Friday, February 26, 2010

The Path of Daggers Read-through #5: Egwene and Halima



By Linda

It took two to three hours of precise and intricate weaving with a very powerful circle to restore the seasons with the Bowl of Winds. Bearing this in mind, the criticism Romanda made that the Aes Sedai could have done better is ludicrous:

"Easier to instruct Merilille than to see she obeys, Lelaine. I expect she knows she faces sharp questions. This Bowl of the Winds should have been brought to us for study first. None of the sisters in Ebou Dar had much ability in Cloud Dancing, I believe, and you can see the result, all this hurly-burly and suddenness. I have a thought to call a question before the Hall concerning everyone involved." Abruptly the gray-haired woman's voice became smooth as butter. "As I recall, you supported the choice of Merilille."
With a jerk, Lelaine drew herself up. Her eyes flashed. "I supported who the Gray put forward, Romanda, and no more," she said indignantly. "How could I have imagined she would decide to use the Bowl there? And to include Sea Folk wilders in the circle! How could she believe they know as much of working weather as Aes Sedai?"

- The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences

Moridin is prepared to admit that the Windfinders know more about working the weather than Aes Sedai did in the Age of Legends when they actually used these ter’angreal regularly.

The rebel Aes Sedai think Merilille should have brought the Bowl to them to use. If they had, Halima would have ensured it was not used. (Not that the rebels would have had a clue how to use it anyway.)

Halima’s ploy of inducing headaches which only she could ease to get close to Egwene always struck me as clumsy but no character saw through it. She needed to sleep in the same tent as Egwene to find Egwene’s dreams. As a result of Halima’s manipulations, Egwene was not remembering all her dreams clearly:

In the dim, cold dark of deep night, Egwene woke groggily from restless sleep and troubling dreams, the more troubling because she could not remember them. Her dreams were always open to her, as clear as printed words on a page, yet these had been murky and fearful. She had had too many of those, lately.
They left her wanting to run, to escape, never able to recall what from, but always queasy and uncertain, even trembling.

- The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law

Egwene’s restless troubled dreams leaving her wanting to run are similar to Morgase’s restless dreams of running from someone when under Rahvin’s Compulsion:

Her [Morgase’s] eyes closed, and she fell immediately into sleep, a sleep troubled by restless dreams of running from something she could not see.

- The Fires of Heaven, Fanning the Sparks

Egwene’s talent and will is strong enough that she can recall a portion of her dreams even under these circumstances.

At least part of Egwene erroneously positive and unsuspicious attitude to Halima comes from associating Halima with the removal of pain.

Halima was clumsy in the way she publicly instructed Delana and made her try to join every faction and submit extremist suggestions to the Hall. This ensured Delana wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Balthamel/Aran’gar, Halima’s alter ago, is skilled in violence but is pathetic at politics. She killed two of Egwene’s three maids – leaving alive the one Sheriam (Black) supplied and that Egwene trusts the most. Chesa seems entirely trustworthy, but…

Or would all three disappearing have been a bit overdone?

In the Age of Legends Balthamel ran concentration camps where people were kept as fodder for Trollocs and also an intelligence network. Until her cover was blown, the transmigrated Halima was a spy and agent provocateur. Parallels for both figures are described in the Balthamel parallels essay. My favourite is the twice-born Greek god, Dionysus and his hangers-on.

Egwene thought Halima a wide-eyed innocent country girl, whereas it is Egwene who was the naive one. It was not innocence that made Halima oblivious to the Aes Sedai pecking order, it was arrogance. Her handwriting is unformed because transcribers were used in the Age of Legends (The Path of Daggers, New Alliances).

Egwene completely misinterpreted what she saw of Halima and Delana:

Only Delana never joined one of those brief conversations. She stayed close beside Halima, who at last admitted that she was cold. Face tight, the country woman held her cloak close around her, but she still tried to comfort Delana, whispering to her almost constantly. Delana seemed to need comforting; her brows were drawn down, putting a crease in her forehead that actually made her seem aged.

- The Path of Daggers, The Law

On the way back from the meeting with the Andorans and Murandians Halima was worried about what Egwene was plotting. From Egwene’s instructions to her sworn Aes Sedai to remind all rebel Sitters of Elaida’s misdeeds, she knew Egwene was up to something and had beaten Sheriam in an effort to find out what, to no avail. Sheriam had not been told. Halima wasn’t comforting Delana, she was giving her instructions for various possible outcomes, some of which made Delana miserable or fear exposure. Yet Halima didn’t destroy Egwene’s role or plans as she easily could have by making Delana reveal the Egwene-Siuan alliance, therefore she still hoped to manipulate or use Egwene. Perhaps the Shadow saw Egwene as promoting division.

Both Egwene and Siuan were prepared to look foolish in the rebel Sitters’ eyes to manipulate them into declaring martial law.

A figure of some amusement and occasional pity, Siuan Sanche, reduced to attaching herself to the woman who held the title once hers, and that woman no more than a puppet once the Hall finished fighting over who would pull her cords. Siuan was human enough to harbor sparks of resentment, but so far they had managed to keep secret that her advice was far from grudging. So she endured pity and snickers as best she could, and everyone believed her as changed by her experiences as her face. That belief had to be maintained, or Romanda and Lelaine and very likely the rest of the Hall, too, would find ways to separate her - and her advice - from Egwene.

- The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law

This probably lulled Halima too.

