Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #6: Fain POV

By Linda


This character has some new powers and truly is neither Fain nor Mordeth. He compares himself to a Leviathan from the deeps with the newly re-constituted Mashadar as his tentacles. A walking Cthulu? It looks like he will rename himself soon, but until then, I guess Fain will have to do.

Fain was introduced at the beginning of the series – he was the first Darkfriend we met - and he plans to be at the end. He has been on his own Great Hunt for Rand all the series, but now he hunts no longer (even though Mashadar acts like his dog) and is moving through the Blight to attend the long prophesied confrontation between Rand and the Dark One at Shayol Ghul, devastating Shadowspawn as he goes. He plans to twist their final confrontation to his own ends and kill Rand personally and then the Dark One. The Shadar Logoth dagger appears to be his instrument to achieve this. Certainly it had a marked effect on Rand. Fain is largely outside the Pattern, but the Wheel may have been able to weave him into events. Perhaps he will be vital to the outcome of the final battle in some way that neither he, nor Rand or the Shadow, expects.

Fain has an obsession with red blood on black ground and under black skies:

Blood dripped from the tip of the dagger down onto the weeds. Crimson spots to cheer him. Red below, black above. Perfect. Did his hatred cause that storm? It must be so. Yes. ..

After it passed, he sighed, holding his dagger tighter--cutting his flesh.
Red below, black above. Red and black, red and black, so much red and black. Wonderful.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

It reminds me of the ‘red on black’ prophecy in the Karaethon Cycle:

Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
Red on black, the Dragon's blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul.
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow.

- The Great Hunt, Discord

and the red and black of Moridin’s livery. That’s three uses of this symbol: Rand, Moridin and Fain.

Cutting his hand is important to Fain, he seems to celebrate his kills by shedding his own blood in this way, and it mirrors Rand’s blood sacrifice.

While Fain’s hatred of the Dark One is an obsession, he loves the Dark One’s tempest because it inspires him:

The sky was black. A tempest. He liked that, though he hated the one who caused it.
Hatred. It was the proof that he still lived, the one emotion left. The only emotion. It was all that there could be.
Consuming. Thrilling. Beautiful. Warming. Violent. Hatred. Yes. It was the storm that gave him strength, the purpose that drove him.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Fain is literally consumed by his hatred. The Dark One forcibly made Fain’s sole purpose to hunt Rand; freed from that, now his sole purpose is to kill both Rand and the Dark One.

He is master of the landscape he is walking through, inimical to it – killing all the monsters he finds there - yet part of it, as his drops of blood feeding the ground show. The description of the landscape fits him well. The seething skies symbolise Fain’s hatred and churning mental state as well as the looming confrontation between Rand and the Dark One at the Last Battle that he intends to interrupt. The weeds on the hill “like the scrub on the chin of a beggar” symbolise his vagabond lifestyle and degradation. The blood he deliberately sheds shows his intent to sacrifice Rand, whose red blood will stain the black rocks of Shayol Ghul as the Karaethon Cycle says, but also that perhaps Fain is sacrificed in turn.

Fain hates the Dark One, but he also likes what the Shadow likes. The Shadow is an old friend as well as an old enemy of the Shadar Logoth evil, as Aginor said at the Eye of the World. The Shadar Logoth evil that Mordeth made is so extreme in fighting the Shadow that it became like the Shadow. This is another instance in the Prologue of the story coming full circle.

Fain also hates Rand but thinks of him as:

Like an old friend. A dear, beloved friend that you were going to stab through the eye, open up at the gut and consume by handfuls while drinking his blood. That was the proper way to treat friends.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

another “old friend, old enemy” paradox. Due to his amorality and madness, Fain can’t tell difference between friend and enemy, and nor could Mordeth, which is how he came to destroy Aridhol.

The Trollocs/ Myrddraal are also Fain’s friends – ones he wants to abuse as much as he does Rand:

He smiled. My friends. It had been too long.
The Trollocs screamed, dropping, spasming. Their hair fell out in patches, and their
skin began to boil. Blisters and cysts. When those popped, they left craterlike pocks
in the Shadowspawn skin, like bubbles on the surface of metal that cooled too

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

Fain’s power now subverts Trollocs into ‘zombies’ and replaces their selfish cowardice with Shadar Logoth zeal and berserker lust, but kills Myrddraal more rapidly than Fain would like. Perhaps Myrddraal die because he is not able to subvert their will, and they won’t surrender it to him.

Mashadar behaves like it is Fain’s dog:

It twisted around his ankles and licked at his heels.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

and kills as he commands. Fain doesn’t know if Mashadar is born of his madness or his hatred, but with it he can kill Myrddraal instantly. Aginor made the Trollocs and Myrddraal by twisting human and animal genetic stock with the True Power. Fain can corrupt the bodies of Trollocs and link the undead Shadowspawn to him like a Myrddraal, only more effectively.

Their eyes had grown sluggish and dull, but when he desired it, they would respond with a frenzied battle lust that would surpass what they had known in life.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The Shadar Logoth power is more inimical to the Shadow and the True Power than before. Just as the True Power damages what the One Power and Creator has wrought, so the Shadar Logoth power now damages what has been wrought with the True Power. It out-wrongs the wrongness of the Shadow.

Fain can’t tell the difference between right and wrong; everything seems both to him. He is amoral and insane. Mordeth could never tell them apart either. While it’s true that both right and wrong are part of the Pattern – this is the necessity of balance theme and taoistic philosophy of the books – characters must be able to distinguish between them. Mordeth couldn’t, and Fain never bothered.

Fain is caught in the paradox of being consumed by two opposing evils and the resulting madness and amorality has led him to the role of vagabond and fugitive, the dark Fool of the series (see Fool and Joker essay).

