Holy homicidal hoopskirts, Batman, it’s a 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 19: Beneath the Dagger
People have suggested in the comments that Selene’s effect on Rand was not just solely due to the over-amped libido of a teenage virgin, but that she was actually using Compulsion on Rand (and Hurin and Loial) to woo them with her wanton wicked wiles (whoo!). I think this makes a certain amount of sense, especially when you consider that Loial should probably not find a human woman particularly attractive (what with her total lack of sexy sexy ear tufts and all), but if that was the case, I’m not sure why she didn’t go the whole hog and straight-up Compel Rand right into the sack, instead of letting him resist her.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled that Rand didn’t get raped (because that’s absolutely what it would have been, no matter how much he’d have thought he enjoyed it), but it just seems odd that Lanfear wouldn’t exploit that kind of weakness to the fullest.
But then again, she does more or less the same thing much much later to Perrin in AMOL, and I’m pretty sure she’s the one who gets all disdainful at some point about Graendal using Compulsion like a sledgehammer instead of with subtlety, so okay, there’s precedent. I still find her restraint a little puzzling in that case, though.
So maybe she didn’t use Compulsion. Because, it could just as easily be a pride thing, as well. I can totally see someone like Lanfear utterly rejecting the notion that she couldn’t get her Lews Therin to fall in love/lust with her without cheating, as it were. It is kind of insulting to her, when you think about it. Yeah, I could definitely see that being the case.
It was not as if he had never seen a girl’s legs before; girls in the Two Rivers always tied up their skirts to go wading in Waterwood ponds. But they stopped doing it well before they were old enough to braid their hair, and this was in the dark, besides.
I’m not sure whether I ever actually talked about this before, but I am bemused right now, reminded by this quote, at the somewhat odd juxtaposition of the mostly-flipped power dynamic between men and women in Randland with its completely unflipped clothing conventions.
I am not about to get into the history of sexism and women’s fashion, because that’s a dissertation unto itself, but suffice it to say that even though most of the women’s couture in WOT appears to avoid some of the more unbelievably ridiculous/awful fashion trends of yore (forget corsets, do you know how many women died because they wore hoop skirts?), there’s still a distinct traditionalist “modesty/beauty over utility” air to the fact that with the exception of the Maidens and, well, Min, pretty much every woman in Randland wears skirts. Which is kind of weird when you really think about it.
(I am leaving the Seanchan out of this, since they appear to torture both sexes equally with bizarre fashion demands. So, er, go them, I guess.)
Because look: I like skirts. I am a fan of long skirts, even, I wear them all the time. But I am not a farmer, or in any other job that requires significant physical labor or mobility, nor am I regularly riding horses all over the damn place. Because if I were, you can bet your ass I’d be wearing me some pants, because screw that. And not divided skirts either: PANTS.
It just seems like that in a society which has for however many centuries favored women over men, instead the other way around, that that would be reflected in the practicality of women’s clothing as well. Because, there’s the times you want to look pretty for the dance, and then there’s the times you have to go and scythe you a damn wheat harvest, and in a society where women can supposedly do what they want, their sartorial choices should reflect that. But Randland society just… doesn’t, it seems. And it’s pretty interesting to speculate on why.
Jordan’s implicit assumption seems to be that women in Randland dress the way they do not because of an externally imposed demand for women to be “modest” yet simultaneously “alluring” (because women’s fashion is allll about setting up impossible and contradictory standards, y’all) but because they themselves decided it was called for and imposed it on themselves. Which… seems a little backwards, really.
Not to mention, if you were really going to flip things around, then you would have the men’s fashions be the more uncomfortable, impractical, and objectifying of the two (or, alternately and yet simultaneously, argh, designed with an aim to “preserve modesty”). But other than Mat’s adventures with pink ribbons and Tylin, we really don’t see anything like that that I can recall. And anyway, the pink ribbons thing was only humiliating to Mat because pink ribbons are coded as female, which in Randland society should absolutely not carry the negative connotations of weakness and frivolity it does in our own. So in its way, that whole thing made even less sense than the rest of it.
My suspicion, though, for what it’s worth, is that most of this simply didn’t occur to Jordan. Or, possibly, that he just chose to ignore it. Because most people don’t really think about this kind of thing, even though they should, and therefore would be mostly confused by women in Roughly Analogous To Ye Olden Times wearing pants as a regular thing instead of skirts.
Or, you know, he just really really wanted to be able to describe dresses in exacting detail. Heh.
Chapter 20: Saidin
I think some people have quibbled about the ultimate use the Choedan Kal were put to in the series, but personally I think it worked out pretty well. Sure, it would have been awesome to have the magical equivalent of a tactical nuke on hand during the Last Battle, but cleansing the taint first was more important, and additionally could apparently only be accomplished using the giant sa’angreal. Winning a war with conventional weapons (so to speak) may be harder, but it can obviously still be done. And it was absolutely the right call that Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One required more psychological strength than magical (and that part of that mental strength was being able to voluntarily destroy the source of such Phenomenal Cosmic Power). It makes sense thematically if not strategically, if you see what I mean.
But at this point, naturally, we don’t have any idea what this thing is, only that it freaked out Lanfear, and therefore is automatically extremely worrying. I think I remember when I first read the series (which was only up to ACOS at that point) I was surprised that this particular thing had yet to come into play. But like I said, I generally approved of where it eventually did come in.
I said in the original commentary that I didn’t quite get why Rand would be mumbling the Aiel motto here, and I still think it’s rather odd. But, well, maybe it really was an ancestral memory flashback thingy, like Mat and Manetheren, and Rand just didn’t have them any other times, and then after seeing the family history in living color in the Wayback Ter’angreal in Rhuidean he just didn’t need them anymore. Maybe?
Or, he just really liked it when Loial told it to him back in Caemlyn, and it’s like that earworm song you get in your head and realize you’re humming when distracted. (Distracted by a giant Magical Tactical Nuke Of DOOM!)
I’ve probably forgotten that this was answered somewhere, but whatever: I thought, too, that we’re later told that the Choedan Kal can only be accessed via the ter’angreal keys, which Rand obviously does not have at this point, so how is he tapping into the thing without it?
Or was it that they said you couldn’t access them safely without the keys? That would make more sense. But I can’t remember at the moment.
Also, this is really minor, but:
Red shied at his cry; clay crumbled under the stallion’s hoof, spilling into the pit. The big bay went to his knees. Rand leaned forward, gathering the reins, and Red scrambled to safety, away from the edge.
I don’t quite get how Rand leaning forward here would have done anything but pitch him and his horse into the pit. And can a horse actually get up off its knees with a rider on its back? I dunno, seems wonky. And if I don’t get that question answered, the series is RUINED! FOREVER!
…except not really. Or at all. You know.
Yes, yes you do. And you also probably know (or at least agree) that this is where we stop for now. Kisses, kids, and come back next Tuesday for the next one!