Monday, June 29, 2009

The Shadow Rising Read through #2 - What Might Have Been: Contingencies and Design

What Might Have Been: Contingencies and Design

by Linda

Like Moiraine, Siuan takes no account of Rand’s abilities or judgment:

“Burn him!” Siuan barked. “By now, he could be dead! I wish he had never heard a word of the Prophecies of the Dragon. If I could keep him from hearing another, I would.”
“But doesn’t he have to fulfill the Prophecies? I don’t understand.”
The Amyrlin leaned back against her table wearily. “As though anyone even understands most of them! The Prophecies aren’t what makes him the Dragon Reborn; all that takes is for him to admit it, and he must have if he is going for Callandor. The Prophecies are meant to announce to the world who he is, to prepare him for what is coming, to prepare the world for it. If Moiraine can keep some control over him, she will guide him to the Prophecies we can be sure of - when he is ready to face them! - and for the rest, we trust that what he does is enough.”

- The Shadow Rising, Seeds of Shadow

Had events allowed them to follow this plan it would have been disastrous. The 'prophecies they could be sure of' would be the Tower's consensus view of certain prophecies and therefore far too predictable, and easily betrayed by the Black Ajah. There is not enough time left for Rand to show them he is 'ready'. There are important players Siuan and Moiraine knew very little about at this time – the Seanchan, Forsaken, Black Ajah and Aiel – and they knew nothing about Tel’aran’rhiod. Their lack of knowledge is considerable to the point of ludicrous and it was arrogant of them to think they 'knew better' than Rand. Siuan and Moiraine didn’t dare trust the Pattern enough to keep Rand alive. At best, they were planning on treating Rand as a young Warder. In reality, Rand cannot trust them to keep him alive. Moiraine and Siuan didn’t even understand the significance of Perrin and Mat; that it is three ta’veren acting together, not one, who will win against the Shadow, which means they had no idea of the very basis of the Wheel's Pattern for winning against the Shadow.

If Egwene or Nynaeve had not left the Tower back in The Dragon Reborn, they would have been captured and interrogated and possibly stilled when Siuan was deposed. Certainly they would be unable to do their part. If Min had done what she wanted and left for Tear after reporting to Siuan as Moiraine commanded, she would not have been there to help Siuan, Leane and Logain escape and wouldn’t have met up with Rand either.

In The Shadow Rising, Decisions, Rand says he was born to fight the Dark One and fulfil the Prophecies. Lanfear says he doesn’t have to, that prophecies are only the sign of what people hope for. This is similar to what Siuan says. It sounds like projection in the Jungian sense. It might be a lie, and then again considering how the Pattern has been taking no chances with Rand, it might not.

Late in the book, Moiraine tells Rand that Prophecy is most dangerous when one tries to make it happen (The Shadow Rising, Traps) and that even Rand cannot hold it then; the pressure explodes the Pattern. Yet making Prophecy happen is what she and Siuan planned to do, and what she tried to do in Tear by urging Rand to declare war on Illian. When Rand drove Callandor into the Stone and went off to Rhuidean he was following the Prophecies. Does this count as 'trying to make them happen'? It was successful nevertheless, as when Mat followed the prophecies of the Aelfinn. Perhaps the subject of a prophecy has the right to follow prophecy, but no one has the right to force their interpretation of a prophecy on another.

Elaida failed miserably in Prophecy Interpretation and Applications 101. She is convinced Rand will destroy Andor and that Andor must be kept whole because of her Foretellings. She wants to dispose of Rand herself because her Foretelling of Rand bringing division and strife for Andor will wreck her Foretelling about the royal line of Andor being the key to defeating the Dark One and consequently thwart her ambitions to control/influence Andor and thus the Last Battle. She thinks the Tower would only watch and guide the three ta’veren when they should be disposed of. Presumably she means killed. If Elaida hadn’t concentrated on Andor because of her Foretelling she might have been Amyrlin 10 years ago instead of Siuan. Happy thought.

This scene shows the critical role of choice in prophecy. Both in whether to follow it or not, and also in how the prophesier presents and interprets the prophecy.

What is often overlooked is that in all kinds of prophecy, the prophesier participates in the prophecy:

  • by their interpretation,

  • by whether they tell anybody of it and who they tell,

  • by how they tell of it, and

  • by their actions.

As we see here, Foretellers participate in their prophecy through misinterpretation, who they choose to tell, and by their subsequent actions. Elaida is a classic example of a seer who closely participates in her prophecies. She is certain that her interpretation of her Foretellings is correct, although they could be interpreted in other ways. She is also notorious for keeping her Foretellings to herself (thus losing the chance for objective discussion and proposal of alternatives) and for using them for personal advantage.

A prophet should take more care in their prophesying. As much as a follower of prophecy should.

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