Monday, June 6, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #22: Chapter 19 - Gambits



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

It is the day after Suroth’s demotion. Her interrogation is already yielding information. However Suroth can’t have confessed to being a Darkfriend because Tuon has no thoughts on that and also the Shadow hasn’t killed Suroth.

This chapter has the first usage in the series of the title Highest Daughter when referring to Tuon, but then Tuon hasn’t held court as Daughter of the Nine Moons before.

Yuril, Tuon’s Hand commanding her Seekers has not played a part yet. It’s striking that she never thinks of any information he has passed to her, or anything he has ever done or organised. Does the corruption we know is present in the Seekers start at the top?

Tuon doesn’t think of Anath as being able to channel; as a marath’damane. She doesn’t believe all of the reports regarding Anath’s attempt to capture Rand, especially that Anath is a Forsaken or even a marath’damane. Well she wouldn’t want to, would she?

The omens Tuon observes work as well as others’ dreams and soothsaying do. Note that reading omens is egalitarian in that it requires no special ability and thus all can do it. We were introduced to the Seanchan’s way of reading the Pattern late, making it too easy to dismiss it as superstition. It is well to remember that Tuon dismisses as mere superstition many things the reader accepts as reliable precognition or a manifestation of the Pattern. For instance she still refuses to believe in ta’veren.

Tuon sees her first Trolloc heads and realises Mat wasn’t lying. She wants Mat back (purely for information, of course!) and is surprised that she admitted this to Selucia. So Tuon does keep some things hidden from her. Both women realise that other information from Mat that they have previously dismissed could be true. Even with the heads – and the Seanchan are big on evidence – some of the Seanchan didn’t believe in Trollocs, or that they would attack Ebou Dar.

Tuon is surrounded by white – flagstones, pillars, spires – and brightness. She prefers white tiles to coloured rugs. Rand, on the other hand, is surrounded by shadow and darkness, gloom. She has a very positive attitude, he is despairing. She is order, he is chaos. The bright light around Tuon reflects her very positive attitude. Or perhaps helps inspire it. Another leader surrounded by white is Rand’s half-brother Galad, although in his last POV he was mired in mud. The Whitecloaks were stained by the questionable beliefs and attitudes of the Questioners.

This chapter encapsulates many of Tuon’s roles and parallels, especially of goddesses. As her passion for the proper order of things shows she is an order and justice figure:

Order, Tuon thought, keeping her face still. I represent order.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Bringing the world back into order was going to be very, very difficult. Perhaps impossible. Tuon straightened her back. She had not thought to become Empress for many years yet. But she would do her duty.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Chaos. The entire world was chaos… Order. Here in Ebou Dar, there was order, even in the fields of tents and wagons outside the city. Seanchan soldiers patrolled and kept the peace; there were plans to clean out the Rahad. Just because one was poor was not a reason—or an excuse—to live without law. But this city was just a tiny, tiny pocket of order in a world of tempest.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Tuon has a very different leadership style to Elaida. She is consciously preventing division and squabbling – as Elaida has not, and as Egwene also will. Like many justice figures she is merciful and just and not tyrannical, again in contrast to Elaida and also Rand. See Tuon essay for more discussion on Tuon’s parallels to order and justice goddesses.

She also has links with sea goddesses. Tuon, who crossed the ocean with thousands of great ships, announces publicly in her audience hall with its ceiling painted with gulls and fishers at sea, and the walls a soft blue, that maritime Ebou Dar will be her seat, and this while wearing a pleated gown of the deepest sea blue, a white cape fluttering behind her like wave foam (The Gathering Storm, Gambits). Her fingernails were lacquered blue in this scene, instead of their previous red.

Tuon was originally going to rule from Tar Valon (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota) to destroy the influence of the Aes Sedai and emphasise that she conquered them. This is ironic, considering that Tuon herself can learn to channel and will very probably do so and thus could join them. But she has now stated that her capital will be a sea port.

