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, chapters 1 - 4.
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 1: "An Empty Road"
Rand al'Thor and his father Tam are walking down the Quarry Road, delivering cider and brandy to the Winespring Inn for Bel Tine. As they walk, Rand has the sensation that someone is watching him. He turns around and sees a rider, dressed all in black, atop a black horse. Rand tells his father, but when Tam looks the stranger is gone. Rand felt hatred from the strangers gaze and he is scared. He also realizes that the man's cloak did not move in the wind.
When they arrive in the Two Rivers, the town is getting ready for the festival, and the arrival of spring, even if winter weather is still hanging on. Wit Conger stops them to complain about Nynaeve al'Meara. Tam says the Wisdom is "women's business," and pushes on towards the inn.
Outside, they run into Bran al'Vere, the Mayor and owner of the inn. As Bran and Tam talk, Cenn Buie—another member of the Village Council— joins them. They talk of ill omens and bad weather. Cenn thinks Nynaeve's ability to listen to the wind tells her that winter will never end.
Rand pays attention to the adult's conversation until his friend Mat Cauthon shows up. Mat says they have strangers in town, and Rand immediately thinks of the black rider on the road. Mat has seen the man as well. They think about telling someone, but decide against it.
They learn that a gleeman has arrived for the festival, and the Council has ordered fireworks—if the first peddler of the season ever arrives. Mat and Rand help Tam unload the casks of cider.
Chapter 2: "Strangers"
As Mat and Rand unload the cart, the Village Council is assembling in the inn's common room. Once finished with the task, Ewin Finngar appears to tell Rand and Mat about the strangers who arrived in town. They are the people—a man and a woman—Mat meant to tell Rand about: Lady Moiraine and Lan. Ewin says Lan is "in her service" and he wears a sword.
Outside, the boys continue to talk about all the happenings of town, when they see a raven staring at them from the roof of the inn. Mat and Rand both throw rocks at it, but it dodges them and continues to stare. The Lady Moiraine shows up and the bird screams and flies away. She talks to Rand, Mat, and Ewin, giving each a coin in exchange for any work she might have of them while she is in town. Ewin is given a silver penny, but Mat and Rand are given larger silver coins.
Moiraine says she is a collector of stories, and she will talk to them in more detail later. When she leaves, they see Lan—who has a cloak that changes colors—following her. Commotion on the street shows that the peddler has finally arrived.
Chapter 3: "The Peddler"
As Padan Fain, the peddler, pulls onto the village green, many of the townsfolk assemble to hear news from the outside. Perrin Aybara, Rand's other friend, shows up. Together, they listen to Padan Fain tell a story about a man proclaiming himself to be the Dragon Reborn in Ghealdan. This causes an uproar from the crowd, so the Village Council calls Padan Fain into the inn so they can question him further.
Rand, Mat, and Perrin talk about the possibility of war, Aes Sedai, and false Dragons when Nynaeve, with Egwene al'Vere in tow, comes up and scolds them. They tell her why they were talking about such topics and she storms off to the inn to question the peddler herself.
After she goes inside, Egwene and Rand talk a bit. Egwene has her hair braided, which means she is of an age to be married; Rand is also at the marriageable age. Egwene says she is learning the arts of a Wisdom from Nynaeve, and that she might leave the Two Rivers to be a Wisdom to another town. Rand thinks the only way to get her to stay is to marry her, but he's not willing to take that step at the moment.
Perrin tells Mat and Rand that he's seen the black rider, and that Moiraine also gave him a fat silver coin. Egwene begins to argue about the stranger not being a monster from a gleeman's tale, when the gleeman comes out of the inn.
Chapter 4: "The Gleeman"
The gleeman—feeling huffy for being kicked out of the inn by the Council—comes to talk to Rand and the others. He is Thom Merrilin, and when he notices a crowd gathering around him, he juggles and tells them what kind of stories he will share. Moraine appears in the crowd and Thom stops abruptly. He tells her she won't object to any of the stories he will tell.
At that moment, the inn door's open and the Council and Nynaeve exit. Thom rushes off to get a brandy. The Mayor and Nynaeve argue about the strangers—Moraine and Lan—and she storms off again.
Tam tells Rand and the other boys that the town will start a watch, with riders traveling the roads to Deven Ride and Watch Hill. The boys want to volunteer. Tam says they are going home, and though Rand argues, he winds up doing as his father says. Back on the Quarry Road, Tam tells Rand that two other boys saw the black rider, and that he might be a refuge from the war in Ghealdan. The watch will either find him or scare him away. Knowing that they have a plan makes Rand feel safer about the whole thing.
A couple of thoughts on Chapter 1:
First, I love the opening paragraph: "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass...". And I love even more how Robert Jordan started every book in the series in the same format. The repetition is beautiful and—though simple—helps form a connection through all the books.
Moving on, what is the nature of the long winter? None of the seals of the Dark One's prison should be broken at this point. Is the weakening of the seals responsible? Because he can touch the world quite a bit to be able to manipulate the weather. Also, later when they use the Eye, green things begin to grow, but then summer lasts until the Bowl of the Winds is used. So perhaps even the switching from eternal winter to eternal summer was the Dark One's plan all along. Or was it just him making the best of a bad situation?
Rand thinks to himself that there are more wolves around than usual. If there are so many of them, what are the chances of Perrin coming into contact with one, and discovering—like Noal—that he has wolfbrother abilities? I think he would have found out even if he hadn't left and met Elyas. Remember in The Great Hunt when they travel by Portal Stone and they all see visions? Perrin said, “We don't have many choices really, do we, Rand? Whatever happens, whatever we do, some things are almost always the same.”
While Tam and Rand are walking down the Quarry Road, I really like how Tam's solidness makes Rand go back on task. This is the Rand we fell in love with—the innocent farm boy who needs that reassurance of his father. I think this is also echoed in The Gathering Storm when Rand sees Tam again. Tam's presence makes Rand relax. And that relaxation makes him have a sort of panic attack—an attack where he realizes he can't relax, so he lashes out. Funny how this is what actually led to Rand's epiphany on Dragonmount. It was always Tam's job to get Rand on track.
Rand thinks of his mother, Kari, who died when he was only five. Isn't it strange that we don't know the cause of death? I'm racking my brains, trying to think of any reference to what killed her, and right now, I can't think of a single one.
We've had multiple discussions about whether Kari was a Darkfriend, and whether it was really her soul at the end of The Eye of the World, but I haven't seen any theories about why, or how, she died.
Rand's ta'veren-ness waxes and wanes as the Pattern weaves. However, was the Pattern aware of him as a child? Did it realize he was the Dragon early on and twist and turn events around him? Something had to have pulled Tam to Dragonmount after the Blood Snows. It was only chance that led him to finding the baby at all. And we know, in The Wheel of Time, there are no coincidences.
Another note on this same topic: how are Rand, Mat, and Perrin the closest friends? Growing up in the village, there are several other children around their same age. And we know—since we were once children—that sometimes your best friend is even a year ahead or behind you. So why were these three boys drawn to one another? Again, their ta'veren-ness isn't supposed to come into play until Moiraine takes them away from the Two Rivers, but something made the be friends.
If you look at it, Rand lives far from town, and Perrin becomes an apprentice (with a job), so when would they ever have time to spend together?
Mat and Perrin, I could see them becoming ta'veren later. But to me, it makes sense that Rand has been ta'veren all his life.
Which brings me back to Kari. Why wouldn't the Pattern want Rand to grow up with his adopted mother? What sort of things did he gain by her absence? Did he need to have a strong male figure only? Would a mother have pampered him more than he needed—making him softer, unable to do the harsh things he needed to do? There had to be a reason for her to be taken.
When we read "Ravens" a few weeks ago, there was one part where Egwene thinks of the litany they say about the Forsaken. Rand brings it up in this chapter:
As much to remind himself as for any other reason, he said by rote, "The Dark One and all of the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, beyond the Great Blight, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time. The hand of the creator shelters the world, and the Light shines on us all."
