Monday, April 11, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #14: Chapter 12 - Unexpected Encounters

By Linda


In her confinement, Egwene rightly feels at risk of being distracted by the long list of problems the various Aes Sedai have:

Keep focused, she told herself. Clean the patch of floor you're working on first before you move on to the rest of the house.

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

An appropriate metaphor for the servant of the Servants as well as an inn-keeper’s daughter.

The White Tower is divided and Rand’s men Bond sisters. How could Rand allow it, Egwene wonders. The same way that Aes Sedai could allow division: by being subverted by the Shadow. It works because no one speaks up. Even Egwene hasn’t said: stop the division, you are being subverted while the fate of the world is at stake.

Egwene thinks Gawyn is competent at looking after himself. This is not what she usually says about men. Perhaps this is to stop herself worrying about him. She thinks Gawyn might be too competent at looking after himself, possibly a reference to his founding of the Younglings to serve Elaida. I’m not sure that Gawyn would agree with Egwene’s assessment.

Egwene consoles herself that the rebels would deal with Asha’man Bonding. This is not so; no one has achieved anything yet. The rebel Aes Sedai are just penned outside the Black Tower where they can be taken and turned to the Shadow.

Bennae’s room is full of books and skeletons – some still being constructed – symbolic of the Aes Sedai depositories, and the skeletons in the closet that is the thirteenth depository. Bennae has made notes on the bones of the human skeleton and she took note of all Egwene said about the thirteenth. Her room also contains mummified birds and astronomical instruments. The latter refer to Bennae needing aid to find her way out of her predicament. Birds symbolise wisdom and intelligence, here preserved in secret where few can access it.

Egwene bends her head for a model of the Sun, a reference to her future acknowledgement of Rand, who is the solar character (see Rand essay especially here). Then she moves the dusty skeleton of a rat. Rats are creatures of the Shadow and the Forsaken were long preserved in the Bore. In Towers of Midnight Egwene moves the infestation of rats that is Mesaana and the Black Ajah from the Tower...

Bennae tests Egwene with her own problem that she can’t solve. Her very question shows why she is in trouble. Bennae’s not circumspect or subtle enough. As the symbolism of her room anticipates, the Brown’s council are upset she knows about the thirteenth depository. Naturally the Council suspects someone of the Brown in the know has blabbed. Egwene suggests Bennae reassure the Council no one has been indiscreet and put herself forward as trustworthy enough to join the select group that looks after the depository. This means Egwene is condoning the existence of secret archives. She never questions whether they are a good idea or right. In contrast, Rand, until he came under the influence of the Shadow, revealed such secrets so that people would know why things were and what they were fighting for.

Egwene gives Bennae some good advice:

"Unjust punishment sometimes cannot be avoided, but it is best never to let others forget that it is unjust. If she simply accepts the way people treat her, then it won't be long before they assume she deserves the position they've placed her in." And thank you, Silviana, for that little bit of advice.

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

which she takes; advice which came from Silviana, who was duty bound to discipline Shemerin for accepting her unjust punishment. Bennae’s situation is not as fraught as that of Shemerin: an Amyrlin gives Bennae helpful advice, whereas an Amyrlin gave Shemerin her unjust punishment.

Egwene proved this was not a fluke by advising Nagora. Then she went to Suana, who is the first Ajah Head to show Egwene she wants her in her Ajah. All these scenes show Egwene is being accepted as Aes Sedai by other Aes Sedai. Egwene will be of all Ajahs, in the sense that nearly all of them feel she might fit in their Ajah. Egwene’s situation is rather like that of an apprentice Wise One: she declared herself an Aes Sedai and they are coming to accept her as one. Note that Wise Ones are not divided into formal groups. They are not even touched by clan feuds.

Suana’s room is full of life and fertility, but affected by the Shadow’s Blight. Suana is here described as plump and round-faced, but later in The Gathering Storm Sealed to the Flame, she is bony and lanky.

Meidani’s rooms symbolise all nations – in fact, all continents except Seanchan – by containing examples of their weapons and crafts.

Egwene stares down Meidani until she becomes uncertain, then questions her, rather than accept Meidani questioning of her authority. She thinks that Meidani should have run even if this betrayed to Elaida that she and the other ferrets knew that Elaida was onto them.

Egwene describes the hallway under the Tower as spiralling like the Great Serpent. It could represent another serpent, a Forsaken, since Mesaana has rooms down here in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Secret meetings in the basement, and oaths administered without a warrant are crimes. Egwene points out that the Tower Aes Sedai are committing crimes as much as rebels are. In retaliation the Sitters threaten to order Meidani to send Egwene for penance. Egwene uses this to prove they are using the oath road as a tool of division and bullying. This is why an oath of obedience is a bad idea. Yet she made rebel Aes Sedai swear to her.

An Amyrlin is not a bully:

"Is the Amyrlin Seat's authority, then, in her power to channel?" Egwene asked. "Is she nothing more than a bully, obeyed because she can force others to do as she demands?"

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

A large part of Elaida’s status comes from her strength in saidar, as it does for all Aes Sedai. Egwene doesn’t go down this path far though to reconsider the justness of Aes Sedai ranking.

If the Amyrlin couldn’t channel she wouldn’t be Amyrlin, so Egwene is not entirely right.

Since Siuan’s removal is “unorthodox” Elaida was not “properly” raised. Even worse, as Egwene deduces, the Black Ajah hunters found a Black Sitter, so Siuan’s deposition is invalid. Egwene thinks it is worth considering the validy of Elaida’s election:

"You call us false, Yukiri? Which Amyrlin would you rather follow? The one who has been making novices and Accepted out of Aes Sedai, banishing an entire Ajah, and causing divisions in the Tower more dangerous than any army that ever assaulted it? A woman who was raised partially through the help of the Black Ajah?”

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

From which Egwene decides that it is wrong to raise or depose an Amyrlin without the full Hall sitting. This is one belief that Egwene does follow up in Towers of Midnight.

Egwene’s most telling point is one few Aes Sedai have openly realised, even though it is obvious:

"I think we all are serving the interests of the Shadow," Egwene said sharply, "so long as we allow ourselves to remain divided.”

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

Egwene congratulates the four Sitters of different Ajahs for working together and orders them to work for unity and to release Meidani from the fourth Oath of obedience. They do both these things. They might have done the former unasked, but probably not the latter.


Emilie said...

"You call us false, Yukiri? Which Amyrlin would you rather follow? The one who has been making novices and Accepted out of Aes Sedai, banishing an entire Ajah, and causing divisions in the Tower more dangerous than any army that ever assaulted it? A woman who was raised partially through the help of the Black Ajah?”

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters


Yes but - Egwene made Aes Sedai out of accepted, which was just not done without testing, and she was raised with the help of the Black Ajah as well (hello, Sheriam!) She can't say her situation is that strikingly different on these points.

Anonymous said...

a good trick would be to make a good person out of an Aes Sedai

her situation is different because people think she is Rands friend so they cant kill her

Russ said...

At this point, Egwene does not know that Sheriam was Black. Nor was Sheriam a sitter. However, Delana on the other hand, was both. BUT, Egwene, if I remember correctly, was raised by more than a margin of 1 vote, unlike Elaida. Of course, there may have been more black sisters in the Salidar hall, I don't recall offhand and would have to research.

Linda said...

Egwene had Moria and Delana and at least two more Black Sitters (these were on the rebel embassy to the Black Tower) in her Hall.