Sunday, February 4, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #40: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 1

By Linda

This chapter is very long so I will be breaking up my read-through into parts.

Loial notes

Loial writes that it was the darkest time before the dawn. The dawn will be of a new Age; the risk is that it will be of Shadow and not Light—a false dawn.


If a man is knocked down and gets back up to fight, then he is truly dangerous. In this chapter, Lan and Rand, in particular, are referenced as dangerous, but many of the men—and women—qualify. This scene sets the scale of the chapter: everyone is fighting.

Elayne POV

Elayne is seduced by a draghkar until Birgitte warns her, then she deafens herself and everyone else so they can’t hear its siren song. This is a reference to the Ancient Greek hero Odysseus and his crew encountering the Siren on their voyage. Odysseus had arranged for everyone but himself to wear earplugs; he wanted to experience the song and didn’t wear them. To prevent him throwing himself overboard to his death, he was tied to the mast. As reckless as Elayne… A draghkar is a fusion of the siren and the vampire. Typical of the Shadow, the draghkars don’t make the most of their attack because they are greedy. The Seanchan archers missed the draghkar altogether despite being warned, and even Elayne was nearly caught by one, which emphasises Birgitte’s skill and vigilance.

Elayne thinks that her babies may be reacting to her weaving Healing. Yet they didn’t when she wove a thunderclap loud enough to deafen everyone nearby. Apparently, they didn’t respond to the draghkar ‘s song, either. Yet babies can hear when in the womb, and back in Caemlyn Elayne was reading aloud to them and also having music played for them.

Sul’dam and damane are polite to Elayne, but she behaves arrogantly to them. She could have acknowledged her obligation for the damane’s Healing. I think this is what Birgitte raised an eyebrow about, and not that Elayne would not speak to the sul’dam directly herself. The Seanchan are starting to be pragmatic about the usefulness of Healing. The sul’dam is highborn, which increases the insult. She retaliates by saying that she can’t understand why Elayne accepts Healing from an animal.

Mat wears partly Seanchan, partly mainland clothing. The conspicuous pink ribbon on his hat was the Seanchan’s hint to Mat that they know a lot about his relationship with Tylin. They are trying to keep him a little in line with some embarrassment. However, tricksters are shameless, so it doesn’t work well.

Mat planned or expected that Elayne would drop into his HQ to complain about the changed battle plans. Elayne tries to disconcert him with a sudden arrival and a curse but it didn’t work. (Just as women snipe at Rand, so women try to abash Mat.) Elayne noticed immediately that Tuon’s throne is higher than hers. The two women have a petty competition going on between them about seating height. Peoples’ foibles are always there, no matter the occasion.

Mat is changing the battle plans ad hoc because he expects the Shadow has spies among them. Nor will he tell anyone what the new plans are. He was sincere enough when they made the original plans, but slightly uncomfortable—he didn’t actually think things through until just before the Sharans arrived.


Despite disliking dragons, Cairhienin and Seanchan, Uno accepts that their contributions are needed.

Mat sent a message to Uno’s forces to retreat from the Heights. The Shienaran thinks it’s stupid, but soon sees how timely the order was. Sharan channellers are trying to destroy the dragons, while Demandred, in a circle of 72 with Sakharnen, is looking for Rand. Hatred and fear are causing the Shadow to misuse their resources. Had Demandred used his circle more effectively, the Light would have lost. Evil is portrayed as not promoting its own cause due to character flaws. The Forsaken are heavily based on Nazis (see Three Influences on the Forsaken article ) and they also threw opportunities (and victory) away.

Logain POV

Logain fears releasing saidin because the loss of power reminds him of being gentled and unable to get the Power back. He lusts for a sa’angreal to assuage that fear. The trauma of being gentled and the resulting depression still haunt him, and have since been overlaid with the efforts to turn him to the Shadow. No wonder he is in bad psychological shape.

Rand’s orders to Logain are to find the Seals. Androl has passed on information that Taim appears to have them. Logain considers ignoring the order to concentrate on getting a sa’angreal, but it fits in with his desire for revenge on Taim.

Logain originally declared himself the Dragon to save mankind. He is in an ugly mood, which is why Gabrelle envies Toveine, because Logain has released her bond. Her reaction makes Logain assume she feels little for him, and he can’t trust her. Logain’s own feelings are overwhelmingly about wanting Demandred’s power, and wanting to fight a Forsaken—to hit back and regain adulation, and with it, hopefully self-respect. Not much affection for Gabrelle there, but there might be some disappointment. He is using Rand’s fat man angreal that Rand sent to him along with the orders. Formerly, Logain was very trustworthy at a time when Rand didn’t trust him, now the Dragon does trust him, but the extreme attempt at Turning him have left Logain damaged. Logain needs redemption, just as Rand did and for similar reasons.

