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.are divisive.
- Knife of Dreams, Vows
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.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.
- Knife of Dreams, Vows
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.