The Fool is the (usually) unnumbered card in the trumps of the Tarot deck, which has been used for playing the Tarot family of card games for about six hundred years. He is variously depicted as a ragged vagabond, a jester or an idiot in motley, carrying a bundle on his shoulder and/or a stick, walking blithely toward a precipice, often with a dog biting at his pants (see Lo Scarabeo ancient Italian Tarot Fool card right). The Fool card functions outside the regular sequence of trumps and suits, symbolising his irregular social status due to his crazy disregard for the consequences of his actions.

In medieval and renaissance times fools were outside the ranks of society and often were rejected altogether and driven away. Often they had mental illness. However they also had the right to speak to the monarch in ways no one else was allowed to because they were not taken seriously.

Jordan has described Fain as his wild card who has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern. Fain is totally degraded and has been reduced to eating humans or Trollocs at times. He has broken all taboos, even more than the Fool of the Tarot does.

Fain wanders through the Blight barefoot like a fugitive beggar, friendless and alone, as Aviendha would say. He has been a vagabond nearly all the series. Instead of a staff to support him on his journey, Fain has a knife to kill with or defend himself with. Mashadar is his dog licking his feet and attacking where he points. What cliff is he about to step off? He has already stepped off into the abyss of insanity.

Fain has embraced madness the way the Aiel embrace pain:

He was mad. That was good. When you accepted madness into yourself—embraced it and drank it in as if it were sunlight or water or the air itself—it became another part of you. Like a hand or an eye. You could see by madness. You could hold things with madness. It was wonderful. Liberating.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

and he thinks it is good. He is the epitome of wrongness, not even part of the Pattern.

RJ described Fain as so insane he couldn’t function if he were any madder (TOR Question of the Week). Yet Fain is conscious he is mad – indeed revels in it – and is also able to reason:

It took a moment for their brutish brains to come to the obvious—but false—conclusion: If a man was wandering around, then Worms couldn’t be near.
Those would have smelled his blood and come for him. Worms preferred humans over Trollocs. That made sense. The creature that had been Mordeth had tasted both, and Trolloc flesh had little to recommend it.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

There is definitely method in his madness. The difficulty is to work out what it is.

Madness has allowed Fain to sidestep the Pattern, and the Dark One’s compulsion to a degree and so he feels free. It has taken him a while to achieve this liberation but he predicted it back in The Great Hunt when he was compelled to hunt Rand as he taunted Rand:

Looking straight at Rand, hidden in the blackness behind the light, he pointed a long finger at him. "I feel you there, hiding, Rand al'Thor," he said, almost crooning."You can't hide, not from me, and not from them. You thought it was over, did you not? But the battle's never done, al'Thor. They are coming for me, and they're coming for you, and the war goes on. Whether you live or die, it's never over for you. Never." Suddenly he began to chant.

"Soon comes the day all shall be free.
Even you, and even me.
Soon comes the day all shall die.
Surely you, but never I."

- The Great Hunt, Friends and Enemies

The chapter title reminds us that Fain’s evil is an old friend, an old enemy as far as the Shadow is concerned, and Fain too was allied to the Shadow for decades, yet was once a friend to the Two Rivers folk and is now their enemy.

The Shadow is after both Rand and Fain, and Rand can’t hide from either Fain or the Shadow. It’s never over for Rand, the Light’s Champion, but what about for Fain/Mordeth? Rand is prophesied to die – the Aelfinn have said that he will die (and so live). Is Fain right that Fain won’t die ever? Will he get out of life alive?

A new dark and hungry god arises?

And so we are back to what Fain’s new identity will be and this discussion comes full circle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #5: Galad POV

By Linda


Unlike most characters, Galad can tell the time even when the sun is hidden. Is he so sensitive to the sun that he knows where it is even if he can’t see it? As the paramount Child of the Light emblazoned with the Sunburst symbol and half-brother to the Lord of the Morning, he is truly in tune with the Light of the World.

Galad sees the long promised dead mules that show Jordan’s credentials as a Southern writer:

Nearby, bulbous forms floated down in the river, to catch upon rocks. Some were the corpses of men, but many were larger. Mules, he realized, catching a better look at a snout. Dozens of them. They’d been dead for some time, judging by the bloat.
Likely, a village upstream had been attacked for its food. This wasn’t the first group of dead they’d found.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Perhaps this makes Galad a Southern gentleman. If the village was attacked for food, why were the mules allowed to float away and not retrieved and eaten by somebody? A waste if people are starving.

The Children of the Light are lost in gloom and discomfort. While everyone is moaning about the mire, the corruption and the vermin, Galad notices that there are still healthy and beautiful patches. Even in filth there is hope. The Land resists evil, as Galad does. He thinks the rottenness and the mire are testing the Children, but actually it also symbolises them. The Children of the Light are literally mired and stained and in need of reform. Only Galad can see the potential for good in the situation or find the way out of their problems – though like he said; it was a difficult way.

Galad could have taken the Children back through the swamp, as Bornhald wished, but he refused to; he was correct when he said that it would lead to the past. He thinks he can’t face Asunawa because Asunawa has the more powerful backing and also that the Last Battle is more important. Yet by running he has ensured that he will face Asunawa and also likely make a positive contribution to Tarmon Gai’don.

There is much in this scene about Whitecloak beliefs as well as Galad’s beliefs:

Valda--the Lord Captain Commander before Galad--had turned out to be a murderer and a rapist.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad is right, but not in the way he thinks. When Galad finds out Morgase is alive, he believes that some of his justification for killing Valda was false, and thus that, contrary to the Children’s belief, the truth wasn’t validated by ordeal under the Light, and has a crisis of conscience. Yet it was validated, but it was not the truth that Galad thought. Valda is a murderer because he arranged Niall’s death.

Galad feels Valda’s misdeeds tarnished “the entire order”. This is a reference to monks, crusading military monks in this case, and the Children’s real world parallels of the Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar.

