I have no real thoughts or theories yet, but Isobelle mentioned in the MWF talk today that there is a reason why Elf doesn't have empathy as a talent, so here's the new snippet of info for everyone else.
I'd always thought her empathy manifested as the "dark power" that she uses to kill Vega and to forge the sword. There's talk in the books (I think) about how Empathy is more powerful than anyone thinks - I think it's around the time of the rebellion since they realise they can use empathy to make an entire army run away, or attack themselves or something.
It makes sense that the basis for the talent that can kill is emotion. Eg, she killed Vega with fear and rage, and made the sword with a huge amount of repressed emotion. Jes killed that guard with similar rage/fear. It'd make it more powerful than coercion in a way. Anyway whether this is right or wrong I think there's so much more to Empathy than we know at the moment.
Definitely makes me wonder if it doesn't point to Dameon being the Destroyer (I know the equal-but-opposite thing has been discussed before but just throwing it out there again). I always assumed that might also be the point of the 'Empathy being more powerful than people thinks thing'-as in, people overlook Dameon as just being gentle and sweet, but he also has great power...
Interesting way of thinking about it Min. Does that make Elspeth's empathy 'demented' in the fact that it manifests differently. Perhaps like Ariel's empathy manifesting differently. Also definitely suggests Dameon might be the Destroyer.
Why Elspeth doesn't have empathy, is a really interesting question. I do wonder if Jes would have empathy or whether he would be the same as Elspeth. To me the reason is that her lack of empathy is her 'fatal flaw', so I'm unsure whether IC means a reason required for the quest, or more a authorial point of view. But perhaps her lack of empathy IS required for the quest, maybe it ensures that when she goes to perhaps Entina, the emotion from that 'beast' doesn't overwhelm her, like it might Dameon?
Can I confirm - did Isobelle specifically say Elspeth definitely does not have empathy - as in, could there be any ambiguity or hidden secrets behind the way she said it? Remembering a conversation I had with her, that's all.
I don't think it points to a hidden darkness in any other Empaths; rather that emotions and feelings are more powerful than physical force and words, and it's to our talented Empaths' credit that they don't lash out and rule the world (Ariel the exception or perhaps the warning of what goes wrong when Empaths do lose control). Sort of like the restraint shown in Scatterlings, where Merlin realises her ability to shield makes her more powerful in a community that can read each other's thoughts without shields (thus can't lie). One of the things I remember IC saying in an interview is she wanted to explore whether humans could be better - I think understanding Empathy is part of that somehow.
As for Elspeth's empathy - I don't think it's disfigured, I think it's just not detectable as standard empathy, using whatever tests they use to gauge these things, and that she hides it really well from everyone because she is scared of it. It goes back to the surface fear she has of her own emotions or displaying emotion. It's sort of like her healing ability (which, sure, yes, was given to her, or perhaps the natural ability was tapped) and futuretelling abilities (which was part natural - truedreams - and part taught - dreamtrails/Maruman) - she can do both, technically. But she's not considered to have the (Obernewtyn um, grade) Healing or Futuretelling ability. Perhaps IC's mention that she has no empathy means simply that the Obernewtyn community doesn't consider that ability to be Empathy. As far as we know she's kept the dark power entirely hidden from everyone.
I think Elspeth has tapped all of the talents over the course of the series, and that it's not a sign of her being 'perfect', but that she's been moulded and altered over the years to have the best chance to complete the Quest that she can. Makes me wonder if her abilities will dull after the Quest is completed (though, I doubt the Agyllians would bother closing off abilities just because she didn't technically need them all any more).
Isobelle said something along the lines of there being a reason for Elspeth's lack of empathy. Whether she meant Empathy or normal human empathy ( which TBH at that point is what I thought she meant, since she was talking about Elspeth being 'thick' and not in touch with her feelings) is not 100% clear. AF has a recording - might be worth listening and getting the exact wording
Just listened to it now, she said that "Elspeth feels she lacks Empathy, and it's the one power she doesn't have... and she does lack something she is quite stupid when it comes to emotions... there is a reason she is the way she is, and that will be revealed in the final book"
Excellent. I'm taking that to mean that Elspeth doesn't believe she has Empathy/she thinks it's the only power she doesn't have. Whether she actually does or not could be a different story.
I always wondered whether Elspeth hadn't had empathy in the past, but had "cut it off" (so to speak) herself.
We know she can put up a mental shield strong enough that she doesn't even realise that a farseeker/coercer is trying to reach her. Maybe she could be shielding herself from other people 's emotions sof well that she doesn't even realise she can sense them?
She always traces her inability to relate to people emotionally to the orphanages, but there are other orphans in the books that don't have that problem.
But if she had been used to just knowing what people had felt as a child, but then cut herself off from that ability to shield herself from the loneliness/sadness of other orphans, that would make her conclusions about herself make more sense.
