Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A short note on Rhea

A reader asked me today about the passage in the WOT Wiki that Rhea, a Da’shain Aiel who was kidnapped from her family by bandits during the Breaking of the World, was “most likely” the ancestor of Ishara, first Queen of Andor. Since her name is that of a mother goddess, and considering her lineage, Rhea may have been an ancestor of Westlands nobility, and introduced Aiel colouring into the Andoran royal line. But she probably didn’t do it through Ishara, whom Elayne describes as "Ishara herself, as dark as any of the Atha'an Miere, as full of authority as any Aes Sedai" (The Path of Daggers, Crimsonthorn).

I note that the encyclopedic Wheel of Time websites have missed this information on Ishara's physical appearance.

My essay is proceeding quite well, but it’s long, so there’s still some way to go yet. I'll resume the read-through as soon as I can.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I'm halting the read-through for a while (only short, I hope!) because I have a few larger essays I really want to write and I can't do both read-through and essays. Once I get the first essay into second draft, then I can resume the read-through and keep polishing the essay.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-through #41: Chapter 34 - Judgment

By Linda

Perrin feels his forces are not united but are doing what they see as best for themselves. But then, until recently, he wasn’t united either, or doing his job properly, so without a good example to follow, why would they be? Proof of this is that he tells himself he wants to disband his armies because leadership is starting to feel natural and he doesn’t want the responsibility. He’s using the excuse of the axe: if you like it, get rid of it. Gaul comments that Perrin is being a leader and Perrin says it’s only because he has to be. But that is the point: he doesn’t have to like it, just do it. And get over it. The time and energy he’s wasting railing against fate would be better spent fulfilling that fate.

When Perrin does get on with thinking and planning, he’s very good at it. In short order he deduces that the dome causes the gateway problem, that it is probably a ter’angreal, that it could be in Tel’aran’rhiod, and also that Forsaken are involved. He has insight into what his vision of sheep running from wolves means – it symbolises Slayer’s trap, which Perrin’s group is trying to escape. So instead of being the attackers as he originally thought, he and his people are the prey of someone else. And Morgase gives credit where it’s due by reluctantly introducing Perrin as Lord of the Two Rivers. Contrast this with Egwene who made erroneous conclusions and stuck to them even when shown evidence that they were wrong or incomplete. But at least she doesn’t whine about the job.

Judgment is about the results of past actions being due. The first of these is that had Perrin fought the Whitecloaks instead of agreeing to a trial, the Shadow would have attacked his tired forces after that battle, and the dreamspike and Mesaana would not have been destroyed. Nor would Perrin’s armies fight at the Last Battle. The Black Ajah would have lured Aes Sedai into their trap.

The second, an example of a positive result from negative events, is that Faile working with Berelain during the bubble of evil, even though Berelain has caused her so much grief, has convinced the camp that Perrin was not unfaithful.

During the presentation of evidence at his trial, Perrin sees two memory streams – that of the wolf and the man - but no longer feels divided while doing so. More painful for him is that he has to be public about his ability for the first time.

The belief that wolves and wolfbrothers serve the Dark One is a Wheel of Time myth. It parallels the real world belief in werewolves and that wolves and werewolves are in league with the devil. Even Morgase is frightened of Perrin’s ability, or perhaps that Perrin’s admission of it will convict him. The trial scene shows the contagion of fear and the confusion it engenders.

Perrin makes Bornhald reconsider his prejudices against others who are different to him. He complements Bornhald on his father which stifles Bornhald’s objections, and shows that Perrin can value those who are different to him.

Galad questions what evidence Byar has that Perrin killed Geofram Bornhald. Byar didn’t see anything, he just ‘knows’. Even though he witnessed it, he refuses to believe that Perrin fought on the side of Whitecloaks at Falme and defended the Two Rivers; such is the strength of prejudice and resulting hatred.

Perrin’s claim is that he killed the Whitecloaks in self-defence, and that the Whitecloaks did not have the authority to threaten them. Perrin regrets his past actions but doesn’t excuse them, and accepts that he is guilty. Morgase says:

Well, the law is very clear. Perrin may feel that the wolves were his friends, but the law states that a man's hound or livestock is worth a certain price. Slaying them is unlawful, but killing a man in retribution is even more so.

