Sunday, July 26, 2015

What I've Been Doing


By Linda

It's been a while since I made a post here, but I've not been idle.

Following completion of my read through of Towers of Midnight, I've been working on a series of posts about The Wheel of Time Music. The first of these should be posted some time this week.

At the same time, I've also been part of a small group of fans organising Australia's first Wheel of Time Convention. It will take place September 26th, 2015 at Burwood, Sydney, NSW.

We have a website and banner: The Land of Madmen




Do join us!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #65: Epilogue - And After


By Linda


Graendal POV

How surprised Graendal was that the prophecy did not work as she assumed, although Moridin warned her that prophecies can be tricky:

"What is this book?" she finally managed to force out. "Where did these prophecies come from?"
"They have long been known to me," Moridin said softly, still studying the book. "But not to many others, not even the Chosen. The women and men who spoke these were isolated and held alone. The Light must never know of these words. We know of their prophecies, but they will never know all of ours."
"But this . . ." she said, rereading the passage. "This says Aybara will die!"
"There can be many interpretations of any prophecy," Moridin said. "But yes. This Foretelling promises that Aybara will die by our hand."

Towers of Midnight, Writings

Mind you, he said himself that the prophecy indicated that the Shadow would kill Perrin. And then again, earlier in the scene he said that Perrin would escape Graendal. The latter judgment was correct; not the misplaced confidence in their interpretation of the prophecy.

Apart from the death of hundreds of “living dead” (Compelled slaves), Graendal lost a lot when Rand balefired her palace. She is about to lose even more. As a parallel of Aphrodite, who was born in the sea, Graendal has two hideaways near the ocean – her palace at Ebou Dar and her cave on an island in the middle of the Aryth Ocean in Towers of Midnight, Writings.

If Graendal had not stopped to pack, she might have escaped punishment…but she likes her conveniences too much. At this point it is indirectly revealed that Graendal killed Asmodean. For those disinclined to accept this, it was openly stated in the Towers of Midnight glossary.

Graendal was forced to take responsibility for the failed missions, but still argued and persuaded. Shaidar Haran assaulted and killed her, then the Dark One gave her an ugly body. In her former incarnation, her most prominent mythological parallels were alluring Aphrodite and Circe; now she is Grendel of the Anglo Saxon saga, monstrous in appearance as well as character.

The opportunity to wreak havoc while believed dead has gone to Lanfear/Cyndane, as we shall see later in this chapter.


Perrin POV

The Wrongness, the Dark One’s breaking of the Pattern, has now reached the stage where it is in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin tries to dispel it and replace it with health/rightness, but it is too large a scale for him to undo. This makes him reflect on how there are always limits and should be limits. Extremes are dangerous or wrong. Perrin went too far trying to bring back Hopper in Tel’aran’rhiod, as well as undo wrongness.

Then Perrin remembers the wolf with the name of Boundless – without limits, in one sense, free, in another. Hopper thought Perrin had found his answer for the man/animal balance or dichotomy but did not understand it. (Because Perrin thought it was a dichotomy, when actually it was a balance.) Boundless flees from Perrin when he asks for information. Perrin has to learn that Noam didn’t lose his humanity. He rejected it.

In the early stages of adjusting to being a Wolfbrother, Perrin unfortunately received misleading information from Moiraine:

“Is that what I can expect?” he asked. “To end like that?”
“Perhaps…Perrin, even in the Age of Legends, they knew little of this. Whoever wrote it seemed uncertain whether it was truth or legend. And I only saw a fragment, remember. She said that some who talked to wolves lost themselves, that what was human was swallowed up by wolf. Some. Whether she meant one in ten, or five, or nine, I do not know.”
“I can shut them out. I don’t know how I do it, but I can refuse to listen to them. I can refuse to hear them. Will that help?” “It may.” She studied him, seeming to choose her words carefully. “Mostly, she wrote of dreams. Dreams can be dangerous for you, Perrin.’

The Dragon Reborn, Wolf Dreams

and made wrong assumptions himself. False or incorrect knowledge is an important theme in The Wheel of Time. Perrin saw Noam in the early days of being a Wolfbrother when Nom hadn’t made his choice or found an equilibrium, a new state of mental health. Noam’s problem is that he saw too truly and too deeply and abandoned the human world for the lupine one. Everyone has their own balance, their own choices to make. What is right for one is not necessarily so for another. Each must take responsibility and understand what they are doing. Noam did. (There is an interesting parallel behind his name). This scene completes Perrin’s growth just in time for the Last Battle.


Olver POV

Olver quotes Mat’s Old Tongue saying: "Dovie'andi se tovya sagain," (It’s time to roll the dice). I guess he’s heard it enough times. In this scene, Olver has Mat’s luck too. He wins the game without cheating. Olver had no idea the game, based on a real world game of unequal forces, “can’t be won”, ie has a very low probability of victory. His game parallels Mat’s visit. The boy had been starting to lose his faith in the game, just as Mat began to doubt he would win against the *Finns.

In his grief, Olver focusses on avenging his father’s death. He has plans of going to the *Finns to get information on the Aiel man who killed his father. Grudgingly he acknowledges that he needs some fighting practise first. This war and the Blight change his mind – show him the reality. Not surprisingly, the boy was sadly traumatised by the Shaido’s predations in Cairhien and has supplied himself with a weapon, so he is not defenceless. Olver is a bit behind in his reading due to lack of education while a refugee.

Mat rightly thinks Olver can’t take care of himself well without help. He lied to the boy so he wouldn’t feel left out, which was futile, since Olver eavesdrops far more than Mat is aware.

Olver does what Mat and his men refused to do: find out what task Verin wanted done. This leads to the unwelcome discovery that the Last Battle has begun and that Shadowspawn are in Caemlyn.

Verin’s reliance on Mat’s curiosity was flawed – she underestimated his fear of the Power and dislike of Aes Sedai. As we saw in the previous chapter, even when in bad pain and with an Aes Sedai he respects, Mat won’t accept Healing. Without Olver’s innocent reading of other people’s correspondence, the cannon would be lost to the Shadow. They made a difference in the war, and will to channeller/non-channeller relations.


Barriga

Barriga was a merchant seen at the beginning of Towers of Midnight. Then, he was a prosperous merchant, now he is wounded and dazed in the Blight. The dark-eyed Aiel he describes confused readers, since dark eyes are very rare among Aiel. Perhaps he mis-saw because of the mistaken saying “black-eyed” Aiel. They have red veils, not black, and we now know they hide whether their teeth filed or not. Filed teeth mean the “Aiel” was Turned to the Shadow and must therefore be a channeller, yet this one uses a knife. He takes down his veil to kill, as Isam’s POV explains. These are all a reversal of Aiel ways, so Barriga was right that they are not Aiel. They are reverse Aiel.

The scene is a cliffhanger and teaser to A Memory of Light, where many questions are answered in Isam’s POV.


Rand POV

Rand counted on Egwene uniting those opposed to his plants to break the Seals. Like Moridin, he is playing on the reputation for being dangerously irrational to intimidate people into obedience or cooperation, and had no firm plan B if his conditions were refused. He more or less thought they wouldn’t feel able to refuse, because he was scary and the alternative – no sacrifice – was unthinkable. It all hinged on his bluff not being called.

He has learned (via Lews Therin) how to control his own dreams and uses them to meditate. He recreated the valley where he sheltered for a while after he made decision to declare himself, and where he fled those close to him, because of what he was, to go to Tear on his own.

Lanfear is the one that given task of manipulating Rand instead of Graendal, and considering residual feelings he still has for her, more likely to succeed. She breaks through his dreams, showing her skill in Dreamwalkin: as the Wise Ones said, it’s not easy or safe because when you enter another’s dream they control all there. In Rand’s Lanfear influenced him and was not under his control. She relied on his protectiveness and her own womanly wiles to manipulate him. Her hangout is an underworld, a cavern of light-sucking, life-sucking blackness, with walls of bone-white. It reminds him of death.

Rand falls for her act even though he recognises her, or perhaps because of it. Since Rand recognises her in a different body when he had thought her dead, he didn’t create her in his mind. He calls her Mierin – as if she had never joined the Shadow, or he overlooks her apostasy. At this stage, there is still some lingering feeling for her that has to be settled in his mind before he is ready to face the Dark One.

She may be being tortured, but she is also exaggerating. Lanfear is dragged into a pit (of hell), yet she is a hell goddess. Her claims that

”He grinds my bones and snaps them like twigs, then leaves me to die before Healing me just enough to keep me alive.“

Towers of Midnight, Epilogue

are suspect. They imply her bones would be not knitted properly or fully. Yet she moves freely; she is Healed a lot better than that.

Here we have the hell goddess suffering hell. Her comments to Perrin suggest that she is a hell goddess because of her suffering, not for what she does to others:

"I've suffered for my decisions. I've borne pain, agony, excruciating sorrow because of what I've done in my life. My suffering goes beyond what you could conceive."

A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

Or that’s what she’d like to believe. More misunderstood than bad, apparently. Not her fault she went to the Shadow. She was driven to it.

Lanfear’s act aimed to destroy Rand’s hard-won peace and equilibrium on the day before his publicly announced meeting with the nations. This is hardly a coincidence.

"No!" she screamed. "He comes! The Shadow in every man's mind, the murderer of truth. No!"

Towers of Midnight, Epilogue

is overdone. All Forsaken are liars on this scale, not just one of them. As Jordan said, Lanfear was always a drama queen.

I must admit that I sighed at this act and Rand falling for it. I thought: “here we go again…” But she was artistically dragged away a little too soon and Rand does see the histrionics after a while, as we see in their next encounter.


Lan POV

Kaisel – a prince and heir – prods Lan into declaring himself. Until now, Lan has been a hidden monarch figure. Their charge is a parallel of the charge of the Light Brigade, who bravely carried out their mistaken orders to make a frontal assault on a Russian artillery battery at the Battle of Balaclava, as described in Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade:

Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
  Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
  Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
  All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
  Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
  Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
  All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
  Noble six hundred!

The poem emphasised their patriotism and dutifulness despite Rand’s long-delayed support. Lan’s forces are at the jaws of the Bight, where is located Hell, and the shadow of Death.

The Borderlander forces feel just as doomed. Lan thinks they are. The charge represents the Land fighting back, attacking rather than defending, even though they have not the numbers for it.

Now that Nynaeve has Lan’s Bond – a recent change - he doesn’t feel “One Man Alone” physically or emotionally. All Malkier rides with him. They have done a lot to help Lan, as have the noble Borderlanders with him, but Nynaeve most of all.


Dark Prophecy

The book closes with an excerpt from Moridin’s book of dark prophecy:

Lo, it shall come upon the world that the prison of the Greatest One shall grow weak, like the limbs of those who crafted it. Once again, His glorious cloak shall smother the Pattern of all things, and the Great Lord shall stretch forth His hand to claim what is His. The rebellious nations shall be laid barren, their children caused to weep.
There shall be none but Him, and those who have turned their eyes to His majesty.
In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.
And then, shall the Lord of the Evening come. And He shall take our eyes, for our souls shall bow before Him, and He shall take our skin, for our flesh shall serve Him, and He shall take our lips, for only Him will we praise. And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction!

Towers of Midnight, Epilogue

perhaps the very one which misled Graendal to believe she would kill Perrin:

"What is this book?" she finally managed to force out. "Where did these prophecies come from?"
"They have long been known to me," Moridin said softly, still studying the book. "But not to many others, not even the Chosen. The women and men who spoke these were isolated and held alone. The Light must never know of these words. We know of their prophecies, but they will never know all of ours."
"But this . . ." she said, rereading the passage. "This says Aybara will die!"
"There can be many interpretations of any prophecy," Moridin said. "But yes. This Foretelling promises that Aybara will die by our hand.”

Towers of Midnight, Writings

Interesting that this is the first prophecy she saw.

The One-Eyed Fool is Mat. He has been a Fool and Joker figure from the beginning. The halls of mourning he walks may be the Tower of Ghenjei where Thom played his dirge and so many have died, including Noal, but it is even more applicable to the battlefields Mat will soon roam.

The First Among Vermin – Rand – frees the Dark One, by opening prison. The Seals weakened on the prison so that the Dark One corrupted and weakened the Pattern. People felt abandoned by the Creator – despaired—so that there was “None but Him”, none but the Dark One in the world.

The Fallen Blacksmith is Perrin, but these are not his last days, just those of his pride. He now accepts his nature and his responsibilities.

The Broken Wolf who has known death is Hopper. The Midnight Towers are a negative reflection of the White Tower riddled as it was with Black sisters controlled by Mesaana—or how it appeared in Tel’aran’rhiod. Hopper was consumed by the Midnight Towers; he died forever there in the dark reflection of Tar Valon in Tel’aran’rhiod. The wolf fell in battle against Isam and the Black Ajah, a battle that shook people, He is now always in the afterlife, and cannot be reborn, which made Perrin grief-stricken and also shaken to lose his mentor.

Ultimately, Darkness was not brought – except for the Dark One, who was locked way, and for the Forsaken and Darkfriends killed. Many who walked in the Light sacrificed themselves to turn back the Darkness.

This prophecy of the Dark One stretching forth his hand to take over the world parallels the prophecy of Rand stretching out his hand to catch Shadow and prevent it choking the land:

The Shadow shall rise across the world, and darken every land, even to the smallest corner, and there shall be neither Light nor safety. And he who shall be born of the Dawn, born of the Maiden, according to Prophecy, he shall stretch forth his hands to catch the Shadow, and the world shall scream in the pain of salvation. All Glory be to the Creator, and to the Light, and to he who shall be born again. May the Light save us from him.

The Shadow Rising, Prologue

Neither prophecy is for the faint-hearted being a warning of misery and terror.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #64: Chapter 57 - A Rabbit for Supper


By Linda

At first I thought it remarkable that the group was returned to their Tower of Ghenjei entry point rather than Tear, since they were in the chamber where the Tairen doorway ter’angreal was in the *Finns’ world, or even a random point. A definite link-point, or tangent, between the two worlds is necessary for entry or exit it seems. The Tower is the nearest active tangent since the other two were broken when the doorway ter’angreal were destroyed. Which leads me to wonder how new tangents are made between the worlds, and by who.

Mat boasts in his exhilaration at escaping– so typical of a trickster. He even forgot the price paid for their escape until Moiraine reminded him by asking after Noal. Neither man told her that Noal was actually Jain Farstrider. Thom deduced his identity before Mat did, but said nothing.

Moiraine seems more human to Mat now, because she is more expressive—the same character, only stronger. He is in awe of her courage and determination, and likens Moiraine to great heroes like Birgitte and Jain—then realises he has spoken with them, too. Mat refuses her offer of Healing for his pain. While he respects Moiraine’s courage in attacking Lanfear even though she knew what the consequences would be, he fears and dislikes the One Power as much as ever and avoids being in her debt.

Emotion is a ‘treat’ for the Finns. Like the elfin or fairy folk, the *Finn folk steal from people. The Eelfinn ‘stole’ Moiraine’s ability to channel—it is now a fraction of what it was. Moiraine is now only novice strength but the ivory bracelet angreal raises her to Cadsuane’s level or even Nynaeve’s strength. She was not drained completely, for some reason; perhaps so that they could keep drinking her intense emotions? If she were stilled, then she would be depressed and lifeless in comparison. The *Finns may not have even been able to drain her completely; but may have had to leave a miniscule ability, since they were not severing someone from the Source, or burning out their ability.

Lanfear’s ability was slightly reduced so she was removed from the *Finns fairly soon. The loss persisted despite her death and transmigration to a new body. Moiraine was correct that the *Finns lied about killing Lanfear and that Lanfear’s departure was associated with Moridin’s visit to the world, looking for a woman:

"They claimed to have killed Lanfear by draining her too quickly, though I think they may have been trying to make me afraid. A man was there once, when they woke me. He said I was not the one he wanted." She hesitated, then shivered.

Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit for Supper

It is telling that she shivers at the thought of him, that this brave woman was somewhat fearful of him. Her belief that Mat and Thom would come for her kept her going and stopped her despairing.

The angreal was one of Moiriane’s three demands – and the trickster *Finns unexpectedly used it against her. They were able to get the batter of someone as clever and far-sighted as Moiraine. As discrete as ever, Moiraine keeps her other two requests to herself. These appear not to have been about obtaining her return – she knew she needed to rely on Mat and Thom for that, from info gained through the Wise Ones’ ter’angreal in Rhuidean. She “used them for the best”, so presumably they were to help the war against the Shadow. She has no object on her, so she may have asked for something intangible, such as knowledge. Another thing to bear in mind is that she was as naked, passive and comparatively helpless as a baby when freed—a symbolic rebirth. Moiraine shows no new ability. Perhaps one of her demands was for staying alive until Mat and Thom reached the chamber and completed their bargaining. (She would anticipate that, after what he went through last time at the hands of the *Finns, Mat would include their escape as part of the bargain.)

As confirmation that we are at the end game, there is some exchange of information between Mat and Moiraine. Moiraine recognises the relevant prophecy for Rand cleansing saidin of the taint:

'By the Dragon came our pain, and by the Dragon was the wound repaired.'

Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit for Supper

Some of the information is flawed: Mat still believes Morgase was killed by Rahvin. He tells Moiraine that Rand killed him, but neither he nor Thom know the fates of the other Forsaken. At this point Mat intends to go to Caemlyn (which has been attacked by the Shadowspawn and lost).

Moiraine proposes marriage to Thom (like an Aiel!) to Mat’s great shock. He has been oblivious to their relationship until this point. Naturally, he assumes that Thom, after all the trouble he has had with Aes Sedai, especially them killing Owyn, fears and dislikes them as much as he, and can’t imagine Thom loving one.

Before they can ask, Mat refuses to marry them, in contrast to Perrin marrying Morgase (whom Mat still believes dead, although she was in Perrin’s camp when Mat dropped by) to Tallanvor. And worse follows: Thom volunteers to be Moiraine’s Warder – and even to live in Tar Valon or Caemlyn. Mat thinks he is nuts. The Warder bond is a trap that Mat would apparently never succumb to, and Tar Valon and Caemlyn are too painful for Thom. Mind you, Mat said the same about marriage: “Only a fool married” (A Crown of Swords, A Note from the Palace). (Tricksters avoid marriage—and responsibility, too—which is why Mat won’t take the responsibility of marrying the happy couple.)

Thom reminds Mat that Tuon could learn to channel. Mat takes comfort that she wouldn’t dishonour herself by doing so. Yet Tuon will channel eventually. One of her roles is Nemesis and she will be her own Nemesis one day. Another is Fortuna with her wheel, showing that what goes around comes around.

Feeling surplus to requirements, Mat wanders off to privately honour Jain and worry about Tuon and his loss of stereoscopic vision. He gains useful items by chance. This ability or luck will wear off to a degree once he is no longer ta’veren, but he will still be a trickster figure, still be innovative and cleverly walking the edge, but probably less invincible.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #63: Chapter 56 - Something Wrong


By Linda

Egwene POV

The scene opens on the Field of Merrilor. An army of common folk has arrived—or more like, accumulated. Rand didn’t send them, he inspired them: they are Dragonsworn.

Egwene informs us that Merrilor was originally a tower fortress. Her clothing far outshines Gawyn’s in status. For the first time, he is wearing Warder’s clothing, not prince’s—a significant change in his attitude to his role.

Gawyn correctly assesses that Perrin will take Rand’s side, but wrongly assumes Perrin’s army will be a—or the—problem:

"This many armies, this many loyalties, all rubbing against one another. Aybara and his force could be a spark that sends us all up like a firework."

Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong

When it comes down to it, Egwene’s party was arguably the most disruptive at the meeting.

Egwene thinks Rand subconsciously wants to be talked out of breaking the Seals – which it is her duty to do. How content she is that Gawyn is not arguing with her:

Ever since that night with the assassins, he had started doing as she asked. Not as a servant. As a partner dedicated to seeing her will done.

Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong

Yet she is not correct in her judgment. Rand didn’t announce his intentions to break the Seals as an appeal for her to talk him out of it: it was a considered tactic to get Egwene to publicly unify opposition to his plan so he only had to overcome it once.

Gawyn should privately argue or discuss alternatives with Egwene – she sees this as one and the same – even if he ultimately carries out her will. (Another Aes Sedai queen, Elayne, was at first dismayed to discover that her Warder insisted on discussion, but now accepts it.) What should be a fine balancing act went too far one way – Gawyn not taking her seriously -- and now too far the other. Egwene thinks the Hall’s disagreement more than enough for her, although she is encouraged that the Hall is no longer working behind her back—and is, in fact, explaining their disagreement to her—and she doesn’t intend to ignore them. She is determined that the Hall will work with her. However this also makes Egwene work with them. A delicate balance as she says. She needs to develop the same balance with Gawyn but it never happens.

Egwene notices the bloodknives’ rings around Gawyn’s neck—they clank like an unmusical death knell—and from her thoughts has previously asked about where he got them. Gawyn didn’t say. She intends to ask again, but events overtake her.

