Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Reread Redux? Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!
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 14: Wolf Brother
“These wolves,” Ingtar said, “they will track the Darkfriends and Trollocs for us?” Perrin nodded. “Good. I will have the Horn, whatever it takes.” The Shienaran glanced around at Uno and the others still searching for tracks. “Better not to tell anyone else, though. Wolves are considered good luck in the Borderlands. Trollocs fear them. But still, better to keep this between us for the time. Some of them might not understand.”
There is absolutely no way I haven’t talked already at some point about WOT’s treatment of its wolves, and how it is part of an ongoing dichotomy in the fantasy genre of how wolves are portrayed, but it’s worth mentioning again. Mostly because I continue to be fascinated with how polarizing wolves are on whether people think they are good or bad—and this argument extends beyond fictional portrayals to real life as well.
One (possibly imaginary) pattern I have noticed when it comes to fictional wolves, though, is that it tends to be in literature or stories aimed at children that wolves have gotten the worst rap. In Narnia the wolves aligned with the White Witch, for example, and wolves have been a sort of catch-all threat/danger in pretty much every Disney film they appear in. (The Jungle Book is an exception, but Akela’s involvement in the Disney version is minimal compared to Kipling’s original.) And many Disney films, of course, are based on fairy tales, which also regularly featured characters like the Big Bad Wolf, which, well, there you go.
It seems to be only when you get to books/stories aimed at older audiences that wolves receive kinder or at least more nuanced treatment. I still remember the first time I read the Belgariad as a kid, and how surprised I was that wolves were considered good creatures in them. And then I read Jack London’s books (which, okay, are technically not fantasy, but whatever, I totally read them that way), and, much later, the Iskryne series and WOT itself, all of which portray wolves as not inherently evil at all, and much more forces for good than they are anything else. (George R. R. Martin’s direwolves are of course much more ambiguous on the good/bad scale, at least so far, but nothing in that series is unambiguously good or evil, so that’s hardly a shocker.)
What do y’all think? If you have examples that either support or discredit my “wolves in kids’ stories are the bad ones” theory I’d love to hear about them.
“Moiraine Sedai sent me, Lord Ingtar,” Verin announced with a satisfied smile. “She thought you might need me.”
Lord, when I remember the amount of 1s and 0s used up in arguing over this quote back in the day… Heh. And I’m just going to go ahead and quote myself from the original commentary, since it is also hilarious:
…as of Crossroads of Twilight I had personally concluded that Verin was not Black Ajah, but had long ago untaken the First Oath on the Oath Rod so that she could lie with impunity to those who might be Black Ajah. In other words, she’s sneaky but not evil.
Man I was so close to being right! So close, and yet so far away. It seems so blindingly obvious in retrospect what the right answer is, and yet I, at least, never quite hit upon it. But I feel better knowing that, while I’m sure someone out there correctly deduced that Verin was a Black Ajah double agent before her death scene in TGS, it was definitely not even remotely a popular theory, otherwise I would have heard of it while maintaining the WOTFAQ. And I never did. So there. Thbbt.
“I can have two men escort you back to where they disappeared, Verin Sedai. They will have no trouble taking you right to it.”
“No. If you say they vanished without a trace…” For a long moment she studied Ingtar, her face unreadable. “I will ride with you. Perhaps we will find them again, or they will find us. Talk to me as we ride, Lord Ingtar. Tell me everything you can about the young man. Everything he did, everything he said.”
Obviously Verin’s main interest here is (understandably) in Rand’s whereabouts, but in light of what we now know about her, I can’t help but also wonder whether she knew (or could tell, somehow) that Ingtar was also a Darkfriend.
Not that it really matters, I suppose, but it’s a thought that occurred to me, so.
Chapter 15: Kinslayer
Huh. Apparently I… did not have a lot to say about this chapter, originally. I still don’t know what’s up with the jet contrails in the sky, though.
