Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #1 : Opening Passage



By Linda

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

We haven’t heard from the Ogier since Knife of Dreams. As with the Black Tower, we have been deliberately kept in the dark about their activities.

In the extract from his book Loial notes the darkened sky – the absence of the Light. The Shadow is so strong that Wrongness is rampant as the Pattern is being unravelled by the Dark One (Wrongness is a major theme in the series, see my essay on it here). So much so that Treesongs don’t work even in Stedding.

Yet the Stedding are less affected by the Dark One’s touch than other places, since the Ogier dead are outside the Stedding and not apparently within it. They just stand and watch. It’s almost as though they want to say something or want the living Ogier to do something. I’m sure the feeling of being watched by the dead is scaring the Ogier into fleeing. It’s a great way to spread despair, because Ogier are sensitive to the rightness and wrongness of a place.

So, Loial is a postscript to the Stump. He wasn’t allowed to speak even though as a married man he is entitled to. We’ve seen the young given actual power in other groups, if by default, but the Ogier aren’t giving their younger adults any notice, not even granting them their entitlements. Young people have gained the highest responsibility in the human nations because the elders are disregarding the signs of the Shadow’s touch and now we see this is about to happen among the Ogier. Not following their own laws would have been previously unthinkable in Ogier. The incorruptible are now being corrupted – the wrongness of the Shadow has developed to its full extent as the Light’s champion is dark and despairing and corrupted by his link to the Shadow’s champion.

It is interesting that Loial wonders why his mother insisted he be allowed to speak:

At first, I was forbidden, but my mother, Covril, demanded I have my chance. I do not know what sparked her change of heart, as she herself had argued quite decisively for the opposing side.

He expected her to be motivated by personal ambition foremost.

A few reasons why Covril had a change of heart might be:

  • motherly love and/or family ambition. For either reason she gave him his 15 minutes of fame (Ogier minutes) because she didn’t believe he’d make any difference to the decision since most were already on her side to open the Book of Translation.

  • She wanted to make sure all the forms were followed. Her “victory” would be all the more conclusive then; and, like Mat said, “victory settles a lot of arguments in most men’s heads” (The Fires of Heaven, Before the Arrow) for waverers.

  • A third possibility is that she thought his argument, or presentation of it, would only make her own look better in comparison. Perhaps she thought Loial would make such a poor showing that her arguments would be regarded even more favourably, but not so poor that he would shame the family though, or she would not have insisted he do it. Just not in her league. She heard Loial’s extempore speech before in Knife of Dreams and said it was ‘not bad’, which was somewhat patronising. The risk, of course, as the last paragraph hints is that he delivers a better version, and includes some factors that he did not know before, such as the presence on the mainland of Seanchan Ogier.

  • Lastly, was Covril ordered to obtain this concession for Loial? Or persuaded to do so by someone without her political clout? The Shadow could do this to sow further chaos and dissension with Ogier neither fighting nor fleeing, but arguing uselessly while the firing line moves closer to them.

Covril might be a Darkfriend or be influenced by a Darkfriend. In the Wotmania/Dragonmount interview in 2002 Jordan was asked if Ogier can be Darkfriends and answered: “Of course”. Considering that the Ogier are contemplating doing something that would greatly aid the Shadow, they are probably being pushed into it by Darkfriends. I have written a theory Covril is under the Shadow’s influence here). An influential and ambitious Speaker would be an obvious target for the Shadow. Covril’s actions here and on at least one earlier occasion when she spoke

from sunrise to sunset in favor of a very unpopular position without a single interruption, and the next day, no one had risen to Speak against her.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

are divisive.

Loial narrates the passage from the future, so he apparently never does find out why she insisted he be allowed to speak.

As we have seen before, Loial is braver than he thinks. This may be a battle of words, but it’s still a battle, and, Verin’s claim to Rand that battles achieve little notwithstanding, could change history.

Loial feels a stillness when he gathers his resolve. The Stillness is to Ogier what the state of kodi is to Malkieri and the Oneness to Rand. By the Trees and Stillness is what Ogier vow and pray.

The Great Stump debates the opening of the Book of Translation (Knife of Dreams, Vows), but we know little about it beyond the name and that Ogier can use it to leave the world. It appears to be a teleportation device; some sort of artefact made in book shape since Ogier revere books, and this shape is convenient to carry. Translation is meant in the geometric sense of moving things without flipping or rotating. It sounds like a smooth transportation; however the debate on its usage will be anything but.

