Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #2: Birgitte's Lives



By Linda

In Crossroads of Twilight, Birgitte was drinking very heavily because she feared not only that she would never be with Gaidal again, but that she would forget him altogether:

Gaidal Cain was lost to Birgitte as surely as if he were dead, and on top of that, her memories of her past lives were fading. She remembered almost nothing clearly before the founding of the White Tower, and not all of that. Some nights, the fear that Gaidal would fade from her memory, too, that she would lose any remembrance of actually having known and loved him, left her unable to sleep until she drank as much brandy as she could hold.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Talk of Debts

As if the possibility of forgetting Gaidal isn’t bad enough, Birgitte is/will be less of a source of information on the Age of Legends and the Shadow than she was. Not that Moghedien intended Birgitte to forget anything when she cruelly ripped Birgitte out of Tel’aran’rhiod as punishment for interfering in her plans:

Birgitte had not even known who Moghedien was, so long ago, in the Age of Legends, when she foiled Moghedien's finely wrought plan to lay Lews Therin by his heels. But Moghedien had known her. Only, Birgitte - Teadra, she had been then - had died before she could deal with her. Death was no punishment, no end, not when it meant living on here.

- The Fires of Heaven, Dreams of Galad

This punishment was the fulfilment of a vow Moghedien made to Birgitte in the Age of Legends:

"Have you forgotten what Moghedien promised you when we followed Lews Therin? I saw her, Birgitte. She will know you here."…
"Birgitte, what did Moghedien promise you?"
"She knew what I was, even though I did not. How, I do not know." Birgitte glanced at Cain; he appeared absorbed in his sword, but she lowered her voice anyway. “She promised to make me weep alone for as long as the Wheel turns. She said it as a fact that simply had not happened yet.''

- The Shadow Rising, Need

In the Age of Legends Moghedien somehow recognised Birgitte as an incarnated Hero of the Horn. Perhaps she learned the ‘feel’ of their souls from Tel’aran’rhiod, since she is so skilled there, and could recognise such a soul when in the flesh. It would be useful to be able to spot these influential souls when they are spun out into the main world. (If Moghedien could recognise a Hero by their dreams, she surely would have punished Birgitte by pulling her from her dream into Tel’aran’rhiod as the Shadow were wont to do; but she didn't). Moghedien could come to know all the Heroes in Tel'aran'riod since Heroes are only out of Tel’aran’rhiod for a human lifespan and then return. Since Moghedien had lived over 200 years when the Bore was drilled (The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace), plus the 100 years of the Collapse and the 10 years of the War of Power that followed, she lived long enough to have seen all the Heroes in Tel’aran’rhiod at one time or another.

Moghedien didn’t want to just kill Birgitte – for one thing she didn’t think death was sufficient punishment if it meant hanging out with other souls – especially Gaidal - in Tel’aran’rhiod. She knew what Gaidal meant to Birgitte and ripped her from Tel’aran’rhiod in an attempt to separate her from Gaidal forever:

“I am here as I am, and I remember. All is changed. Gaidal is out there, somewhere, an infant, or even a young boy. But even if I find him, what will he think of a woman more than old enough to be his mother?” She scrubbed angrily at her eyes, muttering, “I do not cry. I never cry. I remember that, the Light help me. I never cry.”
Elayne got up on her knees beside the woman’s bed. “You will find him, Birgitte.” She kept her voice low. Nynaeve still seemed sound asleep-a small, rasping snore rose from her regularly-but she needed rest, not to confront this all over again now. “Somehow you will. And he will love you. I know he will.”
“Do you think that is what matters? I could stand him not loving me.” Her glistening eyes gave her the lie. “He will need me, Elayne, and I will not be there. He always has more courage than is good for him; I always must supply him with caution. Worse, he will wander, searching for me, not knowing what he is looking for, not knowing why he feels incomplete. We are always together, Elayne. Two halves of a whole.”
The tears welled up, flowing across her face. “Moghedien said she would make me cry forever, and she...“
Suddenly her features contorted; low ragged sobs came as if ripped from her throat.

