Monday, August 8, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #39: Chapter 36 - The Death of Tuon

By Linda



Verin calls for tea for suspense just as she does when she meets with Egwene.

In this chapter Verin is beginning to be confirmed as a trickster. Mat sees through her because he is one himself (see Tricksters essay). Aes Sedai are tricksters; as their name indicates Aes Sedai are derived from aes sidhe, the fairy folk, and aes sidhe were considered dangerous trickster figures. Care was taken to appease them – or at least not offend them, just as people high and low treat Aes Sedai with regard and wariness and are careful not to offend them. Aes Sedai are described early in the books as tricksome by a particularly reliable and astute character, Tam al’Thor:

”You see, lad, Aes Sedai are tricksome. They don't lie, not right out, but the truth an Aes Sedai tells you is not always the truth you think it is.”

The Eye of the World, Tellings of the Wheel

Davram Bashere agrees:

“Aes Sedai are tricksome; no man can know what they'll do or why."

Lord of Chaos, Lion on the Hill

Verin is the ultimate Aes Sedai trickster: she tricked the tricksters, both good and bad.

Verin forges a camaraderie with Mat, while tricking the reader as well. It is a masterly performance. I long ago postulated in the Black Ajah article that if anyone infiltrated the Black Ajah successfully it was Verin; but never formalised it as a theory. How I kicked myself after reading The Gathering Storm!

Mat squirms at the thought of a) his ta’veren powers and b) others knowing of them.

Verin thinks Rand is mad but currently in control of himself. She righly judges that his madness is not due just to taint, but to stress and trauma. Mat thinks the cleansing absolutely momentous, as does Moiraine in the next book.

What Verin related to Mat about being pulled by ta’veren may or may not be true. It would be in keeping with her trickster role if it was a complete fabrication. Her tale supposedly accounts for the four week time gap between when she left Rand and when she met Mat. She still has a few letters to deliver, but she may have spent some time already doing so.

One thing her tale does do is make her mission to Mat look all the more important, and thus more likely that he will do as she wishes.

"Curious, wouldn't you say, young Matrim? I accidentally end up here, in your path, right when you have great need of someone to create a gateway for your army?"

The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

The Darkfriend who gave Verin Mat’s mugshot thought she was a Darkfriend because she was known to be one. The danger from the Shadow is extreme now. Mat should disguise himself; Verin knows Mat is essential.

The bargain Mat and Verin make over the price of her making a gateway is: wait 30 days without opening her letter, or open it after 10 days and do what it says. Verin thinks if she could be free of the Oaths Mat doesn’t need to defend Caemlyn. She is convinced Mat’s curiosity will get the better of him; she underestimates his loathing of Aes Sedai and the One Power. Mat already plans to use the extra time to make dragons and find out about the Tower of Ghenjei and the *Finns.

Verin apparently used her angreal to make the gateway, probably so she could make a large one for the Band.

Tuon POV

Fortuona still contains the name Tuon, so ‘Tuon’ is not entirely dead. The empress kept the name Athaem, which is an anagram of athame, a witch’s knife, and a sign that Tuon will channel. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess, and as such is related to ‘the Goddess’ of the Celts, the Goddess of Sovereignty. She embodies the Feminine without which the male divinity is impotent. In other words, she completes him and provides balance. She is pictured right, with Shiva (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) at her feet. Devi is a later arrival in Hinduism: the early Hindu goddesses such as Lakshmi (a parallel of Tuon, see Tuon essay) and Parvati were subsumed into her as one ultimate goddess. Tuon’s mother Radhanan also had a Hindu name so it is not surprising that Tuon adopted the name of the Hindu Divine Mother or Goddess of Sovereignty.

The Bloodknives receive a benediction from the Empress (one of whose parallels is Queen of the Dead, see Tuon essay) as though they had died:

"May your death bring victory," she said softly, speaking the ritual words. "May your knife draw blood. May your children sing your praises until the final dawn."

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

They are effectively dead men walking, who give their lives in exchange for enhanced assassin abilities, just as Grey Men and Women do in service to the Dark One and are thus one of the parallels the Seanchan society has with the Shadow. The Bloodknives’ ability to blend into shadows is reminiscent of another creature of the Shadow: Myrddraal. Many mainlanders liken the strange creatures the Seanchan use in battle to Shadowspawn and of course ravens are important symbols for both the Seanchan and the Shadow, Ishamael having encouraged Luthair’s invasion of Seanchan.

The assassins are also like ninjas, and thus one of many examples of the Seanchan society’s strong resemblance to Japan. The roles of ninjas were sabotage and espionage as much as assassination and their abilities were the subject of legends. Ninjas were covert operators and contrastred wsith samurai, who followed bushido and had strict rules about honour and combat. Tuon (who also has parallels with a Japanese Emperor) described the role of Bloodknives as to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy, on this mission to be achieved by assassinating Aes Sedai.

The wording used to describe the functions of the Bloodknives’ ter'angreal rings (leech, shroud) suggest influence from games such as Magic the Gathering. There are Magic the Gathering cards with leeching spells similar to that of the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal, notably certain black-coloured spell cards (and Brandon Sanderson said on Twitter on November 10th that he favours Magic decks composed of black- and blue-coloured cards). For example, with the Magic card called Hatred you pay x life and your creature gets x stronger, just as the Bloodknives receive strength and speed in exchange for losing life. Hatred is an appropriate description of this mission aimed at weakening the Dragon Reborn by assassinating as many of the hated and feared Aes Sedai as possible. Another black card called Unholy Strength strengthens the creature’s power far more than its toughness, just as the Bloodknife has enhanced powers but is ultimately weakened by the ter’angreal. There are other Magic cards that could also be considered apt descriptions. Some Magic cards grant the ability called ‘shroud’ which makes creatures untouchable by their opponent’s attacks. The Bloodknives are “shrouded in darkness” by their ter’angreal.

The whole mission is “shrouded in darkness”: it leaves in darkness and has a dark aim which will benefit the Shadow: to weaken the Tower and Rand’s support and increase enmity between forces which should unite against the Shadow. Tuon thinks the attack will turn Rand against Seanchan.

As it turned out, the raid happened to also resolve the division in the Tower and remove a surplus, ineffective and antagonistic Amyrlin, but at a high cost to both sides.

To’raken have never been used before in such numbers. It is the start of a true air force.


Anonymous said...

i think rands 3 lovers and 2 brats will argue his impotence without her.
as would the half dozen countries he conquered and forsaken he blew up.

i was disappointed with this chapter as the title made me hope that mats slippery friend was going to rip her head off to hurt him and cause the seanchan on this side of the ocean to fall apart as well.

and you went from referencing some of the oldest known literature to magic the gathering.
wonder which took you the longest to research

Anonymous said...

The Bloodknives as seen in this chapter appears to be rather formidable only to become inept in later chapters. Maybe it's plot armour protection at work or poor writing skill( or reading skill!).

Linda said...

LOL, so I did! And in between the ever popular ninjas.

Magic didn't take that long to research: I had two potential consultants in my sons. I've seen them play it so when I read this chapter the rings' powers rang a bell. I asked my younger son about leech life and shroud powers.

I deliberately chose the depiction of Devi with Shiva at her feet. It seemed appropriate to Tuon's mood.

Anonymous said...

her mood? wrong time of the month maybe.
she just seemed like a smarter less excitable faile before never really new what mood she was in unless her boyfriend did something even i know was stupid around a girl under about 25

actually thats kind of scary this world is pretty much run by 20 odd prob menopausal woman who have been told they are right for 200 plus years no wonder no one trusts aes sedai.

and now ive had to google the spellings for impotence and menopausal
so that looks good on my web history ive never had to spell the first and have avoided the second when possible

Anonymous said...

i dont think the bloodknives inept as you put it. they have had a thousand plus years of people knowing and fearing them and fear is their best weapon. in seanchan anyone who faced them would know what was happening and crap themselves knowing that even if they lived the empress would send others. Gawyn faced one and lived and the only other time he has faced seanchan troops he had a fairly easy time compared to fighting warders and aiel.
reputation counts in war, lan and the warders had been considered the finest soldiers on the mainland for 3000 years but both perrin and mat have proven themselves better in single combat a little over a year after they first picked up weapons.
muhammad ali in a bar fight (30 years ago) if you knew who he was you back off and stay clear, if you dont you smack him in the head with your bar stool and move on.

