Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #5 - Patterns of Symbols

Patterns of Symbols

by Linda

Certain themes are consistently tied to certain characters. There is a continual rain of variations of particular images and themes for each character throughout the series. They are repeating Patterns if you like, some minor, some major. This is a by no means exhaustive list. I’m sure readers can suggest more.


Strangling his neck
Single hands
Memories/Old Tongue
The Underworld: 'Finns, Mordeth and the gholam
The issues of sexual harassment

As an example, let's explore the strangling motif around Mat. A Trolloc with a catchpole nearly strangled Mat near Shadar Logoth. None of the others were attacked in this fashion. It is a Foreshadowing of when Mat was hung by the 'Finns. And all these are meant to show that Mat's character is based on Odin/Woden (see Mat essay for all Mat's parallels).

The foolery and jokery motifs around Mat is discussed in the Fool and Joker essay.

Fireworks are explored in the Mat and Bellfounders essay. The concept of using gunpowder didn't come from nowhere, it was carefully prepared with Foreshadowing and the use of the motifs.

The evil spirit Mordeth behaved like a ghost at first and touched Mat the most. He's an Underworld figure all right. The gholam too has an almost ghost-like ability to squeeze through small spaces.

As an example of what doesn't happen around Mat, he hasn't much to do with Ogier and the Stedding. He's experienced them because he was part of the group, but they have little impact on him. Ogier and Stedding are more to do with Perrin and also Rand.


Stedding and Ogier
Moderation and moderating
Making things

Some of these are obvious, because they are used a great deal, and others less so. Long before we knew Perrin had to make a choice between the axe and the hammer, they both featured from the beginning of the book and gradually reached a crescendo by Knife of Dreams. It will be interesting to see why Perrin has to choose the hammer for the Last Battle. It is the weapon of Thor, the Norse God Perrin strongly resembles.

Rand also has had a fair bit to do with Ogier and Stedding, but with him they are more associated with loss (of sensing the Source - and that means diminishing his life). Perrin is much more positive - the Stedding are an ideal for him that he wishes he (and everyone) could live up to.


Number One/All alone
Prince in Disguise

The Rand parallels essay shows how these symbols fit Rand.

The colour red is an interesting motif. A big deal was made about Rand choosing the red cloth to bind his sword in Caemlyn, and from The Great Hunt on he often wears red coats. And the Red Ajah caught him and abused him. There is also the red blood often on his hand from the unhealing wound in his side. All these things symbolise the blood, red on black rock, that Rand will shed in Shayol Ghul to Heal the Land.

Why are clouds and wind associated with Rand? Because he is a dragon, and in Chinese mythology the dragon is associated with fertility and rain, and in Western mythology, with more violent weather - storms, flood and drought. Rand appears to be quite good at working weather - he made it rain in the Aiel Waste. The clouds and wind are to do with Rand having to Heal the Land and the violence required for him to survive to do so.


- 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.


Dominic said...

A few more :

Perrin: wild man motifs (eg: having full of branches and leaves in his hair, or flowers etc. in his beard)


- Crawling and slithering imagery - this goes from all the crawling and slithering he does, to everything that crawls up or down his arms (embroidery does a lot, before TSR)
- Being tracked/helped/betrayed by moonshadows/moonbeams/looming moons. It's interesting to compare Winternight and Beneath the Dagger to spot all the repeating symbols and imagery and all the variants, like the association of Lanfear to Narg. I'll guess I found a post for TGH! :P

Terez said...

And another chapter name comes to mind - "To Be Alone". In Perrin's point of view, but about Rand, who is sending all of his friends away (and this was brought on at least in part by the loss of Lews Therin, which made Rand feel particularly alone).

That theme of Rand being the Lone Ranger definitely spans the entire series, but I think it was nicely summed up by that chapter, in a sort of roundabout way.

From the next chapter in Rand's point of view, a quote that was once my sig quote:

"I am the Dragon Reborn," he whispered at the walls sometimes, and sometimes shouted at them. "I am the Dragon Reborn!" Silently and aloud he raged at those who opposed him, the blind fools who could not see and those who refused to see, for ambition or avarice or fear. He was the Dragon Reborn, the only hope of the world against the Dark One. And the Light help the world for it. - A Crown of Swords, Chapter 33, "A Bath"

A very evocative paragraph, that. :D

Also, further on the theme of being alone, Min has to rescue Rand in this chapter from that despair, and this is where Rand apologizes to her for raping her. It's really amazing that he believed that, and no surprise that Min was very insulted, because for Rand to not even notice that she needed "comforting" just as much as he's as if, in his own mind, he really was alone when they were together.

Linda said...

Dom: Yes, Rand slithers like a serpent. Dragons were also called worms. Perrin the wolf-man of the woods is naturally close to the Treebrothers.

Terez: You won't be surprised to learn my favourite chapter name is Patterns Within Patterns!

Rnad was brought to think by Moiraine (and others) that he along - the number One - will win this war, but the Pattern has arranged for Three to do so. The number symbolism (another essay still at Wotmania) is fascinating, especially the interplay between One and Three.

As for Rand and Min: Rand has become very emotionally bleak by this point and was still sexually inexperienced. Think how surprised he was that Aviendha sexually desired him as much as he did her.