Hi there! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
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 spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 14: The Stag and Lion
Yep, I did comment here about Lan’s pissiness. Throwing a bucket, man. I’m half-surprised he didn’t stomp his foot while he was at it.
Although, I will grant that he has more than sufficient cause for pissiness at the moment, what with Mat being officially too stupid to live re: shutting his mouth. I commented on the original post that right about here was where I started disliking Mat, but I think, in retrospect, my dislike was less about his character flaws (though he certainly has those) and more about being repelled by the character you sense is the most likely to screw everything up for Our Heroes.
Which he… pretty much is, throughout TEOTW and through a lot of TGH too. Though he is certainly not the only character to screw up in the early bits of the story (Hi, Rand), the Shadar Logoth debacle alone proves me right about Mat. And even when he doesn’t screw up, you were obliged to worry that he might.
So Mat was, objectively, a very effective source of narrative tension in the early books, before the sea change in his character in TDR transformed him from an obstacle to A True Hero™. Still an obnoxious one, granted, at least to most of his friends, but definitely no longer the source of vague dread he had been before.
So, yay for narrative tension, I guess, but in the meantime that still doesn’t make me want to slap him upside the head any less.
“Is it a dream?” the man said. “Does it matter?”
I think this kind of thing gets a specific name in the last three books (“dreamshard”, maybe? Or is that from something else? Brain go foom), and a technical explanation as well—like, this isn’t exactly Tel’aran’rhiod, but a cordoned-off bubble of it created by someone for a specific purpose. Which is nice, I guess, but I have to say I sort of preferred the more handwavey metaphysical nebulousness of it all that the early books indulged in. Possibly because Jordan had not yet at this point worked out all the nitty-gritty details of how exactly Tel’aran’rhiod worked, but either way it played a little better for me here. Because as Flameface points out, it doesn’t actually matter whether it’s a dream or something else. Or, well, it matters, but not in the sense that we need a dictionary definition of it.
I don’t think I noticed before how much of an infodump this dream sequence is, but it is a veritable goldmine of backstory, even despite how much of what Ba’alzamon says here turns out to be bullshit.
Although there is a grain of truth even in the blatant lies. Like:
“Are you expecting glory?” Ba’alzamon said. “Power? Did they tell you the Eye of the World would serve you? What glory or power is there for a puppet? The strings that move you have been centuries weaving. Your father was chosen by the White Tower, like a stallion roped and led to his business. Your mother was no more than a brood mare to their plans. And those plans lead to your death.”
Okay, so on the face of it, it seems ridiculous to suppose that the Tower “bred” Rand, or whatever Ba’alzamon (henceforth referred to as “Ishy”, because damn I hate typing that name) is trying to imply here, because they are clearly not nearly organized or knowledgeable enough to pull that off… but Gitara Moroso did send Rand’s mom to the Waste, presumably for the sole purpose of having her meet Janduin and eventually give birth to Rand. Of course, seeing as she sent Tigraine off as a result of a Foretelling, Gitara was acting there much more as an agent of the Pattern than of the Tower—in fact if I recall correctly none of the other Aes Sedai at the time even knew what she was doing or why—but that’s sort of a fine hair to split, I suppose.
Then there’s the whole thing about the Tower manipulating all the previous false Dragons, which got bandied about and used for political leverage so much over the course of the series that—and this is sad, I know—I can’t remember anymore whether or not we ever found out if it was actually true. I mean, I’m pretty sure the claim that the Red Ajah as a whole was setting up false Dragons was crap, but it’s certainly possible, and likely, that the Black Ajah could have done it on the downlow. I just can’t remember if we ever got confirmation of that.
And you know, I said in the original post that I thought the bit where Ishy claims he goaded Lews Therin into killing his family was a lie, but looking at it again now it’s actually perfectly possible that he did, in the same way he probably really did brainwash Artur Hawkwing into campaigning against the Tower back in the day.
Sooo… maybe it’s not so much bullshit, after all. In that special “maybe true but definitely completely misleading” way.
“The end of time?” Ba’alzamon mocked. “You live like a beetle under a rock, and you think your slime is the universe. The death of time will bring me power such as you could not dream of, worm.”
Though this is kind of a weird quote, in light of later revelations that Ishy/Moridin’s reason for wanting to destroy the universe is the much more petty and emo (and believable) “I just want everything to blow up and put me out of my misery!” than the “I want everything to blow up because Phenomenal Cosmic Power!” one given here. Not to mention, the latter doesn’t even make any sense. How can a person have power if nothing exists anymore? What would you have power over? A few random atoms floating in the void? Whoo, fun. Seems pretty dumb to me.
So maybe this one really is the one actual total lie Ishy told. Possibly to himself.
Chapter 15: Strangers and Friends
I wonder if the Superboys all had the Ishy dream at the same time, or if he had to take turns with each of them? I guess all at the same time, because Ishy doesn’t know who they are, yet? Still not sure how that works. When Egwene invaded people’s dreams I was under the impression that she at least had to know who they were, first.
