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First Couple of Chapters

Always Sunny




So in this Prologue, Lews Therin Telamon seems to be wandering around a ruined palace in a daze. Since it's filled with the bodies of people he knows I'm assuming it's his palace and he's some sort of ruler (clues like "first among Servants" and "wore the Ring of Tamyrlin"). He's covered in dust (I'm picturing folks from New York on 9/11 or Tom Cruise in the War of the Worlds remake) and acting kinda crazy. Is it some sort of PTSD?


Whatever it is that's making him nuts, a man named Elan Morin Tedronai Heals him. Elan and Lews are enemies in a war and from what I gather Elan's side is winning. Elan magically heals Lews, though not as well as the "Sisters", and Lews starts to remember.


What he remembers, I don't know. We're told that he killed everyone in the palace. Did he kill everyone and then go mad from it or did he go mad and then kill everyone? I can't tell but he does feel pretty guilty about it so I'll guess that he knew what he was doing and the guilt drove him crazy. But why would he do it? A mistake? Did the bad guys trick him somehow?


Finally, Lews Therin, aka Lord of Morning, aka the Dragon, aka Kinslayer, Travels to the middle of nowhere and kills himself by summoning a volcano beneath him.


Does this mean that there are no good guys in this story? I mean, on the one hand we've got Elan Morin, a guy who Heals his enemies but works for Shai'tan (I'm guessing is the evil Big Bad). On the other we've got a guy who blew up his own house, killed his wife and kids and servants, then committed suicide in the woods thereby abandoning his allies in this ten year war.


There's also something called the True Source (which is also called tainted saidan) that seems to fuel magic. And I get the feeling that there's some sort of reincarnation thing going on, too. Makes sense, what with the whole "Wheel of Time" thing there in the title.


On to Chapter 1!


An Empty Road



Rand and Tam al'Thor walk along Quarry Road towards the town of Emond's Field. Rand has a bow all set to fire in case something happens. Wolf attacks are pretty common in this harsh late winter/early spring. I wonder, since the book says that humans have been attacked, if anyone Rand or Tam knows has been killed lately. Maybe someone died in Two Rivers and that would keep Rand on his toes with his bow. Or maybe they're normally cautious or paranoid.


Rand has gray eyes and reddish hair and his mother was an outlander. Is outlander the same as "out of town" or is it more of "out of the country"? In a small community like this it could be either one.


Ha, Tam makes apple brandy and cider! Fantastic. I now see him as some old guy who lives just outside of town with his only son. He makes apple brandy the way some folks make moonshine or whiskey in stills out in the woods. Then, every now and then, he takes his old horse and cart into town to sell his 'shine and buy the yeast and casks he needs to make more. Tam al'Thor is now my favorite character (out of the two that have been introduced, not counting the prologue).


Anyway, the boy sees a black rider who isn't there. Now, the narrator is third person omnipotent so I'm trusting it to tell the truth. A rider did appear, Rand saw it, but then it was gone. Tam, kudos to him, didn't disbelieve his son. Still, they continue as if nothing happened. If the story was told in third person limited, though, it would have made me question things. But, doesn't matter. There's a black rider out there following these simple folks.



"I could do with a pipe," Tam said slowly, "and a mug of ale where it's warm."



That's what makes Tam cool.


The two make it to town and there are kids and dogs out playing. I assume Rand has put his weapon away at this point. There are people cleaning house, people talking shop, Cogners and Coplins acting like small town busybodies. I wonder, though, why there are al'Thors and al'Veres and al'Mearas but no al'Cogners or al'Coplins. Though we do have our first female character, Daise Cognar (if you don't count Ilyena, whose dead body was stepped over a few times during the prologue). Looks like she's a bit part, though.



When they saw Tam, the goodwives of Emond's Field went on point like hounds spotting a rabbit.



Tam is such a pimp. Ha! Soon, LL Cool Tam and his son finally make it to town. The townies are setting up for the Bel Tine festival. There might be fireworks so, just guessing, the technology level here is about 17th Century, maybe. Are there muskets? That'd be wicked.


I'm not liking the Bran al'Vere. It's been a harsh winter, right? Times are bad? Then why does Brandelwyn have enough dough to buy all of Tam's booze? He's the mayor of this struggling backwater and he lives much better than everyone else. He's got a river stone foundation for his inn (what does a town in the middle of nowhere need an inn for?) and the only red tile roof in town. When a gleeman comes in the middle of the night (to his inn!) he was half a mind to tell the guy to sleep in the stable. How does he make his money, if not from illicit means? I dunno, he sounds like a small town tyrant, you know what I mean? A rural kingpin. I can't help it, now that I've got that image in my head, but everything he says now sounds like it comes from a sleazy used car salesman.


