Short opinion: Other books in the series make the point that war is not a chess game. This book emphasizes that idea—through showing us what it takes to view war as a chess game.
The Ellimist Chronicles might be the novel with the single largest scope of any book I’ve ever read: it tells the story of how a god becomes a god. Part of what makes this book so cool and also so creepy is the sense of fatalism and foreboding that pervades it throughout. Between the Ketrans, the Pangabans, the Jallians, and the Capasins, not to mention all the species casually sacrificed in the Ellimist’s games, we see like 8 different sentient species go extinct over the course of this book. Add to that the fact that it opens and closes on the death of an Animorph—no telling which one at that point in the series—and this book almost appears to be setting up for the fall of humanity to the yeerk empire. And our narrator is not the most reassuring one: he expresses empathy for Rachel, yes, but he also plays the yeerk-human war like a game, and we know for a fact that he wouldn’t be unduly inconvenienced if the humans were to lose. Which is pretty goshdarn uncomfortable to read about, because in this particular game we’re the pawns.
It’s a huge theme in the Animorphs series that war is NOT a chess game, or even comparable to a chess game (or any other game for that matter) in any meaningful way, not if you’re even a halfway-decent person. War is about deciding which people from your own side should die horribly in the process of attempting to ensure which people from the other side die horribly, a course of action that should only be undertaken as an absolute last resort after all other choices have been exhausted. The idea that it’s not even appropriate or good to make that comparison comes up again and again (MM3, #11, #16, Andalite Chronicles). In #53 Jake sums it up: “At the beginning of the American Civil War, both sides thought the war was about taking or holding cities and ports. They thought it was a chess game. By the end of the war, they’d figured out that they weren’t playing chess… The real game was destruction…They burned enemy homes and farms. They burned crops in the field and slaughtered farm animals and wrapped railroad tracks around trees. They starved the enemy. They realized that warfare was no longer about chivalry and honor, but about killing the enemy. Do whatever it takes… Dress it up however you want, that’s what war is about. If there’s glory in there somewhere, I must have missed it.”
Jake is right, of course, that he’s not playing a chess game. At that point in the series, he’s deciding whether he’s willing to kill his brother and sacrifice his cousin in order to protect his species. He’s already made the decision to give up on saving his parents in order to blow up the yeerk pool. These are his family members and friends on the line, not rooks or bishops… and no matter what he does, some of them are going to die. Jake’s also a decent human being, enough to realize that the taxxons have families too, that many of them are not there by choice, but that’s the only way he has out of this situation: kill the enemy.
Anyway, back to the Ellimist. Who can experience the devastation of losing his own species for decades after the death of the ketrans, but doesn’t spare more than a moment of annoyance for the annihilation of the pangabans. Who exists so far above the lives and concerns of ordinary beings that he can see their entire existence playing out in a matter of seconds. Who is so far removed from those ordinary lives that he is largely incapable of understanding them at all. He doesn’t have family members on the line, he doesn’t see the world through the taxxons’ eyes—and he’s therefore just ruthless enough to destroy six children in order to save a species that he considers worth saving. Jake might be horrified that Crayak uses child-soldiers as his ultimate weapon (#26) but also seems to overlook the fact that the Ellimist uses EXACTLY THE SAME TACTIC when he recruits the Animorphs.
It’s obvious right from the very first book that the Animorphs universe isn’t run by a benevolent or all-powerful god. What makes this book so mind-blowing is that it shows that the god of this universe is powerful, he’s well-intentioned… and he’s still not only very limited, but also kind of a jerk a lot of the time. Toomin does his best to encourage species to thrive and grow as they naturally would, he shows enormous fondness for the infinite variations of life in the universe, and he does what he can to protect life in the universe.
He also just happens to be condescending as fuck.
The narration of The Ellimist Chronicles does a really good job of showing why, exactly, Toomin tends to think of ordinary beings as “small” or “helpless,” since he watches the rise and fall of entire civilizations in about one subjective afternoon most of the time—but he also spends a hell of a lot of time describing the hardworking autonomous people whose lives he casually manipulates as “tiny” or some synonym thereof. There’s no obligation or external stricture which says that he has to care about ordinary beings—and indeed Crayak seems much more comfortable not caring at all—so one can appreciate how much he works at it. However, he also doesn’t quite get to the level of thinking of humans as (for lack of a better term) fully human: they’re chess pieces, he moves them around, and if he has to sacrifice a few then oh well. He doesn’t ask whether they’d like to be moved in advance, he doesn’t incessantly turn over possibilities until he finds the one with the least bloodshed, and he certainly doesn’t have a long conversation with Rachel about whether she’s willing to die before it happens. He sees possibilities and acts on them. Because he’s a gamer, and they are game pieces. Who cares what a knight thinks, as long as it’s not in the trajectory of the opposing bishop?