In the minds of Galad and most Whitecloaks, his victory over Valda in their duel proves the justice of his claim:

“If the Lord Captain Commander’s cause had been honorable, would he have fallen to me in a battle under the Light? If I were a Darkfriend, could I have slain the Lord Captain Commander himself?”
Harnesh didn’t answer, but Galad could almost see the thoughts in his head. The Shadow might display strength at times, but the Light always revealed and destroyed it. It was possible for the Lord Captain Commander to fall to a Darkfriend--it was possible for any man to fall. But in a duel before the other Children? A duel for honor, under the Light?

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The justice of trial by ordeal was a belief prevalent in medieval and earlier times. Much of Whitecloak custom is medieval in style too, while the rest of the mainland has attitudes and technology (except in the case of weaponry) of the 16th to 18th centuries. Asunawa and the Questioners are like a witch-hunt with their hysterical sightings and accusations.

The Whitecloaks’ faith is combative, but can lead to fatalism:

“Tell me, do the Children of Light surrender?”
Golever shook his head. “We do not. The Light will prove us victorious.”
“And if we face superior odds?” Galad asked.
“We fight on.”
“If we are tired and sore?”
“The Light will protect us,” Golever said. “And if it is our time to die, then so be it. Let us take as any enemies with us as we may.”
Galad turned back to Asunawa. “You see that I am in a predicament. To fight is to let you name us Darkfriends, but to surrender is to deny our oaths. By my honor as the Lord Captain Commander, I can accept neither option.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

just as belief in the Pattern and its revelation though prophecy does for other mainland groups. Whitecloaks are convinced that the Light will protect them until it is their time to die. These aspects have similarities with the Way of Leaf, but the Whitecloaks’ use of violence to spread and maintain their belief as well as defend it is, of course, a complete contrast.

Not all the Children follow the Karaethon Cycle, especially the leadership. Niall thought it legend:

The Last Battle truly was coming. Not the Tarmon Gai’don of legend, with the Dark One breaking free to be faced by the Dragon Reborn. Not that, he was sure. The Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends might have made a hole in the Dark One’s prison at Shayol Ghul, but Lews Therin Kinslayer and his Hundred Companions had sealed it up again. The counterstroke had tainted the male half of the True Source forever and driven them mad, and so begun the Breaking, but one of those ancient Aes Sedai could do what ten of the Tar Valon witches of today could not. The seals they had made would hold.
Pedron Niall was a man of cold logic, and he had reasoned out how Tarmon Gai’don would be. Bestial Trolloc hordes rolling south out of the Great Blight as they had in the Trolloc Wars, two thousand years before, with the Myrddraal-the Halfmen-leading, and perhaps even new human Dreadlords from among the Darkfriends. Humankind, split into nations squabbling among themselves, could not stand against that.

- The Dragon Reborn, Prologue

Rand al'Thor was a false Dragon and a tool of the Tower. The world was full of fools who could not think. The Last Battle would not be some titanic struggle between the Dark One and a Dragon Reborn, a mere man. The Creator had abandoned mankind to its own devices long ago. No, when Tarmon Gai'don came, it would be as in the Trolloc Wars two thousand years ago and more, when hordes of Trollocs and other Shadowspawn poured out of the Great Blight, tore through the Borderlands and nearly drowned humanity in a sea of blood.

- Lord of Chaos, Prologue

Niall fails to consider that Tarmon Gai’don could have hordes of Shadowspawn plus the Dragon Reborn, yet it makes sense that the Last Battle would be worse than the Trolloc Wars. I guess anything with the word “Dragon” in it, and thus a world-saving channeller, would be unlikely to be acceptable to Whitecloaks.

Asunawa calls the Dragon heresy:

“The Last Battle comes, Asunawa. We haven’t time for squabbling. The Dragon Reborn walks the land.”
“Heresy!” Asunawa said.
“Yes,” Galad said. “And truth as well.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The Questioners’ beliefs are built on illogic and rejection of the Prophecies that the Dragon Reborn will walk the Land.

Some Aes Sedai consider male channellers as heretical and the extremists see them as tainted or abandoned of the Light (apostate) (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring), or even as unbelievers (see Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers article). Such attitudes are similar to those of the Questioners.

Galad doesn’t seem concerned that the fulfilment of prophecy – or what is truly happening – is heretical to Questioners. He realises that the world is in the Last Days, therefore Rand must be the Dragon, being unable to believe the Pattern would not provide humanity with a much needed saviour. His junior officers also accept the existence of the Dragon Reborn and Galad’s statement that they will ally with Rand against the Shadow.

“It’s a good plan though,” Trom said, then lowered his voice. “I’ll admit, Damodred. I worried that you’d refuse leadership.”
“I could not. To abandon the Children now, after killing their leader, would be wrong.”
Trom smiled. “It’s as simple as that to you, isn’t it?”
“It should be as simple as that to anyone.” Galad had to rise to the station he had been given. He had no other option. “The Last Battle comes and the Children of the Light will fight. Even if we have to make alliances with the Dragon Reborn himself, we will fight.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The last sentence foreshadows that the Whitecloaks will do so.

Galad’s philosophy is that doing what is right is the most important thing and requires any sacrifice. Galad’s parallel is the perfect Arthurian knight, Sir Galahad (see Arthurian Who’s Who and Character Names G articles):

Doing what was right was the most important thing in life. It required any sacrifice. At this time, the right thing to do was flee. Galad could not face Asunawa; the High Inquisitor was backed by the Seanchan. Besides, the Last Battle was more important.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

He is perhaps more perfect than his half-brother, Rand, who will literally represent Everyman, errors and all.

