Quick Reads: The Eye of The World ch. 5 – 8

isbn9781857230765

Chapter 5: Winternight

I’ll spare you the lengthy description of Rand’s house. The important point at the beginning of this chapter is that Tam takes an unusual number of precautions to secure his home against possible attack by persons unknown.

From overhead, from Tam’s bedroom, came a scraping, as of something being dragged across the floor. Rand frowned. Unless Tam had suddenly decided to move the furniture around, he could only be pulling out the old chest he kept under his bed. Another thing that had never been done in Rand’s memory.

Tam has a mystery chest. Unlike Kvothe’s mystery chest we actually find out what’s in it:

A thick belt slanted around Tam’s waist, and from the belt hung a sword, with a bronze heron on the black scabbard and another on the long hilt.

The sword as described is basically a katana, as are a lot of swords that feature prominently in these books. I’m not really sure why.

And then all of a sudden MONSTER ATTACK

A figure filled the doorway, bigger than any man Rand had ever seen, a figure in black mail that hung to his knees, with spikes at wrists and elbows and shoulders. One hand clutched a heavy, scythe-like sword; the other hand was flung up before his eyes as if to shield them from the light.

Rand throws a kettle of boiling water at it, and Tam lunges forward and cuts it down, along with the second monster-dude that tries to get in behind it.

These things are Orcs Trollocs, the Wheel of Time fantasy species that is 100% evil and exists solely to be slaughtered en masse by our heroes. They’re the beast-creatures I mentioned who control an area to the north called the Blight. When I first read about them I pictured them looking something like this:

guild-wars-2

But actually if you pay attention to how they’re described they look more like this:

Narg_teotwc

Which is to say like people in bad cosplay. There’s a reason a lot of fan artists (and cosplayers, come to think of it) seem to ditch the whole “humans with animal features awkwardly stuck on” angle and depict them more as anthropomorphic creatures of varying species. Unfortunately the official comic went the more literal route, as you can see above.

(Incidentally that panel is from a bit in this very scene where a Trolloc talks, something I don’t think they’re ever depicted doing again)

Rand escapes into the woods while Tam continues kicking ass (he leaps through a window, so you know he’s a genuine Cool Guy). He eventually catches up with Rand, who is totally shocked to learn that Trollocs are real. Tam apparently went along with the idea that they’re fake for some reason, even though he’s spoken to people who have fought them and knows full well that they’re real.

I’m really curious what this business with the Trollocs being treated as legendary was about. If the Two Rivers folk knew of their existence none of the preceding scenes would need to be altered save for some minor tweaks to dialogue, and it would close some awkward plot holes.

“If anything belongs in the Shepherd of the Night’s flocks, lad, it is Trollocs. They kill for the pleasure of killing, so I’ve been told.

They’re evil for the sake of being evil, because we must have a vast horde of faceless enemies who it’s okay to kill. Many fantasy authors seized enthusiastically on the old idea of barbarian hordes from the east/north/wherever coming to destroy civilisation, only it might raise some eyebrows if they’re just foreigners with different skin tones so let’s make them another species entirely.

Rand realises that his father has been cut and seems to have developed an instant fever, which can’t be good. He takes Tam’s sword and sneaks back to the house for the horse and cart to get him to Nynaeve, but upon arriving the scene from that comic panel plays out: a Trolloc that had been playing dead accosts Rand, who clumsily stabs him.

“Put sword down. Narg no hurt. Myrddraal want talk you.”

[…]

Rand wet his lips. Myrddraal! The worst of the stories was walking tonight. If a Fade was coming, it made a Trolloc pale by comparison.

As you may be able to guess, the Myrddraal (murder-all?) is the black-cloaked dude the boys have been seeing.

Snatching up the sword he hacked at the well-seasoned ash. To his pleased surprise great chips flew with his strokes, and he cut through as quickly as he could have with a good axe.

People. Katanas aren’t magical unbreakable super-weapons. They’re actually quite fragile and require huge amounts of skill to use without damaging. I don’t know why nerds have this idea that they’re basically lightsabers.

