Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #49: Chapter 42 - Stronger than Blood


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Egwene mentions that it took quite a while to find Mesaana after the battle in Tel’aran’rhiod because she masqueraded as one of the reclusive sisters. However we never find out what the White Tower did with Mesaana. At this stage, so soon after the battle, Egwene is at a loss.

Warders keep their Aes Sedai emotionally honest:

Looking at her face and feeling the storm inside, Gawyn was given for the first time another perspective on the Warder and Aes Sedai relationship. Warders weren't just bodyguards; they were the ones - the only ones - who saw the truth of what happened within the Aes Sedai. No matter how proficient the Aes Sedai became at hiding emotions, her Warder knew there was more than the mask.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

Normally bonding grounds an Aes Sedai, as Siuan showed, but this bonding seems to have grounded Gawyn. For a time.

Egwene is troubled that Gawyn only saved her by disobeying her; an uncomfortable reminder that she is not infallible. She winces that she was so sure about who the Tower’s attackers were that she concentrated on the Shadow. It is not as if she didn’t know about the Seanchan, and their determination to collar all the Aes Sedai, better than any other Aes Sedai. She even had dreams as yet unfulfilled in which she had contact with the Seanchan. After the Seanchan were repelled she assumed that they were no longer an immediate threat.

The Seanchan were subverted a long time earlier to be a major distraction in the Last Days, as Ishamael cryptically gloated to Rand in Baerlon:

"They will not save you," Ba'alzamon said. "Those who might save you will be carried far across the Aryth Ocean. If ever you see them again, they will be collared slaves, and they will destroy you for their new masters."

The Great Hunt, The Grave Is No Bar To My Call

Ishamael’s plot was effective. He may have been guided or inspired by prophecy – the Shadow’s prophecies or the Karaethon cycle.

Gawyn promises to obey Egwene in anything else so long as she allows him to protect her. This turns out to be an empty promise, with both parts of it violated by Gawyn, especially the oath regarding protecting Egwene. He explains that his newfound acceptance of his role was due to learning to surrender, something he has never been good at it. When Egwene shows that she understood this, he is surprised, but women learn to channel saidar by surrendering and Two Rivers women have trouble with that part. One of Gawyn’s first useful pieces of advice to Egwene - which she listens to - is to delegate things someone else could do.

Sneakily, Gawyn steals the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal rings before an Aes Sedai recognises them as ter’angreal, a result of the Aes Sedai’s oversight in delaying study of the bodies. In a way, he has immediately gone behind Egwene’s back. I don’t believe Warders should reported everything to their Aes Sedai, but the Bloodknives and their ter’angreal are patently Aes Sedai business. This action warns us of what Gawyn’s oath is ultimately worth. (But then he swore to protect Elayne and Andor, too.)


Lan POV

Lan is surprised that people have deduced his route and waited where they could not fail to encounter him. Like Perrin and Rand, Lan won’t lead people to certain death in battle. He feels responsible:

This was what he'd always worried would happen. Reclaiming Malkier was impossible. They would die, no matter how large their force. An assault? On the Blight? Ridiculous.
He could not ask that of them. He could not allow that of them. As he continued down the road, he became more resolute. Those brave men, flying those flags...they should join with the Shienaran forces and fight in a battle that meant something.
He would not take their lives.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

In the Aiel War he was more accepting of the regrettable losses in battle and the responsibilities of a general, but not now. Lan feels it is his duty to defend the land at Tarwin’s Gap and push further north into the Blight, but not anyone else’s (except maybe the Shienarans’).

Nevertheless he is proud that Malkier rallied so readily when it was broken as a nation long ago. It is telling that most Malkieri don’t recognise Lan, their uncrowned king, by sight. He hasn’t moved among his former people much – having associated with Borderlander nobility and armies, and then Aes Sedai, instead. This is probably why he was mistaken about the strength of their national spirit. In turn, their spirit gives Lan strength to bear his responsibilities. Kaisel, a fellow noble, makes him accept them, by reminding Lan of the oath all Borderlanders take.

Nynaeve arranged this army to ensure Lan does not waste his life in a useless gesture of fighting the Blight alone, something Moiraine also tried to prevent back in the time of New Spring by bonding him. The Wheel is turning full circle for Lan. The differences between the three women who have saved Lan in bonding him is remarkable. Moiraine tried to prevent his destruction by focussing him on helping her and then by transferring him to Myrelle, and Myrelle saved him by focussing him on her. Nynaeve encouraged him to do his duty, but expanded it to include all Borderlanders who wanted to join, thus increasing Lan’s likelihood of success – and survival.

The chapter title Stronger Than Blood refers to the Borderlands’ oath. However, other oaths stronger than blood are also referred to in this chapter: the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder, and the Bloodknives’ oath to the Empress (reaffirmed when they activate their rings with their blood).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #48: Chapter 41 - An Unexpected Ally


By Linda

Galad POV

Byar brings up the Shadowspawn invasion of the Two Rivers, one of the Whitecloaks’ lowest hours, as a comparable situation to what is happening. Perrin also saw the comparison and was tempted to leave the Children to their just desserts, but decided to prove he was better than they. The Whitecloaks’ abandonment of their agreement to help the Two Rivers folk was never fully explained to Galad.

Bornhald can see that Byar’s claims that Perrin is being insanely wasteful with his supposed resources in an attempt to gain support are completely illogical. It is Byar’s mind which is twisted in even suggesting such as pointless action. Ironically, Bornhald was the one to make the decision to refuse to help the Two Rivers people fight the Shadowspawn. Perhaps his feelings of guilt or dishonour influenced his reaction to save Perrin from Byar.


Perrin POV

Perrin sees Berelain is terrified but doesn’t understand why; he does not realise she is terrified for Galad, not herself. He explains what the Whitecloaks cannot know: that the armies have been lured and forced to this point, where the Portal Stone is being used to bring in Shadowspawn for an ambush. He correctly deduces that a Forsaken planned it and reassures Faile and Berelain that he has a retreat worked out if things go wrong.

Faile is delighted that Perrin shows such honour. He is prepared to do the right thing no matter what, as Galad always does.


