Welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. We are going to continue our reread of The Eye of the World, only chapter 9 this time, but there's a lot to talk about.
Before we start, I do want to say that there will still be SPOILERS! With the ending in sight, much of what I point out could allude to things that happen in A Memory of Light, so keep that in mind as you read. Don't continue if you don't want to be spoiled.
Chapter 9, "Tellings of the Wheel"
In a dream, Rand is running through a desolate landscape, unseen pursuers behind him. He scrambles to the top of a cliff with a long drop below him and no other place to go. In the valley below the cliff is a single mountain reaching far into the sky. He doesn't know the mountain, but he remembers it.
Unseen things begin to pull on his body, drawing him towards the mountain. A familiar voice tells him he must serve. Rand struggles to resist the pull of voice and fingers and uses his stubbornness and anger as the source. He curses Shai'tan and suddenly sees a figure hovering over him, a figure in a blood red cloak and a face that is horrible, but not described. Terrified, Rand throws himself off the edge of the cliff.
He lands in some grass with a different mountain looming over him. Beside it, there are a river, an island, and a city out of a gleeman's tale. Rand knows that safety waits in that city, but as hard as he runs, he cannot reach it. The city gets smaller and smaller and the things chasing him get closer and closer. He screams, and trips.
He is on paving stones within the city. Around him are happy faces, people urging him forward, toward the tall tower in the middle of the city. Rand wants to see a bit more of the city before going to the tower, so he turns down a side road, and sees the tower before him. He turns down anther road, and the tower is still there. He tires to run from it, but the people around him gesture him forward. They need him to go. He obliges. He walks to the tower and the crowd sings and dances around him, giving him garlands around his neck. He dances with them. He gets to the square outside the tower and the crowd stops. He continues on alone. He enters the tower and a Myrddraal waits inside for him.
Rand wakes up at the inn. Mistress al'Vere has left him some food, so he eats it quickly, then stands beside his sleeping father. As he touches Tam's forehead, Tam opens his eyes. Rand tells Tam everything Moiraine had said about the Dark One being after him, Mat, and Perrin. Tam reluctantly agrees that Rand needs to leave.
Lan arrives and says there is trouble. Rand starts to take off the sword, but Tam tells him to keep it. Rand hugs Tam—and unable to ask about the fever dreams—leaves with the Warder. Mat is waiting outside in the hallway and they all go downstairs together.
In the street in front of the inn, a mob has gathered. They threaten the inn and the Aes Sedai. Moiraine raises her wooden staff, which shoots fire out the ends, and tells the villagers about Manetheren. At the end of her story, the villagers apologize for their behavior and leave.
Lan leads Rand and Mat out to the stableyard and Rand realizes he is actually leaving his home.
When I read this part the first few times, I felt that the dream sequence was a waste of time. I wanted to continue with the story—especially the part when Moiraine tells of Manetheren. Many agree that scene is one of their favorites. But looking at the dream now, looking at it closely, there is a ton of information we can pick up.
First off, there's a very subtle hint that Lews Therin is present inside Rand. We typically don't think of Lews Therin emerging until The Fires of Heaven—when small phrases start showing up in Rand's conversation (like calling Moiraine "little sister" (Chapter 2, "Rhuidean")). But he is clearly here now, if you look close enough. I'm surprised I've never noticed before.
During the dream sequence, when Rand's looking at Shayol Ghul and the Bore, he thinks:
That bleak stone spire, a dagger stabbing at the heavens, was the source of his desolation. He had never seen it before, but he knew it. The memory of it flashed away like quicksilver when he tried to touch it, but the memory was there. He knew it was there.
Just a quick side note on Shayol Ghul. My understanding of it is that it was created when Mierin and Beidomon drilled into the Bore—we see in the glass-column ter'angreal that the release of the Power from within the Bore brought down the Collam Daan. So, the land around became barren after it was opened.
Therefore, Lews Therin and the Hundred Companions would have seen Shayol Ghul as it is in Rand's dream. The source of the memory had to be from Lews Therin! One strange thing to think about is that Mat and Perrin are seeing these same dreams—after all, Ba'alzamon isn't sure which of them is the Dragon Reborn yet. To them, would it be just another mountain, since they don't have that "memory" to guide them?
Another thing Rand remembers is the voice calling him. It says:
Serve me, a voice whispered in the stillness of his mind. A familiar voice. If he listened hard enough he was sure he would know it. Serve me. He shook his head to try to get it out of his head. Serve me! He shook his fist at the black mountain. “The Light consume you, Shai'tan!”
Notice that this voice is "familiar" as well. After this, Rand sees a figure. He doesn't describe what the figure's face looks like, but we can assume that it's the flame-filled eyes and mouth that Ishamael uses. It's the form of Ba'alzamon.
Whose voice is it actually? It isn't really the Dark One—because he speaks in ALL CAPS. So, this has to be the voice of Ishamael. His voice would only be familiar to Lews Therin. And Rand knows that if he listens hard enough, he would remember the voice. This could be the first time that Lews Therin's personality is trying to dominate Rand's. What would have happened if Rand had let him, if Rand would have listened hard enough? Would he have realized that Ba'alzamon was really Ishamael? Would Lews Therin and Rand merged sooner? Would it have cause peace or sown more chaos?
And that makes me wonder about Rand's childhood. There's many studies that suggest that children are more sensitive to supernatural presences—or more perceptive to things that are unseen. Would Rand have been more susceptible to Lews Therin's personality as a child? Would it have made things easier if they had merged back then? Or would it have erased the good ethics Rand learned from Tam and the Two Rivers? Did Rand every have an imaginary friend who was actually Lews Therin?
I know these questions sound silly, but reading this one scene made them all likely possibilities.
When Rand dreams of Tar Valon, I wonder about the purpose of it. Was Ishamael trying to scare him away from the Tower by showing a Myrddraal inside? Rand actually does take a lot of the things Ba'alzamon says as being true—mostly about Aes Sedai and the Tower. This could be the beginning of that seed of doubt.
Also, when he's going towards the Tower, he thinks as he dances with the crowd that, "his feet were lighter than they had ever been, dancing with... He could not remember the name, but it did not seem important." I wonder who he was thinking about dancing with. Could it have been Egwene, or maybe Ilyena?
There's one last thing about these dreams. We didn't really find out about dreamshards until A Memory of Light (prologue), but it seems to me that all this time Ishamael has been using them when he pulls Rand, Mat, and Perrin into his Dreams. In my opinion, this is confirmed when Rand realizes he's in a dreamshard, and it leads him to Ishamael (Chapter 4, "Advantages of a Bond")—the same way he was usually called into Dreams of Ishamael's making during The Eye of the World through The Dragon Reborn.
Moving on past the dreams, and I know I've brought this up before, but I'm still completely flabbergasted that Tam didn't even suspect the Rand might be the Dragon Reborn. Tam says, "What would Trollocs want with you boys? Or the Dark One, the Light help us?" I know, and I think Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson have both commented on, how no one really believes they are a part of prophecy, but when Tam finds out Shadowspawn are after his adopted son, why wouldn’t he think back to where he found Rand? That should have stirred some memory. He should have some idea, even if it's only a gut feeling. The Dark One wouldn't be hunting people just for the hell of it.
I still tear up when I read Moiraine's account of Manetheren. Wheel of Time—one of its major themes, at least—is about bravery in the face of defeat. We see this continually with many of the characters, and nations. The Borderlanders, the Aiel (past and present), the people of Manetheren. All show unspeakable bravery when called upon. And I love that this tale is our first taste of what the people of the Two Rivers are capable of.
But Moiraine's speech has more purpose than just inspiring us—the readers—and captivating the Two Rivers' folk. This hidden piece of their history prepared the Two Rivers to pick up their bows, pitchforks, and axes—this made them ready to follow Perrin. If they never learned about how ordinary shepherds and farmers fought for Manetheren, they never would have found that inner vein of bravery and courage. They would have assumed the troubles of the world would pass them by. But Moiraine rekindled that part of the Old Blood within them. In just a few pages, she turned them into warriors.
And one last bit about Manetheren. When Moiraine is speaking of the hoard of Trollocs and Dreadlords, she says:
At night their cookfires outnumbered the stars, and dawn revealed the banner of Ba'alzamon at their head. Ba'alzamon, Heart of the Dark. An ancient name for the Father of Lies. The Dark One could not have been free of his prison at Shayol Ghul, for if he had been, not all the forces of humankind together could have stood against him, but there was power there. Dreadlords, and some evil that made that light-destroying banner seem no more than right and sent a chill into the souls of the men who faced it.
Besides the prologue, "Dragonmount," this is the first evidence we see of Ishamael not being completely sealed within the Bore. He brags later that he caused all sorts of chaos along history's timeline—making Hawkwing hate Aes Sedai, forming the Black Ajah, etc.—but here is proof. Notice Moiraine's use of the word "some evil." There had to be more than just Dreadlords there. In fact, Ishamael would be necessary to recruit Dreadlords. With only shadowspawn working for him, how could the Dark One let channelers know he was looking for help? People would need to be convinced or coerced. And that would most likely require Ishamael.
I'm really hoping the Encyclopedia will give us more information on the nature of Ishamael's half-caught abilities. It's hard to sum up all he was capable of.
But that's all I've got for today. It's incredible how much you can squeeze out of one chapter. Join us next time for more of The Eye of the World. Thanks for reading!