Friday, June 4, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #8: Perrin's Affairs

By Linda

At the climax of his thread in Crossroads of Twilight (In So Habor and What Must Be Done chapters) Perrin shifts gears character-wise. In So Habor he was careful and temperate, sensing what is wrong and wanting to heal it. Later back at the camp his great strength and fortitude combined with his wildness to produce actions that alarmed even Masema’s rabble.

As this indicates, there are two sides to Perrin: the wild man/wolf berserker/shaman and the sky god/smith god/creator. The conflict they cause within him is symbolised by the lure of his axe versus his hammer, being a cutter versus being a shaper.

During the preparation for So Habor, the main evidence of the Wild Man is in the way he noticed his decorative surroundings or his fancy clothes only to scorn them. Perrin took a back seat and let Berelain and Annoura plan the approach to So Habor:

The First of Mayene and an Aes Sedai should know what they were about in a thing like this.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

Giving Berelain responsibility also gave him a respite from her tiresome harassment and slander. Yet Perrin is the first to realise the incongruity between the clean seed samples and the filth everywhere else in the town and insist on seeing the grain in the warehouses.

Like an Ogier, another creature of the Wild, Perrin is sensitive to the feel of a place. It’s not just his sense of smell. In fact, So Habor smelled so bad that Perrin’s nose was effectively non-functional, but he sensed the Pattern of So Habor better than anyone:

“I think we should find somewhere else,” Perrin said. That fellow had been afraid of more than yellow eyes. This place felt . . . askew.
“We are already here, and there is nowhere else,” Berelain replied in a very practical voice. In all that stink, he could not catch her scent; he would have to go by what he heard and saw, and her face was calm enough for an Aes Sedai. “I’ve been in towns that smelled worse than this, Perrin. I’m sure I have. And if this Lord Cowlin is gone, it won’t be the first time I’ve dealt with merchants. You don’t really believe they’ve seen the dead walking, do you?”
What was a man to say to that without sounding a pure wool head?

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

In the Wheel of Time a Lord and the Land he cares for are one. There is corruption in So Habor because Lord Cowlin committed murder, and of his Lady at that, a representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty (see Arthurian themes essay). The crime goes unpunished and her ghost is unquiet. Other ghosts are walking too:

“The dead are walking in So Habor. Lord Cowlin fled the town for fear of his wife’s spirit. It seems there was doubt as to how she died. Hardly a man or woman in the town has not seen someone dead, and a good many have seen more than one.
Some say people have died from the touch of someone dead. I cannot verify that, but people have died of fright, and others because of it. No one goes out at night in So Habor, or walks into a room unannounced. People strike out at shadows and surprises with whatever is to hand, and sometimes they have found a husband, wife or neighbor dead at their feet.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

With the Dark One’s power increasing, the local lord’s great crime and then dereliction of duty has resulted in the corruption of the town and the weakening of the Pattern there. It provided an entry point for the Dark One.

The town streets are dim and shadowy symbolising a lack of Light. So Habor is dying; it barely seemed to breathe according to Perrin. Perrin thinks the townsfolk don’t care anymore. The people show a deadness of spirit.

He is convinced more is wrong than just the dead walking:

There was worse wrong in So Habor than spirits walking, and every instinct told him to leave at a dead run, without looking back.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

Without any Lord or Lady to care for it, the Land sickens and dies. Perrin knows the Pattern is askew, warped by Dark One. Lord Cowlin’s behaviour attracted the Dark One’s touch, or made it stronger there. It is a Foreshadowing of what Rand will cause in Arad Doman. So Habor warns Perrin of what can happen if a Lord abandons duty.

At the warehouse that Perrin sensibly insisted on seeing, he showed that he is a Strength figure as well as a Wild Man:

Perrin pointed to a two-story warehouse chosen at random, no different from any other, a windowless stone building with a wide pair of wooden doors held shut by a wooden bar that could have done for a ceiling beam at the Golden Barge.
The merchants suddenly recalled that they had forgotten to bring men to lift the bars. They offered to go back for them. The Lady Berelain and Annoura Sedai could rest in front of the fire at the Golden Barge while workmen were fetched. They were sure Mistress Vadere would lay a fire. Their tongues went still when Perrin placed his hand beneath the thick beam and shoved it up out of the wooden brackets. The thing was heavy, but he backed up with it to give him room to turn and toss it down on the street with a crash. The merchants stared. This might have been the first time they had ever seen a man in a silk coat do anything that could be called work.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

moving the thick beam out of the bracket with one hand. Strength was a popular theme in the arts in Renaissance and early modern times, and was exemplified by particular heroes. In myth the hero often has a Wild Man companion to help him on his quest. Perrin is one of the rarer types of hero in being his own Wild Man, although he has other Wild Man aides, such as Elyas and Gaul, and is himself the Wild Man companion that Rand needs to help him fulfil the quest of defeating the Dark One.

