The first narrator
The first narrator, a traveler (perhaps a knight) who comes upon the castle in the woods and joins the guests, who recount their tales through the medium of tarot cards. Weary from many recent trials and combats, the narrator feels unstable and confused in his perceptions. His confusion contributes, as the story unfolds, to his uncertainty about reading the various stories accurately. The uncertainty of reconstructing stories from emblematic representations, a dominant theme of the book, originates in this state of mind of the narrator.
The alchemist, who selects the King of Cups tarot card to represent himself. He is identified with Faust, and the tale of the bargain with the devil for the secret formula of gold begins with the alchemist’s reading of the Ace of Cups and the Popess cards, which conclude the tale of a knight who narrates before him. The alchemist challenges the others with his elliptical and allusive style in representing his story. The many symbolic possibilities of the cards he employs and the rich complexity of the Faust legend make his audience restless and impatient for clear exposition.
Roland, the mythical knight of the Charlemagne legend, who identifies himself with the King of Swords card. Roland is referred to as gigantic, moving his leaden arms and ironlike fingers slowly. Domineering and threatening, he hoards the most beautiful of the tarot cards for the colorful tale of his going mad in pursuit of Angelica. As he recounts his tale, Roland undergoes a visible transformation. Ending with...
(The entire section is 670 words.)