Letters Column for July 2011: “The Pancake, and the Throne”

Posted on July 22, 2011 by Jenna

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I think there’s been an explicit mention by Dr. Moran that there may be enough clues to figure out who’s currently sitting on the throne of the world, but darned if I can figure it out.
— cariset, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

It was difficult to decide how to answer this. There is no reason to keep you guessing for, I don’t know, a year or two, until I had the opportunity to explicitly say. But there’s something weird about just stepping up and saying, “Oh, this world element works like this.”

You have seen my solution, of course. ^_^

The world’s in an unpleasant state. Uri begat Cronos, who begat Zeus, who begat Tantalus, and right on down to the monster who rules today. Oh, there was a bit of a diversion, what with the treasure-wheel going from Zeus to Maya and skipping Tantalus and most of his children entirely, but it came back to them in the end.

It’s not like Tantalus is really particularly to blame here, and it’s certainly not like Zeus was a natural link in that great chain of monsters either. You could make a case that Uri was pretty sick. You could even make that case for Cronos. I’m extremely fond of him but he did commit some moral errors here and there *cough*eatinghischildren*cough*. But Zeus has been pretty cool when he’s shown up in Hitherby, and I won’t promise that he did everything nasty that Greek myth implied he did.

So let’s not call him a monster.

Still, anyway, the world-rule that Zeus held once eventually reached the House of Atreus’ heir. This is a problem. Ultimately dharma is the monster’s toy. Ultimately gods, humans, animals, and the earth itself will dance to the monster’s tune.

How bad is it?


So, the dharma of the world bends to the monster’s arrangement. That’s pretty bad. It’s kind of a good thing that the gods are isn’ts right now, but it’s still a big concern. His own dharma was bad enough without throwing ultimate power into the mix!

It’s probable that the institutions and physics that have arisen in dharma’s absence bend to the monster’s favor too. People have used “circumstances,” below, and that’s pretty accurate; but I’d be more inclined to say “systems.” The monster’s never actually going to run out of funding, for instance. He’s never going to get in trouble with the police. He’s on the throne of the world. He’s the f***ing Man.

He has limits, of course.

The gods are isn’ts, as I’ve noted. The throne is, to a certain degree, an isn’t too. Power at a distance isn’t currently entirely real; it’s currently an emergent consequence of social and psychological illusions. It’s fundamentally compromising, compromised, and unreliable.

And, hm.

And he’s the monster. The monster has to be the monster, and he has to think that that’s all right. No matter how powerful he gets, he can’t use it in ways that the monster wouldn’t.

*fake cheerfulness*

So that’s pretty great, right?


My gut tells me Persephone sits on the Throne of the World, but I have no idea why my gut would think that.
— Nyren, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

Aside: this is a really good guess. Persephone would be a good choice to rule the world. She doesn’t, but she’d be a great choice.


Watch, it’ll turn out that the answer is actually Ii Ma. That would be the most depressing thing EVER!
— Nyren, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

In fairness, that’s not the most depressing thing ever. The most depressing thing ever is Ii Ma on the throne of the world … with a pancake on its head.


That […] suggests that it’s the monsters who sit on the throne.
— David Goldfarb, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

Congrats. ^_^


//Actually, I think the important line from Martin and Lisa is this one:

//“None save the monster,” she says, “may choose the circumstances of their lives.” //

Compare it to this description:

//Cronos was Ge’s son in that moment, strong as the earth, unsurpassable, indestructible, horned and terrible, and free—as only one creature in all the world could be—to act accordant to his desires. //

I think that being on the throne of the world means freedom of choice, and that hasn’t changed. What// does// change is what the individual on the throne does with that freedom.//
— Michael, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

That and the mechanism of power!

Divine right is gone, you see. The monster can’t just walk in somewhere and say, “I’m the King of the bloody world, give me a free popcorn.”

The popcorn seller would most righteously say: “Sir, we have no King! This is America!” or possibly “China!” But not “This is Denmark!” because I think they actually do have a King or Queen or something. But in America, the popcorn seller would definitely wrap a flag around his heart, stand up straight, and defy the popcorn-demanding King!

The monster would have to have somebody pay the guy. Or get him fired. Or something. It’s crazy. It’s maddening.

Ruling the world is all complicated now!


A pancake made for the birthday party of a six-year-old girl, that nobody attended.


//Interesting. The ascension of Zeus and the casting down of Cronos left people free to act according to their desires, although constrained by their natures; and then the upheavals of 539 BCE meant that people were no longer constrained by their natures. But people are still constrained by their circumstances. Yes, I think that you’ve found a clinching piece of evidence, and I now definitely believe that the monster is on the throne, and the imago was searching in the wrong place entirely.

(And it suggests that Martin will find some way of freeing people from the constraint of circumstances; although it’ll take Jenna to make me understand what that would mean.)

(And I’d still like to understand how the God of Abraham fits into the picture.)//
— David Goldfarb, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

Like the Buddha, the God of Abraham is kind of a special case. I’ve talked a little bit about that in Articulation, and I’ll talk more about it in Hitherby chapter 4. (Chapter 1: The Tower. Chapter 2: the end of the Third Tyranny. Chapter 3: A lot of stuff, including Island of the Centipede and the Frog and the Thorn. Chapter 4: most likely location for anything about God and/or Jesus, also some stuff about jaguars. Chapter 5: Conclusion.)


