Friday, March 2, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #7: Borderlander POV

By Linda


The last scene of the Prologue shows us the arrangements for Borderlander security and the care in designing the defenses. It has lasted since the Trolloc Wars, but it hasn’t really been tested until now. Two hundred and fifty soldiers is laughably inadequate and there is a feeling of doom as the Shadowspawn attack approaches. The defences aren’t going to be enough:

It was time for Tarmon Gai’don. And looking out into that storm, Malenarin though he could see to the very edge of time itself. An edge that was not far distant. In fact, it seemed to be growing darker. And there was a blackness beneath it, on the ground northward.
That blackness was advancing.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Malenarin is certainly seeing the Last Days. His house symbol is of an oak aflame. The oak is a symbol of nobility and endurance. Fire is both a creative and destructice energy and can be purifying, transforming or regenerative. Both symbols are strongly masculine, appropriate in a soldiering house with a strongly protective character.

Keemlin’s courage and sacrifice are moving. Unfortunately it seems inevitable that these outlying fortresses, and towns and cities further in, will be destroyed.

The Borderlander saying that:

To have a duty was to have pride—just as to bear a burden was to gain strength.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

could be best illustrated by Rand and Perrin. From the beginning Lan judged these two promising becuase they had a sense of duty and strength similar to his own. Rand is linked with both duty and pride:

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield. He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow.

- A Crown of Swords, opening text

while Perrin's strong sense of duty has not made him proud. Perrin is the epitome of a strength figure (see Perrin essay), perhaps because, unlike Rand, he did not make himself excessively hard (one cruel act against the Shaido).

In the Aiel's view, Rand has finally stopped trying to be as strong (hard?) as stone - the heart of stone which must remember tears - and has

instead achieved the strength of the wind.

- Towers of Midnight, A Vow

Cadsuane warned Rand that he should not model himself on the oak, which is strong and can endure much, but will ultimately break under the burden, but should emulate the willow:

"Stone cracks from a hard enough blow," she said, her face an Aes Sedai mask of calm. "Steel shatters. The oak fights the wind and breaks. The willow bends where it must and survives."
"A willow won't win Tarmon Gai'don," he told her.

- Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon

Unlike the masculine oak, the willow is a feminine symbol of patience and strength in flexibility. It was always unlikely that the strongly masculine Dragon would find this advice palatable.

Malenarin’s affirmation that:

But every man atop that Tower knew their duty. They’d kill Trollocs as long as they could, hoping to buy enough time for the messages to do some good. Enough time for lamps to be lit, for mirrors to be focused, warnings to be sent.
Malenarin was a man of the Borderlands, same as his father, same as his son beside him. They knew their task. You held until you were relieved.
That’s all there was to it.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

foreshadows that other Bordlerlander centres are/will be in the same predicament – such as those where Ituralde, Lan, etc are. Some might be saved or relieved but not all. Nations, even, will go under.

When Ishamael warned Rand back in The Great Hunt that huge armies would come:

Armies you have not dreamed of will yet come.

- The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow

he wasn’t lying.

Is Malenarin right when he says:

The queen would not have gone south to seek a false Dragon, no matter how cunning or influential he might be. She believed.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Hopefully removing such a large proportion of their defences was the right move. Maybe the Borderlander rulers have unwittingly preserved a substantial part of their forces to be better used elsewhere, but their nations will pay for it.

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