War Comes to Emond's Field, part 1: Before the Troubles
A Map of Emond's Field and its surroundings in the summer of the year 999 of the New Era
Emond's Field is perhaps Jordan's most iconic location, and the one that changed and evolved the most through the series, reflecting symbolically, in microcosm, the evolution of the main characters and the progression of some of the series's important themes. It is introduced as a small and sleepy little village in a remote western region of Andor, secluded and sheltered, like the main characters to whom it is home and origin. It has a small inn, whitewashed with a first storey of river stones, with a unique and distinctive red-tiled roof. Nearby are old stone ruins in the center of which grows a giant old oak. Images of Tar Valon and Dragonmount are evoked though this, the red roof representing the inescapable mission of the Tower since the breaking: protecting humanity against male channelers' madness. Emond's Field has an Old Road going south, representing the past, and a North Road, representing the future and the Battle to come (North in Jordan's work is often associated to winter and death, to Shai'tan, the Blight and Shayol Ghul and the borderlands of humanity). West to East is the path of the Dragon. Beyond the Quarry Road, in the mountains and to the South West lies the Waygate (a symbol for Shayol Ghul and the Bore itself, a hole in reality from which pour Evil, home to an evil "Spirit") and the destroyed wonders of Manetheren - symbolic, with the Sand Hills, of the War of Shadow and the Breaking. It is this Quarry Road that Rand takes East, carrying a 'mad' Tam (ie: fevered and in delirium) rambling about his dead wife - an image of Lews Therin who shares his mind. Bela (like all horses in the series, an image of the Wheel weaving a character's thread - the pull of the Wheel on one's life often represented by riding the horse - more active, or by being pulled in a cart, more passive - characters shown in carts and wagons no longer have matters completely in hands - being driven by others on rough roads, and sometimes even incapacitated and near death - as happened to Rand wounded outside Cairhien late in the series, and to Mat at the beginning of The Dragon Reborn.) isn't there anymore to carry the burden, it is Rand's alone to make his way on the Quarry Road, pulling what's left of the cart, its wheels broken. Interesting name, the Quarry Road... it is first a Road to the stone(s) (likely the 'quarry' was actually the ruins of Manetheren themselves - Jordan used this imagery of villagers rebuilding anew by carrying away the stones of an abandoned city in The Great Hunt, chapter 10. The characters seem to think the opposite, that the road led to a quarry from Manetheren - but they likely have it wrong, given there was no shortage of stone in the mountains and no need to go down in the valley!). Rand will get his first Sword, and his first hint the Shadow wants him at the western end of the Quarry Road, at his father's farm. A quarry is also the name for a target, a hunted prey - as Rand's path makes him the object of the Shadow's hunt. More figuratively, it used to mean 'to obtain with great difficulty'. This motif of the four points on the Rose of Winds will always be very present for Rand. He will be proclaimed first in the West (Falme), and again carry his burden alone on the long Road to the West, to the Stone where he gets his second Sword. He will move further East, again toward Destiny - that of becoming the Car'a'carn, and take back the road West, to war. He will remain 'at the heart' for a lot of the series after this, sometimes travelling South - but since The Eye of the World (and a brief off-screen visit during Winter's Heart), the North is the direction he has so far managed to avoid. The direction of the Last Battle, of his possible death, the direction of his destiny (of all the main cast's destiny) on the North Road and over the river (a symbol of death and rebirth to a new life, of destiny) Moiraine makes them all take as the series opened.
When Rand will return to the Two Rivers briefly(during Lord of Chaos, chapter 1), he will open his gateway on the Old Road (south, the past). As they look ahead toward the North, the wise Elder Haman will remind him:
"The road ahead of you," Haman rumbled, "is long, dark, and, I very much fear, bloodstained. I also very much fear that you will take us all down that road. But you must live to reach the end of it."
"I will," Rand replied curtly. "Fare you well." He tried to put some warmth into that, some feeling, but he was not sure he succeeded.
"Fare you well," Haman said, and the women echoed it before all three turned toward the farmhouse. Not even Erith sounded as if she believed he would, though.