I've had a theory on this subject. Obernewtyn doesn't really go into a lot of details in her childhood and Elspeth only remembers the details of her parents death properly after she dreams about it years after it happened. I think there may be something more that happened to her as a child and maybe Jes coerced her into forgetting or maybe she coerced herself into forgetting or
..something along those lines.
Maybe she has some kind of mental block in her mind that has been there for years and that has affected her mentally/emotionally? maybe that's the reason she is kinda stupid when it comes to emotions. It could be that her dreaming her parents death was a sign of the mental block leaking into her conscious memory.
Very similar to what I think Lady and Sian.
I've always thought she had cut off her empathy from the trauma of her parents death.
Just had another thought, maybe while her parents were dying the 'dark power' rose up and she tried to kill the soldierguards and herders but the agyllian (sorry if I spelt it wrong!) birds cut her empathy off from her so she felt no need for the power to rise for her. Sure she would feel her normal emotions but they wouldn't be compounded by Jess or anyone that witnessed the burning.
Really this is full of holes but it is a theory haha
This is a little off topic but I was just thinking that maybe Rushton will to turn out to be an empath. He always senses whenever Elspeth is feeling something strongly and looking at him. In the past I assumed that was because he was in love with her but maybe there's more to it than that.
Wasn't originally part of the debate but jumping in with a comment or two.
I entirely love the idea that Elspeth has mental block as the result of something which means she is unable to tapp into any possible empath powers. However, there is also the possibility that that particular ability wasn't nurtured or much attention paid to it as maybe it wasn't deemed vital to her quest. Although, if that was the case how has Dameon ended up with her in The Sending assuming all of her companions have a reason for accompanying her?
Lady - to the last comment, I'm unsure about Rushton, because although following the theory that there is a strain of empathy which is not defined as empathy by Obernewtyn standards, because of his latent talent there have been times when other people have been inside his head. I think its only mentioned it briefly here and there, but in Obernewtyn its Rushton and his "friends" (thats the only way they are described and theres not really any way to determine who exactly it was) were able to tapp his energy and latent ability to achieve more. So people have been inside his head and if there was anything to suggest that there was an active ability Rushton would have grasped it in order to seem more "desirable" to Elspeth. Also he doesnt seem to register when anyone else is focused on him, just her. Whereas with Dameon he says in one of the books that everyone has a "signature" of emotions if you will. So maybe it is possible and he only reacts to Elspeths particular emotional signature?
I do absolutely love the idea of a mental block for Elspeth though! I am definately going to be interested in what comes out about both her and Rushton in The Red Queen. We all know Elspeth has secrets but I think Rushton certainly does as well.
I think I may have gone off on a bit of a tangent sorry :S so Im not overly sure if I communicated what I wanted to exactly.
Sometimes I feel like Elspeth wouldn't have been nearly as obtuse if she had empathy as she would have been able to figure out everything too quickly... Might be a bit OP. Haha.
But, to elaborate on Sian and Lady's points, I think you guys are on the right track. After Dameon confronts Elspeth about Rushton in TSK, she has a dream "as if Dameon and Rushton between them had cracked open some secret vault in my, I dreamed vividly of the day my parents had died" (p. 242). Then afterwards she mentions feeling drained "[the memories] had been locked up inside that small terrified girl and it seemed to me that remembering them, however painful, had drained some small dark reservoir of poison" (p.245)
Then, in TS, Cinda says "do not say only to what a child can feel, for do you not recall how powerfully you experienced emotion as a child? [...] we do not cast off our childhood like the skin of a snake. It remains within us, even as we grow. It is the heart and core of us." (p.204)
It seems that after the death of her parents she locked her emotions down in a sense, amplified by the isolation of the orphanages. It's also interesting that she uses her "dark power" in times of great fear/anger and also fears it as though it can overwhelm her. So her dark power could in a sense represent those extreme emotions that she's been blocking for so long.
In this way, I think it could be significant that she only fully realises that her dark power is a part of her (ie. Her heart and core) and that she can control it after she has fully come to grips with her love for Rushton, because it's in locking her quest in his subconscious that she begins to gain control over it and calls it her "spirit force"
Also adds another dimension to why urgent lemons had to happen before Atthis called her, esp. if she needs to have control over her spirit force in order to succeed in her quest.
But seriously, Empath Elspeth = OP :P
I always found her lack of empathy strange as she is such a strong beastspeaker and right at the start of obernewtyn beastspeech is described as a combination of words mental images and feelings
You're right. Elspeth even mentions that she knew that maruman was annoyed at her when they first met after she scared away the bird. And that she "sensed" that Maruman cared for her. Hmm...
It says that animals can sense emotions as well as words and images when they are speaking to each other, maybe the idea of elspeth lacking empathy is that she can only sense the words/images, and that her bonds with maruman is exceptions to the rule because of the familiarity between their minds.
Isobelle talks about this in the Booktopia interview this week, linking it to the fact that Elspeth's dark power tends to manifest as an emotional response. There is also some discussion on Elspeth lacking emotional intelligence.