Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #23: Chapter 20—Into Thakan’dar


By Linda

Egwene POV

Romanda uses traditional Aes Sedai Healing as battlefield emergency medical aid, which is how this type of Healing was actually used in the Age of Legends.

Gawyn makes a good observation about the senselessness of the Trollocs trying to hold the area against all odds and with huge losses.

It's like . . . like the Fades think that even after a rout like this one, they're in a good position.”

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Egwene listens to him and orders the army to pull back. Too late; the Sharans arrive. The coin armour of the soldiers is very typical of ancient Chinese soldiers, and the dresses of the channellers are also Asian in style—Korean and Mongolian, mainly (see Sharan fashions). The Ayyad’s black dresses symbolise their link to the Shadow, and also parallels Chinese history. In the Qin dynasty, the most popular clothing colour was black, since the Qin Emperor believed that the Qin dynasty should eclipse the Zhou dynasty like water extinguishes fire, and black is the colour of yin and water.

Egwene realises that Aes Sedai should be in Warders’ cloaks—the ultimate camouflage—in battle so they can hide, if necessary. They can’t always drive off attacks with channelling and are as helpless as anybody when outnumbered by hostile channellers.


Aviendha POV

Forgers are perhaps more like androids than Shadow constructs, since the Aiel are adamant that they are not alive and Demandred said that they can’t live outside Thakan’dar, but turn to dust if take away from the area (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). They use the blood of people to temper the blades—one person for each.

Rhuarc is now a siswai’aman and perhaps the highest ranked of them. It does not appear to mean that he has abdicated his position as clan chief.

Aviendha owns more than one necklace: the snowflake one from Egwene, plus, judging by what Cadsuane said, one from Rand as a remembrance/regard gift. She is prepared for her own people to pay the ultimate price for the Light’s victory:

Seeing the end of her people had nauseated and horrified her, but also awakened her. If the end of the Aiel was the sacrifice required for Rand to win, she would make it. She would scream and curse the Creator's own name, but she would pay that price. Any warrior would. Better that one people should end than the world fall completely under Shadow.

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Like Rand, Aviendha has prepared herself for the enormity of sacrifice to come, and understands Rand wanting to get on with that fight. She feels that they are very alike, and that this comes out in the way they treat each other:

She stepped up to him, and he moved so that he stood just beside her, his shoulder touching hers. He did not drape an arm around her, and she did not take his hand. He did not own her, and she did not own him. The act of his movement so that they faced the same direction meant far more to her than any other gesture could.

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Rand also uses an Aiel expression of love to her for the first time.

Aviendha realises that Rand intends to kill the Dark One. Unlike everyone else, she thinks this idea reasonable, but says that the greatest victory would be making the Dark One gai’shain. Rand is dismissive, but Aviendha is correct, as she also is in wondering if sealing the Dark One up is equivalent to taking him gai’shain. She lectures Rand about ji’e’toh, which amuses him—but she thinks the subject too serious for amusement.

The new crossbow crank first mentioned by Mat and Talmanes in Knife of Dreams, As If All the World Were Fog, has arrived among troops outside the Band and it may even hve been improved upon (See Inventions article for further details).

Some gai’shain have temporarily put aside white to fight with the Dragonsworn in the Last Battle—following the prophecy of the Dragon breaking oaths and ties:

"It is said," the one-eyed man said carefully, "that when the Dragon is Reborn, he will break all oaths, shatter all ties."

-The Great Hunt, What Was Meant To Be

Aviendha is inclined to dismiss their abandonment of custom, even honour, as foolishness but then thinks she should reserve judgement. In a way, the prophecy is self-fulfilling when it is being used to justify breaking their oaths. Other people, including Uno, have done this with the prophecy in mind and some were compelled by events without any consideration of the Karaethon Cycle. We also see people—gai’shain and Tinkers—refusing to break their oaths even though they have the bitter realisation of why it is not wrong for others to have done so.

Since Rand declared himself, many people have broken their oaths or ties: soldiers and channellers that were pledged to others have pledged themselves to Rand, some against their rulers’ wishes: Shienarans, Saldaeans, Tairens, Illianers, Cairhienin, Asha’man, Aes Sedai. Gawyn’s choice to put aside his Warder’s oath led to the bond between him and Egwene being broken.

Others are revealed as Darkfriends and so shown to be faithless to whatever ties they were thought to have. People also left their homes, marriages and jobs to wander aimlessly. The breaking of oaths is encouraged (if not caused) by the Shadow as part of the chaos.

With prophecy so prominent, it is easy to see only the workings of destiny in the characters’ lives as though they have little free will and are wholly beholden to follow the Pattern. However, fate is not more powerful than free will; as with the other complementary forces in the series, there is a balance between the two. Some characters have one attitude to this, some another. Rand uses prophecy as a guide to recognising patterns of events and what may arise from them. Aviendha does the same for what she saw in the three rings and is trying to prevent the future she saw in the glass columns. Earlier, in The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour, she had expressed dislike of being fated to marry Rand. She wanted to ensure choice, and therefore uncertainty and free will, in her life. Mat uses prophecy as an instruction manual because when he tried to deny fate, he failed; he went from one extreme to the other. But it’s not simple—there is an interplay of choice and the Pattern in people’s lives. Min knew that Gawyn would make a hugely fateful choice between two futures, with no indication which way he would decide. In Jordan’s world history and fate are broadly determined but each individual has the choice to work towards fulfilling their role in the Pattern or to reject this.