Gawyn POV

Gawyn’s tiredness is due to activating the rings with his blood and them leaching his vitality away. Once he puts the rings on, his strength increases. The fallen prince has convinced himself that killing Demandred is more important than protecting and aiding Egwene. He’s right, but there is a high price for the Forsaken’s death. Without Gawyn’s sacrifice others would not have tried.


It is one day since Perrin was found nearly dead on the battlefield. Tam assumes Perrin won’t be fighting further.

Pevara POV

The Red sister is using all her channelling ability in battle and has nothing left over to maintain calm and not sweat. She is aware that she is in love with Androl and is having trouble keeping her own identity separate when they link. In the shock of an attack, they meld, and Pevara is able to weave a gateway easily for once, and this while Androl led the circle. It’s an interesting result of their double link.


Galad and Elayne are disagreeing with Mat’s plans because Demandred is getting the better of Mat in battle. This is Mat’s strategy—to deliberately lose, while waiting for a lucky break. He is walking the world along a razor edge:

A feint, ever so subtle. It was dangerous, possibly disastrous. He had to walk on a razor edge. There was no way to avoid cutting his feet. The question was not whether he would be bloodied, but whether he would reach the other side or not.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

which is a reference to the Sword Bridge of Arthurian myth. There is quite a bit of Arthurian myth around Mat, Demandred, Galad, Lan and Gawyn, and, of course, Rand al’Thor the Dragon (Arthur Pendragon). Demandred is a parallel of Meleagant, one of the most treacherous and cruel enemies of Arthur’s court, who Lancelot fought three times, killing him in their last duel. For one duel, Lancelot had to cross the Sword Bridge—a bridge consisting solely of a razor-sharp blade. In Jordan’s variant, Demandred wants to challenge and defeat the High King, but instead duels three different knights with Arthurian names, killing two of them and falling to Lan in the last. At the same time, Demandred and Mat duelled with their armies, with Mat thinking he was walking the edge of a razor, as Lancelot did crossing the Sword Bridge.

The cute so’jhin who brings Mat kaf as he calls his orders is Moghedien. Just as well he is making deceptive commands after realising that someone is relaying his orders to the Shadow before they even arrive at their intended group. He correctly deduces that this person must be a channeller, and is pretending that the dragons are inoperable. At the right moment, Mat will use them to great effect. So many “right moments” are needed for victory.

Elayne’s competition with Tuon for highest throne is noticed by Mat, right before he pulls her aside and explains that 1) there’s a spy/spies; 2) Demandred could arrive and wipe them out, only his fear of an ambush has stopped that; and 3) Mat must gamble in battle. The betting tactics are like those for cards, not dice—get the other side betting heavily and wait for the right hand. Note that Mat’s luck runs better for dice than for cards, because dice are more random. Great. In the meantime, Mat is (they are all) riding their losses—real losses—until that right moment. He will know it when it comes. Mat has convinced Elayne; now to manipulate Tuon.

Galad POV

The Whitecloak commander realises that Mat’s orders have merit, notably in expecting the Shadow would stop the river Mora, and planning how to counteract the Trollocs there. He is glad to be checking in on Elayne—he has more care for duty and family than Gawyn does. It is disconcerting for Galad to fail at deducing what Mat’s tactics are: usually, he is able to work out tactics. But this is a very complex battle, so he should be alarmed if he did work it out.

Rand POV

Rand is enduring a psychic and “physical” attack by Dark One when is he holding the power in this scene, but is not “doing anything” with it in Nynaeve’s opinion. The Dragon just endures and holds together. Nothing else. If he’d gone to the duel only with the idea of killing the Dark One, he would despair or lose. (After all, despairing IS losing). At the end of this attack, he defies Dark One thinking that nothing can break him.

In turn, the Dark One thinks he is softening Rand up; his weaves a reality where the taint is very strong because the Dark One won. His aim is to make Rand despair (and lose). In this “reality”, the Dark One is all, nothing else is remembered from before. The people don’t even know there was a before. This is a warning that Rand’s idea of killing the Dark One is not for the best.

This scenario is designed to build on Rand’s guilt over people he could not save or keep safe, those who died “for him”. In Rand’s mind, he is supposed to die for others, not the other way around. Actually, both should happen, and do.

The three goddesses of sovereignty that are Rand’s consorts, counterbalances to him, are tortured as the Dark One tries to torture Rand. The Last Battle is lasting indefinitely in this reality.

In actuality, Rand denies guilt and shame. He resists, and exerts his will. (We can see how, with his will hugely strengthened by this duel, and his ability to weave or make alternative realities, Rand was able to light his pipe by thought alone at the end of the book.) He denies failure and defies the Dark One as one would a bully.

Then he picks up the Dark One’s broken, discarded, unravelled threads. His weaves are more basic than the five powers.

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