Monday, June 15, 2009

The Dragon Reborn Read-through #6: Perrin Out of the Woods

Moiraine and Perrin Out of the Woods

by Dominic

In The Dragon Reborn, the focus shifted from Rand to Perrin and Mat. Similarly, the symbolism surrounding the Inns turned to Perrin and Mat, who visited them, while Rand and the girls roamed the 'wilderness', so to speak.

I will make a survey of a few of the Inns featured in the book while looking at Perrin's story arc, and at Mat's in a future post.

While his character doesn't shine as much in The Dragon Reborn as he will in book four, an highlight of The Dragon Reborn for me is the temporary shift of perspective from Rand to Perrin, and the return of Moiraine again as an ambiguous half protagonist and half antagonist, which is perhaps most effective and balanced when Jordan showed it through the eyes of Egwene and Perrin, both extremely critical of her, but without the excesses about her (bordering delusions and bad faith) of Rand and most of all Mat and Nynaeve.

The juxtaposition of Perrin, who strives to hang to his humanity, and Moiraine, who gives to the world and her entourage the image of a cool and heartless manipulator, who rarely allow herself to show she cares about anything other than her cause (ironically, as she strives to save humanity but rarely allow herself to show her own humanity to anyone) and can still see people as human beings and have feelings for them, is very interesting.

I love the character of Moiraine, don't get me wrong. She is in my opinion one of Jordan's best drawn characters, or she becomes so in this book and even more in TSR and TFOH, after being in TEOTW introduced as the classic mentor figure (à la Gandalf in LOTR), with a massive twist: her 'charges' gradually turn against her, and she only gradually shifts from trying to control them to helping them to find their own way, the way a real mentor does.

As much as I like the character, however, I was never able to like the woman much - admirable in many ways, she's quite the hero, but she's in no way for me a very likeable figure. One of the facets of the character I enjoy most is that her story arc is one of being forced to release her grip, eventually surrendering her notions to pull the strings and keep the characters on a leash, her sudden urgency when she realises in Rhuidean her time is running up and she has failed to properly prepare Rand, failed to teach him what she could and instead kept him too much from secrets she feared him to learn (about Prophecies etc.) and tried to manipulate and lead him too much, struggled too much against the Wheel pulling Rand where he must really go, not where she, who isn't the ta'veren, thought he must and mustn't go. The Wheel doesn't wait on Moiraine's wishes, as she gradually came to understand and accept. Moiraine is the first character who must face (and accept, which she eventually does) that big plans for a smooth path to the Last Battle as she conceived of with Siuan Sanche won't work, that for all her years preparation the coming of the Dragon Reborn won't be much as foreseen, the ripples he sends out far worse than expected, and the efforts to control him pointless, as the Wheel pushes and pulls its ta'veren. And one of the most admirable thing about Moiraine is that in the end she understands and accept this with humility - accept, which may even be worse for her that her time near Rand is soon over, that she won't be at his side for much of what's ahead, that being at the Dragon's side in the years leading to Tarmon Gai'don - the cause she devoted her life to - isn't for her. She needed to go on another path (seemingly to return to him for the Last Battle itself) and she did.
And she prepared her exit with as much fortitude and dedication as she took her mission, when she imagined herself as the guide and mentor to the Dragon. In Rhuidean, Moiraine would truly gain Wisdom to complete her knowledge, and afterward finally she finds the way to play the role of teacher, with much humiliation for her, a consequence of the antagonism between her and Rand she largely was responsible for sparking: not easy to trust or like a woman who seems obsessed with making sure you die according to prophecy, and not only that but seems intent on bringing you to the slaughterhouse blindfolded, keeping from you as much as she knows of your fate in fear you bolt. Not an easy woman to have around. In TSR after Rhuidean she would also finally do what she probably should have done long before, warming up to Egwene and Rand on a personal basis. Part of it is still a touch manipulative - she 'remembers how to control saidar' she tells Egwene (though this may be in part a way for Moiraine to save face, to make Egwene believe she wasn't just accepting what must be but actually was still the puppet master), ie: controlling it by surrendering to it first, but most, the core of it is a genuine surrender, a genuine recognition of her real role in events, of her real place as a guide and teacher. With Egwene she will even attempt t the end to amend what she did in Tear by scheming succesfully to separate Rand from all his personal friends and scant trustable allies like Thom. It came a bit late, however, when Egwene and Rand have put great distance between them, him associating her to a schemer/puppet master like Moiraine, Egwene seing already more the Dragon than Rand al'Thor.

