Sunday, June 1, 2003

Towers Of Midnight Chapter 1: Apples First



By Linda

Towers of Midnight opens with glimpses of conditions on the Seanchan continent. Appropriately one of the first references after the Dark One’s impenetrable cloud cover starving the world of light (the Light) and animals from the If worlds is of thirteen (midnight) black towers:

The killing field surrounded thirteen fortresses, tall and cut entirely from unpolished black marble, their blocks left rough-hewn to give them a primal feeling of unformed strength. These were towers meant for war. By tradition they were unoccupied. How long that would last—how long tradition itself would be remembered in a continent in chaos—remained to be seen.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Total war prevails on the whole Seanchan continent. There seem to be Seanchan prophecies that this would happen at the end of time:

Men did not whisper that this might be the end of times. They yelled it. The Fields of Peace were aflame, the Tower of Ravens was broken as prophesied and a murderer openly ruled in Seandar. This was a time to lift one’s sword and choose a side, then spill blood to give a final color to the dying land.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The wind then bids farewell to Seanchan and heads to the mainland:

The wind howled eastward over the famed Emerald Cliffs and coursed out over the ocean. Behind, smoke seemed to rise from the entire continent of Seanchan.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Since the Emerald Cliffs are in Normany, France and their counterparts are the White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, perhaps they are a reference to the Seanchan invasion.

Near Dragonmount it’s now early afternoon in late spring/early summer.

The Land is so blighted that some plants are behaving like those in the Blight:

And then there was the incident that had killed Graeger. The man had walked around a corner over in Negin Bridge and vanished. When people went looking, all they found was a twisted, leafless tree with a gray-white trunk that smelled of sulphur.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

People are blaming each other. Almen Bunt, whom we met in The Eye of the World, scorns that, but he’s looking at the Aes Sedai as scapegoats:

The Dragon’s Fang had been scrawled on a few doors that night. People were more and more nervous. Once, Almen would have named them all fools, jumping at shadows and seeing bloody Trollocs under every cobblestone.
Now . . . well, now he wasn’t so sure. He glanced eastward, toward Tar Valon. Could the witches be to blame for the failed crop? He hated being so close to their nest, but Alysa needed the help.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

During Rand’s darkest night (so far) all the apples in the orchard shrivelled and fell, as Rand’s hope shrivelled and nearly fell. There is little food or fertility in the Land. Almen despairs:

Staring down those neat, perfect rows of useless apple trees, Almen felt the crushing weight of it. Of trying to remain positive. Of seeing all his sister had worked for fail and rot. These apples . . . they were supposed to have saved the village, and his sons.
This is it then, isn’t it? he thought, eyes toward the too-yellow grass below. The fight just ended.
Maybe it was time to let go.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand did too – only much more so.

Almen, who as his name shows, represents all men, all humanity, appears to sense the end of Rand’s fight, but unexpectedly for him the ending was not in despair, but in pure sunlight. The trees immediately re-bloom and fruit and the ground absorbs the rotten windfalls.

Those apples seemed to shine. Not just dozens of them on each tree, but hundreds. More than a tree should hold, each one perfectly ripe.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

These are the Platonic ideal of apples; a localised Utopia.

This restoration of health is similar to what happened after Rand’s major victory at Eye when he defeated two Forsaken and destroyed a Shadowspawn army while channelling without the taint and the Blight promptly receded a considerable distance. Rand said it was his presence that undid Dark One’s Blighting, ie he did not channel. His presence has healing properties as well as restoring fertility to the Land, but nothing ‘unnatural’:

Almen watched the man until he vanished, then dashed toward Alysa’s house. The old pain in his hip was gone, and he felt as if he could run a dozen leagues.
“Apples,” Almen said. “What else bloody grows on apple trees! Listen, we need every one of those apples picked before the day ends. You hear me? Go! Spread the word! There’s a harvest after all!”
Almen continued on, and as he did, he noticed for the first time that the grass around him seemed greener, healthier.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

It also indicates what power and influence the Way of the Leaf must have had in the Age of Legends.