Galad, with his extremely high standards, expecting the Children to bear their afflictions with pride, is the Light’s ascetic, just as Graendal is the Shadow’s. (Incidentally, I always thought Galad would be a target for Graendal.) It is Morgase’s teachings that make him a better, more human leader:

However, memories of lessons Morgase had taught--lessons he hadn’t understood in his youth--were nagging at him. Lead by example. Require strength, but first show it.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

His stepmother was the making of him and he is much influenced by her and thinks of her as his mother. This is a credit to Morgase.

Galad shows Byar that Aes Sedai will be needed at the Last Battle to fight Shadowspawn, Forsaken and Dreadlords. If the Children had succeeded in eliminating the Aes Sedai, they would have ensured the Light’s defeat. Later in the book we see that many Whitecloaks can’t fight even the least of the Shadowspawn, the Trollocs.

In this scene Bornhald and Trom don’t call Galad Lord Captain Commander or my Lord. They also try to advise him. Galad impresses them almost against their inclination. In contrast, Byar does give Galad his title and is strongly roused by his speech:

“Where is the victory of this swamp? I refuse to feel its bite, for I am proud. Proud to live in these days, proud to be part of what is to come. All the lives that came before us in this Age looked forward to our day, the day when men will be tested.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad’s speech about the swamp foreshadows that he will refuse to be weakened or corrupted by Whitecloak attitudes or the Questioners.

Galad inspires the Children rather than bullies them, and, following Morgase’s lessons - lessons he had barely understood before, let alone adopted - not only shows strength, but also in a short while, goodness and nobility.

In this scene Galad mirrors Egwene. Working a way around her Oaths, Elaida said Egwene was a Darkfriend to justify attacking her with the Power. The Questioners had no need of hypocrisy or restraint. Asunawa seems to consider Galad easy prey but he was quickly out reasoned just as Elaida was by Egwene. He appears to lie, or else he’s as good as Elaida in convincing himself he saw what he needed to see:

“But I would not call that fight fair. You drew on the powers of Shadow; I saw you standing in darkness despite the daylight, and I saw the Dragon’s Fang sprout on your forehead. Valda never had a chance.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Ironically it was Valda who told us Asunawa never actually lies (A Crown of Swords, Prologue), despite doing a nice line in mistaken beliefs and distorted truths. (Just like Elaida.)

Medieval logic was faith based and so it is with that of the Whitecloaks, who are strongly medieval. For instance, Asunawa believed something is evil, because it was a threat to him, an anointed of the Light, therefore that evil something must have given off signs to him.

This is like Elaida’s logic about male channellers, which she regards as unbelievers:
    The Light rejects channelling men. ‘Proof’ of this is that male channellers are cursed to go mad and rot alive. If a man actively channels, then he doesn't believe in the Light, because if he did believe, he would try not to channel so the Light wouldn't reject him.

Asunawa is more concerned about power and influence than the welfare of the men:

“You cannot hinder the Hand of Light in such a way! This would give them free rein to seek the Shadow!”
“And is it only fear of questioning that keeps us in line, Asunawa?” Galad asked. “Are not the Children valiant and true?”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

A lot of this is a power grab. Valda owed Asunawa his position to the extent they collaborated to assassinate Niall. (Asunawa then threatened to get someone else as Lord Captain Commander, but Valda foresaw this and brought forces into the Fortress (A Crown of Swords, Prologue)). Galad is more revered than Asunawa is feared and owes him nothing, therefore with him as Lord Captain Commander Asunawa would lose power and influence.

“What terms would those be?” Asunawa asked.
“You swear--before the Light and the Lords Captain here with you--that you will not harm, Question, or otherwise condemn the men who followed me. They were only doing what they thought was right.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Asunawa claims Galad is touched by the Shadow, which is why he could defeat Lord Captain Commander. According to Whitecloak beliefs Valda was doomed to die in the duel for honour due to arranging the murder of an anointed Lord Captain Commander; Galad was just the instrument of this. When Galad out-logics Asunawa by saying that the Light should have defended Valda and prevented Valda’s death, Asunawa answers that shit happens.

Galad shows up Asunawa, in the way he has the welfare of the Children at heart, rather than his own power, and in the way he concentrates on the Children’s true role. He runs his men through their catechism in front of the High Inquisitor and shows that they follow it better than Asunawa does.

Asunawa is outraged at the limitation of his power when Galad forces Asunawa to agree to leave all Galad’s forces alone. More importantly, Galad shows his men that Questioners should not be necessary, and that there are more important things than power grabs. After all, the Questioners’ role of policing the Children shows that the Children are imperfect, and the more they exercise that role, the less perfect the Children must be. Their existence denigrates the Children. No wonder the Children despise them.

Asunawa’s influence is reduced further by Galad’s noble willingness to sacrifice himself for the Children and the Last Battle, which makes Asunawa look like the power hungry schemer that he is:

“Galad,” Bornhald said softly. “Don’t do this. We can fight. The Light will protect us!”
“If we fight, we will kill good men, Child Bornhald,” Galad said, without turning. “Each stroke of our swords will be a blow for the Dark One. The Children are the only true foundation that this world has left. We are needed. If my life is what is demanded to bring unity, then so be it. You would do the same, I believe.” He met Asunawa’s eyes.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

We are left believing that Asunawa would not willingly sacrifice himself in this way, yet he is sacrificed for unity after Galad’s officers pick up on these words. Thus ends the Whitecloaks’ split and rebellion.

Galad is definitely leading by example, which is why Bornhald finally acknowledges his title:

Galad turned his sword and handed it out to Bornhald. “Return to our men; tell them what happened here, and do not let them fight or try to rescue me. That is an order.”
Bornhald met his eyes, then slowly took the sword. At last, he saluted. “Yes, my Lord Captain Commander.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad owed Bornhald and Trom for their support, but now they owe him. And so ultimately will all the Whitecloaks – except Asunawa and maybe the other Questioners.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Memory of Light To Be Published 8th January 2013

Well the date for A Memory of Light has been set - and it will be a little later than many thought, but it will allow more time for editing and polishing. It's so typical of the time cycles theme of the series, that the final volume will be published so close to the anniversary date of the publication of the first volume.

