Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #16: Chapter 13—What Must Be Done

By Linda

Egwene is strong in Earth, and is able to sense voles underground and green shoots in the dying grass. As an archetypal Green, which is the colour of life and nature, the Amyrlin is a vengeful mother or earth goddess such as Rhea, the ancient Greek mother of the Gods, who saved her son Zeus (a parallel of Rand) so he could free her children from Cronus. As Mother, Egwene is a parallel of Terra, who was offered sacrifices, notably the holocaust, which were animal sacrifices wholly consumed by fire. She was one of a few stern Roman mother goddesses. Egwene has aspects of the Roman earth and agriculture goddess Ceres, including her plebeian origin. Ceres was connected with Libera (Freedom). The ancient Greek earth goddess Demeter, instituted harsh weather as she mourned the violation and loss of her daughter Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. Durga, the vengeful incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Shakti, who was consort of Shiva (a parallel of Rand, Egwene’s original intended husband) and slew demons, also has some similarities with Egwene. The Forsaken have demonic parallels.

The Shadow is against the health, fertility and the natural order of things, and the Land and the Mother want vengeance:

In that moment—maiming, destroying, bringing death upon the enemy—she felt as if she were one with the land itself. That she was doing the work it had longed for someone to do for so long,

A Memory of Light, What Must be Done

Appropriately, Egwene the Mother uses Earth to kill Shadowspawn. The feelings of vengefulness and union with the Land are foreshadowing of Egwene’s sacrifice as she unleashes a healing holocaust to counter the Shadow’s destruction and balefire.

Elayne POV

Rand visits Elayne occasionally in Braem Wood. As Rand hoped, Lan and Egwene are pulling the Shadow’s forces out of the Blight.

"What must be done" is evacuate and burn cities as well as farm land in Shienar. The citizens are to go to Tar Valon.

Elayne and Bashere decide that it is time to move out of the woods to the River Erinin, heading for Cairhien. While Elayne doubts they will have to go that far, Bashere says that once they start, they won’t control how it ends so long as the Trollocs are still after them.

Perrin POV

Tam approves of the way Elayne leads, and how she knows when to let those who know what to do have their way. Perrin feels Rand tugging him to Shayol Ghul to fight; he will soon be needed there to guard Rand. As part of his preparations for when Rand needs him, Perrin hands command of his army to Tam. He explains the necessity to Tam, who then understands, but still tries to avoid the responsibility, saying the nobles should. To forestall further argument, Perrin makes Tam a noble, as he discussed with Elayne in Towers of Midnight.

Bornhald turned to brandy from the shame of allowing an atrocity to go unpunished. He owed Perrin the truth about the murder of Perrin’s family, yet it was his consciousness that they may die soon that spurred him to confess. Although the scene shows that there is some good in the Whitecloaks, even in the unsympathetic ones, arrogant and judgmental attitudes often lead them astray. The Whitecloaks condemned Perrin as a criminal because he killed two of the Children in defense, but they did far worse acts in the Two Rivers. Bornhald hates Perrin in part because he feels guilty about what he condoned, and needs to reclaim some honour by meeting his obligations. Perrin falters in shock and grief at the news, but refocuses.

Bain and Chiad are meeting their obligations even though this means not fighting in the Last Battle. They keep an eye on Gaul as they can. Perrin accepts that gai’shain should remain so and not be forced to fight.

With the worlds collapsing in together, and the barriers between weakened, it is now possible to enter Tel’aran’rhiod from the Blight. As the Dreamwalkers instructed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, there are some places that cannot be touched from Tel'aran'rhiod.

“There are some places one cannot enter in Tel’aran’rhiod,” Seana said. “Rhuidean. Ogier stedding. A few others. What happens there is shielded from a dreamwalker’s eyes.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Rand reiterates what Edarra said: that entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically is very evil. Perrin says it is actually foolishly dangerous, not evil, but he has to be on equal terms there with Slayer. Rand accepts this reasoning.

The chapter title ostensibly refers to evacuating and scorching the earth in Shienar to provide nothing to the Trollocs, but Perrin must be able to enter Tel’aran’rhiod as Slayer does, and Egwene must fight on behalf of the Land.

Rand says a formal farewell to Perrin and expresses his obligation to him. They do not speak again—and perhaps never will. Another sacrifice.

Nynaeve is offended that Perrin tells her to look after Rand. She needs no instructions from Perrin; she has always looked after him.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #15: Chapter 12-—A Shard of a Moment

By Linda

Birgitte POV

Birgitte is terrified that she is losing her memories—not only of her past lives, but also of living in Tel’aran’rhiod. The latter are more precious. She fears that she has been unlinked from the Horn and will lose Gaidal forever. Yet people normally born have no memories of their former lives or the afterlife, where they waited to be reborn, and it is gradually happening to Birgitte as she settles into this life. In her normal rebirths she would start the same—unknowing, just making her own way, meeting Gaidal by chance and doing heroic things out of necessity. Nobly she puts this aside to concentrate on the Last Battle.