Moiraine appears, which isn't always the truth or the full truth, to dispose of people as she sees fits, as she decides the Pattern must be woven, and ironically she often achieves the real will of the Wheel through 'unintended consequences' of her actions: driving Rand away from the mountains, sending the girls and Thom away to their real destinies in an attempt to send remove them from Rand's entourage, leading Rand to puzzle out, crucially, important prophecies by her own refusal to share her knowledge of them with him openly, to bring him to share in the decisions affecting not only the Pattern, but also his own life.

On the one hand, we see her save Lan's life by arranging to pass his bond to Nynaeve. On the other hand, for all her good intentions, it's an extremely hard and cold decision, taken without even consulting the man who has given him his loyalty for nearly 20 years, nor Nynaeve for that matter. Moiraine played the matchmaker for both and made the decision for both. In The Great Hunt, we even saw betraying his trust and his loyalty, by hiding from him that Isam Mandragoran could possibly be alive. Again, two faces to the coin: by doing this she prevented Lan leaving her cause (and Nynaeve) and going back to his private war to avenge Malkier, which would most likely have killed him (which was probably the intent of this verse of 'dark prophecy', a bait for Moraine's warder that wasn't taken). On the other hand, this Oath is for Lan as meaningful and strong as his Oath to Moiraine, and hiding the mention of Isam from Lan was a poor way to repay his service and his trust, especially when the decision to pass the bond only at her death and to keep Isam a secret was a lot motivated by Moiraine's wish to keep Lan at her side. This would be mirror with stark contrast later by Nynaeve, who out of feelings she has for Lan, true selfless love, will find a much better balance between doing something that might save him while still letting him go away from her to fulfill what he sees as his duty. Nynaeve achieved the balance between duty and dedication and humanity Moiraine in the early book was not capable of.

And yet, for all her grating and ambiguous sides, Moiraine is vital to the Light, and she played a major role in forming Rand and Egwene into future leaders, though very often she achieved that by trying to prevent them from going their own ways, forcing them to become stronger to stand up to her and make their own decisions... unintended consequences again, at least before Rhuidean made her see things a bit differently.

In the Dragon Reborn it was most interesting to see Perrin start to challenge Moiraine and her methods. While he sometimes misses or fails to see the whole and fairer picture about Moiraine, if not as often as Rand, Mat and Nynaeve do, he often hits bullseye in his criticism (notably of her distanciation from her humanity), a role Egwene will pick up in The Shadow Rising. Moiraine in The Dragon Reborn teached a lot, by her own example, about dedication and duty and the hard sacrifices that may lie ahead for the boys. But for Perrin it's by mirroring that she achieves the most, unintentionally: Perrin hangs to his humanity in this book a lot in reaction to Moiraine's own distanciation from personal feelings she may very feel but refuse to show.

The story have him come out of the 'wild life' of the Mountains. As the book begins, he isn't quite an hermit like Elyas, yet lives somewhat like him in the woods, with the wolves around but kept at bay as he fears them too much and still refuses his nature as wolfbrother (and is confronted again with the Tinkers and the Way, a parallel again to The Eye of the World). Another interesting 'hidden layer' for Perrin in this book is that he starts his path to parallel Artur Hawkwing. Here, this is reflected by his 'hunting' of Rand, which mirrors almost exactly the path of Guaire Amalasan, who proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn in what is now Almoth Plain, who advanced through what is now Ghealdan and Altara, Illian and finally Tear, where he failed to take the Stone, all the way pursued by Hawking. Berelain and Faile parallel Hawkwing's two wives, but with a funny twist: Perrin unlike Hawkwing has to deal with the two at once, and they fight it off.

As Perrin gets out of the wilderness, he returns gradually to human civilization. First, after the episode of the attack in the mountains were he almost became wolf, he is given a warning at Harilin's Leap in the form of Noam, the wolfbrother who became wolf completely: Noam's fate confirms to Perrin his concerns about being a wolfbrother and losing his humanity are real. The Inn sign show a man jumping on one foot, his arms up in the air. It probably refers to a local legend, which isn't very important. The symbolism of the picture here is what counts - it is a leap to freedom for Noam, and it is also a reference to Hopper, the leaping wolf who dreams of freedom and soaring like the eagle.

Perrin's return to civilization progresses in Remen, which shows him the path to salvage his humanity with The Wayland's Forge Inn and its sign, a blacksmith with his hammer, that Perrin sees as 'a good omen'. The Wayland Forge is to Perrin what the Stag and the Lion was to Rand's character in The Eye of the World. For Rand, it was the encounter with prophecies and Min, for Perrin it is the first encounter with Faile and his destiny to pick up the Hammer again. At this inn, Perrin is surrounded by guests from wedding ceremonies. He also finds Gaul, and confronts more Whitecloaks, other important things on his path. Perrin has sought all his youth to tame his strength and impulsive side, fearing them. Tarmon Gai'don needed him to learn to find and unleash his physical strength and confront his capacity for extreme, murderous violence and - aspects he needs to fight the Shadow and become the Wolf-King. This is why he needed to pick the War Axe first and learn to use it, why he needed to become a wolfbrother and distance himself from his nature as a quiet, gentle boy. Blacksmithing gives him a taste of the end of this path, when he will have reached the point when his violence and wolf-ish nature become dangerous, when he will need to find balance again, and is ready to look back at what he once was and carry the blacsmith hammer, still a formidable weapon, but also a constant reminder of his true, complete self: half a builder and shaper of tools (also humans, as leader/ruler) as the Blacksmith, but a blacksmith who can use his hammer as a weapon to protect his people and destroy the Shadow. What begins at Wayland's Forge ends at The Star in Tear. A similar 'guiding star' in Shadar Logoth lead him to safety and toward his destiny of becoming a wolfbrother. The Star in Tear reveals to him his love of Faile, and standing between a smithy and a weaver's shop (two opposite images of the Pattern: the weaver relating to the Wheel weaving ta'veren tightly, the smithy representing a ta'veren like Perrin's ability to shape the pattern around him). At the Star, Perrin will save Faile's life for the first time, and give up the axe for the Hammer for the first time. Things come full circle to close the 'first act' of Perrin's story arc in a way that echoes strongly Rand getting his first sword at the beginning of EOTW and his second at the end of TDR; Perrin gets his axe from the hands of Harral Luhhan, and in Tear another blacksmith, Demrid Ajala, not only judges him ready to be a full blacksmith, but gives him the hammer that will one day become an hammer mentionned in prophecy, the Hammer of the Wolf-King. Both Faile and the Hammer are the keys for Perrin to retain his humanity, both Faiel and the Hammer are keys for him to play his role in the Last Battle, if Perrin manages to avoid the perils, manages to walk the fine line between hanging too much to his humanity, give in and not being ready to make the necessary sacrifices to save the world, and losing his humanity, not becoming the Wolf-King but a feral wolf, running with the pack in truth.


Unknown said...

I find your comments on Moiraine interesting and intriguing. I agree that she is one of the best characters RJ came up with, except I find her extremely likable, she may be my favourite character in the series.

Yes, indeed she was controlling for far too long, but she recognized the error (or futility) and changed it. I cannot remember where, but in one of the books after FoH, Rand makes the statement to himself that she is the only Aes Sedai he trusts/ever trusted, and only did so just before she died. The fact that she leads the litany of women that he recites to himself shows her importance to him.

When she comes back (Yes, I fall into that camp), and she has been informed of all the events that have happened (not a short conversation), Moiraine will have more credence and influence than before, because now Rand trusts her. She should provide an... interesting foil to Cadsuane.

In terms of her hiding the information from Lan, it is a decision that is serves them both, though arguably her more than he. At the same time, Moiraine is one of the toughest characters (With that wonderful combination of hard and flexible to make it durable) in the whole series, she is arguable tougher than Rand, she is willing to make the tough calls. As the saying from her native Cairhein goes, "Take what you want, and pay for it".

Fanatic-Templar said...

After reading this post and the previous one, a thought occurred to me. Here, you mentioned Perrin's path, pursuing Rand, to be a mirror of Artur Hawkwing's pursuit of Guaire Amalasan.

Linda mentioned that in his second dream, Lanfear tried to tempt Perrin into following the path of a conqueror of nations (specifically Alexander of Macedonia), which again recalls Artur Paendrag.

Knowing that Hawkwing was ultimately responsible for Amalasan's defeat and capture, could it be that Lanfear intended to turn Perrin against Rand?

Dominic said...

No Ben, I don't think so.

There's a distinct possibility Jordan had Hawkwing mimic Perrin, not the other way around, ie: those details of Hawkwing's bio were very possibly created later.

But I don't think this fits with what Lanfear has been doing in TDR, and that was very logical: Rand had survived a confrontation with Ishamael at Falme, where everything turned against Ishamael's plans. There was a miracle in the sky, and Rand's friends were all brought by the Wheel to this remote location to play their parts in the events. Lanfear isn't dumb. If Lanfear ever had doubt about ta'veren effects, they must have been shattered in Falme, but she also knew it was only a matter of time before the other Chosen saw their peril - especially that Ishamael had realised it and was taking the means to kill not only Rand but all his allies. For Lanfear, Rand needed to become more dangerous, and he also had to have a taste of the dangers he was in, so he would accept her plan to get him a teacher.

Lanfear set everything up for Rand to fetch Callandor while Be'lal's plans were not ready. Be'lal had assembled 13 BA, and seemingly was training them to use TAR. It seems there were also plans to send them on an expedition to Tanchico. Be'lal wasn't preparing for a farmboy, he was expecting Rand to come to him much later. He was surprised when he came to Tear, virtually told Rand he was an idiot to have decided to come so soon. His complete lack of preparation for Rand's imminent arrival - the BA nowhere near the Heart, having made no move to use the girls that fell in his lap etc. are evidence Be'lal didn't track Rand or watched his dreams. Lanfear did. Ishamael did. Not Be'lal. Be'lal was probably told Rand was coming his way, but obviously didn't believe it. Rahvin and Sammael seemed to think it was Be'lal's doing, and he seemed to deny it.

The other part of Lanfear's plan was to find a way to interfere with Be'lal's 13 BA. She first saved the girls by sending Slayer after Ishamael's assassins and she arranged to point the girls to Tear with the fake belongings - and next even by showing Egwene exactly what Rand would be facing (it sounds like Egwene sort of fell short of even Lanfear's hopes - she had no skills to contact Rand or anything). Lanfear surely expected the girls to report to Siuan, and probably that Siuan would not be stupid and send a small AS army instead of three Accepted, but soon enough she knew it would only be the girls. It seems she forewarned Liandrin so she could capture them. Basically, Lanfear just wanted them in the Stone, where the Pattern would take care of the rest. Her intentions for Mat and Perrin were to embrace their ta'veren condition - turned to her side, both could have been quite useful - as ta'veren against Ishamael and the Chosen, if nothing else. Perrin she saved from one of Ishamael's ploy in TAR, and she tried to have him do the exact opposite Ishamael wanted. Mat she tried to bring out of the Tower. She was probably just making her preparatory moves to turn Rand's allies to her side, but it's fairly clear at that point she wanted to nudge everyone in the right direction and let the Pattern do the rest to save Rand's butt in Tear. She can track ta'veren, she would have known soon enough Mat and Perrin were going in the direction of Tear and the Pattern seemed to weave toward the outcome she too wished for.

Lanfear made absolutely no move to remove any of Rand's allies from the board - on the contrary she helped them help Rand, even all the girls that were buzzing around Rand, not even Moiraine she never moved against, a mistake which proved her demise in the end. It's only once her plan collapse in TFOH that Lanfear changed her game.

Personally I believe Lanfear is also the one who used visions and dreams to drive Masema mad and have him build an army of religious fanatics totally dedicated to serving Rand.

Lanfear is a good case of selling the bear's skin before killing the bear: she was absolutely certain her plan to seduce Rand to her side would work.

Fanatic-Templar said...

Yes, my thought was that she would use Perrin's betrayal not as a threat to Rand, but to break his spirit, and convince him that he could rely on no one but her.

Though it is true that this fits more with Ishamael's methods than Lanfear's.

Anonymous said...

Nice article, though I think you are a LOT harsher on Moiraine than I would have been.

Unfairly so, in some spots.

An article of that length, with numerous examples of Moiraine's manipulative methods and poor treatment of others, and you don't even her actions with Noam, at considerable personal risk, I might add.

A bit unbalanced, IMHO. Though I am a fan of Mo's.

Manetheren said...

In actuality, Moraine's "death" was the requirement necessary to finally instill Rand's trust in her. He was on the edge near the end on FoH, but she'd marred her image too much in the previous books, until Rhuidean, in Rand's mind. In Moraine's desperation to get Rand to listen to and trust her again because she knows her time is short, she almost debases herself (at least in the eyes of other Aes Sedai, and to herself accordingly) to a point of humiliation to try and get Rand to accept her again. Because by this point his distrust of Aes Sedai is terribly high. Rand notices and starts to grudgingly accept her again because he's learned enough about Aes Sedai, at this point, that none of them would allow themselves to be so humiliated even if they were trying to manipulate him (at least without some kind of "fight"). But its her "death" that does it. She selflessly sacrifices her life to save him and confides in him, at the end, she knew this was coming and what she had to do, not for the world, but also for him; that she really does care.

I can't wait to see Rand and Moraine's re-union.