The following is TOR's publicity release.

The first novel in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, The Eye of the World, was released on January 15, 1990. Now more than twenty years later, Tor Books is thrilled to announce the official publication date for the final novel in the series. A Memory of Light will release on January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon.

A Memory of Light is one of the most important titles that Tor will ever publish. Many of the principal players have been involved with the series since its inception, including Publisher Tom Doherty and Editor Harriet McDougal, who worked with Robert Jordan on all of his books, and who is working with Brandon Sanderson, the writer finishing the series from Robert Jordan’s outline and his notes. This is a landmark publication not just for Tor but for millions of fans of the late Robert Jordan, who eagerly await the conclusion to his epic tale. Everyone involved with the project is committed to making this an ending to remember.

Over the next few seasons, Tor will continue to release new Wheel of Time material, including trade paperback editions of the early novels with new art, new graphic novel editions of the The Eye of the World comics, and other material related to A Memory of Light as we get closer to publication date.

What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #4: Graendal POV

By Linda


In this scene we get to compare and contrast two Forsaken “allies” – the sexually dynamic duo. Both delight in sensation but only one is able to control herself and others:

Of course, Graendal enjoyed pleasures herself, but she made certain that people thought she was far more self-indulgent than she was. If you knew what people expected you to be, you could use those expectations.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Graendal reveals that her self-indulgence is more under control than the other Forsaken know, just as Moridin’s sanity is more under his control than the others know.

Aran’gar ogles males as well as females. She personifies lust (one of her parallels is the Ancient Greek god of wine and pleasure, Dionysus, see my Balthamel/Aran’gar essay) and is aroused with a light touch of the Dark One’s power:

Aran’gar was insatiable a fact Graendal had on numerous occasions, the lure of the True Power being only the latest.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

It’s amusing that Aran’gar‘s attempt to manipulate the arch-manipulator Graendal was ineffectual, with her claims that she found Graendal boring when ironically Graendal has such a reputation for debauchery. And Graendal’s tickle with the True Power impelled Aran’gar to have sex with Delana in front of Graendal.

In the earlier books Graendal’s foil was Sammael, now it’s Aran’gar. Both foils have died; Sammael’s death bringing Graendal down a notch. This time she will come down more than a notch.

Aran’gar was punished for losing control of Egwene and being exposed by Romanda. Since Graendal says Aran’gar still bears this punishment, it likely had a physical component, but Aran’gar isn’t as crushed by it as Mesaana was. If Graendal didn’t tell us we wouldn’t have known. Therefore it wasn’t that effective.

Aran’gar sets herself above this age of ‘primitives’, just as mainland Third Agers regard Aiel as savages. She obeys Graendal’s house rules: eg no gateways made indoors. Sammael did not. Of course Graendal may have only formed this rule after Sammael killed one of her pets with his gateway.

Once Graendal felt exposed, her first instinct was to flee and establish herself elsewhere, as those who know her well, such as Aran’gar and Sammael, deduced she would do. So she’s not as unpredictable as she’d like to be. It was Moridin’s offer of reward and Aran’gar’s punishment that made her decide to stay.

I thought that Graendal was portrayed as rather ditzy in The Gathering Storm, but in this POV she is a bit smarter and shows some of the caution she had in the earlier books. She manipulated Aran’gar and eluded Rand’s trap, even if just barely.

However she does a lot of explaining for the fans, especially about the True Power. For instance:

Working with the True Power was similar, yet not identical, to working with the One Power. A weave of the True Power would often function in a slightly different way, or have an unanticipated side effect. And there were some weaves that could only be crafted by the True Power.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Graendal often refers to the Dark One rather than the Great Lord when she is giving us information on how the True Power works.

Taking over the mind and body of an animal is a weave exclusive to the True Power. It works better on animals the Dark One uses, animals associated with the advent of death and with the scavenging of corpses, traditionally associated with real world witchcraft. Or does the Dark One use these animals because his power works better on them?

Though, most vermin that watched for the Dark One had to report and release their knowledge to him. Why that was, she was not certain--the intricacies of the True Power’s special weaves never had made much sense to her. Not as much as they had to Aginor, at least.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Interesting that Aginor had affinity for True Power weaves to the extent that they made sense to him. Also, that despite its dangers, some of the Forsaken were quite familiar with the True Power.

While it is possible to take over an animal’s mind, Graendal can only influence it. I was amused that Graendal, often nicknamed Granny in the forums, actually did some “borrowing” of an animal’s mind, just like Terry Pratchett’s character Granny Weatherwax, a highly skilled “borrower” who is as manipulative as Graendal and as tough as Cadsuane in her own way.

Moridin was the one who granted Graendal access to the True Power and can control how much she is able to use. The Naeblis has a lot of Power; enough that his authority could be confused with that of the Dark One.

Demandred says that he would only use the True Power at great need because of its dangers, so Graendal really exerts herself to keep Aran’gar at her side. Is Demandred more controlled than Graendal?

The following commentary is a bit more in character, since it shows Graendal’s lack of reverence:

The Great Lord’s essence forced the Pattern, straining it and leaving it scarred.
Even something the Creator had designed to be eternal could be unraveled using the Dark One’s energies. It bespoke an eternal truth--something as close to being sacred as Graendal was willing to accept. Whatever the Creator could build, the Dark One could destroy.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and is consistent with her sceptical and amoral comments in previous books:

"It may well be that, as many believe, all are born and reborn as the Wheel turns…"

- The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

Once Graendal doubted that people had past lives, now she has reports of Rand remembering his most recent past life. Graendal doesn’t regard anything sacred except her own skin and the Dark One’s destructive power, though the Dark One does evoke some religious feelings in her, in part because he offers the possibility of access to the addictive True Power, and she expresses some awe for the way the True Power damages Creation.

