Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #6: Chapter 4 - Nightfall

By Linda


Thanks to Gareth Bryne putting his three stars sigil on his forces – telling the military world who leads them - Gawyn knows who the rebel Aes Sedai’s commander is. No doubt it was quite an unpleasant surprise. The way Gawyn works to elude Bryne shows how good his teacher is and how well Gawyn learned.

Incidentally, Gawyn has not heard that Niall is dead since he speaks of five great captains (Agelmar, Bryne, Ituralde, Niall and Bashere).

Gawyn wonders if he will end up fighting any mentor he ever had:

Am I destined to end up fighting against each and every man who has been a mentor to me?

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Good question. Gawyn’s crisis of conscience does seem to lead him to fight his mentors – but he’s at war with himself, too, so fighting them is like fighting himself, but at a higher level. Gawyn feels guilty over killing Hammar and Coulin, especially since now he knows Bryne is not in Andor keeping it safe for Elayne. Before that, he could justify his actions on the grounds that Andor and Elayne were not in need of him. Gawyn hypocritically wonders if Elayne is doing her duty to Andor, and is fairly sure she is. His faith is not misplaced; she has even managed to become Queen. Gawyn is aware he is not so dutiful but does nothing about it.

Post-traumatic stress over Dumai’s Wells, and also probably the Tower fighting during the coup, is evident in his inability to think or act consistently.

Gawyn has realised that he made a mistake supporting Elaida as legitimate Amyrlin. He tries to convince himself that Elayne and Egwene didn’t choose to side with the rebels but it’s an argument that has worn thin. Gawyn doesn’t want to choose between sides and is being torn by that. Any civil war will have people who feel as Gawyn does that both sides have merits and faults. Very probably Gawyn doesn’t have any good choices available.

At this stage all the Younglings have unquestioning obedience to the White Tower and Aes Sedai. Except Gawyn. He doesn’t have any for anyone. In part this is due to his high status and in part to his training. Andoran princes go to the Tower to learn from Warders, but are never completely obedient even to their Queen, since it is their job to protect her as well as advise her in war and this may mean going against her wishes at times. They are prepared to die for her though:

Gawyn nodded slowly. Thoughts seemed to be drifting up from the bottom of a well. My blood shed before hers; my life given before hers. "Thank you, Master Tesen. I. ..." My blood shed before hers.... That was the oath he had taken when barely tall enough to peer into Elayne's cradle. "You may trade with.... Some of my men may need...." Gareth Bryne had had to explain to him what it meant, but even then he had known he had to keep that oath if he failed at everything else in his life. Jisao and the others were looking at him worriedly.
"Take care of the peddler," he told Jisao roughly, and turned away.
His mother dead, and Elayne. Only a rumor, but rumors on everyone's lips sometimes had a way of turning out true. He climbed half a dozen paces toward the Aes Sedai camp before he knew it. His hands hurt. He had to look to realize they were cramping from the grip he had on his sword hilt, and he had to force them to let go. Coiren and the others meant to take Rand al'Thor to Tar Valon, but if his mother was dead.... Elayne. If they were dead, he would see whether the Dragon Reborn could live with a sword through his heart!

Lord of Chaos, Prologue

Just as Warders are for their Aes Sedai. (In turn Aes Sedai are supposed to do their utmost to keep them alive; that is why Warders are exempted in the Oaths). The Younglings are not Warders yet, and never will be if Elaida has her way.

We learn of Gawyn’s childhood oath as First Prince of the Sword at the same time that Gawyn starts to believe that Rand killed his mother. Gawyn hasn’t kept his Oath (not entirely his fault since Elayne ran off and no one would tell him where) but this failure has added to his guilt and confusion and clouded his judgement.

Gawyn is certain that Elaida wants the Younglings dead and this is why she ordered the Younglings to harry Bryne’s army. Gawyn hasn’t been told that the rebels have Travelling and so Bryne doesn’t depend on supply lines but it is obvious to Gawyn that his attacks on Bryne are meaningless; he has 300 men versus Bryne’s 50,000. However they are serving the purpose of confirming Elaida’s intentions and making Gawyn question his allegiances.

Gawyn tells Jisao:

"We have to know when to fall back."

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Before much longer Gawyn will “fall back” under the strain of his internal questioning and search out his first and only remaining mentor.

Gawyn wants to see the stars in the night sky:

Glancing upward, Gawyn missed the stars. They hid their faces from him behind those clouds... Light, I wish I could see the stars, he thought.

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Stars symbolise guidance and guardianship and also hope. They are a point of entry to heaven; and thanks to the Dark One they are now lacking. Gawyn is entering the long dark night of the soul and has nothing to light his way. He has to find his path out of his dilemma without guidance.

The only stars Gawyn is seeing are those on the soldiers of his mentor and soon he’ll see them up close when his internal conflict drives him to Bryne.

Gawyn’s characterisation is very good; my only quibble would be that RJ probably would have used “hunched” or “crouched” rather than “hunkered down” over the back of his horse.


Russ said...

The first time I read TGS, I didn't really spent much time thinking on Gawyn chapters, so I missed the stars thing. As I re-read this chapter the other day, the star metaphor really struck me. The first thing I thought of was obviously how stars were used by seafarers for direction, something not only Gawyn, but everyone in the Light needs now (especially the refugees). Also, astrology with predicting the future with the stars.

Has it ever been stated if the cloud cover is only over Randland Proper, or everywhere? I would think that would put a damper on Seafolk and Seanchan naval movement.

Linda said...

Russ, yes in Towers of Midnight Chapter 1 we see that the unbroken cloud cover is over the Seanchan continent and has been for weeks.