Monday, April 20, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #3 - What can Be Read in Maps

What can Be Read in Maps

by Dom

One of the great pleasures of developing a passion for a book or series of books is that there comes a point you are so comfortable with the events of the story and characters that you have plenty of room to let your mind wander a bit and explore other layers of the writing and storytelling as you re read. When the object of your passion is the work of a writer as playful and witty as Jim Rigney by all accounts was, there's plenty of treats to be found this way, because he hides many 'secrets' in his books.

There are in the novels plenty of hidden layers, some serious and some completely humorous, and many in-between. The more knowledgeable characters will point out soon enough that the Wheel weaves lives into threads, and that all these threads are woven into the Pattern of the Age, and all the Ages through the turnings of the Wheel are woven into yet a greater Pattern. Robert Jordan, somewhat rather maniacally, introduced layers of patterns in as many aspects of the series he could think of. Some are obvious, like the repeating patterns of behaviour. Some run fairly deep, like all the patterns from world mythology. I will try to bring a few up as we progress in the series, but for this post I will focus on one of Jordan's favourite ways to give the impression of 'patterns' to his readers, one with which he virtually opened The Eye of the World: the geography and location design in the series reflect the series' great themes.

We'll look at this with a series of rough sketches of the Two Rivers map. The map needs first to be rotated clockwise by 90 degrees (there is a symbolic reason for this, but I won't go into it today). We have now top left the source of the Manethendrelle in the mountains, and top right the source of Taren. Both rivers join and encircle the Two Rivers region. Symbolically, the source of both is the dried-up ocean from the AOL, of which the Sand Hills were once a shore. This functions as:

1. The mythological World River encircling the World in many myths.
2. The related Great Serpent of Time, also representing the cycle of life.
3. The True Source, with its divided components merging as one : the 'White River' (Manetherendrelle) and the 'Dark River' (Taren).

In between the 'World River', the combination of the Roads, the Winespring Water and the Westwood form the trunk, lifeblood and roots of the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, with the Winespring itself Mimir, the fountain of wisdom. With the World River all around, the classic mythological representation of the Tree of Life is complete. It is also a representation of Man, the Tree of Man. And it is a representation of Rand : his lost left hand, and the twin wounds in his left side, represented by the razed down Taren Ferry.

If we look at a very rough sketch of the Westlands, the same pattern is repeated :

The branches, from Bandar Eban/Falme to Rhuidean, and from Tear (with the Fingers of the Dragon as the roots) to the Eye of the World. The Blight corresponds to the Sand Hills, the destroyed Malkier to Manetheren and it is completed with a 'hole in reality' from where Evil pours into the land : Shayol Ghul in the North, the Waygate of destroyed Manetheren in the Two Rivers).

The same is also represented around Tear, the two branches, the Fingers of the Dragons, the Stone itself in which heart Callandor is found. North the Waygate from which Evil (the attack) would come in KOD. Notice how this is reflected in The Eye of the World: again an attack by Shadowspawn on the isolated farm (instead of the manor), again the ramblings of a madman (the wounded Tam and Lews Therin). Notice too that on the 'Road to the Stones' (ie: The Quarry Road), Tam had a Sword for Rand, a Sword hidden in a trunk under his bed which he never touched...

Now, if we zoom toward Emond's Field, we will begin to see one last'Pattern within the Pattern' for today, as Jordan describes the village and its features for the first time in The Eye of the World:

"Toward the west end of the Green, the Winespring itself gushed out of a low outcrop in a flow that never failed, a flow strong enough to knock a man down and sweet enough to justify its name many times."

  • The Spring represents the True Source – strong enough to knock a man down (saidin) but sweet enough to justify its name many times (saidar).

  • "From the spring the rapidly widening Winespring Water ran swiftly to the east, willows dotting its banks all the way to Master Thane’s mill and beyond, until it split into dozens of streams in the swampy depths of the Waterwood".

  • The willows, white and black trees, represent the Aes Sedai. Master Thane’s mill symbolizes the Wheel of Time weaving the Pattern, represented by the Winespring splitting into the dozens of streams of the Waterwood. The three bridges over the Winespring symbolize Time : The present (the wagon bridge, on which carts and horses pulling them pass) and the circularity of Time (one footbridge going south, the past and one footbridge to go north, the future):
    “Outsiders sometimes found it funny that the road had one name to the north and another to the south, but that was the way it had always been, as far as anyone in Emond’s Field knew, and that was that.”

