Prompt: Blog post on Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Image credit: Brett Davies

What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? What are stories and where do they come from? How do stories reflect on and respond to the world? How does the way that they are told change the story? Change its value? What role do naming, articulating, embellishing, stirring up, digesting, juggling, and the many other verbs for storytelling play in how people take in and respond to the world?

Reflect on these questions as you read chapters 6-9 of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Choose a short passage, type it into your comment, and then write a 200-250 word close reading and reflection on how the way that the passage is written (the imagery, tone, allusions, metaphors, sentence length, word choice, punctuation, etc) contributes to your interpretation of the novel’s style and themes. Post your comment by 11:59 on Sunday 6/29 and come to class prepared to respond to two of your classmates’ comments.

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14 thoughts on “Prompt: Blog post on Haroun and the Sea of Stories

  1. It occurred to Haroun that Blabbermouth’s juggling reminded him of the greatest performances given by his father, Rashid Khalifa, the Shah of Blah. ‘I always thought storytelling was like juggling,’ he finally found the voice to say. ‘You keep a lot of different tales in the air, and juggle them up and down, and if you’re good you don’t drop any. So maybe juggling is a kind of storytelling, too.’

    In the story, Rushdie compares storytelling to juggling. I think this is a valid comparison as in storytelling, especially if it is an intricate one, the teller must keep all the story lines straight and with juggling the juggler must keep tract of all the balls. In Haroun and the Sea of Stories not only is this seen in what Haroun says about his father but in the story itself. The fact that there are parallels in characters between the real world and Kahani, such as the bus driver Butt and the bird Butt and Mr. Sengupta and Khattam-shud, shows a type of juggling. Also the existence of two worlds existing and interacting with each other is exemplary of this. “Juggling” in a story creates a more interesting and interactive story. I think it also resembles what happens in real life and better reflects the world. There is always more than one side to a story and everyday we are interacting with various people. If someone wanted to tell the whole, true story of something that happened more than just their point of view would need to be included if it involved other people. This helps shape my view of the novel’s style as it possibly suggests to the reader what Rushdie thinks of storytelling.

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  2. “What a whirring of whirrers and stirring of stirrers, what ranks of lifters and banks of sifters, what a hummering of squeezers and thrumming of freezers was there!” (159).

    In this passage, the “Poison Blenders” machines are being described after Haroun and Iff are captured. Khattam-Shud leads them down the Dark Ship and Haroun and Iff are amazed by the machinery Far Too Complicated to Describe. In this passage, Salman Rushdie writes in a playful tone, using rhymes and alliterations to create a sense of childish wonder in what Haround was seeing. The passage is written in a light, non-serious tone, although it describes the “poison blenders” that are corrupting the fresh story water. The story-water and the corruption of the story water may be an allusion to worldly issues, such as violations of free speech or corruption in politics. This contributes to the style Rushdie uses in writing this novel. Rushdie uses a fairy tale-like tone that makes readers feel as if they are being told a children’s story through light and fun poetic elements, but at the same time, pointing out serious issues that we may be facing in the real world.

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  3. The first paragraph on page 113. “Here’s another Princess Rescue Story I’m getting mixed up in…”
    Rushdie starts this chapter off by bringing up another story in which Haroun is getting mixed up in. He uses the stories as a way to keep the readers loose throughout. After writing ‘The Satanic Verses’, I feel as if he had a lot of fear in him. He had the fear of people coming at him again so he decided to make a book which is not as offensive and imaginative. His use of commas to insert a phrase is used quite often throughout his book. Everyone uses it when they write, but I feel as if he uses it more than others. By using this, instead of parenthesis, it makes it easier to get across more information in his stories. This also makes me re read the passage another time at first, but after a while I got used to it and it does make me feel more engaged in the reading. I feel more engaged because it is like a curveball to me. The use of the commas is helpful in ways and it is used repetitively throughout his chapters.

