Monday, May 31, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #6: Faraway Travels

By Linda

In Mat’s sub-thread in Crossroads of Twilight the motif of weird and wonderful journeys to far off lands arises, a motif Foreshadowed to climax with the third journey to the *elfin folk, and we get various peoples’ reactions to travellers’ tales. Noal tells Olver some in Tuon’s presence:

“Noal has been telling us about Co’dansin, Mat,” he [Olver] exclaimed. “That’s another name for Shara. Did you know the Ayyad tattoo their faces? That’s what they call women who can channel, in Shara.”
“No, I didn’t,” Mat said, settling a grim eye on Noal. It was bad enough that Vanin and the Redarms were teaching the boy bad habits, not to mention what he was picking up from Juilin and Thom, without Noal filling his head with made-up nonsense.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds

Mat disbelieves Noal’s stories, even though he has seen and experienced stranger himself.

Noal is Jain Farstrider in disguise – he reluctantly conceded that they are related in Knife of Dreams, A Stave and A Razor - and has been relating tales of Shara, the sort he published in The Travels of Jain Farstrider. When amazed at fellow yarn-spinner and aspiring writer Mat’s tale of his adventures with the Aelfinn, Noal makes a bit of a slip and exclaims:

“It's just, that tops anything I ever did. Anything Jain ever did, too. Would you mind if I made the third?

Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota

While Noal’s veracity is not as suspect as Mat believes, there is something unreliable about Noal:

Suddenly he realized he was touching his head again. He did not have a headache, but his head felt... peculiar... sometimes. Most often when he thought of what he could not remember… Once again he pulled his hand down from his head. Sooner or later, he would remember. He did not have much time left, but it was all he did have. He remembered that much.

- A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic

He appears to be under a form of Compulsion, so Mat’s instincts are correct, even if Mat hit on the wrong aspect of his unreliability. As Mat noticed, Noal has mental lapses, has gone off unexpectedly or taken longer on errands than expected and returned breathless as though he has run:

Abruptly, Noal darted around from the rear of the tent, breathing hard as if he had been running. Juilin glanced up in surprise at the old man, and Mat frowned. He had told Noal to come straight here. Where had he gone instead?

- Crossroads of Twilight, Two Captains

Perhaps he is sending reports to someone. He is an effective information gatherer – as Mat noticed himself and made use of.

Who could have tampered with Noal? The Forsaken who uses Compulsion the most frequently and skilfully is Graendal. Rahvin, no slouch at Compulsion himself, possibly saw Noal at Graendal’s lair:

Rahvin had not even noticed the opening of a third gateway, showing a large room full of pools and fluted columns, nearly nude acrobats and attendants wearing less. Oddly, a lean old man in a wrinkled coat sat disconsolately among the performers.

- The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

This old man matches Noal’s description.

Jain has been used by Forsaken previously. In The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow, Ishamael boasted that he had painted Jain Fastrider like a fool and sent him to the Ogier thinking he was free of Ishamael. Loial related how a man came to Stedding Shangtai after the Aiel War:

"He was at the point of death, though there was no wound or mark on him. The Elders thought it might be something Aes Sedai had done" - Loial gave Moiraine an apologetic look - "since as soon as he was within the stedding he quickly got well. A few months. One night he left without a word to anyone, simply sneaked away when the moon was down." He looked at Moiraine's face and cleared his throat again. "Yes. Brief. Before he left, he told a curious tale which he said he meant to carry to Tar Valon. He said the Dark One intended to blind the Eye of the World, and slay the Great Serpent, kill time itself.”

- The Eye of the World, Remembrance of Dreams

which makes it sound as though Ishamael was putting his best face on the situation and Jain unexpectedly escaped or at least survived Ishamael’s attentions. And once in the Stedding the effects of Ishamael’s weaves wore off.

When Noal leaves the main world altogether for the Otherworld of the Finns, maybe his Compulsion wears off, or is negated by the Finns.

Noal’s ‘tall tales’ make him seem harmless to Mat and prevent Mat from asking why Noal disappears sometimes, or considering that Noal’s ability to work out what is going on might be a danger. Of course if Mat ever takes Noal and his tales seriously, Noal’s very experience in strange and dangerous journeys and the knowledge he has amassed over the years will be an asset in the Tower of Ghenjei.

Noal himself considers his career chequered:

"He [Jain] fought Trollocs and Myrddraal, and he had more adventures than anyone else in the whole world! Even Mat! He captured Cowin Gemallan after Gemallan betrayed Malkier to the Shadow!"
Noal came to himself with a start and patted Olver's shoulder. "He did that, boy. That much is to his credit. But what adventure is worth leaving your wife to die alone?"

- Knife of Dreams A Stave and a Razor

This seems to Foreshadow that Noal will sacrifice himself so that Mat, who is now married, escapes the *Finns and doesn’t leave his wife Fortuona to die alone.

