Friday, June 29, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #26: Chapter 19 - Talk of Dragons



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Olver reveals to Mat he has told a lot of soldiers about the plans to rescue Moiraine from another world. It seems a mistake to let Olver know anything was being planned, but if Olver even had a hint that something was going on behind his back, he would have spied, yet he wouldn’t have passed on Birgitte’s info about the Tower of Ghenjei. His tales to the soldiers of Moiraine’s impending rescue would lend credence to reports of Mat having previously gone into the *Finns’ world and gotten answers, his ashandarei, etc, and thus probably indirectly fuelled those rumours too.

When Mat asks Olver “who taught you to swear?” Olver answers “Mat”, which is true, but Mat is just convinced Olver brushed aside his question and was merely addressing him. Mat rarely takes stock of how others perceive him. He is entirely unselfconscious, as Fool figures are.

Mat is dressed not exactly as a vagabond, but well below his station and appears buffoon-like. He anticipates battles are soon to come; today’s ‘battle’ being with Elayne. At first Mat feels very under-dressed when he sees Thom and Talmanes, then he is defiant. It is his own that he doesn’t need to follow convention and pander to royalty, because he is above both. After all, the Joker trumps all. Yet it is part of his conceit to insist he is a lowly farmer Jack.

Mat holds out hope that he hasn’t been promoted to Seanchan nobility, even though was addressed as Highness. To which Talmanes says:

"Well, Mat," Talmanes said, "you never have made any sense, so why should we expect you to now? Onward, then, to meet the Queen of Andor. Certain you don't want to roll in the mud first?"

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

Fools don’t make sense and tricksters are often dirty. Both defy convention because they get what they want by breaking the rules (see Fool and Trickster articles).

Thom is a magician in the way he transformed himself for this occasion. Once Mat realises what this visit means to Thom, who is returning from exile, he wishes he had worn something nice for Thom’s sake.

Thom is earnest regarding Andor, but Talmanes is a secret wise-cracker. (He has been developed into somewhat of an understudy - and understated – Joker). Watching Talmanes’ tiny twitch of a smile reminds Mat of the effect of winsome smiles in general. Mat needs a lot of money from Elayne, but she is resistant to his smiles, having some of her own. This harkens back to when Elayne suggested Mat practise smiling to catch the eye of the Queen. She was referring to Tylin and her harassment, but Mat caught a much bigger fish – Tuon.

Oh the irony! Mat wants to be a rascally, idle commoner, but instead is a noble consort petitioning a monarch for commercial backing on a manufacturing venture. But entrepreneur is a suitable occupation for a trickster.

Mat’s forces are developing a reputation and Mat himself more so, which will be handy when the attack on Caemlyn comes because they will be looked to for leadership. The large number of forces around Caemlyn will be useful to defend it - if they are all on the right side, and steadfast. Once inside Caemlyn Mat runs his eye over the city from a military point of view and notes that it has some large boulevardes, but also a lot of narrow winding streets, and the palace is very defensible, but needs more barracks. Foreshadowing of a battle there to come. Elayne offers to move the Band closer to Caemlyn and Mat takes her up on it. As it turns out, this will be helpful to defend the city when the Trollocs attack.

It’s amusing that Mat wants to be admired or revered, yet won’t dress up to that. People like to talk about Mat; he is a living legend, as is Rand, but Perrin is much less so. The three ta’veren are like the Hindu triad of Brahma the Creator (Perrin), Vishnu the Preserver (Mat) and Shiva the Destroyer (Rand). Vishnu is greatly worshipped in his own right out of love, Shiva is worshipped as much out of fear of what he might otherwise do as out of love, but Brahma is considerably less worshipped on his own bat compared to the other two gods.

Jordan’s theme of history turning to legend and legend to myth is shown actually happening in this chapter. Mat is said to have:

Hung from a tree for nine days. In fact, Mat was gone a week, but was only hanging from the tree for a very short time. Time passes differently in the *Finns’ world. Like many of these myths in the making, this refers to the Norse god Odin, who hung from the Tree of Life for nine days to gain knowledge.

Never lost at dice or love, and his spear never misses. Mat agrees to the first, but not the other two, yet his success rate with these is well above average. Odin was a gambler noted for his promiscuity and owned a spear which never missed.

Slain one of Forsaken. Mat hasn’t.

Duelled the King of the Aiel invaders and won the Aiel’s loyalty for Rand. Mat did kill Couladin but didn’t persuade any Aiel to follow Rand.

Stepped into death’s domain to challenge him and demand answers. Mat went to the underworld of the Finns, quite an infernal place, really, seeking answers to questions.

Been given a spear as a gift and had his death foretold. True. Jordan explained that Mat died in Caemlyn and lived again after Rand balefired Rahvin. Odin received a spear from the Norse trickster god Loki, who got the dwarves to make gifts for the gods, the spear being one of them. The spear never misses. Mat has parallels to Loki and Odin, all three being shady characters.

Things Mat did have gotten twisted in the telling into myths we recognise, or to events we know never happened.

On learning there are tales about him, Mat denied them unheard:

"I didn't do half of what they say," he grumbled, "and the other half wasn't my bloody fault."

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

Tricksters are glib uses of the phrase “I didn’t do it”. With so many trickster mannerism and references, the reader expects Mat to trick Elayne in some way, but the surprise is that their bargaining scene is played entirely straight and sincerely.

Mat eyes Elayne off, notices she is fatter, and thinks she would make a lovely serving girl. And just a couple of pages earlier he had been wishing that he was in a tavern with pretty serving girl on his knee…

Mat assumed Elayne would be more tiresomely commanding and regal now that she is Queen, which is why he pointedly referred to her as “Elayne” to Guybon (thus confirming in Guybon’s eyes that he is very high-ranked, because the alternative is disregard of the social order on a level unthinkable):

“Elayne. As Queen. Burn him, but this was going to hurt.”

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

But it didn’t because most of the time she wasn’t.

Much of his attitude comes from her efforts to ‘tame’ him and get him to recognise her as his sovereign. There is also a long-standing tussle of obligation on both sides.

Mat was girding himself to refuse to bow and scrape to Elayne, when she takes the wind out of his sails with informality. Defiantly he tells her he won’t bow or call her Your Majesty. She says she doesn’t want him to, unless they are in public when she has to keep up appearances. He concedes that this is reasonable. It is comic how Mat is put completely off –balance by Elayne’s informality:

How had becoming Queen made Elayne less high-and-mighty? Had he missed something? She actually seemed agreeable now!
Well, that was unfair. There were times when she had been agreeable before. They had merely been mixed between times when she had been ordering Mat around.

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

and because he missed the news she is pregnant. As Queen, Elayne now has nothing to prove and doesn’t stand on her dignity unless pressed. Her pregnancy is not the cause, since that tends to make her over-excitable, if anything.