Anonymous said...

C'mon. Three supposedly high-skilled magic-powered assasins with the mentality of a RL suicide bomber and they still fail to kill their target?

Anonymous said...

i realise rereading my comment that i didnt finish my point about gawyns fight.

they have everyone in seanchan scared but gawyn went into it confident and he couldnt afford to lose but they are already dead.
if your enemy is to scared to think clearly it is easy to win gawyn wasnt scared. he saw what they could do and how then kept them back until he could see a way to win.

and they did ok considering but they were never trained to fight an enemy without their biggest advantage and would have killed him but losing such a big advantage was a shock that they didnt have time to recover from and they ware now on his turf against a skilled opponent.

they were never trained to face a blademaster as equals in the dark which would have made it harder.

i would feel sorry for them if they had at least killed Egwene and you know weren't evil seanchan suicide troops

Anonymous said...

I don't buy that. assasins don't make it a straight fight. If they were competent they would have gacked Gawyn with the classic stab in the back move before he knew he was in a fight or perhaps two guys jumps gawyn while the third whacks Egwene. As well, competent assasins should have skill that isn't based on magic.

Anonymous said...

no a competent assasin would have used a long bow from a corner while the silly bint was walking in the tower or poisoned her food.
killing a blademasters who is expecting you and has back up isnt an assasins job.

and who ever said they were competent they use those stupid rings to make up for the fact that they are barely above average skilled morons with nothing to live for serving a fake cause.

Anonymous said...

August 9, 2011 2:42 PM ?

im confused why is this a link i just clicked on one to see what would happen and all it did was refresh the page

Anonymous said...

ok please describe the correct way of being gacked??????????????
what is gacked??????
im sure gawyn would have enjoyed getting whacked as egwene is to lazy to offer

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree about the Blood Knives being incompetent. Gawyn is, most likely, the first person they ran into that a Blood Knife wasn't able to kill with little effort. Nowhere are Blood Knives described as expert swordsmen. They are described at the empires most dangerous weapon. Their effectiveness is due to their stealth.

When Gawyn encountered the lone Blood Knife outside Egwene's quarters he surprised him. Even though the BK was spotted, he still expected to be able to dispatch Gawyn fairly effortlessly. When he didn't, he fled.

The sul'damane Gawyn meets in Camelyn tells him that if they have only killed a few, it is because they are probing for weaknesses and will most likely launch a furious strike before the end.

Gawyn is the only person to have survived a BK attack, and the BKs are afraid of him. This is why all three come to attack Egwene.

The BKs have a mission to finish ... kill Egwene, and then most likely, as many AS as they can. To complete their mission, they must defeat Gawyn and survive.

Gawyn has a mission, to protect Egwene. As long as he kills the BKs first, he can die.

Anonymous said...

well i did say that they werent trained for that
but they are not competent assansins as i dont think of them as asssasins really they have one trick and no real back up plan so if one fails send more and if some figures out how there powers work they die as failures.

what they do they do well but what they do is pitiful compared to actual assasins with multiple styles of combat and more than one way of achieving the goal.
tuon wouldnt have tried this if she knew about grey men as she would know tar valon expects to have assasins you cant see trying to knock off the top brass and have their own in the warders with their silly cloaks that work as well in poorly lit areas.

and they have to kill her but are dead anyway it doesnt matter to them win or lose they are never going home and cant really be punished.
gawyn cant die until they do or he dies knowing he failed egwene and that his death was pointless but he also cant live if she dies or living would be meaningless

Dolphineus said...

I remember the day The Gathering Storm came out. I was at the bookstore at 9am to pick it up. Standing in line, I was reading the chapter titles and actually said out loud "OMG, NO!" when I read this chapter title.

Anonymous said...

you actually said omg out loud are you a 12 year old girl with a twilight poster on your wall.

i never read the chapter list unless im looking for something

i tried to reply to this yesterday but i couldnt get the comment part to open it kept saying 503 error