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 3: Friends and Enemies
“Maybe I don’t want you two going with me, always hanging around, falling into trouble and expecting me to pull you out. You ever think of that? Burn me, did it ever occur to you I might be tired of always having you there whenever I turn around? Always there, and I’m tired of it.” The hurt on Perrin’s face cut him like a knife, but he pushed on relentlessly. “There are some here think I’m a lord. A lord. Maybe I like that. But look at you, dicing with stablehands. When I go, I go by myself. You two can go to Tar Valon or go hang yourselves, but I leave here alone.”
Yep, I hated this conceit then and I still hate it now. I think my beef with it is not that it isn’t an effective way of generating character conflict, because it obviously is a very effective one, actually; my problem with it is that, unlike many other forms of character conflict, this particular trope never feels genuine to me.
At least not in these circumstances. It’s one thing to pull this kind of crap with allies who have not known the protagonist for very long, or whose relationship has been fraught with trust issues from the beginning, but I find it much harder to swallow in situations where the characters involved have all known (and liked) each other for their whole lives. Like, why wouldn’t you call bullshit on that, Mat or Perrin? C’mon.
“So there you are. Mat and Perrin told me what you did. And Loial. I know what you’re trying to do, Rand, and it is plain foolish.”
But then, Egwene does call bullshit on it, so there’s that at least. I awarded her a general “fail” grade in the original commentary because of her idiocy re: Fain, but really, before that bit she’s the only one in this chapter exhibiting any sense re: Rand’s martyr complex, so that really does need to be counted in her favor. Not to mention how this whole bit is much more indicative (and foreshadowing) of their future adversarial-yet-allied relationship in the Last Battle than the awkward-and-doomed mooning over each other they’ve done up to this point.
Speaking of complexes, Rand spends a lot of the time in this chapter he’s not spending being an idiot on feeling like there are eyes on him, watching him, and also wondering whether this means he’s already going crazy. In hindsight we can assure him that as far as “crazy” goes he ain’t seen nothin’ yet, but it’s great, I think, that Jordan always keeps it kind of ambiguous.
Because, does Rand actually have eyes on him? After all, it’s perfectly possible that he does—those of Ingtar if nothing else, or it could be an effect of being in the general vicinity of Fain, or it could even be Lan’s assertion on the tower after the wind thing that weird things just happen near the Blight (though that always smacked to me of being a way to get around saying “I have no idea what the hell just happened,” rather than any kind of definitive statement). But on the other hand, feeling that someone is watching you all the time is the harbinger of any number of real-life mental disorders (including the big classic, paranoid schizophrenia), and pretty much any reader living in our post-Freudian world (i.e. all of us) would recognize that immediately.
It’s not a hundred percent ironclad correlation, but the best speculative fiction tends to be the stories which can be seen as an allegory for real world events or situations. As far as being a one-to-one allegory for real world events, WOT jumps the rail on that pretty much immediately, taken as a whole, but there are (obviously) a veritable passel of elements within the overall story that can definitely be read as allegorical metaphors, and Rand’s mental status throughout the series is one of the best examples.
Because, of course, everything that happens in Rand’s brain over the course of the series has a perfectly mundane psychiatric explanation: the aforementioned martyr complex, paranoid schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, delusions of grandeur (oh, you’re the savior of the world, are you?) megalomania, depression, and even claustrophobia (although if you ask me, anyone who doesn’t have claustrophobia after being locked in a trunk for days is the crazy one, but anyway). But on the other hand, all of his “real-world” symptoms are also perfectly ascribable to magical and/or supernatural causes. (Except maybe the claustrophobia, because again, really, who wouldn’t be.) So that’s a fun dichotomy to play with, and additionally gives the whole situation a veneer of realism which greatly helps with the reader’s suspension of disbelief in an almost subconscious way.
Masema had never made a joke in his hearing, nor laughed at one. Most of the men at Fal Dara accepted Rand; he trained with Lan, and Lord Agelmar had him at table, and most important of all, he had arrived at Fal Dara in company with Moiraine, an Aes Sedai. Some seemed unable to forget his being an outlander, though, barely saying two words to him, and then only if they had to. Masema was the worst of those.
And here we have a stellar example of “I’d’ve never thought there’d be a day when…” in action. In the sense of, I’d’ve never thought there’d be a day when I would have rooted for a character to keep being xenophobic, but I am. Because there’s no denying that all our lives (including Masema’s, ultimately) would have been a whole lot better if Masema had never found Jesus the Dragon, and just kept being the suspicious and intolerant jerkass he was. Sigh. Oh well.
I can’t remember if I twigged to the significance of Fain’s jailers and co-inmates getting meaner and meaner over time on my first read, but it certainly freaks me out now, sort of in the same way watching people in outbreak disaster movies walk into infectious disease environments freaks me out. It’s like No! Don’t go in there! Are you CRAZY, why would you do that, no.
Except this is even worse, because at least you know Ebola won’t make you involuntarily evil. I mean, it might kill you, sure, but at least you’ll die still you.
I used to wonder if we’re supposed to infer or be worried over whether Egwene herself got some of Fain’s ickiness on her soul, but then I remembered that, according to Moiraine’s information, as a channeler she has more protection from that kind of thing than ordinary folk do. So that’s okay at least. But still: I might be immunized for measles, but that doesn’t mean if someone brings me to a measle farm I’m gonna go rolling around in the measle mud, you know? COMMON SENSE, Egwene. It’s a thing, you should get some.
Fain’s laughing whisper came through the black shadows. “The battle’s never done, al’Thor. Mordeth knows.”
You’d think Rand would have a bit more of a reaction to this, considering Mordeth had introduced himself to the Superboys by name in Shadar Logoth in TEOTW. Shouldn’t he wonder why Fain is mentioning the name of the ghost-thing that tried to eat him not too long ago?
But, hey, maybe he forgot; it’s not like a whole shit-ton of stuff hasn’t happened between then and now. I mean, hell, I sometimes forget people’s names five minutes after meeting them, and I don’t even have the excuse of having had a life-altering encounter with a maybe-God-like figger in between. So, sure.
In spite of everything, Rand found himself grinning. Loial often had that effect on him.
He has that effect on all of us, honey.
Aaaand here’s where we stop, my darlings. I was gonna go one more, but then I decided I really wanted to have all the early Aes Sedai shenanigans in one post, so Moiraine’s POV will have to wait till next time, Gadget, next time! MWAHAHA! See you next Tuesday!