Friday, March 23, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #11: Chapter 4 - The Pattern Groans

By Linda


Perrin POV

The chapter opens with the wrongness theme (see Wrongness essay) literally uppermost. Blighted plants are thriving better than natural ones:

What kind of world is it where the Blight is the good alternative?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

It is a world turning upside down, and now the Blight has come to Ghealdan. In the centre of the wrongness is a village built of what sounds like palm logs or bamboo and palm leaves – a tropical island settlement complete with sand in the middle of the continent:

The buildings were huts built from an odd type of wood, like large reeds, and the roofs were thatch—but thatch built from enormous leaves, as wide as two man's palms. There were no plants here, only a very sandy soil.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The building is probably of the current time, but it has moved location. We have also seen buildings that were out of the time, but may have been at more-or-less the right location. Such manipulations are like Tel’aran’rhiod.

"The Pattern groans," Berelain said softly. "The dead walking, the odd deaths. In cities, rooms vanish and food spoils."
Perrin scratched his chin, remembering a day when his axe had tried to kill him. If entire villages were vanishing and appearing in other places, if the Blight was growing out of rifts where the Pattern was fraying . . . Light! How bad were things becoming?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The event in Tear Perrin remembers was the second bubble of evil that we saw damaging the Pattern. The first was in Shienar when Rand was pushed into the path of Lan’s practise sword by the wind.

Perrin sees that Tel’aran’rhiod not only reflects the waking world but anticipates it. In the dream the storm in the sky appears more violent and threatening, and closer– but Perrin is sensitive to Tel’aran’rhiod and the ta’veren and the Dragon’s bannerman would attract wrongness. Perrin, Rand and Mat were the first targets of the Dark One.

And then we see that Perrin still hasn’t shaken off his own wrongness. Perrin thinks that becoming a wolf means losing his (human) identity. Yet Hopper accepts him as both wolf and man. Man/wolf is Perrin’s identity.

He realises the village where he saw Noam is not far from where his army is camped. This is not a coincidence, as he also realises. Perrin needs to figure out who he is and contact with Noam helps some, but Hopper helps far more. Perrin won’t understand Noam until late in the book after he has sorted himself out and become victorious.

I can't ignore my problems! Perrin thought back.
Yet you often do, Hopper sent.
It struck true—more true, perhaps, than the wolf knew.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

I think Perrin underestimates Hopper.

The parts of what Perrin tried to make – Thor’s hammer Mjolnir – in the dream at the beginning of the book have turned up in Tel’aran’rhiod.

The rectangle is the capping bracket – the capstone of the hammer. As the key part to completing the hammer, its heat burnt the grass around it in Tel’aran’rhiod, just as the hammer will burn Trollocs later. Remarkably the burned area remained, when Tel’aran’rhiod usually heals itself readily. Contemporaneously with this dream is the burning of the Blighted tropical village in Ghealdan in the waking world by the Wise Ones. This also is probably not coincidence.

There will be no creation of Mah’alleinir, Perrin’s masterpiece so vital to the Last Battle, until he works on his problems, the pieces of himself he does not understand.

You couldn't make a thing until you understood its parts. He wouldn't know how to deal with—or reject—the wolf inside him until he understood the wolf dream.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perrin needs to understand his own parts so he can make himself stronger and then temper everyone else.

Hopper can’t see precognitive visions in windows but he does see the burned patch that the hammer’s ‘capstone’ left and links it to Perrin’s poor psychological state after Faile was captured. Perrin is in a poor psychological state again – or is it still? - and attributes it to worrying about Faile’s capture and how to get her back. In Hopper’s opinion it was due to Perrin denying his role as Wolf King and leader of a human army. When Hopper says that the newest pup blames the elders of the pack he thinks Perrin is blaming the wolves for his problems. With his Two Rivers stubbornness, Perrin isn’t even at risk of giving in to the wolves, although he fears he is. A fair part of this fear came from seeing Noam in the waking world and from Moiraine’s partly mistaken information.


didn't like what he'd called a human tendency to wish to control things.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The wolf wants humans to accept things as they are and make the best of them instead of complaining and trying to change things without knowing what they are doing.

As a shapeshifter (or mind shifter), Perrin fears not coming back to his dominant form. Hopper equates Perrin’s belief that he will lose himself completely if he joins in as a wolf as an example of wrongness, and a nihilistic one.

These things you think, Hopper sent, displeased. How can you think such images of nothing? The response was accompanied by images of blankness—an empty sky, a den with nobody in it, a barren field.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The wolf’s point is that Perrin has to be the best he can be in either shape and in firm control of who he is and who he wants to be. And also to stop whining and get over it.

Perrin loves being in the Wild. He is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay), just as his tempestuous wife is its Queen:

The forest was his. It belonged to him, and he understood it…
So much a part of the world around him, yet master of it at the same time?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

In Tel’aran’rhiod the Wild is wilder, since domesticated creatures do not show up there. After fearing to join in the hunt because he might stay a wolf, Perrin then gets carried away and has to be restrained from killing the stag. It is typical of him to hold back and then overdo it. Feelings that are dammed up eventually burst out violently. He horrifies himself when he is tempted to turn on Hopper – his mentor – for balking him of his prey. This parallels Rand turning on Tam in The Gathering Storm (yet to happen on the timeline). Hopper forces Perrin to admit that his true feelings are worry, not fear. Perrin realises that Hopper’s teaching is going to make him exert himself to the utmost and accepts it. Hopper is very much the animal spirit guide to Perrin the shaman (see PerrinPerrin essay).

