Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #50: Chapter 47 - The One He Lost



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Rand is actually feeling insane but it takes him a while to work out why. It’s not rage from the Borderlanders trying to manipulate him into Far Madding where he can’t channel which has driven him over the edge, but shame from the way he treated Hurin, who revered him. Long ago, Hurin told Nynaeve that if ever she needed him, he would come, and Nynaeve has worried about Rand repressing his feelings, so in a way, this has happened. A trigger was needed to break a hole in the wall Rand has built around himself and the Pattern has sent Hurin (as an answer to Nynaeve’s concerns) to be the first of these. Tam, whose arrival Nynaeve had a hand in, will be the second.

Rand likens himself to the Stone of Tear: too hard to be natural or human, and just as legendary. Also just as impregnable: very difficult to break into, but doable when you know how. They both are major landmarks of the Age and have copious twists and turns within. The Aiel were impressed with the labyrinthine defences of the Stone, and Rand doesn’t have internal landmarks and so can’t read himself. The Heart of the Stone held Callandor, and is now empty; Rand’s heart is also currently empty as the prophecy “pray that the heart of stone remembers tears” foretold.

He wanders through the Stone while wandering through his own mind. This physical activity is an effort to distract himself from his internal furore. His mind is insane, but his heart isn’t; they are at war with each other over what he is doing to himself and others to cope with his overwhelming role.

Rand has hardened himself in the mistaken belief that it will make him stronger and it hasn’t worked. The inescapability of his fate is crushing him and he refers to this verse of the Shadow’s taunting dark prophecy:

“Two roads before him, one to death beyond dying, one to life eternal.
Which will he choose? Which will he choose?
What hand shelters? What hand slays?

- The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood

while looking at his hands, which illustrate the suffering he is undergoing:

Two hands. One to destroy, the other to save. Which had he lost?

- The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

The chapter is even named after this self-questioning as emphasis.

So which of his hands did Rand lose? The sheltering one or the killing one? Hands are symbols of one’s humanity as well as one’s power. The appetite that Rand has in The Gathering Storm for using vast sources of power – the Choedan Kal, the True Power – is accelerating his loss of humanity. In a way losing his hand marked both his loss of humanity and also the necessary sacrifice of power he will make at the end of this book.

As an aside, this hand symbolism is used in more than one way in prophecy. Rand also has Perrin and Mat:

The right hand falters and the left hand strays

- Crossroads of Twilight, Opening Prophecy

Will he lose one of them permanently or temporarily?

Osan’gar and Aran’gar are/were not hands, but daggers. They were even told they were to be tools used by the Dark One, and not permitted to be, or capable of, directing in their own right.

Hurin reminds Rand of his earlier self, although that brings a reminder that his friends already feared him back then. It is almost like meeting himself in an If world, and in its own way almost as dangerous as that paradox would be.

Lews Therin says they are not facing up to the past. In fact they need memories of their past lives because if they don’t learn from the past they will keep making the same mistakes. This is disastrous in a world with cyclic time.

Rand has been seeing Ishamael (or Moridin) in his dreams:

The changes that had come upon him then [after Falme]—realizing that he had to kill, that he could never return to the life he had loved— were things he could not dwell on. He'd headed out toward Tear, almost delirious, separated from his friends, seeing Ishamael in his dreams.
That last one was happening again.

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

Perhaps Moridin is trying to manipulate or trap him in his dreams as he did in the early books, or maybe, due to their link, they each experience some of the other’s dreams. Rand has been separated from his friends and is insane so more than the last thing is happening again.

To use Callandor (“safely”) the man has to link with a woman and let her control the flows. Rand says he has to subject himself to her will. He certainly has to trust her. But he has to do that before they link because she can’t force him to link with her. (A man can’t even be forced into a full circle (Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords Glossary). He must open himself to the Source and she reaches out to him. If he doesn’t cooperate, the link can’t happen.

Rand’s own distrust is exacerbated by his link with Moridin. Trust is no part of any of the Forsaken – so much so that they barely think of trust at all.

