Monday, June 14, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #1: Titles: From Crossroads of Twilight into Knife of Dreams

By Linda

In this post I shall look at the symbolism of these two book titles.

Crossroads of Twilight

“And it shall come to pass, in the days when the Dark Hunt rides, when the right hand falters and the left hand strays, that mankind shall come to the Crossroads of Twilight, and all that is, all that was, and all that will be shall balance on the point of a sword, while the winds of the Shadow grow.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Opening Prophecy

To be at a crossroads is to feel one must make a crucial choice of where to go next. In Crossroads of Twilight, Perrin chose his hammer over his axe. Rand chose to ally with the Seanchan, since he felt he could not do anything about Taim or the Shadow. Mat decided to woo Tuon and bring about his fated and long dreaded marriage. Egwene chose to take Bode’s place and thus was taken to the Tower.

Twilight is the onset of darkness, in this case that of Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, and of the end of a time period - the Third Age or the world. In darkness, one cannot be sure of the outcome.

Folklore abounds of people meeting the devil, or evil creatures in general, at crossroads. Likewise, the Dark One’s power is especially strong at twilight and at crossroads or graveyards (The Fires of Heaven, Gateways and Crossroads of Twilight, The Scent of a Dream) and so Shadowspawn are especially dangerous there or then. Crossroads of Twilight is therefore double jeopardy and an indication that the strength of the Dark One is increasing greatly. Perhaps because the right hand (of the Dragon) falters and the left hand strays; though Mat’s and Perrin’s misdirection is nothing compared to what Rand does in The Gathering Storm. Does their faltering allow the Crossroads or Twilight to happen? Or do they falter because the Shadow has grown strong? Most likely it is both, in some sort of positive feedback loop. Like Jordan said, you can look both ways along a Wheel.

In earlier times in Europe, murderers were hanged at crossroads, their corpses displayed on gibbets there and eventually buried there too so that their spirits would be “bound” to that place. The idea was to prevent the dead spirit from wandering the land as a lost soul or as an animated corpse. It was also to show any evil spirits lurking at the crossroads that they will be punished for any wrongdoing – a kind of spitting in the eye of the devil.

Crossroads and twilight being liminal, “in between” or transitional, the Dark One can tweak the Pattern or warp reality most easily there. That’s why they’re dangerous. On the plus side, major transformations can occur at liminal places bringing knowledge or understanding of the “other side” or of the deeper self.

It could be that Rand, like certain mythical beings such as Lleu (who has parallels with Lews Therin, see Lews Therin essay), can only be killed in a liminal place. The Bore, being a place where the reality of the Wheel of Time everyday world is thinnest and allowing access to the Dark One, is such a place. Perhaps the most liminal place. Someone as strongly ta’veren as Rand might only be killable at the strongest possible liminality. This was the case with Lleu.

After twilight, we have the night where dreams destroy or are destroyed; with the risk this night is endless. Dreams also bring knowledge or understanding either of the future or of the self. Note that while moving into and out of dreams and the dream world one is in a liminal state.

Knife of Dreams

The sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat are alike a knife of dreams, from Fog and Steel by Madoc Comadrin

Knife of Dreams opening epigram

Knife of Dreams means dreams are slashed or killed or are dangerous. They are illusory or double-edged and come at a cost even if they succeed.

There were costly victories in Knife of Dreams – those of Mat, Galad, Ituralde, Elayne, and Perrin. Galad won his duel but doesn’t want the job or the responsibility of leading the Whitecloaks, especially when they will have to work with one ‘evil’ to fight another. Mat’s and Perrin’s victories were ugly: Mat changed the rules of war in the Third Age, and in so doing his group revealed their new weapons and how Aes Sedai can be used in battle, and Perrin, the Wild Man and Wolf King, had to permit the enslavement of Wise Ones. Elayne won the Andoran throne but is faced with the morality of interrogation and allies of dubious loyalty. Ituralde’s victories were illusory. He won battles, but knew he couldn’t win the war against the Seanchan. Rand captured Semirhage, but lost his hand to save Min. Moreover Semirhage told others of his madness, so it is now public.

Those who were defeated were Suroth, Sevanna, Shiaine, and Arymilla. Suroth’s ‘dream’ of being empress led to her enslavement, the worst fate she could imagine, as did Sevanna’s dream of marrying the Car’a’carn and ruling the Aiel. Arymilla’s dream of being Queen led to her being captured and to her House’s imminent financial ruin.

The Aes Sedai idea of bonding Asha’man at the Black Tower may really come to bite them. Reanne Corly’s dream of joining the Green Ajah ended in her murder while asleep by a Green sister. This simple dream lost was to me especially sad.

As for dangerous dreams, Masema’s dreams were used as a knife by a Forsaken (probably Lanfear) to increase his insanity and to urge him to kill Perrin. In the White Tower the warning in Egwene’s dream of the Seanchan attack was to no avail.

And with the The Gathering Storm? Forget dreams, the dark storm of reality is about to hit.


Marcia said...

Very nice interpretive explanatory of where RJ is taking us with COT, from WH to TGS. Easy to miss this, what with so many of the fandom getting bogged down in the drugery of RJ's details in COT (How do you properly wash silk garments anyway? ;p). At least with their intial read when the book first came out anyway. And still to this day, but a bit more forgiving with a little more perspective now...and a couple more books published as well ;p

I myself am on the record as liking COT. But then I'd only first discovered WOT a few months before COT was published, so...

Linda said...

Thanks Marcia.

Yes COT is overall the least liked book. But it has plenty going on.