What can Be Read in Maps
One of the great pleasures of developing a passion for a book or series of books is that there comes a point you are so comfortable with the events of the story and characters that you have plenty of room to let your mind wander a bit and explore other layers of the writing and storytelling as you re read. When the object of your passion is the work of a writer as playful and witty as Jim Rigney by all accounts was, there's plenty of treats to be found this way, because he hides many 'secrets' in his books.
There are in the novels plenty of hidden layers, some serious and some completely humorous, and many in-between. The more knowledgeable characters will point out soon enough that the Wheel weaves lives into threads, and that all these threads are woven into the Pattern of the Age, and all the Ages through the turnings of the Wheel are woven into yet a greater Pattern. Robert Jordan, somewhat rather maniacally, introduced layers of patterns in as many aspects of the series he could think of. Some are obvious, like the repeating patterns of behaviour. Some run fairly deep, like all the patterns from world mythology. I will try to bring a few up as we progress in the series, but for this post I will focus on one of Jordan's favourite ways to give the impression of 'patterns' to his readers, one with which he virtually opened The Eye of the World: the geography and location design in the series reflect the series' great themes.
We'll look at this with a series of rough sketches of the Two Rivers map. The map needs first to be rotated clockwise by 90 degrees (there is a symbolic reason for this, but I won't go into it today). We have now top left the source of the Manethendrelle in the mountains, and top right the source of Taren. Both rivers join and encircle the Two Rivers region. Symbolically, the source of both is the dried-up ocean from the AOL, of which the Sand Hills were once a shore. This functions as:
1. The mythological World River encircling the World in many myths.
2. The related Great Serpent of Time, also representing the cycle of life.
3. The True Source, with its divided components merging as one : the 'White River' (Manetherendrelle) and the 'Dark River' (Taren).
In between the 'World River', the combination of the Roads, the Winespring Water and the Westwood form the trunk, lifeblood and roots of the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, with the Winespring itself Mimir, the fountain of wisdom. With the World River all around, the classic mythological representation of the Tree of Life is complete. It is also a representation of Man, the Tree of Man. And it is a representation of Rand : his lost left hand, and the twin wounds in his left side, represented by the razed down Taren Ferry.
If we look at a very rough sketch of the Westlands, the same pattern is repeated :
The branches, from Bandar Eban/Falme to Rhuidean, and from Tear (with the Fingers of the Dragon as the roots) to the Eye of the World. The Blight corresponds to the Sand Hills, the destroyed Malkier to Manetheren and it is completed with a 'hole in reality' from where Evil pours into the land : Shayol Ghul in the North, the Waygate of destroyed Manetheren in the Two Rivers).
The same is also represented around Tear, the two branches, the Fingers of the Dragons, the Stone itself in which heart Callandor is found. North the Waygate from which Evil (the attack) would come in KOD. Notice how this is reflected in The Eye of the World: again an attack by Shadowspawn on the isolated farm (instead of the manor), again the ramblings of a madman (the wounded Tam and Lews Therin). Notice too that on the 'Road to the Stones' (ie: The Quarry Road), Tam had a Sword for Rand, a Sword hidden in a trunk under his bed which he never touched...
Now, if we zoom toward Emond's Field, we will begin to see one last'Pattern within the Pattern' for today, as Jordan describes the village and its features for the first time in The Eye of the World:
"Toward the west end of the Green, the Winespring itself gushed out of a low outcrop in a flow that never failed, a flow strong enough to knock a man down and sweet enough to justify its name many times."
"From the spring the rapidly widening Winespring Water ran swiftly to the east, willows dotting its banks all the way to Master Thane’s mill and beyond, until it split into dozens of streams in the swampy depths of the Waterwood".
“Outsiders sometimes found it funny that the road had one name to the north and another to the south, but that was the way it had always been, as far as anyone in Emond’s Field knew, and that was that.”
(Notice that in chapter 12, Moiraine will use a metaphor which is essentially the same as the allegory Jordan used in the description of the Winespring:
"No," Moiraine said in answer to a question Rand had missed, "the True Source cannot be used up, any more than the river can be used up by the wheel of a mill. The Source is the river; the Aes Sedai, the waterwheel."This is an excellent example of how patterns are echoed and repeated by Jordan at various levels)
“On the far side of the bridges, the mounds were already building for the Bel Tine fires, three careful stacks of logs almost as big as houses. They had to be on cleared dirt, of course, not on the Green, even sparse as it was. What of festival did not take place around the fires would happen on the Green.”.
"The Winespring Inn stood at the east end of the Green, hard beside the Wagon Bridge. The first floor of the inn was river rock, but the foundation was of older stone some said came from the mountains.”
"The whitewashed second story – where Brandelwyn al’Vere, the innkeeper and Mayor of Emond’s Field for the past twenty years, lived with his wife and daughters –jutted out of the lower floor all the way around. Red roof tile, the only such roof in the village, glittered in the weak sunlight."
Notice that Egwene is brother less. Her sisters are older, and may be married with children but for the allegory’s sake Jordan has kept the sisters totally hidden from the story except for a mention in Ravens, where one is a widow and the others waiting to be married. Maybe they’ll come out at the end with families of their own, to symbolize the fruitful reunion of male and female Aes Sedai. Bran as Mayor carries the symbol of balance (the balance scales, silver for saidar.) Roofs are a symbol of sanity/insanity – here it is red, an allusion to the mission of the Red Ajah.
At this point of the story, the 'Black Tower'/male channelers - and even the warders and their bond, are represented by the dark fir pole bereft of all its branches planted in the ground, the Bel Tine pole around which the umarried women dance, encircling it with multicoloured ribbons.
Next week, we will look into how the consecutive mentions of slashed dresses form a pattern that predict the course of Tarmon Gai'don ..... or maybe we won't ;) Joking aside, Robert Jordan's descriptions are not only very evocative, they are a well of little allusions and foreshadowing.... bath scenes notably were a never used up source of One Power humour for Jordan.
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