Tue
Jan 25 2011 1:44pm

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Crossroads of Twilight, Part 17

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert JordanAhoy, mateys! Welcome aboard Yet Another Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapters 25-27 of Crossroads of Twilight, in which we discover that in the service, one must always choose the lesser of two weevils. If one can.

That’s right, beeches, we are doing three whole chapters today, because I am awesomely fearsome in my efficiency for once, and also because that lets us dispose of the remainder of Perrin’s storyline in COT in one swell foop. Go me!

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the light- and happy-filled post!

Chapter 25: When to Wear Jewels

What Happens
Perrin paces his tent, irritated at the finery of his clothes and the inadequacy of the map of Malden they’d managed to appropriate from its fleeing former residents. Berelain, similarly richly garbed, suggests he calm down, and he tries not to glare at her. Arganda enters the tent to sourly hand over funds he’d taken from Alliandre’s strongbox, to add to what Perrin and Berelain had contributed. They all exit the tent, Perrin annoyed to note that the Two Rivers men in the camp still avoid his gaze when Berelain is with him, and head to where the cart drivers are assembled, along with Annoura, Gallenne, fifty Mayener soldiers, and fifty more Ghealdanin lancers, led by a haughty man named Kireyin. Aram sulks off to the side, as Perrin had forbidden him to come with the party to So Habor on account of his increasing surliness and tendency to pick fights. Arganda has refused to come as well, not wanting to leave the vicinity of Malden (and Alliandre). Perrin tells Dannil to keep an eye on them both and try not to let Arganda do anything stupid, but Dannil is dubious about his ability to get Arganda to do anything. Masuri and Seonid and their Warders arrive, the Aes Sedai also dressed to the nines, and Perrin is relieved the Wise Ones had let them come. They head off to the Traveling ground, Perrin noting what he is sure is a spy of Masema’s darting off on the way, and Perrin is bitterly amused at the ostentatious show they make.

Berelain seemed to sense his thoughts. “When you go to buy a sack of flour,” she said, “wear plain wool so the seller thinks you can’t afford to pay any more than you must. When you’re after flour by the wagonload, wear jewels so she thinks you can afford to come back for all she can lay hands on.”

Perrin snorted a laugh in spite of himself. It sounded very much like something Master Luhhan had told him, once, with a nudge in the ribs to say it was a joke and a look in his eye that said it was a little more. Dress poor when you want a small favor, and fine when you want a large one. He was very glad Berelain no longer smelled like a hunting wolf. At least that took one worry off his mind.

They meet up with Neald and twenty Two Rivers men at the Traveling ground, and Balwer rides up a moment later with two of Faile’s people (Medore and Latian). He requests to come along, claiming he has an old acquaintance in So Habor; Perrin is skeptical, but allows him to maintain the fiction and come along. He instructs Neald to open the gateway, which Neald does with a grin, and Perrin wonders irritably what he’s so cheerful about. They ride through to a spot supposedly a few miles outside So Habor, and Perrin is struck by how the small farms and such dotted about are still and empty. Then Masuri shouts and points out a winged shape in the sky, with a rider visible on its back.

“Seanchan,” Berelain breathed, both her voice and the smell of her worried.

Perrin twisted in his saddle to watch the thing’s flight until the glare of the sunrise made him turn away. “Nothing to do with us,” he said. If Neald had made a mistake, he would strangle the man.

Commentary
So… er.

Um.

…Yeah, pretty much nothing happens in this chapter.

No, really. Nothing. Nothing I feel like saying anything about, at any rate.

I mean, Berelain’s little bit of wisdom about how to dress for various bargaining sessions rings true to me, and all, but….Yeah.

The only thing that jumps out at me at all worth commenting on, really, is Neald, who has obviously noticed by now that saidin is clean but for some reason has totally failed to mention that fact to anyone. Which, actually, isn’t even all that stupid, seeing as Neald probably figures (quite correctly) that no one would believe him. So… okay, then.

It does bring up the fact that I was a bit annoyed that we really never got to see any saidin channeler’s perspective on discovering that saidin was clean firsthand—other than Rand, of course, but he doesn’t really count for the kind of “whoa” moment I was hoping for here. I think that would have been pretty neat to see, don’t you? And yet, no.

And… er.

Okay, moving on!

 

Chapter 26: In So Habor

What Happens
So Habor is a fortresslike town, and Perrin can see why Masema didn’t bother to try to sack it. They leave the soldiers up on the ridge, visible to the sentries but not threatening, and Perrin, Berelain, Gallenne, Kireyin, the Aes Sedai and Warders, Medore, Latian, and Balwer ride to the gate, where Gallenne announces Berelain, Perrin and the Aes Sedai with full titles (making up several for Perrin) and that they are here for trade. The dirty-looking sentries on the wall hesitate.

“How do we know you’re alive?” a hoarse voice shouted down at last.

Berelain blinked in surprise, but no one laughed. It was fool talk, yet Perrin thought the hair on the back of his neck really was standing stiff. Something was very wrong, here.

Seonid shouts back that they will regret it if she is made to prove she is alive, and at length the gate is opened. Perrin gags at the stench of the city inside, and a man pokes him in the leg as if to confirm he is real. Perrin asks jokingly if they see many dead men walking, but the man flinches. Berelain asks where to find the lord or lady of this town; the man says Lord Cowlin is “away,” but tells them where to find the inn with the grain merchants. Perrin thinks they should leave, but Berelain counters that they are here and need food, so they head to the merchants’ inn. All the town’s inhabitants are filthy and silent, and everyone is tense. Once inside, the merchants seem startled to see them, and Annoura demands to know what’s happened here; Perrin only then notices that Masuri and Seonid have not come into the inn with the rest of the party. The merchants evade Annoura’s question, and Berelain cuts her off to begin bargaining for grain. Perrin stays out of it initially, but soon notes that the merchants are not bargaining nearly as hard as he would have expected them to, and interrupts to demand to see the grain in the warehouses, which makes the merchants sag in despair. They all head to the warehouses, where once again the merchants try to delay or defer them:

The merchants suddenly recalled that they had forgotten to bring men to lift the bars. They offered to go back for them. […] Their tongues went still when Perrin placed his hand beneath the thick beam and shoved it up out of the wooden brackets. The thing was heavy, but he backed up with it to give him room to turn and toss it down on the street with a crash. The merchants stared. This might have been the first time they had ever seen a man in a silk coat do anything that could be called work.

Then they “forget” to have lanterns, but Annoura solves that with a ball of light, so they go in. Perrin hears sounds that could be cats hunting rats, but might be rats hunting cats instead. He cuts open a sack of grain to find it riddled with weevils, and every sack he opens is the same; Berelain disgustedly drops her offer by half. They are interrupted by a shriek from outside; Perrin rushes to investigate, but the merchants don’t bother to move. Outside, Kireyin is staring at a wall with bulging eyes, and tells Perrin he saw a man walk right through it; Seonid appears and said she saw it too.

“The dead are walking in So Habor. Lord Cowlin fled the town for fear of his wife’s spirit. It seems there was doubt as to how she died. Hardly a man or woman in the town has not seen someone dead, and a good many have seen more than one. Some say people have died from the touch of someone dead. I cannot verify that, but people have died of fright, and others because of it.”

Seonid urges him to leave one of the Aes Sedai in the town to deal with it, but Perrin tells her So Habor will have to deal with its dead on its own.

But fear of the dead only explained so much. Maybe people were too frightened to think of washing, but it seemed unlikely that fear would take everyone that way. They just did not seem to care anymore. And weevils thriving in winter, in freezing cold? There was worse wrong in So Habor than spirits walking, and every instinct told him to leave at a dead run, without looking back. He purely wished that he could.

Commentary
Lord, it’s the Infamous Bath Scene, except with grain merchants. Which are even more exciting, not. At least baths involve naked people!

There’s no doubt in my mind that COT is not nearly as heinous as many people deemed it to be, once it has a chance to work as an intermediary installment in a series, instead of the unsatisfying, incomplete tail end of one, but even so I don’t think I’m hallucinating that certain parts of it—like this chapter, for instance—are positively maddening in their reluctance to get where they’re going.

And you know, I understand that the grain merchants’ bizarre behavior (along with the rest if the town’s) was the setup for the revelation about the ghosts, and that the length of it all was probably an attempt to bring some tension into the proceedings, but, well, it just didn’t work. Unless you consider “impatient boredom” to be on a par with “tension,” which I don’t, really.

And I don’t get it, because as a writer Jordan proven himself more than capable of pulling off tense build-ups in the past. So why does this one strike me as so… non-tense? What’s the problem, here?

Sigh. Anyway, so, there are weevils. And ghosts.

This, by the way, is a wheat weevil. I am trying to figure out how hungry I’d have to get before voluntarily eating something riddled with these. It may just be the best diet plan ever invented, short of deliberately contracting mono. Yeargh.

The ghosts thing, I think I’ve mentioned before, was something I was very nonplussed by when I first read COT, because to my mind they really didn’t fit the cosmology of WOT at all. I’m still not sure, frankly, how you reconcile a cyclical/rebirth/reincarnation setup with the idea of ghosts.

I mean, I guess it can make sense—if the Heroes of the Horn have Tel’aran’rhiod as a cosmic waiting room for rebirth, maybe all the non-heroic plebe souls have a less classy limbo to be yanked out of too, come apocalypse season—but I was given the distinct impression from what Birgitte said back in TFOH that the Heroes were meant to be a special case. But, okay. Sure. Ghosts, then. End of the world, everything’s getting more and more meshuggah, fine.

Completely trivially, the only other thing I was amused by in this chapter is stupid-strong Perrin unbarring the warehouse door all by himself, and then thinking everyone was staring at him because they didn’t expect a lord to do manual labor. No, it’s probably because you heaved aside a slab of wood it normally takes four guys to shift, dude. Heh.

 

Chapter 27: What Must be Done

What Happens
Worried that whatever is affecting the residents of So Habor is catching, Perrin has his party set up on the riverbank outside town to winnow the grain, to try and get rid of as much of the weevils infesting it as possible. It is a long arduous process, in which they losing about half the grain they paid for. After a while, Berelain and Annoura approach him.

“You cannot save everyone,” Berelain said calmly. Away from the stink of the town, her scent was sharp with urgency, and razor-edged with anger. “Sometimes, you must choose. So Habor is Lord Cowlin’s duty. He had no right to abandon his people.” Not angry with him, then.

Perrin frowned. Did she think he felt guilty? Balanced against Faile’s life, the troubles of So Habor could not budge the scales a hair. But he turned his bay so he was looking at the gray town walls across the river, not the hollow-eyed children piling up empty sacks. A man did what he could. What he had to.

Perrin asks Berelain what Annoura thinks, but Berelain is still waiting for an apology from Annoura and says she has no idea, and leaves. Annoura reminds him that even a ta’veren is just a thread in the Pattern, and leaves as well. Seonid approaches next to argue again for staying behind, and Perrin threatens to send Edarra after her if she tries. A while later Latian approaches to tell Perrin Balwer wishes to stay behind a bit longer, which permission Perrin gives before packing up everyone except the cart drivers and the Ghealdanin soldiers and heading back to camp. Seonid tries to hide from him and stay behind, but Perrin tracks her down by scent and bundles her on her horse. A grinning Neald appears to be attempting to chat up the Aes Sedai on the way back, and Perrin worries that he might finally be going mad. Back at camp, everything is silent and tense, and Dannil, Sulin, and Edarra approach Perrin to say that the Maidens brought in five Shaido prisoners; they are already being questioned by Arganda and Masema. Perrin asks Edarra why she let Arganda take them.

“Even Shaido know how to embrace pain, Perrin Aybara. It will take days to bring any of them to talk, and there seemed no reason to wait.”

If Edarra’s eyes were cool, Sulin’s were blue ice. “My spear-sisters and I could have done it faster ourselves, a little, but Dannil Lewin said you wanted no blows struck. Gerard Arganda is an impatient man, and he mistrusts us.” She sounded as though she would have spat if she were not Aiel. “You may not learn much, in any case. They are Stone Dogs. They will yield slowly, and as little as possible. In this, it is always necessary to put together a little from one with a little from another to make a picture.”

Embrace pain. There had to be pain, when you put a man to the question. He had not let that thought form in his head before this. But to get Faile back…

Perrin heads to the place where they are interrogating the prisoners, and pushes through the crowd of Masema’s men watching, ignoring their mutters about Shadowspawn and yellow eyes. One of the Shaido has been stripped, gagged, and staked spreadeagled to the ground, and one of Masema’s men is piling hot coals on his stomach as he thrashes and howls. Perrin recognizes the man as Hari, who liked to collect ears. Perrin walks up and kicks the coals off the Shaido, hitting Hari in the face with some. Masema (who Perrin hadn’t noticed before) comments that the Shaido only pretend they can’t feel pain.

“You must be willing and able to hurt a stone to make one of them talk.”

Arganda, rigid beside Masema, was gripping his sword hilt so hard that his hand shook. “Perhaps you are willing to lose your wife, Aybara,” he grated, “but I will not lose my queen!”

“It has to be done,” Aram said, half pleading, half demanding. He was on Masema’s other side, clutching the edges of his green cloak as if to keep his hands from the sword on his back. His eyes were almost as hot as Masema’s. “You taught me that a man does what he must.”

Perrin forced his fists to unknot. What had to be done, for Faile.

Berelain, Sulin, the Aes Sedai, and Edarra are all watching expressionlessly. Perrin ungags the Shaido, who immediately begins singing “Wash the Spears” loudly. Perrin pushes his mouth shut with the handle of his axe, and tells the Shaido that he does not ask him to betray his people, only to help him find some women they’d captured. He describes Faile to the Shaido, who answers with a mocking song about a man with yellow eyes. Aram says that if he can’t do it, to go away and let them handle it. Perrin looks around slowly at all those about him.

What had to be done. Willing and able to hurt a stone. Embrace pain. Oh Light, Faile.

The axe was as light as a feather rising in his hand, and came down like a hammer on the anvil, the heavy blade shearing through the Shaido’s left wrist.

The Shaido snarls and deliberately sprays Perrin with his blood; he still does not smell of fear. Perrin orders the Aes Sedai to Heal him, which Seonid does, leaving behind a smooth stump where his hand had been. He tells the man that there will be no more coals, only questions about his wife, but if any one of the prisoners refuses to answer, or the answers are too different, everyone loses something.

“Two hands and two feet,” he said coldly. Light, he sounded like ice. He felt like ice to his bones. “That means you get four chances to answer the same. And if you all hold out, I still won’t kill you. I’ll find a village to leave you in, some place that will let you beg, somewhere the boys will toss a coin to the fierce Aielmen with no hands or feet. You think on it and decide whether it’s worth keeping my wife from me.”

Even Masema was staring at him as if he had never before seen the man standing there with an axe. When he turned to go, Masema’s men and the Ghealdanin alike parted in front of him as though to let a whole fist of Trollocs through.

He found the hedge of sharpened stakes in front of him, and the forest a hundred paces or so beyond, but he did not change direction. Carrying the axe, he walked until huge trees surrounded him and the smell of the camp was left behind. The smell of blood he carried with him, sharp and metallic. There was no running from that.

He could not have said how long he walked through the snow. He barely noticed the sharpening slant of the bars of light that sliced the shadows beneath the forest canopy. The blood was thick on his face, in his beard. Beginning to dry. How many times had he said he would do anything to get Faile back? A man did what he had to. For Faile, anything.

Abruptly, he raised the axe behind his head in both hands and hurled it as hard as he could. It spun end over end, and slammed into the thick trunk of an oak with a solid tchunk.

Wearily, he tells Elyas to come out. Elyas sits with him, and comments that he’d told Perrin once to keep the axe until he liked using too much, and asks if he’d liked it back there. Perrin emphatically refutes this, but then confesses to Elyas that he’s realized that in the midst of battle, even as he’s afraid Perrin also feels more alive than at any other time; he doesn’t think he could stand it if something like what he just did started to make him feel the same.

Elyas snorted. “I don’t think you have that in you, boy. Listen, danger takes different men in different ways. Some are cold as clockwork, but you never struck me as the cold sort. When your heart starts pounding, it heats your blood. Stands to reason it heightens your senses, too. Makes you aware. Maybe you’ll die in a few minutes, maybe in a heartbeat, but you’re not dead now, and you know it from your teeth to your toenails. Just the way things are. Doesn’t mean you like it.”

Perrin hopes he’s right. A few minutes later Aram and Neald approach, and Aram tells Perrin the Shaido all talked; he thinks it was the threat to leave them to beg that did it. He says they all gave the same answers—that none of them had seen Faile or the others. He suggests going back to the coals again, and Perrin thinks he sounds eager; Elyas counters that it would do no good, and among so many thousands in Malden it was a slim chance they’d find prisoners who’d seen Faile et al anyway. Aram opines they’ll have to kill the prisoners, then, to keep them from escaping and warning the Shaido of them, but Perrin says they can be guarded. He berates himself wearily for being hasty once again, and gets up to head back.

“What about that, boy?” Elyas asked.

Perrin knew what he meant without looking. The axe. “Leave it for whoever finds it.” His voice turned harsh. “Maybe some fool gleeman will make a story out of it.” He strode away toward the camp, never looking back. With its empty loop, the thick belt around his waist was too light. All to no purpose.

Three days later Balwer returns, with a filthy Tallanvor. Perrin comments that he’d never expected to see him again, and Tallanvor answers that he’d been looking for Maighdin, but the Shaido moved too fast. Balwer says he’d run into Tallanvor at So Habor purely by chance, but Tallanvor may have some allies for Perrin. Frowning, Perrin asks what he means; Tallanvor tells him he’s found fifteen thousand Seanchan troops nearby, accompanied by a dozen damane. He goes on that he knows it’s like taking help from the Dark One, but they are hunting the Shaido, too.

For a moment, Perrin stared at the two men, Tallanvor nervously thumbing his sword hilt, Balwer like a sparrow waiting to see which way a cricket would hop. Seanchan. And damane. Yes, that would be like taking the Dark One’s help. “Sit down and tell me about these Seanchan,” he said.

Commentary
It’s pretty impressive when, after all the grousing you’ve done about a character getting too emo, that the story manages to do something to him that makes your heart genuinely ache for him.

I suppose this would be a golden opportunity for me to stir up some shit about the ethics of torture and blah blah blah, but I ain’t gonna—not in the sense of really taking a stance on it, anyway. Mainly because this is one of those things where I feel rather reluctant to render a judgment, from my nice comfy padded chair in my nice comfy heated apartment in my nice comfy civilian life, where I’ve never had to make decisions like whether the pain of my enemy is worth more than the life of my loved one.  

One of my less popular stances on history is that the actions of any given party cannot be judged independent of context—not objectively, anyway. And nowhere is this more true than when judging the decisions people make in times of war.

It’s an outlook that, frankly, doesn’t always make for the most stress-free political conversations (if such a thing isn’t a contradiction in terms), especially among my more pacifist-leaning friends. But, well, for all my idealism, in certain areas I find I possess a hard streak of practicality which sometimes startles even me. And I don’t know how I feel about that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there.

Was it right? Was it wrong? Well, it worked, so from a purely practical point of view it was right—at least in the context of the story, where torture works, even if it doesn’t in the real world (and that’s a quagmire I’m not even going to bother sticking a toe into). But, regardless of its practical efficiency, was it right morally? Well, that’s another question, isn’t it. Again, it’s a measure of the pain of the aggressor versus the life of the innocent party—as long as you’re sure which is which, of course. And whether one really depends upon the other. Ah, so much uncertainty, so little time.

But my point is, right or wrong, I don’t know whether I can say I would or would not have done what Perrin did if I was in his place. Because if I was in his place, and had gone through the things that he has, I would be an utterly different person from the person I am now, and I honestly just don’t know what that Leigh would choose to do. And I would say that anyone who claims from the comfy chair they’re (most likely) reading this from right now that they do know what they would do is at least partially full of crap.

(If you’re reading this from a ditch in Afghanistan, well, then your opinion might be a tad more valid. And your ability to multitask really impressive.)

Anyway. I would hope that that other Leigh would choose to do as close to the right thing as the circumstances allowed, but considering I’m not even sure what that is from my comfy-chair outlook, I can’t even imagine what it would look like from Perrin’s viewpoint. Perhaps we should be amazed that any of the Superboys have any moral compass left at all, the way things have gone for them. Or perhaps that is all the more reason why they should be held to a stricter standard than comfy-chair people. Or is it the other way around?

Agh. I’m kind of talking myself in philosophical circles, but I think what I’m getting at is that I’m not saying it was the right thing for him to do; I’m saying that “whether it was the right thing to do” may not be the most relevant criterion to consider. Perhaps that is moral relativism run amuck, but, well, it might also be moral relativism run just amuck enough.

Dizzy yet? I am!

At any rate, whatever you think about the ethics of it, there’s little doubt in my mind that narratively this was probably the single most striking moment in the entirety of COT, which made the choice to feature it on the e-book cover eminently appropriate in my opinion.

So, bye, Perrin! Sorry your life sucks! Thank goodness it’s only going to take you, er, three more books to get over this, eh? (Oy.) Don’t worry, we all forgive you in the end. I think.


And that’s all I have to say about that, thbbbt! Have a nice Tuesday, and remember to be excellent to each other in the comments. See you Friday!

103 comments
LT Tortora
1. Lucubratrix
Thanks for the post. I *wish* I could have read some WoT rereads while I was in a ditch in Afghanistan.
Joruus
2. Joruus
Thanks for the re-read!

My complaint about these chapters is that the side trip to So Habor seems like a complete waste of time for us as readers. There was a failed attempt at building tension, then some winnowing of weevils. When the party returns to camp, they've finally captured some Shaido.

Why not just skip the trip and announce they've caught the Shaido when Perrin is pacing in his tent? It would move the story forward by getting to Perrin's choice much quicker and allow for a tighter story.
Roger Powell
3. forkroot
A couple of thoughts occur to me:

#1) I'm probably going to do one more re-read through the series in time for the publication of AMoL. When I do, I might just read up to CoT, then read Leigh's excellent summaries of CoT, then go back to the books starting with KoD.

#2) My mental images of these scenes are so much more compelling when I have the Perrin of the eBooks ToM cover in my brain!

Darryl Sweet's covers are just so lame - especially his attempts at rendering Perrin. The powerful, fearsome Perrin of the ToM cover though ... It's brain candy imagining him tossing that warehouse wood bar, or chopping off the prisoner's hand.
Boquaz
4. boquaz
aw, poor Leigh, that moral confusion is really thick there, you started sounding like Perrin!

I don't know that limiting valid responses to people who experience these kinds of choices is really... valid. From a utilitarian point of view, Perrin's chopping was a failure. They talked, yes, but they had no useful information to give.

I think people who aren't emotionally invested in the outcome may be better at deciding how hard to press someone for information and at what point it's clear no useful information is available.

Do we know what happens to these prisoners? Do they ever show up again?
Lannis .
5. Lannis
To the Powers That Be at Tordotcom ::waves @ Torie:: I don't think I've said it yet, but it seems you folks have nailed down a regular time of day to put up the reread posts--thanks very much! I didn't realize the days of the rabid sit-and-wait-to-pounce-any-time had disappeared in favour of a fairly regular after-lunch-ish post time. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose, or I would have said thank you earlier! Thanks! :)


Re: The Shaido... this comment is completely derived from a submersion in popular culture and a desensitizing to violence (so nobody get all crazy out there!) but the Aiel spraying Perrin with the blood gushing from his stump is... well... pretty badass! I'm disgusted at the same time as I'm amazed...

Thanks, Leigh!

EDIT: Oh, and it's #wotconfessions day on Twitter... anyone ready to confess their sins against the series?
James Hogan
6. Sonofthunder
Am I the only person that actually likes these So Harbor chapters?? I remember reading them for the first time and really enjoying the creepy atmosphere and "deadness" of the town(well, at least as possible as it is to enjoy such a thing). Maybe it was partially because Perrin and all were actually doing something *not* in the middle of the forest!! So these chapters were fun for me and I'm glad they were there.

As to Perrin's axe-meets-hand scene...I was utterly shocked the first time that happened. And I think part of the reason for that was because I couldn't imagine myself doing such a thing - it was so foreign to me, precisely because I'd never been in a situation such as Perrin. So would I do that? Like you Leigh, I just don't know. Your thoughts remarkably mirror mine in that. Such a remarkably written scene, and one of Perrin's all-time most powerful moments. It gives me shivers every time I read this section.

Lannis @5...I've noticed that too! Sadly, it coincides with my driving-home-from-work time...so I usually don't post at all. Tonight though, couldn't resist...
Joruus
7. hamstercheeks
Thank you, Leigh, for that weevil picture. It looks like it's full of protein and iron and other nutritious good stuff. The DO really knows how to treat humanity.

So is Mrs. Galad upset that Annoura had secret meetings with Masema? I completely forgot that little subplot. What'd Annoura do? And why on earth was Berelain under the impression that an Aes Sedai, even one who serves as your advisor, is going to ever be totally honest? Seems kinda naive to me, which is unlike Mrs. G.

Agree with Lannis@5 that the mutilated Aiel was badass. You know what would've been more badass? If he'd punched Perrin's face with the bleeding stump.

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone violence in real life.
Joruus
8. AndrewB
Thank you Leigh. Another great post.

IMO, the scene where Perrin questions the Aiel and has his later moment of reflection is one of the most powerful (and well written) scenes in the entire series. (Which is interesting in that, IMO, CoT is the worst book).

I like the straight forwardness of Perrin's approach. He simply does what he has to (chopping the arm of and having the Aiel healed). Then he says that we have three more limbs to go. Further, his comment about leaving the Aiel forced to be with no limbs was the final straw for the Aiel. It was that pyschological torture (as opposed to the physical torture of chopping the Aiel's limb off) that, IMO, broke the Aiel.

(By the way, I do beleive that at this point in his character development, Perrin would have followed through with his promise to cut off all the Aiels' limbs and leave them in a town. The Aiels' lack of ability to fend for themselves would shame them.)

The chapter then brilliantly transitions to where Perrin has remorse as to where he is heading as a person (at least in his mind; not the readers'). His throwing of the axe into the tree was effective without being overly dramatic.

My final comment is the CoT ebook cover is my favorite. It depicts Perrin's innner struggle over his need to be a leader; take uncivilized actions to get Faile back; and project the proper image of strength to his men without his men seeing him suffer.

That is all I have to say for now. Thanks for reading my musings,
AndrewB
Joruus
9. Megaduck
It's strange, like sonofthunder, the So Harbor scenes were the best in the book for me and amoung the best in WOT. It's dark, it's creepy, and you have Perrin being all badass. Not just him, but everyone of his party, from the Aes Sedai on up, were being cool here.

It's not often you get a comperison to see how awsome these indeviduals are from an outside perspective and here Perrin just goes in like an avalanche, picks and throws the wood, and doesn't even let the general wrongness of the town bother him.

That said, I found the scene with the Axe and the Aiel to be a let down when I first read it. I guess I found it to much in charecter for perrin to be much supprised by it. Perrin is the slow silent avelanche, he will slowly grind down anything in his path regardless of the cost. He's all about efficency to me.

I never really figured out why everyone else seemed to impressed. I mean, they were prepared to torture this guy and they are shocked that perrin was willing to cripple him? On the raw nasty scale I'd say perrin is still several rungs below everyone else.
Tricia Irish
10. Tektonica
Thanks Leigh for wrapping up Perrin. *Yay*
I'm with you on the moral dilemma. Being in war or being accosted, or any unusual dangerous situation usually causes confrontation with a whole new side of yourself, and that can be very surprising and enlightening, and not always in a good way.

I was really struck by this quote from Elyas, because it seemed to me to be RJ talking directly to the reader from his personal experiences of war......

When your heart starts pounding, it heats your blood. Stands to reason it heightens your senses, too. Makes you aware. Maybe you’ll die in a few minutes, maybe in a heartbeat, but you’re not dead now, and you know it from your teeth to your toenails. Just the way things are. Doesn’t mean you like it.”

Hyper aware. Time slows down. Totally present. The Void.
Michael McCarthy
11. KilMichaelMcC
I still hold to the theory that the "ghosts" aren't ghosts at all, but temporal anomalies. Portions of the past bleeding into the present as Tarmon Gaidon approaches and the Pattern frays.

ToM threw a bit of a wrench into that notion, with the descrpition of the Ogier seeing their dead appear outside the steddings, looking in but not entering, the first reference to any ghosts demonstrating awareness of their surroundings.

But still, I take that as some weird Ogier exception.
Brandon Daggerhart
12. BDaggerhart
Re - Infamous Bath Scene, I don't understand this reference for some reason . I mean, I know what Bath Scene you're talking about, but I don't understand how it's applicable here. Can someone fill in the clueless guy?

Re - Ghosts, I think it is much more the fact that the Pattern is unravelling that is the issue with the Ghosts. It has nothing to do with any sort of 'afterlife' so much as it has to do with the Dark One's rapidly-approaching freedom stresses out all the "natural" laws of Randland. So, whatever the "afterlife laws" are, the Dark One is seriously frakking those laws up.