I guess this one might be like a fantasy katana forged by pixies or something, but it’s still trading on the katana = magic invincible death-sword trope.

Chapter 6: The Westwood

There’s a gym near-ish where I live called Westwood. I don’t think it’s full of Trollocs, although I haven’t been there any time recently so I can’t be sure.

Rand and Tam make their way through the woods with the aid of their cart, Rand now realizing that the sword that inflicted Tam’s wound was poisoned. His condition is deteriorating rapidly, and they need to get to Nynaeve fast.

This is what I remember liking about The Eye Of The World the first time I read it: the characters are frequently thrown into tense chases that pile on the danger and steep odds in really thrilling ways. This will not be a feature of the series going forward.

Trollocs. Light above, Trollocs! Creatures out of a gleeman’s tale coming out of the night to bash in the door. And a Fade. Light shine on me, a Fade!

Light! Burn me! Light above! Blood and ashes! Light! Light above! Burn me!

Frozen like a rabbit that’s seen a hawk’s shadow, he thought scornfully.

Before car headlights were invented people had to get creative with their stunned animal metaphors.

Tam falls into a stupor and starts doing that thing people do in fiction where they blurt out convenient expository facts, such as this PLOT BOMBSHELL:

“. . . battles are always hot, even in the snow. Sweat heat. Blood heat. Only death is cool. Slope of the mountain . . . only place didn’t stink of death. Had to get away from smell of it . . . sight of it. . . . heard a baby cry. Their women fight alongside the men, sometimes, but why they had let her come, I don’t . . . gave birth there alone, before she died of her wounds. . . . covered the child with her cloak, but the wind . . . blown the cloak away. . . . child, blue with the cold. Should have been dead, too. . . . crying there. Crying in the snow. I couldn’t just leave a child. . . . no children of our own. . . . always knew you wanted children. I knew you’d take it to your heart, Kari. Yes, lass. Rand is a good name. A good name.”

At some point in the past Tam fought in an army against a massive invasion of Aiel, in the course of which he found a new-born Rand (remember Thom’s comment about Rand being “as tall as an Aielman”?) and adopted him. I somehow failed to see this coming despite all of the giant clues the book drops beforehand.

(By the way, the Aiel are apparently just as white as everyone in the Two River despite being the middle-eastern influenced desert culture of the series. This might be the single whitest fantasy setting in history)

He’s my father. It was just a fever-dream. He’s my father. It was just a fever-dream. Light, who am I?

Don’t worry dude, I’m sure you’re no one important.

Chapter 7: Out Of The Woods

AND INTO THE wait that doesn’t work

Rand arrives at Emond’s Field only to find that it’s been comprehensively ransacked by Trollocs. Houses are destroyed, corpses are being burned and it’s all very tragic to see the pure, undiluted twee of the village swept away.

Now all he could seem to do was stare in dismay at [Egwene]’s smoke-stained dress. He noticed odd details as if they were very important. The buttons down the back of her dress were done up crookedly. And her hands were clean. He wondered why her hands were clean when smudges of soot marked her cheeks.

This seems like a pretty well-observed reaction to sudden tragedy.

The way they came after my house, and the forge, you’d have thought I had gold and jewels in there. Alsbet cracked one’s skull with a frying pan.

Yeah! Women fighting and kicking ass! Now all the series needs to do is not repeatedly build up the female characters as strong and powerful only to degrade and humiliate them to please the author’s boner!

People still dug in the ruins of their homes, but even in the short time he had been there more of them had begun to move with a sense of purpose. He could almost feel the growing determination.

Two Rivers people (or more specifically Emond’s Fieldonians) have magic Noble Blood, which makes them superior to other people. If I recall correctly that’s almost literally how it’s described later. These books put a lot of stock in the important of bloodlines.

Nynaeve shows up, takes a look at Tam’s wound and announces that there’s unfortunately nothing she can do.

