Elantris Reread: “The Hope of Elantris” and Closing Thoughts


If you have no idea what we’re talking about when we say “The Hope of Elantris,” you can read the entire short story for free on Brandon’s website here. In the annotations, he mentions that he wrote this story as a gift/thank you for a young fan who did an amazing book report on Elantris. It fills in one of the “loose threads” of the novel—specifically, the question of how the children of Elantris survive. Once we’re done chatting about the short story, Paige and I will share our closing thoughts on the book and the reread as a whole.

(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!

Chapter Essentials

POV Character(s): Raoden, Matisse.

Discussion

“My lord,” Ashe said, hovering in through the window. “Lady Sarene begs your forgiveness. She’s going to be a tad late for dinner.”

“A tad?” Raoden asked, amused as he sat at the table. “Dinner was supposed to start an hour ago.”

Ashe pulsed slightly. “I’m sorry, my lord. But… she made me promise to relay a message if you complained. ‘Tell him,’ she said, ‘that I’m pregnant and it’s his fault, so that means he has to do what I want.’”

P: Ah, a bit of time has passed since the nuptials we witnessed last week. And baby makes three! Or, umm, five, if we’re counting Seons, too.

L: Exciting! I always like seeing “the next generation” show up in fantasy novels. For whatever reason, it just makes things feel more…real, for some reason.

“Ashe,” Raoden said, a thought suddenly occurring to him. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

“Where were you during those last hours before Elantris was restored?” Raoden asked.

“It is a long story, Your Majesty,” the Seon said, floating down beside Raoden’s chair.

P: Story time! And it’s not that long… We’ll cover it as succinctly as possible. ::ahem::

L: Ah, so we’re about to go back in time, as it were. And it’s quite a nice way of doing so, if I might say so myself. Rather than just throw us into the thick of things, Brandon’s set us up a handy framing device.

Matisse took care of the children.

That was her job, in New Elantris. Everyone had to have a job; that was Spirit’s rule.

P: I love this. Raoden gave everyone “jobs” to keep their minds off the pain and the hunger.

L: Ah yes. It’s been awhile since we were at that stage of the book, so it’s nice to have a little reminder of that.

P: It’s sweet that this girl, and she is but a slip of a girl, takes such pride in having a job to do in New Elantris.

L: It is really sweet.

“Do we really have to go to bed, Matisse?” Teor asked, giving her his best wide-eyed look. “Can’t we stay up, just this once?”

Matisse folded her arms, raising a hairless eyebrow at the little boy. “You had to go to bed yesterday at this time,” she noted. “And the day before. And, actually, the day before that. I don’t see why you think today should be any different.”

“Something’s going on,” said Tiil, stepping up beside his friend. “The adults are all drawing Aons.”

Outside the window, flashes of light sparked from hundreds of fingers drawing Aons in the air.

P: This, of course, is how the newly shiny Elantrians were able to access the power to fight the monks after they all transported to Teod. Galladon held an impromptu lesson.

L: That clears up that little hanging thread from the book. I was wondering how they had all managed all that, when we hadn’t been told that they’d all been practicing all this time!

Something was wrong with this night. Lord Spirit had disappeared, and while Galladon told them not to worry, Matisse found it a foreboding sign.

“What are they doing out there?” Idotris whispered quietly from beside her.

Matisse glanced outside, where many of the adults were standing around Galladon, drawing the Aons in the night.

P: What a lot for children to deal with: suddenly changed and exiled from their families—in the case of those who had families, which, of course, Matisse didn’t have—and the world they had known. They’ve only just found a comfortable home in New Elantris, found places for themselves in this new society, and suddenly there’s foreboding and fear because all of the storming adults are acting strangely.

L: Even for the adults it was a lot to handle. I wonder if, in a way, the kids might not have had an easier time of it. The adults had set routines, whole lives that were uprooted. Children, often, are a little more flexible to major life changes. (Does this mean that they weren’t traumatized? Obviously not. But they might, all things considered, have handled things a bit better than the adults.)

