Thursday, July 19, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #29: Chapter 22 - The End of a Legend

By Linda


Gawyn POV

The Dark One’s cloud cover hides everything at night – whether whole or broken:

In darkness, one couldn't tell the difference between a beautifully intricate mural and a wall full of mismatched tiles. At night, the most beautiful of Tar Valon's buildings became another dark lump.
And at night, the holes and scars on the White Tower were patched with a bandage of darkness. Of course, on a night as dark as these clouds caused, one also couldn't tell the Tower's color. White or black; at night, it didn't really matter.

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

or good or evil. It seems Gawyn fears the Darkness is trying to get people to confuse good and evil by hiding which is which.

Procrastination has put Gawyn in limbo. He has no specific allegiance because while he loves Egwene, he is not supporting her yet. Nor, as we saw in her last scene, has she truly earned that support yet. Gawyn is pulled to Egwene as strongly as if they were already bonded, while he wanders the Tower at night like a lost soul.

Now that they have seen Aes Sedai life up close, some Younglings are having second thoughts about becoming Warders. They’ve been in battle and are no longer interested in guarding one woman on her tasks. They want to live as other men do, and not apart. Despite being unable to sort his own mind out, Gawyn was decisive and constructive enough in how to help these former Younglings.

Gawyn thinks Bryne’s position is also anomalous: Warder to the former Amyrlin (now low-ranked), great captain and general of the rebel army.

The maps on the walls of Bryne’s rooms bring home the imminence of the Last Battle. One of the maps has the Field of Merrilor marked. By mapping the defences available to the north of Tar Valon, Bryne seems to have assumed any attack on Tar Valon will be from the Blight. Yet it could also be via the Ways or, if it were the Seanchan, from any direction. Bryne has a map with a village near Dragonmount strongly marked – the one where Rand performed his miracle – so after Rand visited the Tower Bryne traced Rand’s movements.

Bryne reminds Gawyn that the last time he insisted on helping Egwene he “upset weeks’ worth of her work to reunite the Tower.” (He also probably hastened that reunion.) Gawyn thinks Bryne is suggesting he leave Egwene unprotected. Bryne denies this; he is actually suggesting Gawyn protect her in a way that fits in with her plans. However, her plans are flawed, being based on erroneous assumptions, and so this would not work.

From Bryne’s questions to Gawyn, we can see that Bryne analyses his own aims and motives logically, and then follows a plan that is likely to fulfil them. He tells Gawyn that he is too narrow – concentrating only on Egwene (like Perrin does on Faile) – and impulsive. Perhaps Galad gets on with Perrin so well because he senses his similarities with his younger brother. Galad’s forethought gives him freedom to act quickly and appropriately, whereas Gawyn acts on feeling, not thought, and does his thinking later. This is handy in battle and most emergencies. Bryne says this gives Gawyn strength, which is interesting, because Perrin is a strength figure. In human mode, Perrin gives a lot of forethought to situations. In wolf mode, he acts on instinct, like Gawyn. Until Perrin accepted both sides of himself, integrating himself, he too was in limbo, and irritating everyone with his procrastination.

Bryne’s advice to Gawyn to find a position and a goal for himself rather than just concentrating on Egwene is excellent. But I don’t think he followed it, as we shall see in later chapters of the read-through.

Bryne repeated his previous advice to Gawyn that Gawyn should think before he acts, but Gawyn doesn’t seem to be very good at thinking. Or perhaps more correctly, much of his thinking is intuitive, not logical. Bryne makes a good point that:

”you've never had to face what to do when your instincts lead you in the wrong direction."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Gawyn has not had to face the consequences of having the wrong reaction before. Earlier, Galad was warned by Morgase to be prepared for the consequences of a wrong decision. Being in the Light is no guarantee that you will get it right.

They are interrupted by Siuan. Her complaints that men think women are their personal messengers didn’t fit the conversation.

As Gawyn prepares to do what Egwene asks, he hears hint of a Bloodknife. He catches on quickly to look for darkness. Appropriately, Egwene is dressed in red - the colour of the Ajah against men - when Gawyn barges in and springs her trap.


Before our eyes we see Jordan’s theme of history turning to myth in practise. Legends are being created about Mat: he is described variously as Prince of Ravens, Lord of Luck or the Dark One, and has diced with death for his future, and never lost a fight. The story about the city of the dead awakening was created by the Band, Mat thinks. All the tales are of luck and death: his roles as Luck/Fortune or King of the Underworld, and not as a war, trickster, Fool or hero figure. (See my long Mat essay for all Mat’s roles and themes). Mat is regretting becoming legendary, because it makes him a tall poppy to cut down, aconspicuous target. Noal/Jain knows what it is like to be famous or notorious, yet despite his strong hints, Mat still hasn’t deduced Noal’s identity. This is a long-running joke.

The laws of Andor are being imposed harshly and seemingly illogically:

Men hanging for poaching trees? What next? Men hanging for stealing dirt?

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Yes, if it is the right sort of dirt, such as a mineral deposit. Illegal mining, like illegal logging, can have harsh penalties. This is foreshadowing of how valuable such resources will become as technology, both mechanical and ter’angreal, is advanced.

Thom says the *Finns must have bargained with the Aes Sedai that built the doorways in the first place, so Aes Sedai must have something the *Finns want. What they like is to steal the ability to channel. Why would Aes Sedai bargain away that, or even risk it?

