Friday, July 3, 2009

The Shadow Rising Read through #8 - Reluctant Hero

Reluctant Hero

by Linda

A new article is now available in the Reference Library: in the Character Parallels series, Mat Cauthon.

Mat Cauthon is perhaps as complex a character as his friend and fellow ta’veren Rand. Gods and heroes from world religions and mythology, Celtic heroes, great historical generals, and figures from medieval drama all have some bearing on Mat’s attributes and are detailed in the essay on Mat’s parallels newly written for the blog.

In The Dragon Reborn, and The Shadow Rising, the reborn Mat acquired considerable abilities.

Mat has been a soldier and a horseman since the start of the series – it is his heritage from the Two Rivers - but then his luck changed, and he became a trickster and a god of wealth. It was in Rhuidean that Mat gained the potential to become a general and, like Odin, was hanged to pay for this knowledge and perhaps for what this knowledge would do to the world when used to introduce gunpowder weapons. No longer will only one or two percent of the population who can channel be able to kill en masse (and most channellers are bound by social law or oaths or ter’angreal against doing so), anyone with a little training and equipment will be able to do so.

Mat’s final accomplishment in his unwilling efforts to preserve the Pattern from the Shadow will be to become the King of the Underworld or King of the Dead. (Not Death itself, that is Moridin). All three ta’veren become increasingly dark as the Shadow forces them into ever more violent deeds, blackening their names and characters. That is why each is associated with an ambivalent animal symbol: the Dragon (one step away from the Serpent), the predatory wolf and the unreliable fox . It indicates the price they, and the world, pays. While Perrin’s secondary animal symbol is the fertile and formidable bull (he is Young Bull in the eyes of the wolves), Mat’s is the raven, a scavenger associated with the dead. He was dubbed Prince of the Ravens in Knife of Dreams, soon after he and Aludra planned the making of gunpowder weapons and just before their first serous trial in the battlefield.

But in The Shadow Rising, Mat is a long way short of this. He is trying to avoid all forms of work, danger or responsibility. He won’t help Rand, won’t return home and he dreads his fate to be married; he thinks most of fun, money and the safety to enjoy them, despite knowing the crisis the world is in. Fond of women, Mat is far more loyal to his female friends than his male ones.

All through The Shadow Rising, and The Fires of Heaven, Mat’s mantra is: “It’s all Rand’s fault I am in danger/discomfort. The war is nothing to do with me; I don’t want to get involved.” This is a fairly typical example:

Burn Rand! None of the shapes he saw moving were big enough to be a Trolloc. Always dumping me into these bloody things! Low moans came from the wounded. A shadowy form he thought was Moiraine knelt beside a downed Aiel. Those balls of fire she tossed about were impressive, almost as much as that sword of Rand's, spurting bars of flame. The thing still shone so a circle of light surrounded the man. I should have stayed in my blankets is what I should have done. It's bloody cold, and this is nothing to do with me!

- The Shadow Rising, Traps

The Aelfinn’s and Eelfinn’s role in Mat’s development is crucial: between them they gave him the knowledge that will win battles against the Shadow and will gain him an important alliance with the Seanchan.

Mat escaped the dangers of the underworld of Shadar Logoth and the otherworld of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, although both times he was resuscitated and reborn – but then he is King of the Underworld.

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