A Wheel of Time Reread Redux, you say? Must be Tuesday!
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 5: Nightmares Walking
The Aes Sedai’s eyes suddenly seemed to be seeing inside him, seeing through him. He gasped and almost dropped his axe. He could feel the skin on his back crawling, muscles writhing as they knit back together. His shoulder quivered uncontrollably, and everything blurred. Cold seared him to the bone, then deeper still. He had the impression of moving, falling, flying; he could not tell which, but he felt as if he were rushing somewhere, somehow at great speed, forever.
So what’s interesting about this is that it made me actually think about the mechanics of Healing in WOT, which I don’t think I’ve ever really bothered to do before. I mean, it’s such a standard trope in fantasy: magic can heal, The End. True, there’s usually at least an attempt to make an acknowledgment of the First Law of Thermodynamics by incurring a cost for that magical healing, like fatigue or extreme hunger, but even so, somehow I feel fairly certain that physics is getting soundly fleeced on the exchange rate, there.
So generally I don’t bother thinking about it. Magical healing is a thing; if you don’t buy it, you’re obviously in the wrong genre. However, this particular quote is interesting on that front, especially the last bit: “he felt as if he were rushing somewhere, somehow at great speed, forever.”
Because, really, what is it that magical healing is doing, if not speeding things up? It’s basically the art of making what the body would have done naturally over the course of time happen immediately instead, so quickly that the body doesn’t feel the need to form scar tissue to protect the wound area. So in that way, weirdly, Healing can be regarded as an extremely localized form of time travel, can’t it?
I think so! Which means it’s a possible WOT time travel thing that Giant Nerd Extraordinaire Chris Lough didn’t think of, DID HE. Neener! The fact that he was only investigating backwards time travel in WOT in that article is a fact I will blithely ignore in favor of asserting my vindication! So there! Ha ha!
I mentioned in the original commentary how closely associated Perrin is with the Tinkers in the early books, and how that was likely the inspiration for the popular fandom theory that Perrin would be the one to find the Song that the Tinkers have always been looking for. Now that the series is over, of course, it has become clear that not only will no one ever find the Tinkers’ mythical Song, but that there never really was a Song to find in the first place.
Which I think irritated some fans, but on reflection, to me it makes good sense. The Tinkers’ search for “the Song” was a search for an ideal, a flawless, utopian perfection that in reality can never be achieved. Which, incidentally, is a pretty good summation of Perrin’s ongoing argument with the Tinkers re: pacifism versus realism.
Pacifism is a lovely dream, but Perrin is pretty sure that it’s never going to be more than a dream on a large scale, and sadly, I’m pretty sure that I agree with him. It sucks that the Song doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t.
And on a much less relevant note, I really tried not to giggle inappropriately at Perrin screaming “Leyaaaaaa!” in this chapter, but I kept hearing it in Mark Hamill’s voice and expecting someone to suddenly pull out a lightsaber, and, yeah.
(…Actually, Rand really does have a lightsaber of sorts later on, doesn’t he. Huh.)
Chapter 6: The Hunt Begins
“No. I’d like to know when Rand left, and why. Did anyone see him go? Does anyone know where he went?” He made himself meet her look with one just as level and firm. It was not easy. He loomed over her, but she was Aes Sedai. “Is this of your making Moiraine? Did you rein him in until he was so impatient he’d go anywhere, do anything, just to stop sitting still?”
Ah, so I was not the only one to have this criticism of Moiraine. Which is good, except for how it makes me uncertain as to whether I thought of it myself originally, or just subconsciously remembered Perrin making this same point and unwittingly co-opted it as my own.
Well, either way, at least I didn’t do it on purpose. So there’s that, at least.
“There is so much he must learn, yet. He wants to run before he has learned to walk.”
“You split hairs and lay false trails, Moiraine.” Perrin snorted. “If he is what you say he is, did it never occur to you that he might know what he has to do better than you?”