As the wife of lucky Mat, Tuon is Lady Luck and will soon take the name of the goddess of Fortune. It helps to explain her survival of so many assassination attempts. Another reason, as the name Tuon indicates, is that she is Queen of the Dead (see Tuon essay) and who can kill such a figure? In Finnish mythology the Underworld is called Tuonela and is ruled by Tuoni and Tuonetar. In this chapter Tuon says she thrives on death attempts and only the Queen of the Underworld would do that. Her husband Mat is King of the Dead (see Mat essay). Later she will bless the living, declare them dead and send the living dead to fight in her name as though they were shades from the Underworld.

Tuon thinks all oaths equal in importance. She is yet to realise that if people feel coerced into an oath, they do not feel bound by it. She feels they shouldn’t swear in the first place if they refuse to be bound by it, and be prepared to die instead. Elaida, like most Aes Sedai, has to keep the letter of her Oaths, but avoids keeping the spirit of them. However, if an Aes Sedai believes she has to keep the spirit of her Oaths, then she will. Shemerin is one such. Tuon recollects that Mat said something that implied there was a way around three Oaths and may yet work out how to use Aes Sedai damane in battle. Here is my theory on it.

Finally, Tuon shows her links with war goddesses such as Freya, and the Morrigan, when she considers the Return to be at war with the Aes Sedai, and soon, with Rand as well.

Beslan is much more kingly and responsible than Tuon thought. Tuon spoke to him directly to startle him out of his perfect act, but actually he was worthy of the honour as well as able to act with the best.

Tuon knows she can’t afford to provoke the Altarans into uprising. If Beslan swears fealty to Empire he will have a more secure and effective rule. She proves to him with reports of how the Seanchan have improved order and conditions in Altara. The Seanchan are big on evidence - well, evidence that they collect themselves; not so good on evidence others show them. (I’m thinking of the Trollocs’ heads here, which some in the audience refused to accept.)

Galgan disrupts Beslan’s oath of fealty saying it is not the proper way to do it. I am somewhat suspicious of his motive. Suroth was able to weaken the Seanchan forces greatly by wasting them. Yet could she have done as well without the general agreeing to it? The Seanchan lost one hundred thousand in Arad Doman. Galgan showed very little dissent for orders that led to disaster. Perhaps he too is a Darkfriend – with both of them ignorant of the other’s allegiance – and takes advantage of what he sees as Suroth’s “mistakes”. Dark clothing is often a sign of a Darkfriend and Galgan wears dark armour...

Galgan discourages Tuon from meeting the Dragon Reborn, again, seemingly innocently. It is adding up though. He thought Tuon would head back to Seanchan, and said he thought they should stay here. Was he trying to sow confusion in her mind? If so, it didn’t work. Galgan is known to be prudent as well as ambitious. This is a recipe for an effective Darkfriend. Or just a negative man.

The Return is slower than expected in conquering the mainland, despite the nations not aiding each other. This, too, is suggestive.

The Seanchan want to raid the White Tower to weaken the Aes Sedai and to gain access to weaves. Galgan is all for it. They think such a large number of Aes Sedai could disable Seanchan if they fought. It would be true if the Aes Sedai were not bound by the Three Oaths. Galgan says he doesn’t know if the Dragon Reborn is connected to the Aes Sedai or not. They must assume an attack on the White Tower will anger him, but also weaken him. (Actually it triggered the reunion of the Aes Sedai and the purging of the Black Ajah and so strengthened them.)

Tuon and Galgan think it is more urgent to weaken and subdue Dragon Reborn. Tylee enters at a crucial moment. Galgan says she should speak. Tylee hasn’t shaved her head much, just the minimum acceptable. It shows she is not that keen on her change of station and is not overwhelmed by it either. Tylee dares to speak up in dissent – even though she is newly Low Blood – saying that the Seanchan should ally with the Dragon Reborn and not be his enemy.

Many of the low Blood would be so in awe at meeting one of the Empress's household, much less the Highest Daughter, that they would not dare speak. Yet this woman offered suggestions? In direct opposition to Tuon's published will?

