November! What a month. Indeed. Have a Wheel of Time Reread Redux, won’t you? You will? Excellent!
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 has changed: 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.
Also, short scheduling note: owing to my other blog series getting pushed back a week so as to avoid Thanksgiving, I’m planning on doubling up on the Redux Reread so that I can maintain my every-other-week schedule. So, there will be another Redux post next Tuesday before going back to the “every two weeks” regular schedule. Orange you excited? I knew you would be!
Chapter 35: Sharp Lessons
So, this chapter’s commentary is where I first named Egwene the Ooh Ooh Girl, a moniker which I think, unsurprisingly, resonated with a fair number of my geeky brethren and sistren out there in Nerd Land, and I’ll quote the description here again for those who might not remember it:
I used to not get why people got so annoyed with Egwene, but reading this now, I see it, because she is totally the “Ooh! Ooh!” Girl.
You know who I mean: that annoying girl in grammar/high school who was always the first – and middle, and last – person to raise her hand in class; and she wouldn’t just raise it, she would shoot it up like a cannon going off, it was like she was trying to bust her own hole in the ozone layer over there. She’s the girl who is completely convinced she knows everything, and is unfortunately just smart/talented enough that it is very difficult to convince her otherwise. She has an opinion on everything, and is eager and excited and impatient and confrontational and tactless and even though you know she at least theoretically will go on to do great things one day (or at least definitely graduate college), right then she basically drives everyone there including the teacher right up the goddamn wall.
Egwene is totally that girl. And yet, though I see why others would therefore be annoyed with her, I cannot get annoyed with her, because I was also totally that girl.
If there is any one most awesomely accurate call I have made about a WOT character over the course of the original Reread, I tend to think it is this one. And I remain both surprised and gratified that Jordan saw fit to make an Ooh Ooh Girl one of his primary protagonists, because that is something that happens sadly infrequently, and because he made her one in a way which (in my opinion) made her a Hermione Granger instead of a Wesley Crusher.
And if the preceding sentence made perfect sense to you, congratulations, your geek card is automatically renewed for another year and you do not need to retake the written test. Go you!
I love that characters like Egwene exist, because we need Ooh Ooh Girls in the world, and I don’t just say that because I was one. We need them, and we need to encourage them. Now more than ever.
Chapter 41: Among the Tuatha’an
[What we missed: Extremely Shady Traders join up with Rand’s entourage, and Rand does the canny-yet-also-crazy dance re: who they actually are. Aviendha rails against fate, Moiraine spies on everyone, and Mat gets a hat. Meanwhile in Tanchico, Jaichim Carridin is a coward, Liandrin and Co. are being evil and looking for something, and Egeanin embarks on her studies for Slavery Might Not Be Totally Awesome OMG 101. Elayne gets drunk and pulls mustaches, and Nynaeve almost gets ganked by her to-be-fiance’s cousin. Meanwhile meanwhile, Perrin hunts Trollocs and finally comes off the worst for it. Then in this chapter, Perrin finds refuge among the Tinkers, again, and he and Faile come clean to each other.]
“He leads a life of violence,” Raen said sadly. “As you do. A violent life is stained even if long.”
“Do not try to bring him to the Way of the Leaf standing here, Raen,” Ila said briskly, but not unkindly. “He is hurt. They all are.”
“What am I thinking of?” Raen muttered. Raising his voice, he called, “Come, people. Come and help. They are hurt. Come and help.”
Men and women gathered quickly, murmuring their sympathy as they helped injured men down from their horses, guiding men toward their wagons, carrying them when necessary. Wil and a few of the others looked concerned over being separated, but Perrin was not. Violence was the farthest thing from the Tuatha’an. They would not raise a hand against anyone, even to defend their own lives.
I don’t know that I ever definitively gave my opinion in the original Reread on the Tinkers’ brand of total pacifism (though chances are I did), but I think that what I would say about it now is at least subtly different from what I would have said years ago.
The older I get, I find, the less comfortable I have become with condoning violence as an appropriate response to, well, almost anything, and the more I want to endorse compromise and tolerance over their polar opposites. And yet, I retain enough of my youthful pragmatism to acknowledge that violence is a reality that’s not going to go away just because I want it to, and that sometimes a refusal to defend against violence may ultimately cause more harm than not.
I think that years ago I would have been much more immediately dismissive of the Tinkers’ commitment to non-violence, in much the same way that I think Jordan (subtly) is as well, via Perrin. This is not to say that he (or I) had no respect for the Tinkers’ philosophy; it was more of an instant conviction that such a stance is admirable in principle but utterly unworkable in reality.
I still mostly believe that, really, but I think now that conclusion is laced with far more hesitation and… guilt, I guess. Meaning that I feel like there should be a way for me to feel good about endorsing pacifism as a practical measure, but that as of yet I have not found a way to do that that doesn’t sound like wishful thinking.
It’s a conundrum, in other words. A vastly important and yet also vastly knotty one. It’s complicated and hard and I kind of hate thinking about it, and yet I must, for there are plenty of those who feel no compunctions or hesitations whatsoever about the applicability of violence to solve their problems. And people who do not understand why they should even consider the Tinkers’ point of view, people who do not understand why this question is knotty and difficult and hard, are deeply dangerous people, and one must consider carefully how best to thwart them.
And I think that’s all I’ve got to say at this particular moment, so join me next week for more. Cheers, my dears.