“He is what he is,” she repeated firmly, “but I must keep him alive if he is to do anything. He will fulfill no prophecies dead, and even if he manages to avoid Darkfriends and Shadowspawn, there are a thousand other hands ready to slay him.”
This exchange, in a way, rather neatly sums up the central conflict between the various agents of the Light throughout the series: whether to merely follow the Dragon, or to try to control him. The main problem being, of course, that both sides were wrong, and both were right. Rand did need guidance and teaching and support, but he also needed the freedom to do what he needed to do, and also to be, you know, treated like a person with actual intelligence and autonomy. There was a balance to handling Rand (at least until TGS where he completely went off the rails), and those who failed to understand that balance tended to regret it.
I also appreciate that it was nearly always the Aes Sedai who were at the forefront of this conflict, from Moiraine to Elaida to Cadsuane to Egwene, eventually, because to me it was yet another good example of Jordan’s gender-flipped sexism making a point. The various Aes Sedai who argue for controlling Rand rather than supporting him throughout the series frequently evince a distinctly sexist reasoning for it, overtly or subtly: yes, he is the Dragon/Messiah/whatever, but he’s also just a man. How can he possibly be trusted to save the world with his grunty illogical man-brain? Wouldn’t it be better if he just did the heavy lifting and left all the actual thinking to strong womanly women, who are so much better equipped for it? I mean, surely he’ll see that we’re only locking him in a box and beating him doing it for his own good!
If you’re a guy and those last few sentences irritated you, well, congrats, now you have a tiny idea of what it’s like for your competence at any given task to be evaluated according to your gender instead of according to your actual, you know, competence. The fact that most of the Aes Sedai who did this didn’t consider that they were making judgments based on Rand’s gender is part of the point.
Most people don’t set out to deliberately or maliciously be sexist or racist or whatever, after all. But it is the unexamined and unconscious manifestations of those things which prove to be by far the aspects of prejudice which are most insidious and difficult to counteract.
“What does it mean that he ‘shall slay his people with the sword of peace, and destroy them with the leaf’? What does it mean that he ‘shall bind the nine moons to serve him’? Yet these are given equal weight with Callandor in the Cycle. There are others. What ‘wounds of madness and cutting of hope’ has he healed? What chains has he broken, and who put into chains?”
Well, obviously we know that the first one is about revealing to the Aiel their true origins as pacifists, and the “wounds of madness” thing was fulfilled when Rand cleansed the Taint, but did he ever really bind Tuon to him? I guess he kind of did via Mat, and certainly the Seanchan were pivotal to the success of the Lightside campaign in the Last Battle, so yay that and all, but it sure would have been nice if he could have “broken some chains” by stomping out that whole slavery thing at some point, you know? Bluh.
“One more thing,” [Min] said slowly. “If you meet a woman—the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen—run!”
Perrin blinked. “You saw a beautiful woman? Why should I run from a beautiful woman?”
“Can’t you just take advice?” she said irritably.
Seriously, Perrin, can’t you? Because as it turns out, Min’s never been more right in her life than right here. Even if she is once again attempting to circumvent the fact that her viewings always come to pass. Which this one did. But fortunately not fatally!
I rambled at some length (well, for early Reread values of “some length”) in the original commentary about my theories on zealotry, in reference to Masema’s nascent Prophetry shown in this chapter, which can be basically summed up by my statement that zealots are “people who are so incapable of dealing with things that contradict or threaten their worldview that their only response to those things is to attempt to obliterate them.”
And… yeah, that still seems legit to me. And more relevant a worry in the real world than ever, these days.
But anyway. I spent most of the series being intensely irritated at Masema’s existence, but on reflection I think it’s sort of a shame he never got to meet with the object of his obsession again before he died. Not for his sake, obviously, but for my hope that it would have been an occasion of the most deliciously crushing disillusionment ever. Ha.
Don’t get me wrong, on the roster of characters I wish Rand had interacted with again before the end of the series, Masema is pretty far down the list. But yeah, that would have been quite the thing.
And that’s the what what for the nonce, my peoples. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you with more TDR next Tuesday!