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  4. “Haroun watched the Pages jostling and arguing and shaking their fists in the air and tripping each other up, just to be awkward, and remarked: ‘It doesn’t seem like a very disciplined army to me.’ ‘You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,’ snapped Blabbermouth, after which (evidently a little put out) she announced she couldn’t wait for Haroun any longer,”(114)

    In this passage Haroun is observing an army and Blabbermouth is telling him to not judge a book by its cover. This is one example of how Rushdie plays with language. The phrase ‘You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ is a play on words. It is also used creatively because the army is literally made out of pages and chapters like books. Another thing that I noticed from the reading is that Rushdie uses very playful language that we do not always understand. I think one of Rushdies intentions is to show readers how a story can be interpreted a million ways regardless of the writer’s intentions. Haroun is also starting to believe and see the necessity of story telling and how storytelling was his father’s life, and without it he doesn’t know what to do. I think this leads to how a persons stories is also their identities and that is why is necessary.

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  5. “And the point has come at which it’s no longer possible to tell which is Khattam-Shud’s Shadow and which his substantial Self– because he has done what no other Chupwala has ever dreamt of– that is, he has separated himself from his Shadow!” (133)

    Rushdie’s fanciful novel at this point is increasingly urgent and although it retains its whimsical nature, it is as serious by plot development as any real story. The quote above is used to describe Khattam-Shud’s achievement as understood by the Shadow Warrrior and is delivered in two parts for dramatic effect. The main focus of the sentence concerns itself with Khattam-Shud’s separation of body and shadow and the interjection in between exclaims that it was something not even Chupwalas could have imagined. The dramatic effect is achieved through the use of dashes to separate the two parts of the sentence. Therefor the sandwiched exclamation from the point of view of the Chupwalas is given a sense of importance necessary to warrant insertion in the middle of the sentence. The exclamation point at the end ties in the two parts neatly and forcefully as it finishes drawing a concept of Khattam-Shud in the reader’s imagination. Also I would like to parallel this with the dangers of literal readings of fiction which can separate its underlying meaning with its literal self and severely distort its value often times in a negative effect. Supporters of censorship and book burning have tendencies toward behavior such as this and as the novel will reveal, that it usually has negative consequences.

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  6. “In the old days the Cultmaster, Khattam-Shud, preached hatred only towards stories and fancies and dreams; but now he has become more severe, and opposes Speech for any reason at all. In Chup City the schools and law-courts and theatres are all closed now, unable to operate because of the Silence Laws.” (Rushdie 101)

    In this passage Rashid is discussing the history of Khattam-Shud to the royal court as well as Haroun and the Walrus. The discussion of Khattam-Shud’s history alone clearly displays some undertones of a discussion on sensorship as can be seen through Khattam-Shud’s hatred of stories. But this passage also displays Rushdie’s sense that censorship is growing in power as can be seen through the examples of “schools and Law-courts and theatres” all being shut down thanks to this one man’s hatred for one aspect of life. Throughout the passage Rushdie utilizes very real world things, such as courts and schools in order to create some sort of realistic attributes to an otherwise fanciful world. Examples like these also allow for Rushdie to critique the censorship laws in which he was forced to deal with after writing The Satanic Verses, without literally writing an entire book based literally on a rebuttal against these censorship laws. Rushdie’s contrast between the land of free-speech that is Gup, and the land in which censorship and silence has been able to run rampant and control everything, Chup, also displays Rushdie’s arguments against censoring any kind of free-speech due to the fact it causes for stories to die and not be able to grow and evolve as is seen through the depiction of the Sea of Stories where while it once was thriving and blue, is slowly starting to lose its color and power with the influence of the censoring powers of Khattam-Shud.

