Thursday, February 16, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #4: Graendal POV

By Linda


In this scene we get to compare and contrast two Forsaken “allies” – the sexually dynamic duo. Both delight in sensation but only one is able to control herself and others:

Of course, Graendal enjoyed pleasures herself, but she made certain that people thought she was far more self-indulgent than she was. If you knew what people expected you to be, you could use those expectations.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Graendal reveals that her self-indulgence is more under control than the other Forsaken know, just as Moridin’s sanity is more under his control than the others know.

Aran’gar ogles males as well as females. She personifies lust (one of her parallels is the Ancient Greek god of wine and pleasure, Dionysus, see my Balthamel/Aran’gar essay) and is aroused with a light touch of the Dark One’s power:

Aran’gar was insatiable a fact Graendal had on numerous occasions, the lure of the True Power being only the latest.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

It’s amusing that Aran’gar‘s attempt to manipulate the arch-manipulator Graendal was ineffectual, with her claims that she found Graendal boring when ironically Graendal has such a reputation for debauchery. And Graendal’s tickle with the True Power impelled Aran’gar to have sex with Delana in front of Graendal.

In the earlier books Graendal’s foil was Sammael, now it’s Aran’gar. Both foils have died; Sammael’s death bringing Graendal down a notch. This time she will come down more than a notch.

Aran’gar was punished for losing control of Egwene and being exposed by Romanda. Since Graendal says Aran’gar still bears this punishment, it likely had a physical component, but Aran’gar isn’t as crushed by it as Mesaana was. If Graendal didn’t tell us we wouldn’t have known. Therefore it wasn’t that effective.

Aran’gar sets herself above this age of ‘primitives’, just as mainland Third Agers regard Aiel as savages. She obeys Graendal’s house rules: eg no gateways made indoors. Sammael did not. Of course Graendal may have only formed this rule after Sammael killed one of her pets with his gateway.

Once Graendal felt exposed, her first instinct was to flee and establish herself elsewhere, as those who know her well, such as Aran’gar and Sammael, deduced she would do. So she’s not as unpredictable as she’d like to be. It was Moridin’s offer of reward and Aran’gar’s punishment that made her decide to stay.

I thought that Graendal was portrayed as rather ditzy in The Gathering Storm, but in this POV she is a bit smarter and shows some of the caution she had in the earlier books. She manipulated Aran’gar and eluded Rand’s trap, even if just barely.

However she does a lot of explaining for the fans, especially about the True Power. For instance:

Working with the True Power was similar, yet not identical, to working with the One Power. A weave of the True Power would often function in a slightly different way, or have an unanticipated side effect. And there were some weaves that could only be crafted by the True Power.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Graendal often refers to the Dark One rather than the Great Lord when she is giving us information on how the True Power works.

Taking over the mind and body of an animal is a weave exclusive to the True Power. It works better on animals the Dark One uses, animals associated with the advent of death and with the scavenging of corpses, traditionally associated with real world witchcraft. Or does the Dark One use these animals because his power works better on them?

Though, most vermin that watched for the Dark One had to report and release their knowledge to him. Why that was, she was not certain--the intricacies of the True Power’s special weaves never had made much sense to her. Not as much as they had to Aginor, at least.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Interesting that Aginor had affinity for True Power weaves to the extent that they made sense to him. Also, that despite its dangers, some of the Forsaken were quite familiar with the True Power.

While it is possible to take over an animal’s mind, Graendal can only influence it. I was amused that Graendal, often nicknamed Granny in the forums, actually did some “borrowing” of an animal’s mind, just like Terry Pratchett’s character Granny Weatherwax, a highly skilled “borrower” who is as manipulative as Graendal and as tough as Cadsuane in her own way.

Moridin was the one who granted Graendal access to the True Power and can control how much she is able to use. The Naeblis has a lot of Power; enough that his authority could be confused with that of the Dark One.

Demandred says that he would only use the True Power at great need because of its dangers, so Graendal really exerts herself to keep Aran’gar at her side. Is Demandred more controlled than Graendal?

The following commentary is a bit more in character, since it shows Graendal’s lack of reverence:

The Great Lord’s essence forced the Pattern, straining it and leaving it scarred.
Even something the Creator had designed to be eternal could be unraveled using the Dark One’s energies. It bespoke an eternal truth--something as close to being sacred as Graendal was willing to accept. Whatever the Creator could build, the Dark One could destroy.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and is consistent with her sceptical and amoral comments in previous books:

"It may well be that, as many believe, all are born and reborn as the Wheel turns…"

- The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

Once Graendal doubted that people had past lives, now she has reports of Rand remembering his most recent past life. Graendal doesn’t regard anything sacred except her own skin and the Dark One’s destructive power, though the Dark One does evoke some religious feelings in her, in part because he offers the possibility of access to the addictive True Power, and she expresses some awe for the way the True Power damages Creation.

Graendal also tells us that it is possible to “read” Compulsion:

If Nynaeve al’Maera had the skill needed to read Compulsions, that was dangerous.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

She is mistaken: Nynaeve doesn’t have the skill yet to read Compulsion weaves. It would be interesting to know if Graendal has it, or any other of the Forsaken. Some Forsaken would try to kill Nynaeve at the possibility she could undo Compulsion.

When she had second thoughts about how to use Ramshalan, Graendal was able to remove her own Compulsion weaves without much damage. Since removing Compulsion is akin to Healing, according to Rand, Graendal must have some Talent for Healing.

As a safeguard Graendal had Ramshalan Compelled with both saidin and saidar. She got Aran’gar and Delana to insert unexpected memories in case Nynaeve (or Rand with Lews Therin’s knowledge?) could read Compulsion. This was not needed; it was not what Rand was aiming at at all. Ramshalan, dressed like a court fool or jester in bright colours and bells, an outward expression of his foolish opinions, was a decoy to be used by Graendal.

