Plot outline for Chapter III

Rosa Diamond, an old woman who spends much of her time dreaming about the past (the Norman Invasion and her own, in Argentina), witnesses Gibreel and Saladin’s descent to earth and rescues them; but Saladin is arrested as an illegal immigrant, while Rosa dies. The police strip and humiliate Saladin, who discovers that he is turning into a hairy, goatlike creature. In a bizarre secret hospital where animal/human experiments reminiscent of H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau are being carried out he is befriended by a physiotherapist and escapes.

The scene shifts to Saladin’s home where his wife Pamela, rather than grieving for him, has started an affair with Jumpy Joshi, and does not welcome the news that he is still alive. The two lovers flee and engage in an orgy of lovemaking until Saladin finds them in his goatlike form.

On the train to London Gibreel is bored by an African immigrant of South Asian origin with the same name as a “false prophet” in Islamic tradition: Maslama. Various signs convey to Gibreel that he is evolving into an angel. This scene shifts to introduce Alleluia Cone, former lover of Gibreel, speaking to a class of schoolgirls about her career as a mountain-climber. Gibreel, entering London, haunted by the ghost of another lover–Rekha Merchant–runs into her on the street.

Notes for Chapter III

Page 129


Rosa Diamond
Her story and its sources are studied in detail by Daniel Balderston.

William the Conqueror. See above, note on p. 44.

first Norman castle
The reconstructed Pevensey Castle. The original was built by William the Conqueror.

Why is it appropriate that Rosa Diamond be the person who first encounters Gibreel and Saladin after their fall? And what does she have in common with William the Conqueror?

Page 130


Battle Hill
Near the traditional site of the Battle of Hastings; its name commemorates the battle.

Harold Arroweye
Although this epithet might suggest a sharp-eyed leader, it is in fact a mocking reference to the means of King Harold’s death. In the Bayeux Tapestry the Saxon leader is depicted as having been shot through the eye with an arrow. Image from the tapestry.

William with his mouth full of sand
One tradition says that when William landed, he stumbled and fell with his face in the English soil.

Page 131


One traditional name for the planet Venus, also a name for the Devil. See note above on p. 76.

cased in a fine skin of ice
See notes on pp. 33-34, 169.

old Chumch
A pun on “old chum.”

What do you think Rushdie intends by this symbol?

Page 132


Charlton Heston
In one of the more spectacular Academy Award winning special effects from the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, Heston, playing Moses, parts the Red Sea with his staff so the captive Hebrews can leave Egypt. Information on the film.

the tall, bony figure of Death
Margareta Petersson points out that both Gibreel and Chamcha “meet, almost in a faint, a woman with a cane, which they believe is Death: for Saladin it is Rosa Diamond, for Gibreel Allie Cone” (Petersson 273).

Page 133


almost a wanton attitude to tumbling flies
See Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act IV, Scene 1: “As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods.”

I yield pride of place to no personage in the matter of tumbles
Satan (Satan) is said to have been an Angel, cast down from Heaven for rebelling against God. (See Qur’an 38:78 and Revelation 12:9). Note also the suicidal plunges of various characters in the novel.

Page 134


like a wolf on the fold
From Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” stanza 1, line 1: “The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold.”

Shoreline gravel.

Page 135


Imitating Japanese style (French).

Page 136


Here I am, in Grandmother’s house. Her big eyes, hands, teeth.
Allusion to “Little Red Riding Hood.” The Little Red Riding Hood Project

The play described might be a dramatization of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Enoch Arden (1864), with the incident of the toy added by the dramatist (or by Rushdie).

Page 137


A popular London department store.

An obscene verb derived from sodomize, commonly used as a curse.

What do you think is Rushdie’s point in telling the Indian version of the story of the husband’s unexpected homecoming?

Page 138


vibora, de la Cruz
“Viper of the cross,” the popular Spanish name of the snake scientifically called Bothrops Alternatus, also called the urutu. The paradoxical association of the holy cross with the demonic snake fits the divine/demonic themes of the novel. The historical Martin de la Cruz from whom this character’s name is derived was a 16th-century doctor who wrote the first medical book written in Colonial America, the Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis (1552).

I’m not having it
I won’t accept/allow this.

German soldier. Rosa Diamond is remembering the coastal blackouts imposed during World War II.

Page 139


Illegal immigrants.

Page 140


Jomo Kenyatta was the leader of the Mau Mau liberation movement in Kenya, which had nothing to do with another British African colony, Uganda. Here the two are linked as a way of mocking the tendency of the British to lump all dark-skinned people together. A brief history of Kenya. U.S. Department of State notes on Kenya.

