Greetings, my peoples! Welcome to the first official post of the Wheel of Time Reread Redux! Today’s Redux post will cover “Ravens,” the prologue of From the Two Rivers: Part One of the Eye of the World.
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an ebook series, except for the portion covering A Memory of Light, which should become available soon.
All Reread Redux posts will contain massive spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Before we begin, a scheduling note: I’m sorry to have to do this to y’all basically immediately, but Labor Day vacation trip plans made months in advance cannot be denied, and thus there will be no Redux post next Tuesday. The blog will resume Tuesday September 9th. Yeah, I know the timing sucks, but it is what it is. We’ll get on an even keel here real quick, I hope.
Egwene al’Vere goes down to the Winespring Water to fill her bucket. She is nine years old, and determined to be the best water-carrier ever for sheep-shearing day. Everyone in the village has turned out to help the farmers with the shearing, and Egwene hopes if she is good enough, they will let her help with the food next year instead of being a water carrier. She notices a large raven watching the men washing sheep in the river, and remembers uneasily the stories about how ravens were the eyes of the Dark One, but reassures herself there is nothing in the Two Rivers that could possibly interest the Dark One.
She watches Kenley Ahan get caught and scolded for trying to filch a honeycake, and then sees Perrin Aybara, a friend of Rand, and darts over to see what he is doing. He is with his family, meeting with Master Luhhan, the blacksmith, who she hears tell Perrin’s parents that he is “a good lad” and will do fine. Egwene watches him play with his sister Deselle and thinks that he is always so serious for a young boy. She is startled to note that there are maybe nine or ten ravens in the trees nearby, watching. Adora Aybara sneaks up on her and demands to know why Egwene is watching Perrin when “everyone says you’ll marry Rand al’Thor.” Flustered, Egwene moves off, and narrowly avoids her sister Loise seeing her; Egwene is annoyed that all of her sisters think she is still a baby.
She sees the Wisdom, Doral Barren, watching her apprentice Nynaeve al’Meara bandage Bili Congar’s leg. Doral checks the wound after Nynaeve is done and seems oddly disappointed by it. Egwene sees that there are dozens of ravens around by now, and yet none are trying to steal food from the tables. Nynaeve somehow knows Egwene is there without looking, and shoos her off; Egwene pretends that Nynaeve’s look doesn’t make her hurry. Wil al’Seen tells her where she can find Mat Cauthon and Perrin “taking a rest” behind the far pen. She sneaks up to find Mat and Perrin loitering with Dav Ayellin, Urn Thane, Ban Crawe, Elam Dowtry, and Rand al’Thor. She watches Rand closely.
She expected she would marry one day—most women in the Two Rivers did—but she was not like those scatterbrains she heard going on about how they could hardly wait. Most women waited at least a few years after their hair was braided, and she… She wanted to see those lands that Jain Farstrider had written about. How would a husband feel about that? About his wife going off to see strange lands. Nobody ever left the Two Rivers, as far as she knew.
I will, she vowed silently.
She reflects that Rand has always been nice to her, but she really doesn’t know much about him. She looks at his eyes, and thinks no one else in the Two Rivers has blue eyes. She hears Rand saying he’d like to be a king, and Mat hoots that he’ll be “King of the Sheep”. Rand retorts that that’s better than doing nothing, and asks how Mat will live if he doesn’t plan to work.
“I’ll rescue an Aes Sedai, and she’ll reward me,” Mat shot back.
The boys discuss how it would be possible to have an adventure in the Two Rivers, but then Dannil Lewin shows up to summon them to see the Mayor, Egwene’s father. Apprehensive that they are in trouble, they go, Egwene following. They find Bran al’Vere with Rand’s father Tam and Cenn Buie, the thatcher. Bran tells them he thinks it’s time to tell them the story he promised them. Mat demands a story with Trollocs and a false Dragon, and Bran laughs and says he should let Tam tell it then, to Egwene’s puzzlement. Tam says he’ll tell them a story about the real Dragon instead. Cenn Buie immediately objects, saying that’s “nothing fit for decent ears to hear”, but the others tell him he is overreacting, and he subsides reluctantly.
Tam tells the boys about the Age of Legends, more than three thousand years before, where there were great cities with machines that flew through the air, and no war or poverty or sickness anywhere, until the Dark One touched the world. The boys (and Egwene) jump in shock. Tam tells them that the world relearned war quickly after that, and the War of the Shadow eventually covered the entire world, with some of the Aes Sedai going over to the Shadow and becoming Forsaken.