Galad POV

Galad has not fought Trollocs before. His whole army is in same boat, and they break under pressure. To his disappointment he realises that his Whitecloaks are not better than other men:

The Children of the Light were not protected by their goodness; they were falling in swaths, like grain before the scythe. Worse than that, some did not fight valiantly or hold with resolve. Too many yelled in terror, running. The Amadicians he could understand, but a lot of the Children themselves were little better.
They weren't cowards. They weren't poor fighters. They were just men. Average.
That wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Towers of Midnight, An Unexpected Ally

This is an echo of Byar’s claims in the previous chapter that the Light would have protected the Children while they attacked Perrin’s forces. Galad’s perfectionist beliefs are broken.

The Whitecloaks concentrated on looking for humans who may be allied to the Shadow rather than the Shadow’s actual monsters. All Whitecloak forces should have each done a stint fighting in the Blight or the Borderlands to help the Borderlander nations and gain their trust as part of their military training. Their very inexperience proves their unworthiness on their own terms. They can hardly be leaders in the fight against the Shadow if most of their soldiers have never fought a Trolloc.


Perrin POV

Gallenne also expected Perrin to leave the Whitecloaks to their fate once the battle got rough for them. The Mayener sees sense in killing Shadowspawn while there is no risk to themselves but he is impressed with Perrin as a man of “true honour” when he says he will save them.

It is a prompt christening of Mah’alleinir. The hammer is attuned to Perrin and grows warm as he thinks of the slaughter in the Two Rivers and the Whitecloaks’ betrayal of their word. His weapon never burns him, only his target. Its burning of the Shadowspawn is reminiscent of the weave-breaking ter’angreal’s effect on the gholam as well as a mirror of Perrin’s feelings.


Galad POV

The Lord Captain Commander is shown that other forces besides the Children stand against darkness, and moreover, do it better. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Whitecloaks are shown to be completely inadequate.

Galad is incredulous that all Perrin’s army gave up high ground and came down the hill to save them. Even more impressively, Perrin’s tactic worked. This begs the question of whether Galad would have done the same. He has suspicions that Perrin is a Darkfriend, so probably not. Perrin even lent his horse to Galad.

What’s more, by physically giving up the high ground, Perrin gains the moral high ground over the Whitecloaks, although they are reluctant to admit it.

Galad hints to Perrin that he did this to gain Galad’s favour. These are empty words. If Perrin hadn’t helped, Galad would be dead and Perrin wouldn’t have to worry about any judgment. So Perrin did himself no favour at all. Perrin knows that saving Whitecloaks still won’t dispel doubts against him. This is more a reflection of the Whitecloaks than of Perrin. Perrin says that the Trollocs were aiming for him, but turned on the Whitecloaks when Perrin escaped them. For this reason he feels somewhat responsible. As Lan observed earlier, Perrin has a strong sense of responsibility.

Perrin’s openness pleases Galad and gains his trust. The blacksmith is not scheming or manipulative. Galad wants Perrin to know his judgment in case one or the other dies; he feels he owes it to Perrin. Perrin is satisfied with the fairness of paying compensation and fighting in Last Battle.

Bornhald’s horror at killing Byar when he attacks Perrin is not assuaged by Galad telling him that he did the right thing. Galad understands Bornhald – and also Perrin – and assures Perrin that Bornhald does not hate him, just hates what Bornhald was forced to do: kill a friend. Bornhald redeems himself with this action, though he probably wouldn't agree.

I love the jokey end to this chapter:

Aybara grunted. "You should get to the wounded," he said, hefting his hammer and looking toward where the fighting was still thick.
"I am well enough to fight if I have your mount."
"Well then, let's be on with it." Aybara eyed him. "I'll stay by you, though, just in case it looks like you might fall."
"Thank you."
"I'm fond of the horse."
Smiling, Galad joined him, and they waded back into the melee.

Towers of Midnight, An Unexpected Ally

It shows a strong comradeship, something not that common between members of different groups, let alone ones so disparate and seemingly incompatible.

Galad and Perrin are indeed unexpected allies. A short while earlier, Galad looked on Perrin as a criminal and likely Darkfriend. Perrin hitherto has had only rough treatment from Whitecloaks – assault and betrayal, so it was not easy to predict he would ally with them, either.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #47: Chapter 40 - A Making


By Linda

Perrin POV

The staleness is now left behind in Ghealdan, but all is not right with the land in Andor:

There was no pollen. There were no wolves. Both seemed terrible signs to him.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

No pollen means no fertility, no food. No wolves means no top predator. The world’s ecology has been corrupted, continuing the wrongness theme.

Perrin believes that he can’t do anything about it:

The world was dying. He couldn't save it. That was Rand's job.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

But it is not just Rand’s job; he can’t do it alone. And as we shall see, Rand will have Mat on the battlefield, and Perrin in Tel’aran’rhiod, and everyone making a contribution.

Perrin has spent a lot more time thinking than doing, brooding on his role and on leadership and relationships, but with his thoughts going round in circles. He is distressed that he couldn’t kill Slayer, grieves for Hopper as he does for his dead family, and is also angry that he doesn’t know what the Shadow’s plan was. In this scene he feels impelled to undertake intense physical activity to stop thinking. Soon he’ll finally progress to deciding and then acting. Faile keeps Perrin’s thoughts and feelings in line at this difficult time – this is in keeping with the moderation or temperance role that she plays (see Faile article).

"Fools," Perrin whispered. "Fools to follow me. Fools not to hide."
"You'd really have them do that?" Faile said, angry. "Cower someplace while the Last Battle happens? Didn't you say every man would be needed?"

Towers of Midnight, A Making

She keeps a focus on what is important and encourages others to, too.

The importance of choice is highlighted in this chapter:

The hammer could be either a weapon or a tool. Perrin had a choice, just as everyone who followed him had a choice. Hopper had a choice. The wolf had made that choice, risking more in defense of the Light than any human—save Perrin—would ever understand.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

Perrin made his important choice between the hammer and the axe made back in Crossroads of Twilight. He’s been worried all along that his important choice was between being wolf or human, not realising that he over-thought this issue.

