Friday, August 28, 2009

Lord of Chaos Read-through #3 Blind woman, Deaf Man and a few Jackdaw Fools

Blind woman, Deaf man and a few Jackdaw Fools:
Welcome to Emond's Field Town

by Dominic

For this post, I return again to Emond's Field for the last time in a while (we will pay another visit during the Winter's Heart read-through, when the next, but somewhat doubtfully the last developments happen).

The attacks by Shadowspawn in The Shadow Rising have brought a series of changes to the little village, but now the speculations of the Village's Council way back at the beginning of The Eye of the World (about the possible identity of The Stranger) are coming true: refugees from the troubles outside are flooding in the area, somewhat ironically as the they are fleeing Dragonsworn and civil war.

As we've noted previously, Jordan liked to use the Two Rivers, its residents, its geography, as a microcosm of the world at large. We have noted symbolic connections between the Winespring water and Winespring and the True Source, The Inn and the White Tower, its red tiled roof an allusion via a nod to the Red Ajah to the defining male-female AS relationship at that point - and its uniqueness in the village a representation that only the Aes Sedai can deal with male channellers; the big (and unique) fireplace (the Flame) in the common room (the Hall) in front of which the Village Council and Women's Circle sit for their meetings (the Sitters). We have noted the connection at the symbolic level of Gold with saidin/men, silver with saidar/women, and iron with non-channelers.

We have also noted that the destroyed city of Manetheren is associated symbolically to Malkier, the Waygate (in which an evil spirit is trapped, and from which hordes of shadowspawn come) is a parallel to Shayol Ghul, the Sand Hills standing in for the Blight and the Westwood in which only the hardiest of farmers live represent the Borderland. We have also noted that the Mill down the Winespring was a representation of the Wheel driven by the True Source , while the myriad of little streams of the Waterwood flowing across the quilt of farms south of the villages was a metaphor of the Pattern.

As he returns briefly to Emond's Field in The First Message, Jordan re-reintroduced several of these symbols, and altered them to reflect some changes in world.

First, there's the location of Perrin and Faile's "manor" still being built, a very large farmhouse. Jordan located just north of the village, in effect on the edge of 'the borderlands'. The refugees are also coming out of the woods, having faced the perils of the mountains - and allegory from the fact the Shadow is making people (the few who are wise enough) flock to Rand and his allies. This situation foreshadows Perrin's and Faile's involvement with refugees in the late series - while Rand and Mat are destroyers of the Shadow at heart, Perrin is since TSR a force for the future as well as the present - not only a protector of the common folk in the last battle, and a unifier of men and nature against the Shadow, but probably a builder for the future - Perrin's 'realm' has faced the Shadow, but it is now literally booming, as if the events in TSR was its Last Battle and the fourth Age is already begun in the Two Rivers, a precursor of what is to happen soon in the world, like it began first in Emond's Field in Winternight 998 NE - which may well be the intended symbolism: Emond's Field as the 'matrix' following which the rest of the world is then woven.

Political and judicial Power in the area has in effect moved out of the Winespring Inn (the home of the Mayor, where Council and Circle met) to the manor, much has political power is progressively moving into Rand's hands (and his three fellow younglings, Egwene, Perrin and Mat) in the world at large, and escaping the old center of power, the White Tower.

A new alternative symbol for the Wheel and its role is introduced: weavers' looms. They now proliferate in the region - and they will be used to transform raw wool (another image of the One Power) into finished products for trade. The analogy is amusing (and not coincidental), when you consider the Two Rivers has exported a lot of mightily good 'raw wool' since the beginning: from Rand, Egwene and Nynaeve to the girls recruited by Verin and soon the boys fetched by Taim). The new trade goods, the "finished products" that will appear in the next months in the Two Rivers are reflecting the fact all the younglings are beginning to come into their own: Egwene soon as Amyrlin, Rand as Dragon, Mat as military leader, and Perrin as unifier and protector.

Faile grants a privilege to a refugee weaver to build a carpet shop. The weaver promise Faile the gift of her best piece for the Manor's great hall (this may be interpreted as 'the best pattern/an important pattern'). This, and the throne-like chairs Perrin and Faile have had made, makes it difficult not to see a little in this a metaphor for the trappings of power around which Rand starts surrounding himself in this book. All this, and the fact the house is still being finished, is again a metaphor for the four Emond's Field characters gradually coming into their own in this book = all of them have having more and more to cope with the trappings, and the traps, of power too, incidentally. The characters are more and more walking the path of daggers.

