Thursday, March 8, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #9: Chapter 2 - Questions of Leadership

By Linda


The chapter contains two POVS, and the chapter title applies to both of them.

Perrin POV

Perrin is in the waking world, moving north. It is about a month since Malden although the time line is pretty vague in Towers of Midnight. Judging by Perrin’s vision of Rand outside a burned house, Rand is in Arad Doman. Soon after the Battle of Malden, Perrin’s group was struck with something incapacitating, although it’s written up confusingly, described as a sickness and then snakebites. Some refugees have left, but he is attracting others:

Turne smelled unwashed and dirty, and above those scents was an odd staleness. Had the man’s emotions gone numb?

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This staleness is new. We’ve seen people die from corruption of their bodies but perhaps this is a manifestation of a more insidious breakdown – of emotional and mental health. Some new disturbance in the Pattern.

Perrin thinks he should turn people away but he doesn’t; he judges it is better to add them to his forces and stop them from becoming desperate and turning to banditry. If he’s one of the few around that has or preserves food, then he’s in the best position to keep people alive:
“Tell me, my Lord,” Turne said as his group began to hike down the line of refugees. “Do you really have food?”
“We do,” Perrin said. “I just said so.”
“And it doesn’t spoil after a night left alone?”
“Course it doesn’t,” Perrin said sternly. “Not if you keep it right.” Some of their grain might have weevils in it, but it was edible. The man seemed to find that incredible, as if Perrin had said his wagons would soon sprout wings and fly off for the mountains.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Is Perrin’s food is not spoiling an effect of being a strong ta’veren? Rand can actually restore fertility and health to the Land – undo the Dark One’s corruption. This is beyond Mat and Perrin, but can their presence preserve what health there is – hold off the breakdown of reality for a while? Otherwise it seems the presence of living things is necessary to keep other things hale. Anything cut off from living things, rots. Living things must unite, literally stand together, against the Dark One. We have too little information yet to work out more.

Perrin is a just leader (and not just a leader):

“Your queen is my liegewoman,” Perrin said as they reached the front of the column. “We’re not stringing anyone up unless we have proof of their crimes. Once everyone is safely back where they belong, you can start sorting through the sell-swords and see if you can charge any of them. Until then, they’re just hungry men looking for someone to follow…You may send someone to talk to the newcomers, Arganda,” Perrin said. “Talk only. Find out where they’re from, learn whether they did serve a lord, see if they can add anything to the maps.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin is being a leader, but doesn’t see it because he doesn’t believe in himself. Turning into a wolf and losing his family and home not surprisingly undermined his self-confidence and left him in a depression-like state.

He thinks he could solve his problems easily if his group were its original size and composition:

[Perrin] himself could Travel back to Rand, pretend to make up--most people would still think that he and Rand had parted ways angrily--and then finally be rid of Berelain and her Winged Guard. Everything could go back to the way it should be.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Wishful thinking but futile. It follows on from his contemplation in the Prologue of ‘unbecoming’ a Wolfbrother. Things returning to as they were probably isn’t the way it should be, even if it could be achieved, not for winning the Last Battle, at least.

Perrin feels bad that he never did bring Masema to Rand. If he doesn’t fulfill his allotted tasks he feels he has failed. Perrin is very focused and task oriented, and has a high work ethic.

The Prophet was dead, killed by bandits. Well, perhaps that was a fitting end for him, but Perrin still felt he’d failed. Rand had wanted Masema brought to him...
Either way, it was time for Perrin to return to Rand. His duty was done, the Prophet seen to, Alliandre’s allegiance secure. Only, Perrin felt as if something were still very wrong. To understand something... you have to figure out its parts...

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Well for a start he has to figure out his own parts that he plays in the Pattern and the parts of his character.

However the wrongness he probably is referring to is the Pattern around him. Perrin can feel the Pattern to some extent, like a scent in the air, not just see the future in Tel’aran’rhiod or his dreams.

Returning to Rand right now would be wrong. Perrin is being warned off going to Rand until certain tasks are done, or events have occurred and it ‘feels right’ to go.

Since Malden he has gained five thousand or more people and the refugees with him are training successfully with weapons. Perrin’s group has been held by the Pattern for this and to encounter the Whitecloaks at the right time.

“This is all going to end in a few days, Faile,” he said. “Once we have Gateways again, I’ll send these people to their proper places. I’m not gathering an army. I’m helping some refugees to get home.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

His army has strengthened (and Perrin is associated with strength and strengthening (see Perrin essay). He will help refugees return, but he probably is also gathering an army. After all Artur Hawkwing named him the Dragon’s bannerman back at Falme. This is one of his pieces, his roles.