- The Fires of Heaven, A New Name

and to continually regret that separation. What Moghedien achieved is something that happens to Birgitte’s soul occasionally although Birgitte is not aware of it (and Moghedien isn’t either):

This was Birgitte Silverbow, hero of a hundred legends?...Besides, those multitudes of images and auras flashed by too quickly for her [Min] to make out any clearly, but she was certain they indicated more adventures than a woman could have in one lifetime. Strangely, some were connected to an ugly man who was older than she, and others to an ugly man who was much younger, yet somehow Min knew they were the same man.

- Winter’s Heart, A Lily in Winter

Min saw that there are two strands to Birgitte’s lives – the regular one Birgitte is aware of, and another she is not where she is much older than Gaidal. Since what Min sees are pieces of the Pattern, and Birgitte is still linked to Gaidal, she is still a Hero. Thankfully, Moghedien failed to separate the two Heroes.

Birgitte will endure much misery in being so much older than Gaidal, and therefore probably not his lover as she would normally expect and wish to be. She is conscious of what they would normally be to each other and feels incomplete without him since they are “two halves” and she cannot know if/when they will resume the ‘normal’ Pattern of their lives. As far as she knows, Moghedien succeeded in separating them forever.

This observation of Elayne’s:

Birgitte was happy playing with them [children], and a touch sad; she always liked playing with children, especially little boys, and she always felt that way when she did. Elayne knew it as well as she knew her own feelings.

- Lord of Chaos, Prologue

is foreshadowing of Birgitte playing mother to the child Gaidal and how she will feel about it. The feelings could be a carry-over from that other, not-remembered strand of her lives and at the least add a poignancy to Birgitte’s plight.

Will Birgitte forget Gaidal like she fears? When she dies, she will probably return to Tel'aran'rhiod as per normal but won't remember being ripped out and the subsequent events, since she has no knowledge of this strand of her lives, as though it's not a natural state for her soul, but a predicament that happens occasionally.

In her current incarnation in the waking world, she may not forget him – especially if she meets up with Gaidal the child soon. That will only bring a new pain, however…

12 comments:

Silorat said...

I can't remember if Gaidal was incarnated before Birgitte was taken out of Tel' but one thing about that...
It's been said time in Tel' doesn't necessarily match up with normal waking time.

It's already been theorized that Olver might be Gaidal (it's always noted how ugly a kid he is) but he must have been alive years before we saw Gaidal and Birgitte in the World of Dreams in the books.

But I think the twist might be that Birgitte and Galad will be together. It would be unexpected.

I wish I could drink with Birgitte.

Jacques said...

I've always thought that they'd end up together. Happily ever after and all that. That said, I am a bit of a romantic.
A possibility is for someone to rip Gaidal out of Tel'aran'rhiod as well.
Another point to muse upon: What will happen to Birgitte when Mat blows the Horn of Valere? Will she be "reset" and summoned as a dead hero?

Linda said...

Silorat: Olver isn't Gaidal, he's 10 years old. Time isn't distorted that far. (RJ confirmed this).

Jacques: The Horn calls dead Heroes. Incarnated ones are presumed to already be fighting for the Light.

Neil said...

Brigette and Cain have an intimate relationship in every incarnation. When Cain is older than Brigette they are lovers. Is it not possible that when he is much younger than she, they are mother and son?

Or has that theory already been shot down?

Linda said...

Neil: Cain has probably already been born, since Birgitte hadn't seen him in some time before she was ripped out. So I don't think he is going to be her son. There's no lover in the offing, and if there were, it would be like she was unfaithful to Gaidal. Not likely, given the state of her feelings.

All pointers so far have been to sadness at them being a generation or more apart.

Worshipper said...

