Jul 16 2013 1:00pm

The Wheel of Time Reread: A Memory of Light, Part 21

A Memory of Light Wheel of TimeIn these times of change, it’s a Wheel of Time reread!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 21 of A Memory of Light, in which we have angst, sexism, and mind-rape. And other fun things!

Previous reread 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. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.

Also, for maximum coolness, the Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an e-book series, from your preferred e-book retailer!

This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

Chapter 21: Not a Mistake to Ignore

What Happens
Siuan and Yukiri move among wounded soldiers in the Arafellin camp where the remainders of Egwene’s forces had fled after the Sharan attack, Healing those who could still fight. Siuan is exhausted, though, and Yukiri tells her to rest. Siuan remembers how uneasy Bryne had been before the strike, and how they had barely escaped by jumping through one of Yukiri’s floor gateways and onto a giant cushion of Air to break the fall.

And Yukiri kept saying she thought the weave might be the secret behind discovering how to fly! Fool woman. There was a good reason the Creator hadn’t given people wings.

She finds Bryne with General Haerm, the new commander of the Illianer Companions, who reports there is no sign of the Amyrlin, but Siuan insists they keep looking. Haerm leaves, and Siuan pretends to complain about Bryne pushing her through the gateway. He tells her that they have lost half their troops and nearly a third of the Aes Sedai. Siuan stubbornly insists that Egwene is alive, and Bryne agrees, but then berates himself for missing the significance of the Trollocs’ defensive move.

“I can’t see how I let this happen. I’ve trained better than this, prepared better than this! It’s not just a mistake I can ignore, Siuan. The Pattern itself is at stake.”

Siuan doesn’t know what to say, and they sit in silence.

Outside the Black Tower, Lyrelle, Myrelle, and Seaine argue over whether the newly-arrived emissary from the Asha’man, who claims that the M’Hael and the other Darkfriend Asha’man were driven out, can be trusted. Lyrelle is skeptical, but admits that the White Tower had also needed cleansing of the Shadow, and decides they and the thirty-odd sisters she has with her should go in and bond the men they were promised. She plans to try to arrange for them to bond (and thus control) the most powerful of the Asha’man they can, for she does not believe that the taint has truly been cleansed, and cautions the other sisters to hold onto saidar just in case.

Her women would be a match for a larger number of untrained Asha’man, if it came to that. It shouldn’t, logically. Of course, the men were likely mad. So perhaps assuming logic from them was imprudent.

Lyrelle is startled and displeased when a Red sister, Pevara Tazanovni, greets them at the gate. Pevara tells them Logain Ablar leads here now, but he is still recovering from his wounds. Lyrelle thinks it is a pity the false Dragon hadn’t died, as men without a strong leader are more easily controlled. She asks Pevara if bonding a channeling man is different from a non-channeling one, and Pevara confirms that Asha’man cannot be compelled through the bond like ordinary Warders, and she will have to be more “inventive.”

“How obedient are they?” Aledrin asked from the other side.

“It depends on the man, I suspect,” Pevara said.

“If they cannot be forced,” Lyrelle said, “will they obey their Aes Sedai in battle?”

“Probably,” Pevara said, though there was something ambiguous about the way she said it. “I must tell you something, all of you. The mission I was sent on, and the one you also pursue, is a fool’s errand. […] Bonding the Asha’man just to bond them is foolish. It will not control them. I do think some Asha’man will make excellent Warders, but— like many men— others will not. I suggest that you abandon your plan to bond exactly forty-seven and take those who are most willing. You will gain better Warders.”

Lyrelle pretty much ignores this, and Pevara sighs. Lyrelle reflects on how perhaps putting the Black Tower under her control could finally get her out from under Lelaine’s thumb, and ponders whether there is a way around the lack of obedience to the bond. They soon reach a line of Asha’man which Lyrelle realizes numbers exactly forty-seven. One of them introduces himself as Androl Genhald, and regrets that these are the only Asha’man available to be bonded. Lyrelle snaps that they will wait for the others to return, but Androl doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon. Lyrelle denounces this “a childish trick,” but Androl answers he thought it was one rather worthy of Aes Sedai, and further points out that these are the ones who actually volunteered to be Warders.

“Here’s the thing, Aes Sedai,” Androl said. “The Dragon Reborn sent a message to us, just earlier today. He instructed us to learn one last lesson: that we’re not to think of ourselves as weapons, but as men. Well, men have a choice in their fate, and weapons do not. Here are your men, Aes Sedai. Respect them.”

He leaves with Pevara. Lyrelle considers refusing, but news from the front is alarming, and eventually she snaps at the other sisters to choose two each, except for a few who will only get one.

Pevara comments that she’d forgotten how cold some Aes Sedai could be, and warns Androl to be wary, but Androl answers that they won her over, so he is not worried. They meet up with Canler, Jonneth and Emarin; Emarin is still traumatized by being subjected to the Turning process. Pevara chastises them for still being here when they could be forced into being Warders, but Jonneth is confident that Androl would get them away. Canler asks what they are to do now, and Androl answers they will follow Logain.

Logain had… changed since the ordeal. Androl whispered to her that he was darker now. He spoke less. He did still seem determined to get to the Last Battle, but for now, he gathered the men in and pored over things they’d found in Taim’s rooms. Pevara worried that the Turning had broken him inside.

Pevara asks about the Dragon Reborn, knowing that Naeff’s message had also carried the implication that al’Thor had known there was something wrong at the Black Tower, and yet had not come to do something about it. Jonneth insists he would have come if he could have, but Emarin counters that he left them to survive or not on their own, and calls it callous. Androl answers that it doesn’t matter, as the Black Tower has hardly ever had anything to do with the Dragon Reborn in the first place; it is Logain who has his allegiance. Pevara reflects that perhaps it is for the best, since the Dragon will die in the Last Battle anyway.

