Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Shadow Rising Read-through #10 - Into the Heart... and painted in a corner

Into the Heart... and painted in a corner

by Dominic

For this one I return first to chapter 5, Questioners that concludes with a spectacular entry by Moiraine in complete fury at Rand, having lost all her Aes Sedai reserve and her usual coolness. She is at her wits' end and even admits that she is desperate. That scene set the tone for the character in this book, where she finally gains much depth and interest for me. Moiraine too is at an important crossroads: she has come to the point where all her methods to handle someone like Rand have proved ineffective and even backfired, leaving her painted into a corner, with no clear issue in sight. She has placed herself in a position of authority over Rand, attempted to bring him to let her take all the decisions for him and trust her blindly - showing her irritation when he asks her to at least explain herself.

Moiraine has failed to create any personal tie between them, of friendship or trust - she even discouraged it - always making sure to keep herself at a distance, even making herself elusive at the beginning of The Great Hunt when Rand actively sought her help and advice, to manipulate him into believing she had no further interest in him (a plan Cadsuane would manage to pull off, Moiraine failed spectacularly).

Moiraine has never shown any trust in any of the younglings - and not much personal interest in them (they perceive, and rightly for the most part, that for her they are more elements in her plans than people she cares about for themselves) - and it's probably one of her great failures, and one for which she probably shouldn't be too personally blamed, however: she is in this the product of the White Tower culture, and her predicament is emblematic of the White Tower's global problems, results of past failures and of the Aes Sedai placing themselves out of and above the rest of humanity and of relationships with the outside - not marrying, letting nation and family behind, avoiding friendship with non-sisters etc. Aes Sedai are still respected by many, for their power and knowledge, somewhat more rarely for the services they provide, but they are loved and welcomed by few. While Moiraine kept to that remote attitude, the boys, the girls and even Thom and Lan have bonded and banded around her - forming personal ties of friendship and trust, and by The Shadow Rising Moraine finds herself totally out of this inner circle, mistrusted (and often disliked) by all but Lan, and even he takes more and more the side of others.

The younglings will even rejoice whenever they see her make a slip, commit a mistake. So late in the game, some of her attempts to bring the girls on her side, by flattering them and offering them bits of information will backfire when the girls' loyalty goes first to their friends, not to her or even the Tower - Mat will benefit from this from Egwene. It was always for Moiraine a matter that they should trust her knowledge, her experience and her authority. The Shadow Rising brings her on a wholly new path at the culmination of which she will, of her own decision, become the servant, the advisor and the teacher. This book shows Moiraine how she must become a mentor to Rand, teach him how to be a leader and make his own decisions, not attempt to be the leader in his place.

In the early chapters, Moiraine is uncharacteristically shown to make a whole strings of misjudgments and bad calls. She had made some before, but never has Jordan shown anywhere so many in a row: She decided Perrin needed no watching on the motive he would never decide to leave Rand; she lost much of the little trust Rand still had in her when he discovered for himself the content of the Prophecies that she had not wanted him to read for himself (who would trust a woman who tells you she'll do everything so these prophecies get accomplished yet don't trust you or your sense of duty enough to even be honest with you about what she knows of your fate - none of which is anywhere near pleasant); Moiraine is so remote personally from the group (and clouded by her fury and despair) that she has completely missed that Egwene is not in love with Rand anymore - and completely misread Elayne's reaction to Berelain - quite a feat given Moiraine is Cairhienin and trained in spotting and deciphering the smallest reactions in people); and one of her worse judgement call come with her 'great plan' for Rand. In the same breath she blames Rand for attempting to read and study the prophecies for clues, she herself conceive a plan and attach it to an obscure verse to convince him it's what he must do, all the while admitting 'it could mean anything'. Moiraine knows intellectually, but still can't accept objectively that the Wheel pulls Rand where he needs to go, when he needs to go. In Tear, she has put out of her mind how the long months on Almoth Plain and the moment of his departure placed him right when and where he needed to be for the Callandor verses to be fullfilled. With her plan, she was taking the massive risks she would have scolded Rand for had he been his plan: she would have him launch a frontal assault against a Forsaken she knows but scraps about and who disposes of unknown forces, supposedly in a demonstration of force that would outdo Hawkwing and bring all the nations behind Rand in one blow and make all the other Forsaken tremble in fear. Little did Moiraine know nations were already under the Forsaken, that Sammael was one of the best generals and even with far more experience and preparation Rand would barely defeat him later.