Re - Neald and the Cleansing, seriously, I imagine he himself may feel that he's going mad, which may contribute to the lack-ness of his telling other people what happened. I mean, if you're fighting the raging pollutants of Saidin every day, knowing that one day you're doomed to go mad, and knowing that there's no way to change that, and then one morning, you wake up to feel perfectly fine . . . I imagine you may question your own sanity. When do they start telling people everything's all Clean and such?

Re - Torture... meh, nevermind.
Richard Chapling
13. Chappers
Well, at least Neald's happy. And since no one else has said it, Grain Break!

Anyway, @9. Megaduck,

I never really figured out why everyone else seemed to impressed. I mean, they were prepared to torture this guy and they are shocked that perrin was willing to cripple him? On the raw nasty scale I'd say perrin is still several rungs below everyone else.


Of course "everyone else" here includes Masema & his crew, Aram, etc, so the crazy index is already above average, even at this stage of the series.

10. Tektonica
That reminds me of a post on RJ's blog in which he discusses "the Zone"

On a hypothetical note, I bet Nynaeve could have Healed the dude's hand back on, especially considering what she said after Rand's went missing...
Ben Frey
14. BenPatient
"Infamous Bath Scene"?

Do I want to know?
Don Baumberger
15. D-Luxxx
Megaduck @9 - I think you may be missing something with the torture scene. Arganda, Aram and Masema where willing to torture the Aiel, but they didn't think that Perrin had the intestinal fortitude to do so.

When he walked over and kicked the coals off the Aielman's belly, they thought that the jig was up. You see this in Arganda's little quote about how Perrin may be willing to lose his wife but he was not willing to lose his queen.

So when Perrin lops off the guy's hand, has him healed, and then matter-of-factly tells him that he'll essentially cripple him for life (to the pain if you will) and leave him as a beggar somewhere, I think everyone is taken aback. Nobody seems to have thought he had it in him. Maybe we did, as readers, but certainly not the people around him.
Tricia Irish
16. Tektonica
Chappers@13:

Thank you for that link. Awesome. I read on down where he was talking about the Iceman and the guy in the picture eating with chopsticks.....also very relevant to this chapter. Wow. Very moving and insightful. Thanks again.
F Shelley
17. FSS
@ 14 - I beleive she's referring to the scene with Avienda and Elayne in the bath, being waited on by some servants, when everyone and their mother, sister, aunt, and mid-wife enter.
Tony Zbaraschuk
18. tonyz
One reason for So Harbor is that it shows us Perrin paying attention to logistics (this has been an occasional thread in the series at least since Rand's grain treaty with Illian); it avoids the question of us wondering how Perrin's army can keep marching around without food.

A second, of course, is to develop the ghost thingy. I tend to agree that it could have been better-done, but it was a bit tense the first time through. I think the problem is that the people of So Harbor don't treat it as tense; they treat it as something both boring and taboo. Which is a hard thing to manage, let alone to present in an exciting way.
Joruus
19. RanchoUnicorno
@9 (Megaduck) - I suspect the difference was that Perrin was so incredibly cold about the whole torture thing. There wasn't any passion or desire to hurt the guy - just cold calculation. To a bunch of guys who thrive off of passion and fervor to drive their need for violence, that must have been somewhat unsettling.

@Leigh - I can't find an email contact for you, so I figure I have to tell you here that the ebook cover link is wrong. There is an extra "blogs/2011/01" that shouldn't be there.

Also, while I think I would be willing to go as far as necessary to save a loved one, I fear the slippery slop of pragmatism. Perrin's act of violence was met with psychological torture, which made it all the more effective. My understanding is that sexual violence is also torture to both the body and mind. Would I go that far if I thought I could get the answer? I don't know - I want to say there is a line I wouldn't cross, but if it would yield the answer I need, why wouldn't I?

Would you?
Maiane Bakroeva
20. Isilel
Yet another brace of chapters full of faux significance and foreboding that leads nowhere.
Perrin's hand-chopping moment and later reflection is awesome, though I never quite grokked throwing the ax away, when he fully intends to continue fighting.
Another mostly off-screen important thing is that Tallanvor basically brokered Perrin's alliance with Seanchan on his own initiative. It always seemed weird to me that Perrin never tried to give him higher responsibilities after that.

Beyond that - Annoura intrigue, possible Seonid intrigue, ghosts, flour, weevils (could be a metaphor for CoT itself ;) ), meh.
Ghost village in Mat's storyline was much more genuinely creepy and would have wholly sufficed to introduce the concept, IMHO.

And why did Perrin forbid Seonid to stay for a bit, but allowed Balwer? Couldn't let a feeble woman remain behind for a few hours?
I predict that after all the ink spent on it, we'll never find out if one of Perrin's AS was a BA and whether their sneaking and attempted sneaking meant anything.
Tricia Irish
21. Tektonica
btw: Do we ever find out if Annoura is BA? Any theories on what she's up to with Massema? So weird.

I hope Balwer gets a MOA in MoL....a very intriguing 2nd or 3rd tier character.

And yes....a whole lot of sideways, imho.
Joruus
22. joe heron
why cant they eat weevils? are they toxic ot humans? or is it just the feces they lay on the grain?

they are beetles and i hear beetles are great for protein. which gives str to them fighters of the LB!
Stefan Mitev
23. Bergmaniac
Ch. 25 is easily one of the most pointless and simply unnecessary ones in the whole series. You could remove the whole of it and nobody will notice. It's amazing how absolutely nothing of interest happens in those 15 pages. I dare anyone to find anything of interest there, I reread an hour ago and was amazed that it was even worse than I remembered it.

I didn't expect three chapters this time, so I didn't reread the next one and won't comment on it for now. I guess Leih needed to find something worthwhile to write about, because the previous two chapters were almost completely lacking in this regard.

The next one is a little better, since it at least achieves tangible atmosphere of decay and things going wrong. Though given that the end of the world is approaching and all that, some weevils and a few ghosts aren't exactly that big of a deal, and again 15 pages of sloooow setup to the big revelation of " ghosts are appearing", which we already saw in the previous plotlines, didn't seem worth it.
Barry T
24. blindillusion
Ghosts – Well, the Dark One is the Lord of the Grave. It stands to reason that as his prison weakens, as he is able to “touch” reality more and more, that the veil would thin between his realm and the Pattern/world. This would especially stand true, I suppose, if these “ghosts” are killing with a touch. The Dark One seems to be about completely demoralizing those who fight him. What better way to do so than to set dead loved ones/friends in opposition to the Light, as opposed to being sheltered in the hand of the Creator, i.e., everything these people think awaits them after death?

Torture – Well, I’m in the military, yet I have no grounds on which to even think about what I’d do in Perrin’s situation. Hmm, for one thing…err…Perrin is held only to his moral compass. People in the military are held to any number of rules/regulations. So…yeah. I suppose I’ll just leave this one alone.

It was a very striking sequence, though. And I for one hope that damn axe stays in that tree until the next age and beyond.

As for the Seanchan…an interesting question is being left in the dark here: Does an alliance/truce with the Seanchan even slightly equate to taking help from the Dark One? Rand is seeking such a truce. Mat allies with them for a time, though half his thoughts these days are on fighting them even more so than the coming Last Battle. I only ask because such a big deal seemed to be made of this when CoT was published.
Brian Vrolyk
25. vyskol
"No. To the pain."

"I don't think I'm quite familiar with that phrase."

"I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon."

...

"... the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. ...."

...

".... Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. ...."
Stefan Mitev
26. Bergmaniac
I can't resist quoting this passage from the famous Isam summaries which almost makes Chapters 25 and 26 worth reading:

"Perrin: The whole world can burn until I get Faile. I vow that I will never rest until I hold her in my…..
Masema: That town has grain.
Perrin: Time for a grain break.
Everyone: GRAIN BREAK!"
Joruus
27. deebee
I know the Aiel have this whole "embrace pain" thing, but I`ve never understood why the prisoners endure agonies for no reason at all as far as I can see. Burning coals on your stomach because you refuse to say"sorry mate I`ve never seen your wife"?? I can see ji`e`toh requires it where the information would harm your clan, but this seems horrific suffering which isn`t benefitting the Shaido one iota. (Am I alone in being far more disturbed by burning coals on naked stomachs than the almost surgical amputation followed immediately by Healing?)
Joruus
28. xi'an101
Thanks for the weevil picture! I never went to check in all those years...
Joseph Irwin
29. IncongruousAmoeba
Well, human beings make moral judgments emotionally, not rationally, and I totally agree with you about not knowing what you would do yourself in a situation until you are in it.


But I have to believe about myself that I believe that torture and killing people is wrong no matter what. So I ought to condemn Perrin for this somewhat, and I do at least find what he did distasteful at best. But on the other hand, you can't really go around morally judging characters in books all the time, because that doesn't make for a very fun read. And I like Perrin, so (emotional judgements) I tend to forgive him and other characters a lot.


Still, one of the interesting and rewarding parts of reading books is that you get to see (and in the best cases feel) other people's viewpoints and thought processes. It would be boring if everyone thought and felt the same way.
Joruus
30. archaeo
Nice post, Leigh. Your commentary is always great.

On the subject of ghosts, I think it's interesting how rarely they seem to work out in contemporary fiction, at least from readers' perspective. I'm reminded of the Infinite Summer people being confused by the wraith in Infinite Jest. It's funny that, even in a fantasy setting, ghosts just seem sort of out of place. I wonder why?

I really like your take on it, KilMichael@11. The pattern-unraveling effects throughout the series makes things much more tense for me as a reader, although I agree that this So Habor section is a little superfluous. It was necessary to introduce the ghosts and weevils and so forth, but I have always been sort of bored by both Perrin's and Mat's adventures in small creepy towns. This is the WoT, not the X-Files.

The moral issues with Perrin's torture break are pretty interesting, obviously, and Leigh pretty much sums up how I feel about it. Part of what makes this series such a seminal piece of genre fiction is its moral complexity; I'll admit that the covers have caused me no small embarrassment over the years, but the actual content is definitely more weighty than your average sword-and-sorcery saga.

Oh, and Tektonica@21, the subplot with Annoura meeting with Masema not getting resolved really annoys me, for some reason. I guess it's terribly realistic of Jordan to include red herrings for his characters and readers, but it grates nonetheless; what was her deal, meeting with such a creep? Ugh. I think BS (and Jordan by extension) did the right thing in having him gunned down by Faile's Angels in a few pages. It's interesting to note, however, that all of the Superboys are pursuing or engaged in alliances with the Seanchan during this point in the series. This is what gives me confidence that Jordan wasn't planning on wrapping that plot up in the Outriggers; it doesn't make sense dramatically to introduce this extremely distasteful empire and people it with incredibly sympathetic characters without resolving those issues before the ending. I guess we'll see!
Chris Chaplain
31. chaplainchris1
Ok - 3 chapters today, wow, THANKS LEIGH! And finishing up this phase of Perrin's story, yay yay yay. Because yes, it takes 3 more books to finish his arc, but in Knife of Dreams it's no longer annoying, because the arc progresses. And in TGS, Perrin's hardly present. Though the glimpses of him are annoying because we're back to emoness without advancement, they're basically just placeholders, reminding us about Perrin 'til we can wrap up his coming of age arc in TOM. So - basically, the annoyingness of the Perrin/Faile/Aiel arc is, for me, over. Ding dong, that witch is dead. From here on out, the Perrin/Faile/Aiel story arc is actually...well...entertaining. YMMV, of course.

Wall of Text, even though I hardly want to touch the torture topic. But I note that Perrin eschewed the torture-as-infliction-of-pain-partially-for-the-pleasure-of-the-torturer route. Perrin is not intentionally inflicting pain - he's inflicting consequences. It's right there in what he says - Perrin's not hurting the man to get his way - he's enacting consequences on a man who deliberately sides with the people who violently abducted his wife and his other wards.

And I find some moral ambiguity in me similar to Leigh's. I guess the thing is that the Shaido (and Meradin) are complete war criminals. In violation of their own customs and laws as well as the rights of other nations or individuals, they have destroyed whole communities, destablized nations, and ripped families apart. The Aiel who Perrin maims - my God, maims - is mocking the grief and desperation of a man who wants to find his wife, who was violently abducted. This man was, directly or indirectly, party to that. He's now actively protecting the abductors - and he's doing so mockingly and dismissively. There's no honor in what he's doing - it's about showing his superiority to these wetlanders, who might as well not be human as far as he and many Aiel seem to think.

Perrin is as close as you're going to find to a legal authority in that place - and he's responsible for the protection of Faile and the others. In some cultures, loss of a hand is punishment for theft. And yes, it's barbaric and horrible, and wrong - but should theft of a person not have consequences?

I don't know. But I do find that this man's callous disregard for others makes it difficult for me to find sympathy for him. His actions should have consequences. In much the same way, I don't find much sympathy for the Shaido Wise Ones or Elaida who are in horrible slavery. They have reaped what they sowed.

I'm not sure what I think about the fact that I apparently think all this, but there it is.

Ok, following with a second post on So Harbor.
Chris Chaplain
32. chaplainchris1
All right, second post on So Harbor.

I find these two chapters interesting in a few ways.

1) My reaction to them is a weird reversal of my reaction to COT as a whole. Unlike Leigh, when I first read them, I found them to be very tense and very intriguing. I believed Perrin's assessment that more and worse than ghosts was present in So Harbor. The general creepiness, dirtiness, and paranoia put me in mind of Padan Fain and Shadar Logoth. Remember the Whitecloaks who became so slovenly under Fain's influence? I wondered if he'd somehow made his way to So Harbor, even though the distances and timelines involved made it unlikely. SOMETHING, it seemed, was up. So while much of COT was boring baths, this bit seemed creepy and emblematic of the growing darkness. You know, like at twilight.

Curiously, now that we have more installments, and So Harbor has proven to be completely unimportant, I no longer care at all. I'm vaguely annoyed that my time and effort was wasted on these chapters. Whereas later installments of the story generally improve the reading experience of COT, I find these red herrings - these side stories that don't go anywhere - to be getting more and more annoying.

Apparently, this is just an early example of a town turned upside down, as with the later example of Hinderstap. Ok. So. Thanks for the tour of lovely So Harbor? The only thing of lasting consequence in the books is the little bit of advancement in Perrin's arc, where Berelain convinces him to look like a leader and not a scruffy crazy man.

