Songs to Maze By: Room 4

Room 4 is a tricky one to pin down-there is a lot going on here both in the images and in the text. It’s unique, because it’s the only room on the Path that you have to visit twice-once on the way in, and once on the way out. If you look at one of the maps of the Path here on Mazecast or on the Abyss, you’ll see that 4 is the central point in the infinity/figure-eight shaped route. Like most of the Path rooms, Room 4 is rated 5-stars on the Abyss, which means that all of the White Raven–endorsed solutions have been discovered* and are listed on the Room 4 page, so you can go check them out there.

Because this room is so jam-packed, I decided to build the Room 4 playlist based on several categories of solutions and room items:

Unfinished Business

The overall theme of Room 4 is “unfinished business”: things that have been started but not completed-or more specifically, things done once that need to be done again (e.g., the half-split log, the two nails half-nailed in). These things hint that Room 4 is a place you need to enter twice, so you’re only half-done with the room when you leave for the first time.

One unexpected bonus of doing these playlists is finding new songs that I like just from Googling relevant keywords. “Unfinished Business” by White Lies is one of these. The lyrics are wonderfully spooky-the song is about a ghost singing to his lover and realizing that she has killed him. There are a few generally Mazey references-scissors, an hourglass-but it’s the title and feel of the song that sold me on this one. (Mumford & Sons does a cover of the song, and there’s quite the debate on youtube about which one is better. You decide!)

Do it Again by Steely Dan. Because I couldn’t not.

Note 1: It is surprisingly hard to find the album version of this song online. It took listening to the whole (longish) intro to realize that this one was decidedly not it.

Note 2: Check out the album cover! It’s sort of like an X-rated version of the right side of Room 4, no?

Steely Dan

Axe and Logs

To me, the axe and logs are the most significant elements of the room, both in their visual impact and their meaning. Despite the cluttered table in the foreground and the glowing sun above the door to 11, the eye always goes first to that chopping block, I find-perhaps because it’s a particularly odd setup to have in a grand hall.

There are several puzzle purposes being served here: the axe head and handle indicate the correct doors and their order; the implied action gives you “split” (one of the “it” words); three of the logs may together spell out “it” if you squint and rotate the book just so; and the half-split log gives you one of the instances of unfinished business in this room. Not only that, but the guests hear the sound of chopping from 39, giving you a hint that you have to go back to 4-if you’re on the 16-step Path, you’ve already seen the axe, and you know that’s where the sound is coming from.

I’ll admit there is also a personal connection here. Have you ever split logs with an axe? We have a wood-burning stove at my parents’ cottage and I’ve performed that chore many times. Although I’ve never gotten very good at it, I do enjoy it. The axe is such a basic tool, and very old of course, but it’s remained pretty much the same through millennia for a reason: it works really, really well. There is something a little bit intoxicating about having the power to split such a strong, solid object as a log, and it’s a rush when you hit the log just right and the pieces literally fly apart. You can feel the axe’s lethality every time you wield it-this is not a tool to be taken lightly. One wrong move and you’re limping like Jack Torrance running after Danny through the hedge maze-or else it’s straight to Room 24 for an unlucky onlooker.

There doesn’t seem to be much information online about Pete Seeger’s “Wood Chopping Song,” but I gather it’s a folk tune meant to be sung as you split, in order to keep your rhythm going. I like the way you can hear Seeger’s breath coming more and more heavily until by the end of the song he is panting. I also enjoy the steady chopping sounds that are the only accompaniment to the vocal, aside from the occasional thunk of split logs falling to the ground. I can’t make out all of the lyrics, despite the fact that it’s just a few lines being repeated over and over, but there’s definitely something in there about facing the RISING SUN, and also something about “cross the water,” which makes me think of the river Styx (more on that below.)

Foolish Face

Speaking of that rising sun. The Guide refers to a foolish face, and tells the visitors they should “pay no attention.” It seems pretty clear that he’s referring to the sun image over 11, and in this case his advice is sound if you want to avoid the Trap. (I have a far-fetched minotaur-related theory that if you ignore the sun you’re left with stars and II, giving you Asterion II.)

“House of the Rising Sun” is an obvious pick here, and although the lyrics are not particularly apt for the room, I like the fact that the whole song is a warning, which does make sense for the door to 11. Really, I just love the feel of this song-that electric guitar! that organ! that raw vocal! It somehow manages to evoke despair, dissolution, and divinity, all at the same time. (Possibly best enjoyed with your eyes closed-this video of the Animals with their tidy, matching suits and stiffly choreographed movements just does not jibe with the wild music you hear. Although when Eric Burdon sings directly at the camera, it’s all there in his intense, knowing, probably-under-the-influence-of something gaze.)

Bonus Track: River Styx

I just had to include “River Below” by Canadian rockers Billy Talent, because its title seems to obliquely refer to the river Styx, which is also obliquely referred to in Room 4. (Did the visitors give up their coins to Charon, ferryman of the underworld?) Come to think of it, the collision of “river below” (Styx, Greek mythology) and “running from the inferno” (Dante’s vision of Hell) in the lyrics is pretty Mazey, too. Enjoy…

As I mentioned in the Songs to Maze By for Room 13, if you disagree or have ideas to add, feel free to comment!

* Curiously, the appearance of a small black cat mentioned in the text doesn’t appear anywhere in the posted solutions on the Abyss. This means either that WR doesn’t have a use for it or that it’s something to do with the Guide, but the latter seems unlikely. The cat incident takes up the third paragraph of the text, which also happens to be the largest paragraph on the page. So it is strange that we don’t have an explanation for it yet in a 5-star room! Some of us were talking about the cat being a link to Room 39, the Poe room, from which you enter Room 4 for the second time. (The door is unmarked.) Poe wrote a story called “The Black Cat,” but the cat was large in that story. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a deal breaker. And the word “fortunate” is used here in Room 4, which could connect back to Fortunato, walled up in Room 39.