Welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. We are continuing our reread of The Eye of the World, with chapters 24 and 25.
Chapter 24, "Flight Down the Arinelle"
Rand is in a dream, and knows it is a dream. He wanders around a dark place, with roads that lead directly above him, or to places that seem close at first, then far away. Ba'alzamon chases him, and Rand wonders if Mat is seeing the same thing—if there are two Ba'alzamons and two mazes, or if Mat is somewhere in the same maze. Rand continues through the maze and accidently touches a thorn on the wall. His finger bleeds. After that, he runs into Ba'alzamon. Rand shouts that it is a dream, and it changes into something else.
Now, Rand is in a place full of mirrors. He can see his image thrown back at him, and the image of Ba'alzamon too. As Rand looks into a mirror, he sees his own face, then it begins to merge with Ba'alazmon's face. Only one face remains. Rand wakes up on the Spray, relieved that the dreams are over for one more night, then realizes his finger is bleeding from a pick of a thorn.
Life aboard the Spray has been difficult since the night after Shadar Logoth. Due to fear of the Shadowspawn, Doman has the crew heading full speed down the river. Gelb has been trying to convince the other sailors that it was all Rand's fault, but no one listens to him. Thom warns them that Gelb is harmless, for the time being, but they need to watch out for a mutiny from the crew—they aren't pleased with how hard Doman has been working them. Thom tries his hardest to distract the crew with his entertainment, as well as teaching Rand and Mat their lessons for the crew's enjoyment.
As they travel, Rand notices artifacts in the quickly passing landscape. They pass through a rent in a cliff that is carved with men and women—kings and queens of an old nation. He also sees a tall tower seemingly made of metal. Doman tells him that it looks like steel, but there's not a spot of rust. Doman then tells Rand of all the wonders he's seen. Of the Panarch's Palace in Tanchico that has the bones of extinct animals, of lightsticks, razorlace, and heartstone. Doman says the wonders of the world will pull Rand on. Rand argues, saying he will go home as soon as possible.
A few days later, Rand has a sort of giddy fit, causing him to climb the ship's mast. He balances atop the swaying mast, until Thom comes up and asks him to come down. Rand does, dangling from a rope and swinging down, ending with a bow and a flourish. As he lands, he realizes that Mat is stroking the ruby hilted dagger they had seen in Shadar Logoth. Mat insists Moiraine's warning doesn't count because it hadn't been a gift, Mat had just taken it. Rand says they can sell it if they need the money and Mat reluctantly agrees. Thom comes over and scolds Rand for his stunt, and Rand realizes what he had been doing atop the mast. He suddenly feels dizzy. He wonders what's happening to him, if he might be going mad.
Chapter 25, "The Travelling People"
Perrin, Egwene, and Elyas travel through the wilderness. Egwene tries to get Elyas to ride Bela as well, but he refuses. She is unsuccessful at bullying him into doing it, too. Hopper, Dapple, and Wind appear every so often, but the other wolves are keeping farther away. Perrin can feel a tickle, and knows the direction they are, but he tires to deny it. On the plus side, he has not had any dreams of Ba'alzamon since meeting Elyas and the wolves.
After three days, they find a group of Tinkers. Elyas is known by the Seeker of this band, Raen, and his wife, Ila. Ila wonders if Elyas' "other friends" would stay away since they frighten the dogs; Elyas impatiently tells her they will. The group is welcomed to the fires for a meal.
Raen's and Ila's grandson—Aram—appears and begins to talk to Egwene. Perrin interrupts, saying how big the dogs are. Aram sizes him up as competition and says the dogs will not harm Perrin, as they follow the Way of the Leaf. Egwene asks Aram what it is, and he explains. Perrin wonders how they could live like that, always afraid and always running. Raen begins to explain, but Elyas cuts him off, saying he didn't bring Perrin and Egwene there to convert them. Perrin and Aram have an argument, and Aram takes Egwene to eat with his parents. Perrin apologizes to Raen and Ila, but they dismiss it offhand.
After dinner, they sit to smoke their pipes. Raen tells of a story—passed from Tinker to Tinker—about a band that travelled into the Aiel Waste. A group of Maidens were attacked, and all but one dead. It took the last bit of her strength to pass on a message: "Leafblighter means to blind the Eye of the World." Raen wanted to know if Elyas could tell him what it meant, but he claims not to know.