A moment longer Rand stood there. People had appeared outside the house, watching the Ogier approach, but Rand stared north and west, not toward Emond’s Field, but toward the farm where he had grown up. When he turned away and opened a gateway to Caemlyn, it was like tearing his own arm off.
At the center of the village is the Green, where the children play, where some farm animals are brought to feed. The colour green in the Wheel of Time is the colour representing Life, spring and summer. It is not the colour of battle (unless one wants to take the view that Life itself is a battle), the Battle Ajah has adopted the colour of what they fight to defend, of Green Life against the Red of blood and fire that brings the Black of the Shadow's victory. White of rebirth versus Black of the final death, Green of Life versus the Red of fire and blood - the colours of the game of Sha'rah, which symbolism encompasses all of life, from Moridin's perspective - but by adopting Red and Black, he is taking the side of destruction and death. In the Eye of the World, wood is chopped to build three bonfires for Bel Tine, placed to the North on a patch of dirt, safely away from homes and... from the Green, to avoid damaging it, Rand precises. The symbolism of the Tree us strong and fairly "classic' in The Wheel of Time. With its green canopy, it completes the symbolism of the colour Green to represent Life and the cycle of Life (Avendesora, the Tree of Life itself, is the principal symbol of this). The tree becomes red with autumn and lose its leaves to the wind. Naked or covered in snow in winter, it is reborn, in green again, with spring, its dead leaves enriching the brown earth. Jordan also uses trees as a metaphor for Man, for a human life - the Dragon especially is associated to them. Jordan's male tree per excellence is the Oak - strong and hard, but prone to break in storms and thunderstorms. His female tree, supple and bending to the winds, but not as strong as the Oak, is the white willow. Finally, Jordan also make the tree a complementary metaphor for the cyclical Pattern, human threads becoming its leaves. All the symbology of the Way of the Leaf is derived from this. Trees through the series very often have to be sacrificed - to make defenses, weapons etc. - representing because of the all the Tree symbolism the necessary sacrifices in lives to defeat the Shadow. The Ogier aren't only Tree Brothers, they are in the series brothers to humans.
Still in this line of symbolism, the Bel Tine bonfires won't be used for festival at all, they will be used to burn Shadowspawn. Those three bonfires safely off the Green on a dirt patch to the North represent the three ta'veren and their missions - the fire and destruction they each must bring into the world to defeat the Shadow, as they is no victory possible without big sacrifices. In Jordan's vision, trying to hold on to too much (for over-protection of loved ones to try to see only to your earthly interests) should be a path to defeat, while giving up too much, going too far to win, leads on the path of Shadar Logth and a victory as terrible as the defeat - the characters are forced to walk the fine moving line between the two extremes.
Emond's Field has its image of the True Source, the Winespring - and its image of the One Power, the Winespring Water. Beyond the village is what is described by Jordan as a quilt of fields and farms - a pattern, and Jon Thane's Mill, its Waterwheel harnessing the power of the Winespring water - an image of the Wheel weaving the Pattern, transforming the product of the land into flour to feed everyone.
Emond's Field evolves
As Perrin returns in the summer of 999 NE, he brings as ta'veren massive changes to Emond's Field. First, he brings them a leader to fight troubles from the Whitecloaks (representing all the chaos of the Light fighting the Light - doing the Shadow's work - which is going on all around the Westlands by that point. In the series' History, this motif of crossing the line over to evil - an evil different from the Shadow but as bad, is represented by Shadar Logoth. As the series begins, it is mostly carried through the Whitecloaks (especially the Jareth Byar character in EOTW, and later Dain Bornhald in The Shadow Rising - and as they enter a phase of redemption, the focus of the Whitecloaks 'ordinary evil' will shift mostly toward Asunawa, the High Inquisitor) and the most fanatical Red Sisters (the iconic figure among the extremists being of course Elaida herself) - notably those involved in the Vileness. Later, the same theme will be developed with Masema's fanatics and its aura of danger also surrounds the Asha'man - which Rand conceived of as a group that should concern itself solely with preparing to die fighting Tarmon Gai'don - echoing Mordeth's 'The Victory of the Light is All') then the war against the Shadow they can't escape.
