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"High above this quagmire of violence rise the sunny plateaus of Eden, casting their shadows before."

The wording is meant deliberately ambiguous.

It opens a paragraph about a group of people that have retreated from the world but are about to attempt to conquer it (metaphorical foreshadowing).

At the same time, the inhabited plateaus, similarly to the Greek Meteora monasteries, cast a literal shadow onto lower places. The reader is taken to the peaceful, heavenly place and its inhabitants, before pointing out their conquest plans.


The aspects of the question are

  • Does the average reader recognize the metaphor, if only half of it is weaved into the sentence about physical plateaus, or does the reader only associate physical shadows with that wording ... or does it just sound wrong?

  • Does the metaphor always have an evil connotation (cf. 3rd metaphorical example below) or can it just mean that something big is about to happen? I am trying to paint the picture of a peaceful, lush place at the beginning of the paragraph, slowly grading into the darker aspects.

  • How could it be more properly worded?


I have found three examples of metaphorical usages so far (thanks to Kate Bunting for the first one):

coming events cast their shadows before
Clues indicate important events to follow.

cast a long shadow
To continue to have consequences well into the future.
A: "I know I made a mistake, but that happened years ago! Why are we still talking about it?" B: "Because old sins cast a long shadow."
[However I don't know how reliable this source is, as the Cambridge Dictionary doesn't mention this meaning]

cast a shadow over/on sth
to spoil a good situation with something unpleasant:
Her father's illness had cast a shadow over the birth of her baby.



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  • I thought that "foreshadowing" was the word you were looking for (which seems pretty much a like-for-like, from what you describe of the German), but in English, I've only heard it used for something figuratively "casting it's shadow" over future events. Whereas it's seems like you want a word for something literally casting a shadow (the plateau)? Feb 15 at 17:47
  • @anotherdave Well, it was meant ambiguous. It's a paragraph about a cult that is about to become important for future events, trying to take over the "world" of the story. And the plateaus the cult originates from literally do cast a shadow on lower islands. The paragraph starts out with that ambiguous sentence about the plateau geography, then explains their everyday life and later goes into detail about their conquest goals. So the ambiguous sentence about casting a shadow is a foreshadowing in itself in some way. Feb 15 at 20:19
  • The big question is, if the idiom of "casting a shadow over future events" always has a bad/evil connotation or just means, that something big is about to happen. As that movement is one of several involved parties, but not meant to be the explicit "dark side". Feb 15 at 20:21
  • I like your sentence and can easily understand the metaphor. I think your cast shadows are as ambivalent as you wish. I think ending with before weakens the metaphor a little bit. It's difficult to understand and as a reader I expected a bit more support of the metaphor than the word before. Replace it with more tangible ambivalence. For example, "...casting their shadows upon the ..."
    – EllieK
    Feb 22 at 14:10
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As @Kate Bunting has noted, the particular phrasing you've used is idiomatic in English. However, I'd argue that it's precisely why it could use a rewrite.

Idioms and sayings such as the one you're trying to use exist in the language to easily express characteristics which can be difficult to describe literally by associating them with something known to the reader or listener. This is an advantage in everyday communication, but arguably a bit of a disadvantage in writing.

In good writing, foreshadowing should be subtle - otherwise the reader will not only figure your plot out easily, but it'll also feel unrewarding to them. If I read your sentence, with that direct analogue to the idiom, I'd probably understand the metaphor - but also feel a bit talked down to, as if the author was poking me in the side and saying "ha, the plateaus are casting their shadows, get it?".

What you could do instead is describe the scene - tell the reader about the plateaus, how they shoot up high above the surrounding terrain, and how the sun strikes them and leaves the lands below bathed in darkness. It's powerful imagery on its own, and if written well should evoke the sense of foreboding and unease you intend to evoke without being too obvious.

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C2 If an unwanted or unpleasant event looms, it seems likely to happen soon and causes worry:

Her final exams are looming. Here, too, the threat of unemployment has been looming on the horizon. The threat of closure looms over the workforce. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/loom?q=Loom

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    Thanks, but I'm trying to not bring out the threat too much in the beginning (saving it for the end of the paragraph). My goal is to start out with describing this place, lush and green, sunny and on the highest peaks of the archipelago, a shelter for people trying to escape the problems of that world and something big is about to happen. And only at the end of the text the tonality is shifting completely into "All over the archipelago they are feared. For Eden is growing - why retreat from the terrors of the world, when you can obliterate them." Feb 15 at 20:57
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    to send light or shadow (= an area of darkness) in a particular direction: --The moon cast a white light into the room. --The tree cast a shadow over/on his face. --(figurative) Her arrival cast a shadow over/on the party (= made it less pleasant). Feb 15 at 22:29
  • Cool, Thank you. Is there also a neutral figurative ending, like "coming events cast their shadows before"? Feb 15 at 22:36
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Coming events cast their shadows before is a similar idiom which exists in English.

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/coming+events+cast+their+shadows+before.

I'm not sure whether this fits your intended usage, though.

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