You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice, Tor.com, cause it’s 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 19: Awakening
I remember I hadn’t quite started liking Mat yet at this point, but the Healing scene had piqued my interest enough that I was intrigued rather than annoyed to discover he was getting his own icon.
He drew his sword, raised it high. “Forward the Heart Guard!” He dug his heels in, and his mount leaped down the slope. Behind him, hooves thundered in the charge. “Forward.” He was first to strike into the Trollocs, his sword rising and falling, his bannerman close behind. “For the honor of the Red Eagle!” The Heart Guard pounded into the gaps between the spearmen, smashing the tide, hurling it back. “The Red Eagle!” Half-human faces snarled at him, oddly curved swords sought him, but he cut his way ever deeper. Win or die. “Manetheren!”
This memory, besides being awesome, raised a lot of debate in the fandom. Firstly for the reasons discussed last week re: past lives versus implanted memories, but also because a lot of fans assumed this memory indicated that Mat was in fact a king of Manetheren in a past life.
Specifically, that Mat was Aemon al Caar al Thorin, the last king of Manetheren before the nation fell in the Trolloc Wars, whose story Moiraine told to the villagers of Emond’s Field in TEOTW. And with that set-up, it certainly seems logical to assume that the memory Mat has here is, in fact, that of Aemon’s famous last stand before the end, and since whoever Mat is in the memory is obviously the one commanding the troops, it would also seem logical to assume that he was, in fact, Aemon himself.
However, there are a couple of issues with this assumption. The biggest one being that the account Moiraine gave in TEOTW of Aemon’s final battle does not match Mat’s memory here in this chapter.
Granted, no doubt things have gotten distorted and/or romanticized over time, but one thing Moiraine’s story specifically mentions is that Aemon’s exhausted and battered troops are unexpectedly bolstered by the common folk, men and women both, taking up arms and joining them. However, Mat’s memory makes no mention of villagers with farming implements among his forces; he only remembers spearmen and archers and cavalry—soldiers, in other words. Additionally, Moiraine’s story has Aemon’s forces surrounded by Trollocs, whereas this memory definitely seems to suggest the soldiers are only fighting on one front.
Not to mention, despite Mat’s in-memory comment about winning or dying, this memory just doesn’t seem to have the quality of desperation and exhaustion that you would think would accompany a hopeless last stand. This is a somewhat subjective assessment, of course, but the discipline and alacrity shown by the troops memory-Mat is directing doesn’t seem to evoke soldiers who have been force-marched and hounded for weeks on end to the limits of their endurance, as Aemon’s were.
It’s also worth pointing out that Moiraine mentions that Manetheren had been fighting the Trollocs for quite a while before it fell:
“For nearly two centuries the Trolloc Wars had ravaged the length and breadth of the world, and wherever battles raged, the Red Eagle banner of Manetheren was in the forefront. The men of Manetheren were a thorn to the Dark One’s foot and a bramble to his hand. Sing of Manetheren, that would never bend knee to the Shadow. Sing of Manetheren, the sword that could not be broken.”
So really, the battle Mat is remembering could be any number of engagements. Also, just because he is commanding the troops in his memory doesn’t automatically mean he’s also a king; he could just be a general.
In defense of the “Mat was Aemon” idea, some people have pointed out that Mat later forms The Band of the Red Hand, which Moiraine notes in TFOH was the name of Aemon’s personal army during the Trolloc Wars. But this actually counts as a point against this memory being Mat-as-Aemon, because he doesn’t say anything in it about a Band or Red Hands, only “the Heart Guard”, which cannot believably be argued to mean the same thing.
*shrug* It’s ambiguous enough that if you wish to believe that Mat was Aemon in a former life, you can go ahead and do that and I won’t be mad. For me personally, though, I prefer to think that Mat in his former lives was to the kings of Manetheren what he will become to Rand in this life: his right-hand man and commander of his armies.
In other news, I just realized/remembered that this chapter is also Mat’s first POV chapter, which seemed so odd to me that I actually went back and checked this to make sure I wasn’t crazy. But no, this is the first time we get in Mat’s head in the series. Huh.
(Obligatory shoutout here to Encyclopaedia WOT, the indexy goodness of which ensured that I could actually verify that assertion in a non-absurd amount of time. Y’all’re awesome—even if y’all do think Mat is Aemon. ;)
Before he returned home—I will go home one day. One day, I will—he meant to see something of the world, and without any Aes Sedai making him dance to her tune.
Welp. At least he got the “see something of the world” part right?
Chapter 20: Visitations
…And judging by the fact that I had to upload this icon as well, instead of pulling it from previously used images, this is the first time we see Lanfear’s icon too. Really? That whole time in TGH when her crescent-and-stars seal was mentioned like a hundred times, and no icon? Huh.
Oh well. Better late than never!
“Pardon,” Mat said diffidently, “but do I know you? Meaning no offense, but you seem… familiar.” She looked at him until he began to shift uneasily. A woman like her would expect to be remembered.
“You may have seen me,” she said finally. “Somewhere. Call me Selene.”
…Has he, though? We haven’t been in Mat’s head before this, so I suppose this could mean she went and creeped on him in his dreams just like she did Perrin and Rand. If there’s a real world scene where they’ve been together before this, though, I don’t… oh, unless she means that time Uno saw her for like half a second in the window of that cottage right before Rand had his flicker time loop episode in TGH? I dunno. I mean, Mat was there, but he didn’t see her himself. So I don’t think that should count.
“A Darkfriend?” Selene said mockingly. She sounded amused, not angered. She sounded contemptuous. “One of those pathetic followers of Ba’alzamon who think he will give them immortality and power? I follow no one. There is one man I could stand beside, but I do not follow.”
Obviously when she refers to Ba’alzamon here she’s talking about Ishamael, and I can certainly see how she would not consider herself his lackey, but even so, really, you follow no one, Lanfear? Not even the actual Great Lord of the Dark fellow you unsealed from his can? Cause, you know, I bet he’d be interested to hear that.
Or, maybe it’s that she just doesn’t count the Dark One as a person, so technically, she follows no one. You’d think dodgy semantics would be beneath someone who thinks so highly of herself, but you’d be wrong.
“I will not compel you. I have always believed men perform better if convinced rather than forced.”
Big talk, considering she apparently starts to Compel him two minutes later. Which is interesting, considering how long she kept herself from doing the same to Perrin or Rand. I guess Mat is just that irritating, heh.
I was also apparently pretty annoyed about this in the original commentary, but I feel like I have decided that Lanfear’s hangups re: Compulsion are actually explicable and in character, rather than the opposite, so it hasn’t been bugging me nearly as much this time around.
The Amyrlin gave an exasperated sigh. “You remind me of my uncle Huan. No one could ever pin him down. He liked to gamble, too, and he’d much rather have fun than work. He died pulling children out of a burning house. He wouldn’t stop going back as long as there was one left inside. Are you like him, Mat? Will you be there when the flames are high?”
So what these two chapters are mainly about, now that we are in Mat’s head and able to observe his personality mostly scrubbed of evil dagger sludge, is to establish what that personality actually is. Hilariously, because of the kind of self-bluffing personality Mat has, we actually get more insight into his character from Siuan and even Selene’s observations of him than we do from his own internal monologue.
E.g., the quote above, which is still one of my favorites, probably because it practically slaps a neon sign up which says LOVABLE ROGUE: INCOMING. (Don’t click that.)
And there’s more lovable rogueish badassery on the way! Tune in next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel, y’all. Cheers!