Monday, October 29, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #56: Epilogue—To See the Answer


By Linda

It’s not a coincidence that the first three POVs are of the ta’veren, with the Dragon first, naturally.

Rand POV

Here’s a thing: if Rand hadn’t carried Moridin’s body out, there would have been no body swap. Nakomi approves of the swap, saying that he’s doing something he needs to do, which is good. Normally a bodyswap would be a wrongness, however both souls choose their fate: one very much wants to live, the other to die.

Is Nakomi the Creator? I don’t think so. The Creator speaks directly the couple of times it communicates—with the minimum of words, and more for reassurance. Nor is the Creator prone to micromanagement or coercion as the Dark One is.

Another possibility is that Nakomi is an Aiel Hero of the Horn. Her name, which Bair recognised as Aiel, seems to hint this. Her conversation with Aviendha in Towers of Midnight is reminiscent of Birgitte’s contact with Perrin, Elayne and Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhiod in the early books. When Nakomi appears in the real world at Thakan’dar and spoke to Rand, Heroes of the Horn are still abroad in the waking world.

Aviendha queried Nakomi on where she is from, and got a cryptic answer:

"I am far from my roof," the woman said, wistful, "yet not far at all. Perhaps it is far from me. I cannot answer your question, apprentice, for it is not my place to give this truth."

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

Nakomi's home and people are far from her and unreachable because she is dead, yet still feels tied to the Aiel. Looking further, Nakomi is far from the main world, yet not. Tel’aran’rhiod surrounds the waking world, yet as a shade, Nakomi cannot touch it unless called by the Horn. Nakomi’s favourable opinion of the Westlands, emphasising their beauty and lushness, is as though they are familiar to her, as they would be if she had roamed about Tel’aran’rhiod long term and had cut ties with the Three-fold Land. She would be unlikely to feel this way had she remained in the Waste or only left it recently; recent contact with the Westlands would inspire the kind of wariness or alienation expressed by Aviendha.

Most importantly she is honour bound not to explain further—some precept that she does not violate, such as those the Heroes have...

Nakomi’s name is reference to Nokomis, the grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Amerindians. She is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest.

In fact, in the Ojibwe language, the language of the traditional tale on which Hiawatha is based, Nokomis means “my grandmother” (see Character Names N article for further discussion of Nokomis/Nakomi and Hiawatha/Rand).

Nakomi is not literally Rand’s grandmother although she is wise and knowledgeable. Bair said her name was ancient, and recognisably Aiel, so it is likely she is a Hero who was an Aiel from the distant past in one of her recent births, particularly considering her legendary name.

Rand’s realisation that he asked the Aelfinn a wrong question is a bit mysterious because the exact and full wording of his questions aren’t in the books. However I found them in Robert Jordan’s Rand notes, (see The Aelfinn’s Answers article). The last question is said to be "How can I destroy the Dark One?" and the answer:

"What was, is, and will be. To choose is the fate of your kind. Without choice, humankind is dust."

Rand did not understand this answer until the very end, which is why he said:

"I see the answer now," he whispered. "I asked the Aelfinn the wrong question. To choose is our fate. If you have no choice, then you aren't a man at all. You're a puppet . . ."

A Memory of Light, Epilogue

Humans must have choice or else they are not adults and not responsible for their actions.

Mat POV

The Sun is out because Rand is also out of the Darkness and out of Shayol Ghul. I judge that Mat that killed Shaisam as Rand sealed the Bore. Shockingly, Mat almost reaches for the dagger but restrains himself. It rots as he walks away. If he’d touched it, he may have kept it around longer and started its infection all over again. After this, the dice finally stop.

Perrin POV

There are no swirling colours, or vision of Rand in Perrin’s mind—no ta’veren pull—and after having them influence his actions for months, he misses them.

The Land has had its fertility restored with the Sealing of the Dark One and is already green and blooming. While Perrin acknowledges that “no masterwork comes without a price,” this one includes the death of Egwene.

Loial POV

Loial records that Rand Sealed the Bore at noon, the time of day when the sun (and therefore Rand) is at its strongest and the Dark One at his weakest. The Fourth Age starting in the middle of day distresses Loial’s tidy mind, but he accepts this fact.

