Six of Crows, A Wonderful Universe s a weekly mini-series dissecting the world that Leigh Bardugo created in her duology, Six of Crows. I have been dissecting the trauma each character in the series has experienced. This is the wrap up post of the series, so either start at the end or read about Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias or Wylan first. This is meant to be read by fans of the series, but spoiler warning for those reading this before enjoying the books.
Symbolism of Water
Six of Crows uses symbolism to represent ideas and relationships through water and ice. Each of the main characters had an encounter with these two elements at some point in their lives, before the beginning of the book. These confrontations and experiences irrevocably changed their lives and, in many cases, caused traumas. These two elements are a sign of death and rebirth.
In the case of Kaz Brekker, as we know, his traumatic experience consisted of using the dead rotting corpse of his brother-the most valuable person to him and the only family he had left alive-to swim to shore. With Inej Ghafa, her relationship with water is tied to the fact that she was trafficked on a slave ship and then sexually exploited in a fetish brothel. Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar, both were part of a shipwreck. In Nina’s case, she was hunted and kidnapped by the Drüskelle, and with Matthias, he was one of the captors. Jesper Fahey and water met in his childhood, when his mother saved a girl after ingesting contaminated water, but she died. And finally, Wylan Van Eck escaped from his father’s boat after almost being killed and swam to shore.
Each of them, after these traumatic events, could no longer return to who they were before. Their innocence, ignorance and/or childhood disappeared after that encounter. They were reborn. Even throughout the plot, they question whether forgiveness is possible for them. To be forgiven by the family members and friends they left behind, or even by themselves. There are three key words here: want, can, deserve. “Do I want to be forgiven? Can I be forgiven? Do I deserve to be forgiven?”
On the other hand, water takes on a new meaning the further we go in the story. So far, we have death. Of innocence, childhood, a part of their identity. Later on, however, it changes to being a path of self-discovery and self-realization. Inej, for example, decides that her dream is to become a captain of a ship and thus have the ability to attack slave ships and free those who suffered the same as she did. Matthias, on the other hand, dies on the ice. It is a kind of cycle where the Grisha-hating part died on the day of the shipwreck, and a new Matthias was born. This one dying completely at the end of Crooked Kingdom at the hands of his own.
Everyone gradually accepts and uses these new identities to their advantage. Their new lives and personalities. Prior to that, they were suppressing their trauma for a long time as they had to grow up and learn too fast. Eventually, they learned to understand each other, and to get by and survive on their own. Because no one was going to rescue them.
Who Is The Real Monster?
Throughout the duology there is a great diversity of characters who are considered monsters or who call themselves such. I find it extremely interesting how this title varies, since as a reader we can have our own criteria, but it is influenced by the perspectives of the characters. From the Drüskelle perspective, the Grishas are considered monsters, witches and demons for practicing “dark magic”, while to the Grishas, the Drüskelle are monsters capturing and killing them. From Inej’s perspective (and hopefully from the perspective of all readers), Tante Heleen is a monster who profits from human trafficking and her repeated rapes in the Menagerie. But from her perspective, she is not considered monstrous. From Kaz’s perspective, Pekka Rollins is a monster who took everything from him, but to Pekka he is just another man doing business. These are a few examples, but there are too many. On a symbolic level, monsters are everywhere: it depends on the perspective.