2) The other thing I noted in these sections is that the Aes Sedai are genuinely concerned about what's going on. They show compassion and a desire to investigate and help. Generally, they do not act as if they're aware that Aes Sedai are supposed to be shut up in the White Tower ignoring the rest of the world, playing politics in the Hall, fighting no Shadowspawn in the Borderlands, Healing no sick people, and generally helping no one. Aes Sedai uselessness is played up so strongly in some of the later books that it was a welcome surprise here to see something different. Seonid seems to have the attitude a Green should - there is evil here, I should stay and confront it.

Masuri's earlier specialized knowledge of Dark Hounds impressed me, as (since she's apparently not Black Ajah) it indicated she'd made effort and gone some distance to study Shadowspawn. This meant she had important information to share about those critters. This is what the Brown Ajah is meant to do! Likewise, Seonid shows herself prepared to confront teh evil. Even if she's being a little shortsighted, her compassion for So Harbor and her stance on staying to help seem to me to be what a Green should feel.

Both Seonid and Masuri, then, give me some justification for thinking that Aes Sedai still do more good than harm, as we also see from sisters like Meidani, Pevara, and of course, Moiraine.
Joruus
33. XLCR
Going back to the question of the length of the work as a whole, I guess I could refer back to my first post here. Zelazny's Amber series is ten books long, but the books are short, by RJ's standards, barely more than novellas. So much so they are now available in one (very large) book. In the years since he passed away, every word has become precious to rabid fans like me, so that when Manna From Heaven appeared with six new Amber stories it was a huge thrill.

The point I'm trying to make here is that, regardless of the length of the story, once it's over and stands as a complete unit, it will be judged that way. And though there still may be prequels and sequels, the story will then be immutable, a piece of history, and as the years pass, some of us that complain the most may end up, strangely enough, wishing it were not over.

I don't know if we will all end up rereading it over and over through the years and hanging on every word. Words came easy to RJ, and are not the sparse and precious pearls of Zelazny. But because there is so much of it, and because so many have their own favorite characters, I suspect what I've already heard here may well come true. The shear expanse of the work means people have the option of picking and choosing their chapters, skimming the least favored and dwelling on the parts they enjoyed most. In this series even that is a major reread.

And as time goes on it will be far easier to step back and regard it as a whole. It may take several years for full synthesis to be achieved.
Valentin M
34. ValMar
A short one 'cause it's late.

chaplainchris1 @ 32
I remember having very similar reaction to the So Habor's chapters.
Also the AS behaviour, I really like it. It's nice to see a bit of a return to the begining of the books with some AS decency was more common, on par with Moiraine (when little things were concerned- she's a legend after all :)).
Noneo Yourbusiness
35. Longtimefan
A slightly darker observation about the unsuccessful/successful application of force to gain information out of an Aiel prisoner.

While burning coals on sensitive flesh may seem unsettling (I most assuredly do not want) it is not the worst thing that can happen to a warrior. It is just another scar. It gains much ji to face the enemy and to not give in when the flesh is damaged.

Even after his hand is cut off there is still the idea that ji may be gained since it shows a weakness in the enemy to strike out in such a severe way. Like a young person trying to make a big impression.

It is the promise of being set amongst the Wetlanders helpless and begging that changes the ji earned defying the enemy to toh against sept and clan for being a beggar beneath children of such soft people.

Perrin may have a better understanding of this because of his talks with Gaul which may have been off page since they have been hanging around eachother for a few books now.

Maybe they talk, maybe they do not. Maybe Perrin has puzzled a few things out from his slow and careful thinking.

Either way it is a masterful stroke in the face of the vulgar tourtures of Masema and his ilk who cause pain to cause pain and pratice no finesse.

Technically Perrin's solution has more understanding of the prisoner's mindset and the situation than the other people involved, dark as his solution may seem.

The strong moral center of Perrin comes back into focus when it is suggested that the prisoners should be killed and he insists that they be watched.

I actually like Perrin as a character but I will agree that this story arc feels like forever, doublely so when the intervening years were set between the books.

@ 24 as to the Seanchan being a deal with the Dark One.

Even though Rand eventually seeks a deal with the Seanchan I think at the point Perrin had left Rand's company there had not been any inclination that Rand wanted to make any deals with the Seanchan.

In some ways Perrin's deal with the Seanchan is very dark if not Dark One esque. He gains their support by promising them all the Wise Ones they can leash. That is a pretty bad deal for the Aiel in general if not for the Westland people all together.

It creates an acceptance of the practice of leashing (temporary as the alliance may be the leashing is probably not given the Seanchan attitudes and Aviendha's viewing (which may or may not be 100 percent accurate) and creates a tension that will underline all dealings between the Seanchan, Aiel and women who can channel (White Tower, Sea Folk or otherwise) because what is acceptable once is used as a prod to make it acceptable a second and perhaps even third to consistant time.

Like the Seanchan are going to let it go. Not likely. As much as we the readers may not agree with the practice the Seanchan have generations of behavioral consistency on the matter of leashing and while it may be hoped that the idea that since the Sul'dam can be trained to channel it may be hypocritical to let them control women who "spark" the comment from Tuon that she choses not to channel means that their may be an ingrained cultural accomodation made so that women who chose not to channel will be Sul'dam and women who have no choice will, inevitably, have no choice.

When slavery was abolished in America the freed people in the southern states did not instantly gain respect and employment and a fair shake because the President of the United States told all the states to play fair. And that is the poor example reality brings us without having dramatic intent. Who is to say that fiction would be more noble?
Thomas Keith
36. insectoid
Bravo, Leigh, for squeezing the rest of the Perrin chapter mostly-boredom into one post!

Although, I do admit the eBook cover of this last scene was kinda cool.

Bzzz™.
T C
37. Freelancer
Is torture immoral?

War is hell. If you decide you must fight, doing anything less than fighting to win is far more immoral than the alternative.

Should controls be in place regarding the application of torture? Certainly. There's no value in the risk of allowing some random monster to find his personal pleasure that way.

I think Jordan gave us very good examples in juxtaposing Perrin's actions with Hari's.
Joruus
38. Rand Al'Todd
One point re RJ's handling of the outcome of the questioning:
By having the Aiel provide no intel, RJ leaves HIS opinion of such questioning up in the air. It was a sickening and gut-wrenching experience for all, including the reader, but it maintained the questions "Was it worth it?" "Was it justified?"

If these Aiel had provided ANY useful information, people would be saying, "Yeah, RJ makes Perin all EMO about the torture, but in the end RJ is endorsing it because the end justified the means."

Look at the scene in Dirty Harry where Harry shoots the "suspected" kidnapper in the leg, then steps on the leg until the suspect tells where the victim has been buried - alive at the time of burial, but not by the time they dig her up.

There Harry is the Hero, breaking the rules in order to 'protect and serve.' But do you want to run into a Harry who thinks YOU are the kidnapper???

At least Perrin knew that these were Shaido, and therefore "guilty."
j p
39. sps49
Isilel @20-
Perrin trusts Balwer- if he asks to stay longer, Perrin believes there is a good reason for it. Seonid is an Aes Sedai who wants to stay for a reason for which Perrin sees no benefit.

joe heron @22-
Weevils are edible, just gross. A few scenes in C. S. Forester's Hornblower books (set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars) depict tapping ship's biscuit to induce weevils to exit the biscuit before eating it. I did not get the impression that this was a) fiction nor b) 100% effective.

Torture- Not all that reliable (our guys get tortured in every war in Asia, to little good purpose), and a big reason to not practice it is so that you enemies and potential enemies will be less inclined to use it against your own people.
j p
40. sps49
deebee @27-
Being too quick to truthfully deny accusations weakens any use of "no comment", making such use tantamount to an admission.

chaplainchris1 @31-
The anonymous Shaido has only Perrin's word that he only wants to know where his wife is. Plus, right or wrong, giving that information is likely to lead to combat that your people see disadvantage in (else why are they disengaging?). Spitting in the face of a torture-threatening interrogator is fine by me.

@ all- I frankly think that the editor was too emotionally attached to the author, or the author had too much clout, for these later works to be edited properly.
Rob Munnelly
41. RobMRobM
1. O'Brien's Master and Commander humor FTW (weevil joke appears both in the books and the movie).
2. My DD had her tumor removed yesterday, all went well, and she's home already. Now just need to wait for the pathology report next week and hope it is benign as expected.
3. Re WoT, So Habor (I always think of it as So Harbor) is a cool, very creepy chapter. First big sign of all the many more extreme chapters in the next several books (including ToM). Perrin's badass lifting the bar move is also tres cool.
4. Why did Seonid have such as extreme reaction to the local creepiness? Why her and not anyone else? I can't figure that one out. Agree it was nice to see an AS care about the people - shockingly unusual, unfortunately.
5. What made Berelain suddenly give up on Perrin, such that he can smell the difference? I can't figure that one out either.

Rob
Joruus
42. deBebbler
1. Sorry, Leigh, but COT is still the slowest, lamest, book... Ever.

2. Perrin's ruthless "torture" of the Shaido prisoners is, for me, one of his CMOA. He isn't inflicting physical damage to cause pain and, ergo, gain a confession. He simply realizes what prospect would strike crushing mortal fear into any Aiel worth his/her salt, and strikes there. Not cold-blooded, just brilliantly effective. All the more so that the Shaido aren't in "pain" after being healed. I never would've guessed Perrin had it in him.

And I'm sure that those Shaido were immediately falling over each other to admit they wear Maiden's underwear.

3. I was hoping you would shed some Light onto the significance of the So Harbor Excursion, but you just reinforced my conclusion that it was an excuse for RJ to ruthlessly murder more trees.

4. Weevils are disgusting. That link made me skip dinner. So, uh . . . thank you?

Great post. While I really don't want a return to the breakneck 6-7 chapters/post of the earlier books, I definitely would like to see more 3 chapters/post. It is the perfect size.
Scientist, Father
43. Silvertip
Terrific post, Leigh. I think the thoughtful responses you've elicited on the torture question (people questioning their own assumptions! On an internet comment thread! Possibly a global first!) really speak to the genuineness of the struggle you portray. Particular thanks for pointing out that torture is portrayed as (within limits) working in a practical sense in this story, which nicely limns Perrin's moral dilemma and his development as a character, but may or may not work out in the real world.

I have zero experience to go on (which, of course, never stops anyone from having opinions). But when the public controversy during the Bush years was at its max, there was a really remarkable piece in the Washington Post by/about a group of veterans who had been responsible for interrogating Nazi prisoners during World War II. They were proud of what they had done and how they had done it, meaning no hint of "enhanced interrogation," and openly contemptuous of the current agents who thought torture was the way to learn what they wanted. Their bottom line was that torture is almost exactly the worst strategy to achieve true, actionable intelligence. WaPo's archive is behind a paywall, here's the teaser that can be reached:



"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.



"I feel like the military is using us to say, 'We did spooky stuff then, so it's okay to do it now,' " said Arno Mayer, 81, a professor of European history at PrincetonUniversity.



"During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extractedinformation in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."


(WaPo, Front Page, October 6, 2007). IIRC, there was much more, possibly including an opinion piece which I can't find by a group of the veterans. What those folks have to say, I take seriously.

Thanks again,

S
Scientist, Father
44. Silvertip
@42 deBebbler:


And I'm sure that those Shaido were immediately falling over each other to admit they wear Maiden's underwear.


Exactly the point. They don't wear Maiden's underwear.
S
Tricia Irish
45. Tektonica
RobM: Good news! Hope all turns out well with the pathology. Thanks for the update.

Chaplainchris@31:

"But I note that Perrin eschewed the torture-as-infliction-of-pain-partially-for-the-pleasure-of-the-torturer route. Perrin is not intentionally inflicting pain - he's inflicting consequences."

The contrast between Masema and Arganda and Aram all hopped up and wanting to cause pain, vs. Perrin's cold understanding of what would truly bother the Aiel is notable. The shame of begging from Wetlanders far out weighs physical pain here. Perrin is inflicting mental pressure.....consequences of not talking.
Thomas Keith
46. insectoid
RobM² @41: Glad to hear good news! Hope it all turns out well.

Bzzz™.
Alice Arneson
47. Wetlandernw
I can't pull it off tonight, but does anyone want to tackle a comparison of "breaking the Shaido" in this scene with "breaking Semirhage" in TGS ch 17? It's all about understanding how they think, and very little to do with actual pain. For that matter, look at the TPoD prologue, and dealings of the WO with the "da'tsang" Aes Sedai. More of same.

RobM @41 - continuing to pray that all is benign! How's the little guy doing?
Sandy Brewer
48. ShaggyBella
After Perrin was done with the Aeil, even Crazy Masema was impressed, staring at him like He was nuts. Masema's men and the Ghealdanin parted parted in front of him like for a whole fist of Trollocs. not just one Trolloc, but a fist of 'em.
Perrin...we usually only see the inside of him, but he must be one scary dude. This is one scene I like for the imagery .
Also what's with the weird song the Aiel sang about "his eyes were yellow and his wits were stone?" Maybe the Shaido was a little crazy himself.
And hey, Mat chapters next.
"Twitch"
Sandy Brewer
49. ShaggyBella
Today I finally caught my post TOM reread (listen) with Leigh's blog posts. Sometimes it was a little confusing, being behind and reading ahead, trying to remember what has or hasn't happened. 3 more books to go, (skipping New Spring) then I can do something else with my time. (Elantris, The Game of Thrones, the Way of Kings, Furies of Calderon and The Reversal; all books, eBooks or audiobooks I have waiting!)
Kurt Lorey
50. Shimrod
wet,"breaking" someone most often has nothing to do with pain. Think "figs and mice".
Silvertip. I'm not sure I'd be bragging about beating Rudoph Hess in any battle of wits. That guy had a few screws loose.
Joruus
51. archaeo
Wetlandernw@47, that's a pretty excellent comparison. In each of these sequences, we see pain failing to work and a third party (Verin, Perrin, and Caddy, chronologically) come in and do the job right, almost identically: identifying the weakest point in the prisoner's armor. Of course, the actual prisoners have quite different psychological issues; the point, however, is that an acute psychological attack always seems to work better for the interrogators.

Of course, there are a few other torture scenes in the series, and more implied. One that comes to mind is when Semirhage tortures Cabriana Mecandes, and judging by Halima's success, she got all the information she needed. This is interesting, though, since it was really the Warder dying that caused Cabriana to really break down, a psychological attack on its own. Also, the Black Ajah hunters in the White Tower use the Chair of Remorse to get information out of Talene. And whatever the old AS twins were doing to Ispan in those secluded cottages, it was working.

It's interesting to me to note that all of Jordan's depictions of torture occur prior to the more recent controversies about torture during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interesting, but not particularly useful here, perhaps.

Jordan wasn't a terribly political writer, although he was very talented at depicting politics in action (Dune is really the only other speculative fiction series I've read with the same level of detail). Jordan never really hands out easy morals or lessons, here or elsewhere.
Rob Trotter
52. shadar
You missed the best foreshadowing:

“Are you certain about the Windfinders who were caught? I’ve heard talk about cutting off hands, or feet.” Mat swallowed a sour taste. He had seen men die, had killed men with his own hands. The Light send him mercy, he had killed a woman, once! Not even the darkest of those other men’s memories burned so hot as that, and a few of those were dark enough to need drowning in wine when they floated to the surface. But the thought of deliberately cutting off somebody’s hands curdled his stomach.

From Chapter 1.
Rob Munnelly
53. RobMRobM
Wet - thanks for asking about my son. He started his new school on Monday and reported doing well on the first day. He missed school yesterday because of a longstanding medical appointment and got a chance to see his sister in the hospital before her discharge. We'll see how things go from here. We did arrange for some extra therapy sessions with the head of the school he attended successfully through his graduation last year. Hope that helps.

Rob
Birgit
54. birgit
As for the Seanchan…an interesting question is being left in the dark here: Does an alliance/truce with the Seanchan even slightly equate to taking help from the Dark One?

The characters at first see the Seanchan only as the evil enemy empire. To make an alliance for the Last Battle possible, characters (on both sides) have to learn that there are good people on the other side and the DO is the real enemy. Perrin and Tylee learn to respect each other, Mat impresses the Deathwatch Guards with his military skills, Tuon learns about people on this side of the ocean from Setalle, Egeanin learns to see AS as people instead of dangerous beasts that must be collared (maybe it is lucky that the first AS she met were the Supergirls and not some idiot AS like Elaida). Rand seems to be the only one (besides Eg) who doesn't have personal ties on the other side yet. That might be part of the reason he failed to make an alliance.
John Massey
55. subwoofer
Well then... it seems Leigh is passing has already passed moral judgement on anybody that wants to comment on that particular bit o text on torture. Interesting. Not sure if this is to pre empt a flame war or let somebody state their own opinion.

Personally, the idea of torture does not sit well with me, and I had sere training back in the day. I get the need, just don't like the level to which the human person must sink.

On that note, I see some other folks have hinted at it, but are the Shaido acting in the way of ji'e'toh? Other Aiel have stated outright that they have abandoned it, but could the Shaido Wise Ones be fooling their clan so the truth is not what it seems?

And I did like So Harbor. I think the thing about Perrin's thread is it is real and not pretty. War is not pretty and Perrin's thread is full of that reality. It is not over fast or everyone gets a nice meal and a bath. There is mud, and plodding and the food is bad but starvation is worse. People see things they don't want to and nerves are frayed and the only thing that keeps it all in check is duty and loyalty. Perrin's bit is about the reality of the DO on Randland.

Woof™.
Jonathan Levy
56. JonathanLevy
It does bring up the fact that I was a bit annoyed that we really never got to see any saidin channeler’s perspective on discovering that saidin was clean firsthand -other than Rand, of course, but he doesn’t really count
I think we also got Lews Therin's reaction. "Clean!". That should count.

13. Chappers
Grain Break!!!
I remember reading that blog post. Thanks for the link.

15. D-Luxxx
Good points.

24. blindillusion
I think the DO is "Lord of the Grave" only in the sense that he is able to resurrect the dead. I don't think he's got a little box with all the souls of the deceased and he's lording it over them (The "Mommy!" scene at the end of TEOTW notwithstanding).

41. RobMRobM
Our thoughts are with you and your family.
Captain Hammer
57. Randalator
re: So Habor

I liked that sequence on my initial read and still like it on my subsequent re-reads. It's weird, it's creepy and it shows the Pattern starting to unravel which makes it not at all pointless in regard to the overall plot.

And it's also the point where Perrin starts getting his shit together, finally acting like a leader. Hooray for that!


re: Ghosts

I don't know, with something like the Pattern in mind they work a lot better than usual. I don't think that they're souls taking a vacation from Limbo but that the whole thing has something to do with the Pattern unravelling, i.e. malfunctioning.

It's like the Wheel is continuing to weave threads that should no longer exist into the Pattern which creates those ghostly images that sort of interact but don't really interact with the real world.


re: Berelain vs. Annoura

I don't think Berelain is pissed about Annoura not being completely honest with her. It's that she was specifically meddling around behind her back in things that easily could get Berelain killed.

Remember that Annoura did the same thing with the Colavaere business back in Cairhien. Berelain wasn't thrilled to find out that Annoura acted as an advisor to the 7-day-queen, a woman who had all reason to dispose of the Dragon-appointed Steward of Cairhien as soon as he returned to the city. She was explicitly acting against both Rand's and Berelain's interests. Ever since, Annoura was more or less on probation.

And now, after Annoura spent weeks of working herself back into her grace, she finds out that Annoura was in cahoots with Masema behind her back. Again. That's what promoted Annoura to the No. 1 spot on Berelain's shit list.

Really, how dumb can you be? Even for an Aes Sedai that is positively idiotic...
Joruus
58. alreadymadwithannoura
Randalator @57
I don't think Berelain even minded Annoura's involvement in the Colavaere incident. I thought it was all part of the plan to keep a close eye on Colavaere.
James Whitehead
59. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I remember liking the atmosphere of these chapters on the first read. Even so, I was a little frustrated by the pace of this book; definitely one of my least favourite books in the series. I got to the end of it & I knew that this series wasn't getting wrapped up anytime soon - I was figuring on three books after COT honestly.

After reading other posts I think a number of people have had a similar reaction. I can almost imagine other WOT'ers getting to the end and all screaming off stage "GET ON WITH IT!!!" 'Course that may just be me. ;-)

I think Leigh is correct in her assessment that it's very hard to judge Perrin's actions. His desperation to find Faile leads him down a path that could cost him his soul. That quotation of Nietzche's "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one" is rather pertinent, I think.

Perrin is aware of that on some level but still goes ahead with what he feels he must do. He even rids himself of that axe in the end.

Generally, however, physical torture is unreliable and even counterproductive. It's unreliable 'cause the subject will say anything & everything to end the torment (e.g. the Questioners methods of finding darkfriends).

It is counterproductive because you invariably make more enemies than you started with. Look at the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison. Once word got out that the US was torturing captives, things got much harder for the ground forces to win the hearts & minds of the Iraqis.

If the Silvertip's post @ 43 shows anything it is that there are much better ways to get information out of captives. Again, this is more real world and Perrin's case isn't cut & dried (like the best of Jordan's conundrums in the series). Perrin has to use the "To The Pain" method as he feels he has very limited time to find Faile, and to a lesser degree the other captives.

On a side note regarding torture I watched an interview that Patrick Stewart did about an episode he did on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard (Stewart - yes, yes, I know, I know, 'everyone' knows which character he played just being helpful for those poor souls who don't know) gets captured & tortured by an alien race called the Cardassians (no relation to Kim, Khloe, Khourtney, ad nauseum...).

A rather dark episode, especially for Star Trek, but eventually Picard is rescued. Stewart said in preparing for the role he watched a lot of video on real world torture and after seeing that he felt the world was a slightly darker place.

Kato
James Jones
60. jamesedjones
43 Silvertip

Playing chess with an MIT physicist? How does that not qualify as torture? (I'd rather have the coals, myself)

I'm actually a big fan of these chapters. Perrin's growth as a leader (totally different from his acceptance of the role), is the biggest part of So Habor's purpose. A good leader can't be distracted by little things. A great leader doesn't let anything get in the way of what is in the overall best interest of those who follow him or her. Perrin doesn't let ghosts, infestation, or the terrible circumstances of others stop him from providing food for his people. We get to see this again when he goes to get the raken and forkroot from the Seanchan. His example let's those around him see that his purpose, and their own, will not change with unpleasant events.

As for the torture: I agree with chaplainchris1, and several others, that what Perrin did was different than torture (full disclosure, I'm a big fan of The Princess Bride). I don't believe that I would ever be able to use his "consequences" on another person (unless they were txting while driving in front of me), but I am always impressed by this scene. Perrin's deep perception allows him to identify the weakest piece of anything, and exactly how to strike it. The Aiel have been uberhuman since they were introduced. Even other Aiel are convinced that they cannot be broken without a LOT of time and effort. He's able to see just what needs to be done, even though the possibility that it will be useless appears in his thoughts, and his feelings for Faile drive him to it. In the end, he can't even remain to find out if it worked. It's one of Perrin's greatest, and most powerful, moments.
Alice Arneson
61. Wetlandernw
Shimrod @50 - Oh, I agree. Just thought I'd throw that in as a suggestion, because there are some obvious and not-so-obvious similiarities in the three scenarios.

archaeo @51 - Thank you. My head was hurting far too much last night to attempt more than the suggestion for someone else to follow up. And a very good point about Jordan not handing out easy morals; he firmly believed in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, but he also knew that mere humans rarely slot neatly into either of those, as a whole person or even in isolated actions or situations.

RobM @53 - Thanks for the update. I think of him often.

birgit @54 - Wiping away tears of laughter here, over a simple turn of phrase. The evil enemy empire - wherein there are yet many good people in spite of the many wrongs in the society. In the area where I live (and maybe beyond, I don't know) the company for which my husband (reluctantly) works is referred to in software circles as "the evil empire." LOL! Nothing to do with WoT, and your comment was very good as always, but... I went sideways.

subwoofer @55 - I especially appreciated your last paragraph on Perrin. Well said. Thank you.

@many - I'd encourage you all to go read R.Fife's interview with Alan Romanczuk. (link below) He cited the hand-chopping scene as one of his favorites in the entire series, for some very interesting reasons. I've quoted it before, but not everyone here now was here then.

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/05/jordancon-interview-with-alan-romanczuk
Joruus
62. archaeo
Just a quick thought before I get started on work for the evening. Perrin's arc in the WoT is a very funny thing, as it offered little opportunity for short-term goals. Rand, naturally, gets the best of these throughout the series, as does Mat; both of these boys frequently have goals that are accomplished or thwarted by the end of the book. And while Egwene's goal of reunifying the White Tower requires half the series, Jordan gave her a serious purpose right away. Even Elayne gets a little scorecard with the major Andoran houses.

Perrin, however, gets very little of this kind of thing. Minor intrigue that goes nowhere (Masema and the Aes Sedai, Masema and the Seanchan, etc.) and mind-numbing detail (So Habor, the whole Berelain thing) predominate. Faile's POVs, while perhaps more exciting, suffer from situating us with the least enjoyable villains of the series.

But when I reread the series recently, knowing that Perrin would rescue Faile in Book 11 and there would then be two more books to read, the arc didn't feel nearly as leaden. That "get on with it" feeling totally goes away when you know an ending only requires opening the next book, and it's not like Jordan doesn't also give us dozens of other chapters with more pressing plot. I think Crossroads is the same way; now that there's a book after it, I actually enjoy the content more because I know what it's leading up to. Crossroads spends an unfortunate amount of time setting everything up, but, well, it's setting up some pretty sweet series-ending moments in Books 11-13.

Wetlandernw@61, it was my pleasure. Jordan's ability to pose questions without offering easy answers is what elevates this series above its peers. I can't claim to be savvy to the entirety of the fantasy canon, but it's obvious that this series will be a classic of the genre for this reason, among its many other virtues (and possibly some of its vices, as well).

RobMRobM@41, I'll certainly keep you and yours in my thoughts.
John Massey
63. subwoofer
@Wet- yur welcome:)

If I followed the logic in Leigh's post I'd have to shut my cake hole about the Amyrlin, being the Queen or at least the Daughter-Heir and just about anything else that does not involve drinking, gambling or soldiering 'cause I've experienced not much of that. Channeling Saidin or Saidar? Nope, not me, can't talk about it therefore. OTOH could it be that we are all just armchair quarterbacks speculating on a WORK OF FICTION? None of us are RJ so meh.

About Perrin- funny that, when I was in Bosnia, heck when I was on training exercises I missed the little things. Charmin extra strong is my best friend, but in the field- you get what you get. Porcelain? You're lucky if there is even an outhouse... maybe canvas around a hole or squatting in the bushes... and you have the time for squatting. Showers? Heh. Food? Served in a bag. Sleep? Good luck with that plan.

I remember on a 10 dayer I was so exhausted I fell asleep on the steering wheel waiting at night. My face was a good 10 minutes "resting" on the horn before somebody came along and woke me the hell up so I wouldn't get crap from the MC. Didn't hear a thing. It was shelter and we weren't moving and at that point I wasn't picky. The reality of war is you're dirty, tired, hungry, and if you are lucky, alive and not hurt. And I did ASERE, which blew because of extenuating circumstances, but geeze, there's nothing like the real thing to make you appreciate the good life we all have.

This is also brought home in TEotW when the TR kids set out into the big wild world with Trollocs and Myyrdraal breathing down their necks. Bread and cheese, lack of sleep and no baths was what they got instead of a grand adventure. Perrin doesn't have the abilities of Rand to Gateway to a fluffy bed at the end of the night. Perrin also doesn't have the luck of Mat who buys the best of everything and seems to walk between raindrops.

Of the three boys, Perrin is the most humble, has the hardest row to hoe with the resources he has at his disposal and has a big heart. We see how he does not turn "troops" away- guys that would fight just for a chance at a regular meal, even if the food has weevils. Better than nothing. The refugees, displaced folks, the struggle for rations, the mud, the mire, moving from A to B taking forever and a day, and the desperation of the situation that his wife is further and further away from him. Perrin's thread gives us that eye view of the hardships the basic Randlander deals with and melding it with a sense of duty and loyalty(Was it me, I'd say see ya, me and the wolves are gonna go find my wife, I'll let ya know how it all works out). It is hard to read, and not glamerous by any stretch, but to me it feels the most grounded with the reality of the DO touching the land.

Woof™.
Tricia Irish
64. Tektonica
Sub@63: re: Perrin story line.

Yes it is hard to read. Yes it has bored me to death. But your description of the hardship details of every day life as a soldier, and your defense of the Perrin story line as a true reality for "everyman" in Randland as the DO touches their existance is very moving. I just may have more patience now. Thank you.
Alice Arneson
65. Wetlandernw
Subwoofer - You're being particularly eloquent today! Is it fatherhood, or the subject? ;)

Okay, I know you're always capable of it, but tonight I'm extra-appreciative. Thanks. Again.

How's Gabby? and your wife? Anyone getting sleep yet?
Claire de Trafford
66. Booksnhorses
I'm like Jack Aubrey, I always chortle at the lesser of two weevils joke. Totally brightens up a Perrin chapter or two (I'm learning to love him but it is coming slow and hard).
Scientist, Father
67. Silvertip
@60 JEJ: HA! HA! Perhaps a minor addendum to the Geneva Conventions might be in order.

