Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Article Released: Foxes and Snakes Game

In Knife of Dreams the importance of the Foxes and Snakes game as a guide to Moiraine's rescue became evident. Seeing as The Gathering Storm draws ever closer it seems timely to republish the article Linda wrote on Foxes and Snakes for Wotmania in 2004. Like all the Wheel of Time games, Foxes and Snakes is based on a real world game, Fox and Geese, which Linda actually owns and has played. However RJ blended the game with the characteristics of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn to create something fearsome indeed.


Reptile said...

(I'm reposting fearing that I didn't do something right and my first iteration of this message evaporated. Sorry if it turns out to be a duplicate post and the first one just hasn't been moderated.)

Again, excellent job. Thank you so much for your efforts, and your fine, clear, informative writing. Your professionalism is evident, whether or not you are formally a professional writer or editor.

A few thoughts/queries a little off your subject. Do you have any speculations on the meaning/reasons for the iron/fire/music limitations? Could there be any meaningful relationship to the game strategy beyond the unequal nature of the contest?

Bronze knives helpful for more than access to the Tower?

What about Mat's power-wrought spear? Seems it would be no-iron since it was held by them. But would it be useful against them?

Is there a fear weapons, iron weapons, or just any manifestation of elemental iron? Seems the later given the "iron to bind" comment. Which is, of course, the most mysterious of the four admonitions. "Fire to blind" and "music to daze" appear more intuitively obvious (perhaps much too obvious). Perhaps melodies or polyphony might confuse them and/or their mental processes (I've seen speculation about Thom singing, but I bet he could also improvise an instrument out of next to nothing). And one surely must have courage to enter at all.

Clearly the box of matches would be one way to cheat. Fire to blind if they have sensitive eyes? or perhaps a more metaphorical meaning?

I suppose we will know soon enough. I suspect this book, but if not, the next.

Linda said...

Thanks for your message. I did receive the first one, and most interesting it is too, but alas I'm working overtime ATM on a study and a report for a client. This (7.30 pm) is literally my first free hour today.

The game is a way of reminding people what the Aelfinn and Eelfinn are like. They make deals, and like most deal-makers, they try to twist the deal greatly in their favour. Hence the unequal forces in the game.

The saying is a folk memory, a nursery rhyme that goes with the game. Nursery rhymes can be remnants of historical events like the plague, or the dissolution of the monasteries. I can't think of any real world board game that has a rhyme attached in this way. However there are card games that have various customary phrases and announcements that go with them.

Apart from showing you that the odds are so against you that you have to break the rules (cheat) to win, the rhyme doesn't seem to have any intrinsic relevance to the game itself.

The *Finns are based on fairies or elfin people and such folk are traditionally sensitive to iron, fire and music. Iron they particularly dislike because it is magnetic. Some steels have little or no magnetism, or the spear blade could be a non-ferrous alloy. Elves favour bronze, which is why the Tower of Ghenjei responds to a bronze blade. Blood too has quite a bit of iron in it, as I've speculated elsewhere. Being liquid it could bind quite well.

Fairies and elves burn easily and are sensitive to strong sunlight. So maybe the fire is just simply to blind.

I agree with you about Thom and music. It supposedly dazes the folk.

Dominic said...

There is a great deal of Irish fairy lore (mixed with other traditions) in the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.

With iron objects you could bind a fairy that had taken the place of someone you knew. It was also a way to recognize them. If you put an iron object on them as they slept, they would be unable to move when they woke, then you could force them into a bargain in exchange for releasing them - getting back the person prisoner in fairy land, or allowing the fairy to take her place only when specific conditions are met.

It's easy to see similarities in this not only with Moiraine being prisoner, but with the Finns seeing through Mat's eyes.

Fire blinds (and sometimes worse) some fairies in folktales.

Music is the most obvious. It was a mean of defense against large groups of fairies (fairy host, especially of Red and Green fairies), because they loved music and dancing so much that they would be in a transe-like state and forget all about humans and what's around.

There are others beside the Finns for whom RJ drew from Fairy Lore. The Aes Sedai, of course (the whole idea of dividing them by colours may well come from the fact fairies were). Their name come for Aes Sidhe, The People of the Hills - a term for the fairies. The fairies in tradition are said to be the ancient gods of Ireland, which were know as the Tuatha Dé Danaan, out of which RJ made up Tuatha'an, the tinkers - who dress up and like to dance as the fairies, and Atha'an Miere (which is made up from Tuatha, people and Miere, the sea). Yet another is the Hill Tribes of Seanchan, with fairly obvious Dai'shain Aiel origins. For those last, the whole singing and dancing with the Green Man is rooted in fairy lore as well.

But the weirdest/spookiest stuff, RJ gave to the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.

What to expect? I'm with Linda on this one. Nothing very straight forward would be my bet, and some of the weirdest chapters of the series.

I expect this episode is more 'theory defying" than a lot. RJ has put so much foreshadowing I expect he had tricks up his sleeve and this one is far from obvious. I'm still unconvinced Mat is gonna use all three means. I suspect he might settle on one. The obvious would be for Thom to sing or recite in High Chant - but it might mean if Thom stopped, they're doomed.

For myself I expect we've already been to the Tower of Ghenjei, that is I think both Doorways led there, and from there the 'guide' bought Mat out to the room in their individual where he met those who answered/gave him the gift. I think the Tower is 'where' the two realms of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn are folded into one another and the real world. I think there's a way from one to the other - and Mat may have to find it.

But that's about the extent of my thoughts - I really think this episode will surprise.