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 35 and 36.
Synopsis, taken from Encyclopaedia-WoT:
Rand and Mat have arrived in Caemlyn in the back of Almen Bunt's cart. He tells them about the city; the Inner City was built by Ogier. Bunt turns down a side street and stops. Rand and Mat get out. Bunt asks if Rand's blade is really heron-marked. Bunt lets them know that he does not like Holdwin. Bunt then drives away. Rand remembers that Thom said to go to The Queen's Blessing. They start asking for directions. They notice that many people are wearing red or white strips of cloth or cording. Rand buys some of the red cloth and a white cord and wraps it around his sword to hide the heron mark. They see Whitecloaks in the street. They finally find The Queen's Blessing. They go in and meet Basel Gill. Rand tells him that Thom told them to come here. Master Gill leads them to the stableyard and asks them what is in the case they are carrying. Rand shows him Thom's flute and cloak. Rand tells Master Gill that Thom is dead, but Master Gill says that he'll believe that when he sees the corpse. Master Gill guesses correctly that the boys are having troubles with Aes Sedai. Master Gill tries to ask if either of them can channel. Rand denies it. Master Gill says that he will give them a room and some food. He also tells the boys a little of Thom's past. Thom was once a court bard in Caemlyn. Thom was intimate with Morgase, but then some trouble with his nephew came up and Thom left. When he returned, Thom and Morgase had an argument and Thom left Caemlyn one step ahead of the headsman's axe. Gareth Bryne, Captain-General of the Queen's Guard, probably still remembers.
Rand and Mat are inside The Queen's Blessing. Master Gill gives them a small meal. Rand tells Master Gill an abbreviated version of their tale so far. Master Gill advises against going to Elaida for help because of their connection with Thom. The cook then calls Master Gill away. As he leaves he tells them there is a recent infestation of rats. The boys finish their meals and then a serving girl shows them up to their attic room. They put their things down. Mat lies down on a bed and Rand goes back downstairs. A guardsman enters the inn, looks around, and then leaves. Rand asks the serving girl if there is another place where he could sit. She suggests the library. Rand enters the library and is amazed at the number of books. They include The Travels of Jain Farstrider, Essays of Willim of Maneches and Voyages Among the Sea Folk. He meets Loial, son of Arent, son of Halan there, who he first thinks is a Trolloc. They introduce themselves and Loial tells Rand that he has run away to see the Ogier groves and cities. The groves have Great Trees hundreds of feet tall. He has been in Caemlyn four days. Ogier rarely leave the stedding any more since the Ways started going bad six generations ago, just after the Hundred Years War. He has already seen Cairhien, which he calls Al'cair'rahienallen, Hill of the Golden Dawn in the Old Tongue. The Tear grove is now pasture and the Illian grove is the King's park. Loial quotes, "Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared screaming defiance with the last breath to spit in Sightblinder's eye on the Last Day." Confused, Rand asks Loial if the Great Trees are like Avendesora. Loial is now confused, saying Rand should know better than he does. He thinks Rand is Aiel. Rand explains that he is from the Two Rivers. Loial looks blank and Rand adds that it used to be Manetheren. When Rand mentions Manetheren, Loial says, "We could not come in time." Loial asks Rand what brings him here. Rand tells Loial the whole story, including Trollocs and Fades and even his dreams. Loial names him ta'veren and explains the term. Elder Haman said Loial does not listen, but sometimes he does. He explains that the Pattern bends to make the Web, ta'maral'ailen. The first bending is ta'veren. He also talks about Talents. Loial decides he wants to travel with Rand.
These two chapters are a bit slow, giving more background information, and foreshadowing that will make sense later. But still, Robert Jordan does it in an interesting way. This is the calm right before the storm hits—with seeing Padan Fain, Logain, Elayne, and Elaida in the next few chapters. This is our chance to catch up on current events; Bunt let us know about Andor's past, and Basel Gill tells us about the political climate in Caemlyn now.
We also learn a bit about Thom's background. What's interesting to me is that Moiraine and Siuan both wind up with ex-lovers of Morgase. Isn't that a little strange? But I also think that Gill's explanation should be a hint that Thom's not dead. Why would Jordan give us so many details about a character that won't show up again? And it is very touching how much Gill honors Thom as a friend, and how far he goes out of his way for two country boys who claim to know him. Or is this another ta'veren swirl? With Mat and Rand together, they might have gotten help from Elaida herself.
More ta'veren work: Rand coincidently buying the right-colored wraps for his sword. It doesn't save him completely when he's taken before the Queen, but it does help him gain access to her in one piece.
I love the exchange with Loial in chapter 36. He seems to be the only completely good character. All the others have faults, and we're shown their faults repeatedly. But Loial is so pure, and true, and perfect. He's a good character to have juxtaposed to Rand, especially later in the series as Rand gets more and more insane. Normally, having a perfect character is frowned upon; we need those flaws to relate to. But I love how Loial is the embodiment of all that is good in the world. (And it could be argued that he does have a fault: his long-winded talking.)
We also encounter our first bit of foreshadowing about Rand and his connection to the Aiel. I really enjoy the humor—especially looking back on it from the end of the series—that Loial thinks Rand's playing some sort of Aiel joke on him. Is that something an Aiel would really joke about, though? I don't think they would. But it's still funny.
Loial also serves as a bit of release for Rand. He is the first person Rand's able to open up to. Loail is a catalyst, releasing the pressure Rand had built up over a month of hard traveling. And it's a good thing he did, too. This moment is what leads to the Ogier backing Rand in Tarmon Gai'don. It's a long road to that moment, but befriending Loial is the spark that started the fire.
On that subject, how important are the Ogier to the Last Battle? Would we have had a different outcome if they had opened the Book of Translations and left the world? Besides adding their fighting force—and Ogier warriors can be fierce—did they do anything important?
A few fans voiced complains about the Ogier's lackluster entrance in the Last Battle. In an interview, Brandon Sanderson had this to say:
The way they show up is actually the result of a sequence being cut. Originally, Perrin led an expedition into the Ways to try and close the Waygate in Caemlyn from behind. During this, the Ogier arrived, full of song, to drive off the Black Wind. Unfortunately, this sequence had logistical problems with the rest of the book, and had to be deleted entirely. The biggest casualty of this cut was the Ogier introduction, which didn't work nearly as well in the new sequence as it once had.
If it had gone this way, as planned, I could see the importance of the Ogier being a bit more noticeable. I would have loved to see the Ogier standing strong against Machin Shin. It would have been very powerful, showing again, that Ogier are the embodiment of good, of the Light. It also leads to questions about whether their Song could have killed it, or healed it, or something. We'll save that for when we actually get to the Ways.
Still, I'd argue that the Ogeir were needed to win the Last Battle. If they had opened the Book of Translations, I'm sure it would have been a blow against the forces of the Light. Loial was needed. His relationship with Rand was needed. His ability to understand the humans, after being so long Outside, was needed.
I'm going to have to reread A Memory of Light and pinpoint exactly what the Ogier did. I know there's something we needed in them. (If you remember, help me out and let me know; it's been nearly two years since I read it last.)
That's all I have to say about these chapters. Some back-story, some new friends. And mayhem in the next few chapters. Thanks for reading!