Gawyn finally learns how wrong he was about Rand killing his mother. Like Galad he was tempted to do evil because of a wrong assumption. This scene shows the dangers of such assumptions leading to fatal decisions. Discussion can be positive, not just cause procrastination.


Androl POV

Androl has a deep sense of right and wrong regarding the Land; he attributes this to having worked it over the years. Considering his great weakness with the Power, he has an amazing Talent with Travelling. With the Dreamspike operating, he doesn’t find the weave difficult to make, as do the others who are stronger, but less Talented—it just unravels. Nevertheless he was nearly able to hold it in place. This foreshadows when he does successfully force the weave past the block, shortly before the Dreamspike is deactivated (A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot). The men have realised that something is trapping them at the Black Tower. With the gates guarded, they can’t leave. Sensibly they are going to check if there are any blank spots, although the trap is comprehensive. They don’t yet realise that others can’t Travel in. It is possible to do so if one knows the key to the Dreamspike (see Dream Terangreal article).

Norley seems ingenuous, and Androl sets him to spy. He determines that there is something wrong with Mezar. Apart from now following the dark faction, he has the wrong expression, and his gaze appears partly dead. This is our first look at someone Turned to the Shadow.

Mezar returned after supposedly searching for Logain and reassured everyone that Logain is fine and will be back soon. Norley realises that Mezar is now untrustworthy and Logain could be a prisoner of Taim or another Darkfriend. The men are going to segregate themselves from Tain’s faction so they can’t be taken as easily. Again,this doesn’t buy them time, really; it is the lack of Black sisters for Turning the men which does so.

Androl is desperate enough to try an alliance with the Red sisters. He believes the Reds won’t side with Taim, but at least one (Javindhra) is probably a Darkfriend and the others are being Turned one by one. Only Pevara remains allied to the Light now. Because the Reds have been slow to bond Asha’man, Androl thinks they are actually planning something else, such as gentling them all. Actually their reluctance is due to dissension. And fear. There are so many wrong assumptions in this chapter. (Perhaps the most since Elaida expounded so hilariously to Alviarin in A Crown of Swords.) But also some right ones.

Androl can read Pevara quite well, which bodes well for their future relationship. He suggests that they work together as men and women did in the Age of Legends. She agrees to talk with him. This is quite a contrast to Egwene and Gawyn at the beginning of the chapter. Fortunately for Androl, Pevara is one of the few Aes Sedai who would seriously consider cooperation.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

JordanCon 2015 presentation: The Forsaken - Their Place in History and Myth.


By Linda

What if you wanted to create a group of villains serving a Dark Lord? You want the characters to be powerful, but certainly not invincible, a realistic group, but also disparate enough to be far from united. It's a fine line.


Here is a copy of the presentation I gave at JordanCon 2015 on the creation of the Forsaken, a group of just such villains. Like so much of Jordan's work, they had a solid grounding in reality.





For further reading, there is my essay Three Strands Common to the Forsaken which predates this presentation.

I have written detailed analyses on eight of the Forsaken:


Asmodean


Balthamel


Demandred


Graendal


Lanfear


Mesaana


Sammael


Semirhage

These elaborate on the summaries given in the presentation. I'll gradually write up the last 5.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #62: Chapter 55 - The One Left Behind


By Linda

The hellish imagery intensifies in this chapter: the air smells of smoke and sulphur (fire and brimstone), there is steam in the corners of the rooms, smoke from blood and smoke from the fireworks blasts. The steam shies back from the sparks of flame as though it fears the light.

Mat angrily refers to the Aelfinn as a “nest of vipers”. Besides being venomous, vipers were regarded as outcasts from god, treasonous and treacherous.

Thom is despairing that they can’t win the game even if they cheat. This spurs Noal to bravely sacrifice himself. As he says, the place—an Underworld as much as an Otherworld—demands a price. Mat’s eye paid for Moiraine, and Noal’s life buys their escape. Which means that the Eelfinn will have Noal’s memories.

At which point Mat despairs. He curses the Finns (which is pretty powerful, because he is an analogue of the King of the Underworld, or King of the Dead), then becomes defiant as hope dies. In a way, Mat has fully embraced the role, since he now thinks dying with honour is worthwhile. He is more idealistic than he once was, just as Perrin is now ready to use anybody to win the Last Battle. They are both mentally prepared for Tarmon Gaidon.

The men carry Moiraine, who stirs just as they see that the Tairen redstone doorway has been smashed (by Moridin?) and then wakes because she hears Thom’s voice. In keeping with her Sleeping Beauty role in the Tower of Ghenjei, she does not try to channel or give advice in the crisis; she is passive. Which is quite atypical of her. Mind you, channelling could be dangerous in this world since it has different laws:

Robert Jordan: When Moiraine and Lanfear went through the ter'angreal, it burned in part because both were channeling, and the world on the other side of the doorway has a radically different set of natural laws. The odd optical effects witnessed in that other world are not artificially produced artifacts.

In this scene there are many references to the myth of Orpheus in the Underworld, including when Mat hesitated, looking back, at Noal after he admits to being Jain Farstrider.

Moiraine would be Orpheus' beloved Eurydice, one of the daughters of the solar god Apollo, who drove the chariot of the sun. When out walking, she was attacked by a satyr and fell into a nest of vipers, where she received a fatal bite. Orpheus grieved for Eurydice and played such mournful songs that even the gods wept. On their advice, he travelled to the underworld to see if his music would soften the hearts of Hades and Persephone. It did so (the only time they relented) and they allowed her to return to the land of the living with him on condition that he walk in front of her and not look back until they both reached the upper world. But the moment he arrived above ground he did look back and she vanished forever.

