Debarra

Is Fjorden really the bad guys?

14 posts in this topic

So I've just finished the book and I don't really think Fjorden come across as the villian's as Brandon intended. If anything my reading of the book ended up making me root for Hrathen most of the novel.

The most outwardly villainous trait we see the Fjorden display is their expansionism. Even then though that doesn't actually seem that bad, the only independent nations we see are Arlene and Teod. Arlene is basically defunct and doomed most of the novel with a failing economic and political system as well as essentially no military or any other essential services. As we are reminded again consistently Arlene as it currently stands is doomed to collapse again eventually. Teod doesn't seem much better from the glimpses we catch of it, it is lead by a King who unlawfully took his throne, a reactionary church that nobody seems to have actual confidence in and a king who has no idea on anything to do with trade relying on his clerks to help him. Both kingdoms are in trouble so much Dilaf essentially takes them both out with like 50 guys. The restoration of Elantris helps sure but as Raoden notes himself this isn't a permanent solution. Other lands and cultures are discovering their own type of magic meaning Elantris will no longer be supreme, as well as that the restoration of Elantris seems like it will just continue the same cycle for Arlene the next time it falls. From what we saw of Elantris in its prime it also doesn't actually seem as good as people remember it, the people literally can't farm.

Meanwhile Fjorden seems to thrive. We know it has what people in Arlene describe as the centre of culture and science. It seems very stable and the glimpses we see of it actually isn't that bad. The people there are free enough to continue their own religions or mixture of their original religion and Shu-Dereth. Historically as well just because a nobility has a different religion does not mean local belief is wiped out. Fjorden seems a preferable situation for both nations.

The only reason I can really think one could oppose Fjorden is due to Dilaf. If that is Brandons intention though I think it fails. Dilaf doesn't seem representative of Fjorden at all, in fact he seems like the opposite of what Fjorden wants. He even contradicts Wyrn's commands. (Yes I reread that letter he references and it does order Hrathen to preach and convert the masses, Hrathen did exactly as ordered and there are plenty of other reasons to realise he was doing so. Dilaf just seems fond of making stuff up?) Dilaf also just comes across as a complete idiot for most of the novel than any real threat to people. Perhaps one could make an argument that Fjorden is evil because people like Dilaf can rise up its ranks but then we'd have to remember that Arlene and Teod equally has pretty bad people in its ranks, sometimes right up to the king. Even than Fjorden seems the better optition.

Is there something I missed? Is anyone else not really seeing Fjorden as evil?

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Well, to use the Fjordell magic, IIRC a (human) sacifice is necessary. Not the epitome of being good. But I agree that probably the majority of the Fjorden population is not evil. Most of the Dakhor (not only Dilaf) and the Wyrn, however, certainly are. Hrathen is the notable exception.

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5 minutes ago, Voscaia said:

Well, to use the Fjordell magic, IIRC a (human) sacifice is necessary. Not the epitome of being good. But I agree that probably the majority of the Fjorden population is not evil. Most of the Dakhor (not only Dilaf) and the Wyrn, however, certainly are. Hrathen is the notable exception.

Is Wyrn evil though? There doesn't seem to be anything that paints them that is actually evil beyond ruling the Fjorden empire and thus being opposed to the main characters. Their goals seem pretty aligned with Hrathen's, Dilaf seems the exceptional evil case. The only evil thing Wyrn seems to do is send an assassin after Hrathen due to something they saw via future sight. Considering Hrathen had just turned against Wyrn himself there that seems more self preservation than anything.

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Well, as the poltical AND religious leader of Fjorden they should be able to stop some of the Dakhor's deeds, like sacrificing a monk just to get teleported into their office although it is just a five minute walk. But they don't, on the contrary, they use the Dakhor for their goals. Is this the behaviour of a non-evil leader?

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9 minutes ago, Voscaia said:

Well, as the poltical AND religious leader of Fjorden they should be able to stop some of the Dakhor's deeds, like sacrificing a monk just to get teleported into their office although it is just a five minute walk. But they don't, on the contrary, they use the Dakhor for their goals. Is this the behaviour of a non-evil leader?

I'd still say not that evil. There isn't a lot of evidence that they fully understand how Dahkor monks work or was even aware of what Dilaf was doing. Dilaf even ran off at some point all the way to Elantris and changed his physical appearance. Does Wyrn even know he's alive?

Dakhor in general also seems needed. Fjorden is surrounded with countries with their own type of magic that they can use to defend themselves or to attack other people. What is Fjorden meant to do is Elantrians decide to attack the Duladel border for instance? Considering the fact we know the Elantrians did use their powers consistently for warfare in the past (hence the lack of an army at Arlene) it seems fair for Fjorden to also use their own type of magic to defend themselves. Sure Dakhor isn't great but there isn't a lot they can really do about it. It is what they are stuck with. To decry them as evil for it seems to just be blaming them due to where they happened to geographically live. Like if they just happened to have Elantrian magic instead then they'd no longer be evil? If that is the case then they really weren't evil in the first place.

On turning a blind eye to some things (presuming Fjorden had an alternative option) that doesn't seem all that evil either. Or like as evil as we are being lead to belief. Arlene's and Teods leaders turn a blind eye to their issues as well and in real life just about every government ever has turned a blind eye to some atrocity that took place there. At that rate every country that has ever existed is evil. Sure in real life you'd have countries more evil than Fjorden then as the books seems to tell us all of the Dahkor monks and by extension their sacrifices are willing participants, not really something any real country can claim for the victims of its atrocity.

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Your arguments are sound, but, according to Coppermind, Fjordell is heavily influenced by the Skaze, which are the splinters of Dominion. I just happened to read a few days ago, though I can't quote it, that Odium is not the only Shard that Brandon sees as evil. Someone named Ambition as one of the others, Ruin certainly was, and I'm leaning towards Dominion as another one. The black shape of the Skaze and their ability to suck light look like an indicator.

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4 hours ago, Debarra said:

Meanwhile Fjorden seems to thrive. We know it has what people in Arlene describe as the centre of culture and science. It seems very stable and the glimpses we see of it actually isn't that bad. The people there are free enough to continue their own religions or mixture of their original religion and Shu-Dereth. Historically as well just because a nobility has a different religion does not mean local belief is wiped out. Fjorden seems a preferable situation for both nations.

They allow other religions to survive in small quantities because they are busy conqureing everything else, Hrathen at one point straight up thinks about how once Aerlon and Teod fall they will "correct" all missunderstandings of Shu-Dereth.

3 hours ago, Debarra said:

Dakhor in general also seems needed. Fjorden is surrounded with countries with their own type of magic that they can use to defend themselves or to attack other people. What is Fjorden meant to do is Elantrians decide to attack the Duladel border for instance? Considering the fact we know the Elantrians did use their powers consistently for warfare in the past (hence the lack of an army at Arlene) it seems fair for Fjorden to also use their own type of magic to defend themselves. Sure Dakhor isn't great but there isn't a lot they can really do about it. It is what they are stuck with. To decry them as evil for it seems to just be blaming them due to where they happened to geographically live. Like if they just happened to have Elantrian magic instead then they'd no longer be evil? If that is the case then they really weren't evil in the first place.

Motive does not change the act. Murder is still wrong. Using human souls as a fuel source is wrong. Brainwashing people until they will commit suiside for you is wrong.

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The centre for arts and sciences was not Fjorden but Svorden, a mostly autonomous kingdom in the Fjordell Empire courtesy of its universities, which has a lot of soft power due to its long history as a centre for learning.

Hrathen does reminisce about the orchestration of the collapse of Duladel, those were not the actions of a peaceful nation. They actively claim their god is the one and only god and sought to conquer their entire continent and suppressed other religions. What happens in the Dakhor monastery also seemed pretty inhumane from Hrathen's perspective. We also see Dakhor monks in action: the line of execution in Kae, indoctrination to the point that they are willing to kill themselves. How some of them treat Seons is also pretty abhorrent.

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I think that, taken as a whole, the actions of the Fjorden can be classified as evil. This doesn't mean that every Fjorden individual is evil, of course - most of them are probably good people. Sanderson usually doesn't go for LOTR style black-and-white morality, thankfully; I'd be disappointed if there were no way to justify Fjorden's actions. Nevertheless, I think that Fjorden in general is one of his more obviously villainous groups. Let's list some of their actions:

- They se a magic system that depends on human sacrifice and the torture of youths

- Conversions to their religion are usually under the threat of violence

- Their religious dogma promotes a disturbingly extreme sense of nationalism and general Fjordell supremacy

- They're actively trying to conquer the world and subjugate all others to the Wyrn's will, in many cases with extreme violence

- They keep sentient minds (seons) in horrible conditions

- They change their own history to make themselves seem better, and release propaganda to their people

- And, most importantly, they were willing to exterminate entire cities full of innocent civilians because they did not share Fjordell religious beliefs

You can argue that some of these more extreme actions were not the intentions of the Wyrn, but it's heavily implied that they're what he wanted. He certainly did nothing to hold Dilaf back, anyway. So are all people from Fjorden evil? No. Hrathen's my favorite character in Elantris, in fact. But is the religion in general evil? I would say absolutely.

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I think somehow nobody has mentioned this yet, but Dilaf attempted genocide against the Elantrians. That seems pretty evil. Now the argument that Dilaf's actions were not supported by Wryn doesn't seem right to me. Maybe Wryn wasn't directly for genocide against Elantrians, but I have seen no indication whatsoever that Wryn was against it.

I also don't see evidence for the claims that Elantrians have consistently used their power for warfare in the past (I am not saying there isn't any, I just can't find it, so if you have it please supply it) – a lack of an Arlene army is not evidence for that, it is evidence that Arlene didn't need an army, which does suggest Elantrians were capable of defending themselves, but not attacking, or even that they consistently needed to defend themselves. Even if there was evidence, that would be an argument for old Elantrians not being good guys, not Fjordens not being bad guys.

Other than that, I think most of the other arguments I would have made have already come up, so again, if there is more evidence for Elantris using their power's for warfare, please let me know. 

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Wyrn possesses some form of futuresight; Brandon confirmed in the annotations that the scene with Fjon was intended to establish this. If he can see clearly enough to know that Hrathen is going to betray him with enough advance time to send an assassin to exactly the right place, there's no way he couldn't see Dilaf's genocidal plans coming and not do something about it... unless that's what he wanted to happen.

Also, Wyrn definitely knows what's up with the Dakhor monks because he was planning to send them against Elantris ten years prior to the events of the story but called it off when the Reod made it a moot point. There's basically no reason to think that Dilaf was lying when he said that Wyrn really wanted genocide, especially since he already has at least one on his hands.

Edited by Weltall
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I would say that Fjorden is clearly on the immoral side of the spectrum, but only slightly more so than many real-world examples of nations and religions trying to expand, wipe out other religions and institute their own, and commit genocides. If it wasn't for the human sacrifice magic to cement them as the 'evil guys', they would actually fit nicely in our own world. We obviously don't see the nations that used to do this as good anymore, but people definitely used to then, and the most popular religion even today is responsible for the annihilation of a lot of cultures and religions. Yes, that's all in the past, but we were a bit more savage in the past when life expectancy was a lot less than it is now. So calling Fjorden 'evil' seems a little odd to me considering how realistic they are in terms of motivation. And remember, we have only seen things from the Elantrians' side, who would be against anything Fjorden. Yes, we have seen the actions of Dilaf as he sacrifices someone to teleport five minutes away, but everyone on here has admitted he seems very much the exception to all this. 

On 12/28/2020 at 8:32 AM, Debarra said:

the people literally can't farm.

Why would they? They had people who could create food. We eventually aren't going to be farming one day, we'll be making machines for it instead. There are already some farms leaning toward that. So saying the Elantrian society was bad because their people can't farm isn't really a good point. Now, their dependence on Elantrians is a different issue, as not everyone can do what they do, and as we see, once the Elantrians are gone, things get bad, while us making machines is something anyone can eventually learn and do. However, I would still say that it wouldn't make sense for them to farm when food isn't something they are struggling for. It's why there are threads wondering how Goldminds will affect Scadrials medical technology because when they have the perfect cure-all, why try getting better medication? Now, I make the argument that this could end up helping improve that by letting them make leaps and bounds with less risk, so some of these can go both ways. If they don't need to spend much time farming, they can spend more time on other areas, or even make people working for food a more niche thing, like you need to pay for more high quality or exotic foods because regular food has become so cheap (Or is free, I vaguely remember the food being free in Elantris.)

Anyways, TL;DR, the people not knowing how to farm is not necessarily a bad thing, and as we see they pick up how to pretty fast, because farming is one of those things anyone can learn to do if need be, my mom grows food in her backyard. give her a few acres and make her focus mostly on that and she'd make a killing, or at least enough to feed herself and her neighbors.

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It feels darkly appropriate that I saw the post claiming that an invading nation 'aren't the bad guys' on Australia Day.

While I agree that the general population of Fjorden may not know about the sacrifices inherent in magic systems like Dakhor, as religious leader Wyrn almost certainly does.

It's been a little while since I read Elantris, but from memory Hrathen's attempts to convert the Arelene people to Shu-Dereth by demonising the Elantrians and a smattering of deceit was by infinitely kinder than their usual plan of 'kill everyone who disagrees' (emphasis on 'usual plan'). That doesn't sound like the actions of a 'good' nation. Perhaps the everyday citizens aren't evil, but the political system definitely seems like it.

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On 22/01/2021 at 9:43 PM, Rushu42 said:

- And, most importantly, they were willing to exterminate entire cities full of innocent civilians because they did not share Fjordell religious beliefs

Not to mention sending an army to massacre people in Teod after the king had accepted to make their religion the official state religion.

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