Apr 6 2009 2:04pm

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Shadow Rising, Part 7

Howdy, folks! It’s time for Yet Another Wheel of Time Re-read post! The Shadow Rising, Part 7, to be exact.

Small note: it transpires that I am made a liar a little bit yet again, because I realized that Chapters 25 and 26 really need to be taken together, and yet I did not factor that in in time to address them both properly. So, instead, today’s post will only cover Chapters 23-24, and we’ll get to the next two together in the next post. Sowwy.

Previous entries are in our handy-dandy Index, and as usual, spoilers are bustin’ out all over, so beware.

Another small note, to thank you guys for helping me out with my interview questions. That interview should happen Real Soon Now, so keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, feel free to add more questions in the comments there if you think of any.

All righty then, let’s rope this hoss. Giddyup!

Chapter 23: Beyond the Stone


What Happens
Everyone in the party fights to keep from falling as they are suddenly on sharply tilted land. Egwene notes the broiling heat, and sees in the valley below them a dense bank of fog with several spires and towers sticking out of it, and murmurs that Rand was right about a city in the clouds. Mat laughs to realize they made it without a repeat of the last time Rand tried to use a Portal Stone. Lan is helping Rand to his feet while a tight-lipped Moiraine watches; she tells him his angreal was not sufficient to the task, and he almost failed. Rand replies that the important thing is that it did work, and he’s “outrun them all”, and Lan agrees. Moiraine takes Rand’s head in her hands to wash away his fatigue, and Rand pulls free of her.

“Ask, Moiraine,” Rand said coldly, stuffing the angreal into his belt pouch. “Ask, first. I’m not your pet dog that you can do whatever you want to whenever you want.”

Egwene realizes that the Aiel with them have gone still, and are staring at two other encampments of Aiel on either side, the inhabitants of which are veiling themselves. A woman’s voice calls out “The peace of Rhuidean,” and the various groups relax somewhat. Egwene sees the owner of the voice comes from a third, much smaller encampment; four women dressed in dark skirts and white blouses and much jewelry are approaching. Egwene recognizes one of them as Amys, and presumes that the other three are also Wise Ones, probably the ones who had written the letter to Moiraine. The grandmotherly older one spreads her hands, speaking to the Aiel around the Portal Stone:

“The peace of Rhuidean be on you. Who comes to Chaendaer may return to their holds in peace. There shall be no blood on the ground.”

The Aiel from Tear begin dividing up supplies and pack animals, and move off, some to one or the other of the larger camps, some off by themselves; Egwene notes that they are not dividing by society, as Maidens are with several groups. Aviendha is one of these, heading toward one of the encampments, but one of the Wise Ones commands her to stay, and she stops in her tracks, not looking at anyone. Egwene feels nervous now that they have no Aiel with them. Rhuarc goes to Amys, saying he is back, though not in the way she expected, he wagers; she touches his cheek fondly and says she knew he would be here today. Egwene murmurs to Moiraine that that’s why she was willing to let Rand try the Portal Stone, and Moiraine nods, saying that the Wise Ones’ letter said they would be here today, which Moiraine thought unlikely until Rand brought up the Stones. Egwene thinks to herself that she cannot wait to start learning about Dreaming. Two men, one from each of the encampments, approaches. Rhuarc ignores the younger, flame-haired man and greets the older, darker man as Heirn, and asks if the Taardad have decided Rhuarc was dead and seek to replace him. Heirn replies that none of their clan have gone in to Rhuidean; he came with Amys to assure her safety. The red-haired man flushes, and Egwene gets the feeling a lot more was unsaid in that. Lan quietly explains to her and Moiraine that a Wise One may travel safely anywhere, even in blood feuds; Heirn was here to protect Rhuarc from the other camp, but it was not honorable to say so. Moiraine raises an eyebrow at him, and Lan says he fought Aiel often before he met her, and she never asked him about them; Moiraine dryly replies that she will have to remedy that. Lan makes her and Egwene and Mat and Rand drink, and tie water-soaked cloths around their heads, explaining that the heat can kill if they are not used to it. Rhuarc finally turns to the red-haired man, calling him Couladin, and asks if the Shaido seek a new clan chief; Couladin answers that Muradin has entered Rhuidean, and should he fail Couladin will go next. The older Wise One, Bair, contradicts him, saying he must ask first, and he has not, and furthermore that she does not think he will be granted permission in any case. Couladin is enraged as he argues with her, and Egwene thinks she has never seen an Aiel show so much emotion openly. Amys turns to the newcomers, and Egwene is a bit surprised that she acknowledges Rand instead of her. Rand makes an odd bow to Amys.

“By the right of blood,” he said, “I ask leave to enter Rhuidean, for the honor of our ancestors and the memory of what was.”

Bair remarks that it is an ancient form, but the question is asked, and she says yes. Amys also answers yes, but then Couladin interrupts, angrily declaring Rand is no Aiel and has no right to be here, but Bair shuts him down, and Rand says in a strained voice that his mother was Aiel, to Egwene’s great surprise. Amys answers slowly that it was not his mother, but his father; before Rand can say anything, Seana and Melaine also give their consent, and Amys starts to tell Rand he can go. Then Mat steps forward and says he also asks permission to go to Rhuidean. Everyone is shocked, including Rand, and Couladin snarls and makes to stab Mat with his spear, only to be flung back by Amys and Melaine with saidar. Egwene is astounded at this evidence they can channel, and thinks Moiraine is too, though the Aes Sedai stays still. Couladin scrambles to his feet and spits that it is one thing to let Rand enter, but no one not of the blood may enter Rhuidean; Melaine tells him coldly that this is Wise Ones’ business, and orders him and Rhuarc and Heirn back to their tents. Rhuarc and Heirn leave immediately, and Couladin too, but only after a hatred-filled glare at Rand and Mat. Amys tells Mat it is not permitted; Mat tries to convince them otherwise, but the Wise Ones are firm. Rand suddenly speaks up, telling them that he says Mat can come with him. The Wise Ones debate among themselves, discussing that times are changing, and finally they agree that Mat can go. Amys explains the rules to both of them, saying they may not bring food, water, or weapons to Rhuidean. Rand lays down his belt knife and the round man angreal, and says that is the best he can do; Mat starts pulling knives from all over his clothes, and makes a pile that seems to impress the Wise Ones, adding two from his boots at the last minute.

“They are pledged to Rhuidean,” Amys said formally, looking over the men’s heads, and the other three responded together, “Rhuidean belongs to the dead.”

“They may not speak to the living until they return,” she intoned, and again the others answered. “The dead do not speak to the living.”

“We do not see them, until they stand among the living once more.” Amys drew her shawl across her eyes, and one by one the other three did the same. Faces hidden, they spoke in unison. “Begone from among the living, and do not haunt us with memories of what is lost. Speak not of what the dead see.” Silent then, they stood there, holding their shawls up, waiting.

Rand and Mat look at each other, and finally Mat remarks that he supposes the dead are allowed to talk to each other, at least. Chatting mock-casually, they head toward the city. Once they are gone, Egwene approaches Amys and starts to introduce herself, but Amys interrupts to tell Lan that this is women’s business, calling him “Aan’allein”, and tells him to go to the tents. Moiraine nods, and Lan leaves. Moiraine asks why they call him “One Man” in the Old Tongue, and Amys replies that they know of the last of the Malkieri, and that he has much honor; Amys continues that she knew from the dream that if Moiraine came, it was almost certain Lan would too, but she did not know he obeys her. Moiraine answers that Lan is her Warder, but sounds troubled by the implications of Amys’ words. Then Bair calls Aviendha over, and Aviendha obeys reluctantly; Bair and the others tell her she has run with the spears long enough, and it is time for her to become a Wise One, overriding her protests ruthlessly, and Egwene realizes from their conversation that the reason she’d felt such a kinship to Aviendha must be because she could channel, and for the first time recognizes the ability in all the women present so gifted, even Moiraine. They take away Aviendha’s weapons, tossing them aside, and Egwene angrily asks must they be so hard on her?

“The Three-fold Land is not soft, Aes Sedai,” Bair said. “”Soft things die, here.”

They have her strip off her clothes as well, and describe to her what she must do in Rhuidean – step through any one of three linked rings, and see her possible futures; she will not remember them all, but they will guide her to the beginning of being wise. Egwene realizes this must be a ter’angreal. Then they kiss her in turn and send her off; Egwene watches her go with worry, and then turns back to Amys. The Wise Ones discuss again the need for haste and change, and invite Egwene and Moiraine to their tent for water and shade, where they are served by Aiel dressed in white robes. Egwene asks about them, calling them servants, and the Wise Ones react with shock to the notion. They explain about gai’shain and the core tenets of ji’e’toh, telling a story about it that has the Wise Ones in stitches; Egwene doesn’t understand the story or why it is funny, but laughs politely. Moiraine brings up the letter they sent to her, and asks how they could sound so certain in it, and yet say “if” she came now.

“The present is much clearer than the future even in Tel’aran’rhiod,” the sun-haired Wise One said. “What is happening or beginning is more easily seen than what will happen, or may. We did not see Egwene or Mat Cauthon at all. It was no more than an even chance that the young man who calls himself Rand al’Thor would come. If he did not, it was certain that he would die, and the Aiel too. Yet he has come, and if he survives Rhuidean, some of the Aiel at least will survive. This we know. If you had not come, he would have died. If Aan’allein had not come, you would have died. If you do not go through the rings—” She cut off as if she had bitten her tongue.

Moiraine pretends not to notice the slip, and begins talking about the Old Tongue, and how interpreting it can be problematic:

“And ‘Aiel’. ‘Dedicated,’ in the Old Tongue. Stronger than that; it implies an oath written into your bones. I have often wondered what the Aiel are dedicated to.” The Wise Ones’ faces had gone to iron, but Moiraine continued. “And ‘Jenn Aiel’. ‘The true dedicated,’ but again stronger. Perhaps ‘the only true dedicated.’ The only true Aiel?” She looked at them questioningly, just as if they did not suddenly have eyes of stone. None of them spoke.

Worried that Moiraine is alienating the Wise Ones, Egwene tries to bring the subject back to Dreaming, but Amys tells her that must wait, and Egwene must be ready to become a pupil again. Moiraine begins undoing her dress, and says she presumes she must go as Aviendha did, unclothed? Seana says she should not have been told, but it is too late now. Moiraine asks if it makes a difference, and the Wise Ones are not certain; things are already different from how they saw them going originally. Moiraine tells them not to let Lan see her go, or he will try to follow, and leaves the tent, running toward Rhuidean. Egwene asks if she should go too, and the Wise Ones shoot this idea down with contempt; she is here to learn about Dreaming. Egwene says surely there is something they can teach her now, and Bair chuckles that she is as impatient as Amys was. Amys agrees, but warns her that the first thing she must learn is to do as she is told, and not enter Tel’aran’rhiod again until they say she may. Bair begins to explain to her the rules of Tel’aran’rhiod, including the information that it is possible to travel there in the flesh, but that it is an evil thing and forbidden, for each time you do so, “you will lose some part of what makes you human”. Egwene listens intently, fascinated.

Here we move into the Aiel phase of things, as very aptly indicated by the new Aiel-specific icon. And, Jordan being Jordan, we are thrown headfirst into Aiel politics the moment we get to the Waste.

It’s really really different reading this when you know what’s coming. The infodumpiness of this chapter is mildly irritating to me now, but I remember being utterly fascinated by the hints we get here the first time I read it – everything from the Aiel’s name for Lan to the talk of gai’shain and roofmistresses to the tease about Rand’s parentage. It’s very obvious that the Wise Ones already know who Rand’s real parents were, and I was like tell me already!

It’s difficult not to be annoyed by Egwene in this chapter, but she is in the unfortunate position of being the Clueless Excuse for Exposition Character here, so that we can learn about Aiel culture, and that generally involves being, well, clueless. That, however, doesn’t really excuse how self-centered she comes off as in this chapter.

Speaking of learning about the Aiel, I read somewhere that you cannot understand a culture until you understand what they find funny, something I am strongly reminded of every time I watch anime, and see something that is obviously meant to be amusing, and almost is, sort of, but always seems to veer off to the left at the last second, just missing my funny bone. I’m sure, though, that to the Japanese audience it was intended for, the joke was hilarious. (Well, theoretically; there is plenty of American comedy I don’t find funny either, so it’s actually kind of a crapshoot as to whether you’re dealing with cultural disconnect or just bad writing. Or bad translation, for that matter.)

Woo, tangent. To bring us back on topic, obviously Jordan was just as aware of this rule as I am, considering the point he made of making Aiel humor so impenetrable to his non-Aiel characters, and incidentally his readers. What I’ve never been certain of is whether he did so successfully.

This skirts close to a whole host of issues surrounding cultural appropriation and portrayal of the Exotic Other and the million and one ways that can come back to haunt you that I just really don’t have the time to get into right now, though at some point I’m going to have to address it. I’ve already kind of ignored it the first time it should have been brought up, regarding the introduction of the Sea Folk, Jordan’s other “exotic” Randland culture. For now, let’s just say that in my opinion Jordan did manage to dodge a lot of potential landmines by being so deliberately mix and match with his sources, though the result was occasionally some really weird discrepancies. The one people most often point out with the Aiel, of course, is the fact that apparently the only truly Nordic-appearing people in Randland live in the one place where such light coloring would be at its worst disadvantage – a giant freakin’ desert.

This can be handwaved, partially, by pointing out that the Aiel are not native to the Waste, though where they are supposed to be from originally is something of a mystery that I don’t think ever gets explicated for us. I don’t know enough about anthropology, personally, to speak to whether it’s plausible that they would have retained such light coloring after three thousand years and who knows how many generations there, though.

We’re going to talk more about this later, but I did want to at least bring it up as a Thing, because it is one.

Chapter 24: Rhuidean

What Happens
Rand and Mat crouch and stare at the fog surrounding Rhuidean, both more than halfway to heat prostration. Mat tells Rand that it was Aviendha he saw running in ahead of them, naked, but Rand doesn’t really seem to believe him, and Mat lets it go. Rand asks Mat if he’s sure he wants to do this, and Mat says he has to, and asks Rand in return why being the Dragon Reborn isn’t enough and he has to be an Aiel clan chief too. Rand replies that he has to go, and Mat says maybe they don’t have to go; maybe those snaky people just tell everyone they have to go to Rhuidean. Rand looks at him a moment, and then says they never mentioned Rhuidean to him. Mat curses, and thinks to himself that somehow he is going to find his way back to that place and get some real answers out of those people this time. Rand heads into the fog, and Mat follows, cursing to himself. They emerge from the mist to see a vast city of marble and glass and crystal, with nothing but huge palaces and treeless broad streets; many of the towers are unfinished, but nothing is ruined, just empty. Rand makes one of the fountains flow again and he and Mat drink their fill, though Mat is uncomfortable once he realizes that Rand had done it with the One Power. Mat looks at the city and wonders if it is enough that he is here, or if he has to do something as well. Rand says “the heart” the Wise Ones spoke of must be at the center of the city, and they set out, finally arriving at a huge plaza filled with randomly placed statues and plinths and metal sculptures and all manner of strange things; Mat realizes they must all be ter’angreal, or something to do with the Power. At the center, to Mat’s surprise, is an enormous tree, next to concentric circles of needle-thin glass columns. Rand walks into the square, pausing next to two small statuettes, one of a man and one of a woman, each holding a crystal sphere aloft in one hand. Rand bends as if pick them up, but then straightens quickly and continues on. As they get closer, they see that the tree has trefoil leaves, and Rand says wonderingly that it is Avendesora, the Tree of Life. Mat jumps up and tries to grab a leaf, but they are too high; he sits against the trunk for a moment instead.

The old stories were true. He felt... Contentment. Peace. Well being. Even his feet did not bother him much.

Rand sat down cross-legged nearby. “I can believe the stories. Ghoetam, sitting beneath Avendesora for forty years to gain wisdom. Right now, I can believe.”

Mat let his head fall back against the trunk. “I don’t know that I’d trust birds to bring me food, though. You’d have to get up sometime.” But an hour or so would not be bad. Even all day.

After a moment Rand sighs and gets up, and Mat follows, asking what he thinks they’ll find in there, meaning the glass columns. Rand says he thinks that he has to go on alone from here; Mat argues with him at first, then pulls out his Tar Valon mark and says they’ll leave it to luck – flame, he goes in, heads he stays out. He flips the coin but fumbles the catch, and the coin falls to the ground and lands balanced on its edge. Mat demands to know if Rand does things like that on purpose, and the coin falls over to the head side. Rand says he guesses that means Mat stays out, and Mat wishes Rand wouldn’t channel around him. Irritably Mat tells him to go on then, and don’t expect Mat to come in after him if he doesn’t come out, either.

“I wouldn’t think that of you, Mat,” Rand said.

Mat stared at him suspiciously. What was he grinning at? “So long as you understand I won’t. Aaah, go on and be a bloody Aiel chief. You have the face for it.”

Rand warns him again not to go in there whatever happens, and Mat nods. Rand walks to the glass columns and seems to disappear the moment he steps in among them. Mat circles the columns, looking for a glimpse of Rand, shouting imprecations about how he’ll strangle Rand if he leaves Mat alone with a bunch of bloody Aiel; to himself, he promises to go in if Rand isn’t out in an hour. Then he stops dead, catching sight of a red twisted doorframe that looks just like the one in Tear. He walks up to it, debating, and then decides one more time couldn’t hurt, and steps through. On the other side, he is initially disappointed to see it is very different from the snakes’ place, with eight-sided star patterns everywhere instead of curves and circles. Everything is covered with dust. He turns back to the doorway, and a voice behind him makes him spin around and grab for a knife he doesn’t have. He sees that the figure behind him is paper-white and taller than an Aiel, with brushlike red hair, pointed ears and sharp teeth; he reminds Mat of a fox. The creature says it is has been a very long time, and asks the same as the snaky guide, that he has not brought iron, music, or fire. Mat replies slowly that he has none of those things, wondering if he was speaking the Old Tongue right now. He tells the fox that he has come for answers to questions, and if the fox does not have them, he will leave. The fox becomes agitated and says he must not leave, and beckons him to follow. The corridor beyond shows the same strange properties as the snakes’ corridor, except this time he keeps passing the chamber with the doorframe ter’angreal over and over again, with his footprints visible in the dust. After a long walk, the hall suddenly ends in a doorway. Mat looks back to see all the openings in the hall have disappeared, and then forward again to see his guide is gone. He walks through to another star-shaped chamber filled with pedestals, and turns to see the door is gone. When he turns back, four men and four women stand on each of the pedestals; Mat notes that the knives they wear look to be made of bronze.

“Speak,” one of the women said in that growling voice. “By the ancient treaty, here is agreement made. What is your need? Speak.”

Mat hesitates, and then asks his three questions, all for clarification on the answers he got from the snakes. No one answers him. Angrily he tells them he has no intention of marrying, nor of dying either.

“I walk around with holes in my memory, holes in my life, and you stare at me like idiots. If I had my way, I would want those holes filled, but at least answers to my questions might fill some in my future. You have to answer—!”

“Done,” one of the men growled, and Mat blinked.

Done? What was done? What did he mean? “Burn your eyes,” he muttered. “Burn your souls! You are as bad as Aes Sedai. Well, I want a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power, and I want to be away from you and back to Rhuidean, if you will not answer me. Open up a door, and let me—”

“Done,” another man said, and one of the women echoed, “Done.”

Mat demands to know what that means, and one of the women calls him a fool, and the others echo her. She says that he is wise to ask to leave, but a fool not to set the price, and so they will set the price.

“What was asked will be given.”

“The price will be paid.”

“Burn you,” he shouted, “what are you talking –”

Utter darkness closed around him. There was something around his throat. He could not breathe. Air. He could not...

Ah, so much awesome, so little time. Again, cannot remember if I caught the first time through that the two statues Rand shows interest in are the access ter’angreal for the Big Honkin’ Sa’angreal of Dhoom. I suspect not, though, because I don’t think at this point we’ve been given enough clues on that.

It’s funny how just a little hint of something from an existing legend/story can shore up a newly created one. This is something Jordan does constantly, of course, as we’ve discussed, but here it’s especially nicely incorporated into Avendesora (the reference to Gautama Buddha sitting under the Bodhi Tree) and the Eelfinn (the general Faery/Sidhe allusions, but in particular here the reference to their aversion to iron and use of bronze weaponry).

TSR has always been one of my favorite books in the series, and the Rhuidean sequence is definitely one of the reasons. And though this is mainly because of the ancestor-history trip coming up, it is also very much because of Mat.

Now, as you know, I am reluctant to bring up controversial topics, but – okay, I can’t finish that with a straight face. So, given that this seems to be my month(s) for generating Storms Of Controversy, in addition to what I wrote about the previous chapter, I might as well go for broke and bring up my own little theory about why I think Mat has so much appeal as a character, which I have a sneaking suspicion is going to press some buttons out there. Whee!

See, here’s the thing. As written, Randland is very obviously meant to be an alternate Europe, albeit with random flavors from other regions thrown in. The denizens of the Two Rivers, in particular, are meant to be an homage to the auld English country folk of yore, or at least the image of them as created by centuries of literature. This is in consonance with TEOTW having that oft-mentioned Lord of the Rings feel to it, the hobbits being Tolkien’s own tribute to the same thing.

I posit, however, that Mat is something of an exception to that particular cultural flavoring, especially as he later develops. To me, of all of Our Heroes in WOT (and we have quite a few), Mat is the only one who strikes me as being a particularly American style of hero.


Now, this is not to say there aren’t European (or Asian, or African, or etc.) heroes out there who are brash, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, gambling, ironic-quipping, devil-may-care, jerks-with-a-heart-of-gold ladies’ men with more bravery than common sense, who would far rather trust to, ahem, luck and go in with guns blazing (or equivalent), but you have to admit that Mat as portrayed manages to ping just about every one of the classic American Hero tropes. In other words, Mat is pretty much the only WOT character who I could remotely envision getting away with a line like Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

And, while (a) not all fans of WOT are American, and (b) not all fans of WOT consider Mat to be their favorite character, I think that the reason Mat is generally so often a fan favorite is because of this American flavor to him. Even for non-Americans, considering the depth to which American culture (in particular the Western and the action movie, from which 99% of these American Hero tropes flow) has saturated the rest of the world. Subconsciously, at least to some extent, this is more or less what we have all been conditioned to expect from A Hero, and so we like it when we see it.

Rand and Perrin (and Lan, and Birgitte, and etc.) ping our Hero radar too, of course, but in slightly different ways, from slightly different angles. Lan, for example, is very much a non-American hero, instead evoking an ascetic/noble/haughty/samurai/questing knight thing that is 100% Old World. If I had to try and pin it down for the other boys, I would say Perrin is strongly European in flavor to me, in a very hulking Norse/Viking/Germanic/Black Forest/Roman-era Gaul/I-smash-you-with-my-hammer kind of way, if that makes the slightest amount of sense, while Rand is... um, Ninja Jesus, basically.

