Chapter Sixteen: (Spoilers Hidden)
Raoden’s memory of Ien at the beginning of this chapter pretty much sums up what the Seons are. A lot of readers have asked me for more on them, and I’ll give it eventually. However, in this book, you simply need to know that they are what they appear. Servants bound out of love, rather than duty, force, or pay.
The original inspiration for Seons came, actually, when I was in high school. Visually, I was inspired by the Passage series–a collection of paintings by Michael Whelan. Every painting in the series contained little floating bubbles with what appeared to be a candle flames at their center. At the same time, I was getting the idea for a story. When I wrote it, I included a group of sentient balls of light.
Well, that story didn’t go anywhere. Six years later, however, I started ELANTRIS. I wanted a sidekick for Sarene, and I knew I needed someone wise and cautious to off-set her sometimes reckless personality. I had already decided to use the Aon characters, and I considered transforming my old idea of balls of light into glowing Aons. As Ashe’s character began to develop, I realized I had something quite strong, and I began to build the mythology and magic behind the Seons.
The latest addition to the story regarding Seons is the idea of ‘Passing.’ I only speak of it a few times, but in earlier drafts, I didn’t have any definite indications that a person and their Seon were bound. The only hint was what happened to Seons whose masters were taken by the Shaod. When Moshe asked about this, I decide I’d include a little more information, and added a couple references to ‘Passing’ Seons in the book.
Raoden finally confronts Taan here in this chapter. In a way, the three gangs that Raoden has to defeat represent three things that the Elantrians themselves need to overcome. The first is their solitude, represented by Karata’s exclusionary attitude. The second is self-pity, represented by Taan’s indulgent madness. The final is their pain, represented by the wildmen of Shaor.
The way, therefore, to defeat Taan was to turn his attention outside of himself. Self-pity melts when confronted with larger issues, such as the beauty and wonder of Elantris itself. I worry that this scene itself was a bit too melodramatic–however, I’ve always said that the difference between drama and melodrama is how engaged the reader is by the story. If everything is working like it should, this section should seem powerful, rather than over-the-top.
I do think, however, that Raoden’s arguments are a bit too philosophical for his audience. I did that intentionally. Raoden is a child of privilege, and he is something of a thinker. His philosophical arguments are probably the first things he himself would consider, because of how curious and interesting they are. However, he doesn’t achieve success with this crowd until he turns to more practical observations. In reality, his strongest ally in this scene was the way he broke the tension and the passion of the moment. Once Dashe’s momentum was gone, he couldn’t convince himself to continue.