Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-8


Chapter 7

Haroun realizes that by volunteering to help save Batcheat, he is becoming caught in another princess rescue story. Blabbermouth tells him that she removed the Disconnecting Tool from under his pillow while he was asleep. Haroun thinks that everything is ruined, but Blabbermouth tells him that his father can work out his own problems with the Walrus. Haroun tells her that she does not understand: “I wanted to do it for him.”

All of the Pages in the army are jostling to find out their order. Haroun thinks this should be easy, since they are numbered, but Blabbermouth tells him that he should not “judge a book by its cover,” as there are chapters and volumes that must be taken into account. Haroun and Blabbermouth make it to the Garden, and Haroun sees his father, disheveled and wearing his nightshirt, in a pavilion standing with Iff the Water Genie. The Army gives a cry of, “For Batcheat and the Ocean,” and they begin to march. Rashid, Iff, and Haroun climb aboard Butt the Hoopoe and they go.

Rashid laments that they will freeze in their nightshirts, but Iff gives them Laminations, transparent garments that cling to them so tightly that they do not even feel that they are wearing them. Haroun is amazed at how quickly his life has changed. “It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire.” Butt the Hoopoe answers that it is more a case of “out of the fridge into the freezer.” Rashid is amazed that the machine spoke without moving its beak.

There is a great noise in the army and Haroun realizes it is all the Pages arguing about the cause for the war. Some think it is to save Batcheat; others think it is to save the Ocean. Haroun thinks that this sounds like mutinous talk, but mutiny is a concept no one understands. Haroun explains that it is an adjective, another concept that the Guppees do not understand. General Kitab flies around the army listening to the arguments and even provoking the disputes. Haroun thinks that earth soldiers would be court marshaled for such talk, but Butt the Hoopoe wonders what the use of Freedom of Speech is if it cannot be used. The army marches on, discussing the General’s secret plans (which he divulged to everyone, of course). Only Prince Bolo remains aloof and Haroun wonders why. Mali, the Floating Gardener, tells him it is because of love, a “wonderful and dashing matter. But which can also be a very foolish thing.”

As the army enters the Twilight Strip, Haroun despairs that it is all a suicidal mission. Butt tells him that he is suffering a “Heart-Shadow,” which happens to everyone the first time they see the Darkness beyond. As they enter Chup, the poison in the water becomes worse and the currents are no longer warm. The Guppees land on the shores, but there are no attacks against them. After establishing a beachhead, Kitab and Bolo fetch Rashid to lead them towards the Princess.

They move into a small clearing where they see a man who looks “almost like a shadow” with a sword. As they near, they realize that it is a man fighting his own shadow. The shadow’s movements do not match the man’s, and they leap and dodge each other. The warrior is frightening, with a green painted face, thick leather battle armor, and black eyes with grey irises. Haroun thinks that this is a battle of opposites, “Gup is bright and Chup is dark. Gup is warm and Chup is freezing cold. Gup is all chattering and noise, whereas Chup is silent as a shadow...a war between Love and Death.” However, Haroun also sees a beauty in the graceful battle movements of the Chup soldier, a sign that “silence has its own grace and beauty (just as speech could be graceless and ugly).” The warrior realizes that someone is watching him and he sends his shadow to the bushes. The shadow’s hands begin moving furiously and then it begins to speak.

Chapter 8

The Shadow Warrior begins to croak out unintelligible words. Bolo demands to know what the man is saying and Blabbermouth quietly calls him a poser, an opinion that makes Haroun question why she chooses to follow such a man. Rashid explains that it is not uncommon for those who have not used their voices in a long time to lose control of it. The Warrior repeats the phrase “Murder, Spock Obi New Year,” and Rashid realizes he is telling them that his name is Mudra and that he speaks in the ancient Gesture Language of Abhinaya, which Rashid understands. He begins to interpret the Warrior’s gestures.

They learn that the Warrior is second in command to Khattam-Shud but that he has become disgusted with the war and violence. Most Chupwalas do not follow Khattam-Shud or worship Bezaban, but instead live in fear. If Khattam-Shud is defeated, Chupwalas would be in favor of peace. Mudra explains that in Chup, a person’s Shadow is their equal. It can change shapes and forms and sometimes is even dominant over its “Substance or Self or Person.” Peace means that each Chupwala is at peace with their Shadows. Khttam-Shud’s black magic has caused his Shadow to separate from him, and it goes wherever it wishes. Defeating Khattam-Shud means also defeating his shadow.

