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Could Egwene's overall arc be the most tragic thing ever?


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On 5/2/2024 at 12:48 PM, Bugglesley said:


I will absolutely not stand for this Egwene slander. It is absolutely baffling to me to have a whole paragraph arguing her achievements are "unearned," when each and every other explanation for a character's power is..... also completely unearned!


Your argument is self-defeating as a result. Everything you list is the exact evidence needed to argue that Egwene earned her power as much, if not more than any other character. Egwene chose to join the Aiel, yes. And she worked her ass off (and got her ass beaten off) to learn from them! She is later able to resist the Tower's coercive violence due to learning the Aiel approach to processing pain. How is that unearned? She is born with a Talent in dreaming, but her skills in TAR are earned by endless practice and experience. She is born with a ridiculous talent in the Power, sure, and also she earns her abilities by practicing with every single group that channels saidar outside of Shara (brief but intense period in the tower, forced by the Seanchan, learning with the Aiel, and brief but instructive turns with the Sea People and the Kin).


How is this not merit? You seem to have missed that she was explicitly raised Amyrlin to be a puppet; every shred of material power she wielded was power that she earned through shrewd politicking. Political acumen she learned and earned from the Wise Ones and from being smart enough to know when to listen to Siuan and when to push back, a nuance that many other characters in the book treat as all (everything this person says is gospel) or nothing (woolheaded fool!).


Also, not for nothing.. she is involved "in the war" from day 1, and her actions are absolutely key to winning it. She "tangles" with Lanfear at the docks (and gets horribly tortured, helpless, almost like she's not a day-1 superpower, fascinating). Multiple Forsaken had spent literal millennia ensuring that the White Tower would be, at best, a fractured mess at TG. And they did a good job! Yet Egwene delivered a unified, motivated, effective force. How? Through constant (on screen!) hard work. It's contrived, yes, but my brother in the Light you are reading a fantasy novel; every single thing she does prepares her to do the things she will do. She had to learn in the Tower, get caught by the Seanchan, and study with the Aiel; this allows her to become effective. And effective she is! First keeping the Salidar group together through force of will, and then doing civil disobedience so hard she destroys an Amyrlin seat, then directly fighting the Seanchan in the Tower Raid more effectively than literally any other character in the entire series, then taking two sides that were textually at war a week ago and leading them into battle as a unified force.


Of course, to you all of these are "unearned." Every accomplishment is another sign of how she didn't deserve her accomplishments. Every conversation with Moiraine (Light forbid she question the mysterious wizard that has them wrapped up in 85 plots she doesn't understand, even the evidence that she's not a day-1 genius is instead evidence she's horrible), every miserable night she spent running laps unclothed in 30 degree weather to earn more lessons from the wizard-politicians of the waste or being pushed to burnout for living weapon purposes by a sadist using a nightmare slave collar or discussing politics with one of the greatest wizard-politicians to ever do it doesn't count, for some reason, as "earning it." OK sure. She "has it ridiculously easy." I don't... did you read any chapters that involve a Wise One? Or the Seanchan?


What, in your eyes, makes a character "deserving"? What makes Rand a leader and Egwene a bully? What is the line between ambition and megolomania? Why is Thom playing the game of houses just him being experienced and skillful, and Egwene doing it a sign that she is a dishonest liar that USES people?


With that established, I find it fascinating that of the 12 things you listed she was "unrealistically" a "master" of, 10 of them are just "things politicians do" and 2 are "channelling." These are, precisely the two things she spent every single page of the series, from her introduction as the Mayor's daughter and potential Wise Woman apprentice, learning (or being forced to learn) to be good at. You're gonna have to help me out here.


Being the class clown and prepped for selling horses, but then bumbling into a mystical alternate reality, shouting nonsense like a stubborn idiot, and getting tricked into having memories shoved into your brain while nearly dying.... now that's 110% legit earned. Mat is obviously the greatest general of all time and it's based as hell. Don't worry about it.


When it comes to relationships, I think that *just like Rand* in the first few books, Egwene is experiencing a lot. She's suddenly out of her tiny village, she's had some trauma, her and Perrin find a (relatively) safe space among the Tuatha'an for a minute.. Is it really some kind of massive character flaw that she smiles at and dances with a guy? And then leaves the next day? A little harsh. Smiles and dances were all she'd ever done with Rand! They were "expected" but not really in any modern concept of dating or "going steady"?


And with that, I do disagree with a lot of the years-old sentiment in this thread that she was done dirty in this; I think it's a great example of how, as in real life, childhood sweethearts can enter a larger world, both grow and change, and realize they grew and changed apart. It's totally fine and neither of them are at fault. It's a completely normal part of life! I know only a few adults who are still with someone they were into when they were 16; RJ was spot-on with that whole dynamic.


Yet for you, it is a sign she is a "HORRIBLE" person. Yikes.


I don't think Egwene is a tragedy, as the OOP speculates; I absolutely do not think she is HORRIBLE, as you disjointedly ranted. As the crowd seemed to get to towards the middle of the thread, Egwene's story is a triumph. Yes, she lived fast and died young. But in that time she accomplished a tremendous amount; her death itself took two of the most powerful tools (Sakarnen and Taim/the Dreadlords) the Dark had off the board and was one of the last pushes Rand needed to understand that human beings fundamentally deserve the right of agency. All of that while having "No memories, No most powerful channeler perks, no wolf powers, no reborn guy in her head, no Ta'Verin." Good for her!



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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm with Winnower, years ago there were polls for favorite and least favorite characters Egwene was always near the top of least.


I've always thought Jordan was paralleling her to Lanfear, and he killed her to save her from herself. 

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