To complement this post an essay I wrote for Wotmania on Writings For Armchair Travellers comparing famous early European travellers’ tales with Jain Farstrider’s books is now republished here on the blog.


SurDin said...

Well, if Rand did really kill her in tGH, then then if it's Graendal's compulsion, then the effect should wear of as beginning of next book.

Anonymous said...

Rand couldn't have turned back time on her more than a couple of weeks at most, and that's stretching it I think.


Anonymous said...

Brandon actually spoke of hours from her thread removed (well, he actually said that's what Rand's balefire using the CK would achieve as he didn't want to confirm Graendal is dead.. especially that the question was whether this could bring back Asmodean!)...

The compulsion net that vanished was because Rand erased from reality the fact Graendal wove it. If she touched Noal long ago, her death will change nothing.

What raises the biggest doubt that Jain may be Graendal's old man is the fact his compulsion has begun to weaken. You'd expect better of the best compeller around. But that may be because Graendal tried to be too clever and light-touched with Jain, compelling him to do something he wouldn't object to subconsciously: puzzle out and "help stop" a plot from the Shadow. He's on the side of the Light and has hunted down Darkfriends before... even became famous for capturing the Malkieri traitor. It seems her compulsion has to do with hunting down Sammael's agents in Ebou Dar (ironically, it appears it's not altogether different from what Ishamael did to him, except this time it's real!). If that's so, that's why Noal got "sucked in" by Mat and his group, who were hunting his own targets. That and ta'veren. That they resolved the DF plot, and Graendal lost interest and never showed up for new orders, could mean Jain's compulsion has become obsolete and begins to unravel. It's not fully certain his compulsion is weakening and not just obsolete anyway... we don't know for sure Graendal made him forget his past, and in KOD it appeared it may be more a matter of guilt than compulsion that he's hiding who he was and what happened to him long ago (I'd be embarrassed and afraid to admit I was used by the DO too...). If all Graendal touched in his memories is their meeting, her orders and what he was doing in the west.. and this keeps holding, we may never get the answer, unless the Finns decide to retrieve/steal these memories (which I think is the main reason for Noal going with Mat)... They could do this benevolently, or malignly. Depending on how this is presented by the Finns, Noal could lose Mat's trust. It pretty much depends if they reveal Graendal's full orders, and if any of them is too dangerous to keep Noal around or even alive. I doubt his orders are dangerous or "active" still: Graendal or Moridin both would have had him kill Mat some time ago if that was the case. This suggests whatever Jain was supposed to do is done, and his compulsion is now obsolete. It will be interesting to see how he acts in Caemlyn, with Shiaine a prisoner there, her plans not known yet and many of her agents still at large. If I'm right about his compulsion, this should make Graendal's orders active again: Jain will feel compelled to track down Shiaine's circle.


Yella said...

The old man in the wrinkled coat might also have been King Alsalam. She kidnapped many of the Merchant Council and we learned recently that she killed the king. Just because there is a character described as an old man doesn't mean it's Noal.

Molly said...

If Noal/Jain goes to the Tower of Ghenjei, he could ask for three answers/wishes and acquire the missing knowledge without the Compulsion wearing off or being negated; this may also leadto him asking more questions regarding things he may have been involved in.

Linda said...

I said it was possibly him. We don't know Alsalam's age. His siblings aren't very old. Graendal is more likely to kill someone who has outlived their usefulness and not just let him sit by the pool. She made it clear she wasn't interested in Alsalam.

It's been a while since Noal had Compulsion so he could be breaking free of it if he has a strong sense of self. A strong Compulsion would have made Noal mindless and therefore useless for the task he was set - to find what Sammael's minions were looking for. No one could do what Jain did without a strong self-confidence, so that makes him likely to break free of Compulsion inevitably if it isn't topped up.

Mat's ta'veren effect also could play a part if the Pattern needs Noal to help Mat. Certainly Mat's group and Olver in particular has reminded Noal frequently of his former life such as by pouring over his books, asking for tales, etc. His memory has also been jogged by the sighting of the Seanchan agent.

MistressOfShips said...

Why would Noal active follow and or spy all of these individuals in Ebou Dar if he only worked for Graendal?

Mili Skane, Jaichim Carridin, and later two Aes Sedai Black Ajah--Falion Bhoda, Ispan.

Let alone actively seeking to protect Mat Cauthon from harm multiple times across the story?

- Directly warning Mat to stay away from the Chelsaine Palace (aCoS, Ch.14 'White Plumes') and Jaichim Carridin.

- Drawing attention to the Gholam in an alley way, thus "saving" Mat's life in Ebou Dar from Sammael's Gholam.

- Almost attacking Selucia & Tuon with knives once before in the wagon

- Almost going nuts when a Seanchan military squad came into Valan Luca's circus

All these events fits a prior open order not to kill Rand and Mat, by Moridin.

In fact, Mat never told Noal when he was going to flee Ebou Dar in the firstplace... so who ever Noal's handler is has been out of likely regular communication with him since joining up with Valan Luca Circus.

Noal's mysterious disappearance can be explained as one last chance to leave a message for his "handler"--a Chosen?

Then there is a question about how Moridin learned of Falion's "failure" in Ebou Dar?

Ispan claimed:

"I will not report the failure to one of the Chosen, Falion. She would make us envy Liandrin, yes?" (aCoS, Ch.17 'The Triumph of Logic')

Moridin did punish Falion, Jaichim Carridin and yet Mili Skane escaped punishment but why?

What do you expect or predict will occur when Noal learns that Mili Skane and Falion Bhoda each are being questioned in Caemlyn?

Recall that Ispan & Falion Bhoda have this unique knowledge:

“There are others looking. Would they all look for nothing? There are Friends of the Dark looking; they must have been sent by others of the Chosen. If the Chosen look, can you still say there is nothing?”

Moghedien, Sammael, Moridin and Shaidar Haran each had known Friends of the Dark in Ebou Dar working, when Ispan spoke this.

Noal did opened tail each of them previously, before finding & meeting Mat Cauthon in Ebou Dar.

What do you expect will occur once Noal learns of a command in Caemlyn to kill Mat and Perrin given by Moridin to many darkfriends (KoD, Ch.3)? A command which Verin attempted to warn Mat of in tGS book, in fact.

Why does a man who has never previously interacted with Noal, General Karede, claim and foreshadow that Noal is a danger man? (KoD book, Chapter "Under An Oak" - Karede pov) He is a man sworn to protect Tuon's life, and to look out for any threats to her person...yet Karede considers Noal dangerous too. Unlike Mat's pov, Karede's pov has no personal bias pro or con towards Noal as an individual. It's an impersonal protector's point of view, and Noal is a dangerous man based on his actions.

Why do you think Noal would sacrifice himself to save Mat's life? How much of Noal's actions have been because of Compulsion versus his own independent actions? What part of Noal remains himself?

Anonymous said...

Why would Noal active follow and or spy all of these individuals in Ebou Dar if he only worked for Graendal?

Mili Skane, Jaichim Carridin, and later two Aes Sedai Black Ajah--Falion Bhoda, Ispan

Sammael let slip to Graendal that he was about to put his hands on a cache of OP objects. That would be her motivation for learning who his agents where and sending a non-DF spy against them. If Graendal compelled to spy on whoever sought the cache or was interested in Sammael's agents, then Moghedien's agents and Mat would have attracted his attention.

As for the alley events, remember there's Old Cully's circle involved too.

If Graendal's orders have nothing to do with Mat and co., there's no reason why Noal's nature couldn't bring him to help Mat.

Noal's mysterious disappearance can be explained as one last chance to leave a message for his "handler"--a Chosen?

Not necessarily. This seems to be a red herring. Noal had fish to store somewhere. He had the habit of sneaking to go see Tuon too.

What do you expect will occur once Noal learns of a command in Caemlyn to kill Mat and Perrin given by Moridin to many darkfriends

I don't think this is covered by his compulsion, personally.

I don't think he's a threat to Mat, or that he wouldn't fight the Shadow.

yet Karede considers Noal dangerous too.

Noal is Jain Farstrider. Already in his youth he was a dangerous man and considered a young hero... Karede is an experienced soldier and bodyguard, he can spot trained and dangerous people by the way they stand and move, or act. He wouldn't be part of Tuon's bodyguard if he couldn't spot threats...

It's been a while since Noal had Compulsion so he could be breaking free of it if he has a strong sense of self.

That's easier to believe from Rahvin or Moghedien, but Graendal is said to be the best there is...

There's no solid evidence Noal's compulsion is breaking apart. It rather seems to me Graendal had very specific tasks for him and so she left many "loopholes", stuff irrelevant to her. He seems to remember nothing of the events when Graendal would have snatched him and their meeting (Falme or AD, it seems), but he has memories he can no longer situate (like having seen very dark Seanchan somewhere). Is it the compulsion faltering, or Graendal was too specific in what she ordered him to forget? He seems to remember quite well being used by "The DO" long ago (aka Ishamael), and he remembers well who he is (he just hides it). If his orders all had to do with the cache in Ebou Dar and the DF seeking it, then his task is done (for now.. it could get reactivated by the presence of the Ebou Dar DF in Caemlyn) - and Graendal wouldn't have cared to find him (she has better to do that hunting down compelled agents after their missions has become obsolete). She knew Sammael had found the cache, and looted what she wanted/could after he died. I'm betting she picked Noal out of all her potential agents because he's old and ugly and had reasons of his to hunt DFs - and so Sammael would never think he served her. The more she let Noal be himself, the best it was. Graendal's MO is brutal compulsion at home for pets, and only what's strictly necessary for agents serving her.