Egwene had been wondering how to ensure that the Sitters hurried back to the camp in time for Egwene to call the Hall to sit. Her impulse to publicly announce at the parley with the Andorans and Murandians that the novice book was open to all had the Sitters eager to leave and discuss how to counter this, and too blind with annoyance at Egwene to see her ambush coming.

Since Sheriam tried to pump Egwene for her plans regarding this sitting of the Hall, Halima didn’t penetrate Egwene’s ward protecting her discussions with Siuan against eavesdropping. Sheriam was bitter because she knew she would be in trouble with Halima for not finding out what Egwene and Siuan were planning.

Delana was nervous and late to the sitting due to probably getting last minute instructions – a measure of Halima’s uncertainty. The Grey Sitter did not want to divide the Tower further and was one of the last to stand for the war vote after looking outside rhe pavilion – to Halima probably, even though the Hall session was warded against eavesdropping. To obtain the lesser consensus, Moria (Black) harangued the seated Sitters until two other Sitters of her Ajah rose, so she had orders – possibly from a different Forsaken since Moria never worked with Delana politically (see Politics of the Halls article) – to sow disunity between the Aes Sedai and prolong the rebellion.

Egwene’s green-blue-white attire that she wore to the parley and the momentous sitting refers to the Green (Battle) Ajah and its allies. She wore pearls, too, which are lunar symbols of wisdom and feminine power, but also tears; as did Siuan, the former Amyrlin and her teacher. They had worked out a plan for Egwene to gain control of the rebels and truly become Amyrlin, but feared it could all end in tears. I loved the moment when Romanda supplied Egwene with an ermine cloak (a symbol of royalty and since it is white, saidar). Romanda had probably been saving it for the glorious day when she would be raised Amyrlin at last. Instead, she ‘ennobled’ Egwene with it.

8 comments:

Marcia said...

Another excellent and insightful re-read commentary Linda. I'm getting my WOT mojo back again just hanging around this blog of yours and Dom's. Where's Dom been lately anyway? Hi Dom! Hope all is well with you man. Anyway, just noticed this week that you've got yourselves on the link list for awesome all-things-WOT other-sites to visit over at Tor.com. Major Woot there, and certainly as it should be I might say!

MJJ (and as to the old guard Aes Sedai trying to use the bowl of the winds...ludicrous is right, not to mention possibly downright dangerous if they'd accidently managed to activate it in some way!)

Linda said...

Thanks for the comments Marcia! Always lovely to hear from you.

Had it been brought to the rebels, Halima might have booby-trapped the Bowl to ensure they did destroy themselves.

DH said...

It is a little bit out of the subject but I've always been very annoyed with the Sea Folk about the whole bowl business. I can understand that they want to have the bowl for themselves and have some right to it but I can't understand that they would demand such a high price for helping to restore the weather. Don't they have as much interest in fixing it as anyone else? I realize it's probably their trader instinct but it has always struck me as kind of childish.

Linda said...

Self-interested certainly. But then a lot of people in the series have acted in a purely selfish way. (As they do in the real world). RJ portrayed many people as thinking "The end of the world or not, what's in it for me?" The richer or more powerful are more likely to be like this. I guess it's a case of : "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven".

I think too the Sea Folk worry about their image as hard-nosed traders. If they give in even a little, they lose their intimidatory edge with the next lot of clients. Reputation is everything.

t ball said...

Linda, good point about the Sea Folk reputation. In addition, every one of the Sea Folk would be wary of their own personal reputation among their own. No one wants to be seen as the person who made a bad bargain.

Each time one of them has made a less than stellar deal due to Ta'verenness or something, they've shown themselves to be abashed, disgraced, horrified, etc.

Daggers said...

Thanks for sharing this informative post.

Reptile said...

Insightful, well written comments as always, Linda.

I wonder if you have any thoughts about possible Halima influences on Egwene's attitudes vis a vis the three Oaths. I always presumed that Ishmael may have been an early instigator of the Oaths and found Egwene's switch, though explainable, to be suspicious. The Tower initiates will be hindered by at least the last two Oaths in the Last Battle. The Anti-Lying Oath is still useful for anti Black Ajah campaigns.

Along these lines, it's clear Halima was affecting dreams by suppression, could he have directed some of them certain directions?

Finally, what about even minor compulsions on Egwene or others. Nynaeve, perhaps, and probably some of the Ashamen might be able detect compulsions.

Linda said...

Thanks Reptile and good points.

I do think that Halima might have influenced Egwene in some way - through her dreams or through Compulsion - to change her attitude on the Oaths. The Shadow would not want tne Aes Sedai to drop the Oaths purely because they have been so useful in binding the Black Ajah sisters. At the Last Battle the Oaths won't be as big a deal since the other side are all Darkfriends and Shadowspawn which they are allowed to kill. The Oaths do greatly hinder their ability to fight back against the Seanchan and make it much easier for them to be conquered by them - a major plot of Ishamael.

It's quite possible that Halima did do some influencing of Egwene's dreams - about the Oaths for a start. Halima's abilities are fairly weak and Egwene very Talented, but I'm sure some funny business went on. The Shadow used this technique a lot in the Age of Legends.

Nynaeve and Halima had little contact. When the first Asha'man arrived, Halima left.

Halima seems to have used violence and intimidation rather than Compulsion. She seems to have channelled fairly sparingly even though she would not be suspected at all. But since Compulsion with saidin would not be expected she might have ventured to use it a little. Once the Aes Sedai got panicky, we found they knew how to test for resonance and had some quite skilled sisters in this area. On the whole she doesn't seem to have dared channel much.