Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Fires of Heaven Read-Through #2: Gang of Four

Gang of Four

by Linda

In the early books there is little information on the Forsaken’s plans. Of course there’s also little information on their weaknesses and disunity either, so that they seem more all powerful and knowledgeable than they really are. The Forsaken appear as demigods at first – with the mythological parallels underpinning their characters well to the fore – to make the male and female heroes more vulnerable and ignorant in comparison. From The Fires of Heaven on, as our heroes gain in knowledge and abilities, the weaknesses of the Forsaken are revealed. This is when the historical parallels of the Forsaken – such as members of the Nazi high command – are more obvious. And lest you think I’m reading too much into the Forsaken here, RJ himself compared the Forsaken to the Nazis on his blog.

During the early part of World War II, the Nazi commanders seemed dangerously malevolent and powerful, yet at the Nuremburg trial, onlookers were struck by their mediocre characters. RJ deliberately de-mythologised the Forsaken to follow this historical example.

Take Graendal as an example. She’s Circe and Aphrodite at first, but by Lord of Chaos she is more like Goering, actually a lot like him, with some Goebbels and even a little Poppaea Sabina and Messalina of Ancient Rome for good measure.
This issue is explored further in Three Strands Common to the Forsaken now released on the Thirteenth Depository, which has a discussion of the similarities of the Forsaken to the Nazis, and a list of the mythological, Nazi and Ancient Roman parallels of the Forsaken, and also in the individual essays on the Forsaken (Lanfear, Graendal, Asmodean and now Sammael have been published so far).

In The Fires of Heaven, a Gang of Four meets to plot against Rand. He will be lured to Illian to attack Sammael and a circle of Rahvin, Graendal and Lanfear will take him.

Graendal needles the others to put them off balance as is her wont, but Lanfear does the same more successfully to goad them into supporting her plan. It’s a curious plan for Lanfear to propose, since she still has hopes of Rand becoming her lover, yet here she is arranging for three other Forsaken to kill him. Or is she? Was she going to nip back to Rand just before kick-off and betray them to him? If so, Moiraine’s actions were in the nick of time. (More on this in a later read-through post.)

Sammael doesn’t believe Asmodean chose to back Rand, because Asmodean never took a chance before. Lanfear says Asmodean set an ambush he thought would put him above other Forsaken and when it failed he chose Rand rather than death.

Rahvin decides information on Rand’s friends companions and allies (The Fires of Heaven, Fanning the Sparks) will be handy. Lanfear later tells Rand that Rahvin sent the Darkhounds to Rhuidean since he sees Rand’s Tairen soldiers as a threat to his ambitions to be King of Cairhien as well as Andor (The Fires of Heaven, Gateways).

In A Silver Arrow Rahvin says he can ensure that Rand goes for Sammael by arranging for someone close to Rand to die plainly at Sammael’s orders. (Rahvin doesn’t want Rand and his enormous and highly skilled forces anywhere near Andor.) This assassination nearly happened: when Mat mentioned Caemlyn, Melindhra attacked him with a knife ornamented with the sigil of Illian. Mat and Rand fell for it, and assumed it was arranged by Sammael but they wanted to get Rahvin first. The attempt did stop Mat from running away, however, and make him decide to fight back for a change:

“Are you dressed for the ride south, Mat?”
Mat shoved a hand into’ his coatpocket, fingering something. He usually kept his dice and dicecup in there. “Caemlyn. I’m tired of them sneaking up on me. I want to sneak up on one of them for a change.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Choices

Sammael wanted to be part of the link because he feared the other three would turn on him. Graendal says Rand would notice since Asmodean would have taught him that much at least. This would fuel Sammael’s keenness to get rid of Asmodean.

Moghedien spied on this second meeting. Ever alert, she sensed Nynaeve and Birgitte doing the same. It was probably Nynaeve she sensed, since Nynaeve didn’t know the trick of masking her ability to channel.

In the Battle for Cairhien, Rand quotes the Duke of Wellington while focussed on Sammael:

Only a battle lost is sadder than a battle won. He seemed to remember saying that before, long ago. Perhaps he had read it.

- The Fires of Heaven, The Lesser Sadness

And like Wellington, he said it after a great and bloody battle. To emphasise the importance of this quote, the chapter is named after it. Linking Rand will Wellington in this way, even hinting that Rand might have been Wellington in a former life (see Rand essay), highlights the many similarities between Sammael and Napoleon. These are described in the Sammael essay now released along with his parallels to other historical figures such as the Nazi military commanders Rommel and Jodl, and Nazi governor Seyss-Inquart, and to mythological figures such as Apollo and Ull.

Ironically, Rand’s belief that Sammael attacked him during the battle for Cairhien may not necessarily be right. It could well have been Rahvin.

1 comment:

David said...

Wow, this is a great site. I need to take a few days to go over all these great ideas I never really thought about. I'd say more but I have some catching up to do;-)