Thursday, December 4, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #54: Chapter 47 - A Teaching Chamber

By Linda

The title refers to Elayne’s sitting room, as well as Tuon’s damane training room. Even the private room at the Happy Throng had a useful exchange of knowledge, although it contrasted with the previous two venues in hosting an equitable and harmonious exchange.

Faile POV

Perrin intends to find out why gateways don’t work to the Black Tower in the next day or so, but he is delayed.

Faile had impressed upon Perrin the need to be formal to satisfy protocol and dignity so that they don’t appear as hicks or supplicants at Elayne’s court. Having set their own strategy, Faile then turns to reading the strategy behind Elayne’s words:

In many ways, being a lady was much like being a merchant, and she had been trained well for both roles.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Faile is so comfortable with the Asha’man that she relies on them for protection. She quickly deduces Rand may be the father of Elayne’s unborn children (not that Faile knows there are twins). She probably also remembers their closeness in Tear, though she doesn’t mention it here.

After due ceremony, Perrin acts naturally to Elayne, not nervous or conciliatory. Quite like the Two Rivers populace he represents. Elayne’s emphatic statement of:

"I will do the best for my realm, regardless of the cost."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

makes her sound like Galad, who also never counts the cost. Only, he wouldn’t feel the need to declare it.

Faile is unimpressed with the way Elayne pointedly reminds Faile and Perrin that she is Aes Sedai. Furthermore, Elayne’s threats to execute them look foolish. There is a lack of finesse here; Elayne’s “righteous” anger doesn’t achieve what she wants.

While Elayne expects Perrin to take the opportunity of Elayne’s officially announced gratitude to ask for her pardon in declaring himself a lord, Faile decides to buy more time and probe for more information. She and Perrin had planned various scenarios for this meeting. Faile is being a Temperance figure, a popular trope in Renaissance times, mediating between opposing forces with rational thought.

Quick off the mark, Elayne sent envoys to the Two Rivers to raise the subject of taxes. She says the crown ignored the Two Rivers previously because it was not in rebellion. Perrin points out that Andor couldn’t defend the region from Trollocs, so why should they pay for what she can’t supply? Elayne offers to pardon them and send troops to protect them. Perrin says this is too late, because the Two Rivers want lords now. He already fought against the people’s will and lost. The meeting is at an impasse, since Elayne doesn’t want to set a precedent in ennobling him to grant the Two Rivers their lord. Perrin stubbornly refuses to back down.

At this point Morgase speaks up in Perrin’s favour, as promised, and reminds Elayne of the irresistibility of Perrin’s ta’veren power. The underlying problem is that Elayne expects that Perrin and Faile to seize the opportunity to make their own kingdom (not lordship), as she herself will shortly do in Cairhien. I suspect that Elayne is well trained to run a functioning state, but not in developing a new area. Had Dyelin, Norry and Reene Harfor not kept Andor’s systems intact, Elayne would have a far greater struggle. In Faile’s and Perrin’s assessment, the Two Rivers is not interested in being a nation, just in surviving. Life there is neither easy nor secure. It has much in common with the Borderlands, as Faile noted in The Shadow Rising. Since the Andoran crown has not supplied any services in generations, Perrin and Faile push for a continuation of no taxation in the Two Rivers. Elayne is peeved because she was hoping to institute some revenue raising. What a contrast between Elayne and Perrin: due to historic lines on a map, Elayne asks for money first, and then may give something in return. Perrin gave to the people first, before he even thought of taking. After not yielding to Elayne, Perrin and Faile give in return by suggesting they make an alliance of nations, as the Seanchan and Rand have each done, with Elayne at its head.

After consideration of the succession line, Elayne suggests that if Faile becomes Queen of Saldaea, one of their children should become lord of the Two Rivers. Going a step further, Elayne wants one of their children to marry into the Andoran royal line. Perrin insists that his offspring will make their own choices.

Again Morgase suggests the solution: to give the Two Rivers to Rand, thereby justifying the autonomy of the Two Rivers (which it had through being neglected as an undeveloped area relying on its own resources for survival). Perrin then becomes his steward. But there will be taxes put into a fund in Rand’s name that Perrin can draw on to supply the needs of the region.

In this scene Elayne is rather like Tuon, who features in the second scene of this chapter; pushy, and jealous of her rights.

Tuon POV

Of Tuon’s imperial names, two are new and refer to the goddess Fortuna, and Devi, the Indian mother goddess. Her other two names are a witchcraft dagger, representing the occult danger to herself and others that Tuon is because she could learn to channel, and a reference to the Pendragon family of myth.

