Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #61: Chapter 54 - The Light of the World

By Linda

Mat resolves not to get hanged this time when he makes a bargain with the Eelfinn. On his previous visit, he was ignorant, but this time he will be clever enough to avoid their traps and not leave any loopholes—or so he believes. Instead of being sneaky, Mat challenges the Eelfinn openly:

"You knew I'd come back," Mat said loudly. His voice did not echo. Light! How large was the thing? "You knew I'd come marching back to your bloody realm, didn't you? You knew you'd have me eventually." Hesitant, Thom lowered his flute. "Show yourselves!" Mat said. "I can hear you scrambling, hear you breathing."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

He believes that the Eelfinn manipulated him into returning to be killed. When he points out to Thom that they know things, he is implying that they know the future. We know the Aelfinn can read the Pattern of the main world but we don’t know if the Eelfinn can. Furthermore, it’s not that simple: the future is not all foreordained, as Moiraine’s trip through the rings in Rhuidean showed. It is far from certain that the rescue will be successful, although Thom has faith in Moiraine’s vision of their escape.

Mat feels played with—Toy toyed with—but he is good at winning games. The Eelfinn try to get him to make a bargain prior to arriving in the bargaining chamber. However, each visitor may only have one chance to make a bargain, and bargains aren’t binding unless made in the Chamber of Bonds. So Mat refuses and fends off the Eelfinn with their forbidden items. The Foxes claim Mat is purposely antagonising them when they did nothing to deserve it. He has the scar to prove they hanged him last time – when bound by a treaty no less. Since he came so close to death, being resuscitated by Rand, this also indicates they weren’t certain he would be back.

In return, they challenge him, with a senior Eelfinn saying:

"We are the near ancient, the warriors of final regret, the knowers of secrets."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

The Eelfinn hang out in the shadows like bogey men – or Myrddraal. They are meant to seem hellish in their own way. The white steam is a reference to the heat of hell, but also to “smoke and mirrors”. For instance, Mat’s spear blade passes through an Eelfinn “as if it were smoke”. Again, like Myrddraal, they are out of phase with the regular laws of physics. The blade is not iron so it can’t harm them; the iron knife and band hurt them. The Eelfinn’s blood steams and has faces in it –a distraction and a threat:

He shivered as he saw the Eelfinn's blood on the ground begin to steam. White steam, as in the other chambers, but this had shapes in it. They looked like twisted faces, appearing briefly and yelling before vanishing. Burn them! He couldn't get distracted.

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

It reminds me of Moridin’s fireplace:

Rand turned back to the flames, watching them twist and flicker. They formed shapes, like the clouds, but these were headless bodies, skeletal, backs arching in pain, writhing for a moment in fire, spasming, before flashing into nothing.

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

Noal thinks the Eelfinn control the darkness and their yellow light creates illusion. He thinks it’s all illusion, a trick, but the Eelfinn do have genuine abilities. Mat likens the Eelfinn to Aes Sedai because both are liars and cheats that have to be “honest”, are in fact bound to be. They cannot lie, but they can trickBoth groups have parallels in elfin or fairy folk as discussed in the previous read-through article. As Mat warns Thom and Noal, the Eelfinn are tricksters (see Tricksters article), but so are Mat, Thom and Noal for that matter. Mat is chronically “unreliable” unless he makes a promise. He always keeps those.

Light blinds the Foxes – as Mat the fox was a light-blinded fool (see Fool and Joker article) in the early books. While the Eelfinn are dazzled, Mat is enlightened and realises the Eelfinn have been manipulating him to make certain choices – pick a certain card:

Never choose the card a man wants you to. Mat should have realized that. It was one of the oldest cons in creation.

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Moiraine is discovered clothed in mist, a continuation of the mist/fog/steam/smoke motifs, which symbolise the danger of being misled and not seeing clearly. She is a Sleeping Beauty figure, having taken herself out of the main action in response to a warning and to fulfil prophecy. This is more empowered than the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty who was kept protected yet succumbed to her doom anyway, although both women awaited rescue.

Mat hates the way Moiraine disrupted his life, and used him, yet he prefers this life to his former one. She did what needed to be done to save the three ta’veren. Finally he understands her and is grateful for what she did—but still angry that she had to. Mat’s internal reconciliation to Moiraine looks to Rand’s emotional reaction when she arrives at the crucial moment and is restored to him as the only woman of many who died that has returned to him.

The scene fulfils Egwene’s dream of:

Mat throwing dice with blood streaming down his face, the wide brim of his hat pulled down low so she could not see his wound, while Thom Merrilin put his hand into a fire to draw out the small blue stone that now dangled on Moiraine’s forehead.

The Fires Of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams

The dream shows the dangers: Thom endures pain as he literally puts his hands into hot mist (steam vapour?) to free Moiraine, Mat has a facial wound hidden by his hat, (in fact he pulls his hat down to shade his eye as Egwene saw in dream) but he still rolls his dice to find their way. I.e. He is relying on his luck while bravely playing the game against the Finns. The kesiera is something personal of Moiraine’s and is therefore symbolic of her. Noal does not appear in the dream as though he is already dead.