“I brought him to you as quickly as I could,” he mumbled. Even with the village in ruins, there had been the Wisdom for hope. With that gone, he was empty.
“I know you did,” she said gently. She touched his cheek with her hand. “It isn’t your fault. You did the best anyone could. I am sorry, Rand, but I have others to tend to. Our troubles are just beginning, I’m afraid.”

See this is why I like Nynaeve. She gets shit done.

“It’s probably the work of one of the Congars, or a Coplin,” the Mayor said finally, “though the Light alone knows which. They’re a large brood, and if there’s ill to be said of someone, or even if there isn’t, they’ll say it.

They spend a lot of time in these chapters complaining about the Congars and the Coplins, two interconnected families who are all (and I do mean all) lazy and stupid. Like I said, these books really put a lot of importance on blood.

Everyone now realises that Moiraine is an Aes Sedai, as evidenced by her calling down lightning to fight the Trollocs. Rand decides to bring Tam to her to see if she can heal him, despite a lot of trepidation about Aes Sedai magic. This begins a more or less continuous trend of Rand wringing his hands about Aes Sedai (not always without reason, to be fair).

Moiraine asks Rand about his dreams and makes strange cryptic comments, because she apparently realizes she’s a character in a book and is trying to drop hints to keep the reader’s attention.

“Can’t you see she’s tired? Even with an angreal, what she did last night was like running around the village with a sack of stones on her back.

An angreal is a doohickey that Aes Sedai use to amplify their magic in various ways. This is obviously another Arthur reference, this time to the Holy Grail, or sangreal, which you may remember from The Da Vinci Code.

Chapter 8: A Place Of Safety

Moiraine goes to try and heal Tam, and while everyone is waiting Lan is like “Hey brah that’s a heron-marked blade you got there. Oh it belongs to your Dad, who is a simple farmer? Cool, cool. Only it’s kind of strange that a farmer would have it. Like, a farmer who’s never been a cool soldier guy doing sick battles or anything. But I guess he must have just kept it for novelty. Your Dad, I mean. The farmer.”

And then Moiraine tells everyone to shut up and not get in her way, because Moiraine is awesome.

For some reason Rand is still insisting that his Dad doesn’t know how to fight or use a sword; he seems to have either forgotten or not noticed Tam effortlessly cutting down Trollocs and leaping through windows and shit.

Trolloc weapons are made at forges in the valley called Thakan’dar, on the very slopes of Shayol Ghul itself.

Thakan’dar = Mordor

Shayol Ghul = Mount Doom with a bit of Sauron’s big tower thing thrown in

During all of this healing and talking Moiraine casually drops in that Rand, Mat and Perrin all have to leave the village immediately because the Trollocs were targeting them specifically. Surprise! She doesn’t know exactly why (actually she’s lying, she totally does but we don’t find out until the very end), but The Dark One fears one or all three of them.

Question time:

  1. Who do you think The Dark One fears? Is it: a) The annoying comic relief, b) The strong and silent fighter of the group or c) The secretly-adopted protagonist with a mysterious past?
  2. Why is the Dark One after one of the boys?
  3. Does it have something to with A Prophecy and/or Destiny?

Don’t spoil things if you already know the answers!

It’s kind of hilarious that Jordan is throwing up layers of obfuscation here and trying to hide the fact that Rand is so obviously the Super Special Chosen One. On the other hand I do like that, in spite of all the waah-I-don’t-want-to-adventure stuff from Rand earlier Jordan clearly realized that the readers would go into active revolt if he tried to delay the start of the adventure and has our hero accept the idea quickly.

“There is a place of safety,” Moiraine said softly, and Rand’s ears pricked up to listen. “In Tar Valon you would be among Aes Sedai and Warders. Even during the Trolloc Wars the forces of the Dark One feared to attack the Shining Walls.

Lots Of Capitalized Words

Rand has something to eat and settles down for pre-adventure sleepy-sleeps, trying to convince himself that what Tam said on the way to the village wasn’t real and he doesn’t actually have a Mysterious Destiny.