Perrin gave strength to his people, consciously calming the servants by appearing unconcerned at the creepiness of So Habor. Never regarding towns positively in normal circumstances, he wouldn’t send his people into So Habor because they might be corrupted. Nor would he allow any Aes Sedai to remain there. We have yet to see the consequences of this decision. While the Aes Sedai Healed the wounded at Malden, the Wise Ones did so too and were at least as good at it. All three Aes Sedai must yet have some part to play in Perrin’s thread.

Yet Perrin himself felt an urge to help and heal the town. This is his shaman (of wolf totem) aspect. Perrin wants to save and Heal but decisions on duty are his weakness and Berelain tells him he can’t save everyone:

Did she [Berelain] think he felt guilty? Balanced against Faile’s life, the troubles of So Habor could not budge the scales a hair. But he turned his bay so he was looking at the gray town walls across the river, not the hollow-eyed children piling up empty sacks. A man did what he could.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Fortitude, bearing what has to be borne or having the strength to do what has to be done, is one of the strongest themes around Perrin, as strong as wildness and being an artisan. Regarding the latter theme, even amid all his worries Perrin misses being a blacksmith:

His hands itched for farrier’s tools. It seemed years since he had changed a horse’s shoes, or worked a forge.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

These reminders of what he would rather be doing might indicate what he soon needs to be doing. But back at the camp kind and gentle Perrin has to face hurting someone to save someone else:

Embrace pain. There had to be pain, when you put a man to the question. He had not let that thought form in his head before this. But to get Faile back. . . .

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Masema dehumanises the Aiel to justify the use of torture and claims they don’t really feel the pain. Aram’s eyes are nearly as mad as Masema’s because Masema is leading him astray, but Perrin doesn’t make the association.

Anyway, Aram says his attitude comes from Perrin:

“It has to be done,” Aram said, half pleading, half demanding. He was on Masema’s other side, clutching the edges of his green cloak as if to keep his hands from the sword on his back. His eyes were almost as hot as Masema’s. “You taught me that a man does what he must.”
Perrin forced his fists to unknot. What had to be done, for Faile.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

A Tinker excusing the use of torture on a random captive and effectively encouraging someone to perform it is a potent sign of corruption. And he claims it is Perrin’s teaching.

The onlookers from Masema’s and Perrin’s groups were contemptuous of Perrin, believing he was too kind-hearted to use torture. And he doesn’t; he uses maiming instead and scares even the maniacs and outlaws:

Even Masema was staring at him as if he had never before seen the man standing there with an axe. When he turned to go, Masema’s men and the Ghealdanin alike parted in front of him as though to let a whole fist of Trollocs through.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Perrin can’t run from the smell of blood he carries with him on his axe. Blood that has never looked so black before. He is conscious of the evil that he did and for nothing as it turned out. The blood on his face mirrors that on his conscience. Perrin’s face indicates how the world sees him – as bloody – and how he sees the world - through a mask of blood.

Perrin blames his actions on haste, as an Ogier would. He worries about being a berserker, and underneath that, of losing his humanity. Elyas is sure that Perrin won’t become fond of maiming people.

Perrin’s strong links to the Wild embodies the Land fighting the Shadow for its own survival. He years to return the Land and the People to their natural state, to what they are meant to be doing.

As the ultimate expression of the corruption theme of these chapters, Tallanvor arrives with offers of a deal that might be almost as bad as allying with the Shadow:

Seanchan. And damane. Yes, that would be like taking the Dark One’s help.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Perrin is determined to take it. As the chapter says, it is what must be done. And Perrin bears it with fortitude.

The results were quite positive overall as we shall see in the Knife of Dreams Read-through in a couple of weeks.

Perrin has been hung up on choices because he is reluctant to cause pain or damage and feels responsible if these happen to his followers. At the end of Crossroads of Twilight the first of his choices were made – the hammer and not the axe – and after he rescues Faile, more choices will follow.

The motifs of the Wild Man, Strength, Temperance, shaman of the wolf totem, sky gods, and smith gods along with real world parallels making up Perrin’s character are explored further in the newly written Perrin essay now published on the blog. Essays on the other two ta’veren, Rand and Mat, were published last year. This essay completes the triad. I’ve also written an essay on one of their Ladies, the Empress, and am currently writing another on Faile in which somehow Berelain insisted on coming along for the ride. Well she would.


Tim said...

Great article!

Looking at it from the perspective of Perrin's two sides battling it out, his actions in the last few books make a lot more sense. At least to me.

Linda said...

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.