All of which is very cool as well, of course, but I venture that these other flavors of hero just don’t have quite the same comfortable, scruffy appeal to us as Mat’s more modern style.

Now, I freely admit I am making some rather sweeping generalizations here, so take it for what it’s worth, but this is my gut feeling on Why We Like Mat, and so I speak it. I feel sure, however, that this will piss off at least a few people anyway. There’s something about making references to Americanisms of any kind (especially in reference to how much influence American culture has beyond its own borders) that seems to make the Internets froth at the mouth. And I get why, trust me – I haven’t liked us too much for the past eight years either. However... that doesn’t make it less true. In My Opinion, Of Course.

Dude, it’s like I’m a switchboard operator over here, with the button-pushing! Whoo! All right, go forth and be outraged, if that be your desire; just do it without the name-calling or meanness, pretty please. I love a well-thought-out and cogent dissenting opinion; frothing at the mouth, however, is just not the one, so let’s not do that. Come back Wednesday for Chapters 25-27. Yippee-ki-yay!

1. MatthewJ
excellent work as usual Leigh. I much enjoy the expanded commentary now that you have time to do it!
2. Paracelsus
"It was no more than an even chance that the young man who calls himself Rand al’Thor would come."

I've always enjoyed this comment because it literally translates to the fact that Mat Cauthon flipped a coin to decide where they would go.

A question for those inclined to answer: Why do you think the Wise Ones granted Mat permission to Rhuidean? They did not even forsee Mat coming to Rhuidean. It seems quite a dilemma for them to grant permission to Mat. Rand was not yet 'He Who Comes With the Dawn' when he commanded them to let Mat come. Why would they give other than ta'veren chance?

Mat asking for permission to Rhuidean was always hilarious for me to read.
3. Kevin M.
yes, I dont normally comment, but I have been lurking and do appreciate the extra commenting, keep up the Health, and the good Post's!!
Thanks for doing the hard part :P
4. CalebG
I don't have a lot of time, so I have to make this short.

Now that you point it out, I can see what you mean about Mat's appeal. On the other hand, I think a big part of his appeal is that he's allowed to be badass without all the hand wringing and consequences the other characters have to deal with. Perrin is constantly in a funk about killing things, Rand has near constant reminders of just how much is riding on his decisions, and Mat just does what he wants, consequences be damned.

I think the reason Mat is so appealing is that, of all the characters, he is the most free.
5. Paracelsus
"If you had not come, he would have died. If Aan’allein had not come, you would have died. If you do not go through the rings—”

I'm thinking that this line refers to several events that happen later in the story. For example, I think the line about Moiraine not coming to the Aiel could refer to the several instances where Moiraine was needed to save Rand's life before her demise at the end of TFOH (she healed Rand at the end of the battle of Cairhien and she saved him from Lanfear).

I'm not sure why Aan'allein was needed for Moiraine. Did he save her life in some way before she parted at the end of TFOH?

Finally, it seems that Moiraine had to go through the rings so that she knew how to handle Lanfear and so that she had information about the Tower of Ghenjei.
Richard Fife
6. R.Fife
Hmm, I had never thought about it, but yeah, I can see the Mat as a Cowboy feeling. A young Clint Eastwood or John Wayne feeling?

I remember a bit ago there was a whole big to-do cause the chairman (or somesuch important person) of the Nobel Prize for Literature saying American Literature would never get the prize because it isn't reflective of the world discussion in literature, and part of it was that "American" stories are more "single minded", about a badass hero facing problems intead of society, etc. Now, I think WoT is definately not this, as it is about "the world" preparing for Tarmon Gai'don, but still, Mat does have that selfish, "low fantasy" tang to him that resonates with American "frontier hero" tropes.

As to the Exotic Culture Thing (ECT?), I think Jordan had a double-edged sword with it. That he mixed and matched cultures was good to try and break the blindness of our own internal typecasting (which we all have, admit it or not), but I think he is fighting an uphill fight there. I see Aiel, and I think bad ass native american, stepp-dwellers culture. I see the Seanchan, and I think feudal Japan. I see Cairhien and I see renaissance France/Italy. Yes, there is so much more to it than that, but that's what I see at first, and it does kind of color my reading whether I like it or not.

Secondly, for all the craziness of his exotic cultures, Jordan makes them the same underneath, which while that is /good/ after a fashion, it is also bad, cause he made them all introverted, selfish, annoying pains in the bum (Wise Ones, Aes Sedai, Sea Folk, Kin, etc). Only the idyllic two rivers folk, and to a lesser extend Andorans, have a non-silly nobility to them. The effect makes for good story and politics, but it also kind leaves some taste in the dealings. It almost feels like I could swap Aeil and Seafolk cultural identities, and end up with the same result in story cause the underlie is similar.

I guess it is kind of like the old axe "Jordan only write one woman, but he writes her a lot"

Oh, and to Mat and haning, etc, I always saw that as the myth of Odin hanging from Yggdrasil by hus spear Gugnir to gain knowledge and wisdom. Of course, most myths are retellings and alt. versions of eachother anyway, so yeah.
7. litg
My theory about Mat has always been that he is the closest character in personality to Robert Jordan (or Jim Rigney, if I'm going to talk about personalities). Jordan always seemed to have a streak of mischief and (unless I miss my guess) a streak of recklessness, at least I'm betting he did when he was a young man. I always felt Mat was not only the most enjoyable character but also the most well-rounded and the one who went through the most actual development as a character, and again, I suspect that's because Jordan was drawing a lot from himself to write Mat.
8. Randalator
Interesting thought about Mat and his popularity.

Personally I came to like him because he displayed much of the same humour that I have: Dry as dust, not excepting himself and very dark at times. So his scenes were always the most fun to read. Throw in his general awesomeness and you get a favourite character. I never saw him as an American Hero(TM), he just happened to "be me" in terms of experiencing/commenting events in Randland.

But now that you've mentioned it I have to agree. He is this John McClane/Han Solo/Mal Reynolds archetype. I'm not sure, thought, that we generally like them so much because we are used to this kind of hero due to our pre-conditioning by american culture. I'd say that it's the simple fact that they produce the most excitement on a lot of levels (certainly more levels than the other hero types) and are therefor just the most fun to read.
9. RebelLives
Based on what I know from readings, three thousand years is plenty of time for the Aiel's features to at least start changing. That has always made me wonder about the Aiel. At the very least I would expect their eyes and hair to begin to darken. Since this is primarily the product of melanin, though from what I understand it would require a mutation of the gene that controls melanin. At the very least there should be some dark haired, dark eyed Aiel.

I've been wondering about the Randland and whether or not it is Alternate Europe or somewhere else. The cultures obviously have more in common with Europe, but I think that may be more because it is a pre-industrial society with monarchs. Tear and the Fingers of the Dragon remind me of the Louisana delta and I can't think of an equivalent in Europe. With the Breaking it is hard to say how much would have changed if what was in place at the begin like our world. Oceans could be where continents were and land where there was once oceans. Beyond that I do agree that some of Mat's qualities seem to be a little more like a cowboy/rogue, but not all. It may just be that what has become an American hero type has evolved from the trickster/gambler archetype.
10. laframboise
I wish there had been an Aiel POV as to what it was like to be hanging around in the general vicinity of the Rhuidean Portal Stone and have a largish bunch of people pop into existence. You'd think the area around the Stone would have to be roped off or something, because if it doesn't deposit people with their stance altered in adjustment to a differing topography, it surely isn't going to adjust for people who happen to be in the way, either.
11. Jonathan Grizzell
Hey Leigh, I agree completely with your comments on Mat and why he may appeal to more people. I would like to add one more comment. Mat is also a underdog. He doesn't have special powers when he fights against the Aes Sadai, or Forsaken, or Gholam. ( I know the medallian, but he is basicaly going against otherwordly powers with his brain, brawn etc. This makes Mat an even more likable character. He also has the (Robin Hood, Bret Maverick) component in that he is the Anti-hero, Hero.

in comics, superman is so super that there is little he can't do. The villians have to be way out there in order to give him a battle, but Batman is just a normal guy, using his brains, training,( and money) to go against the evil in the world. He is much more interesting because of this. His anti hero componennt makes him the Dark Knight.

so,in conclusion, in addition to your great comments Leigh, I feel that Mat being the underdog, and the Anti-hero add even more likeability to Mat for us "Westerners."
12. jlfitz
With the Aiel being a very closed society that wars with itself very often, I don't think there would have been enough selective pressure to necessarily change their skin tone. From an anthropological point of view, the light skinned, red haired, gray eyed people are the ones best fit to reproduce.
Rich Bennett
13. Neuralnet
totally aggree... Mat is a cowboy out of an old western
Bill Siegel
14. ubxs113
Mat likes horses, he finds himself in duals despite his best effort, and he even has the hat with the large brim and a scarf (instead of a handkerchief).
15. anotherfan
"Ninja Jesus." That's funny.

I like your take on why we like Mat. Americans identify. I have been overseas. When I was, in Korea, most of the people seemed to think the world of American culture and icons. I think you're on to something.

And I like America. Even over the last 8 years. I don't like everything about it, but overall, this is one of the best places to live on earth. Because you live here, you have the freedom to write that you haven't liked America. In some parts of the world, you wouldn't have that freedom. Or the job you have. Or the computer you have. Or the food you ate yesterday.

Leigh, seems to me that the opinion that the world at large has about American politics has less and less to do with how they view american icons and ideals. People in other nations will probably still love Elvis and amerian country music, even if they think of us as tyrants who want to stick our noses in everybodies business. They still like the American heroes. So maybe that fascination and enjoyment of Mat's character traits does translate to other countries because of his american hero-ness.

I enjoyed the reread posts today. Keep it up.
nija jesus indeed. Ha.
Peter Nein
16. gimpols1908

Just a comment on "The whole world getting ready for Tarmon Gai'don"

I have found it frustrating through the books that i feel trapped in Europe. Sure the Aiel are another people, but almost nobody ever goes. Same with the Sea Folk and The Seanchan, not to mention the big one out there the Shara (sp?) beyond the waste. We are locked on half a continent. No body knows about the Seanchcan, nearly nothing is known about Shara. Seriously - does the rest of the world know this is going on? In the big WOT picture book there are some interesting clues about Shara but in never comes up in the books. I totally feel like I am on a European vacation.

Take that for what it is worth.
17. MatthewJ
I love the thought of Mat Cauthon as Batman. Pretty hilarious, and also its pretty accurate for why i like both characters more than their super-powered counterparts (superrand). He's the American Anti-Hero who is free and bad-ass and all around likeable. Good thoughts everyone!
Harry Burger
18. Lightbringer
@5 - Morraine writes what is going to happen with her going through the door with Lanfear in the letter to Thom that the reader finally gets to read at the end of Book 11. She had to go through the rings to know how that would work and about how Mat and Thom would need to work together to get her out again.
19. swmdilla
For a while I had such a hard time immagining Aiel with light skin and red/blonde hair. I still do. They seem like Native Americans to me and I have difficulty not picturing them with dark reddish skin and black hair. But with not being originally from the three fold land and thier seclusion from others i guess i can believe thier Nordic appearance...I guess.
20. tearl
In previous re-reads, one thing that always slightly bothered me in ch.23 was how easily the Wise Ones gave in and let Mat go to Rhuidean. On this re-read however, something in the later conversation between Moi and the WOs showed me they were partially prepared for it.

When Moi asks if she should also go to Rhuidean and the into the Futurama, Bair responds, "When we saw you go to the rings, each time it was you who brought up going, who demanded the right though you have none of the blood."

Clearly (after the ump-teenth re-read), the WOs had already prepared themselves for Moi entering Rhuidean and the break in tradition that represented. Mat just forced the issue a little earlier than they were expecting.
21. anotherfan
Was it very common for the Aiel to marry (or have children) outside of their own people group?

If Aiel hardly ever had children with wetlanders, then the gene pool would have pretty much stuck with what it started with. I don't know that 3 thousand years would have changed hair color an eye and skin color. Darker hair being a dominate trait, at least on earth right now, I would assume that it would be in the future on Randland/earth. How can you explain the vast majority of a populace having light hair, but that they don't breed with people carrying DNA for dark hair.

We know of at least one instance(Rand's parents) of Aiel going outside the people group, and reproducing. I believe there are some aiel with dark hair. But it is the exception. I think they just don't go outside of their own people enough to change genes.
22. trooperomulo
laframboise @ 10

I think that the Portal Stone would take into account people being in the way because it took the terrain into account when it "set" everyone down. Sure it didn't adjust their stance, but everyone was probably about level with each other before they left, but when they arrive no one is buried or hanging in the air, they are placed with some people higher up compared to the rest of the group.
Richard Fife
23. R.Fife
gimpols1908 @16: I meant more than "the nations, rulers, populaces" of Randland are preparing for TG, not just a small band of heros and the rest of the world is none-the-wiser.

To the Aiel genetics, I just suspend disbelief. To my understanding, 3000 years would be enough that they would genetically start to adapt darker skin and hair. People who don't sun-burn as easy would live longer to have more babies for the evolution part of it, and skin/eye/hair color are mildly adaptable, as sunlight triggers the production of melanin that would darken hair, eyes, and skin. well.. it could also bleach the hair too, a-la californians. But yeah. They would at least look Mediterranian instead of Nordic, I'd think.
24. hoping to be of the blood
I agree with your comments about Mat being a typical american hero. I think Han Solo or even Dr. Jones (Jr.) when I think of Mat. But I don't know enough about other cultures heroes. Maybe they are similar to ours which is why they watch our movies.

Three thousand years probably isn't enough time for evolution to effect the change in coloration. The survival pressures would have to have been extreme. Most Aiel seem to find shade often enough to reproduce and extend their line and genotype.

Great idea to delay C 25.
battle ajah
25. battleajah
Alarys is a Shaido Wise One at Dumai's Wells who has black hair. If I remember correctly, she is always playing/touching her hair to bring attention to the fact that she has black hair and not red/yellow/white hair like the other Aiel.
26. anotherfan
How could 3 thousand years change the DNA?
I don't get it. I confess ignorance.
My understanding has been that if I spend a lot of time in the sun, then my body will tan, or burn. I may start producing more oils for hair and skin to adapt. But my DNA doesn't change.

I'm behind the times on evolutionary biology. The most plausible argument for an engine for evolution that I've heard, (Although I think there are many holes in the theory) is survival of the fittest. Those animals with a trait that is slightly different, but gives them an advantage in the climate, get to reproduce. Over time that gene spreads more and more into the population, changing the DNA of the entire population just a bit. Different color. Longer neck average length. etc.

But with humans, we don't have as much of a problem with survival right now, or in randland. Even those who are weak tend to be taken care of by the strong. So if an aiel had darker hair and skin which helped him hunt better, or survive the heat better, in their society he would get to reproduce. But so would the lighterskinned average aiel. The darker skin trait would not be exclusively passed on. As a matter of fact, a darker skinned person may have been considered unattractive and so less likely to reproduce.

I just don't see how we can expect the DNA to change unless the people went outside of their own people group and intermarried. If this was a common practice, then I would expect some variance in color. If not, they would have kept what they started with.

I may be, and am probably wrong on this. Just my thought.
27. Greyhawk
R.Fife @ 6 I agree holdheartedly with your comments on the Exotic Culture Thing and have thought much the same myself. In fact, not to beat a dead horse here, I have often wondered why it seemed there was more of a bond between genders than cultures. It seems to me that when a character from a different culture is introduced to our heroes, aside from a superficial comment or two on clothing and sense of humor, the women instantly bond with the women and the men with the men and everyone is best friends from then on based on their gender. I do not mean to reignite the gender discussion today--soooo many more chapters and books to revisit that topic. My comment is more an observation about what I consider to be further support for the proposition that, as written by Jordan, the different cultures are not really that different.

Leigh --- "Ninja/Jesus" --- Hilarious.

As for Matt as an American Hero Archetype--I see your point and like it. I would add that it might also just be that Mat reacts as I imagine a modern day individual would in similar circumstances, which allows us "modern day" readers to identify with him.
28. Siuanfan
Heh, Mat as the American Cowboy type. It's an interesting and rather apt theory. Someone mentioned Bret Maverick and I think that may be the closest comparison I've heard yet. If you've seen that movie, Maverick was not a bad guy, but he was excessively self-centered and trying like hell NOT to get roped into any heroism that didn't net him a profit, but circumstances kept putting him in that position... so basically he was forced into awesomeness.

At this point in the story, I am still Annoyed With Mat, mostly because he keeps wanting to run off and abandon his friends to their fate. He's unsuccessful, but he wants like hell to get away. Maybe I'm picking up Aiel notions, but there's just no honor in that. At least Perrin has the decency to feel ashamed when he starts to get scared or wary around his friends - he remembers these are the people he grew up with. Mat seems to have no such empathy.

However, the more Mat gets forced into responsibility and starts to accept it, the better he becomes, because he's actually good at it. I'll be on the Mat = Awesome train once he becomes leader of the Band, and more so as he gets Olver, meets Tylin, etc. In my own re-read I'm around the point where Tylin shows an interest, so I'm pretty pro-Mat at that point. He's never been my favorite character, but he does have some of the best scenes.
29. alexonthemove

I have found it frustrating through the books that i feel trapped in Europe. Sure the Aiel are another people, but almost nobody ever goes. Same with the Sea Folk and The Seanchan, not to mention the big one out there the Shara (sp?) beyond the waste. We are locked on half a continent. No body knows about the Seanchcan, nearly nothing is known about Shara. Seriously - does the rest of the world know this is going on? In the big WOT picture book there are some interesting clues about Shara but in never comes up in the books. I totally feel like I am on a European vacation.

Very interesting thought about being trapped in Europe and that most people in Randland don't even know that other people/countries even exist outside of their known lands. To me, this is indicative of America. I work in the travel industry and it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't have a passport and have never visited another country - not that this is a bad thing, it just bubbled up when i read your comment.
So in my mind, you should feel trapped in America :) and not be too surprised about it.
Blake Engholm
30. UncrownedKing
Lan = everything Badass, honorable, and cool.

He makes Steve McQueen, John Wayne, and Bruce Lee look like street bums.

I like how you can tell Lan is on Rand's side, which sometimes contradicts Mo's. Shows some loyalty and puts him on the short list of people that Rand can, and does, trust.

Mat and the foxes is cooler then the snakes (mostly because of the outcome :) ) I have a hard time picturing the Finns in my mind. I can't decide on the percentage they look fox and human.

Great post Leigh lovin it.
Richard Fife
31. R.Fife
anotherfan: remember, humanity started in Africa and was dark skinned/eyed/etc, and then as it moved and spread out, genetics changed. We aren't talking full up evolution, which is the creation of new species, but generational adaptation.

So, yeah, with the Aiel, even the fair-colored people would start to "adapt" across generations to the bright, harsh environment. And yes, they have shade that they go after, but I am sure so do Persians, and they still adapted to be darker skinned. Also, yes, I know the human generation adaptation took more than 3000 years for complete change, but that is why I leaned towards mediterranian instead of persian.
32. Norry
Do people really find Aiel humor to be impenetrable?

I can see how it would be, but after way too many read throughs, I don't think that Aiel humor is strange at all. The books repeatedly declare the humor strange but strongly suggests via Rand telling a joke to the maidens that this is because humor is rooted in the culture. Aiel humor, at least, follows this model and is based more or less entirely in ji'e'toh. I only remember running across one bit of Aiel humor* in my re-reads that didn't involve 1) (the threat of) losing honor/humiliation 2) painful situations usually caused by trying to prevent the first and 3) word games.

In contrast, wetland humor seems to be primarily based on irony. Rand's joke, X knows girls, Nyn's PoV for cooking and whatnot. Some is situational, some is dramatic, but irony seems to predominate.

I do remember thinking that Aiel humor was somewhat strange on the first read through, but we get beat over the head with enough ji'e'toh to have more than enough understanding to follow the jokes on subsequent read throughs.

I think the anime analogy is apt and insightful because a lot of the jokes in anime are actually quite funny when explained. I find the art of translation to be fascinating and frequently read (or watch in the case of anime) the same source through multiple translations just because I like seeing the differences. In the case of anime humor, my preferred fan subs will just smack up the japanese word with a sentence long explanation of why it's supposed to be funny. You hit pause to read the explanation and it can be either funny or not. The professional translations, on the other hand, will invariably sub in something that's readable in English but invariably has that weird driving towards humor but veering off at the last minute effect that Leigh describes.

All I'm saying is that on my newer re-reads, I have enough cultural context to understand why getting stabbed with spears is funny and I think most people following along with this read through would be in the same boat.

* Unfortunately I can't remember the details of the exception but I recall it being in a portion where Rand Gates down to the Plains of Maredo to discuss the invasion of Illian.

And yes, this is a (mostly) repeat from my comment in the last discussion, but Leigh brought it up specifically and I'm interested.
33. tailspinner
On the creating cultures thing. I've always maintained that borderlanders are at least partially influenced by Canadians (dealing with a ridiculously unpleasant climate and therefore being inherently tough), but I love the borderlanders and I am biased.

Mat is also a great character because he is so archetypal, every culture has the trickster gambler, and though universally annoying they still have the appeal of being able to bring down the swollen heads that we all dislike.
Luke M
34. lmelior
You're right about your controversial topic month, as I strenuously object to your description of Rand as Ninja Jesus. Ninjas are, after all, mind-bogglingly inferior to pirates.
Blake Engholm
35. UncrownedKing
On Aiel humor, ji'e'toh, and culture.

For one reason or another I never found it that difficult to pick it all up. Ji e toh comes across as a ancient chinese or asian system of honor, which I enjoy reading about. Putting honor above all else is a comemorable trait.

I never understood why jietoh was so hard for all our heroes to wrap their head around. Ok, the basics of ji'e'toh (if anyone knows what to do when a roofmistress that is not your aunt doesn't give you permission to enter her house right away on the third day of the warmest month of the year then more power to you) But I am rambling a tad. I love the fact that the Aiel have different humor BTW. Very well thought out.
Sara H
36. LadyBelaine
re: Why are the Aiel so Nordic in their desert biome?

If the original stock of Aiel were a homogenous genepool, and there isn't much imported stock, so to speak, then although periodic advantageous mutations would appear, I don't know if 3,000 years is long enough for natural selection to start having a marked effect on the genetic characteristics of the Aiel.

First of all, although the typical lifespan of an Aiel might be shorter than a Wetlander, I'm not sure that people with the genes for darker skin would rise to teh top, survival speaking. With the rather advanced medicinal skills of the Wise Ones, along with magical Healing, a good deal of Natural Selection's most lethal weapons would be neutralized i.e., do the fair Aiel develop fatal melanoma? If they start getting funky skin cancers, wouldn't Berindha the Wise Ones simply Heal it away?

