The Da Vinci Code: Chapter 99

Summary: Teabing, now revealed as the Teacher, explains his motivations to Sophie and Langdon. When Teabing realized that the Millennium had come and gone without the Priory’s revelation of the Sangreal documents, he decided that Saunière and the Brotherhood had, under presumed pressure from the Church, betrayed their solemn responsibility to expose the truth of the Grail—the truth about Jesus, Mary, and their bloodline—to the world. For that perceived treason, Teabing decided that Saunière and the other three caretakers of the secret must die. Teabing claims that the Church orchestrated the car accident in which Sophie’s family died, thereby bringing pressure to bear upon Saunière to keep the truth hidden. He tries to persuade Sophie and Langdon to join with him in doing what Saunière would not. He knows he needs Langdon’s help in solving the riddle of how to open the keystone cryptex; he even hands the cryptext over to Langdon.  Langdon threatens to destroy the cryptex, as he threatened at the Temple Church. Teabing scoffs, believing that Langdon is too much of a historian, too committed to the Grail quest, to leave the task unfinished so close to its conclusion. Sophie refuses to help Teabing. Teabing makes a demand that Langdon make his choice, as well.

Analysis: Like a classic James Bond villain, Teabing spends much of this chapter doing what Professor Peter Coogan has termed (after the Pixar film The Incredibles) “monologuing”—that is, “supervillains’ tendency toward self-absorbed, self-destructive talking: instead of killing the hero, they spout off on their greatness, the hero’s feebleness, and the inevitability of their victory” (Coogan, Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, Austin, TX: Monkeybrains Books, 2006; p. 89). While Teabing likely doesn’t qualify as a “supervillain,” he is certainly a larger-than-life figure; and much of his discourse in this chapter can fairly be characterized as “self-absorbed” and ultimately self-defeating. Throughout his conversation, Teabing portrays himself as the only person worthy of the Grail: e.g., “I risked everything to take the nobler course” (p. 442); his desire to swear a “knight’s allegiance to uncover the truth and make it known” (p. 445); “A true knight”—meaning himself—“learns humility in the face of the Grail” (p. 441); “I serve a far greater master than my own pride” (p. 441)—a debatable conclusion, at best! Teabing rationalizes his crimes as actions he had to take in the service of this supposedly noble course: e.g., the murder of Rèmy—“Every Grail quest requires sacrifice” (p. 444). Although Teabing rails against the supposed monomania of the Church in keeping the Sangreal truth suppressed—“History repeats itself. The Church has a precedent of murder when it comes to silencing the Sangreal” (p. 438)—Teabing has, by his actions, revealed himself as no better than his ecclesiastical adversary. And in the middle portion of the chapter, related from Langdon rather than Teabing’s point of view, readers get the sense that the symbologist is comprehending this truth also. He refers, for instance, to Teabing’s “misguided quest” (p. 440). The ironic statement that signals the shift in perspective back to Teabing—“Light begins to dawn” (p. 443)—is not only a continuation of the daybreak imagery begun a few chapters earlier but also a recognition that light is dawning on Langdon: the light of the real truth, the truth that Teabing is a dangerous and obsessed man who must be stopped. Readers cannot help but know that his response to Teabing’s unanswered question that concludes this chapter will be a negative one. We simply do not yet know how.