There's a conversation, small talk about the weather, between Bran, Cenn, Tam, and Rand is watching. Bran, Cenn, Tam, Rand. Bran, Cenn, Tam, Rand. I hope the names differentiate as the story goes. While this goes on a guy named Mat Cauthon talks to Rand. His best friend, I guess. And like a small town boy his idea of fun is to throw badgers at girls in the town square. It's about the same as cow tipping, I assume.


Mat tells Rand that he saw a black rider. Actually Rand guessed. Mat said that strangers came to town "last evening" (which doesn't seem all that weird since this is a holiday and lots of strangers should be arriving; what else would the inn be for?) and Rand just blurted out "black riders!" Well, in fact, black riders did appear to Mat but that was three days ago. Mat was talking about some other strangers. Meh, whatever. Lucky guess for Rand.


The Dark One and all of the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, beyond the Great Blight, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time.


That sounds like a prayer or other religious catechism that Rand has memorized. Mat says he thinks the Dark Lord is mixed up with the black riders and without missing a beat Rand says this. I mean, Rand's father is behind him talking with the Mayor, it's cold out, his best friend wants to go toss a badger, but then talk turns to the Dark Lord. This is how he responds? Weird.


What is Shayol Ghul? I pronounce it like Shoal Ghoul, by the way. Is it some sort of evil country or some other plane of existence? I'm guessing it's a hell dimension. Whatever it is it has a sweet name.


Also, what are the chances that it's all just a myth told to keep children in line, the way Mat's mother taught him? In a fantasy novel? Yeah, right.





I have no idea where I got the impression that the Wheel of Time was going to be — what? What's the word? Empowering? For some reason I thought this series was supposed to have strong female characters set in a world where women were equal, if not more powerful than, men. It sounded interesting. But that's not what I've seen so far.


We've had a dead wife, killed only to make us feel sad for Lews Therin. Then there was Daise Cognar, but she wasn't really in any position of power. She just yelled at her husband. Now we're in the Winespring Inn (Is there a winery in Emond's Field that gives this inn its name?) where the Village Council is meeting. This council, by the way, is made up of a mafia-style mayor, a blacksmith, a miller, a moonshiner (that doesn't even live in the village), and a thatcher. All of them men. But the mayor's wife, she's making bread in the kitchen while the menfolk do the important things. When she does enter the room of men they all stand up out of respect or something.


Not what I expected and not all that great. But you've got to take the good with the bad, no?


How old is Rand? I'm picturing a fourteen or fifteen year old. In the last chapters he acted like girls were icky, he thinks Mat's "throw flour onto dogs" antics are funny (When does pulling pranks get old? Early twenties?), and his father is considered an eligible bachelor but no one is saying anything about Rand getting hitched. Maybe he's just learning to notice women? Maybe he's gay (Ha, in a 90s fantasy novel? Not unless he were a secondary character, off camera, and female!).


As an aside: What kind of good-natured prank involves covering dogs in flour? Imagine what that would really be like. First, the woman has to clean up that mess. No vacuum cleaners, either. She's got to sweep it out and wipe it off everything. You think people in a society like this, working class people, have time in their day to clean up messes? She's got cows to milk or soup to cook! Second, that flour is probably expensive. There no windmills nearby and most folks don't leave town often so that flour must be imported or made locally by hand not at some distant watermill. Hard work! And this punk just tosses it around like that. It must have cost, like, a hundred dollars to pull that prank. Third, this is a harsh winter! Crops are bad and game is scarce. But Mat is just throwing away good food for a prank? How selfish can one be? It isn't as bad as, say, starting a food fight in the Warsaw ghetto but it is still a mean thing to do.


Anyway, where was I? Oh, Rand's age. There are "years separating" Rand and some kid named Ewin Finngar (I think I've figured out who gets al' in front of their names: usually characters we're supposed to like or sympathize with). How many years? Doesn't say. So I'll guess and guess low. Three. That'll make Rand seventeen. That or about.



Except for merchants ... and the peddlers, outsiders never came into Two Rivers, or as good as never.



Says Rand, in the basement of the Winespring Inn. Outsiders never come, not just to Emond's Field, but all of Two Rivers. And according to the map, Emond's Field is about as far from the borders of Two Rivers as you can get. Yet Bran al'Vere still manages to run an inn and maintain the fanciest home in town. With what, local business? Do local farmers stay at the inn instead of a family member's house (this place seems so small that everybody is related to or best friends with someone who lives in town). Something smells fishy with Bran.


Nynaeve is constantly being mentioned but hasn't appeared, yet. She's a Wisdom, whatever that is. Maybe a priestess or something? Are there priests? Is there religion? I remember Lews Therin praying to the Light, asking for forgiveness. Anyway, Rand and Mat seem to be intimidated by Nynaeve (I have no idea how to pronounce that; I'm going with Nineveh, like the city) while the adults see her as a joke or something. Is she the villain in this first part? She has al' in front of her name so she might be a good guy.


Poor Ewin. Mat's being kinda dickish to the kid who just reminded him of the Lady in town. I feel sorry for him. And that makes me like Ewin.