Egwene comes back and Perrin asks her if she had fun. He also compares Aram to Wil al'Seen, and notes that Egwene had more sense to fall for Wil's antics. Abruptly, Egwene throws her arms around Perrin and cries, wanting to know that Rand and the others are still alive. Awkwardly, Perrin reassures her that they are. She kisses him on the cheek, then goes to the wagon with Ila. Perrin wonders how Rand is able to know so much about women when Perrin knows nothing.
First off, when we see this dream of Rand and Ba'alzamon, it very closely resembles the Ways. I don't think we've talked about this before. We know that these dreams most likely take place in a dreamshard of Ishamael's making—giving him more power over the surrounding than just Tel'aran'rhiod would offer. So, why would he choose the Ways? It seems a curious place. The Ways were created after the male channelers had started going insane, so it would be after Ishamael was sealed (or partly sealed) within the Bore. Would he have been able to access the Ways during his brief periods of freedom? He must have, or how else would he have known what they look like? Or is it more likely that although the Ways weren't grown until later, the Talismans of Growing were well-known and studied? Perhaps Ishamael had even worked on them before the War of Power, and knew, in theory, what the Ways would look like?
This could be an interesting question to pose to Brandon Sanderson or Maria Simons.
Going back to my "Moridin always knew he was working for the Light" theory, he could be using the Ways as a tool to prepare Rand for later in the book, when they actually use the Ways. This little bit of experience doesn't do much, but it does get Rand, and possibly Mat and Perrin, used to the idea of the unsettling landscape, and the near-solid darkness (though of course you can't make it dark or light inside Tel'aran'rhiod). He's giving them help, maybe without even realizing it. To keep your enemies in ignorance is the best way to beat them, but Ishamael seems to be arming Rand with all the knowledge he'll need to have a victory.
Moving on, another thing we see in this dream is the idea of Rand and Ba'alzamon merging. I don't know about you, but I am flabbergasted that the foreshadowing of this is all the way back in book one. And looking at the recent article about Robert Jordan's notes, he might have had this idea all along. Every time I reread this series, I am struck with how brilliant a writer Robert Jordan was. And I'm sure there will be other such surprises as we continue through all the books.
Another interesting thing mentioned is the tale of the Aiel Maidens meeting the Tuatha'an. I particularly like this story because of the conflict it causes. We know after The Shadow Rising why the Aiel call the Tinkers "Lost Ones." And the Tinkers, who have no idea of their crimes, are blamed for the sins of their ancestors. It seems so funny that the Aiel would judge others based on this, when they themselves have abandoned their own oaths to the Way of the Leaf. It's like the Aiel feel they can call the Tinkers "Lost" only because they quite their charge before the Aiel did. It's completely illogical. But I love the dynamic it gives to both factions.
The Tinkers themselves are fascinating. The Way of the Leaf is an interesting concept, and I wish more could have been done with them throughout the story. At JordanCon last weekend, Brandon did a panel where he answered all our Wheel of Time questions. One thing he talked about was how he freaked out Team Jordan, trying to think outside the box in regards to the storylines and characters. One of these ideas was what would happen if Perrin had eventually found the Way of the Leaf. Maria, and Harriet McDougal, who were both in attendance at the panel, laughed and agreed that Brandon had freaked them out. One of them also said that they absolutely refused to let Perrin choose the Way of the Leaf.
Personally, I don't think Perrin could have ever fit in as a follower of the Way of the Leaf. He believes too much in justice, and sometimes that involves corporeal punishment—I mean, he even spanked Faile once. But I love thinking of the idea that he could have joined them. It adds so much depth to his character to know that there was even a chance he could have evolved into a follower of the Way of the Leaf. If anyone in the story was to convert, it would be him, I think.
Also, with the Aiel story, Raen speaks of men who go alone to kill the Dark One. Again, very early on, we get a hint of some major events that happen during the Last Battle. For one, the use of the Samma N'Sei for the Shadow. This was a huge revelation—though we did think about it once we learned that the Black Tower was turning male channelers already. We knew since The Great Hunt—and Egwene's test for Accepted—that it's possible to Turn a channeler, but I really don't think I suspected the male Aiel channelers as targets until much later in the series.
For what we see of them, the Samma N'Sei are scary. Looking at the Wheel of Time Wikia page for them, it implies they are cannibals. It also talks about how they are protected from the taint, due to their oaths to the Dark One. I don't know if there is any evidence for that. If they were given a barrier—like the Forsaken—why do they act so crazy? But, maybe now isn't the time to speculate on them. I do wish we had more information about them, and their culture; hopefully it will be in the Encyclopedia.
I think we will go ahead and end it here, today. Join us next week for more tales from The Eye of the World. Thanks for reading!