I’ve always defended Magnus as a traitor, because it always seemed that Magnus had the best intentions. He never intended to be a traitor. He never intended to let Tzeentch into his heart. I was and am of the belief that if Horus hadn’t told Leman Russ to kill Magnus, that the Emperor could have saved Magnus and his Legion after his arrest. A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill really didn’t change any of those feelings, but it changed my stance 100% on whether Magnus did nothing wrong. I always agreed that he did everything wrong, but I always had a caveat.
He did everything wrong, but he didn’t mean to.
He did everything wrong, but he had the best intentions.
There’s no caveat now, even though he did have the best intentions. Magnus done fucked up, and he has a classic personality flaw to blame for it.
Hubris, Literature’s Nemesis
I cannot count the number of times that hubris was the downfall of a protagonist in classic literature. Shakespeare was a huge fan of hubris as an arch nemesis, not to mention all of Greek mythology. Hubris is an oldie, but it doesn’t make it less of a goodie.
Magnus isn’t the only one affected by hubris either. All of his sons just know that they know better. The only person they believe knows more than they do is Magnus and maybe the Emperor. Magnus really believes he knows more than his father. He knows his quest for knowledge is right because seeking knowledge in of itself is hardly a crime. Knowledge will also lead a seeker down the road for better understanding, and thus control.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the warp, it kind of likes to let the seekers think they are gaining understanding and thus control, when in reality, they are losing control to the warp.
When I realized that it was this quest for knowledge that summoned Tzeentch, I immediately thought of a certain nasty Inquisitor from James Swallow’s Blood Angels Omnibus. A short story revealed that it was this Inquisitor’s hunt for knowledge that accidentally summoned a Tzeentch daemon. To save his own life, he bargained with it and foolishly thought he could control it.
Sound familiar? Magnus bargained with a warp entity—either he really didn’t know it was a daemon lord or let himself believe it was a benevolent spirit—to save his sons from the genetic flaw. His sacrifice was to turn in one eye to always be an inner eye, hence his Cyclopean appearance. He believe he had the flaw under control. He knew what he was doing. HE. KNEW.
Just like he knew the powers his sons had from tapping into the warp were under control. Their Tutelaries were harmless little familiars they could control. He knew breaking through the Webway to talk to the Emperor NAO was the only recourse. He knew the warp entity that helped him do so was kind and generous.
They all knew this.
Only to learn they knew nothing.
The Road to Heresy is Paved with Good Intentions
After the Council of Nikaea, I felt like I was watching a stereotypical slasher film where I’m yelling at the protagonists to not go upstairs. Yes, Magnus, you have learned that Erebus turned Horus. But is smashing through the Webway truly the only way to talk to Daddy E and warn him? After Nikaea, I’m sure if felt like nobody understands what he’s trying to do, especially his father, but maybe finding a more sanctioned method of communication would be better? Go to Terra before Horus does, use an astropath with all the encrypted key codes, ANYTHING other than doing the one thing his father told him not to do.
The saddest part out of all of it is that everything Magnus did was to make his father proud of him. Look Dad, look at what I discovered! Look Dad, look at what I can do now! Aren’t you proud of me?
And of course, Big E has to share the blame. Big E could be to blame for the entire Horus Heresy, just for not giving his sons the attention they needed. Or, Throne, try talking to his sons? If he had only educated Magnus, or TALKED to him as to why he decided to close the Librarius, it all could have been avoided. But no, he was too proud to share his knowledge or what he was trying to learn. As such, he expected his son to stop researching the warp because he said so, much like what I tell my own kids.
Difference is, I’m always around to correct my kids. Emperor has this nasty habit of laying down an edict and assuming everyone, even his sons, will follow it to the letter. The man has truly never raised kids before. Then again, there’s always the theory that the Emperor saw his sons as tools, not actual sons. It would explain a lot.
Eight books down, 46 to go. I know I’ve skipped a few, but I will go back and read 8-11. Had to jump ahead for the sake of the Book Club.
About Horus Hearsay
Horus Hearsay is dedicated to Keri’s journey through the Horus Heresy saga. The chronicling of the Horus Heresy began over ten years ago, with currently 54 books in total, not counting The Primarchs series or the various short stories. Horus Hearsay will only cover the main novels.