Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Perrin Meets Old Friends and Learns From His Mistakes in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 30)

Hello friends! This week, our read of The Shadow Rising hits the big Three-O, as Perrin and his band find themselves seeking refuge in the camp of the Traveling People—and not just any group of Tuatha’an, as they’ve run back into the same group that Perrin and Egwene met while traveling with Elyas, all that time ago.

It feels like an Age, doesn’t it? Perrin has changed so much since then, and the only thing more interesting than seeing how his perspective on the Tuatha’an has changed is seeing how our perspective has changed, now that we know the true history of the Tuatha’an and the Way of the Leaf. Indeed, we know much more about these people than they know about themselves, which is a fascinating place to be in as a reader. We also, along with Perrin, get to find out a little bit more about Faile, which is a nice touch.

But first, let’s recap Chapters 41 and 42, the latter of which has maybe my favorite title of any chapter to date “The Missing Leaf.”

Following the sound of laughter and music, Perrin and his run-down band discover a camp of Tuatha’an, with their brilliant covered wagons. Gaul immediately declares he will sleep elsewhere, while Bain and Chiad try to convince Faile to come with them rather than spend the night eating and sleeping with “The Lost Ones.” When she refuses, they head off into the night as well, joking with each other about getting Gaul to play Maiden’s Kiss and laughing.

They approach the colorful group, who grow serious and frightened as they see the band of injured warriors. A man approaches them with the traditional Tuatha’an greeting, and Perrin recognizes Raen, the Seeker he and Egwene met when they were traveling with Elyas.

What chance? he wondered. Of all the Tinkers in the world, what chance it should be folk I know? Coincidences made him uneasy; when the Pattern produced coincidence, the Wheel seemed to be forcing events. I’m beginning to sound like a bloody Aes Sedai.

He greets Raen with the traditional phrases he remembers Elyas using, and Raen recognizes him by his eyes. Ila, Raen’s wife, asks after Elyas, whom they have apparently not seen any more recently than Perrin has. Raen speaks regretfully about the violent life they lead, but Ila reminds him that the visitors are wounded, and he calls his people to come help.

Still, Perrin tries to warn Raen about the danger of the Trollocs, and urges Raen to seek shelter in Emond’s Field. But Raen replies that they avoid villages, not only because villagers sometimes falsely accuse them of stealing or of trying to corrupt their young people to the Way of the Leaf but because anywhere “… men have built ten houses together, there is the potential for violence. Since the Breaking the Tuatha’an have known this. Safety lies in our wagons, and in always moving, always seeking the song.” He adds that there is a feeling of change and destruction in the air, and that he believes that they must find the Song soon, or else they never will.

Perrin expresses his wish that they will find the song, privately wondering if even ta’veren power is no match for the Way of the Leaf, and Raen answers that what will be will be, and all things die in their time. Perhaps even the song.

Perrin has to be helped into Raen’s wagon, and as he is being tended to, Ihvon advises him to learn from what happened but not to take it to heart, that even Artur Hawkwing lost battles. Ila kicks the men out of the wagon after deciding that she doesn’t dare take the arrow (barbed, Ihvon advises) out of Perrin’s side. She and Faile decide that it will be better to leave the arrow until Perrin can be brought to Emond’s Field, and she makes a poultice and something for the pain. Perrin objects being talked about, rather than to, but the women ignore him as they get him fixed up.

When she’s finished, Ila remarks that she and Raen will sleep outside, and that she once believed that Perrin might eventually find the Way of the Leaf. Faile tells her that the Way of the Leaf is not for everyone, to which Ila sadly replies “It is for everyone. If only they knew it.”

When she’s gone, Faile and Perrin discuss what happened, and Perrin is convinced he deserves all the blame, that Ihvon brought them out, and that he got his friends killed. Faile tells him that it was only for Perrin that they rallied, and advises that a general cannot weep for the dead and take care of the living. She also advises Perrin that the worst thing he can do is desert the men who depend on him.

Another Tinker comes in and Perrin recognize Aram, Raen and Ila’s grandson. He has come to ask after Egwene, and Perrin angrily tells him that Egwene is Aes Sedai now. When he leaves, Perrin remarks that he doesn’t trust any man who smiles so much, which Faile finds amusing. He then asks Faile about her father.

