Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #55: Chapter 48 - Near Avendesora

By Linda

Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks that she's the first to go through the glass columns in Rhuidean since Rand's advent. She and Rand are perhaps the two most important visitors to Rhuidean and the columns.

The remaining ter'angreal have been taken away from the plaza where Avendesora grows. While Aviendha assumes Aiel took them, it may have been Moridin, considering his large hoard and recently acquired items. Avendesora is the World Tree:

There stood an enormous tree, branches spread wide like arms reaching to embrace the sun. The massive tree had a perfection she could not explain. It had a natural symmetry-no missing branches, no gaping holes in its leafy upper reaches. It was particularly impressive since, when she'd last seen it, it had been blackened and burned.
In a world where other plants were dying without explanation, this one healed and nourished faster than ever should have been possible. Its leaves rustled soothingly in the wind, and its gnarled roots poked through the ground like the aged fingers of a wise elder. The tree made her want to sit and bask in the simple peace of the moment.
It was as if this tree were the ideal, the one after which all other trees were patterned. In legend it was called Avendesora. The Tree of Life.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Chora trees are a construct, and therefore not natural. In this case they are more than natural—much more—rather than less than natural, as the Shadow’s constructs are.

Sheltered by Avendesora, Aviendha ruminates on the knowledge from her ancestors that she knew she would gain. Mat, too, ruminated under Avendesora prior to going through the redstone doorway, and was hung on the tree after gaining ancient memories, a reference to Odin, Mat's parallel, who hanged himself on the World Tree to gain knowledge. Aviendha did learn one new thing:

She'd anticipated a noble decision, where honor overcame the inferior lifestyle dictated by the Way of the Leaf.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

but everything else was as expected. The decision was not a noble one. In fact, it is surprising that she thought it would be a noble decision when by Aiel standards it can't be noble if it involves breaking oath. Pragmatic, perhaps, but not noble. Aviendha is comforted that the Aiel’s previous lapse could be redeemed by meeting their toh at the Last Battle.

The Jenns' decision to take up a weapon was an impulse, not a decision. Because Aiel society knows only fighting, they see it as honourable, and many of those who want to achieve or earn status in Aiel society do so through battle. Therefore there is an underlying desire to battle even when there is no reason to fight, as she will see in columns, which can lead to corruption. Despite being in the wetlands for some time, Aviendha still is parochial, which shows the depth of Aiel prejudice, due to the nation not having regular peaceful contact with other societies. It is this attitude, plus continuation of warfare as a way of life which will potentially lead to the Aiel’s downfall.

More and more, she was coming to believe that tradition for the sake of tradition was foolishness. Good traditions-strong, Aiel traditions-taught the ways of ji'e'toh, methods of survival.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Until now, the Aiel have fought to survive. But what if gets in way of survival? What if it becomes disruptive to society? The Aiel need a mechanism to deal with conflict or aggression that doesn't involve warfare.

Probing the ter’angreal shows Aviendha that the glass columns are receptive:

Indeed, the pillars seemed . . . alive, somehow. It was almost as if she could sense an awareness from them.
That gave her a chill. Was she touching the pillar, or was it touching her?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

so that they know each Aiel visitor's ancestral line and therefore what scenes and POVs from the past to replay, and, as it turns out, the most likely future. The ter’angreal can read both ways along the Wheel. Not surprisingly they are too profound or complex for Aviendha to read. As she walks away she sees a scene from the distant future. Aviendha thinks she may have re-set the ter'angreal when she tried to read one. She has faith the columns show what the Aiel need to know, that they grant wisdom as well as knowledge.

Malidra is pretty much at the end of Aviendha's line—she may even be the end. The girl is a fearful scavenger who thinks, like most who lack knowledge of science, that the Seanchan’s technology is magic.

Aviendha’s viewings in the glass columns compare and contrast strikingly with Rand’s experiences in The Shadow Rising. Malidra is a mirror to Rand’s ancestor, Rhodric, who didn't believe in snow, and had experienced only drought.

Malidra had heard stories of a place beyond the distant mountains, where the land was green and food grew everywhere.
She didn't believe those lies.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Malidra follows the Lightmakers, whereas Rhodric followed the Jenn Aiel and the Aes Sedai. However the Lightmakers gave her nothing; they killed her for trying to take, as she would have killed them for their belongings, whereas Rhodric helped the future Cairhienin and also served the Jenn.

“We guard the Jenn,” Jeordam said. “It is they who travel with Aes Sedai.”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Aviendha debates the significance of Malidra’s scene and dares to go into the columns twice (which is forbidden) to gain knowledge. As it turns out, the Aiel will destroy themselves if she does not. Rand’s ancestor, Mandein, and all other Aiel leaders, had to go to Rhuidean because otherwise the Aiel would destroy themselves (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear).

She is pleased that Da'shain had honour and respect:

The Aiel in the Age of Legends had been peaceful servants, respected. How could they have started as scavengers?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Aviendha thinks it is better to die than become a scavenger. The Da'shain Aiel would rather die than be violent or kill.

The Aiel have been choked off economically as well as physically. Due to social disruption, they have lost knowledge on surviving in the Waste. Shaving in the desert is a sign of high standards. In Malidra’s time, the Aiel folk are bearded, a sign of their greater decay, not being able to spare the water, tools and time to shave.

In the next POV, Rowahn was charged to maintain Aiel customs:

Her father had inherited his clothing from his grandfather, along with a charge. Follow the old ways. Remember ji'e'toh. Fight and maintain honor.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

- the few customs that are remembered. Likewise the Jenn were charged to follow the Way of the Leaf:

“The Trees of Life.” When he still looked at her blankly, she shook her head. “Three little trees planted in barrels. They care for them almost as well as they do for themselves. When they find a place of safety, they mean to plant them; they say the old days will return, then. They. I said they. Very well. I am not Jenn anymore.” She hefted the shortened spear. “This is my husband now.” Eyeing him closely, she asked, “If someone stole your child, would you talk of the Way of the Leaf and suffering sent to test us?”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

and accept suffering as a test of faith. Rowahn looks on the Aiel’s trials as a punishment which they must endure:

"We must rebuild," her father said, surveying the wreckage.
"Rebuild?" said a soot-stained man. "The granary was the first to burn! There is no food!"
"We will survive," her father said. "We can move deeper into the Waste."
"There is nowhere else to go!" another man said. "The Raven Empire has sent word to the Far Ones, and they hunt us at the eastern border!"
"They find us whenever we gather!" another cried.
"It is a punishment!" her father said. "But we must endure!"

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Once the settlements are abandoned, and the Aiel scattered, they are doomed as a people.

Aviendha’s descendant, Tava, returned the child to the grateful mother and then helped gather sand and dirt, just as Rand’s ancestor, Jeordam, helped the Jenn retrieve a daughter and other womenfolk.

Aviendha moves backwards in the future as she progresses. Forward, and back, as Rand did.

Rand’s feet moved of their own accord. Forward. And back in time.

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Unwillingly, Aviendha realises that the Ravens and Lightmakers are Seanchan. The Far Ones would be the Sharans.

Rand saw the corruption of the Da'shain Aiel, Aviendha sees the corruption and decay of the Aiel. Da'shain would be just as upset to see their people abandon the Way, as Aviendha is to see the Aiel abandon ji'e'toh and lose honour.

This sub-thread has real world parallels in the displacement and destruction of North American indigenous peoples (and of those of other countries) by invaders with more advanced technologies, and to the Trail of Tears in particular. It also is a reverse Exodus, since the Aiel have strong parallels with the Israelites, showing what happens if the Aiel do not follow the spirit of the Dragon’s peace pact and leave the promised land of the Wetlands that he led them to, isolating themselves in the Waste.


Leyla said...

As always, I am blown away by your skills in interpreting literature. I used to think *I* was good...until I came to your site ;)

Um, just one correction: Mat ruminated under Avendesora before he entered the redstone doorway, not the columns.
Although.. he did get very, very close - as a fool would - practically taking a step into the columns so that he could shout to Rand "I'm not waiting more than an hour!" In my mind, whenever I read that scene, I have an image in my head of a kid peering through a window of something he knows he's not supposed to see, just to communicate a message.

I think Malidra is the end of Aviendha's line. Unless we're including parallel worlds in the mix, I strongly feel this sentient ter'angreal was showing her the end - partly to make her take another step forward, perhaps?
If she had a baby, she would have mentioned it...right? Unreliable narration only works [for me, anyway] up until a certain point. Purposely excluding the existence of a baby is a very sneaky move.

Was it just me, or was this a truly sad scene? I actually cried a little when she described what her own death felt like.

I thought Sanderson did a superb job tracing the decay of the warrior Aiel, making sure to echo, as you pointed out, certain characters and phrases of RJ's.
I always felt the phrase "Rand's steps took him forward. And back in time." was a great one.

Also never thought about the fact that the Aiel shaving is a sign of advancement! I need to read some anthropology books.

I'm so glad you talked about the sentience of the ter'angreal. Your explanation for why Aviendha can't "read" the ter'angreal is perfect! I think all the fans did some hard thinking about the glass columns...still, a question remains: Aes Sedai in the Age of Lengends were really advanced enough to construct a ter'angreal that basically...attaches itself to the Wheel of Time? Jordan said that the Wheel of Time should be considered much more complex than a "wheel" - more like the most sophisticated computer ever built. I suppose a good question for Sanderson - at the next Con - would be how the AS constructed the columns. Perhaps it has more to do with getting inside the DNA of the person than the other option, but still, to read both past AND future is incredible indeed.

I think it's pretty clear she did reset the glass columns, right?

I think her Talent for Reading T'A is shown [here] to be incredibly strong, as most people trying to get even an "aura" from the t'a would probably feel completely overwhelmed. Also, the fact that she reset it shows that she somehow tapped into some facet of Reading T'A that allows one to alter a ter'angreal's function. This reminds me of how there are different facets to Dreaming, but they're all different Talents: reading Dreams, touching other people's dreams, and entering t'a'r.
So, I'm not sure if Aviendha's resetting of the glass columns was a different Talent, but related to Reading t'a, or simply part of the Reading talent altogether.

I also used to think that Nakomi was some kind of avatar for the glass columns.

I love how you ended the article with the real-life implications.

You're a genius, Linda :)


Linda said...

Thanks, Lelya. Sorry I did not get to this sooner, but I am on vacation in New Zealand and downloads are limited.

I should have said redstone doorway! Thanks for spotting the error.

I agree that Malidra is the end of that line, but there might have been descendants of other lines from Aviendha's children that survive. Her/Rand's children seem to have been singled out for destruction at first, so I agree that it is not likely any were left. We don't know though.

And yes, it was a very sad scene.

She may well have reset the glass columns, but they knew her and may have allowed her to do so. This day had to come, when you think about it.