Hello readers! Did you notice the byline at the top of the page? (Don’t worry, it’s still me, not my brother taking over the read or anything. I don’t even have a brother!) I’ve changed my name! Think of it like when your favorite soda brand does a redesign; new look, same great content!
Here’s hoping, anyway.
Today, in Part 12 of Reading The Wheel of Time, I’d like us to cast our minds back to the terrible dreams that have been afflicting our three young heroes on their journey towards a hopeful reunion in Caemlyn. Perrin, Rand, and Mat have all suffered from dreams of Ba’alzamon since those terrible visions of dead rats back in the Stag and Lion. (Although since we have yet to get any story from Mat’s point of view, we don’t have quite the same detail to analyze from him that we have for Perrin and Rand.) In this post, am going to take a deeper look into the three big dreams that have happened since I did the initial dream analysis in Week 4: Perrin’s dream in the Tuatha’an camp, Rand’s dream about the recently deceased Gode, and Rand’s dreams in the back of Bunt’s cart.
Back in Chapter 27 and struggling with his deepening knowledge of and connection with the wolves, Perrin suffered from only the regular sorts of nightmares as he, Egwene, and Elyas traveled with the Tuatha’an. One night he dreams he is in the home of the Luhhans, sitting at the kitchen table while Mistress Luhhan is cooking. Perrin is sharpening his axe, knowing that he will need it soon. A wolf enters the room from somewhere else in the house, curling up between Perrin and the door.
Suddenly the wolf rises, growling, and Ba’alzamon enters from outside, and his eyes are flames. “Is this what you have to protect you?” he asks Perrin. “Well, I have faced this before. Many times before.” With a crook of his finger he sets the wolf on fire, and Perrin can smell the burning hair and flesh as he tries to put the fire out and the wolf turns to greasy soot under his hands. Ba’alzamon follows him across the kitchen, backing him up against the wall and tells Perrin that he cannot hide, that “[i]f you are the one, you are mine.” He throws out his hand and a raven flies out of it and into Perrin’s face, stabbing him in the left eye with its beak.
Perrin awakes safe and unhurt, but the memory of the injury is fresh in his mind, and in the mind of the wolves who are crying out in his, and Elyas’s head, Fire, Pain, Kill. With that communication, Elyas knows that is it time for them to leave the Traveling People and that something dangerous is coming.
So, as far as I can tell, there are three layers to this dream. One appears to be an ordinary one, in which Perrin dreams of his home, but also of feelings of danger, hence the axe where there normally wouldn’t be one. Throughout the action with Ba’alzamon and the wolf, Mistress Lehhan continues cooking as though none of it is happening, which makes me think that is the regular dream of Perrin’s imagination, and that the wolf and Ba’alzamon are intruders into it. Perrin interacts with them, but the rest of the dream continues on as normal.
The wolf, of course, is there to protect Perrin. Later in the chapter, as Perrin tries to comprehend the horror of his dream, he is stunned that that the wolves do not seem to have made them safe, as he previously believed. The wolves reply in Perrin’s mind that the connection between them is not complete, and won’t be until Perrin stops struggling and accepts it. But Ba’alzamon didn’t seem too fazed by the wolf in Perrin’s mind, acceptance or not, which makes me wonder how much even the wolves could do against him even if the connection were at full strength. Perhaps the other times Ba’alzamon contended with wolf brothers (and sisters? I hope there are wolf sisters) he also got to them before the connection could be completed? If a full connection with the wolves could protect Perrin from Ba’alzamon’s intrusion into his dreams, that would be a very valuable thing indeed.
Meanwhile, Rand’s dream in Chapter 33 takes place in part of the flashback confusion, but it’s right after they have escaped The Dancing Cartman and are sleeping huddled under some bushes in the storm. Rand dreams he is back in the town again, but this time it is empty of life. He returns to the inn, where he finds what appears to be the animated corpse of Gode, recognizable only from his clothes, his skin and hair burnt and oozing, his lips and eyelids gone. Ba’alzamon is there too, and he tells Rand that the dead Gode deserves reward for finding Rand. He tells Rand that he cannot hide, that “what protects [him] also makes [him] vulnerable.” He tries to persuade Rand to come to him willingly, to surrender to his fate rather than be painfully dragged to it, but Ba’alzamon tells him that Rand will be his even if he is killed. “Alive or dead, youngling, you are mine. The grave belongs to me. Easier dead, but better alive.”
Ba’alzamon gives Gode his “reward,” the marred body crumbling into dust, and then Ba’alzamon raises his fist to Rand. As he did with Perrin, he tells Rand “I mark you mine,” and and a ball of flame shoots from his hand and hits Rand in the face, waking him with the pain of it. His skin still feels tender in the real world, and he hears Matt sobbing with what appears to be the same or a similar nightmare, crying out “He took my eyes!”
This dream might be my favorite dream to date. The action is really tight, unlike the earlier dreams which involve a lot of wandering in corridors and mazes. Not that wandering is a bad thing! But there’s something about a quick, perfectly executed scene like this that I think shows a writer’s skill really well and can feel more immersive somehow to me as a reader. There are some really good lines in here, too; like when Rand thinks that perhaps he’s not afraid of Gode because he knows he’s dreaming, and then he hears Ba’alzamon.
Rand turned, and discovered he could be afraid, even knowing it was a dream.