In The Shadow Rising, Jordan offers us a symbolic preview in macrocosm of the Last Battle. The story line will be marked by the ultimate betrayal of the Whitecloaks, abandoning those they had promised to protect when the battle rages (echoed by Elaida's betrayal in Tar Valon, which breaks the Tower). This is likely to be echoed eventually by Taim's Black Tower betrayal of Rand - a replay of the betrayal of Lews Therin's betrayal by those the soldiers he had raised at his side: Demandred, Sammael and Be'lal among them. Through those sequences, the village itself is transformed. The Green has to become a refuge for all the village's animals (in the final battle, the women, children and Tinkers will join them), and on it will eventually stand a camp for the 400 Whitecloaks, and this time fires will have been built on the Green. The quilt of distant farms, pastures and fields around Emond's Field - a symbol of the Pattern, will suffer the ravages of Shadowspawn lead by the man who is both alive and dead (Isam, the new figure of the Stranger, a symbolic counterpart of Ishamael/Moridin). All around the village, trees have to be cut to build the defenses and force the enemy to advance on open ground - hedges and stone walls around the fields will also be torn down (similar imagery will be re-used by Jordan during the Siege of Caemlyn - Elayne has to destroy the city's beautiful parks to make place for her soldiers to assemble and manoeuver). On the Green will stand two banners: Perrin's Wolf-Head and Manetheren's Red Eagle. Past and Present together, the Hero (Wolf) and the Land (Manetheren) being one. For these episodes, Jordan borrowed for Perrin's character the Celtic-Arthurian motifs - the Dragon/King being wed to the Land and being one with it - he rather made more prominent for Rand himself. Emond's Field wakes up to force Perrin to abandon his death wish, it prepares itself as he launches into the fight. Emond's Field struggles and falters as Perrin is wounded and tired (Jordan gave him a wound in his side, symbolic of Rand in two ways: for its physical location, but also through Perrin's two foes in this story line, Fain/Shadar Logoth and the Shadow). He weds his sovereignty goddess, the Falcon. She brings him a Crown, which he still doesn't know (but none of this escapes the clever Verin who has found the Wolf-King in this book and makes veiled allusions to Perrin about it) and she brings him a land: at the end, she symbolically brings the whole Two Rivers to him.
It's very noteworthy - and perhaps very revealing of where this important theme is going in the series as a whole - that in this microcosm of the dual fight against the evils of 'Shadar Logoth' and 'Shai'tan' defeat nearly comes from casting aside half the forces of the Light: the women - and from everyone remaining isolated in their little community instead of joining up (as Perrin visits the area in the Wolf Dream, he sees clearly the fate awaiting Deven Ride and Watch Hill, surrounded by pockets of Shadowspawn, the same fate that already befell Taren Ferry - the city that 'never belonged' and never participated to the common good of the Two Rivers - after this crisis, however, the new inhabitants of the village will join up the other villages behind Perrin. The motifs Jordan created with Taren Ferry - live together or die alone - is similar in the macrocosm to the position of the Aiel, strangers that can't be trusted - by the late series it centers solely on the Shaido).