Egwene, when she thinks of it, leaves off the bit about them being bound at the moment of Creation. Which is funny, because Tam tells the story of how the Forsaken were imprisoned in Shayol Ghul by the Dragon not the Creator. And if the Forsaken are bound since Creation, bound till the end of time, why do older people frighten children with tales of the Forsaken? Mat says, "My mother always said the Forsaken would come for me if I didn't mend my ways."
I think people would argue it's the same as how we tell children about Santa Claus, or how we scare them with stories of ghosts. But the adults don't believe in Santa or ghosts—usually. In Randland, that prayer is what they all believe. So it's very contradictory when their threat goes against the natural order of the world, or so they see it.
And finally, for Chapter 1, we have the line by Bran al'Vere: "Sometimes I think Nynaeve is right about…". This bit of a rant is in regards to Cenn Buie. We know Nynaeve isn't the best judge of character—but sometimes she knows what she's talking about. What could she have possibly said about Cenn that Bran thinks she may be right about?
Remember, in her testing for Accepted, Nynaeve sees the Two Rivers where Cenn is the Mayor, and letting the evil new Wisdom rule over the citizens with fear. Does this image come from Nynaeve's own mind—and whatever she really thought of Cenn Buie—or does it come from the Pattern, by some sort of dream ter'angreal?
I've also heard speculation that this line means Cenn Buie can learn to channel saidin. That Nynaeve senses the ability in him, or something. It seems unlikely, I think. But I do think that if Perrin hadn't come back to the Two Rivers in The Shadow Rising, Cenn could have turned out to be more evil. When Perrin became their Lord, all the Two Rivers folk—Cenn included—lost a bit of their stubbornness and found someone they could all follow.
One quick word on Chapter 2:
Like in "Ravens," in this chapter we see more ravens acting odd. When Rand and Mat throw the rock at the bird, it calmly sidesteps their assault. When Moiraine comes along, the bird screams and flies off, implying that she channeled at it. But what if that action is what caused the Myrddraal to attack that night?
We've talked about how it's possible that Myrddraal can channel the True Power—and we've seen in the Towers of Midnight prologue that the birds need to be controlled by the True Power in order to report what they saw. If a Myrddraal was controlling this raven, felt it be hit by an invisible string of Air, it would know that there was an Aes Sedai in the village—if it wasn't close enough to feel her channeling to begin with. And if it knew an Aes Sedai was there, it probably wanted to act as soon as possible, hence the quick and poorly formed attack parties.
On Padan Fain in Chapter 3:
At the end of the book, we learn about the process used on Padan Fain… that he was distilled. This made him able to track down Rand, Mat, and Perrin. However, do you think he was the only Darkfriend to be used in this manner? Surely the Dark One had dozens of other people, paying close attention to every village in the world. He would have distilled all of them. But why is Fain the only one out for revenge? He wants to kill the Dark One for what was done to him.
One possibility I see is that the process killed all the others. Fain only survived because his distilled memories had found the one. Because of that connection, Fain wasn't killed by the horrible process, and instead it made him a hound. Just a thought.
And finally, Chapter 4:
Just one thing I want to point out about chapter 4: how bad Thom looks. He is considered to be arrogant, the Mayor is offended by his attitude, he makes fun of how "travelled" the boys are, the list goes on and on. Bran himself says, "That man may be fore trouble than he's worth." And later (in Chapter 8), Lan voices his doubts about the gleeman: "I do not like that man. There is something about him I don't trust."
It seems to me, looking back, that Thom was meant to be a red herring. If we think of someone leading the Trollocs into the Two Rivers, we don't think of Moiraine, who helped fight, we don't think of Fain, who is familiar to all in the town, we think of the weaselly gleeman who looked down his nose at everyone from the start.
I can't remember if I thought that during my first read—probably not, since my sister read the series first and spoiled a lot of things for me. But if I had, it would have made his sacrifice at Whitebridge that much more surprising and wonderful.
Okay, we'll wrap things up there. Sorry for the length; I doubt all will be this long. That first chapter, in particular, made my brain really think about connections! Join us next week for more of The Eye of the World, and everyone's favorite Trolloc, Narg!