Examining Light Novels: On Relationship

The ninth volume of Spice and Wolf takes place in Kerube and concerns some dangerous business with Craft Lawrence caught in the middle of two antagonists: Eve Bolan and Kiemen, the head of Lawrence’s guild in that city.  Those of you who have read the books or watched season two of the Spice and Wolf anime know about Eve Bolan, the cunning merchant who disguises herself as a man.  *Spoiler* You also know that she previously tried to knife Lawrence to death. *End Spoiler*  Despite Lawrence and Eve’s past problems, the two admire one another.  Lawrence even pities her, which is probably as much as one can love someone filled with so much self-hatred.  Both Eve’s past among the nobility and career as a merchant explain why she would lack reasonable self-love.  However, being used, using others, and having all her energy set on profit makes her judge everyone on the scales of trade.  The sole exception to this rule might be Arold, an innkeeper whose relationship with Eve prevents her from turning into the monster that is Kiemen.

In regard to having one’s sole interest in profit, two lines stood out to me: “…God was said not to care for merchants” (153) and “…gold coins whose shine defied the glory of God” (195).  At first, the second strikes one as mere exaggeration.  Upon deeper consideration, merchants might displease God because profit is their primary motive.  We see how the greed of Kiemen and Eve blinds them to both the love of God (the town’s church is merely a secure place for transactions) and the love of man.  The two are interconnected.  (Which is why atheistic humanism eventually leads to anti-humanism.)  Kiemen is completely lost, and Eve’s soul would equally be lost were it not for her affection for Arold.  Eve is still so warped by pursuing gain that she cares not whether her or her business associates live or die.

Contrasted to the motive of profit, Lawrence refers to his relationships as “more valuable than money” and “like a precious flower of great price” (161).  Everyone reading this no doubt recalls the “pearl of great price” of Matthew 13:45-46, which the merchant purchased with all his wealth.  Hasekura essentially compares one’s relationships or friendships to heaven.  Might we not class him as an Epicurean philosopher, claiming that enjoying life’s pleasures with friends is the highest good?  Yet, Hasekura uses the image of a flower rather than a pearl to highlight that relationships are evanescent.

I think of Lawrence as a “merchant hero.”  As the series progresses, he becomes less of a merchant and more of a hero.  (Just contrast his rescue of Holo in volume one to a similar scene in volume nine.)  Lawrence starts out trying to balance profit with relationship.  The longer he stays with Holo, the more weight he gives to relationships–even making them absolute.  One wonders whether he will one day regard relationships as something permanent and replace the flower in his metaphor with the pearl.

There is one relationship Lawrence excludes himself from which would complete his happiness: friendship with God.  The pearl of great price is heaven, and Christ opened its gates with the opening of His pierced side on the Cross.  Loving God stands at the summit of all relationships: when we truly love God, we love all men–but in differing ways and degrees.  And, when we and our associates are united by love of God, our relationships change from flowers which perish at the end our short lives to pearls lasting longer than the kingdoms of the earth.

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