Friday, June 22, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #45: Chapter 39—Those Who Fight

By Linda

Rand POV

Rand makes the huge declaration that the fight is not all about him. In fact, Rand says it was never about him—possibly an exaggeration, but he has been copping the Dark One’s lies for some time, so why not? The Dark One responds like a schoolyard bully, saying “I can still hurt people”.

Rand acknowledges those who have suffered from the Shadow but continue to fight. The woman torn and beaten down, cast from her throne and made a puppet is Morgase (who is helping with the wounded) or Siuan. The storytelling man is Thom and the woman who hunted before others could is Moiraine. Perrin is the man who lost his family but protected others, and Nynaeve the woman who thinks she can Heal anything. The hero who insists he is not may well be Loial (since Rand does not describe this figure as a man), but could also be Mat, while the woman who would not bend is Egwene.

The Dragon is in the place of nothingness and the Dark One is lord of it. Lord of nothing. The Dark One calls Lan the King of Nothing, when he is every inch a king, which is why the entire Borderlands follows him. Rand sees that the Dark One is also wrong about Lan being dead, and his declaration of this is heard by everyone on the battlefield. With so many dying, I guess even the Dark One loses track of individual souls. Demandred had remarked before that the Dark One is not omniscient.

Rand sees everyone fighting the Shadow over the Ages. The Dark One can’t win so long as people fight him and don’t despair. It’s why the Shadow tried so hard to break Rand. Turning Rand to the Shadow would not have resulted in a win:

Robert Jordan: Yes, the Champion of the Light has gone over in the past. This is a game you have to win every time. Or rather, that you can only lose once—you can stay in if you get a draw. Think of a tournament with single elimination. If you lose once, that's it. In the past, when the Champion of the Light has gone over to the Shadow, the result has been a draw.

Robert Jordan interview, January 2003

We have arrived at the climax of the Last Battle—and it is a triple one of the sounding of the Horn of Valere, Rand announcing that Lan is not only alive but still fighting, and Rand realising that the Dark One has no hold on him or on anyone that doesn’t give up.

Had the Dragon despaired at Shayol Ghul during an eclipse, it would be a win for the Ages. The eclipse is still occurring at the Pit of Doom, even though it has long finished elsewhere. Rand is a solar character, being Lord of the Morning, He Who Comes With the Dawn and Sol Invictus, and is currently feeling eclipsed at Shayol Ghul by the darkness there. An eclipse being an conjunction of the sun and the moon, it can also symbolise male (sun) and female (moon) uniting for the Great Work, the Magnum Opus of defeating the Shadow—which is what actually happens, but not yet. With his realisation in a vulnerable time of darkness (the eclipse) that despairing is losing, the risk of defeat has decreased, but is not over.

Elayne POV

Now that Elayne is literally in the clutches of Darkfriends, including Hanlon, she realises her stupidity in risking herself and the babies. Birgitte was not only right all along, she also rescues foolish Elayne.


Mat realises that he can win. All his forces are united; he just needs a little more luck as he pushes everyone to take advantage. The Raven Prince wonders how the Horn could have been sounded and realises this means that he isn’t tied to it any longer. He wrongly assumes the link was broken when he was hanged in Rhuidean. Wondering who did blow it, he stresses out that the Shadow may have control of it.

Artur Hawkwing thought the Horn should have been blown sooner, and unjustly criticises Mat for the apparent delay. Everyone’s a critic. Siuan’s information in The Great Hunt, Leavetakings, that the Horn would work for either side is erroneous according to Hawkwing:

"Gambler," Hawkwing replied. "Do take better care of what has been allotted you. Almost, I worried we would not be summoned for this fight." Mat let out a relaxing breath.
"Bloody ashes, Hawkwing! You needn't have drawn it out like that, you bloody goat-kisser. So you fight for us?"
"Of course we fight for the Light," Hawkwing said. "We would never fight for the Shadow."
"But I was told—" Mat began.
"You were told wrong," Hawkwing said.

A Memory of Light, Those Who Fight

But see this early statement of Jordan’s:

Pam Basham Question: Hawkwing says they follow the banner and the Dragon. Moiraine says the Heroes will follow whoever winds the Horn. Was Moiraine wrong?
Robert Jordan: *Arch look* Moiraine doesn't know everything. She was speaking the truth as she knows it. However, she is correct in that whoever sounds the Horn "controls the Heroes."
Pam Basham Question: Then what happens if the Dragon and the banner are on opposite sides of the conflict from whoever sounds the Horn?
Robert Jordan: Then we get a [rift] in the Pattern.

Robert Jordan booksigning, October 1998

This means that if the Dragon were on the side of the Shadow, then the Heroes called by the Horn would be bound to fight for the Shadow via the Dragon. However, it was misinformation:

Terez: I'm guessing you're aware that RJ told a couple of fans that the Heroes had to follow the Horn no matter who blew it (and that, if the Shadow blew the Horn, there would be some kind of 'rift' in the Pattern). What's the story there?

