Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #9 - Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back

by Linda

The Eye of the World started with the confrontation between the two champions Ishamael and Lews Therin. Lews Therin had unknowingly killed everyone around him in a Masque of Death scene. The page from the graphic novel version of the Prologue of The Eye of the World shows this very well, and I discussed the comparison between the Kinslaying and the Masque of the Red Death in an earlier post. Ishamael tempted Lews Therin with the resurrection of Ilyena if he turned to the Shadow:

"You can have her back, Kinslayer. The Great Lord of the Dark can make her live again, if you will serve him. If you will serve me."

The Eye of the World ended with a largely symbolic and spiritual battle with miracles. Rand destroyed the Shadow’s massive army without knowing how. He also denied images of Egwene and Nynaeve and destroyed Myrddraal that were abusing his mother, Kari. She thanked him and exclaimed: “The Light, the Blessed Light.” I find it hard to believe that a dream creation of Ishamael would say that. Perhaps it really was her soul there. Ishamael wanted to use Kari to tempt Rand to the Shadow; that, and the offer to escape the taint that took Lews Therin. Looking ahead, perhaps Kari features again at the final confrontation with the Shadow.

A major difference between the end of Eye of the World and the beginning was that the Creator spoke and called Rand the - his - Chosen One:


- The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow

Well I think it was the Creator.

The Creator told Rand that he would not interfere and that Rand was his Chosen One and that only he can do what must be done to defeat the Shadow. This is a parallel to God in the New Testament announcing at Jesus’ baptism that Jesus was his son and he was well pleased with him (Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22). Furthermore at Jesus’ transfiguration:

A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."

- Luke 9:35

which is even closer to the Creator’s words.

Jordan has stated at a book-signing that people are expected to help themselves, not ask for the Creator to help them:

Another point he pressed was that "no one's going to rescue you", there are not going to be any miracles. The Creator shaped the world and set the rules, but does not interfere. Humankind messed things up, and have to fix it too, as well as finding the truth themselves.

So I think it was the Creator because there are theological parallels to the words spoken to Rand.

But I know that some of you think it might have been the Dark One because he (I follow RJ’s convention) speaks again later in the series. Yet the Creator actually speaks to say he’s not going to take part and so logically it isn’t surprising that he (RJ’s convention again) keeps to his word and doesn’t speak again. The Creator's the good guy; of course he'll keep to his word. And the fact that the chapter is called 'Against the Shadow' might be a tiny little hint. :P

Rather than being a Shadow conspiracy, I think the Creator bent the rules just that once as a blessing for Rand. What the Creator did was Announce that Rand is his Chosen One and that Rand had to do his duty and save the world because the Creator wasn't going to (or couldn't). All consistent with RJ's theology.

The Great Hunt and, to a lesser degree, The Dragon Reborn also each had theological endings. Many readers didn’t notice that the first three books had conclusive ‘theological’ endings disguised a bit with ‘action’. The other books had endings which were much less theological. The final book/s and Rand’s fight with the Dark One in particular will also surely have a theological ending to complete the cycle and the Pattern, so I expect some more mystical stuff. It may also be that the Creator will feature at the ending too.

Lone mountains also feature in the beginning and ending of The Eye of the World. A single mountain is a symbol of the sacred centre. It’s a Rosicrucian symbol and may be a Masonic one. (Jordan was a Freemason as we learned from his blog). The sacred centre symbolism is even more emphasised because the mountain was caused by the death of the Creator’s champion and was the place of the soul’s rebirth. It is important to the symbolism that this area remained unchanged by the Breaking. Holy mountains are entry points to heaven or sites chosen by God for revelation or sites of eschatological events in Judaic thought.