“I will take his last order to heart, however,” Androl said. “I will not be merely a weapon. The taint is cleansed. We fight not to die, but to live. We have a reason to live. Spread the word among the other men, and let us take oaths to uphold Logain as our leader. And then, to the Last Battle. Not as minions of the Dragon Reborn, not as pawns of the Amyrlin Seat, but as the Black Tower. Our own men.”

“Our own men,” the other three whispered, nodding.

Well, uh, so clearly Yukiri survived. Still not sure about Lelaine.

The scene between Siuan and Bryne is a hell of lot more poignant when you know that Bryne’s not just fucking up, but that he’s being subconsciously manipulated to fuck up. Because obviously on some level he senses it, just like Morgase did with Rahvin, which leads me to reiterate a lot of things I’ve already said about the horrors of mind-rape, in a world that has it, probably not being any less horrific than actual rape.

Because it’s part and parcel of the same thing. It’s about having your power, your agency, and your control over your own self being forcibly taken from you, and what’s more, it’s about using that stolen control to make you harm either yourself or those you love, or both. And there are no words to describe how utterly horrific and reprehensible that is.


The scene is also doubly affecting once you know the characters’ eventual fate, but we’ll get to that in due time.

So, did Lyrelle utterly piss you off in this chapter? Did she make you grit your teeth? Did you want to smack her upside her appallingly condescending head?

I certainly hope so, because the Lyrelle section of this chapter was one of the most perfectly executed examples of gender-flipped sexism I’ve seen in this series, and as such it was infuriating, but it was also awesome.

Because this—this is exactly what women are talking about when they try (and, often, fail) to explain sexism to men. Overt leering and whatnot is not the problem, or not the main one; it’s the mindset that is the problem. It’s the insidiously unexamined assumptions; the unconscious (and therefore maddeningly difficult to articulate or refute) assertion of privilege, that is so hard to protest against.

Read Lyrelle’s POV again. Not my summary of it, which doesn’t do the heinousness of it justice, but the original text. Note how her only response to the Asha’man’s assertion of independence from Aes Sedai control is irritation, that they won’t understand their place. Note how her only response to the revelation that they cannot be forced to do her bidding is more of the same.

They are not people to her, not really; they are problems to solve, nuisances to control and use to her own ends. She only considers them in light of how they will advance her own agenda; beyond that they are nothing to her. It honestly never even occurs to her—or to many of the sisters with her—to consider that the Asha’man are capable of directing their own lives, of controlling their own agency or solving their own problems.

Because of course they can’t: they’re men, right? Channeling men, at that. How dare they assert themselves? Don’t they know how dangerous it is when they step out of their assigned roles (to be subdued, to be gentled, to be quiet)? What difference does it make what they want? They are flighty, unreliable, inherently inferior. They are in the throes of a biologically mandated madness, to boot—and of course it can’t be that everything Lyrelle thinks she knows about this madness is wrong. It can’t be that the people who have actually experienced this problem might know more about it than she does, right? Noooo, that’s just silly.

“Respect them,” Androl said to her, and that was such the perfect thing to say, because that, in the end, is what any true advocate of an oppressed group wants: not ascendancy, not revenge, but respect. Equality. The acknowledgement that they are human beings just like everyone else. And that is precisely what Lyrelle fails to give, in thought or in deed, except where she is pressured into doing so. But that is still only lip service, and in the end it changes nothing.

Seeing any parallels, there? Hmm?

Not so nice when the shoe is on the other foot, is it?

There is, of course, another point being made here, which I think I have addressed before, but if so I don’t remember what I said about it. But in any case, the other point (or rather, implication) being made here is that if gender roles were reversed, women wouldn’t be any better about it than men are.

My kneejerk reaction is to protest that that can’t possibly be true, but I am smart enough to realize that that is a kneejerk reaction. I would like to believe that isn’t true, but honestly in the real world there just isn’t enough data on such a thing to draw a conclusion—at least, not that I am aware of. If anyone does know of such data I’d love to hear about it.

But all things being equal (pun intended), the general trend in human history has been that those who have power over those who don’t have, sadly, rarely or never failed to succumb to the temptation to abuse that power—and to make assumptions about the less privileged group that justify why that abuse is okay.

Which is why, sez me, that insuring equality for all is so important. You cannot abuse an imbalance of power where none exists.

Ah, me and my crazy ideals.

Anyway. This whole thing also puts Pevara into the position of being the Randland equivalent of a soi-disant male feminist, which provides its own interesting parallels. Not only of Pevara’s own sort-of futzing her own support for the Asha’man in the face of her peers (you’ll have to “be inventive,” Pevara? Really?), but most notably of how Lyrelle dismisses Pevara’s arguments as being beneath her the moment she identifies Pevara as being an “ally” of the Asha’man. Not to mention how she assumes Pevara can only possibly be inspired to defend the Asha’man by the basest of motives, i.e. that she is fucking Androl. It is amazing how prejudice and privilege can reduce something that should be wonderful—such as the growing romance between Androl and Pevara—to something tawdry and cynical. Blah.

Moving on, I was also intrigued by Pevara’s thoughts that Rand had done the Asha’man an inadvertent favor by abandoning them. Especially in light of how much railing I have done over the course of this reread about how stupid Rand was to do so. Because of course the thing is that Taim was always a trap, and yet it was a trap Rand himself set up. He was the one who put Taim in charge of the place, after all, despite having an unambiguously violent negative reaction to the guy the moment he clapped eyes on him.

