Mat and Rand sub-thread: If you go out in the woods today…what will you come back as?
The Mat and Rand sub-thread in The Eye of the World builds on two patterns: the ‘Into the Woods’ pattern, which started early in the books; and the 'Two Evils' pattern, which we know little about the significance of until the end of the first book.
The 'Into the Woods’ motif describes those journeys into wild places which mark a passage from one life to another for a character. By the time Mat and Rand are alone, Rand is struggling with beginning to channel and with the feeling of being marked out in some way. He is a long way short of realising he is a saviour figure. Mat is much less conscious of being marked out, or even of having been marked by Shadar Logoth as a consequence of being impulsive and greedy. He is a long way short of even growing up. Really for both of them their arduous journey is a struggle for survival – against Darkfriends, against poverty and exhaustion and against despair.
Both young men also struggle with madness and injury at times. Rand has Ba’alzamon in his head and is affected not only by channelling sickness, but he has been exposed to the taint as well. Mat is being corrupted by the evil of Shadar Logoth/Mordeth which started out with good intentions but stopped, and will stop, at nothing in its war against the Shadow (out Shadowing the Shadow). Mat already had fear and hatred of the One Power even before being touched by Mordeth so it is lucky that Rand’s channelling is hidden (even from many readers) at this stage. (I've written an article on the Onset of Rand's Channelling.)
These two evils are inimical to each other, so it is no wonder the relationship between Mat and Rand is strained at times: it reflects the warring of the two evils.
To get back to the title of this rumination, they surely did get a big surprise on the road – more than one- and the Pattern provided them with an effective disguise as just one of the poor in the crowd. Not exactly a Teddy Bear's picnic.
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