Hopper has accepted Perrin’s demand to be taught:

Perrin had demanded that Hopper train him to master the place. Very inappropriate for a young wolf—a kind of challenge to the elder's seniority—but this was a response. Hopper had come to teach, but he would do it as a wolf taught.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perhaps it was something of a royal command from the Wolf King, but more importantly, Hopper has an undercurrent of worry for the Last Hunt. Hopper knows that if Rand makes the wrong choice there won’t be Tarmon Gai’don and the world is lost. Likewise all three ta’veren have to be there. Hence he will help Perrin become “wolf plus”.

Perrin has three visions, something that only happens when he is personally under threat – usually from Shadowspawn. The first is of Mat fighting against himself, while a shadowy figure creeps upon him with a knife. The shadowy creature is probably the gholam that was tracking Mat. Mat fighting himself in different guises may refer to Mat’s memories or to his different roles that pull him in different directions. Or both these things.

The second is of:

sheep, suddenly, running in a flock toward the woods. Wolves chased them, and a terrible beast waited in the woods, unseen. He was there, in that dream, he sensed. But who was he chasing, and why? Something looked wrong with those wolves.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perrin figures out at least some of the meaning:

"My armies here, they're being herded, Faile. Like sheep being driven to the butcher."
He suddenly remembered his vision from the wolf dream. Sheep running in front of wolves. He'd thought himself one of the wolves. But could he have been wrong?
Light! He had been wrong about that. He knew what it meant, now. "I can feel it on the wind," he said. "The problem with gateways, it's related to something happening in the wolf dream. Somebody wants us to be unable to escape this place."

- Towers of Midnight, Judgement

It seems Perrin’s initial thought was that the wolves were him and his army chasing Whitecloak sheep. But the wolves smell wrong to Perrin and so does this interpretation. The wolves of wrongness are more likely Isam – who called himself a wolf when he speaks with Perrin – and the dreamspike with which he trapped and killed wolves and tries to do likewise to Perrin’s group. The hidden beast is probably the Shadowspawn ambush.

The last vision is of thousands of people, including ones Perrin knows, walking toward a cliff. This may represent all the people walking toward the Last Battle and the possible end of everything. Rand has not yet had his epiphany, so the Light are likely to lose at this point.

Galad POV

Galad has sent a letter to the remnant of the Children and Questioners with the Seanchan explaining events and ordering them to join him. Nothing comes of this in Towers of Midnight.

In order to make the Questioners less exclusive and less adversarial, they have been split and mixed with the Children. It is a great idea of Galad’s to stop them setting themselves apart from the other Whitecloaks. He explains the errors of the Questioners:

The Questioners often could not tell the difference between a hardened Darkfriend, a person who was being influenced by Darkfriends, and a person who simply disagreed with the Children."

Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Naturally the Children object to allying with Aes Sedai. Galad says Aes Sedai are nothing compared to the Dark One and the Children must fight at the Last Battle with whoever else fights. They also need to set an example to the nations. With far less strength and no power base, Whitecloaks are vulnerable now and therefore can’t be arrogant anymore. Of course, they never should have been. Galad says they have to use diplomacy in their dealings with others (just as he is with the Children in this speech), and need to earn the respect of the nations and rulers. Yet he doesn’t know how to get the Whitecloaks accepted within the nations without having to bow to rulers or intimidate them with their forces as they used to do. The Children have similar problems to Aes Sedai, who have also demanded respect, kept themselves apart, and lost face by contributing nothing to the war against the Shadow.

Galad decides he needs to be very precise in his orders to Byar, who otherwise becomes a liability. Byar now rides Asunawa’s white horse, a very distinctive animal that sets him apart from the others. Byar is supposedly pristine but has Asunawa’s errors of excessive zeal and paranoia. Soon we see that Byar is touched by the Shadow. There are hints that Asunawa was too: his strange behaviour, reading The Way of the Light like a new recruit, and the smell of the Blight near him in the camp in Crossroads of Twilight Prologue. His behaviour was also divisive and weakened the Children.

The men are worried. This situation mirrors Perrin’s POV in the same chapter, although in a reverse way: it is Perrin the leader who worries more than his troops. Galad does not worry because it is pointless; since he can’t know the Pattern, he accepts the Pattern as it is and does his best within it. When Perrin accepts his role in the Pattern, a lot of his worrying will ease and his leadership will improve. An important difference between Perrin and Galad is that Perrin has a wife, who was captured and treated harshly, and Galad does not. And now the two men are coming together thanks to Byar bringing Perrin’s camp followers to Galad. (Byar’s statement “We may have a situation here” sounds too modern.)

Galad is observant and shrewdly sceptical in this scene. He has had good training, and, unlike his brother Gawyn, has made the best of it.

The rumour of a gigantic stone which fell to earth destroying a city and leaving a crater north of Andor is probably derived from the destruction of Shadar Logoth.

No comments: