Moiraine and Perrin Out of the Woods
In The Dragon Reborn, the focus shifted from Rand to Perrin and Mat. Similarly, the symbolism surrounding the Inns turned to Perrin and Mat, who visited them, while Rand and the girls roamed the 'wilderness', so to speak.
I will make a survey of a few of the Inns featured in the book while looking at Perrin's story arc, and at Mat's in a future post.
While his character doesn't shine as much in The Dragon Reborn as he will in book four, an highlight of The Dragon Reborn for me is the temporary shift of perspective from Rand to Perrin, and the return of Moiraine again as an ambiguous half protagonist and half antagonist, which is perhaps most effective and balanced when Jordan showed it through the eyes of Egwene and Perrin, both extremely critical of her, but without the excesses about her (bordering delusions and bad faith) of Rand and most of all Mat and Nynaeve.
The juxtaposition of Perrin, who strives to hang to his humanity, and Moiraine, who gives to the world and her entourage the image of a cool and heartless manipulator, who rarely allow herself to show she cares about anything other than her cause (ironically, as she strives to save humanity but rarely allow herself to show her own humanity to anyone) and can still see people as human beings and have feelings for them, is very interesting.
I love the character of Moiraine, don't get me wrong. She is in my opinion one of Jordan's best drawn characters, or she becomes so in this book and even more in TSR and TFOH, after being in TEOTW introduced as the classic mentor figure (à la Gandalf in LOTR), with a massive twist: her 'charges' gradually turn against her, and she only gradually shifts from trying to control them to helping them to find their own way, the way a real mentor does.
As much as I like the character, however, I was never able to like the woman much - admirable in many ways, she's quite the hero, but she's in no way for me a very likeable figure. One of the facets of the character I enjoy most is that her story arc is one of being forced to release her grip, eventually surrendering her notions to pull the strings and keep the characters on a leash, her sudden urgency when she realises in Rhuidean her time is running up and she has failed to properly prepare Rand, failed to teach him what she could and instead kept him too much from secrets she feared him to learn (about Prophecies etc.) and tried to manipulate and lead him too much, struggled too much against the Wheel pulling Rand where he must really go, not where she, who isn't the ta'veren, thought he must and mustn't go. The Wheel doesn't wait on Moiraine's wishes, as she gradually came to understand and accept. Moiraine is the first character who must face (and accept, which she eventually does) that big plans for a smooth path to the Last Battle as she conceived of with Siuan Sanche won't work, that for all her years preparation the coming of the Dragon Reborn won't be much as foreseen, the ripples he sends out far worse than expected, and the efforts to control him pointless, as the Wheel pushes and pulls its ta'veren. And one of the most admirable thing about Moiraine is that in the end she understands and accept this with humility - accept, which may even be worse for her that her time near Rand is soon over, that she won't be at his side for much of what's ahead, that being at the Dragon's side in the years leading to Tarmon Gai'don - the cause she devoted her life to - isn't for her. She needed to go on another path (seemingly to return to him for the Last Battle itself) and she did.
And she prepared her exit with as much fortitude and dedication as she took her mission, when she imagined herself as the guide and mentor to the Dragon. In Rhuidean, Moiraine would truly gain Wisdom to complete her knowledge, and afterward finally she finds the way to play the role of teacher, with much humiliation for her, a consequence of the antagonism between her and Rand she largely was responsible for sparking: not easy to trust or like a woman who seems obsessed with making sure you die according to prophecy, and not only that but seems intent on bringing you to the slaughterhouse blindfolded, keeping from you as much as she knows of your fate in fear you bolt. Not an easy woman to have around. In TSR after Rhuidean she would also finally do what she probably should have done long before, warming up to Egwene and Rand on a personal basis. Part of it is still a touch manipulative - she 'remembers how to control saidar' she tells Egwene (though this may be in part a way for Moiraine to save face, to make Egwene believe she wasn't just accepting what must be but actually was still the puppet master), ie: controlling it by surrendering to it first, but most, the core of it is a genuine surrender, a genuine recognition of her real role in events, of her real place as a guide and teacher. With Egwene she will even attempt t the end to amend what she did in Tear by scheming succesfully to separate Rand from all his personal friends and scant trustable allies like Thom. It came a bit late, however, when Egwene and Rand have put great distance between them, him associating her to a schemer/puppet master like Moiraine, Egwene seing already more the Dragon than Rand al'Thor.
Moiraine appears, which isn't always the truth or the full truth, to dispose of people as she sees fits, as she decides the Pattern must be woven, and ironically she often achieves the real will of the Wheel through 'unintended consequences' of her actions: driving Rand away from the mountains, sending the girls and Thom away to their real destinies in an attempt to send remove them from Rand's entourage, leading Rand to puzzle out, crucially, important prophecies by her own refusal to share her knowledge of them with him openly, to bring him to share in the decisions affecting not only the Pattern, but also his own life.
On the one hand, we see her save Lan's life by arranging to pass his bond to Nynaeve. On the other hand, for all her good intentions, it's an extremely hard and cold decision, taken without even consulting the man who has given him his loyalty for nearly 20 years, nor Nynaeve for that matter. Moiraine played the matchmaker for both and made the decision for both. In The Great Hunt, we even saw betraying his trust and his loyalty, by hiding from him that Isam Mandragoran could possibly be alive. Again, two faces to the coin: by doing this she prevented Lan leaving her cause (and Nynaeve) and going back to his private war to avenge Malkier, which would most likely have killed him (which was probably the intent of this verse of 'dark prophecy', a bait for Moraine's warder that wasn't taken). On the other hand, this Oath is for Lan as meaningful and strong as his Oath to Moiraine, and hiding the mention of Isam from Lan was a poor way to repay his service and his trust, especially when the decision to pass the bond only at her death and to keep Isam a secret was a lot motivated by Moiraine's wish to keep Lan at her side. This would be mirror with stark contrast later by Nynaeve, who out of feelings she has for Lan, true selfless love, will find a much better balance between doing something that might save him while still letting him go away from her to fulfill what he sees as his duty. Nynaeve achieved the balance between duty and dedication and humanity Moiraine in the early book was not capable of.