Graendal also tells us that it is possible to “read” Compulsion:

If Nynaeve al’Maera had the skill needed to read Compulsions, that was dangerous.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

She is mistaken: Nynaeve doesn’t have the skill yet to read Compulsion weaves. It would be interesting to know if Graendal has it, or any other of the Forsaken. Some Forsaken would try to kill Nynaeve at the possibility she could undo Compulsion.

When she had second thoughts about how to use Ramshalan, Graendal was able to remove her own Compulsion weaves without much damage. Since removing Compulsion is akin to Healing, according to Rand, Graendal must have some Talent for Healing.

As a safeguard Graendal had Ramshalan Compelled with both saidin and saidar. She got Aran’gar and Delana to insert unexpected memories in case Nynaeve (or Rand with Lews Therin’s knowledge?) could read Compulsion. This was not needed; it was not what Rand was aiming at at all. Ramshalan, dressed like a court fool or jester in bright colours and bells, an outward expression of his foolish opinions, was a decoy to be used by Graendal.

Aran’gar’s efforts were particularly unnecessary since Rand didn’t bother to check Ramshalam himself and Nynaeve couldn’t sense weaves made with saidin, and should not have been able to remove them. Yet Ramshalan appeared fully Healed of all the Compulsions laid on him. Rand assumed there would be a woman’s touch in Ramshalan’s mind, which he wouldn’t sense. The result was that Aran’gar needlessly died in the balefire.

With so little self-control, Aran’gar was never going to be a successful saboteur. Aran’gar should have masked her ability and reversed her weaves so none could detect her channelling. Graendal fears that fleeing her palace would be regarded as a similar failure. She was clumsy in her attempts to distract Aran’gar, but trapped and used Aran’gar very neatly:

“Graendal?” Aran’gar said, voice panicked. “What are you--”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Aran’gar seems a born victim here. She doesn’t worry about Rand using an extremely large amount of saidin, or when Graendal weaves another gateway. Graendal is able to shield Aran’gar (and Delana) while holding a gateway. Aran’gar Compels a fool, but is one herself.

Graendal wanted Aran'gar to serve her:

Words like those were a challenge. Aran’gar would serve her.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and she did serve Graendal, just not in the way Graendal expected - as a warning of what not to do:

Aran’gar had fled from her place among Aes Sedai, foolishly allowing herself to be sensed channeling. She still bore punishment for her failure. If Graendal left now--discarding a chance to twist al’Thor about himself--would she be similarly punished?

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and as a cover for Graendal’s escape. Graendal doesn’t make Aran’gar her pet, but her sacrifice. Aran’gar served Graendal by dying. So the risk of using the True Power did pay off for Graendal. It was a moment of great need even though Graendal didn’t know it at the time.

Graendal was fairly well informed about Rand - she knew he has Lews Therin's memories, for instance - but her information wasn’t sufficiently detailed or current, otherwise she would know how dark Rand had become; so dark that he would harm a woman. At this time Rand was lashing out with the Choedan Kal and not planning carefully or considering consequences. He was behaving completely differently to what Graendal expected.

These errors of judgement and knowledge cost Graendal:

“You,” she growled. “You have become far more dangerous than I assumed.” Hundreds of beautiful men and women, the finest she’d gathered, gone. Her stronghold, dozens of items of Power, her greatest ally among the Chosen. Gone.
This was a disaster.
No, she thought. I live. She’d anticipated him, if only by a few moments. Now he would think she was dead.
She was suddenly the safest she’d been since escaping the Dark One’s prison. Except, of course, that she’d just caused the death of one of the Chosen. The Great Lord would not be pleased.
She limped away from the ridge, already planning her next move. This would have to be handled very, very carefully.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

She managed to forestall punishment for a while with quick thinking and some deft manipulation.

On the other hand, by suppressing her natural inclination to flee, she was manipulated by Moridin, and by following her usual modus operandi and assuming that Rand would follow his, she was manipulated by Rand.

At the end of the scene Graendal is in the dirt with torn clothing. She hates nature and has had it rubbed in her face.

Rand said Graendal is very clever – and she was able to outwit him. He still doesn’t know she’s alive. If Rand had warded the area thoroughly with alarms as Sammael did Illian to detect channelling, he would have known if a woman had escaped.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #3: Perrin POV

By Linda


The scene is about Perrin making and Perrin dreaming. Making feels right to Perrin and so does the violence of that making – the hammering. At the moment, Perrin’s dreaming and making are turning out “wrong”. Perrin needs to understand the pieces of himself and his situation and to forge himself better. When he makes something without knowledge of himself, it turns out wrong. He can’t work iron successfully because he hasn’t worked things out in his head; nor can he successfully work things out while smithing. Working while resentful and confused is literally not constructive.

It’s all about balance – and it’s a difficult one to achieve. Perrin has two sides to himself: the craftsman/artisan and the shamanic wild man and both are important. He still wants to reject part of himself but then he would be half the person he could be. Rejecting being a wolf would be completely against the Pattern, as Hopper’s reaction shows:

Hopper seemed confused. No. “Confused” did not convey the pained mix of sendings that came from Hopper. Images of blackness, the scent of rotting meat, wolves howling in agony.

Towers of Midnight Prologue

but if Perrin ignores his need to create – physical as well as metaphorical things - he will lose his humanity. Hopper might laugh at making but making is human.

Hopper likens Perrin to a pup – immature – but Perrin is a married man and has mastered his craft. Technically anyway. But he hasn’t come together yet; he is still in pieces, misunderstood pieces. He is the master of his craft, but not yet of himself.