It is Faile, his soon-to-be wife (behind her the whole village) who forces Perrin to abandon his death wish of surrendering to the Whitecloaks and Bornhald, who wants him for a crime he has not even committed: causing the death of his father. More importantly, Perrin will send Faile away to illusory safety (there is no safety for women and children under the Shadow - the only way to bring safety back, to save women and children, land and possessions, to have a chance at life again is to win). Faile however will deceive Perrin, like the Emond's Field women will, promising to stay with the children and flee to hide in the woods (where they would obviously have fallen to Shadowspawn). At the end, the men aren't enough, their lines are breaking fast and defeat is imminent. This is when the women and older children of Emond's Field will come to reinforce the men (saving the lives of Perrin and his men to the North), when Faile returns from Watch Hill as general of a Two Rivers army turns the tide to the North. To the South, it is the people of Deven Ride, who come to join those of Emond's Field. Men and Women fighting side by side, the land united as One, the necessary sacrifices accepted and the illusion anything can be sheltered aside when fighting the Shadow, the traitors like the Whitecloaks cast aside and rejected, beliefs that cannot stand in front of the Shadow have to be put aside for the war (the Tinkers learned this the hard way, losing most of their own and in the end forced to accept the protection of those using the inescapable violence to fight Shai'tan's forces), the union of knowledge/wisdom (Verin the Brown) and action (Alanna the Soldier) and the acceptance of facing the unknown despite vastly incomplete knowledge of all the facts (a motif carried out strongly in the series with Verin, the hunter for knowledge who never lets the vastest of what she doesn't know and doesn't understand stop her from making the necessary even if often risky decisions when they have to be made) - all important necessities for victory against the Shadow that Jordan showed us in microcosm in 'The Battle of Emond's Field).
In further installments through the read-throughs of Lord of Chaos and Winter's Heart, I will look at how Jordan kept using Emond's Field as a microcosm and how he reflected the progress of the series' themes in it.
About the Map
Designing a map of Emond's Field was sort of a challenge. Jordan has this reputation of very long descriptions of everything, in minute details. I guess for many readers, he is being very descriptive, more than what they are used to read maybe (I could point them to Alexandre Dumas, for instance, who can take a full chapter to describe a village or a garden, paragraphs to describe a meal - he even devoted a complete chapter of The Three Musketeers to the description of an Inn's sign and the history behind it! On his discharge, Dumas was paid by the line and often had to stretch - he was certainly guilty of what Jordan, unfairly IMHO, has been some times accused of: adding unnecessary filler material). More systematic research in Jordan's world rather shows that, in truth, his descriptions are of a far more evocative kind than precise and complete. He used them to set the mood of a scene (which he did brilliantly, usually), also taking the opportunity to include symbolic elements when he could. Most of his descriptions are also fairly succinct, lacking in details.
Through the series, Emond's Field has been described many times, but always in a more evocative manner. While a complete research of the Emond's Field scenes in the books has been the most important source of information to design the map, I also had to look for other sources of inspiration. I have looked notably at old maps of small villages and towns in the American south (and in lesser proportions in England) - most of all in the area around Charleston, trying to capture some of their elements. While there's no guarantee Jordan took his inspiration from his own surroundings, there are some clues that he did precisely that. He joked a few times that we should look on a map and would see that he lived in the Two Rivers. Indeed. Charleston itself evolves quite a bit like Emond's Field, from a village to a small town in the 17th century, to a booming town to which fortifications and The Citadel were eventually added during the Civil War. As his wife Harriet also mentioned at JordanCon, the villagers of Emond's Field owe a great deal to Jim Rigney's observations of village life in the Old South. Emond's Field, with its village green at the center, is fairly typical. The Inn in front stands where the village's church would normally be. Farms in the village itself (as there is in Emond's Field, Abell's notably) are not uncommon. I set up the farms loosely on the English model, with the house and barn usually away from the main roads/paths, surrounded by their fields and orchards. In the area I'm from (Québec), the countryside is very different, following the French system, where the farm houses are placed on the road itself, the barn and other buildings in the back, the fields narrower and to the side.
The map is forcibly not extremely precise, but enough to be able to create a map of the battle of Emond's Field, which you'll see in the second post. For now, this first map of Emond's Field show its state toward summer 999 NE, as Perrin found it on his arrival. I'll conclude this first post with the description of the main features:
Main geographical features:
The exact orientation of the village is a guess. It is probably not as perfectly oriented north-south as that, but the information in the books is not precise enough to determine this exactly, so I've followed the basic descriptions that suggest it is pretty much oriented this way.
