Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #14: Temper Temper

By Linda

The theme of temper|tempering|temperance is prominent around Faile and Perrin.

Due to cultural differences, the couple has had an issue of how to express anger. Perrin says he “did not know anger” until Faile was captured (which is why he could not express it to her as she would wish). One of the ‘mistakes’ Perrin made in Faile’s mind was showing his temper to Berelain – the wrong woman. Perrin should have taken his cue from the wolves: the more attention the pack leader gives another wolf, the higher the status of that animal. He is supposed to ignore Berelain as much as possible.

Faile wants to express her temper readily and fully but makes Perrin guess why she is angry. This links in with another theme surrounding the couple: that of courtly love. It’s capricious and demanding, but that’s part of the courtly love game.

You might say Faile has been good for Perrin’s self-expression; she helped him show grief when he learned of the murder of his family, and not only encourages him to show his anger, but consciously guides it:

[She] planned how she would meet his anger and turn it. There was an art to guiding a husband's anger in the direction you wanted, and she had learned from an expert, her mother.

- Winter’s Heart, Customs

Perrin is too moderate or temperate and Faile pulls him back from this extreme by paradoxically moderating his moderation – or is it tempering his temperance?

Tempering is usually described as the strengthening of metal, and by extension other things. It’s an appropriate motif for a smith. Lovers showing temper to each other in Faile’s book affirms or even increases the strength and respect of each other.

Perrin and Faile are strong people and make each other grow stronger. Just as importantly, they strengthen other people:

She had been taught to give those under her strength even when she had none herself, to soothe their fears, not infect them with her own.

- Lord of Chaos, Prologue

Faile was taught that this is one of the true roles of a noble/leader (the others being to protect them and to foster their well-being by keeping order, providing infrastructure and promoting industry and trade) and she has not only followed this herself but instilled it in Perrin too.

Her captivity among the Shaido amply proved to her and us the worth of these roles, by showing positive and negative leadership in action. Faile had to moderate the behaviour of those subject to her lest they be killed or kill their chances of escape, which brings us to the motif of temperance.

Temperance is defined as moderation and self-restraint in behaviour or expression. More than once under the Shaido Faile had to control her anger and other emotions and persuade others to do the same. For example:

Alliandre's cowl hid her face, but her back grew stiffer with every word. She was intelligent, and knew how to do what she must, but she had a queen's temper when she did not control it.
Faile spoke before she could erupt. "Until we manage to get away, we are all servants," she said firmly. Light, the last thing she needed was the pair of them squabbling. "But you will apologize, Maighdin. Now!" Head averted, her serving woman mumbled something that might have been an apology. She let it pass for one, in any case. "As for you, Alliandre, I expect you to be a good servant." Alliandre made a noise, a half-protest that Faile ignored. "If we are to have any chance of escape, we must do as we are told, work hard, and attract as little attention as possible."

- Winter’s Heart, Offers

Both Faile and Perrin have had to mediate between disparate groups of people and weld them into a useful and focused whole. In The Gathering Storm Tam remarked to Rand how well Perrin did this:

That boy's put on a balancing act to impress any menagerie performer.

- The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

Faile not being there to guide Perrin’s anger, he had to learn to control it himself. He knows he goes out of control in the extreme danger of battle. One of his greatest fears is that he will be stuck in berserk mode but Elyas set his mind at rest about that. The climax of the rescue, when Perrin finally set eyes on Faile, was one time she couldn’t moderate his anger, which is why the women killed their Aiel saviours lest they kill Perrin.

The more narrow meaning of temperance as the restraint in the use of or abstinence from alcoholic liquors also features. The issue of drunkenness among the Shaido affected Faile and her group. They were each subject to harassment. Their need of protection attracted disaffected Mera’din warriors who ultimately made their escape successful. One has to suspect that the widespread drunkenness affected the fighting ability of the Aiel as a whole in the Battle of Malden that day. On the other hand the Shaido were beaten and their captives freed because most Shaido Wise Ones did not drink wine but water. Perrin used the Wise Ones’ temperance against them by adding forkroot to the water supply.

A discussion of the courtly love theme, and all the themes and motifs of these three characters along with their real world parallels can be read in the newly written Faile and Berelain essay and in the Perrin essay.


RabidWombat said...

Nice article. It is almost too good to have any comments about ;) . I think you hit the nail directly on the head with Perrin.

People have a tendency to blame Faile for Perrin's descent into melancholy (and becoming boring as a result). Yet that melancholy is truly due to his inability to come to term with his violent streak and his unwillingness to lead. We see this in Perrin's thoughts in tGS and it gives me some hope for ToM.

As a side note, there is a dream of Perrin throwing away his axe and it chasing him. That probably means that he tried to throw away his anger but failed. We see that in Malden in KoD. I wonder if the axe will chase him in a more literal sense as well. Elayas could have picked it up for him.

As even more of a side note Tam's quote about the menagerie confused me since having performers in a menagerie is a new thing that Tam probably shouldn't have run across. (Valan Luca mentions to Elayne that his menagerie is something new in tFoH I think.) I would think that Tam would have used the phrase gleeman instead. Unless Perrin ran across Valan Luca's menagerie that is.

Linda said...

Thank you RW. I'm glad that this post might have hit the mark.

Perrin does try to avoid or suppress conflict. (And Faile wisely refuses to allow it.) Have we seen the last of his axe? maybe not. We certainly haven't seen the last of war or the killing Perrin will have to do.

I see what you mean about Tam. Others soon copied Luca, but the Two Rivers shouldn't have heard about them yet.