Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #49: Chapter 46 - To Be Forged Again

By Linda


Siuan seems politically clueless in this chapter. I know she is a mere foil to Egwene by this stage – a means to show Egwene in the best possible light, as are so many other Aes Sedai that have reached high office – but this is overdone. Siuan is supposed to be one of the brightest as well as politically deft women in the Tower. Here she is as blinded by emotion as Elaida would be, maybe more.

she heard Siuan arguing outside the doors with one of the sisters, claiming that Egwene had already been raised, and that this ceremony wasn't needed. Egwene quieted Lairain with a raised hand and called out to Siuan.
Siuan peeked in the door.
"I was raised by the rebels, Siuan," Egwene said sternly. "These women deserve the chance to stand for me as well. Otherwise, I will never have a claim to their loyalty. The ceremony must be performed again."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

Once I am finished with the ceremony, I will greet them and formally accept their apology for their rebellion and welcome them back into the Tower."
"Accept their apology?" Siuan asked incredulously.
"They rebelled against the Tower, Siuan," Egwene said, looking at her. "Whatever the need of what they did, there is reason for apology."
"But you were with them!"
"I no longer represent just them, Siuan," Egwene said firmly. "I represent the Tower. The entire Tower. And the Tower needs to know that the rebels regret the division. They needn't lie and say that they wished they had stayed, but I think it is appropriate for them to express sorrow over the hardships the division caused. I will acquit them, and we can get on with healing."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

We never see the rebels express an apology; they just stood like penitents while Egwene reproached and absolved them.

It is Siuan who brings Egwene a change of shoes even though servants met with Egwene when she arrived and two Tower Aes Sedai prepared her for the ceremony. In a way this is the former Amyrlin’s ceremonial foot-washing scene for Egwene – where in the traditional version the prospective Amyrlin asks the seated Sitter to allow her to serve and washes her feet.

Tesan asks Egwene if Gawyn is her Warder. Therefore she fully accepts Egwene as Aes Sedai, although two days earlier Egwene was classified as a novice in the Tower, and has never taken the test for Aes Sedai.

Thanks to the Seanchan blasting holes in the Tower, the Hall and Dragonmount are in the line of sight of each other now. This links them together and shows they need to work together. The holes symbolised the Aes Sedai’s need to unite and to remember that the Last Battle and Rand’s sacrifice are imminent. Rand, as Dragonmmount, can “see” into Hall now. The Tower is open to world, even their inner most deliberations. There is a hole in the Aes Sedai Hall until Egwene starts to reunite the Sitters. She commissions a commemorative rose window for the physical hole in the Hall.

The Amyrlin Seat was nearly destroyed by the Seanchan, just as the Tower had one Amyrlin stolen by them and were nearly unable to find a replacement. The Amyrlin sits with her back to Dragonmount and watches over the Sitters rather than him and defends them against him. Certainly the last three Amyrlins were at loggerheads with Rand. Egwene is still disagreeing with Rand’s actions.

The Hall scene reminds Egwene of her test for Accepted (see ter’angreal article). Saerin is the oldest Sitter in the Hall and runs the ceremony. When Romanda regains her Seat, she will replace Saerin as the oldest. Seaine is described negatively as having “calculating” eyes, and unjustly so. Suana is back to being round-faced again. Egwene wonders if Javindhra and Pevara are Black like Duhara. Javindhra probably is (see the Black Ajah article), although we know Pevara isn’t.

The Hall actually told the Reds not to raise Sitters and send them, and the Reds were easily cowed due to feeling as though they are responsible for Elaida’s failure, or fearing that without Elaida the Tower will turn on them:

"The Red Ajah is in disgrace?" she asked quietly of Tesan.
The White nodded, braided hair brushing the sides of her face. "The Reds, you needn't worry about them," she said in her light Taraboner accent. "Following Elaida's disappearance, they retreated back to their quarters. The Sitters here, they worried that the Red would choose new Sitters quickly and send them to this proceeding. I believe some . . . curt missives from the Hall of the Tower were enough to cow them."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

The vote to raise an Amyrlin has to be the greater consensus: at least one Sitter from each Ajah is required, with a minimum of eleven Sitters present and every Sitter who is present must stand (A Crown of Swords, Glossary). This still hasn’t happened in Egwene’s case; while it could be argued that the Blues stood for her in Salidar where they were all gathered, the Red Ajah was effectively disbarred representation by the other Ajahs (The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again).