Now that Tarmon Gai’don is approaching, the mainland Ogier are tempted to bail out, open the Book of Translation and flee. Loial believes that the Ogier should not flee Tarmon Gai’don, but should stay and fight the Shadow alongside the humans. After all, if the Dark One wins Tarmon Gai’don, he will remake the world in his image and there would be no safe worlds to flee to (Knife of Dreams, Vows). Therefore opening the book before Tarmon Gai’don would be futile at best. At worst, by not contributing, the Ogier may ensure the Shadow wins.

If the Ogier leave this world and their stedding, will the Longing overtake them and kill them? Loial deduces the Elders at the Stump must have found suitable answers to this (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

What the mainland Ogier know is:

[they] must leave this world eventually so [they] can come to it when the Wheel turns…That is written.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

It is not known where this piece of history or prophecy is written. The Seanchan Ogier have had a very different history to the mainland Ogier, being far more actively involved with humans in a military and police role. They may refuse to be transported by the Book of Translation whenever it is opened - if they are told of what the mainland Ogier are contemplating – and they may not have retained any knowledge of the Book’s existence or function.

Will the Book of Translation only move those who are nearby, or those who participate in a ritual, or all Ogier whether they wish to go, or even know about it, or not? Ogier know that they come and go to this world therefore Book of Translation may be linked to this world; and maybe only moves them between the Ogier home world and this one. It probably moves those who are in Stedding when the book is opened. Stedding don’t act like part of this world. They don’t show up in Tel’aran’rhiod, for instance, and are probably part of the Ogier’s home world.

The existence and previous use of the book could also ‘explain’ the few sightings of Ogier in some Ages – they would be a remnant population descended from those who were not present when the Book was opened and so did not leave the world. Our real world myths of reclusive giants represent the remnant Ogier who remain. It could also mean that the Ogier are not native to this world.

I believe that Covril has been influenced by the Shadow and that the Ogier are about to split: one group wanting to flee, the other to fight with the humans. Perhaps they fight each other for control of the Book.

This passage suggests so much but answers so little.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yay ! You're back, thanks for this entry :)

Ron said...

♥ I enjoy the character Loial and was disappointed that Loial had no role in this book. Thank you for giving Loial more coverage here than was in the book (or so it felt to me that Loial was mentioned less in the book than here in your blog).

I simply imagined Loial was influenced by the "Rightness" of the wheel...
Rand's "blindness" was healed, and the wrongness from the dark one's touch no longer controls the Dragon Reborn. Loial was guided to find Rand by the turning of the wheel and his presence has been critical on several occassions to help the light overcome the dark forces (such as surviving the labyrinth ways, fighting trollocs, etc.). Being an important tool of the light (as is Galad, Avienda, Min, etc.) one expects Loial to successfully throttle the Dark's manipulation of their (Ogier) situation. At the time of reading, I thought the Wheel had influenced Loial to return to the Stedding and speak at the great stump or why else have Elder Haman insist on remaining behind and encourage the youngster to return and speak at such an important event?
In this light I had expected to see the great stump to somehow allow Loial to speak and break the dark's spell of influence over the Ogier. Regardless of dissention or total unanimity the Ogier are a critical element to victory over the Dark, in my opinion.

I hope some inspiring Ogier scenes will be written in the final book.
I also hope the mystery of the Ogier division (between the stedding-mainland and Sanchean ogier) will be revealed, explained and possibly settled.
Entertaining satisfatory reasons for the Seanchan Ogier to re-unite with Loial's group of ogier is teasing.
Theme-wise the militaristic culture of the seanchean seems to make re-unification a MUTE point (Vulcans vs Romulans in star trek comes to mind). But with so many months remaining before release of the final book one can have fun imagining the possibilities ;)
Oh my, wouldn't it be wonderful to see the Light's forces revolutionize the Seanchan empire (but how to SQUEEZE that in the final book?) using Mat as the "Prince of the Ravens" and Loial sharing lost history with the "DEATHWATCH Guards" and recruiting "GARDENERS" to restore their peaceful heritage! LOL, that would be a hoot!
Sadly I do not expect it will be written that way; but I am glad to have shared some of my fantasy ideas.
LOVE & Peace

Anthony said...

Thank you for the great writing. It's a tremendous treat to see a new posting.

Linda said...

Thanks all! I had a lot of real work on at the moment, and it is hard to find the time and energy.

Ron: I was disappointed that the Ogier were left over until the last book.

We don't know when the events Loial raised happened - whether it was before or after Rand's epiphany. (Nor do we know if Cyndane will succeed in undoing the effects of his epiphany.)

Anonymous said...

Are we completely sure that if the DO is freed on Earth that he is free in all parallel worlds?

We seem to base all our assumptions on that point on the little conversation that Verin had with Egwene way back when, but I have never been quite clear whether she meant mirror worlds or worlds like the Finn's (and presumably the Ogier home world). Lews Therin once laments that the Creator is like a gardner who keeps creating new worlds as others die, which makes it sound to me like the Dark One could completely win in one world without winning everywhere. The mirror worlds are part of the pattern that make up "reality" on Earth, but you can't get to Finnland or the Stedding through Portal Stones. All worlds do still seem to be somewhat connected through TAR (or at least the dream sea space between TAR and the Pattern that Egwene wanders). I think she remarks in TSR that some of the dreams she looked in on were so alien as to be impossible, which sounds like she spied on the dreams of beings from worlds with radically different natural laws like in the land of the Aelfinn/Eelfinn.

Now, my feeling is that it would be rather too simple if all Loial had to convince the Elders of is that if the Dark One wins they have no where to hide anyway. They should know this, if it is true, perhaps better than anyone. But if the dilemma was that if the Dark One was freed on the human world that he would be free to attack all worlds, that the human world was keeping him imprisoned, that might be more morally interesting. It also raises the stakes of the Last Battle. If all worlds HAVE to have a last battle at the same time then the human struggle feels a bit trivial and inevitable (and would everyone have to win or just one world?). Another possibility is that the Book of Translation is actually more of a suicide/sacrifice device than a means of flight. Jordan often explores the notion of people following cultural mandates that have lost their original purpose, and the mass suicide of the Amayar may be a hint (or foreshadowing) that such horrible sacrifice may have in fact be necessary. Maybe the Book of Translation, by threading the Stedding (and the Ogier souls inside) out of this pattern strengthens the weave somehow. Maybe it also severs the connection between the Finn world and Human world, halting the spread of the Dark One's influence across the Great Pattern.

Unless the Elders think that the humans have everything under control (which it certainly doesn't look like), I am doubtful that Loial's brilliant argument could be as simple as "we can die here fighting the Dark One and maybe win, or we can leave it up to the hasty foolish humans and die in our home world, or next world." He has to make the case that all the Ogier (including the Seanchan Ogier) are needed then and there, and that it is the morally right thing to do for humans and Ogier alike to fight the Dark One in this world. This would only seem difficult if flight was actually considered a viable option, and if most Ogier believed this, or it was the received wisdom, I have no idea how Loial could persuade the Elders otherwise. What proof does he have that they can't truly escape the Dark One? It would also feel wrong to have Loial be the Ogier to say that humans are not capable, that they required Ogier assistance. He is the most "human" Ogier in the WOT.
-LoialT

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda! I missed your read-throughs!!

I was quite taken aback by Loial's snipit from his book. I found this to be potentially spoiler-ish: this book is written in the future. The threat of Tarmon Gaidan is that the Dark Lord wins, all of Creation is destroyed or at least immensely Corrupted, and life as if it known on Randland is essentially destroyed. With the inclusion of Loial's book, we now know that a) Loial lives long enough to finish and publish his book, and b) that whatever future exists after the battle between Rand and Darkness, that future both included Loial and BOOKS. New Books. So can we infer that at the very least, the Battle must be won by Rand, but that society, much as Aviendha's vision shows, might not live happily ever after? Also, since this book exists, can we assume that regardless of the Ogier decision on the matter, Loial at least stays, lives, and finishes his book? If so, can we also assume that if the Book of Translation is opened, it's use to leave town is still voluntary, or at least not universally applied to all Ogier?
I love Loial, love that he apparently finishes his book (unlike RJ ), but I question why BS would give so much away if I am reading things correctly. I'd love to hear from ya, Linda! :)
-daniel

Anonymous said...

Loial was the most horrid self insert by an author that I've ever had the displeasure of reading, and his very presence tells me that I should avoid this book.

Also, go study some fucking math before writing incoherent "essays" about your chaos theory.

Anonymous said...

To daniel.. not sure if anyone has pointed this out to you yet as it's been a couple months, and I just found this site.. but RJ himself did the same sort of thing with all those snippets from the fourth age. The action in WOT happens at the end of the third age.

Timmay said...

While Ogier can be darkfriends, one would assume they be much more rare than human darkfriends. I can't imagine that it will come down to fighting between two factions.

Linda said...

Timmay: You misunderstand. I do not think all those Ogier in favour of leaving to be Darkfriends. They (and this possibly includes Covril) are being manipulated by a Darkfriend.

jyothi said...

Nice blog