Perrin feels he was a poor leader, but Faile has asked around:

“They say that you kept Arganda contained, and put out flare-ups in camp. Then there’s the alliance with the Seanchan, the more I learn of that, the more impressed I am. You acted decisively in a time of great uncertainty, you focused everyone’s efforts, and you accomplished the impossible in taking Malden. Those are the actions of a leader.”
“Faile...” he said, suppressing a growl. Why wouldn’t she listen? When she’d been a captive, nothing had mattered to him but recovering her. Nothing. It didn’t matter who had needed his help, or what orders he’d been given. Tarmon Gai'don itself could have started, and he’d have ignored it in order to find Faile.
He realized now how dangerous his actions had been. Trouble was, he’d take those same actions again. He didn’t regret what he’d done, not for a moment. A leader couldn’t be like that.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

It was a dangerous time and he had to steer the best possible course through the problems. Leaders can’t be bogged down in regrets or indecisiveness. They must decide, act, and move on. Because he did what he thought necessary without deliberating long on it, he dismisses his actions.

Perrin was a blacksmith. It didn’t matter what Faile dressed him in or what titles people gave him.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Being a blacksmith is another of his roles and it comes to the fore in Towers of Midnight when he makes an important object for the Last Battle as well as forges a huge army. Of course, he can be a blacksmith and yet other things as well. It takes him a long while to realize this. He’s not one for multi-tasking.

Where Perrin sees their quest in the south as a failure, and a narrowly averted disaster, Faile see the positive results:

“Yes, indeed,” she said, musingly. “I’ve been thinking on this for the last few weeks, and - odd though it seems - I believe my captivity may have been precisely what we needed. Both of us.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin needed to stop the Prophet, extend his forces and bring certain people together. He had to be a leader, and face his dark side. It takes time to do the latter because it’s a task no one wants to do. Aes Sedai try to accelerate the process with their testing ter’angreal, but I don’t think they’re successful.

Faile needed to learn to work with others and lead them, and to stop her silly games with Perrin and Berelain. She now no longer toys with him or expects him to play by her rules only. For instance, Perrin expected her to insist he yell at her in this scene, but she did not.

Galad POV

The Whitecloaks are a short distance north of Perrin. It is a day or so since Galad nobly surrendered himself to the Questioners rather than have the Children fighting one another. They were rough:

He was still naked, and with tentative fingers he determined that there was dried blood on his face. It had come from a long gash in his forehead. If he didn’t wash it soon, infection was likely. He lay on his back, staring up at the pinprick lights, breathing in and out with care. If he took in too much air at once, his side screamed.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This is standard torture technique as Semirhage described it:

Alone, in the dark, with the pain

- Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow

Egwene was left in a similar situation in The Gathering Storm. However, Aes Sedai are legally not allowed to draw blood or break bones or allow others to do so for them. From what we’ve been told, Questioners use only torture in their interrogations.

Most of the action in this POV is off-screen and we see Galad’s reactions to his circumstances and his reasons for his actions:

He would not run. He could not avoid what was coming. Even if he could escape, fleeing would invalidate his bargain with Asunawa. But he would face his enemies with self-respect...It wasn’t the cloak, the uniform, the heraldry, or the sword that made a man. It was the way he held himself.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We’ve heard Lan express similar thoughts. Like Egwene, Galad also embraces pain.

Then, methodically, he cleaned the grime and blood from his face. The cleaning gave him a goal, kept him moving and stopped him from thinking about the pain. He carefully scrubbed the crusted blood from his cheek and nose. It was difficult; his mouth was dry. He bit down on his tongue to get saliva…
The wound to his head, the dirt on his face. . .these things were marks of victory for the Questioners. He would not leave them. He would go into their tortures with a clean face.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We need to read Galad’s thoughts to truly judge his worthiness as a leader.

Removing dirt from himself symbolizes the way Galad refuses to let his character be sullied by the actions of others. It also reminds me of this part of the testing ritual for Accepted:

"You are washed clean of what sin you may have done," the Aes Sedai intoned, "and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul."

The Great Hunt, The Testing

but done completely in private. Galad has no need to prove his integrity to anyone or have someone tell him he has integrity. As further symbolism, he did not blink when bright Light shone into the dark tent.

Demanding perfection, his expectations that the Children should be superior to others in virtue, courage, truthfulness, etc are sorely disappointed at times until Morgase shows him that he is unrealistic about people (and himself).

Galad did not fear death or pain. He had made the right choices. It was unfortunate that he’d needed to leave the Questioners in charge; they were controlled by the Seanchan. However, there had been no other option, not after he’d walked out of those trees and into Asunawa’s hands.
Galad felt no anger at the scouts who had betrayed him. The Questioners were a valid source of authority in the Children, and their lies had no doubt been convincing. No, the one he was angry at was Asunawa. He took what was true and muddied it, clouding the understanding of men. There were many who did that in the world, but the Children should be different.
Soon, the Questioners would come for him, and then the true price for saving his men would be exacted with their hooks and knives. He had been aware of that price when he’d made his decision. In a way, he had won, for he had manipulated the situation best.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Galad is correct, which he always tries to be. He did win; by showing Asunawa up so much that the troops rebelled.