Toomin tries, to be sure, but he doesn’t think like a human leader and he doesn’t treat his “pieces” like equals or even underlings. He might even know Cassie’s favorite bands or Jake’s scoring record in basketball (who knows?) but he probably doesn’t consider that information to be particularly important. Because he’s a gamer, to his core, and he thinks like a gamer. And Jake and Cassie are just NPCs to him.
Video games (and to a lesser extent tabletop games) represent this odd nebulous space whose meaning tends to defy interpretation. The questions that everyone from social psychologists to communication researchers to philosophers to television shows to gamers themselves have asked (What, if anything, does one’s in-game behavior say about one’s true personality? Does performing certain behaviors in-game influence one’s habits in the real world? How much does shooting a person during a game have to do with one’s actual willingness to shoot a person if put in that situation in real life?) reflect the sheer bizarre extremity of in-game behavior. Because the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of people engage in utterly reprehensible actions while playing games that they would never engage in during real interactions. I myself have crashed spaceships into planets, driven cars off the road using my own vehicle, stabbed people in the gut, and shot unarmed prisoners in the head—because it’s all part of the game. And it’s just a game, right? Who cares how I win?
If those were real people, they’d sure as hell care. If I was a general who only thought of a war as like a game, I’d be no better than Visser Three. (One of the better moments of dark humor in Visser: the Council of Thirteen considers sympathy for humans a crime punishable by death and execution of several thousand underlings a crime punishable by temporary exile.) In a lot of ways, Toomin’s perspective on humans has more in common with the yeerks’ or even Crayak’s. He needs people like Jake and Rachel and Elfangor and Arbron to win this war for him.
So, yeah, Toomin is a gamer—and it’s almost a natural consequence that he throws lives away any time it’s convenient for him. He’s not human, he’s not an andalite, and he doesn’t appreciate individuals the way he does entire species. K.A. Applegate achieves a masterwork by not only giving us the realistic-feeling origin story of a god, but doing so in a way that creates rules which genuinely fit with the Animorphs world as we know it.
One question why is their a large lack of large scale big knight orders like the knights templar knights hospitaler and Teutonic Knights even warhammer has the down with the reiksguard knights of the white wolf and knights of Moore so for example I think their would be say a knights of the golden lion and you should make up orders for all the kingdoms
Ok, well you’ve pushed me into it…
The Vale: The Brotherhood of Winged Knights, natch. Seven knights to honor the Seven. Chosen by a tourney of no less than 77 applicants to guard the King of the Mountain and Vale for seven years. To honor the memory of Artys Arryn’s victory, the Brotherhood have a custom of insisting that any Arryn who takes the field of battle must don an eighth set of the armor and livery of the Brotherhood, to ensure that his enemies cannot spy him out. And hey, let’s go nuts and say that the Winged Knights are especially feared for their horse-frightening harnesses.
The Riverlands: The Order of the Trident. One of the more recent chivalric orders in Westeros, the Order of the Trident was founded by House Teague in order to bolster their hold on their newly-won kingdom. By their original charter, the knights of the Trident were charged with maintaining the peace on the “roads and rivers of our kingdom,” which led to the construction of many chapter houses at fords and other intersections where travelers could sleep protected - in more recent centuries following the fall of House Teague, many of these chapter houses were abandoned and later converted into inns. This charter also requires each member to maintain a shallow-drafted warship of no less than 10 oars a side, which may explain their ceremonial weapons. Notably, rather than implicitly stating it, only members of the Faith of the Seven are allowed to join, which is why no Blackwood has ever participated and why every single generation of Brackens have held membership (with no less than a dozen grand-masters among them). According to rumor, the Order may have been instrumental behind-the-scenes in many of the rebellions against those rulers who succeeded the Teagues to the crown of the Riverlands - which is probably false…
The Westerlands: The Grand and Most Puissant Order of the Golden Mane. Unlike most orders of chivalry in Westeros, the Order of the Golden Mane was primarily not a martial order - rather, the Order was established during the reign of King Norwin Lannister as a means of raising revenue, with membership dues being originally listed at 100 grains of pure gold annually. In exchange for their dues, members were granted knighthoods if they did not already have them, but also a number of privileges including the right to be tried only by the Order, the right to arbitration by the Order in all disputes between fellow members, and even the right to advise the king on “weighty matters.” During the rule of Tytos Lannister, these privileges were badly abused by dozens of social climbers, leading to the diminishment of the order’s prestige and an increase in public disorder, as many used the order’s immunity from normal criminal procedure as a shield against Casterly Rock itself. Shortly before the Reynes of Castamere, Tywin Lannister raised the membership fee to five times the member’s body-weight in gold, and then took advantage of a number of sudden vacancies to have the order declared extinct due to lack of quorum.