  • (Notice that in chapter 12, Moiraine will use a metaphor which is essentially the same as the allegory Jordan used in the description of the Winespring:
    "No," Moiraine said in answer to a question Rand had missed, "the True Source cannot be used up, any more than the river can be used up by the wheel of a mill. The Source is the river; the Aes Sedai, the waterwheel."
    This is an excellent example of how patterns are echoed and repeated by Jordan at various levels)

    “On the far side of the bridges, the mounds were already building for the Bel Tine fires, three careful stacks of logs almost as big as houses. They had to be on cleared dirt, of course, not on the Green, even sparse as it was. What of festival did not take place around the fires would happen on the Green.”.

  • The Green represents the Living Land that must be protected from the Shadow, the colour adopted by the Battle Ajah, not because it represents soldiering but because it is the colour representing what the Green Ajah stands to defend. The three bonfires kept safely away from the Green symbolizes the three ta’veren and their mission : these bonfires won’t be used for festival in the end, they will burn Shadowspawn’s bodies.This imagery, that trees need to be cut and wood stacked, sacrifices required to achieve victory – will return very often in the series – from the battle in Emond's Field in The Shadow Rising to Elayne having to cut down wood parks in Caemlyn during the siege..

  • "The Winespring Inn stood at the east end of the Green, hard beside the Wagon Bridge. The first floor of the inn was river rock, but the foundation was of older stone some said came from the mountains.”

  • This is a transparent allegory of Tar Valon at the “east end of the Green” (on the big map that would be Caralain's Grass) and to Lews Therin (the mountains, a reference to the destruction of Manetheren equated here with Dragonmount) who 'created the island' in the prologue. This makes the Inn itself an allegory of the White Tower, where the mother and daughters live, where the council of seven (the Hall) have their meetings, in front of the large fireplace (ie: the Flame, the Amyrlin) made of river rock.
    "The whitewashed second story – where Brandelwyn al’Vere, the innkeeper and Mayor of Emond’s Field for the past twenty years, lived with his wife and daughters –jutted out of the lower floor all the way around. Red roof tile, the only such roof in the village, glittered in the weak sunlight."

    Notice that Egwene is brother less. Her sisters are older, and may be married with children but for the allegory’s sake Jordan has kept the sisters totally hidden from the story except for a mention in Ravens, where one is a widow and the others waiting to be married. Maybe they’ll come out at the end with families of their own, to symbolize the fruitful reunion of male and female Aes Sedai. Bran as Mayor carries the symbol of balance (the balance scales, silver for saidar.) Roofs are a symbol of sanity/insanity – here it is red, an allusion to the mission of the Red Ajah.

  • At this point of the story, the 'Black Tower'/male channelers - and even the warders and their bond, are represented by the dark fir pole bereft of all its branches planted in the ground, the Bel Tine pole around which the umarried women dance, encircling it with multicoloured ribbons.

    Next week, we will look into how the consecutive mentions of slashed dresses form a pattern that predict the course of Tarmon Gai'don ..... or maybe we won't ;) Joking aside, Robert Jordan's descriptions are not only very evocative, they are a well of little allusions and foreshadowing.... bath scenes notably were a never used up source of One Power humour for Jordan.


    - You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Eye of the World Round-Table open thread to leave a commentary of your own about any aspect of the book.

    - Got any nagging question about a topic from The Eye of the World? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.


    Animeeyez said...

    Great post! I don't have anything in particular to add except 'for reals about the bath scenes.

    Anonymous said...

    Try turning the whole map of the westlands 90 degrees counter-clockwise and you can see lower North America.

    Anonymous said...

    Just found this blog a few days ago and am loving the read-through! I've read this series many times through and still find it amazing how many layers RJ put in his books - and how much I've missed. Thanks for the hard work!

    Will McD said...

    A fantastic analysis, and exactly the kind of thing I like to read about (and find) in the WoT books. Much of this was things I hadn’t noticed before. As I look back at Jordan’s descriptions of the center of Emond’s Field, I see now the deliberateness with which he chose his words, and the symbols are clear to me.

    On the concept of the Two Rivers map as a “Map of Rand”, I couldn’t help but recall this bit from the Karaethon Cycle, from the opening of _A Crown of Swords_: “for the land is one with the Dragon Reborn, and he one with the land.”

    Ayn'ätmey said...

    I feel there is a bit is stretching here in the details, but that the overall picture is correct, and fascinating to read about.
    For example, willows are not black and white; they're green just like other trees, with brown trunks. However, they do sprout male and female flowers, apparently. Still, I find it more likely willows are mentions because of their roots: "The roots are remarkable for their toughness, size, and tenacity to live," (wikipedia)
    My other thing is, the Waygate of Manetheren doesn't seem "fall over" the same spot where Shayol Gul is said to be, but I don't know why the black dot showing the Waygate was put where it was; maybe I missed something in the details of reading.

    Still, your articles are fascinating and fun to read, and more importantly they give new appreciation for RJ's works.