Kitab asks for Mudra’s help and Mudra agrees. He tells them that they must make a decision -- which Khattam-Shud do they fight first. One is in the Old Zone poisoning the Ocean while the other holds Batcheat captive. Prince Bolo tells them that life is most important so they must save Batcheat. General Katib reluctantly agrees but tells them that someone should go and spy on Khattam-Shud in the Old Zone. Haroun bravely stands up and volunteers. He tells them all that he had grown up hearing the stories but that he never believed they were true. Now that he has seen all of Kahani, he does not “like the idea that all the good stories in the world will go wrong for ever and ever, or just die.” Haroun thinks that maybe it is not too late to save the ocean. Bolo slaps Haroun on the back and tells everyone that he is the man for the job because he is “a slave to Love.”

Haroun, Mali the Gardner, Butt the Hoopoe, Iff the Water Genie, and the Pentimaw Fishes trek towards the Old Zone. The water becomes more and more poisonous the further they go and soon the Pentimaw Fish tell them they cannot go on. Haroun tells them to stay back and keep watch. They reach a kind of forest standing on the Ocean. Mali tells them that it is neglected water. He jumps into the overgrown brush and begins cutting a path. Strange creatures fly out of the weed-jungle. When the channel is clear, they enter. Suddenly a great net flies out and covers them. It is a Web of Night, futile to resist. Black eyes peer at them through the brush and Haroun despairs that he is a very poor hero.


Several examples of Rushdie’s play with language are on display in these chapters. The first occurs in Chapter 7 when Blabbermouth tells Haroun not to “judge a book by its cover” as he observes the army. This is the use of an aphorism, a saying that embodies a general truth. In this case, the saying has a double meaning since the army is constructed in pages, chapters, and volumes just like a book. Another example is Haroun’s use of the phrase, “out of the frying pan and into the fryer.” This is an example of an idiom, a phrase whose meaning is not predictable from its general meaning. In this case, Haroun is saying that he has gone from one bad situation into something even worse.

One of the most striking elements of play in language is in Rushdie’s use of names. Almost all of the names in Haroun and the Sea of Stories either allude to other stories or parts of culture, or have been derived from other words in the Hindustani language. For example, Batcheat is derived from ‘baat-cheet’, meaning ‘chit-chat.’ Bolo is derived from the verb ‘Bolna,’ meaning ‘to speak.’ Gup means ‘gossip,” and Mudra is the name of any gesture in the Abhinaya language, which is in fact a real Language of Gesture in Indian classical dance. The names in the novel all correspond with the essence of the culture from which the character comes. For example, all of the names of the people of Gup correspond to wordiness, gossip, or speech. The names of the people from Chup (which means ‘quiet’) correspond to silence or the lack of speech.

The gossip, conversation, and arguments of the Guppee army on the way to Chup is an example of one of the novel’s major themes: the tension between free speech and complete silence. Though Rushdie is decisively in favor of freedom of speech and expression, Haroun’s worry that the arguments of the Guppee army might cause insurrection are notable. Rushdie means for the reader to question exactly how much free speech is too much, and whether too much free speech can become counterproductive or even useless noise.

The meaning of the Old Zone and the Twilight Strip are both important concepts in the novel. The Old Zone, which is said to be the source of all stories, symbolizes the oldest source of all stories -- religious writings. It is notable that this Old Zone lies in the Twilight Strip, directly in between Chup and Gup. This Old Zone becomes the easiest place for corruption by Khattam-Shud. Again, there are biographical elements in this symbolism. Rushdie is here accusing Islamic political dictators and religious fundamentalists of poisoning the ancient religious stories. This process is what caused a death warrant to be issued for him.

The novel also deals with elements of faith and doubt. Haroun is representative of the doubting public. This loss of faith in the reality of story, Rushdie suggests, is the trajectory of society. It is not until Haroun sees Kahani with his own eyes that he believes in the stories and is motivated to action. Previously, Rashid had always acted as a conduit for the reality of the stories, but this is no longer the case.