Callandor is associated with the Dragon Reborn, just as Excalibur is associated with King Arthur, a major parallel of Rand’s (see Rand essay). He felt he could do anything when he first used it in Tear and seems invincible while holding it – after all, it stopped Ishamael’s balefire in Tel’aran’rhiod, which seemed a big deal at the time until Perrin stopped balefire in Tel’aran’rhiod in Towers of Midnight). In Arthurian myth Excalibur’s scabbard protected Arthur from mortal injury and when Morgan le Fay stole the scabbard it left Arthur vulnerable. Callandor doesn’t have a scabbard and is as dangerous to its wielder as it is empowering. Rand feels Cadsuane appropriated Callandor, but hasn’t demanded its return since he prefers the Choedan Kal which is stronger and not flawed in the manufacture. The Choedan Kal’s flaw is that it offers so much power that it very soon corrupts. It magnifies its wielder’s character flaws, while Callandor magnified the taint on saidin.

Rand is worried that Callandor features in the prophecies, whereas the Choedan Kal doesn’t. It might be in disguised form, since he using used it to cleanse saidin, a landmark event, and it has corrupted him. So it has played a large role, even if ultimately it won’t be as large as Callandor’s role. It is ironic that Rand didn’t dare use Callandor and left it in Tear lest it corrupt him. Even as far as Callandor is concerned, it is not entirely the sa’angreal themselves, but the power they offer that is the most corrupting thing about them.

The Choedan Kal represents the freedom to do anything – complete god-like powers, in other words. Callandor forces some constraints on its wielder, especially that of cooperating with someone else.

Lews Therin says brute power won’t control the Dark One - after all; the Dark One is a god himself. Rand can only equal him, not outdo him. To win he needs to do or have something the Dark One doesn’t, or can’t.

Rand tells the Defenders to stop guarding the Heart of the Stone:

"Guard this place no more," he said to the Defenders. "There is nothing here of worth. I'm not sure if there ever was."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

His own heart is unguarded and still is in Towers of Midnight - look at the effect Lanfear had. He seems to think Callandor is little value to him, yet is angry Cadsuane has it.

Rand rages against any constraints he perceives and any defiance or disobedience, and considers genocide against the Borderlanders and/or Seanchan. If the latter were destroyed, they couldn’t invade the nations while he fights to save everyone at Shayol Ghul. The Creator’s champion committing such an atrocity would be disastrous for the Land and the Pattern. While Rand considers mass killing, Lews Therin reminds him of his efforts to restore the girl killed in battle in the Stone, the battle commemorated in the tapestries around them. Rand tried to use the god-like powers of a sa’angreal until he saw what a travesty it was.

After deciding to kill the Seanchan and sending Maidens off to gather their spear sisters, he returns to his rooms and almost doesn’t recognise his father from behind; Tam being out of context. Rand’s mind is out of all context. Tam doesn’t have great physical strength, but has great moral and spiritual strength.

Just as the inability to update his list of fallen women due to using balefire caused conflict, so the presence of Tam causes even greater conflict over the change in his identity from past to present. Relations are awkward between father and son like they just met.

Rand feels an urge to hug his father, yet doesn’t because he feels guilty over not thinking of Tam much recently. He had given up on being among Two Rivers people. Rand thinks Mat and Nynaeve have changed, as well as Perrin and Egwene. He is angry that Perrin used Two Rivers folk when he has refused to. Tam praises Perrin’s leadership to Rand, which isn’t likely to make him feel any kinder right then. Even more unwisely, Tam says “they've gone and made a king out of” Rand. Rand is already annoyed at perceived manipulation attempts. He won’t or can’t reassure Tam that he thinks of him as his father:

The Dragon Reborn couldn't have a father. A father would be a weakness to be exploited, even more than a woman like Min. Lovers were expected. But the Dragon Reborn had to be a figure of myth, a creature nearly as large as the Pattern itself. He had difficulty getting people to obey as it was. What would it do if it were known that he kept his father nearby? If it were known that the Dragon Reborn relied upon the strength of a shepherd?

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

What a sad scene this is, with Rand so emotionally crippled. He has hamstrung himself worse than Perrin ever did. No wonder his inner voice, long suppressed, is screaming quietly. He is very formal and stilted in his thanks to his father:

"You did well, Tam," Rand found himself saying. "By keeping the truth from me, you likely saved my life. If people had known that I was a foundling, and discovered near Dragonmount no less—well, word would have spread. I might very well have been assassinated as a child."

"You have done a great service, Tam al'Thor," Rand said. "By protecting and raising me, you have ushered in a new Age. The world owes you a debt. I will see that you are cared for the rest of your life."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

and even refers to his father by his full name. Pompous isn’t in it. He sounds like the worst sort of Seanchan Emperor, a family renowned for its dysfunctionality.

