Welcome back! After our brief hiatus, we have returned with a new week of Reading The Wheel of Time. This post will cover Chapters 43-45 of The Shadow Rising, in which we will see Perrin learning about responsibility, what it demands of him, and what price he must pay for assuming it.
I’ve been thinking a lot these past few weeks about how having Perrin return to Emond’s Field makes for a very different story than, say, the hobbits returning home to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings. Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo were startled to see how much their home had been touched by a war that they hoped would pass it by, expecting that the only changes would be in themselves, not in the home they left behind. They were able to help repair the damage and to forge a new future for the Shire, but the damage was mostly done in their absence.
But for Perrin, the journey is different. Sam had to turn away from the vision Galadriel’s mirror showed him because the mission to destroy the ring needed him, because Frodo needed him. But Perrin did not feel as though Rand needed him to stay by his side, and chose instead to follow the rumors back to the Two Rivers. And because of this choice, the fate the of Two Rivers has been altered.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s time for the recap.
Verin leads them back to the Winespring Inn, where Perrin basically falls from his horse and is carried inside. Around him the surviving members of his company are greeting friends and loved ones, but he’s all too conscious of the voices calling for boys who will never come home. He despairs for a moment, but reminds himself of Faile’s words, reminds himself to focus on the living. Verin tells them that they need to wait for Alanna, who is the better Healer, while the Aiel and a few of his followers station themselves around the room. He asks after Loial and Lord Luc and learns that the Ogier has been supervising the clearing of trees, even though cutting them down is clearly painful for him, and that Luc is off hunting either the Horn of Valere or Trollocs. Verin mentions that, while Luc has sometimes been helpful, he also has a way of stirring up trouble.
Perrin falls into conversation with some of the young men, and thinks about how much younger they seem, even though several are his age. They are eager for stories of his adventures, and Perrin finds himself giving an edited version. He’s amused by what they find believable and what seems too far-fetched to them. Eventually Faile sends them away and Loial arrives, carrying a long wood axe.
The axe gave Perrin a start. Among Ogier, “putting a long handle on your axe” meant being hasty, or angry—Ogier seemed to see the two as much the same thing for some reason. Loial did look angry, tufted ears drawing back, frowning so his dangling eyebrows hung down on his broad cheeks. At having to cut trees, no doubt.
Perrin tells Loial about the open Waygate and Loial apologizes, explaining that he couldn’t bring himself to destroy the Waygate, even knowing that what he did only locked it on one side. It is almost impossible to destroy a Waygate, but removing both leaves completely will cause it to die. He declares his intention to go take care of it at once, but Perrin insists that the gate is his responsibility, not Loial’s, and that he will take care of it himself once he has been Healed.
Perrin is fading when Alanna finally arrives, just as Faile is insisting to Verin that Perrin can’t wait any longer. She has him brought into the kitchen and laid out on the table, as Perrin is only distantly aware of what’s happening now. He feels himself being held down, of Alanna saying something about removing the arrow, and Faile gives him something to bite down, warning that it will hurt.
“He smelled the leather and the spicewood and her. Would she come hunting with him, running across the endless grassy plains after endless herds of deer? Icy cold shivered through him; vaguely he recognized the feel of the One Power.
Perrin feels pain, and then blacks out.
He wakes up again in bed, morning light streaming in through the window, feeling incredibly weak but no longer in pain. His side is fully healed, and Faile is there to give him a glass of water and insist that he needs to sleep. But he hears anxiousness in her voice, and after some prodding she reveals that Gaul and Loial have gone off into the woods, alone. Perrin at once realizes that they are going to the Waygate, and despite Faile’s protests and attempts to restrain him, manages to get dressed and out the door. He’s too weak for the stairs, however, and they both end up tumbling down them.
Lying there, Faile tells him that he isn’t strong enough to go after them, and even if he was, he cannot do everything himself. Marin al’Vere finds them there, in that rather compromising position, and begins discussing with Faile the best way to manage Perrin. She seems to think honey and sweetness is the way to do it, raising Perrin’s ire and not convincing him in the slightest, especially when he hears a cry of “Trollocs!” from outside. Eventually, Faile asks for Perrin and her horses to be saddled and brought around, and Perrin can’t fathom why that works when his own requests went unheeded.
