Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #7 - Fool and Joker

The Fool and The Joker Symbols

by Linda

As I mentioned in my Patterns of Symbols post a couple of days ago, there is much foolery and jokery symbolism around Mat. When we first see him he is up to his usual fooling and joking: it’s his main claim to fame in the Two Rivers and is why nobody takes him seriously. Fools never are. The Fool and Joker images continue and become increasingly important: they form a sizeable portion of the influences on Mat’s complex character. (Incidentally I intend to write an essay on the parallels making up Mat’s character, just as I did with Rand).

In one way Mat’s long lasting immaturity is a character defect, but in another way it is what he is supposed to be – an innocent abroad – because if he were more cautious he would never have dared to do those things required by the Pattern. Being innocent and ignorant, he is not only open to new ideas, but accepts strange and alarming experiences (such as having his mind filled with other people’s memories) with apparently no ill effect.

The Fool and Joker are major archetypes related to the Trickster gods of mythology, gods such as Loki and Monkey which RJ said he based part of Mat’s character upon, and they have been in Western thought since medieval times as part of Carnival and the Lord of Misrule, even appearing in decks of playing cards. (Jordan was a keen card player and had a great eye for symbolism.) The symbols on playing cards and the card games themselves reflect the society of the time. This happened in the WOT world too, when the Ruler of Cups in Tairen decks was promptly given Rand’s face once he took the Stone (see Chop article).

The Fool has freedom to do and say whatever he likes because no one takes an idiot seriously. The Joker is either a wild card, again able to do what he likes and turn events to his advantage, or he trumps all other cards. Both the Fool and the Joker, despite being outsiders, have an enormous influence on their respective card games and can turn them to their holder's favour. We've seen Mat do all of this. Mat has been at times a great Fool and at other times quite the Joker, but he has had the power and freedom to alter the Pattern of events quite out of all proportion to his lowly status as a farmboy turned soldier.

He isn’t the only Fool in the Wheel of Time playing card pack as my new essay in the Reference Library, The Fool and The Joker in the Wheel of Time shows. It explores the Fool and Joker symbolism more extensively than I've done here, not just regarding Mat, but other characters as well.


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