Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Path of Daggers Read-through #4: Appraising the Treasure

By Linda

The Elayne and Nynaeve subthread starts with Aviendha worrying about the lost child Olver. Much to her surprise, her love for Rand is inspiring her to develop maternal feelings. Some things haven’t changed however, such as her attitude to the ‘Oathbreakers’. Even though only one Cairhienin – Laman – broke faith with the Aiel and was executed for his offence, all Cairhienin are condemned. Indefinitely.

Aviendha also stresses about her difficulty with Travelling. It is due to Aviendha having already used a different weave for Travelling when she fled from Rand in Cairhien, but one she can’t remember. Cadsuane explains the problems:

The first way you learned the weave for a particular thing imprinted itself on you; learning a second was all but impossible, and even when you could learn, the second learned weave almost never worked nearly as well… As for handwaving… Few [Aiel] had channeled where she could see, but she had noticed that they created some weaves without the gestures that sisters used. The hand movements were not truly part of the weave, but in a way they were, because they had been part of learning the weave. Perhaps, once, there had been Aes Sedai who could, say, hurl a ball of fire without some sort of throwing motion, but if so, they were long dead, and their teachings with them. Today, some things just could not be done without the appropriate gestures. There were sisters who claimed they could tell who had taught another sister by which motions she used for which weaves.

- The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

Aviendha Travelled instinctively, but in her panic never took note of how she did it. She has had to learn Elayne’s way, but it is a poor second. Aviendha does remember the gesture she used for her original weave, but that wouldn’t help from what Cadsuane said, since whatever gesture Elayne used when she demonstrated it to Aviendha is ‘part’ of the weave. So Aviendha is performing neither weave exactly in the way she learned them. It will be interesting to see if Aviendha’s difficulties with Travelling are important for Towers of Midnight.

This subplot has some interesting symbolism in these early POVs:

The thin Sea Folk porcelain that Aviendha eyes was actually made by Amayar and reflects the brittleness and fragility of that people’s philosophy, the Water Way, and ultimately their mass murder and suicide (more on this in the Knife of Dreams, read-through). The gilded and lit lamps lining their way out of the Palace symbolise royalty, vigilance, truth and life, and refers to their quest to restore the seasons and establish Elayne on the Lion Throne.

Nynaeve’s attire of blue with yellow slashes hearkens back to Lan’s former Aes Sedai, Moiraine, as well as Nynaeve’s own Ajah and Healing Talent. She is trying to be everything to Lan. As he told her in Tear, Lan’s favourite colours on women are blue, green and white. The last is an odd choice, since white is the mourning colour. However, the colours are those of Moiraine’s Ajah and her Ajah’s allies. Elayne is also wearing her Ajah colour of green embroidered with gold to reflect her royal status. The girls have dressed formally for this very important occasion. Green is also the colour of fertility and Elayne will be pregnant soon.

Aviendha is modestly dressed in grey, reflecting her current lower station compared to the other two and also her growing role as mediator between Aiel and Westlanders. Aviendha’s comment that no Wise One ever told anyone to stand up to Wise Ones looks forward to her own problems with self-assertion which delayed her graduation as a Wise One.

Elayne was able to efficiently sort through the items they found in Ebou Dar by holding the Power and sensing whether an item resonated to saidar. (Hopefully items that are made to be used by saidin only also resonate to saidar.) The many items they obtained are detailed in the Ebou Dar cache article now reposted here on the Thirteenth Depository.

Three angreal were found in their share of the cache and their shapes are instructive, when one considers who uses them.

The turtle angreal was used by Talaan and later given to Aviendha. Turtles symbolise longevity. Being creatures of two domains, sea and shore, they are also often regarded as keepers of the doorways to other worlds, such as Faerie. Both Talaan and Aviendha chafed at the delays to their graduation and turtles are regarded as slow. The two girls have also, if not gone missing, at least taken longer to re-appear than they should. Elayne also considered using the turtle at a time when her path to the throne was delayed and the Borderlanders seemed a complication.

The figurine of a woman in a meditative pose clothed only in her luxuriant hair angreal is Elayne’s favourite despite being the weakest of the three. Elayne gave this angreal to Aviendha to use even though she wanted to use it herself. Unbound hair is often a sexual invitation, especially coupled with nudity as on this figurine. At this stage Elayne was rather jealous that Aviendha and Rand had made love - often telling herself to stay calm - and looked forward to doing the same with him herself.