The Reach: since the Order of the Green Hand is taken, let’s talk about the Lady Companions of the Blessed Maris. Given the Reach’s love affair with tourneys, pageants, dances, and other social occasions, someone has to do the organizing of the social calendar, otherwise the whole thing goes haywire and vendettas set up. Guided by an inner circle of noblewomen who can trace their descent to Maris the Maid, Rowan Goldenhair, or Ellyn Ever-Sweet (all women of acceptable moral purity, although of course the Gardener Queen was always given a position out of respect for Highgarden), the Lady Companions make sure that each seat of note is appropriately honored with fetes, that there are always enough tourneys to keep the knights occupied while ensuring decent attendance at each, and that enough mixed-gender events are held to ensure that the right young ladies meet the right young men. While the Green Hand may have perished on the field of battle, the work of the Lady Companions continue to this day, although there was much grumbling when a certain Tyrell claimed the Gardener Seat for her house on the grounds that Aegon had deeded Highgarden to them.
The Stormlands: The Ancient and Most Honorable Guild of Castlewrights. While the origins of the Guild are lost to legend and myth (some tales claim that the founders of the guild were the assistants of the mysterious Brandon who built the final castle of Storm’s End), the Stormlands takes the construction of castles more seriously than any other realm. To that end, the Durrandon kings gave (in addition to the honor of knighthood) this order the “responsibility for inspecting and maintaining the castles of my kingdom,” along with some fairly wide-ranging powers to commandeer labor and materials to make repairs when necessary for the defense of the realm. Over the centuries, the Guild turned into an order of knights who were experts both in the construction of castles and siegecraft. Many a seemingly desperate siege was won or lost due to the presence of a single Guildman using their authority to take over direction of assault or defense of the castle, especially in the Marches. Famously, the Guildmen take an oath never to allow themselves to be captured alive, lest they be tortured into revealing their occult wisdom.
Dorne: The Knights of the Wells. If there is anything that unites the often fractious peoples of Dorne, it is their common love of horse-riding. Thus, to keep their people happy and distracted, the Martells have organized both hippodrome races and cross-country races for the better part of a thousand years. Recruited from among the ranks of the winners, the Knights of the Wells were trained in the arts of cartography by maesters from Sunspear, given the best sand steeds that the Martells can buy and, formally, charged with little more than accurately mapping the oft-foreboding terrain of Dorne. Informally, the Knights of the Wells were the Martells’ best spies and scouts, who use their superior knowledge of the land to guide the armies of Dorne and track the armies of her enemies, and many wars have been won (or lost) because of the bravery and cunning of these swordless knights. Membership in the Wells is a dangerous proposition, however - both in Aegon’s War and Daeron’s, the order saw casualties of more than nine in ten of their members, with the Targaryens frequently posting lavish bounties for their deaths. Indeed, it was a significant provision of Daeron II’s treaty that the Martells were forbidden from re-establishing the Knights of the Wells, although some claim the order continues in secret…
Idgaf who you are. If I decide I like you enough to suck your dick, please feel free to do ANY of the following:
❤️ Hold my hair back (bonus points for you).
💛 Rub my shoulders/arms.
💚 Put your hands behind your head.
💙 Relax your arms by your side.
💜 Play patty cake.
❤️ Hold your phone.
💛 Clap your hands.
💜 Do the YMCA dance.
❤️ Play tiddly winks.
💛 Rub your belly and pat your head at the same time.
💚 Solve a rubix cube.
💙 Do a crossword puzzle.
💜 Pretend your a caterpillar.
So very many options, right??? Basically you’re welcome to do anything your little heart desires, EXCEPT grabbing and/or pushing my head down.
Trust me, if I just so happen to be cool with you fucking my face, don’t worry, you will be the very first to know (And you’ll know bc I’ll inform you of such).
However, if I don’t give you permission to do so, it’s incredibly, terribly, horribly, awfully, obnoxiously rude to assume that I’m just gonna be completely okay with having a dick jammed down my throat and into my esophagus. I swear to god, if you try to I will fucking bite your dick as hard as I possibly can.
As a feminist, the word chivalry makes me cringe. ‘Courage, daring, nerve and chivalry’, the traits Gryffindor valued, are nothing else than the Code of Chivalry. I have the feeling most fans don’t really know anything about Knights. I’ll just say this: “kindness” and “chivalry” are not synonyms.