Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Lecturing Westerner

Door in the Dragon’s Throat: The Lecturing Westerner March 28, 2020

Door in the Dragon’s Throat, pp. 101-106

You know what, guys? It turns out that schooling two children at home full time while working from home during a global pandemic is hard. As a result, this post simply did not happen yesterday.

Does anyone else feel like they’re sequentially losing their minds right now? Keep your loved ones close, stay in touch with those at a distance, protect your elderly and immunocompromised, and do your part to support the healthcare workers among your friends and family. This is an ugly, ugly time.

But! Let’s take our minds off of all that for a moment!

The jeep roared up in front of the magnificent presidential palace, and the four of them ran down the huge marble halls, then burst through the big teakwood doors and into the president’s office.

The president was gone!

It’s evening. Do they think the president lives in his office perpetually?

“Where is he?” Dr. Cooper asked no one in particular, looking every which way for any sign of the man. “I just left him here before I went to find you. We must speak with him.”

Is this palace empty? Is there no attendant he can ask?

“We’ll have to search the building.”

“That won’t be necessary,” a gruff voice behind them said.

They turned toward the door, and there stood Gozan, grinning his big yellow grin and pointing a gun at them.

Big yellow grin??

“Gozan,” [Dr. Cooper] asked with a steady voice, “where is the president?”

Gozan just kept smirking, a picture of arrogance.

Really? Really? Do we really have to do this?

“No need for you to know, good doctor. He did give me my orders though. He told me I am to … take care of you.”

Gozan seemed very cocky, but Dr. Cooper noticed his hands were shaking.

Argh.

What to make of Gozan? Gozan, from the beginning, has been described as groveling and servile, and as greedy and willing to backstab anyone else to get the supposed treasure. But we have also seen him repeatedly warn that only evil lies behind the door, and caution Dr. Cooper’s team against their arrogance in assuming that they need take no precaution against danger, when other teams have ended up dead.

Gozan is at once highly sympathetic—often the only character talking reason—and highly repugnant—but only, perhaps, because Peretti goes out of his way to make him so. At least, that’s how it often feels, because otherwise it seems like overkill. Besides, we’ve never quite got a feel on how Gozan went so quickly from insisting the door hid only evil to being completely sure it holds only treasure. It never quite fit.

Suddenly Lila noticed Gozan’s very familiar, wide-brimmed hat. “You’re the thief who was outside the window!’

Saying the hat is familiar suggests (to me at least) that she has seen it more than once. If this is an identifiable thing about Gozan, why didn’t she realize the thief was Gozan until now? Also, why does this read like it was written by a third grader?

Gozan laughed his fiendish laugh.

His fiendish laugh? This is the first time we’re hearing this, so shouldn’t it be a fiendish laugh?

“You are very observant, Miss Lila. Yes, it was me. I knew where to find the old shaman, and I overheard everything you said about the wonderful, magical key.”

This is fine. Everything is fine.

So. Dr. Cooper tells Gozan that there is no treasure. This is a big change for Dr. Cooper, who has been insisting since early on that the door holds the treasure of Nimrod, based on very flimsy evidence.

Oh, and by the way, during this whole thing there’s a ridiculous lightening storm going on outside.

A streak of lightening flashed across the sky, and thunder rattled the whole building. The lights began to blink on and off. Gozan stood there, his eyes darting to and fro; sweat ran down his face.

So that’s fun.

At this point, it sure looks like they’ve unleashed a curse—at least by the standards of movies in this genre, which seem to be Peretti’s model.

Gozan almost sounded desperate as he cried, “I don’t believe you.”

Did he sound desperate, or did he not? What is this “almost”?

“Everything you fear about the Door is true. The Door is evil.”

This is the closest we get to any admission that Gozan was right. The thing is, this realization that Gozan was right does not change Dr. Cooper. There’s no remorse. No “I should have listened.” Nothing. Dr. Cooper is as sure of himself as ever he was before, and he never, ever grapples with the huge mistake he has made.

Jay was surprised at what his father was saying. “Dad, what are you talking about?”

Was Lila surprised? Did Lila suddenly cease to exist here?

Anyway, Dr. Cooper explains that they got it all wrong.

“We had the legend figured out all wrong, Jay. I misread the inscription. The star didn’t fly through heaven; it fell from heaven!”

This is why doing your archeological homework is important.

“Think about it. The star that fell from heaven. Where have you heard that phrase before?”

No one knows, so Dr. Cooper goes on:

“I found it today, in the Bible. I knew I’d read it somewhere before. … Revelation, chapter 9. A star fallen from heaven to earth. Those exact words!”

Here he pauses, and we get this:

They all felt a shuddering, a rumble from deep under the floor. The chandeliers began to sway back and forth.

“Here we go again,” said Lila.

“It is the evil,” said the old man. “It is the Door.”

Gozan began to tremble and gasp for breath. “I don’t believe you. You are trying to trick me!”

So, several things. First, Dr. Cooper is seriously slow walking his explanation, perhaps for dramatic effect. The idea that everyone will will know what Revelation 9 says is absurd. Second, there is definitely a curse—so why aren’t Jay and Lila acknowledging this and concluding that they shouldn’t have opened the box? Third, you would think all the curse signs going on would make Gozan go back to his initial suspicions about the Door, even without Dr. Cooper suddenly insisting (with no evidence) that there is no treasure.

Fourth, the shaman really will never have a name. When he converted to Christianity Peretti left off calling him “the shaman” and switched to “the old man.” So that’s fun.

