In The Buried Giant, most of the characters lack knowledge about their past and about themselves. A strange mist has fallen over them, and they cannot remember much about their lives or their relationships. Most people don’t seem to care all that much, but such is not the case for Axl and Beatrice. They seem to recall that they have a son, but they have lost all knowledge about what has happened to him. They can’t even remember his name. What’s more, they have lost many memories of each other and of their relationship.
Axl and Beatrice decide that they will set out to find their son and get back the knowledge they have lost in the mist. Along the way, they stop at a monastery where Beatrice seeks knowledge of a cure for the pain in her side. There they meet Friar Jonus, a monk who knows how to make healing remedies.
As the story progresses, we learn that the mist is caused by the dragon Querig, and if the dragon is killed, then people’s memories and knowledge will return to them. On the advice and request of some children, Axl and Beatrice take a poison goat up to the dragon’s lair. Sir Gawain, however, advises against killing the dragon. The mist is in place for a reason, namely, to provide peace between the Britons and the Saxons by making both sides forget that they hate each other. Wistan kills the dragon anyway.
Sure enough, people’s memories return, but not all the regained knowledge is pleasant. Axl and Beatrice remember that their son is dead. Axl recalls that King Arthur broke the treaty they had made. The couple also remembers the difficulties in their marriage, that Beatrice had once been unfaithful and that Axl had been harsh with her. They are forced to admit these things under the boatman’s questioning even though they do not care to regain this knowledge. The couple parts at the end of the story: Beatrice goes off to the mysterious island, and Axl walks away now knowing that their love is too damaged for them to be together.
The tools and methods for gaining knowledge in this story, then, are the courage to set out on a quest or journey to obtain knowledge, the consultation of experts like Father Jonus and Sir Gawain, the killing of the dragon, and the questioning that leads people to face and accept what they know.