And yet, for all her grating and ambiguous sides, Moiraine is vital to the Light, and she played a major role in forming Rand and Egwene into future leaders, though very often she achieved that by trying to prevent them from going their own ways, forcing them to become stronger to stand up to her and make their own decisions... unintended consequences again, at least before Rhuidean made her see things a bit differently.
In the Dragon Reborn it was most interesting to see Perrin start to challenge Moiraine and her methods. While he sometimes misses or fails to see the whole and fairer picture about Moiraine, if not as often as Rand, Mat and Nynaeve do, he often hits bullseye in his criticism (notably of her distanciation from her humanity), a role Egwene will pick up in The Shadow Rising. Moiraine in The Dragon Reborn teached a lot, by her own example, about dedication and duty and the hard sacrifices that may lie ahead for the boys. But for Perrin it's by mirroring that she achieves the most, unintentionally: Perrin hangs to his humanity in this book a lot in reaction to Moiraine's own distanciation from personal feelings she may very feel but refuse to show.
The story have him come out of the 'wild life' of the Mountains. As the book begins, he isn't quite an hermit like Elyas, yet lives somewhat like him in the woods, with the wolves around but kept at bay as he fears them too much and still refuses his nature as wolfbrother (and is confronted again with the Tinkers and the Way, a parallel again to The Eye of the World). Another interesting 'hidden layer' for Perrin in this book is that he starts his path to parallel Artur Hawkwing. Here, this is reflected by his 'hunting' of Rand, which mirrors almost exactly the path of Guaire Amalasan, who proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn in what is now Almoth Plain, who advanced through what is now Ghealdan and Altara, Illian and finally Tear, where he failed to take the Stone, all the way pursued by Hawking. Berelain and Faile parallel Hawkwing's two wives, but with a funny twist: Perrin unlike Hawkwing has to deal with the two at once, and they fight it off.
As Perrin gets out of the wilderness, he returns gradually to human civilization. First, after the episode of the attack in the mountains were he almost became wolf, he is given a warning at Harilin's Leap in the form of Noam, the wolfbrother who became wolf completely: Noam's fate confirms to Perrin his concerns about being a wolfbrother and losing his humanity are real. The Inn sign show a man jumping on one foot, his arms up in the air. It probably refers to a local legend, which isn't very important. The symbolism of the picture here is what counts - it is a leap to freedom for Noam, and it is also a reference to Hopper, the leaping wolf who dreams of freedom and soaring like the eagle.
Perrin's return to civilization progresses in Remen, which shows him the path to salvage his humanity with The Wayland's Forge Inn and its sign, a blacksmith with his hammer, that Perrin sees as 'a good omen'. The Wayland Forge is to Perrin what the Stag and the Lion was to Rand's character in The Eye of the World. For Rand, it was the encounter with prophecies and Min, for Perrin it is the first encounter with Faile and his destiny to pick up the Hammer again. At this inn, Perrin is surrounded by guests from wedding ceremonies. He also finds Gaul, and confronts more Whitecloaks, other important things on his path. Perrin has sought all his youth to tame his strength and impulsive side, fearing them. Tarmon Gai'don needed him to learn to find and unleash his physical strength and confront his capacity for extreme, murderous violence and - aspects he needs to fight the Shadow and become the Wolf-King. This is why he needed to pick the War Axe first and learn to use it, why he needed to become a wolfbrother and distance himself from his nature as a quiet, gentle boy. Blacksmithing gives him a taste of the end of this path, when he will have reached the point when his violence and wolf-ish nature become dangerous, when he will need to find balance again, and is ready to look back at what he once was and carry the blacsmith hammer, still a formidable weapon, but also a constant reminder of his true, complete self: half a builder and shaper of tools (also humans, as leader/ruler) as the Blacksmith, but a blacksmith who can use his hammer as a weapon to protect his people and destroy the Shadow. What begins at Wayland's Forge ends at The Star in Tear. A similar 'guiding star' in Shadar Logoth lead him to safety and toward his destiny of becoming a wolfbrother. The Star in Tear reveals to him his love of Faile, and standing between a smithy and a weaver's shop (two opposite images of the Pattern: the weaver relating to the Wheel weaving ta'veren tightly, the smithy representing a ta'veren like Perrin's ability to shape the pattern around him). At the Star, Perrin will save Faile's life for the first time, and give up the axe for the Hammer for the first time. Things come full circle to close the 'first act' of Perrin's story arc in a way that echoes strongly Rand getting his first sword at the beginning of EOTW and his second at the end of TDR; Perrin gets his axe from the hands of Harral Luhhan, and in Tear another blacksmith, Demrid Ajala, not only judges him ready to be a full blacksmith, but gives him the hammer that will one day become an hammer mentionned in prophecy, the Hammer of the Wolf-King. Both Faile and the Hammer are the keys for Perrin to retain his humanity, both Faiel and the Hammer are keys for him to play his role in the Last Battle, if Perrin manages to avoid the perils, manages to walk the fine line between hanging too much to his humanity, give in and not being ready to make the necessary sacrifices to save the world, and losing his humanity, not becoming the Wolf-King but a feral wolf, running with the pack in truth.