If the people with what seem to be disadvantagous physical characteristics aren't skimmed from the gene pool at a rate any greater than those postively equipped, the genetic shift wouldn't happen, at least not in 3,000 years.

They are mentioned as being really, really tanned where exposed to the sun and pale and fair elsewhere, although Sorilea looks rather like beef jerky for some reason.

And FWIW, there is a random black-haired Wise One in Sevanna's entourage, Alarys.

re: We are in quasi-Faux Europe, right?

As to the parts of Tear that are basically a massive bayou, which isn't found anywhere in Europe, for some reason (actually authorially intended reasons) I see Tear as a weird fusion of Spain and Indochina, basically.

(and Cairhien is France meets Japan :) )
37. AlleyGirl
One of my favorite parts in any of these books is Mat unloading all his weapons in front of the Wise Ones =)
38. st-st
Slightly offtopic, what struck me as an artificial element in this part of the series is that RJ had to have a naked woman in each chapter. It feels so out-of-place. E.g. why the girls have to go to Rhuidean naked, and not the boys? Queer.

Anyway, thanks for the reread.
39. Alfredhayes
Finally caught up!

Thank you so very much for doing the hard part.
40. DutchBoy
Hi guys, interesting thoughts in Leigh's comments and in the other posts. Here are my thoughts.

I have to agree that Mat's character resembles most the American character. Though Americans on average have a bit more respect than Mat, I guess, and do not insult so openly as Mat. Perrin, with his axe and hammer, seems a Viking to me.

With respect to the Aiel and genetics - two thougths. First, let us not be too serious about this. Obviously, people who can run as fast as a horse is ridiculous. Living in the desert with read hair is also ridiculous...

It is unlikely living in the desert with red/blond hair, after 3,000 years. I'll try to explain to Anotherfan.
(1) Your/our DNA is the result of the combined DNA of your parents, with possible mutations.
(2) Hair and eye colour is related to pigment
(3) Pigment protects against ultraviolet light of the sun - without it the probability of e.g. skin cancer or eye problems is large.
So, in the desert or in any other area with a lot of sun and intense light there is a strong evolutionairy pressure on having more pigment, i.e., having dark hair and dark eyes, and dark skin. Strong evolutionairy pressure ultimately means higher chances of being able to produce more offspring. So, people with brown eyes/dark hair, have a higher probability of having kids - which means that the proportion of the gene pool with these characteristics increases. And, any mutation in the direction of more pigment will increase chances of survival and more offspring as well.

Let us go back 3,000 years back. It is very unlikely that none of the Aiel had brown eyes/dark hair, to begin with. If a reasonable number of them had brown hair, than in 150 or so generations this fenotype (dark) will have increased enormously... Mutations will only further increase the proportion of dark Aiel.

Mmm. Perhaps I will simulate this scenario to back up my claims with some statistics. Always nice to combine work with hobby ;-)


The foxes and the snakes. How do you come up with this storyline? Well done RJ, if you ask me...
Chris Maurer
41. grayfox
st-st @ 38: It has been talked about how all the female rituals require nudity for some reason, while the men's don't. I don't think anyone knows.

Along the same lines...does anyone have a theory why the Tattooing Time Machine doesn't give the dragon tattoos to women when they go through it? (Remember Wise Ones go through the rings the first time to Rhuidean, and then go through the columns (Tattooing Time Machine) the 2nd time to Rh.
Lannis .
42. Lannis
Thanks, Leigh! Great stuff! :)

Chapter 23:

Couladin = ARGH! He reminds me of that really angsty teen you went to high school with, and you run into him after post-secondary and he's still all Angry At The World, and you think, "Dude, just grow up already!"

Rand says in a strained voice that his mother was Aiel, to Egwene’s great surprise. Amys answers slowly that it was not his mother, but his father;

How bizarre would that be? Traveling half way across the continent (or more!), to reluctantly say something you'd found hard to admit to even yourself, only to have a complete stranger say you've got it wrong and that they know more than you do?!

Well, I guess it's the least bizarre of a few things Rand's had to deal with in the last year or so, isn't it?

Re: Moiraine and the Wise Ones...

She looked at them questioningly, just as if they did not suddenly have eyes of stone. None of them spoke.

Our little Mo's tenacious, to say the least...

Chapter 24:

Mat tells Rand that it was Aviendha he saw running in ahead of them, naked, but Rand doesn’t really seem to believe him, and Mat lets it go.

S'one of those little points that, if the perspectives were switched and it was Rand saying it, you know you'd hear Mat echo that old saying we'll be hearing a lot of: "I hope he's not mad already..." I like that Jordan has Mat seeing Aviendha--especially since this in no way can be foreshadowing of the Rand/Avi relationship later.

Mat curses, and thinks to himself that somehow he is going to find his way back to that place and get some real answers out of those people this time.

Dum dum dum!

Irritably Mat tells him to go on then, and don’t expect Mat to come in after him if he doesn’t come out, either.

Classic Mat, "I'm no bloody hero," bullshit. Love it!

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

That, madam, is pure gold!

CalebG @ 4: I think the reason Mat is so appealing is that, of all the characters, he is the most free. I think you're right here. :)

LadyBelaine @ 36 re: Aiel colouring...

They are mentioned as being really, really tanned where exposed to the sun and pale and fair elsewhere, although Sorilea looks rather like beef jerky for some reason.

BAHAhahaha! Um, yes! For some reason Sorilea does look like beef jerky... mind you, she's also supposed to be really old--but that's how I kind of pictured her, too. :)

st-st @ 38: The girls have to go to Rhuidean naked because they're going into the Aiel version of the Acceptatron, and that's how women enter the ter'angreal (naked). The men are going into the Time Warp Chronicler, and because it's a different type of ter'angreal, it would seem one's allowed to be clothed... anybody else?
43. anotherfan
Rfife @ 31. thanks for the thoughts. Consider that if the people migrated as you speak of, they migrated in groups. It stands to reason that those with lighter skin would have tried to stay in a climate where they were more comfortable, while those with darker skin and hair would have been comfortable traveling into harsher sunny climates. They would have pretty much stayed with people with similar characteristics to themselves.

You say that gentics changed. That's a huge statement. My question is how did they change? Without the addition of new genetic info, the people in sunny placs would have retained their same DNA. Simply being in the environment wouldn't alter a single persons DNA, so how could DNA change over time? I still think the only option would have been for the Aiel to interbreed with wetlanders.

LadyBelaine @ 36:
good stuff too. I had not even taken into acount the Wise Ones and the One Power. Thanks. That takes away the argument that the population should have changed due to natural selection.

So what should have been the vehicle for evolutionary change in the population? I still say the only way we would see a change overall in skin color or eye color would be if they went outside of their own people.
Marie Adomako
44. MSedai
Paracelsus @2: Dur. I never did get the "even chance" comment...

And I totally love all of your character descriptions Leigh, they are spot on for me!

As to the cultural humor, the first time I read the mother-in-law as gai'shain story I didn't really get it, but I thought it was totally hilarious this time around.

Couladin/Sevanna. Ick. Plus note that any of the Aiel that we have really met so far don't like the Shaido. How did they get so far off track?

And from the perspective of a biology student, 3000 years isn't really enough time for a homogenous, isolated group to accumulate enough genetic mutations to change how they look, no matter the environment. The environment doesn't create the mutations, it only selects, and the Aiel refuse to be selected out. :) The human race took 30-50,000 years to create all the different racial types we have today, and shifts in how people look today generally occur from mixing these racial types. The bigger question is how they managed to stay homogenous in the AoL.
Lannis .
45. Lannis
grayfox @ 41: you've trumped me, sir, with your "Tattooing Time Machine." I bow to your superior ter-angreal trademarking... the "Time Warp Chronicler" sounds rather wimpy to me...
Galen Brinn
46. GatheringStorm
st-st @ 38,

Same thing happens to Tar Valon novices when testing for Accepted; they go in naked. Maybe the rings don't like clothes?

As to the topic of Aiel evolution: Skin color is a major genetic change. Light skin color evolved as a necessity for people in northern climes, where there is much less sunlight than tropical climates, to absorb more sunlight and thus make Vitamin D. If the Aiel were keeping themselves almost totally covered - which it seems they did since most descriptions infer that they only had tanned hands/faces/necks (so far as I can recall) - then you wouldn't NEED a lot of genetic change. Keeping covered, lack of outside breeding, Healing (def, w/capital H) could quite possibly keep the Aiel from having evolved darker skin. Of course, this is all rampant speculation; while I have a Biology degree, Genetics wasn't my area of expertise and Healing throws a blind man a curve-ball...

anotherfan @43, DNA can spontaneously change; it's called mutation. That is the driving force of evolution. A favorable mutation gets expressed and reinforced through reproduction. That being said, however, "sudden" reversion to dark skin is probably not in the cards here - and according to WOT, it wasn't :D).

But hey, I've been wrong before so if someone with more Genetics knowledge than I can chime in, I'll listen to reason.
Maggie M
47. Eswana
“while Rand is... um, Ninja Jesus, basically.”
I literally laughed out loud for that one, Leigh. Excellent.

I agree with you about Mat (maybe because I’m American myself and have been steeping in that sort of Classic American Hero archetype for most of my life… I mean, Mat is more or less Han Solo without Chewie (he even marries a snotty, short princess with hair issues). I hope non-Americans don’t hate us for that generalization (generalizations and stereotypes are something that Americans are particularly bad about, if you ask me). Well described.

As far as genetics of the Aiel goes- some people have already covered this already, but I’ll add my two cents. I can buy it, even if it’s a little strange. Arguements for Nordic-coloring Aiel: (1) they don’t have children with those outside their group, like ever. Rand’s parents are the exception, and even Tigraine had classic Aiel coloring (blonde hair, blue eyes). The gene pool was pretty well isolated, so it’s reasonable that they all stayed about the same because there weren’t any outside genes to “muddy up” the waters. (2) Even though light skin, light hair, and light eyes are not ideal to live in a dessert, the Aiel have only been living in the Waste for about ~2,500 years. That’s a drop in the bucket in terms of geological and evolutionary time. It take a LONG time for evolution to do its thing and radically change a species. So, I can buy that they haven’t been able to evolve in that timespan.

Paracleseus @5
There’s an incident coming up where Lan will save Moiraine from a Dragkhar, I think. It was a close call, too, so it’s darn lucky her Warder is Made of Awesome.

Laframboise @10.
HA! Just picture it- some Wise Ones and their groupies sitting by the Portal stone, when suddenly… a horse appears out of nowhere and squishes them. Or a wagonload of gold from the Stone. So funny. (unless you happen to be the unlucky sod squished by the horse).

Jonathan @11
Good point about Mat. He can’t channel, he can’t talk to wolves, he doesn’t have anything particularly Special and Magical about him (minus the foxhead and his memories), so it’s really just him against the world.

Gimpols1908 @ 16
I think this is twofold- one, until very recently, people in Randland simply couldn’t get to the Very Strange Places (Shara, Seanchan, Tremalking, Isle of Madmen….) because no one could Travel. Even now that they can, Our Heroes are a little bit too worried about the end of the world coming up to go and explore other parts of the world. However, from a practical standpoint, if Rand tried to get the Sharans under his wing too, or go to Seanchan or any other place, there would be even *more* material to cover, which would mean more subplots, more minor characters, more sniffing and crossing arms under breasts, more scheming, more descriptions of people’s clothes….. it would just take too long. Far too long. I would love to learn more about them, and I think we will in the new Encyclopedia coming out after aMoL, but there just isn’t the time now.

St-st @38
It seems just the Rings require nakedness. And the Aes Sedai test thing, too (described in New Spring). Since both the Aiel and Aes Sedai Acceptatrons have customs of being naked, it might be for an actual reason, not just “custom.” However, for both instances, the symbolism is very strong- without clothes people usually feel vulnerable, and both ceremonies represent a break with an earlier life.

I am so excited for Wednesday!!! Those two chapters about the Aiel's history are two of my favorite in the whole series. Huzzah!!! Can't wait!
48. bookworm
Very interesting discussion about Mat. It certainly seems to have struck a chord for many readers. Still, I wonder if RJ didn't have Greek drama in mind when he created the character triad of Rand/Mat/Perrin? Was RJ trying to fit characters into recognizable constructs, or do we just see them in one way or another? Would non-western cultures see the characters in the same way, or in some different context? I wonder if RJ didn't just take some stock characters, then add a few twists in to keep things lively? It would be an interesting question to discuss with Harriet in fact.

For my part, I haven't really thought of Mat in relation to some other mythological or fictional character. It must just be a difference in how people relate to characters and stories. Odd that no one mentioned Max Rockatansky when comparing Mat to some anti-hero, though. I try to see the characters for what they are (or how they are depicted, if you will), not who they act like. I try to let the characters stand (or fall) on their own merits. Most interesting to hear how some of you relate to the characters. RJ would be pleased, I think.

In the same fashion, I never really related Mosk and Merk, Anla the Wise, and Elsbet with personifications or personages in our world. It is quite intriguing, yet I would never have called Russia and the USA by those names. Why not Old Sam and the Red Bear? Or Rusk and Merik? I don't know. You say it, I see it, but I wouldn't have otherwise. I really just thought they were tidbits strewn about for later stories. Something else to ask Harriet I suppose.
49. BigMac
Leigh, thanks for the great commentary!

R. Fife @ 6-- I agree with your take on the Jordan's cultural designs. Even though this is supposed to be a world completely foreign to us, we always tend to liken it to things that are familiar. I think that it comes down to psychology-- where we initially try to assimilate new info into previously defined schemas and then if it fits outside of those, we define a new one. Leigh's comments before about why things in WOT seems so realistic due to their more common (less fantastic) qualities i.e. Aes Sedai politikin, etc. seems to fit into the logic here as well.

And in regards to Mat exuding that American hero archetype... well lets just say that the hanging scene always reminded me of the beginning of the Clint Eastwood flick "Hang'em High". Clint's character takes the law into his own hands to hunt down the men who hung him disregarding the consequences... similar to how CalebG @4 described Mat and his utter coolness as a WOT character.
50. gesear
Great post as always Leigh! Just have to say that I think its strange - considering your other comments - that of all the guys in WOT, you like the womaniser the best! :)
51. blight
Sorry I know this doesn't come up til a little further in the book but did anyone notice that the name egeanin uses later, Leilwin, is the name of a lady she had killed b/c Gelb kidnapped her thinking she was a sul'dam?
52. scarlett
Mat's pile of weapons = repeated giggle inducing wonderfulness.

Also I think the reason people are drawn to Mat is less because of the american hero archetype and more because we identify with being courageous because we have to, and then making jokes about it the whole time. At least I do. Everybody likes the comic relief character.
53. Samadai
As another biology student with a few classes in genetics I can understand why they have not changed. just look at it from another angle. The Native Americans all migrated from Asia 10 to 15 thousand years ago to spread out across North and South America. Different climates,different conditions from desert to steppes to lowland grassy areas, forests etc. Yet in all this time they are still basically (generalization here dont bite my head off) the same skin tone as most Asian cultures. So if 10 to 15 thousand years has not changed many cultures living in many varieties of regions I can see how the Aiel can still be who they were.
54. The Man In The Black Cape
Personally, I don't associate different character types with different nationalities. Different in-world nationalities with real ones yes, actual character types no. For instance, for me, giving Mat an American accent would utterly ruin my mental image of him, and his (almost) stoic, cool but long-suffering attitude doesn't really correspond with my image of the steroetypical American. Furthermore, Lan is just Lan, I don't attach any nationality to him (except the Borderlands are reminiscent of Asian cultures, eg, Shienarans with their horses = stereotypical Mongolians), and the same with Rand et al. I don't often think "hmmm, this is a very British character type" or anything like that. Making character types correspond to nationalities doesn't sit very well with me.

Come to think of it, I don't really like nationality typecasting in general, the whole "oh, you're this, so you must act like this" thing. Stereotypes I can handle, because they're stereotypes, but the idea of a "national character" appeals to me in no way whatsoever. The fact is not that I'm whatever nationality, but that I'm me. I'm British, but I don't feel a great deal of respect for the Queen, I strongly dislike anything approaching a class system, I've never been on a red double-decker bus, my friends don't think I'm particularly polite, and I'm fairly liberal and egalitiarian. So, by nationalist logic, I'm therefore not British or something. And on another level, I'm not a rugby fan/player, and I don't eat much lamb, so maybe I'm not Welsh either.


In addition, I've never got on well with people who think of themselves as being patriotic either. Just because something is patriotic doesn't necessarily mean its right (take the Nazis as an example). For example, had the shoe been on the other foot, and the UK was the totalitarian fascist regime bent on world domination, I like to think I would've fought for Germany. Ideology is far more important than nationality to me. Sure, culture is extremely important, but everyones got that, we're not special in that respect. Just because I'm x nationality doesn't make me better than anyone of y nationality. I like to think I'd get on just as well with someone who was, say, French or German just as well as I get on with anyone of my own nationality. Again, more than anything else, I'm Me, and, also again, though culture plays a major part in our development, deep down we're all human anyway.

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a rant, and I'm certainly not accusing anyone of being racist etc. I'm fairly sure I've gone a bit off-topic as well. The point is that I don't really identify nationalities with character types, and don't like nationalism/national typecasting full stop. Here, Mat is described as being a more American-oriented character type, but I, speaking as a young male from the Principality of Wales in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, identified with him very well, though admittedly not as much as with Rand. Oh well, I digress. Comment at your leisure.
55. Maimie
These rereads are great, keep up the good work! I check the index every posting-day when I get back from school, even if I know that it's still morning in America and the post won't have yet come ;) I need my three-times-a-week drug.

On Aiel skin color: The main reason for their colouring is probably the bottleneck phenomenon. The population which survived the Breaking was very homogenous, and there simply were no dark hair/skin/eyes genes that could have become more common by natural selection. The other reason could be, that maybe light skin would not be a non-survival trait. I mean, certainly a person with a light skin has a bigger risk of having melanoma. But, as most cancers, melanoma doesn't usually develop until the person is something like 40+ years old. (I'm not sure, but something like that, anyway. I'm a high school student, not a M.D.) Thus, the Aiel would have time to have children and pass on their light skin genes before their pale skin kills them, if generalization is allowed.
Maggie M
56. Eswana
gesear @50
I wouldn't call Mat an actual "womanizer." Not really even a toxic bachelor, to use a Bradshaw-ism. He's a serial monogomist. He shacked up with Melihndra (a Shaido Maiden) for a while, then was with Tylin, and now Tuon. He likes to party and flirt and kiss, but he treats women for the most part with respect, unless they deserve to be yelled at for being stupid (ahem, Elayne and Nynaeve sometimes, especially in Ebou Dar). I would describe a womanizer as a dirt bag who thinks women are objects and only thinks of his own best interests, the woman's safety, feelings, or health be damned. That's not Mat. he's an honorable man, who just happens to be very popular with the ladies. I think I can still be a feminist in good standing even if I like Mat :-)
57. anotherfan
GatheringStorm @ 46: Spot on. You're right about mutations. I knew that, but it was slinking around the back of my brain. Thanks. And I suppose extreme exposure to UV rays would highten the chances of mutation in the genes.? But that would still be an isolated case. The mutation probably would not be passed on to the point that it effected the entire population later.

I'm having a difficult time recalling a mutation in the gene pool of any species that we have observed to be a beneficial change. And I mean a mutation we have observed in human history and documented. Not speculation based on evidence that is subjective. But I'm one of those loons who questions macroevolution anyway. (Wow, is that ever off topic and liable to get me laughed at.)

Based on comments I'm reading from you folks, I tend to believe that a Nordic-looking aiel population is very reasonable.
Leigh Butler
58. leighdb
gesear @50:

I think its strange - considering your other comments - that of all the guys in WOT, you like the womaniser the best! :)

It is a little odd, until you consider this one quote from ACOS:

he had never chased any woman who let him know she did not want to be chased.

That... pretty much sums it up, right there.
59. joten
We can't make assumptions about fantasy skin color. For all we know, Aiel have some kind of pigment in their skin that shows up light but still provides protection from the sun.

Randland might have vague references to our world, but that doesn't mean it's a post apocalyptic future or that genetics and biology work the same way.
Blake Engholm
60. UncrownedKing
@58 Leighdb

Love that quote! shows how Mat is both honorable and an evil genius. ha. When Mat is doing his chasing of the womens, it seems that he is never that forward. So it is unfair to call him a womanizer. He is usually all compliments and fluffery, never forcing himself on the women or making lued comments. It bugs the hell out of me when Mat and the SG are in Ebou Dar and the SG think all he does is force himself on the bar maids. When he hardly does anything other than comment on the girls eyes and then sits them on his knee.

Hardly a cause for the SG's view of him.
Sydo Zandstra
61. Fiddler
Interesting thought about Mat and his popularity.

Personally I came to like him because he displayed much of the same humour that I have: Dry as dust, not excepting himself and very dark at times. So his scenes were always the most fun to read.


But now that you've mentioned it I have to agree. He is this John McClane/Han Solo/Mal Reynolds archetype.


One of the things why I like Mat comes from his POV's. For example, after Mat's visit to the Aelfinn in Tear Rand comes out, and then Moiraine who asks if Perrin went in there as well. Mat says something like he didn't, although he's not sure. Then he thinks maybe Perrin would give him the lie by stepping out next. I found that funny.

Same with him thinking about Nynaeve (or any other dominating woman) putting men to work. Probably some guy who was having a good time...

It's the kind of stuff that John McClane and Han Solo mutter in between action scenes. ;)

I can't wait to read the stuff between Mat and Nynaeve+Elayne in Ebou Dar again...
Galen Brinn
62. GatheringStorm
anotherfan @57. Most likely extreme UV exposure would result in localised, bad mutations (read skin cancers) that would kill the individual and aren't going to make it into the genetic soup of the reproductive cells.

A desirable mutation? Easy: Lactose tolerance. Most mammals lose their lactose tolerance by adolescence, but not all individuals of any given species will become lactose intolerant. Northern European humans began keeping dairy cows about 10,000 years ago and so (by archaeological evidence and it could be older) we have seen a gradual easing of lactose intolerance over the last 10,000 years. This same convergent evolution has been exhibited in other cultures that keep animals for dairy purposes (Yak, goat, mares, etc) but other cultures that didn't keep dairy stock have a much higher incidence of lactose intolerance.
Sara H
63. LadyBelaine

"I'm having a difficult time recalling a mutation in the gene pool of any species that we have observed to be a beneficial change."


The idea of random mutation having a beneficial change (or negative change, for that matter) that affects their success rate and potential reproduction is the very underpining of the theory of evolution! An animal that can swin slightly longer and further could range further out to see for food and might survive in a shortage period than those that didn't. If it survives, it will pass on its genetic legacy to its offspring. After hundreds of generations, we have new speciation.

