Monday, June 28, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #7: The Ogier and their Great Stumps

By Linda

The last Great Stump was held after Hawkwing’s death, presumably to discuss whether to participate in the War of Hundred Years. From Covril’s and Loial’s exchange:

"And by the War of the Hundred Years we had learned not to get ourselves tangled in human affairs."
"The War of the Hundred Years was a human affair, and none of ours.”

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

the Ogier played a part in that war and at least some Ogier regretted it, perhaps many. The now accepted reclusiveness of Ogier may stem from this.

According to Loial the Great Stumps have a large number of Ogier attendees:

For a moment, he saw the crowds standing all around him, hundreds and hundreds of men and women waiting to hear his words, perhaps several thousand.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

and oratory is very important.

The current Great Stump at Stedding Shangtai, which has been meeting since before Elder Haman, Speaker Covil and Erith set out to look for Loial (over 6 months), has been debating whether or not to open the Book of Translation and flee now that Tarmon Gai’don is approaching.

Book of Translation

The Book of Translation appears to be a teleportation device which the mainland Ogier have that can take the Ogier to another world.

The Ogier may have departed and returned to the main world in a previous Age, since they certainly expect to again and important events repeat in the cycle of Ages:

[they] must leave this world eventually so [they] can come to it when the Wheel turns…That is written.”

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

It is not known where this piece of history or prophecy is written or the context in which it is expressed.

If the mainland Ogier leave this world and their stedding on which they are so dependent, will the Longing overtake them and kill them? Loial deduces the Elders at the Great Stump must have found suitable answers to this or the Stump would have ended already (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

How does the book work? All who wish to depart probably have to stand near book – perhaps touching each other – when it is opened.

The fact that Ogier have a device which can move them to another world and that their Stedding are not reflected in Tel’aran’rhiod implies they are not native to the main world.

If the Ogier had used the book before in other Ages as Covril implies, then in the immediate period following such a mass exodus very few Ogier would be around, just the remnant population descended from those who were not present when the Book was opened and so did not leave the world. Ogier would rarely be seen and, coupled with their preference for remote habitats, would become legendary. In our world there are similar legendary giant beings that are ‘sighted’ on occasion. These are parallels of the Ogier and are discussed in the Ogier parallels article now posted on the blog.


The Seanchan Ogier did not become dependent on Stedding during the Breaking (TOR Questions of the Week). They are more actively involved with humans in a military and police role and may refuse to be transported by the Book of Translation when they are finally informed of it being opened. Since they have had a very different history to the mainland Ogier post Breaking, they may not even now know about the device.

I expect that the subject of the Gardeners will finally be brought up at the Great Stump onscreen. If all who wish to be transported must be in proximity to the Book when it is opened and the Gardeners are not there, a large part of the Ogier will be left behind. The Gardeners also should have the opportunity to participate in the Great Stump debate since there is only the one opportunity to leave.


Loial himself believes that the Ogier should not flee Tarmon Gai’don; they should stay and fight the Shadow alongside the humans. After all, if the Dark One wins Tarmon Gai’don, he will kill Time and remake the worlds in his image and there will be no safe worlds to flee to (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

"In the War of the Shadow, we did not huddle in our stedding, hoping no Trollocs or Myrddraal would be driven to enter. We did not open the Book of Translation and flee. We marched alongside the humans and fought the Shadow. In the Trolloc Wars, we neither hid in the stedding nor opened the Book of Translation. We marched with the humans and fought the Shadow. In the darkest years, when hope seemed gone, we fought the Shadow…The War of the Hundred Years was a human affair, and none of ours. The Shadow is our affair. When it is the Shadow that must be fought, our axes have always grown long handles. Perhaps in a year, or five, or ten, we will open the Book of Translation, but if we do it now, we cannot run away with any real hope of safety. Tarmon Gai'don is coming, and on that hangs the fate not only of this world, but of any world we might flee to. When fire threatens the trees, we do not run away and hope that the flames will not follow us. We fight. Now the Shadow is coming like wildfire, and we dare not run from it."