If Hopper “died forever” after being killed in Tel’aran’rhiod, he can’t become a Hero of the Horn, since they are spun out of Tel’aran’rhiod into the waking world to work the will of the Wheel. I doubt his sacrifice went unregarded though.

Perrin’s desire for physical action was literally constructive in that it led to creating an amazing weapon. His act of creation parallels his dream of making something in Towers of Midnight Prologue when he brooded over all his unresolved issues (see Post #3: Prologue, Perrin POV read-through post). It has been too long since he used his artisanal skills. Not since Tear, the day he made his first “master’s piece”, as acknowledged by the smith, has he created anything at a forge. He has forged things metaphorically though, such as this army, and that has kept his eye and hand in.

As the Tairen smith hoped, the hammer led Perrin back to the forge to create a marvel….to become a smith god.

Man, if I have ever seen anyone made to hold a smith’s hammer, it is you. So take it. Keep it.”
Perrin closed his hand around the haft. It did feel right. “Thank you,” he said. “I cannot say what this means to me.”
“Just remember the ‘one day,’ man. Just you remember it.”

The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer

Very prophetic words from the smith. Perrin

felt a need to create, as if to balance the destruction he'd seen in the world, the destruction he'd helped create…

The world was cracking, breaking further each day. It needed help, right now. Once a thing shattered, you couldn't put it back together.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

You have to start all over again. Perrin made a hammer in actuality as he dreamed. It is a symbol of his army and his leadership of it, forged together truly to be guided by him.

While focused at his work, Perrin identifies or merges with the forge.

He breathed in and out, his lungs working like bellows. His sweat was like the quenching waters. His arms were like the anvil. He was the forge…
He felt something leaking from him, as if each blow infused the metal with his own strength, and also his own feelings. Both worries and hopes. These flowed from him into the three unwrought pieces...

as if all of his strength and emotion had been forged into the metal.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

He sees he is making a hammer – as he did in the dream. During the process he makes a lot of noise and quaking:

Blow after blow. Those beats were so loud. Each blow seemed to shake the ground around him, rattling tents.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

Perrin’s bucket of molten liquid is like lava. Smith gods are associated with earthquakes and volcanoes, for example the Ancient Greek god Hephaestus or the Ancient Roman god Vulcan, who have strong links with Perrin. The Norse thunder god, Thor, another parallel of Perrin, also shook the ground as he made deafening thunderclaps.

Noisy it might be, but the work is meditative and melts away Perrin’s resistance and rigid thinking habits so he can transform. He forges himself as he forges his hammer. Finally he knows what he is doing and why. The hammer is all steel – Perrin has steeled himself, and is tempered now.

Perrin won’t lead the army unless they acknowledge and accept the risks; give informed consent. Nine people, eight channellers plus Perrin, made the hammer; nine is the most yang (positive, active) number (see Number symbolism essay).

At the forge, Perrin leaves his old hammer, symbolic of his old self, behind. What is his new hammer? Its name, Mah’alleinir, is a reference to Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, with which he fought giants and never missed his target. The old tongue meaning of “He who soars” is an acknowledgement of Hopper, who wanted to fly.


Faile POV

Berelain immediately seizes on the implications of power-wrought weapons and blades. She fears Perrin will attack the Whitecloaks so that he will not have to submit to them. Faile is pretty sure that he won’t. Perrin confirms that he will keep his word.

Faile realises Perrin would never have suited Berelain because of what she thinks him capable of. Galad is similar in character to Perrin, but Berelain has idealised him and looks up to him as much as Faile does Perrin. Berelain claims Rand would be pleased if she married someone close to him. Back in Tear, she rejected Mat as too like her, which is why she didn’t respond to his greetings, much to his shock (The Shadow Rising, Rumours). (He is used to his advances going over well, and so is she.) Berelain expects Rand and Perrin to be like royalty or aristocrats and play pragmatic politics, but they aren’t. Not wanting to go against her own long-held principles of concentrating on advancing the standing of her country and her rulership, she justifyies her desire for Galad on the grounds of political advantage. Faile is not fooled. She agrees to help Berelain dissuade Perrin from attacking the Whitecloaks if he appears to as payback for Berelain backing off and restoring Perrin’s honour. So convincing is Berelain that Faile actually wonders what Perrin plans. Berelain pleads but it is not necessary.


Perrin POV

Elyas asks Perrin if he is “one of us” finally – a wolf. Perrin says no; he is who he is, which is half wolf and half human. He wonders if over-thinking has been the problem. Umm, yes. Encouragingly, he decides to worry less, and just be. At last he has found his balance. This is part of the necessity of balance theme of the books. In many ways he is a very successful Wolfbrother because he is balanced.

The army only now feels unified because Perrin is a proper leader. He is concentrating on doing, on performing his actual duties and not letting responsibility weigh him down.

As Perrin realises, he is a symbol to all these people. People can lose faith in a symbol if it is unworthy to be followed or looked up to. When Berelain damaged Perrin’s reputation and integrity by implying Perrin was unfaithful, she made him less worthy to be followed. Faile sensed the loss of regard and what it meant to Perrin and his army and acted to have it restored.


Galad POV

Galad fears his choices – his beliefs – were mistaken. He feels everything has been wrong since Morgase returned. It is because he killed a man for the wrong reason and therefore did evil. So things cannot be right. In fact, Morgase’s very existence proved that Galad can make big mistakes. Morgase drove this home by relating how she made a mistaken judgement, and also by openly regretting that she did not teach him the world is not black and white. Galad is aghast that right is harder to recognise than he previously believed. He did what seemed right regarding Valda and yet strictly speaking it wasn’t. Valda committed a crime – more than one crime – just not the crime that Galad thought. His conscience disturbed, Galad considers surrendering to Perrin to prevent the Whitecloaks being killed, mirroring Perrin’s contemplation of surrendering to Galad a short while earlier. But Perrin is a Darkfriend, Galad believes, so he feels unable to do so. He fears the Children may be wiped out before the Last Battle. This is a reasonable fear – the nearby Shadowspawn army is aiming to do just this. The Whitecloaks’ mistake is in believing Perrin is the Shadowspawn’s leader, when he is their target. As Perrin makes plain, he is indirectly responsible for the army attacking the Whitecloaks.