Flinn notices that Rand’s three women are not concerned that Rand is dying. It’s a bit obvious, but this also means the women don’t exactly lie…

Mat POV

Mat is convinced that Tuon’s unborn baby is a boy. Each claims this child means they have no further duty there—a certain amount of chest-beating bluffing is going on. What a couple.

Moghedien POV

Moghedien starts getting optimistic that she will get away and set up shop again. Plus, with the Dark One Sealed away, she won’t be punished for her failures. Then she immediately has another failure: the Spider doesn’t reverse her weaves so they cannot be detected, but inverts them and gets complacent enough to weave a light. So she is collared by a satisfied sul’dam, one of Jordan’s mundane, but appropriate punishments.

The Forsaken currently has her coursouvra, but the Seanchan won’t allow her to keep it. It may be destroyed (in which case she becomes an automaton) or it may be given to or taken by someone else, since it looks valuable. Interesting times ahead for Moghedien.

Nynaeve POV

The kings are shocked that Elayne, Min and Aviendha are not crying over the death of Rand’s body and their comments arouse Nynaeve’s suspicions. Nynaeve tries to bully the explanation out of Aviendha, a sitting duck. The Aiel is briefly alarmed but composes herself. I was surprised that Aviendha reacted as much as she did: it’s a measure of her feeling that she is living a lie and has toh.

The Wise Ones’ belief that the glass column ter’angreal warns them of a future that should be changed saved the Aiel from a terrible fate.

Perrin POV

Perrin is in the wolf dream, when he really wanted to sleep. He is there in wolf form, but is thinking like a man. As he dwells on his guilt over leaving Faile in order to help Rand win, he goes to all the important places of his relationship with Faile and with Rand. At the finale, he chooses to visit Faile’s death place rather than Rand’s death bed. During the war, he did “what he was supposed to” and let Faile do her duty. However, what Perrin was supposed to do has a happy ending: he hears a falcon cry in the dream and realises it’s Faile. He tracks her down and uses adrenalin-enhanced strength to uncover her body single-handedly: Perrin epitomises Strength.

Elayne POV

Birgitte lingers after the other Heroes have gone back to Tel’aran’rhiod. Elayne doesn’t answer Birgitte’s question about Rand—again a lie by omission, in the Aiel way. Birgitte has anticipated Elayne’s intention to take possession of the Horn of Valere and sent Olver to hide it. To her surprise, Elayne doesn’t mind, and is glad not to have the temptation. THe Hero realises that Elayne has matured.

Birgitte’s soul is about to move to a baby that is shortly to be born. Knowing that Gaidal was not called by the Horn, and so is alive as a young child, she is looking forward to meeting him again in a new life. It will be one of her usual reincarnations where she is a few years younger than he.

Tam POV

It is so sad that Tam doesn’t know that Rand lives, and probably won’t for at least a few years, if ever. This is his and Rand’s great sacrifice for the world. He thinks the fertility of the Land is Rand’s final gift, but that gift might be prodigal Rand returning some years from now. The three women have an obvious lack of grief; if Tam knew the truth, he also would be unable to dissimulate and the funeral would be a farce. Cadsuane for one, already thinks it’s a farce.

Tam’s thoughts that “Rand could finally rest” are true, just not in the way he thinks. Basically, it represents freedom from burdens and freedom to be as he wishes.

Only Tam carries a light—for the pyre. Everyone else is indistinguishable during their “saluting the body of the Dragon Reborn.” That body deserves honouring, even if Moridin spent a few hours in it. It did do so well.

Min POV

The funeral is the fulfillment of not only Min’s viewing that the three would be there, but also of Egwene’s dream of a man lying dying:

A man lay dying in a narrow bed, and it was important he not die, yet outside a funeral pyre was being built, and voices raised songs of joy and sadness.

- A Crown Of Swords, Unseen Eyes

This dream was anonymous because (apart from wanting to keep the surprise) Moridn’s soul died in Rand’s body, while Rand is restored to life and health in Moridin’s body. A complicated situation. The knowledge of her beloved’s early death was quite a burden for Min to carry for two years.

