Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #38: Chapter 31 - Into the Void

By Linda


The Dusty Wheel inn, aka the Rumour Wheel, with innkeeper Hatch, is a nod to Theoryland and webmaster and beta reader Matt Hatch, and the way the clientele discuss possible events while overlooking a real event – a legendary character in the inn - until late in his visit is perhaps a teasing reflection of what goes on there.

Mat seems to be mastering the art of flirting while claiming to be unavailable, and attracting women who like the challenge. Unfortunately I thought the repetition of the joke was over-done and his protestations of innocence tiresome by the end of the book.

The dice, his mental warning signal, stopped when he left the inn, confirming that danger is imminent because spies (probably the very ones he noticed) had reported his location to the Shadow and the gholam. Mat leaves his scarf on the ground, openly revealing himself to all, like a declaration of war. On this occasion he is consciously dancing with death (Jak o’the Shadows) and accepts it. Jak o’the Shadows is his signature tune – a dance about death as well as with death. It’s a grim joke, but then his role as an expounder of the art of war is grim. The dance of death motif is an important part of Mat’s character (see essay), particularly in this chapter, where it ties in neatly with war, gambling and the underworld.

Mat’s tactics are to get his soldiers to fight off the Darkfriend ambushers to force the gholam itself to attack. The downside is that the gholam is likely to attack his men because they would be easier prey. The fact that a few groups of Darkfriends were sent first shows how wary the gholam is of Mat.

Mat feels stupid – a fool, another major motif of his character – rather than heroic offering himself for bait. (But he is an even mix of both overall). In contrast, Elayne does not feel so vulnerable when she bails up the Black Ajah. She is overconfident compared to Mat. Mat thinks he would have run and avoided this confrontation, if he hadn’t sworn the oath to Verin. Talmanes was also very brave in this scene, taking the lantern before the gholam could extinguish it and helping Mat lure the gholam into the burning building.

The gholam appears more monster-like among the flames, with its smiles and its eyes seeming to glow in deep sockets and is an infernal or underworld creature. It is interesting that the gholam was pained by a blow to its crotch, yet as a man-made creature it shouldn’t have needed genitalia. Severing its Achilles tendon had no effect, but the ashandarei did cut off its fingers. This is a hint of the ashandarei’s special properties, which will be even more obvious when Mat visits the underworld/otherworld of the *Finns. The ashandarei is something like Death’s scythe, however Mat is not Death (that’s Moridin) but King of the Dead. Many of Mat’s motifs are shown in this chapter, and without them being laboured.

Mat had no way of knowing if Elayne’s ter’angreal would hurt the gholam. It was a terrible gamble and he was lucky they worked. But then, as Fortune’s favourite (Fortuona’s consort), Mat was able to win against loaded dice earlier in the scene.

The trap required a lot of coordination and some trickery, the latter usually Mat's trademark, but this time Elayne and Birgitte designed it. The gholam was rushed into it, and kept under pressure. The fires were to be a distraction while the gateway was made, although the monster still sensed the Kin and their channelling. Apparently gholam are the only Shadowspawn that can survive going through a gateway. It was a Skimming gateway, and only the entry gateway, so there was no exit.

Sumeko is insulted that Mat wouldn’t let the Kin try to kill the gholam, but he is right, they would have been killed. The bungling she complained of was due to it being aware of them. Their flows will not touch the gholam because it has properties like the weave-breaking ter’angreal. I think the ter’angreal injure it due to some type of interference, since two ter’angreal with similar function used in close proximity often develop interference and can be damaged by it. A’dam are an obvious exception but they are “closed” in function, being designed to form a forced link. Mat intends to give the two ter’angreal Elayne made to Olver and Tuon.


Anonymous said...

silver weapons and talismans where used to ward off / kill unholy monsters. the gholam definitely is an unholy creation. fitting the gholam meets its end facing matt.

Linda said...

Good point about the ter'angreal.

And definitely it was right that Mat was the one to get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

thanks. any idea why matt fought the gholam on a book in the skimming gateway? that has me stumped as to what symbolism it may have.

Linda said...

I don't know; unless it's meant to be self-referential. It's a scene in a book and the book reminds us of this?

Anonymous said...

IIRC,the first time one makes a skimming platform, it takes a shape, rand had a ying yang disc and egwene had something different. I read it as the Kin who made the gateway had a skimming platform that looked like a book.

Russ said...

Not much to add, but this was such an exciting chapter that I have to comment. First thing, there's just something about Mat's battlecries that gets me every time. Maybe its because they're protective and/or vengeful in nature. Its as if you know he will win in spectacular fasion because he's fighting for more than himself, which is when he's at his best. Its also got so much history as he started doing it, in the old tongue, prior to the *Finns, and its all his own.

As far as the skimming platform, I think Linda is on the right track, maybe Mat kicking him off the book represents him removing the gholam from story. Sumeko made it, but I honestly don't recall her being linked to books or libraries, at least in any meaningful way.

One last thing, until the reread I'm on now, I didn't really visit WOT forums-communities, so I didn't actively theorize or read others'. So when I read this scene the first time, the disposal of the gholam was a complete surprise to me. I loved it...a very satisfying ending for a powerful enemy.