Do we know where the name 'Brigitte' comes from - do the 'Randlanders' use it to refer to her last incarnation or to the spirit who keeps on being reincarnated?
Talking about the spirit who keeps on being reincarnated.. does the average 'Randlander' even know that 'Birgitte' is constantly being recycled, and do they know which specific legendary incarnations are 'Birgitte'? I've never really understood that.

Linda said...

The charcters know Birgitte is a Hero of the Horn and use it to refer to the Hero that is spun out repeatedly. So they do know.

I doubt they know all her different incarnations though. Maybe they only know a few. Birgitte herself says some of her life stories are garbled. Some might be known under the name of her incarnation at that time. How do new ones get added on? We don't know.

Anonymous said...

"The charcters know Birgitte is a Hero of the Horn and use it to refer to the Hero that is spun out repeatedly."

The characters don't know, beside Elayne and Nynaeve because Birgitte has explained to them how it really works. When have you seen the scholars in the series muse about the Heroes who might be reborn here and now or advance theories on what the incarnations of a single hero may have been and try to puzzle out the patterns in these lives? No one wonders if "special people" like Mat are or aren't the rebirth of a Hero, because they know nothing about these "hero souls". That's why there's not a single reference to reborn heroes by the more knowledgeable characters, like Verin, Siuan, Moiraine etc. When have you seen the scholars speculate if Rand is one of the Heroes, if Hawkwing was? To them Rand can't be, because he is the rebirth of LTT and therefore not tied to Wheel and waiting somewhere for the call of the Horn. But they have it wrong.

The general belief is that the souls of especially heroic people are chosen by the Wheel and instead of being reborn like everyone they await the call of the Horn in a special place, to return at the moment of humanity's need.

The truth as revealed by Birgitte to a few is that they are also all like the Dragon : they are spun out again and again to serve as corrective mechanisms, creating at the same time new Heroes and new legends for the Age they're born again in. New legends, new stories, new names and appearances, while their previous incarnations are fading from collective memory and become myth, or vanish.

There's no such thing as "a Hero name". Birgitte Silverbow is just the name of the woman's last incarnation around the time of Hawkwing, and her soulmate lover was named Cain that time, and only that time. It's the same for her appearance. It's "classic" insofar as it's a character that has been known in stories for a millenia and popular enough to endure. It's no more archetypal than Rand's (unlike her love for the bow in suitable Ages, for instance, and her tie to "Gaidal"). That's just her last physical appearance. In TAR, the Heroes keep their most recent appearance and name. Her adventures have been the subject of hundreds of tales since her death (over a thousand years), and not only as someone who must be have been worthy of becoming a Hero of the Horn (no one knows that for sure, like no one knew in truth she's been one for Ages) but also as a famous Hunter for the Horn in her days. Her previous incarnations are mostly forgotten, but some scraps about these women have survived and been wrongly tied to the last millenia's hero Birgitte, and others still appear in old stories under other names, but Birgitte implies she barely recognizes anything real in the oldest stories.

As for the interpretation of Min's viewing, there's also the possibility Birgitte is some time older than Gaidal because what Moghedien did to her isn't unique, and has happened before and will happen again, but those lives fade from Birgitte's memory, unlike her normal ones, so she doesn't know this. In some of those lives, she may live to meet a younger Gaidal and in others she may die and be reborn normally to be with him. It's possible Jordan intended to kill off Birgitte, bring her back with the Horn and then make her vanish from TAR in the epilogue section, implying that she will soon be reborn to join Gaidal, younger than him.

Or she may live to meet a baby Gaidal this time around, but personally I doubt this is what Jordan had in mind. The whole idea that she would get involved in the childhood of a baby she will later take as a lover sounds like a territory he would avoid, especially any notion of mothering her future lover. If Birgitte doesn't die soon, she won't meet "Gaidal" in the timeframe of the series but years later, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above me is on the right track. Birgitte will die during Tarmon Gai'don and her soul will return to T`A`R, and then immediately spin out into a new life. The Pattern will see to it that she and Gaidal Cain meet, fall in love and continue their "purpose" as always. Gaidal will be about two years older than Birgitte. That will satisfy Min's viewing, and satisfy the need of the Wheel (pattern.)