Case in point, see the Galapagos iguanas.

Mutation isn't like the X-Men, where the children of homo sapien parents grow wings or can turn into organic steel. It's incrimental little changes that add up over time. If the changes make the animal more successful, it does well, breeds well, and its progeny continue down the path.
64. HeWhoComesWithTheNoon
My view of why the ring rituals require nudity and the columns don't is quite simple, if maybe a bit heterocentric:

If you're a man, and you're creating a fantasy world, why not have some beautiful young women running around naked?
65. Rikka
while Rand is... um, Ninja Jesus, basically




Mat and Lan are on my list of badass male heroes I would fantasize about if they were real, beyond that, I couldn't give a damn. I like Mat for the badassery of his ancient memories, for how he fights his 'destiny' and for what Thom says about him back when Mat and Thom save Aludra.

However, I can't picture Mat saying Yippe-kai-yay mothafucka so maybe that has something to do with me being unable to buy the American hero thing. Then again, I don't really consider Bruce Willis in Die Hard as an American /hero/. Also. I severely dislike being American and am looking forward to becoming an expat once I get out of school and so am decidedly biased against plenty of parts of my own culture.

Hanyway, I'm excited for Wednesday.
Chris Maurer
66. grayfox
HeWho @ 64:

I'm just glad RJ didn't have us envisioning Verin or Anaiya going in those rings...
Sydo Zandstra
67. Fiddler
Along the same lines...does anyone have a theory why the Tattooing Time Machine doesn't give the dragon tattoos to women when they go through it? (Remember Wise Ones go through the rings the first time to Rhuidean, and then go through the columns (Tattooing Time Machine) the 2nd time to Rh.

I think that's because men go in there to be judged to lead their Clan, and the Dragon tattoo is their badge of rank, and prove that they have faced Aiel history and dealt with it succesfully. He comes with the Dawn has two Dragon tattoos, to show he is fit to lead all Aiel in the same way. I guess it's something coming from RJ's military background.

Wise ones, otoh, are above Clan membership. They can walk among Clans that their Clan of origin has a blood feud with.

(or, at least they could until these chapters)

It is a little odd, until you consider this one quote from ACOS:

he had never chased any woman who let him know she did not want to be chased.

That... pretty much sums it up, right there.

Yes, and none of the female characters seem to grasp this, especially Nynaeve. Only Elayne comes close after Mat shouts at her how things between Tylin and him really are.

I really like the Mat/Nynaeve interaction, in both word and thought...
Alex Wahlgren
68. Black-Veiled_Alex
On the whole genetics thingy, 3,000 years might seem like to short of a time to us, and in our civilizations it probably would take a much longer time, but it be different for the Aiel. They live in a very harsh environment, and the wise ones have almost no healing abilities. They'd die at a much higher rate than us, which means survival of the fittest would accelerate to a speed hundreds of times faster than it works for us. After 3000 years, unless they started out as albinos they shouldn't have their light complexion.
69. Siuanfan
It's possible that wearing clothing in the ring ter'angreals interfere with the ring's ability to create a scenario. If you notice, though they go in naked, they're clothed when they become aware of their surroundings, but the clothing they have on is related to their experience. Perhaps coming in with clothing on makes it difficult to break with reality and create an entirely new experience for the person inside. Like say if Min were to go in and sees herself in a gown as a haughty future Mrs. Dragon, but somewhere in the back of her mind she can still feel/is still aware of her own coat and breeches... or if they show through the illusion there's going to be some cognitive dissonance.
70. RebelLives
Samadai@53: The Native Americans are an interesting example I hadn't thought of. Why did the Native Americans who populated the northern portions of the US and Canada not begin developing lighter colored eyes or hair? I don't know the answer to that. I may have to try and do a little research.
71. cps2195

I think your getting too hung up on the term "mutation." Exposure to radiation does cause mutations but not in the same way that the term is used in a evolutionary sense.
72. PieterT
Great job as always Leigh!

I like your theory about Mat. It made me wonder why his character always works so well with Thom. It reminded me of Clint Eastwood and Lee van Cleef. Is it mentioned that Juilin is ugly somewhere?
73. hoping to be of the blood
@68Blackveiled alex
More Aiel die at the tip of a spear than from the harsh environment. Evolutionary pressures might have selected out Aiel with thick skin.
74. Traboner
on ranlend being europe:
i alweys find it amusing that the semi-arab culturs of ranland ( arad doman and trabon) are part of "europe" when the babrien invaders(aiel) are european in apearance.
75. Siuanfan
Taraboner @ 74

Historically, that sounds about accurate to me...

76. Lsana
A quick comment here: does anyone else get the feeling that one of the answers Moiraine got in Tear told her to go to Rhuidean and through the rings? The Wise Ones seem to think Moiraine would have asked to go through the rings whether they had told her she needed to or not. Why? Moiraine had never before shown a desire to mess with potentially fatal ter'angreal without knowing exactly what she was doing; she was extremely reluctant to go through the twisted door. Why would she risk offending her hostesses by insisting on going through the rings unless she already knew it was necessary?

@58 leighdb,

That does about sum up Mat's "womanizing" (which is really just a refusal to be passive in his sex life) and it's why I get so mad at those who think that what happened with Tylin was his "just desserts." But I'll have plenty of time to get mad about that later. Meanwhile, I should just sit back and enjoy the four most awesome chapters in the series.

@70 RebelLives,

I think that while dark skin is a big advantage in excessively sunny places, light skin isn't all that much of one in colder spots. There's some advantage (greater absorption of vitamin D), but I don't think it anywhere close to as much. The Nordic people are light-skinned more due to a freak non-harmful mutation than because Nordic coloring is the ideal for survival in that environment.

Though I believe that if you look at your average native Alaskan and your average native Guatemalan, the Guatemalan will probably be a little darker.
77. Rebecca Starr
Ch 23
Not much to add on the discussion of race, since that's out of my realm of expertise, but I will just say I think RJ avoids the cliche of the "Exotic Other." Generally someone is Othered is seen to have lower status because they are viewed through the lens of the dominant/conquero/colonizer (who, in our world, has tended to be White rand Male). But because the Aiel and the Sea Folk societies both hold so much *power* (for the Aiel, militarily, for the Sea Folk in terms of money and trade), that Othering fact is completely negated. so hats off to RJ.

I just melt inside at the term 'shade of my heart'. and yes, I call my boyfriend this.

Mat's collection of weapons is also one of my favorite moments, series-wide.

I do find it odd that Egwene only just now notes that she can sense the Power in Moiraine, and gives, as a reason, that Moiraine is a "distant woman." Should we truly take this to mean that being a closed-off individual hinders someone else's ability to tell if you are a channeler or not?

Ch 24
I don't *disagree* with you on Mat/America, Leigh, but it is certainly not something that has ever occurred to me, nor why I like him. ::shrug:: I'm an American who has always felt distinctly European, and I love Lan almost as much as Mat. What appeals to me about Mat is that his humor and manner are... sexy and fun.

has it ever been mentioned as "errata" that Mat goes on and on about his da's farm - yet way back in Eye of the World, we learn that Abel Cauthon's house goes up in flames first in the Trolloc attack, and its "almost in the center of the village." I mean, I understand maybe he has an outlying farm somewhere, but this has always bugged me.

Norry@32 - I agree that one can learn Aiel humour! The first time through, not so much; now hilarious. and damn proud of it

grayfox@41 - since so many posts today have been about genes, maybe that Tattooing Time Machine can smell the Y chromosome and latches onto it??

@57 - lactose intolerance is a good example. sickle cell anemia comes to mind too. it is common in populations from tropical climates, because the gene mutation offers a protection against malaria. unfortunately, when those populations migrate (to the U.S. for instance), sickle cell anemia rears up and causes disease.
Alex Wahlgren
78. Black-Veiled_Alex
What if the super girls are evolved? What if after all the years of male dominance women evolve into the annoying super girls? *shudders* Those jokes don't seem very funny suddenly.
Luke M
79. lmelior
The Man In The Black Cape @54
For instance, for me, giving Mat an American accent would utterly ruin my mental image of him, and his (almost) stoic, cool but long-suffering attitude doesn't really correspond with my image of the steroetypical American.
Interesting perspective. Incidentally, I can't really picture Mat with a British accent, either. I remember noticing on my first read through the frequent use of "bloody," but it still didn't occur to me to assign them British accents.

I don't know if that means much, though, as even if there were more clues (e.g. your use of "full stop" instead of "period"), I still don't think I'd have caught on. Only in explicitly British novels (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Chronicles of Narnia), do I imagine characters' voices with a British accent.

Funny that you envision Mat more like Luke Skywalker (stoic, cool, long-suffering), when Leigh describes him as Han Solo (foul-mouthed, brash, rather trust to luck and go in with guns a-blazin'). Are you sure you're reading the same series we are? :)
80. dcole78
anotherfan. As a biochemist I have seen mutations in colonys of bacteria that have developed resistiance to an antibiotic over time, especially if the antibiotic is given at a low dose. Mutations happen more often than we like to think, though as the organisms get more complicated and the genes get more complicated it takes more mutations to make a major change. It also has to do with generation time. As the generation time got longer evolution slowed down. Bacterial evolution is very observable on human experimental timescales.

Loved the recap! I would call Mat a womanizer actually, and he ends up making most of the band into womanizers, but I'm a male who tries to be incredibly extra careful about such things.
81. SteelBlaidd
UncrownedKing @35

There is a wonderful explination of how "honor" based Humor works in this article on the Pillars Of Moral Character. The Situation that drives Ranma 1/2 is a muchmore extream version of the 'Joke' Aviendha find's her self the butt of in LoC(knife or stick).

And given the popularity of westerns in Japan I doubt the Lovable Rouge is soley a an American character. Especialy as it's just a subtrope of the Trickster Archetype
82. boquaz
One of the things I've always liked about WOT is trying to picture the different parts of the cultural amalgam which makes up each "people," including the three ta'veren.

To me, Perrin seems very modern American: the lone wolf (ha ha), with the feisty girlfriend, the unwilling leader. The guy who goes out in the woods and talks with wolves definitely fits with the American lore I'm familiar with (I'm from the western US).

While I do see the point with Mat, the Old Tongue/re-living old lives thing doesn't fit with my view of American stereotypes. Matt seems very Persian to me, for some reason. In any case, I feel the parts of his character you call American are too culturally general for us to just appropriate like that.

Rand as ninja Jesus is hilarious, a good enough joke to cover the lack of discussion. I see him like a character out of greek mythology. I've already said this before here, but I specifically see him as Prometheus.
Amar Ramraj
83. aiel1219
@ 30. UncrownedKing
Just a quick comment for now... The elffinn (don't think I spelt that right) - When I sawStarwars Episode 2 I thought those guys who build the clones looked like my Idea of Elfinn.
Amar Ramraj
84. aiel1219
I spent teh las 90 mins or so reading 3 articles on genetics and evolution LOL!!!
Just to ensure that my understanding was correct.

What I gather is this... without a mixing of gene pools 3000 years is not enough time for simple natural genetic mutation to cause this kind of major genetic evolution.

And another thing to think of here is that one major thing that causes evolution of this sort is natural selection "survival of the fittest". Which does not apply to humans now as it did when the majority of our genetic evolution occured. Because of our intelligence even a bunch of people genetically unsuited for a particular environment can manage to survive and adapt using technology... simple things like wear cloaths, building shelter etc help us survive. so it takes the natural selection factor out of the equation to a large extent. When the evolution of many of our core genetic traits occured we basically... werent that smart. so nature just weeded out the genetically unsuitable by killing em. Not the case with the Aiel.

And genetic mutation would simply not be enough to have a major impact on a population without natural selection playing a major role.

And lets say there are about 1,000,000 Aiel total (which is probably a big underestimate) we have had descriptions of maybe what 150 of them (overestimate?) which is like 0.015% of the population and 1 had black hair which is like 0.6% of the described Aiel. Which to my mind is a good account for genetic mutation.

And someone earlier was saying he would throw statistic into his/her argument... dunno if he/she did but can you really find statistics for human evolution where natural selection was taken out of the equation in such a major way (and there was pretty much no mixing of genetic pools?)

Anyway another point to make here is that the tinkers are also Aiel... but they have mixed with people up and down the "continent" and now they don't really look like Aiel do they???
See Jordan may have actually thought this out...

Woah that was long!! sowwy :(

Anyways Leigh... hope u got the major thing in this was the natural selection not being a factor actually limits genetic evolution in a MAJOR way.... will keep researchin this so next time u bring it up mb I'll have more to say :)
LOL!!! Almost every post you gimme something to research... I love that!!! Thanks :):):)
85. Smatt
I sure there is some mention of why the women enter the Acceptatrons during either Egwene or Nynaeve's test. I will have to have a quick look and get back....
86. tailspinner
So I can't comment on genetics but I can comment on Anthropology (9 long university years of it). I have to say @ man in the black cape, I respect your opinion but research shows that climate and location are driving factors in the way a culture develops. As such, there are cultural trends, you might call them stereotypes. Repeated cross cultural psychological studies show that there are identifiable cultural differences, as such, I see no problem interpreting Mat as American, and as a Canadian I take no offence when people call me overly polite. There are always people who do (Or wish they) violated cultural stereotypes, but the norm remains the same.

So yeah, Most of Randland does seem European, and I think the comparisons are kind of fun, as long as they don't degenerate into Derisive statements.

Re: The mats tons of knives scene, I feel like it has been done on television a million times so it never occurred to me to find it funny, but reading it again I see the humour.
87. kantoka
Mat = America's Billy the Kid, the accidental tragic hero.

Leigh... you are dead on with that analysis on Hero types. Love it. =)
88. Smatt
Ok, so it doesn't specifically say you must go into the rings nude but during Nynaeve's test she is told that the Aes Sedai sent in two sisters warded ect who came back burned out. The third sister went in unprotected and came out fine. I think the aes Sedai have just built on this while making it into a ritual that the rings are entered totally 'unprotected'. Of course I could be wrong and it could just be a bit of hazing.
Ellie Virgo
89. Egglie
I like Mat because stuff happens in his POVs. Same thing with Nynaeve, she never just sits about thinking about how bad things are (and if she does she accidentally heals stilling whilst she's at it) Egwene suffers a bit as a character from spending too much time thinking about things and not enough time getting on with being kick ass. I also like the fact Mat is a bit more irreverent than most of the other characters.

I can see what you are saying with the "american hero" thing but it doesn't resonate with me (probably because I am not american). I think Mat has a touch of the dandy highway man about him myself.
90. laframboise
Eswana has the right take on arrival by Portal Stone, for sure - makes sense, and just as well, if the Aiel Dreamwalkers hadn't anticipated the how as well as the where and the when.
91. krukurr
About your comments...
This is your show, so it is your opinion injected in with the rest of the story. I have no problem with that, although I do not always agree with you or others of their opinions (I know you dont want to hear mine!!!), it is what you think. So, think all you want, just dont stop the story! ha ha...A little sidetracking makes a more interesting read sometimes (besides, I might just learn something)...Remember this is sposed to be funn, and funn it shall be!!! Enjoying the re-read; still.
92. Heather P.

Who says the Wise Ones aren't marked in some way when they come out of the Tattooing Time Machine? Just because a tattoo isn't huge and obvious doesn't mean there isn't one there.

And I realize that the Aiel spend a lot of time naked in sweat tents, but nudity seems to be such a "so-what" with them they wouldn't even talk of the Wise Ones being marked. Add to that, no one speaks of what the Wise Ones encounter when they go to Rhuidean. The Wetlanders seem so uncomfortable with nudity they won't even look at someone if they can avoid it. (I don't even remember Mat ogling a naked woman.)

IMHO, the Wise Ones are marked in some way when then come back the second time, but it is Wise Ones' business and no one else's. And since we don't really get a good Aiel POV from someone who had gone to Rhuidean, it's all opinion and conjecture at this point, eh?

I love it when I get something good to chew on! But I'm not even going to enter the discussion about Aiel and fair hair/skin. "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

Love the re-read!
93. Tony Zbaraschuk
Enough people have already weighed in on the genetics thing. I just suspend disbelief on a lot of those things.

One thing to keep in mind is that Randland, while it does have many distinct cultures, does not have as much separation between them as we've had on Earth. Shara is way out there, and so are the Seanchan, but everyone from Almoth Plain to the Spine of the World is in regular communication. They share a common language (which really should have broken into multiples over 3000 years, but we'll allow some dramatic license plus having a written tongue to slow things), and much of a common culture (the Aes Sedai as an overculture, Hawkwing's empire as a more recent unification), so Tear and Andor and Illian and Murandy and Caerhien are all actually fairly close together... and Jordan still makes them distinct. The Borderlands nations are all tied together because of their common fight against the Blight, but Shienar and Arad Doman are still distinct.

The Aiel don't seem to have much interaction with the cultures on this side of the Spine of the World. There seems to be a fair amount of fighting on the Shienaran border (perhaps the mountains are lower there); Rhuarc and Lan are both familiar with the other's tactics, for instance (that will come up in a few chapters). Some gene flow probably happens, but the Spine is a major barrier, and so is culture.

The Wise Ones are trying to rush things so they can get He Who Comes With the Dawn into Rhuidean before the Shaido get riled, so they can't protest too much to Mat's request lest Couladin turn their anti-Mat arguments into anti-Rand arguments.
Bill Reamy
94. BillinHI
Mother’s milk in a cup! It has taken me a bloody lot longer to catch up than I hoped, but better later than never, I suppose.

First: BIG Mahalo Nui Loa to Leigh for an outstanding job and thanks also to (most) of the contributors ;)

Some thoughts that continue throughout the series but really cropped up when reading the comments on TGH. Is there a single main (or not-no-main) character in the entire series that you don't sometimes just want to smack upside the head and beat some common sense into them? I know there is not a single group/nationality/etc. that that same thing doesn't apply to! Of course, had even a little common sense been applied, the story would not have been nearly as long and certainly not as good.

In answer to my own question: Of course there is one character who doesn’t need to have common sense beat into him: Loial, of course. But much later in the series, even the Ogier lack some common sense in that they seem to initially think they can just avoid TG by staying in their steddings (or do they think about actually leaving this world? I forget now.). But it doesn’t stay that way, so no biggie...

I think the AS are the ones who bug me the most in that regard. Is all the infighting and secret-keeping in the White Tower a result of the BA or just human nature? I realize the Breaking messed things up big-time, but I would have thought the AS would have been able to keep their act together better, not to mention hanging to at least some of the knowledge lost. Of course, the greatest AS works in the AoL required both male and female AS, so the loss of the male AS obviously contributed a great deal to the overall decline.

Re: Nynaeve’s braid tugging: IMO, I think she actually may be showing some restraint when she does that!?! ;) What she really wants to do is pound on whoever it is that is irritating her. Still annoying, though.
Luke M
95. lmelior
From the WoT FAQ on the test to be raised from Accepted to Aes Sedai:
Once below ground she must be silent until addressed… according to ancient custom she must test clad in the Light , symbolizing that she trusted to the Light’s protection alone.

- New Spring, It Begins

Another page has this little tidbit without citation:

The verification of sex dates from the Breaking of the World, when men had to be excluded as Aes Sedai. The whole ceremony used to be performed with all naked as proof that no one was a man.

I think I also remember a discussion about nudity being required for humility, though I can't pinpoint where that was.
96. Lisamarie
I got my bachelor's in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and my masters in bacteriology so...I have found the evolution discussion to be quite interesting :)

I agree that, if there truly was a genetic bottleneck with the Aiel (a homogenous population), 3000 years is not going to be enough time for enough spontaneous mutations to accrue that will influence skin tone and eye color. Yes, an individual Aiel might adapt a bit - or she would tan and produce more melanin - but that would be an acquired characteristic, and not passed on to offspring.

Possibly, those offspring that can produce the most melanin would be the most likely to survive, but like others have said, natural selection doesn't work as quickly with humans as it does with other populations because we find other ways to protect ourselves. And hey, maybe the ozone is intact so there is less risk of UV damage ;)

anotherfan is correct that increased UV could result in increased mutations - and it is POSSIBLE that they could be beneficial. However, if those mutations were not in the germ cells (ie sperm, eggs), they wouldn't be passed on. And, as others have stated, evolution is gradual. You don't just *bam* evolve the dark skin gene - it would take a long time to accumulate those traits.

As for beneficial mutations; we see it all the time in bacteria. But I don't think anotherfan is questioning that kind of microevolution, but rather macroevolution that results in distinct species that can no longer interbreed. It IS possible to witness that in bacteria with enough observation (ie, 16S ribsomal mutations) but since bacteria don't really 'breed' with each other, the species concept is hotly debated.

Sorry, I just crossed geekdoms...

Anyway...back to Wheel of Time!

I agree that Mat has that Han Solo, underdog, scruffy anti-hero with a heart of gold type that seems to be so popular. Although I was always a Luke fan myself :) I think a lot of it is that these characters are so fun to read and we wish we could be that cool - that we could handle our problems with such aplomb and with such seaming ease. As opposed to brooding and dwelling on everything. However, in the end, I am always personally more attracted to the more thoughtful character that wears his heart more on his sleeve - he cares and you know it and he doesn't bother to do try and deny it. Although I enjoy Mat's current storyline more, I think Perrin is my favorite of the Two Rivers boys...although I have a huge soft spot for Rand too.
97. Starlight
Forgive the length, but I wanted to comment on the genetics stuff from a medical perspective. (I'm currently a medical student :)

It's not really about survival of the fittest, it's survival of the most likely to reproduce. (Idiocracy, anyone? :) Someone could be a really great fit in all other ways for their environment, but never have children. Those genes would die out and never have a chance to spread through the population.

Skin color is determined by several genes working together as a unit (unless you're talking albinism, which is a single gene defect, and not what's happening with the Aiel). Even if some darker skin mutations occurred and were passed along in the Aiel line, or even selected positively, you would likely have to reach a critical mass of multiple genes having such mutations before having much of a noticeable effect on skin color.

As far as UV light and mutations go, yes, the UV light causes mutation in the skin cells. This leads to skin cancer of various types. However, any mutation in the skin is not going to be passed along to the children (unless we're talking cloning :). The mutation has to happen in the germ cells (ovaries or testes, the source of sperm and eggs) to be passed to the next generation, and UV can't penetrate that deep into the body.

Additionally, most skin cancers occur in people who are old enough to have already had children and thus passed along their genes. A gene can cause a uniformly fatal disease (like Huntington's disease, which is autosomal dominant, so practically every carrier will be affected) yet still get passed down through many generations simply because it doesn't kill you until after you've reproduced. Therefore there is no selective pressure to weed out this gene simply through differences in reproductive success in carriers vs. non-carriers. Skin cancers, like many other cancers, don't usually occur until later in life (after age 50 or so), and most people will have already had their children by that time, thus passing on the genes for lighter skin.