@sub, thanks for the food for thought ...

S
Joruus
68. moleman1976
So, spanking Faile, who was at the time clearly acting at odds to Perrin's (in his mind) imperative mission, is reason for outrage and repeated *headdesk* moments.

But permanently maiming, with the promise of more maimings and humiliations to come, are in the "grey" area because you haven't been in that situation.

Just trying to be clear here.

Leigh, I love your posts and have been reading since the beginning of the reread, and have followed you before on the FAQ and some of the group postings, but this one gave me pause, due to the disparity (in my mind) of reaction.

For the record, I agonized more over this scene (the "torture scene") than the "spanking" implication by orders of magnitude. In fact, I never got the implication of spanking the first go around, and when it happened, thought "okay - she's behaving like a child and he treated her like one". You differ (big time) in your opinion, and I get and respect that. But to spend that much energy on that type of punishment, and then, pretty much, claim neutrality on the "torture" scene here is a bit of a stretch.

Is the dehumanization (which was the clear end game that Perrin proposes in this scene) not as infuriating because the object was a man? Was it because the object was a declared enemy? Was it because it fits the storyline at this point and time?

I'll be honest, I don't have a problem with this scene, and I never had a problem with the scene that sent you into such a fury. I get that spanking isn't applied as a punishment to male characters, and that it can be sexist, but beatings are used. Mat's victory over Galad and Gawain at the White Tower is frequently cited as a favorite scene by fans, because it represents a WIN for our hero and also a comeuppance against "haughty" opponents. THAT is the level that I view the Faile spanking as being equal to. Not the permanent disfiguring of a valiant (albeit enemy) warrior.

Sorry, I just had to say it at last. I reiterate that I love the rereadings, and you've posted things that have made me rethink many parts of this series. I just thought that re: Perrin, the outrage I've seen in the past is somewhat unbalanced by the lack of outrage here. My $0.02.
Alice Arneson
69. Wetlandernw
moleman1976 - May I just say, you are not alone? :) I very much appreciate Leigh's comments on this one, because it's quite truly a situation not many of us (any?) will ever face. Whether or not one agrees with her, at least the commentary gave everyone a reason to stop and think before simply blowing reactionism all over the page. However, I've never been a big fan of the outrage against spankings; I've usually been rather amused, if anything, because it was primarily used as a response to childish behavior.
Jonathan Levy
70. JonathanLevy
Whoo-hoo, torture discussion! Almost as fun as Gun Control.

59. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Generally, however, physical torture is unreliable and even counterproductive. It's unreliable 'cause the subject will say anything & everything to end the torment (e.g. the Questioners methods of finding darkfriends).
Torture is unreliable when you are not certain that the subject knows the information you want. In that case you will not be able to distinguish between a true answer by a knowledgeable person and a false one by a desperate person. But when you have several prisoners, each of whom must know the answer to a simple question (their location yesterday), then it can be brutally effective.

What Perrin has done here is use the principle of the Prisoner's Dilemma, with mutilation and humiliation as a substitute for life imprisonment. And it worked.

If torture never worked, there wouldn't be any moral dilemma about using it, just as there is no moral dilemma about sacrificing prisoners to Mars and divining the location of the enemy camp from their entrails. We all agree that would be just stupid. But torture does present a moral problem because in certain circumstances it is brutally effective, but it is impossible to know for certain whether the guy sitting in front of you fits those circumstances.
It is counterproductive because you invariably make more enemies than you started with.
That only matters for Americans, who care about hearts and minds. Saddam ruled for what - more than 20 years? - using much more brutal techniques, and made no secret of them. I am not advocating the use of these techniques, but we must not delude ourselves that they must be ineffective because they are immoral. Many regimes use very immoral techniques to maintain power (e.g. North Korea, China, Iran) but we must not convince ourselves that they will collapse anytime soon simply because they are immoral.
If the Silvertip's post @ 43 shows anything it is that there are much better ways to get information out of captives.
Silvertip's techniques were used for high-ranking generals, from whom subtle and easily falsifiable information needed to be extracted, and whose sense of honor was matched only by their egos. It would not have worked for Mr. Shaido.

63. subwoofer
Nicely said! But what were you doing in Bosnia?

68. moleman1976
So, spanking Faile...is reason for outrage and repeated *headdesk* moments...But permanently maiming... in the "grey" area

Well, of course! A Crime Against Feminist Sensibilities is much worse than a crime against an actual person. It says so right in the Geneva Conventions. What was your question again?

But sarcasm aside, the outrage against the spanking was not directed against Perrin - it was directed against the author, who lives in the real world. The discussion of the morality of the amputation is centered on Perrin, who is a fictional character. If Jordan's bio included lopping off a VC hand to get information, or approving of someone who did, the two cases would be comparable.

Still, I loved the way you framed the contrast :)

69. Wetlandernw
I'm with you on the spanking-outrage reaction.
James Hogan
71. Sonofthunder
sub @63, just wanted to say...thanks for that post.
Kimani Rogers
72. KiManiak
As always, thanks for the post Leigh!

Love the e-book cover. Add me to the list of folks which the link did not work for; had to do a search of the entire TOR site…oh wait, now it works.

I forgot how much I liked the Perrin-slicing-off-the-guy’s-hand-then-throwing-the-axe-away sequence. Another portion of CoT that I’ll probably include when I revisit the book.

I’m not gonna touch the whole torture thing. I appreciated reading folks’ different perspectives. I honestly don’t know what I would do in Perrin’s situation (except be floored by the whole “being transported to a fictional world” thing…and then possibly soil myself just a little bit) :-)

Hey, can the captured Aiel now become gaishain to the Maidens? Or, does capturing Aiel and interrogating them affect their ability to become gaishain? Do we ever find out what happens to them?

XLCR@33 – I liked your points. I already am eagerly awaiting yet also dreading AMoL. I really enjoy this world and I’ll be sorry to see the main story end. Whether Harriet allows outrigger novels or not, I know it just won’t be the same. And yes, I already go back through some of the different books and just read certain sections…

RobMRobM@41 - I’m pulling for you and your family. Glad the tumor removal went well for your daughter (I’m pulling for the report to show its benign) and I hope things continue to go well with your son.

Sub@63 – Thanks for sharing your experiences and adding some perspective to Perrin and his situation.

Moleman1976@68 – Interesting points you make (especially about the spanking, which I personally have never had a problem with). I’m curious to see how this impacts the group's discussion.

Rumors of a Mat sighting on Friday… :-)
Wesley Parish
73. Aladdin_Sane
Oh, FWLIW, regarding torture:
I read a very interesting little book a while back, called This Little Britain, about the changes the UK had brought about in the world since it had started affecting it directly and indirectly; one of the ways was criminal justice. The Continent, you see, had long used the idea that the criminal was to convict himself out of his own mouth, and the only way to "guarantee" that was to torture a confession out of him, while the UK had hit on the idea that it was surrounding circumstances and the like that offered the clues to convict ...

So Europe went its merry way, torturing anyone suspected,, etc, and Britain managed with half the energy and not nearly so many wasted lives, to convict more accurately.

The US took its lead from the UK. And after WWII, Japanese military accused and proved guilty of water-boarding American servicemen were executed by the US for committing a war crime, torturing prisoners.

That's the perspective I'm approaching this whole torture issue from.

Was Perrin justified in inflicitng psychological pain on his Aiel prisoners? Not that I can see. The only possible justification for his action is that it freed them from the tortures of Masema and his crew, and that which the other Aiel might have inflicted on them.

Weevils? Yes, I remember occasionally finding weevils in the flour we'd got from Wewak in the Sepik during the seventies, when we lived there. So it didn't surprise me finding them making an entrance in this story. Besides, I'd been indoctrinated during the late sixties and early seventies, "that when them cotton bolls get rotten, you can't pick a-very much cotton", and the boll weevil was very much to blame in those circumstances. I'd thought, at one stage, that the boll weevil was one of America's leading fauna ... :)

Of course someone from the Southern States is going to use the weevil as a symbol of things going terribly wrong. Even more so with a massive overdose of them ...
John Massey
74. subwoofer
@JL- Ducking mostly.

@Wet- sleep is a streaky thing. I hearken back to my training and sleep when I can. My wife gets the short end tho' cause of the er... direct input she has in the feeding process.

Naw, I just appreciate the consistency of Perrin's character, his thought processes and that he does reason things out on page rather than some elusive commenting from the "other voice".Well, of the three boys, they all have had hard knocks - Rand has a huge job on his hands and a hard growth curve... until he comes into his memories of his past, Mat paid a hard price from the Wizard, but now there be fast money, frilly lace and not much in the way of manual labor, Perrin reflects me very closely. He just puts his head down and works things out, it is not pretty or glamerous or anything resembling an epiphany, Perrin just does the daily grind and comes to his own solutions in the time it takes him. It is hard for me to read because it so reminds me of me, but hey, that's RJ's magic in the way he can connect with his audience through the worst of things.

Woof™.
Tricia Irish
75. Tektonica
Sub@74:

I appreciate you putting yourself out there to help us understand Perrin. Very generous of you! It really did help me.

I'm looking forward to more of your parenting insights! (And more pix please! She's a doll.) Sounds like combat training has really paid off....maybe we should all get some before parenthood.;-)
James Whitehead
76. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@70 Jonathan Levy: I agree on some points but not all - obviously. ;-)

I used the example of US torture as it had been commented on in previous posts so I was really building on a theme. I am well aware that there are numerous nations out there who use torture to ensure their power with little or no regard to world opinion.

Nor do I think that these governments will fall because they are immoral. They will fall once the oppressed populace is pushed too far (e.g. the French Revolution). As one of the 'supergirl's' said of Lan, "kick a meek dog too long..."

Torture as performed at the Abu Ghraib was counterproductive 'cause the allied forces are trying to win hearts and minds. Also, this is in the best interest of any conquering/liberating army, not just Americans. Why else would Geofram Bornhald reprimand the Children for their treatment of the taken prisoners? Brutual treatment by them would mean more fighting (The Great Hunt, not sure of chapter - sorry).

Perrin? Not so much. He needed info & he needed it fast & knew what he had to do to get it. As I said he made a choice and he will now have to learn with said choice; as he is well aware of.

Necessity & right do not always go hand in hand. Learning to live with your choices, and figure out what choices you cannot live with, is what adds to the human condition.

Kato
Valentin M
77. ValMar
FWIW I also think Perrin's story ark is alright. When re-reading I skip only Faile with the Shaido chapters. It ca be grim, so it should be grim to read. This is the path that Perrin had to take, as Sub said in rare moment of lucidness ;)
BTW, Bosnia is very beautiful place, very similar to my homeland nearby. But it was a bit dicey to go on holiday there in the mid-90s, apparently.

Really hope that next week we hear good news from RobMx2., re @ 41
Birgit
78. birgit
Hey, can the captured Aiel now become gaishain to the Maidens? Or, does capturing Aiel and interrogating them affect their ability to become gaishain?

"Then we have to kill them", Aram said grimly. "Sulin said the Maidens made sure to take them when they had no weapons, so they could be questioned. They won't just settle down to be gai'shain. If even one escapes, he can let the Shaido know we're here. Then they'll be coming after us." Perrin's joints felt rusted, aching as he stood up. He could not just let the Shaido go. "They can be guarded, Aram."


CoT ch. 27
Alex Johns
79. almuric
Some people talked about how crazy this group is. The thing about it is that the ta'veren boys affect everyone around them. Perrin was crazy during this time, so everyone else's nutso side was magnified. In a sense, his ta'veren-ness was responsible for much of the madness in these scenes.
Joruus
80. archaeo
I'm just noticing now that we've only got three chapters and some change left; I keep forgetting that CoT doesn't have any sort of big climax. Leigh, hopefully you'll just put all three chapters into one big final post so we can get this in the bag and move on to bigger and more exciting things. Of course, you're the one writing the blog, and I imagine the fine crowd, many of whom were here long before me, will be happy to hash out whatever you toss this way.

Sub@74, your "direct input" line made me choke on my coffee. Fatherhood sounds pretty rad, but I don't know how I'd handle the loss of sleep. I don't know about the Superboy comparison, here, but I'm also not sure about my objections. Jordan does really well with conflicts; each of the boys has a really interesting personal flaw to address, but the length of the books and the chronological weirdness has really made it difficult to assess that in any sort of rigorous, scholarly-style fashion.

In the end, Jordan had the room to show some serious character development, and unlike, say, G.R.R.M., he left his characters alive long enough to show it in depth. The Superboys get the best of this, being the main characters, but you can definitely see it in the Supergirls as well, and even a couple secondary players. It's another big advantage of the WoT; I'd like to hear about similarly epic series that manage to prize character development to the same degree as Jordan's series.

almuric@79, I'm not sure that ta'veren affect people like that. It's presented more as a bending of chance throughout the series, and I don't know if we ever see the effect you're talking about. On the other hand, Perrin throwing away his axe is in the prophesies as a Very Important Event, and something had to happen to cause him to do so. How his ta'veren-ness made this happen is up for debate, though; I would venture to assume that Faile being captured was a large part of it, as it forced him to become a leader and bring the Whitecloaks, the refuges from several countries, and his power-wrought weapons to the FoM.
William Fettes
81. Wolfmage
* Fair Warning: massive wall of text ahead! *

I thought a little bit about foregoing comment on Leigh’s rather equivocal post, but I’ve decided I may as well not prevaricate about my convictions here. So, I’ll just come right out and say: I believe torture is in principle immoral. Perrin's actions may be understandable at a basic human level, taking into account his all-consuming desperation to find his wife, but he crossed the line for me (though less so than his deal with the Seanchan). That it is more effective, cleverer and less bloodthirsty than his co-torturers doesn't alter that judgement.

First, some disclaimers are in order: I’m neither pacifistic, anti-establishment nor anti-military. I’m actually rather hawkish in my beliefs, and I strongly support the idea that liberal democracies ought to have the power to ensure their own security through the effective use of military power and intelligence apparatus. So I'd like to dispense with any sense that torture can neatly divide people into absolutist peaceniks and those who are more realistic and tough-minded. That’s an ever-lovingly awful false dichotomy, and though Leigh didn’t frame the issue that way, the remark somehow left a bad taste in my mouth with all the hedging in the OP.

