Reading The Wheel of Time: Cultural Clashes and Unexpected Visitors in The Path of Daggers (Part 6) |

Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Cultural Clashes and Unexpected Visitors in The Path of Daggers (Part 6)

Hello there! It is me, your friendly neighborhood Perrin fan, here with yet another installment of Reading The Wheel of Time. This week in The Path of Daggers, Perrin is faced with culture clashes he doesn’t really understand, then picks up an old friend and a new ally. He also makes some leadership decisions, as much as he hates to do that, and then… it rains.

As Perrin watches the men in the camps going about the morning chores, he wishes he could do some himself. He wants to go take a look at his horses, but every time he’s tried to care for them the grooms and farriers all but panicked and rushed about pushing him out of the way to do the work themselves. Pausing nearby, he can see the men watching Perrin anxiously.

“They’re afraid you don’t trust them,” Aram said suddenly. Perrin looked at him in surprise, and Aram shifted his shoulders in his coat. “I’ve talked to them, some. They think if a lord tends his own horses, it must be because he doesn’t trust them. You might send them off, with no way to get home.” His tone said they were fools to think that, but he gave Perrin a sideways glance and shrugged again, uncomfortably. “I think they’re embarrassed, too. If you don’t behave the way they think a lord should, it reflects on them, as they see it.”

Faile has said basically the same thing to him, but Perrin dismissed it, thinking that a lord’s daughter couldn’t know anything about the thoughts of ordinary working men. He feels ridiculous that people would be embarrassed by him looking after his own horse.

He’s approached by Balwer, who has taken a position as Faile and Perrin’s secretary. He informs Perrin that a secretary learns many things, offering Perrin information on the Seanchan and Masema’s probable whereabouts. Perrin finds the man’s confidence a bit suspect, but thanks him for the information and asks that Balwer inform him if he learns anything more. But Balwer won’t let him go until he warns Perrin not to take the Whitecloaks too lightly, and warns him about Valda and Asunawa explicitly.

Perrin passes through the Mayener camp on his way to the Aiel tent, trying to work up the nerve to actually go see the Wise Ones. He is quickly joined by a group of panicking officers who follow him through what everyone seems to think is an inspection. When he eventually nears the Wise Ones’ tents, Havien Nurelle asks Perrin to intercede on behalf of the Aes Sedai; he is upset to see them doing camp chores and worried about their treatment from the Aiel. Perrin promises to do what he can.

Outside the Wise Ones tent Perrin meets Sulin, who has a question for him.

“Tell me something. Teryl Wynter and Furen Alharra are close to Seonid Traighan—like first-brothers with a first-sister; she does not like men as men—yet they offered to take her punishment for her. How could they shame her so?”

Perrin is so shocked to learn that Seonid was beaten that he just stares open-mouthed at Sulin. She takes his silence as not having an answer, and remarks that wetlanders are strange people. Inside the tent, Perrin finds all six Wise Ones. They begin explaining to him why he must kill Masema. It is something they have told him before, but Perrin isn’t any more convinced than the first time, and is frustrated when the Wise Ones can’t explain to him why Masema is such a danger, only that the dreamwalkers have seen that he is, and that he must be killed. Perrin wonders if they even know why.

They all turn frosty as soon as he brings up Seonid and Masuri, but Perrin presses on, telling them that he is supposed to show people Aes Sedai sworn to Rand al’Thor, which doesn’t exactly work if the Aiel are beating them. He asks why they don’t learn from the Aes Sedai instead, since they must know so much the Aiel don’t. They respond that they learn what there is to learn, and teach what there is to teach.

Seonid is asked in and given permission to speak to Perrin. To his surprise, she also tells him to mind his own business, and to forget whatever it is he thinks he knows. Perrin is surprised that she would be focused on that fact in particular, given her situation. He asks if she realizes that the Wise Ones would as soon cut her throat as look at her, and tells her that he promised himself that he would protect the Aes Sedai from the Wise Ones, the Asha’man, and even Rand himself.

He realizes that he is shouting, and takes a moment to compose himself. Seonid is furious that he thinks Aes Sedai need his protection, but stops mid-sentence when she’s told to by the Wise Ones, who ask Perrin curiously why he thinks they would kill her. He responds that he has known how they feel since he saw them with the sisters at Dumai’s Wells. They tell him, seeming shocked and puzzled, that they are apprentices now, and Wise Ones do not kill apprentices.