Of the three main types of skin cancer, only melanoma is fatal, generally speaking. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas very rarely (if ever) metastasize, and so are pretty much not going to do anything beyond damage the local area where they occur. And melanoma is the rarest of these three cancers.

All of this is, of course, ignoring the possibility that maybe the Aiel really just prefer lighter skin in their sexual partners. So even if a darker skinned person might have some increased ability to survive (fitness), they might have a decreased ability to reproduce since they would not be considered an attractive sexual partner.

Finally, as far as advantageous mutations go, I think there are two good examples of visible evolution in our lifetimes.

Someone already mentioned antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is not an advantageous mutation from the perspective of humans but is from the perspective of the bacteria. :) Less than a century ago, all Staph. aureus bacteria were easily killed by penicillin, but now it is not at all uncommon for the same species to be resistant to almost all of the current antibiotics. We physicians put a huge selective pressure on the bacteria to develop new and more clever ways to survive, and they have done so remarkably quickly. A similar phenomenon occurs in cancer cells as they develop resistance to chemotherapy over time.

The other example of advantageous mutations is the deliberate induction of mutations in immune cells (lymphocytes). The human genome could not possibly code for enough variety in antibodies and receptors to protect us from all the many different pathogens out there in the world, since it simply isn't long enough even if that was all it encoded. To make up for this, the lymphocytes deliberately cause random mutations the the genes that code for antibodies and receptors, generating a hugely diverse population of protective cells. Those lymphocytes whose antibodies or receptors are a good match for a pathogen get signaled to go forth and multiply, while those who have a worse match or who match part of the human body are usually signaled to die. So the population of lymphocytes protecting you from disease right now are continuously undergoing evolution.

I think I've rambled long enough now :) Hope that helps.
Robert Garza
98. FunBob
Great job Leigh. Looking forward to the "Shadow of the Past" coming up : )

Just a quick one - somewhere Amys is asked how/if women are marked when they go to Rhuidien (probably by that know-it-all Egwene, but I don't remember), and she basically says that only men need physical symbols, that women know the truth.

Ask a silly question, get more gender politics from RJ.... : )
99. sps49
@54- I never thought arcetypes (or tropes) would carry their accents wit them.

@57 anotherfan- at risk of you claiming you want to drop the subject repeatedly while also wanting the last word, I will mention a moth in Great Britain that adapted to soot discoloring tree bark in its habitat. That’s evolution; macro- and micro- is only recognized in faith based “science”.

@65 Rikka- Your 2nd-to-last sentence is trollbait, but you should be glad that you have the option. What other countries have you lived in?

Nekkid wimmins- lots of people don’t want nude males out & about, but few dislike (attractive) undressed females. That’s just how most people are.
The Aes Sedai tradition is to ensure no males participate in their rituals; I dunno what the Wise One rationale/ rationalization is.

@76 Lsana- lighter color means less heat is radiated away.

All- 3K years is not long enough for Aiel to develop darker skins at all. My California-bleached hair is not going to be passed on to my progeny.
Amar Ramraj
100. aiel1219
@92.Heather P.
Doesn't one of the wise ones actually say something along the lines that men "NEED" to be marked and women don't... I remember only vaguely so I may be wrong but I think it was like men need the mark to be sure or ego (or something like that) but women need no such assurances... she was making one of those jokes abt men because they needed to be marked.

I hope u don't think we're trying to beat u to death with the looong comments on evolution n genetics thing
... sry ... guess some of us just get a bit over excited about the oddest things.
101. shumble
Rhuidean is one of my favorite scenes/stories whatever you want to call it in the entire Wheel of Time series.
102. Year of the Dragon
Leigh...first time chiming in here. I just want to say that I appreciate the time you take for the re-read and commentary. I am in the process of going through the series for my second time and first by way of the Books on CD (not much time outside of work so I listen while I'm at my desk). I am actually at the end of TSR now and have TFOH on standby to start tomorrow. It is nice to be just a bit ahead of the pace of the re-read, as I get to go back and reflect on everything through your eyes.

Ninja Jesus....that's funny, I don't care who y'are. I think that this is one of my favorite books of the series (tie with TDR). I think that Rand's upcoming scene at Cold Rocks Hold is something that I can identify with....specifically, the scene where he tells everyone that he needs some Rand time and takes off on his merry way. I am an "everyone call me with your questions" type of accountant by day and a father of three by night....and oh how I cherish that little bit of alone time!!! I really think RJ does a great job of giving us these little glimpses of each character that show us how very basic their needs can be....even if they are ninja jesus wielding a power that none of us could ever fully comprehend.
103. Tonybere
A very well-behaved, insightful strand of comments!

I must say that the mashing together of cultural and ethnic references has always been one of the most compelling aspects of the story for me. I don't agree with feeling stuck in Europe though. I see aspects of Russia and Asia in the Borderlands as well as the Middle East in Arad Doman and Tarabon.

And as for Mat, I basically agree. Ever since the first time he put on that hat in the Waste, I have seen a cowboy. But I think he represents Western culture, not just the U.S. Since I am biased enough to think that his better qualities make him Canadian, eh.(couldn't resist)

Oh, and I also agree that we have far too many great American movie icons to have John McLean mentioned in the first breath!

Also, I have never thought of this before, but maybe Lan showing loyalty to Rand is another ploy by Moraine to maniplate him. I do not want to believe it, but it would make sense.
104. hoping to be of the blood
Nice discussion - a small point. A small percentage of Staph have always been resistant to PCN. The percent is now close to 100. PCN is after all a natural product that staph has seen before and had a defense mechanism for.

Now, off with you to the ER. There are three admissions waiting for you to work up. :)
105. datamuse
The whole ceremony used to be performed with all naked as proof that no one was a man.

Which leads me to wonder how Randland deals with intersexed people...

Nekkid wimmins- lots of people don’t want nude males out & about, but few dislike (attractive) undressed females. That’s just how most people are.

Tell that to the ancient Greeks.
106. ninjaphilosopher
This is such a great reread. It has finally inspired me to pick up the books for the first time in over ten years and give them a go again. I'm not exactly sure which book was the last one I read, either five or six, but I'm excited to see how they have held up over the years. There is no chance that I will ever catch up with you, but I'm enjoying it all from the sidelines.
107. Vaelethron
datamuse@105 Part of me wonders what would happen with someone who is born with both bits and can channel. Would they use saidin or saidir?
108. datamuse
Part of me wonders what would happen with someone who is born with both bits and can channel. Would they use saidin or saidir?

One does wonder. Anthropological studies that I've read of magic (I'm not an anthropologist but, well, I read a lot) sometimes indicate that people who don't fall neatly into binary sexual categories are considered to have extra or unusual powers.

What if they could do both? Or used saidin for some things and saidar for others? It gets real complicated real fast.
109. alreadymadwhensaidinwascleansed
A lesson in manipulating others from Moiraine: Have them get used to receiving favors from your hand. That way, when the time comes for a little something in return (namely obedience) they'll find it harder to refuse. We learn later from Merise and Jahar that this is how Warders are trained to obey. Rand sees right through it though. Ninja Jesus WTFLMAO

And Mat. Pure Mat Cauthon. First he is almost stabbed by Couladin, wait until they're on even footing, then see who gets stabbed. Next he shows the Wise Ones exactly how many knives he has on his person, and even the Wise Ones are impressed, never an easy feat. Anybody notice that he seems to be the practical one in this sequence of events? Then his long awaited meeting with the other breed of Finns. Hilarious as always.

And of course Egwenne is self-centered. When isn't she? Not surprisingly, she the gall to stick her nose right where it doesn't belong. She gets better though. Her Aiel training eventually makes her bearable for me.

CalebG @4
Yep. I'm not quite sold on Leigh's explanation that Mat is the most American, but he's definitely the most free. Uninhibited, unencumbered, the most honest about what he's feeling. In a word, free.

Paracelsus @5
There's also the matter of Rand's education in the Game of Houses. Much of which is credited to Moiraine. Elayne taught him statecraft, and Thom showed him the ropes, a bit. But it was Moiraine who really sat him down and gave him lessons.

RebelLives @9
There are occasional dark haired and dark eyed Aiel. Even short ones. Those are particularly touchy. Very rare though.

laframboise @10
Well, not surprisingly, the Aiel did not stay surprised for long. And their next reaction was to take out the spears.

Norry @32
It's Aiel humor that's based on irony. Much of what they find funny is either based on contrast -conflicts arising from their strict code of ji'e'toh or taunts, which are usually still based on contrasts. One of the reasons I like it. Rand's sad example for a joke in LOC was even less comprehensible to me than Aiel humor. Humor surrounding the wetlanders is not based so much on irony as their lack in one skill or another working against them.

grayfox @41
Most of the female rituals that involve nudity started just post-Breaking. In Egwenne's assumption of the Amyrlin Seat it is explained that the (partial) nudity is to keep away men in drag. Presumably(I could be wrong) this is the same for the Wise Ones. On the subject of men in drag, who knows what forms of madness may have proliferated during the Breaking? As for the Tattooing Time Machine, the Wise Ones explain that only men needed visible signs. Personally, the Aes Sedai who built it probably just did not think it necessary to tattoo Wise Ones, as it was built primarily for the purpose of preparing the arrival of He Who Comes With The Dawn(note He).

Rebecca Starr @77
Odd? Clueless is more like it. It's practically the first thing Elayne and she discussed when they first met. Unless you believe they were talking about having the spark. Both already know how to channel by that time.

re:Genetics question
At this point in time, humans primarily adapt thru technology rather than genetics. Too much sun? Build shade and wear more clothes(think shufa). Can't swim? Build boat/raft. The genetic option, which is develop darker skin and learn to breath underwater would take too many generations and will be less than useful to the one who originally had too much sun and can't swim. And since he survived the encounter with too much sun and water, we can safely assume there's no evolutionary pressure to develop a mutation that would help his descendants. If there is a genetic trait the Aiel did get a mutation in, it's probably walking and running endurance as well as higher tolerance to heat and dehydration.
110. Aye Aye Sedai
Will we not see that the Aiel have very long natural lifespans (spear dancing and Trollocs not withstanding) thus their will be very few "generations" that pass in the time since the breaking.

Although I'm not sure how this prevents inbreeding - but then the Aes Sedi (as we shall see shortly) are afraid that they have culled out the power.

So we needed some prophesy to break the Jenn Aiel off on some task to build Ruidean for Rand to find - knowing that the Aiel and the Tinkers would break off, hiding the Eye etc. Grand global conspiracy :)

Also I see the Aiel as less the Nordic Viking Types but as a bunch of Irishmen ( and Women) sent out into death Valley - Sunburned, Drinking and Fighting - Yes?

Would this mean that the Tinkers are searching for the Song from the "Irish Spring" Soap Commercial?
111. BookFairy
I have always thought of the Aile waste as being the equivalent of the Aulsralian outback using that logic thay should be dark skinned. Then again they live about as far north as you can in Randland, and we really have no idea how much sunlight they see in a year. If you follow that logic, the Aiel might look more Scandinavian with fair skin. Of course Robert Jordan Said they were fair so that is that.
According to NPR if we look back only 100 or 200 generations (that's as few as 2,500 years), "almost all of us were in a different place and we had a different skin color." Over the last 50,000 years, populations have gone from dark pigmented to lighter skin, and people have also gone the other way, from light skin back to darker skin.

As for Mat I have always seen Mat as a combination Han Solo / James Dean. He is everybody’s favorite drinking buddy. That being said he’s also got that Nordic mythos thing going on.
Loki the trickster. Odin the one eyed hung god. Odin is also supposed to be associated with the concept of the Wild Hunt, a “noisy, bellowing movement across the sky, leading a host of slain warriors”. Then at Ragnarok he walks the battlefield with his two ravens, one on each shoulder. Sounds a lot like our Mat to me.

Great post ! Lookin forward to Wed.
Chris Maurer
112. grayfox
Wow, some pretty interesting stuff I missed.

Thanks to those of you that brought up that Wise Ones don't need a physical mark from the Tattooing Time Machine. I either missed that when I read it or I haven't gotten to that point in my re-read yet.

As for the genetics discussion...while I enjoyed it, I don't have much to contribute. I am willing to suspend reality. Not to get into a new political debate on this, but from what I can tell of the known Randland world there are no solar ice caps which means the fraction of the sun's rays that the ice caps reflect are beating down on the planet making it pretty much uninhabitable. That's a theory i read somewhere anyway... (NOTE: I don't know if the South Pole is ever shown anywhere on any maps, but the North has a big scary mountain, smelly decaying trees, and one Jolly Green Giant tree, but no ice anywhere)

Just as I can accept a world with no ice caps, dudes with goat heads, and people using swords of fire, I can accept a few million light-skinned, light-eyed desert dwellers. Plus the Aiel are freakin cool.
craig miller
113. craigpmiller
Err ... forgive me for being dense but isn't "Snakes and Foxes" the board game that Olver plays all the time.

The game that you can't win.

Keep it up Leigh
114. Planeswalker
Others, European? Mat, American? Maybe.

Though, I don't like to think of it that way. And I have nothing against Americans either! (I'm Filipino and most of my countrymen adore Americans - basically slave to the American/Western culture or whatever its aspects). Just not getting to like thinking that way - admiring characters just because they look and feel this certain nationality.

I'd rather more believe liking Mat just because I'd relate myself more to him. Stubborn in a funny kind of way, lucky (I hope I am or at least prayed to Lady Luck a couple of times) and dreams of being a radical hero (thinking of Ronfar, Hancock, etc). I don't pretty much relate those traits to Americans (again, I hope no one gets offended) since at least one in every ten (don't worry about the figures) has those Mat-awesome-traits. Not just in America, ok? Peace! :)
115. DutchBoy
Hi guys & girls

About genetics: after a night of sleep I and a bit of more thought I come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible that hardly any Aiel are dark. The conclusion follows from some probability and some genetics.

Before the Aiel went to the Waste, at least a sbustantial proportion of them are dark - no human population is light completely. Assume 10% of them is dark, which is the base rate.

Then they go the desert. And, then, 3,000 year later all the dark ones (uhhh - I do not mean the Myrdal ;-)) are gone? Yeah, right! RJ is a very very good writer, but with the fast running Aiel he invents strange creatures indeed.

One of the previous posts said that one solution would be sexual selection. I think it is the only one. But why would they strongly prefer lighter partners? Because if you are light and survive in the desert, you must be very fit?

Now to work...
Amar Ramraj
116. aiel1219
About the American Mat thingy... many ppl seem to thing that Leigh is tryinng to cast Mat AS AN American. I don't think that was what she was trying to say. What I understood was that Many of the American Iconic Heroes are of this TYPE, i.e. "brash, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, gambling, ironic-quipping, devil-may-care, jerks-with-a-heart-of-gold ladies’ men with more bravery than common sense, who would far rather trust to, ahem, luck and go in with guns blazing (or equivalent)"

And that American culture (especially movies?) has kinda permeated across the world. And mb that's y he's liked... cuz we've come to know n love this type of hero.

I don't know if I'd say its the ONLY reason cuz summn must've made us like the type in the 1st place so it can't be just familiarity... must be more there.

But Leigh am I correct in my interpretation?
Amar Ramraj
117. aiel1219
Just a thought... but what would someone in Randland say that's equivalent to "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker"... MB "HUzzah, You Flaming son of a Goat".... any suggestions???
:) LOL!!!
118. Hamish Poole
Has anyone considered that because of the inherant deadliness of exposure in the the desert that evolution might not be activily working. Under the idea that even if you have darker skin you would die due to the conditions of the waste there is no natural selection due to colouring.
Amar Ramraj
119. aiel1219
@118. Hamish Poole

Anyway what I really wanted to ask was, does anyone else wonder what would have happened differently if that wise one hadn't brought up Moiraine going into Ruhidean... and why on earth would Moiraine brought up going in much less demanded that she be allowed to go in???
Andrew Lovsness
120. drewlovs
Since I am once again late, I'm going to skip the reading of other responses and just add my 2 cents worth. Since its all me, I'm sure no one else (note the egotism) will have my point of view.

Personally, I think that Matt is the most attractive character because he is the person Jordan modeled after himself. I think he put his point of view, his sense of humor, and HIS ideas of right and wrong.

So, it kinda makes sense that Matt would resemble an American, since Jordan himself is true blue American. The little I know of Jordan, I do know that when he read his work to an audience, he read Matt seems he ALSO liked the character.

Do I think that he did this on purpose? Does it matter? To me, Matt is a view into the person Jordan though he himself was, and it is a very attractive personality.

Am I right or wrong? I really don't care... Jordan, in a way, IS my Matt. That I will never read another set of books about him (as Jordan promised before the illness) hurts as bad as when I found out Jordan WAS ill.


That feeling is coming back again... deep sadness.
Ofer Nave
121. odigity
Didn't RJ say he is most similar to Perrin?
Agnes Kormendi
122. tapsi
I always thought of Mat as the classic French swashbuckler type; young d'Artagnan landing in Milady's bed, Lagardere setting out to duel the duke de Nevers and ending up caring for his baby daughter instead...

I never thought of Mat as an American archetype. Romantic rogues have been around for a while, and not exclusively in American culture :) (though it's a funny combination that he resembles Odin in certain respects, and Odin wasn't exactly the most laid back of all gods).
123. bookworm

The ter'angreal in Rhuidean that Rand enters isn't a time machine.

Instead, it is something that allows each person to experience selected memories of his/her own forebearers. Each person only sees the parts of the past from the perspective of their own ancestors.

The whole idea was so the Aiel could remember what they had been, so as not to lose themselves in their present. Lots of cultures today could use a little of that kind of perspective today.
Helen Peters
124. Helen
From my remembrances of my masters course #96 and#97 posts are about as accurate regarding genetics as you're going to get.

Regarding Mat. I think I like him the best mainly coz he's 'the joker'. Reading other books with 3 main male characters, there's usually 'the leader/thinker', 'the adonis' (handsome/muscular one) and 'the joker'. And for some reason I always like the joker.....

Oh and The Man In The Black Cape @54, double decker red buses have always been predominantly London, I thought, so living in Wales you'd not have been on one. Ducks and runs before other Brits can shout that they have them also......
125. Hamish Poole
In light of posts #96 and #97 I retract my comment

However Odigity @121 if you can find a quote thats major beat downs on everyone here (me too I thought he said Mat)
126. The Man In The Black Cape
Imelior@79: Concerning Mat's personality, I meant more in the sense that he has a sort of hangdog attitude more than anything else.

Concerning the whole "Aiel skin colour" thing, there are times when I can't help but ignore some things in the text, and this is one of them. No matter how hard Jordan rams down my throat that the Aiel have light skinned, I always have a mental image of them being black.

For the hell of it, though, here are some of my interpretations of different WOT nationalities

Andoran = British/English
Lugarder/Murandian = German
Caihienin = French + sprinkling of Feudal Japanese.
Tear = Spain
Seanchan = America, Imperial China and Feudal Japan placed in a blender
Aiel = Zulu
Malkieran = Tibetan+Japanese

I'm running out of time, so I'll be back later with more.
Ronald Hobbs
127. dustrider
Aargh. internets swallowed my commments.
Just imagine well reasoned arguments behind all the following points:

Aiel skin color: light skin is actually the norm for true desert cultures, see Nomadic Arabic tribes, and the Koi bushmen. (vs. central/east african which are much darker)

Also, skin colour has little effect on natural selection if you've got clothing (and head coverings, e.g. shoufa) you're more likely to die before procreating if you can't run than if you get skin cancer.

Horses vs People: short distances, horses win, long distance people win. less weight to carry and people actually are more efficient at running than horses. again, imagine well reasoned argument around these facts: horses cover 20m-30m per day average and 50m per day as endurance racers. Marthon runners do 26m in roughly 2.5 hours, so could go for much further in a day. The Koi bushmen have been known to cover 100m in 24 hours, and frequently have to cover 40m chasing down prey.

Mat = all american hero. Don't quite agree, I agree that he's the modern american hero, who reluctactly sacrifices in favour of others, but he's not the "god and country before all else" type. He's the one that makes the hard choice in the end and gives up everything for a friend. And is identifiable because most of me as a westerner is a selfish, self-centered, arrogant idiot half the time, and Mat shows that this is not a bad thing and that even such a handicap still menas you can care for your neighbour when the chips are down.

as for yipee-kay-ya-yay in randland... I thought "Dovie'andi se tovya sagain" fits that gap nicely.
Amar Ramraj
128. aiel1219
@127. dustrider
I guess Mat does use "Dovie'andi se tovya sagain" it situations where odds are stacked against him... but I don't remember him tellin any of the baddies that.... and i guess "Time to roll the dice" isn't quite as derogatory or as defiant as Yippie kai ya Mother fucker.... LOL!!!
Wish I cud ask RJ abt this...
I guess it's only another stupid reason (when there are so many better ones) to wish RJ was still here.
Blake Engholm
129. UncrownedKing
@125 and 121

I do remember reading that RJ commented on how he connects most with Perrin. I do too!
130. EmpressMaude

the only way to win at Snakes and Foxes is to cheat.

Say, if one where to smuggle in fire and iron, despite agreeing to the rules, no?
131. bookworm

Cheating is how Mat, Thom and Noal will save Moiraine. Of course, Olver will probably have to tell them about it before they enter the Tower of Ghenjei.
Richard Fife
132. R.Fife
Grayfox: SG isn't the North Pole, at least according to the Big White Book. There's a substantial amount of "Blasted Lands" above SG then the Polar Icecaps. Think of the borderlands as New England latitutde, SG as mid Montreal, and Blasted Lands around the Canadian Territories. It was mentioned a few times that Jain Farstrider actually as far as to see the polar ices, as well.
Leigh Butler
133. leighdb
aiel1219 @ 116:

Yes, you are right.
Chris Maurer
134. grayfox
bookworm @ 123: Yes, I realize the columns aren't an "actual" time machine. I just couldn't think of a wittier (is that a word?) name for it. Tattooing Ancestor VR Machine just didn't come off the tongue as easy.

R.Fife @ 132: Interesting. Thanks! I never realized that and I haven't seen the big white book (is that the same as the WoT Guide thing that came out 8 or 9? That was right around the frustration time that I decided not to buy anything that came out that didn't advance the primary story lines...still haven't read New Spring...and probably won't until its all done).
Blake Engholm
135. UncrownedKing
@134 Grayfox

I suggest not buying the BBoBA. The only benefit to the book is it shows Seanchanland and Shara, which is sorda interesting, and there are descriptions of characters and races of people that go more in depth then the book does. But other than that the art really is bad and its hard to read if your trying to go cover to cover. But its not bad for a quick "wait! where are we now?" kinda moment.

Ps New Spring was pretty good. Might be worth the read if you have the time.
Richard Fife
136. R.Fife
Yeah, Big White Book, BBoBA (Big Book of Bad Art), World of WoT, WoT Guide, all these mean the same thing. And yeah, it isn't a must-have, but I've found it useful from time to time, if for nothing more than the world map, somewhat better description of some of the less story-involved cultures/places. It has some nice "historical" maps of Randland too, showing exactly where the Ten Nations were, and the Trolloc War nations, and the Post Hawkwing Nations, etc.
137. CJB
I'm a little disappointed that Leigh would make such broad generalisations after being strongly against such things in previous commentaries (though to be fair, it wasn't done lightly and Leigh acknowledged what she was doing), but it's an interesting theory.

As a non-American (English if that matters any), I can't say that it made me angry at all, but, if I'm honest, I couldn't read it without the "America! Fuck Yeah!" song from Team America going through my head.

Also, and I'm fully aware how terribly nitpicky this is; Rand as Ninja Jesus is a good line, but doesn't really offer any explaination as to how he's less Americanish than Mat (who is clearly Irish btw).
Blake Engholm
138. UncrownedKing
I like the Mat as Irish. Seems too all make sence to me. Since RJ was American himself, its safe to say that if we all came at this book objectively without any bias, we would see RJ's American heritage coming through in his writing. How could it not.

I think what Leigh was saying is that Mat is what could be seen as the stereotypical American (obviously I have limited knowledge on how any jane or john doe out there in the world views all us Merkin folk). Rand and Perrin are less stereotypical American than Mat. Rand I always viewed with an English twist to him. That is probably what Leigh was getting at.
139. Siuanfan
If I'm not mistaken, light skin/hair/eyes are a recessive trait, and cannot produce the dominant traits on their own, no matter how much time you give them. Therefore, if they were blue-eyed blondes when they entered the Waste, they would be blue-eyed blondes when they came out 3000 years later. They'd have to adapt to the climate through innovation, because it was not going to happen genetically.

Someone mentioned the ceremony for raising an Amyrlin that required baring the breasts to make sure there were no men in drag trying to sneak in, and that reminded me of the old Pope ceremony where the Pope-to-be had to sit in a chair with a hole in it so that the cardinals could peek under and confirm he had the proper erm... danglies.

Apparently, when gender is important to a particular office, people will go to extremes to make sure there's no fakery going on. :P
Brian Kaul
140. bkaul

Very insightful: I agree on the appeal of Matt as the kind of all-American cowboy type of hero. But I don't think the Two Rivers crowd is so much European as Southern (as in the American South) - Andor does seem pretty neatly English, but the Two Rivers area is modeled after RJ's neck of the woods in South Carolina (as he has said), and the attitudes of the characters (extreme sense of chivalry to the point that they'd never consider hitting a woman, etc.) are really very much in line with the culture of the traditional South in the United States. Rand, Perrin, et al. are Southerners through and through in many ways. Of course, that Southern plantation culture is quite distinct from the larger American culture as a whole, and is pretty heavily English in its origins a few centuries back, so there is a European flavor to it. But it's been relatively isolated and not evolved in the same ways as either the rest of America or modern Europe since that time (again, think of the protective attitudes towards women on the part of the boys).

So I think the contrast between Matt and the others is more Western vs Southern among Americans, rather than American vs European.
Brian Kaul
141. bkaul
sps49@99: Might want to check your facts ... the moth study is a known hoax. Also, the microbiologist who posted a couple of posts before you uses the micro/macro evolution terminology. It is a useful distinction.

That aside, selection for things like skin color or hair color has a definite societal/cultural aspect to it. Your sun-bleached hair wouldn't be passed on as such, but if people in California start finding blondes more attractive because they have that look naturally, then while your particular genes wouldn't have any greater likelihood of being passed on, the trait in general could be selected for because people find it more attractive. Or perhaps blondes would end up becoming more rare because they're less distinctive. I don't know which way it'd trend in reality.

And then, add human behavior of doing things like intentionally bleaching/dying hair to change appearances, and the situation gets a lot more complicated ... we don't (in this conversation at least) have anywhere near enough data to draw any conclusions at all. But it's plausible that a phenomenon such as sun-bleached hair could affect the genetic makeup of an isolated group of people over time, even though it wouldn't necessarily have a direct impact on a given individual.
142. anotherfan
dcole78 @ 80:
As a biochemist, you know more than I do about this topic. I do have a little bit of education on the topic. Not very advanced though.

But I would question your assertion there are mutations in entire colonies of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Do you mean that the entire colony mutates to be resistant to the antibiotic? If so then I think we have a problem. But I may be wrong. Let me talk it through.

Weren't there some individuals in the colony who were resistant fromthe beginning? They were able to survive and reproduce while the others weren't. And so the entire colony shifts to resistance as they all are eventually descended from the original resistant bacteria. There are reasons I don't see this as a mutation which results in macroevolution.

Number one, the bacteria is still bacteria.
Number two, there was no new genetic information introduced into the population. The genetic info to be resistant was already present in some individuals. The population shifted in that direction. but it was no new gene introduction to the colony.

Just my thoughts, based on the views I've heard from some scientists, which I am not. I may be wrong on several counts.

All this to say, I think it is entirely plausible that the Aiel could live in a sunny place and retain light coloring as long as they didn't reproduce outside of their "colony" thus introducing new genetic info.
Peter Nein
143. gimpols1908
My 2 cents on the whole "Mat is a cowboy" theory.

Mat fits many of the archetypes of the heroes we love. Not out to change the world, self effacing, looking for fun where fun can be had.

Mat has a bit of Han Solo in him - I am no bloody hero, yes of course i will help you run your rebellion, I know i could have left days ago but there was stuff to do (and you are my friends). We see his loyalty in Rhuiden (just one more hour and i will go get him).

He is what many of us try to be Honorable, Loyal, Fun and really good at something.

Where as Rand just got the s**t end of the stick.
144. Maimie
On transgender and intersex channelers: I think the mental gender is what matters. Think of Balthamel/Aran'gar: female body, male soul, channels saidin. After all, you use your mind, not your body, to channel.

This isn't actually to do with Mat's Americanity or lack of it, but I came to think of Kalevala, the collection of Karelian folklore. Kalevala has three main heroes: Väinämöinen - the wise old man, Ilmarinen - the blacksmith who has to accomplish impossible tasks in order to be allowed to marry the Maiden of North (Saldaea is pretty north, isn't it...), and Lemminkäinen, the ladies' man who constantly seeks fights and battles, dies once and is resurrected. The two last ones sound somewhat familiar, don't they? :)
Peter Nein
145. gimpols1908
@ 113. craigpmiller

Err ... forgive me for being dense but isn't "Snakes and Foxes" the board game that Olver plays all the time.

The game that you can't win.

To open the game, the player makes a sign in the air of “a triangle and then a wavy line through it”, and then chants words:

“Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to daze, iron to bind,”

So it brings in the triangle and the wavy lines known from each door and gives clues how to beat both the snakes and foxes.

Let alone dealing with Farstrider, i mean slayer, i mean Luc... Woo hoo up coming bits!
146. Siuanfan
I like the idea of Mat as Irish. It seems to fit even better than the cowboy type.

bookworm @ 131 - Olver will have to tell them about what? Not the cheating, surely... every adult that's mentioned Snakes and Foxes notes that once you get a certain age, you realize that cheating is the only way to win, so I'm pretty sure they're going to know that part of it unless they're really, really dumb. What else could Olver have to tell them?
147. bookworm
@146 Suianfan.

Haven't you ever been so close to a problem that you haven't seen an obvious solution that is right in front of you?

Or, something about not seeing the trees for the forest?

I believe that the book is full of similar examples.

It's a problem I have with some rote learning. Often, the meaning is lost in the recitation.
148. Samadai
Here is something a bit off topic that I should have brought up in the DR. when Moi asks Loial what the ogier know about Belal, Faile asks why. Mo responds that for ogier the breaking was only like 10 generations or so ago beacause they live so much longer than humans.

So my question is this. If the average age of death for an Aes Sedai is 200 years old then it has only been 15 to 20 generations since the breaking for the Aes Sedai as well. So if the Aes Sedai have the largest collection of books anywhere and it has been about the same amount og generations as the ogier how come they dont know as much as they should. I believe it is stated that they were building the tower not to long after the breaking. anyways just something that popped into my head.
Galen Brinn
149. GatheringStorm
Samadai @ 148,

I believe there were a few fires/arsons in the Tower library over the last 3 millenia. I've seen reference to these in an on-line timeline of WOT and seem to remember some mention of them in the BBoBA.

Most of the AS knowledge base would have been kept here in a single location whereas the Ogier were able to travel between stedding using the ways (or overland) and exchange information much more freely. Therefore there was much less likelyhood of lost knowledge amongst the Ogier (kind of a not-all-eggs-in-one-basket type of thing).
Marie Adomako
150. MSedai

Not quite, but just close enough to be dangerous... :)
Here is my explanation, and I am getting my M.S. in microbiology...

You are mixing up two different concepts-mutation and selection.
For clarification, a colony of bacteria is a clump of bacteria that have all come from one original organism, so if one bacterium has a mutation (or grabs DNA from another bacterium-the preferred mode of antibiotic resistance) all of its daughter cells in the colony will get the mutation.

However, if you have a mixed population where a small percentage of the population has antibiotic resistance, and you treat the population for resistance, you kill off everything that wasn't resistant, and are left with the resistant bacteria, which means all of the bacteria that grow up from them are also resistant, and then you get into problems. That is selection, and that is mostly what is causing trouble with hospital infections, and is also why your physician always cautions you to take all of your antibiotics, no matter how much better you start to feel.

Blake Engholm
151. UncrownedKing

I think us WOTians could rule the world with our knowledge and stuff.

Thanks for the explaination, finally someone gives me a break down of the "take all of the antibiotics, even though you'll feel fine in two days." line.
Richard Boye
152. sarcastro

"Yes, I realize the columns aren't an "actual" time machine. I just couldn't think of a wittier (is that a word?) name for it. Tattooing Ancestor VR Machine just didn't come off the tongue as easy.

I like to think of the glass columns as the 'Ancesticles.' (Ancestors/Recepticles..only clear like icicles)
153. hoping to be of the blood
It is incorrect to say that you take all of the antibiotics in order to prevent bacterial resistance.
That line started in the mid 60's in regard to strep throat treatment. Initially, strep throat was treated with an injection of penicillin that would last for two weeks because eradication of strep required sustained blood levels of pcn. When oral preparations became available, the docs tried to approximate the injection with a prolonged oral course, but of course people always stop when they feel better.
So, with the advent of different antibiotics in the sixties and seventies, docs just concluded that since ten days was required for strep, then it must also be required for sinusitis, bronchitis, gonorrhea, urinary infections, etc. There was no science done to support this.
In the eighties, scientific experiments showed that some infections did just fine with a single high dose of antibiotic, such as gonorrhea and urinary infections. Now we have a full assortment of three day, five day, ten day and other length courses of treatment based on good science.
Sorry to be so OT
Richard Fife
154. R.Fife
Hoping to be:
It still stands that you take the full course (as the Rx tells you to, ten, five, three, whatever) to fully remove the bacteria from your system. Failure to take the full Rx will likely result in a relapse, and possible resistance.

I also know that docs are reluctant now to prescribe antibotics as the different academies were getting on their cases for over-prescribing and contributing to the bacterial restistance problem. I dealt with this first hand very recently with my son, who had 4 different 'scrips over a month to deal with an ear infection, and eventually had to get a Rasephin(sp?) shot course and got C.Diff out of it besides (which then requred another antibotic, oi).

Back on WoT:
I've wondered that myself. I think its 30 generations for Ogier, where Aes Sedai should have around 10-15 generations of cascading knowledge (remember, they live long, but they get "new borns" at a normal human birthrate).

I think Aes Sedai secretiveness is the most likely issue, that and that if Verin was handy, she could have answered as well as Loial. Ogier just have a head for things like browns.

The other thing that helps Ogiers is that these past 3k years, they have been left alone by Trolloc Wars and the Hundred Years War in their steddings. Supposedly, even Tar Valon has (secretly) been assailed and damaged during misc human conflicts (even if not the Trolloc/Hundred Years/Aiel Wars).
Agnes Kormendi
156. tapsi
"Mat (who is clearly Irish btw)."

Wouldn't he be involved in even more tavern brawls then?

Maimie @ 144

I love the Kalevala parallel, I never thought of it, but it fits... though I think these three types are pretty universal.
Deborah Jones
157. NanaD
Good day everyone.

It has taken me quite a while to finish reading the above posts. Sometimes life gets in the way of my reading.

I for one couldn't care less about the skin and hair color of any of the characters. I think this was added to let us see how people reacted to different people around them. Also so much time being given to hair styles and dress. I admit I skip much of the descriptive parts.

In regards to the marking of the clan chiefs, maybe the wise one meant that other men, not necessarily the chiefs, needed the marks to prove that the man was worthy. The wise ones have their own ways to test each others worth.

Olvers contribution to the rescue of Moraine is that Mat played the game Snakes and Foxes as a boy and forgot about it until Olver shows up and wants to play it all the time in order to feel closer to his father that died. Has Mat mentioned the game reminding him of his time in Finn-land? I can't remember, descriptive part and all that.
Agnes Kormendi
158. tapsi
Why can't Ogier Channel?

Aren't they from another world or something?
Peter Nein
159. gimpols1908
@ 154. R.Fife

There is also the language barrier for human as well as Ogier.

Since we are talking alot about real old history and prophesy (let alone ninja jesus) lets compare it to the bible.

Nobody actually speaks Aramaic (sp?) any more and much like 'the old tongue' there are many different ways to translate the same phrase. Just look at the splits and strife that has caused in this world.

Is Revelations an actual viewing or a coded way to speak of something we could not comprehend, or just some fever dream of a fringe lunatic?

In 2000 years we have lost so much due to tampering what with the cannon of 500AD, and people needing to get divorces who knows how much is really true anymore.

So totally believable that alot has been lost over 3000 years.

So perhaps a guy who has had 80 some-odd years to read up on the topic of something 10 generations ago no biggie. I believe he only quotes other Ogiers as well.

Man i have too much time on my hands today

Why can't Ogier Channel...They do have Earth Magic (sung wood)
Galen Brinn
160. GatheringStorm
Sarcastro @152,

"Ancesticles"...hmmm...sounds a bit too close to testicles, to me. LOL!
161. Joe W.
Bravo! This was a great couple of chapters, and a great recap. I actually stopped breathing for a few seconds - in a good way - when I reached the words "Ninja Jesus".

And it got me thinking. We need a Venn diagram to explain Rand's thematic origins and/or personality. A really crazy-ass Venn diagramm (C.A.V.D.(tm)). The circles would have to include, at least, "Ninja", "Jesus", "Good", "Evil", and "Crazy". "Anakin Skywalker" could be thrown in as a second character example.

I expect this would take 3D rendering to really pull off well. I leave the overlaps as an exercise to the reader.
162. Evinfuilt
I've never had a hard problem picturing the Desert Celtics, the Aiel. For me I've always pictured the Malkier and Shienerians as the Native Americans, the pride and honor they show, their massive size and love of the land seems to mirror many Native American cultures.
163. Mark-S
@127 Dustrider

Horses vs people

Marthon runners do 26m in roughly 2.5 hours, so could go for much further in a day.

Dude. This is wrong on soooo many levels I almost fell off my chair
Chiara Elvira
164. elvyelvy
you refer to two porphiry seats (porphiry is red and as such related to imperial dignity) called "sedie stercorarie" (defecatory seats) used in the elevation of Pascal II and in general when the Pope as Bishop of Rome took office; modern historians considers them Imperial Roman bidets or birthing stools predating Catholicism (which is more likey is yet matter of debate). Furthermore never ever there was a ceremony to check the sex of the newly elected pope. But there is a similar mith connected to men going to the Olympic games naked as women were not allowed even as part of the audience.

Whoo, sorry if this sounds lecturing in tone (but I'm a teacher to the bone), quite possibly RJ's infodump chapters are infectious, though not in writing skill unfortunately.
165. DutchBoy
Can Ogier channel?

And, can they dance the Polka?

Do some Ogier have blue eyes? If yes, how did this evolve? Are they primates, by the way? THAT are interesting questions too...

I recently learned that whales and cows are genetically quite strongly related, perhaps the Ogier are related to them as well.

Good night - I loved to read all your posts!
166. Naraoia

Wow, this was about the last place I expected a discussion of evolution to show up. I'm sad I didn't arrive earlier; now all the other biology geeks have taken my glory XD (I happen to be an evolutionary biology undergraduate...) After a bit of thinking, I'm kind of with the ones saying that the Aiel's colours are realistic given their history. Only "kind of", because we know there are at least dark-haired, if not dark-skinned, Aiel (and I'm sure there's another one besides Alarys, though I can't remember who). IIRC, Alarys is very proud of her hair, which would mean it's a desirable trait, which is against the idea that sexual selection maintains the overwhelming light majority. What bugs me about them is the tan more than the base colouration. How much do real world redheads actually tan (sorry for the stupid question... I don't know many redheads IRL)? My mum has almost black hair (though fair skin), but she can sit in the sun all summer and she still won't get more than a very faint tan. I (fair-skinned brunette) am not much better, and I also burn easily even when I'm already tanned. Maybe tanning better is the Aiel's way of adapting? Anyway, a few comments I wanted to comment on: anotherfan@57

And I suppose extreme exposure to UV rays would highten the chances of mutation in the genes.?
Yes, but only where the UV hits. The only mutations that matter in an evolutionary sense are ones that appear in sex cells, which develop away from UV exposure.
I'm having a difficult time recalling a mutation in the gene pool of any species that we have observed to be a beneficial change. And I mean a mutation we have observed in human history and documented. Not speculation based on evidence that is subjective. But I'm one of those loons who questions macroevolution anyway. (Wow, is that ever off topic and liable to get me laughed at.)
Hey, I'd be quite happy to discuss mutations, "macroevolution" (how I hate that term...*) and other evolution-related stuff if you are interested. Elsewhere, of course, to stop the excessive off-topicking ;) Gosh, can you see me jumping up and down with excitement? XD grayfox@112
Not to get into a new political debate on this, but from what I can tell of the known Randland world there are no solar ice caps which means the fraction of the sun's rays that the ice caps reflect are beating down on the planet making it pretty much uninhabitable.
Real Earth had no polar ice caps for significant parts of its history, if memory serves. If you look at the palaeoclimate maps over at the Palaeomap Project, many periods have no "cold" climate inferred anywhere on the planet (the entire age of dinosaurs, for example). bkaul@141
Might want to check your facts ... the moth study is a known hoax.
Do tell me more, 'cause I'm pretty sure it's not, and the original studies have been repeated with a more rigorous design and the same results. To the best of my knowledge, peppered moths do rest on bark, are predated by birds, and are selected by camouflage (or lack thereof). anotherfan@142
Weren't there some individuals in the colony who were resistant fromthe beginning? They were able to survive and reproduce while the others weren't. And so the entire colony shifts to resistance as they all are eventually descended from the original resistant bacteria. There are reasons I don't see this as a mutation which results in macroevolution. Number one, the bacteria is still bacteria. Number two, there was no new genetic information introduced into the population. The genetic info to be resistant was already present in some individuals. The population shifted in that direction. but it was no new gene introduction to the colony.
Grammar Nazi quibble: the singular of bacteria is bacterium. More important stuff: (1) Of course it's not mutation when an already existing variety spreads in the population. However, where do you think that variation comes from? Mutations are a known mechanism that can account for it. There are examples of mutations, including beneficial ones, observed as directly as it's possible (e.g. examining genes/genomes "before" and "after"). Here's a collection worth browsing. (2) "Bacteria" includes beings genetically and biochemically more distant from each other than you are from any eukaryotic organism, be it a malaria parasite, a rose or a chimp. They are small and almost all unicellular, but that doesn't mean they aren't incredibly diverse. --- *"Macroevolution" is a stupid hazy word that has an accepted technical definition (speciation and above) that no one other than specialists seems to use. The technical definition has its own problems with species concepts (which breed like rabbits and no one of them is applicable in every case), but the colloquial one is too fuzzy to allow meaningful discussion. (Can you see I hate this word? :]) So... I know what the word means to me, but what do you mean by macroevolution? try to resist the temptation to edubabble more unless I'm asked.

167. Naraoia

@127 Dustrider

Horses vs people

Marthon runners do 26m in roughly 2.5 hours, so could go for much further in a day.

Dude. This is wrong on soooo many levels I almost fell off my chair
Umm... and how about you tell us why it's wrong? I'm sure it's blindingly obvious to you, but maybe some of us who don't know that much about long-distance runners could use a little help?
Michael Ikeda
168. mikeda

Re: Peppered Moths

Absolutely correct. The moth study is NOT a hoax. There has been a LOT of creationist misinformation spread about peppered moths but basically peppered moths are a well documented and well established case of natural selection.

Some overview of the actual situation and additional references can be found at the following URLs:
(Mark Isaak's Index of Creationist Claims--brief summaries of common Creationist claims and their refutations. Scroll down to CB601 and subcategories.)
169. Lisamarie
A few people already got to it but I'll throw in my two cents for anotherfan:

"Number one, the bacteria is still bacteria.
Number two, there was no new genetic information introduced into the population. The genetic info to be resistant was already present in some individuals. The population shifted in that direction. but it was no new gene introduction to the colony."

1)Ah, but bacteria are so wonderful and varied. Seriously, don't get me started on bacteria. I think they are SO cool and I get all excited at their diversity. As has been described above, the bacterial domain (if anybody says Moneran Kingdom, I'll be very irritated!) is SO amazingly diverse. We humans are just a tiny twig on the tree of life. So, it is possible that these bacteria are now a new species or subtype of bacteria: for example, E. coli and Shigella are very closely related. Granted, true speciation for bacteria is determined by the 16S ribosomal gene - but as I said, the meaning of species in bacteria is fuzzy. (I kind of agree that the whole micro/macroevolution terminology isn't the best, and it is especially fuzzy for a bacteriologists where there isn't true sexual reproduction and species boundaries are so blurred).

2)Ah, but there IS new genetic info! Where do you think that mutation came from? It is new genetic information that could have arisen in two ways: A random mutation in one of the cells in the colony (which have been shown to confer resistance), or the introduction of new DNA from an outside source. Although bacteria do not sexually reproduce, they are not limited to asexual reproduction - they have extra bits of DNA called plasmids that can carry resistance genes, and that they can trade with other bacteria, even if they are distantly related. Viruses that infect bacteria can also carry along genes from other bacteria and insert them into the genome, and bacteria can even pick up DNA laying around in the environment after a cell lyses.

So all of this makes the whole species concept even more blurry with bacteria.

My point is that new genetic information definitely appears - both spontaneously and from outside sources, resulting in new characteristics, and divergence. The 16S ribosome gene I mentioned is like an evolutionary time marker - it is a very important gene so most mutations automatically kill the bacterium. However, there are a few parts of it that can mutate without killing the bacterium and by analyzing these portions we can see how they have changed over time. In a way it shows two things - that genetic change happens over time, and also that we have a common origin. Even humans have genes that can be traced to similar genes in bacteria.

Humans/animals are a more complex for sure - since we use sexual reproduction and have a more strict species concept (usually defined as being able to breed, although there might be other ways to define it), and are traits are generally more complex and require mutations in lots of genes to have an affect - but the same things that happen in bacteria can happen to us. If enough changes occur over time in enough genes, eventually those could converge in a given individual who will have the new trait.

I have a pretty good handle on mutations and changes within a species, but in terms of appearance of new species in sexually reproducing organisms - I am not that familiar with that branch of biology, so I can't say. I only have a fuzzy grasp on that.

Also, whoever called me a microbiologist: Thanks, but it's actually not true anymore :) I work at a software company now.
170. CireNaes

Being a Red Head with Blue/Gray eyes I'll give you my worldly experience on the matter (1/2 Scottish, 1/2 German if that makes a difference genetically speaking). And on a personal note I enjoyed your brief comments on the subject and it always surprises me where some of the posts travel to topically as well. To put it bluntly, the sun is not my friend. If I go outside and am exposed to direct sunlight for longer that 7 minutes I can feel my skin start to burn. If I'm exposed for longer than 30 minutes I run the risk of blistering. Interestingly enough I have produced an ever so slight 'farmer's tan', but the difference in shades is laughable, at best. Plus, it goes away during the winter months. Here's the strange thing though. I know some red heads who tan rather well and don't struggle with this issue, but they do still burn more easily than most. I've been deployed to a desert environment and I had to apply sunscreen every 2 hours or I would burn. People like me simply do not tan to any real effect. So there you go. Straight from a subject matter expert who's 'living the dream'.
Alice Arneson
171. Wetlandernw
But hey, it's all a fantasy anyway, right?

And does anyone know why everything is suddenly posting in italics?
Kevin Morgan
172. DrMorganstien
yea, couldn't figure that out myself, kinda hard to deal with so much italics
173. alreadymadwhensaidinwascleansed
Maybe all this talk about mutations and evolutions has caused the site to mutate.
174. alreadymadwhensaidinwascleansed
Maybe all this talk about mutations and evolutions has caused the site to mutate.
175. datamuse
I think Naraoia forgot to close an italics tag.
Alice Arneson
176. Wetlandernw
Wondered about that possibility... I tried closing it, but it didn't work. Too bad you can't edit someone else's stuff!

Well, only in this case. Could get nasty otherwise.

Anyway, ick.
177. Shadow_Jak
All this talk about Aiel and genetics set off a little spark in my brain....

On further consideration, I find it a lot easier to accept the Randland Aiel, pale, blond, desert dwellers than I do the AOL Aiel, totally subservient to every whim of the AOL Aes Sedai, totally passive and with no will of their own. No wish except to serve. They sound like perfect, genetically engineered slaves. That would likely mean a very homogeneous gene pool.

On another subject.
I like the comparison of Mat to Bret Maverick. Both Mat's Da and Maverick's 'Ole Pappy always gave good advice!
178. Shadow_Jak
BTW, I consider myself very lucky indeed to be an American.
craig miller
179. craigpmiller
Thanx gimpols1908, EmpressMaude, bookworm and everyone.
It has been a while since I read WOT. I'm glad the ol' grey matter is still firing. I don't remember making the connection between the game and the snakes and foxes behind the twisted doors when I read it before.

Naraoia - whew ! :-)

Love the re-read Liegh - bring back more good memories.
Ronald Hobbs
180. dustrider
@163 Mark S.

I apologise and stand corrected. I made a mistake in my refences, I found a table with times, added in 50% to make it easer, but didn't notice they were for half marathons, sorry.

The world record for running a marathon by the way is 2h3m59s (for men, women's is about 15min slower)

so my time estimate isn't impossible, just not average. 4.5h seems to be a more accepted average:

I'd also guess that the "many levels" involve marathon runners being able to go for much further. considering how many marathon runners collapse at the finish line, I can understand the point of view, however, I still believe my point to be true:

If you don't quite push as hard as the marathon runners, and it's about how far you run rather than how fast, and you do it for a living rather than recreation, you can do well in excess of the 26m for a marathon, again I'll reference the Koi bushmen. but I also found a reference to marathon runners doing 56m in about 6h47m.

I'll also contradict my self on the color issue (before anyone else does) that a typical desert nomadic culture that goes counter to my previous argument is the Australian Aboriginee. Don't know much about them in terms of ethnic characterists/origins so I'll just leave it there :)

But it since I was digging around long distance running facts in mad self-justification scramble, I found this bbc article that points to evidence that endurance running is much more desirable evolutionary trait in a hostile environment than any other kind of physical trait. which might explain well how nearly all the aiel seem to be expert marathon runners.

Which might put their average much higher than ours and move it closer to my original estimate. right? maybe? no? ok.
181. shintemaster
On Mat's archetype I partially agree. Thinking about it as I read Leigh's comments it occurred to me that Mat is also the closest to what we might call a modern mindset. He thinks somewhat critically and is open to scientific research (his firework experiments). I believe this may be part of the appeal and the way we relate easily.

On the permission to go to Rhuidean thing, I'm pretty sure going off memory that Rand makes comment along the lines that the Wise Ones can't refuse him if Rand wants him to go. I always simply assumed that there was a custom / tradition to back this up - whether or not it was ever claimed before. ie. One given permission can take who they will along with them etc.
182. eve13
Hello y hola to all, first time... I've read all the posts and we are getting away from things here!
Get back to the books, the insights are great but I could care less about the skin and eye color, it's a book, let it live in your imagination.
183. RobMRobM
Hi all - no time for a substantive post (work and life keep intruding, darn it), but one point troubled me. When Rand asked leave to go to Rhuidean, Amys noted it was an "ancient form" but went on to say yes. I can't figure out how Rand knew what form to ask for in the first place. He admitted to Mat that going to Rhuidean was not part of the Finn's answers and even with his extensive readings re the Aiel during his time in Tear I can't believe that any outsider would have heard or be told the form for leave to enter. Any ideas?

184. hoping to be of the blood
He read alot of books while in Tear about the aiel and prophecy. Maybe he found something there. No evidence for it being a past soul intruding with ancient knowledge. We know that Rhuarc will not speak of Rhuidean with Rand.
185. Asgerix
Just a minute... I'll end this italics nightmare ... [[/i]]

There, that did it!
Agnes Kormendi
186. tapsi
" We know that Rhuarc will not speak of Rhuidean with Rand."

Also, if he had done that, Rand would have used a more current form. I agree that Rand must have got it from one of the books in Tear.
Lannis .
187. Lannis
RobM @ 183 and hoping @ 184: Yeah, I kind of always figured that Rand read about how to ask to enter Rhuidean, seeing how it's the "ancient form." (Now to contradict myself) at the same time, there's not a lot known about the Aiel, and I can't really see there being literature about their extremely private, ancient practices... so I figure he learned it in *Finnland. One of his answers could have been that he had to go to Rhuidean (or maybe he figured *that* from the prophecies), and then his next question might have been "how do I ask to go to Rhuidean?" And the Snakes told him...

Just a thought...

Isn't it great to have a nice, ambiguous question and answer period to tie in where there's any unknown info? Nice plot device...

Asgerix @ 185: Thank you!
Amar Ramraj
188. aiel1219
Wow I never realised how wierd it is to read everything in italics.

thanx whoever ended it.
189. Naraoia
CireNaes @170:


Wetlandernw @171
But hey, it's all a fantasy anyway, right?
Fantasy still has to make sense, and if something works differently from the real world, there better be hints. Maybe that's just me having read too many of Limyaael's fantasy rants, though :P
And does anyone know why everything is suddenly posting in italics?
I think datamuse is right. Mea culpa.

Asgerix: thanks!
190. Mark-S
@ Dustrider

First of all I need to apologize. After rereading my post following a good night sleep I realized that my post came over harsher than I had intended. It was a knee jerk reaction to the 2:30 time. For folks who don't run a 2:30 time would be good enough to be competitive on the national level and probably be enough to get you into the world class arena as an "also ran" if you represent a smaller second or third world nation*. 2:30 for a woman would put you into probably the top 10 list of fastest female endurance runners in the world (Sorry Far Dareis Mai but the Stone Dogs got you beat)

And yeah the other level was when you kind of implied that this indicates that the pace could be continued for longer distances. If you slow down your pace, yes you can run longer but the body has its limits and endurance running really does abuse the body. I won't even pretend to have a passing knowledge of the medical side of things but from everything I have read and been taught running the distances implied by your post really isn't something that the average (trained) body can sustain day after day after day. On a side I'd love to see some links to those bushemn you refered to purely because the subject interests me.

*excluding Kenya
191. RobMRobM
Lannis and others. The conundrum is that Rand didn't ask about Rhudien with the Finns (he states this to Mat as they are walking over) and I have trouble believing that any wetlander authors would be allowed to witness or be told of the text of a request to go to Rhudien. Oh well. R
Lannis .
192. Lannis
RobM @ 191: Once again, someone trumps me with a picky detail--here's your sticker! ;)

Damn... I guess that *does* leave us with the books Rand reads in Tear. Well, as we all know, the Aiel and the Aes Sedai had ancient connections, perhaps the Aes Sedai created the "ancient form" request and one of them managed to chronicle it... Tear has an old library. S'a thought.
Amar Ramraj
193. aiel1219
Ohhh I just had a thought... About Rand using the ancient form and all...

Why did he decide to go to the waste anyway?? A big part of it was prophecy right?

Mb he read a prophecy saying summn like "And by right of Blood he shall ask leave to enter the City in the waste to discover the honor of his ancestors and the memory of what was" or some such thingy...

something that would make him say “By the right of blood I ask leave to enter Rhuidean, for the honor of our ancestors and the
memory of what was.” and his Ta'vereness would probably make him say it that way hm?? makes sense to anyone?
194. strawmargi
I always assumed the Two Rivers was America. The Two Rivers being somewhere that used to be ruled by Andor (ye olde merry england) but with a slightly different accent. Consequently I feel our plucky band of villagers are all Americans too, I think Mat, Perrin and Rand each have elements of the American archetypal hero. Since Robert Jordan himself is American, I've always seen the books as grounded in everything New World.
195. Asgerix
When I ended the italics problem, it was only fixed from my comment and onwards. Now it seems that someone at Tor have fixed the problem - the comments between #166 and my post at #185 are now shown correctly.
196. laframboise
If there was a way to tabulate the staggering amount of details and facts in this series, with the very well substantiated material in one column and the 'where did that come from?' material in another, the latter column would have very few entries, especially compared to the former, and that is the really amazing thing about WoT - how well it stands up to this level of scrutiny. I'd really rather think that I missed something which explained a non-sequitur like Rand's ancient form of request, than that RJ forgot to put it in.
197. alreadymadwhensaidinwascleansed
Lannis etal
Maybe Rand just asked as politely as he could and bowed the way it was described in those books he read. I was under the impression that it was asking with a bow that impressed the Wise Ones. We never see any bowing from Couladin.

In any case, Rand and his ta'verenness probably lucked out. I'm not sure about being guided by prophecy in this case. After all, Rand was the only one who saw the connection between He Who Comes With the Dawn and the Dragon Reborn.
Amar Ramraj
198. aiel1219
@197 alreadymadwhensaidinwascleansed

while he may have asked politely and may have figured out the by right of blood thing from no one but Aiel had seen Ruhidean.... the other part of his question "for the honor of our ancestors and the memory of what was” seems a bit more informed (for want of a better word) doesn't it??
mark Proctor
199. mark-p
I've never really pictured Mat as a particularly American hero.
When I started reading the Wheel of Time, I had a friend called Matt who was pretty cool and looked quite similar to Mat's description so thats how I have seen him ever since.
The continent has more of a kind of feudal American feel than European, with large amounts of open space, one language etc.
200. hoping to be of the blood
I like it. Nicely done.
201. yosoyeljosh
Well, we've seen Rand speak Aiel stuff before (in The Great Hunt, at the massive, half-buried sa'angreal), though it's very uncommon.

However, some mention is made in the series of individuals occasionally using the Old Tongue without intending to, nor having any idea what they said. This is indicated as being an effect of strong, Old Blood.

It's possible that Rand's old blood is being brought forward. It's just a shame that we don't see more instances of the Old Blood doing much. One of those ideas that sort of drifted to the side later on.
Amar Ramraj
202. aiel1219
This is a better more researched argument for my prophecy theory of Rand's request in an ancient form.

"Moiraine would doubtless think it
daring, a bold stroke; she might even approve. Maybe. She thought she knew his whole plan, now, and made no bones of disapproving that; no doubt she wanted it over and done as soon as possible. But the Aiel. . . . What if
they refuse? Well, if they refuse, they refuse. I have to do it"

This is what he was thinking as he was leaving the stone when Moiraine was talking about his plan to go to Ruhidean just after she told him that he had no need to be a clan chief. Which makes me think that Rand definitely had some foreknowledge about having to ask the Aiel for something and what leads me to reject that it could simply be being polite and Ta'vereness when he asked the wise ones to enter Ruhidean.

"The keys lay in those, and in the various translations of The Karaethon Cycle, if he could only find them and fit them to the proper locks."

This is one thing that makes me think it was prophecy... Rand was thinking this while in the stone and talking to the Lords about the treaty with Mayenne.

“Power of the Shadow made human flesh,
wakened to turmoil, strife and ruin.
The Reborn One, marked and bleeding,
dances the sword in dreams and mist,
chains the Shadowsworn to his will,
from the city, lost and forsaken,
leads the spears to war once more,
breaks the spears and makes they see,
truth long hidden in the ancient dream."

This Moiraine tells the girls is part of the Prophecy which Rand quoted to her, and he had been reading different translations and interpretations. I find it easy to see this being interpreted as memoories of what was and mb even about ancestors. Throw in the knowledge from prophecies and his Ta'vereness and BAM u got the ancient form.

P.S. The Chains the shadow sworn to his will could be a big part of how he knew he had to get Asmodean to teach him (though he probably didn't know it was Asmodean). Point is there is quite a but in this bit of prophecy that we see manifesting in Rands actions later.
203. yosoyeljosh
As an additional note to what I wrote above, and a comment to other posters, do we ever see Rand's ta'varenity affect himself? Typically it causes others to say or do things they might be very unlikely to say or do. I don't recall he, Mat or Perrin bending chance in themselves, but I may be wrong (and even Mat could be open to a bit more interpretation regarding this).
204. Samadai
I swear that I have become a Leigh postaholic. I just sit here mon, wed, and fri waiting for her new post and am not happy untilit appears. I know I am a freak thanks
Amar Ramraj
205. aiel1219
LOL!!! @204. Samadai
MAny of us feel the same way even though we don't admit it... admitting the problem is the 1st step to solving it... but I dun't wanna solve this problem LOL!!! So no admissions from me :P

@203. yosoyeljosh
Actually I am pretty sure that someone says something along the lines that the pattern bends other threads around Ta'veren but also that Ta'veren have less control over their lives.
I'll have to do some research to find the exact quote when I have time.
Richard Fife
206. R.Fife
I'm not a postaholic, I'm a Po-Drunk. Postaholics go to meetings.
Brett Michie
207. bchurch
Samadai @ 204

Fear not, friend, for I also am addicted to the sweet nectar of these posts. It's almost like the heightened sense of life a channeler feels when embracing saidar/seizing saidin. I spend great amount of time here to the disgruntlement of those who don't understand my passion and think I should do something better with my life. Pfft! What do they know? It's been said that we're a community here and I wholeheartedly agree. If only we could have cyber potlucks or something . . .
Group hug anyone?
Peter Nein
208. gimpols1908
@ 203.yosoyeljosh

Well Mat bends chance on the battlefield quite often later on.

Perrin becomes a lord in the two rivers, no matter what he wanted to happen. Remember that ta'varen have a path to be traveled with some movement to either side when it come to the lace of ages.

So while these 2 get super 'leadership' abilities to bend those who might normally call them down to their will, Rand is much more strong a ta'varen than both of them put together.

I don't believe we ever find out if Mat and Perrin are a reborn so and so. They are not on that level, but having them as lesser ta'varen allows for a bit of luck bending for editorial ease. - IMHO
209. seanie
bch,rife,aiel: I feel your {sweet}pain (addiction) .....I feel like I should be on a streetcorner all jitterry and hivey with a laptop LOL where's that commentary !?!?
Amar Ramraj
210. aiel1219
I think it's safe to say that mat atleast is reborn... he has memories from loads of past lives.

ok...Group Hug (well only if other ppl join in...else its not really a group hug...its just wierd)
211. seanie
Aiel: I have always pictured Ta'verness very much like RJ's wheel. TaV are at the hub , while they turn other lives (spokes) they themselves are hemmed in (as far as options go)
Lannis .
212. Lannis
Aiel1219@ 202: Excellent job! :)

(I'm running out of stickers... Thomas or Dora?)

Samadai @ 204: yeah, there's a bunch of us lurking on posting days... I usually spy some of us on the "Latest Comments" sidebar... XD
Peter Nein
213. gimpols1908
@ 210. aiel1219

I think it's safe to say that mat atleast is reborn... he has memories from loads of past lives.

On that he did not get access to those memories till he visited the finn the second time. So are they his past lives or past lives of other men?

Mat 'remembers' fighting and dying and such, but he refers to them as both himself and other men. It is a bit of a knot.
214. DutchBoy
After a night of sleep I came to the conclusion that Ogier CAN danse the Polka!

Great to see that I am not the only nerd reading and contributing to the posts ;-)

If you are addicted to these posts, here are some alternative addictions:
- start reading the Dune series
- start playing some great board games with your best friends, like settlers of catan, ticket to ride, or agricola.
215. hoping to be of the blood
Mat remembers a battle scene directly after the dagger healing in tGH.
216. seanie
Dutchboy: got a Zara board ?
Rich Bennett
217. Neuralnet
Gack... I am jonesin' for a new post.

tried to stay out of the evolution debate... too much like work, but it occured to me last night that neanderthals had an extra copy of some gene that made them all pale skinned with red hair. maybe the Aiel have the same thing. Still I always thing of Aviendha as having dark skin hair.
218. hoping to be of the blood
Years ago, studies were done with monkeys. They provided them with a pleasurable brain stimulation in response to a lever press. They found that the monkeys pressed the lever continuously even over eating. I'm not to that stage yet, as I continually press the refresh button on the browser, but I know how they feel.
Amar Ramraj
219. aiel1219
:( I read the dune series and am stuck in India for the next six months with a job that only requires work 3 hours a day... away from all my best friends... so what does this make me? An Internet junkie and now a Leigh Butler WoT junkie... No I am not!!! I don't have a problem... LOL!!!

*shakes n twitches* where's that next post?
Alice Arneson
220. Wetlandernw
There's a reasonable chance Mat is someone reborn, though we don't know. His Old Tongue ability and the memories he has prior to this point could come from "the old blood" or from being someone reborn. I believe RJ established that many of his battle memories (i.e. the ones we see later) are from the Finn stuffing his head full of other men's memories, but clearly some are his own, since we've already seen them. I don't believe RJ has said one way or the other whether he is reborn or not. Anyone?

Aren't we pathetic? Hanging around the computer, refreshing the display every five minutes, letting the kids tear the house down and throw it out the window while we (okay, read I) wait for Leigh's post. *sigh*
221. yosoyeljosh
The battle Mat remembers (both during his cleansing and after) is a battle from Manatheran. I'm willing to chalk this up to the Old Blood, which remains curiously strong in Two Rivers folk. Mat also spoke Old Tongue outside Shadar Logoth in The Eye of the World.

I mean, being Reborn and having strong Old Blood may be related. If someone is frequently reborn into the same genetic pool, perhaps they possess stronger non-genetic traits of their heritage. I might be wrong, but didn't Egwene almost seem to understand Mat when he spoke Old Tongue?

Anyways, when's the new post coming?
Lannis .
222. Lannis
Wetlander @ 220:

Aren't we pathetic? Hanging around the computer, refreshing the display every five minutes, letting the kids tear the house down and throw it out the window while we (okay, read I) wait for Leigh's post. *sigh*

Same thing here--just add in my voice saying, "boys! I said keep it down! SHHHH! If you wake the girls... grrr...."

C'mon new post! C'mon new post!

Not to be pushy or anything, Leigh--you know we love you! Besides, these two chapters are heavy...
Peter Nein
223. gimpols1908
215. hoping to be of the blood
Forgot about that....

221. yosoyeljosh

Good point about the old blood. I think in randland most people believe in being reborn, but to the point of the kevin costner character in bull durham "how come nobody is ever joe schmoe". I guess the question is if Mat and Perrin are reborn 'HEROES' or just from a people who have a strong bloodline back to Aemon's Field.

Could be either, heck Hurin could be a NEW HEREO according to... rogosh eageleye, or someone... I forget.
Brett Michie
224. bchurch
Regarding the old blood, I'd forgotten that Perrin also has his moments of "almost" understanding something said in the old tongue, particularly in the end of LoC and beginning of CoS, which is where I currently am in my own umpteenth re-read.
Brian Kaul
225. bkaul
Naraoia@166: I'm not saying that natural selection won't cause trends towards more light or dark colored peppered moths depending on changes in their environment, perhaps due to predation. I am saying that the Kettlewell photographs are known to have been staged (i.e. moths glued/pinned to trees). It has also been claimed that the moths tend to remain in the canopy rather than on the trunks of the trees during the day, when birds would be the relevant predator (rather than bats at night); not being an entomologist, I'll refrain from offering an opinion on the validity of those claims and counter-claims. But using a study that's known to have included staged 'evidence' is not going to be particularly convincing to anyone.

I suppose it's a bit of a moot point, since pretty much everyone agrees that creatures adapt in such ways to their environments and that natural selection is one of the driving forces in that, but I still think it's best to avoid using tainted studies and staged photographs as evidence in a debate.

Anyhow, back on-topic ... Matt as Irish - I like it.

aiel1219@193: Interesting theory. I always just assumed Rand had read up on the Aiel traditions about Rhuidean in an old book once he found out he needed to go there, and the form of the request that had been recorded was an ancient one since the reference material was pretty old itself ... not sure ta'veren elements or details of the prophecies themselves are really necessary to explain it.
Alice Arneson
226. Wetlandernw
219. aiel1219

So that's how you have time to think about all this stuff! Do you at least have all your WoT books with you?

BTW, agree with you on Rand finding at least the necessary clues to entering Rhuidean in the prophecies. He read as many translations as he could find, and read voraciously of anything he could find in the library at Tear. I really enjoyed his desire to do the research himself instead of relying on other people's evaluations.

It's funny how our preconceptions can keep us from seeing the possibilities when new ideas come along. I think Moiraine had been so used to thinking about the Dragon Reborn with no reference to anyone else that she missed some critical info. Rand spent enough time with the Aiel to notice that the warrior societies called themselves "the spears" and to catch on when Rhuarc (?) said they are called "the people of the Dragon". So when he was reading the prophecies, he was coming at it with ALL the knowledge fresh and new, instead of having years of study setting him into specific habits of thinking. Mo completely missed the connections to the Aiel and Rhuidean, and even when pointed out she dismissed them without real consideration because her thinking was in a rut without her realizing it. I think the events at Rhuidean and Al'Cair Dal (sp?) made her realize that Rand was right in his interpretation of the prophecy, and that she needed to take a whole new approach to helping the Dragon if she was going to help at all. And knowing Mo as we do, I'm still amazed at her strength of character. She made some incredible changes and sacrificed not only her life, but her pride (which is often harder) to her overriding goal of helping the Dragon defeat the Dark One and save the world. I am REALLY looking forward to her return.

Wow. Didn't mean to ramble on so much, but I'm starting to realize that either as I get older or as I read more carefully (or both), I appreciate Moiraine a lot more than I used to. She has her faults (we've agreed that RJ created believeable human characters) but she has a strength of will and purpose that I envy.
227. yosoyeljosh

I think it was Hawkwing who extended that invitation to Hurin :)

Well, not an actual invitation, but certainly something.

As far as Mat and Perrin go, it is a tough call. When Hawkwing & Co meet with the crew after the horn is sounded, they don't make any acknowledgements to Mat or Perrin as they do to "Lews." Doesn't rule it out, but if they were heroes from the ages, it seems awfully rude not to address them as such.

And lastly, and this point always bothers me, why is Rand always Lews? Does he only get two spokes on the wheel? Why is he only referred to by his most previous name? For a bunch of guys who are presumed to live countless lives, why does Rand only get addressed by Lews Therin?
Alice Arneson
228. Wetlandernw
I have a vague recollection of someone saying that the heroes have a habit of addressing one another as their latest incarnation. I'm not sure that makes sense, but I remember someone saying it. And on a loosely-related subject, does anyone know how often someone can be spun out? Is it only once an age? Or are you eligible for rebirth as soon as you die? Did RJ address this somewhere? (That would be directed to those of you who did things like the WotFAQ and know everything he ever said at a book signing...)
Amar Ramraj
229. aiel1219
"You see, the Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of the Ages, and the threads it uses are lives. It is not fixed, the Pattern, not always. If a man tries to change the direction of his life and the Pattern has room for it, the Wheel just weaves on and takes it in. There is always room for small
changes, but sometimes the Pattern simply won't accept a big change, no matter how hard you try. You understand?"

Rand nodded. "I could live on the farm or in Emond's Field, and that would be a small change. If I wanted to be a king, though . . . ."

"Yes, that's it. But sometimes the change chooses you, or the Wheel chooses it for you. And sometimes the Wheel bends a life-thread, or several threads, in such a way that all the surrounding threads are forced to swirl around it, and those force other threads, and those still others, and on and on. That first bending to make
the Web, that is ta'veren, and there is nothing you can do to change it, not until the Pattern itself changes."

Here it is... Loial explaining Ta'veren to Rand. So u see the pattern bends the Ta'veren 1st then bends other ppl around them. So their Ta'verenness does affect them.
230. Samadai

thanks for the direct quote from the EoTW. it was just what I needed to get rid if the shakes
231. RobMRobM
Not to toot my own horn but I put together a quick set of WOT-Dune paralells in the separate Dune thread on the site. Please take a look and give your thoughts, especially if you're Dune fans as well (as you should be). Rob
232. Tonybere
I would say that Rand is always seen as LTT because he is "the" special case. He is always reborn as the same person, in the same manner, according to prophesy. The others are bound to the Horn to come back and help him specifically.

As for Perrin and Mat, I like to think that they are not bound to the Horn as Heroes of the Ages, but the things that they are doing now will see that they will be in lives to come.

Finally, in a strange way I am glad that there was no new post when I got here today. This means that I will get some work done this afternoon. Truly a refreshing change from recent Wednesdays!!
233. sps49
bkaul @141- Hoax? Are you referring to the dead peppered moths being attached to trees for photographic illustrative purposes?

The facts are unchanged by your hoax assertion.
234. Master Al'Thor
Line of the year.....Rand is um...Ninja jesus
235. Aye Aye Sedai
Post 8 is up
Joseph Blaidd
236. SteelBlaidd
Just to put in my 2 cents here is a wildly fun book that, among other things, explores some questions about the Neo-Darwinian formulation of evolution.

The author is ans atheist not a creationist

Kicking the Sacred Cow

Enjoy :-D
237. birgit
Also, I have never thought of this before, but maybe Lan showing loyalty to Rand is another ploy by Moraine to maniplate him. I do not want to believe it, but it would make sense.

Moiraine is annoyed that Lan is so loyal to Rand and sometimes takes his side against her. When they are visiting Adeleas and Vandene she asks him why he does it. He says it is because Rand is ta'veren, but Moiraine believes it is Nynaeve's influence.

Years ago, studies were done with monkeys. They provided them with a pleasurable brain stimulation in response to a lever press. They found that the monkeys pressed the lever continuously even over eating. I'm not to that stage yet, as I continually press the refresh button on the browser, but I know how they feel.

I read about this with rats, not monkeys.

And on a loosely-related subject, does anyone know how often someone can be spun out? Is it only once an age? Or are you eligible for rebirth as soon as you die? Did RJ address this somewhere?

Doesn't Birgitte remember more than one life per age?
238. Naraoia
bkaul @2

I am saying that the Kettlewell photographs are known to have been staged (i.e. moths glued/pinned to trees).
Yes, and are they ever claimed to be live moths in their natural habitats, as opposed to illustrations of how the different morphs blend in/stand out? (I must admit I haven't seen Kettlewell's original study).
It has also been claimed that the moths tend to remain in the canopy rather than on the trunks of the trees during the day, when birds would be the relevant predator (rather than bats at night); not being an entomologist, I'll refrain from offering an opinion on the validity of those claims and counter-claims.
Hmm, I don't remember a lot about the canopy vs. trunk issue, but branches and twigs also have bark, and plenty of birds forage in the canopy, so I'm not sure what the problem is.

I still think it's best to avoid using tainted studies and staged photographs as evidence in a debate.
I think there's something of a dilemma here. You can stop using them, and you (1) lose potentially very neat examples, (2) let those who make accusations of fraud have a victory of sorts. OTOH, by using them you risk more accusations, and there are neat examples with spotless histories.

Anyway... I'll stop checking this thread now and let everyone get on with the WoT discussion ;)
239. Naraoia
PS.: SteelBlaidd @236: I'm not really an "insider" in evolutionary biology yet, but from the courses I've taken on evolution, I don't think Neo-Darwinism (which, I assume, refers to the Modern Synthesis) is really a sacred cow. That's not saying anything about the book, of course.
Crystal McMillan
240. CDragon27
reading the comments and CalebG said he thinks Mat is the most free of the characters and that is part of his appeal. I think he just proved your point about the American-ness of Mat. He is a hero who does what is right(with a lot of lip)yet is not the kind to sit around filled with angst. Very American for our heroes.
I love this whole journey into the history of the Aiel that begins here. I think Robert Jordan is one of the few authors who used jokes to illustrate the difference of cultural mindsets. He was brilliant. (okay I'm obviously biased)
as for the pale hair and eyes of the Aiel, people who don't intermarry with outsiders would take longer than a few thousand years to change color palettes so that works.
looking forward to the next part. I am so glad you all decided to do this.
241. JFS322
I'm loving this re-read but I have to take issue with the 'Mat is so an American character' line of thought. Mat is many people's favourite (including myself) and I can understand readers wanting to appropriate their favourite/the liveliest character as one from their own culture. Problem is, the reluctant hero, the trickster rogue, is not in any way unique to American folklore or culture.

Some Americans see Mat as a cowboy, fair enough - that's your cultural reference. I'm English and I agree with CJB in 137 here - If I had to pin a familiar cultural tag on him it would have been an Irish stereotype, the charmer, the chancer who cannot be relied upon to show up for dinner but who will be there in a real crisis.(Note that this is not the Guinness sponsored modern view of permanently drunk/fighting in the pub Irish but an older trope)

In every culture and mythology there are stories about jokers and rogues - The Carribbean has Anansi, The Norse have Loki(more malevolent maybe) The Welsh/British have Bran the Blessed and other heroes. Go back to Arthurian tales - we have Galahad the perfect, Gawyn and others with all their prowess but the rock star is Lancelot who isn't as pure as all get out.

Ach, I'm not trying to rock anyone's boat here. We all interpret what we read through the mirror of our own background and experiences. Just don't reject other people's interpretations because they don't tally exactly with yours
Hilde Sørensen
242. edlihs
Tonybere @ 232
No. RJ said somewhere that when the pattern needs the dragon Rands soul is always the dragon, BUT he can be reborn between those times as a regular gay
243. Beardedfreak
First time I've written a comment on your commentaries and firstly I'd just like to congratulate you on taking the time to write everything you have. Very impressive.
Most of your observations I pretty much agree with you on but, as you'd expect, one or two I don't.
As a British reader of the WOT series I have always thought Mat is a very British character for pretty much the reasons you've stated for him being an American character. His ironic outlook towards life and his willingness to laugh at himself, as well as the fact he'll grumble all day long, but when push comes to shove will knuckle down and get the job done, I've always perceived as being Anglocentric.
A joke an Australian comedian once told sums up American mentality pretty well when it comes to their outlook, at least I think so,(and I know this is a vast sweeping generalisation so I apologize if I offend anyone)basically says that if, for example a Brit, walks into a dark room and stubs their toe on a chair will curse themselves for not turning on the light, if an American does it they curse the chair for being in the way.
I think Mat would be one to curse himself.
Anyway, just to say congratulations again and my regrets for rambling on and the poor grammar.
Keep up the good work.
joel perry
244. finndo
I was hoping there would be some great discussions on this post to read about, until leigh threw in that part in the end about the comparisons of the characters and randland to past real world.

Then I thought oh well, anothe rdiscussion section to skip, after reading the first few I thought maybe no one would take the bait, but then I saw they did, so... skipping this re-reads discussion as well as the last 5 or so...

on a good note, I am starting to catch up. skipping the 150-300 comments really speads up the process of reading these...
245. TDK
Good post. The Aiel as a whole always bugged me. Desert ninja are all well and good, but the idea of a bunch of Nordic (Aviendha's trip to Rhuidean made it clear that she was only tanned in her face and hands) fighters whose main method of travel was to *run* across dozens of miles of desert during the daylight hours while wearing relatively dark clothing and carrying weapons made primarily of wood (something that they claim they have barely any of) always made me somewhat confused.
246. Felix Velarius Bos
Oh, I love you. "Yippie-ki-yay, mother fucker"? Rand is Ninja Jesus? You have made my day for the next couple of days.

And on a different, more serious note, the Aiel came from main Randland, as they were sort of the servants of the Aes Sedai and such. So genetically, they have the same pale skin as the "wetlanders" (of course, quite a bit more tan, seeing as they have alot of time to get a tan), and I guess genetics and evolution hasn't had the time yet to make them black skinned.

And on a COMPLETELY unrelated note, the Captcha words needed to post this were "cockiest her." I just thought I would share that.
247. NortherNomad
"Mat is the only one who strikes me as being a particularly American style of hero."

From Norway, please recieve agreement!

This, I think, is why Mat is "everyone's" favorite WoT-character. American ideals strike a mighty powerful chord with nigh on everybody, even though they may not be consciously aware of the fact.
248. Doriai
Sorry to rain on everyone's parade here but I'm just not on board the "Mat-is-so-awesome" train. I'm a first time reader here without the foresight of the later books to go off of, but in my opinion, Mat has been one of the most frustrating characters in the story up to this point. I honestly don't see why he's so lovable, am I missing something? It seems as though he's a rather negative character that does really stupid shit that we're supposed to think is endearing. It just seems like he's constantly making a mess out of everything, and complaining about everything else along the way.

Like this chapter with the doorway. He plunges headfirst into a world he doesn't understand in the slightest, and gets mad when the Fox people don't react how he wants them to. Mat seems to consistently prove that if he doesn't understand something it's automatically bad/evil. That particular mindset just gets under my skin.

Of course, the other Two Rivers kids sort of think this way, but to a lesser degree. For example, Nyneave hated AS in the beginning, (and still has issues) but she eventually became one herself. I think this displays a willingness on her part to accept the reality of what is given to her. Rand also started off this way but he takes the initiative (even though he's slightly maniacal about it) to educate himself on the prophecies, to learn about the world. Mat just doesn't think of things that way. I guess I just don't think his cavalier stubbornness is really that endearing...?

Thoughts? :)
Jonathan Levy
249. JonathanLevy
248. Doriai
Sorry to rain on everyone's parade here but I'm just not on board the "Mat-is-so-awesome" train. I'm a first time reader here without the foresight of the later books to go off of, but in my opinion, Mat has been one of the most frustrating characters in the story up to this point. I honestly don't see why he's so lovable, am I missing something? It seems as though he's a rather negative character that does really stupid shit that we're supposed to think is endearing. It just seems like he's constantly making a mess out of everything, and complaining about everything else along the way.

Welcome to the re-read! Though I should warn you the old threads get very few comments. The rest of us are starting book...uh...10? I think. I'll do my best to answer without spoilers.

The general consensus is that Mat isn't that likeable a character until Book 3, when he gets more fully developed. Most people like him because he's the charismatic rogue, an unwilling hero, and undergoes a voyage of self-discovery. Like Han Solo in Star Wars. Examples of his Rogue-ishness are how he treated the Amyrlin Seat, the woman in white, and Elayne/Egwene/Nynaeve when he was still in the White Tower. Examples of Unwilling Heroism so far: When he saved Aludra (the Illuminator) from an assassination attempt in the barn, when he overheard a plot to kill Elayne and went with Thom to save her, and when he entered the Stone of Tear to save the three girls with Juilin. Self-discovery examples: His tendency to spout the Old Tongue (and understand it), his understanding of the nature of his luck at the end of TDR, and a lot more which you'll get to soon :)

Like this chapter with the doorway. He plunges headfirst into a world he doesn't understand in the slightest, and gets mad when the Fox people don't react how he wants them to. Mat seems to consistently prove that if he doesn't understand something it's automatically bad/evil. That particular mindset just gets under my skin.

He gets mad because he's taken a huge risk (in his mind - messing with the One Power), and he's getting back answers which make no sense to him. Worse, the answers he gets imply that the future that awaits him is precisely what he wants to avoid - "you will have sidestepped the thread of fate" implies that he has an important role to play, which is the last thing he wants. Not to mention the final answer he gets.

If you want an example of what makes Mat fun to read, go back and re-read the card game with the nobles, focusing on his unfortunate encounter with the Maidens of the Spear. There's plenty more of this in the future.

Enjoy the series - and the re-read!
Maiane Bakroeva
250. Isilel
Doriai @ 248:

I strongly suspect that people love Mat because he is an ultimate wish-fulfillment character - he gets money, women and bad-assness (and later power) forced on him on a silver-platter without having to apply the slightest effort and even actively fighting against some of it. Not money and women, though, those he accepts as his due ;).
In minds of many people that makes him "humble". He is also one of the few witty characters in WoT and often finds himself in funny situations, so that's the icing on the cake.

Yes, Mat does occasionally do worthy things on purpose, like rescuing the girls from the Stone of Tear. But people appear to mostly love him for inintentional things which seem to be entirely work of the Pattern. Go figure.

Anyway, he does get better. It takes a long while, but he does.
Gerd K
251. Kah-thurak
Shadow Rising is a turning point in this regard for me. I liked Perrin best here. After that Perrin started brooding and his story arc became frustrating. Mat on the other hand becomes more and more interesting due to the events in Rhuidean
252. emmyloo03
"Ninja Jesus" just made my decade...

I have been reading WOT since the mid 90's and I'm on like my 6th re-read. My books are falling apart :( Even after all those times through the series, I am finding new things, especially with the help of your blog here. I didn't get that Mercedes-Benz reference a few chapters ago until I read your commentary a few days ago!
Thanks and keep up the good work.
ps, very little on the internets makes me froth at the mouth, with the exception of Rebecca Black's "Friday" and Christian Right Obamaspiracy Theories, and I haven't seen any sign of either of those in your commentaries. :)
Sommer Bailey
253. sommer1132
I didn't read every comment so maybe someone has addressed this, but from what I remember reading most of the Aiel have TAN or BROWN skin. It's not their skin that is reffered to as "fair" it is their hair and eyes. I looked around on the web and in every instance I found this to be true. If I'm wrong, please, correct me!
Eric Hughes
254. CireNaes

Judging by the condition of Aviendha's skin after her trip to Rhuidean in Chapter 34, the Aiel just have farmer tans and are very fair. Good luck catching up with the reread. It is worth going through the comments.
Nathan Love
255. n8love
So I know this thread is pretty old and prolly dry, but as per the discussion of Mat being American, etc: Lan is so Brock Samson. For real. Watch some Venture Bros, read some WOT, and imagine Brock without blonde hair.
Sommer Bailey
256. sommer1132
@ 255. I think the disussion was more leaning towards humans, not cartoons. Of course if that's how you see the characters that is "A" ok. I see them like that sometimes too because of the drawing out there. I personally, don't see Lan as Brock AT ALL. If you haven't already seen his artwork, check out Seamas Gallagher:
Nathan Love
257. n8love
You don't see it? Maybe its me, but the whole "doesn't talk a lot, doesn't show strong emotion, fiercely loyal but still with a strong independant streak, everything in his way dies when he fights" made me link them.

I've seen the pics. Like the art, tend to just hate things that differ from the stuff in my head. I like his Avi and Nyn and Perrin and about half the forsaken, not to mention the deathwatch guard (was that him or the other guy?). Not so much his Rand, Mat, Lan or Loyal. New to these posts, seasoned about most of the other WOT related stuff around. I was actually participating in Jo Walton's Rothfuss Re-reads when I was like "lightbulb! I bet TOR has a WOT review that's detailed with a lot of discussion!" So I read ToM again and started this thing from EotW, hoping it would take me till Nov. to finish it. It didn't.

Anyway. Read The Name of the Wind. The passion I had for WOT 5 yrs ago is about 2/3 as strong as my current love for Kingkiller Chronicles, and I freaking love WOT. It changed my life. This is better... well, different, and my obsession is newer. That's prolly more accurate. Plus its a trilogy, guaranteed by the author. No more promises and now its more books and more years.
258. Divil The Bother
I know I'm late to the party but 250+ posts is ridiculous.

And most of them are either about the likelihood of Aeil remaining fair skinned after 3000 years or whether Mat's appeal is cause he's like a typical American hero.

Come on people - you know your thread is sending itself into a tailspin when an OCD sufferer like myself can bring himself to scan/skip whole chunks of posts. :)
Sommer Bailey
259. sommer1132
@ n8love
I get it, when things stray from the picture in your head it can get rather agravating. I myself don't like any drawings of Rand. Especially the original cover art.. I mean jeez, were they trying to make him as ugly as possible in those? :) The way you describe Brock, I get it now. If Lan was a cartoon he would HAVE to be just like that. :)

I'll check that read out, thanks for the advise!
260. sadface
@242 - I don't think Rand is ever just a regular gay, he is always an exceptional gay.

RE: Why Mo consults Loial on Be'lal - Theortically, it could be possible for a line of AS to trace back to the breaking in fewer moves then the Oiger, but you are ignoring an important fact; AS very rarely reproduce. Channelers pops up at random through the population, and when they do their genetic line typically comes to an end. You would need 15-20 AS in a row who bucked the tradition, and had children near in the later part of their 200-300 year lifespan - but not so late as to not be able to pass all their knowledge along to them.

On Cultures and Language - Perhaps I am wrong, but during the AoL didn't we have a single monolithic cuture? Given that scenario, I believe our rules for cultural and language (and genetic?) evolution need to be thrown out the window. We understand these rule from the perspective of various several different cultures/langauges the developed completely independently and are now expanding into each other and homogonizing, but in the Third Age we have cultures/languages separating from a single source. To link it to the genetic discussion, the culture/language gene pool is small enough that currently mutations are the prevailing evolutionary force, which we should all now know works much slower then interbreeding. Speaking specifically of cultural differences we also have two other things to consider 1) the OP and the taint, taken together they are a huge environmetal pressure on cultural evolution and they are exactly the same everywhere; females can use the OP, men cannot. This effectively shuts down the whole patriarichal branch of the cultural evolutionary tree. And 2) the eyes we see this world through, our characters, are remarkably open minded. They immerse themselves into the cultures they come across, and accept them as they are. Admitidly this is easier when the cultures aren't so different, but we get glimpses of other people who are not so adept. There are fueds between Tear and Illian, Tear and Mayene, Andor and Cairhein, and you can see the Aiel losing respect for all wetlander cultures the longer they are there.

Aiel - I think their humor is easiest to understand, and I always viewed them as Middle Eastern, I never let their coloring bother me...but I am not a very visual reader.

Genetics - First off, I think we should all be embarassed that their are people in this world who are technologically advanced enough to have computer access, and internet access, but still don't understand the basic mechanisms of evolution. The efforts to undermind learning and keep our world citizens deliberately ignorant are disgusting. That being said, I am pleased that some people in the know were able to come in straighten things out. There are still a few just plain wrong facts listed above that were never refuted, but I will try and ignore them because by and large the mechanisms were explained very well.

To throw a cog in the arguement; though the basics are simple, the application is not, and evolution can sometimes happen at an alarming rate. It is a mistake to to imagine that you can use these basics to deduce any outcome, because evolution thrives on chaos and happens on a scale where it can exploit that chaos very well. Case and point, the experts above were all fairly confident that there was not enough time for Aiel to see skin color changes, but it just so happens that skin color changes occur relatively rapidly, see -
I like to think the best explenation for why the Aiel have not changed skin color is that an epidemic of fatal of spear-through-the-gut-itis has short circuited that particular evolutionary track. Otherwise, RJ just got this one wrong (he is in good company though, seeing as how our experts above back him up), and I don't want to face that fact.

Again, let me stress, the experts above did a very good job explaining the basic mechanisms of evolution. I do not want the joke above, or the "cog" of faster then expected skin color change, to in anyway contribute to the fog that is being laid around evolution in order to keep people ignorant for political purposes.

p.s. Lan=Brock Samson much funnier then Rand=Ninja Jesus
261. qbe_64
Ninja Jesus. Why is that not a movie?
262. Adam Posar
I am not sure if anyone else has posted this, but Mat's Character STRONGLY parallels Odin in Norse mythology, right down to Odin's two raven companions, "Thought" and "Time".

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