Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 13-15

In this section, the boys get their first chance to interact with the outside world. The City of Baerlon isn’t a very alien culture to the boys, but they quickly realize that the differences may be minor, but are still large enough to put them in danger. Despite several warnings, they need to be reminded of the restrictions they are under, and manage to attract the exact sort of attention they were supposed to avoid.
Rand reveals too much to Master Fain, who he still classifies as ‘not a stranger’, and therefore the rules of secrecy don’t apply to him. Fain’s reappearance, and his mistrust of Aes Sedai, adds to the boys’ dilemma of deciding who to trust. With each of the Two Rivers strangers offering advice about who to mistrust, I expect the final decision when confronting the Dark One to be to trust others despite their differences and motivations. I relate this to Min’s viewing, the one she cites most frequently throughout the series: thousands of sparks trying to fill the shadow, while the shadow tries to swallow them all. A metaphor for trust and mistrust?
Along with the sparks and shadow, many other prophecies, viewings and legends are told over these chapters. To lightly paraphrase Thom, there isn’t much point in prophecies that are easily understood or fulfilled. None of them are related to each other that a reader could discern, aside from two different ones about swords that will turn out to be one and the same. This is where Robert Jordan yanked the sheets off the furniture and began to show off the wealth of legendary and historical references the series became famous for. The groundwork and expectations are laid here. With every one of them that comes true, readers flip back to look for clues as to the next that will be fulfilled. That also raises the expectation that every single last foreshadowing will be satisfactorily resolved. Once you start doing something, readers expect you to keep doing it.
Of interest to those of us waiting on the final book, is that Min describes these as the strongest images, meaning that these are the most important? If so, what is the meaning of trees flowering around Perrin or a Laughing Face over Mat? How are these images more important than others? Why haven’t they been fulfilled yet? Many variations of the bloody hand and white-hot iron have been offered, but how are they as important as the rest?
In any case, there are three sources of ‘prophecy’, each with its own trustworthiness. Min claims to never be wrong, Thom claims to know variations that may not all be true, and Ba’alzamon belittles and intimidates with his supposed intimate knowledge of the past and insight into the future. Add in Moiraine, and there are a number of options at the author’s disposal to reveal new information. The person chosen to make the revelation will affect how the characters and readers interpret its truthfulness. Why are the first words out of Ba’alzamon’s fiery mouth about the Eye of the World? Is he really worried about it, or laying a trap to lay hands on it as he will later claim? Probably both. Who is directing Rand towards the Eye, Ba’alzamon, or the Pattern? Probably both. How does Ba’alzamon kill those rats anyway?
The only person who can reveal reliable information about the One Power is Moiraine. Most of the discussion about the One Power so far is related to the madness that affected the men. We don’t yet know that Rand’s strange giddiness is related to the One Power despite other subtle clues. One way that the reader is distracted from these subtle hints is by placing them in a scene where there is an immediate threat. The unlikelihood of Bela’s midnight dash happens as the Draghkar circles overhead.  The Children of the Light command the reader’s attention and concern far more than Rand’s strange feelings. Even after the Whitecloaks leave, the urgency to find Perrin keeps the reader from thinking overlong on Rand’s minor problem.
Writing Lessons:
You can play up or play down certain events or pieces of information by placing them near or far from items that will command a reader’s attention.

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