Byar blames Galad for their predicament. Galad says that he acted with honour by having a trial, but Byar believes they should have just attacked. In Galad’s opinion they would be utterly defeated by Perrin’s forces if they did so. Byar’s counter that the Light would have protected them should also hold now, but Byar illogically denies this. And the Light doesn’t protect the Whitecloaks from being killed by Shadowspawn.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #46: Chapter 39 - In The Three-fold Land


By Linda

Aviendha compares the appearance and dangers of the Three-fold Land to that of the Westlands to the latter’s discredit. Yet both have hidden dangers: for all that Aviendha thinks the snake’s den is obvious, she has personally seen five people fall to such a snake’s ambush, and there would be many more killed that she did not see. As other characters say, there are no safe places. It’s a matter of the dangers one knows:

It was always preferable to face the enemy or the danger you could see than to fear the one that hid behind the faces of lying wetlanders.

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

She has been afraid in the Westlands because a) she doesn’t understand Westland society well enough to recognise the dangers, particularly Darkfriends, and b) she left the Three-fold Land soon after Rand’s advent brought Darkfriends out of hiding, so she associates the Westlands with the horrors of the Last Days and the Three-fold Land with comparative stability and safety.

While Aviendha is parochial, she is honest with herself that, for all its unfamiliarity, she has enjoyed life in the Westlands. However she sees this as a weakness for luxury. Running to Rhuidean to follow custom has reminded her of Aiel ways and brought out her insular side. She is determined that all Aiel should return to the Three-fold Land, to become strong again with their traditions reaffirmed. At this stage she hasn’t considered that she could live in the Westlands without luxury if she wished. Too much hanging about in palaces recently.

The approaching end of Aviendha’s apprenticeship has “brought her honour back”. While she was an Apprentice and not a Maiden she felt low in status. Once she goes through the glass columns and is fully initiated as a Wise One Aviendha feels that she will have enough status to be Rand’s equal partner, and therefore can propose to him without being the lesser of the two.

And now for Aviendha’s meeting with the mysterious Nakomi. When Aviendha closes her eyes, I think she falls asleep and reaches Tel’aran’rhiod. The rest of the chapter is in Tel’aran’rhiod, although Aviendha is unaware of this. She didn’t hear Nakomi approach because in Tel’aran’rhiod Nakomi can just will herself at a place. The fire was warmer than it should be, according to the amount of tinder Aviendha put on it, and it had more coals than it should have, which is further evidence of Tel’aran’rhiod. Nakomi willed the fire hotter so it could cook tubers, and the roots cooked faster than they “should” – in the time it takes to make tea! Moreover the food tasted better than expected, so much so that it amazes Aviendha, who has dined royally recently, again indicative of Tel’aran’rhiod. Aviendha nearly doubted her taste test, but quickly rationalised that this was evidence of the superiority of the Three-fold Land. I smiled when the fourth wall of Aviendha’s dream was nearly broken here, but parochialism won the day. Nakomi vanishes – Aviendha can’t trace her – and so do her belongings once Aviendha leaves them and Nakomi thinks of them as gone.

So why was Nakomi hanging about in Tel’arna’rhiod? We haven’t seen any Dreamwalkers dream “across time”, as it were. So she either dwells in Tel’aran’rhiod or has reached it from the contemporary world. Nakomi may be a Hero of the Horn waiting for her rebirth or for the Horn of Valere to call her to the Last Battle. Her conversation with Aviendha is reminiscent of Birgitte’s contact with Perrin, Elayne and Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhiod in the early books. When Nakomi appeared in the real world at Thakan’dar and spoke to Rand, the Horn had been blown and Heroes were still abroad in the waking world.

Aviendha queried Nakomi on where she is from, and got a cryptic answer:

"I am far from my roof," the woman said, wistful, "yet not far at all. Perhaps it is far from me. I cannot answer your question, apprentice, for it is not my place to give this truth."

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

Nakomi's home and people are far from her and unreachable because she is dead, yet still feels tied to the Aiel. Looking further, Nakomi is far from the main world, yet not. Tel’aran’rhiod surrounds the waking world, yet as a shade, Nakomi cannot touch it. By the precepts, those dwelling in Tel’aran’rhiod can’t speak to someone who knows they are in Tel’aran’hiod, but then Aviendha doesn’t know. To tell Aviendha that she is a dead Hero would be to make Aviendha aware she is in Tel’aran’rhiod, and so, violate the precepts. It might also make Aviendha more doubtful of what Nakomi says.

Nakomi was able to track Aviendha’s thoughts very well, as an Aiel would. She tested Aviendha about her opinion of Rand and the Westlands, and made sure Aviendha believes Rand’s revelation. Aviendha’s negative opinion of the Westlands and her belief that they are supposedly weakening the Aiel earned Nakomi’s disapproval. Nakomi’s favourable opinion of the Westlands, emphasising their beauty and lushness, is as though they are familiar to her, as they would be if she had roamed about Tel’aran’rhiod long term and had cut ties with the Three-fold Land. She would be unlikely to feel this way had she remained in the Waste or only left it recently; recent contact with the Westlands would inspire the kind of wariness or alienation expressed by Aviendha.

Nakomi deftly drew out Aviendha’s concerns about the Aiel being weakened, and the effect of Rand’s revelation that the Aiel are Oathbreakers and no better than the despised Cairhienin. It is the bleakness resulting from this shame which has broken the Aiel – their hypocrisy and oath-breaking – not the Westlands themselves. Aviendha does not yet accept this.

Following the Dragon and fighting in the Last Battle will redeem the Aiel and meet their toh and thus restore their honour. Nakomi emphasises that serving the Dragon was the whole point of their time in the Three-fold Land and it is now time to move on.