Rand POV

Lews Therin learned every technique—in case it was useful—but rarely used some of them. While it’s tempting to think of Lews Therin as a jack of all trades, this probably would be doing him an injustice. He had a well-rounded training.

Rand returns to his roots in his dreams with simple Two Rivers clothing. It symbolises a respite from his responsibilities. Walking with a staff alone, he represents the Hermit figure of the Tarot. This is reminiscent of when he wandered through Ebou Dar and scaled Dragonmount in The Gathering Storm.

Rand is walking in the wild like Birgitte, but the land is healthy where he is, not dying. Just as the Hermit takes time out alone for self-development, Rand enters a dreamshard to meditate.

There is no rest for Rand, for even his dreamshard is invaded by Shadow. Exerting his will is not enough to dispel the invasions. The Shadowy cavern persistently breaks into new areas, tempting him to stop and look in, which Rand inevitably does, but he knows enough not to do anything impulsive because any object in the dream may be real, or symbolic of something else. (As mentioned above, this whole episode is also symbolic). This is why the three ta’veren were at such risk in the first two books when they were pulled into dreams by Ishamael to be tempted with wine, etc. Not knowing what they were really doing, they could have been trapped or suborned by taking something voluntarily from Shaitan’s advocate (see The Dragon Reborn read-through post here.)

Speaking to Lanfear triggers Rand’s memories of this life and his previous one. He wants to give her a second chance, but sees it is an act. Rand points out that since she swore to the Shadow she has to take the consequences. However he senses that she is genuinely captive—feels a shadow surrounding her. It is the effect of her mindtrap.

The Dragon still resents that Lanfear used him but didn’t love him for himself, just for what his status could do for her. When she says he doesn’t understand her, he challenges her to reveal herself to him so he can be enlightened. She hasn’t the confidence, although she is tempted to, which is quite a change and shows the horror of her punitive captivity. She says she can’t do it because she has been betrayed, and implies that it is Rand who is at fault. Lanfear never accepts responsibility. Rand sees that she can’t love anyone but herself. None of the Forsaken can. They are all extremely selfish, and in the case of at least one—Asmodean—likely destroyed whatever family they had. It was the Shadow’s monstrous crime to corrupt the Dragon into doing the same.

Lanfear is the only Forsaken whose backstory involves a close love relationship, but from seeing Lews Therin’s side we know that his love was “used” to raise her up in society. (Sammael and Demandred had a close competitive relationship.) Lanfear wanted the Dragon to love her completely but didn’t return the favour. She wanted to be worshipped by the most powerful man for the kudos. Anything less is not her due. It’s all about her. This scene resolves the remaining issues with this on his side so he can move on to his final destiny. Further enlightenment is consistent with the Hermit.

Rand is able to do what Lanfear couldn’t and opens himself to her. The Dark One knows his heart anyway. He shows her that he is better raised this time and a different person. She is shocked that he doesn’t feel much for the most irresistible of women, but has three women dear to him and a fourth—Ilyena—that he remembers with fondness.

Rand’s three loves may not be a physically beautiful as Lanfear—or as strong in saidar—but they are more loving, caring and skilled. Apart from their care for Rand, all make outstanding contributions in their own right: Min with her ethical, just application of her viewings and her diligent study; Aviendha with her honour and determination; and Elayne with her courage and leadership.

Enlightened, and supported by those close to him, Rand is also able to do what Lews Therin couldn’t and lets go of hatred and scorn. Of course, thanks to Moiraine, he was not sucked in by Lanfear this time.

Rand’s compassion is essential but dangerous. Moiraine was right to drive this home to him. However, she mistakenly thought that Rand should not be compassionate, though. He knows he needs to be and that any of his characteristics can be used against him.

It was Perrin’s compassion that brought Galad to ally with him. That and his openness—the same qualities that Rand displays.

Perrin POV

Perrin looks after everyone, then seeks the Wise Ones. When he asks Edarra about a way to enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, she won’t help—and nor will any other Wise One—because it’s evil.

He wants to do it for a pragmatic reason: it’s easier to manipulate Tel’aran’rhiod if he is there physically. If he enters too strongly while dreaming, he could be cut off from his body, which would die. His aim is to kill Slayer, who bodily enters Tel’aran’rhiod, and he needs to be on equal terms to do so. In his opinion this is worth the risk of losing his humanity or dying forever, and sacrificing opportunities for rebirth. After all, Perrin’s beloved teacher, Hopper, sacrificed his rebirths helping Perrin fight Slayer. Other people, too, did things that were less than noble, even dishonourable, but directly helped the Light. Verin is a good example.

Both Rand and Perrin are warned against things that are very necessary, such as entering Tel’aran’rhiod bodily or being compassionate—things that turn out to be essential in winning the battle. They had to go against advice and live and win on their own terms. The Hermit is alone. Rand is “the Man who channels stands alone” (The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood).