Sunday, October 26, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #51: Chapter 44 - A Backhanded Request

By Linda

Morgase POV

Morgase feels that she has no defined role now. When she was a maid, she found it a less lonely life. There were more people her rank, and less responsibility, to compensate for the hard work. Morgase resents that her former servants Breane and Lamgwin were formally released by Faile back to her service. However, they did have an agreement with Faile, and by the rule of contract in this world can't just walk off with someone else. Morgase knows this so she shouldn’t feel insulted.

In the aftermath of Morgase’s unmasking, both Faile and Morgase feel hardly done by. Faile feels uncomfortable that Morgase was higher than her in status and reputation, but accepted employment as her maid. Now that she has been unmasked, Morgase expects due acknowledgement of her position with immediate and ungrudging restoration of her privileges. Underlying this discomfort is the issue of nobility, and inherited rank, which most nobles like to think is absolute, whereas people of humbler origin in more egalitarian societies are not so keen to grant. For example, in Cairhien when Colavere was stripped of her rank:

"I—I demand the headsman," Colavaere managed in a strangled voice. Her face sagged. She had become old on the spot, and her eyes were mirrors of stark terror. But with nothing left, she fought on, for the scraps. "It is—it is my right. I will not be... hanged like some commoner!"
Rand seemed to struggle with himself, shaking his head in that disturbing way. When he spoke at last, his words were winter cold and anvil hard. "Colavaere Saighan, I strip you of your titles."…
Perrin could catch murmurs from the assembly behind him now. This was unheard of. None understood why she was not to die. And the rest! Estates had been confiscated before, but never all, never nobility itself. Nobles had been exiled, even for life, but never to a farm.

A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown

Contrast this with Breane, Morgase’s maid, who was a Cairhienin noble, yet has remained in cognito and never hints at expecting better. She too loves a commoner, and part of her reluctance to acknowledge her former rank is that he would then be so far beneath her, socially.

Morgase is conscious that she could undermine Elayne but feels that it is worth the risk for the help she could give her daughter. Such an activity would also give Morgase a purpose, which she lacks at the moment.

Morgase has discouraged - or at least not encouraged – Tallanvor because she fears more hurt since her other relationships ended badly. Her husband was a threat to her throne; he was as effective as Gaebril in his own way in undermining her position. It is Tallanvor who softens first. Morgase wanted Tallanvor to propose but he won't because she is known to be of much higher rank than he and has a duty to Andor. Morgase refuses to sacrifice herself again because this could be the end of the world. She wants something to hope for and work towards. Thankfully Lini speeds up matters greatly by insisting they marry.

Perrin POV

Perrin maintains order and calm in camp by making the most of everything and being positive. The forest with the sap sucked out of it overnight is similar to what happened in Tear in The Gathering Storm from a bubble of evil. Both are examples of Wrongness caused by the Dark One with the aim of damaging the land and causing despair and chaos.

Perrin is trading food for materials for weapon making. Food is still available in Caemlyn due to Elayne's influence (and her link to Rand) and a little is still in Whitebridge, or at least reaching that town from Caemlyn.

When he is hardening the weapons, Neald is probably Aligning the Matrix (see Weaves and Talents) to make metal stronger. Neald is the only exponent of this talent that we see.

As the final part of her bargain with Faile, Berelain publishes her condemnation of the rumours that she slept with Perrin. People believe her because they see her with Galad. It’s a great relief to Perrin and Faile. Perrin is puzzled by Faile's explanation of the difference between herself and Berelain. However, he is decisive about Faile being the one to go meet with Elayne and this pleases Faile.

Enter the happy couple into their quiet talk. Morgase demands Perrin marry her and Tallanvor since there is no one better available. He thinks her request is not very warm, but then acknowledges she has a point in not seeing him as a lord. On the other hand, mindful of his position and feeling she should set an example of respecting and upholding the position of the aristocracy, she then agrees that he is a lord and should be treated as such. Morgase bargains with Perrin that if he marries them--helps her--she will help him with Elayne. From Faile’s response to Morgase’s offer, Perrin thinks Faile might want to split from Andor. He doesn't. In fact, Faile wants to bargain rather than accept what Elayne and Morgase decide.

As he joins the impromptu ceremony, Galad puts one of Verin’s letters in his pocket. We never find out what is in the letter which makes him frown. It isn’t that Rand is his brother, because Gawyn enlightens him about that in A Memory of Light. Maybe it informs him that Byar had something wrong with him (in which case it’s a bit late) or that a particular Whitecloak is a Darkfriend.

Perrin mistakenly believes Morgase when she says she wants a simple exchange of oaths as her wedding ceremony. He seizes on her disclaimer because he feels defensive or unqualified to say more to someone much older and higher rank than he. For the same reason, he wanted them away quickly after. Faile plans to train him to do it better. Poor Perrin; he thought – hoped-- that this was a one-off. He was moved by their love and vows, but ended up sounding dismissive, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing, when he should be gracious and congratulatory. Faile will make up for it with the celebration.

Trickster Mat lures Perrin to him and surprises him. Perrin notices that Mat is now dressed finely when he used to scorn and criticise Rand for it. Perrin still doesn't dress up. It’s been quite a while since two ta’veren were together in one place and it brings a sense of rightness to the area. There will never be three ta’veren together again, although it came fairly close on the slopes of Shayol Ghul. At the end of A Memory of Light, the three heroes were no longer ta'veren.

Mat has “died” twice and refers to this when he says airily:

"A lifetime," Mat said. "Maybe two. I lose count."

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

In fact, Mat isn't sure which escape from death is the relevant one. (Jordan confirms it was when Mat was struck by Rahvin’s lightning in Caemlyn, which was undone by Rand’s balefire.)

Perrin is surprised to see that Mat has a badger. In a way, he shouldn’t be; it hearkens back to Mat's younger exploit at the start of The Eye of the World, where he and Dav planned to let loose badger:

Mat's brown eyes twinkled with mischief, as usual. "Dav and I caught a big old badger, all grouchy at being pulled out of his den. We're going to let it loose on the Green and watch the girls run. "

The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

A hand suddenly jutted out from behind the trunk, holding a brown sack. "I caught a badger," a familiar voice said. "Want to let it go on the village green?"

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

The badger has some close associations with Perrin. Like the badger, Perrin was pretty grouchy at being pulled out of his comfort zone in this chapter. And he is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay). The badger is a fierce and tenacious wild creature. Perrin badgered himself by constantly brooding over his animal/human balance and leadership duties.

Mat’s badger is also a reference to "easing the badger", the name of an Illianer inn (see The Great Hunt inns) where Perrin and Moiraine realised that a Forsaken was out to kill them. Although then it was a single Forsaken, Sammael, who had Perrin (and Moiraine) in his sights, but now it’s Moridin who wants Perrin and Mat dead, and has ordered the other Forsaken to see to it.

Easing the badger has sexual connotations and in fact at the end of the scene Perrin uses the phrase:

How had he gotten past Grady? Light! Perrin shook his head to himself, then bent to untie the sack and ease the poor badger Mat had captured.

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

Some trousers and small clothes are closed tied with a drawstring. Morgase and Tallanvor are shortly to consummate their marriage.

There’s a certain irony that careless blithe Mat is warning careful Perrin about the Shadow being out to kill them. As for Mat getting past Grady unnoticed, trickers are good at penetrating borders. (see Tricksters essay)

It seems apt that a backhanded request gets a backhanded ceremony.

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