//You know, it occurs to me: if the monster can choose the circumstances of his life, it would seem to follow that he can choose whether or not he is bound by Amiel’s promise. Which would mean that he doesn’t do what he does because of that promise; rather, he chooses to leave the promise in force because it suits him.

In The Show, the monster suggests that Amiel’s promise protects him from Jane’s gods. (And in Tunnel Rat the oceanid says that making gods to fight him doesn’t work.) I wonder whether he’s mistaken about that one. It may be that being on the throne of the world, which has been said to allow command of gods, does so.//
— David Goldfarb, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

Oh! If only it were that easy.

Sadly Amiel’s promise isn’t binding him from the outside. It’s in his heart. It’s in his head. It’s all wound about his soul. It’s a part of what he is.

It sucks. It’d be awesome if he could fix that, because if he could just freely unfuck his own head, or freely fuck it up further for that matter, then he’d be a self-negating phenomenon.


A pancake in the shape, as that little girl asked for, of a little tiny Ii Ma.


Also, thank you for linking to “The Summoning of the King”! It has some lines which I find rather interesting, in light of the other thread in these comments:

A woman named Maya kneels beside a dying man. She takes his hand. “I will end such suffering as this,” she says.

The power of the Ultimate Monarch has fallen into Maya’s hand.

“What must be done, I must.
The treasure wheel of that King is mine.”

She holds up her hand. There is a wheel burnt into her palm.

“I have no power to stop the horrors I have seen.
I am illusion.
Though I reign with the treasure wheel over all the kingdoms of the world
I have no power.”

“And now you hold the treasure wheel,
And thus you rule the world.”

I’m not sure what to make of that. Clearly she hasn’t been on the throne of the world since before time. Possibly she started when she slew Prajapati’s monster?

— cariset, on Stupid Words and their Stupid Power, Anyway

And now you know! It was actually a little before she slew Prajapati’s monster. She got the treasure wheel and said, “Hey! You know what I should do? I should kill that guy.

N.B. I am using the treasure wheel and the throne more or less interchangeably here; it’s not some trick where Zeus split the throne and the power up or something. There are subtle connotative differences but ultimately that wheel thing in her hand had the same meaning as Cronos’ throne.


So, in a prior discussion, we loyal readers concluded that the monster was the one who sat upon the throne of the world. I’m inclined to read Little Faces, and some of the other events in this arc, as confirmation of that theory.
— Michael, on The Shepherdess

Indeed. ^_^


//And so the monster’s wings are basically a weaponized version of what Amiel did for Lia. Like Amiel’s voice, they have a cost to the user. And like it, they let you say what’s true, tell someone who they are, who you are, and how you relate to them.

It’s not even really a weird offshoot. I suspect that Amiel could have done the same thing, if she had wanted to. She just wasn’t that kind of person.//
— Eric, on The Lion

She could have done … something, anyway.

The cherubim were created by Amiel’s promise. They evolved. They rebelled. There have been many monsters. And they have a plan.

Er, wait, I said too much.

I mean to say: the cherubim were created by Amiel’s promise, but they’ve evolved over time. Or mutated, at the least. A lot of how the wings work actually comes from Tantalus.


A pancake from her parents, who dwell now, and forever, in the place without recourse. They are severed from their daughter, and from the pancake, by the questions of Ii Ma.


don’t think this power started with Amiel. I think it’s something to do with the throne of the world. This is mostly a feeling, and I can’t point to much that supports it directly. But I feel there’s something very similar between what the Monster did to Micah back in Part /vii, and what Cronos did to Zeus in The Lord of Misrule.
— Michael, on The Lion

There definitely, absolutely is. Micah was echoing Zeus a couple of times throughout that whole ordeal.


// Could be. I just think that the throne of the world is currently held by Martin, not by the Monster.//
— Eric, on The Lion

Martin would like absolute power, sure, but then he’d have to clean off a shelf to have a place to put it, and where would his DVDs go?

Seriously. Be reasonable.


//Also — the throne of which world?

If Martin holds the throne of The Stage, part of the way he keeps it is by not letting on to the monster, when the monster is watching.//
— Aetheric, on The Lion

The throne of Uri’s world, most precisely. Places like the Stage, the firewood world, and the inside of the Kings may or may not be safe. Realistically, Martin’s hiding outside of the known world, but he isn’t going to rely on that—his hope for winning is entirely that he can operate on a higher level than the monster and negate the massive power imbalance.

Though, mind—

And this is very important, narratively—

Martin and the monster aren’t really fighting one another here. Jane’s real target here is dukkha. The monster’s is anatman, or, arguably, Amiel.

And Martin?

Please. The monster? His enemy? Martin runs a theater. Martin raises his six-year-old sister, who also has god-like powers. The monster could kidnap him and start skinning him alive and he’d be all “oh god thank you for the vacation.”


//And this seems like definite confirmation that it is the monsters that currently sit on the throne of the world.

It may be (I think, is) wrong of me, but I would really have liked to see Micah just drive that Thorn right into the monster rather than stopping to threaten. Why he didn’t is covered earlier when they discuss the possibility of Micah knifing him and “wounding him terribly”, of course. (Another connection I actually didn’t make on first reading.)//
— David Goldfarb, on “I Will Make You Cry”

The biggest problem with stabbing the monster with the Thorn that does not Kill is that it almost certainly wouldn’t kill him.


A pancake that Ii Ma, because it is Ii Ma, can never eat.


Best wishes,