In Winter’s Heart, Rand re-visited the Academy of Cairhien after his campaign in Altara and Illian. Rand’s aim in establishing academies is to preserve knowledge in the face of the Last Battle and feared breaking of the world. There are now three academies – one each in Cairhien, Caemlyn and Tear. It is certainly a good idea to have more than one centre of knowledge to increase the chance that one academy at least will survive the Last Battle, and to provide variation in ideas. The latter reason is also why Rand has insisted that scholars of all types be given a place at them.
The first academy since Artur Hawkwing’s time began in Lord Barthanes Damodred’s palace after Cairhien was taken. On the site of a former Ogier grove, its search for, and collection of, knowledge is probably the best possible use in Ogier eyes – short of replanting the Great Trees - of what was effectively sacred ground to the Ogier.
Idrien is the headmistress of the school and her name is similar to that of Idris, the Islamic legendary inventor of writing and sewing and patron of craftsmen (see Parallels for Character Names starting with I now released on the blog).
We do not yet know what inventions or improvements have been developed at the Academy of Tear.
Elayne has taken over the Academy of Caemlyn and for a similar reason to Rand:
So far the school consisted of only a few dozen scholars with their students, scattered about the New City in various inns, but even in winter more arrived every day, and they had begun to clamor for more space. She did not propose giving them a palace, certainly, yet they needed something. Norry was trying to husband Andor's gold, but she was looking to Andor's future. Tarmon Gai'don was coming, yet she had to believe there would be a future afterward, whether or not Rand broke the world again. Otherwise, there was no point in going on with anything, and she could not see just sitting down to wait. Even if she knew for a fact that the Last Battle would end everything, she did not think she could sit on her hands. Rand started schools in case he did end breaking the world, in the hope of saving something, but this school would be Andor's, not Rand al'Thor's. The Academy of the Rose, dedicated to the memory of Morgase Trakand.The Academy of Caemlyn will play an important role in developing weapons for the Last Battle. It is the natural place for Aludra and Mat to work on developing their projects. If the Murandian mechanical engineer who designed the current crank for the Band’s crossbows reached Caemlyn despite the dangerous conditions, Mat would surely be interested in meeting him and discussing his new concept of a crank with which to load the crossbow without lowering it (The Gathering Storm, Legends). This mechanic may also suggest improvements to Aludra’s dragon carts that will absorb recoil upon firing, or increase their mobility and angle of aim, perhaps by mounting each cannon on two wheels with a trail (see Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article) if he is shown the designs or a prototype.
- Winter’s Heart, A Cup of Tea
A wealthy royal patron such as Elayne can assign her city’s foundries to casting the cannon. Elayne would also have scribes or clerks, perhaps even Norry himself, who could complete the costing for the ‘feasibility study’ of the cannon that Aludra began in Knife of Dreams, Legends. Mat joked that if Rand won’t finance the dragons he might have to dice with the Queen of Andor to raise the money or resources for their manufacture, and this may well occur, since Rand spent a great deal of his wealth on food for Arad Doman:
It was a pittance [Tellaen’s compensation] compared with the amount of money Rand was spending to fund his armies, and even that was small compared with the funds he'd dedicated to bring food to Arad Doman and other troubled areas. At this rate, his stewards worried that he would soon bankrupt his assets in Illian, Tear and Cairhien.The last minute development of substantial fire power might leave too little time for the Shadow to react to intelligence received and prevent their construction. Apparently the Pattern believes in ‘just in time’ ordinance manufacture.
- The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done
Whatever else the Academy of Cairhien produces – and since it has made telescopes it can make gun-sights or even crossbow-sights or field-glasses – it has already provided something vital: Herid Fel’s books on philosophy. In Winter’s Heart prologue Min collected many of them and has been studying them assiduously ever since for clues on winning the Last Battle. Her findings may be crucial to the Sealing of the Bore. Herid Fel was killed to prevent him making just this contribution.
With a generous endowment by Rand (although Elayne can now afford to fund Caemlyn’s academy independently), the academies are making rapid progress. They are bringing about a renaissance in learning plus an ‘industrial’ revolution. A variety of inventions and new developments have been made besides the crossbow crank, and I have detailed them in the Inventions From Rand's Academies article now released on the blog and also compared them with their real world equivalents. Most of the inventions date from 1700 to 1860 in our world. These inventions might imply that there won’t be a One Power powered technological revolution after the Last Battle, and certainly not a total reliance on the One Power as occurred in the Age of Legends.
Since the assassination of Herid Fel, the Shadow has apparently not seen the academies as a threat. Perhaps coming from a highly technological age, a technology based on the One Power, the new developments seem too primitive. That is, however, their strength. Anyone with understanding and fairly simple tools can make these devices for themselves, whereas once the Age of Legends society was disrupted enough for the standing flows which powered the ter’angreal to be destroyed, the populace was left with almost no technology, or tools to create and maintain it, at all since only a few percentage of people could access the Power source, i.e. channel.
Knowledge, real and false, and its acquisition or destruction, is an import theme in the Wheel of Time series. Dominic wrote an essay on the Price and Prize of Knowledge prior to the release of The Gathering Storm.
The destruction of knowledge is supposedly Mesaana’s favourite modus operandi, but Ishamael works more insidiously and perhaps effectively, by substituting real knowledge with false. Being a philosopher himself, it was likely he who saw the threat Fel constituted and arranged for Fel to be killed.
Directly or indirectly, the academies will contribute greatly to the Light’s efforts at the Last Battle. They are not just academic.
* * *
The first page of the new article:
Inventions From Rand's Academies
This article describes the technology being developed by the members of Rand’s academies in order of their occurrence in the series. All these technologies have been developed before in Jordan’s world, but, in keeping with his ideas on cyclic time, they were forgotten during the Breaking or the early Third Age and are only now being rediscovered.
This was Rand’s first academy and it is located in Barthanes Damodred’s former palace.
During the siege of Cairhien, [Idrien] had built a huge crossbow, all levers and pulleys, that hurled a small spear a full mile hard enough to drive through a man.This is a small ballista, and would be fastened to a mount. In our world ballistas were developed in Ancient Greece. Idrien may not have (re)invented the ballista in the Third Age, since in The Shadow Rising, Verin and Alanna used catapults, a related device, against the Trollocs in the Two Rivers and no one was particularly surprised.
- Lord of Chaos, A Taste of Solitude
In general, military technology currently lags behind other technologies in the Wheel of Time world. Gunpowder is not used yet, for instance, though its military use in our world predated the invention of the printing press (which has been developed in the Third Age).
Improvements in paper quality
One of the academy’s inventors has developed a method to improve the quality of paper:
An array of screens and scrapers and crocks full of linen scraps produced finer paper than anyone made now.Unfortunately Jordan gives no details of this method.
- Lord of Chaos, A Taste of Solitude
In our world paper mills were in existence in Europe by the 14th century, and the process remained largely unchanged until the late 18th century, with linen and cotton rags as the raw materials. Eventually the great demand for paper was more than the rag industry could provide, and a process was developed to make paper from wood pulp in the 18th century.
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