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

Therefore opening the book before Tarmon Gai’don would be futile at best. At worst, by not contributing, the Ogier may ensure the Shadow wins.

As Loial was explaining this, the Pattern illustrated it – with an enormous Shadowspawn attack courtesy of a Forsaken.

Elder Haman agrees with Loial, but thinks the debate at the Great Stump will last a year or two yet. (Of course, we know from the imminence of the Last Battle that it cannot.) Covril thinks she will bring them to a decision in only a month or two.


Loial’s mother wants the Book of Translation opened as soon as possible. She is a very influential speaker:

She had once spoken from sunrise to sunset in favor of a very unpopular position without a single interruption, and the next day, no one had risen to Speak against her.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

To say nothing of having considerable stamina.

Having heard Loial’s argument, I suspect she is working on ways to counter it.

So far no main or second tier character has had a close relative exposed as a Darkfriend. It could be that Loial will be one of the select few. Jordan said that Ogier could be Darkfriends:

Q: Why can't Ogier channel the One Power?
RJ: Why can't fish sing? Why can't sparrows do the tango? Why can't I figure my own income tax? I'd really like to know the answer to that last one!
Q: Can they be Darkfriends?
RJ: Of course.

- Wotmania/Dragonmount Interview, 2002

and Covril’s exhortation that the Ogier not contribute to the Last Battle is very suggestive. The Shadow would find their absence very convenient.

As of Knife of Dreams, Vows, the Seanchan Ogier had been on the mainland for over 6 of our weeks. Loial may be the first Ogier to inform the Stump that they need to be included in discussion too.

I’ll be posting a theory on Covril soon to the Theory Corner based on this article.


Anonymous said...

Why do you assume the book of translation is a kind of Harry Potter portkey?

Why can't it simply be a book in which the knowledge of how to translate was recorded? If the Ogier can't, the Finns might. A Q&A answer was very suggestive that the Finns have the knowledge to use or open portals to other worlds. There's the ToG to reach their own realms, to begin with, and we don't know if their were not involved in the making of the doorways either.

The reason why the Elders don't fear the Longing if they translate seems obvious: unlike Loial, they are aware the Stedding aren't from the human world but are parcels of their own world that translated with them.

The Ogier homeworld is most likely all like a stedding (which suggests the channellers at least had nothing to do with the translation - they could not open a portal to that world anymore than they could open a gateway into a stedding).

Anonymous said...

I had considered the book of translation to be literal; but with so little information for the reader to go on, you could be correct that it may be a device. I consider the book of translation to be a minor point (its mystery may not be revealed in the final 2 books?) but the major issue is will Loial convince the Ogiers to fight the shadow? My imagination has Loial revealing his decision to stay and fight alongside the humans against the shadow. This shocking revelation (along with his skillfully, brief and fresh oratory) should be enough to convince the stump to follow Loial's new leadership.

There are many other fantasy novels about worlds that have stedding-like environments thus it is easy to imagine the ogier homeworld as a global stedding or "Gaia". But one of the most awful plot twists imaginable would be to discover Loial's mother is a darkfriend. Ouch!

I hope a chapter will be released prior to the book; share some fun everyone!

LOVE & Peace

Linda said...

Why not? It’s simple and dramatic and it’s not as if there aren’t ter’angreal and allied devices (forget Harry Potter) kicking around. Furthermore, I think the device needs to be able to be used in a great hurry. The Ogier speak of opening the book and fleeing. Not reading it. I don’t assume the device has any thing to do with channellers either. There are devices that use the One Power without channelling.

The main point is that whatever it is, it is a once only opportunity to leave, since all those not there don’t go and the departed take the device with them to ensure their species come back in another Age.