Rand proved that the dull dagger worked, preventing the Dark One from sensing him—see ter’angreal article for more information—and feels the touch of the Pattern in the way events have led to it being in his hand at the crucial time. Aviendha wants Rand to stay serious, but he tries to laugh. When she realises something is bothering him, she openly asks what the problem is, instead of telling him off or abusing him as so many others seem to do. Not surprisingly, the theft of the Seals has him concerned that they will not be broken at the right time. Breaking the Seals allows Rand to reforge the prison—clearing rubble so he can build, as Herid Fel said. This is why someone (Logain) will have the role of Sealbreaker once they are stolen back.

Despite earlier criticising Rand for levity, Aviendha makes jokes. He gives her command of the channellers at Thakan’dar to fight Dreadlords and Forsaken. Both Min and Aviendha each wanted to go into Shayol Ghul with Rand, but this would be unwise, since neither would have an actual role there, whereas they certainly would (and will do) elsewhere. As each sees the unsuitability of the other’s wishes, it quietens their own objections.

Nynaeve doesn’t want Rand to use Callandor because it is a trap. But that is the point of it. It’s a trap actually aimed at Moridin, but it has to appear as though Rand is the vulnerable one to lure him into it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #22: Chapter 19—The Choice of a Patch


By Linda

On the surface, the chapter title refers to Mat choosing a patch for his eye, but Elayne has to choose which ground to fight on, and Egwene has to choose whether to avoid Tel’aran’rhiod.


Elayne POV

The chapter also shows the danger of not looking below the surface. Years ago, Bryne advised Gawyn and Elayne against being over-confident or lulled by appearances.

Be careful of currents, he'd said. River currents are one of the most dangerous things under the Light, but only because men underestimate them. The surface looks still because nothing is fighting it. Nothing wants to. The fish go along with it and men stay out of it, all except the fools who think to prove themselves.

A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch

Elayne remembers his lesson, but Gawyn did turn out to be a fool that had to prove himself.

Bashere looks well, but isn’t, and that is the case for Bryne, too. The Saldean’s oversight in not thinking of the river is pretty damning, even if he isn’t used to large rivers, since maps have been emphasised all along. To his surprise, Elayne talks of trust:

"You show surprising faith in me for someone you have known a very short time." "Rand trusts you," Elayne said. "Even during the dark times, Bashere—when he would look at every second person around him with darkness in his eyes—he trusted you."

A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch

Unfortunately Bashere is no longer able to be trusted.


Egwene POV

Tel’aran’rhiod shows the wearing down of the Land. It has a time-worn look, and is in dire need of renewal; the Age has gone on too long. Such renewal was initiated by sacrifice in ancient times and it seems that the Land now desperately needs Rand’s sacrifice. Remarkably, the Stone still stands as it was, perhaps because it was wrought by the One Power.

Bair confirms Aviendha’s vision in the glass columns. Wise Ones will now need to make three visits to Rhuidean: one for the rings ter’angreal and two for the glass columns. I expect that many qualified Wise Ones will want to see for themselves what the columns show of the future. In the Wheel of Time world, anything done three times has added potency, or “trueness”. Melaine worries at the change, but the glass column ter’angreal shows that the Aiel must change. Or, looking at it another way, they must stick to the spirit of their old ways by educating and training their leaders thoroughly, even if they adapt to life outside the Threefold Land. This way they know which of their traditions are worthwhile and why. The women don’t make decisions for the men, but presumably prospective clan chiefs should also make two trips through the columns.

The vision shows that Aviendha’s children were not well-trained; they were given power too early and not by merit, but because of who their father was. An earlier wannabe Aiel aristocrat, Sevanna, planned for her children to inherit her power and ruined the Shaido before she was stopped.

The first cracks in reality are appearing in Andor, the Borderlands and the Blight, and the cause is correctly deduced to be the Shadow’s use of balefire. The Dreamers decide to not use it, although they acknowledge that some crucial people are alive because this rule was disobeyed. Nevertheless, they are not going to fight balefire with balefire. As upholders of the Pattern, Aes Sedai are already forbidden it. Egwene thinks about how Perrin said that balefire is only another weave. This hints that this most powerful of weaves could be countered, as any other weave can and gets Egwene thinking about solving this.

The Wise Ones decide that Tel’aran’rhiod is now too dangerous to visit unless there is great need. Egwene farewells the World of Dreams “until she Dreams again”. This turns out to be quite an Aiel-like farewell, since according to Aiel belief she awoke from the Dream without visiting it again and won’t be back until she is reborn. Unless she was made a Hero of the Horn. However, after she died, her spirit spoke to Rand before the Horn was blown, but did not appear elsewhere and she was not heard from or seen after the Horn was sounded.

Egwene has realised that Rand deliberately angered her at their last two meetings to manipulate her quite successfully. To her surprise, Rand wants to give her a remembrance gift. It is a ribbon, a simple gift for one of the most powerful women in the world. She feels it is an unnecessary distraction at a time of war; although when she understands that Rand seeks a reconciliation with her, she comes around. She says that he’s been difficult—but so has she. And why wouldn’t they, since they both have been through a great deal.

Lews Therin knew that the Seals would fail. The seals that Egwene hands to Rand are cuendillar, but not genuine. They were probably switched during the robbery, which was made to appear as though the thieves were successfully driven off without taking anything.

When Gawyn learns Rand is Galad’s brother, he feels that Rand and Elayne are connected too closely. As this family tree shows, they are not related by blood, sharing no parents.


Mat POV

In the past, Mat the trickster disliked being watched—because it was usually due to distrust or envy. Now he dislikes the way lower ranked Seanchan won’t look at him. They still watch him—just not his face. While Mat’s egalitarian values are offended, there are practical repercussions too. Mat can’t tell when he is being watched or not and will just have to assume that he is, which makes sneaking around more difficult.

The freckled woman helping the Seanchan tailor clothe Mat is Moghedien, as we find out later. She is disguised as a So’jhin.