I'll, of course, grant that feeling ambiguous about this scene is hardly equivalent to embracing torture. After all, it’s easy enough to bypass the abstract ethical issue and just be carried along through the story, buoyed by the virtue of the characters and emotional grit of the scene. There's also a certain degree of tacit acceptance that comes from seeing through the eyes of good viewpoint characters, and Perrin is not just anyone: he's a unique ta'veren leader in a world with manifest good and evil. The fact that the victims are Shaido here, who are then spared subsequently, also tempers our reaction significantly.

That said, I do tend to think hiding behind this literary ambiguity as a shield is a bit of a cop out if you’re going to enter the moral and policy debate about torture at all. If you’re going to provide some form of qualified assent in one case, I’d politely suggest it’s a fair enough to insist on a fuller elaboration about the limits of such a principle. The consequences of permissive torture are so pernicious that it’s like a pandora’s box of mischief unless narrowly confined. So, even if you can’t bring yourself to condemn Perrin here, what are the boundaries? Torture is, you know, not just any ordinary policy option (albeit a tricky, icky one): in our world at least, it’s a jus cogens peremptory norm - the highest international law norm binding on all nations - sitting alongside moral evils like slavery, genocide, piracy and terrorism. Spanking and gendered language can only be considered utterly trivial by comparison.

Anyway, in terms of my approach, I would say one doesn’t need to disavow the logic of military necessity, and the need for robust interrogation as part of war and counter-terrorism, to disapprove of torture along pragmatic, results-driven and moral grounds. Indeed, having given some thought to the issue, though I claim no special wisdom, I do firmly believe there’s a important distinction to make between reliable interrogation models that can be institutionalised without corrosive effects on government institutions and intelligence services, and torture, which is basically impossible to authorise within the rule of law without such corrosive effects.

Torture has been given an attempted facelift in recent years as a rationalised tool of intelligence gathering; however, the history of torture (see the seminal book on the subject: Torture ) shows it's practice has commonly been associated with the State punishing undesirables and attempting to elicit false confessions. Despite some recent impressively legalistic arguments about rationing torture carefully through torture warrants and the like, nothing about our recent experience suggests that these dangers are any less pernicious today than they were throughout the rest of recorded human history. Human nature being what it is, if you delegate such powers to government, the potential for abuse is high. Reading accounts from some facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, employed techniques included waterboarding, prolonged beatings, thermal exposure, 'wallings', gun barrels pointed at the head, and threats to the suspect's family. And no surprise, there was blurring of the lines between interrogation, softening up detainees and simple punishment.

Torture is also nigh impossible to reconcile with modern notions of evidence law and a fair trial, so it will inevitably butt up against genuine attempts to prosecute wrong-doers in the aftermath of war. Whether you want to do this through a properly constituted military tribunal system or a Court, torture inevitably taints the very facts that you would want to adduce at trial to prosecute the accused. This creates a genuine dilemma: do you lower the standards of evidence opening yourself to accusations of sham victor's justice, reputational cost and enemy tit-for-tat? Perhaps you just bite the bullet and defend some form of arbitrary indefinite detention or legal limbo to sustain a custodial control? Or you could just execute them based on tortured admissions and be done with it. Or, finally, you may be forced to actually release them because the evidence in inadmissable, despite whatever would be just or the threat they may still pose. Needless to say, governments will inevitably take shortcuts to ensure the latter case doesn't happen, with predictably corrosive effects on transparent governance and the rule of law.

Legitimatising torture has many unintended effects, not the least of which is attracting certain types of people into the specialised torture regime - which would ultimately make the build-up of misandry within the Red Ajah look like a girl scout jamboree. Mark Kleiman has a rather pithy summary of some of these problems here.

All of this, of course, is even assuming the person you are holding is the right person. The moral danger posed by torture becomes all the more serious when you consider the possibility of mistake and misinformation, which are rife during conflict.

To get a grasp of the issue, outside the highly politicised context of today, we ought to look to the Allies during WWII, the British with the IRA, and Mossad’s current-day expertise dealing with Islamists for guidance. I’ve read accounts from such interrogators who’ve accumulated years of field experience, whilst facing no less implacable foes, and they are (almost uniformly) strongly against the practice of torture because it doesn't work reliably enough. Instead, they advocate trust-based and psychological shock paradigms of interrogation, as well as tough methods of a lower intensity, such as isolation and sensory depravation, that have been highly effective at yielding actionable intelligence with far fewer false positives than torture. This is still tough interrogation, but it's short of physical abuse and torture.

I’d also like to pushback against this notion that war is somehow an inherently lawless realm, and therefore, any attempts to regulate it are incoherent. The two classical normative categories which govern war are: jus ad bellum (concerning whether the starting conditions of war are just) and jus in bello (concerning acceptable conduct during war). These categories are derived from the age-old question of how to reconcile might with right (Sein and Sollen) which itself has a rich and long history in Western thought.

Indeed, our modern laws of war may have their content expressed through the Geneva Conventions, other applicable treaties and customary international law, and incorporating domestic law, but they have a much-longer historical genesis going back to the Homeric epics. The ancients thought about heroism and morality through the prism of such epics, and that understanding emphasised sharp limits on what the victors could do to the vanquished that are still alive with us today. Try to bear this deeply rooted history in mind the next time someone tries to dismiss such concerns as just modern political-correctness gone mad.

Now, obviously it is a different question if you are talking about rules of engagement. Effective rules of engagement are necessary to win battles, and winning battles is a necessary precondition for winning wars. However, I would argue torture sit outside that immediate sphere of the battlefield. Many military operations have been hampered by ineffective command structures and uncertain rules of engagement, and I would never suggest that a fighting force or mission be compromised in some nebulous and wishy-washy attempt to sanitise war. But torture is not like that. Hollywood and apologist claims aside, no war has been lost according to the prohibition on torture of detainees located in facilities removed from the immediate battlefield. Indeed, victory is far more likely to be compromised via revelations about use of torture by occupying forces. Such revelations inevitably damage the legitimacy of the occupying force, providing propaganda recruitment fodder for the enemy, and jeopardising the overall battle for heart and minds.

A bipartisan consensus used to exist about the prohibition on torture in the West. That consensus still basically exists in Europe. Unfortunately, that consensus has deteriorated in the United States in recent years due to what I regard as existential alarmism over terrorism, and the accompanying shift in cultural markers of what is acceptable to do in the face of this threat. The popular TV show 24 is a case in point of such markers. 24 depends on the audience accepting a moral calculus based on a ticking time bomb thought experiment reinforced by perfect information. I wouldn't say the show portrays Jack Bauer as an effortless protagonist who suffers no psychological impact from his dark actions, but the audience is never under any doubt that he is doing what's necessary because the show is structured that way. Other Hollywood efforts are just as bad, though I’m pleased to note that Burn Notice is a pleasant exception to this race to the bottom dynamic

It may sound like a cheap shot to blame an action-hero type TV show, however gritty, for changing attitudes to torture in the US, but there is cause for concern when Supreme Court Justices cite such material approvingly in conceptualising their theories of executive power, and the OLC torture memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee do likewise. Incidentally, Yoo is also a big fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime series, and as much as I love the show's full realisation of Gibson cyberpunk, it is hardly a coincidence that the show has almost nothing sensible to say about limiting Section 9's vast powers of surveillance, cyber-warfare and force. Government's and corporations are all corrupt and routinely abuse their power in the GitS universe, but Section 9 are the good guys so their power should be unchecked!

I'm not alone in attributing some responsibility to such media. The popularity of 24 prompted a rather extraordinary intervention by the US military in the face what they perceive as a radical increase in the acceptance of torture amongst new recruits:


http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/070219fa_fact_mayerThis past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind "24." Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finnegan—wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medals—aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his "call" was.In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show's producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."


Now, returning back to this specific chapter, I feel I should give a fuller account of how I reconcile all this with Perrin's actions.

First, it's worth emphasising here that the real-life legal framework we have prohibiting torture has no obvious equivalent in Randland. Though Joline alludes to the existence of humanitarian law in response to Mat’s decision not to help the wounded after the big battle in the Prince of the Ravens chapter, it's a vague enough reference that it can’t really carry a lot of weight on this specific question. In the absence of further references, we must assume that any law proscribing torture of captives is either underdeveloped, unknown and unenforced.

Another important contrasting observation is that Randland lacks sophisticated and time-tested alternative techniques of interrogation that could substitute for the brute effectiveness of torture in making a hostile captive talk. Interrogation is hardly rare in Randland, and what we see of it is obviously a far cry from modern interrogation techniques rooted in psychology and modern medicine. It's clear, at least, that the Aiel and obviously the Whitecloaks are well-practiced interrogators. Basically all the countries of Randland have dungeons, so we can extrapolate a fair bit from that and other implied references. The fact that a Domain Merchant has a private torture prison is also little troubling. How many Lords have something similar? I remember some comments made by one of the Aiel (Rhuarc?) about only older Aiel being involved in interrogation sessions, which may add a qualifier to Aiel use of torture. But overall, it’s probably fair to say the art of interrogation in Randland is a pretty crude affair.

Okay, so Perrin isn’t legally obligated to refrain from torture and he lacks the time, the facilities and the knowledge to use more sophisticated means. Do we, therefore, judge him more kindly? Yes and no. On one level those things should count, but on the other hand, I clearly still think this was an evil act.

The Shaido as a group have raped and pillaged their way across the Wetlands, abandoned ji’e’toh and taken his wife captive. But how much responsibility can you really sheet home to one individual for all this? Even if we accept a large share, this wasn't punishment rendered in Perrin's capacity as Lord and magistrate, it was an ad hoc interrogation driven by the fact that the Shaido might happen know something. But would this logic really be so very different if Perrin encountered and aprehended a bunch of taciturn wetlanders who were nearby and thus may have valuable clues about Faile that they are withholding? Why not torture them too if this is okay? Those giving Perrin a free pass ought to think seriously about these issues.

Thankfully in the broader world, WoT is certainly not pro-torture in any cavilier sense. Most of Randland's torture practitioners are presented to us with some allegorical moral context by RJ which is supremely unflattering, such as Semirhage, the Prophet’s followers, Whitecloak Questioners and Jorgin in Bandar Eban. I take some comfort in this, and the simple fact that interrogation is rarely shown in a simplistic light through the series beginning with Perrin and Egwene's capture by the Whitecloaks, and then with Joiya and Amico in the Stone.
Tess Laird
82. thewindrose
I was interested that Seonid wanted to stay and figure out what was going on in So Habor. However, I am wondering if some of that interest had to do with getting away from the Wise Ones...

I thought the scene with Perrin and the Aiel was quite shocking. It showed that Perrin isn't just that emo guy, there is a decisive man in Perrin - frustrating that we don't really get to see him until ToM!

tempest™
Joruus
83. OldWoman
Wolfmage@81 clap clap clap
Sandy Brewer
84. ShaggyBella
Shaido, at least Therava and Savanna are good at torture. Tie people naked and then let them freeze. Also I remember someone in a sack with itch powder being suspended over a fire. maybe Galina?
Perrin chose the quickest way to get results. It worked and was very effective. They just didn't have the information he sought.
I don't think this lot has heard of the Geneva Convention yet...probably in another age, yet to come, an age long ago.
*Twitch*
John Massey
85. subwoofer
@JL- think I linked this a few years ago but anyways- dis was me. Felt like a knob with the blue helmets and matching berets.

@Tek- most of my parenting stories involve dirty diadees- never thought something so small could poop so big. Also I have to figure out how to make it anywheres without being covered in spit up. My wife says just use a tiny wash up cloth but that never works. I am thinking of wearing a smock or coveralls or something. And don't get me started on how devious a one month old can be. I am currently playing the game of- "If you pick her up, you have to hold her forever... or until your arm falls off." My little girl has me wrapped around her tiny finger:)

WoTish- hmmmmm... torture? Well the only part of the whole torture thing was when we get to read about Faile raking Perrin's back with her nails. That had me in agony.

Woof™.
Joruus
86. Planeswalker
Even though there is this Genova convention, in war, reason is truly inexistent. War, in itself, is inexcusable. That's a fact. Torture always happens, as much as death. Even right now, somewhere, there is someone being tortured, just to provide information to the opposing side...

Haha, I'm no pacifist either. I accept the fact that we, as humans, when we find reason is out of the question sometimes - then we go to extreme lengths to get what we want or force an issue or whatever... especially when the opposite is deadly/immoral/wrong and directly in contrast with our point of view.

Makes me remember the movie Unthinkable (Samuel L Jackson) amidst all this talk of torture. Nice film. Anyways, I heart Perrin here too. ;)
Theresa Gray
87. Terez27
Shaggy Bela@84 - It's okay; our last president hadn't heard of it either, so surely Perrin can be forgiven for his ignorance.

@Wolfmage - In some ways it is unnecessary for us to condemn Perrin because he so effectively condemns himself. He realizes that his need to get Faile back has driven him over the edge to do things he normally wouldn't do, and that he would do it again. Since he cannot take himself out of the game - and who else among the main characters has tried so often? - he throws away the axe. It shouldn't really be required for us to put our own stamp of condemnation on top of the clear one from RJ. Also, there is a difference between distinguishing between the moral right and wrong, and making a statement about whether or not we would have done the same under similar circumstances.
Chris Chaplain
88. chaplainchris1
@ Wolfmage - I agree with you that torture is not an issue that divides us neatly into categories. I, for example, am getting closer and closer to being a pacifist (though I'm not there yet), and am uncomfortable with military expeditions for any reason other than self-defense. (Or possibly, in response to a request for aid from an ally under attack.) I say that not to get into those issues, but to point out that if you characterize yourself as rather hawkish, I'm much closer to the dove side.

What I tried to express earlier is not approval or even acceptance of Perrin's actions; I was processing my own lack of moral outrage. I *believe* Perrin's actions to be wrong, and belive that he does too; my first reactions to the scene were shock and grief for Perrin. It was horrible to see the depth he'd sunk too.

But while *believing* Perrin's action was wrong, I find I still have little sympathy or grief for the Aiel man in question. I don't believe morally in eye-for-an-eye justice; but I find it difficult to muster outrage on behalf of a man who believes its ok for his people to plunder and enslave all others.

(As for those who question how much responsibility he bears - he chooses to fight for them, and to withhold information for them. Some Shaido and some Meradin left their clans - he had options, and opted to stay with Sevanna. That decision has consequences. And for those who say he "only had Perrin's word" for what had been done to Perrin's wife; come on! I don't suggest that he had anything personally to do with Faile's abduction. But he was serving as guard for a regime that systematically enslaved everyone they found useful, stole everything they could, and killed or made refugees of everyone else. Choosing to do that makes him liable to consequences from those fighting back.)