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  7. While reading chapters six through nine, one of the passages that caught my eye was on page one-hundred thirteen. “Haroun jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Down below him in the Garden was a great commotion, or rustling, of Pages. Hundreds upon hundreds of extremely thin persons in rectangular uniforms that did, in fact, rustle exactly like paper”. Here, Rushdie is using some metaphorical descriptive language. He is creating actual creatures that resemble pages of a book, but who take on the role of a medieval page, or servant to a knight or lord. This helps transform the story into more than just a fantasy tale. It gives it intelligence beyond mere wordplay. It makes the story a whole lot more fun to read, along with the distinctive dialogues that each of the unique characters possess. The water genies habit of using three adjectives at a time; Butt the Hoopoe’s stuttering at the start of a sentence. Stories serve two main purposes; to teach a lesson, as in fables or old religious legends. The other purpose is entertainment, which comprises pretty much every genre of story. But with Haroun and the Sea of Stories, the author has successfully transformed a potentially light and youthful adventure tale into a story adults can enjoy. Passages like this set the tone for the voice of the author, and form the framework for the literary style.

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  8. “… a shadow very often has a stronger personality than the Person, of Self, or Substance to whom or to which it is joined! So often the Shadow leads, and it is the Person or Self or Substance that follows. And of course there can be quarrels between the Shadow and the Substance or Self or Person; they can pull in opposite directions -” (132)

    In this excerpt, Mudra the shadow warrior is explaining to Haroun and his party about the people of the Land of Chup. In the Land of Chup, the shadows are considered to be equal to the people and sometimes they can be very different from the person to whom they are joined to. In this passage Rushdie plays with capitalization and repetition when he writes about the two parts of the shadow and self. He capitalizes the words person, self, and substance, making it a proper noun. He also uses repetition, using the word “S”, to classify the words in one group, and this emphasizes the distinction of the person and the shadow. Rushdie’s novel talks about Haroun and his experience between two worlds, reality and the fantasy world of stories. It seems he is stressing the coexistence of the conscious self and also the unconscious self of a person. Sometimes the thoughts that we have in the unconscious parts of our minds can influence the decisions made by the conscious self and maybe even creating conflicting thoughts within oneself. In everyday life, people may face many problems and might find relief in the unconscious “story world”. As if to further emphasize his point on the importance of stories, Rushdie plays with the repetition of the same words in each sentence of this passage.

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  9. “Goopy and Bagha, uttering piteous whimpering noises, confessed that they couldn’t go any further.”(140) “It was quite a speech for the Floating Gardener.”(141)

    In both of these passages, Rushdie uses personification by allowing the Plentimaw fish and floating garden to speak. The garden also has the ability to become a gardener. By using personification throughout his story, Rushdie creates an unrealistic and abstract world where inanimate objects and animals can talk. To answer the question of “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” stories, especially those that aren’t true, allow readers and listeners to escape reality and enter an entirely new world. This idea of escaping reality parallels Haroun’s travels. At first he is in a world where he is familiar with everything. Then he is transported into a whole new world where nothing seems real to him. I believe that stories have the same affect on readers and listeners. Stories invoke creativity and imagination and allow people to create a world that’s far from reality. The way that Rushdie writes, allows the reader to go along with Haroun on his journey to the new world of Kahani where animals and objects talk. The reader is able to escape their own reality as they travel with Haroun.

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  10. “Haroun and Iff both cried out in shock as Khattam-Shud changed his shape. The Cultmaster grew and grew before their appalled, astonished eyes, until he was on hundred and one feet tall, with one hundred and one heads, each of which had three eyes and protruding tongue of flame; and a hundred and one arms, one hundred of which were holding enormous black swords while the one hundred and first tossed Butt the Hoopoe’s brain-box casually into the air…and then, with a little sigh, Khattam-SHud shrank back into his earlier, clerkish form.” (156)

