Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #10: Chapter 3 - The Amyrlin’s Anger

By Linda


Egwene POV

In Towers of Midnight, Rand’s subthread ends with him floating in his personal dream world, whereas Egwene’s subthread starts with her floating in the world dream world, rather than a personal one. Both are haunted by Forsaken in their previously peaceful and relaxing dreams. Egwene was having a happy dream of Gawyn in a setting partly Tar Valon, partly Two Rivers. (In her dreams it doesn’t look like Gawyn has much say in where and how they live.) It is suddenly interrupted by thirteen black towers representing the thirteen Forsaken. Moridin/Ishamael is the tower which collapsed and then regrew tallest of all, as he was killed, reincarnated and anointed Naeblis. Six Forsaken remain at this time: Moridin, Lanfear, Moghedien, Demandred, Mesaana and Graendal. Egwene falls to the ground as though the dream overwhelms her.

The fledgling eagles crying for their mother are Aes Sedai depending on the Amyrlin. The serpent Mesaana is nestled in the Aes Sedai nest/bosom. Egwene “knows” the meaning of this dream and quickly becomes convinced Mesaana has defeated the Oath Rod somehow.

In her final dream, an enormous crystal sphere – the world or perhaps the Dark One’s prison – is cracking as the Dark One corrupts it. Rand breaks the ropes holding it together; breaks the world as he is prophesied to do. We don’t know whether this is a good idea or not. The twenty-three stars shining on the sphere could represent the full Hall of Sitters and Amyrlin and Keeper, or twenty-three major groups at the Field of Merrilor when Rand tells them his price for fighting the Dark One and his plans to break the Seals.

The world-wide dreams in the void remind Egwene of the world outside Tar Valon, which Aes Sedai are supposed to serve and too rarely go out into:

The dreams of all the people here—some from her world, some from shadows of it—reminded her why she fought. She must never forget that there was an entire world outside the White Tower's walls. The purpose of Aes Sedai was to serve that world.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Egwene is calling in Elayne and Nynaeve – two actually doing great things out in the world - not just to raise them Aes Sedai, but to see they follow the Aes Sedai party line.

Siuan POV

The chapter title is The Amyrlin’s Anger and there are two Amyrlins in it. Unlike Egwene who felt slighted by Rand and expressed anger, Siuan feels no resentment or anger at not being the one to receive the Dragon. She does feel some regret though:

"I always thought I would be the one in there," Siuan said softly, just for Bryne. "That I would receive him, guide him. I was the one who was to be sitting in that chair."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

The missing Amyrlin Elaida was noted for her anger and vengefulness. Siuan is annoyed at Elaida because she prevented Rand from being “safely in Aes Sedai care”, as if Siuan still clings to that mistaken plan even after seeing scores of Aes Sedai exposed as Darkfriends.

Saerin has reliable reports on Rand’s temperament. So does Siuan, therefore she has access to the Blues’ network despite her low rank. The Blues do make the most of each member’s abilities, so perhaps she is spymaster again. Was Aeldene Black? TheBlue Ajah’s intelligence network is the most extensive and an obvious infiltration target for the Black Ajah. Siuan is playing the nosey intelligence agent to the hilt, trying to find out how Saerin got her duelling scar. Saerin is more than a match for her – and far above Siuan in rank, so Siuan would be violating protocol by hassling a Sitter in this way.

Their final access to the Hall is tiled like wet blood – symbolising that there is more bloodshed yet to come in the Tower. The tiles should be white – logic/purity – and yellow – healing/ warmth.