The maze-engraved rings and bracelet with chains, padlock and key is the strongest of the three angreal. It adapts itself to fit whatever hand it is on and has been used by Nynaeve and Alivia. Rings are a symbol of commitment and, along with the chains and bracelet, a strong bond of service or duty and an eternal connection with someone.

The lock with its special key could be regarded as a symbol of marital fidelity. A lock and key also stands for both liberation and imprisonment. Another possibility is that the key could symbolise the unlocking of knowledge or weaves that are essential to protect. In a way the strenth of the angreal provides the ability to protect or save. Since the lock and its key are removable, it would be interesting to see if removing them affects the function of the angreal, for example by making it weaker or stronger.

On one level the angreal refers to Nynaeve’s marriage to Lan, especially considering Nyaneve wears Lan’s ring on a chain. Just before she was given the angreal to use she confessed that she had been silly about forgetting her duty while fussing over Lan.

Perhaps more importantly still, the angreal symbolism refers to both Nynaeve’s and Alivia’s fierce protection of Rand and also his trust of them in return. One will ‘help him die’ and the other is determined to help him live. Alivia feels a great obligation because Rand liberated her from the a’dam and she appreciates Rand encouraging her to learn all she can.

The angreal is engraved with a maze pattern. Mazes were thought to confuse evil spirits, and it is therefore apt that the angreal has been frequently worn and used in conjunction with the protective jewellery ter’angreal from the cache. The fact that mazes have many paths and dead ends implies that whatever weaves or aid Nynaeve and Alivia bring Rand will not come easily.

The Bowl of Winds is a hallows object, a life-giving cauldron of plenty in fact. The cauldron of the Dagda, an Irish god was called Undry and the Blow was used to bring much-needed rain and snow to the world.

The Bargain that Elayne and Nynaeve made with the Sea Folk was worthwhile. Without Caire’s rare and very advanced technical knowledge and skill they could not have restored the Seasons. The Windfinders’ knowledge was not valued by Egwene and the rebel Aes Sedai since they never saw the expertise necessary to use the Bowl.

Caire channelled into the Bowl with a star motif. The star symbolises hope, expectation and advent. For the alchemist it was a symbol of the imagination and of the material substances the alchemist hoped to transform. The mental powers of thirteen channellers were used by Caire to transform the weather pattern of the world. She began with a four-pointed star representing the four directions of the compass, or the four corners of the world, and then increased the number of points. The nine-pointed star triggered the Bowl to draw saidar itself and then saidin. Nine is a powerful number symbolising order within order, and the triple synthesis of mind, body and spirit, or heaven, earth and underworld.

Sammael also obtained a share of the Ebou Dar cache. After Sammael’s death, Rand and the Asha’man stripped Sammael’s rooms bare of whatever Graendal left (The Path of Daggers, New Alliances). She complained that she didn’t have much time before they arrived. This implies that Graendal got her hands upon more than just a weak angreal, but we don’t know what.

It’s remarkable how often Mat is present when treasure hoards are accessed onstage for the first time – Shadar Logoth, the Great Holding in Tear, Rhuidean and finally the Ebou Dar cache. He really is the God of Wealth. Perhaps he will be shown over the Eelfinn’s treasure stores too.


Joebuu said...

Thank you for these re-read posts; I have enjoyed them all. I have re-read the series so many times in the last 15 years but these posts have provided me with even more insight to the characters and themes. I particularly enjoyed the note at the end pointing out how Mat was the God of Wealth and am present when the treasure is found. I know it wasn't onstage but he also was among the party that recovered the items at the Eye of the World in the aftermath of that fight. Now I have to go read your essay on his character. Thanks again.

old salt said...

Using the Bowl of Winds is my favorite scene so far in the whole series. Rand's epiphany was great as was the Cleansing, but for me the use of the bowl epitiomized the superior position women hold in WoT. In addition it is the first on screen mention of the combination of the two halves of the OP. It is not coincidental that the two greatest blows struck against the DO have been with Saidin and Saidar combined.

Old(the two together are a gestalt)Salt