Her back went very stiff. After a moment she turned with the mug in both hands and an unreadable look in her tilted eyes. Another minute passed before she said, “My father is Davram of House Bashere, Lord of Bashere, Tyr and Sidona, Guardian of the Blightborder, Defender of the Heartland, Marshal-General to Queen Tenobia of Saldaea. And her uncle.”

Faile explains that nothing she said about her father was a lie, that his estates do produce all the things she has claimed that he traded in, and tells Perrin about how her two older brothers died fighting Trollocs, leaving her a sudden heir to her father’s title and estates. Her younger brothers got to learn to be soldiers while Faile hated the world of accounts and trading she was bound to. So she ran away, and went to Illian to take the oath of Hunter of the Horn.

Perrin asks how “the Lady Bashere” could come to like a common blacksmith, and Faile gently corrects him to say that the word is “love.” Then she asks about a comment that Aram made, that Perrin had chosen to run with wolves. Perrin hesitates, but he realizes that he just demanded honesty from her, and ends up telling Faile everything, including his fears about losing himself to the wolf. He’s shocked when Faile’s only comment is that she’ll have to be careful about his sharp hearing. He wonders what her parents would say, but Faile only answers that her father often talks about how their blood has grown too soft, and isn’t like it was in the old days, and that her mother always wanted her to marry a king who splits Trollocs in two with one stroke of his sword. The splitting Trollocs will probably be enough, but Perrin could perhaps tell her mother that he is the King of the wolves.

She offers Perrin some water, and although he tries to resist when he tastes Ila’s powder in it, Faile manages to force it all down his throat. He grouses at her as he falls asleep, and she murmurs, “Sleep, my wolf king.”

Perrin finds himself standing in the sunlight by the Tuatha’an wagons, whole and uninjured, dressed in a blacksmith’s long leather vest and carrying his blacksmith’s hammer. This surprises him: “… once he would have chosen that way, had even thought he had, but surely no more. The axe. He had chosen the axe.” It takes some effort of will to change the hammer back into the axe, which surprises him further—usually , in the Wolf Dream, he has an easy time changing what he wants about himself.

He notices that the Tuatha’an wagons have a shimmering, insubstantial quality about them and realizes that the Traveling People move around too much for their homes to make a solid impression in Tel’aran’rhiod. He also avoids calling Hopper. He doesn’t know if the wolf will come or not, but he does know that Slayer might be out there. A full quiver appears on his opposite hip at the thought, and a bow with an arrow knocked in his hand.

He can see a farmhouse to the south and takes a few leaping dream steps to reach it. Even in this world he can see that the house has been closed up and abandoned and that Faile was right, his warnings have indeed spread beyond where he himself traveled. He thinks how strange women are, that the daughter of a lord and relative of a queen would love a simple blacksmith, then sets off to see how far his warnings have actually spread. He finds only a few that show signs that people are still currently living in them, washing hung up to dry and toys scattered about, and feels a little sick thinking that even the burned farm houses weren’t enough to warn people.

Bending to replace a doll with a smiling glass face and a flower-embroidered dress—some woman had loved her daughter to do all that tiny needlework—he blinked. The same doll still sat on the fieldstone steps where he had picked it up. As he reached out, the one in his hand faded and vanished.

Perrin is distracted from his astonishment by a flock of ravens heading towards the Mountains of Mist. Remembering that this is where he first encountered Slayer, Perrin sets off after them. He crosses five miles for every stride, chasing the ravens until he reaches the mountain side where the Waygate stands. Here he finds the Waygate standing as it should be, closed, with the Avendesora leaf hidden amongst the others. He turns away, about to leave when the realization hits him that there should be one Avendesora leaf, not two, after Loial locked the gate from the outside. He turns back and finds the Waygate standing open. He goes up to it, touching the silvery surface and finding that his hand slides along it like glass. He considers that someone is passing through even as he stands there.

From the corner of his eye he caught the Avendesora leaf suddenly in its place on the inside, and leaped back just as the Waygate began swinging shut. Someone—or something—had come out, or gone in. Out. It has to be out. He wanted to doubt that it was more Trollocs, and Fades, coming into the Two Rivers. The gates merged, became stone carvings again.

