Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #6: Fain POV

By Linda


This character has some new powers and truly is neither Fain nor Mordeth. He compares himself to a Leviathan from the deeps with the newly re-constituted Mashadar as his tentacles. A walking Cthulu? It looks like he will rename himself soon, but until then, I guess Fain will have to do.

Fain was introduced at the beginning of the series – he was the first Darkfriend we met - and he plans to be at the end. He has been on his own Great Hunt for Rand all the series, but now he hunts no longer (even though Mashadar acts like his dog) and is moving through the Blight to attend the long prophesied confrontation between Rand and the Dark One at Shayol Ghul, devastating Shadowspawn as he goes. He plans to twist their final confrontation to his own ends and kill Rand personally and then the Dark One. The Shadar Logoth dagger appears to be his instrument to achieve this. Certainly it had a marked effect on Rand. Fain is largely outside the Pattern, but the Wheel may have been able to weave him into events. Perhaps he will be vital to the outcome of the final battle in some way that neither he, nor Rand or the Shadow, expects.

Fain has an obsession with red blood on black ground and under black skies:

Blood dripped from the tip of the dagger down onto the weeds. Crimson spots to cheer him. Red below, black above. Perfect. Did his hatred cause that storm? It must be so. Yes. ..

After it passed, he sighed, holding his dagger tighter--cutting his flesh.
Red below, black above. Red and black, red and black, so much red and black. Wonderful.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

It reminds me of the ‘red on black’ prophecy in the Karaethon Cycle:

Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
Red on black, the Dragon's blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul.
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow.

- The Great Hunt, Discord

and the red and black of Moridin’s livery. That’s three uses of this symbol: Rand, Moridin and Fain.

Cutting his hand is important to Fain, he seems to celebrate his kills by shedding his own blood in this way, and it mirrors Rand’s blood sacrifice.

While Fain’s hatred of the Dark One is an obsession, he loves the Dark One’s tempest because it inspires him:

The sky was black. A tempest. He liked that, though he hated the one who caused it.
Hatred. It was the proof that he still lived, the one emotion left. The only emotion. It was all that there could be.
Consuming. Thrilling. Beautiful. Warming. Violent. Hatred. Yes. It was the storm that gave him strength, the purpose that drove him.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Fain is literally consumed by his hatred. The Dark One forcibly made Fain’s sole purpose to hunt Rand; freed from that, now his sole purpose is to kill both Rand and the Dark One.

He is master of the landscape he is walking through, inimical to it – killing all the monsters he finds there - yet part of it, as his drops of blood feeding the ground show. The description of the landscape fits him well. The seething skies symbolise Fain’s hatred and churning mental state as well as the looming confrontation between Rand and the Dark One at the Last Battle that he intends to interrupt. The weeds on the hill “like the scrub on the chin of a beggar” symbolise his vagabond lifestyle and degradation. The blood he deliberately sheds shows his intent to sacrifice Rand, whose red blood will stain the black rocks of Shayol Ghul as the Karaethon Cycle says, but also that perhaps Fain is sacrificed in turn.

Fain hates the Dark One, but he also likes what the Shadow likes. The Shadow is an old friend as well as an old enemy of the Shadar Logoth evil, as Aginor said at the Eye of the World. The Shadar Logoth evil that Mordeth made is so extreme in fighting the Shadow that it became like the Shadow. This is another instance in the Prologue of the story coming full circle.

Fain also hates Rand but thinks of him as:

Like an old friend. A dear, beloved friend that you were going to stab through the eye, open up at the gut and consume by handfuls while drinking his blood. That was the proper way to treat friends.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

another “old friend, old enemy” paradox. Due to his amorality and madness, Fain can’t tell difference between friend and enemy, and nor could Mordeth, which is how he came to destroy Aridhol.

The Trollocs/ Myrddraal are also Fain’s friends – ones he wants to abuse as much as he does Rand:

He smiled. My friends. It had been too long.
The Trollocs screamed, dropping, spasming. Their hair fell out in patches, and their
skin began to boil. Blisters and cysts. When those popped, they left craterlike pocks
in the Shadowspawn skin, like bubbles on the surface of metal that cooled too

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

Fain’s power now subverts Trollocs into ‘zombies’ and replaces their selfish cowardice with Shadar Logoth zeal and berserker lust, but kills Myrddraal more rapidly than Fain would like. Perhaps Myrddraal die because he is not able to subvert their will, and they won’t surrender it to him.

Mashadar behaves like it is Fain’s dog:

It twisted around his ankles and licked at his heels.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

and kills as he commands. Fain doesn’t know if Mashadar is born of his madness or his hatred, but with it he can kill Myrddraal instantly. Aginor made the Trollocs and Myrddraal by twisting human and animal genetic stock with the True Power. Fain can corrupt the bodies of Trollocs and link the undead Shadowspawn to him like a Myrddraal, only more effectively.

Their eyes had grown sluggish and dull, but when he desired it, they would respond with a frenzied battle lust that would surpass what they had known in life.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The Shadar Logoth power is more inimical to the Shadow and the True Power than before. Just as the True Power damages what the One Power and Creator has wrought, so the Shadar Logoth power now damages what has been wrought with the True Power. It out-wrongs the wrongness of the Shadow.

Fain can’t tell the difference between right and wrong; everything seems both to him. He is amoral and insane. Mordeth could never tell them apart either. While it’s true that both right and wrong are part of the Pattern – this is the necessity of balance theme and taoistic philosophy of the books – characters must be able to distinguish between them. Mordeth couldn’t, and Fain never bothered.

Fain is caught in the paradox of being consumed by two opposing evils and the resulting madness and amorality has led him to the role of vagabond and fugitive, the dark Fool of the series (see Fool and Joker essay).

The Fool is the (usually) unnumbered card in the trumps of the Tarot deck, which has been used for playing the Tarot family of card games for about six hundred years. He is variously depicted as a ragged vagabond, a jester or an idiot in motley, carrying a bundle on his shoulder and/or a stick, walking blithely toward a precipice, often with a dog biting at his pants (see Lo Scarabeo ancient Italian Tarot Fool card right). The Fool card functions outside the regular sequence of trumps and suits, symbolising his irregular social status due to his crazy disregard for the consequences of his actions.

In medieval and renaissance times fools were outside the ranks of society and often were rejected altogether and driven away. Often they had mental illness. However they also had the right to speak to the monarch in ways no one else was allowed to because they were not taken seriously.

Jordan has described Fain as his wild card who has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern. Fain is totally degraded and has been reduced to eating humans or Trollocs at times. He has broken all taboos, even more than the Fool of the Tarot does.

Fain wanders through the Blight barefoot like a fugitive beggar, friendless and alone, as Aviendha would say. He has been a vagabond nearly all the series. Instead of a staff to support him on his journey, Fain has a knife to kill with or defend himself with. Mashadar is his dog licking his feet and attacking where he points. What cliff is he about to step off? He has already stepped off into the abyss of insanity.

Fain has embraced madness the way the Aiel embrace pain:

He was mad. That was good. When you accepted madness into yourself—embraced it and drank it in as if it were sunlight or water or the air itself—it became another part of you. Like a hand or an eye. You could see by madness. You could hold things with madness. It was wonderful. Liberating.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

and he thinks it is good. He is the epitome of wrongness, not even part of the Pattern.

RJ described Fain as so insane he couldn’t function if he were any madder (TOR Question of the Week). Yet Fain is conscious he is mad – indeed revels in it – and is also able to reason:

It took a moment for their brutish brains to come to the obvious—but false—conclusion: If a man was wandering around, then Worms couldn’t be near.
Those would have smelled his blood and come for him. Worms preferred humans over Trollocs. That made sense. The creature that had been Mordeth had tasted both, and Trolloc flesh had little to recommend it.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

There is definitely method in his madness. The difficulty is to work out what it is.

Madness has allowed Fain to sidestep the Pattern, and the Dark One’s compulsion to a degree and so he feels free. It has taken him a while to achieve this liberation but he predicted it back in The Great Hunt when he was compelled to hunt Rand as he taunted Rand:

Looking straight at Rand, hidden in the blackness behind the light, he pointed a long finger at him. "I feel you there, hiding, Rand al'Thor," he said, almost crooning."You can't hide, not from me, and not from them. You thought it was over, did you not? But the battle's never done, al'Thor. They are coming for me, and they're coming for you, and the war goes on. Whether you live or die, it's never over for you. Never." Suddenly he began to chant.

"Soon comes the day all shall be free.
Even you, and even me.
Soon comes the day all shall die.
Surely you, but never I."

- The Great Hunt, Friends and Enemies

The chapter title reminds us that Fain’s evil is an old friend, an old enemy as far as the Shadow is concerned, and Fain too was allied to the Shadow for decades, yet was once a friend to the Two Rivers folk and is now their enemy.

