Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #31: Chapter 28 - Night in Hinderstap

By Linda


Darkness comes unnaturally quickly to Hinderstap as the sun sets. Lack of sun and Light brings on the Hinderstap horrors:

"It's as if the darkness itself intoxicates them," Thom said while Mat helped Delarn into his saddle. "As if Light itself has forsaken them, leaving them only to the Shadow."

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

When the sun returns, the Pattern tries to reset itself, as Thom observes:

Something's wrong in the world. There's a snag in the Pattern here. The town unravels at night, and then the world tries to reset it each morning to make things right again."

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

The Creator is the Light of the World (see opening passage to The Eye of the World,) and Rand his Champion is Lord of the Morning, and a parallel of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun (see Rand essay). The Dark One is the Shepherd of the Night. As so often happens in The Wheel of Time philosophy and symbolism are literally made manifest.

For most of this chapter Mat is in his King of the Dead role, and not his trickster mode of the previous chapter, which is why he was not trapped in Hinderstap’s living death. He is only a trickster at the end when he makes jokes at the villagers’ expense and laughs at their situation:

"The more tragic things get, the more I feel like laughing."

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

In the dark the villagers turn into frenzied and raving homicidal monsters: they have inhuman strength, and don’t talk, only scream and grunt. Mat tries to deal them only wounds, but has to use killing blows for his own safety.

Mat says the villagers:

screamed and hissed, like legions of the drowned trying to pull him down into a deep, unearthly sea.

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

This simile is a link to the phantom village in Altara which Mat and his group witnessed draw a peddler into the underworld.

There’s so many references to the Land of the Dead in this scene.

The villagers do not recognise their neighbours as they attack them, yet the Mayor almost recognises Mat, who is King of the Dead. Mat wants his hat, a reference to Odin’s hat (see Mat essay), in any tales Thom makes of Hinderstap. Odin is the Norse god of the dead and his halls in Valhalla are full of the shades of fallen warriors.

Mat is more disturbed by the wrongness of the village than Talmanes and Harnan, because he worries that he caused all the deaths by staying in the village after sunset. He thinks it is the Dark One’s attempt to trap him and takes it all personally.

Badly wounded Delarn chants Jack o’ the Shadows, which is about death, and is Mat’s signature tune, Mat being a Jack as well as King of the Dead. And of course they are in the shadow right now, as living dead try to kill them at night. Mat thinks that having the One Power used on him is almost as bad as dying.

Only Mat and Thom (a parallel of Orpheus), the two members of the foraging party with Underworld associations, return to Hinderstap, a village of the living dead, and will go on to visit the infernal Finns’ world. Mat thinks the restored villagers are ghosts or spirits at first.

Each sunset the villagers go to sleep or drink to avoid knowing what they do in the dark. Because they can’t leave, and can’t die, being effectively dead already in an underworld village, they seek oblivion, something the river Lethe, one of the five rivers of Hades, the Ancient Greek underworld, granted.

Hinderstap could be likened to the Fields of Asphodel, the first region of Hades, where the shades of heroes wander alongside lesser spirits. The Fields of Asphodel are a kind of limbo for souls who are judged neither good nor evil. These souls have little sensation of humanity unless offerings of blood are made in the living world above. Evil or impious souls are sent to Tartarus and good or pious souls to Elysium, the Island of the Blessed.) The villagers of Hinderstap lose all sensation of humanity and shed copious amounts of blood every night. It vanishes when the sun rises. They are in a kind of limbo, unable to leave, unable to die.

Thom says:

"You can't avoid this entirely," Thom said softly. "You can't pretend nothing is different."
"We don't." Barlden took a drink of tea. "We have the rules. Rules that you ignored.”

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

Tricksters like Mat disregard other people’s rules and social conventions because they get in the way of what tricksters want to get or do. In Mat’s case, obtain food for the Band; in the Aes Sedai’s case, have some creature comforts for a change.

The scene is also a reference to the crazy homicidal mountainfolk gag, but the villagers prove that they are not crazy or homicidal of their own choice:

"We hold to our word, here. Other things are out of our control, particularly for those who don't listen to the rules. But we aren't going to rob a man just because he's an outsider."

The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

Tricksters are outsiders and they are morally ambivalent. Mat insists on taking the wagon of food because "I won it fair." His justification is that the villagers can’t travel so they don’t need the wagon and horses either, but they could be used to fetch timber from the hills, etc. Yet Mat left money to redress the balance.

Hinderstap’s trap started just before the feast of Abram this year. The Feast of Abram is on Jumara 9, equivalent to January 27. Hinderstap is in Murandy and at that time Egwene and the rebel Aes Sedai were not that far away, meeting the delegation of Andoran and Murandian nobles. Halima was with them, so perhaps it was an affect of having a Forsaken in regular contact with the Dark One nearby. Another Forsaken who may have been in Murandy then is Demandred.


SteelBlaidd said...

Hinderstrap seems to me to also be tied to Valhala and the Einherjar who would fight all day and drink all night, with the slain being raised at the sunrise.

Anonymous said...

is thorn a typo or is it a bad memory on my end no worries either way

Linda said...

Steelblaidd: Mat as Odin does have connections with Valhalla. The villagers have changed the schedule a bit though! And some of them sleep so they don't know. Not very warrior-like of them.

Linda said...

Anon: A typo. I've fixed it thanks.