I don’t know. I see the bind Rand was in when he initially set the Black Tower up in LOC, and yet I still think putting Taim in charge of it was the height of foolishness, even aside from the fact that he turned out to be a big ol’ Darkfriend in the end. Even if he hadn’t been Officially Evil™, he was still a devious jealousy-ridden megalomaniac with a ginormous chip on his shoulder. How else could that possibly have gone, except badly, I ask?

But okay. If it accidentally encouraged the Asha’man to be Sistahs Who Are Doing It For Themselves, I guess that’s great, and all. I just think Emarin’s got a point as well.

Lastly and most randomly: Yukiri’s theory that Air cushions can help you fly is kind of hilarious, in my opinion. Because all I could think of was Aes Sedai bouncing from one invisible trampoline to another, and going boingy boingy boingy boingy, and this is probably proof I watched way too many cartoons as a kid. Heh.

And on that at least slightly non-depressing note, we out! Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

1. Delafina
It's tough to say what women would be like in a world where they'd had the power for most of history, but we do have enough matrilineal and matriarchal societies here on earth to draw some conclusions. Matrilineal societies are more egalitarian -- that is, matriarchy *isn't* the mirror of patriarchy. Possibly because in female-run groups, while there are hierarchies, those hierarchies tend to be fluid. One person will be in charge of one particular activity, but take a backseat when circumstances shift and someone else steps up. (One of the things I've always felt like RJ got wrong about Aes Sedai hierarchies is that. It makes sense, given that he based them in part on medieval convents--but medieval convents were groups generally set up and overseen by a *very* patriarchal authority, the Catholic Church, so I suspect their structure would look pretty different if they'd developed in a less patriarchal environment.)

In any case, I think individual women are likely to be just as bad as individual men if you give them power.

However, I think as far as society at large, a female-run society would have very different problems (complacency, lack of achievement), not the same ones as male-run societies, but with the genders switched.
Adam S.
Gender biases are definitely at the heart of the Aes Ssdai attitude toward men, but I see the problem as somewhat bigger than that. Lyrelle's attitude here is reverse sexism, no doubt about it, but it stems not only from 3,000 years of mistrusting male channelers and to a lesser extent men in general, but also 3,000 years of White Tower political dominance, which too often translates into arrogance and a blindness to the world around them. Most modern "so-called Aes Sedai" do not truly act as servants of all, and certainly don't act like it. I repeatedly find myself agreeing with the Foresaken and Taim, when they call them "so-called", for that very reason. Their gender attitudes are reprehensible, no doubt about it, but that is a part of the larger problem with their whole worldview, which could be argued to be not THAT different from that of the Seanchan, i.e. assuming they have the right to dominate those around them because they have power. And it doesn't help that for thousands of years the women of the white tower have occasionally used a form of compulsion on their warders, further reinforcing their belief in their own right to power and their dominance over non-channelers, and men in particular.
Nadine L.
3. travyl
It really hurt (me), how the Ashaman distanced themselves from our hero Rand. I see why they feel abandoned and yes the Dragon Reborn is supposed to not survive the Last Battle, but still, that they swear alliegance to Logaine, to have a leader who is not Rand, for me felt not right, even if it's completely logical as far as the story goes.

But that probably is just me. I'm also a not happy about Gawyn's demise (and yes subwoofer, he is still alive :) )
4. a guy
I don't think we need a new data set for if roles were reversed. We have a ton of data regarding classism, racism, genderism, ageism which women participate in as well as any man.

Not to be hyperbolic, but I think the way this chapter reads has less parallels to sexism and more to racism. I imagine its what some people must have experienced at the civil war, seeing a set of free people in what you used to consider as slaves, if you thought of them at all.

I could be wrong, but I think sexism generally looks a bit different.
Kalvin Kingsley
5. KalvinKingsley
The viewpoint from Siuan that you quoted bothered me when I first read it. If I recall correctly, Siuan actually mentions (in tGH, when giving Nynaeve and Egwene lessons on the ship back to the White Tower) that people flew in the Age of Legends, but they no longer know how. What they do know is that it isn't by using Air to lift themselves.

Yes that was 3-ish years prior to this viewpoint, but I don't see Siuan just up-and-forgetting that people DID fly using the One Power in the AoL.

6. Hammerlock
On the one hand, yeah, Ominous Guy of Reflexive Violent Reaction.

On the other, the only other non-confirmed-Forsaken male channeler in the world with experience. Rand put him in charge for a reason: he had no other options and had too much to do for it to be himself. Remember that Logain was still Gentled at that time, and even then what's one False Dragon over another?

So yeah, it was a cluster from the beginning, but it really couldn't have unfolded any other way. Even if Logain was in charge, until the Taint was cleared you'd still have a lot of people turning to the shadow to get the "Get out of Madness/Rotting disease Free" card; it would just be more of the White Tower/Black Ajah model than the "open secret" Sanctioned Evil™.
Ron Garrison
7. Man-0-Manetheran
Let's hear it for Yukiri's Powerchute!

I was bummed when the command tent got blasted and was so surprised by the clever way they were saved.
Ron Garrison
8. Man-0-Manetheran
"They are not people to her, not really; they are problems to solve, nuisances to control and use to her own ends."

One might add "merely weapons to use."
David Goodhart
9. Davyd
At this point, I remember being just as pissed at Bryne as we was at himself.

I was so relieved that he (but mostly, Siuan) had been spared death in the command tent so that he could be redeemed, and live.

Boy, was I wrong. Redeemed, yes. Living... not so much.