The Shadow is after both Rand and Fain, and Rand can’t hide from either Fain or the Shadow. It’s never over for Rand, the Light’s Champion, but what about for Fain/Mordeth? Rand is prophesied to die – the Aelfinn have said that he will die (and so live). Is Fain right that Fain won’t die ever? Will he get out of life alive?

A new dark and hungry god arises?

And so we are back to what Fain’s new identity will be and this discussion comes full circle.


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Fain corrupts trollocs like the ones found dead in the ways. i wonder if there is some kind of connection. after all he was touched by the black wind back in tEotW.

Anonymous said...

It would not surprise me if Fain proves to be Unbreakable. He has achieved a sort of evil enlightenment that even the Dark One fears and wants dead. He seems to have tamed Machin Shin and bestowed his tracking ability into it; it seems now in retrospect that Fain may have blended himself with the Black Wind much as he has done with Mashadar. How else would the Wind know which Waygates to be at without Fain's coersions? This transcendence may even mirror Rand's own as beings beyong human limitations, with Rand as Light and Fain as...well, not Dark. Rather some anarchist evil outside of the Pattern. Fain is THE game changer, though how he does so and if his intended actions provide the predicted results will remain to be seen.
Great job, Linda!

Hookedonweaves said...

Fain has always seemed to me to be an alien in the Black and White/Good and Evil world of the Wheel of Time. Truly a Joker/Outsider.

"A new dark and hungry god arises" fill the Gap?.......Yes indeed.

Linda said...

Thanks all for your comments.

It's true, there is a similarity. As yet we don't know how that came to be. I guess the Shadar Logoth evil is adept at making itself outshadow the Shadow.

Hookedonweaves said...

Some thoughts on the nature of good and Evil and Fain's role:

In the beginning the Creator made it all Good, in his own image (or whatever). As he intended to stand back and take no active part - letting the plan develop along its own lines, he "Locked away (imprisoned) the dark side so that it could also have no influence on the Plan.

Now we have to make an assumption - the Creator bring a perfectionist tinkered /adjusted with his plan with the object of achieving a more perfect perfection. This "interference' in the interest of "cosmic balance" allowed a proportional leakage of Dark influence from the imprisoned Dark One; which once released into the wild started its corrosive influence.

The Creator takes no direct action on the world as that would let the Dark One take similar action with catastrophic results, given his power being on a par with the Creators. Thus all influence to to good or evil is done indirectly. The Dark One escaping from his Prison is not a physical escape, rather an ethereal one by which his influence/control of the minds of humanity would ultimitably be total, resulting in the destruction of everything (His almost successful take-over of Rand almost achieved this on Dragonmount}, In other words the only win for the Dark One against the Creator is the undoing of the plan, Total annihilation.

Fain's evil, however is an evil that was originally nurtured by the Dark One, was then corrupted by the "Man made" evil of Mordeth, reenergized by the Dark One which inadvertently made it strong enough to break away from the Dark Ones influence.

So now the World of the Wheel of Time has an "Alien evil" on the loose that will be unaffected regardless of the outcome of the Creator/Dark One battle. As the Fain Evil has a direct control (as opposed to only an etherial influence) on the inhabitants of the world, including the DarkOnes minions, he, Fain will be the ultimate victor ruling a world recreated in his image.

To prevent this happening, the Creators only choice would to be to destroy his creation: Ironic in the extreme.

So……How?…..All the Light Side possible threads are hopefully leading to a defeat of the Dark One, and him alone. Fain is coming in from Left field. Rand et al will have to do some creative thinking when the moment of truth comes upon them. Hopefully RJ has done this for them!

Anonymous said...

though not related to fain; the whole creator /dark one has ties into the god archetype in jungian psychology. they are flip sides of the same coin. if one is destroyed then the other one will be as well.
also egwene had a dream(i think) about him stepping over 2 corpses. one may be fain. the other will be moridin.

Anonymous said...

fain's evil is not alien. aginor said at the eye, and i quote " he guided us. an old thing, an old friend, an old enemy." matt's dagger was tied to SL. so something like the evil of SL may have been around in the AOL. also silver bow said that slayer was not old but his evil was ancient.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is not more to Fain's bloodletting than what you alluded to. It seems to me that he has become such a wild card that his blood itself is tainted- as it falls upon the earth in the blight, is it not possibly becoming a parody of life? I could not help but connect those red-veiled not-Aiel creatures in the latter part of the book to Fain's bloodletting actions.