The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Dragon Reborn, Part 15

Indeed, and so it is another Wheel of Time Reread Redux! Huzzah!

Today’s Redux post will cover Chapters 30 and 31 of The Dragon Reborn, originally reread in this post.

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 30: The First Toss

WOT-diceRedux Commentary

He knew he was lucky. He could remember always being lucky. But somehow, his memories from Emond’s Field did not show him as lucky as he had been since leaving. […] But it was not just since leaving the Two Rivers that he had become lucky. The luck had come once he took the dagger from Shadar Logoth.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore the whole Mat + luck thing; it’s always been one of my favorite fantastical conceits in the whole series. There’s something inherently fascinating in playing with the laws of probability, and the (probably ill-advised) air of romance surrounding gambling and its various symbolic trappings (which Jordan makes liberal use of in connection with Mat) only adds to the mystique. Storytelling (especially in fantasy) is about finding signal in the noise, patterns out of randomness, and that is precisely what games of chance tempt us with.

So, that’s all very cool. However, as I said in the original commentary, I never did quite get why unnaturally good luck should be the residue of Mat’s encounter with the Shadar Logoth dagger. As I said, it’s too beneficial a result, for one thing. And for another, there just doesn’t seem to be any logical connection between “luck” and “unreasoning paranoia and hatred”, which as you’ll recall was Shadar Logoth’s main theme in life. Or, er, death. Or undeath. Whatever.

And, well, maybe there isn’t a connection. A lot of commenters on the original post opined that Mat is actually just plain wrong about the source of his luck, and that it was owed to his particular manifestation of ta’veren-ness instead. Some argued that maybe the extreme Healing session he had in the Tower, and its apparent thinning of the boundaries between Mat’s present life and his past ones, may have been what made his luck go haywire. And, in fact, Mat himself brings up that possibility a few lines later:

Maybe it was something the Aes Sedai did. Something they did Healing me. By accident, maybe. That could be it. Better that the other. Those bloody Aes Sedai must have done it to me.

I don’t remember whether Jordan’s ever provided a definitive answer to this question, but on balance I think I prefer the idea that the dagger had nothing to do with Mat’s luck, and that it was either his ta’veren nature coming forward, a result from exposure to extreme Healing, or both. That makes a lot more sense to me.

Either way, though, it sure is fun to read about.

As [Anaiya] turned from him, her eyes fell on the quarterstaff he had brought from the practice yard, propped in the corner of the room. “You do not need to protect yourself from us, Mat. You are as safe here as you could be anywhere. Almost certainly safer.”

“Oh, I know that, Aes Sedai. I do.” After she left he frowned at the door, wondering if he had managed to convince her of anything.

Something I think we rarely if ever see any Aes Sedai express, but which I most certainly would feel if I were one, is any real chagrin or regret that most people seem to regard them so negatively, with anything from caution to fear to overt hostility. Or that even those people who do regard Aes Sedai favorably only seem to do so in a way which is nearly as distancing as outright dislike. I mean, it’s not like you can really make much more of a connection with someone who’s always bowing and scraping at you than you can with someone who visibly wishes you would just go away and quit freaking them out.

I don’t know, most of the sisters in the story seem to either not notice or not care about this (or even tacitly approve of it), but I feel like I would find it awfully… lonely, to be so restricted in who I could hang out with as a peer.

There are only, what, right around a thousand living Aes Sedai at this point in the series? Which might seem like a fairly large pool of potential people to be friends with, but objectively it really isn’t. Especially when you consider that most Aes Sedai were discouraged from making friends outside of their own Ajah, which means you actually only had a group of a hundred or so to choose from – all of them being people who, by definition, are probably pretty similar to you.

Yeah, that… sucks. It’s great when your friends like the same things you like, obviously, but jeez, it’s not cool for everyone to be exactly alike, all the time. Variety, yo, get you some!

Not to mention the near-total exclusion of the possibility of having male friends in that pool. (I feel like Warders can’t really count, given the inherent power imbalance there; maybe that’s not always true, but it’s undeniably an issue.) I don’t know about anyone else, but some of the best and most enduring platonic friendships I’ve had in my life have been with men, and the idea of having no access to the possibility of cross-gender friendships is really pretty upsetting.

Anyway, I just feel like walking around in a world where 95% of people either avoid you or hate you (or excessively kiss your ass while wishing they could avoid you) would be a kind of depressing lot in life, really.

And in the “hilariously minor/random” category:

Raucous music filled the streets from bittern and flute, harp and hammered dulcimer.

Huh. Never really noticed this before, but I’m pretty sure a “bittern” is a kind of bird, not an instrument. A gittern is an instrument, kind of halfway between a lute and a guitar; there is also apparently a variant called a cittern, but at least as far as Google is concerned, a bittern is a bird, the end.

But, apparently this is not a gaffe on Jordan’s part (or if it is, it’s a determinedly unnoticed gaffe), because not only is it mentioned several more times in the book, TDR actually has “bittern” as an entry in its glossary:

bittern (BIHT-tehrn): A musical instrument that may have six, nine, or twelve strings, and is held flat on the knees and played by plucking or strumming.

Interestingly, neither a gittern nor a cittern is played in this manner; the description sounds more like a zither to me than anything else, though I am hardly an expert on historical stringed instruments. But regardless, what it definitely is not, is a shy, short-necked member of the heron family.

Sooo, I guess Jordan just decided to… call his version of this thing a bird? Even though all the other mentioned instruments are actual names of actual instruments? Weird. It’s not like “zither” isn’t plenty exotic-sounding to the average modern ear, after all.

“Zither” is an awesome word, actually. Sounds like what a snake’s zipper would sound like, if snakes had zippers. Zither. Zither. Zzzzzzziitther

Hm? Oh, right. Moving on!

 

Chapter 31: The Woman of Tanchico

WOT-harpRedux Commentary

Yay, Mat and Thom! They are a great duo. I heart them. “Try not to eat the table” makes me chuckle every time.

Still can’t believe I didn’t realize Thom killed Galldrian for so long.

“Footpads,” Mat muttered. “I was thinking about footpads.”

“No street thieves or strong-arms in Tar Valon, either, boy. When the guards take a footpad—not that many try that game here; the word spreads—but when they do, they haul him to the Tower, and whatever it is the Aes Sedai do to him, the fellow leaves Tar Valon the next day as wide-eyed as a goosed girl. I understand they’re even harder on women caught thieving. No, the only way you’ll have your money stolen here is somebody selling you polished brass for gold or using shaved dice. There are no footpads.”

A crime-free city? I can hardly picture such a thing.

Of course, I’m sure Tar Valon isn’t actually crime-free; it probably just has more subtle criminals. Grifters and con artists and bribe-takers, maybe. Civic corruption. Maybe a cat burgler or two. Probably no graffiti artists, though; I shudder to think what the penalty would be for defacing millennia-old Ogier stone work.

I’m not clear, now that I think about it, on who exactly sent the not-footpads, plus optional Gray Man, after Mat in the previous chapter. I guess it would have to be Mesaana? I don’t think Mat is on any other Forsaken’s radar at this point, except in the most general sense, but presumably Mesaana’s minions reported to her about Mat’s Healing and his connection to Rand (though not, apparently, his connection to the Horn, otherwise I assume it would have been stolen out of the Tower long since), so that’s probably why she would have ordered his assassination. Yeah, okay.


And… that’s all I have to say about that chapter, so here’s where we stop! Next week: more Mat goodness! Stay tuned!

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