The Origins of the Thirteen

In every single media interview that I have done to promote my book, I have been asked why I chose to have thirteen men embark on the quest for the Medallion of Mavinor. Is it because of its literary significance? Was the number chosen to reflect the thirteen dwarves who set out with Gandalf and Frodo in The Hobbit? Is it because thirteen is an unlucky number, foreboding that the quest is doomed from the start?

It is actually none of the above. Silex, Ferox, and the others are in no way meant to parallel Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves. So lest anyone accuse me of ripping off Tolkien, allow me to explain why I decided on the number thirteen.

As stated in my previous blog post, the quest is a metaphor for the spiritual journey all of us endure as we live our lives. As a plot-driven writer, I created the story before creating the characters. So when I began to envision who I would want setting out on this quest, I naturally stayed with the overarching Christian message of the book and picked thirteen men who would mirror Christ and the Apostles.

The first characters chosen for the quest are the brothers Silex and Ferox. They represent Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, who were also brothers. Jesus said to Peter,”I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, so that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it.” The name “Silex” is Latin for “rock,” and I awarded him the insignia of the keys since Jesus once gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Silex may have a different personality than Saint Peter, but there is a good reason for that, and that will be the subject of a whole other blog post.

Ferox is Latin for “courageous,” and his insignia is that of the “X.” Saint Andrew was martyred by being crucified on an X-shaped cross. That is why such a cross is known to this day as the “Saint Andrew’s Cross.” Since Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, the Scottish flag depicts an “X,” and it is that design that I chose for Ferox’s insignia.

The brothers Tonitrus and Cedrus represent James and John, respectively. Tonitrus is Latin for “thunder,” and I picked that name for him because Jesus often referred to James and John as the “sons of thunder.” His insignia is that of the red cross, with the base of the cross shaped like a blade. This symbol was actually used by the twelfth-century Spanish military and is referred to as the “Cross of Saint James.”

Cedrus represents Saint John, and resembles him even down to the slightest details of his physical description. All depictions of John—at least in his younger days—show the beloved disciple with a clean-shaven face, brown eyes, and long brown hair. I picked the name “Cedrus” in honor of the Lebanon cedars mentioned in the bible, which were described as strong trees with decay-resistant wood. This has to do with Jesus saying that John would live until he came again, causing the other Apostles to believe that John would not die. Cedrus also chooses the eagle as his insignia at the end of the story, a traditional Christian symbol for Saint John the Apostle.

Pugius represents Bartholemew, who was martyred by being skinned alive with a knife. Pugius’ name comes from the Latin “pugio,” meaning “dagger.” Saint Bartholemew is always seen in Christian art holding a dagger, since most martyrs are depicted as holding the weapons that were used to kill them.

Cantos represents Matthew, the author of the first gospel. Thus I chose to make Cantos a scribe. Since Matthew was a tax collector before being called by Jesus, I decided to make Cantos a former tax collector who once cheated people out of their wealth and was forced to make amends for his corrupt actions.

Thaddeus represents Jude, who was actually referred to as “Thaddeus” in the gospels. Since Jude was martyred by being beaten to death with a club, I gave Thaddeus the stylized club as his weapon of choice. His apprentices, Nomis and Alphaeus, are reflective of Saints Simon and James the Less, respectively. Nomis is merely “Simon” spelled backwards, while the gospels tell us that James’ father was named “Alphaeus.”

Sceptrus is representative of Saint Thomas, who is traditionally known as “the doubter.” You may recall that Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection in the gospels, saying that he would not believe unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and felt the wounds on his hands. Thus I made Sceptrus the doubter among the thirteen, a man struggling with his faith who wants to believe, but just can’t seem to overcome his skepticism.

I suppose that Og would symbolize Saint Philip, though I must admit that there is very little behind this one. I actually named Og after the King of Bashan, who is mentioned in the Old Testament and described as a giant. I knew that I needed a tall, strong brute to accompany the others on the quest, and thus Og was born.

Gobius is obviously the Christ figure. It may not be apparent at the start, but gradually the similarity is revealed as Gobius shows deep knowledge of faith and spirituality despite being a simple fisherman. He chooses the fish as his insignia when he is crowned King of Mavinor, which everyone knows is a universal symbol of Christ. I even took Gobius’ name from the Latin for “gudgeon,” a type of freshwater fish. Finally, Cantos uncovers a passage in The Scrolls toward the end of the book referring to a future king as “the one and only son of The Author.” Cantos concludes based on the content that the passage is speaking of Gobius.

That leaves one last character and one last original Apostle. I’ll leave that for you to figure out, as the link between the two will play a pivotal role in The Birth of Malgyron. Next time I’ll write about the biblical basis for the mythical beasts featured in The Quest of the Thirteen. Until then, may the Lord be with you as we celebrate the holiest week of the year. Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

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