“Whole cities were destroyed, razed to the ground. The countryside outside the cities fared as badly. Wherever a battle was fought, it left only devastation and ruin behind. The war went on for years and years, all over the world. And slowly the Shadow began to win. The Light was pushed back and back, until it appeared certain the Shadow would conquer everything. Hope faded away like mist in the sun. But the Light had a leader who would never give up, a man called Lews Therin Telamon. The Dragon.”
One of the boys gasped in surprise. Egwene was too busy goggling to see who. She forgot even to pretend that she was offering water. The Dragon was the man who had destroyed everything! She did not know much about the Breaking of the World—well, almost nothing, in truth—but everybody knew that much. Surely he had fought for the Shadow!
Tam tells them how Lews Therin gathered an army of ten thousand men and the Hundred Companions, and led an assault on the valley of Thakan’dar and Shayol Ghul itself. He says that every one of that army died, and most of the Companions, but that they got through to Shayol Ghul and sealed the Dark One up in his prison along with the Forsaken, and so saved the world. Confused, Egwene wonders how the Dragon saved the world if he also destroyed it. Perrin asks what exactly a dragon is, but Tam answers that he doesn’t know, and that maybe even the Aes Sedai don’t know. Then Bran declares they’ve had their story, and shoos them off back to work. Egwene considers following Rand, but decides she is not going to be that “goosebrained.”
Abruptly she became aware of ravens, many more than there had been before, flapping out of the trees, flying away west, toward the Mountains of Mist. She shifted her shoulders. She felt as if someone were staring at her back.
She did not want to turn around, but she did, raising her eyes to the trees behind the men shearing. Midway up a tall pine, a solitary raven stood on a branch. Staring at her. Right at her! She felt cold right down to her middle. The only thing she wanted to do was run. Instead, she made herself stare back, trying to copy Nynaeve’s level look.
After a moment the raven gave a harsh cry and threw itself off the branch, black wings carrying it west after the others.
Egwene decides she is being silly, and gets on with her job. She has to carry water again the next year, but the year after she is allowed to help with the food a year early, which satisfies her greatly. She still thinks about traveling to distant lands, but stops wanting to hear stories from the grown-ups, and so do the boys.
They all grew older, thinking their world would never change, and many of those stories faded to fond memories while others were forgotten, or half so. And if they learned that some of those stories really had been more than stories, well… The War of the Shadow? The Breaking of the World? Lews Therin Telamon? How could it matter now? And what had really happened back then, anyway?
Some of you may be confused by this business about a prologue that isn’t “Dragonmount,” so the brief explanation is: in 2002, The Eye of the World was republished in a “YA-friendly” edition, which divided it into two books, From the Two Rivers and To The Blight. The YA books had larger print, some illustrations, and also a new Prologue for Part One, focusing on (as you see) Egwene as a child, about seven years before the start of the main story. Otherwise the text was identical to the original novel.
It’s probably ironic that the very first post of the Reread of the Reread is about material that I haven’t actually reread before, but it occurred to me that I never did cover the YA Prologue as part of the original Reread, and that if I were going to do so, this is the only logical point at which I could do it. Ergo, here we are.
It’s kind of funny, because one thing I was most definitely looking forward to about the Redux Reread is that I wouldn’t have to do full formal summaries anymore, aaaand here I am, doing one. Hahaha sigh.
In any case, rereading this Prologue now, post-AMOL, provides a fairly dramatic example of how very different rereading the early books is probably going to be now that I know the ending, because the main reaction I had to reading this was a sense of great sorrow.
Because now, of course, I know that while Egwene is absolutely going to achieve her ambition of seeing the world before she gets married, she also isn’t going to live past eighteen—or more than a few days past her own wedding day, for that matter. Because I know that as of this prologue, she already has less than a decade left to live.
Shit, I’m kind of tearing up a little about that all over again, right now. I’m such a sap.
But you know, the older you get, I think the more tragic it seems when you think about people dying that young, even if they are only fictional characters. Because I think about how little I had done, and how laughably little I understood about myself and the world when I was eighteen, and how much more—how much exponentially more—I got to do and learn in the *mumblety* years since then, and for anyone to be denied the chance to have that is just, well, tragic.
