Let’s Read The Wheel of Time: TEoTW ch. 24

isbn9781857230765

Chapter 24: Flight Down the Arinelle

Can we have someone other than Perrin now? Pretty please?

Whatever direction Rand looked, as far as his eye could make out in the dimness it was the same, above as well as below.

HUZZAH

Rand is having another one of his disturbing nightmares. This time he’s wandering a seemingly endless maze of towers and bridges, which sounds less like a nightmare and more like some sort of really elaborate boardgame.

The movement came again, and now it was clear. A man striding up a distant ramp, careless of the lack of railings and the drop to nothing below. The man’s cloak rippled with his stately haste, and his head turned, searching, searching.

Creepy.

This is of course good old Ba’alzamon. The setting transforms into a maze of thorns and Rand runs blindly, unable to remember how long he’s been in the dream for or even if it is a dream.

“The Light will not help you, boy, and the Eye of the World will not serve you. You are my hound, and if you will not course at my command, I will strangle you with the corpse of the Great Serpent!”

Lots of Capitalised Words

After some more trippy imagery (mirrors!) Rand wakes up on the ship he, Mat and Thom escaped on to find that his finger is bleeding from a wound sustained in the dream. Which is all very ominous, but I’m starting to wonder if Ba’alzamon has any plan beyond trolling Rand in his dreams.

The crew of the ship are starting to get mutinous due to the hard pace captain Bayle “Pirate” Doman is demanding, and one crew member in particular who was upbraided for not keeping watch before the Trolloc attack is trying to turn them against our heroes.

For the first day or two Gelb’s wiry figure could almost always be found addressing any crewman he could corner, telling his version of the night Rand and the others came on board. Gelb’s manner slid from bluster to whines and back again, and his lip always curled when he pointed to Thom or Mat, or especially Rand, trying to lay the blame on them.

How many times have we seen this exact same character, the cowardly wretch who tries to cause trouble for the good guys? There were the Congar and Coplin families that the book wouldn’t shut the fuck up about at the start, the boat guy at Tarran Ferry, the stable-hand in Baerlon, and now this dude.

Is this some kind of Objectivist thing? I know from reading commentary of Atlas Shrugged that Ayn Rand liked to cast her villains as cringing, pathetic whiners in a very similar manner.

For that whole length the stone had been cut into figures, men and women a hundred feet tall, with crowns proclaiming them kings and queens.

I’ve noticed that this exact image– giant statues cut into cliffs and mountainsides– is very common in fantasy. You can see examples in the Lord of The Rings movies (and maybe the books as well), Game of Thrones, and a ton of fantasy art online. I think it’s so common because it’s a very easy way to convey the fact that the story’s setting was once inhabited by people who had far greater magical powers or technology to be able to craft such things.

Captain Domon tells Mat and Rand about the many fantastical things he’s seen and heard of (YARR MATEY THERE BE STRANGE THINGS IN THIS WORLD SO THERE DO BE), such as a big metal tower they see in the distance (I think this might be where the cover art I showed at the beginning of the Quick Read comes from) and this stuff:

On Tremalking, one of the Sea Folk’s isles, there be a stone hand fifty feet high sticking out of a hill, clutching a crystal sphere as big as this vessel.

[…]

In Tanchico—that be a port on the Aryth Ocean—part of the Panarch’s Palace were built in the Age of Legends, so it be said. There be a wall there with a frieze showing animals no man living has ever seen.”

[…]

A crystal lattice covering an island, and it hums when the moon is up. A mountain hollowed into a bowl, and in its center, a silver spike a hundred spans high, and any who comes within a mile of it, dies. Rusted ruins, and broken bits, and things found on the bottom of the sea, things not even the oldest books know the meaning of

I remember finding this section really exciting and evocative, but unfortunately it later turns out to be another heavin’ helpin’ of foreshadowing, as most of these strange sights end up fulfilling various story roles in later books. Personally, I find it more exciting when authors don’t try to explain everything, as the mystery is almost always more interesting than its explanation.

“We used to dig up bones in the Sand Hills,” Rand said slowly. “Strange bones. There was part of a fish—I think it was a fish—as big as this boat, once.

This is the first of several hints throughout the series that species from our time have gone extinct in Rand’s– the bones he’s talking about here seem to be from a whale, and in a later book a travelling circus has a reconstructed elephant skeleton. The elephant is directly stated to no longer be extant in the world, while Rand’s unfamiliarity with “fish” as large as boats and the fact that he found the skeleton in an area that’s nowhere near the ocean seems to imply very heavily that whales (or at least whales of that size) aren’t around any more.