There’s an on-going joke that Mat misses the relationships going on around him, although he denies it:

Thom rolled his eyes. "Don't you ever listen when you're in the city gambling?"
"I listen," Mat muttered. "Usually."

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

But Talmanes noticed that Mat didn’t have a clue about the people in Hinderstap being a little strange:

"Something feels wrong about these folk, Mat." Talmanes spoke very softly, glancing over his shoulder.
"While you've been playing, I've been talking to them. They don't care about the world. The Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan, nothing. Not a care."
"So?" Mat said. "They're simple folk."
"Simple folk should worry even more " Talmanes said. "They're trapped here between gathering armies. But these just shrug when I talk, then drink some more. It's as if they're… they're too focused on their revelry. As if it's all that matters to them."
"Then they're perfect," Mat said.

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

Likewise Mat is too focussed on revelry and it blinds him to what is going on around him.

But finally to business:

”With fifty dragons and two hundred and fifty soldiers she [Aludra] could knock down a wall like the one around Caemlyn in a few hours."

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

News enough to make any ruler sweat. Aludra and Mat just made the current designs of fortresses somewhat obsolete, and the world a lot less safer.

Mat tells of his tactics for using them on Trollocs: a spreading shot on a line of Trollocs from 400 paces.

Elayne realises this is exactly what she was lacking.

The dragons will use a lot of resources to save manpower to kill more manpower on the other side. With this mass destruction, Egwene’s dream of Mat bowling over the masses is about to come true.

Thom is proud of Elayne trying to out-bargain Mat because she was his pupil during the journey to and from Tanchico. Mat objects:

"I put a lot of effort and thought into getting these plans out of Aludra.”

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

What does Aludra get from either Mat or Elayne, I wonder? So far: heartache from Mat. And no, I’m not suggesting money mends a broken heart, but that she is being over-looked here.

Mat insists on keeping the Band independent of Elayne. Instead she will hire them and they will have exclusive access to the dragons.

"I'm only suggesting reasonable solutions."
"The day you become reasonable is the day I eat my hat," Mat said. "No offense."

Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons

Mat insisted on the right to have a portion of what he and Aludra designed. He uses the foxhead medallion to bribe Elayne to order production on a “prototype” (modern word) immediately. To get one in four dragons he has to loan her the medallion for three days. This gives her enough time to study and copy it; one day wouldn’t have been enough.

He tells her the gholam is in Caemlyn. She didn’t know. This sets up the cooperative effort to kill it.

Mat is content to have the Band under contract to Andor immediately. Elayne plans to use them to quell possible objections in Cairhien. However the Band has to be free to fight as Rand wants in the Last Battle. In reality this may be as Mat directs, not Rand, because he is the better general and Rand say fighting is not his task.

Aludra has to supervise the dragons, and Elayne cannot sell Aludra’s ”technology” (another modern word) to others – to gain their favour for instance. Elayne is dissatisfied, and justifies her commercial and political intentions with the point that others will copy the Dragons anyway. Mat counters that they will be inferior copies. This reminded me of Elayne’s copies of various ter’angreal which were inferior to the originals.

Elayne still wants the Band under her full control. Mat says tough; he’d like a hat made of gold, a tent that can fly and a horse that excretes diamonds.It’s a trickster sort of joke, but Mat has a serious intent. The Band would have to do what Elayne said if they had a commission with her. It’s unspoken, but her tactics won’t be as good as Mat’s. Mat insists on being responsible for his men, one of the few things (the other being Tuon) that he has been voluntarily responsible about. He vows he will do what is right. Elayne says he will do what he sees as right, to which Mat says that every man should have that option. A disadvantage of monarchical society is that people are beholden to those above them on the social scale. Actually it’s a weakness of any hierarchical system that the viability of the organisation is dependent on the skill and wisdom – and luck too! - of its managers.

Thom laughs when Mat says he bargained against Elayne pretty well. While it may seem that neither came out ahead particularly, given their relative social standing and starting points, that’s actually a fairly unconventional result. Normally the monarch/backer wins. The one who hasn’t “won” much is the person who supplied the knowledge, skill and creativity – Aludra.

Elayne is much worried about the Two Rivers, and thought Mat might know she may have to put down an insurrection there (this is a reference to Perrin raising Manetheren and being called Lord of the Two Rivers). Mat is very surprised. And doubtful.

Elayne pardons Thom and wants him known for what he is when he is in Caemlyn, but otherwise he isn’t tied to her court. Thom realised that Elayne deduced he killed King Galldrian. She probably learned in Tear or on the way to Tanchico that Thom was in Cairhien at that time, and guessed that he was the killer. It had to be someone good to get past Galldrian’s defences, as well as with a motive. Mat wonders if he should get a pardon from Elayne in advance, for safety’s sake. Foreshadowing?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

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.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #24: Chapter 17 - Partings and a Meeting



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Mat POV

If Mat knew what chemicals Aludra had in her supply wagon, he wouldn’t have slept under it. At this time they are the only things in the world that can do as much damage as the One Power he so fears. It makes me shake my head to think of Mat unknowingly sleeping under a wagon full of explosives in a camp where everyone lights fires and Aludra also has phosphorus... (If you want a refresher on Aludra’s chemicals and need for bellfounders, see Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article).

Mat is careful not to upset Aludra because she has something he wants: knowledge. He feels he is Aludra’s messenger boy; a familiar feeling to him, since he’s delivered a lot of messages over the series, showing he is a parallel of Hermes, Ancient Greek messenger to the gods. Aludra, the inventor of matches and gunpowder weapons, is a fire goddess, and Mat has “stolen” her fire (see Mat essay), although without him she cannot afford to develop her ideas. Backers are never cheap: look at how Elayne takes her cut.

Mat is both rich and yet a vagabond at the same time:

One of the best things about having money was not having to sleep in ditches. There were beggars who spent nights better than this.

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

With bits of straw in his hair, he looks like he has been in a briarstitch patch, according to Thom; a reference to Brer Rabbit, one of Mat’s trickster parallels (see Tricksters essay). The parallels are piling up in this chapter.

The Aes Sedai are taking quite a few of Mat’s most skilled people with them to Tar Valon: Juilin, Vanin, Domon, and Egeanin - two intelligence gatherers and two fighters, one of them knowledgeable about the Seanchan. Since the Aes Sedai don’t know Travelling, it will take the group quite a while to reach Tar Valon. It is about 43 days until the field of Merrilor. Presumably the group will be needed in Tar Valon before Mat gets there, or Mat won’t have time to collect them when he goes to Tar Valon. Maybe they are being saved from destruction in the battle of Caemlyn.

All characters write off Juilin’s beloved Thera as too timid to be of significance, but I wonder if she helps save someone at Tar Valon. Vanin is supposed to return to Andor with the soldiers once they deliver Joline and Teslyn, but I expect that he will be kept in Tar Valon by circumstance.

Egeanin is wearing dull grey, the colour damane wear and presumably signifying low rank. Ever since she realised she had to leave Ebou Dar, she has intended to go to the White Tower. She doesn’t say why. Does she plan to tell the Aes Sedai that sul’dam can learn to channel to save herself from the Seekers?

Instead, I think Egeanin probably rescues Egwene as was forewarned in Egwene’s dream:

Abruptly, the ledge dropped away from under her with the crack of crumbling stone, and she caught frantically at the cliff, fingers scrabbling to find a hold. Her fingertips slid into a tiny crevice, and her fall stopped with a jolt that wrenched her arms. Feet dangling into the clouds, she listened to the falling stone crash against the cliff until the sound faded to nothing without the stone ever hitting the ground. Dimly, she could see the broken ledge to her left. Ten feet away, it might as well have been a mile off for all the chance she had of reaching it. In the other direction, the mists hid whatever remained of the path, but she thought it had to be farther away still. There was no strength in her arms. She could not pull herself up, only hang there by her fingertips until she fell. The edge of the crevice seemed as sharp as a knife under her fingers.

Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent…

She had dreamed of a Seanchan before, a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night

The Seanchan woman tied to Egwene is Mat’s wife, Tuon, whereas this Seanchan is armed as a soldier (see Egwene's Dreams article for more).

When Mat is open about Tuon, as sul’dam, being able to learn to channel, Seta and Bethamin lower their eyes. If the Empress could be damane, then the whole empire loses face. They also might have lowered their eyes on behalf of Mat, who has married someone that could be collared. And a third reason for their downcast eyes is that the two former sul’dam feel bad that they are a danger. Mat encourages them to learn all they can and contribute. He gives them hope:

"Go with the Aes Sedai," Mat said. "I'll give you your own horses, so you don't have to rely on them. Learn to channel. That'll be more use than dying. Maybe someday you two can convince Tuon of the truth. Help me find a way to fix this without causing the Empire to collapse."
The two women looked to him, more firm and confident, suddenly. "Yes, Highness,"
Bethamin said. "It is a good purpose for us to have. Thank you, Highness."
Seta actually got tears in her eyes!

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

This is probably the nicest thing he said in this chapter. Finally he has insight into how Rand felt when he discovered he could channel and his friends (Mat most of all) looked on him as a monster.

If Tuon is stripped of her position after her channelling ability is revealed, her husband may become property and hence gain ravens on his shoulders as per Egwene’s dream:

…two ravens alighted on his shoulders, claws sinking through his coat into the flesh beneath. He seemed no more aware of them than Perrin had been of the hawk and the falcon, yet the defiance passed across his face, and then grim acceptance.

- Lord Of Chaos, A Pile of Sand

However, since he is unaware of the marks, the dream is more likely to mean that, as Prince of the Ravens, Mat already symbolically is marked with the ravens.

Joline is forcing herself to show proper gratitude and not be arrogant. Aes Sedai are not used to owing people, or feeling obliged to acknowledge it. Teslyn, however, has learned that there are much worse things than showing gratitude and politeness. Despite being under obligation, Joline tells Mat she wants to tame him. She probably won’t get the opportunity herself, but may witness someone else trying to “do the job properly”, as she describes it.

Mat gives Joline a gift of sweetbuns (spiked) and then says the soldiers and horses are on loan on condition the Aes Sedai tell the Amyrlin that Mat needs to reclaim something of his (the Horn) and he doesn’t mean to be bloody turned away. Teslyn is amused at having to quote this to the Amyrlin. There is more fun in her than appears. She believes they will be telling Elaida (and would like to do down Elaida after what she did to Teslyn) because Elaida would not have abdicated. It’s true: Elaida wouldn’t have.

Mat thinks the Amyrlin is Egwene, and

“he had a sinking feeling that the Aes Sedai had wrapped poor Egwene up in their schemes so soundly that she would never escape. He had half a mind to ride up there himself and see if he could get her out.

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

is foreshadowing that perhaps he will. If so, her position may be under threat. The Seanchan invasion intends to make it so. It could be, though, that she rescues him. He is patronising here – but then Egwene is often patronising too.

Does Mat arrive at the Tower while the Seanchan are there? Does Caemlyn delay him?

Mat plays a practical joke on Joline; to get back to his roots, he says. These are as a fool – and one whose tricks usually go wrong (see Fool and Joker essay). I wonder if Mat’s joke on Joline has unexpected repercussions. Perhaps it delays their arrival at Tar Valon until the “right” time, or they are holed up somewhere along the way while the blueness wears off and do something important. The joke amuses Thom, who is also a fool character (and a magician, too, as we see later in the book). But maybe the joke goes nowhere, but was just a filler to showcase Mat’s tricksterish-ness. In this chapter the roots of Mat’s character are really obvious, with several of his parallels and themes shown. Not the heroic, warfare or underworld ones though.

Setalle’s former life as an Aes Sedai has been much in her mind lately, but she has put it aside and is now thinking of her husband and family rather than the Tower:

"The past is gone," she replied. "And I need to leave it be. I should never have even asked to see the item you wear. These last few weeks have made me forget myself."

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

Maybe she would suit the Kin if someone could Heal her, but no one has restored a burned out channeller yet. I would really like her to regain her ability, but then I wanted Reanne to become Aes Sedai and that didn’t happen.

Setalle is amused that Mat is unconscious that he has corrupted Olver. Olver sees him as a mentor and is slavishly copying him.


Elayne POV

Even in the heart of Andor, plants are Blighted – but not as much as in most places. The relative immunity to the Dark One is due to Elayne’s bond with Rand.

Typical of someone young, beautiful and powerful, Elayne acts like she is bulletproof:

"I'm safe, Birgitte. Nothing will happen to me."

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

This litany is repeated all through the book. Min’s viewing of her babies being born healthy and strong has convinced Elayne she is temporarily invincible. She is obviously riding for a fall, and not just at the hands of Darkfriends as happens in this book.

Elayne thinks that she can use the Kin’s newfound boldness to her advantage, but Alise warns her not to get carried away:

"You've asked much of us while we've been here, Your Majesty. No more than I felt you had a right to ask. So far."

- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting

Sumeko is solely focussed on returning to Tower, but even if she weren’t, she is not politically adept anyway, whereas Alise is. Alise is wearing blue, which might have been a good Ajah for her, if Aes Sedai accepted weak channellers. She assumed the Kin could remain in Caemlyn. The Kin are annoyed to learn they lived their lives in fear of discovery for centuries while Aes Sedai used them. It is a particularly nasty example of Aes Sedai manipulation. No wonder Alise refuses to become servant to Aes Sedai, now they have been shown to be undeserving, and wants to channel openly and as she wishes. Otherwise any deal is probably not on. Fair enough too. The Kin have been shown to be far more worthy, giving far more aid to society, in the past as much as now, than Aes Sedai.