The size of the village is also approximate. I made it stretch for roughly a mile and half north-south and east-west. It cannot be much bigger than this. Described as 'very small' even by the likes of Perrin and Egwene, there are some clues from the action we see there: Rand was able to call Egwene from one end of the Green to its center; Perrin (even accounting for his wolfbrother senses) can see what goes on at the west end of the village from the Inn, from the center of the Green Nynaeve could see the new Manor built 1/10th of a mile from the West end of the village. Etc. It cannot be too much smaller than this either; the villages is described as having many dirt streets and it is worth riding to get from one end to the other. A smaller village than this would not likely have spread to streets, the houses clustered closer to a main street/road instead. Once this approximate size decided upon, the more precise distances featured in the series are respected - though that will be visible mostly on the version of the map illustrating the battle.
The Westwood lies West of the village. At this point in the series's timeline, the Wood almost reaches the western edge of the village, though Rand tells us it gradually thins out. There are relatively few farms in this area, they are rather concentrated east of the village, both on the north and south shores of the Winespring water. The farm in the northwest corner is, by the way, not meant to represent Tam's farm, which is situated many miles west (and slightly north) well off the border of the map.
The Quarry Road is a fairly narrow wood path (once paved, but only a few signs of this are visible now) that leads almost all the way to the Sand Hills. From Perrin's description, it gradually bends northward out of Emond's Field. It meanders through the Woods around many stone outcrops. The Quarry Road leads into the village, first meeting the first dirt streets and rows of houses. Daise Congar, the new Wisdom, and her husband Wit have their house in this area of the village, in front of which Wit forced Tam to stop in An Empty Road.
The Quarry Road then opens onto The Green (3). Jordan describes it as a 'broad expense' of grass, all around which most of the village's houses are clustered. Toward its western end is a low stone outcrop and spring, the Winespring. Its course over the Green is never described in detail. I was originally tempted to place it at the northwest end, however it's very unlikely to be this way as Perrin situates the camp of the Whitecloaks on the Green above the Winespring. That the Winespring is more to the South West of the Green sounded the most practical solution.
The shape and size of the Green is never precisely described. It is fairly big, though. Three houses stand at the middle of it, and Jordan implied more stood on each sides. Four hundred men and horses will also camp on the Green above the Winespring.
The North Road begins at the Winespring. Binding to the West slightly, it leads up to Watch Hill and Taren Ferry. Evaluating distances in the Two Rivers is very difficult. Comparison between the various maps designed by Elisa Mitchell for this area, between the local map of the Two Rivers and the way the region is depicted on the big map, shows some fairly important differences, notably on the courses of the rivers and the general orientation of the region. Approximation based on the scale on the world map result in the Two Rivers being roughly 150 miles across, from the base of the mountains to the point where the Tarendrelle and Manetherendrelle meet. Following this, Watch Hill is located around 40 miles from Emond's Field on the North Road, and Deven Ride somewhat over 50 miles on the Old Road.
The Winespring Water runs from the Emond's Field's Green eastward, widening, into the Waterwood area where it divides into a myriad of smaller streams and eventually into the bog area known as the Mire. The edge of the Waterwood is over half a day east of from the village (walking or with a wagon, presumably). The Aybaras lived in that area, in a sprawling multi-generational farm, about a mile from the Winespring Water. This farm is also located miles beyond the border of the map. Further south in this area was where Raen's Tuatha'an caravans went to hide, well away from any of the villages - where they learn the hardest way the price of staying away and aside from the other human communities.
(1) The Winespring Inn: Located between the Wagon Bridge (4) and the ruins of a larger building in the center of which is a massive old oak(2). The Inn has a dozen chimneys, and based on the shape of its common room, it is basically squarish. The kitchens are in the back. Their door gives on the backyard, with its narrow and long stable, with large doors opening at both ends. Perceptions of the Inn by the characters have evolved a lot through the series. Considered a big building in the beginning by the younglings, it has been described later as a small inn by Egwene, even as a tiny inn. All is relative, of course: inns from the middle-ages to the early modern era (the sort of which the characters have encountered in the cities since) could be really immense buildings, the Winespring being tiny in comparison. The second storey still holds the living quarters of the Al'Vere and at least 5 rooms for guests, perhaps a few more (Thom, Lan, Moiraine, Fain all had a room at the same time, and Marin still had a room left for Tam).
