IMC :: shadow versus substance

From the Shadows of Amber forum:
Quote: Randy_Trimmer on Apr 3 2004
How do you define the difference between Shadow and Substance? Is it power? Resistance to arcane forces in general? Resistance to Pattern manipulation?
Is it an excuse for Amber’s royals to treat shadow folk like crap, much the same as the medieval attitude of the Nobles towards the Commoners?
Is it metaphysical distance from the Primal Pattern? Is there a gradation of realness or are things strictly Real or Unreal?

I use a range of Realness… some things being Real despite their relative power or newness, though many things can acquire Real just by aging, many others can lose Real by entropy.
Real is a basis of ‘integrity’ that does not ‘skip’ any important connections and ingredients. The theme of Shadow and Substance runs through the metaphysical underpinnings of my campaign.

Corwin often tells us one thing, and does another. He tells us that “Of Substance, there is only Amber, the real city, upon the real Earth, which contains everything.” He also says about his troops that are about to perish in his bid for assaulting Amber, “I felt some remorse, though I knew the difference between Shadow and Substance. Each death would be a real death; however, I knew that also.”
Then on Shadow, he tells us firmly, “Of Shadow, there is an infinitude of things. Every possibility exists somewhere as a Shadow of the real.”
Kind of an interesting paradox, considering how many times a royal of Amber goes off into shadow to look for something that would be nice to have in Amber. Our Faithful Narrator is describing two sets that contain Everything, yet might exclude each other.
And he doesn’t, of course, mention Chaos. So IMC Corwin is poetic rather than exact. He learns to be more exact as his story moves along.
Amber the world of Substance and everything.
Shadow the realms of Possibility and infinitude.

And this bit is very intriguing, it comes about the same place in the narrative of “Nine Princes in Amber”:

There are only three ways of traversing it, and each of them is difficult.

If one is a prince or princess of the blood, then one may walk, crossing through Shadows, forcing one’s environment to change as one passes, until it is finally in precisely the shape one desires it, and there stop. The Shadow world is then one’s own, save for family intrusions, to do with as one would. In such a place had I dwelled for centuries.

The second means is the cards, cast by Dworkin, Master of the Line, who had created them in our image, to facilitate communications between members of the royal family. He was the ancient artist to whom space and perspective meant nothing. He had made up the family Trumps, which permitted the willer to touch his brethren wherever they might be. I had a feeling that these had not been used in full accord with their author’s intention.

The third was the Pattern, also drawn by Dworkin, which could only be walked by a member of our family. It initiated the walker into the system of the cards, as it were, and at its ending gave its walker the power to stride across Shadows.

The cards and the Pattern made for instant transport from Substance through Shadow. The other way, walking, was harder.

I knew what Random had done in delivering me into the true world. As we had driven, he kept adding, from memory, that which he recalled of Amber, and subtracting that which did not agree. When everything corresponded, he knew we had arrived. It was no real trick, for had he the knowledge, any man could reach his own Amber. Even now, Bleys and I could find Shadow Ambers where each of us ruled, and spend all of time and eternity ruling there. But this would not be the same, for us. For none would be the true Amber, the city into which were were born, the city from which all others take their shapes.

This more or less determines something significant to my mind. What is Substance is not within the set of what is of Possibility and infinitude, though the reverse may not be true.
This also suggests an answer to some tricky questions.
Want something that Amber doesn’t have? Want gunpowder? You need to find a Possibility that can fit into a specific part of Everything that will function in a way not precluded by Substance.
Lewis Carroll would be proud.



  1. You speak often of Benedict’s doom.
    What of Corwin’s destiny? From the beginning, he does not seem destined for Amber. When he is young, he has his Avalon, where clearly he stays and rules for enough time to create his own legend. And then earth, “In such a place had I dwelled for centuries.” And then he tries and tries to get back in. He is in Amber just long enough to be chased to Rebma. He goes into Amber, again, from Rebma – but he still can’t stay. He spends time with Bleys in shadow and fights his way back in, again, only to be blinded.
    The four years in the dungeons, for all we know, is the longest span of time Corwin has spent in Amber since he was a ‘child.’
    And then he is out again, Lorraine to shadow to shadow… to come back and win, only to find himself upheaved yet again – almost spit back out into shadow, more than one. Caine knifes him – he’s on earth. Dworkin starts melting – he’s in Chaos.
    When Oberon has to send someone to make the run *away* from Amber, he sends Corwin.
    When Corwin draws a pattern, he doesn’t think of Amber, but of France.
    In the second series, even, we don’t find Corwin in Amber.
    What is Corwin destined for? Certainly not “Amber, the real city, upon the real Earth, which contains everything.”

  2. That is a wonderful question.
    Corwin seems to be ‘the poet’ at his core, rather than the warrior he spends so much time pretending to be.
    Or so I would say in answer to your question.

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