Lady Moiraine is introduced, chasing off a raven. What do these country bumpkins have against animals? I understand shooting wolves but the rest? Throwing badgers at girls, throwing flour onto dogs, and throwing rocks at ravens. If they had magnifying glasses I'm sure they'd burn ants. And if the Peddler ever shows up with fireworks I'd wager they'd try to strap some to a sheep or something.


What was I saying? Oh, Lady Moiraine. How do you pronounce that? "Muy Rain?" I'm going with "More Rain." Turns out she's really some sort of noble with fancy clothes and all that (It took more than a page to write what I summed up with "fancy clothes"). And she's short. She comes halfway up to Rand's chest.


She's also some sort of historian. Or she claims to be. If you're rich enough to give coins to kids like that then you've probably got free time to study stories. I mean, it isn't as if she's got to work for a living the way Rand and the rest of Two Rivers has to.



"As the Wheel turns ... places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same men. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope."


Rand stared at her, unable to say a word, even to ask what she meant.




This is important. No doubt. And for many reasons. First, I'm as confused as Rand. Here is Moiraine, someone who has studied history for (I'm guessing) a while now. Enough that she's doing a little field research in Two Rivers. Maybe she's got a Wheel of Time equivalent to a Masters degree in anthropology or history or mythology. But she's spouting off philosophy here to a bunch of hillbillies.


Speaking as a proud native of West Virginia (I grew up a handful of miles away from where the term "redneck" was invented!) I know hillbillies. As a rule, we don't know much about metaphysics. I can see why Rand is so dumbfounded.


But this is important because it makes me wonder about the book's world. There is reincarnation, it seems. Those folks in the prologue have been fighting for awhile, then. A bunch of Ages. I just want to know, are they in a cycle where things repeat (that would be implied, what with the Wheel motif) or is it more of a waveform? Does time loop back so that, in a thousand years or so Lews Therin will be born again and then thousands of years later Rand will be born? This would make the entire series pointless, wouldn't it? It makes the bad guy from the prologue, the one who wanted to end time, seem like he's got the right idea (not that it matters, since he's doomed to fail over and over again).


Finally, this line is important because if finally shatters my idea that there is any sort of Matriarchy in this story. Notice how she refers to "men" having different names instead of "people." This is a world where male is default, it seems. Oh, well.


Anyway, this chapter ends with the noblewoman and her bodyguard walking away and Ewin, Rand, and Matt excited to find they are now the wealthiest children in Emond's Field (with the exception of the shady mayor's kids, of course) thanks to the coin Moiraine gave them. Of course, they decide not to spend their new fortune. But now that I think about it, what would they buy?


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I think you are reading too much into matriarchy/patriarchy characters with only a few chapters into the first book. Remember this is a 14 book series! Some of your other observations are quite good though.

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A few notes:


1. The prologue was 3rd omni, but the following chapters are 3rd limited.


2. There is some talk of Rand getting hitched in ch. 1:


Rand stepped along just as quickly as Tam, perhaps even more so. He was sometimes cornered when Tam was not around, with no way to escape outside of rudeness. Herded onto a stool by the kitchen fire, he would be fed pastries or honeycakes or meatpies. And always the goodwife's eyes weighed and measured him as neatly as any merchant's scales and tapes while she told him that what he was eating was not nearly so good as her widowed sister's cooking, or her next-to-eldest cousin's. Tam was certainly not getting any younger, she would say. It was good that he had loved his wife so—it boded well for the next woman in his life—but he had mourned long enough. Tam needed a good woman. It was a simple fact, she would say, or something very close, that a man just could not do without a woman to take care of him and keep him out of trouble. Worst of all were those who paused thoughtfully at about that point, then asked with elaborate casualness exactly how old he was now.


3. There are plenty of strong women in the series - you might say women rule the world, and the lack of consideration for gender-neutral wording doesn't change the fact - but all of this is filtered through RJ's own South Carolinian upbringing. He's probably one of those that doesn't see any problem with traditional gender roles, but those are a great deal more noticeable in backwoods places like the Two Rivers. In other cultures that are introduced later, there are a good number of female merchants and craftsmen. There is only one true matriarchy in the world, though. Other cultures favor female rulers but have otherwise egalitarian-ish societies.

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OK, 1st off, I love these threads / post.


2nd: As usually, I love how far off on some things you are, and am absolutely astounded at some of the insight you have on other things. Naturally, I shall not differentiate, but I will say you've spotted some little tidbits in a light that I didn't until ohh...book 12? Dang. I'll just re-read the parts your wrong about to make myself feel better. :D


Keep it coming man! I think some of your minor concerns will be addressed shortly. And then some of the little things will become much more impressive for you. :D

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Plenty of mistakes, but also several quite astute observations, best of luck and have fun, many of the less correct observations will be sorted out very quickly though and some of the guesses are something that plays a role several books later (RJ really liked to foreshadow).

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