“They will remain so until five Wise Ones agree they are ready to be more,” Marline added, sweeping her long hair over her shoulder. “And they are treated no differently than any others.”

Perrin is further irked when he learns that Seonid agrees with the Wise Ones about Masema; Seonid goes so far as to compare him to a rabid dog that must be put down, regardless of its loyalties. She is sent away again, and the Wise Ones tell Perrin that, since he will not listen to them, they will now listen to his arguments.

Afterward, Perrin doesn’t feel like he’s accomplished much, if anything. But as he starts down the hill he is suddenly arrested by the sight of two men walking up to him. One is Gaul… and the other is Elyas. Gaul tells Perrin that Elyas walked right up behind him without Gaul noticing. Despite the Maidens’ tendency to tease Gaul, they all seem impressed and rattle their bucklers in approbation. Elyas tells Perrin that he often wanders, and that some mutual friends in the area told him about Perrin’s doings, and Elyas thought he might need a friend. Gaul goes off to look for Bain and Chiad, leaving the two wolf-brothers to talk alone.

Perrin asks if Elyas is worried about any of the Aes Sedai in his party knowing his name. Elyas muses over what any Aes Sedai would do to a Warder who ran off—most will let a man out of his bond if he really wishes, but renegades will be made to wish they’d never been born. He remarks that he’d rather be caught in a forest fire with two broken legs than run into Rina, his Aes Sedai. He is also surprised that Perrin married a Saldaean, and when pressed, admits that this is because Perrin is a quiet person, and Elyas expected him to marry a quiet person.

“Most women, you raise your voice, and they go bulge-eyed or ice, and next thing you know, you’re arguing about you being angry, never mind what put the ember down your back in the first place. Swallow your tongue with a Saldaean, though, and to her, you’re saying she isn’t strong enough to stand up to you.”

Perrin is flummoxed at the idea that Faile would want him to shout; he doesn’t shout at people he loves, especially knowing that words can hurt as badly as blows. He can’t imagine any woman putting up with that kind of treatment from her husband, or any man.

Berelain, Annoura and Gallenne arrive, accompanied by a woman in a hooded cloak. Perrin leaves Elyas, promising that they will talk later, and goes to to Berelain’s tent, where Berelain makes formal introductions. Perrin is shocked to realize that the other woman is not a messenger from Alliandre, but the Queen of Ghealdan herself.

He tries to collect himself to speak to her, and learns that Alliandre snuck out of Bethal in disguise, wanting to meet the emissary of the Dragon Reborn before she makes her decision. As Perrin presses, gently, to know if she will declare for Rand, Faile whispers the occasional bit of helpful information, so quietly that only Perrin’s ears can hear it. Perrin finds himself a little distracted by worries about the Seanchan and over Elyas’s advice about Faile, going so far as to forgetfully address Alliandre by her full name.

Eventually, he asks Faile to address Alliandre, remarking that “if anyone can make her see the right way to go,” it’s her. Faile seems pleased and Alliandre suddenly gets out of her chair and kneels before Perrin, putting her hands between his.

“Under the Light,” she said firmly, looking up at him, “I, Alliandre Maritha Kigarin, pledge my fealty and service to Lord Perrin Aybara of the Two Rivers, now and for all time, save that he chooses to release me of his own will. My lands and throne are his, and I yield them to his hand. So I do swear.”

Faile whispers the correct response under her breath, but Perrin instead asks Alliandre why she is doing this, and suggests that it might be his ta’veren power at work on her. Alliandre explains that Ghealdan needs more protection than she can give, and so her duty requires that she find it somewhere else; since Rand is not here, she is swearing to him through Perrin.

Perrin can smell Alliandre’s desperation and fear. He hesitates, then accepts using the words Faile gave him. Alliandre almost collapses in relief, and Perrin is keenly embarrassed when she kisses his hands. Faile finally speaks up, telling him that he should let Alliandre rest while he goes and sees to other matters.

Faile also sends the servants away, and surreptitiously orders the members of Cha Faile to secretly stand guard around the tent. Berelain teases her about her new servants, and mentions that Annoura has noticed that Maighdin is a wilder, though a weak one.

Faile has Annoura make a ward against eavesdropping, then turns her attention to Alliandre, who remarks that Perrin is a formidable man, and very skilled in Daes Dae’mar.

“I do not think I have ever been danced so swiftly or so deftly to a decision as your Lord did. The hint of a threat here, a frown there. A very formidable man.”

Faile has to work to hide her smile at how people with devious minds always see calculation in Perrin’s blunt honesty. Alliandre admits that she was hoping for more from Perrin, and points out that once Perrin leaves she’ll be just as badly off as she was before, or worse. Faile suggests that if Alliandre wants more, then she should do more, and asks the queen to accompany Perrin when he goes to meet the Prophet. She also suggests that Alliandre write to her nobles to tell them that someone has raised the banner of Manetheren, and to the Prophet to tell him that she is dealing with the matter.

“Very good,” Annoura murmured. “No one will know who is who.”

Berelain laughed in delighted approval, burn her!

“My Lady,” Alliandre breathed, “I said that my Lord Perrin is formidable. May I add that his wife is every bit as formidable?”

Faile tries not to bask too obviously, and considers that this ended up being much easier than having her people kidnap the queen right out of Bethal.

Outside, Perrin and Gallenne hear a commotion, and discover that some of their scouts have returned with prisoners. One of the Mayener soldiers reports that they found the men burning a farmhouse with people inside, and witnessed one of them kill a woman as she tried to escape. One of the prisoners tells them that those tempted to slide back into the Shadow must be reminded of the cost.

“You may kill us, but we will be avenged when the Prophet spills your blood on the ground. None of you will survive us long. He will triumph in fire and in blood.” He finished on a ringing tone, his back straight as an iron rod. Murmurs ran through the listening soldiers. They knew very well that Masema had destroyed larger armies than theirs.

Perrin has them all hanged, and forces himself to watch. Most of the prisoners panic or beg for their lives, but the one who had spoken glares defiance at them until the moment he dies. Aram asks Perrin if the Lord Dragon would approve of this, and Perrin assures him that Rand would have acted exactly the same.

Suddenly the distant thunder they have been hearing crashes right over their head, along with a fork of lightning. The wind whips up, and it begins to rain. The whole storm passes in a moment, continuing to roll into the distance, leaving everyone staring. It’s clearly not a natural storm, but Aram observes that it can’t be the Dark One’s work. He asks “Lord Perrin” if this means the weather is changing.

Perrin opened his mouth to tell the man not to call him that, but he closed it again with a sigh. “I don’t know,” he said. What was it Gaul had said? “Everything changes, Aram.” He had just never thought that he would have to change, too.


It’s interesting that Perrin’s struggles with the Wise Ones should come to a conversational head on the same day that Elyas explains Saldaean culture to him. Even more so than last week, this section very much illustrates the difficulties that cultural differences are causing for Perrin and the people he is allied with. We also see some missteps from Perrin in how he understands and interprets people, and how they understand and interpret him.

Perrin smelled the Wise Ones’ anger and hatred towards the Aes Sedai during the aftermath of the Battle of Dumai’s Wells, but he didn’t have context for that reaction. He doesn’t know the Aiel’s history with the Aes Sedai, and doesn’t understand that the Aes Sedai acting in a way that the Wise Ones saw as cowardly and shameful destroyed the fear and reverence (already eroded by their interactions with Sheriam and co.) that their culture long held for the Aes Sedai. It was a moment of extreme and heightened emotion for everyone involved, and it’s not exactly surprising that it fixed in Perrin’s memory. After all, if a person told me they were so angry they wanted to kill someone, I’d be very suspicious of them, even if they later seemed calmer and acted normally towards the former object of their ire.

However, it’s also true that Perrin isn’t considering that things might have changed since Dumai’s Wells. He no longer smells the same hatred, and while he recognizes that no one can maintain that level of rage, he considers that it could have sunk deeper but not that it may have eased, or changed into some other feeling. As both Perrin and Faile’s narration have recently acknowledged, Perrin is very smart and capable of deep penetration and thought. He is, however, slow to make up his mind—and slow to change it once it has been made up. He is also not very complicated in his emotions compared to some people, and I think he underestimates how often most human beings can be home to several conflicting emotions at once.

Faile is a perfect example of such a person. We see in her section that she despises Berelain for how she acts towards Perrin, but respects her as a ruler and a skilled diplomat. Perrin has often been confused about Berelain and Faile’s interaction, sometimes expecting them to be antagonistic and sensing only peace. But Berelain and Faile seem both aware of the difference and able to to navigate it; Berelain was willing to spread lies about Faile and yet backs her up politically during the interaction with Alliandre.