Mat’s sacrifice of an eye is one of his many links with the Norse god Odin. The dice refer to the game of Foxes and Snakes and that they need to use an understanding of this game, and Mat’s luck, to effect a rescue. It is interesting that Mat rolled dice to determine their “moves” in this scene.

Moiraine was left bound/restrained in the Chamber of Bonds to be bargained for. Hence the Eelfinn say :

"The bargain has been arranged," one of the Eelfinn males said, smiling, showing pointed teeth.
The other Eelfinn leaned in, breathing deeply, as if smelling something. Or ... as if drawing something from Mat and the others. Birgitte had said that they fed off emotion.
"What bargain?" Mat snapped, glancing around at the pedestals. "Burn you, what bargain?"
"A price must be paid," one said.
"The demands must be met," said another.
"A sacrifice must be given."

Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

The price that must be paid is Mat’s eye, as he was warned beforehand. Yet, what if he had not asked the Aelfinn the question: “What fate?” Would he have accepted their bargain price if he was not forewarned? Was the price effectively set because he asked?

The Eelfinn feed off red and white vapour—more “smoke”—from Mat and become drunk from it. The declaration “I can taste fate itself” suggests they are sensitive to the Pattern, at least, if not as good at reading it as the Aelfinn.

The world depends on the payment of an eye for Moiraine; the trickster is a hero. Mat professes a low opinion of those prepared to be heroic and exclaims: “Burn me for a fool! “, a fool being a more typical role for a trickster. Mat has played the fool figure many times (see Fool and Joker essay).

The demands that must be met were Mat’s list: the way out restored and open until they go through, a direct way, with no attacks by the Foxes. The Eelfinn frown – and Mat thinks it’s because they don’t like the bargain. He gets cocky and thinks he got better of them, but they were concentrating on twisting the bargain. They summon the Aelfinn to attack them.

The sacrifice that must be given is Noal’s life. The Foxes’ intended sacrifice was to be their lives, all four of them, but they get one. Basically, they exchanged Moiraine for Noal. In folk tales, fairies may demand a life for a life. Many myths and legends in underworlds and otherworlds set a condition that if someone is to go, another must be left in their place. In this case, left to die.

Mat realises that Thom is loving toward Moiraine, but not yet the full depth of their relationship. Thom rescued her for love, not duty.

The room with the melted ter’angreal is at the end of the Eelfinn’s realm. Beyond is the Snakes’ realm. The Eelfinn made the way out go through the Aelfinn’s territory so they can attack.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #60: Chapter 53 - Gateways

By Linda

Pevara POV

Taim has made a Dark School, or Devil’s school, where the hindmost are beaten for mistakes, and the Devil is shortly to take any channeller. The Tower, too, became a Dark School once Mesaana ensconced herself there and brought Elaida and the Hall under her influence.

Pevara reports that the Ash’man are mocking Aes Sedai by overdoing deference and pandering to them. Rand overdid courtesy to Tuon in A Memory of Light. She did not feel mocked but did feel she had been lowered, rather than acknowledged as higher, in status.

Taim is trying to play the rebel embassy against the Reds, by pressuring the Reds to contact the rebels, to ensure the two groups stay apart. If they did join together, there would be more than 13 of them, and they would be able to form two or three rings of six or more, and be a threat to the Asha’man—but they competing and unlikely to cooperate. Pevara should have called Taim’s bluff and accepted his offer to invite the rebels to join them. Though that, too, would have its risks.

In the meantime, Javindhra has cleverly manipulated Pevara. Her contrariness is a ploy; I suspect she is Black Ajah. Pevara realises the danger they are in and wants to bond a few Dedicated and leave. Javindhra’s original negative attitude toward going to the Black Tower, and Bonding Asha’man may represent her true feelings or she may have been ordered to stop the expedition. I suspect the former. It would suit the Shadow to gain some Turned channellers and for influential Reds to be “lost” to the Aes Sedai. Therefore I expect that once the Supreme Council and Mesaana knew about the Reds’ plan, Javindhra was ordered to participate. Very probably she is under orders to stay at the Black Tower herself, no matter what the other Reds do. But if she can stall for time and keep the others undecided, so much the better. To achieve this, she makes herself look foolishly stubborn.

Pevara should remind Javindhra of their duty to return to the Tower, and see what excuse she makes. They should return—they have been given up on and new Sitters raised in their place. When people do things against their natural inclination or what they have said previously, the Shadow is usually involved. Pevara respects Javindhra’s rights as a Sitter and doesn’t pull rank as expedition leader. Previously, she assumed Javindhra would follow custom and law but now realises too late that she may not. Like any good leader, Pevara feels responsible for all the group members, and sees madness in some of the Asha’man, so she feels she must try once more to get Javindhra to leave.