Interestingly, while the original wheel symbol fed people's hunger (Jon Thane's Mill, transforming the grain into flour which the Flame at the inn transformed into bread - Marin's is the best to be found around), the newer symbol of the loom takes raw wool and transforms it into something which ornaments at a superficial level (much finer dresses and coats, and carpets), but is mostly meant to protect and keep warm, during winter (a function which Jordan specifically alludes to). Winter is associated to death in WOT - death toward rebirth normally, and final death when it's the DO's kind of perpetual, snowless winter. Notice all the references to nice dresses, even gowns, in that scene, very atypical of the Two Rivers previously - Faile mentions the villages seem about to compete to dress her, and that she can't see any use for gowns any time soon (this is an allegory Egwene will soon face too, all those gifts of dresses from Sitters, and the importance of 'appearing the part'). We see this not only a prolongation of the symbolism already mentioned, but also a reference to the sycophants currying the leaders' favours, a new bunch of which are about to be introduced in the first Rand chapter, and several in Salidar around Egwene, dressing her up with frills and silks like a pretty doll... or a puppet. The very same allegory was used when Siuan was 'hiding', in fact using, 'Miss Elmindreda'.

As I've noted above, power has shifted out of the Inn to the manor, just like the Tower's influence is waning. A very important detail is that Faile's great hall doesn't have a single fireplace but two of them. The shift marks the creation in Lord of Chaos of the organization for male channelers, still under the leadership of Rand at this point. This is the book in which he begins to put both Aes Sedai and Asha'man at his side, an in his service. As the Black Tower progresses, it will be represented in Emond's Field by a proper second Inn, right next to the Winespring Inn representing but much bigger. The Inn's name, the Archers, will properly honor Emond's Field own "Guardians", its longbowmen (and here we understand the metaphorical meaning behind Jordan's insistence that only men are capable of using the longbows, not boys nor women. I will point out that archery is also how Rand learned the Oneness initially).

The Winespring used to be associated mostly to saidar, and continues to be so a the moment. In the Two Rivers, the male symbol for the True Source is rather wells. In Eye of the World, there was even a little metaphoric joke in the scene where Tam is afraid his well has been tainted, then tastes it and laughs, commenting he's having fancies. In Lord of Chaos, the issues are to unify the Tower and expand the number of female channelers, and set them to useful service with their talents, and to find and train male channellers. Jordan has this reflected in the Two Rivers: to face the Dark One's growing touch on the seasons, which restricts water sources by drought, Perrin has new wells dug around the village, while Faile introduces a system of irrigation canals in the Waterwood area. In a nod to Rand's distant interaction with what is still The Farm ans soon will become Taim's Black Tower, Faile points out Perrin actually just suggested wells and the villagers made them appear.

To return to the shifts of power, Jordan has introduced a little humorous riddle of some interest. He has Cenn Buie, who we have identified in the past as the stand-in of Elaida in the microcosm, come protest to Faile about the newcomers and the women's new ways of dressing (a nod to the Asha'man's uniforms people fear and Aes Sedai really don't like - Cadsuane's group will later force their warders to discard them). Funnily, it turns out for all his protesting, Cenn is actually hiring newcomers too as helpers in his business - possibly an early allusion to the Reds bonding Asha'man. Cenn's problem turns out to be worries over a specific newcomer who runs a tile business and made Cenn, the thatcher, anxious for his living. Annoyed with change is more like it, as Faile points out there's more than enough work for both of them! Cenn has lost full monopoly over roofing, like Aes Sedai need to accept the return of their long lost brothers. Faile points out to him that Perrin and her have chosen to use thatch for the manor at the moment, but that Cenn is not advancing very fast, and she may have to call in Master Hornval to inquire about his tiles. Part of the analogy is fairly obvious, given Elaida's actions and positions - and how she is getting bogged down. Master Hornval is also a fairly transparent shortening of Horn of Valere. Where Jordan was going with all this is however fairly obscure (symbolism has never been such a good crystal ball, I'm afraid!!). Was Jordan referring to the fact the Heroes follow the Dragon and the Banner - and thus Master Hornval is rightfully Rand and this alluding to the contest for leadership of the Light between Elaida and Rand? That's probably the best interpretation, as this contest takes place during Lord of Chaos itself. Another possibility is that behind Master Hornval/Horn of Valere is actually Mat or a reference to the heroes' leader Hawkwing, in which case is an allegory of the struggle for Tar Valon which could take place between Elaida and the Seanchan. That's however much less likely Jordan was projecting this far with the allegory, despite the tempting Mat-horn association. We probably have the right interpretation at this point, but one or the other of the AMOL books will confirm it.

