The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Till We Have Faces purports to be the life narrative of Queen Orual of the ancient kingdom of Glome, which she wrote so that others might understand her relationship to her sister Istra, usually called Psyche, and to the gods of her people. Orual (sometimes called Maia by Psyche) is the eldest daughter of Trom, the king of Glome, who treats her badly because she is not male and is ugly. He comes to rely on her intelligence. She is taught by a Greek slave, the Fox, who knows Greek philosophy well and is a father figure to her and to her younger sister Psyche, a beautiful, loving child. Orual herself mothers Psyche, who is motherless; the middle sister, Redival, is wayward and unloving.

When Glome is threatened by pestilence and surrounding kingdoms, the priest of Ungit, the chief deity of the land, demands that Psyche be sacrificed to him by being left chained to a tree in the wilderness to be the bride of a supposed monster, the Shadowbrute. Orual is heartbroken. When she travels with Bardia, the chief palace guard, to recover her sister’s remains several months after the sacrifice, she is surprised to find Psyche alive, well, and living in a palace that only Psyche can see. Bardia, the Fox, and Orual are convinced that Psyche must be both mad and a victim of some brute who has taken her as a mistress. Psyche insists that her husband is a god, but she must never see his face. Orual asks Psyche to use a candle to look at her husband, and Psyche...

(The entire section is 529 words.)