The Chupwalas pull Haroun, Iff, and Butt the Hoopoe forward in their nets. Butt predicts nothing but doom for them up ahead and Haroun tries to keep an optimistic outlook. There is thick acid-like poison in the Ocean now. “It’s our own fault,” Iff says. “We are the Guardians of the Ocean, and we didn’t guard it...The oldest stories ever made...We let them rot, we abandoned them...We lost touch with our beginnings.” Haroun wishes Mali were there and he is afraid that the poison has eaten the Gardner.
They reach a clearing, and Haroun sees a wall of night in front of them. He thinks that this must be the Perpetual Darkness, but it turns out that it is the hull of a colossal ship. Haroun tries to open his mouth and describe it, but the only thing that comes out is, “ark, ark.” As they are led onto the ship, Butt the Hoopoe is left behind and several of the Chupwala guards unscrew his head and take out a black circuit box, the bird’s brain. Iff slips Haroun a small tube. It is a Bite-a-Lite, a small device that will emit two minutes of bright light.
On the deck of the ship are rows of massive cauldrons, all containing the poison. Everything on the deck looks like shadows. It is all impermanent, as if “there was something not quite fixed or certain about it all.” The whole scene looks “normal and dull” to Haroun. They are pushed to a set of double doors and when they open, a “skinny, scrawny, measly, weaselly, snivelling clerical type” comes forward. It is the Cultmaster of Bezaban, Khattam-Shud. Haroun is surprised that the man is so disappointing looking. It is an anti-climax. Haroun cannot help but think that the edges of the Cultmaster appear blurry. He realizes that this is Khattam-Shud’s shadow sent from the Citadel of Chup.
Khattam-Shud tosses Butt the Hoopoe’s circuit box in the air. He tells them that he will take it apart and then explain those Processes 2 Complicated 2 Explain. Haroun thinks that he recognizes Khattam-Shud and then realizes that he looks just like Mr. Sengupta, the man who stole his mother. Haroun is angry, but Iff holds him back. Khattam-Shud then changes shapes into a giant hundred foot tall monster with a hundred heads and arms. He shrinks back to normal, done showing off. He tells them, “Stories go in for such displays, but they are unnecessary and inefficient, too.” Khattam-Shud takes them into the ship to see what they came to see.
The ship’s hull is a great cavernous space filled with darkbulbs that emit nothing but darkness. It is filled with machines “Far Too Complicated To Describe.” The Cultmaster tells them that the point of the machines is to ruin the stories of the Sea. “Each story must be ruined in a different way. To ruin a happy story, you must make it sad. To ruin an action drama, you must make it move too slowly. To ruin a mystery you must make the criminal’s identity obvious even to the most stupid audience. To ruin a love story you must turn it into a tale of hate. To ruin a tragedy you must make it capable of inducing helpless laughter.” Soon, the Cultmaster tells them, the Ocean will die. Haroun asks him why he hates stories since they are so fun. The Cultmaster answers, “The world...is not for Fun...the world is for Controlling.”
The Cultmaster then shows them where they build the Plug, a great mechanism that will bottle up the wellspring of stories at the bottom of the Sea. A generator in the middle of the hull produces the electricity needed for all of the ship’s operations. Suddenly, a web of “bizarre rooty tendrils” enters the ship through one of the portholes. A purple flower appears and Haroun rejoices that Mali has avoided capture and made his way to the ship. Mali quickly moves to the generator and spreads his roots into every crevice and nook of the machine. It grinds to a halt.
Haroun, knowing it is his turn to act, pulls the Bite-a-Lite from under his tongue and bites it. Bright light flows forth, blinding the Chupwala guards. Haroun moves to a closet and begins putting on a protective wet suit so that he can dive into the ocean. He grabs Butt the Hoopoe’s brain box from Khattam-Shud. Just as the light begins to fade, Haroun pulls on his suit and dives into the Sea.
As he falls through the Sea, he sees the Plug being constructed. Then, as he sinks lower, he sees the Source of Stores, a giant hole in the seabed. It looks like a fountain of shining light. Haroun realizes that “if he could prevent the Source from being Plugged, everything would eventually be all right again.” Haroun feels desperate that he can do nothing to stop everything. His hand then brushes past a bulge in his pocket and he remembers what is there. He knows there is something he can do after all.
Haroun surfaces next to Butt the Hoopoe and he begins to try to put its brain box back inside. He crosses the wires too many times, however, and Butt the Hoopoe blows a fuse before working properly. Haroun reaches into his pocket and pulls out the vial of Wishwater that Iff had given him when he first arrived in Kahani. He drinks it and begins to wish that Kahani would once again spin on its axis in a normal way. Minutes pass and, all of a sudden, the moon begins to spin quickly, and a great wash of sunlight pours over the land. All of the Chupwala guards begin to fade away. They had only been the detached shadows of the real guards, and in the sunlight, they can no longer remain solid.
Haroun goes back to the ship, which is itself dissolving, and finds Mali and Iff hung over a cauldron of poison. The rope breaks and they fall in, but the poison itself has been hardened by the sunlight and they are unharmed. They go back to Butt the Hoopoe, but his blown fuse will not allow him to take them back. Mali begins to push and just as he runs out of energy, Goopy and Bagha the Plentimaw Fishes appear and begin to tow them towards the battle between General Kitab and the real Khattam-Shud.
The use of shadows in the novel represents a complex duality. The shadows of Khattam-Shud and his Chupwala henchmen have all become evil and thrive only in the dark. Mudra’s shadow, however, remains a part of him and takes part in his quest for goodness. Shadows represent the combination of light and darkness. A shadow cannot exist without light creating it, yet it is also a measure of darkness where light otherwise exists.
The fact that the shadows have detached themselves from their owners is significant. The shadow, the combination of darkness and light, correctly exists only when it is in connection to the person or thing that casts it. This example of magical realism, when a shadow detaches itself from its owner, means that the balance of darkness and light has come undone.
Throughout the first half of the novel, shadows are always connoted as evil, pernicious, or conspiratorial. The reader realizes, however, that all of these viewpoints are seen from the Guppee point of view. The Guppees, a people that live in perpetual light, are unfamiliar with the concept of shadow and live in fear of its darkness. They do not realize there are elements of light within it. Haroun first gets a glimpse of the Chupwala viewpoint of shadow as he watches Mudra’s shadow warrior dance. He notes that the dance of the warrior and the shadow is beautiful and graceful.
These chapters focus on the dark side of the shadow. Haroun confuses Perpetual Darkness with the hull of Khattam-Shud’s ship. This suggests that, in fact, there is little difference between Perpetual Darkness (meaning, a spiritual and physical state of darkness, probably death) and the work of Khattam-Shud. That Haroun is unable to speak or describe this darkness is representative of the fact that death and other states of Perpetual Darkness are, in the end, unable to be described. They exist beyond the abilities of consciousness.
The Cultmaster’s ambitions are revealed in these chapters. Haroun questions why he would want to take the fun out of the stories. He replies by telling Haroun that the world is not for fun, the world is made to control. This is an indictment on the political, social, and religious powers of the Mid-East that seek to control societies by strictly regulating actions and beliefs. This is also a statement of the power of story. Ultimate control, Rushdie suggests, does not come from military might or authoritarian tactics. Ultimate control is the result of the control of narrative. By controlling narrative, a person’s imagination is able to be co-opted. Their abilities for independence and freedom are removed.