Faile does manage to convince him that he won’t be able to stand up to a Trolloc, never mind a Fade, and Perrin eventually relents, agreeing to survey rather than take part in a fight. Outside by the fortifications, they learn that a single Trolloc was sighted and driven off, but a moment later Bain and Chiad arrive to report that around 500 Trollocs are not far behind them. Tomas remarks that this is what he expected to hear.
Perrin informs Bran, who is standing with Tam and Abell, and is surprised by how nonplussed they seem by the news.
Bran blinked. “Yes. It had to come, didn’t it? Yes, well, we know what to do.” He should have looked comic, with his jerkin ready to pop its seams and his steel cap wobbling when he nodded, but he only looked determined. Raising his voice, he announced, “Perrin says the Trollocs will be here soon. You all know your places. Hurry, now. Hurry.”
There is a bustle of activity, as women herd children towards the house and Abell dashes off to warn the shepherds, and Perrin feels distinctly uncomfortable at the deference he is receiving from men much older than he. Faile assures him that he is doing fine. Perrin complains that he wishes he knew what the Aes Sedai are doing, not taking charge, and Faile tells him that they mean for him to be a leader, and that she thinks it is what he was born for.
Still, Perrin wonders why they want it, and if both of them want it for the same reasons.
He watches order establish itself, Tam and Bran speaking quietly to all the bowmen stationed behind the fortifications as Perrin’s band ride out to surround him and Faile, carrying the wolfshead banner.
“I think one of the Aes Sedai had it made,” Leof said when Perrin asked where it came from. “Milli Ayellin brought it to Wil’s da, but Wil didn’t want to carry it.” Wil al’Seen hunched his shoulders a bit.
“I wouldn’t want to carry it, either,” Perrin said dryly. They all laughed as if he had made a joke, even Wil, after a minute.
When the Trollocs arrive it seems an overwhelming onslaught, but Tam holds order among the bowmen while still appearing to view Perrin as in command. Even as the Trollocs are driven on by three Myrddraal he holds the line until the charge is only three hundred paces away, and then the arrows are let fly, along with huge stones flung by the catapults, which explode on impact with Aes Sedai fire. It seems an impossible onslaught, but eventually it ends, with every Trolloc downed and only one Fade still struggling on, riddled with arrows and unaware of its own death.
The villagers cheer, women and children running out to join the men, and Bran congratulates Perrin on the victory, despite Perrin’s protests that he didn’t do anything. Perrin is also concerned that the Myrddraal had to know the attack wouldn’t work, and Tomas, complimenting his “natural eye,” explains that it was a test. Perhaps to see if their nerves would hold, or how their defenses are arranged, or something else Tomas hasn’t thought of.
Verin joins them as they discuss how many Trollocs are likely to have made it to the Two Rivers and how long it will take the next attack to come. Faile reminds Perrin that he is not allowed to go after Loial and Gaul, and Perrin claims not to be thinking of it even as he considers how much safer they would be as a group of three rather than two, with his eyes and ears watching for danger. But then there is a clamor from the south, and he turns his horse in that direction.
Perrin finds a group of men standing guard behind some wagons that have been moved to block the road where it made a gap between the fortifications.
Cenn Buie was there, and Hari and Darl Coplin. Bili Congar had an arm around the shoulders of his cousin Wit, Daise’s bony husband, who looked as if he wished Bili would not breathe on him. None smelled of fear, only excitement. And Bili of ale. At least ten men at once tried to tell him what had happened; some were louder than others.
The men tell a tale of driving Trollocs away and their own bravery, but Perrin catches a glimpse of someone peering out from behind a wall and recognizes the yellow coat of a Tuatha’an. He tells them angrily that they were shooting at Tinkers, not Trollocs, and orders that the wagons be moved as he calls out to the Tuatha’an that it is safe to come out. They do, warily, about twenty men and women as well as some children, and Perrin is struck with horror as he tries to remember how many were in the caravan. He is relieved to see Ila and Raen among them.
Perrin promises them that they won’t be hurt, that they are welcome, but though Faile runs to comfort Ila, the Two Rivers men are scornful of letting Tinkers into their town, Tinkers who steal things and kidnap children, they claim. And Daise Congar, the new Wisdom, arrives to lend her voice to the argument. But Perrin is having none of it, and they all quickly change their tune when he asks if they all mean to send children off to be eaten by Trollocs. Then each is scrambling to pretend it was his or her own idea to bring the Tinkers in and make them feel welcome.
Faile gave Perrin an admiring look, but he shook his head. This was not ta’veren work; Two Rivers people might need the right way pointed out to them sometimes, but they could see it when it was. Even Hari Coplin, watching the Tinkers brought in, did not look as sour as he had. Well, not quite as sour. There was no use expecting miracles.
When Raen passes Perrin, he tells him that the Way of the Leaf is the right way, that all things die in their time, but his voice trails off as though he doesn’t remember what he was saying. Ila explains how the Trollocs came in the night, and that they had no dogs to help warn or protect them because the Whitecloaks killed them all. Perrin tries to look at all the smoke in the distance and calculate how many Trollocs it might take to cause it all, then feels guilty for being so calculating in the face of the Tuatha’an’s loss.
Perrin is ready to turn his attention back to sneaking off to find Loial and Gaul, but suddenly it seems as if everyone in Emond’s Field needs something from him. From Master Luhan needing someone to make sure he can work without constantly being interrupted, to devising a new system of warning the shepherds when there’s an attack, to giving permission for children to play outside as long as they were being watched by an adult, it seems as though everyone needs Perrin for something. He is confounded by it, just as he is confounded when Lord Luc arrives with a decapitated Myrddraal head, which he has mounted on a spike.
Perrin’s solution for the head is to have it taken down and buried as soon as Luc goes off to his room in the Inn. When he’s too tired to answer questions anymore, he just stops, heading back to the Inn as well, where Mistress al’Vere insists that he can take a break from giving orders for a while and eat something.
Faile appears from the kitchen, where she has apparently been learning to bake bread. He tells her about his concern over the “Goldeneyes” title and how everyone kept asking for his permission or instruction. Faile explains that they see him as a king, or at least as a leader, and that it takes a while for people to get used to being ruled. She suggests that the Queen of Andor might make a Lord out of a man who brought a far-flung part of her kingdom back into the fold, but Perrin insists that the people of the Two Rivers are free.
“Free men can have a need to follow someone, too,” she said gently. “Most men want to believe in something larger than themselves, something wider than their own fields. That is why there are nations, Perrin, and peoples. Even Raen and Ila see themselves as part of something more than their own caravan. They have lost their wagons and most of their family and friends, but other Tuatha’an still seek the song, and they will again, too, because they belong to more than a few wagons.”
Just then Aram, who was sitting in a corner with some Emond’s Field girls, asks who owns the collection of weapons in the barrel by the stairs. Perrin assures him that they are for anyone who wants one, but that no one will hurt him with one, but Aram only asks if he can have one. Perrin is shocked, but not as shocked as Ila, who has just appeared at the top of the stairs after being healed by Alanna. She begs Aram not to do it, reminds him of the Way of the Leaf, while Aram cries that he could have saved his mother from the Trollocs if he’d had a sword. Roughly, Perrin tells her to leave him alone, that every man has a right to defend himself.
Crying, Ila tells Perrin that the Trollocs took her daughter and all her grandchildren except one, and that now Perrin is taking her grandson from her. She tells him that he has become a wolf in his heart, and that he will make Aram a wolf too. She leaves, with Aram still crying out that he could have saved his mother, while Alanna studies Perrin with an unreadable expression.
Perrin tells Aram to go find Tam to learn to use his sword. Perrin asks Faile, who looks sad, if she disapproves. But she only answers that she doesn’t like to see him in pain.
And then the Whitecloaks arrive. Perrin doesn’t go out to meet them at once—he isn’t going to let himself get arrested, but he also isn’t in a hurry to ask people to fight Whitecloaks for him. When he arrives at the edge of the fortifications he finds men gathered to watch the Children approach. A small group separates from the main body and rides up to them, and the leader names himself Dain Bornhald, prompting Perrin to suspect he is perhaps a son of Geofram Bornhald. He is startled by the hatred in the man’s face when he looks at Perrin, though. He’s less surprised by the hatred in Jared Byar’s face.