Unfortunately Jordan doesn’t seem to have taken this to its logical conclusion and invented new species to fill the environmental niches. Due to the nature of the setting we never get a clear idea of how long after our time all of this is taking place (or even if the “our time” that’s obliquely reference every now and then really is our time and not a similar age in the cyclical turning of the wheel) so it could easily be assumed that it’s been long enough for new species to have evolved.

he was looking down at Mat in surprise, and at what Mat held, hidden from everyone else by his body. A curved dagger with a gold scabbard worked in strange symbols. Fine gold wire wrapped the hilt, which was capped by a ruby as big as Rand’s thumbnail, and the quillons were golden-scaled serpents baring their fangs.

A ruby you say? Why, I believe it’s time to go back to that scene with Min I keep referencing!

And the other one—a red eagle, an eye on a balance scale, a dagger with a ruby, a horn, and a laughing face.

During the encounter with Mordeth or whatever his name was Mat grabbed a dagger from the treasure pile to defend himself with; evidently he took it with him, and now it seems to be having a strange effect on him, making him obsessive and secretive in the manner of a certain famous fantasy character you may recognise.

dobby-harry-potter-dog-222063.jpg

Wait, wrong one.

Gollum

Yeah there we go.

This is the point where the Tolkien copying gets so blatant that I spotted it despite having never read the books or watched the movies.

Meanwhile, Rand himself is acting a little odd as well, doing some reckless Errol Flynn shit in the ship’s rigging. Afterward he thinks about what he just did and is terrified of the very idea, almost as if he had been overtaken by some irrational bout of giddiness If you’ve been paying attention this is all GIANT BLINKING PLOT HINTS but I have to admit that on a first read-through it will probably go over most people’s heads.

 

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wheel of Time: TEoTW ch. 24

  1. reveen

    On TES @Signatus (are direct replies gone now?).

    One thing about the handling of the Dwemer ruins in Elder Scrolls that makes it make more sense to me than other fantasy is that people have no problem fucking around with them. Sure, you have some characters that are really trepidatious about them due to the whole “mass racial suicide via fucking with the fabric of reality thing”. But you also have Dwemer enthusiasts who want to learn about them and make museums for them, smugglers who want to ransack the ruins to make a quick buck, and warlords who want to use giant Dwemer robots to conquer the world.

    It’s like, I don’t believe for a second that there aren’t people buzzing around that giant hand thing like flies wanting to study it to or try to subvert it for their own use.

    Reply
  2. Signatus

    Funny thing even in Bethesda’s TES this is treated way different. You encounter the ruins of dwenmer cities, the ruins of ayleid cities, dragonpriest temples and burial mounds of all kinds, and there is all this lore around it albeit a bit of mystery too. You can read archeological research written about this different ruins and the societies that built them, and while there are some stuff they don’t know (like why and how the Dwenmer disappeared) people are aware of the existence of this places and who built them, which kind of makes the whole deal more interesting to investigate, to try and find out more about this fascinating people. In that way, ancient, disappeared cultures are treated very similarly to the way we treat romans, vikings or mayans, as part of our history.

    It’s kind of curious that a book and a game which are similar in content (epic fantasy, etc), are treated so differently. I think one of the reasons I love TES is because the world feels truly alive, and not yet another cardboard cutout of some writer who thought Tolkien was the best thing invented since sliced bread.

    Reply
  3. Andrea Harris

    Re fantasy monuments: it seems to be a thing early fantasy writers got from all the stuff they read about the statuary and stuff in places like Greece and Rome. I will say that at least those old writers didn’t do so much of that whole “current population knows nothing of what they are” because that wasn’t in their experience (everyone knew what the Coliseum was, and the Parthenon, and so on). Tolkien had his hobbits not really know anything unless they’d had schooling like Frodo, but other people in his stories knew what those big old statues were, etc. Jordan seems to have used the “and the generations After The Disaster forgot everything about the Times Before” trope really heavily, which is convenient I guess when you want characters to bumble around in a mysterious land.

    Reply
      1. Andrea Harris

        Yup. I could see them being lost in kiddie doggerel, like those old plague chants (ring around the rosey, etc.), and being garbled like that, or being something arcane people chant at religious ceremonies that no one really understands, or even stuff the well-off kids are taught (the way Frodo learned all those Elvish poems), but *everyone* knowing just seems too pat.

