Friday, June 19, 2009

The Dragon Reborn Read-Through #10: Mat, from Inn to Inn

Mat, from Inn to Inn

by Dominic


Jordan offered us a first POV of Mat in The Dragon Reborn, Mat freed from the taint of Shadar Logoth. For obvious reasons, he couldn't introduce this character's POV during EOTW or even less TGH, when it was certain to make him appear very unsympathetic and annoying.

I wouldn't even say more unsympathetic and annoying for me, as it's not before TSR and even more TFOH that I sarted to like the Mat character and find him somewhat funny (later 'very funny' - and hilarious once Tuon joined his story line, though I'm a even bigger fan of the humour surrounding Nynaeve). The POV in The Dragon Reborn was something of a shock, as it turned out Mat was even worse than how the other characters saw him: self-centered, obsessed with riches and money (and even after all the woes it caused, he is still musing on getting back the ruby from the Shadar Logoth dagger to sell it), lazy, judgemental and always keen to see the bad sides of other people first (and often only), immature - altogether grumpy, whinny and cutting to others and by a long shot a worse travelling companion then any of the girls to each other. The list of his annoying sides early on could be long, some perhaps aggravated by the Shadar Logoth taint - like his extreme suspicion, especially of Aes Sedai and Rand. Many people blame Egwene for the distance that has grown between her and Rand, but it is Mat in this book who turns his back to Rand, even to their friendship, with the most vehemence, while all the rest of the Emond's Fielders will struggle with much at times, but will always strive not to abandon Rand and not to lose Rand al'Thor behind the Dragon image. For Mat, it goes from 'best friend' back in Emond's Field to 'a nice enough fellow, but who could be friend with a man like him?". It's amazing how Jordan was able to turn the character of Mat around over the course of the series. He's still a bit of all that, but along the way his true valour, his true heart as well, started showing and his bad sides started becoming sources for humour. He is among my favourite characters now.

In The Dragon Reborn, Mat's journey truly begins after the 'false start' of Shadar Logoth. A counterpart to Perrin, Mat became in this book a major player, with his own story line. As I mentionned in an earlier post, in this book the focus of the Inns shifted to the two secondary ta'veren.

The Tremalking Splice could refer to many things. Much later in the series, Mat would seal the Sea Folk to Elayne and Nynaeve. He would also have unpleasant encounters with ropes and nooses. This could eventually refer to his thread in the Pattern and dying and living again. But my favourite way to interpret the Inns' name is that it heralds the beginning of Mat's journey, and his belief that he is escaping 'everything': the Aes Sedai, his destiny as ta'veren etc. In truth, he is escaping Siuan Sanche yet tying himself to the Pattern even more strongly - going back to Rand and Moiraine, to the underworld of the Finns that would bring him to Rhuidean. This Inn where it begins also sees the true emergence of Mat's Luck. Mat thinks he's cut the rope, but it's only for it to be spliced and hold him much stronger.

The Woman of Tanchico is an interesting one too. In the Dragon Reborn, Mat is merely beginning to assemble around him the people who would become his companions/followers. Mat is a trickster and like many gods of war, a kind of Carnival figure, able to twist the odds around him, turn the world upside down. By the Last Days before Tarmon Gai'don in Knife of Dreams, he will have gathered around him the strangest crew of characters of the whole series, people in the oddest situations, who aren't what they seem to be : an imperial heiress and a figure of Judgment turned into a 'thieving servant', a lady's maid who is actually a lethal assassin and bodyguard, a motherly Innkeeper playing matchmaker and almost an accomplice to Mat's 'lively' character who is in truth a very serious Brown Ajah Aes Sedai scholar who burned herself out, sul'dam caught in a wagon with a bunch of Aes Sedai forced to be 'grateful' and obedient to Mat, a gleeman who was in truth lover to a Queen long ago, who has quite a few assassinations on his book including one (Galldrian) that sent a whole nation into chaos, a Tairen thief-catcher who's becoming quite good at freeing or kidnapping noblewomen, a once naval officer elevated to the Blood, cast out of the nobility and ordered to become a shea dancer if she wants to return to the Seanchan fold, who is in love with her slave who leads her by the nose but who is forced to pass herself out as Mat's girlfriend, a scout who is actually a master thief, the once Panarch of Tanchico now passing for an humble servant in love with a mere thiefcatcher (it should be funny to see the reunion of 'Thera' and Elayne), mini-Mat himself, Olver, a maker of fireworks - displays of beauty for aloof noblemen - performing with a circus and who has turned herself into the inventor of gunpowder artillery - and of course the strange old man with his tall tales who is actually the hero Jain Fastrider in disguise. And that,s without including the odd group of the Band of the Red Hand, with once idle and do-no-good noblemen's sons in top positions. Together, Mat's little carnival was right at home at the circus.

So, who is the woman of Tanchico? First, she could be Amethera/Thera. By the end of the book, Mar will 'recruit' Juilin the thief-catcher - her future mate and saviour. She could be Liandrin, one of the two important Tanchican in this book, though unrelated to Mat. Lastly, and most probably, she is the dual Illuminator/Armorer Alludra, who will cross Mat's path in The Dragon Reborn before joining his 'dark carnival' much later in the series. Her duality might be represented by the two sisters owning the Inn. It is noteworthy that at this Inn Mat recruits his first 'follower' in Thom.

There isn't much to say about The Riverman, unless perhaps it alludes to yet a third important future companion of Mat, Bayle Domon.

The Good Queen, where Mat meets Alludra, is an ironic nod to Morgase who, compelled by Rahvin, is making a mess of everything. It is, beyond that, an allusion to the future Queen of Andor, Elayne, whose ties to Mat begin in this book and would, later, have her label him 'a most valuable subject'. This theme is also carried through at the Queen's Blessing, Mat's next stop. Jordan has developped an humorous running gag around those two, slowly turning Mat into her knight-servant through twisted, amusing episodes alluding to the classical tasks Knights accomplish for Ladies in the Arthurian and French 'courtly love' traditions. It begins by challenging her two champions, her brothers, to a duel. By chivalric tradition, Mat has made himself the new champion of Elayne by defeating in fair fight her two knights. And the parallel continues: soon after, Mat has to brave all sort of dangers on a quest to carry an important message for his Lady: a letter to his mother. From the palace, Mat has to embark on an even more dangerous quest, to go save the Lady for the evil Knight holding her captive in his fortress. And it doesn't end there... Mat later gets charged by the King Arthur figure, Rand, to escort the Lady to safety - an other archetypal task. In Ebou Dar, the stakes are raised, and Mat has to save Elayne by fighting the monster (a dragon image, the Gholam) that threatened her and her treasure. That is all, for now... there is one more very important chivalric task Mat has not performed for Elayne: defending her castle from assieging enemies. But with part of the Band already heading for Caemlyn, let's say this isn't over yet. ;)

The White Crescent may allude to the Stone, a 'fortress of the Moon' or to Lanfear, who set much in motion in this book.

The Golden Cup is an allusion to Mat's Luck, that emerges in this book.

In complement to this post, we are publishing today The Dragon Reborn entry of the Dew Drop Inn: Wheel of Time Accommodation article.


- You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Dragon Reborn 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 Dragon Reborn? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.

No comments: