I been down to the Best Buy on Black Friday, y’all, and lived to tell the tale. Therefore, welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
(Sounds like it should be a folk song, doesn’t it. It probably should. Someone get on that.)
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 18: The Caemlyn Road
“Carai an Caldazar,” Moiraine said. They all twisted to stare at her. “Carai an Ellisande. Al Ellisande. For the honor of the Red Eagle. For the honor of the Rose of the Sun. The Rose of the Sun. The ancient warcry of Manetheren, and the warcry of its last king. Eldrene was called the Rose of the Sun.” Moiraine’s smile took in Egwene and Mat both, though her gaze may have rested a moment longer on him than on her. “The blood of Arad’s line is still strong in the Two Rivers. The old blood still sings.”
Mat and Egwene looked at each other, while everyone else looked at them both. Egwene’s eyes were wide, and her mouth kept quirking into a smile that she bit back every time it began, as if she was not sure just how to take this talk of the old blood. Mat was sure, from the scowling frown on his face.
There’s… really not much I can add to my original commentary on this chapter, and on this moment in particular, because I still remember it as the moment where, on first reading, I was like, Aaahh. Okay, yeah, this is exactly what I was looking for, and settling in with avid glee to read more, because this was, then, and largely is still now, the thing I am looking for when I read these kinds of stories: that moment when a character realizes, not that there is more to the world than they knew, but that there is more to his- or herself than they knew.
It’s possible that I have belabored this concept into insensibility by this point, but there’s honestly not too much I can do about that, because it hasn’t stopped being true just because I’ve said it a lot.
*shrug* It’s a thing, and I loved it then and I still love it now. What can you do?
I do also remember, though, which I may not have said before, that I was sort of annoyed that it was Mat in particular who provided this paradigm shift moment here, because of course at the time he was by far my least favorite of the Superboys, for reasons previously discussed. Contrariwise, though, this also did a lot to reconcile me to his necessity for being there, so it’s probably six of one, half a dozen of the other, in the end.
It’s also pretty interesting how much later context brings to the awesomeness of Moiraine in this chapter. Because on first reading you are probably more inclined to be like well, she’s magic and this is what magic people do, but once we have a bit more knowledge of just how unusual Moiraine’s power level is among Aes Sedai (at least until the Supergirls showed up), it becomes a hell of a lot more impressive.
Chapter 19: Shadow’s Waiting
“I may not like her, it is true,” Nynaeve was saying to the Warder as Rand, leading Bela and Cloud, came in behind Thom, “but I help anyone who needs my help, whether I like them or not.”
“I made no accusation, Wisdom. I only said, have a care with your herbs.”
She gave him a look from the corner of her eye. “The fact is, she needs my herbs, and so do you.” Her voice was acerbic to start, and grew more tart as she spoke. “The fact is, she can only do so much, even with her One Power, and she has done about as much as she can without collapsing. The fact is, your sword cannot help her now, Lord of the Seven Towers, but my herbs can.”
Moiraine laid a hand on Lan’s arm. “Be at ease, Lan. She means no harm. She simply does not know.” The Warder snorted derisively.
I can never decide if the change in my reaction to Nynaeve’s character is more due to later context or to changes in my own personal life experiences and convictions. It’s probably an unanswerable question.
Like, the first time I read this I was annoyed as hell at Nynaeve for deliberately antagonizing both Moiraine and Lan, whereas now I am much more inclined to be amused at it, or at least understanding of it. But whether this is more because I now know how awesome Nynaeve will grow to be later on, or because I sympathize more than I used to with the instinct to assert what control you can have in a fundamentally uncontrollable situation, or because I have over the years come to have much more respect for those who question authority over those who accept it blindly, I couldn’t really tell you.
Though it might be more about that last one, now that I think about it. Because I kind of have to respect that Nynaeve already has the strength of character here to stand up to people who (at the time) she had no way of defending herself from, whereas I don’t know that at the same age I would have had that kind of courage. I’d like to think so, but of course we’d all like to believe that kind of thing about ourselves, wouldn’t we.
Mat scowled. “I was thinking about… about what happened back there. About those words I…” Everybody turned to look at him then, not just Rand, and he shifted uneasily. “Well, you heard what Moiraine said. It’s as if some dead man was speaking with my mouth. I don’t like it.” His scowl grew deeper when Perrin chuckled.