After some discussion of fighting Trollocs, the villagers boasting and the Whitecloaks revealing that Taren Ferry has been attacked, Luc asks if Ordeith was among those at Taren Ferry. Bornhald’s reaction is strange, and Perrin is surprised that Luc would know or care about a peddler, even one that hung out with Whitecloaks. He says that he hopes that Ordeith either died or is nearby, where Bornhald can keep an eye on him.
Bornhald angrily declares that he doesn’t know or care where Ordeith is, and that he has come to arrest Perrin as a Darkfriend. The villagers deny him, with Bran explaining that they will not allow any more arrests without proof that they believe, and that he will never believe that Perrin is a Darkfriend. Bornhald insists that Perrin betrayed and killed his father in Falme, where he was fighting alongside “Tar Valon witches.”
“I betrayed no one,” Perrin said in a loud voice, so everyone could hear. “If your father died at Falme, those who killed him are called the Seanchan. I don’t know whether they are Darkfriends, but I do know they use the One Power in battle.”
“Liar!” Spittle flew from Bornhald’s lips. “The Seanchan are a tale concocted by the White Tower to hide their foul lies! You are a Darkfriend!”
Bran repeats that there will be no arrests, but Perrin can see how dangerous the situation is becoming. Bornhald looks ready to throw himself, his horse, and his men right at the stakes in order to reach Perrin, and the Two Rivers folk look equally ready to fight for him. He can think of only one way to stop it, and offers a truce to Bornhald. He asks the Whitecloaks to stay in Emond’s Field, where they can keep an eye on him, and agree not to try to arrest him until all the Trollocs are gone. He will not allow himself to be removed from the Two Rivers while there are Trollocs to be fought, and he will not let men fight men and do the Trollocs work for them.
After a moment Bornhald agrees to the terms, and Perrin lets them in despite Faile’s warnings of the danger. Even Luc warns Perrin of the danger of a knife to his bosom, although he seems more amused by it than anything, as he rides off.
Perrin watches the Whitecloaks ride in through the gap that has been opened to him, seeing the look of hatred in Byar and Bornhald’s eyes, and the cold, calculating looks in all the others. He decides that perhaps he will let his band keep close to him after all—he won’t be able to sleep without guards at his door.
The thing that kept turning over and over in my head while I read these chapters were the words Slayer said to Perrin when he was trying to ambush him—that the initial plan was to only have a few Trollocs in the Two Rivers, just enough to keep the Whitecloaks off-balance and in order to find and kill Ordeith. But now, he claims, because of Perrin’s arrival and his actions against the Shadow’s forces, the Two Rivers “will be harrowed from end to end” in order to find him. So far Perrin hasn’t given much thought to that statement, but when I consider his guilt over the deaths of his companions and over the fact that the Whitecloaks only came to the Two Rivers in order to capture him, I expect Slayer’s words must carry some weight somewhere in his consciousness. Of course, it’s possible that Perrin is just full up on guilt and feeling responsible, at least for the time being. And of course it’s highly likely that Slayer was lying to him anyway. But I keep thinking about it, about the nature of his ta’veren power, and what the difference is between being driven by the Pattern to do something versus driving the Pattern with your choices. Or is there a difference at all?
It seems like I always find myself asking the same questions about how fate works in The Wheel of Time.
A sidenote: The Shadow must be so confused about Padan Fain. Remember when he told Moiraine about being forced to sleep in a Trolloc cookpot, just so that he’d remember how little he was worth if he didn’t do his job? And now here he is, directing the path of Whitecloaks, avoiding being summoned by his masters or slaughtered by the forces the Shadow sent to take him. Slayer calls it luck, but someone in the Darkfriend ranks must wonder if there is something else going on. I can’t remember if I have made this point before (I think maybe I did) but it just tickles me pink every time I consider it. I mean, Ordeith is the worst but the Shadow being foiled this way has a certain about of comic irony I really appreciate.
I also appreciate how nuanced the lessons of this chapter really are. Yes, Perrin is struggling with guilt he feels over the deaths in the Trolloc ambush, but he is already gearing himself up to face the fact that more deaths are going to follow, and making choice about how he will handle that. In the meantime he has to grapple with the fact that the Two Rivers people have begun deferring to him, including men he views as his seniors, and that they are looking to him as both a symbol and a leader, which is a big ask for a man who is still dreaming (however much he denies it, the wolf dream gave him the hammer for a reason) of a simple, peaceful life.
Unlike Rand, who at least had the benefit of prophecy and the title of the Dragon to give him some idea of the mantle he was assuming, Perrin never saw this change coming. He knew what was happening as he became someone who felt the need to embrace violence as self-defense, but it never occurred to him that taking command wasn’t something he could just do one time, that forcing people to follow him in his endeavor to free the prisoners and drive the Trollocs from the Two Rivers meant altering his relationship to them. Leadership, Perrin is fast learning, isn’t a role one can pick up for a moment and then discard. It is a responsibility that is his now, for as long as this situation lasts, or until he can find someone else willing and capable of filling the role. And as much as he thinks of people like Bran and Tam as the more knowledgeable, capable men, he just may discover that their time is passing, and that it is his time now, to lead, and to shape the course of the Two Rivers’ fate. The change he enacts won’t match that driven by Rand, of course, but thematically the two positions are very similar.
Faile sees it, of course, and she has proven pretty adept at helping him navigate this new position. She’s more helpful than the Aes Sedai, certainly—Faile suggested that they intend for him to become a leader, but they don’t appear to be doing anything to make that happen. They’re just making sure they don’t usurp Perrin’s budding position.
I have to admit, I’m more suspicious of Verin and Alanna than I am of Moiraine right now, which is due in part to knowing her better, but also because her role in trying to guide Rand seems more transparent to me. Rand understandably doesn’t want to be controlled, but her reasons for attempting to direct him make sense—he is the Dragon Reborn, and the future of the world rests on him. But while Verin and Alanna seem very interested in Perrin, it’s unclear what they want of him, or what they want of the Two Rivers. Their story about hunting for girls who can learn to channel seems to track, but Perrin suspects that there is more going on, and so I find myself suspecting as well.
In any case, we see the influence that Faile’s advice has on Perrin almost immediately. Although he resisted Ihvon’s point that even the greatest generals suffer some defeats, he seems to have internalized the one Faile learned from her father, that “a general can take care of the living or weep for the dead, but he cannot do both.” Although Perrin is still unwilling to see himself as a general he has at least realized the practicality of the advice—that he cannot move forward and focus on what must be done if he is mired in the regrets of his past.
That doesn’t stop it from hurting though—he can’t even stand to be present when he hears the parents and loved ones of the dead boys calling out their names. And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not only as leader that Perrin feels the Two Rivers’ loss—any general might experience fondness and respect for the men he commands, feel personal grief when those men are killed, but Perrin grew up with those boys. The Two Rivers is a such close-knit community, everyone is practically extended family, and so he mourns not just as a leader but as a family member in his own right.
But Two Rivers folk are stubborn, as we are repeatedly told, and in the last few sections we have begun to see that in Rand, Mat, and Perrin, as they begin to find their places as actors in this story, rather than passengers. It’s all well and good to decry their stubbornness when they won’t rest as much as they should, or when they won’t share their plans with the women who wish to aid them, but their true stubbornness is seen not in being “muley” as Mistress al’Vere puts it, but in the determination they show in the face of overwhelming odds.
It has been a little more straightforward to see that determination in Egwene and Nynaeve—their future and choices have been distinctly shaped by their decision to become Aes Sedai, and the hunt for the Black Ajah quickly cemented the first leg of their journeys. In Rand’s case, he was unable to make a lot of choices for himself early on; he was swept along by fate as his abilities manifested and as he struggled to know the truth of whether or not he was the Dragon Reborn. Everyone around him knew more about who he was than he did, at least until he decided to try to claim Callandor. Once he was able to do so he at least knew the truth about himself, and could start making his own decisions regarding that truth. Moiraine might think they are uninformed or random decisions, but Rand certainly is determined about what he wants to do, and whatever else he may have right or wrong, his belief that he must make a move no one expects makes a lot of sense. The Aes Sedai think they should be able control him, the Forsaken think they know what he will do before he does, so it makes sense that the only option for success that Rand sees is to completely change the rules.
We see that same determination in Perrin when he decides to allow the Whitecloaks to enter Emond’s Field. It comes at great risk to himself, and no one really agrees with his decision, but Perrin is determined to avoid what bloodshed he can, and not to let men fight men when there are Trollocs who would destroy villagers and Children with equal fervor. It is a very grown up decision, taking the good of all into account without falling prey to bigotry or fear. Bornhald and Byar look like irresponsible children in comparison, more concerned with petty revenge as farms are burned and people slaughtered all around them. Faile is understandably worried for Perrin’s safety, but I hope she is proud too.
Like Faile, I felt a great deal of sympathy for Perrin over the incident with Aram and the sword. I understand why the other women were upset with him, but Perrin saw in Aram the same journey he himself has recently made. Perrin, too, would prefer peace, but he came to see that violence and death would come despite his preferences, and that he could not bear to stand by and watch it happen to anyone, especially those he loves. It was unfair of Ila to say that Perrin took Aram from her—I don’t think Perrin could have talked him out of his intended course, even if he had wanted to, and Perrin is correct when he says that every man has a right to defend himself. Or if I might put it another way, no man has a right to tell another that he cannot defend himself. The Way of the Leaf must be chosen willingly, and Perrin denying Aram the use of the sword or the training of it would not make Aram content again. Even Ila’s love couldn’t do that.
A while back I made an observation that the Way of the Leaf is a very different concept in a world that does not know war, or in a world where there are no Shadowspawn. The Aiel way of life was clearly deeply respected by the people of the Age of Legends. And there is much truth to the fact that violence usually begets more violence, and that it harms the perpetrator as well as the victim. There is beauty in making a choice to stand and refuse to bend to violence and cruelty, to mourn for the person who hurts you. But Perrin in this section came to the same conclusion I did when I was musing about it, and the narration puts it very beautifully.
“The Way of the Leaf was a fine belief, like a dream of peace, but like the dream it could not last where there was violence. He did not know of a place without that. A dream for some other man, some other time. Some other Age perhaps.
Perrin recognizes that the Way of the Leaf belongs to a lost Age without even knowing that the Aiel themselves were part of that Age. But I like to think that there is a new Age coming, on the other side of Tarmon Gai’don, after whatever new breaking Rand will bring, in which the Way of the Leaf can hold sway once more. And maybe the Tuatha’an will be able to find that peace, along with the Aiel, with Perrin, and whomever else may seek it.
And Aram’s journey is one we have seen the Tuatha’an/Aiel take before, almost exactly. The only difference is that he chose a sword, which the modern Aiel would shun him for almost as much as for being one of the Lost Ones. I am very interested in seeing where this goes.
Also of note is the fact that there is a wolfhead pommel on the sword Aram chose for himself. Apparently that symbolism has existed in the Two Rivers for some time—I almost wonder if Perrin is pulling all those symbols to him somehow. Verin is responsible for the wolfhead banner, but why is it here on the pommel of Aram’s sword? Perhaps Ila is right after all, and Perrin’s ta’veren power drew Aram’s hand to that blade in particular.
And finally, in less profound news, I still can’t pin down Lord Luc and what his deal is and it is driving me around the bend. I feel like there is a crucial piece of missing information that, if we had it, Perrin and I, suddenly everything would make sense. There is definitely some kind of long game he is playing here that hasn’t been revealed yet—perhaps he is one of the Forsaken looking to gain power and understanding on Rand’s home turf. Maybe he is some kind of Darkfriend sent after Ordeith, who also has some agenda of his own. The fact that he asked about Ordeith seems particularly significant since Slayer just mentioned him. And as Verin says, he is always stirring up trouble.
After covering three chapters this week, I am only going to cover one next week, Chapter 46, because I have so much to say about Egeanin, how Nynaeve and Elayne handled her, and what the heck was going on with their mysterious visitor. So next week we talk a lot about veils, literally and metaphorically. In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant day, and a safe and happy week.
Sylas K Barrett threw his neck out over the weekend, and would very much like to have an Aes Sedai Healer look at it. Even Verin, really.