True, things had been fairly bad before Dashe had found her in a sludge-filled alley. And there were the wounds. Matisse had one on her cheek—a cut she’d gotten soon after entering Elantris. It still burned with the same pain it had the moment she’d gotten it.

P: Of course, she’s an unfinished Elantrian and doesn’t heal. This cut will come into play later.

L: I really wish it wouldn’t.

Of course, there was something else she’d gained by getting thrown into Elantris: a father.

Dashe turned, smiling in the lantern light as he saw her approach. He wasn’t her real father, of course.
 

One day, she’d simply started calling him Father. He’d never objected.  

P: This is heartbreakingly sweet. Matisse had been an orphan begging in the streets before the Shaod had taken her. And in exile, in this filthy city, she’s found a father. ::feels::

L: ::lower lip tremble:: Even in the darkest of times, there is light to be found, and humanity lives on.

She eyed Dashe, noting the frown on his lips. “You’re mad that Spirit hasn’t come back yet,” she said.

Dashe nodded. “He should be here, with his people, not chasing that woman.”

“There might be important things for him to learn outside,” Matisse said quietly.

P: Like how it feels to become Hoed? Heh… I jest. Though being Hoed was quite important to the plot, as we learn that the pool only takes those who want to be taken. Raoden changed his mind at the last and he didn’t dissolve.

L: True. I also appreciate that Matisse is the more mature of the two in this instance, making reasoned arguments while her father is making more emotional ones.

At the front of the crowd, Galladon spoke. “Good,” he said. “That’s Aon Daa—the Aon for power. Kolo? Now, we have to practice adding the Chasm Line. We won’t add it to Aon Daa. Don’t want to blow holes in our pretty sidewalks now, do we? We’ll practice it on Aon Rao instead—that one doesn’t seem to do anything important.”

P: If you recall, Aon Daa was what the finished Elantrians used to great effect in Teod, while fighting the monks. They basically just drew this Aon over and over.

L: Nothing wrong with throwing dynamite sticks! Why bother getting fancy and adding in other things when dynamite does the job just fine?

Matisse frowned. “What’s he talking about, Father?”

Dashe shrugged. “Seems that Spirit believes the Aons might work now, for some reason. We’ve been drawing them wrong all along, or something like that. I can’t see how the scholars who designed them could have missed an entire line for every Aon, though.”

Yet, she did watch with curiosity as Galladon talked about the new line. It was a strange one, drawn across the bottom of the Aon.

And… this makes the Aons work? she thought. It seemed like such a simple fix. Could it be possible?

P: Of course, no scholars missed a line, there was just an earthquake that created a big enough chasm that the Dor needed a line to represent said chasm added to the Aons in order to make them work again. And right about now, Raoden is going to fix all the things with a line!

L: Atta boy, Raoden!

A Seon hung in the air behind them. Not one of the insane ones that floated madly about Elantris, but a sane one, glowing with a full light.

“Ashe!” Matisse said happily.

P: And finally Ashe shows up. Not sure how he knew all that had transpired before he arrived…though I suppose he could have learned it all later, once things had died down.

“Lord Dashe. Is Lady Karata nearby?”

“She’s in the library,” Dashe said, taking his hand off the sword.

Library? Matisse thought. What library?

P: Remember that Raoden and the others had told precious few people about the existence of the library. So Matisse had never heard of it before this moment.

L: Probably for the best. Imagine a whole hoard of kids sneaking in there, disorganizing all the books, carrying them off… Would have put a damper on Raoden’s studies to go hunting them all down.

“There is a new shipment coming, my lord,” Ashe said quietly. “Lady Sarene wished that you be made aware of it quickly, as it is of an . . . important nature.”

“Food?” Matisse asked.

“No, my lady,” Ashe said. “Weapons.”

P: These are the weapons Sarene sent to Elantris in case the city was attacked by regular soldiers. Nobody was expecting Fjordell soldiers to show up!

L: Nobody expects the Fjordell Inquisition!

“You shall have your own Seon some day, I should think, Lady Matisse,” Ashe said.

