[LMB] What makes a character irredeemable?

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Sat Jul 27 20:57:04 BST 2019

---- On Sat, 27 Jul 2019 09:13:46 -0700 Jennifer Walker <mailto:jwlkr732 at sbcglobal.net> wrote ----

Am I the only one who never thought Martou’s soul was taken up by the Father? I always thought that the death demon took both Dondo AND Martou back to the B*stard’s hell, as was required to satisfy the death magic. What was taken up by the Father was the Curse, pulled through Cazeril, who was then returned to his body by the Daughter. 

As far as Dondo’s irredeemability, he was ready to decapitate Caz in order to save his own cowardly skin. He was irredeemable long before we met him in the flesh. 

Beatrice Otter wrote:
In the end of the book, there's a brief reference to Martou's funeral, in which he was taken up by the Father, despite having been carried off by a demon.  So the death demon carries off two souls (Dondo and Martou, in this case) but doesn't necessarily deposit them in the Bastard's Hell.

Cowardice is a pretty small flaw in the grand scheme of things, even cowardice which could get people killed.  Plenty of characters--and real-life people, too!--turn around and make something good of themselves after even great acts of cowardice.  Of all Dondo's flaws, that one I am most able to forgive.  Keeping Caz off the ransom list so that he couldn't tell and to punish him for having been a better man was a much greater sin, in my books, not to mention all the murder and rape and degradation and treachery Dondo seems to have done habitually, regularly, as go-to strategies for "how to behave."

But I'm not sure that "redemption" is the right category.  It's a very Christian-centric idea, and I say that as a Christian myself.  Christians assume that sin is what determines one's fate after death, and that sinners must be redeemed/forgiven by God or they go to hell.  None of these concepts fit what we are told of the way the 5GU works.  The Bastard's Hell is not a place of punishment; it is a place of primordial chaos.  (I think it very telling that bb!demons just escaped from it are "elementals.")  It is a place of undoing where nothing holds together.  The gods don't forgive sinners; they don't judge in the first place.  The gods will always reach out to take up souls, regardless of whether those souls are good or evil.  There are only a few things that can stop the process:

1) Human will.  Humans can choose not to be taken up; they can choose to be sundered.  Also, a human with a demon whose demon is being sent back to hell can, like Joen, refuse to let go of it, and get sucked in there as well.
2) Something getting in the way.  Sorcery, as in the case of Arhys; or shamanism, as in the case of the dead of Bloodfield.  Or just the dead getting "lost" somehow, and needing funeral rites to help them on their way, as we see in CoC, with the dead who got killed in that ambush while Caz and co. are riding back into Chalion from Ibra.

Neither of these has anything to do with whether the soul is good or evil; neither of these have anything to do with sin or redemption.

My personal theory of Dondo, taking this into account, is that he was too selfish to go to the gods.  He wanted to cling to life too desperately; he wanted to cling to his hates and his quest for vengeance against those who had killed him more than he wanted to be taken up by the gods.  I doubt that things like "revenge against the living" (or any human concern) matter much to those who have sprung up like flowers in the gods' garden.  Why should they?  Also, to be taken up by the gods, you must necessarily bow to a power greater than yourself.  You must be willing to be part of a greater whole.  I can't see Dondo ever being willing to do that.  If Caz had stabbed him, instead of using death magic, he would probably have been sundered.  But he was already out of the world, taken by the death demon, and at that point he had two choices: to be taken up by the gods, or to go to the Bastard's hell.

Beatrice Otter

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list