The Kin is a large organisation and the Aes Sedai can’t treat them, and other weak channellers, like dirt any longer. They have the power of numbers, and know how to link, too. Good for them. Aes Sedai would never agree to retire into the Kin either, if it meant they were going to be treated badly.

Elayne wants free Healing, but will pay for Travelling. Alise immediately sees what Elayne is after: gateways and Healing for her troops. On the Kin’s behalf she demands half of the fees Elayne will charge.

Alise will speak for those Kin who won’t go to the Tower. Elayne suggests the Kin change their rules – eg to marry if they wish. This would make them a viable alternative to the Tower. I can see that they may end up doing much of their own training. Elayne would also like them to promote on merit, not age. Alise says Elayne verges on having her own White Tower. What excellent judgment and insight she has. Under her, if she is spared, the Kin will be force to be reckoned with. Elayne has quite a bit to persuading to do to get Egwene’s agreement. She is somewhat more blithe about it than she should be.

Elayne aims to have at least equal military capability as the Seanchan. She assumes Rand’s armies will be unable to repel the Seanchan and they will invade Andor. She doesn’t recognise the likelihood of the Seanchan striking at Tar Valon again, even though she expects they will get Travelling soon. And she knows they have Elaida. But she correctly judges that Tuon wants all Hawkwing’s former lands. Elayne’s aim is to be able to counter damane in battle. She won’t use the Kin, but ponders using the Black Tower. This leads into her encounter with Mat and his plans for cannon.

In Elayne’s garden, a pot of bluebells recently flowered in the colour of blood, and bled red, too, when they were cut.

Bluebells have complex, and in some ways ambivalent, symbolism. On the one hand, they symbolise gratitude and faithfulness. But in Britain they are also associated with death (or maybe more the fragility of life) and are often planted on graves.

The flowers are also closely linked to fairies and are sometimes called "fairy thimbles." In folk belief, bluebells are rung to call the fairies to a meeting. Another name for bluebells is Dead Man's bells, due to the belief that fairies cast spells on those who picked or damaged the beautiful flowers. They are also believed to thin the walls between worlds and realities. In folklore people are said to have been found lost in strange states in bluebell woods.

The fairly folk, Aes Sidhe, are a parallel of the Aes Sedai. Andor now has a “fairy Queen” and this example of the warping of the Pattern has warned her that death is coming to her realm. She herself is soon to be off to a meeting which will include many other Aes Sedai, and while she is gone her city will be attacked by Shadowspawn brought by the Ways, along a path between realities.

A new instrument of death is about to be developed in her land, the cannon, and the bodies of these will be cast by bellfounders linking to the death and bell symbolism of the flowers. Elayne drove a hard bargain with Mat to supply the resources for them, despite being under obligation to him, and wanting them for her military plans. The motif of her unwilling gratitude has been ongoing for some books. (Actually, Aes Sedai are notorious for ingratitude.) Talmanes is afraid that the Shadow are going to target the cannon.

The flower that signifies thinning between worlds is itself showing the result of the Dark One Blighting things through that thinning.

So the little bell-shaped flowers that normally are rung for a fairy meeting are tolling for the dead in advance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dreamers, Foretellers and Mystics



By Linda


By the end of the Age of Legends, the Da’shain Aiel relied on Dreamers seeing into the future to guide their decisions (as do their descendants, the Aiel). These women didn’t, probably couldn’t, channel, although a small percentage of their children could, just as in the rest of the population. As the Da’shain prepare to leave Paaren Disen (Paradise) at the start of the Breaking, one of them, Alnora, is asked if she has dreamed in the hope she can give some guidance. She answers:

“Of no time soon,” she murmured. “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” Smiling tremulously, she touched his cheek. “With you I know it will be so, husband of my heart.”

- The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated

Alnora, who perished in the chaos and destruction of the Breaking, quoted a well-known English mystic, Julian of Norwich (ca. 1342 – ca 1416), who wrote that:

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

was told her by God about the Future in a religious vision.

Julian of Norwich lived in a particularly hard and dangerous time of plague, food shortages, labour shortages, social unrest, usurpation, religious persecution, and anarchy. The Papacy had left Rome and was in exile in Avignon. Very near where Julian lived, Lollards, early Protestants, were being burnt. Yet her message was of divine hope and love rather than calls to repent and threats of hell-fire:

”There be deeds evil done in our sight, and so great harms taken, that it seemeth to us that it were impossible that ever it should come to good end. That Great Deed ordained…by which our Lord God shall make all things well.”

“And I saw truly that nothing is done by hap nor by adventure, but all things by the foreseeing wisdom of God: if it be hap or adventure in the sight of man, our blindness and our unforesight is the cause.”

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

The end of the Age of Legends is comparable to the horrors of the Fourteenth century. Once able to touch the world, the Dark One overturned order to bring despair, fear and anger and undermine the Light. The advanced civilisation collapsed during the War and the Breaking of the World which followed. The Aes Sedai are parallels of the Catholic church, and they were divided, firstly by losing half their number to the Shadow, and then by the men going mad. At the time Alnora told of her dream the Aes Sedai were preparing to evacuate Paaren Disen and the Hall of Servants.

Julian had her visions of revelation during a very severe illness, and when she recovered they were written down, as the Foretellings in the Age of Legends likewise were. However, as far as we know, predictive dreams or readings of the Dream weren’t recorded (although Corianin Nedeal recorded her experiences in Tel’aran’rhiod in the Third Age).

Her present being so horrible, Julian looked for comfort that the future would turn out well. She tried to see the future of a particular person to be reassured about their well-being but was shown that people are only allowed to know the general shape of the future for ease of mind and to know God’s plans better, rather than a specific fate of someone.

One of Julian’s visions was a vision of the Messiah’s sacrifice for love of the world; she saw his death. The Great Deed she wrote of, by which God will make all things well is the:

Deed the which the blessed Trinity shall do in the Last Day, as to my sight, and when the Deed shall be, and how it shall be done, is unknown…

And the cause why He willeth that we know [this Deed shall be], is for that He would have us the more eased in our soul and [the more] set at peace in love.

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Wheel of Time seers may learn the future of an individual but it may be cryptic, or a small piece of the Pattern, or only a possibility. Even Rand, broadly parallel to Christ (who figured large in Julian’s visions), is likewise the subject of many predictions, but they are each fragments.

Da’shain looked to the Dream for guidance as to the Pattern. What Dreamers see is less likely to come true than the predictions of a Foreteller, but it is much more detailed (see Divining the Pattern article). Julian’s visions were very vivid and detailed.