Mat refers to the “nest of vipers” that are the Aelfinn. Moiraine was a princess of the Sun Throne who fell through to the underworld of the *Finns—the foxes, though, rather than the snakes, though both are treacherous, and so fit the symbolism--taking Lanfear, another viper, with her. Thom plays as Orpheus did—whispers of tomorrow, of another day of life—a dirge played for Moiraine because the rescue has failed. However, the King of the Dead, Mat, is with them, and was able to effect their escape. After looking back at the doomed Noal, Mat also “looks back” through his memories and realises that the ashandarei was given as a way out--in such a way that he would not know what it was for.

In this scene Mat relied on thought as well as memory. His memories don’t fade--quite the reverse, he’s keeping alive the memories of those long dead. Thought is the arrow of time—crosses times, negates the effect of time.

The hole Mat cuts in the Tower appears to heal up though, after. It is more a portal than a hole. Mat crows defiantly to the *Finns that he won their game and that they gave him the key. Note that the *Finns hadn’t cheated, neither this time nor the previous times.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #61: Chapter 54 - The Light of the World


By Linda

Mat resolves not to get hanged this time when he makes a bargain with the Eelfinn. On his previous visit, he was ignorant, but this time he will be clever enough to avoid their traps and not leave any loopholes—or so he believes. Instead of being sneaky, Mat challenges the Eelfinn openly:

"You knew I'd come back," Mat said loudly. His voice did not echo. Light! How large was the thing? "You knew I'd come marching back to your bloody realm, didn't you? You knew you'd have me eventually." Hesitant, Thom lowered his flute. "Show yourselves!" Mat said. "I can hear you scrambling, hear you breathing."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

He believes that the Eelfinn manipulated him into returning to be killed. When he points out to Thom that they know things, he is implying that they know the future. We know the Aelfinn can read the Pattern of the main world but we don’t know if the Eelfinn can. Furthermore, it’s not that simple: the future is not all foreordained, as Moiraine’s trip through the rings in Rhuidean showed. It is far from certain that the rescue will be successful, although Thom has faith in Moiraine’s vision of their escape.

Mat feels played with—Toy toyed with—but he is good at winning games. The Eelfinn try to get him to make a bargain prior to arriving in the bargaining chamber. However, each visitor may only have one chance to make a bargain, and bargains aren’t binding unless made in the Chamber of Bonds. So Mat refuses and fends off the Eelfinn with their forbidden items. The Foxes claim Mat is purposely antagonising them when they did nothing to deserve it. He has the scar to prove they hanged him last time – when bound by a treaty no less. Since he came so close to death, being resuscitated by Rand, this also indicates they weren’t certain he would be back.

In return, they challenge him, with a senior Eelfinn saying:

"We are the near ancient, the warriors of final regret, the knowers of secrets."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

The Eelfinn hang out in the shadows like bogey men – or Myrddraal. They are meant to seem hellish in their own way. The white steam is a reference to the heat of hell, but also to “smoke and mirrors”. For instance, Mat’s spear blade passes through an Eelfinn “as if it were smoke”. Again, like Myrddraal, they are out of phase with the regular laws of physics. The blade is not iron so it can’t harm them; the iron knife and band hurt them. The Eelfinn’s blood steams and has faces in it –a distraction and a threat:

He shivered as he saw the Eelfinn's blood on the ground begin to steam. White steam, as in the other chambers, but this had shapes in it. They looked like twisted faces, appearing briefly and yelling before vanishing. Burn them! He couldn't get distracted.

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

It reminds me of Moridin’s fireplace:

Rand turned back to the flames, watching them twist and flicker. They formed shapes, like the clouds, but these were headless bodies, skeletal, backs arching in pain, writhing for a moment in fire, spasming, before flashing into nothing.

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

Noal thinks the Eelfinn control the darkness and their yellow light creates illusion. He thinks it’s all illusion, a trick, but the Eelfinn do have genuine abilities. Mat likens the Eelfinn to Aes Sedai because both are liars and cheats that have to be “honest”, are in fact bound to be. They cannot lie, but they can trickBoth groups have parallels in elfin or fairy folk as discussed in the previous read-through article. As Mat warns Thom and Noal, the Eelfinn are tricksters (see Tricksters article), but so are Mat, Thom and Noal for that matter. Mat is chronically “unreliable” unless he makes a promise. He always keeps those.

Light blinds the Foxes – as Mat the fox was a light-blinded fool (see Fool and Joker article) in the early books. While the Eelfinn are dazzled, Mat is enlightened and realises the Eelfinn have been manipulating him to make certain choices – pick a certain card:

Never choose the card a man wants you to. Mat should have realized that. It was one of the oldest cons in creation.

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Moiraine is discovered clothed in mist, a continuation of the mist/fog/steam/smoke motifs, which symbolise the danger of being misled and not seeing clearly. She is a Sleeping Beauty figure, having taken herself out of the main action in response to a warning and to fulfil prophecy. This is more empowered than the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty who was kept protected yet succumbed to her doom anyway, although both women awaited rescue.