Suddenly Perrin has the feeling of being watched, and he jumps aside as a black arrow streaks past him. He jumps again, doing the math in his head to figure out exactly where the arrow should have come from. He lands behind the spot where he has calculated Slayer to be, then suddenly leaps away again, realizing that he had almost made the same mistake that he made with the Trollocs—assuming that his enemy would move to suit him. He dashes around, this time coming up behind a spot where he thinks Slayer might be waiting to watch Perrin come looking for him. And he finds him there, studying the spot where Perrin almost appeared, waiting with “eager patience.” And now Perrin is able to finally get a good look at him. His coat has a Borderland cut, and Perrin is surprised how much Slayer looks like Lan—enough to be his brother, though of course Lan has no living relatives, and if he did they wouldn’t be here. Still, even the hairstyle is the same. Perrin draws his own arrow, but Slayer seems to sense him suddenly, and streaks away.

Perrin chases him, landing in the Westwood, where he stands amongst the trees and listens. He finds a trickle of familiar scent, but can’t tell where it comes from. Then he hears a voice speak, telling him that locking the Waygate was a neat trick.

“If you knew how many of the Shadowwrought died trying to get out of the Ways there, it would lift your heart. Machin Shin feasted at that gate, Goldeneyes. But not a good enough trick. You saw: the gate is open now.”

Perrin homes in on the voice, slipping silently through the trees as Slayer continues to speak, explaining that it was only a few hundred at first, to keep the Whitecloaks off balance and to make sure “the renegade” died. But Perrin’s presence was a surprise, and he claims that the Two Rivers will now “be harrowed from end to end to root” Perrin out. He asks how Perrin feels about that, but Perrin realizes that the man is talking so much in an effort to draw him into an ambush. As much as Perrin wants to tear the man’s throat out, he won’t fall for Slayer’s trap, and makes an effort to wake up.

But because of the powder, he can’t wake. Instead, he slips into a regular dream, of music around the Tinkers’ campfires and Faile in his arms.

When he does wake, it’s a slow process and painful one. Faile upbraids him for thrashing in his sleep, but Perrin is more concerned with getting to the Waygate. Even when he explains that there are more Trollocs coming, she stands firm, telling him he has to be healed before he goes running off into the woods. Eventually he relents, and Ihvon, who is there too and does not seem concerned about how Perrin knows that there are more Trollocs coming, goes to tell the others that Perrin is awake.

Realizing that the faster he is Healed, the faster he can deal with the Waygate, Perrin is frustrated when he first has to submit to Faile feeding him breakfast and cleaning him up. Ila comes with his clean and mended shirt and jacket, but when he thanks her for the work, she observes that it was Faile who mended them for him.

Eventually he gets to go outside, with some help, where he finds his band well-rested and in better spirits. They chat to him about the delicious food and the dancing Tinker girls, which Perrin plays off, and Faile remarks that someday she might dance the sa’sara for him, and he can see what a real dance is. Perrin thinks that a dance more intense than the Tinkers’ dance, the tiganza, is definitely something he would like to see Faile do. He tries once more to get Raen to come with them to the Two Rivers, and once again Raen assures him that their safety lies in moving, not in towns. They are grateful for his concern, but remind him that the Way of the Leaf is not just to do no violence, but to accept what comes. The leaf falls in its proper time.

After enthusiastic goodbyes from the Tuatha’an they depart, and the Aiel come out to meet up with them. Gaul asks after Perrin’s injury, which Perrin says is fine even though he is in a great deal of pain. He asks if Gaul had fun playing Maiden’s kiss, as well, which flusters Gaul, and although he doesn’t fully explain what it is, he does trot ahead to walk with Bain and Chiad.

Discussing the Aiel and their relationship leads Perrin and Faile to a flirtatious, teasing conversation about dancing the sa’sara. Faile gets quite flustered and upset with Perrin, but he soothes her with perhaps the best line ever, after she declares that men have flung their hearts and fortunes at the feet of women who danced the sa’sara.

“Then there isn’t any reason for you to dance it,” he said quietly. “My heart and fortune, such as they are, already lie at your feet.”

Faile missed a step, then laughed softly and pressed her cheek against his booted calf. “You are too clever for me,” she murmured. “One day I will dance it for you, and boil the blood in your veins.”

“You already do that,” he said, and she laughed again. Pushing her arm behind his stirrup, she hugged his leg to her as she walked.

Perrin finds himself flagging, but the good mood everyone left the Tuatha’an camp with keeps their spirits up, and after a while the marchers begin to sing an old song, “Coming Home from Tarwin’s Gap.” Perrin thinks about how yesterday they were all ready to run and hide and yet today they were singing about a battle so old no one remembers anything about it except the song. He thinks perhaps the boys are becoming soldiers.

When they reach the outskirts of Emond’s Field Perrin is deeply surprised by the changes. The edges of the forests have been cleared away and replaced by rows of waist-high stakes surrounding the village, and men are standing guard wearing bits of armor and holding weapons fashioned from farming implements. He even spies a catapult, although Ihvon has to explain to him what it is, and learns that there are now six in the village—the Emond’s Fielders having shown themselves to be adept in the building once Ihvon and Tomas showed them how. Faile expresses pride in Perrin’s people.

As they pass, Perrin hears whispers of his name, along with the title of Goldeneyes, and in the center of the green he sees a banner with a red wolf’s head. Verin, appearing out of nowhere, observes that it’s a symbol, one the villagers adopted after Alanna told them how much Trollocs fear wolves.

Faile and Perrin discuss whether or not Morgase might object to the flying of a different flag than that of Andor, and Perrin tells Verin that he thought she was in hiding. Verin answers that they couldn’t very well stay hidden with everything that was going on, and asks if he would have preferred if they left. Perrin dubiously supposes not. He does ask why she really came, but Verin doesn’t seem to hear, instead studying the arrow in him and deciding that it needs Alanna’s attention.

Around them, all of Perrin’s companions are as stunned by the changes to Emond’s Field as Perrin is, and in awe of seeing a real life Aes Sedai. Verin sends a little girl to fetch Daise Congar, the Wisdom, to tend to the other wounded. And as for Perrin?

“… Alanna will take care of you,” Verin said, peering up at him again.

He wished she did not sound as though there might be two meanings to that.

 

Whatever else you want to say about the young people of the Two Rivers, they are not cowards. I’m thinking this week about Egwene dashing about Tel’aran’rhiod despite Amys’s warnings, and about Nynaeve chasing Birgitte and threatening to thump answers out of them. They are being a bit foolish, yes, but their determination is so very bold, as is Perrin’s here. And Perrin has learned from his mistakes, as we see when he avoids walking into Slayer’s trap.

I am so confused about Slayer now! I was certain that he was Lord Luc, but now we have definitively establish that the Slayer that Perrin sees in the Wolf Dream is the man who looks just like Lan whom Nynaeve encountered last week. So either Lord Luc is someone else or he can change his face in Tel’aran’rhiod somehow. Given how malleable clothing and other aspects of personal appearance can be, I suppose it’s possible that this is a skill a Dreamer might have. But if Slayer and Luc are not the same people, then color me perplexed, because that means there’s not one bad guy but two loose in Emond’s field. I mean besides the Myrddraal and Trollocs of course. And the Whitecloaks. And Fain.

What I mean to say is that there is not one but two secret bad guys with somewhat unclear agendas loose in Emond’s Field. Now, if Luc and Slayer aren’t the same person, that does reopen the possibility that Luc is one of the Forsaken. But who is Slayer in the real world, or does he even exist in the real world at all? Perhaps he’s nowhere near Emond’s Field, and is just commuting in during Dream times to kill wolves. You know, the hobby type.

That’s unlikely, though. Slayer is definitely a Darkfriend, as he’s in the know about the purpose and numbers of the Trollocs in the Two Rivers, and he knows about “the renegade” Padan Fain. He also knows that Perrin is now called Goldeneyes, which means he’s had some direct contact with the people of Emond’s Field. And Verin’s comments about the red wolfshead banner reminded me of the wolves hatred of Trollocs, so now I’m supposing that Slayer was sent to clear the land of them and ease the way for the Shadowspawn to focus on other things. like messing with the Whitecloaks and tracking down Fain, who must have the Darkfriend top brass scratching their heads in confusion. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before, to be honest.

One thing I had thought about (although I don’t believe I mentioned it in any of my posts, so you’ll have to trust me on this one) is how Loial leaving the second Avendesora leaf on the outside of the gate only stopped folks wanting to get into Emond’s Field, and any Darkfriend or Shadowspawn already on the far side of the Manetheren gate could easily open the Ways again. I wonder why Loial didn’t just take the leaf with him—he could have kept it safe and it would have actually locked the gate permanently on both sides without destroying it.

Either Luc or Slayer (who still might be the same person in disguise) is responsible both for reopening the Ways for the Trollocs as well as for turning the tables on Perrin’s ambush. Luc was there when Gaul came to report the Trollocs and where he suspected they would end up, so Luc would have had a pretty good idea of where Perrin and his men would set up their ambush. And since Faile didn’t depart with Luc, he could have gone anywhere, warning the Myrddraal and summoning reinforcements, before heading on his way to the village. No one would have been the wiser. He could even have warned them about the spying Aiel, so that the original band would know not to give away the change in tactics.

I found myself enjoying Faile and Perrin’s relationship again. It was really nice to see them be honest with each other, finally, and I can’t decide which I found more endearing, Perrin’s coy statement that Faile already has his heart and his fortune (somebody is getting smooth, even Mat would be impressed with that line) or Faile’s description of how thrilled her parents would be with Perrin’s wolf nature. And my heart really went out to her when she told her story—not only is she apparently the only girl amongst a bunch of brothers, she’s also a middle child. Talk about neglected. And her father says she’s too soft? No wonder she has a chip on her shoulder.

I wonder how Perrin is going to deal with the burden of leadership now that he’s had more of a taste of the rougher side. I think he is practical enough to follow Faile’s advice, that he needs to focus on what is needed from him now, not what happened before, and that the Trollocs don’t care about the purity of his motives. But I can also see his desire to wallow, like when Ihvon points out that even Artur Hawkwing lost battles and Perrin is like “yeah I’m definitely no Artur Hawkwing.” Not that I can blame Perrin—he’s faced loss before, but this is a new level. Rand isn’t the only one who is going to have to think of the big picture, to ask for sacrifice in the face of overwhelming darkness. Because the Tuatha’an are right, a violent life is a stained life, and that would be true even if all agreed that the violence is necessary, justified, and morally right.

And oh the Tuatha’an. My heart really went out to them in this section. When we learned the history of the Aiel, I asked the question of whether the modern Aiel or the Tuatha’an have kept the most important parts of being Aiel. The answer of course is that the Jenn Aiel were the only ones to “get it right” so to speak—they kept to the Way of the Leaf and managed to take care of many of the ter/sa/angreal that were entrusted to them. But I think it very interesting that the modern Aiel view the Tuatha’an as horribly corrupted (not that they remember why) while they themselves have chosen to take up weapons and swords, which I think one could argue is at least as much of a betrayal of the ancient Aiel’s ideals as giving up on carrying a bunch of artifacts for Aes Sedai that are most likely dead anyway.

I’m just thinking about what Solinda said to Jonai in the Rhuidean memories.

“Keep the Covenant, Jonai. If the Da’shain lose everything else, see they keep the Way of the Leaf. Promise me.”

“Of course, Aes Sedai,” he said, shocked. The Covenant was the Aiel, and the Aiel were the Covenant; to abandon the Way would be to abandon what they were.

She told him to keep the Aiel safe, and when Sulwin and his followers left the rest of the Aiel, abandoning the items they had been given by the Aes Sedai, he reminded Adan of that fact. And here we find the descendants of Sulwin and his followers, still seeking the old songs (the ones the Aiel sang to make the crops grow, I assume) long after they forgot what the songs were for, still holding to the Way of the Leaf long after they forgot that this covenant is what made the Da’shain Aiel who they were.

When Perrin asks Raen to bring his people to Emond’s Field, Raen answers;

“Where men have built ten houses together, there is the potential for violence. Since the Breaking the Tuatha’an have known this. Safety lies in our wagons, and in always moving, always seeking the song.”