According to local lore, the ruins south of the Inn once belonged to it and an Inn has stood there for 2000 years. That's to be taken with a grain of salt. This bit of description simply reinforced Jordan's association of the Winespring Inn to the White Tower, and the motif that the Two Rivers were once something greater. This building, however, could have been really anything in the era of Manetheren, now largely lost in the mists of legend... including an Inn.
(3) marks the position, toward the center of the Green, where eventually the white marble battle memorial will be erected, near the twin poles for the banner of Manetheren and the Wolf-Head banner.
The Wagon Bridge (4), beside the Inn, marks the end of the North Road. Tall willows stands nearby. At this point in the timeline, the bridge is still a wide, stout wooden bridge. Toward the end of the series, it will be rebuilt wider and in stone. Not far from the Wagon bridge are two narrow footbridges (5) that lead onto the Green. Their exact location is never described. Jordan a time or two implied they were near the larger bridge, however he has all the characters on foot use the Wagon Bridge.
(6) marks the location of Abell's Cauthon's farm (his fields, obviously, would be situated somewhere on the edge of the village), burned down by the Whitecloaks, who arrested his wife and daughters and kept them prisoners at their camp near Watch Hill. The Cauthon farm is directly on the Green, toward the middle of it. Just west of it is Mistress Calder's house (7) (where Rand brought Tam to Nynaeve in A Place of Safety), and next (8) is Beril Thane's house, the brother of the miller and councilman Jon Thane. Beside the Al'Vere's quarters above the Inn, those three are the only houses that can be located with some precision. Nynaeve also owns a house in the village, but we have no clue where it is situated. Haral Luhhan's smithy is another 'iconic' location in Emond's Field we cannot situate. It is described as being 'in the village'. Traditionally, a smithy would be situated a bit aside (for the fumes and the noise of hammering all day) and it would ideally be close to a good water supply - as blacksmiths used quite a bit - most often near rivers. They were also generally situated in a spot with good road access (lots of comings and goings, as people brought their horses to shoe), often not far from the main road, though in a secluded village like Emond's Field that rarely ever sees foreigners, that isn't much of an issue. If Jordan followed these traditional conventions, the smithy might be somewhere east, close to the Winespring. By this point in the series, it has been destroyed recently and a makeshift smithy arranged 'near the green'.
(10) marks the fairly tentative location of Jon Thane's Mill, a few miles east from the village, toward the Waterwood. From Jordan's description, it is quite possibly farther than this ("about halfway to the Waterwood"), though Rand seemed able to see it from the village, and Jon Thane's regular presence in Emond's Field at all hours of the day (he was also able to go fetch a horse to sell to Lan - and be back to lead patrols in the evening) suggests it isn't too far either. While it isn't described, there has to be a bridge across the Winespring Water at the Mill, for the farmers south of the Winespring to bring their cereals to the miller. Widow Aynal's Meadow, the location close to the Winepsring Water where Emond's Field holds its annual sheep shearing, is located at some unknown distance beyond the Mill. While it may seem odd for these two locations to be so far from the village, keep in mind most of the cereals - and sheep - are located on farms to the east.
(12) is the location behind the Inn where Marin and Perrin's group bumped into Cenn Buie as they were preparing to go into the Westwood. Marin was leading them to the old sickhouse (9), abandoned a few generations ago after a big storm nearly destroyed it. It is situated some distance into the woods beyond an old oak split by lightning (13), located about a mile from the west edge of the village. Marin reached it going through the village, while Perrin took the look way south and east, returning north through paths between fields and pastures, to avoid being seen by the villagers. The newer sickhouse (11) is located beyond the Mill.
All around the village are fields and pastures, belonging to the villagers, and then the first farms. According to Perrin, close to Emond's Field the farms pretty much ends where the next farmer's begins, while father east they are a lot more distant from one another (in the Westwood, farms are few and far between).
The second installment of this post, before we move on to The Fires of Heaven Read-through, will illustrate the last battle of Emond's Field against the Shadowspawn forces of Isam.