The effect of their encounter is to make Aviendha more pro the Waste - where food tastes better than that in a palace - but also disturbed that old ways of violence may not have any purpose, let alone honour. Nakomi wants the Aiel to stop their violence and join the other nations. The Aiel need to embrace the Fourth Age as well as modern ways; right now they are too tribal and traditional. What Aviendha sees next will show her their degradation if they don’t.

Aviendha does not see that toh being met means the Aiel are free of the Three-fold Land, raiding and violence; just as the Sharans are free of the Pattern after playing their adversarial part in Last Battle. Nakomi makes her point and leaves; she doesn’t want to overdo it, or argue with Aviendha, but just nudge her in right direction. And, of course, there are the precepts, too.

Nakomi’s name is reference to Nokomis, the grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Amerindians. She is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest.

In fact, in the Ojibwe language, the language of the traditional tale on which Hiawatha is based, Nokomis means “my grandmother” (see Character Names N article for further discussion of Nokomis/Nakomi and Hiawatha/Rand).

Nakomi is not literally Rand’s grandmother although she is wise and knowledgeable. Bair said her name was ancient, and recognisably Aiel, so it is likely she is a Hero who was an Aiel from the distant past in one of her recent births, particularly considering her legendary name.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #45: Chapter 38 - Wounds


By Linda

Egwene POV

Mesaana is bolder and more desperate; she does need success, as Egwene surmised, especially after her boasts to the other Forsaken. Moghedien is cowardly; she feared domination enough to accept the a'dam, which is why it worked on her. Using a metaphor that Cadsuane explained to Rand, Moghedien does not have the strength of the oak, she survives by being a willow and bending until the stronger force passes. Rand firmly refused to be like the willow; he is far too stubborn. Two Rivers stubbornness is a useful character trait for Tel’aran’rhiod as we see for both Egwene and Perrin.

Egwene was dependent on her weaves in Tel’aran’rhiod in this scene. She also tended to concentrate on punishing or revenging particular Darkfriends, which is a dangerous strategy. Egwene says she was not surprised by the things Perrin did, but he outperformed many, including Egwene. She was complacent in more than one way here: of her ability, of her strategy, and of the Shadow’s plans. Yet she was distracted easily enough by Alviarin, Ramola and Katerine and was collared with an a’dam.

Nicola was another over-confident one, especially considering that she had little innate Tel’aran’rhiod talent and not much training. The Accepted was sly and impatient, but she was given ideas above her station by Egwene earlier in Towers of Midnight. Silviana warned Egwene against it:

"You didn't swear them to silence. They are Accepted, and they will brag about being trained with the ter'angreal!'
"I'm depending on it," Egwene said, walking to the study door.
Silviana raised an eyebrow.
"I don't intend to let the girls come to harm," Egwene said. "In fact, they'll be doing a lot less in Tel'aran'rhiod than they probably suspect from what I just said. Rosil has been lenient with me so far, but she'll never let me put Accepted in danger. This is just to start the proper rumors."…

"So long as you intend them to find you, and not those girls," Silviana said, voice calm—but iron. She had been the Mistress of Novices.
Egwene found herself grimacing, thinking of the things that had been expected of her as an Accepted.Yes, Silviana was right. She would have to take care not to subject Nicola and Nissa to similar dangers. She had survived, and was stronger for it, but Accepted should not be put through such trials unless there was no other choice.

Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand

Egwene used the Accepted; and, in Nicola’s case, used her up.

The name Melaina name means “black one” (see Character Names M article), so it’s interesting that Melaine made herself dark-coloured as camouflage.


Mesaana POV

Mesanna has an old-fashioned way of speaking in this scene:

"Fools they are, and their showing here was pathetic. Punishments will be administered."

Towers of Midnight, Wounds

She is the first Forsaken to sound from another time; and yet did not in A Crown of Swords when she spoke to Alviarin.


Egwene POV

Apparently Semirhage let slip information on the a’dam, perhaps just of its existence, but maybe even details on how it worked.

Moghedien is very skilled in Tel’aran’rhiod but her fearfulness led her to accept domination, or to forget how Tel’aran’rhiod works. She believed in the a’dam Nynaeve put on her in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Mesaana tries intimidation but it didn’t work on Egwene, who had already made up her mind about Mesaana from her appearance:

“She did not look very imposing.”

Towers of Midnight, Wounds

Egwene identifies with the White Tower and gains the strength to break Mesaana from her belief as well as her stubbornness. “Belief and order give strength” as Herid Fel wrote. The order the Tower represents is as a haven of knowledge and stability for over 3000 years. Egwene is the latest of a long and continuous line of Amyrlin Seats. Egwene’s great belief in the White Tower, and the good it represents, gives her the strength to break free of the a’dam and then of Mesaana’s attack.

In fact Mesaana’s role was to break the Tower from within. She was Egwene’s adversary. Egwene had two adversaries: Mesaana, the Shadow’s Amyrlin, a negative and evil trainer, and also Taim, leader of the Black Tower and another evil teacher. Nether had a vocation for their role. Of course it could be argued that Egwene doesn’t have the vocation for teaching either – hers is for leadership and politics – which is why she was partially responsible for the death of a promising but inadequately trained and disciplined Accepted in this chapter.

Breaking Mesaana’s will breaks her mind as well. There are two symbolic aspects here: Mesaana is the Shadow’s goddess of knowledge (and “wisdom”), a dark Minerva (see Mesaana essay, punished by losing her mind. She is physically alive but mentally dead and thus is part of the living dead theme and the wrongness that increases towards the Last Battle. So Mesaana, who sought to break the White Tower, was broken by a newly trained leader gaining strength by thinking about what the Tower stands for. It's a nice bit of irony.

The achievement is not lost on Egwene's companions-in-arms. Amys acknowledges Egwene as an equal. Bair declares the battle over. It is not a good idea to hunt down hidden Black Ajah as Siuan suggests. Melaine thinks the world is in debt to Egwene – but Egwene is in debt to Gawyn. If he had not persisted in his protection of her, she would be dead.


Perrin POV

Perrin is in a nightmare where people are dying for real since those who die in Tel’aran’rhiod die in the real world. Dragonmount is erupting, perhaps reflecting the populace’s view of Rand.