Mat refuses to let his old clothes be destroyed, despite being distracted by the valuable jewellery. Nor will he accept any fancy clothes yet—just military wear. Of course, military clothing can be quite fancy enough.

The Prince still picks out rubies in preference to other jewels. Apart from being very valuable, their red colour links them to Mars, god of war. The servants take his lead and drape him in them. Mat is being outfitted in a style is similar to Chinese military clothing in the Western Zhou, or in the much later Qing dynasty, (see Costume in the Wheel of Time article), and also to costume worn by Samurai warriors and courtiers of the Edo period in Japan. The Seanchan have strong links to both China and Japan. Paltron cloths are a reference to the pauldron of armour. The Qing and Samurai robes have pronounced shoulder padding to imitate armour. The dark green colour of his clothes is for the Two Rivers—but also links him with the Deathwatch Guards.

Mat realises he doesn’t need to gamble to get money now. It’s his luck to have married someone so rich that such challenges are meaningless. He always wanted riches and now he has them; but his new position offers a lot of responsibility and no fun. Like a bargain with the Eelfinn, he got what he wanted but it isn’t turning out as expected. Mat fears that his gambling and trickery days are over, but, considering Seanchan politics, they are certainly not. It’s just that the stakes have permanently changed from money to lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #21: Chapter 18—To Feel Wasted


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Last POV, Gawyn made much of how he had learned and accepted his supporting role, but here he is being restless and discontented again. Instead of killing Trollocs with a long polearm, he wants to duel with the Trollocs with a sword, control the fight and beat them. He is thinking of himself and not protecting the Amyrlin, even if only by staying whole. Her attitude that she didn’t need protecting rubbed off on him, who wants a bigger, more important part on the world stage. It’s not that no Trollocs break through the lines of Aes Sedai—they do; but the killing power of the channellers makes Gawyn feel feeble in comparison. The prince envies the soldiers fighting—who are just doing what is necessary—and would not make a good general due to his hunger for glory.

On the other hand, Gawyn’s tactics for protecting the Amyrlin are sound. However, he is somewhat complacent that the Aes Sedai are winning their war. It’s noticeable that Gawyn gives all other Aes Sedai the honorific except Keeper Silviana, who does not like him, or he her.

Egwene’s group now know that some Asha’man are Dreadlords and immediately fear that all those in the Black Tower may be. Yet the Aes Sedai have direct experience of some of their own being Dreadlords, but not all. Likewise, Egwene still distrusts Leilwin because she is Seanchan.

Gawyn is in the throes of deciding to take risks with the bloodknives’ rings. (For more information on these ter’angreal see here.) Leilwin sees the rings and tells him more about them. Gawyn warns Leilwin and Domon off mentioning assassins and rings to Egwene, because he is tempted to use the rings to fight on the battlefield and Egwene would undoubtedly make him hand them over if she knew he had them. This is the early warning of Gawyn wandering off to win glory. Aes Sedai claim all ter’angreal as their property on the grounds that such objects are either useless or dangerous to others, and Gawyn’s case is a vindication of this attitude.


Rand POV

Rand debates whether killing the Dark One will remove Trollocs from the Land—in other words, whether they are linked to him. Events show that they have to be killed individually or along with their Myrddraal and will not be undone if the Dark One is cut off from the world.

Aginor made monsters because he could, not because he was cruel or mad. It appals Rand to think that the souls of people may be reborn as Trollocs. However, once they are twisted, it appears that these souls are reborn as Shadowspawn thereafter:

A Trolloc, however, bears a twisted, or corrupted soul, and would be reborn as a Trolloc. Though frankly, a Trolloc's soul is such a pitiful thing, it hardly seems worth calling a soul.

- Robert Jordan Q&A

To lift the soldiers’ spirits, Rand makes it obvious at the end of his stint fighting, that he had fought with, and for, them. It also convinces Demandred that Rand is staying in the battlefields. The Forsaken never imagines that Rand went to Shayol Ghul quite early in the war and completely overlooks even the possibility that Rand bypassed him. This highlights the extent of his obsession, since Demandred otherwise is a master tactician.

After showing himself at the three active battle fronts, it is nearly time for Rand to go to Shayol Ghul. Rand acknowledges to himself how much of his sanity he owes to Min, who concentrated on helping him do what he wants rather than instructing him or controlling him.

Speaking of instructors, Cadsuane shows Rand that she knows what Rand is doing—giving people remembrance gifts—which is of concern to her, because it shows that Rand expects to die, and means he may not even seek to live. Rand’s feelings on his sacrifice are understandably very private and he doesn’t let on to anyone his hopes but quietly asks Alivia offscreen to prepare for his departure. Cadsuane probably always intended to use Alivia in the defense of Shayol Ghul, as Rand suggests.

Cadsuane says that she has never cared so much for Rand that she would not trade his life for the world. I think that those who love Rand would at least agonise over the choice. The Green keeps testing Rand by being annoying and pressing on his vulnerabilities—so that he keeps control of them. Rand realises this is valuable practice, though unpleasant, and indeed it does help him in his battle with the Dark One. He lets Cadsuane know indirectly that she will never get a regard gift, but it would be more of a surprise to her if she did. She knows the price for using rough techniques.

Cadsuane’s intelligence gathering is very good: she knows the Black Tower men have finally escaped. Rand realises that Perrin might have helped with that. He feels guilty about staying away from the Black Tower, and has trouble resisting going there, which irritates Cadsuane that he could risk everything trying to free the men himself. It has been a real danger since Rand’s epiphany; before it, he was too dark to make a rescue attempt. I guess Rand was going to feel bad either way, since he was responsible for creating the Black Tower, but falling into the Shadow’s trap there would have made the situation much worse. Another, even greater, danger was if Rand had not ignored Demandred.