“Stop!” Galad said. “I gave orders to you three. Bornhald, there is blood on your cloak! I commanded you not to try to free me!”
“Your men obeyed your orders, Damodred,” a new voice said...
“I see,” Galad said. “You have turned your swords on fellow Children.”
“What would you have had us do?” Brandel asked, looking up from his kneeling position.
Galad shook his head. “I do not know. Perhaps you are right; I should not chide you on this choice. It may have been the only one you could have made. But why did you change your minds?”
“We have lost two Lords Captain Commander in under half a year.” Harnesh said in a gruff voice. “The Fortress of the Light has become a playground for the Seanchan. The world is in chaos.”
“And yet,” Golever said, “Asunawa marched us all the way out here to have us battle our fellow Children. It was not right, Damodred. We all saw how you presented yourself, we all saw how you stopped us from killing one another. Faced with that, and with the High Inquisitor naming as Darkfriend a man we all know to be honorable... Well, how could we not turn against him?”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Asunawa is not a Darkfriend, but may have been influenced by the Shadow, just as Elaida was.

The Sitters are the political representatives of advisors and academics. This is why the divisions played out differently among the Aes Sedai compared to the Whitecloaks. Being bound not to commit violence with the One Power can spread to not using violence in other ways too. The same goes for warfare. Alternatively, being used to violence or warfare increases the risk of using it without considering whether other means might serve better. Galad tried hard enough to reconcile the opposing groups without violence. There is no right answer to the Children’s problems. All choices likely to be bad – in the sense of ‘not good’ – as Galad realizes.

If the Perfect Knight is not good enough and is claimed to be evil, then nobody is good.

“You accept me as Lord Captain Commander?”
The three men bowed their heads. “All the Lords Captain are for you,” Golever said. “We were forced to kill a third of those who wore the red shepherd’s crook of the Hand of the Light. Some others united with us; some tried to flee. The Amadicians did not interfere, and many have said they’d rather join with us than return to the Seanchan. We have the other Amadicians – and the Questioners who tried to run - held at swordpoint.”
“Let free those who wish to leave,” Galad said. “They may return to their families and their masters. By the time they reach the Seanchan, we will be beyond their grasp.”
The men nodded.
“I accept your allegiance,” Galad said. “Gather the other Lords Captain and fetch me supply reports. Strike camp. We march for Andor.”
None of them asked whether he needed rest, though Trom did look worried.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We don’t know if they let the guarded Questioners go. Asunawa and most Questioners are not the good shepherd despite wearing shepherd symbolism. It would be interesting to know if Einor Saren was killed or tried to flee. Or if there are Darkfriend Questioners remaining alive.

Egwene castigated the Hall because they did not act decisively or in the interests of the Tower. The Sitters were manipulated by the Darkfriend Sitters not to, though. Their fault is that they allowed themselves to be manipulated. As might be expected, Darkfriends probably are rarer among the Children than among Aes Sedai. In the Age of Legends, half the Aes Sedai went over to the Shadow. In the Third Age, it is about a quarter.

Like Perrin, Galad doesn’t want the job and he too doubts he is up to it or should be leader:

Galad didn’t feel wise or strong enough to bear the title he did. But the Children had made their decision.
The Light would protect them for it.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

If he had no doubts, if he was unaware of or denied his shortcomings, he (and Perrin too) would not be as good as a leader. However, he doesn’t whine about the duty (or indeed about anything) and just does as well as he can.

The chapter title, Questions of Leadership, says it all really. Both men question whether they are worthy. Others assure them they are and insist they lead on. Not surprisingly they get more followers.


t ball said...

I can certainly see how Perrin and Mat might influence their surroundings in the way Rand has done, if less so. Their influence on the pattern is a correcting mechanism, a way for the pattern to correct itself -- increasing its own "order and strength", if you will.

Even though Perrin didn't believe in himself, his actions brought order (or at least decreased chaos) even as Rand was doing the opposite while believing very firmly in what he was doing.

Anonymous said...

in terms of taverren rand is the strongest matt is equal to hawkwing, perrin is most likely weakest imho, but perrin has proven to be a master tactician both at the wells and beating the shido. he even earned the respect of the seanchan tylee (i think her name was) and that is no small feat for any randlander to do. though i find it a bit funny that that matt and perrin both ended up fighting the only shadow forged foes that have been too much for any other to handle (perrin slayer and matt the gholam) they seem to have the only defenses that work to stop, wound and/or kill them. i doubt even rand could handle either of them zen or no zen.