Demon Lord of Karanda, in conjunction with King of the Murgos, completely clears the plate of Eddings’s previous philosophy. We spent the first five books despising everything Angarak. Moments of sympathy to them were few and far between. Then came the sequel series and these two in particular. King of the Murgos utterly abolished the status quo. Then, Demon Lord of Karanda finished sweeping it clear and setting up a new structures. Very literally in this case. Initially published in 1988, it’s no surprise that the titular demon is the antagonist, considering the state of the Cold War. Let’s get into it.
Spoilers for all of Demon Lord of Karanda and all Eddings’s Previous Work.
So, What Happened?
The book starts out with Garion and company en route to Zakath. Belgarath is blase about Cyradis’s betrayal. Durnik doesn’t share Belgarath’s passivity regarding Toth, and the friendship between them becomes strained. Zandramas tries to destroy Ce’Nedra’s mind through magic, but Polgara detects it. In driving Zandramas out, Polgara discovers that Zandramas is hiding in Ashaba, the house where Torak once lived. They arrive at Rak Hagga, and Garion reveals to Zakath that Urgit is not Taur Urgas’s son. This sparks a profound depression in Zakath.
Brador, one of Zakath’s ministers, tells Garion and Belgarath that a man leading an army of demons has appeared in Karanda. Mengha attacked one city and then managed to almost unite the entire nation. This highly disturbs Belgarath. Between Garion blowing up a wall and assistance from Cyradis, they convince Zakath to return to Mallorea. Garion and Zakath become friendly. Zakath shows no inclination of allowing them to leave Mal Zeth once they arrive. Silk, Sadi, and Velvet engineer a distraction for when they sneak out. However, just as the plot is about to break loose, a plague arrives in Mal Zeth.
They barely escape from the city, and are joined by Beldin, in disguise. They travel to Ashaba, where they find that Zandramas left several months ago. However, they find that Urvon is present. They discover that Urvon’s underling Harakin is Mengha. Harakin raised demons to serve Urvon’s purpose, because Urvon believes himself to be the reincarnation of Torak. Zandramas baits Garion into showing his presence. He, Belgarath, Beldin, Durnik, Polgara, and Eriond, face off against Nahaz, a demon lord. Something drives Nahaz away, taking Urvon with him. Once they leave Ashaba, on Zandramas’s trail once more, they see the effects that the demons have had on Karanda.
Mallorea and its Underlying Mechanisms
Mallorea and the Soviet Union
In 1988, the Soviet Union began to collapse. The smaller countries began to sue for independence, from Azerbaijon to Belarus, to the Ukraine. The nationalist uprisings that sparked this lead to panic in Moscow, and the country inched slowly towards dissolution and democracy. While the complete collapse would only come three years later, by September of 1988, when Demon Lord of Karanda was first published, you could see the hints of a nation falling apart. Not just a nation, but a system of ideology. (For a full list of countries that started to fight against the Union part of the Soviet Union, go here.)
Hmm… It’s difficult to tell what that’s reminiscent of…
As Brador remarked to Belgarath and Garion, the Western Countries don’t really know much about Mallorea and the way it functions. The readers get a glimpse at the formation of Mallorea in the prologue, but it’s still obscure. The conquest of the petty kingdoms, rise of the petty kings, the subjugation of the Dals, and the conversion of the entire continent to the worship of Torak is a story that would take an entire book to tell. But the story Eddings gives us rings true to various facets of the historical time that his initial readers would know about.
Mallorea as both Capitalist and Communist
One of the truly interesting things that happens in this book is the revealing of Mal Zeth. It’s a city described as, “stretch[ing] not for miles, but for leagues … and the buildings gleamed—not with marble … but rather with an intensely gleaming, thick white mortar.” (617). Once Garion and company reach it, Brador and Zakath explain that the people live in buildings based on rank. The Bureau of Promotions handles assigning civilians rank. The difference between the plain infantry houses, and the somewhat more elaborate sergeants houses is stark. The officer’s houses surpass both of those by leagues.
But rank can also be purchased, as Silk and Yarblek did in setting up their Mallorean offices. Zakath even says that, “We aren’t really all that different from the people in the West, Durnik … People gravitate to the houses and shops and marriages they can afford. We’ve just formalized it, that’s all.” (623).
To clarify, the people of Mal Zeth live in government built housing, and the government determines which house they can live in. It’s heavily reminiscent of communist philosophy. However, unlike the Soviet Union, the Mallorean housing respects rank, which is determined by wealth or military standing. That reminds the reader more of capitalist philosophy. Zakath’s comment about people gravitating to what they can afford serves to drive that point home. Mallorea, as presented to us now, serves as a blend of capitalist and communist philosophy. If Eddings wrote this story even half a decade ago, it would no be like this. The Malloreans would just be more Murgos.
