Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Why Don’t the Aiel Use Swords, and Other Mysteries in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 19)

It is now Week 19 of this read of The Shadow Rising, in which we are tackling Chapter 25 and the part of 26 that I skipped over last week. I’m very excited to talk about this segment, which may be my favorite part of the entire saga to date, at least as far as pure storytelling goes. When people enthuse about Jordan’s skill in complex worldbuilding, this is the kind of thing they are talking about.

In fact, it’s so complex, and I have so many thoughts to break down, that the initial post this week was clocking in at over 10,000 words, which is far too long for a single week, so I’ve broken things down a little further. The last three sections of the flashback, those with young Jonai, Coumin, and Charn, will be covered next time, since they all pertain to the state of the World During the Age of Legends and during the Breaking. This week will cover everything that we’ve learned about the journey of the Aiel after they left with their caravan of wagons and Aes Sedai treasures.

Honestly friends, I think I might be in mourning for the Aiel.

Rand enters the rings, the air still and cool and filled with the dazzling lights reflected by the columns. He spots another man some six or seven steps ahead of him, who he figures must be Couladin’s brother, Muradin, although he wonders why he and Mat didn’t see the man go in. Muradin is standing still and stiff, staring ahead of him with an expression like the beginning of a snarl.

Rand takes a step forward, and finds himself somewhere else. And someone else, too. He is Mandein, a young sept chief, and his wife Sealdre is telling him that he must agree to whatever the Jenn ask of him. Mandein is standing above Rhuidean, looking down at the strange, giant city that the Jenn are building. He asks Sealdre if the others will come, and she explains that she and her sisters in the dream have talked, that most will come, and that those who do not, or who do not agree to the Jenn’s demands, will die out, as will their septs. Mandein does not like the idea of her talking to Wise Ones in the dream, but he knows that their dreams are truth. He bids Sealdre to look after the hold and their children if he does not return, and goes down with some of his warriors to meet the procession.

Other men from other septs are arriving as well, some of whom are enemies, and Mandein hopes that everyone will remember that killing in front of a Jenn is almost as bad as killing a Jenn. Still, he half expects fighting to break out at any moment. His attention is also drawn to the two Aes Sedai being carried in ornate chairs. Their hair is so white it is almost transparent, and the skin of their ageless faces looks so thin the wind might tear it. Mandein wonders how old they are and what they have seen, and finds that both women look up and meet his eyes. He feels himself chosen out, although he does not know why.

A man named Dermon introduces himself as well as two women named Mordaine and Narisse, who speak for the Jenn Aiel. None of the others like hearing the Jenn referred to as Aiel, and when Mandein asks why they have all been summoned, Dermon answers with another question: “Why do you not carry a sword?”

Mandein responds angrily that it is forbidden, but Dermon claims that they do not know why, that there is too much that they do not know. He tells them that whoever wants to lead the Aiel must come to Rhuidean and learn where the Aiel came from, and why they do not carry swords. Charendin, an old enemy of Mandein, asks whether the one who comes to Rhuidean will be made leader of all the Aiel.

“No.” The word came thin as a whisper, but strong enough to fill every ear. It came from the dark-eyed Aes Sedai sitting in her carved chair with a blanket across her legs as if she felt cold under the broiling sun. “That one will come later,” she said. “The stone that never falls will fall to announce his coming. Of the blood, but not raised by the blood, he will come from Rhuidean at dawn, and tie you together with bonds you cannot break. He will take you back, and he will destroy you.”

Mandein can see that some of the sept chiefs want to leave, but none do. They have listened to their Wise Ones, and know that they will be destroyed if they do not agree. Still, Charendin claims the Jenn’s command is a trick, to take control of the Aiel. The two women answer that they seek no control, and that a day is coming when the Jenn Aiel will be no more. Thus, the others must remember where the Aiel come from. Mandein asks why they are building Rhuidean if they know their doom.

“It is our purpose,” Dermon replied calmly. “For long years we searched for this place, and now we prepare it, if not for the purpose we once thought. We do what we must, and keep faith.”

Seeing no fear in Dermon’s face, Mandein declares that they are Aiel, and that he will go to Rhuidean as asked, even though Dermon tells him that he cannot go armed. He abandons his weapons and tells them that he will match their courage.

Rand comes back to himself, trying to puzzle out his experience being Mandein, and how the Jenn could be Aiel if they carried no weapons. He realizes that he’s farther into the columns than a single step, and closer to Muradin, whose expression has darkened further. Rand steps forward.

This time he is Rhodric, a young warrior, who keeps watch over other Aiel as they dig wells. Men on horses arrive, and Rhodric recognizes Garam, the son of the chief of the town. He greets the mounted man, and asks if the permission to take water from the land has been revoked. Garam says that it has not, but that the others have started to move, and he knows that Rhodric’s grandfather wanted to know if they did. Garam asks if they are the same people, and Rhodric explains that the others are the Jenn Aiel, and they are the Aiel. He cannot explain it further, though he does admit that he doesn’t understand it himself.

Jeordam, Rhodric’s greatfather, makes himself known, startling the other men, although Rhodric himself heard the approach. Garam tells them that the Jenn Aiel have turned east, across the Spine of the World, and asks if it makes the Aiel uneasy to travel so close to the Aes Sedai who are with the Jenn.

The Aes Sedai made Rhodric very nervous, though he kept his face blank. They were only four, not dozens, but enough to make him remember stories that the Aiel had failed the Aes Sedai in some way that no one knew. The Aes Sedai must know; they had seldom left the Jenn’s wagons in the year since their arrival, but when they did, they looked at the Aiel with sad eyes. Rhodric was not the only one who tried to avoid them.

“We guard the Jenn,” Jeordam said. “It is they who travel with Aes Sedai.”

Garam seems to accept this, but he goes on to explain that his father has a secret Aes Sedai advisor, one who claims that his people must move east, that the rains will return and that they will find a river to build a great city beside. But Garam has heard that the world used to be very different and that the Aes Sedai destroyed it. Now he hears that the Aes Sedai have found Ogier to build themselves a city, and he wonders if they shouldn’t kill all the Aes Sedai now, before they can destroy everything again. Jeordam is noncommittal in his response, and Garam mentions that the Spine of the World has another name, the Dragonwall.

Rhodric stared at the towering mountains in the distance. A fitting name for Aiel. Their own secret name, told to no one, was People of the Dragon. He did not know why, only that it was not spoken aloud except when you received your spears. What lay beyond this Dragonwall? At least there would be people to fight. There always were. In the whole world there were only Aiel, Jenn and enemies. Only that. Aiel, Jenn and enemies.

Again Rand returns to himself, puzzling through his experience and realizing that he had experienced a time before the Aiel came to the Waste, to their Three-Fold land. Again he finds himself nearer to Muradin, who looks like he is struggling to bring himself to take another step. Rand steps forward.

This time Rand becomes Jeordam when the man was younger, only 18. He is standing watch when a party of Jenn Aiel approach him.

“You have need of us, Jenn?” he called.

“You name us that to mock us,” a tall, sharp-nosed fellow shouted back, “but it is true. We are the only true Aiel. You have given up the Way.”

“That is a lie!” Jeordam snapped. “I have never held a sword!” He drew a deep breath to calm himself. He had not been put out here to grow angry with Jenn. “If you are lost, your wagons are that way.” He pointed southward with his spear.

A woman stops the sharp-nosed man from arguing further, and informs Jeordam that they are not lost. He leads the Jenn back towards his father’s tents. Jeordam is proud of his sept, which, consisting of around 200 people, is the largest of the ten camps that follow the Aiel wagons. To Lewin, Jeordam’s father, the Jenn tell their story, of how they traded with a village, only to have that village turn around and attack them, taking back what was traded for and more, including killing some of the Jenn and taking others captive.

The woman, Morin, tells how her five-year-old daughter was one of the ones taken. Lewin assures them that the Aiel will rescue those who were taken, and thrusts some spears into the ground. He tells the group that they may stay with the Aiel, if they wish, but they must be willing to defend themselves and the rest of the group. Once they take a spear, however, they can never return to the Jenn, and will be considered dead by them. The sharp-nosed man hurries away, but the rest each take a spear, including Morin.

“You do not have to take a spear just to stay,” Lewin told her, “or for us to bring back your people. Taking the spear means a willingness to fight, not just to defend yourself. You can put it down; there is no shame.”

“They have my daughter,” Morin said.

Lewin hesitates only a moment, then remarks that there is a first time for all things, and agrees. He selects men to be part of the rescue party, beginning with Jeordam. But Jeordam’s attention is caught by Morin, who is struggling with the long spear and her long skirts. When she again insists that she will be the one to rescue her daughter, Jeordam tells her he will get her some more suitable clothes, and cuts off the end of her spear to make it more manageable.

“Stab with it. No more than that. Just stab. The haft is used for blocking, too, but I will find you something to use as a shield in your other hand.”

She looked at him strangely. “How old are you?” she asked, even more oddly. He told her, and she only nodded thoughtfully.

After a moment, he said, “Is one of those men your husband?” They were still tripping over their spears.

“My husband mourns Kirin already. He cares more for the trees than his own daughter.”

Jeordam has no idea what she is talking about, and Morin explains that the Jenn carry three tree cuttings in barrels, which the Jenn mean to plant once they find a place of safety, believing that then the old days will return. She realizes that she is referring to the Jenn as “they” rather than “we” and lifts the spear, saying that she is no longer Jenn Aiel, and the spear is her husband now.

As Jeordam teaches her to use the spear, he realizes that this shorter weapon will make him faster than a man with a sword, and he misses her comment that she “saw his face in the dream” as he is caught up by the possibilities, dreams that no one could stand against the Aiel.

Rand is nearly caught up to Muradin now, whose teeth are bared as he stares ahead. Rand understands now that the columns are taking him back through the time-lost history of the Aiel. He steps forward, and back in time.

Rand is Lewin, who, with four other young men, crouches in the dark, spying on the camp of the men who had taken Lewin’s sister, Maigran, and the sister of two of his friends. They wear dustveils across their faces to protect against the dry, dusty wind, and Lewin wishes he had some water, although only children were ever allowed water between meals. He only vaguely remembers a time when there was more water, and the days and nights were not so hot and dusty.

They make a hasty plan to slip into the camp below and rescue the two kidnapped girls while the men are asleep; the rest of their people do not know they have slipped away to enact the rescue, and Adan, Lewin’s greatfather, would have stopped them if he had. His concentration is always on the preservation of the Aiel people, and the Aiel were preparing to carry on after the girls’ kidnapping, as they have so many times before. But Lewin could not let his sister go.

They make their way down, clumsy in the darkness, pebbles and sticks rolling and snapping beneath their feet, but nothing moves in the camp until Lewin finds his sister and tries to extract her from the blanket thrown over her. Then the rough men emerge from their own blankets, promising violence as Lewin urges his sister to run. But Maigran, apparently in shock, just stares at him.

As one of the men starts to brandish a knife at Lewin and Maigran, another boy, Charlin, throws himself at Lewin’s attacker, carrying him to the ground. When another pulls a sword, Lewin finds himself catching up a heavy iron kettle and smashing it into the swordsman’s head. Scrambling away from the next attacker, his hands search wildly for something to defend himself with, and he snatches up a stick, thrusting it at the man who is trying to kill him. Only then does he see that it is a spear, and he has stabbed it right through the man, killing him.

He looks around, and finds that the rest of his friends have taken out the other men, and the two girls are free. Maigran remains staring blankly, while the other, Colline, sobs under her blankets. They have killed all the men.

