Merlin’s pants, it’s The 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!
Before we begin, a reminder that the format of the Reread Redux is changing a bit from here on out, in that from now on I am only going to be commenting on chapters in which my reaction has changed significantly from before, based on the knowledge I had at the time.
Last time we got up to Chapter 13 of TSR, so at the moment we’re just skipping the formation of the world’s most annoying love triangle of all time, because ugh.
Chapter 15: Into the Doorway
I said in the original commentary that this was a great chapter, with one of my favorite lines in the series (“Go to Rhuidean, son of battles! Go to Rhuidean, trickster! Go, gambler! Go!”), and that is still very true.
What I didn’t really bother to talk about in the original commentary, interestingly, was the Aelfinn’s actual answers to Mat:
“To marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons!”
“To die and live again, and live once more a part of what was!”
“To give up half the light of the world to save the world!”
Granted, possibly I didn’t bother because I thought the meanings therein were pretty obvious by that point. The end of KOD saw the completion of Mat and Tuon’s cockamamie wedding ritual, and Jordan had long since confirmed that the “die and live again” bit had been fulfilled by the events of the end of TFOH (when Mat is killed by Rahvin, and is then “resurrected”, sort of, when Rand subsequently balefires the everliving crap out of Rahvin, undoing Mat’s murder).
And even though Mat’s third Aelfinn answer had not been fulfilled at that point, most of the fandom was sure it meant sacrificing an eyeball long before we had it confirmed by events in TOM. This was mostly because of Egwene’s corresponding Dream of Mat in which she saw him place his own left eye on a balance scale, and Min’s viewing of him, which mentioned the same image. Some of the interpretations of the prophecies of WOT have been coy to suss out, but this one really was not.
However, now that we do know how exactly it happened, it’s the latter half of the third answer/prophecies that’s more interesting. According to the Aelfinn, Mat’s supposed to give up his eye “to save the world”. Alternately, in Egwene and Min’s visions, his eye is associated with a balance scale, which generally symbolizes justice, but can also be taken more literally; that his sacrifice is essential in tipping the balance of something one way or the other. “Something” being the fate of the world, evidently. (No pressure!)
And so it turns out to be. Saving Moiraine from the Eelfinn may not have seemed all that world-tipping on the surface of it, but in AMOL, it is only Moiraine’s intervention which keeps Rand from walking out of the negotiations with Egwene, thus preventing the fractious alliance of the forces of Light from falling apart before the Last Battle even begins. She is also pivotal to what happens in Shayol Ghul at the end of AMOL, true, but truthfully any sufficiently powerful channeler could have done that. It is only Moiraine, though, who could have done what she did at Merrilor, so personally I consider that event to be the one that truly fulfills the prophecies.
By contrast, it turns out that the series ends without us ever learning for certain sure what questions Rand asked of the Aelfinn, or what their answers were. But as I said in the original commentary (or rather, as the WOTFAQ said and I quoted), their general content can be deduced over the course of the books since TSR, and as far as I can recall there was nothing in the last three books to contradict the guesses given there.
The only difference is that we know which of the possible ways Rand dies in order to live, which is “Or, Rand will seemingly die, but won’t really”. Although I really wonder whether anyone can legitimately claim to have guessed “bodyswaps with Moridin” to have been the method before AMOL came out.
Chapter 19: The Wavedancer
[First, what we skipped in brief: Faile and Perrin are idiots at each other some more, and Loial gets caught in the middle; Nynaeve gets very thoroughly kissed; Thom and Moiraine have a “Who is the Manipulativist of Them All” contest, and Thom loses; Min continues to be the White Tower’s resident Cassandra. Yay!]
Not a lot happened in this chapter, other than that we got introduced to practically the only Sea Folk characters in the entire series who didn’t annoy the crap out of me, but I’m stopping on it because I plaintively wondered in the original commentary what purpose the Sea Folk were going to serve besides being annoying, and now I finally know, sort of.
Prior to AMOL, most fans assumed, rather logically, that the Sea Folk were going to be serving as Rand’s navy in the Last Battle, but that turned out to not be the case at all, at least as far as I recall. Obviously I could be wrong (and there is no way I’m plowing through all of AMOL right now to check), but I’m pretty sure there were no real naval offensives in the Last Battle at all. Which, on the one hand, seems a tad unrealistic, but on the other, I can definitely see how the decision could be made that the land-based logistics of that monster were quite complicated enough already, thank you.
Instead, the Sea Folk’s main contribution to the Last Battle seems to have been weather control, via the Windfinders and the Bowl of Winds. And don’t get me wrong, that was clearly a very important task, but it seems like rather a waste of all the rest of the non-channeling Sea Folk. I guess maybe they were just folded into the general army? Enh.
Chapter 20: Winds Rising
[A note on the intro to this post, that you would not believe how long it took me to thesaurus up all those words. Heh.]
“You were talking of your epic,” [Elayne] said, trying to guide him back, but [Thom] shook his shaggy white head.
“I was talking of change. My epic, if I compose it—and Loial’s book—will be no more than seed, if we are both lucky. Those who know the truth will die, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren will remember something different. And their grandchildren’s grandchildren something else again. Two dozen generations, and you may be the hero of it, not Rand.”
“Me?” she laughed.
“Or maybe Mat, or Lan. Or even myself.” He grinned at her, warming his weathered face. “Thom Merrilin. Not a gleeman—but what? Who can say? Not eating fire, but breathing it. Hurling it about like an Aes Sedai.” He flourished his cloak. “Thom Merrilin, the mysterious hero, toppling mountains and raising up kings.” The grin became a rich belly laugh. “Rand al’Thor may be lucky if the next Age remembers his name correctly.”
I remarked in the original commentary about how Thom in this chapter brought up the theme of story decay, but I think this sly reference to Thom himself slipped by me previously. Which is a shame, because it is an awesome one.
Fans have long since speculated that the name “Merrilin” was a reference to Merlin, who is of course the legendary wizard who (depending on what version you’re reading) either literally or figuratively “raised up” Arthur Pendragon to be King of the Britons. The “story decay” parallels to WOT in that sense, then, are pretty obvious, especially when you consider what Thom had been busy doing on Rand’s behalf in TSR before Moiraine shanghaied him into following Elayne to Tanchico. Very clever, Jordan, I love it.
The commentary on this chapter is also notable for my strong displeasure at the results I received when Googling for “why ships are called she”, as opposed to the Sea Folks’ custom of regarding their ships to be masculine, and coming up only with the sexist claptrap I quoted there. Out of curiosity, I Googled the same thing again seven years later, and… came up with the same damn quote. However, and I honestly don’t remember if this is different from when I searched the term in 2009 or not, this time the top hit for the search both acknowledged the sexism of the quote, and offered alternate and generally much more palatable suppositions for the whys of the practice. So that was rather better, I think?
Also, there were quite a few of y’all who chimed in with thoughtful observations on the practice which rather confirmed my after-the-fact instinct that perhaps I had overreacted to an extent. For instance, “Msedai” remarks in the comments that they thought “it has more to do with the fact that men were the ones sailing ships historically, and so the affectionate pronoun is female. For the Atha’an Miere, women are the ones really ‘captaining’ the ships, so the affectionate pronoun is male”.
Put that way, it is… better. Not that there aren’t still sexist connotations overall in the practice of making inanimate objects female by default, for reasons which I should hope would be obvious by now, but it is also obvious that there is just as often an intent to offer respect as there is mockery. It doesn’t mollify me completely, but I ain’t quite as mad at it as I was last time around.
And that’s where we stop for now, folks! Have a lovely two weeks, and then I’ll see you back here for Moar!