Saturday, February 14, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #58: Chapter 51 - A Testing

By Linda

It's interesting that this chapter is titled 'A Testing', not 'The Testing'-just one of many, as Cadsuane warned Rand would happen. Siuan also warned Egwene that she would be continually tested.


Callandor shimmers even while it is still – like the glass columns ter’angreal do when active. It feels warm and alive – again like the glass columns—when held by a non-channeller. Perhaps this was due to the presence male channellers.

Rand feels that Hawkwing’s sword Justice represents the past—Hawkwing manipulated by Ishamael—and Callandor the future – how to survive by trapping Moridin and using him to defeat the Dark One.

Min sees Callandor gripped in a black hand. I immediately thought that this represented Moridin or Shaidar Haran. She worries that Callandor will be used against Rand, but he accepts it. He’s more concerned about the Black Tower, and has tried Travelling there, but even with his current strength and abilities he couldn’t get through. From Lews Therin’s memories, he may suspect a dreamspike is in operation and therefore a Forsaken is behind it. While Rand appears open, there is still much he doesn’t say, or only half explains, in this sequence. Naeff is to tell Logain’s faction that they are not weapons, but men, and to gather information on what is going on. Rand appears to realise there are two factions, and that Taim’s men are not receptive to him, and represent a huge danger.

Cadsuane doesn’t want Callandor seen and Rand obligingly puts it away. After agreeing to Cadsuane’s suggestions, Rand shows her that he knows more about her ter’angreal than she does due to firsthand experience as Lews Therin. The ter’angreal he doesn’t recognise are probably the ones against men channelling. He lets her and everyone know that he has “ancestral memories” – and gently intimidates Cadsuane to stop patronising him. He also says that age is not necessarily proportional to wisdom and refers to himself as much as to her, which can be taken either way. He is a young man who has gained a lot of wisdom, and an old soul who has been unwise at times.

Far Madding always was anti-technology due to fearing what it could do. Lews Therin found this frustrating, but Rand sympathises with their attitude:

"The Guardians are newer, but the city was here long ago. Aren Deshar, Aren Mador, Far Madding. Always a thorn in our side, Aren Deshar was. The enclave of the Incastar-those afraid of progress, afraid of wonder. Turns out they had a right to be afraid. How I wish I had listened to Gilgame . . ."

Towers of Midnight, A Testing

The old story of power corrupting. The name ‘Far Madding’ is a reference to Far From the Madding Crowd (the title of a Thomas Hardy novel) and emphasises the separationist policy of the city-state.

Rand makes a half-reference to Gilgamesh, the Mesopotamian hero king of the Epic of Gilgamesh who built a wall to keep his people safe and searched for the secret of eternal life. Like many legendary figures in the real world, or The Wheel of Time, he was also an historic person. The stedding ter’angreal installed at Far Madding were a kind of wall to keep the people safe from channelling. The earlier communities perhaps banned channelling or were like gated communities.

Min fears Rand has the memories of a madman which will corrupt him, but Rand assures her that he and Lews Therin always were each other, being the same soul, so it makes no difference. Both of them have made mistakes and been arrogant. The important difference is that Rand was raised better, and people close to him kept him more grounded. He lists the three women he loves, the two he takes to Shayol Ghul, and Mat and Perrin and his father. They have made him stronger, so he was able to overcome despair. It’s noticeable that he doesn’t mention Egwene, but does mention Moiraine.

Cadsuane is less patronising to Rand after his previous push-back, and advises him to show strength, not arrogance. The Borderlanders will want to fight for Rand. Rand is a bit dubious becauses he senses that they are here to challenge him, but doesn’t know how or why. He returns her courtesy by thanking her. Cadsuane’s personal thoughts, that Rand has persuaded the Borderlanders to follow him against the odds, show she wasn’t as confident as she appears here.

Rand can see King Easar’s grief, but the others don’t. Cadsuane gives a brief assessment of each ruler, and Min her viewings of them – and it’s noticeable that they all have them

The Borderlanders should be at home to fight the Shadowspawn incursions, but felt that finding Rand is more important. They expected to be back much sooner, but were delayed by the weather (part of the Pattern) and Rand moving around so much. Rand insists on facing them alone, and he commands the Aiel to let them hit him; he turns the other cheek as Jesus did. They injured him because he has injured the nations. Well the Dragon is one with the Land and each takes on the wounds of the other. Cadsuane points out that he was prophesied to break the world and therefore shouldn’t be punished for it.

When they ask him how Tellindal Tirraso died, he is hugely upset they know her name because he still feels guilt from accidentally killing her. In this Age he made a list of all those he killed or died for him.

Demandred’s Eighty and One—Demandred being the One, no doubt—which aimed to get Lews Therin is symbolic of the number eighty one being one more than a combination of justice and perfection, and thus Demandred trying to outdo and then kill the Creator’s Champion.

Cadsuane POV

Cadsuane is uncomfortable in Far Madding, but Rand, who also supposedly can’t channel there is comfortable with armies and thirteen unallied Aes Sedai around him. Well, she wanted him to show strength. This also shows how much Rand has changed, and Cadsuane acknowledges this and gives grudging respect. Then she reassures herself that she is still needed.

Kiruna is not the only Aes Sedai the Nachiman family has produced—an earlier one could Foretell. Her prophecy is that the Arafellin King must confront Rand and test his restraint by bloodying him; test whether he is ready to sacrifice himself freely and without resentment. If Rand hasn’t the memories of Lews Therin he must be killed so the world ends. It’s not so much that Lews Therin’s knowledge is essential, but more that Rand needs to be integrated with Lews Therin—be more than Lews Therin—and understand him to win against the Dark One. It’s OK—probably good, even—if Rand hopes to survive, though. Rand thinks the testing was a foolish risk – but Arafellin are gamblers.

The reason why Rand thinks it was foolish is that he believes prophecy shows what can happen if conditions are met, not what will happen. Paitar thinks that if Rand was killed for not having Lews Therin’s memories he could be replaced at very short notice:

"Only a month earlier," Rand said. "I wouldn't have had the memories to answer you. This was a foolish gambit. If you had killed me, then all would have been lost."
"A gamble," Paitar said evenly. "Perhaps another would have risen in your stead."
"No," Rand said. "This prophecy was like the others. A declaration of what might happen, not advice."

Towers of Midnight, A Testing

Self-fulfilling prophecies are a danger as well as a conundrum.

The Creator’s Champion is not easily replaced though. Rand says that if he came to them before his epiphany on Dragonmount, he would have balefired them (with the True Power) for the assault. Cadsuane wonders at this—she doesn’t know about True Power—but I bet she researches it now, and a good thing, too.

Rand tells the Borderlanders that he was barely able to save Maradon and without his gateways they can’t get back to protect their lands. However, in exchange for their oaths he will have their Aes Sedai taught Travelling. Tomorrow he’ll hold a meeting with world leaders then go to Shayol Ghul to break the Seals, “break what he must break”. He says the Foretelling proves what he will do, which contradicts the caveat he just made on prophecy. He gives them an hour to decide and will apologise to Hurin while he waits. Meanwhile Cadsuane wants to check out their Aes Sedai, to see what their allegiances are, presumably.

The end is to happen soon. Cadsuane wonders if they are ready but she doesn’t ask herself if the Shadow is ready.

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