On the Nine Bright Shiners

I’ve been re-reading a lot of the Old Kingdom trilogy (by Garth Nix) recently, a chapter or two (or ten) before I sleep. I seem to always, always gravitate towards it when looking for a nice comfort read. None of it is a “comfort book” by any means, but it’s just really nice to get back to. To escape to.

That said though, one of the things that continue to fascinate me even with multiple readings are how the Charters and Shiners and everything is woven together, and the stuff we don’t know. It’s quite provocative, keeps me thinking and trying to piece everything together, but I never seem to get everything down pat.

(Warning: quite spoilery!)

So we know that there are the Nine Bright Shiners, the first seven of which created the charter and whose power is also in the bells. Five of them gave themselves up to the charter, and two gave up most of their powers but kept their consciousness (more or less) intact. This coincides with the nursery rhyme first encountered in Sabriel:

“Five Great Charters knit the land,
Together linked, hand in hand.
One in the people who wear the crown,
Two in the folk who keep the Dead down,
Three and Five became stone and mortar,
Four sees all in frozen water.”

From what the Disreputable Dog says, as well as their journey down the well in Abhorsen’s House, we know that the two Shiners who still have some form of consciousness in the Old Kingdom are Kibeth (the Dog herself, the Walker) and Astarael (the being down the well, the Sorrowful). Which means that the five Shiners who gave themselves up would be Ranna the Sleeper, Mosrael the Waker, Dyrim the Speaker, Belgaer the Thinker, and Saraneth the Binder.

Now comes the confusing part. Did the five mix up their powers (like in a huge vat) and then partitioned it to five and infused their (collective) powers into the Great Charters? Or did they put their powers into a specific Great Charter, thus having that Charter take on a couple of their strengths? The latter seems likely, as from the book we see that when the Dog barks, the dead and Free Magic constructs walk, synonymous with her title, “the Walker” (she also likes walks, too). However, if this is the case, why did Hedge call the Abhorsen “Astarael’s Get”? If Astarael retained consciousness (which she did) then she can’t be one of the five Shiners who gave themselves up to the Charter.

Obviously the next step would be to look at the symbolism of the Bloodlines representing the Five during the second binding of Orannis in Abhorsen, but even this can be a little vague. During the second binding, we have:

  1. Ranna, represented by Touchstone (King)
  2. Mosrael, represented by Sanar and Ryelle (Clayr)
  3. Kibeth/Dog, who stood for herself
  4. Dyrim, represented by Ellimere (future Queen)
  5. Belgaer, represented by Sameth (Wallmaker)
  6. Saraneth, represented by Sabriel (Abhorsen)
  7. Astarael, represented by Lirael (Remembrancer, Abhorsen-in-Waiting)

Since Lirael says that there will be a bell which speaks to the person for the binding, we can assume that the bell speaks to the Charter in the wielder’s blood. This looks good especially for the Sabriel/Saraneth pairing; and to a lesser extent, Mosrael for the Clayr (waking dreams/prophecies) and Belgaer for Sam/the Wallmaker (the Thinker, creating things). It even makes a bit of sense that Lirael stands for Astarael. But Ranna/Dyrim is a puzzler. Touchstone says that Ranna speaks to him as it’s “appropriate” given that he’s slept for a long time; and, both Touchstone and Ellimere has the Blood of the Crown.

However, given that in the “supposed” timeline (before Kerrigor messed it up), Touchstone was not going to be the King, maybe we can safely say that Ellimere’s blood is stronger in terms of representing the Crown. Since Two of the Great Charters are the Wall the the Stones, which do Ranna and Belgaer stand for? I’ve read (not entirely sure of the origin) that the other Wallmakers became Charter Stones themselves. Does that mean Sameth/Wallmaker/Belgaer = Charter Stones?

Shiner Title Charter representation Second binding avatar
Ranna Sleeper Charter Stones? The Wall? Touchstone
Mosrael Waker Clayr Sanar/Ryelle
Kibeth Walker
Dyrim Speaker Crown Ellimere
Belgaer Thinker Charter Stones? The Wall? Sameth (Wallmaker)
Saraneth Binder Abhorsen Sabriel
Astarael Sorrowful Lirael

But that still doesn’t explain why Abhorsens are called Astarael’s Get, and which of the Charter specifically received Ranna and Belgaer’s power. There must be something here I’m missing. Maybe the prequel/sequel to the current trilogy will shed some light into this?