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Only Selucia follow Tylee’s advice and advises Tuon as Truthspeaker:

"A difficult decision is not always a decision where both sides are equally matched, Tuon," Selucia said suddenly. "Perhaps, in this case, a difficult decision is one that is right, but requires an implication of fault as well."

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

It is interesting that Selucia was against the attack. Tuon had thought to go to Rand

in strength, his armies defeated, the White Tower torn down? She needed him brought to the Crystal Throne under very controlled circumstances, with the understanding that he was to submit to her authority.”

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

but decides to delay the attack on the White Tower and meet Rand first. For order’s sake:

Order must be brought to the world. If she had to do that by lowering her eyes slightly and meeting with the Dragon Reborn, then so be it.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

It buys her time to plan and to secure her position. It also delays her attack on the Tower until Gawyn is able to rescue Egwene, Elaida is thoroughly undermined and Verin passes on her crucial information.

10 comments:

Andrew C. Smith said...

It is interesting to me that while Tuon is a direct contrast to Elaida, and other tyrannical rulers, as you point out with regard to Order and Justice/tyranny, it seems that she might have much in common with her as well. That penutlimate quote (i.e.-
Tuon had thought to go to Rand

in strength, his armies defeated, the White Tower torn down? She needed him brought to the Crystal Throne under very controlled circumstances, with the understanding that he was to submit to her authority.”

The Gathering Storm, Gambits) could easily be something Elaida could have thought, replacing Crystal Throne with Amyrlin Seat of course. Coupled with her not wanting to believe the reports about Anath, she seems to have many of the same character traits as Elaida (perhaps not to the same extremes though). The thought makes me wonder if those two will have a significant meeting in the near future...

t ball said...

I agree Andrew. The key difference, though, between Elaida and Tuon is that Tuon has shown a willingness to change course and admit she might have been wrong.

Linda said...

Andrew and tball: All of the female leaders have wanted to approach Rand from a position of strength so they can control him. From Siuan and Moiraine, to Elaida, to Egwene, and Tuon...

Elaida has demonstrated Travelling in Tuon's presence. It may be that Tuon will return the 'courtesy' and channel in front of Elaida!

Since Elaida can Foretell, I think it likely that she and Tuon will meet in the future.

'rew said...

@Linda, yes all of the females have wanted to do so, but it seems to me that Elaida and Tuon have been set up as specific counterparts of one another, more so than others (though perhaps Egwene might be a third wheel to this): both are/were heads of major institutions of power based on a channeling foundation, but they look like foils- one is black (Towers of Midnight), one is white, one is based on ruthless forced control of channeling (black, Saidin), the other based on willful self-submission (white, Saidar), one is an overt political empire, the other covert a behind-the-scenes power, etc. It looks like these two were set up specifically as two sides of the same coin, much in common, much in contrast...

(andrew here, was signed in on wrong google account before)

Linda said...

Yes, rew, they are meant to be contrasted, but as you say, compared as well. And Egwene and Tuon can also be compared with each other.

Anonymous said...

maybe a stupid thought but once the blight is gone should the ice expand again making the sea level drop and make Ebou Dar useless as a port?

Linda said...

Quite possibly Anonymous, but it takes quite a time for the sea level to fall that far. Longer than the Empress, may she live forever, will live.

Anonymous said...

doesnt that depend on how long she lives? if she is around 700 years she may have to move her house down the beach to stay on the shore

Russ said...

Linda, there is something about the whole emphasis on order that's tugging at my brain. Tuon thought "I represent order."

In Herid Fel's note, which keeps getting thrown in our face, he states "Belief and order give strength." He's talking about sealing the bore, I think? At least that's what the second part of the note refers to.

It makes me think that Tuon has something to do with the bore being sealed?

Just seems too coincidental that we'd get reminded of this note, and then this blatantly thrown at us a couple chapters later.

Linda said...

Russ: Tuon is an "order" figure, such as the Ancient Egyptian goddess Ma'at. She and her forces have brought strength to the areas that they have taken. Rand himself noticed the difference. Whether there is any more to it than that remains to be seen.