Mat hates the way Moiraine disrupted his life, and used him, yet he prefers this life to his former one. She did what needed to be done to save the three ta’veren. Finally he understands her and is grateful for what she did—but still angry that she had to. Mat’s internal reconciliation to Moiraine looks to Rand’s emotional reaction when she arrives at the crucial moment and is restored to him as the only woman of many who died that has returned to him.

The scene fulfils Egwene’s dream of:

Mat throwing dice with blood streaming down his face, the wide brim of his hat pulled down low so she could not see his wound, while Thom Merrilin put his hand into a fire to draw out the small blue stone that now dangled on Moiraine’s forehead.

The Fires Of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams

The dream shows the dangers: Thom endures pain as he literally puts his hands into hot mist (steam vapour?) to free Moiraine, Mat has a facial wound hidden by his hat, (in fact he pulls his hat down to shade his eye as Egwene saw in dream) but he still rolls his dice to find their way. I.e. He is relying on his luck while bravely playing the game against the Finns. The kesiera is something personal of Moiraine’s and is therefore symbolic of her. Noal does not appear in the dream as though he is already dead.

Mat’s sacrifice of an eye is one of his many links with the Norse god Odin. The dice refer to the game of Foxes and Snakes and that they need to use an understanding of this game, and Mat’s luck, to effect a rescue. It is interesting that Mat rolled dice to determine their “moves” in this scene.

Moiraine was left bound/restrained in the Chamber of Bonds to be bargained for. Hence the Eelfinn say :

"The bargain has been arranged," one of the Eelfinn males said, smiling, showing pointed teeth.
The other Eelfinn leaned in, breathing deeply, as if smelling something. Or ... as if drawing something from Mat and the others. Birgitte had said that they fed off emotion.
"What bargain?" Mat snapped, glancing around at the pedestals. "Burn you, what bargain?"
"A price must be paid," one said.
"The demands must be met," said another.
"A sacrifice must be given."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

The price that must be paid is Mat’s eye, as he was warned beforehand. Yet, what if he had not asked the Aelfinn the question: “What fate?” Would he have accepted their bargain price if he was not forewarned? Was the price effectively set because he asked?

The Eelfinn feed off red and white vapour—more “smoke”—from Mat and become drunk from it. The declaration “I can taste fate itself” suggests they are sensitive to the Pattern, at least, if not as good at reading it as the Aelfinn.

The world depends on the payment of an eye for Moiraine; the trickster is a hero. Mat professes a low opinion of those prepared to be heroic and exclaims: “Burn me for a fool! “, a fool being a more typical role for a trickster. Mat has played the fool figure many times (see Fool and Joker essay).

The demands that must be met were Mat’s list: the way out restored and open until they go through, a direct way, with no attacks by the Foxes. The Eelfinn frown – and Mat thinks it’s because they don’t like the bargain. He gets cocky and thinks he got better of them, but they were concentrating on twisting the bargain. They summon the Aelfinn to attack them.

The sacrifice that must be given is Noal’s life. The Foxes’ intended sacrifice was to be their lives, all four of them, but they get one. Basically, they exchanged Moiraine for Noal. In folk tales, fairies may demand a life for a life. Many myths and legends in underworlds and otherworlds set a condition that if someone is to go, another must be left in their place. In this case, left to die.

Mat realises that Thom is loving toward Moiraine, but not yet the full depth of their relationship. Thom rescued her for love, not duty.

The room with the melted ter’angreal is at the end of the Eelfinn’s realm. Beyond is the Snakes’ realm. The Eelfinn made the way out go through the Aelfinn’s territory so they can attack.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #60: Chapter 53 - Gateways


By Linda

Pevara POV

Taim has made a Dark School, or Devil’s school, where the hindmost are beaten for mistakes, and the Devil is shortly to take any channeller. The Tower, too, became a Dark School once Mesaana ensconced herself there and brought Elaida and the Hall under her influence.

Pevara reports that the Ash’man are mocking Aes Sedai by overdoing deference and pandering to them. Rand overdid courtesy to Tuon in A Memory of Light. She did not feel mocked but did feel she had been lowered, rather than acknowledged as higher, in status.

Taim is trying to play the rebel embassy against the Reds, by pressuring the Reds to contact the rebels, to ensure the two groups stay apart. If they did join together, there would be more than 13 of them, and they would be able to form two or three rings of six or more, and be a threat to the Asha’man—but they competing and unlikely to cooperate. Pevara should have called Taim’s bluff and accepted his offer to invite the rebels to join them. Though that, too, would have its risks.

In the meantime, Javindhra has cleverly manipulated Pevara. Her contrariness is a ploy; I suspect she is Black Ajah. Pevara realises the danger they are in and wants to bond a few Dedicated and leave. Javindhra’s original negative attitude toward going to the Black Tower, and Bonding Asha’man may represent her true feelings or she may have been ordered to stop the expedition. I suspect the former. It would suit the Shadow to gain some Turned channellers and for influential Reds to be “lost” to the Aes Sedai. Therefore I expect that once the Supreme Council and Mesaana knew about the Reds’ plan, Javindhra was ordered to participate. Very probably she is under orders to stay at the Black Tower herself, no matter what the other Reds do. But if she can stall for time and keep the others undecided, so much the better. To achieve this, she makes herself look foolishly stubborn.