The Ajahs have years’ worth of distrust for each other, according to Siuan, and yet Elaida didn’t rule for years. Some of the distrust developed during Siuan’s reign. We saw evidence of that in The Great Hunt when Siuan described the doings of the Hall to Moiraine. As Amyrlin, Siuan was too divisive as she realises when she compares herself to Egwene:

I did well as Amyrlin, but I couldn't do that. Lead by presence instead of force, uniting instead of dividing.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Siuan regrets that her mistakes allowed Elaida to take over. Bryne points out that Siuan also paved the way for Egwene and taught her much, and assures Siuan that Egwene and the Tower think Siuan did well. This is balm to Siuan, but she won’t let Gareth Bryne complement her or be too close to her. Egwene’s body language indicates that she may be feeling more positive to Siuan, perhaps even sensing Siuan’s feelings at this point or recognising what she owes Siuan.

Bryne has superb confidence, hence his serenity. (He also has some fatalism, as soldiers do.) He notes that Aes Sedai may lack confidence:

”Are they in control of their emotions? Or do those emotions just never change? If one is always concerned, one will always look the same."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Siuan asks “what is age to Aes Sedai?” It’s experience. Or can be, if an Aes Sedai acts or goes out into the world. Hence it is one of the ways Aes Sedai rank themselves, but a secondary way.

The implication is that Rand is so unassuming as Everyman that he can pass unnoticed. The advent of Rand makes the Tower panicky. The Aes Sedai shield him with two full circles, yet he is quite unworried. The Aes Sedai are not, however. Even with the Dragon shielded so thoroughly, many Aes Sedai still hold the power when he arrives. It is a wonder he wasn’t shivering with all the goosebumps he would be feeling.

Rand looks like an Aes Sedai – serene and in control. Judging by what he channelled even in Knife of Dreams, Vows, he could break through the shields of two circles of thirteen.

Rand’s eyes are ageless. Siuan thinks he is

seeing through the light of a thousand lives compounded in one.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Rand did see all his lives on Dragonmount during his epiphany the day before, but only retains Lews Therin’s life in detail.

The Warders surprise themselves by allowing Rand to pass through their barrier and talk to Siuan. No one dares touch him. Bryne perhaps came closest in the way he was prepared to defend Siuan; he is a better Warder than the others.

Egwene prejudges what Rand will be like, but Rand asks Siuan how Egwene has developed. He knows Siuan has been helping Egwene from the meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod that he spied on and assumes Siuan still has influence with her.

Rand is sure the arrow at Fal Dara was meant for him.

Tiana gives Rand one of Verin’s letters (see Verin and her Letters article). Under Rand’s ta’veren effect she admits she promised to deliver it (and thus couldn’t break her word) because she never thought he’d go to the Tower, or that they’d meet. So Verin’s instructions were to give Rand the letter in the Tower.

Egwene POV

Rand stands on the centre of the Flame, symbolising that he is the focal point of the Aes Sedai, but also overshadows them. He acknowledges that Cadsuane helped him escape the Shadow’s touch by accident, by bringing Tam to him.

Egwene has mixed feelings about Rand and is predisposed to think negatively of him as a dangerous man, criminal, and probably insane. She remarks that Rand sounds cultured now and wonders if he has been tutored. Her thoughts follow the lines of Tuon’s in The Gathering Storm, including the wish for him to defer to her, or at least be her equal.

Her suggestion that Rand is at the Tower to ask for their aid (which it should be their duty to give freely) is foolish when Rand so obviously is not a supplicant, and the White Tower and Aes Sedai on the whole have been of little use to him or made little direct contribution to the War against the Shadow so far. This is something Rand could have pointed out, but forbore. Only some of those Aes Sedai with Rand have helped him.

Rand thought Aes Sedai were the danger to him, when it is the Shadow and himself. He wanted to fight and die on his own terms, which is reasonable. His burden is onerous enough without having any choice. Yet he acknowledges that having insisted on making his own choices, those choices have led to terrible acts:

"I should have wished for such a convenient set of backs upon which to heap the blame for my crimes."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Egwene misses the implied insult that Aes Sedai have a low enough reputation that they can take the blame for crimes.

