Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winter's Heart Read-through Post #2: Schooling Their Thoughts - Wheel of Time Academies

By Linda

In Winter’s Heart, Rand re-visited the Academy of Cairhien after his campaign in Altara and Illian. Rand’s aim in establishing academies is to preserve knowledge in the face of the Last Battle and feared breaking of the world. There are now three academies – one each in Cairhien, Caemlyn and Tear. It is certainly a good idea to have more than one centre of knowledge to increase the chance that one academy at least will survive the Last Battle, and to provide variation in ideas. The latter reason is also why Rand has insisted that scholars of all types be given a place at them.

The first academy since Artur Hawkwing’s time began in Lord Barthanes Damodred’s palace after Cairhien was taken. On the site of a former Ogier grove, its search for, and collection of, knowledge is probably the best possible use in Ogier eyes – short of replanting the Great Trees - of what was effectively sacred ground to the Ogier.

Idrien is the headmistress of the school and her name is similar to that of Idris, the Islamic legendary inventor of writing and sewing and patron of craftsmen (see Parallels for Character Names starting with I now released on the blog).

We do not yet know what inventions or improvements have been developed at the Academy of Tear.

Elayne has taken over the Academy of Caemlyn and for a similar reason to Rand:

So far the school consisted of only a few dozen scholars with their students, scattered about the New City in various inns, but even in winter more arrived every day, and they had begun to clamor for more space. She did not propose giving them a palace, certainly, yet they needed something. Norry was trying to husband Andor's gold, but she was looking to Andor's future. Tarmon Gai'don was coming, yet she had to believe there would be a future afterward, whether or not Rand broke the world again. Otherwise, there was no point in going on with anything, and she could not see just sitting down to wait. Even if she knew for a fact that the Last Battle would end everything, she did not think she could sit on her hands. Rand started schools in case he did end breaking the world, in the hope of saving something, but this school would be Andor's, not Rand al'Thor's. The Academy of the Rose, dedicated to the memory of Morgase Trakand.

- Winter’s Heart, A Cup of Tea

The Academy of Caemlyn will play an important role in developing weapons for the Last Battle. It is the natural place for Aludra and Mat to work on developing their projects. If the Murandian mechanical engineer who designed the current crank for the Band’s crossbows reached Caemlyn despite the dangerous conditions, Mat would surely be interested in meeting him and discussing his new concept of a crank with which to load the crossbow without lowering it (The Gathering Storm, Legends). This mechanic may also suggest improvements to Aludra’s dragon carts that will absorb recoil upon firing, or increase their mobility and angle of aim, perhaps by mounting each cannon on two wheels with a trail (see Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article) if he is shown the designs or a prototype.

A wealthy royal patron such as Elayne can assign her city’s foundries to casting the cannon. Elayne would also have scribes or clerks, perhaps even Norry himself, who could complete the costing for the ‘feasibility study’ of the cannon that Aludra began in Knife of Dreams, Legends. Mat joked that if Rand won’t finance the dragons he might have to dice with the Queen of Andor to raise the money or resources for their manufacture, and this may well occur, since Rand spent a great deal of his wealth on food for Arad Doman:

It was a pittance [Tellaen’s compensation] compared with the amount of money Rand was spending to fund his armies, and even that was small compared with the funds he'd dedicated to bring food to Arad Doman and other troubled areas. At this rate, his stewards worried that he would soon bankrupt his assets in Illian, Tear and Cairhien.

- The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done

The last minute development of substantial fire power might leave too little time for the Shadow to react to intelligence received and prevent their construction. Apparently the Pattern believes in ‘just in time’ ordinance manufacture.

Whatever else the Academy of Cairhien produces – and since it has made telescopes it can make gun-sights or even crossbow-sights or field-glasses – it has already provided something vital: Herid Fel’s books on philosophy. In Winter’s Heart prologue Min collected many of them and has been studying them assiduously ever since for clues on winning the Last Battle. Her findings may be crucial to the Sealing of the Bore. Herid Fel was killed to prevent him making just this contribution.

With a generous endowment by Rand (although Elayne can now afford to fund Caemlyn’s academy independently), the academies are making rapid progress. They are bringing about a renaissance in learning plus an ‘industrial’ revolution. A variety of inventions and new developments have been made besides the crossbow crank, and I have detailed them in the Inventions From Rand's Academies article now released on the blog and also compared them with their real world equivalents. Most of the inventions date from 1700 to 1860 in our world. These inventions might imply that there won’t be a One Power powered technological revolution after the Last Battle, and certainly not a total reliance on the One Power as occurred in the Age of Legends.

Since the assassination of Herid Fel, the Shadow has apparently not seen the academies as a threat. Perhaps coming from a highly technological age, a technology based on the One Power, the new developments seem too primitive. That is, however, their strength. Anyone with understanding and fairly simple tools can make these devices for themselves, whereas once the Age of Legends society was disrupted enough for the standing flows which powered the ter’angreal to be destroyed, the populace was left with almost no technology, or tools to create and maintain it, at all since only a few percentage of people could access the Power source, i.e. channel.