She disapproves of the Bonded Aes Sedai trying to manipulate their Asha’man through sex. At first the women felt justified because they were Bonded against their will. Soon they feel something else; the Bond is a two-way street.

Tarna is now behaving as off-hand and contrary as Javindhra. She has the dead eyes of a Turned channeller. It is immediately obvious to anyone who knows her that something is wrong. This is not the case with Javindhra, whose appearance has not changed and who therefore has not been Turned. She is aiding the Shadow of her own accord – following orders – and is just a Black Sister. Javindhra’s delaying tactics were successful: the Myrddraal have come. Violation of a person’s spirit, will and ethics by enforced apostasy is a huge Wrongness and the Land will react to it.

Pevara feels vulnerable due to being tied to the Three Oaths; without the belief that Asha’man are Darkfriends she has to fear for her life to strike back. More vulnerability follows: gateways won’t open. The Dreamspike is in place. She has left it too late and should have cut her losses days earlier and taken those who would go. The stalling has worked.

Perrin POV

Perrin’s leg feels like it remembers being injured in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perhaps this is because Healing of injuries gained there often leaves a scar, as Verin and Nynaeve showed. It is a reflection of the frequent depiction of blacksmith gods as lame (see Perrin article).

Faile avoids Mat because she disapproves of him and his “disreputable” influence. In the last scene, he encouraged Perrin to stay at the inn late.

There is a hint that something is a little odd about Aravine not returning to her estates in Amadicia. The Seanchan would likely respect her claim to them, being keen on the law, and the risk that she might be able to channel is small.

Perrin believes Rand should make the Seal on the Dark One’s prison anew, breaking the old cuendillar focal points. He didn’t tell Egwene this; just that he will be there at Merrilor. He intends to keep the armies and people from fighting each other, and is more unifying than Egwene, and more open to Rand’s ideas. Having finally accepted leadership, Perrin is taking the time to check all his troops out and return their salute. He wonders how they could sense he resented leadership since they can’t smell emotions. However, they can read body language, listen to the tone of his voice and for what is not said as well as what is said.

Like the wolves Perrin can feel the Last Battle. He is prepared to make anybody fight to prevent the Shadow winning.

This POV is a small, positive interlude between two increasingly dark and dangerous threads.


Thom feels he should wear gleeman’s clothes to rescue Moiraine; they symbolise the quest for him and, of course, how they met. He looks more humble and more “foolish” or carnivalesque in them, just as Noal is wearing a frock coat like a circus master or showman. Mat is in non-descript clothing typical of the Two Rivers, where he started his trickster career as a prankster. Throughout the series, Mat is either over-dressed or quite down at heel; making a spectacle of himself to put one over others. This emphasises that all three men are tricksters and that is why they are the only ones who can go on this quest. It takes three tricksters to beat the *Finns. Whatever is done three times is more potent, more true (see Number Symbolism article).

The joke is on them that they made the opening sign too small, the first time. The triangle is the actual doorway. The men are aware that the game can’t be won. Mat’s luck must change the odds in this rigged game – as it did in Tear with Comar’s weighted dice.

The Tower of Ghenjei’s reception room is black with white steam and the smell of sulphur, or brimstone. The steam and the *Finns are both repelled by fire/light. This Otherworld is an underworld. It’s infernal or hellish, but different to the foxes’ lair or the snakes’ burrow. Perhaps it is neutral territory?

Mat remembers how the rooms and corridors shifted to confuse him during his Rhuidean visit to the *Finns’ world. He holds a grudge against the Foxes because they didn’t answer his questions – yet that’s not their bargain. They bestow “gifts”. He also claims the Snakes’ answers were not useful, but he has been using them.

The Eelfinn have malicious faery-like laughter, but they are also like imps, minions of the devil. Both faery folk and imps are tricky. Their pointed ears are like those of foxes (another tricky and untrustworthy creature (see Animal Symbolism article) and elves, elfin folk, as their name Eelfinn indicates. The *Finns are not agents of Shai’tan, but are alien to all. Jordan has combine multiple sources to create the ultimate otherworld trickster, which Mat must out-trick (see Tricksters article).

A Fox tries seducing or hypnotising them. He suggests a one-sided bargain where they leave their fire, and he will take them half-way to the bargaining chamber. Their music dispels his glamour, exposing his bargain as the worthless, even dangerous, thing that it is, and seduces him in turn. This makes Mat accept that Foxes grant requests rather than answer questions. When he visited the Eelfinn from the Waste, he was the butt of the joke in trying to make the wrong sort of bargain with them.

Mat recognises that the *Finns have consistent rules but not ones that make sense to people from another world. They reach where he entered from the Rhuidean doorway ter’angreal, and confirm that this exit is lost to them. He rolls a one, and then three nines. The latter three tosses of the dice appear to require them re-tracing their steps. Three times makes true, again, and tests their resolve.

The Eelfinn claim they are innocent and don’t deserve to have their rules violated. Such disingenuousness is a typical con or bargaining ploy.