Lan POV

Lan recognises that he, like Deepe, would take an opportunity to kill an important henchman if given it. This is foreshadowing of his fight with Demandred, just as Gawyn’s discontented fiddling with the ter’angreal rings is his.

The POVs of the three men in this chapter are linked, with Lan being somewhere between Gawyn and Rand. He is well beyond being a fallen Prince like Gawyn, but is a hidden monarch like Rand, expected to die fighting the Shadow; yet he has played a properly supporting role to more than one powerful woman ungrudgingly and unstintingly for twenty years. The sort of supporting role Gawyn was brought up to do.

Mandarb fought his way back to camp despite being wounded, and Lan promises his horse a peaceful retirement. For the first time, he thinks about life after the battle and the possibility of living with Nynaeve happily ever after—something he has never even allowed himself to imagine before. Like Rand, Lan is starting to hope. Lan is conscious of his similarities to Rand: both were born to fight the Shadow, and die doing so, since the Shadow is endless. Cadsuane and Elayne both encouraged Rand to hope for life after defeating the Dark One. Lan thinks his mentoring and then friendship with Rand broke through his hard shell even before Nynaeve (who also played a large part). In Rand’s case, it was Min—as he acknowledges above—and also Moiraine, with the latter also keeping Lan alive. Both men are weighted with duty and aspire to impossibly high standards.

The chapter ends on a seemingly innocuous note about being human—and therefore fallible. Baldhere has misgivings of Agelmar’s tactics, because he is making mistakes. Lan reminds him that Agelmar is human, but Baldhere still feels that there is something wrong. Unfortunately he is right.

When Lan meets with him, Agelmar faces up to these concerns calmly and admits he is making mistakes. The Great Captain says he will listen to advice, but won’t be undermined or have his command watered down. While it could be argued that Lan made a mistake in trusting Agelmar on this, it would indeed have undermined their military effort if every move was argued over by a committee. Besides, as real world experiences show, a committee is no less difficult to derail.

This is the first sign that the Great Captains are being corrupted. Aes Sedai ward their dreams against invasion and the warder bond protects their warders to a lesser degree, but it never occurred to them that anyone else would need such protection. This is another result of the Aes Sedai holding themselves apart—and above.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #20: Chapter 17—Older, More Weathered


By Linda

Mat and Rand have not been in the same place since Lord of Chaos. They won’t be again until the last moments at Shayol Ghul, and then only approximately. There is also the period after Rand has “died”, until he sneaks away, but by this time Rand, at least, may have ceased being ta’veren.

Rand is wearing red, black and white. Mat notes that he is regal, older and more weathered—like Lews Therin, but in Moridin’s colours. These are also the colours of the Aes Sedai banner.

Tuon and her entourage panic when Rand is brought in. Even Mat starts to, because he thinks Rand is mad. In Mat’s opinion, proof of this is that Rand is not afraid of being taken captive. Mat has done all he could to avoid Rand—including avoiding thinking about him. The first thing Rand says is that Mat led him to Tuon. This makes Tuon furious because she feels betrayed by Mat.

It doesn’t last; Mat indignantly discovers that Tuon has his medallion. While she is embarrassed a little at the theft, she is ruthless enough that her feelings of shame are brief. Yet in Knife of Dreams Tuon was outraged at being disguised as a thieving servant in the menagerie.

Rand says that it is futile for Mat to try and keep away from him because the Pattern will never allow it. That’s true, but they have been apart more often than not. The two have a funny bragging contest, typical of Celtic culture.

Mat tells Rand in an offhand way that he cares about him–despite expecting him to go mad—and that he is looking a lot better, even like a winner. And Tricksters have an eye for winners. Mat tries to pass off his poor treatment of Rand during The Great Hunt as teasing, but it rings hollow.

Convinced that Rand is in over his head, Mat offers to talk to Tuon, but the Dragon addresses her formally himself. Tuon claims Rand as a captive ruler who has resisted her, and says he should have remembered his oaths to Hawkwing. To her surprise, he turns her own arguments against her. One of Tuon’s major roles is as a Nemesis figure, including to herself.

It is obvious from her words that if Hawkwing’s heir were still ruling on the mainland that the Seanchan would not have submitted to the heir’s rule but contended with them. After all, the Seanchan are Hawkwing’s heirs also, and contend continually among themselves for the opportunity to rule. Tuon dismisses Rand’s scenario as a non-issue.

Then Rand overturns her claim as the only legitimate heir of the only man to unite and rule the empire. Rand says that he, as Lews Therin, has an older and more complete claim and scares all of them with his powers. There are timely threatening rumblings of thunder that are unexplained. More explicable is how Rand restores the land while shielded; he uses Singing, as Mat observes.

Like his “cleansing of the temple” at Maradon, it has a mundane explanation and yet also shows great skill. There is a show of force and power with nothing to attack. It also demonstrates Rand’s fitness to rule—just as Tuon is fit to rule due to her establishment of social order, so Rand is fit to rule because he restores health and fertility—natural order—to the Land. Rand says he could have easily killed her, but she has done well for nations under her, and so he has stayed his hand.

Mat and Rand both point out to the Empress that her rule is not strong and she has nothing to spare to fight on more fronts. Tuon insists on keeping damane she has—the unspoken reason being that her rule is too dependent on them. It’s not surprising that Mat and Tuon want to get away from Rand; he is someone they can’t control or outwit.

Rand bows to Tuon on one knee as he offers her peace and alliance in exchange for her help in fighting Last Battle and fulfils a Seanchan prophecy that he would bow or kneel—the paraphrasing varies—to the Crystal Throne:

"I must find a way to make contact with the Dragon Reborn as soon as possible. He must kneel before the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai'don, or all is lost.” The Prophecies of the Dragon said so, clearly.

Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides

He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Bowing among the Seanchan bowing is formal, either signifying an oath made, as when Egeanin bowed to Elayne, Nynaeve and co in Tanchico after making a vow to them ( The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace); or obeisance of one lower to one higher. Naturally, the Empress would see bowing and kneeling as the same, since everyone makes obeisance to her, and she would not conceive of anyone merely making a courtesy to one who sat the Crystal Throne. The Prophecy indicates that the Dragon Reborn and the Empress as a personification of the Throne must make a courteous agreement before the Last Battle begins. The more Dragon-centric mainland prophecies foretold that he would “bind the Nine Moons”—the name of the Seanchan Court—"to serve him”, which seemed to be in conflict with the Seanchan prophecy and pointed to the latter as an impostor. As it happened, both were true.

By her stated reckoning, the Empress and the Dragon are of equal rank, although his display of restoring the Land shows him as more powerful and holy than her, and therefore Rand’s extra courtesy actually puts her at a disadvantage because she is obligated to him. His prestige is such that his excessive courtesy makes her look inferior or arrogant, and his argument over their respective lineages makes her look like a Johnny-come-lately and lower than he, especially after he exercises his powers. This is not how Tuon expected the prophecy to be fulfilled. Rand undermined her but also offered her help. Balance.

The prophecy was certainly useful: it was the belief that Rand needed to kneel to her which brought Tuon to parley with Rand; otherwise she would never have gone near him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #19: Chapter 16—A Silence Like Screaming


By Linda

While the thinking and talking continues, the action definitely steps up its pace in this chapter. The silence like screaming is the agony of those whose voices are never heard—or who don’t have a voice, but still suffer the horror of corruption and destruction.


Loial POV

Loial doesn’t truly understand hastiness, especially the other side of it—impatience. Humans won’t listen to someone all day, and yes, they do miss out on a lot because of that. The Ogier notice that people live faster because of their shorter lives, but they don’t realise this gives humans a very different perception of time. Loial feels that the Ogier are complacent about the long time they have and so achieve far less. Of course, currently, the risk is that the Ogiers’ very long lives will be cut short.

On the other side, humans do not sense the health of the land as well or deeply as Ogier do. With the Ogier being quiet and deep, the intensity of their arousal into battle fury is all the more unexpected. Loial’s rage is at the corruption and ruination of the land and living things, and at being deprived of peace and forced to kill. The Ogier feel forced to live like Trollocs, and in their rage turn around and out-Trolloc the Trollocs—at least in battle.

Ogier were named after ogres as well as after Ogier Street (itself named after the Ogier family) in Charleston. This scene is when they really show that they are ogres.


Galad POV

The Ogiers’ transformation into ogres scares the Whitecloaks. One of the Children—Golever—thinks that they must be Darkfriends. On the whole, anything that scares the Whitecloaks is believed by them to be allied to the Shadow. The best thing Galad can do for the Children is stop this simplistic thinking.


Rand and Moiraine POV

Rand’s thoughts of “If what Thom said was true, Mat might be the key [to making a pact with the Seanchan]”—refers to the fact that Mat has married the Empress.

Rand kind of regrets not trusting Moiraine. Although she counters him that he did trust her, but wanted to do everything himself. He now freely says that he can’t. Yet even while thinking that he should trust Moiraine, Rand doesn’t tell her anything about Callandor—especially that it is a True Power sa’angreal. Ironically, he destroyed the male Choedan Kal because it was too dangerous, yet Callandor is at least as dangerous as the Choedan Kal was, if not more. The immensity of the One Power that could be pulled through the Choedan Kal balanced the lure of channelling the True Power unaided, yet Callandor is a sa’angreal for the True Power…

However, Rand does tell Moiraine that he aims to kill the Dark One. He thinks he will be able to do this more easily than sealing it way. I am reminded of the Aiel saying that “Even a child can kill”. Re-sealing the Dark One in its prison would be harder, but also much more constructive, as the system of toh would indicate. Moiraine says the Dark One is part of the Wheel and implies that destroying it would damage the Pattern. From what we see when the Dark One and Rand exchange visions at Shayol Ghul, she is probably is right about this, but for the wrong reason. She is worried about causality, but the Dark One offers people choice, and that is its most important role in the Pattern. Rand thinks killing the Dark One will be another of his impossible tasks, his “nine impossible things” as Nicola Foretold, and a parallel with Hercules’ labours.

Moiraine is not fooled by Rand’s bluff that his memories make him old. If that were so, Mat would be old, and Perrin with the wolves’ collective memory probably even older.

Moiraine has apparently heard about the previous failed meeting with Tuon—from her agents, or perhaps from Nynaeve. Like Rand’s abilities, Moiraine’s seemingly magical ability to know things and acquire information may have a mundane explanation.

While Moiraine regards the pact with the Seanchan as an unnecessary distraction, Rand sees it as essential to winning. This time, Rand is right: the Seanchan must join in the fight in the Last Battle. After that, it is important that they be part of the peace pact, as Aviendha’s visions in the glass columns showed. Moiraine has emphasised Rand’s destructive and divisive side, but in order for him to right Lews Therin’s mistakes, he must also be unifying.

Moiraine now acknowledges that Rand is mature, probably because he did not snap at her when she says he is just a youth. She broods that doesn’t know if his ideas are right. What is unspoken, is that her ideas may not be right either. In actuality, each has some things correct, and some not. The Blue sister trusts in the Wheel to weave things right, yet wishes she could understand it.


Lan POV

Unsurprisingly, everyone is in awe of Lan’s feat of killing two Myrddraal simultaneously. As Lan(celot), he is the best of the best, truly “the highest knight on life”. The scene looks ahead to when he does what no one else can do and kills Demandred.