The Age of Legends Aes Sedai rail against the fragmentary visions of the Pattern they have been granted:

“What good is your Foretelling,” Oselle was almost shouting, “if you cannot tell us when?” Her long black hair swayed as she shook with anger. “The world rests on this! The future! The Wheel itself!”
Dark-eyed Deindre faced her with a more usual calm. “I am not the Creator. I can only tell you what I Foretell.”

- The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated

but the purpose of what they see is to set their souls at ease and given them encouragement and guidance on the working out of the Pattern.

Alnora dreamed that all will be well in the end - but not soon. She knows it will be well with her husband; he will live long and guide the Da’shain through the early Breaking as well as anyone could. It is implied that she saw Rand’s advent to sacrifice himself for humanity to save mankind from the Shadow – his Great Deed. To achieve it he needs his two ta’veren boyhood friends. They are a trinity, which is why they are connected telepathically. Another trinity will be the two women that Rand takes with him to Shayol Ghul, and with whom he intends to link to use Callandor. (These are Nynaeve and Moiraine, see the Towers of Midnight cover).

In The Shadow Rising, the Windfinder Jorin repeats Alnora’s quote of Julian as an indication that the Sea Folk have strong links to the Age of Legends, (perhaps mostly due to their care for the Amayar):

“If it pleases the Light,” Jorin said fatalistically, “all will be well. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well, if it pleases the Light.”

- The Shadow Rising, Winds Rising

and that some accept the will of the Pattern to the point of fatalism. She sounds less certain than Alnora, but then she is only quoting, not experiencing prophecy directly herself. Other characters repeat fragments of this quote, usually “all will be well”.

Julian’s view of evil is that suffering is not a punishment inflicted by God, and that people sin because they are ignorant or foolish, not because they are evil. This is very different to the usual teaching of the Church in medieval times and is a Boethian view of evil: that evil is only the absence of good and not an active thing in itself.

The trouble with this view is that it is both highly counter-intuitive and in many circumstances extremely dangerous. One might, for instance, conclude that the proper response to it would be to become a conscientious objector. Evil after all is, according to Boethius, more harmful to the malefactor than to the victim and those who do it (or appear to do it) are more to be pitied than feared or fought.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

Her view has much in common with the Da’shain Aiel, who epitomise the heights the Age of Legends reached. Most people in the Age of Legends did not believe in evil because the existence of the Dark One had been forgotten until a hole was drilled in his prison. During the War of Power, there were conscientious objectors who tried to make accommodation with the Shadow, even when it was shown to be futile at best (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). The Da’shain, sworn to non-violence, maintained their pacifist stance throughout the War. Even after the War of Power, the Tinkers, who follow the Da’shain’s covenant to do no violence, still have the view that evil harms the doer and that there is no justification for killing:

"It means that no man should harm another for any reason whatsoever." The Seeker's eyes flickered to Elyas. "There is no excuse for violence. None. Not ever."
"What if somebody attacks you?" Perrin insisted. "What if somebody hits you, or tries to rob you, or kill you?"
Raen sighed, a patient sigh, as if Perrin was just not seeing what was so clear to him. "If a man hit me, I would ask him why he wanted to do such a thing. If he still wanted to hit me, I would run away, as I would if he wanted to rob or kill me. Much better that I let him take what he wanted, even my life, than that I should do violence. And I would hope that he was not harmed too greatly."
"But you said you wouldn't hurt him," Perrin said.
"I would not, but violence harms the one who does it as much as the one who receives it."

- The Eye of the World, The Travelling People

If the followers of the Way of the Leaf are attacked and cannot escape, they accept their fate as the will of the Pattern.

Julian’s message of divine love:

And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'
Thus I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us.
And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end ...

- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

is equivalent to Rand’s revelation at his epiphany:

Why? Why must they do this over and over? The world could give him no answers.
Rand raised his arms high, a conduit of power and energy. An incarnation of death and destruction. He would end it. End it all and let men rest, finally, from their suffering.
Stop them from having to live over and over again. Why? Why had the Creator done this to them? Why?
Why do we live again? Lews Therin asked, suddenly. His voice was crisp and distinct.
Yes, Rand said, pleading. Tell me. Why?
Maybe . . . Lews Therin said, shockingly lucid, not a hint of madness to him. He spoke softly, reverently. Why? Could it be . . . Maybe it's so that we can have a second chance.
Why? Rand thought with wonder. Because each time we live, we get to love again,
That was the answer. It all swept over him, lives lived, mistakes made, love changing everything. He saw the entire world in his mind's eye, lit by the glow in his hand. He remembered lives, hundreds of them, thousands of them, stretching to infinity. He remembered love, and peace, and joy, and hope.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

At the last Rand realises that the point of creation and the endless cycle of time was love, just as Julian learned from God when she was in extremis.

Julian of Norwich’s message has had an influence on the philosophy of the series and the function of prophecy. It was quoted by a Da’shain Aiel Dreamer, Alnora, who may have Dreamed that the Dragon would be Reborn to save the world.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #23: Chapter 16 - Shanna'har



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Faile POV

Faile is tallying up things she needs to deal with: Perrin’s guilt, Berelain’s lies, fairness, the camp and the needs of thousands of people.

Like many young women, she is appalled at the thought that her life, and worse still, perhaps she herself, might turn out like her mother. She admits to herself the reasons why she ran away from home - the desire for adventure and rebellion at being expected to do her duty, even though, unlike many, she has the ability and training to do it well – and that she has been very immature and selfish. It was the seemingly fated or inevitability of her life, the predictability, that she hated. Aviendha is another young woman who objected to her duty to be a Wise One and the prophesied events of her life. Many people in these chaotic and anarchical times would be glad to have the certainty of a valuable role or some knowledge of where their life was headed, especially since Aviendha’s is not a bad fate.

Now Faile is ironically grateful to her mother, whose assessment of her was accurate, as Faile recognises:

Looking back at herself only a few years before, she was amazed to realize that she saw a spoiled, self-centered child. Leaving the Borderlands to become a Hunter for the Horn? She'd abandoned duties, home and family. What had she been thinking?

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

A few years? More like only a few months ago she was still spoiled.

This had a good outcome, but that is no excuse for her behaviour. Rightly, Faile is ashamed of making Perrin walk through the Ways alone. She did not realise the danger – only the adventure – until she saw the Black Wind in action. At that stage she was the runaway princess who was making her knight jump through hoops to prove his worthiness (see Faile essay).

Deira explained Faile’s role, but did not give her a good reason for it:

Her mother had warned her what would happen to her, had told her what was expected of her, and Faile had worried that she would feel trapped by life.
But what Deira hadn't mentioned was how fulfilling it would be. Perrin made the difference. It was no trap at all to be caught with him.

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

There was no guarantee Faile would feel fulfilled; it is an added extra, a reward for following the Pattern, but it is not essential. She should do her duty regardless, to Deira’s way of thinking.