Lewin crawls over to Charlin, only to find that Charlin has taken a knife in his stomach. He only has time to tell Lewin “it hurts” before he dies.

Unsure what to do, they gather up all the useful possessions, things that were no doubt stolen already, as well as the knives and spears.

“When Alijha started to pick up one of the swords, though, Lewin stopped him. “No, Alijha. That is a weapon, made to kill people. It has no other use.” Alijha said nothing, only ran his eyes over the four dead bodies, looked at the spears Luca was winding with blankets to carry Charlin’s body on. Lewin refused to look at the villagers. “A spear can put food in the pots, Alijha. A sword cannot. It is forbidden by the Way.”

Alijha was still silent, but Lewin thought he sneered behind his dustveil. Yet when they finally started away into the night, the swords remained by the dying coals and the dead men.

They return to the wagons, where they are greeted by Adan, and the mothers of the two girls. They ask what happened, expressing their confusion that the boys had left the camp, and Maigran finally speaks, to tell the adults that the boys killed the bad men. At first no one believes her, but when they realize what she is saying is true, they are horrified. Adan reminds them of the Covenant, and that there is no reason good enough to justify killing another human being. He stands fast, even when they try to point out what the men did.

“There is no reason!” Adan roared, shaking with rage. “We must accept what comes. Our sufferings are sent to test our faithfulness. We accept and endure! We do not murder! You have not strayed from the Way, you have abandoned it. You are Da’shain no longer. You are corrupt, and I will not have the Aiel corrupted by you. Leave us, strangers. Killers! You are not welcome in the wagons of the Aiel.” He turned his back and strode away as if they no longer existed. Saralin and Nerrine started after him, guiding the girls.

When Lewin tries to speak to his mother, she tells him to hide his face, since she had a son once with that face, and she doesn’t want to see it on a killer. He shouts at their retreating back that he is still Aiel, and, as the dust begins to pick up again, he veils his face.

Rand finds himself almost beside Muradin now, struggling with questions raised by this strange revelation. Beside him, Muradin is in clear distress, and looks as though he wants to run. Rand steps forward.

Rand is Adan, and he is holding his dead son’s children, Maigran and Lewin, as they cry. Peering over the edge of the hollow in which they are hiding, he sees some of the wagons burning and dead Aiel scattered on the ground. The wagons that are not burning have been emptied, things that the Aes Sedai gave the Aiel to carry thrown on the ground to make room for the women that the laughing killers have taken prisoner. Adan’s daughter Rhea is among them.

The last of his children. Elwin dead of hunger at ten, Sorelle at twenty of fever her dreams told her was coming, and Jaren, who threw himself off a cliff a year ago, at nineteen, when he found he could channel. Marind, this morning.

Adan wants to rush out and attack the men, but he knows they will just kill him and take Rhea anyway, and then Maigran and Lewin would be left with no one to care for them… if the men didn’t kill the children too. So he waits, and when the men are gone he goes out among the dead, finding his wife’s body there. Another Aiel, Sulwin, asks what Adan proposes they do now, and Adan answers that they will do what they always do. Bury the dead, and carry on.

“Go on, Adan? How can we go on? There are no horses. There is almost no water, no food. All we have left are wagons full of things the Aes Sedai will never come for. What are they, Adan? What are they that we should give our lives to haul them across the world, afraid to touch them even? We cannot go on as before!”

“We can!” Adan shouted. “We will! We have legs; we have backs. We will drag the wagons, if need be. We will be faithful to our duty!” He was startled to see his own brandished fist. A fist. His hand trembled as he unclenched it and put it down by side.

But Sulwin disagrees. They are meant to find a place of safety, he says, and he remembers stories his greatfather told of when they lived in safety and people came to hear them sing. He means to refind that life. Adan reminds him that the old ways are gone, and they do not know those old songs anymore. They will not give up their duty to the Aes Sedai to chase what is gone.

But Sulwin means to, and some of his followers begin throwing things out of the wagons, including a polished doorway of red stone, emptying them of everything except food and water. Adan tells them that they are no longer Aiel. Sulwin insists they still follow the Way of the Leaf, but Adan repeats that they are not Aiel, that they are Lost. He determines that they will save as much of the discarded items as they can, although there’s no way to tell which things the Aes Sedai would deem most important. Holding his dead wife in his arms, he asks the Aes Sedai who aren’t there how much longer they must be faithful.

Rand comes back to himself, tears in his eyes, and finds himself in step with Muradin. They go forward together.

Rand is Jonai, tired and weary and mourning his wife, Alnora, without whom he hardly cares to live, and without whose dreams he hardly knows what to do next. His son, Adan, interrupts his musings over how many fewer wagons there are, how many fewer Aiel, to tell him that they have encountered Ogier. Jonai is surprised to see that the Ogier look as bedraggled and worn as his own people, and feels a flash of anger when he sees that the Ogier have been given food. He reminds himself that sharing freely is the way, but he can’t stop thinking about how many people could be fed on what fifty Ogier could consume.

One of the Ogier observes that they have chora cuttings, and Adan answers that they keep dying, but the old folk take new cuttings before they do. He himself is more concerned about people than trees, and asks how bad it is in the north. Bad, the Ogier tell him. The Blighted Lands have grown southward, and there are Myrddraal and Trollocs.

He tells the Ogier that the east is bad too, although perhaps not as bad for them. The Aiel had encountered people who took a third of their horses, forcing them to abandon some of the wagons. But he suggests that people won’t attack Ogier the same way. The Ogier seem unconvinced, and ask if Jonai has seen the stedding.

“We have run so far, so long,” an Ogier back in the huddle said, and another added in a mournful rumble, “The land has changed so much.”

“I think we must find a stedding soon or die,” the first Ogier woman said. “I feel a… longing… in my bones. We must find a stedding. We must.”

Jonai feels a great deal of grief, for the lost Ogier, for the ever-changing landscape and the Blighted Lands expanding, for the animalistic nature of the people they encounter, who don’t even recognize the Da’shain. He finds he cannot breathe, and collapses, feeling like his heart is being squeezed in a fist. He gasps out his last instructions to his son, to take the people south, to guard what they were given and to keep the Way of the Leaf.

Rand comes to himself beside Muradin, who is trying to scream and clawing at his face, leaving bloody scratches. Rand steps forward.

 

If there is one thing that links all those of Aiel descent, despite the ways in which their paths have diverged, it is their strong wills. From those who continued to hold the Way of the Leaf, despite all their misfortunes and suffering, to those who chose to take up spears and fight to protect themselves and those they loved, everyone in these flashbacks shows an iron will in almost impossible circumstances.

Since the very beginning of this series, we have heard many references to the dark times that followed the Breaking, but the firsthand accounts that Rand experiences in Rhuidean have a much more powerful effect than stories of half-remembered sufferings recounted by those who didn’t directly experience them. It gives me a different understanding of what the Breaking truly meant—and Rand too, I think.

One of the questions I have is whether every man who steps into the columns experiences the same memories from the exact same people—Mandein, Rhodric, Jeordam, Lewin, Adan, Jonai, Coumin, and Charn (the latter two we will get to next week). This particular bloodline seems to have been at the center of the Aiel’s experience, mostly leaders, and we know that Charn was connected to Mierin, one of the Aes Sedai responsible for the Bore, who may also be Lanfear. (More on that next week, too.) And it was Jonai who was specifically charged by the Aes Sedai with carrying those angreal and ter’angreal to a place of safety.