I'm not saying that actions such as Perrin's should be condoned or legalized; only that they can be understood. They are desperate, evil acts, but Perrin is not (overall) an evil man. That is not a distinction I am willing to make for the other torturers we've seen, including Whitecloak Questioners, but also Aram and Arganda.
Chris R
89. up2stuff
Sub... 2 words.

BABY...WIPES. Buy them often and in large quantities. Become one with the baby wipes. Plan on integrating them into your life for 6-8 years. They work on every kind of baby mess with a minimum of trouble and moderate to extreme success, and can even carry over to cleaning up after pets. They work on multiple surfaces and fabrics. Tide pens have some success too.

As to big poopies, just wait till she starts doing tricks with it. I'm guessing at 1 month or so, you are getting mostly just vast quantities?

Soon, it will be like those McDonald's Basket Ball comercials with Michael Jordan. Remember "Nothin' but Net."? Yeah, ...seriously! It will be, up the back, down the leg, on the waistband, in the sock, and NOT on her onesie. My 2 year old is working on Potty training, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are still dark days on occasion.

Wolf... At the end of your post I was very relieved to see the part about you saying that this is obviously not OUR day and age. Today, here and now, I don't condone torture! I don't approve of "ends justifying the means." BUT, I do approve of follow the rules where you are, and accept those consequences as that society has established them. I don't object to a country's penalty for theft being cutting off a hand. It is against the law. It SHOULD discourage the practice of theft, and I was not asked to judge a penalty, merely follow the rules.

I am reminded of the American kid that was Caned back around 2000 for vandalism in an Arab country or something. His sentence was reduced to 4 strikes/whacks/whatever from 8 or something. I was appalled to find out that THAT was the penalty, but getting his sentence reduced simply because he did not know that was the penalty really pissed me off. Sounds like the dipshit was saying, "I knew this was wrong, but I was prepared to accept the consequences as long as they were a fine, or something." "Oh, well he didn't know," is a lame excuse.

To make a long story short (Too Late), I don't condone Perrin's actions if he were here today, but in Randland, (as you mentioned) that was not really unheard of. Extreme, maybe, but not shocking. The Aiel was stilll PREPARED to resist the physical mutilation. He accepted it. He STILL FOUGHT BACK. He could control the pain, and can probably still fight lethally. Scars and wounds are badges, and attractive to those people after all. What shocked all the nut jobs was the callousness that Perrin, a Softy, would threaten this, and would CLEARLY carry it out.

My whole perspective is "I might not like it, but I am not there, and it is on par with other practices." Look at the Seanchan. Some of their practices seem harsh, Aiel punishments remind me of the Caning episode, and really, how many other Death Penalty offenses are there in that day that we don't really know about. Face it, Criminal justice is never dwelt on to the extend of Dress Fringes, Hair styles, and jewelry ornaments.
Chris R
90. up2stuff
chap @ 88...

Again for Randland... Desparate acts... yes. But I dont think of it as evil. Harsh, extreme, vicious, or cruel, yes. But in THAT place, at THAT time, under THOSE circumstances, and accounting for Perrin's remorse, I don't think it is evil.

The King of Siam in the Musical The King and I, isn't evil, but he beheads his wife for treason. I think she had an affair or something. Even as King, he was bound by the laws, and would have forgiven the issue, but the Wife pushed, and his hand was forced. Am I remembering this correctly? The details are escaping me, but I thought that was the gist. I was also all set to point out that Frickin' Disney had the hand cut off for theft as a penalty condoned in Alladin's society in my last post, but posting at work is hard. Here comes the boss. Gotta Go!!!
Joruus
91. facultyguy
Long time reader of WOT, first time poster ANYWHERE. I am incredibly impressed by the intellectual depth and excruciating self-examination shown in the discussion of torture here. Sure wish I could motivate my students to put as much thought/analysis/reflection into their papers . . .

Since this is my first participation: THANKS LEIGH! I've read the books probably 3-4 times, but am enjoying your re-read a lot.
lin mei
92. twicemarked
Wolfmage,

I can understand what you are saying. And I agree with most of what you are saying. But to say it is immoral for Perrin to do so is overstepping.

It is immoral for Perrin only if he knows about torture as much as you do, and still did what he did. The gist of your post is that, there are more effective ways than torture to get actionable intelligence, and only bad things can come out of torture. But Perrin does not know that.

In the Middle Ages, blood letting is the standard medical cure, because the doctors did not know better at that time. That would be amoral today, but would that practise be amoral at that time?

Let us say you work for a chemical company that makes perservatives used in food. If 50 years from now, people discovered that perservatives cause cancer in infants , allergy inchildren, asthma in adults, would you be accused of immoral actions centering on profit, if you don't know about it?

People in general do not accuse Perrin of immorality, because the limits of Perrin's knowledge at that time. While it is fair game to discuss the morality of torture today, it is unfair to apply today's standard on characters in the past.
Captain Hammer
93. Randalator
twicemarked @92

It is immoral for Perrin only if he knows about torture as much as you do, and still did what he did. The gist of your post is that, there are more effective ways than torture to get actionable intelligence, and only bad things can come out of torture. But Perrin does not know that.

You're right insofar as that, while we might condemn Perrin's actions from our moral point of view, the only thing that matters in universe is if the character shares the same morals or at least knows about his surroundings disapproving of his actions.

Trouble is, while certain forms of interrogation that we would classify as torture are commonplace in Randland, regardless of effectiveness Whitecloak-style torture is seen as something despicable. In TEotW he himself was to be put to the question by the Whitecloaks and though he escaped in time, he still has a fairly good idea of what that entails. So it's not like he just doesn't know any better. Perrin knows enough about it that he considers his actions to be wrong, as evidenced by the way he tortures himself (pun more or less intended) over it afterwards. He does in fact have a working moral compass.

Maybe he doesn't evaluate the whole thing by exactely the same standards as we do but nevertheless he comes to the same conclusions. Which means that we can't just let him off the hook like that.

Blood letting and preservatives

Those are invalid analogies because they require ignorance on Perrin's part. But in those scenarios Perrin isn't an ignorant medieval doctor or an equally ignorant preservatives mixy type dude because both he and the society he lives in have knowledge of and a clear moral standpoint on this issue.

That kind of torture is generally frowned upon in Randland, Perrin is aware of it and agrees...ergo, he can't claim innocence in this case.
Joruus
94. deebee
What makes torture moral or immoral has nothing to do with whether it works, or whether those who practise it believe it works.
There are some things which are evil whatever the circumstances, because carrying them out corrupts both the individuals who are "hands-on" and the rest of the society who acquiesce in it. I guess what you see as evil depends on where you stand-for me, any form of torture , mutilation or capital punishment is morally repugnant. So I do accuse Perrin of immorality, and I think he sees his actions that way-hence throwing away the axe is an expression of self disgust. I understand how he has been driven to this terrible action, and because we have seen the depth of his emotional response to both Faile`s loss and to the extremes this leads him to, I can give him a chance to grow as a character- but this action diminishes him in my eyes.
Chris R
95. up2stuff
Okay, Lunch break so I can point out one more thing without being rushed.

Here is a distiction between torture that the Children's Questioners and the "evil" torturers today and Perrin's method. A torture would not corroborate a subject's words with another subject, simply keep the er, "pressure" on until they heard what they wanted, true or not. If they DID corroborate, they would press EACH subject until they gave the same info, true or not until dead.

Perrin said, "this is what I want to know. Tell me ANYTHING, not something specific, ANYTHING, even the simplest answer and as long as it matches everyone else, nothing further will be done."

Now true, those prisoners do not have any more reason to believe him than any other jailor, but even if they don't, we DO. We know that if they don't give him SOMETHING he will go through with it, but if they cooperate, he WILL desist. It is a fine distinction, but I think it shows he is actually interested in honesty, rather than what he wants to hear.

Someone pointed out that the Aiel would admit to wearing Aiel women's underwear under torture, eventually so it would stop. The torturer would say, "I am going to hurt you until you tell me you all wear ladies' underwear."
Perrin says "I am going to ask a question, and if you all answer the same I will stop, yes or no." Again, I would categorize this as extreme, even dispicable, but not evil.

Randalator...Your example of Perrin's first encounter with the WC's could also be flawed as a comparison. True, he has an idea of what they are gonna do, and so is not ignorant, but he also is aware of what their motives are. In the WC case they are completely different than his motives in COT. Again, they are looking for "What they want to hear". Isn't it Byar who wants to "question" him? He is going to inflict pain until Perrin says not only did he kill WC's, but he did it because he is a darkfriend and murderer. Not because they killed Hopper first and it was essentially self defense. He has no way out. If he tells them what really happened, his wolf friend was killed, he will recieve MORE torture because it will admit to being a DF because "only DF's can talk to wolves," and the WC's will enjoy it. Perrin's questioning IS going to inflict a terrible punishment for holding out or lying, but he will accept the truth for truth and the punishment will not be dealt
Joruus
96. ryamano
You know, this part of Aes Sedai working with Masema will never be explained and I'm a little sad about it.

In TOM or TGS, Perrin thinks to himself exactly that and I feel that it's Brandon Sanderson saying that he'll never explain that. The reason probably is that RJ never explained it to anyone, not even on his deathbed. Not because he was a jerk, never that. It's just that he forgot (there was a lot of more important things to do, like trying to live or saying goodbye to family) considering it's not really pivotal to the plot.

But still it'll always puzzle me what the heck two Aes Sedai wanted with a guy who considered Aes Sedai blasphemous ("only the Dragon can touch the Power!"). What the hell were they trying to do? Were they so arrogant to think they could convince him of anything? We'll never know.
Captain Hammer
97. Randalator
deebee @94

carrying them out corrupts both the individuals who are "hands-on" and the rest of the society who acquiesce in it.

What about the individuals who are "hands off"...? *runs for the bunker*

I understand how he has been driven to this terrible action, and because we have seen the depth of his emotional response to both Faile`s loss and to the extremes this leads him to, I can give him a chance to grow as a character- but this action diminishes him in my eyes.

That is the problem, right there, that even our enlightened western world struggles with. The "ticking time bomb" scenario: what if an evil act like torture could directly save lives?

There was a case in Germany in 2002, where Frankfurt's vice president of police Daschner ordered officers to threaten a kidnapping suspect with torture. He knew that it was illegal, but to save the boy who was burried alive somewhere according to the kidnapper, he decided to break the law to get the whereabouts from the kidnapper. It turned out that the boy had already died shortly after the kidnapping, but at the time Daschner didn't know that.

There was lots of heated debate afterwards, if and how Daschner should be punished, if there such means should be made legal in certain cases, etc. And although I'm passionately against any form of torture, even I find myself struggling because as I see it, there is no definitive answer. I certainly can understand why someone will act that way under those circumstances, but still I can't condone it and all good intentions aside I believe that it shouldn't go unpunished. To his credit Daschner himself made an official note of his orders and never tried to hide his actions.

Daschner was later sentenced to the smallest possible penalty: a fine of 10.800 Euros on a one year probation, even skipping the usually mandatory prison sentence of 6-60 months due to "massively mitigating circumstances".

The kidnapper filed an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice and Federal Constitutional Court but was was rejected each time. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the orders had been illegal but that he had lost the status as victim of degrading and inhumane treatment because German Courts had already stated the same, tried the people involved and not taken this confession into account during the process, making it a fair trial.

So, in Perrin's quite similar case, despite my own views on torture, I can understand him, even feel with him. But still, what he did was wrong and if such laws existed he should be tried. That Perrin feels the same is basically his saving throw in my eyes...
Captain Hammer
98. Randalator
up2stuff @95

That was not a comparison, only a statement of fact that Perrin knows perfectly well what a horribly tool torture is, regardless of intent.
Joruus
99. deebee
I guess my answer to the ticking timebomb scenario is this: You can never know for certain that your action (torturing your suspect for information) will save any lives-you can hope, you can make assumptions, but you`ll never have total certainty. You could have the wrong guy, the bomb might fail to go off, your victim could have escaped. Or he may already be dead. Whatever, when you have those pincers in your hand, or you strap someone down to a table, the only certain evil is you and what you are doing.
The ticking timebomb theory is utilitarianism-the greatest good of the greatest number, and it`s been used to defend the indefensible throughout history.
John Massey
100. subwoofer
@Up2stuff- bddt:) Yuppers my lil one does her daddy... er, proud, overflowin' the diadees. Shows the difference between mom and dad too. My wife changes a poopy diadee and worst case scenario uses 2 wipes. Me? Heck, my best change I used two and the other day I had to use five and then change her outfit!!! and then give her a bath. I do not get how poop can get in a baby's armpit. Mad skills.

Edit- Yeah baby! Snag the magic One Hunny on a post about poopy diadees! Way to go Gabi!

Woof™.
TW L
101. Shadow_Jak
Wolfmage @81
"* Fair Warning: massive wall of text ahead! *"
Thanks for the warning.
Next time I'll take heed and walk around!

sub (@ almost everywhere)
Gee, I don't know what's worse.
All the poop about the torture
or...
All the torture about the poop.

I'll be heading for the bunker now ;)
Robert Crawley
102. Alphaleonis
Wolfmage @81
Very insiteful post. Glad I decided to start reading it in spite of the wall of text warning. Once I started, I realized the extensive study of the history of this subject it contained. As one who actively has been involved in working to oppose all forms of torture by all governments for nearly 50 years, I was gratified by the confirmation. Needless to say, however, spending as much time as I have in this cause for so long, with so much personal sacrifice requires more motivation than intellectual conviction. In my case, oneness with the Creator and His feelings for His children has been the fuel for the fire.
William McDaniel
103. willmcd
I agree with Isilel @20 that Perrin's throwing away of the axe here seems premature.

One of the central conflicts associated with Perrin is the dichotomy of his desire to be a builder/fixer/creator, symbolized by the hammer (and touched upon in this chapter when he gazes longingly at the foot of a horse, wanting to re-shoe it), and how circumstances keep demanding that he instead be a destroyer, symbolized by the axe.

It is not that the specific incident with the Aielmen made him realize that he is starting to enjoy the destruction aspect; instead, he tells Elyas that fighting at Dumai's Wells gave him a "rush" and he wanted to nip that in the bud before he started enjoying it. Fine, but why throw away the axe now instead of then?

As Isilel said, Perrin (unfortunately) has a lot more destroying to do, and he hasn't come to any internal resolution of the conflict, so I don't really see how throwing away the axe fits here. Maybe I'm just being dense.

I also think it's somewhat interesting that RJ didn't give us Seonid's words when she requests to stay behind in So Habor. Perrin speaks "after listening to her", but we didn't hear what she said. If she is indeed staying behind out of a desire to help people, then she deserves major propz for showing some un-Aes Sedai-like humanity. But why is what she actually said skipped over?

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