Happy Black Tuesday, Tor.com! I’m… not sure that’s a thing, officially, but since we’re clearly supposed to be shopping madly every dang-doodley day from Thanksgiving to Christmas anyway, I hardly see the difference. But in any case, we still have Rereading to do, so let’s get to it!
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, the scheduling shenanigans continue: owing to Thanksgiving week being way more insane than I had anticipated, my original plan to double up Reread posts obviously did not happen, and owing to mass bouts of family flu this week, it is highly unlikely that my next MRGN post is going to happen Thursday. SO, I decided to put the Reread post up this week, and push the MRGN post back to next week so I am still on an alternating schedule, and also so my sisters will not have to help me critique movies through a haze of snot and misery. I’m really sorry if this is terribly confusing, hopefully it will all be straightened out now.
Yep. And, Onward!
Chapter 45: The Tinker’s Sword
[What we missed: Perrin and Slayer play Homicidal Hide n’ Seek in the wolf dream, and Perrin finds out the Waygate is open and spewing Trollocs into the Two Rivers. He gets back to Emond’s Field and barely has time to be embarrassed by his new flag and title before he nearly dies of arrow wound. Alanna Heals him in the nick of time, and he tries to immediately leave to hero at Trollocs. Faile employs the worst attempt at reverse psychology ever, but it works, because Perrin, and he stays behind the front lines for the Shadow’s first assault on the village. In this chapter, the Tinkers and the Whitecloaks arrive in Emond’s Field, each bringing their own unique specimen of drama llama (i.e. Aram and Bornhald the Younger, respectively), neatly distracting Perrin from his horror that Faile totally thinks they’re going to be lord and lady round these parts.]
So, I spewed an awful lot of pseudo-philosophical political theory in the commentary to this chapter, and it is kind of hilarious. Does it count as vanity to find your own writing entertaining if you don’t actually remember writing it? A question for the ages, no doubt.
Though of course, the best part of it is not my own writing, but the Douglas Adams quote, which was then and still remains now one of my favorite humorous-yet-also-scarily-accurate commentaries on the vagaries of power:
The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
I’m just gonna… leave that there.
Well, except that I’m also going to add in the famous paraphrasing of Winston Churchill’s comment on the matter: “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others.”
I spoke in the original commentary with what is probably a fairly typical contempt of the idea of any form of government being superior to a modern democracy. And it made perfect sense to me then. But having been subjected of late to a very rude awakening on the subject of just how many ways modern democracies can fail their people, I doubt I could have written now what I did then with anything like so blithe an assurance.
That said, unlike Faile, I still don’t think that feudalism is an acceptable alternative, for reasons I should hope would be obvious. And yet the inherent romance of the notion of the peerage – of lords and ladies and kings and queens and etc. – still holds sway, a lot more than I think most people are willing to admit. And she is not wrong in that people, even free people, long for a leader worthy of being followed. Or that they may fail to consider the long-term ramifications of giving that leader more power than he ought to be allotted, if those people wish to remain free.
Because sure, Perrin’s great, and did (and by all indications, will do) a great job ruling over the Two Rivers. Fabulous, congratulations. But what happens if his heir ain’t so great a person, or his grandkids, or their kids? Cause, you know, by that point it’s a little late to be all welll we THOUGHT we wanted to be vassals to a lord, but that was like three lords ago, aaaaand we’ve changed our minds now, sorry our bad, we’re just gonna go. Because historically speaking, the lord’s response is probably going to be along the lines of gee, you don’t say. Well, here, how about I just murder and oppress you a lot until you take it back because there’s nothing to say I can’t? Why’re you hitting yourself, huh? Quit hitting yourself!
And after that it just gets depressing. So yes, in the cold clear light of rational day, not a great idea. And yet, here we all are – me included – gettin’ all misty-eyed about Perrin earning himself a title and becoming the Village Autocrat.
People are, indeed, a very big problem.
Chapter 46: Veils
[In this chapter, Elayne and Nynaeve almost get kidnapped, unwittingly give Egeanin her midterm for Slavery Might Not Be Totally Awesome OMG 101, and spill their Compelled guts to Moghedien.]
And hahaha, in the commentary to this chapter I talk about the seemingly-rational- and-egalitarian-but-actually-totally-not hierarchy of the White Tower, with the deeply true observation that “It wouldn’t be a believable power hierarchy if it wasn’t at least slightly stupid.” Preach, Past Me.
What I left out, interestingly, is the stuff Thom tells the Supergirls in this chapter about Amathera, and how she is going to be invested as the Panarch even though “the Assembly” refused to choose her. Which sounds like a suspiciously democratic process for a mostly feudalish fantasy world. Earlier on in TSR, Elayne told Egwene a little about how Tanchico’s government works:
“The Panarch of Tanchico is the equal of the king in authority,” Elayne recited. “She is responsible for collecting taxes, customs and duties; he for spending them properly. She controls the Civil Watch and the courts, except for the High Court, which is the king’s. The army is his, of course, except for the Panarch’s Legion. She—”
So basically this seems like a somewhat wackadoo monarchy/democracy hybrid government, in which one leader is elected and the other (presumably) is not, which is a kind of interesting attempt at a system of checks and balances in theory, but in practice mostly sounds like a recipe for disaster. Especially when you have to assume these Assembly characters are drawn from the ranks of the aristocracy, and might even be hereditary roles themselves, which rather lightens the weight on the “democracy” side of the scale, dontcha know. But hey, it worked for the Romans!
…uh, you know. Until it didn’t. But hey, “at least slightly stupid”, checked off! Yay?
Right, and by now I’m not even sure what point I was making, or even if there was one in the first place. Other than “governments suck”, maybe. But I’m pretty sure we all knew that by now!
And, yeah. Stopping begins! Come on back in two weeks for more, y’hear? Good!