Towers of Midnight, Judgment

which means that both sides killed illegally, but Perrin committed the graver crime. A death sentence is not mandatory when both sides are brawling mercenaries. Galad is the one who has the responsibility to assign a sentence since is the leader of the more wronged party. This is also a way of getting the Whitecloaks to accept the judgment. The Whitecloak commander asks Perrin if he will abide by the sentence and he affirms that he will. This is probably a factor in Galad’s eventual ‘milder’ sentence, as of course is Perrin’s rescue of the Whitecloaks. Perrin is honourable to all; even to groups that most think don’t deserve it.

While Perrin is trying to restore his honour here – meet his toh – he also wants to fulfil his obligations to the world to do his duty in the Last Battle and reminds them all of that rather more important trial and day of judgment. Perrin promises to submit to Galad’s authority after the Last Battle, and soon Galad will submit to Perrin’s authority until the Last Battle. While Faile was lost to him Perrin did not care about the Last Battle, but now he is totally focussed on keeping as many people alive to fight at it as possible.

Galad reserves his sentence on Perrin. He’s not just keeping Perrin in suspense and calming down his own people, quite possibly he hasn’t decided it. Galad accepts Perrin’s vow because it is the honourable thing to do, since Perrin did the honourable thing in turning up for trial and accepting its judgment.

The chapter shows how much Perrin is haunted by his crime and wants to free himself of this guilt. The Aiel at least are probably the most understanding of this.

Bain and Chiad’s teasing of Gaul shows they care. Also, he has to accept their care or else he is demeaning their role. So while they are his servants, they show how they can keep the relationship equal. He respects that. For one thing it is a declaration of their intent at the end of their time just as his was made when he fought so hard to gain custody of them in Malden.

Something in this chapter that could be tidied up is that the Faile POV turns into a Perrin POV without a break.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-through #40: Chapter 33 - A Good Soup

By Linda


Siuan POV

The luxury of health is not to be taken lightly. The wholesome soup ingredients came from Caemlyn, a city currently in a state of grace, as we see later in the chapter. In contrast, food in the Tower is rotting and infested – as is the spiritual condition of the Aes Sedai thanks to the presence of Bloodknives, who are keeping distrust alive in the Tower, and Mesaana.

There was little point to Rand speaking of the cleansing or even Asha’man bonding Aes Sedai when he met with Egwene. He expected that she would consider him insane, or at least unstable, and that intelligence reports and advice from Aes Sedai would reinforce her view, and went there with the aim of getting her to unite opposition to his plan to break Seals. That way he would only have to deal with it once.

Another reason for not discussing the bonding of Aes Sedai is that, as he said in Crossroads of Twilight, Egwene was always a sharp bargainer and he had already pre-empted this by arranging for Aes Sedai to bond Asha’man. And really, Egwene knew this already.

Nynaene counters Egwene’s insistence that Rand has to take responsibility for what the Ash’aman have done by pointing out that Egwene has to do the same for the Aes Sedai. Egwene is not impressed. Not surprisingly, Siuan thinks Nynaeve too partisan, and that it was time she returned for …indoctrination is perhaps the correct word. Nynaeve backs down but does say there are reasons for Rand’s actions (something Tower Aes Sedai ignore). Changing attitudes cuts both ways, though, and Nynaeve’s return to the Tower opens up the possibility of her changing Aes Sedai ,as we saw in the finale to her testing.

Egwene thinks Rand has gone beyond embracing death. Rand is something more; people would bend willingly to his wishes (as they did in Bandar Eban). When Egwene says Rand would not have needed to destroy Graendal’s slaves, she doesn’t appreciate how powerfully Compelled Graendal’s slaves were – effectively living dead. Rand might not have been able to undo that. He said he couldn’t undo Kerb’s Compulsion. In any case, this comes under the heading of “what might have been” since at the time of Natrin’s Barrow he was yet to be transfigured.

Another example of Egwene’s lack of knowledge is that she doesn’t believe that everything the Sea Folk do is a bargain. This is customary for nomads who, due to the exigencies of wandering for survival, have little sense of community outside their immediate clan. In a way it works to her benefit: she ignores their customs. She genuinely wants to meet with Windfinders and Wise Ones and use them as a partial lure for Mesaana and the Black Ajah with the concurrent Aes Sedai meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod as the main lure. As a plan it is probably a bit too complex and we see that the Shadow just decided to do to Egwene what Rand did to Graendal: a “punch in the face” rather than be manipulated into a trap. The lure was overdone and so they ignored it and just attacked.

Egwene agrees that Nynaeve’s concern about the Amyrlin putting herself in danger is valid, but Egwene is the most experienced and skilled of the Aes Sedai in Tel’aran’rhiod, and as it turns out that skill was needed. However, she had not thought to ask the Wise One dreamwalkers to contribute and agrees with Siuan that she should do so, while dismissing Nynaeve’s suggestion of asking Rand for aid.