Matisse cocked her head. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, there was a time when almost no Elantrian went without a Seon. I’m beginning to think that Lord Spirit may just be able to fix this city—after all, he fixed AonDor. If he does, we shall find you a Seon of your own. Perhaps one named Ati. That is your own Aon, is it not?”

“Yes,” Matisse said. “It means hope.”

P: I believe we need an Aon alert!

Aon Ati from Brandon Sanderson's Elantris

L: Oh, it’s pretty! It looks kind of like a plant, like a leaf or a tree…

“Galladon’s gone?” Matisse asked, perking up.

Mareshe nodded. “He disappears like this sometimes. Karata too. They’ll never tell me where they’ve gone. Always so secretive! ‘You’re in charge, Mareshe,’ they say, then go off to have secret conferences without me. Honestly!” With that, the man wandered off, bearing his lantern with him.

Off somewhere secret, Matisse thought. That library Dashe mentioned? She eyed Ashe, who was still hovering beside her. Perhaps if she coaxed him enough, he’d tell her—

At that moment, the screaming began.

P: Galladon had, of course, gone into Kae to look for Raoden, and found him a Hoed, run through with a sword and repeating, “Failed… failed my love…” Ugh, I’m over here getting choked up at something we already covered. Moving on, this is the perfect time for the screaming to begin. Things are weird, what with the adults drawing Aons late into the night, but it’s at least peaceful. Until it’s not.

L: I guess, if there’s ever a “perfect time” for screaming to begin outside of a horror movie or a haunted attraction…

The yells continued. Distant, echoing. Matisse shivered, backing up. She heard other things. The ring of metal against metal.

P: How timely was Sarene’s shipment of weapons, huh?

L: One might almost say… convenient.

“Go wake the kids.”

“What?” Idotris said indignantly. “After all the work we did to get them to sleep?”

“Do it,” Matisse snapped. “Get them up, and have them put their shoes on.”

P: Kiddos need to beat feet and get outta Dodge! Erm, outta New Elantris!

L: This is a huge relief, honestly, knowing what’s coming. Those stacks of bodies the Dakhor monks make… ready to be made into pyres…

P: ::shudders::

“My lady!” Ashe’s voice said. She glanced up to see that the Seon was flying back down toward her. His Aon was so dim that she could barely see him.

“My lady,” Ashe said urgently. “Soldiers have attacked New Elantris!”

“What?” she asked, shocked.

“They wear red and have the height and dark hair of Fjordells, my lady,” Ashe said. “There are hundreds of them. Some of your soldiers are fighting at the front of the city, but there are far too few of them. New Elantris is already overrun! My lady—the soldiers are coming this way, and they’re searching through the buildings!”

P: ::urgency intensifies:: Fly, you fools!

L: If I may insert a reference from a wildly different genre…

What could she do?

I take care of the children. It’s my job.

It’s the job Lord Spirit gave me.

P: This child’s sense of duty is simply moving. What a lovely little character Brandon has created for this short story.

L: He’s always been good at writing children. Not as good as, say, Stephen King, but in my opinion King is the master at writing kids, so that’s an awfully high bar to reach.

“You go find my father!” Matisse said. “Tell him what we’re doing.”

P: Which is how Dashe finds her in the nick of time. Oh, wait, we’re not there yet. Carry on.

L: Oi. Spoilers, Paige.

“Quickly, children,” Matisse said.

“What’s going on?” Tiil demanded.

“It’s an emergency,” Matisse said. “That’s all you need to know.”

P: This cracked me up. She’s only an older child but she’s not above acting like an adult to the younger children.

L: You see this with kids all the time, though. Give them an ounce of responsibility and suddenly they’re acting like the President of the US.

She lit the lanterns, then stood. As she’d expected, the children—even the little ones—gravitated toward the light, and the sense of protection it offered. She handed one lantern to Idotris, and by its light she could see his terrified face.

“What do we do?” he asked with a shaking voice.

“We run,” Matisse said, rushing out of the room.

P: But how feasible is running when you have a bunch of young children who have just been dragged from their beds? Sure, maybe they were scared awake, but it’s no small feat to move fifty children anywhere quickly.

L: Herding cats, for sure. Especially when a bunch of them are probably suffering from un-healed injuries and aren’t going to be moving terribly quickly.

The center of New Elan­tris was glowing faintly. From firelight.

It was burning.

There, framed by the flames of death was a squad of three men in red uniforms. They carried swords.

Surely they wouldn’t kill children, Matisse thought, her hand shaking as it held its lantern.

P: As the soldiers advance, Matisse realized that yes, they will definitely kill Elantrian children. Just a bunch of monsters, really.

L: Makes me so indignant. What terrible monsters these men are.

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a ball of light zipped from the sky. Ashe moved between the men, spinning around their heads, distracting them. The men cursed, waving their swords about in anger, looking up at the Seon.

Which is why they completely missed seeing Dashe charge them.

P: Dashe came to distract the soldiers so the children could get away, but what does Matisse do? She watches. Of course.

L: Frozen in horror, like watching a car accident or a train wreck. Sadly, it’s human nature.

I have to do something! Matisse thought, stepping forward. At that moment, Dashe turned, and she could see cuts on his face and body. The look of dread she saw in his eyes made her freeze with fright.

“Go,” he whispered, his voice lost, but his lips moving. “Run!”

One of the soldiers rammed his sword through Dashe’s chest.

P: How agonizing for young Matisse to see this happen to her adopted father. She screams here, as Dashe becomes Hoed. ::sad face::

L: If characters we love could stop turning Hoed, that would be great. (I know it all turns out okay in the end, but still.)

The children were too slow. Unless… She looked up at the Seon beside her, noting the glowing Aon at his center. It meant light.

“Ashe,” she said urgently as the soldiers approached. “Find Idotris ahead. Tell him to put out his lantern, then lead him and the others to someplace safe!”

“Someplace safe?” Ashe said. “I don’t know if any place is safe.”

“That library you spoke of,” Matisse said, thinking quickly. “Where is it?”

“Straight north from here, my lady,” Ashe said. “In a hidden chamber beneath a squat building. It is marked by Aon Rao.”

“Galladon and Karata are there,” Matisse said. “Take the children to them—Karata will know what to do.”

P: At least, Matisse thinks they’re there. They are currently taking Raoden to the blue pool.

L: Still, good thinking on her part to bring the kids there. If it was hidden enough that she didn’t know where it was, chances are good that the soldiers won’t be able to find it either.

Matisse finished the Aon—Aon Ashe, the same one inside of her Seon friend. But, of course, the Aon didn’t do anything. It just hung there, like they always did. The soldiers approached uncaringly, stepping right up to it.

This had better work, Matisse thought, then put her finger in the place that Galladon had described and drew the final line.

Immediately, the Aon—Aon Ashe—began to glow with a powerful light that was right in front of the Soldier’s faces. They called out as the sudden flash of brilliance shone in their eyes, then cursed, stumbling back. Matisse reached down to grab her lantern and run.

P: Her Aon worked! How exciting that must have been for her. Or would have been had she not been terrified, I suppose.

L: I can only imagine. It must be something like suddenly getting the powers of a superhero; like Superman. In their society, the Elantrians were looked up to in a similar way. So for her to be able to use those powers suddenly…boy, what a rush that must have been.

She paused. There he was, Dashe, laying on the cobbles. She rushed to him, not caring any more about pursuit. Her father lay with the sword still impaling him, and she could hear him whispering.

“Run, Matisse. Run to safety…” The mantra of a Hoed.

P: Ugh, the poor Hoed make me so sad every time I hear one of their mantras.

L: They’re heartbreaking. I’ve been rewatching the 2009 Doctor Who series from the start with my son lately, and it reminds me a lot of the “Silence in the Library” episode, with the Vashta Nerada. The last echoes of the soul, echoing as they cycle down…only in this case, those echoes would be eternal, which makes it so, so much worse.

And that was when the ground began to shake.

Suddenly, Matisse felt warm.