        Reply
  4. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    What’s also great about monuments in the real world is how they get repurposed by people who don’t care so much about their grand history, like those who cart of chunks of the pyramids or great wall for building material. In fantasy though no one touches them, only nature which takes a lot longer to destroy things in fantasy.

    Reply
  5. zephyrean

    > Personally, I find it more exciting when authors don’t try to explain everything, as the mystery is almost always more interesting than its explanation.

    Idunno, a parabolic antenna is vastly more interesting and exciting than anything magical — or, indeed, anything else — in the book so far. Why was it worth building if it doesn’t properly rotate? Who they were communicating with? What fundamental physical laws does the universe obey and what is its shape?

    Reply
  6. Signatus

    No, I believe it was Survivorman, a similar show to the one hosted by Bear Grylls, but in this case the guy was completely alone, no crew to make him company. I liked that one better than the other one.

    Reply
  7. Signatus

    Yeah, hum, that comment was for the previous post. Serves me right for reading at night and commenting in the morning. 😛

    Reply
  8. Signatus

    I remember watching a TV show about a guy who tried to survive in different places, feigning that he was a lost hiker or things like that. The episode where he fared the worst was the one he was lost in the canadian wilderness. He struggled to find things to eat and had trouble finding coverage from the climate. I wonder why people believe getting lost in fantasy wilderness will grant you a good amount of berries and other stuff to eat when that’s not the case. Not to mention winter climate in Europe (which is as close to fantasyland we got) is pretty harsh, and animals are not as stupid as they seem and don’t want to be hunted. Unless you’re an experience trapper you’re pretty much going to starve in a matter of days.

    As for wolves, yeah, that kind of bothers me too. Wolves don’t have fancy names like Windrunner or Mapple Leaf Falling in Winter. Wolves don’t have names at all, but if they had names they would be related to the way they smell. If we pay attention to the scents of people who surround us, now try to put a name to that. I think it was Terry Pratchett the one who made werewolves and said something along the lines of wolves not having names because it wasn’t in their nature.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      Was that Bear Grylls? I saw one episode of his show, where he bit a giant pulsating grub in half while traipsing through the jungle. I’m pretty sure it scarred me for life.

      Reply
  9. reveen

    On Tremalking, one of the Sea Folk’s isles, there be a stone hand fifty feet high sticking out of a hill, clutching a crystal sphere as big as this vessel.

    Fifty feet? The Leshan Buddha is over 200 feet, the Pyramid of Giza went well over 400. We didn’t need magic to build those. What kind of shitty-ass wizards were they?

    Reply
  10. sanderrp

    What I love/hate about the gigantic monuments in fantasy is that they’re almost always completely mysterious and unexplained. In the real, actual world we live in, we’ve always had pretty solid notions of where those gigantic monuments we live around originally came from. That’s because people tend to talk about the gigantic monuments they see. A lot. They also tend to talk about their ancestors and history. A lot. They even write it down sometimes! We may lose some details, but we at least have vague ideas and knowledge of the cultures that produced them. And then those stories are often concurrently told with stories that integrate those monuments into a contemporary mythology, particularly if the monuments are extremely old. Even more so, a lot of the time people will use those old monuments to make a claim to historical continuity. See Christians re-purposing Roman monuments, or Ottomans re-purposing Byzantine ones.

    But in Fantasy World those monuments are almost always just traces of some mystery society no one knows about, instead of a part of the environment and society, one with real, living history behind it.

    I wonder if that’s partly caused by North Americans rarely seeing actually old monuments and the way they become part of a city or society when there’s continuous living over a millennium or more — and the Native American monuments most Americans know about aren’t usually seen as being part of their own history, or they’re even treated as just part of the “natural” landscape, so they get otherized instead of absorbed into society and history.

    Reply
  11. Elspeth Grey

    Hey, let’s be fair- cringing pathetic whiners who just want to make things worse for our heroes has a long history of being an anti-Semitic thing, not just an Objectivist thing!

    One of the interesting things to me about the “giant statues as a way to indicate man had great powers that are now lost” thing in fantasy is how it’s yet another way fantasy shows how Euro-centric it is. People in East and Southeast Asia didn’t need grand magic or super-advanced technology to carve gigantic Buddhas out of cliff faces.

    Reply

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