The Buried Giant

Kazuo Ishiguro in The Buried Giant has written a novel that is reminiscent of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It is the journey of Axl and Beatrice, two elderly Briton’s, to find their son, whom they can hardly remember due to a mist that afflicts post-Arthurian Britain. The mist of forgetfulness is an enchantment that emanates from a dragon left by Merlin to keep the peace between the Britons and the Saxons. A theme of the novel is the comparison of the virtue of remembering painful things versus forgetting them. It is personified in the characters of the Saxon warrior Wistan and the last of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain. The former wishes to slay the dragon and seek revenge on the Britons who slew Saxon women and children, and the latter who defends the dragon for breaking the cycle of retribution.

Axl has forgotten that he was an emissary of peace in his youth and that he confronted Arthur during the wars. Their son turns out to have died in a plague and their journey is toward their own deaths. The mist of forgetfulness may be the loss of memory that comes with aging. The Buried Giant may be a symbol of Death.

They encounter on their journey demonic beasts, pixies, ogres, good and bad monks.  Their love for each other keeps them going and is rewarded by their reaching the shore where a boatman will take them to the island (Elysium?) if the bond between them is pure. The boatman’s duty is to question all who wish to cross to the island to see if their most cherished memories reveal what truly lies in their hearts. “When travelers speak of their most cherished memories it’s impossible for them to disguise the truth.”

This is a fable of life which is presented as a dangerous journey toward death accompanied by those who would help you and those who would harm you. While God and Christ are mentioned the power of the Gospel to forgive, guide and protect is not. Central to the Gospel is the belief that Christ “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light” (2 Timothy 1:10). “Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).