I had to pull over on the side of the road (audiobooks) on my way to work when *that* upcoming scene happened. Sigh.
Eric Wyatt
10. SunDriedRainbow

I read that as, while in TGH Siuan talked about flying as if it was something she wished for (IIRC), now that she's actually DONE it, she's a great big ball of NOPE NOPE NOPE and she's pulling a Nynaeve-like "I never liked that in the first place" (at least, TFOH-era Nynaeve).
Valentin M
11. ValMar
Man-o @ 7

Powerchute! Nice one

@ 4

It kind of felt more like racism to me too. No doubt Lyrelle is sexist and it plays a part here, but just a part. Lyrelle, and probably all other AS to varying degrees, feels superior to not only men but all other non-AS and many of her own "sisters" too.
She is actually dehumanising the Asha'man as tools. I have seen men talk about women (behind their backs and to make themselves look better (!) infront of their pals, probably) in a way that seems dehumanising as well but Lyrelle's thing is different. I.e. beynd sexism. Tools, slaves, cannon-fodder. Stuff like that comes to mind.
Richard Hunt
12. WOTman
From what I recall, they (Aes Sedai) didn't fly around by themselves, they used sho-cars or something like that, basically machines that flew.

I could jump on the sexist bandwagon but I have been railing on that for (?) I don't know how long, that is my biggest complaint against the White Tower, they were everything they were against.

I had a strong feeling that Demandred was in Shara and when the chosen were over messing with the Seanchan throne that pretty much clinched it with the fact while there were certain allusions to Shara, the author(s) were careful to stay away so as to not give any clues, which was a clue in itself.

The Black Tower, Hmmm, I was always upset that Rand deliberately left the training to Taim without so much as checking in from time to time, especially when their use was quite obvious, it was like Rand blatantly committing siucide. I guess how the story line played out was very obvious all along. As for making Logain their champion, that was to be expected, Rand did abandon them and many died because of it, I wanted Logain to kill Taim early on, but I can see the problems that would cause for the story line. At any rate, that was poor story telling as far as I'm concerned.
Andrew Berenson
13. AndrewHB
In Siuan's POV, we learn that approximately a third of the Aes Sedai who were at the Kanor front died. I wonder what is the hard number of dead sisters? (We do know for a fact that Romanda is dead.)

I roughly estimate that number to be about 200. IIRC, in TGS it was stated that about 200 Aes Sedai were Black, which was about 20%. This makes about 800 Aes Sedai at the start AMoL. I think that there was about 600 Aes Sedai at the Kandor front. This is a very rough guess: Most of the Yellows are in Mayene; 30 sisters are at the Black Tower (the Salidar delegation); about 50 (those who have not been turned) are bonded to the Asha'man; and sisters who are at Gap and Shayol Ghul (and not previously counted among the other groups).

I hope the Encyclopedia provides a list of the names of the Aes Sedai who died during the Last Battle. When they talk about 1/3 died during the Sharan first strike, half died during the Field of Merrilor Battle, etc., I would like to have names and hard numbers put to those words.

During this series, we were intoroduced to probably close to a 100 Aes Sedai (by introduced, I mean that at least a name or description was put to them -- she need not have spoken). I would like to know whether those characters died or lived.

Thanks for reading my musings,
Rob Munnelly
14. RobMRobM
AndrewB @13 - wouldn't this be a good time to pull in all those thousands of Novices and Accepted hanging out with Berelain at the hospital on her island? Try to make up for the 1/3 lost in five minutes? Anybody? Bueller? Is my mike on????

Leigh - nice try setting a good old fashioned sex-reversal flame war but here in the East we're just too darned exhausted from the heat wave to play. Also, I can't disagree with your point.

Not much else to say other than poor Gareth....
15. Crusader75
Of course, ensuring equality is fraught with its own perils, as equality between real people, while good as a legal basis, is only a platonic ideal. Trying to enforce false equalities is only a different exercise in oppressive power. Lyrelle is grating to me because she is entirely focused on how Asha'man Warders can change Tower politics while the Apocalypse is underway.
j p
16. sps49
Yeah, people are people. Some more so than others.

But there is usually someone trying to get others to see how stupid they are.
William Carter
17. wcarter
Whoever holds the power will enivitably begin to assert it and use it for increasingly more selfish ends.

Do I think that a matriarchal society in general would be as imbalanced as a classical patriarchal one? To that I would simply say that there is insufficient data, but probably not.

But if you look at Randland society as a whole, it really is far more egalatarian than matriarchal or patriarchal. The Aes Sedi aren't just Women In Charge. They hold Phenominal Cosmic Power and run rough shod over literally everyone.

While they are inclined to treat non-Sedi as children or younger siblings at best, men who can channel are not people to them. They are like rabid dogs that have to be put down. 3000 years of having that drilled into your head will inevitably lead you to forget that they are actually people with their own hopes, dreams, families, fears, ect.

Even though it probably is head knowledge, on some level these Aes Sedi probabaly aslo forget that it's not the mens' fault they begin channeling in the first place. especially since most Sedi aren't sparkers and had to want to learn to channel. (I'm guessing 99.99% of men who found themselves in that position post-breaking on the otherhand are).
Heidi Byrd
18. sweetlilflower
For those few commenters who are equating Lyrelle's thoght with racism more so than sexism...well, they're both pretty bad, and both are apt comparisons. She is dehumanizing an entire group of people, which is the basis for both ~isms. Women face this mind set everyday, more so from younger men, that we are nothing more than our parts. If you want a perfect example of the deeply institutionalized ideas of sexism, think of the phrase "stuck in the friend zone". Why is it such a bad thing to be friends with a woman without the propspect of having sex? (sorry for the short rant)

Anywho....it is sad to see Bryne trying to fight the Compulsion, and it still bothers me that he was Compulsed at all. In tEofW we learn from Moiraine that Aes Sedai shield their Warder's dreams, so Graendal never should have been able to get to Bryne without alerting both Siuan and Bryne that something was going on.
jeremiah lane
19. jc12741
@18 Sweetlilflower I thought there was a seen where Perrin saw Gren open a gateway to a tent and step in. I always assumed that was how Bryne was compulsed(not sure if this a real word but I'm going with it)
20. Narvi
Eight books on, I'm STILL not certain why it didn't occur to Rand to ask the Aiel to send their channeling men to him to train. It would have been easy! They were already trying to spit into the Dark One's eye!

Try turning the Black Tower to your own ends with a hundred Aielmen there, Taim. Just try.

Also, Yukiri's probably barking up the wrong tree with her One Power flying attempts. They'd have worked it out in the Age of Legends if it was possible via physics tricks.
Birgit F
21. birgit
Only 20 comments?

Maybe Graendal could compel Bryne because she entered the Dream in the flesh. That made her stronger and could have helped get through wards on dreams.

Flying with Air is possible if you add Fire. The first flying machines were Mongolfières, not planes.
The AoL AS could fly in machines, not using only the OP. It is not explained whether the AoL planes were powered by the OP or science.
22. Nik_the_Heratik
Not sure if it's an example of a Matriarchy, but the way the Aiel wise ones organized themselves was a better system than the Aei Sedai.
Valentin M
23. ValMar
Nik @ 22

The Aiel WO organisation looks like meritocracy. Aiel society as a whole, clan chiefs and the like, also appears to be meritocratic. Like the Two Rivers power is divided between men and women on parallel lines. Therefore, IMO, neither matriarchy nor patriarchy.
Personal skill and ability is important for AS too, but strenght in the OP and very narrow skill set for political skullduggery is even more useful for a rise up the White Tower ranks.
Whether the AS can be given as an example for matriarchy, I am not too sure. The fact that they are uber powerful magic wielders with extra long life span muddies the waters.

Overall, I agree with previous posters that people who find themselves in a position of power over others invariably tend to abuse it. But in a matriarchy it may not be as bad as in a patriarchy, IMO.
24. SimpleFarmer
Thoughts on Taim in charge. I don't think Rand really had any other choice. The enemy I know theory I think plays in to this. While Rand didn't trust Taim, there was really no one else to choose, and if you let Taim run free, who knows what he might have put together, completely out of Rand's control, in a location unkown to Rand etc.

By keeping him "close", he could theoretically check in on him, the men and the progress being made. While it didn't totally work out that way and we ended up with a slew of dreadlords, we also ended up with a fine group of non-dark friends.
Dixon Davis
25. KadesSwordElanor
IMHO, Taim being a darkfriend/new Forsaken was too obvious. I very rarely do the “I would have done it this way” thing, but some little twist would have been nice.
Deana Whitney
26. Braid_Tug
But all things being equal (pun intended), the general trend in human history has been that those who have power over those who don’t have, sadly, rarely or never failed to succumb to the temptation to abuse that power—and to make assumptions about the less privileged group that justify why that abuse is okay.
Same argument could be applied to Rich vs. Poor. Sigh... Taking modern politics out of WoT goodness.

But it’s not goodness, it’s the start of the big numbers of random deaths…
1/3 gone in one attack. I like @13’s breakdown of the numbers.
To be followed shortly by the big number of named deaths.
27. DougL
@3. travyl

Me too, it's not like Rand's been wasting time since starting the Tower, and he didn't leave them alone, he left them with Taim. Rand became aware something was wrong there very late in the novels.

In the meantime everyone there would have noticed, for example, that the source was cleansed, and they probably surmised that the Dragon was the cause of that. I mean, it just reeked like the neglected child syndrome where Dad has two or three jobs to pay the bills and keep food on the table, but the kiddies whine about Dad missing school plays. I can forgive that in children, but not in this lot of supposed adults.
Andrew Berenson
28. AndrewHB
RobMRobM @14. I am currently listening to AMoL on CD. Prior to this re-read (or re-listen, as the case may be), I beleived that the cons outweighed the pros of using the novices and accepted on the battlefield. I thought it better that they remain in Mayene lending power to the Aes Sedai who were healing.

I have now changed my opinion. I still beleive that the initial decision to keep the novices and accepted of the battlefield was correct. I would not have used them in Kandor (or any of the other initial theaters). I also would not have used them at the start of the Battle of the Field of Merrilor. However, once the Seanchan left and the Aes Sedai portion of the battlefield became perilous, I would have ordered (if I were Egwene) the accepted and novices to be brought to the battle lines. If Egwene did not feel that the novices and accepted could stand on their own, then they should have been used in circles with Aes Sedai.

Many of the novices and accepted may have died. However, the situation at that point required nothing to be held back. As it was said by (at least one character, although I cannot remember who), manking was down to its last few hours.

Thanks for reading my musings,
Glen V
29. Ways
AndrewB @13
"During this series, we were introduced to probably close to 100 Aes Sedai...(edited)"
I have over 200 AS names in my notes. Weeded out novices and accepted, but Black Ajah and those who were turned are included. And yeah, I'd like to see a definitive list too.
Marty Beck
30. martytargaryen
Nice work with the numbers @13. I would say that the # of AS we are introduced throughout the series is closer to 250 than 100, though.