Brandon Sanderson: This is an interesting one for a multitude of reasons. I actually worked under the assumption that whoever blew the Horn would control the Heroes, going so far as to write several sequences in the last book referencing that to heighten tension that if the Horn were indeed captured things would go VERY poorly for the Light.

I was quite surprised, then, when Harriet wrote back to me on the manuscript quite energetically crossing out these lines and explaining that the Heroes could not ever follow the Shadow. I called and asked for confirmation and clarification, pointing out that it seemed otherwise from the text and from fandom interpretation. She explained that this was one of Jim's ruses, that the characters in book were wrong and repeating bad information, and that Jim had been very clear with her that it was not the case. I can only guess that these reports in fandom were cases where people asked Jim a question he could Aes Sedai his way out of, and something got muddled in the communication or the reporting somehow.

Brandon Sanderson, 2013 Interview

Perhaps, as is so typical of Jordan, it’s a bit more complex than stated here. Or he changed his mind over the years.

The Heroes do require at least one form of proof—that being the presence of the Dragon banner. The Heroes also must follow the Dragon. If the Dragon had been turned to the Shadow, but the Heroes can never fight for the Shadow, then perhaps they can’t fight at all in that circumstance.

Yet the banner was not made at the same time as the Horn, so this restriction evolved over time:

Question: Were the Dragon Banner and the Horn of Valere made at the same time?
Robert Jordan: No.
Question: Then why did Hawkwing need Rand to produce the banner at Falme before he could attack?
Robert Jordan: Legends change

Knife of Dreams booksigning

Hawkwing corrects Mat’s opinion that he died in Rhuidean. It was actually by lightning in Caemlyn. Both times Rand saved him, and the Heroes point out to Mat that he should be more grateful to Rand (and by extension, to the channelling that Mat so loathes and fears). Mat never did give a formal farewell to Rand as Perrin did.

Mat is not overjoyed to learn that the Heroes of the Horn are not invincible and can’t win the war on their own. Despite champing at the bit for the Horn to be blown, they are just one part of the battle. Just as Rand is one part. Everybody does their bit.

Olver POV

Noal/Jain Charin is newly promoted to Hero and justifiably happy and proud to be so. Olver is just grateful that someone came back for him. He was the little boy lost for too long. (As well as the little boy blue who blows the horn.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #44: Chapter 38—The Place That Was Not

By Linda

Rand POV

At the end of his strength fighting the Dark One, Rand thinks of his father telling him to let go of all the guilt and pain at others’ death that he is carrying. Even this isn’t enough, because Rand still mistakenly believes that being a sacrifice for humanity means he should be the only one to suffer, that he should do it by himself. Yet cooperation and sharing are the key to the Light’s victory. This is what Rand’s women friends have criticised him for: pushing them away and trying to do everything himself. And indeed, he hears from Egwene telling him to let her be a hero. Is he truly hearing her soul, or imagining what she would say? Bearing in mind, that he is outside the Pattern.

This is the time that Rand needs all his strength, but he is tying up a large part of it bearing the unbearable. Cadsuane spoke of how Rand confuses strength and hardness, but he also confuses taking responsibility for what he’s done and for what others on his behalf, and taking responsibility from them to make their own choices.

Rand didn’t want to let others sacrifice themselves because he wanted to protect them. However, depriving others of choice, especially moral choice, is quite bad. Choice is one of the fundamental tenets of The Wheel of Time’s theology (that, and the necessity of balance). Derailing choice is the last remaining part of Rand’s wrongness. He really resists giving up on this and feels a failure. Egwene hints to him that his mistake will result in failure:

You have embraced your death. Embrace mine.

Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered.


"I've failed."

No. Not yet you haven't.

A Memory of Light, The Place That Was Not

In the end, Rand lets go because he is in too much pain from the deaths and the Dark One. In sheer exhaustion he allows all the dead to be heroes—including Ilyena. Lews Therin was reborn as Rand to do better and fix up Lews Therin’s mistakes.

Unburdening himself gives him the mental space to stand up to the Dark One. Rand was dragging himself down, just as Perrin hamstrung himself.

The Dragon is outside the Pattern to fight the Dark One, and able to see the entirety of the universe. The Dark One is a force—mainly, or perhaps solely, of the True Power, I guess—not a being. Rand now feels steady and entire, much to the Dark One’s surprise, and has the strength to refuse to give in. He acknowledges the fallen and their nobility, though he has not put words to that yet. Rand embraces the Oneness, the void that Tam knew is so important for mental and spiritual health. (In the previous chapters, we saw Demandred keeping himself fresh through his many battles using the Oneness). Even Lanfear told Rand that he would find uses for it that he couldn’t imagine:

"Wear this void of yours all the time, Rand al'Thor, and you'll learn uses for it you never suspected."

The Great Hunt, In the Mirror of Darkness

The Oneness, the positive void, is hugely important to Rand’s victory.

The Dark One insists that he controls everything and is breaking everything so Rand has lost. Rand finally sees his error. Giving up, despairing, means losing to the Dark One.


And this is paralleled among the armies on both sides, who have each just lost a major figurehead. Mat rallies the Light, but the Shadow remains stunned. So, at last things aren’t looking too good for the bad guys.