Egwene utters the humble ceremonial responses in a firm voice, and with anything but humble thoughts going on in her head. (Not that the latter would be unusual in a prospective Amyrlin.) She was raised for the same reason Siuan was:

Because she was the only one they could all agree upon. There were smiling faces in this group. But they were the smiles of women who had succeeded in keeping rivals off of the Seat. Either that, or they were the smiles of women who were relieved that someone was stepping up to take leadership. And, perhaps, there were some who smiled because they weren't the ones who had to take the Seat. Its recent history had been fraught with danger, dissension, and two dramatic tragedies

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

We don’t know how Siuan’s predecessor died, but upon her death the Sitters had grave misgivings over losing so many Amyrlins – three – in ten years: Tamra, Sierin and Marith. They are not idiots as Egwene realises, but they are self-interested:

Choosing someone they wouldn't mind seeing fall. Taking a risk, but not putting themselves in direct danger.

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

No dissenting Sitters remain seated. The Sitters appear to regret this, but each let someone else take the risk, lest they earn the Amyrlin’s hostility.

Saerin asks Egwene if she really wants the role when it is a heavy responsibility. This is not part of the ceremony, but was said out of compassion for Egwene’s youth. Egwene says she is already bearing this responsibility and will continue to while she is alive.

The first thing Egwene does is free Silviana and berate the Sitters for not doing their duty as a check on the Amyrlin. They protest at first and finally feel shame. Only Silviana did her duty and therefore is worthy to be raised Keeper. Egwene also wants the Reds to be included again and to feel she wants to work with them. She followed the Ajah Heads’ tactics of appeasing the injured party by electing one of them.

Silviana’s surname shows her strong advocacy of the law, since a brehon was a judge in ancient Ireland, although more of an arbitrator, umpire, and expounder of the law, than a judge in the modern sense (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The Brehon Laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, and governed everyday life and politics in Ireland until the Normans invaded in 1171. The laws were concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts; there was no state-administered punishment for crime in early medieval Ireland. It was a strongly hierarchical and tribal society, with rules of kinship within the clan determining status and therefore rights and obligations. Solidarity within the clan was also an important characteristic.

Silviana as novice mistress metes out punishment for civil infringements: minor misdemeanours of novices and Accepted, penances of Aes Sedai and violations of Aes Sedai hierarchies. Criminal law is dispensed by the Hall of the Tower. The Aes Sedai are strongly hierarchical (according to strength in saidar) and tribal (Ajahs) just like early Ireland. Silviana did her duty and took the consequences according to the law.

Egwene has plans of renewal and expansion for the Red Ajah. My theory is that they will be given the task of policing channellers just as Red shields are police among Aiel (see here) she wants them to stop stereotyping men and get out of bad habits; they have promoted some terrible leaders.

Finally Egwene admits her own culpabilities and absolves everyone:

"Bear your shame, Sitters, but bear it with determination. Do not let it break you. The time for healing has begun, and there is no longer any use in pointing fingers. You failed. But you are all that we have. We are all that the world has."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

The Sitters are still divided along Ajah lines, but then Egwene asked the rebels to stand according to their Ajah.

Even weak sisters can link to Travel and so access storerooms with items of the Power.

Silviana is sobered by how much things will change – the novices of all ages, the Oath Rod undoing Oaths, the storerooms needing to be warded with any sister otherwise able to gain access by Travelling – even if some have to link to do so. But Egwene has no ties with long customs of the Tower and her closest friends even less. Times are forcing change and it is long overdue. The White Tower is/was ossified.

Egwene gives a rousing speech to the troops pointing out the disgrace of disunity and then inspiring them with promising a glorious future once they are unified.


Hinkel said...

Good point about Siuan's lack of savvy in tGS - perhaps Brandon is emphasizing just how much her new status among the Aes Sedai is changing her, but she comes across as a ninny now.

Anonymous said...

Both TGS and ToM make sure Siuan and the aes Sedai comes across as morons. Probably since Egwene Sue is supposed to come across as brilliant.

Csarmasz, Máté said...

She is brilliant some of the time (completely stupid from the Seanchan attack till the start of ToM), but yes Brandon's way of lowering chars just to show others higher is something I rather dislike.

Linda said...

I found it disappointing that Egwene was raised at the expense of others in this way. How much better if she could outshine them when they were at their best rather than worst.