Page 142


pull the other one
An expression of incredulity, meaning “Try another outrageous lie on me, I don’t believe this one.” Derived from the expression “You’re pulling my leg,” meaning “You’re kidding me.”

Black Maria
Traditional slang term for a police van.

Page 143


The most thorough discussion of the Argentina allusions in the Rosa Diamond section is by Daniel Balderston

Page 144 [148]

men with horned helmets
Alludes to ancient invasions of England by Norse raiders.


Some ancient Morgan Le Fay singing a young Merlin into her crystal cave
In most versions of the Arthurian legends it is the young Vivien (also known as Nimue, one of the “ladies of the lake”), who traps the aged Merlin in a cave or tree. Rushdie was probably influenced by John Boorman’s 1981 film, Excalibur, in substituting the better-known Morgan (called “Morgana” in the film) for Vivien. Rosa is old and Gibreel is young; so that although she enchants him as did her predecesssor, the difference in their ages is reversed. Information about Vivien. Information about Morgan. Information about Excalibur. The text of Tennyson’s poem about Vivien and Merlin from The Idylls of the King. Back on p. 135, Saladin had dreamed of Zeeny Vakil luring him into an iceberg with her song, clearly a foreshadowing of this image.

Page 145


Rushdie has given this anti-English Argentinian a quintessentially English name, the middle name of poet Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), infamous in India for his 1835 “Minute on Indian Education” which prescribed a system of Western-oriented education designed to keep Indians subordinate to the English within the British Empire.

Page 147


the Peròn people
Followers of Argentine dictator Juan Perón, who rose to power during the period 1943-1946. As Daniel Balderston points out (304-305) Rosa Diamond would seem to have left Argentina considerably before he became known, one of several anachronisms in this story. A brief overview of Argentine history.

the Hurlingham
Probably the members of the Hurlingham Golf Club, near Buneos Aires, founded in 1888 by a group of English citizens.

trop fatale
French for “too fatal;” but alluding to the expression “femme fatale” (“fatal woman”) which describes a woman whose beauty lures men to destruction.


Aurora del Sol
Spanish for “dawn of the sun.”

Page 148


Martello tower
A kind of circular coastal fort built along the English coastline in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named after the first one at Cape Martello in Corsica. A series of them was also built 1803-1806 along the Irish coast as protection against a Napoleonic invasion; the one at Sandycove was inhabited by James Joyce for a week in September 1904 and is now a Joyce museum (Fargnoli).  Stephen Dedalus lives there in Ulysses. Hence this may be one of several Joyce allusions inThe Satanic Verses. In both Rushdie’s work and Joyce’s the towers are associated with characters alienated from their homelands; but here they also remind us that England has been subject to threats of invasion, a major theme in the novel.

Joyce’s Martello Tower
Photos by K. Gwan Go

An interview with a Netherlands journalist in which Rushdie talks about his admiration for Joyce.

Since Rosa sees it as well, this is probably a South American rhea rather than at true ostrich, suggests Steven F. Walker. It marks the beginnings of Gibreel’s hallucinations (Walker 349).

Page 149


fancy dress
Party costume.

Page 150


Amerigo Vespucci’s account of his voyages
This 15th-century Italian navigator made exaggerated claims for his discoveries in the Western hemisphere and managed to have the “New World” named after himself: “America.” Some more recent scholars have tried to rehabilitate Vespucci’s reputation.

Page 151


A deluxe early make of sports car whose name reflects the theme of intercultural hybridity, since it means “Spanish-Swiss.” The history of the Hispano-Suiza. Pictures of a restored Hispano-Suiza.

Page 152

Argentinian ranch.

As white as snow . . .
Her body forms the Nazi flag, as described in the previous paragraph.

Page 153


As if a boulder had been placed upon his chest
See note above on p. 43.

Page 156


London shareef
The term sharif or shareef means “noble, exalted” (Arabic). Here the term parodies the more usual term Mecca Sharif (see below, p. 235, where the terms Quran Sharif and Haram Sharif are also used.)

Since Rosa has just died, this sexual encounter with her younger image seems to be a delusion in Gibreel’s mind. On p. 334, the ghost of Rekha Merchant claims that this younger Rosa was a shape taken by herself.

Page 157



What is the significance of Saladin here being transformed into a demonic beast?

Page 158

Joe Bruno, Novak, Jock Stein
The “distinctly un-Anglo-Saxon” names of the immigration officers drive home the absurdity of their rabid xenophobia.