I have a spreadsheet somewhere of AS compiled as I went during one of my rereads. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Encyclopaedia-wot.org has 29 (indeterminate Ajah) + 26 Blue + 29 White + 41 Brown + 33 Gray + 39 Red + 42 Green + 39 Yellow; I believe those are overlapping w/ Black Ajah sisters.

That's 278 right there. Amazing how the names add up.

This all courtesy of the Geek-in-me.

(ETA: crossed paths w/ Ways @29 :) )
Thomas Keith
31. insectoid
Late to the party again... RL of course.
Great post as usual, Leigh.

I was glad that Siuan + co. got away, and the method of escape was pretty amusing (there should be a Skydiving Ajah!). That was all I wrote in my notes, so I'll just add a bit:

It was slightly more apparent on first read that something was up with Bryne and Bashere at this point, as they both made similar tactical errors. The specifics, of course, continued to elude me.

I totally missed how much of a b%&#$ Lyrelle is here; again, it probably was because of me zooming through the chapter to find out What's Up with the Sharans. Pevara continues to be my favorite Red sister, and Androl is cool as usual.
Because all I could think of was Aes Sedai bouncing from one invisible trampoline to another, and going boingy boingy boingy boingy, and this is probably proof I watched way too many cartoons as a kid. Heh.

32. alreadymadwithashaman
travyl @3
In some ways, that's just how it had to go down. Rand did not really have much of a plan for the Asha'man when he created them. Not beyond being a sword for the Light. Once the Taint had been cleansed, and the existence of the Asha'man beyond the Last Battle became increasingly likely, it was also for the best that they not become beholden to him, a leader they were bound to outlive. It turned out for the best that the Asha'man had to seize their own destiny with their own hands.

Narvi @20
It's precisely because it's 8 books on that you find it difficult to see why Rand didn't gather the channeling Aielmen to him. To us it's been 8 books and some 20 years. To them it's been barely 2. 2 of continuous campaigning. You just don't overturn centuries of tradition. Rand already did once and it broke the Aiel. It literally decimated their fighting force. So what if a handful suddenly disappeared because they wanted to follow tradition? It's just a drop in a sea of desertions among the Aiel. Besides, I suspect he did not want to press on the already tenuous relationship between him and the Wise Ones, to whom those sparkers will first turn to. In a way I guess he was waiting for the Wise Ones to bring them to him.
Oh, I'm pretty sure Aiel will eventually come around to setting up a new warrior society of channelers, but that's in the future. For now, he was either too busy or waiting for somebody to come to him.
Birgit F
33. birgit
Perrin and Graendal went to the space between dreams in the flesh. What would happen if they entered someone's dream and that person woke up?
Tabby Alleman
35. Tabbyfl55
I can buy that Graendel was able to thwart the dream-ward on Brynne, but I have a harder time accepting that Siuan never suspected that her own warder was being compelled. The way they can almost read their thoughts, she never once picked up on him thinking "I should do this, but the voices in my head are telling me to do that"? Not even a hint of "something is up that goes beyond just mental fatigue"?

And then the next thing that's bugging me is, once someone thought of using horizontal gateways to look down on the battle, how did they not immediately think of using them to drop nasty things on the enemy? And if they're just for looking, why make them big enough that you could fall through it if you're not careful? It only needs to be big enough for a pair of eyes, right?
Cameron Tucker
36. Loialson
35. Tabbyfl55
Androl did. See Cairhien, with Lava-gate. He dropped other nasties through them as well, and even used one to drop baddies to their deaths.
Re: tiny gateways, I believe it's because you wouldn't be able to see enough of the panorama to get a full scope of the battle tactics for Mat and Bryne's purposes. Your idea is a good one for quick guerilla scouting before making attacks, assuming you've inverted the weave and made it invisible from the outside. But for big Generals planning, they need to see more in a blink; time is everything in war for them. YMMV :)
Ron Garrison
37. Man-0-Manetheran
Tabbyfl55 @ 35:
"It only needs to be big enough for a pair of eyes, right?"
Yes, but only one could see at a time. Worse, you would spend most of your time headdesking!
Karen Fox
38. thepupxpert
Wow I finally have a break at the office and only 37 comments and it's Thursday already. Everyone must be busy. I'm really busy. I've kept up with the re-read over the last few months but not all the comments. Hopefully I'll get a chance to particpate more in another few months. Regarding the reread, I didn't have the visceral reaction Leah had about Lyrelle I just thought... typical. I'm still loving on Pevara and Androl, and the whole Suian and Bryne scene is just sad.
Alice Arneson
39. Wetlandernw

Nothing to say tonight. Just had to let you know I'm back. :)

(ETA: Really, I just wanted to get this on my "Conversations" list so its easier to find when I have time.)
Nadine L.
40. travyl
@32: Re the Rand - Ashaman relation
To expand on what I said previously (@3):
Rand founded a place where men who can channel would be safe and declared them "off-limits" for hunting. The "safe" part didn't turn out so well (because Rand ordered them to speed-learn, accepting deaths to achieve it and of course because Taim is a Darkfriend). But still he created them, and then he cleansed saidin. He deserves some more thanks than he gets here, even if (due to his expected death) he will never be their leader. Why even swear to another leader (Logain) again, instead of upholding the institution?

Re Aiel-Male Channelers:
I suspect there weren't so much. Unlike the Aes Sedai in "Wetland", the Aiel found all the potentially channeling girls (IIRC), so we can surmise, that they were equally effective finding the male one's, which means the Aiel population was somewhat more "culled" of male channelers once Rand started his male-channeler protection program. (Again IIRC) it was never mentioned in book that male Aiel channelers continued their walk into the blight once they realized what they were.
41. Freelancer
Initially, I chose to not engage in this post, because I knew what I would do. But then I woke up this morning and realized that avoidance serves nothing. What follows is not an indulgence on my part, though I am sure that will not be believed by some. I can only hope that this answers the challenge which triggered it, and perhaps serves some useful end.