Egwene follows the Aes Sedai idea that

they could decide what to do with him. The Dragon Reborn did need freedom to do as the prophecies said he would, but could they simply let him roam away, now that they had him?

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

He lets them know they don’t have him at all. Gently, where once he would have terrorised them. It’s more effective since it shows confidence and maturity, and makes their attitude unreasonable. Had he been arrogant, enraged and tyrannical, which he would have been only the day before, it would have been very reasonable.

Egwene thinks Rand is speaking of ‘idle philosophy’ and therefore must be mad. Obviously she is not a White. Egwene misunderstands him because she hasn’t been with him for quite a while and knows little about what he has been through.

Rand has come to tell them he will break the Seals and when he does she immediately thinks of her dream of the crystal sphere. She believes cutting its ropes is bad – but will this free it or break it? Or both?

Rand offers little explanation to the Aes Sedai about why he needs to break the Seals. Later that day, he does explain thoroughly to Nynaeve. He expects the Aes Sedai to oppose his idea, and to gather his opposition; in fact, he seems to want them to unite the opposing group and be its focal point. Egwene wants Nynaeve and Elayne to persuade Rand not to because he trusts them. Of course, he trusts them because they listen to him and don’t dismiss what he says. Feeling comfortable with Nynaeve, he takes the time to explain his ideas properly to her, which helps.

Egwene will also try and get large enough group together to confront Rand and persuade him not to break the Seals.

He reminds them that Lews Therin “failed” because the women wouldn’t help and asks the Aes Sedai to contribute saidar this time. Than and now the female Aes Sedai did not agree with or have confidence in the Dragon.

Egwene wants discussion and planning. Rand says she can do the planning. This is what angers her. And then he formally asks to withdraw and intimidates her into not trying to detain him. She’s tempted, but remembers how she criticised Elaida. In this meeting she’s had many of the negative thoughts that Elaida has had, just not as bad.

Egwene realises that the Pattern has arranged for her to be the Amyrlin because she knows Rand and therefore can trust him. (Except that she doesn’t much.) Also because she hopefully isn’t so indoctrinated by the belief that the Tower must hold the Dragon that she wouldn’t try to do so. (Except that she considered it.)

Silvana thinks Egwene wouldn’t hold Rand captive, little knowing Egwene’s thoughts. Egwene rightly thinks she couldn’t have anyway, that he could have broken through a shield easily.

Egwene didn’t feel any fondness for Rand.

One of the major things Egwene knows nothing about is Rand’s loss of his left hand. She who was built up in The Gathering Storm to the point of making previously competent characters such as the Sitters seem silly, now seems silly in this scene compared to Rand (and will against Perrin too) which makes the admiration of the Sitters that she could say anything at all to Rand absurd. Rand’s ta’veren effect made her dizzy after he left, as though she had made a bargain, or done what he wanted against her will. The Sitters were prevented from interrupting their meeting. However Rand wanted Egwene to speak with him, so she felt no constriction preventing her.

This scene is the fulfilment of Elaida’s foretelling that:

"The White Tower will be whole again, except for remnants cast out and scorned, whole and stronger than ever. Rand al'Thor will face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger."

-A Crown of Swords, Prologue: Lightnings

Rand knows her anger, but he is not put out or put off by it, something Elaida would never had thought. He seems to be going to use Egwene to bring his opposition together – for him to use in some way?

The meeting at the Field of Merrilor is to be on the day before Rand goes to Shayol Ghul – or that is the plan. The Shadow may try to delay Rand’s strike at Shayol Ghul. So may the Pattern. The great meeting will be in 29 days’ time. Caemlyn is probably invaded about the same time as the Merrilor assembly.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Linda,

For another insightful post. An observation or two to go along with your own. "...the window shutters were closed; morning sunlight peeking through." So, The Lord of The Morning arrives at Tar Valon to see the Amyrlin in the morning and apparently relatively early because Sliviana apologizes for waking Egwene. We don't get any indication but I have the feeling that Rand didn't 'travel' but in fact walked all the way from Dragonmount to The White Tower. It just seems to fit with who he is now. Though with his statement to Egwene about not having time to indulge her desire to determine if he's sane or not, it doesn't seem to fit into sensible time management.

