Summary: The revealed “mirror text” reads: “An ancient word of wisdom frees this scroll, and helps us keep her scatter’d family whole. A headstone praised by templars is the key and atbash will reveal the truth to thee.” Much speculation on the poem’s meaning ensues. Even Teabing admits to being stumped.
Analysis: The darkness Sophie notes outside the plane’s windows symbolizes the “dark” in which our protagonists still find themselves, even after realizing how to read Saunière’s message: “Sophie felt as if she were being hurtled through space with no idea where she would land” (p. 331). By this point, readers may be forgiven for feeling much the same! This chapter uses Saunière’s poem to tie together several now-familiar elements of the novel’s sprawling conspiracy theory, as Teabing (perhaps too helpfully) notes: “This poem references not only the Grail, but the Knights Templar and the scattered family of Mary Magdalene! What more could we ask for?” (p. 329). And yet it also introduces some new elements to consider. For example, the chapter postulates that the meter in which the poem is written, iambic pentameter (familiar to any student of Shakespeare— a line ten syllables long, accented on every second beat), possesses “deeply pagan” “mystical properties” (p. 329) based on the principle of holistic balance. And the chapter makes much of the Atbash Cipher, “a classroom example of a basic rotational substitution scheme” in cryptography (p. 330). All exposition aside, however, this chapter’s most basic purpose seems to be to signal the readers that, though we are nearing the end of the novel, many more mysteries remain, encouraging us to keep turning the pages. After all, as Sophie reflects, “Jacques Saunière did not give up his secrets easily” (p. 331)—and neither, we may add, does Dan Brown!