Knowledge, real and false, and its acquisition or destruction, is an import theme in the Wheel of Time series. Dominic wrote an essay on the Price and Prize of Knowledge prior to the release of The Gathering Storm.

The destruction of knowledge is supposedly Mesaana’s favourite modus operandi, but Ishamael works more insidiously and perhaps effectively, by substituting real knowledge with false. Being a philosopher himself, it was likely he who saw the threat Fel constituted and arranged for Fel to be killed.

Directly or indirectly, the academies will contribute greatly to the Light’s efforts at the Last Battle. They are not just academic.

* * *

The first page of the new article:

Inventions From Rand's Academies

This article describes the technology being developed by the members of Rand’s academies in order of their occurrence in the series. All these technologies have been developed before in Jordan’s world, but, in keeping with his ideas on cyclic time, they were forgotten during the Breaking or the early Third Age and are only now being rediscovered.


This was Rand’s first academy and it is located in Barthanes Damodred’s former palace.


During the siege of Cairhien, [Idrien] had built a huge crossbow, all levers and pulleys, that hurled a small spear a full mile hard enough to drive through a man.

- Lord of Chaos, A Taste of Solitude
This is a small ballista, and would be fastened to a mount. In our world ballistas were developed in Ancient Greece. Idrien may not have (re)invented the ballista in the Third Age, since in The Shadow Rising, Verin and Alanna used catapults, a related device, against the Trollocs in the Two Rivers and no one was particularly surprised.

In general, military technology currently lags behind other technologies in the Wheel of Time world. Gunpowder is not used yet, for instance, though its military use in our world predated the invention of the printing press (which has been developed in the Third Age).

Improvements in paper quality

One of the academy’s inventors has developed a method to improve the quality of paper:

An array of screens and scrapers and crocks full of linen scraps produced finer paper than anyone made now.

- Lord of Chaos, A Taste of Solitude
Unfortunately Jordan gives no details of this method.

In our world paper mills were in existence in Europe by the 14th century, and the process remained largely unchanged until the late 18th century, with linen and cotton rags as the raw materials. Eventually the great demand for paper was more than the rag industry could provide, and a process was developed to make paper from wood pulp in the 18th century.



Anonymous said...

Linda - I picked up on the Mat-Elayne connection from the above-quoted comment but didn't consider the potential impact of the Camelyn school - nice analysis. Also, keep in mind that Elayne is going to need something productive to do while her body gets unwieldy as she gets closer to birthing the twins, and working with Aludra to supervise the development and deployment of firepower for Rand's armies at TG might well end up being the focus of her role in ToM - in addition to hosting Mat and Perrin and their respective compatriots in their returns to Camelyn. RobM

Dida said...


Regarding Mat's need to create cannon, there is the possible after any are created that one of the channeling group (Kin, Sea Folk) in Caemlyn should make Iron cannons into Cuendillar cannons.

On Mat's desire to increase the firing speed of his Heavy Crossbows, would going to Cairhien to get Idrien be a good possibly? Considering she already created a high powered extend firing range Heavy Crossbow which almost killed the Shiado Clan Chief in Cairhien.

There a need in the story arcs already for someone to go to Cairhien in ToM book, that's other reason why I'm open to the possible of Mat and/or Aludra go to recruit Idrien. Besides many of the inventions already in the works or created would benefit a military force: Gliders, Telescope, Ballista, Streamwagons, Paddleboats.

For example, Perrin's forces easily could use Paddleboats armed with cannon & ballista to protect Ghealdan's southern & eastern borders from Shadowspawn & Seanchan Empire. Meanwhile Mat's cannons would be far more effective with telescopes, to confirm damage at long-range. The Band of Red Hand could move much faster on a battlefield with Streamwagons re-supplying the Cavalty & Foot Soldiers too.

I am curious though, we will see large scale chemical weapons & warfare in WoT before the end of the series?

Historically, chemical weapons have been around a very long time. Perrin already poisoned a whole city's water supply with forkroot to immobilize Shiado Wise Ones from channeling, similar to the Athenians actions in 600 B.C. Would Gas warfare be next up?

Why does Dominic think Herid Fel was killed on Moridin's orders?

A Gholam killed Herid Fel, but Moridin's thoughts elsewhere express the view nothing can sense the True Power. Yet a Gholam can sense the True Power, as we have seen from a male Gholam pov in Ebou Dar.

There was another likely previous killing by Gholam in Cairhien, when Lord Barthanes Damodred found dead mysteriously (tGH book,Chapter 34).
Its unknown whether it was the same male Gholam was used in all three high impact killings: Barthanes Damodred, Herid Fel, or in Ebou Dar after Aes Sedai & Mat.

There might be one to three different Gholam in the story alive at work for their master(s) now; whether dead or alive currently.

Rahvin could of wanted Barthanes Damodred so he could later invade that country for all we know. Demandred could of order a Gholam to kill Herid Fel, or possibly Rahvin too. At least both had an interest in Cairhien early in the story. Demandred already had darkfriends seeking the remaining "Seals", which Herid Fel was researching in Cairhien.

Linda said...

Anonymous: thanks.

Dida: Regarding cuendillar cannon - none of the channellers in Caemlyn knows the cuendillar weave yet. THe first cannon were cast in bronze, as Aludra plans to do, so cast iron hasn't been considered yet. I think you're getting ahead of things here.

You misread: I think Fel was killed on Moridin's orders. He was the one most likely to recognise the danger in Fel's deductions. Demandred wasn't hunting the Seals until two books later. Rahvin was quite probably dead when the gholam was ordered to Cairhien.

Anonymous said...

Why would Moridin be so stupid by being so careless to hide the fact he's got the scholar killed?

If he feared what he could tell Rand, why tip Rand that what he was discussing with the man was inconvenient to the Shadow? And his knowledge is the motive, why so carelessly leave all his books behind?

The murder convinced Rand and Min that Fel had found something.

This doesn't sound like Moridin at all. Using a gholam would be completely overkill too. And Moridin would not have learned what Fel actually told Rand, which is not very bright. Why not come in person and remove the man after questionning him? Why not find his dreams and question him in TAR before killing him so he's found dead of "natural causes" the next morning? Why not arrange for any darkfriend in Cairhien to slip a dagger in his back - the man was very often in the countryside fishing. He was a terribly easy target. It's not like Moridin to have used a gholam for this.

And how do you explain the gholam ending up in Sammael's control almost immediately after the murder?

Isn't it far more likely and reasonable that Sammael was the one who ordered Herid Fel killed, and he used his gholam either because he wasn't sure what exactly he was facing, or because he wanted to test the gholam that had been in stasis for so long?

Linda said...

Anonymous: Why? That goes for any Forsaken really.

As for not destroying Fel's books:

That depends on what information the Forsaken who sent the gholam received regarding Fel. If it was only that Fel and Rand met and that Fel sent Rand messages and what these messages were about, then this Forsaken might not know about Fel's books.

If the Forsaken knew that Fel had written books they might have believed that the books were no threat, or that Rand or his aides were not have been capable of figuring out what was crucial in the books.

From Moridin's thoughts in Ebou Dar as he watched Elayne and co depart, he has been mostly reluctant to reveal himself to non-Darkfriends. In that scene he also bungles finding out what the women had found in the Rahad and where they were going.

We are not sure how many gholam are loose at the moment. We only know that 3 male and 3 female were created and that the male one in the south was placed in a stasis box some time at the end of the AOL. We don't actually know the gender of the one that killed Fel.

There could easily be two loose. Graendal, for instance had a close encounter with on prior to LOC.

Hans said...

I don't remember exactly where I read this theory -- I'll try to look it up.

We know Sammael is (was) in control of the only known gholam loose in the world, shortly after Fel's death. If we're meant to make the connection, then we must ask why Sammael wants Fel dead. The theory is that Sammael thought Fel was Asmodean, and sent the gholam to remove him.

The mistake makes sense: Sammael might hear from his contacts in Cairhien that Rand has an advisor who spends all his time hidden away in an 'academy' and who Rand goes and meets with on a regular basis. Presuming Sammael did not kill Asmodean, and thus believes A. is alive and working for Rand, he might well decide that the hidden advisor "Herid Fel" is in reality the ex-Forsaken.

The theory also makes sense of why a gholam was sent, rather than a lesser shadowspawn or just a darkfriend with a dagger. Gholam were used to assassinate Aes Sedai in the War of the Power, and for good reason -- any other assassin could be made helpless by the least channeler, and even the weakest Forsaken is still quite strong comparatively.

I agree that none of the Forsaken (save Moridin) seems likely to see the worth in killing Fel, even if they knew what Fel and Rand were talking about. Most of them would assume in their pride that no one from this backward Age could figure out how to do what even Lews Therin failed at. And the gholam really doesn't seem like Moridin's style. The mistaken identity theory is a quite clever explanation to that mystery. I only wish I could remember where I read it...

alreadymad said...

One invention that was developed at Cairhien was the steam engine. IIRC when Rand inspected it, it barely went a few yards without breaking down. Later on in the series, rumors have reached Tear of a train getting there without horses. And possibly continuing onto Illian.

Linda said...

The steam engine is in the article. Just click on the read more link.

Manetheren said...

Interesting thought on the One Power not being available with technology after the Last Battle. The successful integration of the One Power with technology to build/achieve greater things is one of the defining characteristics of the Age of Legends.

It stands to reason that a great many, if not most channelers die in the Last Battle, or that afterwards if the Seanchan do conquer everything all females channelers would be captured and males killed. This could cause people with access to the One Power to die out making way for an age of technology. Then when the Pattern deems it necessary, it will re-introduce the One Power to the world again. The Heroes of the Horn aren't the only thing The Pattern needs to spin out to produce balance again. Just a thought.