Friday, May 22, 2009

The Great Hunt Read-Through #3 - Ishamael Manipulating Rand

Ishamael and the Gentle Art of Manipulating Rand

by Linda

In the early books Ishamael tempted Lews Therin, Rand, Mat and Perrin as though he were Satan himself. The theology may be true; Ishamael may be the Shadow’s champion (or he genuinely believes he is). He is the only Forsaken who agrees with the Dark One’s plans. Ishamael tries to overwhelm Rand with theology, menace, and then temptation. First the theology:

"Oh, I know the name you use now, Lews Therin. I know every name you have used through Age after Age, long before you were even the Kinslayer." Ba'alzamon s voice began to rise in intensity; sometimes the fires of his eyes flared so high that Rand could see them through the openings in the silk mask, see them like endless seas of flame. "I know you, know your blood and your line back to the first spark of life that ever was, back to the First Moment. You can never hide from me. Never! We are tied together as surely as two sides of the same coin. Ordinary men may hide in the sweep of the Pattern, but ta'veren stand out like beacon fires on a hill, and you, you stand out as if ten thousand shining arrows stood in the sky to point you out! You are mine, and ever in reach of my hand!...
"I have a thousand strings tied to you, Kinslayer, each one finer than silk and stronger than steel. Time has tied a thousand cords between us. The battle we two have fought-do you remember any part of that? Do you have any glimmering that we have fought before, battles without number back to the beginning of Time? I know much that you do not! That battle will soon end. The Last Battle is coming. The last, Lews Therin. Do you really think you can avoid it? You poor, shivering worm. You will serve me or die! And this time the cycle will not begin anew with your death. The grave belongs to the Great Lord of the Dark. This time if you die, you will be destroyed utterly. This time the Wheel will be broken whatever you do, and the world remade to a new mold. Serve me! Serve Shai'tan, or be destroyed forever!"

The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

There is some truth in the passage. Ishamael is genuinely skilled at reading the Pattern, for instance. I really don’t think that Ishamael has undergone past lives therapy though, particularly on such a scale! After all, he complains about knowledge of the past that he doesn’t have (and thinks he should) in The Path of Daggers. But seeing as Ishamael was aiming for Rand to believe he is the Dark One (at the same time as claiming equivalence with Rand, a dual role here), he needed to seem way more powerful, if not omniscient.

This is designed to undermine Rand, as is the scare tactics:

The mask came away. It was a man's face, horribly burned. Yet between the black-edged, red crevices crossing those features, the skin looked healthy and smooth. Dark eyes looked at Rand; cruel lips smiled with a flash of white teeth. "Look at me, Kinslayer, and see the hundredth part of your own fate." For a moment eyes and mouth became doorways into endless caverns of fire. "This is what the Power unchecked can do, even to me. But I heal, Lews Therin. I know the paths to greater power. It will burn you like a moth flying into a furnace."

The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

Ishamael burns Rand to prove he could consume him if he wanted to:

"Touch you, Lews Therin? Touch you? I can consume you! Taste it and know, as I knew!" Those dark eyes became fire again, and that mouth, flame that blossomed and grew until it seemed brighter than a summer sun. Grew, and suddenly Rand's sword glowed as if just drawn from the forge. He cried out as the hilt burned his hands, screamed and dropped the sword.

The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

Of course, this also opens the question of why he doesn’t consume Rand since this would lead to a victory.

And the answer? It would not be as big a victory as either turning Rand to the Shadow OR, for the most conclusive victory, killing Rand at/during the Last Battle.

And then comes the temptation of Rand:

"Power." Ba'alzamon's voice became soft, insinuating. "You can have power again, Lews Therin. You are linked to it now, this moment. I know it. I can see it. Feel it, Lews Therin. Feel the glow inside you. Feel the power that could be yours. All you must do is reach out for it. But the Shadow is there between you and it. Madness and death. You need not die, Lews Therin, not ever again."
"No," Rand said, but the voice went on, burrowing into him.
"I can teach you to control that power so that it does not destroy you. No one else lives who can teach you that. The Great Lord of the Dark can shelter you from the madness. The power can be yours, and you can live forever. Forever! All you must do in return is serve. Only serve. Simple words-I am yours, Great Lord - and power will be yours. Power beyond anything those women of Tar Valon dream of, and life eternal, if you will only offer yourself up and serve."

The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

Ishamael puts on a fairly good performance. Would you vote for him?


Fanatic-Templar said...

He does okay in the path he's chosen, but I really feel he went with the wrong tactics back in The Eye of the World. Back then the Emond's Fielders were alone and afraid, and Moiraine certainly wasn't a trustworthy or comforting presence.

If he'd pretended to be more benevolent, starting small with no more than protection from Moiraine, I really think he would have made more headway then constantly threatening those famed Two Rivers folk's stubbornness.

Frankly, compared to the tales of the devil in Qu├ębecois folklore, Ba'alzamon is not that impressive.

Linda said...

Oh definitely. RJ always had a very low opinion of the Forsaken. He didn't actually want them to look too skillful. Most of the Forsaken have trouble even appearing to be benevolent for any length of time. The effort sent Osan'gar over the edge in Cairhien and made him strike at Rand. Ironically Semirhage might be the best at simulating benevolence.

You have me intrigued at your native language folktales!