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!
JordanCon 7, The Con of the Red Hand is seriously nigh, y’all. Like, as in, this weekend. I am Excite.
Ergo, scheduling note: There will be no Redux Reread post next Tuesday, April 21st. However, a report on JordanCon will be occurring within that general timeframe, so keep a look out!
Chapter 48: The Blight
Ingtar’s bow was stiffer than his armor made it. “As you wish it, Aes Sedai. I must leave you, now, and ride hard in order to reach Tarwin’s Gap. At least I will be… allowed… to face Trollocs there.”
“Are you truly that eager?” Nynaeve asked. “To fight Trollocs?”
Ingtar gave her a puzzled look, then glanced at Lan as if the Warder might explain. “That is what I do, Lady,” he said slowly. “That is why I am.”
Which doesn’t exactly square with Ingtar being a Darkfriend, I must say. I suppose the easy answer is that Ingtar is just a very good actor, but honestly I’m a bit skeptical of that claim. Perhaps Jordan really hadn’t decided that Ingtar was a Darkfriend at this point. *shrug* Maybe it doesn’t matter at this point.
Re: the description of the Blight: it’s still completely gross, of course, but I sort of feel that as a resident of Louisiana I should take some offense to the very close analogy drawn between the Blight and a real-life swamp. Because look, okay, swamps can be pretty gross, I ain’t gonna lie, but they are also beautiful as well, not to mention vital to the wellbeing of the land’s ecology, and if you want to be nervous about what the loss of the wetlands are going to do/are doing to the nation’s economy I suggest you read up on it.
But okay, whatever, slimy decaying things are still slimy decaying things, and if we want to equate those slimy decaying things to Evil I suppose it’s not all that surprising. Plus I’m pretty sure that the wildlife of the Atchafalaya Basin doesn’t hold a candle to most of the nasty shit in Jordan’s Evil Swamp of Evil, i.e. the Blight.
“Couldn’t we camp down by the lakes?” Nynaeve asked, patting her face with her kerchief. “It must be cooler down by the water.”
“Light,” Mat said, “I’d just like to stick my head in one of them. I might never take it out.”
Just then something roiled the waters of the nearest lake, the dark water phosphorescing as a huge body rolled beneath the surface. Length on man-thick length sent ripples spreading, rolling on and on until at last a tail rose, waving a point like a wasp’s stinger for an instant in the twilight, at least five spans into the air. All along that length fat tentacles writhed like monstrous worms, as many as a centipede’s legs. It slid slowly beneath the surface and was gone, only the fading ripples to say it had ever been.
Rand closed his mouth and exchanged a look with Perrin. Perrin’s yellow eyes were as disbelieving as he knew his own must be. Nothing that big could live in a lake that size. Those couldn’t have been hands on those tentacles. They couldn’t have been.
“On second thought,” Mat said faintly, “I like it right here just fine.”
Wow, applause, because it was the detail that there were hands on those tentacles that really sent this image into Seriously Creepy Land. Because, what. No. Just no.
Also, how completely shitty that must have been for Lan, to see the famed lakes of his childhood home so profaned. Yuck.
“There,” Egwene said as if it were settled. “I know. I will make you my Warder, when I’m an Aes Sedai. You would like being a Warder, wouldn’t you? My Warder?” She sounded sure, but he saw the question in her eyes. She wanted an answer, needed it.
“I’d like being your Warder,” [Rand] said.
And ironically, Rand ends up becoming Warder to four other women… none of them Egwene. Oh, polyamorous mystery of life, at last I’ve found you. Snerk.
“Aes Sedai marry as seldom as Wisdoms. Few men can live with so much power in a wife, dimming them by her radiance whether she wishes to or not.”
In the original commentary, my remark on this was “My equality of the sexes is pasted on, yay!” and… yeah, my opinion has not changed in the intervening years.
This is (or should be) bullshit even in the real world, but it is especially bullshit in Randland, where supposedly the matriarchy has replaced the patriarchy… except where it actually matters, apparently. Because in a world where the inequality of the sexes is truly flipped on its head, Lan’s statement here would literally make no sense, because of course the woman would have more power than the man, right? But that’s not what we’re truly dealing with here, it seems.
This is not me being angry about this, per se, so much as it is me observing the pointed reminder that even in his attempt to show a world where sexism is reversed, Jordan still sometimes fell prey to the assumptions and prejudices of his own decidedly patriarchal culture, and had his characters make decisions based on that, rather than what should have been their own cultural biases and assumptions.
And yes, I acknowledge (as I did before) that Lan’s use of this excuse to Nynaeve was obviously not sincere, but rather a misguided attempt to push her away from his Noble Quest of Suicidal Nobleness, but even so I maintain that he would not have used that reasoning in the first place if he hadn’t thought that Nynaeve would buy it—which, ergo, supports the existence of cultural assumptions and biases that shouldn’t be there, if we buy the basic premise of Randland’s gender politics.