Perrin POV

Perrin is inside a powerful nightmare of a shipwreck besieged with voracious sea predators, including possibly a Leviathan, and after a slip-up he was able to destroy it. He never appreciated how long it takes to master Tel’aran’rhiod and how well he has done so.

Nearly all wolves – incarnated or not – are heading for the Blight, except for some staying to help Perrin. It is interesting that the wolves in Tel’aran’rhiod are not shifting, but running. Perhaps this is for the same reason that Perrin didn’t shift in Tel’aran’rhiod: to not do it easily. Or to not hasten the end. The wolves need to be at the Blight at a particular time and not before, but nothing else is as worth doing. Do they sweep Tel’aran’rhiod as they go?

Gawyn POV

The Rose March has a very strong scent of roses, and is blooming in great abundance. The flower’s name suggests a march of roses. Roses are a symbol of love – and in this case Rand’s and Elayne’s love is on display. The rose is also the national flower of England, and Andor has strong parallels with England (hence the Rose Crown of Andor), particularly that of the Tudor Queens. The plant represents a march of love fighting evil.

Caemlyn is hale because Elayne, who is linked to Rand and pregnant with his children, is there, and so the Land is healthier, with wholesome food and the sun shining:

“I'd nearly convinced myself that the perpetual gloom was something unnatural." "Oh, it probably is," she said nonchalantly. "A week back the cloud cover in Andor broke around Caemlyn, but nowhere else."

Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup

Elayne feels Rand cleansing, himself perhaps as much as the Land.

”He drives back the clouds and makes the roses bloom."

Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup

but only where he or his loves are, and only in a form that is natural to the area, anyway. (Could the healthiness of Caemlyn be due to Mat, a ta’veren, being there? Around Perrin food is more wholesome than most, but still rots, and Mat went to Ghenjei under a sky that was overcast, but less thickly than elsewhere.)

The Waste around Aviendha may be affected by her bond to Rand in a similar way, since in Rhuidean the cloud cover was “remarkably gone” while she was in the plaza. Moreover, Aviendha’s food tasted far better than she expected, including the food she herself caught, and this may be an effect of her link to Rand. Had it been only Nakomi’s food that tasted good, it would be more like to be Nakomi’s influence.

In contrast, Gawyn cannot bring himself to believe anything good about Rand. Even hearing about Rand makes the day seem darker to him. Elayne teases and unsettles Gawyn and then asks him why he is there, when he’s not joining in the Andoran court, just wandering the gardens thinking. The court wonders why he wasn’t fighting at the Succession wars or taking a leadership role in the Andoran armies. For one so impulsive he has had a long period of paralysis.

Gawyn feels Egwene doesn’t need him:

She's so concerned with being strong, with being the Amyrlin, that she doesn't have room for anyone who won't bow to her every whim."

Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup

She has the same issues that Rand had prior to his epiphany, demanding obedience of all, but Gawyn doesn’t handle Egwene as well as Rand’s three women do him. Elayne gives Gawyn excellent advice. Which he even listens to! She points out hat his role as Egwene’s partner is very similar to what his role would have been as Prince of the Sword to Elayne. Gawyn feels it is different because he will be married to Egwene.

He tries to dodge his underlying problem but feels Elayne understands him well and can help. And she does. Gawyn feels Rand has no right to his position because he was lowly born. Elayne rightly thinks this is jealousy and points out that killing Rand would doom the world. She shows confidence in Gawyn and releases him from his obligations. And Gawyn realises it is pointless to want to kill a man already condemned to death and, wonder of wonders, stops hating him. The health of the garden around Elayne (which ironically is vicariously linked to Rand through Elayne’s bond) also plays a part in improving his spirit.

The sul’dam turned damane is prepared to bargain collaring for her information with a High Lord, which is surely outside the usual role of damane that she is trying hard to play. Gawyn offers to intercede with Elayne for her. The damane gives him an idea of how to defeat the Bloodknives. He decides to tell Egwene she is the target for Seanchan suicide troops no matter the consequences, when Silviana’s patronising letter enrages him. His verbal message about the Bloodknives and the actual knife never arrive, presumably intercepted by Darkfriends. Had he sent a verbal message only, its loss could have been one of those inconvenient miscommunications so common in the series – such as Silviana disregarding it because Gawyn is a man, and an inconvenience at that. But with an artefact misappropriated as well, it is more likely due to malign intent.