Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #25: Chapter 18 - The Strength Of This Place

By Linda


While on the surface the chapter title appears to refer how to Hopper's advice to Perrin on how to operate successfully in Tel'aran'rhiod, on a deeper level it reminds us that each POV character's survival depends on using their utmost inner strength. They are conscious of that necessity in this chapter.

Perrin POV

With Faile at his side in a true partnership, Perrin can do anything. The corollary, as we saw, is that if she is not there, if she is withdrawn from him in some way, he loses much confidence and purpose. Perhaps he needs to depend on her less.

He has to deal with the Whitecloaks:

He was increasingly certain—confident, even—that he could not continue until he had confronted these shadows from the past.

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

and clear away unfinished business. The temptation to destroy the Whitecloaks with his channellers is considerable because in some ways it would do people a favour:

No more fear in the land, no more Whitecloak mock trials.

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

Whitecloaks like everything tidy and ordered, and this includes people. A more ethical solution would be to pull them into society. Like the Aes Sedai they are so antithetical to, the Whitecloaks hold themselves apart, and consequently their behaviour as a group is selfish, even pathological.

Balwer has told Perrin that Galad has the bulk of the remaining Children, but he hasn’t told Perrin who he used to be, or explained how he knows this stuff. Perrin just accepts him as he is – as wolves do.

Perrin is peeved with himself for not trying to find Faile in the dream as he has the Whitecloaks. But this is an error: in Winter’s Heart, Flags, he did try to find Faile in the dream when she was first captured, but that was before the Shaido camped in one place for any length of time and so they did not show there. Hopper sent Perrin back before his body died and when he awoke he found himself in Berelain’s tent, and the rumours started. When the Shaido were in Malden, he could have found her in Tel’aran’rhiod, and could have used “need” to speed up his search of the very large camp.

Hopper sneaks up on Perrin in the dream, showing him that his focus is too narrow. Perrin tells Hopper he’s ready to learn, but then Hopper realises Perrin can’t copy what wolves do. For one thing, Perrin doesn’t have wolf memories. A cub isn’t learning from nothing, it is being ‘reminded’, its memories woken.

Just as the Dreamwalkers did with Egwene, Hopper tries to explain to Perrin that the body sleeps while his mind dreams and if his mind comes into Tel’aran’rhiod too strongly it doesn’t go back to his body. Also, if he stays too long and ignores his body’s needs he dies.

Wolves accept men/things as they are, but then have no insight into how they work. People determine how things work so they can change them.

Hopper takes Perrin to Emond’s Field to instruct him to use it as his image of home to keep from over-projecting in the dream. But home to Perrin is now where Faile is. Symbolic of this, Emond’s Field has changed a lot since he last saw it. Strength in Tel’aran’rhiod is personal strength of mind, so that you do what you want, and not what someone else wants. Balance is the key as everywhere: always be ready for an attack, but never hold on too strong.

They encounter Wrongness, as Hopper describes it, (or an example of it, see essay) – a violet dome which is the dreamspike being tested.

Ituralde POV

As a tribute to Ituralde’s generalship, he stymied the Shadowspawn attack enough that they have set up trebuchets at the river ford rather than outside Maradon.

Ituralde believed Rand’s promises to bring aid to him and to protect Arad Doman from Seanchan:

Promises that Ituralde could live, rather than die trapped by the Seanchan. Promises to give him something to do, something important, something vital. Something impossible.

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

Odd, how he was always retreating toward his homeland. First from the south, now from the northeast.
Arad Doman would be crushed between the Seanchan and the Trollocs. You'd better keep your word, boy.

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

In a way, Ituralde is still defending his homeland, since he is achieving more than Rand, but he won’t live to do anything to Rand if no aid comes. Unfortunately the Saldaeans are not helping him. The Saldaean lord won’t let him into Maradon:

What kind of idiots denied men refuge when an army of Shadowspawn was knocking on their gates?

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

Or ignore a Shadowspawn invasion? The answer, as we learn, is Darkfriends.

As the Domani notice:

"This whole bloody war is wrong," Rajabi said. "We shouldn't be here; it should be the Saldaeans. Their whole army, not only the few horsemen the Lord Dragon gave us."

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

It is part of the Shadow’s tactics to weaken people and nations both physically and mentally with chaos and Wrongness.

Faile POV

Faile and Perrin are comfortable in the Wild:

In some ways, the grassy hilltop had been more comfortable than their tent.