In Tear, she begins dangerous games with Rand's allies. The girls are oblivious to this, but they have been cleverly manipulated. They believe Moiraine encouraged them to play the full sisters only because it helps keep the High Lords on their toes - which is part of it. They failed to see her deeper motives: not only she kept the girls safely where she could watch them, let them busy themselves with the Black Sisters, but she also made Rand see all of them as Aes Sedai too. By the time she changes her mind and decides to manipulate Egwene into becoming Rand's confident, it's too late. These weeks at the Stone mark the point where Rand really start to distance himself from Egwene and Nynaeve, start to mistrust Egwene - because of their ties to Moiraine and the Tower. Little does Rand understand what goes on behind closed doors and how critical and suspicious of Moiraine the girls themselves are, how much they all stand on his side. Soon, when the Black Sisters are no longer around to keep the girls busy and away from Rand (and after Elayne will start taking too much of his attention to Moiraine's taste), Moiraine will set her schemes in motion to get them out of the way, much to her chagrin ending up stuck with Egwene.

She will also manipulate Rand's best ally to handle the Tairen traps, Thom Merrilin, into departing Tear. By TFOH, once she understood better the challenges awaiting Rand,she will have herself to rush-train Rand in the very same notions of rulership and the Game of Houses she had prevented Thom from teaching him, deeming them useless at the time. This has to be one of my favourite Moiraine scenes in the series. The beginning is simply hilarious, with Thom catching Moiraine shamelessly spying on his privae papers and her smoothing her skirts and sitting down in perfect composure as if nothing had ever happened. Very funny moment, the kind Jordan was a master of. She is at her best in that scene - dedicated and determined to achieve what she believes to be the right thing, in cool control and at her most clever in outplaying the old master of the Game of Houses. We see her resorting to very hard, even harsh means to get her way: she begins with veiled threats about his true past, redolent of black mail. Thom retorts expertly, blow for blow. These two characters, more than a little antagonist to each other at that point, have both puzzled out much about the other - and both have played their hand well, keeping these information to themselves to use them at need. Two masters at work. Having met her match on this front, Moiraine rather try to play om his old wounds and borrowed feelings, trying to saddle her with protecting Elayne out of old feelings he had once for her mother. Thom would indeed get attached and become a surrogate father to Elayne (he's the one who made her fatherless, incidentally) - but for now he manages to wriggle out of the trap Moiraine has set. And he leaves her no choice but to use her most dubious card - both extremely unkind toward him and more than out of line with her duty to the Tower: Moiraine re opens Thom's deepest wounds about his inability to save his nephew Owyn, and Moiraine promises to pay him in return for his departure with the girls by giving him the information with which to bring down the sisters responsible for the illegal gentling. As more plants those seeds, Siuan will soon plant others in the same patch - lies about Logain to bring down the Red Ajah and Elaida. Moiraine leaves Thom a wreck - as soon as she departs he burst into tears. Not pretty, but Moiraine well knows she has to make victims or the Shadow will win. Like we will get from Cadsuane when she will have no choice but to do what she loaths and break the First Counsel of Far Madding, Jordan gave us in the Thom and Moiraine scene a glimpse into Moiraine's emotions. Whatever she really feels for Thom, she becomes a bit more heated when she tells him she will prove not all sisters are like the Reds who destroyed Owyn (but then, they too see that as their duty...) and her sympathy and regret for what she has to do to Thom are palpable - for all that Thom is convinced Moiraine was faking. Thom was probably not the only one emotionally shacken by this scene. It could have been revealing to see what went on in Moiraine's mind as she left the room. This scene was excellent. Jordan sets up Moiraine as a very dangerous, clever and determined woman, who will resort to very harsh means if necessary. That scene is completed with the Moiriane POV in Into the Heart, that shows her position everyone, like stones on a board. To Rand, Moiraine has become an antagonist, a challenge he will have to find a way to overcome. For Moiraine too, getting herself out of the corner she's painted herself in will become perhaps her biggest challenge of her career - one that will the help of the Wise Ones' ter'angreal she will win. In the end, it's her total dedication to her cause that will win over her habit of wanting to control everything. And like the inspiring story of his mother Tigraine who gave up her beloved son, Moraine's greatest lesson for Rand in the end may have been to show him how far faith and dedication to the Light must go to win.