We saw the creation of the volcano Dragonmount at the beginning of the series, and looking forward, I predict that Dragonmount will feature again at the end of the series with a much larger eruption signifying Rand's death compared to the one which heralded the death of Lews Therin and the mountain's formation. Already there has been volcanic activity in Knife of Dreams - clouds of vapour and gases, strange winds, storms - typical of an impending eruption. The photo right is of a wall-hanging I made, imaginatively title Eruption. Entirely embroidered and quilted by hand by me last year, it's not small at 1.5m (5 feet) high. With their link to the centre of the earth, and spewing out the innermost contents of the planet volcanoes are sacred and revelatory places indeed.

In keeping with the theme of balance, Jordan has another single volcanic mountain, Shayol Ghul, the Dark version of Dragonmount, which is where Rand confronted Ishamael near Shayol Ghul at the end of the book and where he is prophesied to face the Dark One and die (even if temporarily). It's the evil centre. Mountains were often regarded as places where gods have their home, and this is especially the case with Shayol Ghul.

At the beginning of the series, Lews Therin mentions the Song and Singing in the Prologue, foolishly asking Ishamael:

”Have you the Voice, stranger? It will soon be time for the Singing and here all are welcome to take part.”

- The Eye of the World, Prologue

This theme has a minor completion in Loial's Singing at the Eye to save the Green Man from the Blight of the Shadow. The Treesinging and Lews Therin's reference to the Song is a hint that the Song will feature at the end of the series to counter the Shadow’s evil and likely save Rand the Healer of the Land.

After channelling at the Eye, Rand says he won’t channel again:

"Oh, I won't ever touch it again. Not if I have to cut my hand off, first."

The Eye of the World, The Wheel Turns

This is the first mention of Rand losing a hand or an arm and it is particularly apt that it occurs in a chapter entitled The Wheel Turns. Rand uses cutting off his hand or arm as the worst thing that could happen except for what he vows not to do, or as something that can almost prevent him from doing what he vows not to do. At the end of the series, Rand will confront the Shadow without his hand, having channelled repeatedly despite his stated intent.

At the beginning of The Eye of the World Lews Therin calls Ishamael down for saying Shai’tan, but Ishamael says uttering the name isn’t dangerous for him. (Interestingly, the other Forsaken don’t dare utter Shai’tan; maybe there is good reason that Ishamael is shown as an equal match for Lews Therin in the Prologue, is now Naeblis and has always believed himself to be the Shadow’s Champion.) At the end of the book Rand, having depleted the Eye, names Shai’tan and calls the Dark One's eye upon him. Will he defiantly name Shai'tan again at their final confrontation? It’s all fun with mirrors.


- 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.


Fanatic-Templar said...

I really don't think that the Kari conjured up by Ishamael at the end of the book is the real Kari.

For one thing, she is summoned exactly like the other two - Egwene and Nynaeve - so it seems likely that she comes from the same place too, that is, dreamstuff.

We've never seen Ishamael have the power to control dead souls yet either, as far as I can see. Though he was likely partly responsible for the creation of Slayer, so who knows. This close to Shayol Ghul, it might be possible.

More importantly though, we know from the whole reincarnated Forsaken and balefire conflict that Shai'tan can only catch a soul during a certain window of time. Now, twenty years is well beyond that window, since Rahvin and apparently Be'lal were unattainable due to a much smaller time loss.

Basically, for Ishamael to have access to Kari's soul, if it is at all possible for him to have access to souls, Shai'tan would have to capture it twenty years ago, long before he had any reason to do such a thing.

It could be due to a shift in how the rules work, as RJ had not necessarily decided on this yet, but I prefer to think it was simply Rand's dreamwalking abilities manifesting themselves - basically, Kari said what she did because Rand wanted her to.

Dominic said...

I agree with you Ben. I think the odds Kari was real are slim to non existant given what we know about windows of opportunity to seize souls. What she said is just the result of Rand taking control of Ishamael's conjuration before it dimmed away. We see something similar early in EOTW, when what Rand has on his mind seem to influence the people of Tar Valon Ishamael had created.

