Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #11: The Maiming of Heroes

By Linda

In Knife of Dreams the wounded Hero Rand became maimed as well when Semirhage burned his hand off. He had told Min that he would rather lose an arm than hurt her

"Trust me, Min. I won’t hurt you. I will cut off my arm before I hurt you.” She was silent, and he finally looked down to find her peering up at him with a strange expression.
“That’s very nice to hear, sheepherder.” Her voice was as odd as her face.

-Lord of Chaos, The Mirror of Mists

and that is what happened: he would not dodge the attack because Min was right behind him. (Her reaction to his declaration suggests that she had a viewing of Rand losing his hand.) Rand sacrificed his hand to Semirhage just as the Norse god Tyr did to the monstrous wolf Fenrir (see Rand essay).

So far we have one maimed Hero, modelled on one-handed gods like Tyr and Nuada, but there are likely to be two maimed Heroes, since Mat has many parallels with Odin (see Mat essay) and Odin sacrificed an eye to gain knowledge. Mat is about to go to an Otherworld noted for its access to knowledge (and mysterious items). The woman he is on a mission to rescue there has always been the embodiment of knowledge – even if in the past it was incomplete or faulty knowledge. I have theorised that Mat will lose his eye in the world of the Finns (here).

Since the number three is so important in the Wheel of Time, will the third ta’veren also be maimed or at least suffer a chronic wound?

So far Perrin has been hale and whole compared to Rand and Mat. Rand is wounded because he is one with the Land and the Land is being blighted by the Shadow. On the other side of the coin, Rand’s corrupting link with Moridin is also affecting the Land adversely. The loss of his hand represents Rand's (hopefully temporary) loss of strength and humanity.

Mat’s wound – his broken bones and aching hip sustained in Ebou Dar – are a symbol of his dread of the One Power. Eyes are symbols of awareness, vigilance, foresight and honesty, while covered eyes can be a sign of deceit. Mat means to trick the Finns to rescue Moiraine and may lose an eye as a consequence.

If Perrin were wounded it would represent his fear of losing his humanity or those close to him. He would do whatever it takes to avoid either.

Perrin has parallels with smith gods and many of them are lamed, usually by those who force them to work for them. In The Gathering Storm there has been some emphasis on Perrin feeling unable to run and jump freely with the wolves in the Dream:

'Jump down, Young Bull. Jump. It is safe.' As always, the Sending from the wolf came as a mixture of scents and images. Perrin was getting better and better at interpreting those — the soft earth as a representation of the ground, rushing wind as an image of jumping, the scent of relaxation and calmness to indicate there was no need to fear.
"But how?"
'Times before, you always rushed ahead, like a pup newly weaned. Jump. Jump down!' Far below, Hopper sat on his haunches in the field, grinning up at Perrin.
Perrin ground his teeth and muttered a curse or two for stubborn wolves. It seemed to him that the dead ones were particularly bull-headed. Though Hopper did have a point. Perrin had leaped before in this place, if never from the sky itself...
'Run,' Hopper urged, obviously confused at Perrin's reluctance.
"I can't," Perrin said, stopping.

- The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

He has ‘hamstrung’ himself. Wolves usually do the hamstringing rather than be victims of it. I wonder if this isn’t an indication that Perrin will be grievously wounded in the leg. Legs represent strength and stability, both of which are important features of Perrin's character.

The Shadow would really proclaim its strength if it could strike or even cripple the most life-affirming and least destructive of the three ta’veren.


Hinkel said...

on a sort of related note of one of our heroines being maimed, i'm becoming more and more suspicious that Elayne may be burned out at some point soon - constant reminders that studying ter'angreal is dangerous and elayne's insistence that she's safe from harm until her babies are born - i'm guessing there are plenty of theories on this at the various sites.

Really enjoying the read-through posts, Linda. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

First off, interesting article.
I have thought about some of these things too in the half a dozen times I have read the series.

In regards to Rand, it is more likely that the land is sick because it is tied to him than he is messed up because he is tied to the land. This is related to the FisherKing analogy in relation to the board game Ishy speaks of and the mythological Fisher King, which is the Dragon in WoT. For instance, the food spoiling in his presence in Arad Doman.

With Mat, there have been many theories about him losing an eye, and it is almost guaranteed to happen. One thing that I always thought was pretty obvious that I haven't heard much is that Mat will "give up half the light of the world to save the world". Along with the viewing of him placing an Eye on a scale. I would bet a great deal of money that these foretell that Mat doesn't just lose his eye, but sacrifices it in some way because he feels it is necessary to keep the world from doom. We all know how Matt always does what he feels is necessary even as he grumbles about it...


Anonymous said...

Mat won't lose an eye for tricking the Finns. He'll have to trade it as part of the bargain to get Moiraine back. What is the prophecy - give up light to save the world?


Anonymous said...

Give up half the light of the world to save the world.

Losing one eye could be giving up half the light of the world.

