Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Dragon Reborn Read-through #7: Three Times Makes True

by Linda

Other Forsaken think Ishamael lies without thought to gain an inch or a second. That’s quite an endorsement coming from them.

Ishamael had hidden himself like a bat above Callandor and hovers in the air above Rand. He is wrapped in blackest shadow; this is probably the True Power. Strangely, he slowly descends hovering. This is an ability we haven't seen before or since. The other Forsaken don't show any such ability to lift themselves off the ground with the One Power. Another True Power manifestation?

In Tel’aran’rhiod, Ishamael sent/made Trollocs and Myrddraal, turned air to soot, made flames, unravelled reality to send Rand into a world of nothing, flooded the halls, changed gravity, turned air to rock, then lava then a vacuum, and made soul-eaters.

He sprang each trap and ran on; what Ba’alzamon twisted to destroy him, he made right without being aware of how. Vaguely he knew that in some way he had brought things back into natural balance, forced them into line with his own dance down that impossibly thin divide between existence and nothingness, but that knowledge was distant.

- The Dragon Reborn, What Is Written in Prophecy

The theme of balance again. Rand and his opposite Ishamael duel. Ishamael wants to upset the balance, Rand to right it. The two are pretty equally matched.

The Stone rings three times as Perrin swings his hammer Thor-like (he is a parallel of Thor) to free Faile.

Ishamael weaves balefire at Rand and Callandor parts the flow:

a blazing shaft like the one Moiraine had made shot out of the shadows among the columns, straight toward his chest. His wrist twisted the sword instinctively; it was instinct as much as anything else that made him loose flows from saidin into Callandor, a flood of the Power that made the sword blaze brighter even than that bar streaking at him. His uncertain balance between existence and destruction wavered. Surely that torrent would consume him.
The shaft of light struck the blade of Callandor - and parted on its edge, forking to stream past on either side. He felt his coat singe from its near passage, smelled the wool beginning to burn. Behind him, the two prongs of frozen fire, of liquid light, struck huge redstone columns; where they struck, stone ceased to exist, and the burning bars bored through to other columns, serving those instantaneously as well. The Heart of the Stone rumbled as columns fell and shattered in clouds of dust, sprays of stone fragments. What fell into the light, however, simply was not, anymore.

- The Dragon Reborn, What Is Written in Prophecy

Neither Rand’s weave nor Callandor was affected by balefire. Later in Winter’s Heart, Aginor expected Callandor to survive his balefiring of the hilltop where Rand’s party were cleansing saidin. A logical conclusion would be that Callandor is made of cuendillar.

Rand sees Ishamael’s black connecting cords to the Dark One:
Black lines like steel wires seemed to run off from Ba’alzamon into the darkness mounding around him, vanishing into unimaginable heights and distances within that blackness.

- The Dragon Reborn, What Is Written in Prophecy

Only Rand’s action in cutting these cords prevented Ishamael, using the True Power, from winning the fight.

Finally Rand kills Ishamael, the Heart of the Shadow, by stabbing his heart with Callandor in the Heart of the Stone in Tel’arah’rhiod. As he lies dying Ishamael still insists the Dark One cannot be defeated. Of course that could be a lie. :P

Both Ishamael and Rand materialise in the waking world Heart of the Stone. All very symbolic stuff. Compare with this verse in the Karaethon Cycle:

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield. He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow. Pray that the heart of stone remembers tears, and the soul of fire, love."

- A Crown Of Swords, Opening prophecy

And this time, the third time he duels Ishamael, he kills him. The third time something happens or is attempted in The Wheel of Time series it has greater potency or is ‘made true’.

Rand believes he has killed the Dark One (even though Ishamael just finished telling him otherwise) and won the Last Battle. He aims to end the breaking and killing, and not break the nations and the world. With this on his mind, I think one of his questions to the Finns in a few days’ time is about this.

This is the third and last time that all three ta'veren are in one place and have a major win against the Shadow. Do I detect a strategy here?

With the end of The Dragon Reborn, we have the end of Ishamael masquerading as Ba’alzamon and the end of the uncertainty about whether the series would continue. The books become more complex, with (gradually) more explanation about what the Forsaken are up to (though not enough to convince us that the Shadow is way ahead of the Light in the war), and to my thinking, a lot more interesting.

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