When I first began reading The Wheel of Time series, when I got about 10 chapters into The Shadow Rising and it fully clicked that Jordan was exploring every avenue he could decently follow of gender-reversal, I struggled very mightily with myself over whether to continue. The story and the writing were so strong, so engaging, but the pain recalled was also almost overwhelming. I set the book aside, and spent nearly three weeks in prayer over the question. At the end, the clear answer was that this would become a path of healing, that the wounds must be treated, and that strength would be gained in a way which would help others.

I had very nearly forgotten that episode until reading these words of Leigh's, which I will now address:
There is, of course, another point being made here, which I think I have addressed before, but if so I don’t remember what I said about it. But in any case, the other point (or rather, implication) being made here is that if gender roles were reversed, women wouldn’t be any better about it than men are.

My kneejerk reaction is to protest that that can’t possibly be true, but I am smart enough to realize that that is a kneejerk reaction. I would like to believe that isn’t true, but honestly in the real world there just isn’t enough data on such a thing to draw a conclusion—at least, not that I am aware of. If anyone does know of such data I’d love to hear about it.
You won't love hearing about it, unless you are truly sick. No data, in the form of a research study or wide-ranging poll, just the experience of one 19-year-old person, the only male in a workplace of more than 30 employees. A job desperately sought and hard-won. A head too hard, and a heart too stubborn, to simply walk away. Twenty months of cruelty, abuse, emotional and mental "torture", for no other reason than my gender, and that they could.

Early on, the combined effects of several factors prevented me understanding the reality of the treatment being laid upon me. Pre-suppositions flowing from "societal norms" resulted in refusal to believe that women were really capable of such callous mistreatment, that it must somehow be my fault. An upbringing which had me falsely believing that I could always control my situation, led to second-guessing my own perceptions of the treatment as overreaction.

None of them ever touched me. All were older, most were married, three were sisters, and even the least unkind of them didn't trust each other. The only thing that seemed to gel them as a group was having someone around on whom they could focus their baser selves. When no outsiders were around to hear, my name was never used. I was referred to by a wide variety of phallic references, from f***-stick to pickle. When engaged in a task from which I could not walk away from my station, several would park well within earshot and discuss the most venal "female" issues. The nature and composition of the workforce dictated that lunch be taken in shifts, and each group remain together, so that there was no freedom until the work day ended. These are the few among myriad actions that I can even bring myself to write down.

What I know now is that yes, I could have and should have never let it continue beyond my first recognition of unacceptable behavior. Again, several things conspired to set me up for enduring the situation. Having finished high school prior to my 17th birthday, my first graduate degree prior to my 20th, I had already been exposed to unkindness from those who were my peers. Mostly owing to arrogant condescension on my part and jealousy on theirs, I was alienated by most fellow students. But not all, there were quite a few who were kind to the "kid". Of the latter situation, the same could not be said. There were two who could be defined as the least unpleasant in their behavior towards me, but none who truly showed any empathy, or even shame.

So, Leigh, I can tell you with absolute certainty that, given the authority and the situation, people without a good reason to behave better, all behave badly. Women are no better than men in this regard, though I had never imagined that such could be so. I have always been among the first to admit that, as a gender at large, men are pigs. But I am also living proof that, permitted the opportunity, many women will jump into the same mud.

The power and authority granted to the women of the White Tower by their supernatural gift, and the resultant arrogance, abuse of that authority, and attitudes towards men, are very reasonably represented. Power corrupts, it is as simple as that. When a person believes that they are not accountable to some other authority, they will abuse what they have.
Deana Whitney
43. Braid_Tug
@ Free; ouch.
Glad you were able to move on from that job, but sorry you had to experience that.

I’ve often been the only girl in the room and was treated as “one of the guys”, so would deal with what others could consider sexual harassment. But there was no malicious intentions. Never open hostility in a work environment, don’t image I would last long.
44. s'rEDIT
Free: I'm sure I will not be the only one to appreciate your candor. Thank you for being willing to "go there."
45. Stormblessed
The way Myrelle behaved here really is not much different from the way more or less every AS has behaved since we first met Moiraine.

Egwene especially as she came to embody the AS came to embody this stupidity even when dealing with Rand.

I think its interesting that this structure basically mirrors the old TR social order which for all its imperfection saw men and women in different spheres working together. Even under Perrin there is a understanding that Perrin and Faile handle different things.

Also finally finished the series so happy to finally be able to follow this.
Alice Arneson
46. Wetlandernw
Freelancer: Ouch! indeed. Even as a woman in a mostly-male field (engineering back in the late 70's through the 90's), I was never subjected to treatment like that. The baser side of human nature, indeed! Thank you for your candor, and for the evidence that women can be just as vile abusers of power as men, with as little justification.

ETA: It actually makes Lyrelle's behavior look pretty mild; she was just condescending and matter-of-factly arrogant, not deliberately and overtly offensive. Hers was simply an ingrained, societally-conditioned superiority complex: a failure to think outside the box and see these men as people, much like the Seanchan see damane. Not that societally-approved evils are therefore acceptable, of course; just that there's a certain allowance to be made for people merely accepting the standards of the culture without thinking all that hard about every implication. (There's a whole essay there, just waiting to be written...)
Tricia Irish
47. Tektonica
Free: I'm so sorry you ran into that buzzsaw. Ug. Thanks for sharing that bit of insight.