Pevara should remind Javindhra of their duty to return to the Tower, and see what excuse she makes. They should return—they have been given up on and new Sitters raised in their place. When people do things against their natural inclination or what they have said previously, the Shadow is usually involved. Pevara respects Javindhra’s rights as a Sitter and doesn’t pull rank as expedition leader. Previously, she assumed Javindhra would follow custom and law but now realises too late that she may not. Like any good leader, Pevara feels responsible for all the group members, and sees madness in some of the Asha’man, so she feels she must try once more to get Javindhra to leave.

She disapproves of the Bonded Aes Sedai trying to manipulate their Asha’man through sex. At first the women felt justified because they were Bonded against their will. Soon they feel something else; the Bond is a two-way street.

Tarna is now behaving as off-hand and contrary as Javindhra. She has the dead eyes of a Turned channeller. It is immediately obvious to anyone who knows her that something is wrong. This is not the case with Javindhra, whose appearance has not changed and who therefore has not been Turned. She is aiding the Shadow of her own accord – following orders – and is just a Black Sister. Javindhra’s delaying tactics were successful: the Myrddraal have come. Violation of a person’s spirit, will and ethics by enforced apostasy is a huge Wrongness and the Land will react to it.

Pevara feels vulnerable due to being tied to the Three Oaths; without the belief that Asha’man are Darkfriends she has to fear for her life to strike back. More vulnerability follows: gateways won’t open. The Dreamspike is in place. She has left it too late and should have cut her losses days earlier and taken those who would go. The stalling has worked.


Perrin POV

Perrin’s leg feels like it remembers being injured in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perhaps this is because Healing of injuries gained there often leaves a scar, as Verin and Nynaeve showed. It is a reflection of the frequent depiction of blacksmith gods as lame (see Perrin article).

Faile avoids Mat because she disapproves of him and his “disreputable” influence. In the last scene, he encouraged Perrin to stay at the inn late.

There is a hint that something is a little odd about Aravine not returning to her estates in Amadicia. The Seanchan would likely respect her claim to them, being keen on the law, and the risk that she might be able to channel is small.

Perrin believes Rand should make the Seal on the Dark One’s prison anew, breaking the old cuendillar focal points. He didn’t tell Egwene this; just that he will be there at Merrilor. He intends to keep the armies and people from fighting each other, and is more unifying than Egwene, and more open to Rand’s ideas. Having finally accepted leadership, Perrin is taking the time to check all his troops out and return their salute. He wonders how they could sense he resented leadership since they can’t smell emotions. However, they can read body language, listen to the tone of his voice and for what is not said as well as what is said.

Like the wolves Perrin can feel the Last Battle. He is prepared to make anybody fight to prevent the Shadow winning.

This POV is a small, positive interlude between two increasingly dark and dangerous threads.


Mat POV

Thom feels he should wear gleeman’s clothes to rescue Moiraine; they symbolise the quest for him and, of course, how they met. He looks more humble and more “foolish” or carnivalesque in them, just as Noal is wearing a frock coat like a circus master or showman. Mat is in non-descript clothing typical of the Two Rivers, where he started his trickster career as a prankster. Throughout the series, Mat is either over-dressed or quite down at heel; making a spectacle of himself to put one over others. This emphasises that all three men are tricksters and that is why they are the only ones who can go on this quest. It takes three tricksters to beat the *Finns. Whatever is done three times is more potent, more true (see Number Symbolism article).

The joke is on them that they made the opening sign too small, the first time. The triangle is the actual doorway. The men are aware that the game can’t be won. Mat’s luck must change the odds in this rigged game – as it did in Tear with Comar’s weighted dice.

The Tower of Ghenjei’s reception room is black with white steam and the smell of sulphur, or brimstone. The steam and the *Finns are both repelled by fire/light. This Otherworld is an underworld. It’s infernal or hellish, but different to the foxes’ lair or the snakes’ burrow. Perhaps it is neutral territory?

Mat remembers how the rooms and corridors shifted to confuse him during his Rhuidean visit to the *Finns’ world. He holds a grudge against the Foxes because they didn’t answer his questions – yet that’s not their bargain. They bestow “gifts”. He also claims the Snakes’ answers were not useful, but he has been using them.

The Eelfinn have malicious faery-like laughter, but they are also like imps, minions of the devil. Both faery folk and imps are tricky. Their pointed ears are like those of foxes (another tricky and untrustworthy creature (see Animal Symbolism article) and elves, elfin folk, as their name Eelfinn indicates. The *Finns are not agents of Shai’tan, but are alien to all. Jordan has combine multiple sources to create the ultimate otherworld trickster, which Mat must out-trick (see Tricksters article).

A Fox tries seducing or hypnotising them. He suggests a one-sided bargain where they leave their fire, and he will take them half-way to the bargaining chamber. Their music dispels his glamour, exposing his bargain as the worthless, even dangerous, thing that it is, and seduces him in turn. This makes Mat accept that Foxes grant requests rather than answer questions. When he visited the Eelfinn from the Waste, he was the butt of the joke in trying to make the wrong sort of bargain with them.

Mat recognises that the *Finns have consistent rules but not ones that make sense to people from another world. They reach where he entered from the Rhuidean doorway ter’angreal, and confirm that this exit is lost to them. He rolls a one, and then three nines. The latter three tosses of the dice appear to require them re-tracing their steps. Three times makes true, again, and tests their resolve.

The Eelfinn claim they are innocent and don’t deserve to have their rules violated. Such disingenuousness is a typical con or bargaining ploy.