Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #8: Chapter 1 - Apples First

By Linda


Towers of Midnight opens with glimpses of conditions on the Seanchan continent. Appropriately one of the first references after the Dark One’s impenetrable cloud cover starving the world of light (the Light) and animals from the If worlds is of 13 (midnight) black marble towers:

The killing field surrounded thirteen fortresses, tall and cut entirely from unpolished black marble, their blocks left rough-hewn to give them a primal feeling of unformed strength. These were towers meant for war. By tradition they were unoccupied. How long that would last—how long tradition itself would be remembered in a continent in chaos—remained to be seen.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

They’re meant for war but marble is not a strong rock and isn’t that suitable for a fortress. In the next chapter Egwene will dream of 13 black towers who represent the Forsaken.

The ground around the thirteen towers is kept free of cover even though they are unoccupied. On the mainland the surrounds of Borderlander towns are likewise kept bare so Shadowspawn can’t sneak up unawares. However in Seanchan it is merely a tradition and not a current threat, and it is just as likely that the Seanchan fortress was assailed in the distant past by humans as by Shadowspawn (and the memory of that event may even have been corrupted over time). There is foreshadowing that this is soon to change.

Total war prevails on the whole Seanchan continent. There seem to be Seanchan prophecies that this would happen at the end of time:

Men did not whisper that this might be the end of times. They yelled it. The Fields of Peace were aflame, the Tower of Ravens was broken as prophesied and a murderer openly ruled in Seandar. This was a time to lift one’s sword and choose a side, then spill blood to give a final color to the dying land.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

A murderer rules in Seandar openly. Considering the habits of the Seanchan blood, there certainly have been murderous Empresses before, just unacknowledged. There's no indication of whether the new ruler is male or female. This murderer may be one of the Forsaken or a Darkfriend, or just the usual ruthless and ambitious ruler. The ‘side’ that people are supposed to choose is whether to fight for the Light or not. Instead people are distracted by petty ambitions.

The wind then bids farewell to Seanchan and heads to the mainland:

The wind howled eastward over the famed Emerald Cliffs and coursed out over the ocean. Behind, smoke seemed to rise from the entire continent of Seanchan.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Emerald Cliffs are in France and they are counterparts of the White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel. Perhaps they are a reference to the Seanchan invasion.

Near Dragonmount it’s now early afternoon in late spring/early summer.

The Land is blighted and plants are behaving like those in the Blight:

And then there was the incident that had killed Graeger. The man had walked around a corner over in Negin Bridge and vanished. When people went looking, all they found was a twisted, leafless tree with a gray-white trunk that smelled of sulphur.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

People are blaming each other. Almen Bunt, whom took Rand and Mat into Caemlyn in The Eye of the World, scorns that, but he’s blaming the Aes Sedai:

The Dragon’s Fang had been scrawled on a few doors that night. People were more and more nervous. Once, Almen would have named them all fools, jumping at shadows and seeing bloody Trollocs under every cobblestone.
Now . . . well, now he wasn’t so sure. He glanced eastward, toward Tar Valon. Could the witches be to blame for the failed crop? He hated being so close to their nest, but Alysa needed the help.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Since then he has had a price put on his head for being a Queen’s Man. Rand himself is a Queen’s man.

During Rand’s darkest night (so far) all the apples in the orchard shrivelled and fell, as Rand’s hope shrivelled and nearly fell. There is little food or fertility in the Land. Almen despairs:

Staring down those neat, perfect rows of useless apple trees, Almen felt the crushing weight of it. Of trying to remain positive. Of seeing all his sister had worked for fail and rot. These apples . . . they were supposed to have saved the village, and his sons.
This is it then, isn’t it? he thought, eyes toward the too-yellow grass below. The fight just ended.
Maybe it was time to let go.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand did too – only much more so. Rand’s dark mood and the Dark One’s touch have affected the whole world. If Rand is affected by the Dark One, so is the world. If he can remain unaffected, the Dark One’s blighting of the world is reduced. Currently there is no sun even in Seanchan, except where Rand is.

Almen, who as his name shows, represents all men, all humanity, appears to sense the end of Rand’s fight, but in a kind of delayed effect, with the ending in pure sunlight. The trees immediately re-bloom and fruit and the ground absorbs the rotten windfalls.

Those apples seemed to shine. Not just dozens of them on each tree, but hundreds. More than a tree should hold, each one perfectly ripe.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

These are the Platonic ideal of apples. Utopian, since they are ready before their normal time because people need them.

This is similar to what happened after Rand’s major victory at Eye when he defeated two Forsaken and destroyed a Shadowspawn army while channelling without the taint and the Blight promptly receded a considerable distance. Rand said it was his presence that undid the Dark One’s Blighting, ie he did not channel. His presence has healing properties as well as restoring fertility to the Land, but nothing ‘unnatural’:

Almen watched the man until he vanished, then dashed toward Alysa’s house. The old pain in his hip was gone, and he felt as if he could run a dozen leagues.
“Apples,” Almen said. “What else bloody grows on apple trees! Listen, we need every one of those apples picked before the day ends. You hear me? Go! Spread the word! There’s a harvest after all!”
Almen continued on, and as he did, he noticed for the first time that the grass around him seemed greener, healthier.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

It also indicates what power and influence the Way of the Leaf must have had in the Age of Legends.

The break in the cloud seems to follow Rand.

