Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Why Cheap Cuendillar?

by Linda

We know from earlier books that cuendillar is rare and expensive, and was so even in the Age of Legends. Also, RJ said in an early interview that cuendillar took Forsaken strength to make.

Now even novices of a few week’s training can do it, provided they are strong in Earth. And it is being made in a rather mundane manner. There is nothing difficult about making it, it’s just boring, so why would it have been rare in earlier times? It seems that it was necessary for the plot that RJ change his mind on this matter.

Curiously, the Yellow Ajah has more Aes Sedai strong in Earth than the others, even though until now Aes Sedai Healing is Spirit, Water and Air. The Yellow Ajah are becoming very discontented with Egwene over ‘wasting their time’ making cuendillar. Will they be the first group to disobey Egwene’s orders? Are they going to lead a group that wants an alternative leader? Surely they wouldn’t put their support behind Lelaine when her rival Romanda is Head of their Ajah. Perhaps the Yellow are the early returnees to the Tower?

Since even weak channellers can make cuendillar, Leane was the second fastest after Egwene and was chosen to attack the harbour chain. Egwene feels responsible that Bode, a novice, is the other candidate and replaces her. She is subsequently captured. So to further his plot, RJ not only had to have the harbour chain turn to cuendillar and Egwene captured, he had to have Leane (a weak channeller) also be captured alongside her.

Leane must perform some essential function in Tar Valon. Her presence there may have all or any of three purposes: as a stilled channeller whom Nynaeve Healed, as evidence that the Oath Rod shortens lives since Leane has been freed from the Oaths and is now young again, and finally as a source of information on important topics such as the Forsaken being lose, what Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne have been doing, Telaranrhiod, etc. She may be put to the question, or she may voluntarily tell this information to save Egwene’s life or to attempt to end the Tower split.

Certainly the Oath Rod’s properties will be revealed: the title of the chapter in Crossroads of Twilight when they were captured was What The Oath Rod Can Do and to me hints that this is one important thing that Leane will tell, as well as show, the Tower.

Finally, with her little factory, Egwene has now cheapened cuendillar. Knowledge of the weave will spread, and the rebels now have a stockpile of it, which they have to sell very carefully if they don’t want the price of cuendillar to crash. So far the factory is making cuendillar items to be sold to finance the rebel army. Soon it might be making cuendillar items directly for the war itself. Hopefully for the war against the Shadow. The oaths forbid Aes Sedai to make weapons (though presumably not if these are to be used on Shadowspawn), but there is always armour. It would of course be hypocritical for the Aes Sedai to permit or encourage novices and Accepted to make cuendillar weapons. Ah, what the oath rod can do.

And it is important to remember that once made, cuendillar is forever, so one has to be very careful what one makes, since it can’t be undone or disposed of.


'rew said...

I found the comment on making armor out of cuendillar too interesting to pass up- especially coupled with the accepted fact that Mat will harness gunpowder and revolutionize warfare (more than he already has). As has been pointed out on this blog, this will change the scope and devastation of warfare, but it would similarly put anyone who can channel in much more danger. While stopping an arrow or crossbow bolt in flight has been demonstrated (see LOC, Connecting Lines for one instance), stopping a bullet/slug would conceivably be much harder/impossible because of the velocity and size difference...

Cuendillar armor would be a welcome accessory to anyone expecting assassination as well as going into battle (assuming that Mat's inventiveness extends beyond artillery to other firearms...)- could we conceivably see some (perhaps just the bigwigs) in TG to be clad in some sort of One Power Kevlar?

Kathryn Oaken said...

All that's left to do is have someone determine the weight of Cuendillar (almost all of it is too small to matter, so we can't tell from that. But the Harbor chains could reveal it later) so it can be see if it is light enough to be of any use as personal armor.

Timewalkerauthor said...

I just came upon this essay much later than the other commenters, but I had to say: I always wondered why, during the War of Power, they didn't make swords of cuendillar? So much superior to metal, Power-wrought weapons...the only consideration that came to mind was that of the weight, and for some reason I was under the impression that cuendillar was a bit lighter than the metal it was created from. Just a thought.

Linda said...

Cuendillar is an interesting issue. Why wasn't more use made of it in the War of Power? No one remarks on the weight of objects, so I don't think it's particularly heavy.

Moghedien says that cuendillar was rare and a luxury even in the Age of Legends. There was the implication that it was difficult to make. This doesn't make sense since they were adept at linking to access specific skills and strengths in elements back then. And then Egwene develops a method that is tedious but not that difficult. Surely those in the Age of Legends could survive a little tedium.

It seems somewhat of a plot hole.

As for making swords from it, they seem to be more usually power-wrought - strengthened but still made of steel. Or the edges could be power-strengthened as Perrin's channellers are doing.

Vicki said...

Perhaps Egwene discovered a new method of making cuendillar. We've got evidence throughout the series that discoveries unknown in AOL are made in present time (a way to heal severing, unravelling a weave), so it's possible. Egwene's method being a new one would explain why cuendillar could be mass-produced now but not in AOL.