Kaisel is concerned that the Saldaean women, including the queen, are fighting in battle. Lan believes that it is not worth objecting about. Yet Tenobia is killed later on after Agelmar’s judgment is corrupted. Of course, many other rulers and nobles perish in the Last Battle. Everyone has to do their part, and Lan thinks Kaisel is stupid about women in thinking they shouldn’t fight. The Malkieri King’s been among Aes Sedai a long time; it has changed his Borderlander views.

Lan’s plan relies on the Trollocs being so ravenous that they are distracted with eating their dead. It works until the channellers arrive. Asha’man Deepe refuses to retreat when M’Hael attacks and is killed. Realising Deepe’s error of judgment, Lan is also nearly killed, which would have been a triumph indeed for the Shadow if he had been.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #18: Chapter 15—Your Neck in a Cord


By Linda

Mat POV

Like any Trickster figure, Mat knows all the entries and exits of the palace; Tricksters need such knowledge for daring coups and escapes (see Trickster essay).

Mat is sensitive at the neck, and his scarf feels like a chain and a ribbon—perhaps even the pink ribbons that he so dreaded when in thrall to Queen Tylin. It’s also a reference to him being hanged. He had just dangled high above the ground, a position nearly as dangerous as being hanged—having your neck in a cord. This neck symbolism has been continuing throughout the series, since The Eye of the World, when Trollocs tried to lasso his neck with a catchpole.

Not only is Mat’s neck motif prominent in this chapter, so is his fool motif:

Well, he would not be a fool and try this sort of thing again, that was for certain. Just this once, and grudgingly. Matrim Cauthon knew to look out for his own neck. He had not survived this long by taking fool chances, luck or no luck.

A Memory of Light, Your Neck in a Cord

Tricksters are often fools; they achieve their objectives by unconventional means, and get out of their scrapes, but are more often than not the butt of jokes in the process. Selucia calls Mat a fool three times in this scene—and something said or done three times in the series is true. Her first words are:

Selucia scowled. "What are you doing here, you fool?"

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

Selucia is the Empress’ truth-speaker. No fool herself, she quickly deduced how Mat lost his eye.

"Hush," Selucia said. "You just tried to convince me you weren't an assassin, now you bring up that? Fool man."

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

As well as calling him a fool, she mentions his neck:

"There is another way," Selucia said. "Come before you break your fool neck.”

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

The joke is on Mat that there was an easier way in and out of the palace unknown to him, the Trickster.

Part of Mat being a fool involves him being forced by circumstances into risking his fool neck no matter how hard he tries not to. The Fool is a wild card—literally so in the tarocco or tarot family of card games—but low in rank. Another wild card in games is the Joker, but it is usually high rank. (And Mat is the only main character to play cards.) Fools like the freedom of having little or no rank, and Mat is grateful Selucia doesn’t refer to his title and his noble rank. He is determined to be a fool here, not the Joker. She and the Empress are well aware that he is both (see Fool and Joker essay).

Rand POV

Unlike Mat, who tries to avoid responsibility, Rand feels the burden of being responsible for peoples’ safety and lives. Making himself harder was the wrong way of handling this, as was deadening himself to pain. Only recently has he discovered that he needs to accept the pain, as the Aiel do physical pain.

Somewhat awkwardly, Rand gives Tam Artur Hawkwing’s sword. Tam tries to deny Rand’s gift, and, in turn, Rand makes him feel obliged to accept it. The gift is an expression of love and also obligation; Rand explains to Tam that his sword and the void kept him alive.

Tam knows that the flame and void is a meditation technique. This is a side of Tam of which Rand is ignorant until now; he never saw his father as a skilled fighter—a blademaster—or as a meditator. It makes sense: Rand thinks about how he has to be calm or at peace with himself to lead well. And the wise and experienced Ogier assure people that only decisions reached in calm can be sure (The Great Hunt, Among the Elders). The Oneness leads to that.

Rand feels weighted down by the burden of duty. Tam uses sparring as another kind of meditation: living in the moment, concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of all else. Such a purposeful activity offers a respite in the waking world, comparable to making a haven of one’s own dreams while asleep.

Rand hasn’t adapted his fighting to reality, to his lack of a hand. He is not living in the now and clings to ways of thought that are crushing him. Tam has anticipated problems—disaster, even—and practised fighting one-handed. He has not pretended that he is all powerful and invincible, or that the Pattern will look after him. Many powerful channellers fall into this trap of self-aggrandisement. Rand did; and he has come a long way out of it, but this is the last of its symptoms and Tam will literally wear it away. Rand sees that one-handed swordsmanship is possible and useful; and is encouraged and pressured by the fight to let go and follow his own instincts.

Interestingly, Rand attributes to Lan the opinion that one-handed fighting is futile—but Lan believes that you don’t surrender until you are dead, so he would acknowledge the necessity of fighting on without a hand.

By focussing on something straightforward, Rand leaves his worries behind. Emphasising the positive helps deal with the negative.

Mat POV

Tuon is also sparring to take her mind off things and stay sharp—with her eyes shut. Mat realises how dangerous she is and how she could have killed him. Except that Mat is dangerous, too, which is why they have a healthy respect for each other.

Their marriage is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they only said their vows because prophecy said they ought to. Mat realises that he has to live with it now. For a long while, he thought of courting her as a game, but marriage is not a game. It’s not an accident, either. Responsibility can’t be passed off. Like all fools, Mat tries to avoid responsibility–yet promptly protects his wife.

Mat acts on instinct—as Rand is doing—and kills a Grey Man. The slightest sound alerts Tuon. She showed that she trusts Mat implicitly, which he found moving.

