Monday, July 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #43: Chapter 36 - An Invitation

By Linda

Egwene POV

Egwene appears in Tel’aran’rhiod dressed in white sewn with gold thread and black obsidian trim. Since Tel’aran’rhiod is a dream world, and dreams communicate through symbols, let’s look at the symbolism. Egwene is dressed in pristine white to show her purity here, the opposite of the Shadow’s black, and her personification as the White Tower, but she is also dressed like a White sister, logical and lacking in empathy. She has made her deductions on what is happening and put aside her feelings for Gawyn (and overridden his). The gold (the colour of the sun and royalty) and black (darkness) trimming perhaps indicate her plans to deal with Rand and the Shadow… Yet she is overshadowed by both. The dress is a showy version of Mesaana’s dress that she wore in The Gathering Storm Prologue while vainly boasting of how she would deliver the Tower to the Shadow. And Mesaana is about to act on that promise and attack her enemy, Egwene.

No less important is that Egwene chose the one colour both Aiel and Sea Folk respond to. For the Aiel, white is for gai’shain, who serve the warriors to restore their honour, but then Egwene is the Servant of the Servants of All. To the Sea Folk, white is unflattering to wear and shows a lack of joy in colour (Winter’s Heart, To Lose The Sun). Does this help Egwene in her negotiations with them?

Egwene disconcerts the Aiel and Sea Folk channellers with her honesty. By admitting that Aes Sedai are controlling, and acknowledging that the other groups have something to offer the Tower, Egwene shows them respect and makes them more inclined to consider her offer.

Egwene suggests they share knowledge and, gasp!, cooperate; and even learn to appreciate each other’s ways. She wants two of each group’s advanced students to train with, and learn the ways of, other groups. They should train for at least six months but less than two years, and must follow the rules of their host group. At the end of their stint they return home for at least one year and then can choose where they wish to be. This way the groups retain their autonomy and customs but widen their outlook. Egwene’s unspoken intent is for larger quantities of trainees to be exchange students and she is relying on the fact that since only the best will be sent it will be seen as a high status posting and others will clamour for this recognition. And so it spreads.

The Sitters argue for the old system of White Tower control, but Egwene shows them that times have changed. Asha’man can’t be ignored or treated badly. Like the Wise Ones and Windfinders they are worthy of respect and acknowledgement. Egwene wants to guide rather than dominate. Unspoken is that the Aes Sedai schism and the Black Ajah purge publicly proved that Aes Sedai are not superior to other groups. The discussion appears open in this scene but there is a lot that is not said aloud.

The Shadow did not play to Egwene’s plan, but just attacked; rather like Rand’s response to Graendal’s attempts at manipulation:

”You make her think that you are sitting down across the table from her, ready to play her game. Then you punch her in the face as hard as you can.”

The Gathering Storm, A Force of Light

Egwene’s plan was logical (the white dress!) but its attempts at manipulation were seen through. Or ignored.

Perrin POV

Perrin realises that he can’t throw the dreamspike away secretly. This looks back to when Nynaeve, Elayne and Egeanin tried to remove the threat of the male a’dam by throwing it in the deepest ocean and failed to do so. And also forward to the aftermath of the Last Battle, when Birgitte will arrange for the Horn of Valere to be hidden:

"I sent Olver away," Birgitte said. "With guards I trust. I told Olver to find someplace nobody would look, a place he could forget, and toss the Horn into it. Preferably the ocean."

A Memory of Light, Epilogue

It will be found in another Age when it is “needed”. Things hidden away are “intended” to be found; they can be relied on to recur. (The Dark One is one of those things.)

Perrin sets out to hide the dreamspike in Tel’aran’rhiod in a city somewhere while he attends to Slayer. He can’t outrun Slayer but must confront him and kill him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #42: Chapter 35 - The Right Thing

By Linda

Egwene POV

After insisting that she didn’t need protection and ordering Gawyn to stop, Egwene now feels its absence. Events will show she made a foolish decision. Egwene’s contrariness is due to being on edge as her cutting comment to Siuan shows. Siuan, another contrary character, understands Egwene’s stress and smiles at Egwene’s concern this time instead of brushing it aside.

Both Amyrlins were undone by incomplete information.

Perrin POV

Perrin remarks that Galad returned the supplies he captured. The Whitecloak commander did not keep what wasn’t his, even though as spoils of war it would be acceptable to do so. It is an integrity that Perrin respects.

Perrin seems surprised at how emotionally drained the trial left him, but the tension and concentration required to avoid multiple disasters was considerable. Plus, there was no right answer though I think he achieved the best outcome possible.

Perrin is determined that Light-aligned people should not battle each other, since every person is needed to fight the Shadow. Nor does he want to waste lives. He shows considerable insight; it was indeed the Shadow’s ploy to set groups against each other. Divide and conquer. He correctly deduces that the Shadow will attack now that they see Perrin won’t fight the Whitecloaks and that they have pinned him in place with the dreamspike for this. It is imperative that he get Travelling back again.

Perrin’s receptivity extends to reading the Pattern to an extent; he senses the recurrence of his long-term unresolved issues: Whitecloaks, Slayer, and Noal. Unspoken is the realisation that he must deal with them, or else…

Galad POV

Galad’s unresolved issue is not understanding that there is not always a right answer. Another is that mistakes can lead to “right” action - which by Galad’s definition cannot be right. And conversely, that doing the right thing can be wrong. Morgase warned Galad of this and it makes him uncomfortable. Perrin accepted that there was no right answer to his conflict with the Whitecloaks and was reluctant to make decision. On the other hand, Galad finds determining an answer, or as he sees it, “the” answer, easy. He is a foil to Perrin in this sub-thread. Perrin sees more possible answers and spends time weighing them. Both men are deep thinkers, but Galad is more willing to adopt high cost solutions than Perrin.

Bornhald’s unresolved issue is his mistaken belief – at the urging of his friend Byar - that Perrin killed his father. He realises that there is no evidence and that Byar’s behaviour and statements are inappropriate. Bornhald is shown to be a much more reasonable person here, mentally stronger and more independent than in previous scenes.

After the trial Galad acknowledges that, like Perrin, he killed a Whitecloak and was named Darkfriend for it. Moreover both men sacrificed themselves for principle. They have similar values and this will be the basis for a strong relationship. Both dislike deviousness and disingenuousness, although they can devise a clever and successful plan to circumvent these if necessary.

Perrin POV

Slayer is a match for four wolves – and two of them masters of Tel’aran’rhiod. However he was surprised by Perrin three times in their fight, and was even frightened by him on the third, when Perrin became part of Tel’aran’rhiod and basically chased him off. Perrin’s mastery of Tel’aran’rhiod is of a different kind to that of Slayer: it is of belonging rather than domination.

The dreamspike is a source of wrongness in Tel’aran’rhiod . It interferes with its operation. An object physically in Tel’aran’rhiod is “more real” than Tel’aran’rhiod because Tel’aran’rhiod is a reflection of the main world. It’s a Platonic world or abstract Form that has the highest and most fundamental kind of reality.

The wrongness of scents being mixed up, scents being random for a location, is not caused by the dreamspike – though the dreamspike probably doesn’t help – but by the Dark One corrupting reality. This will get worse. The wrongness has grown steadily throughout the series as the Dark One’s touch has increased. It is a bad sign that even the abstract, fluid world of Tel’aran’rhiod is affected by it. The theme of wrongness in The Wheel of Time is discussed here. Such corruption and destruction is typical of the alchemical operation of mortification, where things are broken apart so they can be purified or transformed into something else, hopefully something better. Alchemical symbolism underpins the series – especially the magic system – and is discussed here.