Aloha, Tor.com! Welcome to another 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 17: The Red Sister
Maybe it’s just because I’m in a weird mood today, but when reading this chapter it struck me that from Elaida’s perspective, it is perfectly reasonable that she should be highly suspicious of just what Egwene and Nynaeve’s deal is.
I mean, here they are, two random girls, one of whom is a wilder, from the same village as a boy she Foretold would be front and center for Armageddon, who are freakishly strong in the Power, who are obviously far too stupidly tolerant of men to ever have Red sympathies, who spirited off the heir to the throne Elaida had personally staked out as her own property responsibility and had extremely vague adventures with her, before returning with yet another village boy whom the way-too-Blue Amyrlin herself is going to be Healing for reasons no one will explain.
Basically, it would be pretty difficult for almost anyone not to find the situation at least a little hinky. For someone with a mind like Elaida’s, it’s got to be like finding photos of Obama with a birth certificate printing press. Whether the conspiracy suggested makes actual sense is irrelevant; the suggestion alone, combined with the appeal to inherent prejudices (hatred of wilders, suspicion of men, dislike of Blues) is sufficient to irretrievably cement her conviction that Evil Is Being Done.
So, like I said in the original commentary, she’s obviously trying to do the right thing. But her inherent bigotry and narrow-mindedness guarantees that what she thinks is the right thing is just about the wrongest thing possible outside of actualfacts evil.
And as we will see, it becomes something of a tossup as to whether her screamingly misguided version of “good” ends up doing more harm than actual evil people actively trying to do harm. What a legacy, eh.
Except for the most formal occasions, few Aes Sedai wore the vine-embroidered shawl with the white teardrop Flame of Tar Valon large on the wearer’s back, but Elaida wore hers, the long red fringe announcing her Ajah.
Just a short note here to mention how much I love the concept of shawls (shawls with embroidery and fringe, no less) being the Aes Sedai equivalent to uniforms and denotation of rank. Shawls are so strongly coded as feminine garments, and therefore associated with domesticity/non-professionalism/weakness, that to see them employed as emblems not only of rank but of authority, especially in the political sense, is both startling and refreshing. What a marvelously clever way to subvert standard gender roles.
“Have you forgotten,” Sheriam said in a tight voice, “that in the Tower, Healing is always done in the presence of those who bring their sick to us?”
Egwene thought that the Mistress of Novices’s stock of patience with them was about used up, but before she could stop herself, she burst out, “Then she is going to Heal him!”
“The Amyrlin Seat herself, among others, will see to him.”
Chapter 18: Healing
Yep, still an awesome scene. Also wonderfully described; I mentioned in the original commentary that this is one of the scenes from WOT I would most love to see on film, and this is largely owed to how vividly clear Jordan makes the scene to the inner eye. Also this time around, there was a bit of a thrill in seeing the fluted rod sa’angreal, now that I know it will eventually be put to an even awesomer use later on.
I still think it’s weird that there were no Yellow sisters present for Mat’s Healing—that we know of, anyway, since admittedly two of the sisters there were never identified. But even so, you’d think at least one of the named Aes Sedai would be Yellow, since Healing is supposed to be their raison d’être.
But then again, I guess “separating a dude’s soul from his evil magic dagger” is a bit different from dealing with, say, a broken leg, or smallpox. I’m not sure what they did here even technically counts as Healing, really, except in the sense that it saved Mat’s life, of course. So maybe that’s why there were no Yellows there. *shrug*
I’m also sort of curious about what exactly it is that they did to separate Mat and the dagger. I mean, obviously it can be shoved under the rug of “and then they did magic to it and Things Happened”, but Jordan’s magic system being a lot more mechanistic than most, it would be interesting to see whether what they did here was anything like what Rand did later to cleanse the taint from saidin, seeing as Shadar Logoth… er, residue, or miasma or whatever, was involved in both cases. Just a thought.
Suddenly Mat shouted, loud and strong. “Muad’drin tia dar allende caba’drin rhadiem!” Arched and struggling, eyes squeezed shut, he bellowed the words clearly. “Los Valdar Cuebiyari! Los! Carai an Caldazar! Al Caldazar!”
There was a ton of debate, or perhaps just confusion, in the fandom back in the day about this scene, and whether it meant that all Mat’s memories that he gets from Rhuidean later on were actually of his own past lives, or if this is the only one that’s an actual past life and the ones he gets later from the Eelfinn are just from random guys.
Personally, I always thought it was pretty clear that the latter idea is the correct one, especially since all of Mat’s pre-Rhuidean memories were solely of Manetheren, while the later ones were from all over the place. But, it was debated enough that Jordan himself later clarified it, in the interview included in the online version of COT’s Prologue. I have no idea whether that interview is still available online now, but the WOTFAQ quoted the relevant part:
Mat’s “old” memories are not from his past lives at all. The “sickness” he got from the Shadar Logoth dagger resulted in holes in his memory. He found whole stretches of his life that seemed to be missing. When he passed through the “doorframe” ter’angreal in Rhuidean, one of the things he said—not knowing that the rules here were different than in the other ter’angreal he had used—was that he wanted the holes in his memory filled up, meaning that he wanted to recover his own memories. In this place, however, it was not a matter of asking questions and receiving answers, but of striking bargains for what you want. What he received for that particular demand was memories gathered by the people on that side of the ter’angreal, memories from many men, all long dead, from many cultures. And since not everyone passing by has the nerve to journey through a ter’angreal to some other world, the memories he received were those of adventurers and soldiers and men of daring.
Jordan probably should have clarified his clarification by mentioning that at least one of Mat’s “old” memories is from a past life, namely the one in this chapter, but at least it put paid to the idea that Mat only ever got memories of his own past lives. Which would have been quite the feat of reincarnation anyway, in my opinion, considering how many of them Mat ends up with (he comments in LOC that the memories number in the thousands). Not to mention there’s at least one instance of Mat remembering dying in battle against a guy (named Aedomon), and then having a separate memory of seeing an older Aedomon die in another battle. And while it’s possible that Mat died in that first memory, was immediately reborn, and grew up enough to be in the second battle where Aedomon dies, it seems like a bit of a stretch.
And next up is Mat’s own account of this memory, which raises some other questions, but since the next two chapters really ought to go together I think I’ll leave that for next week.
So that’s our show, goys and birls! Have a week, and come on back next Tuesday!