There is conflicting information regarding whether Nicola’s foretelling of “three on the boat and he who is dead yet lives” refers to this scene. Team Jordan has said that it is an example of an unreliable narrator and referred to Rand’s funeral where the three women stood alone around Rand’s pyre, but on another occasion said that it is yet to happen.

The three women make no pretence of grief and do not comfort Tam, who lights the pyre, but Moiraine does. This is not their finest hour even if they weren’t hypocritical. It’s as though they are looking to the day Rand’s other loved ones find out, and making sure they can say with a clean conscience that they misled by omission only, and not by actual lying.

Rand POV

Rand is a bit stunned with the novelty of a hale body. His eyes have a saa to commemorate Moridin, and also his own channelling of the True Power. Most importantly, it’s not an active saa.

The fulfillment of Min’s viewing that Alivia will help Rand die is mundane. Such outcomes happened occasionally. Min’s anxieties over this viewing were completely unnecessary—worse than if she knew nothing. This has also happened before: in fact, Min’s panic has resulted in actions that fulfilled the viewing. The Empress is wise to insist on hearing a description of the viewing as well as MIn’s interpretation of it to provide the opportunity for another opinion, and cross-check it with her own symbol system. Otherwise there is the risk that Min’s viewings can be as wrong-headed as those of Elaida.

Cadsuane POV

Cadsuane immediately identifies Rand in his new body, which is unexpected. Can she see Rand’s eyes clearly enough to see the saa and also knows what it represents? Or just recognise Rand’s soul somehow? Odd.

The Green sister is bailed up by four Sitters. They don’t begin the traditional way with a formal summons to the Hall—which it is illegal for her to refuse—but try to get her to agree to be Amyrlin willingly instead. This was not Aes Sedai custom until Egwene was raised. It’s curious, given Cadsuane’s track record for avoiding being made Amyrlin by fleeing before any such summons could be issued. Or is that why they have done this? To convince her rather than force her? I do think they chose the right woman—respected, if not feared by all, flexible, tenacious and experienced. And she does actual research.

Rand POV
Speaking of Cadsuane, Rand is one who respects and fears her. He can tell she has recognised him even though she doesn’t say what she suspects. They have the measure of each other. Rand can’t channel either saidin or the True Power now, even though Moridin could channel both. Perhaps the overload of Powers burned Rand (and Moridin) out, but at the same time Rand has moved beyond channelling to be an ascended being, the alchemical buddha who can will things into occurring. The now-ex Dragon is presumed wise enough to be entrusted with this ability. The book has quite a Buddhist ending, which I notice some readers find objectionable or inadequate.

Very tellingly, Rand doesn’t think about Tam (who is grieving—because it would hurt?), just the three women. I do think Rand owes it to his father to grieve for his grief. Instead he thinks of his love for all three women and hopes one or all will come after him.

When Rand told Alivia to get gold and other supplies for him, he didn’t consider that she’d have to steal them. He takes responsibility for this, as he should.

Rand may become an eternal wanderer figure, as well as an itinerant worker and entertainer as he was at the beginning of the story. He will no longer be a recognised Magus—even though he has some mysterious ability. This fits in with the many paths, many lives prophecy:

"And his paths shall be many, and who shall know his name, for he shall be born among us many times, in many guises, as he has been and ever will be, time without end.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Opening prophecy

Will Rand have the long life of a channeller? Will all that power he used in the Pit of Doom make that difference? I think so.

The last words of the book and series—Loial’s—show us Rand not as the Dragon, or as a magus, but as chi, or prana, the breath of life for the world.

I liked the ending. It’s Jordan’s ending, in his words, and where he was heading to over this epically long epic. I knew from the first that the solution to defeating the Shadow would be theological and be Eastern as much as Western, and by the last book I knew that there would be a lot of alchemical symbolism to it also. Truly this is an Opus Magnus.


Now that my read-through is over, I shall resume updating articles with information from Jordan’s notes (which I’ll announce here) and also writing some new articles. My next post here will probably be a recap of which articles I’ve updated already.

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