Loial knows of the Book, but not of how to get around the Longing, so that is not common knowledge. It is unlike Ogier not to share knowledge and memories. Whatever you think, it’s quite possible the Ogier don’t know. Else they’d have passed on the knowledge. The Ogier suffering the Longing in the Age of Legends would have said something too.

Romamita: I agree, the possible consequences of using the device are most important. And the outcome of the Stump - the Ogier need to contribute to the Last Battle by fighting and by Singing. And help establish the Fourth Age in the same way.

Loial might shame some Ogier with his determination to fight the Shadow. I think that other revelations will be needed as well though. I hope to get my theory up soon. I haven't posted one in quite a while.

Hinkel said...

I can see a situation happening where Loial's passion inflames the hearts and minds of many of the Ogier at the Stump - but not all of them. I think the Ogier will be split and that the Book will be opened and some will choose to leave and others will choose to stay and fight under Loial's leadership.

Anonymous said...

Why not? It’s simple and dramatic and it’s not as if there aren’t ter’angreal and allied devices (forget Harry Potter) kicking around. Furthermore, I think the device needs to be able to be used in a great hurry. The Ogier speak of opening the book and fleeing. Not reading it.

It's not really "dramatic" IMO, and there are already enough magical objects of significance lying around without adding yet another.

And well... usually when you open a book it's to read or look at what's inside, no?

They aren't talking of using the Book as they would a device. They're talking of opening it.

It's also strange the Ogier would call a portkey device a book.

It is indeed uncharacteristic of Loial not to read everything he can get his hands on, but isn't this a theme in the books that Loial has been overly influenced by his reading, has even managed to read "dangerous books" the other Ogier leave unread (about the Ways, the Forsaken and in the mind of Corvil, even Travel accounts... etc.) and to Ogier like his mother this eagerness for knowledge is a flaw, a flaw which made her son want to leave and see the world, while the core of the Ogier frown on all of that (incl. getting too interested in the outside). They all seem fairly conservative scholars in a very conservative community (their knowledge of the outside is even outdated), all but Loial and his teacher, and a long line of "too curious" Ogier since the Breaking.

Anyway, It's not really surprising if there's an old "forbidden book" about the Translation only the Elders (or Eldest, do they have such?) are allowed to read, and about which they refuse to share much (beyond the fact one day it will have to be opened, and why). It's basically the same thing the WO have done about Rhuidean, or how the Amayar kept to themselves the meaning of the end of Illusion. I'm pretty convinced the "Ogier prophecies"/knowledge they will have to translate back you mentionned are taken from the Book itself.

Personally, I'm convinced the big issue that will be revealed by the Elders at the Stump (raised from pointy questions from Loial about the Longing) is that if the group of Ogier who wish to Translate do, the others who wish to remain to fight behind Loial are on borrowed time because the Stedding will be gone, including those in Seanchan (which would mean the Seanchan Ogier will eventually experience the same trauma of losing their Stedding that caused the Longing). I'm not convinced the issue will be that Translation can only happen once. Maybe, but maybe not. Perhaps the Elders won't be certain if some stay behind they will or won't be able to Translate later.

I think that beyond the oratory prowess about duty, this will be Loial's clinching argument: if the Ogier Translate, not only they abandon the humans to the war against the Shadow, but as Loial will reveal to the Elders, he has seen Ogier from the Seanchan Empire, and there are thousands (or more) more Ogier than the Westlands Elders believe.

As for the Ogier singing... that's probably not gonna be a huge thing, as the Talent is about extinct. Loial is one of the few last Ogier with it. This shouldn't be very relevant, not like the Aiel/Tinkers anyway. Maybe the Ogier will be important to the LB (as you think), maybe like the masses of humanity they're just needed to fight for their survival, because if the DO wins, he wins everywhere and the battle apparently needs to happen in the human world. This may be the only point RJ is trying to make with these "aliens" (Finns, Ogier): there's nowhere to flee from Shai'tan. "Fleing to safety" is an Illusion.

My hunch is that Loial is more likely to sing to (a) specific tree(s) to leave something behind before the Translation happens. He might sing to a grove planted on Rand's grave, or to Avendesora for instance, mirroring what he did in EOTW.


TJ said...

I think this is a very interesting conversation. My thoughts are only these.
The word translation itself implies something changing, the same but in a new form. In some religeous symbolism, a person needs to be translated in order to be able to see god whilst still mortal (Or abide in gods presence). I think the idea of the book of transation is that it allows the Ogier to 'translate themselves into a heaven-like area or sactuary to wait out devastation (Like retreating into a bunker to survive a nuclear war).
I think that becasue RJ has focused on the idea of spliting apart gtroups, nations, families and even the one power (egs Aiel, Aes Sedai Hawkwings descendents etc etc) he always intended there to be an Ogier split.
One by one every nation, people, individual and organisation from the mights Aes Sedai and Seanchan to the lowly tinker must make the choice for/against the Light/the Shadow.
I think that is his overwhelming message that reguardless of what is remembered and forgotten or even repeated that individuals and peoples are faced with that defining decision and Loial will be the key stone for his people.
I also would hazard a thought that the book of Transaltion is a record of the past and possibly takes the Ogier to the past as a refuge. Loial is somewhat the historian of the piece the one who is (One could almost assume) the pseudo writer of the series.

Anyway that took longer than I expected it to. Great debate, keep the comments and posts coming I am enjoying reading them.

Linda said...

Tristam: translate also has a meaning in geometry: to move an object without rotating or reflecting it.

Hinkel: I agree that is very likely the outcome.

Max: It's not strange if it's book shaped.

I see it not as a nod to Harry Potter as you seem to think, but more to The Never-ending Story published in 1979.

The soon-to-be revealed presence of the Seanchan Ogier (also mentioned in the above post) is part of my theory which will be published in the next couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love your theories, you always gather so much information from so many places to support them! Really impressive.

But regarding the red sisters in the Black Tower, I will have to desagree. I think any black sister would have told her superiors (up to Alviarin) of the reds intentions, and I remember Alviarin having great care not to send any black sister to the Black Tower, when Elaida sent her 50 sister force. I would doubt she would allow any one of them to go in this instance as well. Bye!

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

In preparing for reading TGS, I'm perusing as many re-reads/summaries of WOT, and KoD in particular as I remember it least. Your write ups are very interesting and I just discoverd them today.


Also, my wife is Australian and when I saw you use "crash hot" in one of your posts, I knew that you had to be Australian as well. Which your profile location confirmed. It made me smile.

Hope you're well.


Linda said...

Thanks Derek. I'm glad you are fiding the read-through useful.

I wasn't aware that 'crash hot' is such an Australianism. :)

Jack said...

Apparently so, Linda. As a filthy Yankee, I've never heard the term.

To the Anonymous a few posts ago:
I'm willing to bet Alviarin was so opposed to sending Black Sisters then because they were going in to capture Asha'man and basically start a One Power war, and she probably knew that it was fated to disaster.

She would be much more willing to save her Sisters and send them on a diplomatic mission to create an alliance with Taim. Who knows, maybe Alviarin was smart enough to push for the 50-sister assault to deplete the Tower of likely candidates for a later peace mission, so that more of her ilk would be chosen to attend the second!

Unknown said...

My theory is based on the relationship of the Olgier and the Nim.

When the book of translation is opened the olgier will go through to another world, and then eventually come back through to the main one. I believe they will go through, leaving a large % of their population behind. The population that is left behind will be the Olgier in the next age. The portion of the population that goes through will go through and eventually come back transformed(translated?) as Nim. There needs to be Nim at one point in the turning, because there was Nim in the past (green man).

It is implied that the olgier and the Nim are related in some way. I believe this way would solve all the loose ends.

The cool thing is that on all other worlds in WOT, time flows differently. This could mean the olgier translate and re-appear in the same book......1000's of years passing for them, days passing for the main world.