A place of safety. It took the Aiel many generations to find such a thing, but I suppose you could call the Waste, the Three-Fold Land, a place of safety. Not safe for people, precisely, but Rhuidean was built, or mostly built anyway, and those artifacts that the Aiel were able to keep with them are preserved there, hidden by the mists of Rhuidean, hidden from the rest of the world by the Dragonwall. But the Jenn Aiel did not survive the making of this place of safety, and the rest of the Aiel paid a very dear price indeed.

I am deeply impressed with the way this section is executed. Having been over it a few times now, I can see how meticulously all the details are laid out, with both large and small references that are woven from flashback to flashback, all of which are significant. I have a feeling I’ll find even more if I go back and read it again, but you know, I have to stop and actually write this week’s post at some point.

It’s like putting together a puzzle, each piece revealing a little more of what the completed image will look like. And while this is the history of the Aiel, it is also giving us a look at the history of the world, with glimpses into the origins of Cairhien, of the Tuatha’an, and into the lives of the Ogier after the Breaking. And because Rand is the reincarnated Lews Therin Telamon, he is not only getting the history of his father’s people, but a glimpse into the legacy of Lews Therin, sometimes called Kinslayer, and the ramifications of what happened after the taint was placed on saidin.

I guess it’s possible that the men in these flashbacks could be Rand’s actual ancestors. There’s not anything to specifically indicate that, but it kind of feels like something Jordan would do. The history is even more moving if it has that extra personal touch, and bloodlines seem to be very important to the Aiel. But if that’s the case, does that mean that Muradin is seeing the memories of his own bloodline, and not the same ones as Rand?

Also. Did… did Muradin eat his own eyeballs? I didn’t catch that on my first read but going over it again I realize that we see how he has clawed his eyes out and then immediately after there’s the mention of chewing and… Yeah, you know what? I’m going to stop thinking about it.

I had forgotten that the Longing was something that the Ogier only began to experience after the Breaking. It reminds me, of course, of the Sea-longing that Tolkien’s elves experience, but while that longing is something that was a punishment for the elves’ own sins, the Ogier seem to be innocent victims, ripped from their homes by the Breaking and separated from the steddings for so long that they became sick. The encounter with the Ogier here is chilling, but I would have loved to learn more about what stedding actually are and how they work. For the Longing to have been created, the Ogier must have had a specific connection to their lands even before the Breaking, perhaps through their cultivation of it, and the Singing they do to interact with the trees and plants? Or maybe there is another reason that we haven’t learned yet.

We do now, however, know that the Tuatha’an were once part of  the Aiel, and that the Way of the Leaf comes from the Aiel’s original way of life. I had somewhat suspected a connection between the Tuatha’an and the Aiel—not this exactly, but the particular disgust that the Aiel felt towards the Traveling people seemed to have some greater power behind it than a simple disagreement about the use of violence and choice not to act in self defense. The Aiel have forgotten the true source of their disgust for the Tuatha’an, forgotten that the Way of the Leaf was not always abhorrent to them.

The Tuatha’an’s disgrace, in the Aiel’s eyes, was not keeping the Way of the Leaf, but a different betrayal, a betrayal of duty to the Aes Sedai that they all once served. Adan tells them that they are not Aiel, even though Sulwin and his followers still keep the Way of the Leaf. Indeed, one might argue that the Tuatha’an are following the way of the original Aiel more closely than that of those who currently call themselves Aiel. At this moment it’s unclear whether the abandonment of the artifacts or the abandonment of the Covenant known as the Way of the Leaf is a greater sin.

I guess that’s why I wonder about the specifics of what Muradin experienced in the columns, and what exactly drove him to such anguish. Rand wasn’t raised Aiel, and so he isn’t going to connect with the history quite as personally as Muradin does. Is Muradin destroyed because he cannot accept that the Aiel were meant to abhor and abstain from all violence? Or is he driven to despair by the guilt of realizing what the Aiel abandoned? What does it mean to see such suffering in his people? Does he agree with Lewin’s choice to choose to defend himself and his sister, or does he hate the man for sending them down this path that takes them far from the original way of the Da’shain Aiel. Which part of this story is the part that he cannot stand to see?

