Hail WOTers, full of grace! Or possibly Fritos, I don’t judge. Whatever you’re full of, 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 available as an e-book series! Yay!
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 34: The Last Village
[Rand] wondered if his whole sense of time was getting skewed. Only three nights since Howal Gode and Four Kings, two since Paitr had surprised them in Market Sheran. Just a bare day since the nameless Darkfriend woman tried to kill them in the stable of The Queen’s Man, but even that seemed a year ago, or a lifetime.
Heh. Jordan may have told this entire part in wonky sequence, but at least he was nice enough to recap it back in order again for us.
This is also a Chapter of Great Infodumping, which is not always the insult it sounds like, particularly in fantasy settings, where the world and the rules nearly always require a lot more explication than stories set in the “real” world (or reasonable facsimiles thereof).
This one’s mostly about the Andoran succession, in which my interest was severely atrophied by Elayne’s endless Slog For The Crown in… COT, or KOD, or whenever that happened. But despite what I said in the original commentary, I think I probably was at least nominally interested in it at first, though I’m pretty sure I didn’t attach that much significance to Bunt’s talk of Tigraine et al until we go to the Waste and Rand learns about his birth parents in, um, TSR.
“The Dragon is one with the land,” Thom said, still juggling unconcernedly, “and the land is one with the Dragon.”
As I originally noted, this is the first of many references in the series to the Fisher King and his analogy to Rand, which, given the legend’s strong connection with Arthuriana, it is only appropriate that we hear about it right when we are also getting inundated with the deeply Arthurian names of the Andoran royal line (Morgase, Gawyn, Galad, Elayne, etc, etc.). And given how the later books, especially TGS, expanded on how Rand’s mental and physical health had a direct effect on the world around him, in the end his association with the Fisher King is probably even stronger than that of his association with Jesus. Though of course the original Fisher King had strong ties with Jesus himself, because the Fisher King is one of those delightfully archetypal figures which slot themselves easily into almost any religious or mythological framework, because what’s more iconic and symbolic than a ruler whose health is tied to the health of the land he rules? That’s why he’s so fun to play with, as Jordan clearly recognized.
Fun if somewhat random fact: the name “the Fisher King” is “Le Roi pêcheur” in French (in which one of the earliest legends concerning him was written, by Chrétien de Troyes). This caught my eye back in the day, because I took French in high school, but I took French at a Catholic high school, which meant that I also learned how to pray in French, probably better than I ever learned to have actual conversations in the language. (Seriously: even all these years later, I can rattle off the major Catholic prayers in French with hardly a stumble, because we started every class with one or the other of them.)
This is interesting for our purposes because the Hail Mary prayer in English has the line “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” which in French is “Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous, pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort.” Emphasis mine, of course.
Our French teacher at the time told us that in Old French (in which de Troyes would have been writing) there was no difference between the word for “fisher” and the word for “sinner,” even though the accents over the first “e” seem to be different now. I have not been able to confirm via casual Googling whether she was right, but the similarity is certainly suggestive, all things considered. Just some fun food for thought.
Something about the two men at the rim of the shadows made Rand uneasy […] Eventually the one who was wrapped in darkness turned away, and the nervous fellow started back into the light. Despite the chill he was mopping his face with the long apron he wore, as if he were drenched in sweat.
Skin prickling, Rand watched the shape moving off in the night. He did not know why, but his uneasiness seemed to follow that one, a vague tingling in the back of his neck and the hair stirring on his arms as if he had suddenly realized something was sneaking up on him. With a quick shake of his head, he rubbed his arms briskly. Getting as foolish as Mat, aren’t you?
Another instance of Rand, like Moiraine, sensing the presence of Shadowspawn that I did not at all pick up on the first time around. It’s interesting that the Fade also freaked out Almen Bunt, but I’m not sure if that’s supposed to indicate that Bunt may have a latent ability to channel, or that Fades are just really, really disturbing to be around, whether you can channel or not.
“And as for the fools who claim Elaida’s really the queen in all but name…” He spat into the night. “That for them. Morgase is no puppet to dance for any Tar Valon witch.”
*wince* No, her stint as puppet will come from other sources…
I’m sort of surprised that Bunt is so anti-Aes Sedai, because I don’t recall that that’s nearly as much of a thing in Andor as it is elsewhere. But then again, supposing all citizens of a nation are monolithic in their political views is a mistake I try not to make if at all possible, even in fiction (unless the author mandates it, of course), so congratulations to Mr. Bunt for providing his part of the bell curve, I guess?
Also, still a great fakeout with the raven.
Chapter 35: Caemlyn
A thousand stories had painted cities in his mind, the great cities of kings and queens, of thrones and powers and legends, and Caemlyn fit into those mind-deep pictures as water fits into a jug.
There are, obviously, a lot of iconic moments in WOT that I would love to see realized on film, but I think this one, the first time we see one of the Great Cities of Randland (Shadar Logoth emphatically not counting as far as I am concerned), would be one of the more awesome to see. Especially if the production designers use Sweet’s rendering of the city on the cover of TFOH as inspiration, because that is still to this day my favorite part of any WOT cover Darrell K. Sweet ever did.
It’s awesome not just because of how beautiful it could be to look at, but because Rand and Mat’s arrival in Caemlyn really marks a transition of the story in TEOTW into a wider and richer world, and that is always thrilling for someone looking for that promise of meaty world-building depth. It would be a good moment, is what I’m saying.
It’s sad that an act of simple kindness deserves such note for its unusualness, but Almen Bunt turned out to be a rare kind of dude, helping Rand and Mat out even though he knew there were disturbing and shady people after them. You go, Master Bunt.
Also, it is probably worth noting at this point that in the last post I erroneously identified Hyam Kinch as the farmer from this whole sequence who turns up again later, when in fact it is Almen Bunt who reappears in TOM. It’s even more amusing because I was talking at the same time about how much I can’t remember anymore about who what when where and such. Yeahhhhhh. Thanks to the commenters who set me right.
“Strangers all around, and no way to tell who to trust, if I can trust anybody. Light, the Two Rivers is so far away it might as well be on the other side of the world. We’re alone, and we’ll never get home. We’re going to die, Rand.”
“Not yet, we won’t,” Rand retorted. “Everybody dies. The Wheel turns. I’m not going to curl up and wait for it to happen, though.”
“You sound like Master al’Vere,” Mat grumbled, but his voice had a little spirit in it.
Speaking of Fisher King-like attributes, in retrospect I have to wonder how much Rand’s ta’veren-ness (and Mat’s own, maybe), or perhaps Rand’s general Messiah-ness is slowing the dagger’s corruption of Mat. I mean, Rand’s still pretty chipper at this point (especially compared to later in the series), so maybe his mere presence really is helping.
Or, you know, his presence is helping because he’s a good friend and friendship is a powerful thing in any context. One or the other. Or both.
Rand choosing the red cloth was definitely ta’veren at work, though I suppose it could also be chalked up to Rand’s naivete in failing to work out that (a) the bindings were political in nature and (b) the cheaper “position” is obviously going to be the more unpopular one. But lucky for him, he didn’t have anywhere near the savvy to either know these things or know to find out these things, and so the day was being carefully set up to being on its way to be saved. Or something like that.
And that’s about what I got for this one, O My Peeps. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!