Brandon Sanderson will likely see to it that Birgitte dies a heroic and spectacular death - saving either Elayne or Rand from certain doom with her sacrifice. At least, I hope that's how she'll go - in a blaze of glory.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with the two anonymouses above.

Min's viewing looks like a red herring.

Without it to put a twist on things, too many readers would have reached the obvious conclusion the way to bring things back to normal between Birgitte and Gaidal is to make her die at TG and be reborn normally soon after. This would have ruined the whole "Birgitte is looking for Gaidal" aspect, the Olver red herring among other things.

Min's viewing keeps the suspense going, and also importantly confirms that Birgitte's fears are unfounded and she is still tied to the Wheel, and to Gaidal. In fact, this sets the stage for her dying and coming back with the Horn by confirming she's still tied to it, while appearing to suggests she may live on and meet a younger Gaidal this time...

That's if we interpret the Viewing correctly anyway... this may not be a viewing about Birgitte's future lives at all (Min never had any such viewing about anyone else, though this may be because Birgitte relation to the Pattern at the moment isn't "normal" - she's alive yet dead at the same time), but one about her upcoming fame and all the legends that will be told about her, Gaidal and their numerous lives once she dies at TG and Andoran discovers they had one of the Heroes of the Horn for Captain-General...

This is not normally known, but if Birgitte dies and is seen coming back with the Horn the cat will be out of the bag. People believe some really great heroes get tied to the Wheel when they die and await somewhere the call of the Horn. They don't know those souls are actually reborn as heroes over and over and serve as correcting mechanisms for the Wheel. The fact Rand is never suspected of being one of the Heroes may have a lot to do with the fact he's known as the rebirth of LTT. If LTT was a Hero, he'd be waiting the call of the Horn with the others (but of course, this belief is wrong and Heroes are reborn over and over). Similarly, the connection between Heroes and ta'veren isn't made and people aren't looking out for reborn Heroes (they actually sneer at Birgitte for "emulating" the real Birgitte...), because people believe people become Heroes after their death, not that they are reborn to be Heroes, spun out by the Wheel to do something important.

If Birgitte dies and returns with the Horn, then a whole series of new legends on the Heroes of the Horn will arise. People in WOT will start speculating who is a reborn Hero, and who isn't - exactly like WOT fans do (and with similar suspects, like Mat and Perrin who it seems aren't reborn Heroes), and much the same way they argue now about false Dragon. People suspected of being reborn Heroes would get followers etc.

Gifted Designs said...

Keep in mind also that according to RJ, Min's viewings always concern the future, not the past. So for me, that confirms she's still connected to the horn and to Cain.

Manetheren said...

Either the Anonymous' have misread or I have, but after my readings of the books I was under the impression that Birgitte's last life (Hawkwing's time?) was not as Birgitte Silverbow, but her skill and renown was the stuff of legends that resulted in most people comparing her to the hero of Legend, Birgitte Silverbow. So renown that even while she was still alive (during Hawkwing's time), she was even referred to as such by many. Not all of her reincarnations will get the recognition, but enough of them do continue to get they comparisons or beliefs about her.

Now, if Birgitte is to die soon as suggested, I think think she'll likely be alive long enough to be present when the Horn is blown and the Heroes recognize her in public. This will let those present for the Last Battle know that the Heroes of Legend, dead AND alive, have risen to fight and and provide the added hope and order to help morale in the fight. Birgitte being Captain-General of Andor and Elayne's warder (if that is revealed) adds more to fulfilling Andor's great importance at the Last Battle As the Champion of Andor, so to speak.

She dies in a glorious way, igniting man's determination to win further. Then she is immediately spun out when Elayne gives birth to the twins. Elayne's hair color fits though I think its a more red-goldish color.