Aaaaand I think that’s where we’ll finish up. Our main characters are now assembled and the way forward is clear, but there’s a bit of waffle before they actually take off that I don’t feel like covering.

As I said before, once we have a few of these Quick Reads down a poll will go up; if you want to see more Wheel of Time posts, vote for it when you get the chance. However, I’m not committing to the entire series– that would be completely absurd– so it will be just the first three books. They contain most of the things I want to complain about discuss, and also form a semi-complete character and story arc. And even if Wheel of Time doesn’t win the poll, there’s a good chance I’ll cover it at some point anyway. I had a ton of fun writing these posts.

But before all that, we have another book to talk about! I’m not going to say which one, in order to preserve the mystery, but here’s a fun clue to tide you over:

lighted-angel

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23 thoughts on “Quick Reads: The Eye of The World ch. 5 – 8

  1. Tomas

    There are several non-White people in the series. In this world it’s just not an issue. It took me a long time to realise that the character Alanna who’s introduced in book 2 actually has dark skin. RJ never made it a defining quality of the characters.

    Reply
  2. zephyrean

    > I’m really curious what this business with the Trollocs being treated as legendary was about.

    Probably just a tired trope that the author thought was cool for some reason.
    [I don’t like George Martin, but at least he laid some foundations for the return of magic and monsters. I even liked the uncertain status of the Chandrian in the Kvothe books: in real life, most people who profess a 100% belief in the supernatural don’t really act as if they know for a fact it’s real. Of course, they way they turned out to be 1st level bandits in the woods that are scared of a low-level wizard is terrible beyond redemption.]

    > only it might raise some eyebrows if they’re just foreigners with different skin tones so let’s make them another species entirely.

    Another intelligent species ARE foreigners with different skin tones, there’s just no way around it.

    > But before all that, we have another book to talk about! I’m not going to say which one, in order to preserve the mystery

    Is it terrible? Please let it be terrible.

    Reply
  3. jfml

    „Many fantasy authors seized enthusiastically on the old idea of barbarian hordes from the east/north/wherever coming to destroy civilisation, only it might raise some eyebrows if they’re just foreigners with different skin tones so let’s make them another species entirely.“

    Yeah and then when your super white fantasy books get made into movies the only roles PoC get are … playing the subhumans orcs! (Like the Uruk-Hai in the LotR movies) Such a coincidence! Oh and the fake Mongols on Elephants that side with Mordor.

    N. K. Jemisin has written a good post about the problems with Orcs.

    Reply
    1. Nerem

      I kind of always liked how the Original Generation series of games didn’t mind you fighting lots of other humans, and even the ‘orcs’ were human substitutes for plot reasons. (The W-Number Biodroids and cyborgs who might as well be humans, and the Ruina had converted humans who seemed absolutely inhuman outside of their basic shape.

      Reply
  4. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Like Ida said about Trollops, they were created by an evil scientist/wizard to be evil, so they at least have a reason for being interchangeable fodder for the heroes to mercilessly cut down. What also funny about them is that Forsaken who created them had no combat experience so he went with features he thought would make for the perfect soldier without knowing what that would entail.

    Also really powerful angreal are called sa’angreal. I am ashamed I didn’t make the connection as a child.

    Also, also, Jordan does give some good reasons for why people dislike and distrust the Aes Sedai. Since they aren’t allowed to lie because of reasons, they are all extremely adept at bending the truth which makes people distrust them even more than if they could outright lie. Jordan had a few good ideas, which is unsurprising in a fourteen book series, but they’re buried underneath a mountain of bad ideas and bad writing.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      I’m guessing Brent Weeks and I’m really, really hoping for it. Although the biggest WTF happens at the end of the last book. The first one (I read it years ago, so bear with my memory) was actually pretty decent for my simple tastes. Terrible in many ways, but entertaining enough.

      Reply
  5. Ida

    To be fair to Jordan re: Trollocs, they were created by one of the Forsaken, using the corrupt True Source, for the sole purpose of being the Shadow’s cannon fodder, so they have a semi-acceptable reason for being pure evil. I think, like you said, it was just an attempt by Jordan not to put human beings into that role as that might rise a few eyebrows. But yeah, I still haven’t figured out why the Two Rivers people can’t know about them. I think he was going for the sort of story where the mains start out with as little knowledge as the readers, and then letting them discover everything alongside the characters, but since he still put it in another (future/past/whatever) world where the characters already know a lot the readers aren’t privy too, it feels pretty pointless and quite annoying.

    There is actually a canonical reason that the Aiel are the whitest people possible despite living in a desert, but it’s still kind of weird given that they are all light-haired and therefore by default un-equipped to deal with the desert sun. I wouldn’t say this is the whitest fantasy book ever written, though; the Sea Folk, the Domani and the Tairens as well as a lot of the Seanchans are described as dark-skinned. Also the Sharans, but considering their role as “the mysterious exotic people” that gives off some rather unfortunate vibes that I’m pretty sure were unintentional. I still want more epic fantasy with POC main characters, though. Why, when you write a book that takes place in a fucking fantasy world, must the heroes always look and act like they are Europeans? They could be green for all we know.

    These first chapters are… very awkward in a lot of ways. Characters go to setup A so plot point B can happen; they perform action C to put plot point D in motion. The whole “unconscious person spill the truth” is such a cliché it almost hurts. But Jordan was, at least imho, very good at writing atmosphere. The problem with the later books wasn’t really that he got worse at that but that nothing happened to create atmosphere.

    … I still don’t know if the “Who is the Chosen One” thing was supposed to be a mystery at all, and if it was, it failed like whoa.

    Reply
    1. Ida

      “I think, like you said, it was just an attempt by Jordan not to put human beings into that role as that might rise a few eyebrows.” You didn’t actually say that and I misread. Apologies.

      Reply
  6. reveen

    Every single artist depiction of the not-katanas I’ve seen has a katana or sabre blade, but with a European style crossguard. Which I’m pretty sure isn’t how the swords worked but I’m not a HEMA guy so I dunno.

    When Tolkien did orcs he at least knew enough to show them being genuinely unpleasant instead of just attacking people. The trollocs just seem kinda stupid and I feel sorry for them.

    Who do you think The Dark One fears?

    My Skyrim character?

    Reply
    1. braak

      It’s not unheard of! Here is a chart of Polish saber grips from the 16th to 18th centuries:

      You can see that there are a lot of sabers in there with long crossguards.

      The cruciform hilt is an interesting historical subject I think, because it seems to me to have had more to do with the symbolism of the Crusades than with any necessarily practical purpose — you can see similar weapons throughout Asia and the Middle East for thousands of years, and no one bothers with those long crossguards — even the Europeans didn’t stick with them, and gradually phased them out in favor of knucklebows and shields, &c. (I expect that sabers with long quillions weren’t very popular in any case, since the quillions complicate the action of the saber much more than they do a rapier or even a longsword, and what they provide — more defense and the ability to trap a weapon — is obviated because of how sabers are used).

      The Wheel of Time weapons are kind of interesting to me, in that regard — there were no Crusades, so an entirely different etiology of swords is possible in that sense. What’s weird is that sabers and katana share a similar blade shape primarily because they’re both used from horseback (see also the scimiatr), and long, straight weapons (for thrusting) are less useful on horseback than long, curved weapons (for slashing).

      I expect the reason that Tam has got a fantasy katana has less to do with him being a part of a military cavalry caste, and more to do with who we think of as being “swordmasters” — of course, I’d guess any Western master of fence is as well-trained as his Japanese counterpart, but because we fetishize Asian martial arts, we tend to think of the greatest swordmasters as being Samurai, and so naturally the weapon that denotes the swordmaster is the katana.

      /end_nerd

      Reply
      1. Nerem

        Honorverse had the same thing. Katana with european-style hilt and guard. I think it was the author inventing a new type of sword or something, in his mind.

        Reply
  7. Pingback: Quick Reads: The Eye Of The World ch. 2 – 4 | Doing In The Wizard

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