Granted, I am well aware that Egwene got to pack a hell of a lot more living and learning and doing into her eighteen years than I will ever get (or so I devoutly hope, actually, because “going through an apocalypse” is definitely not on my list of life ambitions), but I think that only makes the fact that she died even more upsetting. Because if she had achieved that much by eighteen, what could she have done if she’d lived? Especially considering her actual expected life span would have been in the neighborhood of six hundred years, assuming she un-Oath-Rodded herself somewhere down the line?
(Wow, that sounds dirty. Heh.)
So yeah, it’s sad. It’s great that her death achieved so much and had so much meaning, because arguably she saved the world just as much as Rand did, but I still would have preferred it if she’d lived. It’s probably a fair bet that most of my interactions with Egwene as a character throughout this Redux Reread are going to be flavored with that same sense of sorrow, so be prepared.
Aside from that, though, the prologue was actually fairly fluffy, as these things go. It provided some nice setting and atmosphere to the Two Rivers, and introduced the reader in a lightly oblique way to Our Heroes, and provided some good foreshadowing for the events to come, all without being strictly necessary to the story to provide any of that.
I’m not sure, of course, how much of my semi-dismissal of this prologue as “fluffy” is due to the fact that I never originally read the story with it tacked on to the front. It’s probable that those who read the story this way from the start would not feel, like I do, that it seems a little shoehorned in there, because how you initially are introduced to a thing nearly always leaves a much stronger impression than any alterations or adaptations of it you encounter later on.
(This is why, when books are made into movies, I generally make a point of either making sure I read the book version first, or of watching the movie(s) and then never reading the book version at all. I’m still undecided about which one I’m going to do about The Maze Runner, for instance, but at this point I’m probably never going to read the rest of the Hunger Games trilogy, because I’m enjoying the movies just as they are and don’t feel the need to screw with that.)
That said, I will admit that “Ravens” did provide a pretty nice segue into the actual Prologue of TEOTW, by setting up the questions about Lews Therin and how he could possibly be both the savior and the destroyer of the world. (Not to mention how the line about how “stories faded to fond memories while others were forgotten” made me smile. Parallel structure, yay!) And I did also like how well it immediately set up Egwene’s character as an Ooh Ooh Girl (she will be the BEST water-carrier, dammit!).
It’s interesting that this is the only place we get names for Egwene’s sisters. Evidently they were really not much a part of her life as she got older, because they never got more than a passing mention in the later narrative, but I guess that makes a certain amount of sense considering how much older than her they are and how much Egwene seems to dislike them. Still, it’s a little odd that they never make an appearance (at least as far as I recall) in Perrin’s perambulations in Emond’s Field later on in TSR.
(That’s another sad-making moment in the prologue, actually: when Perrin plays with his sister and you know he’s never going to get to see her grow up. *sniffle*)
Also, it’s crazy, but I don’t think I really realized (or remembered, or whatever) until rereading this that Nynaeve is, in fact, an orphan. (I left it out of the summary, but Egwene specifically thinks about this when watching her with the old Wisdom.) That sort of genuinely shocked me, y’all. And at the risk of buying into some potentially offensive generalizations about abandonment issues, I think it makes her character make even more sense to me now than it did before. Huh.
I do have to admit, though, that Rand’s declaration here that he wants to be a king struck me as a little heavy-handed. I much prefer the far more subtle foreshadowing about Rand’s eventual kinging provided later on in TEOTW, when Rand discusses the vagaries of fate with Loial in Caemlyn. Oh well.
Mat’s line about rescuing an Aes Sedai, on the other hand, was just hilarious, because how many times did he end up doing exactly that, and getting the exact opposite of “no work” as a reward? Heh.
One other thing I particularly noted was Egwene’s awareness of, and eventual face-off with, the ravens, which was a very subtle foreshadowing to Moiraine’s later assertion in TEOTW that Light-side channelers could both sense the Dark One’s minions, and that they (the channelers) were anathema to them (the minions) to some extent. This was a detail that I think kind of got lost in the later books, but it was a big deal in the first book, so it was cool that it got incorporated here.
And amusing, that nine-year-old Egwene thought it was all due to her Withering Death Glare™. Oh, you Ooh Ooh Girl, you. *pats fondly*
And that’s about what I got for this. We’re back, kids! Ain’t it cool? Have a lovely Labor Day weekend if that’s your thang, geographically, and I will see y’all with more Redux Reread in two weeks! Cheers!