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

which is why they re-cemented their marriage there. They represent the King and Queen of the Wild.

Faile is intimidated by Berelain’s beauty but gains confidence from the knowledge that Perrin loves her. She is convinced Berelain was behind the rumours her maids spread. Rumour is way to rule from a position of weakness. This scene is an exercise for Faile in keeping calm and a cool head while appearing to Berelain to be hot-headed.

Being blunt puts Berelain off-balance, and is a tactic that Cadsuane uses also.

Berelain thinks infidelity is no big deal for a ruler and so suggests that her false rumours about this aren’t that unethical. She discounts Faile’s assertion that Perrin is injured by his honour being impugned:

"He will overcome and he will learn to use rumor for his gain. That will make him stronger as a man and a ruler."

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

Berelain thinks all men are similar, and also that Faile made a marriage of convenience, and therefore the ‘prize’ Berelain has so long coveted is free to be taken from her. Faile convinces Berelain that she will fight her for the slight to Perrin’s honour (and her own).

This is part of the courtly love theme that runs through the Perrin/Faile/Berelain thread, only instead of two knights competing for a capricious lady’s favour, we have two capricious ladies vying for the same knight and thus supremacy over each other. Faile’s challenge (and she deliberately uses this term, which is part of the courtly love ritual) to Berelain over Perrin’s honour was a bluff, but her desire to repair Perrin’s reputation was real.

Had Faile not over-reacted to Berelain, challenging her and competing with her over Perrin, and discussed their marriage with Perrin to form a united front, Berelain could not have done the damage she did. It was not until her captivity forced her to grow that Faile realised her errors. I will discuss this more, particularly Berelain’s part, later in the read-through.

Once Faile issues her challenge, Berelain apparently backs off. Yet it is effectively a feint, since her first offer of appeasement – to chastise her maids for spreading rumours and announce nothing happened - is one that will do no good. Berelain obviously doesn’t want to give up on her game yet.

Faile is not sure if her bluff is called that she could win the fight. Yet a fight would also prove the rumours, as Faile knows; she is just trying to scare Berelain into voluntarily solving her problem. Faile deduces Berelain never expected Faile to escape the Shaido, and therefore made her move openly on Perrin. Berelain still thinks Perrin encouraged her, but Faile pooh-poohs this. She’s right, Berelain is looking for justification. Faile gives Berelain two choices:

"You can fight me, and one of us will die. You're right, that wouldn't end the rumors. But it would end your chances at Perrin. Either you'd be dead, or you'd be the woman who killed his wife.
"Your other choice," Faile said, meeting Berelain's eyes, "is to come up with a way to destroy these rumors once and for all. You caused this mess. You will fix it."

- Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place

Not surprisingly, Berelain chooses the second option and it doesn’t take her long to work out how to kill the rumours, even though Faile wracked her brains in vain for days. The solution is for the two women to convincingly appear friendly, plus for Berelain to formally renounce the rumours. Faile adds that Berelain has to give her attentions to another man.

The relative position of the two contenders – and the likely outcome of this lady-like joust – is indicated by how they address each other: Berelain calls Faile Lady Faile, whereas she calls her Berelain.

Berelain asks Faile if she can put on a convincing act. Faile smiles inwardly because she just did: to the unsuspecting Berelain.

One thing in Berelain’s tent that caught Faile’s eye is the rug with a “twisting ivy” pattern. Ivy symbolises fidelity, marital love and friendship. Being a particularly clinging and invasive vine that climbs over things to get sunlight, it also represents dependence and attachment. These are all issues in this chapter – Berelain has spread rumours against Perrin’s fidelity and tried to destroy Faile’s and Perrin’s marriage. Now they will have to feign friendship to restore his reputation. Perrin is quite dependent on Faile and Berelain climbed all over their marriage trying to advance herself and her nation.


Anonymous said...

i must say that ituralde lives up to his reputation as one of the five great captains. rand showed great wisdom in getting him on his side. even the clan chiefs said he was good, and they don't say many nice things about the wet landers. personally i thought that the wise ones with perrin went a little too far saying that the wet landers couldn't handle the blight. never mind the four border lands held the blight back for 3000+ years.

Linda said...

The groups are chauvinistic - wetlanders call Aiel savages, Aiel think Wetlanders weak adn incompetent, Borderlanders despise southerners, etc.