Slayer was resisting the nightmare as Perrin was, so Perrin added to the dream and startled Slayer enough that he was sucked in. Like Egwene, Perrin refused to be sucked into someone’s nasty trap in Tela’aran’riod. Both Dreamwalkers won. Perrin used the nightmare to destroy the dreamspike.

Perrin’s bad leg injury is symbolic of blacksmith gods, who often limped. Bronze Age metalworkers were prone to arsenical poisoning presenting as lameness and skin cancers from the arsenic they added to the copper to harden it when tin was scarce, and the physical appearance of smith gods is an accurate depiction of this.

After Hopper’s tragic death, Perrin finally feels able to leave Tel’aran’rhiod. Hopper’s final words were for Perrin to seek Boundless to explain or show why the balance between wolf and man is different for each man and a matter of choice.

Perrin awakes and quickly focusses on getting his people away from the threat of an ambush which he deduces must be nearby.

Faile realises Perrin is grieving for someone. Hopper will not be reborn.

The wrongness is still present, so it was not due to the dreamspike. The air smells like the Blight. However, when they Travel to Andor, they do not sense the wrongness there.


Egwene POV

Egwene wakes in a mood of relief but also feels the Tower had a costly and narrow escape. Then she sees what Gawyn did and feels the full extent of her overconfidence. If he had not protected her - against her explicit orders - she would never have lived to defeat Mesaana.

Gawyn’s warning message never arrived. Presumably Darkfriends are still intercepting communications.

Gawyn would not have Egwene bond him merely to keep him alive, but only if she had genuine feelings for him.

Egwene and Perrin compare and contrast very well in this sequence of POVs.


Graendal POV

The cushions stuffed with down from Shara are a typical example of Graendal’s self-indulgence, as is the fact that she even thinks of her luxuries at a time like this.

Slayer is not meek or fearful. He knows Graendal will be held responsible for the battle's failure. Also, in his opinion, the Forsaken’s plan was inadequate so he feels less respect for her. Rather daring of him to let her know, though, and that adds to her stress. I guess that Slayer thinks that he rates higher with Moridin than Graendal does, and so she won’t anger Moridin further by striking at him. Graendal lets in cold air so she won’t sweat.

She decides to spring the ambush on Perrin even though her attempts to kill him have failed so far. Slayer starts to voice a protest or warning but is ordered to desist. Graendal thinks him insubordinate. She is aware that the odds are against her because Perrin is so strongly ta’veren. Chaos is needed to increase her chances and distract everyone around him.

Graendal believes that she will succeed because she thinks Perrin is the Fallen Blacksmith and that he is prophesied to be killed by the Shadow:

"But this . . ." she said, rereading the passage. "This says Aybara will die!"
"There can be many interpretations of any prophecy," Moridin said. "But yes. This Foretelling promises that Aybara will die by our hand.”

Towers of Midnight, Writings

She actually calls Perrin “Fallen Blacksmith”. The likely passage of the Shadow’s prophecy they are discussing is quoted at the end of Towers of Midnight:

In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come.

Towers of Midnight, closing prophecy

But discussion of this passage will come later in the series. Moridin warned Graendal that prophecy is not easy to interpret (and that's certainly the case for this one), but Graendal is convinced they have it right and is determined to spring her trap. The person close by Perrin that she has prepared carefully is Byar. Slayer’s part is probably to order the deployment of Shadowspawn at the ambush site. How could she fail?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #44: Chapter 37 - Darkness In The Tower


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Gawyn remarks that the air is fresher with a clear sky. Endless clouds are part of the wrongness:

The open air felt good - different, somehow, from the same air beneath a cloudy sky. With the last light of dusk fading, the stars shone like hesitant children, peeking out now that the uproar of day had died down. It felt so good to finally see them again. Gawyn breathed in deeply.

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

The “rightness” seems to help change his negative thoughts and feelings. Gawyn is in Andor where the wrongness is weaker because Elayne is there, and those linked to Rand have some of his positive influence on the Pattern. Another example is that there is less rotting of food around Perrin.

Gawyn is jealous of Rand’s status:

Much of Gawyn's hatred of al'Thor came from frustration. Maybe jealousy. Al'Thor was playing a role closer to what Gawyn would have chosen for himself. Ruling nations, leading armies. Looking at their lives, who had taken on the role of a prince, and who the role of a lost sheepherder?

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

The Andoran Prince has been lost, and will be lost again in A Memory of Light. As First Prince of the Sword he would lead an army but he would not rule nations as Rand does. Currently Gawyn is doing neither. It sounds like he is not content to be Elayne’s advisor and protector. If he were Prince of the Sword he would have higher status than he does now and also be doing what he was trained, and sworn, to do. He thinks about what his status would be if he were Egwene’s Warder: an honourable post but it means stepping aside as far as individual personal achievement is concerned. Finally he understands about serving another, which is what he also would have done as Elayne’s First Prince of the Sword. He was sworn to that job, but never seems to have really understood it or accepted it. Having gained some understanding, Gawyn is more ready to be Egwene’s Warder. As we find out in the next book, that doesn’t mean much because Gawyn is frustrated and discontented with the roles life has offered to him.

Gawyn still has trouble not reaching for his sword when thwarted. He would be a tyrannical ruler if were to rule nations like Rand, but then so was Rand, only a short while earlier. Gawyn manages to restrain himself and ask politely for information. This is Foreshadowing of Gawyn “reaching” (over-reaching?) for his sword in A Memory of Light because he feels that he is not playing an important role, and causing his own, and therefore Egwene’s, death.

From what he learns, he quickly deduces that Egwene is in Tel’aran’rhiod and vulnerable to assassins, and runs through a gateway to the Tower and up to her rooms. Just in time: the dreamspike is immediately brought to Tar Valon and no further gateways can be made until it is gone. Gawyn was the person running to save Egwene in her prophetic dream:

Straps at waist and shoulder held her tightly to the block, and the headsman’s axe descended, but she knew that somewhere someone was running, and if they ran fast enough, the axe would stop. If not…

- A Crown Of Swords, Unseen Eyes

Egwene’s body lies helpless in bed as her mind fights Mesaana and the Black Ajah in Tel’aran’rhiod. Gawyn runs frantically through the Tower to prevent the Bloodknives killing her while she is unconscious. He had to be quick to get a gateway made before they were blocked by the dreamspike and also to get there before the Bloodknives killed Egwene.