Faile likens the quartermaster to a mixed-breed dog, a mongrel. She is aware that she is being hoodwinked by Bavin’s creative book-keeping, but not how. He probably keeps a double set of books and Faile sees the innocent ones. It is good to see that Faile runs the camp along egalitarian lines, and deftly reins Bavin in.

Food rotted in the time that she looked at the ledgers. This is a new occurrence for Perrins’ camp but not elsewhere:

She noted with displeasure that the bunch of wild scallions beside the pathway had spoiled in the moments since she'd seen them last, their stalks melted and runny, as if they'd been rotting in the sun for weeks. These spoilings had begun only recently inside of camp, but by reports, it happened far more frequently out in the countryside.

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

The Pattern is healthier around the three ta’veren, more vital and fertile – but finally the fraying is beginning to be evident even where they are. At this time, Rand had recently Balefired Semirhage and Elza with the True Power to the detriment of his spiritual and psychological well-being, and consequently the health of the Land.


Perrin POV

Perrin is beating himself up over his failings: brutality, growing callous, and refusing to be manipulated or sacrifice himself.

Faile asks why he fights being a leader.

You're a lord now, and you can't let it be known that capturing your subjects will undermine your rule. Do you think Queen Morgase would abdicate to tyrants who kidnapped her subjects? No leader could rule that way. Your inability to stop evil men does not make you evil yourself."

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

Morgase surrendered to the Whitecloaks so they would help her oust a usurper.

There is a strong vein of Tinker-like beliefs in Perrin in the way he deplores violence and violent feelings. He never aspired to a high position; he only wanted a quiet life and to go back to the simple life after the Last Battle. He can’t of course. Like everywhere else, the Two Rivers won’t be the same ever again, no matter how hard he wishes:

"I could find someplace else," he said, feeling stubborn. "There are other villages. They won't all change."

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

Reluctantly he realises that in order to keep Faile he can’t be a nobody.

She says she would sacrifice her position if he really wanted to. All very noble resolutions on both sides…

Perrin doesn’t know what he wants for their life afterwards. Faile points out that if they settle somewhere else the Two Rivers will be without a lord. Which is fine by Perrin, because he would rather they stop treating him as one – and stop wanting one. But the Two Rivers folk have seen lords and they have been joined by refugees that are used to them. Again, no going back.

While Perrin doesn’t feel adequate for the job himself, he doesn’t want someone else doing it because he can’t trust that someone else would do a better job than him and:

Still, the thought of someone else taking control—someone else being lord—filled him with intense anxiety. And a surprising amount of sadness.

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

For one thing, someone else might take on the job for the wrong reasons.

It is their first wedding anniversary soon, although these landmarks aren’t celebrated in the Two Rivers. (It’s in keeping with the Two Rivers’ unchanging society that they don’t notice the date, as we saw when Egwene had to calculate the date on her fingers in Crossroads of Twilight.) An exception is Tam and Kari al’Thor, who did celebrate theirs even though it is not the custom. In Saldaea, where the climate is severe, people celebrate their anniversary in early summer, whatever the date they were married on. (In such places, they would tend to have the ceremony in summer anyway, due to the difficulty of travel in winter.) Being still together means neither partner has been killed by the Shadow. This is very telling of how grim and harsh life is there.

Perrin is inclined to think that enjoying themselves is frivolous; he won’t fiddle while Rome burns. Faile is not asking for that, just an evening together. The really terrible times mean they should appreciate the good things they have all the more.

Because they speak the same language, it is easy to overlook the cultural gap between them. Faile thinks she has grown more sensitive to Two Rivers culture, but she tells Perrin that not celebrating a wedding anniversary is backward.

When she says:

But I have asked much from you to adapt to my ways. I thought, tonight, I would try to adapt to yours."

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

He is very touched.

Faile is not put off by Perrin’s lack of table manners, though she objects to his wanting meat for breakfast.

With the privacy, he opens up to her on his feelings of inadequacy and of being a beast. He apprehends that if Faile is taken, he would be manipulated:

But if you are used against me, nothing will matter. I'd do anything to protect you, Faile. Anything."

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

She is his one weakness, being all he has since his entire family was murdered. Faile says all leaders have weaknesses, even great leaders. Perrin is a perfectionist, slow and careful, and while taking pains can be good in a leader, it can also slow him down.

She is flattered at the evidence that she means so much to him, just so long as he values her for her competencies. His good points are:

You are driven. Given a problem to solve, no matter how grand, and you will see it done."

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

Perrin had his banners burned so he can’t lead. If he can’t master himself, he can’t master anyone:

Not until I know if I can master the wolf. How could he explain? Explain that he feared the way it took control when he fought, when he wanted something too badly? He would not rid himself of the wolves; they had become too much a part of him. But where would he leave his people, where would he leave Faile, if he lost himself to what was inside of him?

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

This is true, really. The image of Noam, and what Moiraine said, haunts him. Moiraine meant well, but she did not have full knowledge, and misled Perrin. It is up to Hopper, his animal spirit guide, to train him.

Perrin shares his burden with Faile. She is grateful for the trust he has shown in her, and then reciprocates. Perrin thinks he told everything – but did not say he has a psychic link to Rand; Faile held back about Rolan and Masema, two men she killed for different reasons.

She'd been worried that he'd get himself killed trying to rescue her—she didn't say it, but he could infer it. How well she knew him.

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

Perrin did neglect himself almost to death trying to find her.

He is not as accurate in understanding her feelings for Rohan.

Perhaps she'd felt a fondness for him, and didn't wish Perrin to regret killing him. That wasn't necessary. Those Brotherless had been with the Shaido, and they had attacked and killed men under Perrin's protection. No act of kindness would redeem that. They deserved their deaths.

Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har

Perrin realises that the Whitecloaks had made similar judgements about him. He does not suspect she killed Masema. Faile’s guilt is that she felt Rolan did not deserve to die, but killed him lest he kill Perrin.

Faile is satisfied that Perrin showed he believed her to be brave and capable – which she is.

Finally they are a properly united couple and trust and accept each other. It took a while, but then such things can do. Both these characters have moved to the next stage of development and with this comes the realisation that having moved on, they can’t go back. They go through a couple of other stages, but progress has been acknowledged.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Something A Bit Different



By Linda


This post is the result of a cold and very wet long weekend, in which for once I have the opportunity to read and think and hopefully recover from a low grade virus that has dogged me for over a week. (The read-through posts are rewarding but their demanding timetable doesn’t really allow me to explore other areas at length.)