Ishamael seems to have a 'skill' for conjuring 'TAR puppets'. His 'creations' are often populated. He must have picked Kari up from Rand's dreams he spied on - Rand doesn't mention that she looks different than his dim memory of her, which I think is a telling sign this was just a fake Kari made to look just like Rand's mental image of her.

OTOH, it's clear that in EOTW RJ intended to leave this matter ambiguous, as it was a nice little touch to have there if the book sold badly and the deal for the other five books fell through.

Linda said...

That doesn't work for me. How could Kari say what Rand wanted, when Rand was able to will away Egwene and Nynaeve, but not Kari. He had to endure her abuse before killing the Myrddraal. If he could have done as he wanted/wished for Kari, she would have vanished with the other two figures and not been tortured. Hardly a wish-fulfillment.

SteelBlaidd said...

Minor quibble.

The first mention of Rand losing a hand is actually in the very end of Ch 19:Shadow's Waiting, when after hearing the history of Shadar Logoth and the Story of Caar One-Hand, Rand dreams of being "a little boy again, carrying Tam's sword and with a cradle strapped to his back, running through empty streets, pursued by Mordeth, who shouted that he only wanted his hand."

This has always seemed to me to be foreshadowing that the loss of rands hand is tied to the recovery of his humanity.

BobH said...

I've always thought it a little odd that Rand has never pondered (at least on screen) who spoke to him (about being the Chosen One) at the end of EotW, especially when he waxed philosophical about the Creator and his practice of non-interference in CoT ch.24.

I wonder if Rand even remembers the voice speaking to him, or if that memory was lost while he was unconscious after battling Ishamael? He seems to remember everything else that happened at the Eye, though, so I assume he remembers the voice, too.

If he does remember, I hope we have a scene in AMoL in which Rand ponders the voice before it makes another appearance (if indeed it does). Understanding what Rand thinks of the voice beforehand would make a 2nd appearance much more interesting/meaningful, IMO.

Anyway ... I wholeheartedly agree that the voice was the Creator's.

Dominic said...

"I wonder if Rand even remembers the voice speaking to him, or if that memory was lost while he was unconscious after battling Ishamael? He seems to remember everything else that happened at the Eye, though, so I assume he remembers the voice, too."

Given the non-interference of the Creator, it would make sense that all memory of his 'intervention' (a fairly passive one at that) vanished as soon as Rand got the point, and he won't remember this before he dies and go wait in TAR. There the Heroes seem to understand a bit more of the nature of the world than other humans do.

It's more than a little odd Rand never refers to it again, especially in his early inner debate about not being the Dragon. I think it's rather obvious he no longer has this memory.

I don't expect the Creator to have much of a role at all, unless possibly there is a POV of Rand while he is dead - in that case I would tend to expect the Creator to speak to his Champion again, at least if his mission has already been accomplished.

Dr Saidin said...

I agree with Ben and Dominic... I don't think that was Kari, but rather just a puppet which Ishamael conjured up.

Maybe I'm naive, but I don't believe the Dark One can harm you or touch you when you die, unless you've given your soul to him. It's a classically Christian way of looking at things, but I think RJ prescribed to it in this sense. He's constantly reinforced the fact that the Shadow can never possess you unless you give yourself willingly.

Apart from that, Ishamael is not the Dark One. He could never conjure up a soul. Even talented Dreamwalkers need to find a real, living person and pull them into the dreamworld, and Ishamael even experiences trouble finding the boys in this very book.

As for Rand having to withstand Kari's torment. Ishamael is an accomplished dreamwalker. His images cannot be unmade unless by a more experienced or powerful dreamwalker, which Rand is not.

Dominic said...

I agree Mark. There's also the major problem of Shai'tan finding out about Kari in the first place. The only way is through Ishamael and Rand's nightmares about his origins since Winternight. And with that we're back to 'she was just illusion' made by Ishamael - what happens with her at the end is just a sign of the strength of Rand's will, and the decline of Ishamael's in that battle.

Anything else gives Shai'tan way too much power at the time of EOTW. And that may be precisely the point: RJ may have put that ambiguous scene in there to show a teaser of Shai'tan's powers over ghosts, in case EOTW remained a single book. With the further books and the additional knowledge of TAR we have gained, it's now obvious that Kari was fake... but it doesn't mean Shai'tan won't have gained this sort of power over the 'soul pool' by the time of the Last Battle, but by EOTW it stretches credibility, IMO - the barriers between all the layers of reality had not quite weakened enough, I think.

BobH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BobH said...

Regarding why the Egwene & Nynaeve images dissipated immediately while the Kari image did not ... it could simply be a matter of Rand's degree of certainty/uncertainty.

At that moment, Rand was certain that Egwene & Nynaeve were alive and safely away from there. That certainty enabled him to quash Ishamael's TAR puppets immediately.

However, the only thing he was certain of re Kari was that she was dead. And although he tried to convince himself that that fact was enough to keep her from Ishamael's clutches, I suspect that subconsciously he wasn't entirely certain. There was doubt in his mind (whether he was consciously aware of it or not), and that doubt prevented him from quashing Kari's image like he did Egwene's & Nynaeve's.

Everything Kari said about Rand freeing her, and her subsequent torture, can be attributed to Ishamael trying to make Rand despair and submit to him. The idea being that Ishamael would then spare Kari once Rand submitted.

But instead of submitting, Rand used the OP to destroy the puppet Fades that were torturing Kari. This success enabled him to subconsciously take control of the Kari image from Ishamael and cause her to thank him for returning her to the Light.

I'm not 100% convinced this is correct, but like Ben, Dom, and Mark I think it is the much more likely scenario.

The only other plausible option (as I see it) is that Kari was a Darkfriend (having been seduced by the Shadow's "honeyed tongue" at some point, as her image said), which enabled the DO to capture and hold her soul (suggesting that the DO captures every oathbound DF soul at the moment of their deaths, regardless whether he intends to reincarnate them or not).

This idea eliminates the problem of how the DO could have captured Kari's soul but not, say, Rahvin's or Be'lal's. In the latters' cases, they were balefired out of existance before the DO had a chance to grab their souls. In the former's case, the DO was able to capture Kari's soul (15+ years ago) because she was an oathbound DF and wasn't killed by balefire.

But I have two problems with that option. One, I just don't see Tam marrying a woman who could be seduced by the Shadow. And two, it seems unlikely to me that the DO could capture DF souls while the Seals were still intact, unless perhaps the DFs were taken to SG first, and killed in the Pit of Doom (say). But ~700 leagues away (Kari died in the Two Rivers)? I rather doubt it. At DragonCon '05, RJ said that the DO has greater access to people/souls at SG than elsewhere. Here is the quote:

Because of the Bore and the fact that the Bore is best perceived ... the Bore doesn’t really exist in Shayol Ghul, the Bore exists everywhere, its simply in Shayol Ghul where it can be perceived most easily. By the same token he has greater access to people at Shayol Ghul than he does elsewhere, or did.The "or did" caveat at the end simply indicates that now that the Seals have started breaking, the DO's reach is greater than it was. And, consequently, the DO can now grab souls further from SG than he could when the Seals were still intact. Presumbably, this wouldn't have been the case when Kari died 15+ years ago.

Dr Saidin said...

Linda's comment on how Kari knew so much about Rand etc. This has been duplicated before by Moghedien, who tried to trap Egwene in the dreamworld. The characters were knowledgeable of her and interacted as if they knew her. It seems to be a characteristic of TAR which somehow reads the person's mind and extrapolates a scenario. It might be similar to how the Accepted ter'angreal works.

Linda said...

I believe that Kari or her semblance will feature again before the end, so time will tell whether she is real or not!