And with this revelation, I now understand something I questioned a few weeks back, which is the Wise One’s treatment of Aviendha. When I covered that chapter, I questioned why Aviendha must view her old possessions as trash, why she couldn’t move on from them while still carrying fondness and love for the warrior she was before. But now I get it. I didn’t understand it then, not anymore than Egwene did, or Aviendha herself, but this was not about pushing Aviendha for wanting a different fate than the one her power demanded, it was about the Wise Ones walking a path closer to that of the Da’shain Aiel, and remembering their past. I suspect that whatever Aviendha encounters in Rhuidean will be at least somewhat like what the men learn in the ring of columns, and that she will emerge with an understanding that the Aiel people were not meant to be about violence.

This whole section is actually a really beautiful examination of what traditions mean, and how their origins evolve and are lost to time. As Dermon points out, the Aiel find the idea of wielding a sword abhorrent. It is forbidden, and it’s insulting to even suggest that an Aiel might use one, and yet the modern Aiel don’t even remember why that is. The tradition is deeply ingrained in them, but is actually counter to the Way that was its origin. I wonder if this isn’t what is meant by the prediction that He Who Comes With the Dawn will “destroy” the Aiel. Will he bring the people back to the old way, to serve the Aes Sedai and follow the Way of the Leaf? Or will he change who the Aiel are and how they function just as much as the Breaking did, leading them again to become a new and different people?

I also loved seeing how the short style of the Aiel spears came from the alterations Jeordam made for Morin—also the mother of the tradition of wedding the spear—and that the custom of veiling their faces when they are prepared to kill comes from the dust veils Lewin and his friends wore, and from Lewin’s mother telling him to hide the face of a killer. Even with how the Aiel take honor and meaning from their warrior ways, the wearing of their veils comes from an origin in shame around killing.

I wonder if the origins of the ji’e’toh tradition also comes from the fact that the Aiel once practiced the Way of the Leaf. The Wise Ones tell Moraine and Egwene that “the most ji, honor, is earned by touching an armed enemy without killing, or harming in any way.” They claim that this is because it is the most difficult thing to do. “A child or a fool can kill,” Amys says. But perhaps there is also a memory there of the Way of the Leaf, an acknowledgement of a way of solving conflict that does not involve harming one’s opponent. It’s really something to think about.

And with the origins of the custom of coming to Rhuidean, we have also learned the origin of the prophecy of He Who Comes With the Dawn. I couldn’t quite figure out where the two Aes Sedai with the Jenn Aiel came from—there is no mention of Aes Sedai among the caravans before the encounter with Garam, before they crossed the Spine of the World, so ostensibly the four Aes Sedai joined the Jenn at some point after Jeordam’s encounter with Morin, but before they met the people who let them dig the wells. We know that Comran was Mandein’s greatfather, aka grandfather, and that Rhodric was Comran‘s grandfather, so that’s five generations between the Aes Sedai joining the Jenn and the beginning of the tradition of would-be Aiel chiefs going into Rhuidean. So I guess it makes sense that those Aes Sedai would seem to be pretty old. This speaks to the blood-line question as well—Mandein notes that he feels chosen out by the Aes Sedai, and I wonder if that isn’t because of his connection to Rhodric and therefore to all of the Aiel leaders we’ve been following in these chapters.

And now he is coming, and Rand’s destiny as the leader of the Aiel will be cemented. I have to wonder if some will resist the changing of their ways, just as we have seen the splintering of the Aiel throughout Rand’s Rhuidean visions. Muradin clawed his own eyes out rather than face the truths that were to be learned there, so I can imagine other changes, other revelations, might also be difficult to, um, swallow.

Okay that was gross I’m sorry.

Please join me again next week, to finish the last bits of the Rhuidean visions and to talk about how the Breaking came to pass, the role of men and women in the Age of Legends, and how excited I am to see the Green Man again.

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