite so hard to say.


  • At 3:23 AM, Blogger Rudy Carrera said…

    Your blog has just made my month. I'm a practicing Orthodox (Macedonian Rite), and have just become a fan of your blog. Nice stuff. I had to blogroll you because this is indeed a rare treat.


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