Lay on, Macduff, and 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 16: The Wisdom
I’m rather irritated at myself of five years ago for the commentary on this chapter (all three sentences of it, heh), because my snark about not getting Lan’s attraction to Nynaeve is both terribly uncharitable and, I think, unconsciously sexist as well.
Like I’ve said before, I am just as prey to unconscious bias as anyone if I don’t watch out for it. And the thing is, Nynaeve’s character, especially as she’s presented in the early books, is practically tailor-made to trigger every subconscious stereotype of “bossy,” “overbearing,” “bitchy,” “uppity” women we have been trained to abhor since childhood, and it is not cool that I (and many other readers, I know) instinctively disliked her for it. Because I sincerely believe that had Nynaeve been a male character and done exactly the same things she did in this chapter as a woman, then the descriptive words I/we would have been overwhelmingly more likely to put to (him) would be, instead, “assertive,” “self-confident,” and “takes no shit,” and I/we would have applauded (him) for refusing to be cowed by Moiraine, Lan, and Thom’s intimidation tactics and their blatant refusal to come clean about their true objectives.
Because, let’s be real here, Moiraine and Lan (and Thom) come off shady as all hell in this chapter, not just from Nynaeve’s perspective but from anyone’s perspective who has a lick of sense in them. Even if we didn’t know from hindsight that Moiraine is not being completely up front here about what her actual objective is, it’s perfectly obvious anyway that she is not saying everything she knows, and in context Nynaeve is actually perfectly justified in calling bullshit on her, well, bullshit.
And yet, on first reading I hated her for that.
Part of the reason for that (the legitimate part) is that, like Mat, I identified her as An Obstacle To The Plot, for which it is completely reasonable to dislike her no matter how benign her intentions are. But I really do have to wonder how much of the rest of it was my culturally-ingrained instinct to want her to just shut up and not assert herself because that’s just not what Proper Ladies do. An instinct, incidentally, reinforced by her admission to Rand that she took matters into her own hands when the (male) Council of Emond’s Field deadlocked on what to do about the matter. Like, how dare she, right, and yet, given what we know of the parallel (and equal) power structure of the Council and the Women’s Circle, she was not actually out of line to make the decision that she did. So my mental condemnation of her for that was, in fact, out of line.
[Lan:] “If you can follow a trail I have tried to hide, he taught you well. Few can do that, even in the Borderlands.”
Abruptly Nynaeve buried her face in her cup. Rand’s eyes widened. She was blushing. Nynaeve never showed herself even the least bit disconcerted. Angry, yes; outraged, often; but never out of countenance. But she was certainly red-cheeked now, and trying to hide in the wine.
And yet I suggested, in my original commentary, that her assertiveness and, yes, even aggression in this chapter makes her inherently unattractive. And that is seriously not cool, and I’m ashamed of myself for it.
So, yeah. Bad Leigh. No coffee.
“The sparks, Rand. She met Mistress Alys coming in, and there were sparks, with just the two of them. Yesterday I couldn’t see sparks without at least three or four of you together, but today it’s all sharper, and more furious.” She looked at Rand’s friends, waiting impatiently, and shivered before turning back to him. “It’s almost a wonder the inn doesn’t catch fire. You’re all in more danger today than yesterday. Since she came.”
Rand glanced at his friends. Thom, his brows drawn down in a bushy V, was leaning forward on the point of taking some action to hurry him along. “She won’t do anything to hurt us,” he told Min. “I have to go, now.”
And it says something, doesn’t it, that with all of Rand’s fear of and nervousness around Nynaeve, that he doesn’t question for a moment that her ultimate goal is to protect them. We may want to see where Moiraine takes Our Heroes for story reasons, but Nynaeve is not at all unreasonable for (correctly) divining that sticking with Moiraine is going to put them in a shitload of danger. Especially since there is no way to know for sure that her assertion that they are in less danger with her than not is not completely untrue, especially from Nynaeve’s point of view.
And all things considered, was she even wrong? Discuss!
