Friday, September 23, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #43: Chapter 40 - The Tower Shakes -

By Linda


The changing POVs in this chapter rapidly increase action and tension.

Chapter Title

The Tower physically shakes under the Seanchan attack, but also spiritually, since the Aes Sedai are ill-prepared and quite helpless and the organisation is crumbling due to being undermined by the Black Ajah and Elaida’s mismanagement.

The attack illustrates the motif of the lightning struck tower popular in Renaissance thought. In one fifteenth century Tarot card deck, the Tower is a large crumbling stone structure with flames emerging from its side (Robert M Place, The Tower: History, Symbolism and Divination) as shown in the Charles VI Tower tarot card right.

The Tower card

represents the fire that purifies – the process of destruction that is necessary before we can rebuild… In the mystical quest, the Tower represents the burning away of the egotistical urges that stop one from joining with the One.

Robert M Place, The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination

and suggests

the destruction of an out-dated philosophy which is unable to adapt to new conditions…The lesson here is that any structure is only defensible as long as it remains flexible and capable of evolution; life itself is in a state of constant flux and no merely human construction can hope to survive if it cannot adapt.

Alfred Douglas, The Tarot

The card has connotations of sudden catastrophe, destruction and the downfall of pride. This is the effect the attack had on the Tower. It was the final trigger for the Aes Sedai to finally accept their inadequacies.

Over the centuries the card has had various titles: Fire, the Thunderbolt, the Tower (see see Il Meneghello Soprafino Tarocco card left), the House of God (Charles VI Tarot card above right) and the House of the Devil. All seem appropriate here.

Jordan was never content to show just one example of a symbolic element, and so the White Tower is not the only Tower to be suddenly rent: its opposite the Black Tower is also prophesied to be attacked (“rent in fire and blood”, to be precise) although with perhaps quite different results.

Siuan POV

Gareth and Siuan use each others’ names when discussing whether to rescue Egwene while the Tower is being attacked by the Seanchan. Bryne doesn’t want to rescue Egwene because he gave his word to obey her and she has forbidden it. Siuan feels she must rescue her because Egwene was so traumatised by her Seanchan enslavement as we see confirmed almost immediately in Egwene’s POV.

Egwene POV

Egwene’s first reaction is to flee from the Seanchan:

Egwene shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. The cool, seamless metal. The nausea, the degradation, the panic, despair, and—shamefully—guilt at not serving her mistress to the best of her abilities. She remembered the haunted look of an Aes Sedai as she was broken. Most of all, she remembered her own terror.
The terror of realizing that she would be like the others, eventually. Just another slave, happy to serve.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

but she pulls herself together. She promises to protect Nicola even though she can barely channel. Nicola is comforted despite knowing Egwene’s ability is so restricted. Other novices, too, are inspired and reassured by her leadership.

Egwene shows that there are ways around not being able to channel much – linking and using angreal. She teaches the novices to link so they won’t be defenceless. It is against custom, but custom is so useless as to be dangerous at this time.

Egwene selects ring leaders on the basis of skill and levelheadedness - ie merit, and not on their strength in the Power.

The sa’angreal was in the same storeroom as the smaller ter’angreal, just lying on shelf. This may be an error. Sa’angreal are not mentioned as being kept with ter’angreal in earlier books.

Siuan POV

Bryne follows Siuan around rather than stay with his officers.

Siuan is ready to pay the price of Egwene’s angerat for disobeying her, although in part this is because she thinks Egwene will ultimately be thankful. She is mistaken: Egwene is more than annoyed, she loses trust in Siuan, something Siuan did not consider.

Gawyn only thinks of Egwene and agrees that he will be square with Siuan if she helps him get Egwene out of Tar Valon. Actually, he is so one-track minded that even someone as obsessive as Siuan remarks on it.

Bryne refuses to help them because he won’t help Siuan break her word (and also because they are unlikely to succeed alone). Siuan tries to justify the rescue by saying that Egwene said they could rescue her if she were going to be executed, and for all they know that is the sort of danger she is in.

"Ignorance is not an excuse," Bryne said sternly, stepping closer to her. "You have made oathbreaking far too convenient, Siuan, and I don't want it to become a habit for you. Aes Sedai or not, former Amyrlin or not, people must have rules and boundaries.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

Siuan is trying the usual Aes Sedai tricks with oaths, but Bryne is making her keep to the spirit of her oaths, not just the letter. Yet Bryne can’t bear to let Siuan go into danger without him and so breaks his word to Egwene. He sets two conditions: one is that Siuan will Bond him as her Warder. (Weak as she is she is strong enough to do that. This makes sense since no Aes Sedai is said to be too weak to bond a Warder, not even Daigian.) We find out later that the other condition is that they marry.

Bryne is possibly atypical of men in not revealing a similar physical desire for Siuan and possibly speculating on how he could put his newly acquired stamina to good use…

Adelorna POV

Adelorna’s experiences show how Aes Sedai, who can’t use the One Power as a weapon, don’t fight and haven’t had to defend against invasion, were easily defeated by the Seanchan.

The head of the Battle Ajah actually gets collared and then saved by Egwene. Adelorna feels a fool for being captured, then tries to take charge, despite failing a short while before and knowing little about the Seanchan of damane. Egwene is definitely in charge and is prepared to pay for this later:

"I am in command until this threat passes. You will call me Mother. Give me penance later if you must, but for now my authority must be unquestioned. Is that clear?"

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

And Adelorna obeys and is proud that Egwene respects her toughness.

No Aes Sedai went to get angreal, even by mundane methods. The fate of Adelorna’s group of Greens shows that many Aes Sedai were not linked to others, but defending piecemeal.

Elaida compromised knowledge of Travelling as Egwene knows:

"I'd have never shown you this, save that I just had a report that Elaida has been spreading knowledge of this weave. Knowledge of Traveling has been compromised. That means the Seanchan are likely to have it by now, assuming they've taken any women Elaida taught."

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

Egwene is prepared to kill captive Aes Sedai to prevent the Seanchan gaining Travelling. The Seanchan will get it; and actually it is Elaida herself who betrays it.

Adelorna realises Egwene could have left the Tower at any time. Egwene says if she did she would be abandoning Tower, since she knew the Seanchan would attack.

Egwene aims to make the Seanchan lose more damane in their raid than they gain captive Aes Sedai.

1 comment:

Manetheren said...

I believe that Egwene temporarily becomes ta'veren here during the battle as it has been mentioned previously that some are natural like Rand, Perrin, Mat and Artur Hawking were, but it's been mentioned that others could become ta'veren briefly when the Pattern has need. I think in this instance, it occurred based on Adelorna's response. If you pay attention to her POV when dealing with Egwene, she responds just like others have responded to Mat, Perrin and especially Rand.

When Egwene insists she is in command and be called Mother, Adelorna instantly responds "Yes, Mother," then has this startled expression like "What the hell did I just say?" just like almost everyone who encounters Rand and he needs something to go his way. And secondly by how proud and brave she feels under Egwene's praise that she isn't practically crippled after the death of one of her warders.

Again, it was a temporary moment when Egwene needed to be in command as a force for the light, otherwise Siuan would have noticed it with her talent for seeing Ta'veren.