The indomitable Lini has been nursemaid to three generations of Trakand women, which makes her at least 75 (see Character Ages article). She is introduced to us from a distance way back in The Eye of the World, when Morgase remarks that only Lini can make Elayne behave properly; we see the effect Lini has had long before we finally meet her in The Fires of Heaven, Memories. In between, Lini’s sayings and advice are regularly quoted by Elayne and they earn Nynaeve’s rare expressions of approval.
She is one of those characters whose appearance is somewhat deceptive unless you look closely: she is
a frail-appearing woman, with skin like parchment and white hair in a bun on top of her head, but her back was straight and her dark eyes were clear and sharp.Both Morgase and Elayne believe Lini is indestructible and will last forever. They never make concessions to her age, nor do they doubt her judgement or her courage. Elayne thinks she could face down a Forsaken (Knife of Dreams, Siege). Let’s hope this is not Foreshadowing.
- Winter’s Heart, Taken
Lini is an example of what can be achieved, and standards that can be maintained, just by willpower and thought. Never hypocritical, her high standards are as much for herself as anyone else:
She stalked by him still belting her nightrobe. "Fools! Ox-brained lummoxes! You woke my ch—!" She stopped with a fierce cough; Lini never forgot that she had been Morgase's nurse, and her mother's as well, but she never slipped in front of others. She would be cross that she had now, and it showed in her voice.Always neat, rarely agitated, everyone respects her, if not fears her:
- A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words
A violent coughing fit wracked the stout man. "Me?" Gill wheezed once he could talk. "You want me to tell her? She'll crack my pate if I mention a thing like that! I think the woman was born in Far Madding in a thunderstorm. She probably told the thunder to be quiet. It probably did."Lini is the archetypal tough little old lady, even more so than Cadsuane and the reference to Cadsuane’s home town of Far Madding is a pointer to this. Lini mirrors Cadsuane and in a way has achieved far more with far less resources.
- Winter’s Heart, The Scent of Madness
Morgase complains that Lini takes liberties from her age and role, but these are always for the best of reasons: to protect. She is Morgase’s truthspeaker, really; she always says what she thinks, and doesn’t even curtsy no matter where she is.
Much of her advice falls into two strands: the right way to think and behave, and men:
Lini had often told her that there was always one man in the world for whom a woman would find herself behaving a brainless fool, but she had never believed that she could succumb.Men are problematic for ruling women, whether monarchs or High Seats. Such women are vulnerable in their loneliness, as targets for fortune hunters, or from having trouble with the balance of power in their relationship with even the best intentioned and loving men. Hence Lini’s constant rain of advice.
- The Fires of Heaven, Memories
Lini is the true mother of the Trakands and, for Elayne, father as well to a degree:
"I cannot really remember my father; I was only a baby when he died. Gawyn says he spent all of his time with Galad. Lini tried to make the best of it, but I know he never came to see Gawyn or me in the nursery.”She very much shaped Morgase and Elayne and made them the legends they are.
- The Fires of Heaven, An Unexpected Offer
Elayne fears Lini more than her mother:
Only, it was true, and she did not care if it was foolish. She would tell her mother the same to her face, and Lini. Well, perhaps not Lini. Lini had drastic ways of dealing with foolishness, and she seemed to think Elayne had not aged beyond ten.and her “inner voice” or conscience often speaks like Lini.
- The Shadow Rising, Doorways
Only Lini dared talk about Gaebril to Morgase:
"Oh, child," Lini said sadly, "everyone knows, though no one's had the courage to tell you. I might have, if you hadn't stayed away, but it is hardly something I could go running to you with, now is it? It is the kind of thing a woman won't believe until she finds out for herself."yet even then it was because she believed that Morgase knew more than she did.
- The Fires of Heaven, Memories
Lini knows the characters of her former charges so well, that she can deduce their thoughts from a look and a phrase:
"What are you smiling at?" Lini asked.Morgase moderated her tone once she realised that Lini feared she was about to suicide. That was not her intent, however, only abdication. Morgase seems to need Lini more than Elayne, but then Morgase has had more attempts at breaking her than Elayne has. In fact, Elayne needed to distance herself from Lini to grow up. The last time Elayne quotes Lini is during the siege of Caemlyn in Knife of Dreams, Siege, less than halfway through the book, then Caemlyn’s darkest hour. Elayne is more certain in her role after that, even more so once she is Queen and her “Lini voice” quietens.