P: This just gives me goosebumps! To see how she felt when her transformation was finally completed!

L: I can only imagine it looked something like this.

The soldier turned toward her suddenly. He cocked his head, then reached out and rubbed a rough finger across her cheek, where she had been wounded long ago.

“Healed?” he said, confused.

P: Of course, this soldier had seen the cut on her cheek, the one mentioned up above when Matisse is ruminating on being an Elantrian. Only now she’s really an Elantrian and all of her hurts are healed!

L: I’m surprised that he noticed something so subtle, to be honest. These guys didn’t seem like the brightest Seons in the Cosmere.

She felt wonderful. She felt… her heart!

P: How very odd it would be to not have a heartbeat for however long this child had been an Elantrian, and then suddenly you have a heartbeat again. I love her reactions to becoming a full Elantrian!

L: That must have been incredibly surreal.

I think you missed something, friend,” a voice suddenly said.

The soldier paused.

“If the light healed her,” the voice said, “then it healed me too.”

The soldier cried out in pain, then dropped Matisse, stumbling to the ground. She stepped back, and as the terrible man collapsed, she could finally see who was standing behind: her father, glowing with an inner light, the taint removed from his body. He seemed like a god, silvery and spectacular.

P: I don’t listen to the Graphic Audio versions of the books, the music and the different voices actually distract me. But I imagine a swell of awesome music playing during this scene.

L: Yesssssss! This is so so cool!

“Where are the other children, Matisse?” he said urgently.

“I took care of them, Father,” she whispered. “Everyone has a job, and that’s mine. I take care of the children.”

P: And so ends Ashe’s story. And what a lovely little story it was.

L: This really is beautiful. I love it, and I’m so glad Brandon gave it to us.

“And Matisse… Dashe’s little daughter. I had no idea what she’d gone through.” Raoden smiled. He’d given Dashe two Seons—ones whose masters had died, and who had found themselves without anyone to serve once they recovered their wits when Elantris was restored—in thanks for his services to New Elantris. Dashe had given one to his daughter.

“Which Seon did she end up with?” Raoden asked. “Ati?”

“Actually, no,” Ashe said. “I believe it was Aeo.”

….

Aeo. It meant bravery.

P: Very fitting for that child and the bravery she displayed that night. I have many feels.

Final Thoughts

P: This book had a profound impact on me. As a reader and a fan of the fantasy genre. I first picked it up after it was announced that Brandon would finish The Wheel of Time, and it was like no fantasy I’d ever read. I loved Sarene, who was strong and snarky, just the kind of person I wanted so badly to emulate. She spoke to me. And not only her… As a sufferer of bipolar disorder, the Hoed spoke to me, too. Over the many years since I first read Elantris, I’ve picked it up again numerous times. Many details fade in between rereads, but one thing that has never faded is how the Hoed become weighed down by their pain; the way the hurts pile up and pile up until they just can’t bear it anymore. I wrote an article with a friend a few years ago called “The Pain of Elantris” about how I relate so strongly to these Hoed. If you haven’t seen it and you’ve come this far in our reread, maybe give it a look-see.

L: I have a similar story as to how I found the book, though I believe I read The Way of Kings first (clearly, I dove in at the deep end). I want to say it was around 2010 or so that I read Elantris, and at the time, I really related a lot to Sarene and her trials with love. At the time, like her, I never thought I’d ever find anyone, and Raoden was like a dream come true. (To this day I still adore him, and think he’s a great romantic lead. Not quite as good as Jamie Fraser, but that’s an incredibly high bar.)

Interestingly, I didn’t relate as strongly to the Hoed on my first read-through as Paige did, because at the time I hadn’t experienced any chronic pain or mental health issues. After the birth of my son, however, I began to suffer from a plethora of issues (the details of which I won’t bore you with here) and I’ve found that this book resonates with me a lot more strongly now on that count.

P: We hope to be back with you soon before Wind and Truth is released, and as always, watch this space for upcoming Sanderson discussion. Thanks for joining us on this latest reread! icon-paragraph-end



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