Tam killed a blademaster in front of witnesses. While he regrets it greatly, he judges it was necessary. Rand says:

"The ones that need to be done often seem the ones that we least like to have to do."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

Does he feel this much regret for killing Forsaken?

Rand tells Tam that he feels the Pattern and prophecies are using him as a puppet until he is killed for sacrifice. Tam disagrees – everyone has a choice. Rand may feel like he doesn’t have a choice but that is because he is a person of integrity. While he is limited in what he can do, he has leeway in choosing why he does stuff. He can only choose why he fulfils his duties. Tam says it is not certain Rand will die, but Rand won’t run from it, so he shouldn’t whine about it. Tam thinks the Pattern won’t demand everything of Rand and give him nothing.

Tam is annoyed that Cadsuane did not bring him to Rand sooner, but it is not Cadsuane’s fault. Tam even admits that he deliberately kept away from Rand so, he didn’t interfere with Rand’s decisions. Rand feels manipulated again and this time his suppressed feelings explode. He makes Tam tell him what Cadsuane told him to say and then flies into a psychotic rage. He can’t suppress it:

Rand wrestled with his rage on one side and saidin on the other. They threatened to crush him between them.
This was why he needed to be strong. Couldn't they see? How could a man laugh when confronted by forces like these?

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

At the height of his rant he accuses Tam of pretending affection and manipulating him for Cadsuane.

He had lost control. But he didn't care. They wanted him to feel. He would feel, then! They wanted him to laugh? He would laugh as they burned!
Screaming at them all, he wove threads of Air and Fire. Lews Therin howled in his head, saidin tried to destroy both of them, and the quiet voice inside Rand's heart vanished.

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

A hair from re-becoming the Kinslayer, hr realises how corrupt he now is and flees to Ebou Dar.

The symbolism of the red and yellow rug in Rand’s rooms is interesting. Yellow for the Healing he needs (and Nynaeve’s aid) and Red for the blood he sheds and the trauma he experiences at the hands of the Red Amyrlin’s embassy.

3 comments:

Dressageboy said...

Yet again, Linda, thank you for this exhaustive and inclusive blog. Your writing skills and obvious devotion to The WoT shines through and makes the wait for AMoL much more bearable.

I think this was the most affecting chapter to this point, in the series -for me-. I reread it several times before I moved on to Chapter 48.

I give great credit to BS for weaving this delicate fabric because I think he did some of his very best work by making me believe Rand had reached the point where he nearly became LTW again. Obviously he stood/stands upon RJ's shoulders, for RJ paved the way, but not a sentence of this rang as anything but true to my mind.

Leyla said...

"the right hand falters, the left hand strays."

perrin is the right hand -- always doing the right thing, with a sense of responsibility "almost as strong as a warder's" (moiraine, shadow rising i think) yet he falters with the idea of being a lord and leading people until he finally gains confidence with the help of hopper in ToM.

the left hand is probably mat, i.e., "sinister" (left in latin - heh i'm a lefty) who throughout most of the series has enjoyed his "vices" with much pleasure - until he was raped by tylin and started taking care of olver as a son. (does anyone else think it's adorable that olver imitates mat in every way, even down to the "he seems to keep great store in keeping his promises": what i wonder is how he figured out mat felt that way! but children are always more observant than people give them credit for). anyway, the left hand is straying because he hasn't been near rand for some time now (albeit on his orders), and he even has the band of the red hand to represent the hand symbolism.

maybe that's what you were saying, linda, i'm not sure, just wanted to add my 2 cents as always!

p.s. i do disagree with one thing you said. tam is not just morally and spiritually strong, he is very strong physically as well! i remember in EotW Rand Sedai saying, "there was not much of Tam in him physically, except perhaps for a breadth of shoulder". he's demonstrated his strength in that book, too -- slaying a bunch of trollocs, which he has never before encountered, then jumping through a glass window and landing on his feet?! i'm always amazed by that scene when i read it. and from what galad says in ToM, it's no easy thing to kill a trolloc - this coming from a man who might be as skilled with a sword as Rand Sedai (sorry, I like calling him that and I think he deserves it!) he says that it's hard to cut thru their flesh or something. ok that's it for real now! :)

Linda said...

DressageBoy: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I agree that this chapter was very believable.

Leyla: I was quoting Rand when I said that Tam didn't have great physical strength. Tam is strong, but not exceptionally so. He is exceptionally strong in a spiritual or moral sense though.

Yes, that is what I was saying about Perrin and Mat. This post was already quite long though, and that point was only an aside.