After his epiphany, Rand understands and accepts the Pattern and his place in it:

“No. I’m not lost. Finally. It feels like a great long time since I’ve understood the path before me.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

He is enlightened (literally, with the sun on him) and is Buddha-like.

Almen thought—for a moment—he could see something around the man. A lightness to the air, warped and bent.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

This is the opposite of the darkness and shadow that was increasingly attached to Rand until his epiphany. There is now true Oneness within Rand as well as with his relation to the Land. However the Shadow is so strong that Rand’s effect is fairly localised around him. Just as the break in the cloud follows him about but can’t widen beyond his vicinity:

“It’s not you who is mad, friend,” the stranger said. “But the entire world. Gather those apples quickly. My presence will hold him off for a time, I think, and whatever you take now should be safe from his touch.”
The man looked back at Almen. Meeting those eyes, Almen felt a strange sense of peace. “

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Dark One is making the world mad, turning it upside down, spreading chaos and disorder. These weaken the people. Rand changes the Pattern to Rightness and what is natural. The Dark One is Wrongness/unnatural and his True Power is hatred, destruction and suffering.

Almen Bunt feels as though his conversation with Rand is on two levels and he’s right.

Rand was dark from Lord of Chaos to Winter’s Heart and that caused bubbles of evil and loss of fertility etc and allowed the Dark One to touch the Pattern more. Since Winter’s Heart, the decline in the state of the world and the Pattern , and in Rand’s physical and mental state, accelerated rapidly due to Rand’s sin of using balefire extensively, not just on the Forsaken, but on those captured by Forsaken and also his usage of the True Power. Such great sins affect the Land hugely. Even filtering off the taint - exposing himself to it, a great sacrifice, contributed to sickening Rand and therefore the Land. Rand’s link to Moridin symbolises that Rand became increasingly like the Shadow (risking a repeat of Shadar Logoth as Cadsuane feared) until he could actually use that link to draw on the Dark One’s power.

The state of Rand’s mind and body affect the Land. His wounds, physical and spiritual, are those of the Land. Being the Creator’s Champion is way above the taveren effect, or the power of a Hero of the Horn (although he is those too). This is why at Falme Hawkwing, a great Hero and ta’veren, bowed to Rand:

Hawkwing bowed formally from his saddle to Rand. "With your permission . . . Lord Rand. Trumpeter, will you give us music on the Horn? Fitting that the Horn of Valere should sing us into battle. Bannerman, will you advance?"

- THe Great Hunt, The Grave is No Bar To My Call

However, Masema’s assertion that Rand is the “Creator made flesh” is probably untrue. Masema was shown to be corrupted into great Wrongness.

Rand has now not only changed his attitude to peace, non-hatred and acceptance but shows a willingness to face and mend problems:

The man looked back with a faint grimace. “To do something I’ve been putting off. I doubt she will be pleased by what I tell her.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand’s walk from Dragonmount to “She” in Tar Valon (nowhere else is feasible on foot, really) shows how close Rand and Egwene are. Close yet opposing. Rand’s meditations on Dragonmount involved the Pattern, his role in it and the defeat of the Dark One, therefore he is not going to talk about the Black Tower, the Bonding, etc with Egwene, but about what he intends to do now to win.

The condition of the apple orchard between Dragonmount and Tar Valon also refers to Tar Valon itself; in Arthurian myth Avalon was the Isle of Apples. First the apples were blighted - and so was the White Tower. Then they regrew, just like the resolution of the rebellion and the removal of the Black Ajah.

But it also shows Rand will go to Tar Valon and receive a lack of support from the Aes Sedai and maybe a change of heart later.

How has Moridin been affected by Rand’s epiphany? Perhaps we shall see in Towers of Midnight.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think that your second to last quote, the one about Hawkwing talking to Rand, was in Apples First. ;) Great analysis as always. I completely missed the Almen reference on my own read-though.