I have pointed out in my previous LOC post how important the Blacksmith figure, a non-channeler, is in the series, that he is pivotal in making the tools necessary to life (from axes to fell trees for building or fires, hammers and nails to build with wood, to metal pieces in looms, shoes for horses (symbol for destiny, the thread being woven by the Wheel( to all that is necessary to make weapons and fight the Shadow (not for bows, as archery is used as a symbol for channelling). The blacksmith is so essential the Aiel protect them from harm in battle or from being made gai'shain: capturing or killing a sept's smiths is condemning the sept to death: the smiths make the spearheads (this metaphor is extended to Perrin as leader, who has the annoying habit of wanting to give himself up to foes - and his stopped by people who tell him they need him, from Faile to the Emond's Fielders). Master Luhhan's forge, essential, is also always rebuilt very fast - in TSR after his forge was destroyed in his arrest, he had a makeshift forge rebuilt near the Green - EF absolutely needed him working to defeat the Shadow - from turning tools into weapons to shoeing the horses to making arrowheads to iron pieces needed for the catapults to work - catapults that represented the union of almost all forces against the Shadow: explained by the knowledge of scholars, built out of the land itself (stones and trees) by the craftsmen and the blacksmith, brought into the right places by the power of horses, kept loaded by the strength of men and made deadly through the talents of Aes Sedai protected by warders and longbowmen. When the catapults are no longer enough, people on horses (Verin, Perrin) are falling - a symbol the ta'veren is faltering, the Pattern is taking a bad turn - and the Shadow is winning, it's the last missing pieces, women and children and outsiders, who will join the fight and turn the tide).

As I have pointed out in the previous post, the Shadow's counterpart to the Blacksmith figure are the Forgers in Thanka'dar. The Forgers, said Demandred, are not proper smiths as they can only make deadly blades - which they complete by giving a human 'the final death'. In the Faile scene, we see the mirror of this: Master Luhhan associates himself with a cutler and a whitesmith. The people of Emond's Field have access to more and more knowledge and crafts, a situation we find paralleled with Rand's Academies, which emerge in this book. In a later read-through, we will see how the academies' progress is reflected in Emond's Field, on the eve of Tarmon Gai'don.

There are also mentions of metals, found in the mountains. We can see in this an 'hidden treasure', the local - and in macrocosm the resources of everyone, being put unearthed and more and more fully put to use. This goes hand in hand with the explosion of crafts, the Academies - and which is also reflected in this book by the sudden explosion of knowledge on the OP front: in Salidar through Moghedien, at the Farm with the Asha'man - and by the end of the book, things starting to come together as Rand completes his Asha'man retinue with his first sworn Aes Sedai. Gold for saidin, silver for saidar are found in the mountain, and iron for non-channeler. Faile reminds the miners that iron is important and useful too - as Perrin will notably prove at Dumai's Wells.

Another amusing microcosm vs. macrocosm element is that the Wisdoms come and complain about three boys (incl. Aes Sedai-fan Ewin Finngar) who've listened to Perrin's stories and vanished to see the world. RJ never returned to them. I often wonder if he intended to at some point in the finale - those boys could show up anywhere, really, from Caemlyn or the Black Tower to Tar Valon. It would have been funny to learn where they went, if only through a passing mention. That sort of tiny secondary details may have been lost now - or could RJ's notes have been so precise as that?

The part of the POV with the Wisdoms is also full of analogies, first to Egwene's position toward her Hall and the circle, but also to Elaida stuck with her council. There's even an analogy for the Yellow sister Shemerin's fidgeting and unsuitability among the others, with the youngest Wisdom acting exactly like her, and eliciting from Faile the exact same reaction Elaida had at Shemerin (and dealing with it similarly, Faile decides she will have to talk to the Taren Ferry circle about replacing the Wisdom).

I will conclude with a short explanation of the title I gave this post, taken of course from the book's opening children's chant.

As we'll discuss later, this book is very much about fools. They are mentioned 18 times in the prologue alone, in each and every scene, and 178 times in the whole book - and that's discounting all the variations on the same theme, from woolheaded idiots to brained-addled nobles to mentions of madness and nonsense.