Chapter 17: Watchers and Hunters
Contra the previous, I am still amused by my original commentary on this chapter:
Ah, Whitecloaks: Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses, except instead of pamphlets, they want to give you grievous bodily harm. Awesome.
I got a kick out of how many people in the comments seemed to take this as a slight on Jehovah’s Witnesses, when in fact it was pretty much the opposite of that. Freedom of speech (and pamphlets) is awesome even when it’s annoying; freedom to be the Spanish Inquisition, not so much. I will put up with annoying people condemning me verbally all day if it means that I don’t have psychotic people putting hot irons on me for, apparently, any reason whatsoever.
Sure, I’d like the annoying pamphlet people to realize that they are Wrong and I am Right, but since I recognize that they think the exact same thing about me, I feel like as long as it doesn’t degenerate into actual violence that we can all agree to disagree and it will probably all get sorted out in the theoretical afterlife. But autonomous fanatical military bodies torturing people at will across international borders to comply with their religious views—i.e. Whitecloaks—is complete and total bullshit and a world of No, and that, I will fight to my dying breath. Because No.
As for my confusion over the Jolly Blue Giant thing, in retrospect I don’t know why I was so confused, since it seems obvious to me now that Moiraine made her illusion just look like she was stepping over the gate, while she herself just slipped through it in the normal fashion. Duh.
“Now, the greatest of the Hunters is Rogosh of Talmour, Rogosh Eagle-eye, famed at the court of the High King, feared on the slopes of Shayol Ghul…”
People have speculated for forever about the names of various characters in WOT and what they are (or might be) referring to, especially historical or legendary characters. But it’s interesting that as far as I know, no one has ever offered a possible real-world reference for Rogosh Eagle-Eye, even though it completely feels like there should be one. To me, anyway. But Googling “Talmour” only comes up with links to WOT sites, and Googling “Rogosh” tells me that it is either the name of a glacier, a town in Bulgaria, or a villainous character in Mission: Impossible, none of which seem very likely references.
It seems logical to suppose that there must be some mythological character out there with crazy good eyesight that Jordan could have gotten a hero nicknamed “Eagle Eye” from, but at first the only such “mythical” character I could think of was, er, Hawkeye from Marvel comics, which… I also rather doubt was Jordan’s inspiration, though I suppose it’s possible. Then I remembered that one of the Argonauts in Greek mythology was supposed to have ridiculously good eyesight as well, but it turns out it was this guy, Lynceus, who besides having a name that is nothing at all like “Rogosh,” was also kind of a complete douchebag who murdered another guy (Castor) to steal his girl. Not exactly an inspiration for the kind of hero Rogosh apparently was. Other than that I’m drawing a blank.
Thom also mentions in this chapter that Rogosh went to visit “Blaes of Matuchin,” who is apparently a queen (or lady?) who told the Dark One to go screw himself even though she was “marked for him,” whatever that means, and whose name also totally sounds like it should be a reference to something. Linda Taglieri over at The Thirteenth Depository notes that Blaes “was one of the three just Knights of King Arthur’s court in the Welsh tales, who dedicated himself to preserving justice according to earthly law,” which I… guess could be the reference, but it seems awfully obscure to me if so.
Lastly, as long as I’m obsessing over this, we learn much later in the series that Rogosh had a lover named Dunsinin, which I can only assume is a reference to Dunsinane Hill, which is the site of an ancient fort in Scotland, and got a mention in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Which is also kind of an iffy possible reference, since I can’t see any immediate symbolic connection there (the literal translation of the name is “hill of ants”, which, okay then).
Sooo, in conclusion, maybe the reason no one’s ever found a definitive reference for Rogosh and Co. is because there just aren’t any. It wasn’t like it was a rule that all of Jordan’s character names had to be mythical or historical shoutouts, after all. Indeed, given the sheer number of names he ended up coming up with, as a official purveyor of Fantastical Stuff, it’s actually perfectly reasonable that once in a while he just made something the hell up.
And that’s what I got for now, O My Peeps. Next week is Thanksgiving for us Americans, but as of now I still plan to have a post up for next Tuesday, so I’ll see you then! Cheers!