Theodore said...

At the end of TGS, there is a reference to the White Tower as an apple, so maybe that is an additional albeit redundant clue to Rand's destination.

The Gathering Storm
CHAPTER: 45 - The Tower Stands
So it was that her force rode up to the battle lines outside the village of Darein. The White Tower still smoldered, a wide field of smoke trailing up in a ring from the center of the island, shrouding the white spire. Even from a distance, the scars of the Seanchan attack were evident on the building. Blackened holes, like spots of corruption on an otherwise healthy apple. The Tower almost seemed to groan as she looked at it. It had stood for so long, had seen so much. Now it had been wounded so deeply that it still bled a day later. And yet it stood. Light bless them, it stood. It rose high, wounded but sound, pointing toward a sun hidden by clouds above. It stood defiant of those who would break it, within and without.

Linda said...

Anonymous: :D Indeed not. Thanks for pointing this out. I didn't see Almen = All men either until writing the post.

Theodore: Very good point; not redundant at all.

Anonymous said...

What you have posted sounded good but the end i disagree with i dont think that he is walking toward the white tower i think hes refering to Caemlyn because thats where bunt was going to and stayed i think that where his first part of his arc will be resolving the black tower first then binding the white tower to him also will be the majorty of his arca

Mik said...

I got goosebumps reading that chapter and just now I got them again after reading your thoughts about it, Linda.
"Oneness"..that's the word, alright!
I -cannot- wait for the rest of the book!

There's only one slight difference between your analysis and how I view it. However, your view and mine could both be true, in good-old RJ style;
I think "Almen" doesn't refer to all of humanity. I think the name refers to (just) all male channelers. They were the tainted apples. And no matter how good Almen's little sister (namely "Alysa" All-Aes-Sedai) tried to take care of them, they rotted anyway. Untill the Dragon Reborn comes along, that is.

Almen & Alysa represent the channeling males and females.
All-men & All-Aes-Se(dae)

I know this is a really short post, but that's the heart of my view. I'm sure if you re-read said chapter again, while trying to immagine it as a story about male & female channelers, you could dig up more.

I loved this chapter! I love these books! More! MORE!

Anonymous said...

Great view of All men & All Aes Sedai.
I myself think that it can be both humanity as the channelers. If RJ & BS can make a rittle-name like that, why not make a double rittle?

Great post Linda (:D)

Daniƫl van Deutekom

Linda said...

Thanks guys for your suggestions. They could well be right.

Rand's off to visit Tar Valon and the Aes Sedai, yet we didn't see Alysa, the farm's owner at all.

Almen felt Rand's ta'veren pull.

This seems the reverse of what's happening with the male and female channellers.

Anonymous said...

Buddha-like...indeed.

My knowledge on Arthurian legend is pretty limited, but I do know a bit about Buddhism and that scene with the apple tree is reminiscent to Siddhartha reaching enlightenment under the Boddhi tree. Rand even speaks to Bunt in Buddha-like fashion, not to mention the light that Bunt can see around the Dragon Reborn.

"But it also shows Rand will go to Tar Valon and receive a lack of support from the Aes Sedai and maybe a change of heart later."

This is why I find TWOT so frustrating at times. One would come to think that all that's happened around them would have Aes Sedai understand that they're not the top honchos anymore. One would expect them to be well-versed on the Karaethon Cycle and understand that it's them who should follow the Dragon Reborn and not the other way around. Egwene specially, since she seems to be so knowledgeable about the Prophecies (even tho, between her training with the Wise Ones, her being raised Amyrlin and all that that encompassed, I still find it hard to believe that she'd find the time to become as familiar with the Prophecies as she showed to Elaida).

I don't think that all of the chaos in the WOT world is the Dark One's doing but actually, the people's own prejudice, with Aes Sedai at the top of the list, of course. I mean, sure the Dark One has a big hand in the whole thing but then again, why do all the dirty work yourself, when your enemies' own pride, prejudice and ego can help you in a big way?