It's extremely interesting o look back here at the very different Moiraine Robert Jordan presented in New Spring. Barely older than Rand or Egwene, younger than Nynaeve, Moiraine had much in common with the younglings: impetuous and prone to take risks or go blindly in dangerous situations. She already had Perrin's deep sense of duty and responsability, the stubborness and strong will of Rand and Egwene - and like them she disliked authority, being told what to do and being limited in the decisions affecting her own life - fleeing as Mat would have done when the Hall wanted to settle her down as Queen of Cairhien. Siuan herself was much like Mat, loving pranks, wanting to have adventures around the world and fearing to be saddled with responsabilities. How they have changed since!

There is an amusing moment in 'Doorways', when Moiraine mentions sarcastically Siuan's writ. So the girls did flash her in her face at some earlier point... It's a pity Jordan didn't think or want to tell us how that episode went, or had it happen on-screen. Moiraine made strange decisions about Joiya and Amico. It's atypical of her, and her measure of her obsession with Rand at that point, to have had so little interest in women who were involved directly with a Forsaken in a trap set for Rand. She barely devoted any effort to making them spill what they knew, much to the girls' frustration. She would have gotten far more out of Amico, certainly - Joiya being a lost cause because of her Oaths. But Moiraine bizarelly dismissed them as unimportant - right before the Shadow decided that they knew too much to be left alive...

Moiraine's Cairhienin-style manipulations, her real opinions of some of the younglings too, become more apparent in her POV in chapter 21, Into the Heart.

There are many amusing and/or interesting moments in this chapter. First there is Moiraine irritated because Lan has vanished and failed to stay at her side. Musing over how well Nynave has bound him to her though in her thinking Lan is still fighting it fiercely (no longer as much as she believes, though), she wonders what the hell Lan can be doing. He simply enough was playing the worried lover and warder to Nynaeve by sending Juilin to them, Nynaeve whom Moiraine was all too glad to get out of the way, even if it meant to the dangers of Tanchico.

Then there is Moiraine once more showing how completely off-track she is in her judgement of the personal relationships in the group. She tries to manipulate Egwene into getting Rand to confide in her - Egwene sees her coming and it earns Moraine a sidelong glance. Ooops... those simple manipulations no longer work! Egwene then explains to Moiraine what really goes on with Rand: He will not confide in anyone, Moiraine. He hides his pains, and hopes he can deal with them before anyone notices." Anger flashed across Egwene's face. "The wool-brained mule!" Moiraine completely misinterpret the reaction, thinking Egwene is upset over Rand and Elayne.

Moiraine again makes a mistake in judgement, this time about the plans of the Black Ajah, and reveals what the earlier chapter suggested about her manipulations of the girls:

"The purported plan with Mazrim Taim was much the more likely of the two, but her messages to the Amyrlin should have taken care of that. The two young women could handle the much less likely eventuality of a mysterious danger hidden in Tanchico, and they were out of her hair and away from Rand. She only regretted that Egwene had refused to go with them. Tar Valon would have been best for all three, but Tanchico would do.
"Speaking of wool-brained, do you mean to continue with this plan to go into the Waste?"
"I do," the girl said, firmly. She needed to be back in the Tower, training her strength. What was Siuan thinking of? She will probably give me one of those sayings about boats and fish, when I can ask her.
At least Egwene would be out of the way, too, and the Aiel girl would look after her.

Into the Heart also shows how dangerously arrogant Moiraine had become : "the boy had to depend on her counsel. Hers, and hers alone." Who thinks she turns the Wheel of Time...

Jordan also introduces a notion that he would develop in the Two Rivers story line. For all her studies of the Prophecies (perhaps too focussed on her part on trying to find in them a coherent plan she could follow), Moiraine has no idea that Mat is referred to in them as The Fox and - more easier to puzzle out at that point - Perrin as the Wolf-King and his Hammer: "There was no guide to how they were connected, or what they were supposed to do; the Prophecies never mentioned companions." In fact, they held clues - Moiraine simply looked in them for the wrong things. It's Verin who will outdo Moiraine on this one after a few days observing Perrin, as we'll see later in the book.

Right before Rand enters the Heart, Moiraine and Egwene have this exchange on Perrin and Faile:

"I like her," Egwene said. "She is good for him, just what he needs. And she cares for him deeply."
"I suppose she does." If Faile became too troublesome, Moiraine would have to have a talk with her, about the secrets Faile had been keeping from Perrin. Or have one of her eyes and ears do it. That should settle her down.
"You say it as if you don't believe it. They love each other, Moiraine. Can't you see that? Can't you even recognize a human emotion when you see one?"
Moiraine gave her a firm look, one that settled her on her heels in a satisfactory manner. The girl knew so little and thought she knew so much.

Alas for Moiraine, Egwene's grasp here is greater than hers. Moiraine would soon learn Perrin's sense of duty made him slip out of her hands. Egwene's remark stinged Moiraine more than she let on - as her spiteful repartie later showed.

The chapter doesn't make Moiraine appear in a very good light humanly speaking - beside brief flashes of sympathy, all her thoughts of people are concerned with how to manipulate them, how to use them to serve her interests, how to settle them down via blackmail (thinking about it for Faile, trying to use it with Thom) - and most of her thoughts about Egwene are concerned with studying her, judge how easily or not she could be manipulated. Moiraine is far from a bad person, but devoting twenty years to a single cause and seeing control slip out of her hands more and more have taken its toll on her. It musn't have been easy for her, she had given away so much, sacrifice so much to get where she is and prepare for this task - and when this great moment finally happens, nothing goes as she planned and expected, everything is one frustration after another.

Her knowledge of human relationships is also very limited. She doesn't have many friends, she was raised in a palace where servants obeyed her, as Aes Sedai, after a fairly short training, her strength put her above most the others and her connection to Siuan eventually gave her even more freedom to do as she pleased. She avoided the Tower for the most part, too. Her closest relationship is with Lan, another one based mostly on strict obedience to her. These two are firmly bound by oaths and duty but not very close on a personal level (Lan will significantly say little about her after she's believed dead), and since Moiraine betrayed Lan's trust by arranging to pass his bond to Myrelle without his knowledge or approval and told him about it (while keeping from him the essential: she meant Myrelle to pass it to Nynaeve all along), they have become even more distant. How can Lan not see in Moiraine's gesture the opposite, an attempt to make sure he would never be Nynaeve's? He has gotten closer and closer to Nynaeve since, even acting for her in Moiraine's back, as he does during this chapter. Poor Moiraine just isn't very much a people's person... Egwene has a better grasp of what goes on with Rand at this point. Experienced women like Sorilea and Cadsuane will decipher him almost at a glance. Moiraine will soon learn, and accept, her true role in the Pattern.

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