Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wheel of Time Embroidery Collection #4: Rand's Cloak - Here Be a Dragon

By Linda

In The Great Hunt, Moiraine had a dark blue cloak made for Rand with an embroidered dragon sigil:

One cloak was plain, stout wool and dark green, the other deep blue with a stiff standing collar embroidered in gold with herons . . . and high on the left breast, where a lord would wear his sign . . . .
His hand drifted to the cloak of its own accord. As if uncertain what they would feel, his fingers brushed the stitching of a serpent curled almost into a circle, but a serpent with four legs and a lion's golden mane, scaled in crimson and gold, its feet each tipped with five golden claws.

- The Great Hunt, The Welcome

The curled dragon is a feature of Chinese dragon robes, which are the traditional court dress in Imperial China. On a dragon robe this symbol would be 25-26 cm (10-11”) in size and centred on the chest, both front and back. Since the embroidery is the sigil on a cloak of a tall man, I sewed it at half-scale (12-13 cm, 5”), which wasn’t easy since I attempted to keep all the detail (see photo below, click to enlarge). The colouring I chose is typical of the dragon motif on Chinese dragon robes. The dragons’ scales were usually all one thread type; either all gold, the most common, or all silk, not both.

In Chinese thought the dragon was

the symbol of heaven, the king of the elements and of nature. It also signified the god of water, the fertilising bestower of rain.

- Josiane Bertin-Guest, Chinese Embroidery: Traditional Techniques

It eventually symbolised the emperor himself as the Son of Heaven, and personified the great forces of nature.

The fact that the dragon has five claws is significant:

The five-clawed dragon (lung) was reserved to be worn by the emperor and his immediate family – his sons and princes of the first and second ranks. Princes of the third and fourth ranks wore the four-clawed dragon (mang).

- Josiane Bertin-Guest, Chinese Embroidery: Traditional Techniques

As nine was designated as an imperial number, the dragon was a composite of nine animal forms:

It had the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit, ears of a cow, neck of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of a hawk and palms of a tiger. The scales along its back were 81 (9 x 9) in number. Those on its throat lay towards the head and those on the head were meant to look like the ridges of a mountain chain. It also had nine distinct offshoots, including whiskers at each side of the mouth and the beard under its chin.

- Josiane Bertin-Guest, Chinese Embroidery: Traditional Techniques

Likewise, the Dragon is an imperial figure: Rand is a king of kings and Lews Therin had absolute power and could summon the Nine Rods of Dominion:

They were actual people, and they were, but you might call them regional governors of the earth, regional governors of the planet. So if I say, summon them, then we’ve got a guy who has been given in effect ultimate power.

- Robert Jordan, Dragoncon, September 2005

Some sources suggest that the dragon has the eyes of a demon rather than a rabbit, which is interesting in the light of Rand’s link to Moridin and his channelling of the True Power. I gave this dragon blue eyes, like Rand’s, and red eyebrows, since Rand has red hair.

The Chinese dragon robes had nine dragons on them. Nine is the most yang number and is closely associated with the dragon, the most yang animal. The strong links of the number nine with the dragon are consistent with Nicola’s foretelling that the Dragon Reborn will do nine impossible things (see Foretellings article and Nine Labours of Rand revisitedtheory).

The pearl the dragon is curled around protectively is the pearl of wisdom, a symbol of the emperor’s search for virtue on behalf of the empire (Josiane Bertin-Guest, Chinese Embroidery: Traditional Techniques). It was also a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment, some of which Rand gained in The Gathering Storm.

Instead of the pearl of wisdom I have sewn a symbol even more potent in The Wheel of Time series: the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai, a reference to the necessity of balance. It also looks like one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison.

In Chinese embroidery stylised flames usually indicate creatures of a mystical or mythical nature (Young Y. Chung, The Art of Oriental Embroidery: History, Aesthetics and Techniques ), doubly appropriate here since Rand channels fire and lightning.

Clouds also surround the Dragon since he is the Son of Heaven and is associated with rain and storms.

The embroidery is all in silk and synthetic metal thread on dark blue silk fabric. The stitches used are typical of Chinese embroidery: satin, couching and chain. The synthetic gold thread is sewn on surface of fabric (couched) with very thin gold-coloured silk thread. The usual stitch for the dragon’s body would be tight spirals of couched gold thread to represent scales but, at half-size, the sigil is too small for that. So I used chain stitch instead, which can be done with synthetic gold thread. If attempted in real gold thread (which consists of thin strips of gold wrapped around a silk core) the fabric would be damaged or the gold stripped from the thread.

This dragon is well-travelled; in its early stages it accompanied me to JordanCon in April of this year.


Unknown said...

Very nice!

TWW said...

That's beautiful, Linda
As usual, appreciate all the work you do
I like how you made his eyes blue to match Rand's

Linda said...

Thank you both!

OregonPatchWorks said...

All these designs are very grace full....
Really Hand made Embroidery Patterns are best in every way..there is lots of creativity.

Juliana said...

You *hand* embroidered that? You're my hero.

Linda said...

Thank you!