Fly, fly my pretties—into the next 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 18: To the White Tower
One thing that’s always great to see in an author’s characters is consistency. It’s easy to mark out “abrasiveness” or “willfulness” as Nynaeve’s most obvious character traits, and those are definitely a part of her makeup, but in fact one of the first things we learn about her, and which has remained constant throughout the series, is that in a lot of ways her defining trait is actually loyalty.
Like here, where she never once even considers the idea of “outing” Rand to the Aes Sedai. Granted, she has built up a lot of resentment for and defiance toward the Aes Sedai at this point, but in the normal scheme of things I don’t think that would have kept her from disclosing a genuine danger, like a channeling man—unless that channeling man were one of her people, which Rand obviously is. It’s an outlook which you can probably contest as to its moral righteousness, but really, y’all, Nynaeve does not care. Her people are her people, and everything else is salad dressing, and to hell with you if you have a problem with it.
Egwene is also loyal to Rand here, of course, but Egwene has sort of a more obviously vested interest in Rand than Nynaeve does. She is Rand’s peer rather than his elder, which Nynaeve definitely feels herself to be (deserved or not), and even leaving the potential romance bit aside, loyalty to one’s own age group (particularly when you are young) is a incentive that is all the more powerful for being so frequently an unconscious assumption. I don’t mean to diminish Egwene’s loyalty to Rand, exactly, but in terms of how their relationship stands, I find Nynaeve’s unquestioning allegiance to him to be the more impressive of the two, if that makes sense.
I said in the original commentary that I initially found Nynaeve’s behavior in this chapter “annoying,” but that it was merely “amusing” by the time I got to the first Reread. Which is interesting, because now I’ve moved well beyond being “amused,” to thinking that actually, I feel like I would have reacted in more or less just the same way as she did—and furthermore, I think I was probably deliberately tamping down the extent to which I agreed with her reactions the first time around.
Some people get more content with the established way of things as they get older, but I’ve found that… well, I’m not going to say I’ve gotten less content with the authorities who say “this is how things should be done,” because I’ve always been discontented with that. It’s just that the older I’ve gotten, the clearer I’ve become on exactly why I feel the need to push back against the status quo, and the less afraid I’ve become to say so. So I think I appreciate Nynaeve so much more now, for having the courage to say and do the things as a relatively young woman that I probably would not have been brave enough to have done at the same age.
I mean, basically in this chapter Nynaeve did the equivalent of getting up in the Pope’s face and being all “No, I do NOT respect your authoritah, so THERE.” And whether or not you agree that she was right to do so, you can’t deny that it takes some serious ovarios to even do it in the first place. I enjoy hefty gonads in a person, is what I’m saying.
The Amyrlin smiled. “I’ve often wished I could use this to fly. The records say Aes Sedai could fly, in the Age of Legends, but they aren’t clear on how, exactly. Not this way, though. It doesn’t work like that. You might reach out with your hands and pick up a chest that weighs as much as you do; you look strong. But take hold of yourself however you will, you cannot pick yourself up.”
This makes sense to me, obliquely, but I always sort of wondered why you couldn’t do it from the opposite direction, so to speak. Maybe you can’t lift yourself with the Power directly, but why couldn’t you, say, create a platform to stand on and then push Air up from the ground underneath it to make it go up, like using a hairdryer to float a ping pong ball? Or, what about just focusing Air down, pushing yourself away from the ground, maybe like the way the repulsors (theoretically) work on Iron Man’s suit?
I dunno, it just feels like you could work that out if you just tried a little.
Nynaeve looked at her worriedly. “Sheriam…” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Sheriam Sedai”—she seemed to force the honorific out—“does it have to be so hard on her? Flesh and blood can only take so much. I know… something… of what novices must go through. Surely there’s no need to try to break her just to find out how strong she is.”
“You mean what the Amyrlin did to you today?” Nynaeve’s back stiffened; Sheriam looked as though she were trying to keep amusement from her face. “I told you I spoke with the Amyrlin. Rest your worries for your friend. Novice training is hard, but not that hard. That is for the first few weeks of being one of the Accepted.” Nynaeve’s mouth fell open; Egwene thought the Wisdom’s eyes were going to come right out of her head. “To catch the few who might have slipped through novice training when they should not have. We cannot risk having one of our number—a full Aes Sedai—who will break under the stress of the world outside.”
Anyone who thinks the Tower training system for its initiates didn’t come straight out of Jordan’s experiences with boot camp was clearly not paying attention. And like the military equivalent, there are strong arguments to be made for both the efficacy and the shortcomings of such an approach. It works really really well for some kinds of people, and not even a little bit for others.
Basically, let’s just say that both Nynaeve and the Tower are lucky she got shanghaied outta there as quickly as she did.
In other news, Sheriam remains sort of a conundrum to me. For most of the characters, I have no doubt that Jordan knew right from the moment he introduced them what their eventual affiliations would turn out to be, but Sheriam is one of the few whom I really wonder if that is true for. Possibly because I didn’t ever really see (that I can recall) an instance in which her position was actually effectively used to further the cause of the Shadow, even in retrospect. There was the Gray Man incident in TDR, yes, but all that did was throw suspicion on Sheriam, which surely did not benefit the Black Ajah. And nothing she did later seemed to deviate from what all the non-Black sisters Egwene manipulated into following her did. So basically making her Black Ajah just seemed kind of pointless, other than the pure shock value of it.
*shrug* I dunno, what you do think?
And here’s where we stop, my chickens, since the next two chapters go much better together anyway. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!