Joe Bruno is the long-time New York Senate Republican leader who has been outspoken in his criticism of minorities and immigrants.
Jock Stein was the renowned manager of the Scottish soccer team, the Glasgow Celtic, in the 1960s and early 1970s. “Mack” is a plausibly Scottish nickname for this person with a Jewish last name. Stein was, however famously a Protestant leading a Catholic team–another outsider.(David Windsor) Information about Jock Stein.
On. p.160 Novak is called “Kim,” presumably a nickname derived from that of the very female American movie star of Vertigo and other popular films. Picture of Kim Novak. Novak is a Polish surname, but it may have amused Rushdie to refer to Kim because that is the name of one of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous protagonists, born English, but living as an Indian.

that Sussex of rewards and fairies which every schoolboy knew
Rudyard Kipling’s Rewards and Fairies (1910) continued the historical/fantastical adventures of Dan and Una, whom most readers met for the first time in Puck of Pook’s Hill (Suzanne Keen). Both volumes deal in part with “colonial” periods in English history, including the Roman and Norman invasions, and are set in the same general area as the Rosa Diamond episode.

Page 159


A rural district in Bangladesh. Information on Sylhet.

An agricultural center in Pakistan.


primus inter pares
First among equals (Latin).

Page 161


Danny Blanchflower
Famous footballer (soccer player) for the Tottenham Hotspurs during 1960 and 1961 seasons when they were champions, hence the reference to the “double” team. Information about Danny Blanchflower. (Kuortti).

Pansy . . . bum boys
Both insulting terms for gay men.

football hooligans
Violent soccer fans.

Page 162


Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
Although this slogan is commonly attributed to Thomas Jefferson, it was apparently first delivered in this form by Wendell Phillips in 1852, speaking to the Massachusetts Antislavery Society; but an earlier version–“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance”–was uttered by John Philpot Curran in Ireland in 1790.

Page 163


Broadcast football (soccer) match of the day, here sports talk generally.

the penny dropped
Refers to someone belatedly catching on to what is being talked about; derived from a slow-working coin-operated machine.

Packy billy
Pakistani goat. All South Asians tend to be labelled “Pakys” in London.

Garrick Club
Prestigious actors’ club, named after the famous actor David Garrick (1717-1779).

Page 164

Why does the fact that the Police National Computer identifies Saladin as an English citizen place him in greater danger than before?


Hyacinth Phillips
In Greek mythology, Hyacinth was the beloved of Apollo. Supposedly when Apollo’s tears blended with the dying Hyacinth’s blood as the god embraced him they created the flower we now call Hyacinth, so the name may be plausibly linked to caring for the sick, as in the case of an AIDS service organization with that name (Kuortti). She shares her last name with another Black woman, Orphia Phillips, whom Gibreel will meet later, on p. 328 [338] (Petersson 273).

Page 166


What do you think is the significance of the image of the woman repeatedly giving birth?

exotic spices sizzling in clarified butter–coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves
Indian recipes often begin by “roasting” (frying) whole spices such as these (the masala) in clarified butter (ghee).

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland the Cheshire Cat can make parts of his body–such as his head–appear and disappear in isolation.

Page 167

that sick
British equivalent of American “so sick.”

Bird, British slang for “woman.”


See note above, on p. 98 [100].

A mythical Indian beast with the head of a man, body of a tiger or lion, and feet and tail of a scorpion or of a dragon; from Persian mandchora: “man-eater.” From Rushdie’s acknowledgements: “For tiption of the Manticore, I’m indebted to Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings.” The manticore is a chimera, see note on p. 301 [311]. More on the manticore by Martine Dutheil.

Moaner Lisa
Pun on the Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci.

Page 169


Her skin turned to glass.
As in Saladin’s dream, pp. 33-34.; see note on p. 131 [135].


he found himself dreaming of the Queen, of making tender love to the Monarch
Like Gibreel with Babasaheb, p. 22 or Mahound with Hind, p. 119 [121].

Page 170


black water
Possibly an allusion to the kala pani (Hindi for “black water”) a taboo in Hinduism against crossing foreign seas and thereby being “polluted” and losing one’s caste status.

great escape
Probably an allusion to The Great Escape, a 1963 film about an escape from a World War II prison camp. Information about the movie.

Page 171

French for “prisoners.”

Page 172


the two-backed beast
In Shakespeare’s Othello Iago tries to stimulate Brabantio’s horror at the news that his daughter has married the African Othello by telling him that the couple is now “making the beast with two backs,” that is, making love (Act I, scene 1, l. 116).

Obscene phone-caller who gets his kicks by saying nothing (just breathing) while listening to the agitated party on the other end of the line.

Page 173


Partido Socialista
Socialist Party (Spanish).

even the last of the elms, a survivor of the plague years
Most elms in Europe have been killed by Dutch elm disease. The final phrase echoes the title of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722).