Perrin also can’t understand why Seonid doesn’t want his help with the Wise Ones. He takes it as Aes Sedai pride (which is definitely a factor, to be sure) but there was an opportunity to get more information when the Wise Ones explained that the Aes Sedai were being treated exactly the same as any other apprentice, and it never occurred to Perrin to ask any clarifying questions. Not that the Wise Ones make that easy, but in the same position, I think Faile would have at least tried.

That’s why Perrin’s wife needed time alone with Alliandre. Perrin is a good person, but Faile is well aware that he’s more concerned with his own discomfort and with being fair to individuals than he is with political strategy. She was worried that Perrin, having just achieved one of the goals Rand sent him to achieve, might come back and try to talk Aliandre out of the decision, because he was personally uncomfortable receiving such an oath and because he felt it unfair to Alliandre that his ta’veren powers might be influencing her.

If they were, though, they weren’t the main reason Alliandre swore to him; this wasn’t like Mat or Rand forcing the Sea Folk into saying words they don’t want to say. I loved that she took Perrin’s honest statements and reactions as him playing Daes Dae’mar, and it reminded me of when Rand first encountered the Game of Houses in The Great Hunt. He kept saying what he meant and having it be misinterpreted as subterfuge, and then when he kept burning all his invitations it had a big effect on all the nobles playing Daes Dae’mar, when all he wanted was to be left alone. Rand has changed a lot, and he’s much more canny and manipulative than he was back then. Perrin will probably change to, but I don’t think he’ll ever stop being mostly honest and blunt, both with other people and with himself. And in the meantime, I noticed that a lot of what was being misinterpreted was his surprise and confusion, so it’s just as well that no one is picking up on that—for his sake, and for the sake of those he’s following.

I’m really happy to see Elyas again, both for my own sake, because he’s great, and for Perrin’s. Someone who understands how a wolfbrother feels and thinks can only be a boon for Perrin. Elyas also has some Lan-like energy (he’s a former warder, after all) and I think he’ll be able to support and advise Perrin the way Lan did for Rand before Moraine died. Though we’re going to need Perrin to actually listen and take that advice in, of course.

Perrin has known Faile long enough that he should have picked up on some of this. Deira’s conversation with Perrin was pretty opaque to anyone who doesn’t understand Saldaean culture, but between that, having known Faile intimately for a while, and Elyas’s clear, easy to understand explanation, one would expect Perrin to be starting to get it by now. Instead, he seems about as incredulous hearing it now as he would have been if she’d explained it to him the first day they met. Here, again, we can see that Perrin’s stubborn mind doesn’t shift easily. He’s been raised to think of relationships, women, and respect a certain way, and that teaching is, as he himself might put it, sunk deep into his bones. Even presented with the evidence—from Faile, from Davram and Deira, and now from Elyas—Perrin just can’t shift his perspective enough to believe what he’s being told him.

There is another manner in which Perrin distrusts Faile, though, which I touched on last week but really comes to light here. When Aram explains why the servants are worried when Perrin does their jobs, it matches advice that Faile has already given him. But Perrin dismissed her out of hand, assuming that a noblewoman could never understand the mindset of someone who had to “work for his bread.” This shows that it’s not just a difference in country of origin that is causing problems for Perrin and Faile, but also another sort of cultural divide—a class difference. Perrin hates the idea of being a lord, and he seems to view the interactions between the two groups as inherently shameful, referring to the working class as being expected to “pull wool and scratch gravel” while the nobility acts like “fool[s] in silk smallclothes.” He doesn’t seem to consciously think badly of Faile for this—he even upbraids himself at the beginning of Chapter 9 for not providing her with the servants she deserves to have—but there is clearly subconscious bias there, based on his dismissal of her words and his general attitude about nobility.

Faile has some similar prejudices, of course, and maybe that’s part of why she won’t speak to him directly. There is a particular bit in her section that acknowledges that she is using Perrin in her game against Berelain that I found concerning.

She did not doubt her husband’s love, but she could not treat Berelain as the woman deserved, and that forced her, against her will, to play a game with Perrin too often as the gaming board. And the prize, so Berelain believed. If only Perrin did not sometimes behave as if he might be.

I can’t decide if this indicates that Faile is confused by Perrin’s behavior, or if she is fully aware of the why of it, and merely frustrated that it happens. If it’s the latter, that doesn’t raise her much in my estimation. Having to work closely with Berelain as an ally is understandably frustrating, especially because Berelain is so intent not just on stealing Perrin, but on making Faile look bad to everyone. But I don’t see what game Faile is playing to help clear that nonsense up, only that she’s hurting Perrin a lot. I’d love to get more information in her narration about exactly what her endgame is, here.

I also wish Perrin would put a little of the fear of the wolf into Berelain. Forget behaving like a Saldaean, he doesn’t owe her endless politeness and doesn’t deserve to be hiding from her all the time. If he needs to get a little harsh to end her harassment, he should. We know it worked with Rand.

But harshness, be it words or something more physical, also means different things to different people and cultures. This is another reason Perrin is having trouble altering his perception of the Wise Ones’ attitudes towards the Aes Sedai. He, along with everyone else on his side of the Dragonwall, has been raised with the idea that Aes Sedai are exalted and mysterious. Even if he doesn’t like or trust them, he still sees them as powerful authorities, and assumes that they know more than other channelers, and other people in general. He has little understanding of how much the Wise Ones know of the One Power; indeed, even most of the Aes Sedai don’t understand that. The Wise Ones, in turn, are accustomed to being trusted and respected, not to mention obeyed, by everyone around them. When they tell Perrin about Masema, they tell him that he doesn’t need to know more, that it “is enough that three dreamwalkers have said so, and six Wise Ones tell you.” And for any of the Aiel, it would be.

The Wetlanders and the Aiel also have very different ideas of how punishment and discipline work. Although the Aes Sedai also practice corporal punishment, there is a shame around the act, and it is usually kept private between a few people, only to be put on display in extreme cases. For the Aiel, physical punishment is not shaming—indeed, it is often a cure for shame, a sort of washing clean of the person. The Aes Sedai have their own customs of penance, of course, but the underlying perspective is very different.

Hence Sulin’s confusion over the behavior of Seonid’s Warders. To her, their offer to take Seonid’s punishment reads as them shaming Seonid. But to them, it’s almost unfathomable that an Aes Sedai could be treated in such a fashion by a non-Aes Sedai,; they see only disrespect in everything the Wise Ones are doing to the sisters in their charge. For them, such an offer is made out of love and respect—taking physical pain for their Aes Sedai is part of their purpose, after all.

Seeing Seonid and Masuri forced to do menial labor, being curtailed in their speech, and even being beaten, is hardly going to make Perrin quick to reassess his judgment of the Wise Ones’ opinions of Aes Sedai. Not without a lot more understanding of Aiel culture, at the very least. Back in Chaper 7, when they gagged Seonid (presumably for speaking out of turn) I was reminded of the Maidens carrying dolls after they ran off to fight instead of staying to guard Rand, and also of Egwene wearing her hair in pigtail braids after disobeying Amys and going into the dream alone. In both cases, the shame was in the action, childishly running off and doing what they wanted, and the “punishment” was to cleanse that shame, and to illustrate their understanding of their mistake and commitment to behaving differently. I imagine the Wise Ones see the gagging similarly, but no one else is going to read it that way. For the Wetlanders witnessing that, it is going to read as mistreatment and disrespect.

It is interesting to see the similarities between Aiel culture and Saldaean culture, though. Perrin’s gentleness towards Faile signals that he sees her as weak. Teryl and Furen’s desire to shield Seonid from pain and (what they see as) mistreatment signals much the same. That’s another reason I think Faile might do better negotiating with the Wise Ones than Perrin, and perhaps also why the members of Cha Faile, in their efforts to imitate what they understand of Aiel society, have latched on to her.

Last week I mentioned that Perrin’s threat to hang the prophet’s men for taking ear trophies reminded me of Rand. I rather expected that he, like Rand, would have to make good on that promise sooner or later, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon. His observation, at the end of the chapter, that he will end up having to change just like everything else, ended things on an ominous note, and I can’t help but wondering if he isn’t getting a little bit closer to having to throw that axe away.

Righteous violence is still violence, after all, and there might not be that large of a space between thinking that a hanging is moral and thinking that it is good.

Reading The Wheel of Time is off next week for the Fourth of July holiday, so we will resume the following week with Chapters 11 and 12. Until then, I leave you with this hilarious mental picture.

Tallanvor and Lamgwin followed close behind the women, and Lamgwin was as serious about bowing as Tallanvor, who was almost grim. Perrin sighed and bowed back, and they both gave a start, gaping at him. A curt shout from Lini jerked them into the tent.

I just love imagining their faces at seeing Perrin bow at them. It’s the funniest thing.

Sylas K Barrett is interested to see more interactions between the Aiel and Elyas, and wonders if he might not be a good way to bridge some of the gaps between them and Perrin, and possibly them and the Aes Sedai as well.


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