So. Good. I also really liked the description of Gode getting his “reward.” I kept thinking of the Nazis getting dissolved in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark; and that moment when Belloq cries “It’s beautiful” before the face rising from the open ark turns into a terrifying skull. The human Darkfriends we have met so far (not counting in the prologue) seem to be seduced by petty ideas of wealth or power while not really understanding the power they are aligning themselves with; they probably all will receive a similar reward from the Dark One, for whom they are merely tools in his quest to destroy everything. One wonders how so many people could not feel the horror that seems to come off of Ba’alamon in waves, though.
Unlike Perrin’s dream earlier, this dream seems more in keeping with the earlier Ba’alzamon dreams Rand and the boys have had; as though the dreamscape itself is created by Ba’alzamon so that he can draw Rand into it. I wonder if knowing where Rand is makes it easier to target him. I also wonder what effect Rand being the Dragon Reborn has on the vividness of his dreams, and what control he has in the situation. Rand’s choice to speak and deny Ba’alzamon, to say that he will never belong to the Dark One, feels very significant, and I suspect that Ba’alzamon really needs the boys (or at least, whichever is the “the one”) to give over to him. No doubt that will give him control over the person, as it does over the Darkfriends who serve him. In Rand’s first dream back in Baerlon, Ba’alzamon tried to get him to drink from a goblet, and was visibly disappointed when Rand refrained. Now he urges the boys to surrender, to choose to serve him over serving Tar Valon and the Amyrlin Seat. I imagine if any of them were to surrender for even a moment, to take what seems an easier path than resistance, his power over them would be established.
We can only surmise what Matt dreamed, but Rand certainly seems to think it was similar, and “he took my eyes” sounds like Perrin’s eye-stabbing raven, at any rate. Eyes plural, in this case, but it seems to track. I also wonder if the corruption of the dagger has any effect on Mat’s dreams, or his vulnerability to Ba’alzamon. Stay strong, Matrim!
Finally, there is the big signal fire here of Rand’s use of the One Power to summon the lightning and Ba’alzamon’s comment of “What protects you makes you vulnerable.” Rand still isn’t aware that he has channeled, but by doing it he has marked himself. I noticed that there was no “Are you the one” or “if you are the one” from Ba’alzamon this time. He seems more sure of himself, less anxious to get details. Even his taunts are steadier.
In the back of Bunt’s wagon, Rand has a dream that seems very similar to his feverish visions while he was ill in the stables. Although we can’t really be sure of anything, it does seem as though those visions really were just ordinary fever dreams, with Rand’s worst fears coming to light, and so these seem to, except for the bit with Thom. In both the fever and the cart dreams, he sees his friends dead or being actively hurt by dark agents–with an emphasis on Egwene as the person he’s most afraid for. But as Bunt’s dissertation about Queen Morgase floats into his dreams, he imagines it is Thom reciting, and he says something that I am quite certain didn’t come first from Bunt’s lips: “The Dragon is one with the land, and the land is one with the Dragon.”
Also significant? When Rand sees Egwene in the dream, he shouts “It’s me you want, not her!” Of course, this could just be a standard reaction based on wanting to protect Egwene, but I wonder if some part of Rand, some deep unconscious part, hasn’t realized who he is and responds in the dream world in a way his conscious mind can’t yet. His dreams have a vivid flavor to them, and they are often at least partly lucid–he recognizes the dream, he can even control it sometimes, as he did in the maze dream of Chapter 24. This, I think, suggests a power in him that is perhaps greater than that we’ve seen from Perrin or suspected in Mat.
Thematically, I expect a dreamworld show-down at some point before the end of this book in which Rand does more than stand his ground against Ba’alzamon, but actually turns the tables, perhaps forcing the Dark One from his head. The realization of his identity is coming, at any rate, and I will be interested to see how he engages with it. We have seen Perrin’s struggle with his own powers, Egwene’s eagerness for hers, and we have watched Mat be slowly overcome by a power from outside himself. How will Rand al’Thor stack up in comparison to his friends? And of course this dream of Rand’s also has the raven-pecking-out-your-eye thing for the “mark you mine” bit. Is it more than a dramatic threat? Ba’alzamon can’t find them through their dreams or figure out who they are, he can’t read their minds or anything. But can he leave a mark on them? On their souls?
As with my usual hypotheses-heavy posts, I can’t help wondering how many clues I’ve missed. More than one commenter has pointed out how seamlessly Jordan drops bits of information and set up, be it world-building or plot-based, into the story almost without the reader noticing, and I have to say it’s really impressive. When I was going back over things this week I realized that I had completely forgotten that Ba’alzamon brought up Artur Hawkwing and took credit for all the horrible things that the King did, like vilifying the Aes Sedai and turning them away even when they were the only people who could save his life. That was in Rand’s first dream of him, around 200 pages before Elyas, Perrin, and Egwene are sitting around the remains of that statue in the stedding. And it sure puts a different spin on Elyas’s account of Hawkwing’s life and death for me; especially the bit “He hated Aes Sedai as much as he hated the Dark One.” It speaks again to the theme of distrust that has been continuously built throughout the story, and the way that the Dark One sows it everywhere he can.
For those of you who know the books well, I hope this wasn’t too slow a week for reading. I am interested to know how people feel about the dream sequences and how they set up the plot going forward, and you know, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in whited-out comments if you have spoiler-y observations or just want to giggle about my lack of knowledge. Lots more action in the upcoming chapters, and some Nynaeve POV too, hurray! We’ll be going on to cover Chapters 37 and 38, and the week after we’ll get to Rand and his ridiculous adventures trying to see Logain. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all down below!
Sylas K Barrett cannot lucid dream. But the other night he had a very long dream in which he was answering a lot of questions from his partner about the characters and plot details from The Silmarillion. The same thing is probably going to happen with The Wheel of Time, sooner or later.