Tuon calls her guards fools when they catch the wrong guy, then pretends that she never called Trollocs myths. Acceptance is one thing, denial another. This is why the Empress needs a Truthspeaker: to force her to accept that she can and does make mistakes and wrong assumptions, and to remind her of her fallibility and humanity. Selucia is covering too many roles at present, and consequently is not being an effective Truthspeaker, particularly as it does not fit with her previous relationship with Tuon. She is both very attached to her mistress and has obeyed her for a long time.

Tuon deduces that Mat went to save someone—or she was well-informed. Perhaps Selucia listened in to Mat’s plans after he read Moiraine’s letter at the menagerie.

The Empress expects people to serve her well, and therefore doesn’t express pleasure or gratitude when they do. She openly takes people for granted: they should just be grateful that their efforts are accepted and that they are not supplanted by another.

It seems that Mat won’t let his wife push him around too much. He won’t be trivialised, unless he wants to play the fool. She respects that. Tuon sees him as one who has survived great danger, and, moreover, is also glad to see him –an admission that is a major concession from her.

Mat wastes energy trying to avoid responsibility, as Rand does worrying over it. The moral is to accept it and move on. The chapter is about necks in a cord—or a yoke—and being strangled by responsibility as well as danger. But a yoke offers the possibility of progress and achievement, even if the labour is great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #17: Chapter 14—Doses of Forkroot


By Linda

In Tel’aran’rhiod, the wind blows hard in natural patterns, but Perrin finds it easy to impose calm on a limited area, due to his skill and also his devotion to rightness and the natural order of things. Reality in the dream looks worn and the Land is coming apart. This is a step beyond what Moridin described to Rand earlier in the book:

"It dies, and the dust soon will rule. The dust . . . then nothing."

A Memory of Light, Advantages To a Bond

Moridin saw the end as a winding down of a universe crushed by entropy rather than a big crunch:

”The end is near,” Moridin said. “The Wheel has groaned its final rotation, the clock has lost its spring, the serpent heaves its final gasps.”

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

The storm is worse where Rand is. Fragments of land are sucked up by the wind and pulled toward the black clouds. The winds herald oncoming destruction.

Gaul’s strong will, identity and focus keeps him steady in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin asks him what he did to deserve Gaul’s loyalty. First was freeing him, which made Gaul follow Perrin because the Aielman had toh. He continued to follow not from what Perrin did, but what he is: ta’veren, strong, wise, a fighter. Gaul was always impressed with Perrin’s fighting ability and physical and mental strength.

Lanfear surprises Perrin by appearing beside him—like a lamia or succubus apparition. A lamia is a beautiful woman from the waist up and a serpent from the waist down, who kills children, seduces sleeping men, and enchants her victims with glamour and illusion. A succubus is a female demon who takes on a human female form to seduce men in their dreams. Lanfear—or Cyndane, as we should call her, because Moridin is strict with names—is not wearing Moridin’s colours, but her own. When she learns the wolves’ name for her, she denies hunting the moon because it is hers already. The name 'Moonhunter' is derogatory as well as accurate—Lanfear is arrogant and deluded. The Forsaken declares that she wants vengeance on somebody, this obviously being Rand, whom she blames for her predicament. Moridin indicated this earlier:

"Mierin hates you now, anyway," Moridin continued. "I think she blames you for what happened to her.”

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

The two scenes are linked. Lanfear can sense when Moridin is wondering where she is and quickly flits back to a more acceptable activity.

Perrin says Lanfear has never made any sense to him. He remembers that the wolves said she wants him. He doesn’t know what for, and neither do we. Not yet.


Toveine POV

Turned, Toveine has flung aside her reservations about Logain to be openly affectionate. Logain is crucial to either side due to his influence and strength. His resistance and devotion to the Light is very impressive; he has resisted eleven or so attempts to Turn him. Only this time does he scream in agony.

The Black Asha’man are exhausted trying to Turn Logain and his faction. All Reds except Pevara have also been Turned. Graendal—Hessalam, now—is in charge of the Black sisters. With plenty of women, the procedure will be more effective, as evidenced by Logain’s screams. This is his faction's last chance to save him; a twelfth attempt (symbolic number!) will probably be successful. Women Turn men easily and men women, as with Healing stilling. It is evidence of the necessary balance between the sexes and between saidin and saidar.

The doses of forkroot have been stopped for Androl, because they are going to Turn him soon and also because he is considered negligible, particularly with the dreamspike preventing his only major Talent from working. Which is why he is triumphant when he uses Evin’s paranoia from the taint to make him strike at Abors, who is holding Androl’s shield; using the Shadow’s weapons against them. Later in the chapter he does the same with their weaves. Impressively, he is able to open a tiny gateway under extreme duress despite the dreamspike being still in place. This could well be something the Forsaken consider impossible.

Taim reveals that he has the Seals but hasn’t handed them to the Dark One yet:

"I have already provided a gift to the Great Lord himself. Beware, I am in his favor. I hold the keys in my hands, Hessalam."
"You mean . . . you actually did it? You stole them!"

A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

Androl doesn’t know what Taim is referring to, but he can see that Hessalam does. He doesn’t know who she really is, either.


Perrin POV

Lanfear explains to Perrin that the Asha’man guards were Turned and what this process is. She puts a dose of forkroot in their wine to help Perrin because she is “fond of him”. Perrin says no one should be forced to the Shadow. She counters, saying that they could have chosen to be severed from the Source; then, as non-channellers, they couldn’t be Turned.

When she reminds him that the Pattern offers only bad choices sometimes, she implies that’s all that she had when she swore to the Shadow. Perrin is not convinced by her claim—excuse, really—that she has suffered enormously—he is aware of how many she has made suffer enormously. Any thwarting of her desires or plans is agony to such a spoiled brat.