    In this passage Haroun and Iff watch in horror as the shadow transforms itself. In the book it’s formed as a paragraph but it is actually only one sentence. Rushdie’s choice of word repetition also plays a significant role because it helps the sentence move fluidly. Saying one “hundred and one” over and over again would make one think the word has lost its value, but it actually becomes more fun to say because of how it rolls off the tongue nicely. It almost has a cartoon feel to it as well when you read it because it seems so impossible and animated. It makes the reader read faster with anticipation as well as feel “appalled” and “astonished” too. People are allowed to eagerly take in this description due to its fast paced, whimsical style, which is Rushdie’s overall writing style in this story. His fairy-tale like, or cartoonish, style condenses the large, scary issues so that they’re easy to digest for readers. There are a lot of references to the differences between ‘dark and light,’ which may be the overall moral of the story (those are usually the morals to most fairy tales). His writing style is more dramatic, fun, and easy to read so more people would be willing to read it and increasing the value in the story and the message trying to be conveyed.

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  11. “…because the dance of the Shadow Warrior showed him that silence had its own grace and beauty ( just as speech could be graceless and ugly); and that Action could be as noble as Words; and creatures of darkness could be as lovely as the children of the light.” (125).

    This text is taken from when Haroun is observing the shadow warrior for the first time. This is also before Haroun and company learn that the shadow warrior is actually an ally. What I find interesting about this text is that it shows how silence can be a good thing in its own way. Up till this point in the story, silence has mostly been associated with the main antagonist Khattam-Shud. But during this encounter, silence is something that is almost elegant. Haroun even goes as far as thinking that the creatures of darkness could be “lovely as the children of the light.” This is reminiscent of don’t judge a book by its cover. If you don’t know someone, how can you say that they haven’t any good in them.

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  12. “‘Stories have warped the boy’s brain,’ he pronounced solemnly, ‘Now he daydreams and spouts rubbish. Insulting, abusive child. Why would I have the slightest interest in your mother? Stories have made you incapable of seeing who stands before you. Stories have made you believe that a Personage such as Cultmaster Khattam-Shud ought to look like … this.'”

    At the end of chapter 9, the shadow of Khattam-Shud berates Haroun for his interest in stories, claiming them to be worthless much as Mr. Sengupta did. What is interesting about this passage is that I cannot recall any other character, even Haroun’s father, use the word “stories” so frequently; “stories” is even emphasized by it being in italics. It is a bit ironic that the one person who seems to hate stories the most talks about them the most as well. Khattam-Shud tries to convince Haroun that stories are pointless, but he does so by telling Haroun a story about how stories corrupted him. It seems as though no matter what a person believes in, stories are a part of life as it is a basic means of communication. Khattam-Shud also, in an attempt to belittle stories as simple lies, show their worth as he says that stories make him into the big, evil monster instead of his lackluster self. In this passage, we see how hard it is to go against stories.

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  13. The use of stories that aren’t true is to give the reader a greater sense of enjoyment, to broaden the horizons of reality, and to overall make life more interesting. Stories come from people, some come from actual events, while others are made up or dramatized events. Stories come to form by the author or creator of the story and its very important that who tells the story does it in an interesting manner, if a story is told in an unenthusiastic way it would change the value because people will not enjoy reading it (especially if it’s a novel) and therefore not take note of it, or even take it seriously. Naming gives things meaning but more so identity. Many things are named after their function. Naming is important because people respond to the things they are familiar too, if there were no names to anything than it would be difficult to get a point across. Other verbs for storytelling play and important role also, I feel like every artist takes in inspiration either from others or from observing the world around them. Digesting, stirring up, embellishing, juggling are all ways of making stories more interesting and meaningful. If a great book is created most people would take note and respond in a positive manner, or it would be meaningful because of the affect it had on the individual.
    A passage from the text that I found particularly interesting is when Haroun observes Blabbermouth juggling: “I always thought storytelling was like juggling, he finally found the voice to say. You just keep a lot of different tales in the air, juggle them up and down, and if you’re good you don’t drop any. So maybe juggling is a kind of storytelling, too (109). This passage is written I believe to explain in a simple manner Rushdie’s writing style. Although I believe many authors are inspired by each other, Rushdie in my opinion is less hesitant to use other people’s work in a sort of obvious way.

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