Before we move on, I want to return to the fact that Jay and Lila never say “hey, maybe that box was cursed,” or even “maybe we shouldn’t have opened that box, things are getting weird now.” Remember, the weather changed the moment they opened that box. That is the moment this huge storm began, with darkness and howling wind and lightning and thunder that shakes buildings and, now, earthquakes. But no one, even once, says “hey, maybe we shouldn’t have opened that box.” This is so completely unbelievable it’s unreal.

Look, if someone gave me a box and said not to open it, and that it was cursed, and I opened it anyway and then all of a sudden the sun disappeared and a massive storm whipped up with unreal lightening and terrifying thunder and then the ground started shaking I would definitely conclude that there really was a curse, and I don’t even believe in God. But here, it goes completely unremarked on?

Really??

Dr. Cooper insists that he is not trying to trick Gozan.

“Oh, I am, huh? Remember, Gozan? Remember how the earth would shake every time we got near the Door? Remember what happened to all the other expeditions? How they died, went crazy, ran in terror? Remember how nothing would grow anywhere around the Dragon’s Throat?”

You would think that figuring out why nothing grows for a circular radius around the cavern that contains the Door would have been high on Dr. Cooper’s list of priorities when arriving at the site. Did he even take any soil samples? Anything? Nope! But now we get to see him lecturing Gozan about the dangerous the site poses—the very person who tried to warn him off of the site to begin with.

This may be why Dr. Cooper never has to grapple with having been wrong—because the moment he realizes the Door contains only evil, he’s right and Gozan is wrong.

Gozan’s eyes were huge with fright. He struggled to stand on his feet. His fear was nearly more than he could stand.

Is this necessary? 

Dr. Cooper tells Jay and Lila that Shandago is an old word for serpent, which clearly means Shandago is Satan.

The truth hit Jay and Lila. The old man already knew it, but in different terms.

Jay and Lila show no remorse for refusing to heed the shaman’s warnings (I’m going to keep calling him the shaman, for consistency’s sake). No remorse at all. This is the closest we’ll get to an acknowledgement that the shaman was right all along and Jay and Lila were bungling fools blinded by the idea of treasure.

Jay and Lila can be blinded to the truth by the desire for treasure and still retain their humanity, and the respect of the author. Not so for Gozan. Greedy white people are a-okay. They’re just out to get the goods through grit and hard work! Greedy brown people are inhuman, shriveling, smirking.

This book is so gross. 

“The rumbling we heard, that strange humming like a beehive … remember that?” Dr. Cooper’s eyes burned like fire as he pronounced the horrible truth to this wilting bandit.

Okay, this broke me.

Did this book not have an editor??

“There are demons behind that Door, Gozan, countless demond specially appointed to torture and destroy mankind. They’ve been waiting thousands of years to be let out of there. You must give us that key!”

Yep. This is how Peretti gets around Dr. Cooper ever having to grapple with the fact that he tried to blow the doors off a chamber of demons despite being warned by the wise native people that their local lore said it contained demons. He somehow twists things around so that it’s Dr. Cooper lecturing Gozan about the demons, so that it’s Dr. Cooper who has the information—because, Bible—and not Gozan.

It’s disgusting. Dr. Cooper is not repentant, he’s not sorry, he doesn’t learn anything, he doesn’t grow from this. Instead, he gets to be the hero, lecturing the greedy, simpering native peoples.

The words grated and scratched their way out of Gozan’s trembling jaws one by one.

What the hell? This mental picture, holy cow.

“I … I do not have the key …!”

Gozan says he gave it to the president, who went to open the door.

Blech. I can’t go on.

We’ll have to get to a fuller description of Revelation 9 later. But first, I have a question about the timeline here. When exactly did Dr. Cooper read Revelation 9 and realize there were demons behind the door? “I found it today, in the Bible,” he says. Ok. What has happened so far today? Well, the day before this day they tried to blow the doors out of their seams. They left it overnight for the dust to settle. On the morning of this day, they went down to see how things had fared, and found that the doors were still intact—and saw the key hole.

Most evangelicals read the Bible in the morning. So, presumably, that is when Dr. Cooper read the passage. Then why didn’t he tell Jay or Lila, either earlier in the day or while driving into the city to meet with the shaman? Why keep it secret, that the door holds demons? Now, it’s possible that Dr. Cooper read it and didn’t put it together until later in the day, while searching for his children. But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Remember, this is what Dr. Cooper says about this:

“I found it today, in the Bible. I knew I’d read it somewhere before. … Revelation, chapter 9. A star fallen from heaven to earth. Those exact words!”

It sounds like the passage stuck him immediately, because it used the exact words. So why didn’t he tell Jay and Lila? Jay’s entire approach to the shaman was shaped by his desire to get the key so as to get to Nimrod’s treasure. If he’d know the door contained demons, he would likely have acted differently than he did.

It’s theoretically possible Dr. Cooper only read the passage later, while searching for his children, but that seems unlikely—and his own description of finding the passage sounds mundane, not like it happened in a rush, while looking for wisdom in his search for his children.

When Dr. Cooper goes to the president to report his children kidnapped, the president tells him that he will only find Dr. Cooper’s children if Dr. Cooper opens the door, and Dr. Cooper says “no more work proceeds on the door until my children are safe.” It’s possible that we’re to think, now, that Dr. Cooper knew at that time that the door contained demons and was only lying, but it’s none of this is evident in that passage.

Honestly? I don’t think Peretti ever got his timelines straight. He needs Dr. Cooper to know, now, that there are demons, but he needs Jay not to have known earlier, and he never tried to make these things consistent. Also, in looking back, I realized Peretti once referred to the president as a “haughty potentate.”

And that’s definitely enough for today.

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