Mat thinks the info in her letter was gained from the *Finns, but many of her actions are due to her trip through the rings and some of her knowledge of the *Finns and the Tairen doorway came from books. Mat thinks the *Finns want him and Moiraine and assumes Moiraine was lured back by their answers to her questions – or they knew she would return because they read her fate. They had to answer her questions, but they didn’t have to answer straightforwardly (and they may not have):

"Yes, but they don't have to answer straightforwardly," Mat said. "They didn't with me. They answered knowing she would come back to them. And they gave me what they did knowing I'd get pulled back, too. They want me. They want us."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

True, but their answers to Moiraine may not have been designed to lure her back. She would not have ‘wasted’ her questions on anything other than her tasks to see the Last Battle won. Although in typical Jordan/Sanderson fashion of holding everything back to the last book, we still don’t know what they are.

Mat fears the *Finns can harvest his memories – and are harvesting them – as they did to those men whose memories they gave to him. It is hard to know if this is right, and we may never know, unless Moiraine has any answers.

Mat says:

"No trades, Thom, no bargains. We go in fighting and we don't leave until we have her."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Noal says going to the *Finns' land is something he needs to do. He never explains why adequately, which I think is an oversight. There was a place in later chapters where he could have, and it would have added to the drama.

The three adventurers take stock of what they will carry:

Fire – lanterns, torches, matches, grenades (roarsticks), nightflowers
Music – harp, flutes, drums, cymbals
Iron – knives, shortswords, chains, iron band for ashandarei.

The dice are rolling in Mat’s head. Mat feels he owes Moiraine for taking him away from the boring old Two Rivers. At this time, Rand is very grim and solitary; therefore the scene is before his epiphany.

Mat is very nervous at how empty the Caemlyn streets are. Finally someone recognises Mat and tries to kill him for the bounty.

Birgitte POV

This POV has a “Night at the Opera” scene. I don’t think Birgitte’s wish that ‘players’ die out will be fulfilled. Birgitte is quite conservative in her tastes. Combining theatre and opera terminology – player, diva, aria, theatre.

Birgitte is mulling over what memories she has left; she draws on them as Mat does on his, and she is traumatised when she forgets any one of them lest she become a woman without a past. She accepts that she won’t be with Gaidal this time around, and believes that this life is unique and against the Pattern, which is trying to fit her in. Yet she may meet him – he is an infant somewhere – and we know from Min’s viewing:

Besides, those multitudes of images and auras flashed by too quickly for her to make out any clearly, but she was certain they indicated more adventures than a woman could have in one lifetime. Strangely, some were connected to an ugly man who was older than she, and others to an ugly man who was much younger, yet somehow Min knew they were the same man.

- Winter’s Heart, A Lily in Winter.

that this is the rarer alternative Pattern of her lives when she is much older than Gaidal.

The entertainment Elayne is sponsoring is for a privileged few. It contrasts with the more egalitarian Ogier, who believe beauty is for all, high and low.

Mat plays the role of charming trickster in the Palace. He says he let the guards catch him. Two dozen coins all showing heads is way over 1 in 1000 odds (that’s the odds for 10 heads).

Birgitte looks on her life with a happy old age as boring. She sounds like Mat. I loved Birgitte’s comments about Old Snert’s physical attractions. It’s an amusing and refreshing counterpoint to Mat’s frequent comments on the pretty features of the women he encounters.

Birgitte gives Mat a lot of useful info on the *Finns and their world. She doesn’t know why they love Aes Sedai though. It is because channellers have enhanced senses and reactions and the *Finns feed off this, and can also “eat” their ability to channel.

It’s interesting that if you enter by the doorways you won’t penetrate far into the *Finns’ realm. We saw this in The Shadow Rising where Mat was taken to a bargaining room fairly near the entry. As I theorised, blood has strong effect on the *Finns.

Cheating is expected. The *Finns are tricksters and try to cheat while following the letter of agreements, like Aes Sedai (who are also tricksters, see my essay on Tricksters). People will lose unless, or even if, they violate the agreement.

Birgitte’s wish to the Eelfinn was to be for Gaidal to be healed of his brain injury. The *Finns have a reputation for brain surgery! Hence their successful ‘operation’ on Mat. She got lost because the directions bent, so she never found her original route.

How the legend of Birgitte’s visit to the Tower of Ghenjei ever was created is a mystery since she did not leave the *Finns' world, and now it is apparently extinct. This is what the chapter title refers to. The end of that Birgitte legend is the opposite of the legends in the making earlier in this chapter.

And they rush off to rescue Elayne.


TrueCrew said...

Linda, nice summary as always.

I'm in full agreement that Noal's thread was a missed opportunity. Remember when Noal was grabbing his head trying to remember stuff back in aCoS and WH?

Remember when we thought whatever he had forgotten might be important?

I'd have liked to have found out. And how he became like he did. And I was hoping for some insight into Isam and the Borderlands while we were at it.

Oh well.

Anthony said...

At the time I was suspicious that his head had been tinkered with by a Forsaken.

Anonymous said...

I think Noal was the man who wandered into a stedding that Loial talked about back in tEotW. As to why he must go Noal says he has been nearly everywhere if the adventures of farstrider are to be believed. The info in the letters matt got from tom also came from the rings of rhuidean.

LordJuss said...


From the way it was written I'd assumedd Bryne's marking of the village was not because Rand had been there but because of its enormous crop of apples. If I recall correctly the map in question is mentioned alongside possible supply sources.



Linda said...

That is also a good explanation. I think that Bryne followed Rand's trail though. And discovered the orchard, which of course will be useful as you say.