It struck me as incongruous that Rand would not address Egwene formally at first, as he does at the last. He just says, "Egwene," Rand said, voice echoing in the chamber. He nodded to her, as if in respect. " You have done your part, I see. The Amyrlin's stole fits you well." It just seems too familiar for this chamber, to address her by her given name but there it is.

Another different curiosity is that mention is made of 26 sisters holding 2 complete shields on him but only 13 enter the hall. ...He studied her, hands still behind his back. Just behind him, thirteen sisters quietly filed into the Hall, the glow of saidar around them as they maintained his shield...

One more thing; this smacks of revisionist thinking in my opinion but here it is.

"It occurs to me that I've been trying too hard I worried that if I listened to you, you'd control me. IT wasn't a desire for independence that drove me, but a fear of irrelevance. A fear that the acts I accomplished would be yours, and not my own."

I would argue that independence was his prime motive, that and not going insane.

Jeremy said...

I was somewhat disappointed with this scene and with the new enlightened Rand in general. I guess he just seems too zen, too aloof, but not really that wise. Instead, it is as if his epiphany has made everyone who talks to him considerably stupider and less mature. There is also a bit too much meta-commentary on the themes of the series directly from Rand as Dressageboy points out. When Rand starts giving too many pronouncements and explicit analysis of his storyline, it tends to break down some of the realism of the WOT. I don't know if this is Branden or not, but I think this increased emphasis on personal reflection takes away from the thickly entangled relationships and challenges that make WOT so compelling. New Rand is too easy, and he is really not forced to change or respond in any way in this book. Instead he just acts and others respond to him. Do you think this will be possible to keep up? Will something snap Rand back to earth before he has to face the DO? If he goes to the pit of doom in his current zen state it will just be a battle of strength or skill, or of an incorruptible good moralizing against an uncomplicated evil.nhow boring would that be? My feeling is that his new wisdom will soon be revealed as incomplete (like Moraine's was) and find himself suddenly more dependent on others than ever. Not sure how, but otherwise his epiphany will have seemed a little too easy and deus ex machina for me.

Fragrant Elephant said...

Great job pointing out the 180-degree turn that Egwene's character makes, Linda. And I agree with the other commentors -- Zen Rand is so meta it's almost boring. Or maybe none of us are used to WoT characters being relentlessly reasonable?

Linda said...

Thanks all. Good comments.

Dressageboy: I wonder at the timing and how long he spent walking from Dragonmount to Tar Valon.

Jeremy: I agree that Rand didn't appear to wise in this scene, even though his part is to upstage Egwene here. Rand was better with Siuan.

I think that this zen-ness that he has won't last long in the next book. In the epilogue we saw Cyndane pretty effectively getting under his skin, after breaking through his warded dreams, no less. (Or getting him to lower the guard on them.) This time is the eye of the storm, and I think Rand gets cyclonic again before it's all over.

Linda said...

Nicole: there aren't that many reasonable characters, true, or ones that tell all of their motivations and feelings. :)

Anonymous said...

23 armies ? Really i think that is off the chart .. can you list them ?

Anonymous said...

Nicole: I don't find his equanimity boring at all because as he demonstrates through this book, he is connected -as Linda has so often pointed out- to the land and now feels compelled to rescue that land. And I don't feel like his equanimity conflates to passionless or boring. His passion is evident in why he denies Egwene. He says in part, "...People starve because of me, others live in terror of what I have done. A friend rides to his death without allies. There is so little time to do what I must." Pretty passionate if you ask me.

