Monday, September 13, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #1: Talmanes

By Linda

Since the Towers of Midnight Prologue is soon to be published, I thought I’d write some posts about a few of the Wheel of Time minor characters and resume the read-through with a chapter-by-chapter analysis of The Gathering Storm next year. First up is Talmanes, Mat’s devoted deputy and one of the sympathetically drawn nobles.

Cairhienin culture comprises French and Japanese influences, but on the whole the Cairhienin national character hearkens to the inscrutable Japanese rather than the expressive French. Talmanes is Cairhienin plus, having great reserve, intensity and political sensitivity. During the meeting of the Aes Sedai with the Andorans and Murandians, he promptly saw Egwene’s control of the rebel Sitters:

"Egwene is still the Amyrlin," the other man said calmly, straightening his cloak. Another red hand, larger, marked that. "You were wrong about her, Mat. She really is the Amyrlin Seat, and she has those Aes Sedai by the scruff of the neck. Though some of them might not know it yet. "

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

and the political repercussions of her announcements:

At her approach, he made a respectful leg, but there was a wry touch to his voice when he said, "You changed a border today." He gathered his cloak against the icy breeze. "It has always been... fluid... between Andor and Murandy, no matter what maps say, but Andor has never come south in such numbers before. Except for the Aiel War, and the Whitecloak War, anyway, but they were only passing through, then. Once they have been here a month, new maps will show a new line. Look at the Murandians scramble, fawning over Pelivar and his companions as much as they do the sisters. They are hoping to make new friends for the new day."

- The Path of Daggers, A Peculiar Calling

Egwene was so focussed on her manipulations of the Hall that she did not notice the Andoran-Murandian politics (and Siuan appears not to have discussed them with Egwene either) until Talmanes pointed them out to her. However, she earned his respect with her understanding of his agreement with Roedran, her acceptance of her part in any possible war in Murandy and her refusal to allow that war (The Path of Daggers, A Peculiar Calling).

Talmanes’ understanding and judgement are very superior, but he is not arrogant. His armour is unornamented and functional and he doesn’t wear stripes of nobility but is content with Mat’s red hand symbol:

Short and wiry, with the front of his head shaved and powdered, the Cairhienin had the right to wear stripes of color across his chest in considerable number, but a small red hand sewn to the breast of his dark coat was its only decoration unless you counted the long red scarf tied around his left arm [marking him as on red arm duty].

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Mat says Talmanes:

wasn't the type of nobleman who minded rubbing shoulders with those of lower station. He'd visited his share of seedy taverns in his time, even if he had taken to complaining about Mat's choices.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

In Hinderstap Talmanes took note of what the common folk thought:

"Something feels wrong about these folk, Mat." Talmanes spoke very softly, glancing over his shoulder. "While you've been playing, I've been talking to them. They don't care about the world. The Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan, nothing. Not a care."
"So?" Mat said. "They're simple folk."
"Simple folk should worry even more " Talmanes said. "They're trapped here between gathering armies. But these just shrug when I talk, then drink some more. It's as if they're...they're too focused on their revelry. As if it's all that matters to them."

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

Talmanes is an accomplished courtier; he has taste (Mat remarked on his wine palate) and excellent manners:

"Talmanes Delovinde," the man said, minding manners. "You want to talk to Thom? Well, I see no harm in it. I will take you to him." Karede heeled Aldazar after Delovinde. The man had made no mention of the obvious, that he and the others could not be allowed to leave and carry word of this army's location. He had some manners.

- Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak

even to his enemies.

He tactfully reassured both Tuon:

Talmanes made one of those odd bows, with one foot forward, and the other three mirrored him. "My Lady," Talmanes said, "Vanin told me of your circumstances, and the promises Lord Mat made. I just want to tell you, he keeps his word."

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

and Mat:

"Mat, you are not always the most refined of men, I'll admit. Sometimes your humor is indeed a bit ripe and your tone on the brusque side. But you are rarely downright rude, nor intentionally insulting. You really are on edge, aren't you?"
Mat said nothing, just pulled the brim of his hat down again.
"I'm sure that she will be fine, Mat," Talmanes said, tone gentler. "She is royalty. They know how to take care of themselves. And she's got those soldiers watching after her. Not to mention Ogier. Ogier warriors! Who would think of such a thing? She'll be all right."

- The Gathering Storm, On a Broken Road

to allay their anxieties, after pointing out to Mat that he should not let his anxieties influence his manners. Now that Mat is a nobleman, Talmanes is trying to polish Mat to fit his new station:

"All right, then," Talmanes said. "But you realize that I'm going to make certain that you and I go to a proper tavern once we reach Four Kings. I'll have you educated yet, Mat. You're a prince now. You'll need—"

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

This is the reason why Talmanes has begun complaining about Mat’s choice of taverns.

Talmanes’ sigil is a black fox, which shows he is a fitting second to Mat the fox (see Animal Symbolism essay). Like Mat, he was leading forces even though much older men were present (The Fires of Heaven, This Place, This Day). Talmanes is a genuine military man and not someone who has become one for the sake of appearances or ambition. He wears his hair shaved and powdered soldier fashion. Tuon noticed how his eyes lit up when telling Mat of the new crossbow crank:

A touch of excitement entered his voice now. Even restrained men tended to warmth over weapons. "Three turns of the crank," his hands moved in a quick circle, demonstrating, "and the bowstring is latched. With a little training, a man can get off seven or eight quarrels in a minute. With a heavy crossbow."