Anyway, I was reading Tom Shippey’s J.R. R. Tolkien; Author of the Century for reasons which will become obvious below, when this passage caught my eye:

A further feature which as far as I know no one has ever tried seriously to copy is Tolkien’s structuring of The Lord of the Rings, his use of narrative threads. For one thing the very careful chronological positioning, the cross-checking of dates or distances and phases of the moon would be hard to do accurately…

Yet on the next page Shippey mentions Robert Jordan as one of a group of modern fantasy authors whose works show

the importance of language, the importance of names, and the necessity for a feeling of historical depth

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

(which I agree with, especially regarding the names and history), so he knows of The Wheel of Time series. It is therefore surprising that Shippey didn’t notice that The Wheel of Time has more narrative threads than The Lord of the Rings and their complex timing (before The Gathering Storm, anyway) is very precisely interlaced. The alternative is that Shippey didn’t read the works of an author that he is recommending. Yet Shippey rails against literary critics who deplore an absence in Tolkien’s work of something that is actually there. So go figure.

He also says:

No one, perhaps, is ever again going to emulate Tolkien in sheer quantity of effort, in building up the maps and the languages and the histories and the mythologies of one invented world…

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

I would argue that Jordan has done just that in three out of those four areas of world-building. For instance, Jordan has catalogued histories and traits not only of minor characters, but even of characters we haven’t seen yet (and maybe never will).

However, Shippey does say that several of Tolkien’s emulators

may have superseded him, used his work only as a starting point for quite different directions , even in some respects to have outdone him.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

This I do strongly agree with, and believe that Jordan is one of these authors. On the whole I found J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century to be insightful and well-written.

And now onto some comments on evil as portrayed by Jordan. Some years ago I wrote an essay on the End-Times (Eschatology) of the Wheel of Time series, which of necessity touched on the theology and I’ve been doing background reading prior to giving it a much needed expansion and update. (For those who are interested, the essay will be split into three). Shippey’s book is part of my research, since he discusses views of evil:

The Boethian view is that there is no such thing as evil, evil is only the absence of good. Furthermore, people in their ignorance often identify as evil things (like being under sentence of death) which are in fact and in the long run, or in the divine plan, to their advantage. Corollaries of this belief are that evil cannot create, “not real new things of its own”, and furthermore it was not created, it arose when human beings exercised their free will – withdrawing their service and their intentions from God.

The trouble with this view is that it is both highly counter-intuitive and in many circumstances extremely dangerous. One might, for instance, conclude that the proper response to it would be to become a conscientious objector. Evil after all is, according to Boethius, more harmful to the malefactor than to the victim and those who do it (or appear to do it) are more to be pitied than feared or fought.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

This is the attitude that the Tinkers have. They speak of accepting the will of the Pattern, never fighting back when violence is committed against them or others. This is not due to cowardice, since they aren’t afraid to die when their time comes; an example being the Da’shain who stood and sang to a mad male channeller while killed them, thus buying time for others to escape. They believe that violence harms the perpetrator as much as the victim (The Eye of the World, The Travelling People).

We then get the bizarre extreme of the Amayar: conscientious objectors conscientiously killing themselves due to the certainty that the Dark One will break the Pattern they have been accepting and not wanting to ‘be there’ to be corrupted or destroyed by the Dark One when this happens. Considerate of them to spare the Dark One being further corrupted.

The alternative is that evil does exist, and is not merely an absence, and what is more it has to be resisted and fought, not by all means available, but by all means virtuous; and what is even more, not doing so, in the belief that one day Omnipotence will cure all ills, is a dereliction of duty. The danger is that this opinion leads to Manicheanism or Dualism: the belief that the world is a battlefield between the powers of Good and Evil, equal and opposite.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

This is the main portrayal of evil in The Wheel of Time. Jordan says his theology is Manichean (though Zoroastrian would be even closer to the mark - see my essay in its current form) with the Creator and the Dark One eternally contending for the right to run a universe in their image.

In the last two books Rand showed what happens when evil is fought by any means and not just by virtuous ones. He was manipulated into doing so by the Shadow, because this corrupts the Land and thus weakens the Pattern. To reverse Herid Fel's insight, eroding belief and order gives the Dark One strength. An earlier example of unscrupulous good would be the Shadar Logoth evil, something very much in Cadsuane’s mind as she has striven to prevent Rand from emulating it.

Shippey then goes on to say that with two equally powerful deities, it can be:

a matter of chance which side one happens to choose.

- Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

This I think is going too far, and Jordan would strongly agree with me, since he has commented before on his belief in the existence of evil and the necessity to recognise it and fight it.

Mind you, Jordan does show characters that do follow this philosophy of choosing a side without true commitment: Darkfriends who signed up for personal advantage rather than a belief in the ‘rightness of evil,’ to put it ironically, and supposed Lightfriends who only do good by happenstance, no matter how parlous the times. In reality these are people who believe in only their own egos. There are also apostates (Padan Fain being one twice over) and double agents (like Verin).

Despite Jordan’s expression to the contrary, some readers have said that his two gods, the Creator and the Dark One, are not equal, due to one having imprisoned the other. But we don’t know how this happened. Looked at another way, there is the very real threat that the reverse can and may take place: that the Dark One will destroy the Creator’s work, create an alternative universe and lock the Creator away from it.

The Dark One, being currently outside the Pattern, labours under some difficulties. We have never seen him/her/it use their Power to its fullest. Always it has been tainted by the presence of the One Power. The Trollocs and Myrddraal, for instance, show traits of the original natural stock made by the Creator. Understandably, since their makers were humans, however evil and touched by the Dark One, not deities, and could not create without using something as a basis. Of necessity their foundation had to be something made by the Creator.

I think that the closest we have come to seeing the True Power truly is the mindtrap. It appears to have little taint from the Light in it. But ruthless as it is, it is not perfectly evil since there is, it has been stated, a way to escape it. Something truly evil would have no escape. I can conceive of an evil deity being able to create evil without having to twist good.

I hope that A Memory of Light will show us the full Dualistic theology that Jordan devised, with some revelation (pun intended) of the Dark One’s evil power as a very real and equal rival of the Creator.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #22: Chapter 15 - Use A Pebble



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Nynaeve POV

The completely different costumes of the Tairen nobles and commoners are a statement that they are different species altogether and not just people with different status. This emphasis can only widen the social division. The wide straw hats with flat tops should be conical straw hats – coolie hats (see costume article for Tear).

Nynaeve feels a storm of Wrongness in the north, and she feels a disturbing chill when she is around Asha’man, but does not associate the two. Yet the origin and effects of the two are the same. Naeff is delusional but Nynaeve judges that other Asha’man are worse, which means they must be pretty bad.

A bubble of evil sucked the life force or reality from part of Tear. The area looks washed out, like the less probable If Worlds. People and buildings were affected, but not the bedrock; transient stuff, as can be changed in Tel’aran’rhiod (and I’m speaking from the perspective of a geologist here).

No life, no sense that he had ever been alive. His body wasn't even flesh…It was eerie, to see this hollow area. Like a gouged-out eye socket in an otherwise healthy face.

