Study Guide

The Red Pyramid Rules and Order

By Rick Riordan

Rules and Order

"Why are the scales broken?" I asked. Anubis frowned. "Ma'at is weakening. I've tried to fix them, but…" He spread his hands helplessly. (28.97-98)

The Hall of Judgment, the place all souls are supposed to pass through after death, is not fully functional, because Ma'at is weakening. That's a pretty strong indication that order is at the center of the universe, eh?

"Any language will work, but hieroglyphics are best. They are the language of creation, of magic, of Ma'at." (16.55)

It's interesting to consider that one language—Egyptian hieroglyphics—is more closely linked to order and to magic than any other language. Does this mean that magic and creation are also closely linked to order? How?

"Be careful, Carter," Bast warned. "Ma'at, the order of creation, hinges on loyalty to the rightful king. If you question it, you'll fall under the influence of chaos." I felt so frustrated, I wanted to break something. I wanted to yell that order didn't seem much better than chaos if you had to get yourself killed for it. (26.80-81)

It seems like order comes with a high price: unquestioning loyalty, and sometimes the risk of doing your duty even if it kills you. Even Bast is defending order to Carter, despite the fact that following Ra's command to fight Apophis almost destroyed her for all eternity. Doing good can be difficult; it often requires selflessness and sacrifice.

"You see gods have great power, but only humans have creativity, the power to change history rather than simply repeat it." (15.97)

Order is good and all, but if it's too rigid and untouched by creativity, then people and gods are doomed to repeat the same old stories over and over again.

Through the Duat, I saw magic forming around me, weaving a white sheen over the world, reinforcing Ma'at and expelling chaos. (40.34)

As Sadie prepares the spell to banish Set, she experiences firsthand the power of Ma'at. It sounds like quite a rush. Once again, there seems to be a connection between magic and order. How are these things related?

"I tried to mediate a solution to prevent the battle. That is one of my jobs, you know: to keep balance between order and chaos." (23.128)

Apparently maintaining a balance between order and chaos is so important that the Egyptians had to put it in Thoth's job description. We're sincerely hoping that he doesn't get so distracted by his research that he forgets to do his job. Why do you think it's Thoth who is placed in charge of this? Does it have something to do with knowledge and wisdom?

"Your mother foresaw a great imbalance. She foresaw the day—very soon—when Ma'at would be destroyed, and chaos would reclaim all of Creation." (28.26)

Not only is it important to uphold order for its own sake (so your magic works), but also because letting chaos triumph spells the end of the world. Seems like a pretty convincing reason to us.

"Master," Zia pleaded, "if Ma'at is weakening, if Set is increasing chaos, perhaps that is why I could not banish Serqet." (14.87)

The thing about Ma'at (order) is that it influences everything, including a magician's ability to do magic, among other things. We've seen enough of Zia to know that she's super powerful, so it makes sense that an uptick in chaos could throw her off.

Zia stuck out her tongue. Right in the middle was a blue hieroglyph… "this is Ma'at, the symbolic of order and harmony. It will help you speak magic clearly." (16.26-27)

When you're speaking magic, you don't want to mess up. It seems like even magic and creativity have some order to them. If you say a spell or create something the wrong way, it either loses its power or has the wrong kind of power. It's another way in which order, magic, and creativity are linked.

"A battle between the gods and the House of Life would serve only chaos. You must make the magicians understand this." (20.39)

Wise words from Nut. Isn't it a tad ironic that the House of Life, being so rules-and-order-oriented, would miss the fact that all fighting increases chaos and decreases order?