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

And Talmanes himself said he liked battle:

"I like some fights," Talmanes said. "On the battlefield or a nice bar fight. This ...this is insane."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

Talmanes was the first to follow Mat. In fact, he pushed Mat into leading men into battle that first day:

“But I will lead one half, if you lead the other.”

- The Fires of Heaven, This Place, This Day

Mat wondered why Talmanes never asked who he was. That is because Talmanes, ever observant and politically astute, already knew. At first Talmanes listened to Mat because he was a close friend of the Dragon Reborn, who was trying to save Cairhien, and had a huge army of Aiel besides, but by the end of the day when Mat, king of battles or war and the dead, had kept them not only alive, but victorious over their enemies, Talmanes was a devoted follower:

“Talmanes gives praises when there are two moons, yet I heard him say aloud that he would follow wherever you led.”

- The Fires of Heaven, The Lesser Sadness

Nothing succeeds like success, as the saying goes, and Mat’s success and luck certainly drew him support:

"Not so," Mat protested. True, when his luck was in, it was perfect, but it ran in cycles, especially with things that had as much order as a deck of cards. "Blood and ashes! You won fifty crowns from me last week."...
"How many hundred behind does that leave me?" Talmanes asked dryly. "I want a chance to win some back." If he ever did start winning against Mat with any consistency, he would start worrying too. Like most of the Band, he took Mat's luck as a talisman.

- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance

Talmanes’ reverence for Mat’s luck is typical of attitudes in earlier times, when people didn’t argue with fate and exalted anyone who seemed to be a favourite of Fortune. They didn’t want to get on Fortune’s bad side by criticising her choice. She might turn on them. Mat is literally Fortune’s favourite, being married to her. (Conversely, people had no compunction in adding to the woes of anyone who was having a hard time with fate or fortune.)

Talmanes doesn’t change so much as the reader, through Mat and Egwene, gets to know and understand him better. From early on he had a dry sense of humour and was prone to using it on Mat:

Daerid and Nalesean were laughing right out, now, and even Talmanes was chuckling, though they tried to pretend it was about something else…Talmanes was humming "A Frog on the Ice." So he was skidding about with his feet in the air, was he?

- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance

And of course it’s easier to dish it out than to take it, but Talmanes manages.

"But that? Talmanes, I'd believe you were Aes Sedai first. You aren't, are you?"
Daerid doubled over the pommel of his saddle laughing, and Nalesean nearly fell off his horse. Talmanes stiffened at first, but finally he grinned. He almost chuckled. The man did not have much sense of humor, but he did have some. His seriousness reasserted itself quickly, though.

- Lord of Chaos, Heading South

In The Gathering Storm he teased Mat more often:

"A Warder, is it?" Talmanes said, flipping through his stack of papers. "I'll have to practice scowling."
Mat regarded him with a flat expression. "You're not taking this seriously."
"What did you ask? Is there someone who is taking this seriously?" Burn that twinkle. Had Mat really ever thought this man was slow to laugh? He just did it on the inside. That was the most infuriating way.

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

perhaps because Mat is of his rank now. Mat’s ennobling at the end of Knife of Dreams made a difference with him.

There is more to Talmanes’ reluctance to publicly reveal what he is thinking and feeling than Cairhienin fear that rivals might take advantage, as Mat hints:

He never laughed and seldom smiled, but he had his reasons.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Talmanes is haunted, probably by what he witnessed during the siege of Cairhien:

Talmanes' boots crunched closer. "I have some brandy here, Mat. I think you should take it. It is very good for dreams, Mat. You do not remember them... Mat? I do not believe you are asleep, Mat. I saw your face. It is better once you kill the dreams. Believe me, I know."

- Lord of Chaos, Heading South

and in battles since.


Jack said...

Excellent gathering. Talmanes was always one of my very favorite minor characters. For that matter, I like him more than several of the major ones.

One of the things I love about Robert Jordan is how many action heroes are running around behind the scenes. Whole series could be written about the adventures of Talmanes, Logain, or Uno, with their parts in Wheel of Time being small parts of those books. It makes the world feel that much bigger and more real.

Tim said...

Awesome article! Agreed with Jack that Talmanes is a great character. Hopefully he'll have a bigger role in ToM and doesn't get brushed off once Mat leaves the Band again...

luvtheedragon said...

great article ....a very nice read....

Linda said...

Thanks guys, glad you like it. Talmanes is a very positive character and rarely puts a foot wrong. We'll probably never hear about how he got on in Murandy, or how he came to establish a banner of mason - something that stunned Mat as much as the new crossbow crank.

David said...

The kast quote is odd and one I dont remeber

"I have some brandy here, Mat. I think you should take it. It is very good for dreams, Mat. You do not remember them... Mat? I do not believe you are asleep, Mat. I saw your face. It is better once you kill the dreams. Believe me, I know."

Are the bad dreams casued by a Forsaken, the weakening prison, or is he just mental? Or Demandred mwuah! ha! ha! ha! ha!

Linda said...

Not odd, he saw people starving in Cairhien, eating anything remotely edible and then the Shaido attacking and butchering the Foregate. And then finally fighting the Shaido with Mat. All of it would be pretty horrible, enough to prevent anyone sleeping.

Anonymous said...

Talmanes will be known as the Hero of Caemlyn after:
- rallying the remaining members of the Band
- drawing the mercs in the area to follow the BOTRH banner because they think he is Mat
- preserving the inner city (and the dragons) until help arrives