Sunday, November 11, 2007

Terry Goodkind's Grace

I'm in the process of reading Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series of fantasy books. Towards the beginning of the fourth book, Goodkind described a magical symbol he called The Grace. From what I could learn on-line, The Grace plays a certain role in the books, but I was more intrigued by Goodkind's description of the symbol. In his Appendix of Terms, Goodkind describes the symbol as follows:

A grace is a magic symbol representing all of existence. A grace consists of a small circle, inside a square, with one apex of the circle touching the middle of one side of the square. Each of the square's four points touch a point on the larger circle, which the square is inside. Inside the smaller circle is an eight pointed star. Lines radiating from the star's points pierce all the way through both circles, and the square, with each line bisecting a corner of the square. A grace is always drawn starting with the outer circle

In the book he also mentions that the Grace is a symbol that's drawn by hand, on any medium. The first grace the main characters encounter is drawn in dirt; later it is explained that wizards often drew it almost subconsciously.

To my knowledge, however, a Grace has not been published by the author of the books, and so only guesses of how the symbol looks currently exist. Wikipedia has one such symbol, which shows the most literal interpretation of the Grace. However, when I tried to visualize the Grace, I was a little more liberal in putting words into drawings. First, I abandoned the idea of radiating lines escaping the outer circle. While this could be permissible in drawings, it could become very awkward in other symbols, which require some kind of framing, and the outer circle does offer such a frame. Windows, for example, could be designed into a self-containing Grace. In fact, Goodkind seems to have been inspired by cathedral windows, such as the Rose Window of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, which contains elements of an eight-pointed star in two concentric circles. This window, like many other similar windows, also has lines radiating from the center, where Jesus (an equivalent to Goodkind's Creator) is placed.

After a little experimentation, I came up with a design that abandoned another element of the definition, the radiating lines crossing the corners of the square. I find this design to be very fascinating, and currently I'm working on a stained glass version.



Then, however, I decided to take a step back and redesign the Grace to allow for the easiest free-hand drawing. After all, people were drawing it subconsciously, and I wanted to come up with something that's easier to create, especially with the added constraint that the drawing begins on the outside. The second design is thus a step back, placing the radiating lines as they should be. Eight pointed star is not as easy to draw as a five- or six-pointed star, but techniques for each of the latter can be used. I often draw an eight pointed star when I'm doodling, using the same technique as in a five-pointed star: an uninterrupted line. Instead of skipping over one point, however, I skip over two. The other method, which mimics the six-pointed star technique, is even simpler, just instead of two opposing triangles two squares are drawn. This is the technique I used for the second drawing. Given that one square must be aligned with the larger square, I found this method to be the most simple and precise for drawing a grace.



As can be seen, though, I still took certain liberties. First, in both images I had the radiating lines cross inside the star, which makes them look more like a grid than rays. Second, in both cases I filled the inner circle with the star. This element is not addressed in the definition, but I fould the inner circle to be the perfect guide to draw a precise star.

Neither design explains one big question I have, however. Goodkind describes characters as tracing some of the radiating lines and identifying them as lines they represent, such as the line of magic. Given that the Grace has no identifying marks for top or bottom, though, I don't understand how any of the radiating lines can be identified.

8 comments:

Ahrkin said...

in this case it should be noted that the lines radiating outward from the center of the grace are representative of the gift, this meaning both the gift of life and the gift of magic, so maybe it is that what line represents what gift is something felt, rather than known, by the person drawing the grace? especially if it were to be drawn by one with the gift, as is usually the case in the books themselves, and i have to say the second image is closer to the way i imagined the grace when reading.

Lili said...

Whoa. These look like quilt blocks. I'm feeling inspired...

gfh said...
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Rev Tie Dye said...

I agree that using the overlapping squares to create the 8-point star would be easier using a simple drawing program, but I think if you're free handing it, finding the inner vertices (is that the right word?) of the star is just still a little iffy. That being the case, I much prefer a pointier star. Here's my interpretation (which I created by copying your second drawing and then moving the inner vertices uniformly toward the center of the figure.

http://www.box.net/shared/fiqce39st7

Rev. Tie-Dye

poeticsaviour said...

This is how I view the grace. Not good at drawing and only have MSPaint so please forgive any unsymmetrical parts.

http://i916.photobucket.com/albums/ad7/poeticsaviour/WhatIthinkagracelookslike.jpg

Anonymous said...

There's a partial pic of a grace in the Debt of Bones book.

Just_Leo said...

Yes, And that partial grace in Debt of bones shows, in an illustration, that the star of the grace is made using two squares. To me, the idea of symmetry goes well with magic and the idea of using geometric shapes goes well with the grace.

Anonymous said...

The grace is explained a little differently in the book. Four points of the star should be hitting the corners of the square while the other four points should be hitting between them. In other words, the points should hit every place a part of either circle touches the square.