Morgase turned slowly. "I was thinking of Elayne." She did not think her old nurse had been close enough to hear what no one really needed to.
Lini's eyes widened, though, and her breath caught. "You come away from there now!" she snapped, and suiting actions to words, seized her arm and physically pulled her from the window.
"Lini, you forget yourself! You stopped being my nurse a long—!" Morgase drew a deep breath and softened her tone. Meeting those frightened eyes was not easy; nothing frightened Lini. "What I do is for the best, believe me," she told her gently. "There's no other way—"
- A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words
Like Nynaeve, who admires her wisdom as quoted by Elayne, and like Cadsuane, Lini has a fairly poor opinion or men. Or professes one:
Men kept sticking their hands in the fire thinking this time it would not burn, so Lini always said.It’s no wonder that Basel Gill said she could have been born in Far Madding (she wasn’t though, she is Andoran and most likely from the Trakand estates).
- A Crown of Swords, Small Sacrifices
It's one of the things men are for, taking the blame, she remembered Lini saying once, and laughing while she did. They usually deserve it, even if you don't know exactly how.
- The Path of Daggers, A Pleasant Ride
Lini was kind to Perrin after Faile was captured, but, unfortunately, her dark view of men led her to believe Berelain’s lie that Perrin slept with her (Winter’s Heart, The Scent of Madness) and she becomes totally disobliging and disapproving.
One man she does unreservedly approve of is Tallanvor. This is because she saw him swear the strongest possible oath to Morgase and knows the depth of his love and devotion to her. Lini decides that Tallandor will do Morgase very well for a husband/consort:
“You think Tallanvor is dangerous?” Morgase said sharply, and Lini gave her a sidelong, considering look.and pushes Morgase toward him. She seems too think his love and devotion the best thing for her and played matchmaker once she was satisfied Morgase was attracted to him. When they first encountered Perrin she tried to get Perrin to marry Morgase and Tallanvor, and later seized the moment as it were, when she found them embracing:
“Only the way any man can be dangerous. A fine figure of man, don’t you think? More than tall enough. Strong hands, I should think. ‘There’s no point letting honey age too long before you eat it.”
“Lini,” Morgase said warningly. The old woman had been going on this way too often of late. Tallanvor was a handsome man...
“You hold your tongue, Lini. If you put foolish ideas into that young man’s head, I will leave you somewhere.”
- The Fires of Heaven, Glowing embers
"All right, you two," a stern voice said from behind. "We're going to see Lord Aybara right now."Her judgement was correct; Morgase’s marriage is much better contracted before she returns to Caemlyn.
Morgase pulled away. It was Lini.
"What?" Morgase tried to regain some composure.
"You're getting married," Lini declared. "If I have to pull you to it by the ears."
"I will make my own choice," Morgase said. "Perrin tried to get me to-"
"I'm not him," Lini said. "This is best done before we return to Elayne. Once you're in
Caemlyn there will be complications." She turned her eyes on Gill, who had the trunk stowed. "And you! Unpack my Lady's things."
"But Lini," Morgase protested, "we're going to Caemlyn."
"Tomorrow will be soon enough, child. Tonight, you celebrate." She eyed them. "And until the marriage is done, I don't think it's safe to trust you two alone."
Morgase flushed. "Lini," she hissed. "I'm not eighteen anymore!"
"No, when you were eighteen, you were married proper. Do I need to seize your ears?"
"I-" Morgase said.
"We're coming, Lini," Tallanvor said.
- Towers of Midnight, A Backhanded Request
Lini is one of the few people Nynaeve approves of sight unseen. After the abortive attempt by the Seanchan to make them damane, Nynaeve has to encourage Elayne to pull herself together. It’s Elayne’s first experience of danger and adventure. Nynaeve really does mentor her a bit as Lini did, as Elayne recognises.
