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.


Fragrant Elephant said...

In this chapter, Gawyn takes a step forward and immediately backtracks by being petulant when the message from the White Tower reaches him. At this point, multiple stab wounds while saving someone would have been the only way for him to redeem himself. The Bloodknives concur.

herid said...

Nice writeup, as usual, Linda! This is an interesting chapter in terms of content. A few remarks.

The food that Avi eats in the Nakomi meeting would not be good tasting on Rand's account because the meeting happens before Rand's transformation on the Dragonmount but after he killed Semi. In those days everything around Rand tasted bad. I take the food to be good tasting as evidence that the Nakomi meeting takes place in TAR where such things can be done simply by using the strength of will.
In general, the lesser spoilage of food around Perrin and possibly Elayne might be due in part to the "Belief and order give strength" effect. This is not tied to Rand directly. Both Perrin and Elayne have it. Tuon has it in abundance too. She thinks "I represent order" in tGS at some point as I recall. This is partly why the food in the Seanchan controlled lands doesn't spoil as badly as it does elsewhere.

Linda said...

I'm not sure about what causes the food tasting so good. Why should gfood Avi caught taste better? You can't alter real stuff that's brought into TAR very easily at all. Of course, it could be a mistake.

The TOM timeline is not very well defined. Certainly when Avi came out of the columns Rand's epiphany had occurred. But when it occurred during her journey is not determined at all. The sunlight however proves the epiphany had occurred and it only appears around Rand and his loves.

We don't know how the food is in the lands around Tuon. No one eats anything on screen.

herid said...

@Linda It's an interesting point about real food in TAR. I'm not sure if it can be made to taste good or not while in TAR. Perhaps the taste mostly comes from the seasoning and that was Nakomi's.
There are other suggestions that the encounter happens in TAR like the fact that the food cooks unnaturally fast. And I'm not claiming that she was in TAR in the flesh. She leaned back on a rock and closed her eyes before Nakomi showed up. She could have gone to sleep.

But in any case, even I'm wrong about it happening in TAR it definitely happens before Rand's transformation. When Avi gets to Rhuidean in ToM, ch 45 the sky is still cloudy

The second way Rand had broken Rhuidean was by bringing it water. A grand lake lay beside the city, and phantom moonlight, filtered through clouds above, made the waters shine.

Also, the fact that she only just notices that the "cloud cover is remarkably gone" in the middle of her second pass through the columns strongly suggests that the clouds parted sometime during that pass. She would have definitely remarked on it as soon as it happened. She never mentioned it earlier. And if it did happen earlier there would be nothing remarkable about the cloud cover being gone while she was in the columns.

Lastly, about food near Tuon. When Mat shows up in Ebu Dar in AMOL, ch 11 he eats and drinks at an inn and comments that the food is good unlike what it usually is these days.

Mat was not certain this was the right inn for him, but he also was not certain he would be able to escape with his head unless he ate the woman’s food as instructed. He took a taste; it was pretty good.
“I suppose that would make sense,” Mat said, taking a drink of the ale she set before him. It was not bad, considering how awful most things tasted these days. This was only a little awful.