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

"Their substance was removed. Everything crumbled the moment we touched it."
"He would do this to the entire world," Rand said,

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

It has been remarked by the Forsaken that the area near Shayol Ghul is as malleable as Tel’aran’rhiod, but this bubble had far longer lasting effects on the environment.

Nynaeve wants to Heal the sickness or Wrongness of the world. This desire may well make a difference at Shayol Ghul. Determined to Heal, she discovers that the taint madness is a network of evil thorns:

The darkness had tiny, thornlike projections stuck into Naeff's mind.

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

and they have to be detached and their puncture wounds repaired before a counterweave removes the tangle. The tangle reminds me of Verin’s Compulsion.

Nynaeve did this all by intuition, due to feelings of frustration. Aes Sedai think that one can only channel when feelings are controlled or put aside, but Nynaeve could only get around her block to weave when overcome with emotion. Because she learned that way, she is more practised at weaving while under duress. On the other hand, she had to nearly die before she surrendered and broke her block.

Rand has enormous darkness in his mind, so he is very affected by taint, perhaps more than those who are raving. This Darkness is balanced with Light – yet the Light seems to have the upper hand at the moment. The many thousands of barbs form a “Crown of Thorns” and would be a Jesus parallel. It will be a massive job to remove them if Nynaeve uses the method she used on Naeff.

What did create the Whiteness that coats the taint – the power of positive thought, or memories of love – and Light?

Nynaeve wonders how Rand could think with so much darkness pressing on his brain. Good question. She assumes that both the Darkness and the Light were there when she last Healed Rand, which was after Semirhage attacked and that she can see them because she has improved in Delving since then. We “know” that the Light wasn’t there until a few days ago.

Even in the Age of Legends few could Heal mental illnesses with the One Power, so Nynaeve has just done something really remarkable, brought about because she wouldn’t succumb to the Dark One’s pressure to despair.

Rand says if Nynaeve becomes dispassionate or controlled it would ruin her. It was ruining him:

"I tried to be like them, though I wouldn't have admitted it. Cold. Always in control. It nearly destroyed me. That is strength to some, but it is not the only type of strength.”

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

For one thing, controlled can lead to controlling and dispassionate to uncaring. We see that in the Aes Sedai as a whole. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on appearances and decorum in Aes Sedai society.

"To be Aes Sedai is to be calm," Nynaeve replied.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is," Rand said,

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

Music to Nynaeve’s ears I would have thought.

Nynaeve is put out by taking advice from Rand. She sees Tam’s influence in him, and Rand has acknowledged elsewhere what he owes his father, saying that he was brought up better than Lews Therin was.

The Emond’s Fielders thought Moiraine to be distant, but now Rand says she cared. And in truth she did help villagers after Winternight and Whitebridge. Hers is necessarily a tough love.

Rand thanks Nynaeve for her care and admits he really needs it. He opens up and explains his rationale for breaking the seals:

"Opening the Bore will not free him immediately, though it will give him more strength. It must be done regardless. Think of our task as climbing a tall stone wall. Unfortunately, we are delaying, running laps before attempting the climb. Each step tires us for the fight to come. We must face him while still strong.”

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

When Nynaeve says she believes Rand, he asks her to plead his case to Egwene. I don’t think Egwene listened, or Nynaeve even got to do it, since her opposition is as strong as ever at the end of the book. Judging by her thoughts in the previous scene, Egwene would regard any of Nynaeve’s commendations as merely being “under his influence”.

Rand invites Nyneave back to him when she can; and definitely for Shayol Ghul. He plans to use Callandor and wants two women he can trust to use it with him. Nynaeve is proud that she is one he can trust. Judging by the A Memory of Light book cover, Moiraine will by the other supporting Aes Sedai (see here).

The wounds in Rand’s side would suck in vast amounts of saidar. The True Power and Shadar Logoth power are antithetical to each other, but parasitic on the One Power.

Rand advises Nynaeve against going to the Black Tower because he knows something is happening with the Asha’man there, but has too much to do to figure out how to handle this yet. I groan at the plot device of Zen miracle-worker Rand being utterly unable to do anything about that Darkfriend factory.

Nynaeve treats Rand as she would any close friend and then feels silly. But he needs to be treated like a normal person and an Aes Sedai needs to behave like a normal person. This shows Nynaeve being overly influenced by Aes Sedai in her efforts to earn status and the respect of sisters like Cadsuane.


Egwene POV

After Rand left Tar Valon, the clouds returned, the staleness and rottenness grew, and food stores dwindled. Egwene knows it is due to the Land being one with the Dragon, although she still has a negative view of his state of mind, even after the strong demonstration that he currently radiates health vibes.

Saerin, Yukiri and Seaine are Egwene’s keen supporters, which is fortunate for her, since she is seen as not favouring the rebels.

The ways Mesaana could avoid swearing the Three Oaths on the Oath Rod (if it can’t be disabled for a short time, something that would be obvious in public anyway, since I doubt it could be inconspicuous) are:

  • Use another, hidden, Oath Rod while using the Tower one.

  • Disguise another non-Darkfriend woman as her and have her take her place.

  • Disguise what people hear her say as swears (so long as no one can lip-read).


While Egwene thinks Mesaana may have used still yet another method, Sanderson says Mesaana did use one of those above – one of the latter two, most likely:

He told me that one of the three ways the Aes Sedai had surmised was correct. Considering it probably would have been mentioned if they found an Oath Rod among her things, that it probably was the weave the investigators had rediscovered.

Sanderson at Towers of Midnight booksigning

Egwene tells Seaine and Yukiri to keep investigating Mesaana’s role in the recent murders, yet Mesaana isn’t involved in them. I wonder what evidence they overlook in their efforts to prove that Mesaana was the culprit.

Saerin is sceptical that Mesaana led Dreadlords into battle in the Age of Legends, and she did stay behind the scenes for most of the battle in the White Tower in this book. Yet during the War of Power:

she held several field commands for the Shadow, showing herself to be an adequate general at best but as a governor of conquered territories she blossomed.

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Mesaana is capable rather than skilled or powerful. She did the dirty or boring but necessary jobs, such as training new recruits, to make herself indispensable and advance. Mesaana is angry that she appears inadequate compared to the others.

Saerin says Mesaana sounds like an Amyrlin. I disagree; this is not what an Amyrlin does. It’s a heavy-handed “explanation” of why Mesaana is in the White Tower. She is there because it is a way to get the Dark One’s favour, and though she was running risks, she also had access to useful tools – both people and things. Yet she never seemed to dare make much use of *angreal. All the Forsaken except Moridin make their excuses for that. Sammael made a serious attempt at Ebou Dar and Moghedien did too to a degree.

Egwene realises Mesaana has remained in the White Tower to try and make up for her failure to break the Tower and kidnap Rand. She resolves to use herself as bait in a “subtle” trap for Mesaana.