This is Tuon’s first appearance as Empress. Her cloth-of-gold gown is literally cloth woven of very fine gold wire (perhaps with silk to make it lighter, and less expensive, as was often done) (see Costumes article). The Byzantine empire was a notable source of cloth-of-gold fabric; the scheming Seanchan have minor parallels with this empire. However, they have far more with Imperial China (and Japan and Ancient Egypt) and Tuon is dressed like a Chinese empress. The ban on naming the Empress is a custom of Imperial Japan and the title “She Whose Eyes Look Upward” has an Ancient Egyptian flavour.

Having seen an owl omen in the night, she wears an owl headdress, whereas the Chinese empress would wear a phoenix crown:

She had heard an owl above her window the last night, and it had not flown away when she looked out. An omen indicating great care should be taken, that the next days would be ones of important decisions. The proper response was to wear jewelry with powerful symbolism.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The owl is indeed an iffy omen, begin a symbol of knowledge, but also of witchcraft, and a harbinger of death. Tuon will only be dressed as elaborately and expensively again when she meets the Aes Sedai.

The words “beast” and “tools” are used by Tuon to describe damane. Hence having dehumanised them, she can watch damane being broken or worked without a qualm and find it soothing. She liked breaking marath’damane, but has to forego it now, since the Empress can’t lower herself to do “work”.

Fortuona “allows” Beslan to keep his culture. That culture has its good side, such as loyalty and keeping oaths of fealty, for instance, which might have something to do with it. It is interesting that the Seanchan place such emphasis on honouring oaths and serving, yet their nobles completely ignore oaths of fealty to satisfy personal ambition on the grounds that if their liege can’t forestall them they deserve to be overthrown. “Selfishness must be preserved” as Verin would say.

Like Elayne, Tuon is very conscious to exert her authority. This takes the form of watching closely to see that everyone does as they should. Her subjects appease her if they are not able to do their job perfectly, and she takes her time to accept their apologies to warn them not to take her good will for granted.

Elaida – now “Suffa”-ring – makes her fateful reappearance and demonstrates Travelling. It is obvious that Elaida has indeed been treated harshly, and interesting that the sul’dam can get a damane to perform a weave which the sul’dam knows exists but has no knowledge of how to work. Prior to Elaida’s demonstration, Tuon hadn’t believed in the weave. This is part of the knowledge theme developed in this chapter.

Melitene investigated the unravelled gateway near Ebou Dar and nearly has the explanation correct. Because two different events occurred close together – overstraining the Bowl of Winds and partially unravelling a weave – it was not easy to determine what happened. Both the Bowl and the unweaving used techniques that required knowledge and skill.

While Galgan looks at the possible usage of Travelling as an attacking tactic, as he was asked, Beslan sees the dangers. Tuon sees that it could be used to effect in leashing the White Tower as key to winning Last Battle, taking Seanchan and Westlands:

“I want each and every damane we control to be brought back to the city. We will train them in this method of Traveling.”

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The result is that all damane are gathered together in time for the Last Battle. Since damane can’t link, they would be limited in who has sufficient strength to make the weave.

The plot failed because the Seanchan ran out of time, and were tied with treaties by Rand and Egwene. Tuon could, of course, violate them – and has considered doing so – but her emotional ties to Mat and reluctance to lose face in his eyes will restrain her.

Perrin POV

Thom and Perrin tease Mat about being married. Fools and Tricksters rarely want to be tied another person, they prefer to be free of responsibility so they can follow their whims. Mat's embarrassment is very typical. Tricksters won’t be confined by convention or rules and Fools are not very teachable:

"Oh, I've been taught," Mat said. "I just never learned."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Mat is both, so he is particularly untameable, as Tuon has discovered.

The butt of Mat’s attentions is Grady, who is depressed about the lack of contact with his wife and child. The joke is on Mat when his memories of his former lives are exposed after he reacts to the obscure story of Villiam Bloodletter.

The Happy Throng inn is a salute to the Dragonmount website, with innkeeper Master Denezel being webmaster Jason Denzel.

It’s interesting that Crimson and Golden, the aliases of Mat and Perrin respectively, are also two of the Dragon’s three colours. The other colour is white, the colour residing in Rand’s mind since his epiphany. The Dragon has abandoned aliases and hiding:

Tell him I've tired of minions, that I'm finished with his petty movement of pawns. Tell him that I'm coming for HIM!"

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

Ta’veren as strong as Mat and Perrin are very hard to hide, yet the Forsaken have to be dodged. Mat protects himself, or intends to, with his wits. All Tricksters declare that, but get themselves into, and out of, trouble with them. Perrin used to feel like the slow-witted side-kick to Mat the Trickster, but not anymore.

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