To reach true enlightenment, one must learn humility first and foremost. Perhaps Rand will show the Aes Sedai and the Seanchan a very valuable and much needed lesson in humility, by bowing to the Amyrlin (and the Crystal Throne, of course) to convince them of joining forces with him.

“No. I’m not lost. Finally. It feels like a great long time since I’ve understood the path before me.”

Ego and pride are pretty much the first things that a Buddha has to give up in order to reach enlightenment and I can totally see Rand doing what must be done to rally the people of his world around him. Because as the quote above shows, he should be way above such mundane things by now. Just like a truly enlightened man would.

Linda said...

Anon: I was thinking today of what essays will be updated. The Buddha section in the essay on Rand will certainly be one of these.

What you say about the AS contributing to their own chaos (and that of others is true). You might remember So Habor in COT, where the crime and dereliction of duty the Lord of the town committed led to a great weakening of the Pattern there and the Dark One's influence taking great hold.

As for humility, there is also the quote from the Bible: " So the last shall be first, and the first last."

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

First off, thanks for your comment and for posting this, of course. Excellent take of the aftermath of Rand's epiphany as seen in ToM's chapter 1, IMO.

Thanks for reminding me of So Harbor in COT, also. Truth is that's my least favorite WOT book up to date so I don't recall much of what happened in that book. Still, your observation has led me to believe that there might be a pattern in all the places where the Dark One's touch is wreaking havoc (food spoiling, plagues multiplying, etc.) based precisely on the behavior of the people in such places; the White Tower being no exception.

That's why I believe (and have done so for the last 4, 5 books) that, in order for all the peoples of the WOT world to join and rally behind the Dragon Reborn, something's got to give. Otherwise, all is lost. "Divide and you shall conquer" applies here. So, some will have to swallow their pride because, not too many good things can be said about Shadowsworn, but at least they are united and fighting for a common cause. And, there's not much time for all to rally under the Dragon's banner. So like I said before, hopefully, Rand's enlightenment will teach all of his allies a valuable lesson in humility.

I only found your excellent blog recently, so I haven't had a chance to read your essay on Rand. But there's definitely a lot of the Buddha in him. Also the Christ and other "Messianic" figures, obviously. As a lay Buddhist, I look fwd. to reading that essay on Rand...along with many other entries, of course.

Linda said...

Anonymous: thanks. Unity is important and belief (in the Light and in Rand as the Light's champion) and order give strength. The integrity of each person is also vital to the integrity of the Pattern - and I mean this in both senses of the word.

I have a long essay on the Theology and End-times of the WOT world which you might also find interesting. It was the only essay I have not updated for TGS. I plan to rewrite large sections of it but have not yet made the time to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Linda,

I've taken some time to read your essay on Theology and End Times in the WOT world, along with your essays on the similarities between WOT and my favorite story ever (LOTR) and, Freemasonry in the WOT (I always thought RJ was a mason and he must've been a high degree one to boot, but thanks for confirming hehe). And I have to say that I liked all 3 pieces quite a lot. Something tells me that I'll be spending lots of evenings browsing this blog, cuz there's so much interesting info...

As for unity and belief, I think you've hit the jackpot. While division continues all across the "Randland", the Lord of Chaos will continue to rule. I must insist: humility must be a key and I think that in some cases, it will be a harsh, painful lesson to learn.

Linda said...

I'm delighted that you found the articles interesting and useful. The theology article needs to be reworked and probably divided into three separate articles (theology, time and end-times). I also have notes for an article on taoism in WOT that hopefully will be written next year.

Humility as consideration of others and lack of selfishness is part of integrity, I think. So I agree with you that it is vital and not easily accepted.

I agree that Rj probably reached a high order in Freemasonry; he took its symbolism very much to heart, and symbolism permeates his writing and WOT philosophy.

Something that our exchange has made me think of: Herid Fel's insight that "belief and order give strength" can apply to both sides. The Shadow has fewer believers, but many of them are fervent. (There are some only join it for the perks.) The Shadow's weakness is order - due to selfishness and to the Dark One's policy of sowing chaos, they are undermined by lack of order. This is the Light's advantage.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Linda,

Just done reading the essay on confirmed Darkfriends and that was a looong read...hehe...but well worth the time, too.

I did enjoy the theology article, tho I do admit that it'd be much better if split up into specific categories (including the different religions/belief systems that Mr. Jordan borrowed from, because in addition to his deep Masonic influence, there's a lot of Eastern stuff in there. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and yes, Taoism.) Just a suggestion, of course. I know how complicated it must be for all you guys here to put together all your info and it's an excellent effort, of course.

As for union and belief, yes, Herid Fel (one of my fave characters, which I hated to see dead so soon hehe) did speak of it to Rand. And that's gotten me into thinking that the one single faction that resembles such principles the most (despite their more than questionable policies) are the Seanchan. United for a purpose (the Return) and sharing a common belief in their Empress (may she live forever).

Now that their new empress has taken a spouse from the Western lands, they have to change, of course, just like every other faction in the WOT world. And, I'm sure Mat will bring lots of changes to their ways in time, but they do strike me as the strongest faction, based on union and the sharing of a common belief. I believe that their storyline has become one of the most intriguing and interesting as the end nears.

Linda said...

My plans for the theology/time/eschatology influences are fairly large. I want to look at the philosophy from two angles - the WOT angle (covered in that large essay) and then looking at the different real world influences separately. When I update, I plan to break the theology articel into 3 as I said. I also will write a new article on taoism. I have written extensively on Jainism in the Age of Legends article (the Da'shain Aiel), but might duplicate/rework this into its own article. Other articles will be Norse influences, Hinduism, perhaps Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Time is the problem. These articles each take weeks to produce. I need to keep writing other stuff - such as read-through articles to keep the blog going - at the same time.

Currently Tuon's Seanchan are united indeed. So far they have been let be because they intend to break the Tower. If they fail in that, I suspect that this unity will targetted by the Shadow. The obvious starting point is the Empress' potential as an experienced sul'dam to step over the edge and channel. Surely it's very close now. I suspect she will be put under extreme pressure to channel and this will break that Seanchan unity.

It's harsh, I know, but I think that after the reprieve re Rand, things will get worse before they take the final turn for the better.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there's a whole book on the different spiritual influences in the Matrix (don't remember the title right now) and that's one whole book on three 2 hr. films. I can't imagine what producing articles concerning that same topic in TWOT would be like! I understand.

Well, Tuon's Seanchan faction is united (at least for the time being, like you've said) but it's likely that the death of the Empress may have Seandar falling apart as we speak. It'd be interesting to find out whom might be behind that major event, which we've only seen in tiny bits and pieces off-screen. It could lead to the fallout that you mention.

Re: Rand, well, seems like my suspicions about Egwene and Tuon being the hardest to turn over to his cause may just be right, after all (first theory of mine that would be right hehe) so, yes, things may get much worse before they get better. Sort of like the darkest hour before dawn. I'm sure that RJ was well aware of the implications that having 2 very young and inexperienced women as the leaders of 2 of his world's most powerful nations/institutions would have. No matter how smart and talented, IMO, Egwene and Fortuona still lack the wisdom and experience necessary to make the right choice. In Rand's case, having his memories as Lews Therin integrated pretty much cancel this risk, of course. He's no mere boy anymore, just like he told Cadsuane.

Being a big fan of fantasy/sci-fi/adventure, I'm sort of new to the WOT. A friend recommended it just a couple of years ago and I've been collecting the whole series ever since (only missing Robert Jordan's The World of TWOT and TOM at this point). So, your blog's been very helpful for me to get much better acquainted with the WOT universe in general. IMO, an excellent reference source and companion to the books. So, thanks! And thanks for your replies. Much appreciated :D