Hopper is Perrin’s spirit animal guide and appeals to Perrin’s shamanic side. He has little in common with the creator/artisan aspect of Perrin and indeed doesn’t see the point of smithing or forging. It is transformation, as we shall see. Smiths were revered or sacred in earlier times for this knowledge and ability, just as they are to the Aiel. Perrin being a smith probably kept the Aiel respectful during his ordeal.

Perrin assumed that when he got Faile back everything would be all right, but they still have unresolved relationship problems. Since they have not resolved them, the rumours have not died down, but may have grown.

Hopper suggests leaving and tempts Perrin with this way out of his responsibilities. Perrin is afraid to go because he fears he will become all wolf and lose Faile. He feels his dream is a blending of his own dream and the wolf-dream. The blurring of his own dreams and Tel’aran’rhiod shows he needs to be taught to sort them out, just as he has to sort out and separate the wolf and the man. Another way of looking at it is that Perrin’s need to be educated about Tel’aran’rhiod – and his fear of it? – is so important now that it is in his dreams. Wolves have an “odd sense for the future” equivalent to Dreaming. Perrin considers reversing his link to the wolves, his transformation, but this would be example of Wrongness according to Hopper (see my essay on the theme of Wrongness).

The dream rerun of the attack on Malden is all wrong. Perrin did not take the axe, he took the hammer. There is a difference between them and it matters to Perrin. Yet Hopper points out that so far Perrin has used the hammer and the axe in the same way – to kill - so the difference is only potential at this stage, not actual.

Perrin thinks of “my hammer” but “the axe.” He avoids acknowledging he owned the axe, yet he was given the axe before the hammer. He accepts the need to kill, and he even enjoyed fighting the Aiel to revenge Faile’s captivity. His thoughts on fighting the Aiel:

He didn’t regret their deaths. Sometimes, a man needed to fight, and that was that. Death was terrible, but that didn’t stop it from being necessary. In fact, it had been wonderful to clash with the Aiel. He’d felt like a wolf on the hunt.
When Perrin fought, he came close to becoming someone else. And that was dangerous.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

show he’s still himself when he fights – and a man as much as a wolf. Nor does he consider or seem to care that some of those Aiel he killed had helped Faile and co. He was glad to do it. In contrast, wolves kill for food.

The splitting of himself in the dream over the subject of battle is right; Perrin does have these two halves of himself that he needs to reconcile (see Perrin essay). Perrin always blames the wolves and the wolf side of himself for any shortcomings and even accused Hopper of bringing this dream. In the dream Perrin’s shadow–self splits off to fight Aram and turns into a wolf. In reality Aram was killed by Aiel, otherwise he would have killed Perrin. Perrin regrets allowing Aram to take up sword, but at the time he felt as Hopper does.

Perrin pulls the Aram figurine out of the barrel first. Aram mirrored his problems: both being peaceable men whose families were butchered, although Aram turned into a wolfhound, not a wolf. When Aram left his group to join Perrin he should have been given more support through such a drastic change once the Emond’s Field battle was over, but Perrin was focussed on his own concerns. Perrin is too narrow, too, in his concentration on Faile, just as Aram’s concentration on Perrin and his sword was too narrow a life for a man. If Perrin is not careful he will be as obsessed as Aram was. He’s already too single-minded and loses himself in the task at hand. Perrin relived Malden in his dream because he has been thinking about Aram so much.

Perrin worked only a few pieces of metal, but pulls far more from the barrel:

When he finished, hundreds of figurines stood on the floor, facing him. Watching. Each steel figure was lit with a tiny fire inside, as if waiting to feel the forger’s hammer.
But figurines like this wouldn’t be forged, they’d be cast.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

they amassed without him doing anything, just as he is attracting people to his army without recruiting.

The tiny fire inside each figure is heart-fire, soul. When Perrin hammers the iron in his dream, he makes sparks – chips of light like “incandescent insects”. These are reminiscent of the fireflies Min views whenever she sees Rand, Perrin or Mat, fireflies being swallowed by the Shadow. Perrin fears the responsibility for leading people to their deaths against the Shadow. Being at the forge is home to him, and so is Dreaming. The forge is the Light.

The dream also shows that whether Perrin likes it or not the smallest of his actions – especially the creating ones - has huge consequences in the Pattern and affects so many lives. Perrin knows that the dream is not literal, and that the figures would be cast, not forged in the real world. The metaphor of the dream is that Perrin is to forge his people into an army by forging himself into a true leader and into a whole person. In his case the figures do have to be forged, and Perrin will do that forging and temper them to make them stronger. At the moment they are only half-done, half unformed.

Perrin must make but he has to make himself first. The creative process will go a lot better when he does.

A dark influence enters his dream:

The shards [of Aram] all became little hands, climbing toward Perrin, reaching for him.
Perrin gasped, leaping to his feet. He heard laughter in the distance, ringing through the air, shaking the building.
Hopper jumped, slamming into him. And then. . .

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

When the hot Aram figurine is pulled from the quenching barrel, it is screaming silently:

the face was distorted, the mouth open in a twisted scream… The figurine’s mouth opened farther, screaming soundlessly.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

like the figures in Moridin’s fire-place near Shayol Ghul. Aram was Shadow-touched, since he was persuaded to kill Perrin by Masema, who was deluded by one of the Forsaken (probably Lanfear). The dream hints of a confrontation with the Shadow that Perrin is not ready for yet. This is why Hopper booted him out of the dream.

The laughter reminded me of the Dark One’s laughter in Mat’s dreams in Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs as he plans the development of gunpowder weapons. When I first read this scene it suggested to me that a Forsaken or Slayer, or perhaps both, would attack Perrin in this book. I was right. Perhaps this blending of the Wolf dream and his own dreams is a prophetic dream such as Egwene has, or a way of reading Tel’aran’riod (see Talents article). Previously Perrin had brief visions in windows in Tel’aran’rhiod to see the near future.

Perrin, the Dragon’s bannerman, has the makings of a huge army. As he forges himself into a leader, he will attract more followers, even the Whitecloaks he is about to encounter, to increase his forces further, thus making himself worthy of the Bannerman title bestowed upon him at Falme by Artur Hawkwing. Perrin has unfinished business with the Whitecloaks since they were the first people he killed with his axe. At the moment he is an outlaw – in the Middle Ages described as a wolf’s head – as far as they are concerned. So the wolf’s head banner is doubly apt.

The scene introduces Perrin’s themes for Towers of Midnight: to sort himself out, strengthen his army, create an important item and fight off the Shadow in the dream.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #2 : Lan POV

By Linda


The prologue starts and ends with Borderlanders indicating the important part they play in this book.

The chapter title, Distinctions, refers to the distinction between right and wrong, honour and dishonour. The opening passage precedes it, but is part of the motif too. Loial is trying to persuade the Ogier to do the honourable thing and stay to fight evil alongside humanity. Covril has so far convinced them to think only of themselves (futile, considering it is actually in their interest to fight) and get out while the going is good. In the final book we shall see if she is misguided or corrupted and whether her gesture to Loial rebounds against her.


We finally get Lan’s first POV in the main series of the books; twenty years later in time than his previous POV. Some of his issues are still the same. Like Perrin and Rand, he dreads leading men to their deaths. Lan’s battle with the Blight, and thus the Dark One, has always been personal. The Shadow stole his kingdom, his nation, his family and his childhood from him. Mind you, Lan denies being a monarch just as much as Perrin and Mat reject being leaders/nobles, yet, unlike them, Lan was born and mentored into that role.

Lan and Rand are emotionally very similar in their negativity, their expectation of imminent death and fear of how it will affect their beloved/s and their anger at Aes Sedai. The Aiel name for Lan, A’an allein - One Man – is accurate. A man with no family (Isam doesn’t really count), whose mentors are dead, can’t be just one of a society. Lan is so isolated like Rand, and emotionally crippled. He reminds me of the Simon and Garfunkel song I Am a Rock.

The series is coming full circle in time, hearkening back to The Eye of the World and to New Spring. The Malkieri epitomise this, so it’s right that Lan’s POV starts this book. Lan always expected to return to the Borderlands to fight one last time even though he swore an oath to follow Moiraine.

The point of Lan’s POV was to show us that he's still haunted by the past. How could he not be? So is Bulen, as I think Lan recognised in the end. It was that that made Lan relent. I don’t think anything else would have.

Like Lan, Bulen has almost no memories of his parents, just his father’s prediction – which is an unspoken oath to fight – and his hadori. No gift, or ring or sword as Lan has. Lan has his vow too, and it has taken a heavy toll on him emotionally. Bulen strengthened his father’s promise or belief into a true oath.

Twenty years ago Bulen was the errand boy assigned to Lan in the Aesdaishar palace along with two serving women. The women took Lady Edeyn’s commands ahead of Lan’s (New Spring, When to Surrender), but Lan thought Bulen remained loyal and that he polished Lan’s boots better than Lan expected; yet Bulen felt that he failed his King back then and now wants to gain his respect. Lan only ever gives respect grudgingly, but Bulen proved worthy by being practical and dedicated to Malkieri cultural traditions.

Lan is the one not behaving properly now, by not keeping his word, and the spirit of his oath. He criticises Nynaeve for adopting Aes Sedai ways and then follows them himself:

A petty distinction, but twenty years with Aes Sedai had taught him a few things about how to watch one’s words.

Towers of Midnight, Prologue

Egwene says being Aes Sedai is about the fine distinctions of the oaths:

It wasn't using the Power as a weapon, but it was close. A fine distinction. But being Aes Sedai was about fine distinctions.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

Lan describes these distinctions as petty and at first twists them to his advantage even though he despises this. However, Bulen’s determination to follow honourable Malkieri ways makes Lan keeps to the spirit of his oath and not try to be like Aes Sedai. Bulen thinks only of fulfilling his vow to fight the Shadow, the very thing Aes Sedai should also be concentrating on. Such honour reminded Lan of how to truly meet an oath and why. He was resenting Aes Sedai but behaving like one until he rose above being petty.

Lan’s goal is Tarwin’s Gap, where, as was mentioned in The Eye of the World, the Shienaran Ingathering of the Lances and mustering of Borderlanders to repel Shadowspawn at Tarwin’s Gap begins each Spring. And it is Spring. The Borderlander rulers are not there, but believe they have left behind enough soldiers to fight almost anything unless the Trolloc Wars come again...

During his great ride across the Borderlands, Lan leaves the forts intact, only taking twelve thousand men, and the youngest of the nobility from the Borderland nations. Lan will lead what becomes the Charge of Light Brigade. Hopefully it will be more successful than the previous charge of the Light Brigade: the Children of the Light’s charge against the Darkfriend-led Seanchan at Falme.

The real world Charge of the Light brigade occurred during the Crimean War. It was a brave but futile charge and a terrible accident of history resulting from that favourite theme of Jordan’s: miscommunication. Jordan tends not to have accidents of history – they being explained by the ta’veren effect, and usually ending positively. I will write more about this parallel, and the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson inspired by it in the Epilogue read-through.

The scene, and the book, starts in an area of Saldaea that is badly affected by the Dark One’s Blighting of the Land; with degradation caused by salt:

“the earth was sprinkled white with crystals of salt that precipitated from below.”

Towers of Midnight, Prologue

There are places where salt is natural, but excess salt makes the land infertile. This is an example of the increasing hold that Wrongness caused by the Dark One takes in this book. Basically, the Dark One has sown the ground with salt. In ancient times conquered cities in the Middle East had their earth salted as a curse against re-building.