Now, with the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse, now there can be overtures of peace. Now, Zakath can be someone other than an enemy. Silk is still wary, but Zakath considers Garion a friend by the time Garion leaves.
Negative Power Structures
Zandramas and Arshag
As mentioned in the previous article, Eddings begins to change his philosophy. He carved out a place where Angaraks can be other than evil, provided they exist outside certain power structures. *cough, communism, cough*. Provided that an Angarak is not a member of the Grolim priesthood, then Eddings allows them to be fully human, rather than the embodiment of all things evil.
Cyradis’s first appearance reinforces this. She tells Zakath and Garion about the Sardion. She follows it up with, “The Grolims all know this. Urvon would give all his wealth for it. Zandramas would abandon the adoration of multitudes for it. Mengha would give his soul for it. … Even Agachak, … would abandon his ascendancy in Cthol Murgos to possess it.” (607). All of the people that she lists are Grolims. All of them seek the Sardion, the Orb’s evil opposite. Zandramas serves as the first and greatest of those, as the new Child of Dark. But all of those mentioned are cast as evil.
Arshag, by contrast, is a separate kind of evil. He’s the Grolim that taught Harakin how to summon demons. Arshag learned from a Karandese magician how to summon Nahaz. After he taught Harakin to do so, Harakin wanted to kill Arshag. However, Nahaz convinced him not to, because Nahaz had other things he wanted from Arshag. The demon lord convinced Arshag to bring Karandese women to the demon’s bed. Nahaz wanted to sire a race of half-demons.
Arshag started as a Grolim, yes, but he became a servant of a greater evil. While one could argue that Grolims served the evil that was Torak, even Torak shied away from demons. Torak attempted to eradicate demon-worship by contrast. Arshag’s example proves how Grolims began in an evil state, but that they can become worse.
Harakin, the Hound of Torak, and Mengha the Demon Lord’s Conspirator
We first met Harakin in Guardians of the West, where he carried out Urvon’s plot to stop Garion and Ce’Nedra from having children. He created the problems they all had with the Bear Cult. Now, he re-emerges in Demon Lord of Karanda as Mengha. Initially, we think that Mengha is a new evil. It’s only after Cyradis gives her speech, quoted above, that we discover he used to be a Grolim.
After this discovery, Belgarath lays out a prospective story about how Mengha became a demon-worshiper. He infuses it with his story-teller flair, speaking of the debauchery Mengha would reach in the height of his religious despair. Torak died after all. No priest responds well to the death of a god. Belgarath’s assumption that the demon-worshiping arose out of religious despair reinforces the idea that now only Grolims are evil.
Harakin’s actual character complicates that somewhat. Yes, he is a Grolim, and yes, he does start out serving Urvon faithfully. Beldin calls him a dog at several points, for his loyalty to his master. But, upon meeting Arshag, we discover that Harakin is just using Urvon as a front. Harakin doesn’t want Urvon as the new god of Angarak. His plot with the demon Nahaz is to turn the Sardion over to him. Harakin wants to be the ruler of the world, the head of the church, not just a lackey. All of this drives his actions as Mengha
Harakin’s actual plot shows us the descent into further evil that Arshag’s story reinforces. But Harakin also shows the infighting in the Grolim community. The Grolims aren’t just evil, they’re selfish as well, and that selfishness drives them deeper into evil. Eddings says they had the chance to leave the Grolim power structures, but they simply began in-fighting. That in-fighting lead to the demonic evil that Garion and company spend this book fighting.
Demon Lord of Karanda shows us a world that’s collapsing in on itself. The Grolims are evil and fighting among themselves. The Malloreans have developed a blend of capitalism and communism. Eddings even managed to humanize Zakath, who flayed entire Murgo cities. But it’s hard to deny that this book has something of an antagonist problem.
Mengha, Nahaz, and the plague are the closest that this book has to a concrete antagonist. But Harakin dies two-thirds through the story, and Nahaz appeared in one chapter and then fled. The plague, while horrifying, doesn’t strike any of our main heroes. Zandramas hasn’t shown up in physical form yet. We see her shadow in Ashaba, and she tries to control Ce’Nedra, but we’ve never seen her in the flesh.
There’s a reason that this happens. We have shadowy antagonists because of the changes that Eddings makes. We don’t have a Zedar or a Torak, or a Taur Urgas to hate, because they’re all dead. Zandramas, apart from kidnapping Geran is a non-entity. The confrontation between the Child of Light and the Child of Dark can’t happen in the middle of the series after all.
This shift from literal, tangible foes, to the literal plague, and a figurative plague of demons results from the philosophical changes. If this was the first book in the series, we would hate Urgit, we would hate Zakath, and we hated their predecessors. However, because Eddings wanted to make the Angaraks more human, we can’t hate them the way we did Zedar and Taur Urgas. The non-human antagonists is part and parcel of this change. The aftermath of a war, even a cold one, is always hard to pick up the pieces of.