Gawyn is finally roused to protect others and think more of himself for doing so, rather than thinking OF himself. Again this is what he was brought up to do as First Prince of the Sword. His fight in the dark against the Bloodknives in Egwene’s room is probably his finest hour. Only the fact that they keep fighting gives him hope they haven’t killed Egwene already. He puts his decision to protect into action and is taking grievous wounds while defending Tower from them, even if Egwene is dead. His solution to combat the Bloodknives’ powers is to take the risk of fighting in the dark, where there are no Shadows to distract or mislead. Egwene’s maid was caught in Egwene’s trap and is a helpless witness.


Egwene POV

Carlinya’s death in Tel’aran’rhiod against the Shadow fulfils Min’s viewing of a raven tattoo:

For an instant, Min saw an image of a raven floating beside her [Carlinya’s] dark hair, more of a drawing of the bird than the bird itself. She thought it was a tattoo, but she did not know its meaning.

-The Fires of Heaven, Sallie Daera

Many readers thought the raven tattoo meant she would be captured by the Seanchan and made da’covale, since da’covale are marked with a raven tattoo, whereas Min’s viewings of those taken as damane involve the a’dam. However ravens are also symbols of the Shadow. It was a representation of a raven (and the Shadow) since Tel’aran’rhiod is not the ‘real world’ but the World of Dreams.

The Wise Ones consider whether to join Egwene in fighting Forsaken. Such a dangerous battle is not one to go into lightly – even though they did enjoy it. The Dreamspike traps Black Ajah, Wise Ones and Aes Sedai alike.

Mesaana almost overwhelmed Egwene’s mind in Tel’aran’rhiod; she had to flee to escape the Forsaken. The Wise Ones camouflage themselves for ambush, thus showing more skill than Egwene who Egwene attacks in an obvious pattern.


Perrin POV

Perrin denies Slayer is a wolf. He is a wolf of wrongness – a human Darkhound, in a way. Slayer, with two souls in one body, and losing his humanity through frequently entering Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, is emblematic of wrongness.

Slayer worries that Perrin will drop the dreamspike into Dragonmount’s vent. Or Perrin was meant to think so. Perrin isn’t sure which, but either way it does give him an idea of how to destroy it.

To fight Slayer, Perrin became a wolf in Tel’aran’rhiod fully, and feels a rightness that he should be so. Perrin doesn’t try to offload the dreamspike as he intended, but keeps it with him.

In this scene Perrin and Slayer are equally matched. In contrast, Perrin out classed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod. Egwene is shown as not quite experience enough or skilled enough for Tel’aran’rhiod battles in this chapter. When Egwene grabs at Perrin with Air, Perrin undoes her restraints and stops weaves including balefire. He warns Egwene about the dangers of the World of Dreams, just as she has done to channellers who are novices in Tel’aran’rhiod. What Egwene tried to do was a big mistake; had Perrin been held by Egwene’s bonds of Air, he would have been at the mercy of the Shadow.

Distracted by Perrin’s presence and skill, Egwene was nearly killed by the Black Ajah. Perrin sees Egwene under attack and gives her some timely reminders of how Tel’aran’rhiod works. In the meantime, Hopper is severely injured. Perrin helps Egwene at the cost of Hopper. While Perrin is distracted by Hopper’s peril, Slayer is the stronger in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Perrin worked out how to replenish his blood in Tel’aran’rhiod. He can’t heal himself though. Slayer implies there are ways to do so.


Mesaana POV

With an offhanded thought, she strapped Katerine's back with lines of Air. Failure needed always be punished. Consistency was the key in all forms of training.

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

Mesaana consistently is uncaring, as an earlier POV shows:

Mesaana could be cruel where necessary, and she did not care what Semirhage did to others.

Lord of Chaos, Prologue

The Dreamspike is as much a hindrance as it is a help. It pins Egwene’s people in place but also prevents the Black Ajah luring them elsewhere to an ambush (and the Aes Sedai would probably have fallen for it, given their track record). Mesaana assumes Egwene knows where the dreamspike is, because non-channellers don’t handle objects of the Power effectively, supposedly, nor are they entrusted with them.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #43: Chapter 36 - An Invitation


By Linda

Egwene POV

Egwene appears in Tel’aran’rhiod dressed in white sewn with gold thread and black obsidian trim. Since Tel’aran’rhiod is a dream world, and dreams communicate through symbols, let’s look at the symbolism. Egwene is dressed in pristine white to show her purity here, the opposite of the Shadow’s black, and her personification as the White Tower, but she is also dressed like a White sister, logical and lacking in empathy. She has made her deductions on what is happening and put aside her feelings for Gawyn (and overridden his). The gold (the colour of the sun and royalty) and black (darkness) trimming perhaps indicate her plans to deal with Rand and the Shadow… Yet she is overshadowed by both. The dress is a showy version of Mesaana’s dress that she wore in The Gathering Storm Prologue while vainly boasting of how she would deliver the Tower to the Shadow. And Mesaana is about to act on that promise and attack her enemy, Egwene.

No less important is that Egwene chose the one colour both Aiel and Sea Folk respond to. For the Aiel, white is for gai’shain, who serve the warriors to restore their honour, but then Egwene is the Servant of the Servants of All. To the Sea Folk, white is unflattering to wear and shows a lack of joy in colour (Winter’s Heart, To Lose The Sun). Does this help Egwene in her negotiations with them?

Egwene disconcerts the Aiel and Sea Folk channellers with her honesty. By admitting that Aes Sedai are controlling, and acknowledging that the other groups have something to offer the Tower, Egwene shows them respect and makes them more inclined to consider her offer.