After his epiphany, Rand understands and accepts the Pattern and his place in it:

“No. I’m not lost. Finally. It feels like a great long time since I’ve understood the path before me.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

He is enlightened (literally, with the sun on him) and is Buddha- and Jesus-like, but all too human in the way he would rather avoid potential scenes and trouble.

Almen thought—for a moment—he could see something around the man. A lightness to the air, warped and bent.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Halo effect? This is the opposite of the darkness and shadow that was attached to Rand until his epiphany. There is now true Oneness within himself as well as with his relation to the Land. However the Shadow is so strong that Rand’s effect is fairly localised around him. Just as the break in the cloud follows him about but can’t widen beyond his vicinity:

“It’s not you who is mad, friend,” the stranger said. “But the entire world. Gather those apples quickly. My presence will hold him off for a time, I think, and whatever you take now should be safe from his touch.”
The man looked back at Almen. Meeting those eyes, Almen felt a strange sense of peace. “

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Dark One is making the world mad, turning it upside down, spreading chaos and disorder. These weaken the people. Rand changes the Pattern to Rightness and what is natural. The Dark One is Wrongness/unnatural (see Wrongness essay) and his True Power is hatred, destruction and suffering.

Almen Bunt feels as though his conversation with Rand is on two levels and he’s right.

Rand was dark from Lord of Chaos to Winter’s Heart and that caused bubbles of evil and loss of fertility etc and allowed the Dark One to touch the Pattern more. Since Winter’s Heart, the state of the world and the Pattern has steadily worsened, as has Rand’s physical and mental state, due to Rand’s extensive usage of balefire, not just on the Forsaken, but on those captured by Forsaken and also his usage of the True Power. Such great sins affect the Land hugely. Even filtering off the taint - exposing himself to it, a great sacrifice, made things worse. Rand’s link to Moridin symbolises that Rand became increasingly like the Shadow (just as Cadsuane feared, and as happened with Aridhol/Shadar Logoth) until he could actually use that link to draw on the Dark One’s power.

The state of Rand’s mind and body affect the Land. His wounds, physical and spiritual, are those of the Land. Being the Creator’s Champion is way above the ta’veren effect, or the power of a Hero of the Horn (although he is those too). This is why at Falme Hawkwing, a great Hero and ta’veren, bowed to Rand:

Hawkwing bowed formally from his saddle to Rand. "With your permission . . . Lord Rand. Trumpeter, will you give us music on the Horn? Fitting that the Horn of Valere should sing us into battle. Bannerman, will you advance?"

- The Great Hunt, The Grave Is No Bar To My Call

However, Masema’s assertion that Rand is “Creator made flesh” is probably untrue. Masema was shown to be corrupted into great Wrongness.

Rand has not only changed his attitude to one of peace, non-hatred and acceptance but is willing to face and mend problems, if a bit reluctantly:

The man looked back with a faint grimace. “To do something I’ve been putting off. I doubt she will be pleased by what I tell her.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand’s walk from Dragonmount to “She” in Tar Valon (nowhere else is feasible, really) shows how close Rand and Egwene are. Close yet opposing. Dragonmount casts a shadow on Tar Valon.

The condition of the apple orchard between Dragonmount and Tar Valon also refers to Tar Valon itself – Avalon was the Isle of Apples. First the apples were blighted and corrupted - and so was the White Tower. Then they regrew, just like the resolution of the rebellion and the removal of the Black Ajah in Tar Valon.

It also shows Rand will receive a lack of support from the Aes Sedai in Tar Valon, and maybe a change of heart later.

We don’t see how Moridin has been affected by Rand’s epiphany except that it is probably he who arranges for Lanfear to manipulate Rand at the end of Towers of Midnight.

Almen feels Rand’s pull on him – to fight at the Last Battle?


Alec said...


Did you really see Lanfear's cry for help as a manipulation? What made you believe so?

I saw it differently.

Lanfear, I surmised, was being set up as a wildcard (a believable one) for the Last Battle. I figured she would be capable of turning back to the Light.

It would bring the saga full circle, bearing in mind that Lanfear created the Bore.

Achren of The Chronicles of Prydain comes to mind as a servant of the enemy who defects and eventually sacrifices herself to defeat her old ally/foe.

I've guessed since reading that chapter that Lanfear would die in such a circumstance. I'll leave to others to guess what that scenario might be.

Anonymous said...

it is a trap. Egwene had a dream of a man lying on a cot (the type used in army tents?) and it was importent that he not die, but outside a funeral pyre was being built. I think it refers to Lan, but if Rand is trapped in in the unseen world or is in a coma like state. this may be the trigger to hand victory over to the shadow. Also I have wondered since the gathering storm if the effects of his being ta'veren was the real cause of his twisting of chance or was it a reference to his mental state? it seemed that the darker he got the nastier the negitive effects on the pattern. this was seen even before the gathering storm. if i am not mistaken.

Linda said...

I do think it is a trap.

Lanfear has always been able to press LT/Rand's buttons.

Moridin told Graendal that the opportunity to strike at Rand had been given to another. And lo, Lanfear pulls him to her, blaming Moridin - and she has skills in Tel'aran'rhiod, as does Moridin.

I never thought Rand's new found balance would last until the Last Battle.

Jenn said...

The second last quote from the battle at Falme is from The Great Hunt. It's attributed to Towers of Midnight in the article.

I also just want to say that I really enjoy all the posts you have on this blog. It adds so much to my reading of the books. Thanks Linda!

Linda said...

So it is. Thanks Jenn! I have fixed it.