So, it’s a discrepancy, is what I’m saying. And while I’m not condemning Jordan for missing that nuance—because unexamined cultural biases are hard, yo—I still feel it is important to point out, so that others can hopefully realize why that gaffe is so significant.
Chapter 49: The Dark One Stirs
Is this the first time the same icon appears twice in a row? I’m not sure, but it might be. Not surprising, though, because what else are you going to put on chapters set in the Blight except an icon that was obviously tailor-made to represent it?
With that in mind, I’m actually curious to see if the gnarled dead tree icon ever shows up again outside the context of Blight chapters—or even within them, in fact. I’m not actually curious enough to go check, mind you, but I’ll try to keep a weather eye out.
[Rand] wondered if women had a way of reading men’s minds. It was an unsettling thought. All women are Aes Sedai.
This is, I think, only tangentially related to my thoughts in the last chapter about the view in WOT about the relationship between men and women, but I suppose in the aggregate it’s all of a piece. Anyway: I confess to always being somewhat mystified (ironically) by the way women are made a mystery in stories (obviously, generally written by men), literary or otherwise. Like, women are so mysterious, how do their minds work, it is SO PUZZLING. Jordan does it here and elsewhere (even if here he’s mostly being tongue in cheek about it), but I see this all the time, and it sort of drives me nuts sometimes.
Because, you know, I don’t claim to stand in for all women by any means, but every time I read something like that, my general reaction is to frown in bafflement, because, dude, I am not mysterious, okay. I react to things like… people react? To things? And maybe how I react to something might not make total sense to you because you don’t have the same views or life experiences or perspective as me, but it’s certainly not because I have some wonky Woman Gear in my brain that (apparently) propels me into some estrogen-fueled acid trip that renders my behavior BEYOND COMPREHENSION, OMG.
Because, yes, if you are a guy, you might find a lot of what women do and say to be baffling to you, but perhaps you should consider that the reason for that is because women are constrained and pressured and conditioned by an entirely different set of social expectations than men are, and not that women are some bizarre species of alien whose rules must be arbitrarily negotiated rather than comprehended. At the end of the day, women are people just like men are people, so really, quit it with the rhetoric that “female logic” is just beyond your ken, man. It’s old and it’s lame, and at this point it should be beneath all of us.
As if nothing truly solid was left to them, the trees seemed to tremble from the passage of the horses over the ground.
“Look as if they want to grab us,” Mat said nervously. Nynaeve gave him an exasperated, scornful look, and he added fiercely, “Well, they do look it.”
“And some of them do want it,” the Aes Sedai said. Her eyes over her shoulder were harder than Lan’s for an instant. “But they want no part of what I am, and my presence protects you.”
I don’t know if I can actually argue that this aspect of channelers got ignored later on or not. Certainly Rand was able to repel the Shadow just by existing, especially once he had his Come to Jesus moment, hahaha, on Dragonmount in TGS, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it demonstrated unambiguously by any other channeler after TEOTW. It seems to be one of the more hand-wavy aspects of channeling that Jordan later dismissed once he’d made his magic system more mechanical and less Tolkeinesque.
“A Worm”—there was a sharp difference in the way the Warder said it from the way Mat had—”can kill a Fade, if the Fade hasn’t the Dark One’s own luck with it. We have an entire pack on our trail. Ride! Ride!”
I had always hoped, as I said in the original commentary, that we’d get to see a Worm (aka jumara, as we later learn) at some point, but we sort of never did. Demandred defeats one in the short story River of Souls, if I remember correctly, but (a) technically that story is not part of canon proper, and (b) even in that story, the battle takes place “off-screen”, so we don’t get to “see” it anyway. Bummer.
The Mountains of Dhoom filled the sky ahead, black and bleak, and almost near enough to touch, it seemed.
“Mountains of Dhoom”, sigh. Yes, I know this was a tribute to Tolkien’s Mount Doom (as were the Mountains of Mist near the Two Rivers, and so many other things), but wow is this one cheesetastic. Maybe I’m terrible, but really, I could have done without this particular homage.
The Green Man, though, is awesome, FYI. I remember how cool it was to “meet” him in this chapter. Not least for what he said:
“A Wolfbrother! Do the old times truly walk again then?”
“Strange clothes you wear, Child of the Dragon. Has the Wheel turned so far? Do the People of the Dragon return to the First Covenant? But you wear a sword. That is neither now nor then.”
We all know what both of those statements mean now, of course, but on first reading it was all very mysterious and thrilling and tantalizing. Just the thing to ensure we would read on, to find out what he meant—even if we wouldn’t completely find out for quite some time.
And that’s my story, morning glories! Come see me and all my totally sober shenanigans in my upcoming JordanCon Re-he-port of De-he-oom, and I’ll see you with a new Reread Redux in two weeks! Cheers!