Egwene suggests they share knowledge and, gasp!, cooperate; and even learn to appreciate each other’s ways. She wants two of each group’s advanced students to train with, and learn the ways of, other groups. They should train for at least six months but less than two years, and must follow the rules of their host group. At the end of their stint they return home for at least one year and then can choose where they wish to be. This way the groups retain their autonomy and customs but widen their outlook. Egwene’s unspoken intent is for larger quantities of trainees to be exchange students and she is relying on the fact that since only the best will be sent it will be seen as a high status posting and others will clamour for this recognition. And so it spreads.

The Sitters argue for the old system of White Tower control, but Egwene shows them that times have changed. Asha’man can’t be ignored or treated badly. Like the Wise Ones and Windfinders they are worthy of respect and acknowledgement. Egwene wants to guide rather than dominate. Unspoken is that the Aes Sedai schism and the Black Ajah purge publicly proved that Aes Sedai are not superior to other groups. The discussion appears open in this scene but there is a lot that is not said aloud.

The Shadow did not play to Egwene’s plan, but just attacked; rather like Rand’s response to Graendal’s attempts at manipulation:

”You make her think that you are sitting down across the table from her, ready to play her game. Then you punch her in the face as hard as you can.”

The Gathering Storm, A Force of Light

Egwene’s plan was logical (the white dress!) but its attempts at manipulation were seen through. Or ignored.

Perrin POV

Perrin realises that he can’t throw the dreamspike away secretly. This looks back to when Nynaeve, Elayne and Egeanin tried to remove the threat of the male a’dam by throwing it in the deepest ocean and failed to do so. And also forward to the aftermath of the Last Battle, when Birgitte will arrange for the Horn of Valere to be hidden:

"I sent Olver away," Birgitte said. "With guards I trust. I told Olver to find someplace nobody would look, a place he could forget, and toss the Horn into it. Preferably the ocean."

A Memory of Light, Epilogue

It will be found in another Age when it is “needed”. Things hidden away are “intended” to be found; they can be relied on to recur. (The Dark One is one of those things.)

Perrin sets out to hide the dreamspike in Tel’aran’rhiod in a city somewhere while he attends to Slayer. He can’t outrun Slayer but must confront him and kill him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #42: Chapter 35 - The Right Thing


By Linda

Egwene POV

After insisting that she didn’t need protection and ordering Gawyn to stop, Egwene now feels its absence. Events will show she made a foolish decision. Egwene’s contrariness is due to being on edge as her cutting comment to Siuan shows. Siuan, another contrary character, understands Egwene’s stress and smiles at Egwene’s concern this time instead of brushing it aside.

Both Amyrlins were undone by incomplete information.

Perrin POV

Perrin remarks that Galad returned the supplies he captured. The Whitecloak commander did not keep what wasn’t his, even though as spoils of war it would be acceptable to do so. It is an integrity that Perrin respects.

Perrin seems surprised at how emotionally drained the trial left him, but the tension and concentration required to avoid multiple disasters was considerable. Plus, there was no right answer though I think he achieved the best outcome possible.

Perrin is determined that Light-aligned people should not battle each other, since every person is needed to fight the Shadow. Nor does he want to waste lives. He shows considerable insight; it was indeed the Shadow’s ploy to set groups against each other. Divide and conquer. He correctly deduces that the Shadow will attack now that they see Perrin won’t fight the Whitecloaks and that they have pinned him in place with the dreamspike for this. It is imperative that he get Travelling back again.

Perrin’s receptivity extends to reading the Pattern to an extent; he senses the recurrence of his long-term unresolved issues: Whitecloaks, Slayer, and Noal. Unspoken is the realisation that he must deal with them, or else…

Galad POV

Galad’s unresolved issue is not understanding that there is not always a right answer. Another is that mistakes can lead to “right” action - which by Galad’s definition cannot be right. And conversely, that doing the right thing can be wrong. Morgase warned Galad of this and it makes him uncomfortable. Perrin accepted that there was no right answer to his conflict with the Whitecloaks and was reluctant to make decision. On the other hand, Galad finds determining an answer, or as he sees it, “the” answer, easy. He is a foil to Perrin in this sub-thread. Perrin sees more possible answers and spends time weighing them. Both men are deep thinkers, but Galad is more willing to adopt high cost solutions than Perrin.

Bornhald’s unresolved issue is his mistaken belief – at the urging of his friend Byar - that Perrin killed his father. He realises that there is no evidence and that Byar’s behaviour and statements are inappropriate. Bornhald is shown to be a much more reasonable person here, mentally stronger and more independent than in previous scenes.

After the trial Galad acknowledges that, like Perrin, he killed a Whitecloak and was named Darkfriend for it. Moreover both men sacrificed themselves for principle. They have similar values and this will be the basis for a strong relationship. Both dislike deviousness and disingenuousness, although they can devise a clever and successful plan to circumvent these if necessary.

Perrin POV

Slayer is a match for four wolves – and two of them masters of Tel’aran’rhiod. However he was surprised by Perrin three times in their fight, and was even frightened by him on the third, when Perrin became part of Tel’aran’rhiod and basically chased him off. Perrin’s mastery of Tel’aran’rhiod is of a different kind to that of Slayer: it is of belonging rather than domination.

The dreamspike is a source of wrongness in Tel’aran’rhiod . It interferes with its operation. An object physically in Tel’aran’rhiod is “more real” than Tel’aran’rhiod because Tel’aran’rhiod is a reflection of the main world. It’s a Platonic world or abstract Form that has the highest and most fundamental kind of reality.

The wrongness of scents being mixed up, scents being random for a location, is not caused by the dreamspike – though the dreamspike probably doesn’t help – but by the Dark One corrupting reality. This will get worse. The wrongness has grown steadily throughout the series as the Dark One’s touch has increased. It is a bad sign that even the abstract, fluid world of Tel’aran’rhiod is affected by it. The theme of wrongness in The Wheel of Time is discussed here. Such corruption and destruction is typical of the alchemical operation of mortification, where things are broken apart so they can be purified or transformed into something else, hopefully something better. Alchemical symbolism underpins the series – especially the magic system – and is discussed here.