Welcome once and again to Reading the Wheel of Time. This week, week 14, we’re going to cover Chapters 39 and 40, in which Rand gets himself into one heck of a pickle. Seriously, if Mat is the Pippin of the group, then this is Rand’s Frodo moment of climbing up onto the table to sing and accidentally putting the ring on in front of everyone at the Prancing Pony. It seems like Rand just generally wants to climb up onto high things, and it is usually a bad idea that attracts attention he definitely does not want.
We’re also going to see a lot more Arthurian-sounding names from Jordan, and get to know a little more about politics in Caemlyn. While working on the recap, I was particularly struck by the chapter titles of 39 and 40: “Weaving of the Web” and “The Web Tightens”. Until now the chapter titles have been pretty straightforward. Chapter 1 is “An Empty Road” because Rand sees a rider and then on second glance the road is empty. Chapter 24 is “Flight Down the Arinelle” and they’re, you know, escaping down the Arinelle. Chapter 38, in which Perrin and Egwene get rescued, is literally just called “Rescue.” But there’s no conversation in Chapters 39 and 40 about the Wheel or its weaving, which suggests to me that Jordan is trying to gently imply something about the nature of the events that unfold in these chapters. Having mused before about what “fate” means in the context of people’s lives being threads in a pattern woven by the Wheel of Time, I feel like I can see more than coincidence driving Rand to the unlikely meeting he’s about to have.