In its own way, the rest of the land lay as dead as the burns, though grass covered the ground and leaves covered the trees. Everything had that faded look, like clothes too often washed and too long left in the sun. There were no birds or animals, not that Rand saw or heard. No hawk wheeling in the sky, no bark of a hunting fox, no bird singing. Nothing rustled in the grass or lit on a tree branch. No bees, or butterflies. Several times they crossed streams, the water shallow, though often it had dug itself a deep gulley with steep banks the horses had to scramble down and climb on the other side. The water ran clear except for the mud the horses’ hooves stirred, but never a minnow or tadpole wriggled out of the roiling, not even a waterspider dancing across the surface, or a hovering lacewing.
It’s not immediately obvious, maybe, but if you try actually visualizing the landscape Jordan is describing, you soon realize that it is in fact intensely creepy. It would be unnerving in the same way everything is unnerving right before a thunderstorm, when the lowering pressure alerts the local fauna to batten down the hatches and hunker down to ride out what’s coming. It’s designed to be unnerving, because total silence from nature is a sign that something is deeply wrong, and even humans far detached from it recognize that signal, subliminally if in no other way.
Loial ran his big hands along the trunk, singing, caressing with his voice as well as his fingers. The trunk now seemed smoother, somehow, as if his stroking were shaping it. Rand blinked. He was sure the piece Loial worked on had had branches at its top just like the others, but now it stopped in a rounded end right above the Ogier’s head. Rand opened his mouth, but the song quieted him. It seemed so familiar, that song, as if he should know it.
Did anyone ever bother to tell the Tinkers before the end of the series that “the Song” was known by the Ogier all along? If so, I can’t remember it.
“There’s nothing here to hurt us,” he said firmly. “And we’ll keep a good watch and make sure nothing does.”
He wanted to laugh at himself, sounding so certain. He was not certain about anything. But watching the others—Loial with his tufted ears drooping, and Hurin trying not to look at anything—he knew one of them had to seem to be sure, at least, or fear and uncertainty would break them all apart. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. He squeezed that thought out. Nothing to do with the Wheel. Nothing to with ta’veren, or Aes Sedai, or the Dragon. It’s just the way it is, that’s all.
One thing I really did (do) like about the Lordening of the Superboys in WOT is that part of it is Moiraine’s doing, and part of it is ta’veren influence, and part of it is wacky misunderstandings, but Jordan definitely aims for the larger, deeper part of it to be simply that Rand and Perrin (and, eventually, Mat) all instinctively behave the way nobility is supposed to, in the idealized, romanticized sense of Arthurian legend.
They end up nobles because they are inherently noble, not in the sense of being supercilious or feeling entitled (pun intended), but in their character: they automatically move to protect and provide for their own, not in a grab for power but simply because it is the right thing to do, and thereby earn the loyalty of their followers which is part and parcel of that (idealized) social contract. Whether they want it or not, as it turns out.
In other news, so I’m assuming Ishy is visiting Rand in a dreamshard again? Or I guess there’s no reason why he can’t physically be there, but it seems like a lot more work even with Traveling.
I think I was initially sort of puzzled why Ba’alzamon just basically yells at Rand here again instead of trying to kill him, if he really could get to him so easily, but then of course it transpires that Ishy wants to turn Rand to the Dark Side much more than he wants to kill him. Or at least, the Dark One wants that, so Ishy is following suit—however much it may stick in his craw, ha.
I do wonder whether beginning the stigma-tizing (heh) of Rand with the heron brand here was deliberate on Ishy’s part, or if it was an accidental result of his showing Rand that yeah, I can totally kill you whenever I want, TREMBLE, WORM, etc.
[Ba’alzamon:] “Oh, I know the name you use now, Lews Therin. I know every name you have used through Age after Age, long before you were even the Kinslayer.”
Except for how you didn’t know his name through most of the entire first book, but okay, sure, you’re totes omnipotent and godlike and stuff. Burns and all. Really.
“You find odd followers,” Ba’alzamon mused. “You always did. These two. The girl who tries to watch over you. A poor guardian and weak, Kinslayer. If she had a lifetime to grow, she would never grow strong enough for you to hide behind.”
Also wrong, as it turns out. *sniffle*
And that’s all for now, peoples! Have a week, and try not to die of heatstroke if your weather is anything remotely like mine, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!