I completely agree that he will have to trade it or something like that. I don't think it will be a Finn punishment, but rather a choice. Either to save Moiraine in Finnland, because she is needed in the world saving, or for some other reason that will save everything.


Billy said...

Perrin HAS been wounded, but the wound was not physical. Remember his ENTIRE family being slaughtered? He certainly did, and still does, suffer from that. Family, especially for him if you think about how he emotionally connections with people, is a part of him and his being. Severing and destroying his family was, in an emotional and relational act, severing a part of himself.

I would wager that it is actually worse that Mat or even Rand loosing a eye or a hand.

Loosing his family not only made him emotionally stressed, it affected his actions and decisions. It was a significant loss and remains so.

Linda said...

Thanks for your comments all.

It's true Billy that Perrin has had a huge wound already. So has Rand, though - knowing or believing he has to die, and that EVERYTHING depends on him. Yet he has agonising physical wounds as well and has now been maimed.

I think Perrin gets physical expression or evidence of what is going on inside him too.

Various: I'm aware of the give up half the light of the world - I wrote about it in the *Finns essays. It has been suggested by so many I thought it didn't need to be said again here.

In a way it's a matter of semantics. Just going to a known place of extreme danger involves a sacrifice on Mat's part. If the Finns demand his eye as payment/punishment and Mat agrees what do you call it? Sacrifice? Punishment? It's both. That is what I wanted to suggest. I might strengthen the wording.

Tim said...

I just noticed Min's reaction to Rand's comment about Rand 'cutting of his hand' on my last reread and smiled.

That's the best part of WoT: every time you reread, there's some new little bit of info or foreshadowing to find.

Anonymous said...

In the very beginning of TGH Rand says he'd rather cut off his hand than hurt Egwene. True, he loses his hand to protect Min, but I'd definitely call that a foreshadowing of his maiming.


Terez said...

Nice catch on the Min foreshadowing! If Perrin will indeed be maimed to match, then there is definitely not much evidence to work with. Rand's maiming won't outlast his death, though, so maybe Perrin need not be maimed.

Anonymous said...

Perrin got wounded (almost in a ritual fashion, if you look at the cascade of changes for him right afterward), when he decided to hunt trollocs in TSR. He then found shelter among the Tinkers (and women), and caring for him, Faile was the first to call him "My wolf king" at that point.

When he got back to the village, he had become Goldeneyes, had the wolf-head banner, got Healed by Alanna and wed Faile which cured him of his death-wish. Faile also helped him get over the psychological wounding of his family's slaugther, and Perrin mourned them properly and moved on. He also almost killed Slayer then.

I don't know... it sounds to me like Jordan has chosen to go the opposite way with Perrin. He won't be a maimed hero, he's being kept whole, wounded but healed each time (there was the "I don't need to be pretty" episode as well), for after Tarmon Gai'don. Perrin's like the promise of a healed, peaceful land after the fight. In fact, the biggest wound Perrin got in the series is becoming a wolf-brother. Much of his storyarc concern his striving to become whole again, accept and control the two aspects of his personality (wolf and man).

Perrin's a blacksmith, but he has fairly little in common with the smith gods. He's not lame, not ugly, not reclusive nor in servitude to other gods, not associated with the underworld or fire, he has no magical talent as a forger of weapons and his "power" is rather essentially shamanic in nature (dreams, kinship with animals), and unlike most smith gods, he's a wielder of weapons and a warrior. He's not derived much from smith gods, rather Jordan is using the old ties between smiths and leadership/kingship. The imagery Jordan associates with Perrin's smithing is not that you find with smith gods in general, it's most of the time metallurgy as a metaphor for shaping people and binding different elements, and the duality of the role of the smiths as makers of tools (daily life, for horses, to build) and forger of weapons. It's unlikely to change at the last minute and Perrin will turn into a smith god figure all of a sudden. It's more likely to remain a very minor source for this character to the end, no?

On another topic, I tend to disagree with you that the foreshadowing in LOC about Rand cutting his arm off rather than harm Min had to do with him losing a hand in KOD. Getting in the way of danger to save Min from harm isn't at all the same as not harming her himself. Rand never told Min "I'd give up an arm to keep you from harm", he told her "I would never harm you myself".

The foreshadowing was for TGS.

At the end of the day, Rand could not cut off his arm rather than harm Min. He might have wished to but couldn't. He was in the Shadow's control and nearly killed Min, significantly with his own arm and hand.

You'll probably say it's foreshadowing for both to have the last word, but that doesn't work for me either.

Linda said...

I agree Terez that there isn't much evidence to work with regarding Perrin. However, the evidence for Mat's maiming has been cryptic. It's his parallels with Odin that make their meaning clear.

Flauta said...

What about the parallels to Hephaestus? The links are not going to be 1to1 (Look at Thom and Merlin). The smith marries a beautiful woman (Aphrodite) and this woman loves a warrior (Ares). Faile loves her dad, no? As for the allusion to the Aphoridite/Ares affair? Perrin himself mentions that Faile has her mother's face.
Also, Hephaestus has both hammer and axe in his imagery.