THE WHEEL OF TIME REREAD REDUX IS NOT HERE. EVEN THOUGH IT IS. I WILL TAKE NO PART. EVEN THOUGH I OBVIOUSLY AM.
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!
Before we begin: JordanCon 7, The Con of the Red Hand is now a thing of the past, even if several of my internal organs still do not entirely agree, but fortunately I’m keeping the spirit alive for at least a smidge longer by verbosing all over everything about it, yay! Part 1 of my report went up yesterday, and Part 2 went up today! Check ‘em out, whydontcha?
AND ANOTHER THING! My dear friend and fellow Tor.com blogger Kate Nepveu has asked me to let y’all know that Con or Bust, the organization dedicated to helping fans of color attend cons, is currently having its annual auction to raise funds. Their stash of cool swag this year includes some fabulous Wheel of Time e-book art cover prints, which I know some a y’all want to get your grubby little hands on. Bidding closes on May 3rd, so check it out soon!
Chapter 50: Meetings at the Eye
I get why we didn’t, but I kind of wish we’d gotten to hang out with the Green Man a little bit more before he treed himself. (Ba dum dum) He was such an interesting creature.
A lot of the reason for that, of course, is all the archetypal and mythological bells he rang. The basic concept of the Green Man—a humanlike creature or deity that is “one with nature”, pardon the corniness of the phrase—shows up in mythologies, religions, folktales and stories all over the world, everything from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to Arthurian/Celtic legend to Tolkien to Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s an extremely resonant image for a number of reasons, which Jordan no doubt knew very well.
Where he eventually places the Nym in Randland history—as magical singing gardeners, essentially, caretakers from the Age of Legends who are literally in perfect harmony with the earth and growing things—plays into that archetype very nicely, and their disappearance/extinction during the Breaking is just one more symbol of the Fall. Evil enters the world: no more perfect Garden for you, bub. Gotta get the Biblical bit in too, of course.
(“Nym” is interesting because as a root word it actually just means “name” or “word”, which is neat but kind of random-seeming to me. If Jordan meant for that to have some other cultural reference beyond the literal translation I haven’t been able to think of it or find it. Maybe he just thought it sounded cool. If so, he was right.)
This is Jordan at his best, in my opinion: I always loved him most when he was merrily smushing cultural, mythological, and historical references together like the whole of human history was his personal can of Playdoh. It works so well because history has always done that anyway; the smushing, as it were, is itself a resonant cultural touchstone.
(But I bet no one else has ever quite described it that way, heh. *is proud*)
The “Tree of Life” (aka Avendesora) first mentioned here is an even more archetypal concept; there’s hardly a culture or religion on the planet that doesn’t have some version of this idea floating around. The most direct link Jordan makes to it in WOT is the Buddhist iteration (“Ghoetam under the Tree of Life”), but it’s basically everywhere. As a species, we have nearly universally assigned trees some serious significance when it comes to constructing our worldviews. It’s a thing, is what I’m saying.
Meanwhile, back in WOT, I used to never understand how those hundred channelers got all the evil gunk out of the Eye of the World, but post-WH and the Cleansing it’s probably safe to assume they did something similar to what Rand did at Shadar Logoth, just on a smaller scale. Kind of puts Rand’s (and Nynaeve’s, and the Choedan Kal’s) power level into an interesting perspective, too; as far as I can tell, those hundred channelers are to Rand and Nynaeve as a bonfire is to a nuclear reactor. Damn.
But that all comes much later, after some serious power-ups on the part of Our Heroes, which brings me to the main thing that peeved me about this chapter, which I discussed in my original commentary: namely, that they really all should have died right here. Funny how Aginor and Balthamel were content to just fling everyone around instead of, you know, setting everyone on fire or crushing their hearts in their chests or any of the many other very creative ways channelers kill people later on in the series.
But as I also noted, this is a feature of the genre, not a bug—and I swear that TV Tropes must have an entry for this phenomenon, where the difficulty of the challenges is more or less directly proportional to the skills of the main characters, but I can’t find it. This one is close, but it’s a narrative trope just as much as it’s a gameplay mechanism. Oh well.
Balthamel’s death was still hella cool, anyway.
[Aginor:] “I was too close to this world in my captivity, I and Balthamel, too close to the grinding of the Wheel, but soon the Great Lord of the Dark will be free, and give us new flesh, and the world will be ours once more.”
Well, as irritated as I was with all the later resurrecting of the bad guys, I can’t claim that at least a couple of them weren’t set up from the start.
Chapter 51: Against the Shadow
Well. I have to say, I really don’t have a lot to either add to or disagree with what I said about this chapter in the original commentary. On the one hand, that’s probably disappointing from a “wanting new material” perspective, but on the other, I can probably be proud I summed my feelings up so well the first time around.
Because knowing the end of the story now doesn’t really change very much about the fact that this chapter remains a glaring handwavy ambiguous anomaly compared to the rest of the series. I still don’t know whether Kari al’Thor was real or not, I still don’t know whether that was really the Creator talking to Rand, and if so, I still don’t know why he’s apparently one of those infuriating godlike people whose declarations don’t make no dang grammatical sense. “IT IS NOT HERE”, “I AM WHO AM”, blah blah blah, it’s annoying as all get out.
*orders lightning rods on Amazon*
However, one difference between then and now is that now I am pretty sure that whatever else may or may not have been happening here, Rand really was physically at Tarwin’s Gap, and really did annihilate a metric fuckton of Shadowspawn all by his lonesome, and among other impressive maneuvers apparently managed to spontaneously invent “Rolling Ring of Earth and Fire” long before Taim’s wannabe ass ever even began to think of it. Take that, buttmunch.
Everything else, however, is still very much up in the air as far as I am concerned.
But hey, you know, the ambiguity worked out very nicely for Rand, since otherwise I have strong doubts that he would have survived ignoring basically every single one of the rules for wielding saidin we learn about later. Lucky break, that. I guess when it’s the super-refined weapons-grade non-taint-cut high class Eye of the World shit you can do what you want.
Like regain your youth, apparently, going by Aginor’s (brief) example. Nice to know that really pure One Power can instantly de-age you as well as do all that other stuff. Sometimes I think we got a seriously raw deal by not living in any of the parallel universes where magic is real, instead of something we just argue about on the Internet.
Fire filled the chamber, a solid flame. He could see Ba’alzamon withering like a leaf, hear him howling, feel the shrieks grating on his bones.
Then again, maybe not.
And that’s what I got for this one, kids! Come back next week, when we polish off this puppy! Again! Cheers!