As “the one who is punished most” (A Memory of Light Prologue) she says she is no longer one of the Forsaken due to the Dark One learning that she was planning to help Rand win. (At the time of the prologue, Moridin indicated that she was a Forsaken, tough the lowest ranked.) This sounds more altruistic and cooperative than it actually is: Lanfear planned to use Rand, not help him. He was to either beat the Dark One with her “at his side” or she would kill him as he tried to do so and thereby save the Dark One.

Perrin is impressed with her skill in Tel’aran’rhiod. Lanfear is not supposed to be able to “do this” – move around independently in Tel’aran’rhiod? The Forsaken is sticking to her usual methods of using powerful men: she tells Perrin how he will be of use to her: to win with her at his side, as though he is doing it for her or sharing it with her. Basically he is to win the battle for her as her Champion, and Lanfear would be the dark Lady of Sovereignty.

Perrin shrugs her off. Lanfear tries a little honey and shows him how to set and unset the dreamspike. Perrin hopes that the retraction of the dome will bring Slayer to him. What it does immediately is enable Androl to make gateways again—gateways that aimed the Dreadlords’ weaves back at them.

In both scenes we see the Shadow undermining itself—Evin manipulated into attacking another Dreadlord, Dreadlords killed by their own weaves, and Lanfear plotting against the Dark One.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #16: Chapter 13—What Must Be Done


By Linda

Egwene is strong in Earth, and is able to sense voles underground and green shoots in the dying grass. As an archetypal Green, which is the colour of life and nature, the Amyrlin is a vengeful mother or earth goddess such as Rhea, the ancient Greek mother of the Gods, who saved her son Zeus (a parallel of Rand) so he could free her children from Cronus. As Mother, Egwene is a parallel of Terra, who was offered sacrifices, notably the holocaust, which were animal sacrifices wholly consumed by fire. She was one of a few stern Roman mother goddesses. Egwene has aspects of the Roman earth and agriculture goddess Ceres, including her plebeian origin. Ceres was connected with Libera (Freedom). The ancient Greek earth goddess Demeter, instituted harsh weather as she mourned the violation and loss of her daughter Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. Durga, the vengeful incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Shakti, who was consort of Shiva (a parallel of Rand, Egwene’s original intended husband) and slew demons, also has some similarities with Egwene. The Forsaken have demonic parallels.

The Shadow is against the health, fertility and the natural order of things, and the Land and the Mother want vengeance:

In that moment—maiming, destroying, bringing death upon the enemy—she felt as if she were one with the land itself. That she was doing the work it had longed for someone to do for so long,

A Memory of Light, What Must be Done

Appropriately, Egwene the Mother uses Earth to kill Shadowspawn. The feelings of vengefulness and union with the Land are foreshadowing of Egwene’s sacrifice as she unleashes a healing holocaust to counter the Shadow’s destruction and balefire.


Elayne POV

Rand visits Elayne occasionally in Braem Wood. As Rand hoped, Lan and Egwene are pulling the Shadow’s forces out of the Blight.

"What must be done" is evacuate and burn cities as well as farm land in Shienar. The citizens are to go to Tar Valon.

Elayne and Bashere decide that it is time to move out of the woods to the River Erinin, heading for Cairhien. While Elayne doubts they will have to go that far, Bashere says that once they start, they won’t control how it ends so long as the Trollocs are still after them.


Perrin POV

Tam approves of the way Elayne leads, and how she knows when to let those who know what to do have their way. Perrin feels Rand tugging him to Shayol Ghul to fight; he will soon be needed there to guard Rand. As part of his preparations for when Rand needs him, Perrin hands command of his army to Tam. He explains the necessity to Tam, who then understands, but still tries to avoid the responsibility, saying the nobles should. To forestall further argument, Perrin makes Tam a noble, as he discussed with Elayne in Towers of Midnight.

Bornhald turned to brandy from the shame of allowing an atrocity to go unpunished. He owed Perrin the truth about the murder of Perrin’s family, yet it was his consciousness that they may die soon that spurred him to confess. Although the scene shows that there is some good in the Whitecloaks, even in the unsympathetic ones, arrogant and judgmental attitudes often lead them astray. The Whitecloaks condemned Perrin as a criminal because he killed two of the Children in defense, but they did far worse acts in the Two Rivers. Bornhald hates Perrin in part because he feels guilty about what he condoned, and needs to reclaim some honour by meeting his obligations. Perrin falters in shock and grief at the news, but refocuses.

Bain and Chiad are meeting their obligations even though this means not fighting in the Last Battle. They keep an eye on Gaul as they can. Perrin accepts that gai’shain should remain so and not be forced to fight.

With the worlds collapsing in together, and the barriers between weakened, it is now possible to enter Tel’aran’rhiod from the Blight. As the Dreamwalkers instructed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, there are some places that cannot be touched from Tel'aran'rhiod.

“There are some places one cannot enter in Tel’aran’rhiod,” Seana said. “Rhuidean. Ogier stedding. A few others. What happens there is shielded from a dreamwalker’s eyes.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Rand reiterates what Edarra said: that entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically is very evil. Perrin says it is actually foolishly dangerous, not evil, but he has to be on equal terms there with Slayer. Rand accepts this reasoning.

The chapter title ostensibly refers to evacuating and scorching the earth in Shienar to provide nothing to the Trollocs, but Perrin must be able to enter Tel’aran’rhiod as Slayer does, and Egwene must fight on behalf of the Land.

Rand says a formal farewell to Perrin and expresses his obligation to him. They do not speak again—and perhaps never will. Another sacrifice.

Nynaeve is offended that Perrin tells her to look after Rand. She needs no instructions from Perrin; she has always looked after him.