Aran’gar’s efforts were particularly unnecessary since Rand didn’t bother to check Ramshalam himself and Nynaeve couldn’t sense weaves made with saidin, and should not have been able to remove them. Yet Ramshalan appeared fully Healed of all the Compulsions laid on him. Rand assumed there would be a woman’s touch in Ramshalan’s mind, which he wouldn’t sense. The result was that Aran’gar needlessly died in the balefire.

With so little self-control, Aran’gar was never going to be a successful saboteur. Aran’gar should have masked her ability and reversed her weaves so none could detect her channelling. Graendal fears that fleeing her palace would be regarded as a similar failure. She was clumsy in her attempts to distract Aran’gar, but trapped and used Aran’gar very neatly:

“Graendal?” Aran’gar said, voice panicked. “What are you--”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Aran’gar seems a born victim here. She doesn’t worry about Rand using an extremely large amount of saidin, or when Graendal weaves another gateway. Graendal is able to shield Aran’gar (and Delana) while holding a gateway. Aran’gar Compels a fool, but is one herself.

Graendal wanted Aran'gar to serve her:

Words like those were a challenge. Aran’gar would serve her.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and she did serve Graendal, just not in the way Graendal expected - as a warning of what not to do:

Aran’gar had fled from her place among Aes Sedai, foolishly allowing herself to be sensed channeling. She still bore punishment for her failure. If Graendal left now--discarding a chance to twist al’Thor about himself--would she be similarly punished?

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and as a cover for Graendal’s escape. Graendal doesn’t make Aran’gar her pet, but her sacrifice. Aran’gar served Graendal by dying. So the risk of using the True Power did pay off for Graendal. It was a moment of great need even though Graendal didn’t know it at the time.

Graendal was fairly well informed about Rand - she knew he has Lews Therin's memories, for instance - but her information wasn’t sufficiently detailed or current, otherwise she would know how dark Rand had become; so dark that he would harm a woman. At this time Rand was lashing out with the Choedan Kal and not planning carefully or considering consequences. He was behaving completely differently to what Graendal expected.

These errors of judgement and knowledge cost Graendal:

“You,” she growled. “You have become far more dangerous than I assumed.” Hundreds of beautiful men and women, the finest she’d gathered, gone. Her stronghold, dozens of items of Power, her greatest ally among the Chosen. Gone.
This was a disaster.
No, she thought. I live. She’d anticipated him, if only by a few moments. Now he would think she was dead.
She was suddenly the safest she’d been since escaping the Dark One’s prison. Except, of course, that she’d just caused the death of one of the Chosen. The Great Lord would not be pleased.
She limped away from the ridge, already planning her next move. This would have to be handled very, very carefully.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

She managed to forestall punishment for a while with quick thinking and some deft manipulation.

On the other hand, by suppressing her natural inclination to flee, she was manipulated by Moridin, and by following her usual modus operandi and assuming that Rand would follow his, she was manipulated by Rand.

At the end of the scene Graendal is in the dirt with torn clothing. She hates nature and has had it rubbed in her face.

Rand said Graendal is very clever – and she was able to outwit him. He still doesn’t know she’s alive. If Rand had warded the area thoroughly with alarms as Sammael did Illian to detect channelling, he would have known if a woman had escaped.


Anonymous said...

Aran’gar Compels a fool, but is one herself.

Are you talking about Egwene here or Ramshalan? ;)

Fragrant Elephant said...

Another excellent analysis! Hopefully Graendal recovers from her punishment and gets all villain-y for the Last Battle. She was always one of the more interesting Forsaken.

Lethean Bliss said...

Anyone else thought it was extremely odd that Graendal would walk around with another Forsaken under the same roof without her gold ring angreal, especially with someone like Aran'gar?

And it may seem that Aran'gar wasn't terribly affected by her punishment, but remember her reactions to Shaidar Haran, Delana suggesting she might be afraid of Logain, Egwene dismissing her, and Mesaana refusing her information. She flew into a rage each time, even trying to physically attack a gigantic Myddraal when unable to channel. Her reactions to Graendal throwing her failure in her face and ordering her around were a far cry from that.

In any case, I kind of felt jilted with Aran'gar's death. I was hoping Narishma would've gotten her.

Vince said...

I am so disgusted about the release date of Memory of Light. I't ridiculous and a slap in the face to all faithful readers. They should have never even attemted to finish this dead series. I am sorry Linda, I enjoy your posts but I think I am done.

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed at just how stunningly inept most of the forsaken really are. Messaana and Moridin are the exceptions. We can't really speak of Demandred because our authors haven't chosen to include him in the story arcs but the arrogance of the rest of them really insured their downfall. Graendal more than most. Her refusal to consider anyone of this age, an adversary worthy of her respect, really sealed her fate.

On another subject; Vince, I don't consider the release date for aMoL a slap in my face and I consider myself a VERY faithful reader. You are certainly entitled to your opinion vis a vie whether the series should have been completed but when the author of the series AND his wife, now widow, saw fit to see that the series would be concluded, well, gosh, I'm siding with Jim Rigney and Harriet and January 8th works JUST FINE for me.

Linda said...

Thanks all for your comments.

In a way, it's a thankless task to complete someone else's series as well as a difficult one. Publish quickly, and the inevitable errors are criticised, take time to edit it more thoroughly, and get criticised for being too slow.

Anonymous said...

Linda, did you get the sense that the Book of Dark Prophecy Moridin was reading came from the realm of the Aelfinn and/or Eeelfinn?

Linda said...

No I didn't. He seems to have found Foretellers and compiled what they said himself.