I can add that in the 80's, in a high powered advertising office in NYC, which was 98% female, I witnessed plenty of backbiting, cattiness, subterfuge, plotting, undermining, etc. I was truly shocked that in what I perceived to be post feminist NYC, women would be so venal, rather than supportive of their "sisters". I was hoping for mentoring, but I received exclusion and sabotage. I might attribute this behavior to the culture of competition in the office, but I think it had reached an extreme. I found my way to a better office culture as quickly as possible. It reminded me very much of the sorority I briefly belonged to in college. Ug.

Yes, Leigh, I'd like to think women could do better....and certainly many do! But it's not a certainty.

Maybe my experience in that office is why I find the Aes Sedai portions of the WoT the most maddening and irritating! I'd never put that together before.
William Carter
48. wcarter
Office cultures are often toxic.
I've been fortunate enough to not have to deal with too much of that. The news rooms and rafting outposts I've worked at have all been pretty friendly overall, though there have been a few personality clashes I've witnessed as well.
49. Freelancer
Wetlandernw @46

This is, again, part of what makes the Wheel of Time such a powerful work. Not being a novelist, I can only marvel at the depth of the characterizations which Jordan employed, and the effort it must have required to breathe something so close to real life into them. It is far easier to write characters which are either utterly evil or entirely unflawed, and many fantasy novels of the past took that simpler route. But Jordan went a step further than even those who remembered to make their characters seem "real". He gave them each a definable CHARACTER, embedded with biases, conditioned responses, presumptions based on position or ethnicity or environment or upbringing, and molded together each into a cohesive whole. He did so with second- and third- and fourth-tier characters who barely get noticed for the most part.

Many of the behaviors, therefore, of the Aes Sedai are understandable as ingrained through training, culture, and presumptions, independent of the quality of character of each, for that it was groups do; they infuse a shift into the mindset of their participants, the weaker subsumed into the perceptions of the stronger. I have always been more forgiving of that, as a reader, because it pales in comparison to worse behaviors. I'll stop there.
50. Freelancer
Stormblessed @45

I wish to follow up on your thoughts. I read no judgement in what you have said, and will not portray one which is not there, but some may think that "men and women in different spheres working together" is a bad thing. I don't think that it is at all. To oversimplify, it is what it is.

There is no question that, at the most basic levels, men and women perceive and respond to things differently, and for a knowable variety of reasons. The strongest is chemical. Different hormones promote different impulses, and there is no getting around that. Environment, education, social and other influences have their part. There are, generally, different functions which are more suited to different genders. To say so it PC sacrilege, but inconvenient truth remains truth.

None of that, however, finally dictates the actions of the individual. Each person has their own capacity for reason, deduction, comprehension, and ultimately, conscience. Whoever has the clearest vision of the necessary response to circumstances is the best person to act, no matter who they are. Aes Sedai needed to learn that lesson as much as anyone else, and a few of them actually did. Other "leaders" never gained any such insight. Tam al'Thor expresses the concept best, in TSR after Perrin gets embarassed over taking charge and giving orders to the older men. It is also Tam who expresses the opposite end of the spectrum correctly, by calling out Cadsuane as a bully for her methods.
Nadine L.
51. travyl
As far as working - climate goes, in larger groups - I always preferred a mixed (male/female) group - as soon as there are more than 90% ? females it gets harder to work, even without any specific harassment - that is what I experienced in any way.
Howard Covey
52. Howdy
The Black Tower - Taim/ Logain et al - would have made an awesome side book - as it is - it made and awesome side plot - Rand put things in place - set the wheel spinning (which is Creationism at it's essence) - allowed it to spin itself hoping it would spin in his favor... I go back to the 1st book and my assertation that when he pulled that pool of "pure" Saidin into himself - he not only got Lews Therrin - though he fought it like crazy - but also that silvery protection against madness that Nyn found. That was one of it's purposes - it's primary purpose. The Black Tower - like all the balls he started juggling - had to fall into place for itself - because he wasn't going to be there to finish it.

And I'm sorry - but sexism/ gender views pretty much boil down to Mother/ Father - and how our views of those roles have shaped our perceptions. Historicaly the father (patriarch) was the protector/ ruler - mother (matriarch) the nurterer/ grower. The very institution of "marriage" was a passage of responsibity from father to husband. No amount of righteous anger is going to change that. I get that as we have become a more "thoughtful" and less violent society those roles are changing. I also get that the quicker those roles change the more confused our children get as to what those are.

As far as this story goes - I think Jordan/ Sanderson did an amazing job of walking that thin line of percieved gender roles vs idea gender roles - portraying the strengths and weaknesses of both the historical and idea.
William McDaniel
53. willmcd
Well, my own re-read has stalled for a month or so due to the business of life, effectively ending any hope of me catching up. Yet I will continue to post on dead threads.

I really liked the comments by MDNY @2 on the blindness brought on by Aes Sedai political dominance. And as I think back on what lies at the root of that dominance, I can't help but recall the conversation between Bryne and Gawyn back in TGS Ch24, in which Bryne said:
"But you think that just because you're skilled with the sword, your words hold more weight? I should listen because you'll kill me if I don't? I thought I taught you far better than that."
And that is effectively what lies at the heart of the White Tower's enormous political power, at least in the current age; people do what the Tower says not out of loyalty, but because they are scared of the consequences. You will listen to me because I have special abilities that will allow me to dominate you. Yes, the Three Oaths purport to mitigate this principle, but as we've talked about many times they are worked around without too much difficulty.

What makes channelers better suited to advise/govern/guide than anyone else? Aes Sedai have come to equate the ability to use the One Power with wisdom, and as we've seen clearly throughout the series, the two are markedly different.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment