Friday, July 15, 2011

The Handdara

This post concerns Ursula K. le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. And I don't recommend continuing here unless you've read the book.


I'm going to explore Handdarata, or Handdara. (Anyways, which word should be used when??) In some ways this seems to be the heart of the book...even though it isn't.

Unfortunately it seems that I didn't note down every page that mentions the Handdarata before page 135...agh! So I'll just try to find as many references as possible.

The Nineteenth Day (43-6)

A story about a foretelling, which is relevant because it is the Handdara(ta) who perform the foretellings. I guess you could sort of say that it is one of their myths.

This is an example of what Faxe later tells Genly, which is that people ask the wrong questions.

Moral of the story: Don't ask when you're gonna die.

Ok, so maybe that's oversimplified. Or maybe not.

When Herbor goes to the foretellers for help they discuss payment. He says that he has nothing to give but his life, and they say "it is of no value to us" (44). (But in the end he does pay with his maybe he set it up by saying it? Words can be powerful. But is that part of the Handdara?) Why is his life of no value? Surely they don't mean that they think he is worthless. If so, why would they bother with him?

(I hadn't caught this before -- Herbor's kemmering is Ashe, and Therem's kemmering is also Ashe!!! Connection here??)

Herbor is also told "But bethink you, there is always a price. The asker pays what he has to pay" (45). Herbor pays what he has to pay with -- his life. So what does this mean about the Handdara?

The Domestication of Hunch (47-71)

This chapter really needs a post all of its own, so that's what I'll do. Later.

My to-do list for studying this book is growing...

BTW, I'm not really convinced that the "hunch" has been domesticated.

"I have taken up the old disciplines I learned in Rotherer. I am glad to see I have lost no skill at summoning dothe-strength, or entering the untrance; but I get little good out of the untrance, and as for the skills of stillness and of fasting, I might as well never have learned them, and must start all over, like a child. I have fasted now one day, and my belly screams A week! A month!" (151)

Therem wrote this in his journal.

Practices of the Handdara:

*Dothe-strength (why?)
*Untrance (what exactly is untrance?)
*Stillness (why?)
*Fasting for up to a week or month. Is this absolute fasting, or do they allow themselves to eat certain foods? And why?

"To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof. Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free" (153).

Therem wrote this in his journal. Pretty self explanatory.

"...that being of the Handdara I would be unlikely to use kemmer-reduction drugs, and would make a point of absitance against the odds" (157).

So those of the Handdara tend to avoid medication that would prevent kemmer. Why? Is it a form of discipline? Meaning, like meditation or whatever, does it help them achieve a different state of mind or whatever? Or do they just not like to put chemicals into their bodies?

Oh, we get a hint on page 232.

On Time and Darkness (162-164)

This needs a post all of its own. It's not directly about the Handdara, but it looks at the Handdarata through the lense of another religion on Winter.

"I never had a gift but one, to know when the great wheel gives to a touch, to know and act. I had thought that foresight lost, last year in Erhenrang, and never to be regained. A great delight it was to feel that certainty again, toknow that I could steer my fortune and the world's chance like a bobsled down the steep, dangerous hour" (189).

I think this is the "Hunch" that the foretellers can rein, and I share it here because of that. This theory is supported on page 203.

"I settled my plans, and began to ready my will and b ody to enter dothe, for my own strength would never suffice unaided by the strength out of the Dark . . . . In full dothe I found the Envoy, though a long awkward load, no heavy one . . . for the great hunger one feels in long-sustained dothe was already gnawing at me . . . . I had to maintaint he condition, for once one lets the dothe-strength lapse one is good for nothing at all. I had never maintained dothe before for over an hour or so, but I knew that some of the Old Men can keep in the full strength for a day and a night or een longer, and my present need proved a good supplement to my training. In dothe one doesnot worry much, and what anxiety I had was for the Envoy . . . . Night had fallen and the greater darkness, the payment for the voluntary summoning of the body's full strength, was coming hard upon me; to darkness I msut entrust myself, and him. . .All the night and day and night on my thangen-sleep . . . . Being still in the recover period I was very weak and sleepy . . . . I was still in thangen and weak of limb and will. . ." (189-94)

A description of what it's like to summon dothe strength. Of particular note...

He gets his strength from the "Dark." The followers of Meshe laugh at the Handdarata because they "call upont he darkness" (164). Why? And we know that the word shifgrethor comes from the old word for shadow. And shadows are mentioned throughout the book, and also need to be studied, as I've already mentioned...

"Yes; thangen, it's called, the dark sleep. It lasts much longer than the dothe period, and once you enter the recovery period it's very dangerous to try to resist it. I slept straight through two nights. I'm still in thangen now; I couldn't walk over the hill. And hunger's part of it; I've eaten up most of the rations I'd planned to last me the week" (196).

Illustrating the aftermath of calling on dothe-strength.

"When the wheel turns under your hand, you must watch your words: and I had twice called him dead, and carried him as the dead are carried" (192).

This suggests that the Handdara do consider words to be powerful, as I speculated earlier in this post.

" 'And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.' Ignorant, in the Handdara sense: to ignore the abstraction, to hold fast to the thing" (212).

I think I understand this, but I can't explain it in my own words, so I don't know...

"Priase then Creation unfinished!" (227)

Creation is ongoing. This implies cyclical time.

"I was too tired to divert it into untrance or any other channel of the discipline" (232).

Therem is in kemmer, and is becoming uncomfortably aware of a fact about Genly that he already knew: "The trouble is of course that he is, in his curious fashion, also in kemmer: always in kemmer" (232).

It seems that the energy generated from kemmer is used by those of the Handdara to fuel practices of the Handdarata.

"Well, in the know, there's no theory, no dogma...Maybe they are less aware of the gap between men and beasts, being more occupied with the likenesses, the links, the whole of which living things are a part" (233).

Therem explaining the Handdara to Genly.

Why does he say "they" and not "we"? He practices Handdara.

Poem, pgs 233-4

There's a poem that's pretty important, but I'm not sure if it would be appropriate to post it on this blog...

"As he did so he murmured a short and charming grace of invocation, the only ritual words I had ever learned of the Handdara: 'Praise then darkness and Creation unfinished'" (246).

Therem has already written "Praise then creation unfinished!" in his journal, and here we learn that it seems to be the only ritual phrase used by the Handdara.

Therem also adds "darkness" into the praise. I'll have to study the references to shadows and darkness throughout the book before I know what to make of that.

"I told him to clear his mind, let it be dark. This he did, no doubt, more promptly and thoroughly than I ever had done: he was an adept of the Handdara, after all" (250).

Due to his understanding of Handdarata practices Genly believes that Therem can clear is mind more easily than he himself can. Whether this is so...we haven't seen anything from Therem proving or disproving it.

"Genry, we practice privation until we're experts at it. I was taught how to starve as a child at home in Estre, and by the Handdarata in Rotherer Fastness" (256).

So they learn to fast, and privation, when they are children. Or at least some of them do.

"Election of council-members from the Indwellers of Handdara Fastness is not uncommon; it is hwoever not common for a Weaver to accept office, and I believe Faxe would have refused if he had not been much concerned by Tibe's government and the direction in which it was leading the country" (290).

In a way it seems strange to me that those of the Handdara can become involved in politics so easily. And why is it unusual for a Weaver in particular to become involved? There's no explanation given.

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