“Aemon’s warcry, she said—right? Maybe you’re Aemon come back again. The way you go on about how dull Emond’s Field is, I’d think you would like that—being a king and hero reborn.”
“Don’t say that!” Thom drew a deep breath; everybody stared at him now. “That is dangerous talk, stupid talk. The dead can be reborn, or take a living body, and it is not something to speak of lightly.”
It’s kind of hilarious just how much work Jordan made Thom’s really very ambiguous statement here do for him. Depending on how you look at it, it could be taken to be foreshadowing any one of a number of later events. The most obvious one, of course, given what happens next, is that it’s meant to be a clue to Mordeth’s plan to catch a farmboy ride out of Shadar Logoth (and the ride he did later catch with Fain, though I bet that didn’t turn out like he planned), but it could just as easily be taken to be foreshadowing of Lews Therin’s appearance in Rand’s head, the Dark One’s habit of stuffing dead Forsaken in stolen bodies, or even Mat’s becoming host to the memories of however many dead men. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of ominous portent!
Speaking of the latter possibility, it’s always sort of bothered me that Jordan seemed to have either retconned or forgotten that Mat had memories of a military nature long before he went to Rhuidean and got the Foxes’ “gifts,” because he later stated in an interview that Mat’s memories are not of his past lives “at all.” But given what happened in the last chapter, and especially what happens in TDR when Mat is Healed in the Tower, that actually can’t be the case. Plus, if so, why bring up the whole Old Blood/racial memory thing in the first place? (Though it does seem weird that no one else from the Two Rivers ever has this happen to them; Egwene doesn’t even really count in my opinion, because there’s a pretty large difference between sorta kinda understanding the Old Tongue, and bellowing warcries and spouting epithets at Aes Sedai in it.)
I usually reconcile this by reminding myself that WOT is literally millions of words long (and was even before Jordan’s passing), and therefore even the creator of it probably had some trouble sometimes keeping everything in it straight. The interview the above quote came from was part of COT’s publicity tour in 2003, which was thirteen years after TEOTW was published. I sometimes can’t remember what I wrote last week, so possibly I should put down my stone before I lose the insurance on my nice glass house.
That said, though it’s pretty clear that Mat was never Aemon himself reborn, he was definitely a few other Manethereans in previous lives as far as I’m concerned, because otherwise the previous chapter and the Healing scene in TDR just don’t make sense. And while it’s rather odd that Mat appears to be the only other person in all of WOT besides Rand himself to experience bleedthrough of his previous incarnations into his present one (unless I’m forgetting someone, and no, Birgitte does not count), the result was cool enough that I’m content to let it go.
(Although I think it would have been sort of awesome if something similar had happened to Egwene, now that I think about it. There was a lot of fan speculation back in the day that she was possibly the reincarnation of Latra Posae Decume, but sadly, other than the symbolic symmetry of Latra’s position as a foil for Lews Therin during the previous apocalypse, vis-à-vis Egwene and Rand’s standoff in this one, there’s really no support for the theory in the text. It’s a shame, because it means that her sort-of grasp of the Old Tongue in TEOTW ends up a dangling red herring. Or, er, an idiom that isn’t hopelessly juryrigged.)
“Mat’s doing,” Nynaeve said, certainty in her voice. “He’s always talking some mischief or other, and the others lose the little wits they were born with when they’re around him.”
Well, she’s not wrong.
I hope it’s not—pretentious? Arrogant? Something like that—that I snickered at my own previous commentary about how he is totally That Guy in the horror movie who gets everyone killed. Fortunately for Mat, he’s in a different genre. If Wes Craven had been writing this he would’ve been a pile of viscera by now.
(Or, well, maybe not. He’s still a virgin at this point, after all.)
I had some stuff to say in the original commentary about Moiraine’s story of Aridhol becoming Shadar Logoth and its place in WOT philosophy as sort of the Other White Evil™, but I think I’m going to save any possible further reflections on that for later, when we meet Pedron Niall and Elaida. (Though I’m still not sure that “Little Eichmanns” was the proper term to use there. But I couldn’t think of a better one then, and I still can’t now. Oh well.)
And that’s what I got for this one, kids! Happy December, and I’ll see you next week!