Welcome back to another edition of Dragonmount's Theory Blog, "WoT If?". We're continuing our reread of The Eye of the World, with chapters 37 and 38.
Synopsis, taken from Encyclopaedia-WoT:
After several days on the Caemlyn Road, Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve head north following the remaining token. One evening, Moiraine senses the token is gone. A few hours later it is back. One night, Lan returns from scouting and says he found them in a Whitecloak camp. There are wolves around. There is dim moonlight from the waning moon. Nynaeve enters the camp to steal two extra horses and finds Bela. Nynaeve feels certain they will need the extra horse. After cutting the picket lines, lightning flashes causing the horses to scatter. She sees a wolf helping to panic the horses. She rides Bela and leads another horse out of the camp.
Perrin and Egwene are prisoners of the Whitecloaks. It is nighttime and they are in a tent. Jaret Byar enters and offers them a chance to escape. Perrin thinks it is a trap. Before he can do anything, Dapple tells them that help is coming. He also gets an image that Elyas is wounded, but alive. Lan enters the tent and knocks out Jaret Byar. They reach Moiraine, but Nynaeve has not returned. Lan almost goes after Nynaeve despite Moiraine's orders. Moiraine says that Lan is "al'Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers" and mentions the "oath of a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri." Nynaeve returns with Bela and another horse. They ride for several hours, then make camp. Nynaeve notices Perrin's yellow eyes. She rubs ointment into his bruises and they heal remarkably fast. Moiraine knows what it is, but will not comment further. Lan, who also knows of wolves, asks Perrin if there was an intermediary. Lan knows Elyas. He says that Elyas Machera was a Warder and his teacher before his change happened. He implies that the Red Ajah tried to gentle Elyas Machera. There is a slivered moon. It is a few hard days to Caemlyn.
We're back to Perrin. I was so caught up in Rand's affairs that I forgot about poor Perrin and his Whitecloak friends.
The first chapter is from Nynaeve's point of view, and a few things about her character clicked for me while reading it. First is her budding feelings for Lan (and his returned feelings in the next chapter). But more importantly is how she deals with fear. Look at this quote from when she was cutting the Whitecloaks' horse lines:
Her arms and legs trembled so that she was afraid to touch the picket rope, but her mind was as clear as the Winespring Water. Whichever of the boys was in the camp, Egwene was there, too. And if they left riding double, some of the Children would catch them no matter how well the horses were scattered, and some of them would die. She was as certain as if she were listening to the wind. That stuck a spike of fear into her belly, fear of how she was certain. This had nothing to do with weather or crops or sickness. Why did Moiraine tell me I can use the Power? Why couldn't she leave me alone?
Strangely, the fear stilled her trembling. With hands as steady as if she were grinding herbs in her own house she slit the picket rope as she had the others.
Notice how she handles the fear. It's the fear that calms her. Just think of how much terror she had inside her if it's what causes her to act normal. How often would she be terrified back home in the Two Rivers, where the women don't respect her because she's too young, and the men don't respect her because she's pretty? That amount of fear would be staggering. And it's only logical to conclude that that fear would lead to anger (as wise Yoda once said).
When you view her like this, it's almost impossible to not pity Nynaeve. And it's no surprise she had a hard time surrendering to saidar. In fact, I think the first time she was able to come to terms with her fear was when she felt responsible for Birgette being ripped from Tel'aran'rhiod. It completely broke her, and she had to confront her fear and realize how much it dominated her life. Once she recuperated from that traumatic event, she really matured as a character. Yes, she was still angry most of the time, but not to cover fear—just because she has a surly personality.
I also like how she realizes the One Power is inside her no matter what she does. As I said in an earlier blog, it's so heart wrenching to see how much the One Power is misunderstood and feared, and to see it from Nynaeve's point of view, finding out first hand what that horror feels like. But then, when we find out Rand can channel just a few chapters later, it's even more shocking. It's like Nynaeve's predicament, but a hundred times worse.
I think that makes us, as readers, instantly supportive of Rand. I think that's why we forgive him so many of his sins. I think that's why we loved him even when he approached the darkness and madness. It seems like, with Nynaeve, Robert Jordan was showing us a really sad, pitiful example of a person being wronged. Then, with Rand, we're shown that those same hurts all over again, except we add rubbing salt and lemon juice on his open wounds. It makes everything worse.
But when we move onto Perrin's point of view in Chapter 38, we're shown a different kind of pity. Nynaeve is fighting her destiny tooth and nail, while Perrin has just surrendered almost from the start. Or, appears to surrender. His struggles with his wolfbrother abilities surpass Nynaeve's inability to grasp saidar, but Perrin goes about it in such a different way. But that's beside the point right now.
Perrin is defeated in this scene. He's so afraid for himself and Egwene that he can't even sleep despite his exhaustion. And he's probably more scared for Egwene than himself; that's just the kind of person he is. He understands the hopelessness of their situation, knowing he'd "probably confess to anything just to make the Questioners stop."
I love Perrin so much in this book. Despite what you think he becomes later, it's very difficult to deny how perfect he is during these few scenes. He's discovered things about himself that scare him, but he pushes on. He feels responsible for Egwene, so he does his best to protect her—even to the point of taking her life rather than let her be eaten by Shadowspawn ravens. His pain just clenches my stomach.
And now that I look at that, this is also something that prepares us for how horrible things get for Rand. Yes, Perrin's wolfbrother abilities—and his rejection of them—is similar to Rand's own rejection of saidin. But I think it goes deeper than that. Perrin claims to have accepted his fate, claims he won't fight against it. Rand does that same thing, saying he'll go and die at Shayol Ghul, that he'll be the sacrifice the world needs.
It seems to me that every character's hardest challenges are reflected on Rand—that Rand overcomes everyone else's worst situations:
He deals with the fear of the ability to channel, like Nynaeve.
He deals with the burden of leadership, like Perrin.
He deals with past memories in his head, like Mat.
He deals with being made captive, like Egwene.
Everyone's suffering is combined into what Rand al'Thor must face. He really does confront the burdens of the entire world.
Again, this is why we love and forgive him so easily, I think. Mr. Jordan did such a beautiful job of making him suffer, and we know it, and pity him.
Well, that got me a bit sidetracked. There's a few other points I'd like to make on Chapter 38. One being the changes in Jaret Byar after this encounter with Perrin. One of the things Perrin is so disgusted by is Byar's lack of emotions:
But Byar did not really threaten; as if he were talking about getting a drink of water he talked about hot irons and pincers, about knives slicing away skin and needles piercing. He did not appear to be trying to frighten them. There was never even a touch of gloating in his eyes. He just did not care if they were frightened or not, if they were tortured or not, if they were alive or not. That was what brought cold sweat to Perrin's face once it got through to him. That was what finally convinced him Byar was telling the simple truth.
Byar does not care if Perrin and Egwene lived or died. But after this, Byar is filled with a vengeance to see Perrin dead. This vengeance is multiplied when Bornhald is killed at the end of The Great Hunt. So why would this simple prisoner, and his escape, cause Byar to lose his mind so spectacularly? Bubble of evil, is my opinion. Something must have come along the Pattern, drawn by Perrin's ta'veren thread, and landed on Byar. So many of the plots of the Whitecloaks in the later books are due to Byar—who was poisoned by this evil—poisoning Dain Bornhald's mind.
And we're back to Nynaeve and Lan. Here's another quote (one of my favorites in this book), from when Moiraine is telling Lan that Nynaeve's not back from the horse lines yet.
"Nynaeve has not returned. I fear that young woman has done something foolish." Lan spun on his heel as if to return the way they had come, but a single whipcrack word from Moiraine halted him. "No!" He stood looking at her sideways, only his face and hands truly visible, and they but dimly shadowed blurs. She went on in a gentler tone; gentler but no less firm. "Some things are more important than others. You know that." The Warder did not move, and her voice hardened again. "Remember your oaths, al'Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers! What of the oath of a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri?"
And even after all this, Lan still doesn't move. He is determined to go save Nynaeve, even after Moiraine calls him out on his oaths. He's obviously very much in love with her already. It gives me shivers, thinking of him being so defiant to Moiraine, willing to forsake his oaths, just to save Nynaeve. And when Nynaeve does return, he grabs her by the arm, staring at her.
This is the most emotion we've seen out of the man so far. And since he is showing emotions, we have to know that they are very strong.
And I like that Nynaeve laughs when he releases her. She knows she got through his thick wall of faked indifference. Good for her.
And with that little lapse in Lan's iron-clad emotions, he's almost fond in his discussion with Perrin later. He really does care about the Two Rivers folk, even if he tires to deny it at first.
I think we'll end at that. We'll continue with the next few chapters, and Rand's unfortunate fall off the palace walls, next time. Thanks for reading!