Page 174


The most commonly imported Indian scent, worn widely by hippies in the sixties seeking to associate themselves with India, which explains why Saladin has doused himself with it to attract Pamela.

See above, p. 53.

The first in a list of other stereotypically but inauthentically Indian images which might attract an exoticism-seeking young woman like Pamela. Palm reading is traditionally more associated with gypsies, though they are Indian in origin.

A cheap cloth jacket made of an Indian-print bedspread.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, very conspicuous in the West in the seventies. A Hare Krishna page.

dharma bum
Refers to the title of Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel, Dharma Bums,
which incorporates the Hindu concept of duty: dharma. A dharma bum is either someone who finds his dharma in being a bum, or, more likely, someone who avoids performing his dharma.

The Greek god of love. Information on Eros.

Page 175


a real Saladin . . . a man with a holy land to conquer
In the 12th century, the Sultan Saladin led a successful attempt to dislodge the Europeans from Jerusalem, which the latter had seized in the First Crusade.

the Falklands War
The British forced Argentina to abandon the Falkland Islands off its coast, which the latter had seized in 1982. The conflict was widely interpreted as a flareup of old British imperialism.

What are Pamela’s main complaints about Saladin?


the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm, ‘Super flumina.’
Psalm 137 is the lament of the Jews taken into exile in Babylon in the early sixth century BC and begins “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.” The exiles refuse to sing their songs in this foreign land (How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, p. 176). The attribution to King David is traditional, but unsupported by modern scholarship. On their 1978 album Nightflight to Venus the group Boney M set this psalm to music as “Rivers of Babylon.” Boney M was a Euro-Disco group of black American soldiers who had stayed on in Germany after serving hitches there, assembled by a German record producer in the mid-seventies; so not only is the theme of immigration and exile present in the song but in its singers. More information on Boney M.

Page 176


Does anyone know why this name is given Pamela’s dog?

Sher Khan
Saladin evidently named his dog after the tiger in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, set in India. Kipling was probably alluding to the Medieval Kashmiri leader ‘Alam Sher Khan, whose deeds are recounted in the Baharistan-i-Shahi.

Page 177

Harold Wilson
Prime Minister of Great Britain 1964-1970 and 1974-76. Leader of the British Labour Party.

students disguised as Russian assassins
The description that follows reflects an old newspaper-cartoon stereotype of the communist terrorist, which the students here are self-consciously mocking.

Felt hats with curled brims traditionally associated with cartoon terrorists. Picture and info of a fedora.


American “hood.”

long live Ho Chi Minh
Many radical anti-Vietnam War protesters, far from being pacifists, aligned themselves with the communist forces in Vietnam led by Chairman Ho. A brief history of the Vietnam War. An article on the anti-war movement in Seattle containing relevant material.

Page 179


Finn MacCool
This legendary Medieval Irish warrior-poet had only to suck his magical thumb of knowledge to forsee things to come. Also known as Finn Mac Cumhail. The story of Finn MacCool, including how he acquired his magic thumb.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
President Kennedy’s widow appalled many of her admirers when she married the conservative shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis who lived on the Greek island of Skorpios.

Page 180


ass. Arse. Ass.
Alternating the American spelling with the British one.

What is it that Saladin loved about Pamela?

Page 181

World War II bomber crew slang for aerial machine gun fire.

to the top of a tall building
Jumping or falling to one’s death is a constant motif in this novel. Compare for instance, Rekha Merchant and her children (pp.14-15).

Page 182


Château Talbot
One of the finest of red Bordeaux wines, named after an English general who was killed in the final battle of the Hundred Years War at Castillon, near where the wine is made. Hence this is another cross-cultural reference: a French wine named after an Englishman.

Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder-General
A 17th-century British “Witch Finder General” responsible during 1645-1647 for the deaths of perhaps 230 people, finally himself hanged as a witch in 1647 (Robbins 249-253). He was particularly obsessed by the consorting of witches with imps and familiars: demonic creatures in the form of possessed animals, as depicted in the frontispiece of his pamphlet entitled The Discovery of Witches:.

Reproduced by permission of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library, Cornell University. Rushdie might have been made aware of Hopkins by the fame a 1982-1983 heavy metal rock called Witchfinder General. Information on the rock group.

In World War II, pilots invented mythical creatures called “gremlins” which were responsible for various mechanical malfunctions in their planes; but Rushdie may be referring to the demonic little creatures featured in the 1984 movie, Gremlins. Information on the film.


I am that I am
God’s definition of himself, or his name, in Exodus 3:14.