At least twice Nynaeve has wished to meet Lini, whom she considers clear-headed and wise. It’s interesting to speculate how this meeting would go if it occurred. Perhaps Nynaeve’s thoughts are foreshadowing.
Lini is described as having a great many old sayings. Since she can’t be separated from her sayings (as against her somewhat pity advice), I’ve collected them together:
- Lini used to say you could weave silk from pig bristles before you could make a man anything but a man (The Shadow Rising, Doorways)
- "A weeping woman is a bucket with no bottom" (The Shadow Rising, Doorways)
- "A gnarled old branch dulls the blade that severs a sapling" (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- "When the honey's out of the comb, there's no putting it back" (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- "Better to face the bear than run from it" (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- "A fool puts a burr under the saddle before she rides" (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- some saying about displaying wares you did not mean to sell (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- "Dragging feet never finish a journey" (The Fires of Heaven, Memories)
- "A man is a man, on a throne or in a pigsty" (The Fires of Heaven, A Signal)
- "A fool puts her hand into a hollow tree without finding out what's inside first" (The Fires of Heaven, A Small Room in Sienda)
- "If you don't look for snakes, you cannot complain when one bites you" (The Fires of Heaven, Meetings)
- "You cannot hold the sun down at dawn" (The Fires of Heaven, A Silver Arrow)
- "Even a queen stubs her toe, but a wise woman watches the path" (The Fires of Heaven, Ripped Away)
- "Waiting turns men into bears in a barn, and women into cats in a sack" (The Fires of Heaven, The Price of a Ship)
- "“Wish” and “want” trip the feet, but “is” makes the path smoother" (The Fires of Heaven, To Teach and to Learn)
- "A young lion charges quickest, and when you least expect it" (The Fires of Heaven, Glowing Embers)
- "There’s no point letting honey age too long before you eat it" (The Fires of Heaven, Glowing Embers)
- "It’s too late to change your mind after you’ve jumped off the cliff" (The Fires of Heaven, Glowing Embers)
- "A slow horse does not always reach the end of the journey" (Lord of Chaos, Prologue)
- "The right medicine always tastes bitter" (Lord of Chaos, Prologue)
- "What can't be changed must be endured" (Lord of Chaos, A Matter of Thought)
- "The pike does not ask the frog's permission before dining" (Lord of Chaos, A Matter of Thought)
- "What you need isn't always what you want" (Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust)
- "Fools only listen to themselves" (Lord of Chaos, Possibilities)
- "Only fools kiss hornets or bite fire" (A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words)
- "You can never put honey back in the comb" (A Crown of Swords, The First Cup)
- "Peel the apple in your hand, girl, not the one on the tree" (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving)
- ”When a woman plays the fool, look for the man.” (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving)
- ”Kittens tangle your yarn, men tangle your wits, and it's simple as breathing for both.” (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving)
- "Tears are for after; they just waste time before" (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving)
- "Three things annoy to distraction: a tooth that aches, a shoe that pinches, and a man that chatters" (The Path of Daggers, A Simple Country Woman)
- "A full stomach at midday made for a dull head in the afternoon," as Lini used to say (Winter’s Heart, A Cup of Tea)
- you counted your plums in the basket, not on the tree (Crossroads of Twilight, A Bargain)
- "When you ask questions", Lini used to say, "then you have to hear the answers whether you want to or not" (Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats)
- "Always plan ahead," Lini used to say, "but worry too hard over next year, and you can trip over tomorrow" (Crossroads of Twilight, What Wise Ones Know)
- I think that anyone who allows two roosters in the same barnyard deserves the ruckus they get (Towers of Midnight, A Backhanded Request)
At times Morgase suspects that Lini makes her sayings up and even challenged her over inventing them, but Lini had an unanswerable retort ready:
At my age, if I make it up, it's still an old saying.She is always one step ahead of her ‘charges’.
- The Fires of Heaven, Memories
Lini's name and her self-imposed role of keeping her companions in line could be a reference to Linet, the maiden of Arthurian myth who continually castigated Sir Gareth on a quest. Lini constantly corrects the behaviour of Morgase’s group.