Linda: I beg to differ (Geez, I'm sounding like a broken record here) I think the only thing that is going to allow for the possibility of the light emerging victorious is Rand's epiphany. Amongst those not predisposed to disbelieve in Rand's vision, his new mien, may will mean the difference between troops who fight because they have no other choice and troops who are inspired to fight by something/someone greater than themselves.

Linda said...

Anon: I didn't say armies, I said groups. Though most are armed.

The twenty-three stars could represent the major human groups on the side of the Light in the Last Battle, which are: 1. Saldaea, 2. Kandor, 3. Arafel, 4. Shienar, 5. Malkier, 6. Tar Valon, 7. Arad Doman, 8. Two Rivers (Perrin), 9. Andor, 10. Cairhien, 11. Mayene, 12. Tear, 13. Illian, 14. Ghealdan, 15. Amadicia, 16. Altara, 17. Seanchan, 18. Aiel, 19. Sea Folk, 20. Whitecloaks, 21. Band of the Red Hand, 22. Black Tower, 23. Tarabon. Perhaps Murandy does not participate on the side of the Light. Some of these (Malkier, Sea Folk and Seanchan) aren't at Merrilor yet, but a force of humble folk are. I think some Seanchan will turn up before Rand goes to Shayol Ghul.

Anthony said...

Maybe replace Ghealdan with Ogier. Alliandre would probably count under Perrin.

Or do you think the Ogier won't be there?

Linda said...

I was able to reach 23 quite easily without including the Ogier so I left them out. I think the Ogier will be at the Last Battle - late - but I have no idea whether they'll go to Merrilor.

Joakim said...

I think this chapter was more about showing the relationship between the Mother and the Father, just having conquered and overcome his insanity, the whole interaction is off balance because she knows she can't control him and she needs him to take the responsibility because he's the only one who can, the woman being more socially reliant doesn't have the will, power and dominance to protect and move beyond into the unknown unless her children is in danger, she is feminity, carrying the womb (future) and must be protected from harm, the social interaction in this chapter is just a test, she tries to manipulate someone who is an adult, he doesn't need either her or is afraid of what she is capable, she'll never be more than a child in relationship to him and that's what shows here, he completely disarms her and brings her off balance because she needs him, he's no longer reliant on her. I think this is the biggest question regarding masculinity in general - Am I an individiual and taking my responsibility through my own will or am I just an extent, reaction to what the other people needs me to be? What is my choice, what is my will and motivations for giving my life and sacrificing myself? And this is what he talks about in his fears and dialogue, which she doesn't even understand - she's really a Bitch here, he has no more purpose to her other than to take responsibility and unless he steps up for himself she can't trust him, it's really cold actually but what do you do when your life is in danger? He doesn't need this of course, he playfully walks into danger knowing his value and own power, the warders can't touch his authority because they got none of their own being emasculated and been made into nothing more than soldiers without own will giving away all their power and life for their Aes Sedai furthering exploring the off balance relationship between the sexes.

Exploring the underlying social relationship and symbolism regarding the genderphilosophy this chapter is pretty deep, I don't know to what extent people can relate to it though because our culture is just as off balance sexually as WoT

Manetheren said...

While I agree Rand could have busted both of the Aes Sedai shields, at this stage, it was more likely he would have turned to those holding the shields, told them to drop the shields and they would have due to the ta'veren aspect (yes, i know one of the groups stayed outside the hall). Just to drive home the point that he is more than raw power, but also Light's Champion and even the Pattern bends for him. It would also be a peaceful (and powerful) solution, which he would strive for at this time.

Manetheren said...

more peaceful and powerful in the sense that it would drive home the point that the Aes Sedai truly couldn't have detained him.

Anonymous said...

To Joakim...

I just wanted to say that your synopsis of the scene, and what it represented, is excellent. I think you're spot on with it. She truly does see him as a child, Dragon Reborn or not, and refuses to accept him as even an equal, much less a superior (or someone outside of her control, since she can control/manipulate everyone else as she sees fit). Good job!