Page 183

Chin-Chin . . . Skol
British and Swedish expressions for “Drink up!”


killing old women
See below, p. 361.

Page 184

cannibal and Christian
Cannibals and Christians is the title of a 1966 collection of essays by Norman Mailer in which he opposes what he calls “the Right Wing” (“cannibals”) to all who believe in the potential goodness of humanity (“Christians”).

pista barfi and jalebis
Indian sweets (Hindi). Pista barfi would be a sort of fudge made with pistachios. Jalebi are deep fried swirls of saffron-flavored yellow dough.Recipe for ice cream barfi. A thick batter is poured in a stream into hot oil to make jalebis, which are then soaked in a sugar syrup. Recipe for jalebis.

chaloo chai
Sweetened spiced tea with milk (Hindi).


Pockets of bread filled with spiced meat or vegetable (Hindi).

Page 185


beard hennaed red
A mark of piety—Muhammed is said to have had a hennaed beard.

Tiny coin, 100th of a rupee (Hindi).

Ancient Hindu sage (Sanskrit).

A Muslim saint, wise man (Farsi).

Page 186

Like the Roman, the ferrety Enoch Powell had said, I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood.
On April 20, 1968, the racist British politician Enoch Powell, recently returned from observing the riotous aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King in the U.S., gave in Birmingham an inflammatory diatribe against a proposed race relations measure which vaulted him to instant prominence. He warned of a coming race war, stating: “like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” The allusion is to a prophecy of war uttered by the Sibyl in Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid. The prophecy is fulfilled on p. 462 [477].

Page 188


history sheeter
Indo-Anglian term for someone with a criminal record.

beastly dead
In the first chapter of James Joyce‘s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus tells his friend Buck Mulligan that the day after his mother’s death, he had overheard Buck say to a visitor, “O, it’s only Dedalus, whose mother is beastly dead” (Booker 206, footnote 3). Here the “dead” man has been literally transformed into a beast.

Page 189

Why do you think prohibitions and instructions gladden Gibreel’s heart?

Page 190


The name alludes to the Arabian “false prophet” known as “Musaylima the Liar” (Al-‘Azm 284 & Simawe 186), linked to Akbar by his unorthodox beliefs.

La-ilaha . . . illallah
The qalmah. See note above, on p. 105 [108].

universal faith invented by the Emperor Akbar
Akbar the Magnificent ruled over the Mughal Empire in India (1556-1605), repudiated orthodox Islam, and was deeply interested in the major beliefs of the world’s religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. He finally claimed theological infallibility and promulgated a blended religion of his own invention called “Teen Ilahi,” Arabic for “the religion (Diin) of God” or “Divine Faith” (Windsor).

music of the spheres
Influenced by the ancient Greek thinker Pythagoras, many Renaissance thinkers speculated about harmonies inaudible to mortals produced by the turning of the spheres of the heavens. More on the music of the spheres.

Page 191


bespoke tailoring
Hand-made clothing (very expensive).

French term for an English gentleman.

producing advertising jingles
Like Rushdie himself.

Page 192


rainbow coalition of the celestial
Borrows Jessie Jackson’s term for his multi-racial coalition.

a walking United Nations of Gods
Margareta Petersson points out that Gibreel is also compared to the United Nations on p. 60 (Petersson 273).

How does Maslama fit into the theme of self-definition in this novel?

Page 193

[199] Bartica on the Essequibo
Bartica is a city at the mouth of the Essequibo River in Guyana. Map of Guyana.

Page 194


Handel’s Messiah
George Frederick Handel’s most popular composition is the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the oratorio Messiah. Information on Messiah.

Page 195


Usually wife, but here, woman (Hindi).

Spiced breads. Kachori recipe .

Hi ho, it’s off to work.
From the song “Hi Ho” in the Disney film of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. See the reference to Snow White earlier in this paragraph.

Page 196

the old mantra: om mani padmè hum
A mantra is a formula repeated ritually in Buddhist meditation. The one quoted here in Sanskrit is the most famous, and means “The jewel in the lotus,” which refers to the Buddha. More on om mani padè hum.


The “abominable snowman,” a gigantic deadly monster believed by people in the Himalayas to seek human beings. More about the Yeti.

Page 198


Sherpa Pemba
Pemba Sherpa is one of the founders of Asian Trekking, the main organization that provides guides for Everest expeditions. Picture and more information about Pemba Sherpa.

What do we learn about Allie as she speaks to the schoolgirls? What kind of person does she seem to be?

Page 200


dressed in white, like a mourner at a funeral
In Muslim countries, mourners wear white, not black. It has snowed.

What kinds of plays on words is Rushdie indulging in in the last sentence of this chapter? Describe them.

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