And wow, she is totally fucking with Rand here, isn’t she? She knows exactly how badly she’s freaking him out, and thinks it’s hilarious. Kind of mean, Min. Amusing, but mean.
“The same kind of things as the rest. A sword that isn’t a sword, a golden crown of laurel leaves, a beggar’s staff, you pouring water on sand, a bloody hand and a white-hot iron, three women standing over a funeral bier with you on it, black rock wet with blood—”
My comment on her viewings in the original post (“Does Rand even have time to go wandering around as a beggar before Tarmon Gai’don?”) is also hilarious to me now, because I do kind of feel like the beggar thing got kind of fudged, timewise. The scene in TGS where Rand wanders around Ebou Dar in rough clothes, with a staff, and contemplates committing genocide is clearly meant to be what Min’s viewing (and, later, Perrin’s vision) is referring to, but that was, what, one measly afternoon of wandering? I dunno, I’d just pictured that lasting longer. I think I’d assumed it was going to be an analogy to Jesus wandering in the desert/wilderness and being tempted. Which, as you know, Biblical Bob, lasted 40 days. But I guess this particular Messianic figure was under more of a time crunch. (The “being tempted” part was pretty spot on, though.)
And, okay, looking at Min and Perrin’s actual wording, there’s actually nothing that says he had to wander as a beggar, just that at some point he would have beggar-like accoutrements. Which, fine, he did. Whatever.
The “bloody hand and white-hot iron” as a viewing for Rand still doesn’t make total sense to me, though. Because as I’ve probably said before, there’s kind of a huge difference between a hand that is “bloody”, and a hand that is actually severed. And yes, Rand’s hand was more “torched off” than “severed”, but that still doesn’t match with an actual iron. So I never really bought that Rand’s loss of a hand in KOD is what this refers to. Or at least I side-eyed it pretty hard.
It seems to me, actually, that instead of Rand, the two images would much more accurately refer to Mat and Perrin, respectively. I.e. Mat’s Band of the Red Hand, and Perrin’s forging of the Hammer of Awesome, or just a general blacksmithing reference. But then, if so, it doesn’t really make sense why this was a viewing for Rand, instead of Mat and Perrin themselves. Maybe it refers to how Rand and Mat and Perrin are all connected?
*shrug* I might be reaching there. Many other fans, I think, assume the vision refers to Rand’s heron branding on his palms, and that the iron might be when Ishy stabs Rand with his staff at the end of TGH, which is described as “burning like a white-hot poker”. Which, okay, I guess, except that again, “bloody hand” is not the same thing as “two branded hands”, and using the word “iron” to refer to something staff-shaped is weird, to say the least.
So I dunno. I’ve never come across anyone else suggesting that this viewing might actually refer to Mat and Perrin rather than Rand himself, though, so maybe I just came up with a new Looney Theory, super late in the game! Okay, probably not, but whatever. I like it. I’m keeping it.
Telling himself it was not because he had often daydreamed about walking the streets of a real city wearing a sword, [Rand] belted it on
This is totally a daydream of mine as well. Ha.
I’m trying to think if I ever felt the kind of disoriented, almost panicked awe that Rand et al feel upon first being confronted with A Real City. It reminded me of the story a friend of mine told me about his first trip to New York City, and how on about the second day he found himself standing on a street corner and straight-up crying, because the world was so big and so filled with billions of people who didn’t know him or care about him in the slightest. Because he knew that already, intellectually (he said), but actually seeing it for the first time brought it all home to him, and it was completely overwhelming to him.
I was kind of bemused by this story, because I never once had that kind of reaction to New York. I was often very stressed while I lived there, but that was for financial reasons, not existential ones. (Another friend opined “you can’t even breathe in New York without it costing you money”, which might not be literally true but is close enough that it doesn’t matter.)
But that kind of almost traumatic awe my friend (and Rand, to a certain extent) felt, I never had that. But then, the smallest city I’ve ever lived in for any amount of time was Austin, Texas. Which is, um, not exactly “small” at all, considering there were half a million people there even before it had its growth boom. So I guess if you’ve always lived in places where the population is counted in substantial chunks of millions (or many millions), New York City is… still awe-inspiring, certainly, but not overwhelmingly so. To me, anyway.
And that was… a tangent. Anyway, speaking of people screwing up, Rand does here, big time, twice. Though it’s hard to blame him for either trusting Fain (who he does, after all, actually know, or think he does) or for inadvertently taunting Whitecloaks while under the influence of Power Acquisition Fever Syndrome, because he wasn’t exactly right in the head there.
Mat, on the other hand, has no such excuse. Dumbass.
In my original commentary I mentioned how one of the major themes of WOT, namely mistrust, is brought to the forefront here, and it certainly is, but I have talked an awful lot by now, so I think I’ll come back to that discussion later. It’s not like it’s not going to come up again, after all.
And that’s our post, y’all! Have a lovely week, and see you next Tuesday!