In the Faile scene, we have some of our first (but by no mean the last in Lord of Chaos) blind women and deaf men. In a form or ironic humour so typical of Jordan's writing and perhaps my own favourite type of humour quirks from him - I just adore this sort of scenes where he makes the POV character completely blind to the irony of what they say or do (my all time favourite might be a scene where Nynaeve complains about the fact men always seems to think violence ever solves anything, then goes on to that she would very much like to beat the whole lot of them, that it might give them some sense... classic!), Mr. Rigney has two women fighting over the same man (a sober Emond's Fielder and a Domani in risqué dress, making the analogy Jordan was getting at even more transparent) coming to Faile to solve their situation. Faile (thinking them very much fools) sends them to the Wisdom, and hopes Daise Congar will be in one of her worst moods and teach them both a lesson about losing the Wisdom's time with their nonsense. Faile is absolutely blind to the fact barely a few months ago she was rolling on the floor with Berelain in the middle of a corridor - and to the fact they'll pick up their foolish rivalry exactly where they left off, and climb to even higher summits of absurdity, very shortly. Foolish girls... indeed. Jordan keeps going with the humour: as soon Faile sees the back of the women, Daise Congar barges on her, and Faile muses how difficult it is to handle the wisdoms and that she doesn't like how Daise and the others treat her like a Lady one second, and secondly dare advise her as if she was a girl. Fools indeed. This becomes a running gag when later in the scene Faile remembers how she chased Calle Coplin out of the manor with a broom for having eyes on Perrin. Blind woman. Scenes like this always wipe straight out of my mind any irritation I might develop over the attitudes of some the characters. Some get irritated at Faile, or at all Nynaeve's bad faith, or like when Egwene goes to hide from Rand for three days (in TFOH) after he all but exposed the secret she isn't truly Aes Sedai by pointedly not asking Moiraine to use the Power as a weapon because of her Oaths, then publicly asking Egwene to join him in the battle - never realising what he's just done (poor Rand is even very confused why Egwene might be hiding from him like this...she was afraid Rand would go on and state flat out in public he's asked her because she's just Accepted, you fool! Mind you, Egwene's the fool for having claimed to Amys in TAR that she was full sister... for no good reason. And Jordan made her pay, and pay for this lie - he loved humourous payback a lot). For some reason, my love for Jordan's humour I guess, I don't get irritated at any of this, but I do smile and chuckle A LOT reading Wot.

As for our deaf man, it's Perri n- all that Faile is telling him about his attitude to servants she's training, and his duties as Lord go in one hear and straight the other.

As for the fools, they're all Faile's petitioners, most coming to her for reasons more foolish than the others, giving us together our first King and Queen of Fools and their little court of Fools.

The motif will continue through the books, a series of women blind to some facts and men who don't listen to advice or reason. Rand not listening to Bashere, with his court of extremely foolish sycophant, Ailron and Morgase-Tallanvor, Elayne acting like a spoiled-child in Salidar... and like this all the way through the end of the book.


Linda said...

Well they say there's no so blind as those who will not see, and Faile won't see that there is no need to be jealous or that the situation with Berelain was all Faile's making. If she didn't overreact, she would not spur Berelain to but in.

Perrin is deaf to Faile's subtext, poor guy. He believes in plain speaking, not moody silences, cryptic threats and taunts.

Unknown said...

Yes, but now maybe Faile is growing up a bit.

Dominic said...

Thanks for your comments on the other post Reptile. :)

What I love most about Faile is the balance RJ managed with this character. Her resilience her understanding of what a noble truly is and should be is most admirable,and in many ways she is wise beyond her years, very insightful and intelligent too. Her education as heir to House Bashere is a testimony to Davram and Deira. Faile could (will?) do very well as Queen of Saldaea.

And I really love how RJ tampered this with her emotional maturity. Knowledge is very important, but experience is too, and Faile still lacks some in the area of personal relationships. Faile is in many ways a teenager, her understanding of relationship too based in her Saldaean culture and education (and occasionally prejudices about the Southerners), which is often in need of some real life experiences of her own.

But as a whole she's doing fine, beside her blind spots when it comes to Berelain. The two are much alike in the end, and their rivalry owes much to their pride and strength of will. There's also implications that Faile's rivalry with Berelain is not unique, and she has much the same thing going with Tenobia. In fact, I often wonder how much Faile projected on Berelain her rivalries with her older cousin. What she can't possibly afford to bring in the open with Tenobia as she is her liege lady, she could get away with Berelain. As for Berelain, how much her rivalry with Faile owed to her frustration with her position to the High Lords, and to the fact Faile interferred with it unknowingly by wrecking her plans to use Perrin? It's almost sometimes as if Berelain has translated on Faile, which she considers a much easier target - and from there it escalated. Perrin is far from blameless in this - originally his unwillingness to admit his feelings for Faile and give her some commitment is largely responsible for her insecurity and jealousy. That changed after the TR episode, and so did Faile's attitude. Faile stopped being genuinely insecure, and became frustrated with the fact Perrin is not playing the situation according to plan... a plan she of course far to prideful to simply explain to him.

Berelain went over the line with her doings during the kidnapping. Her scheme to spread the rumour she's slept with Perrin was spiteful and a shot below the belt. I get the feeling she's gonna pay for this one!

I also get the feeling that the arrival of Galad and perhaps bumping eventually into Tenobia, might either put an end to their rivalry, or else make it much more serious and vicious.

It's been proposed that Faile might shave Berelain bald for poaching a married man. That would be sweet revenge if Berelain fell in love with Galad, but can't show herself out of shame. For example.

As for Berelain, she might get quite nasty if they bump into Tenobia, with whom she stands equal as a ruler, while Faile would lose much status. If Berelain managed to have Perrin included in councils and Faile kept out, this may get nasty.

I'm really puzzled whether RJ intended this to escalate further, or if he intended to bring this soon to an happy resolution. A good case of RAFO, I guess.