And it made me realize how little has changed for the Tuatha’an since they were Da’shain. Still they are regarded with hatred by other folks, treated as thieves while being robbed themselves. They left the rest of the Aiel in the hope of escaping that violence, but they did not. Violence still shapes their lives, even as they hold to the Way of the Leaf.

And although they chose a different path, a different method of survival, the modern Aiel are in exactly the same boat. They may be fierce warriors, but they also had to remove themselves from the rest of mankind by settling in the Waste. They too are shaped by a violence that is not of their making and that they cannot escape, and I just… have a lot of feelings about it.

And I can’t help thinking about how different the philosophy of the Way of the Leaf worked in the Age of Legends. In the flashback vision with Coumin, when we see the Aiel singing the growing songs with Someshta and the Ogier, Coumin remembers how his grandfather, Charn, has told him that there were once no such things as soldiers, that there had been no Shadowspawn, or any such thing as war. How different would it be to follow the Way of the Leaf if one lived in a world like that?

That’s all I could think of when Ila said that the Way of the Leaf is for everyone, if only they knew it. But how does the Way of the Leaf play out now, in this world that is threatened by the literal embodiment of evil. Is there still a place for the type of extreme pacifism in a world preparing itself for Tarmon Gaidon? I like to think there is, but it’s difficult to say exactly what. Perhaps the key lies in how warm and welcoming the Tinkers are, even to those who choose lives of violence, even when they fear the world outside their own wagons and camps. There is something about the Way of the Leaf that reminds me of stoicism, the ancient roman philosophy of accepting what comes and how much you cannot control—philosophy that can be useful in dealing with dark and stressful situations. Or perhaps the real role of the Tuatha’an will be to carry the Way of the Leaf on to the next Age, when perhaps a society of peace, connection, and communal support can again be built.

I like imagining that. I like imagining that for our world, too, especially right now, when every trip outside my apartment feels fraught with risk. I believe in what Perrin is doing for his people, but as Slayer has pointed out, fighting back is leading to escalation from the Shadow. The Way of the Leaf might not have protected Perrin’s people either (it certainly did nothing for his family, who were completely peaceful) but the fact that violence begets violence is also true.

Also, did anyone notice how Perrin casually acknowledged his own ta’veren-ness when he realized that he could not convince Raen to come to the Two Rivers? He just wonders if the Way of the Leaf is too strong for ta’veren, as though completely assured that his abilities are real and are responsible for the rest of Emond’s Field following his advice. That’s a big change from the denial of only a few chapters ago.

I haven’t touched too much on Perrin’s time in Tel’aran’rhiod today, because I have another essay coming up about the World of Dreams. But I do think it’s interesting that if you get injured in Tel’aran’rhiod then you get injured in real life, but the opposite is apparently not true. Unless the rules are different for Perrin because of the wolfbrother thing, it seems that a Dreamer’s body can be whole in the Dream World even if they are injured in the waking one.

Perhaps this revelation suggests that my theory that Slayer in the Dream is Lord Luc, and that he’s changing his appearance to hide from Perrin, is a good one. But I wonder what else it says about how Tel’aran’rhiod works. It was also interesting to see that Perrin struggled to make the axe appear instead of the hammer, something he normally struggles with. We know that one’s stray thoughts can affect one’s appearance in the Dream—we’ve seen Elayne and especially Nynaeve struggle with this—but Perrin has never had that problem before. My theory is that the drugs have sunk Perrin into a deeper sleep than normal, and that his subconscious is therefore more able to dominate his conscious mind.

We’ve also never seen Perrin slip from Telaran’rhiod into a regular dream before. Indeed, it was unclear to me if Perrin was able to have ordinary, in-his-own-mind dreams anymore. Sexy dreams about Faile are a well-deserved reprieve, I’d say.

Next week we continue on with Perrin and his struggle to be a good leader, and finally get that arrow out of him. Stay tuned for chapters 43 and 44! As always, spoilers are welcome in the comments, which I don’t read, but you’re also welcome to reach out to me on Twitter @ThatSyGuy if you wanna have a non-spoilery talk about anything in this week’s read.

Here’s wishing you all a peaceful, restful week. World and time without end.

Sylas K Barrett loves Perrin very much, and would like to give him a hug. You know, when there isn’t an arrow sticking out of his side.

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