Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan: Week 5

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week you can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 30.

1. What is it with Mat and doorway ter'angreals? These foxy people certainly seem very similar to the snake people, but with subtle differences. Any ideas about why they decided to hang Mat and what his new medallion does?

If Mat finds yet another doorway, and goes through it, then he deserves a good slapping! I know that he was dissatisfied with the answers that he got the first time around, but this trip was highly dangerous because he had no idea that he was going into a different world. The fox-people (Eelfinn) seemed far more creepy and dangerous than the snakey ones (Aelfinn), even before they knocked him unconscious and then hung him from a tree. I was genuinely surprised that he returned with all his skin, but I had not expected him to end up almost dead. This makes me wonder if they survive by somehow imbibing the pain and suffering of humans . . . yikes! :(

It seems that Mat was very lucky to survive this encounter at all, because he did not know how to approach them and what bargaining he would need to do. From the way that they responded to his rambling rant, it would appear that they do not answer three questions, as the Aelfinn do, but rather they grant three wishes. Thank goodness he included a wish to return home, otherwise I imagine that they would have decided to remove all of his skin very, very, very slowly. His other two wishes seemed to have been to have his memories repaired and to be immune to Aes Sedai. I cannot see how the medallion would be a way to return his memories, so it seems much more likely that it is a protection of some sort against Aes Sedai or even channeling in general. Of course, this will not stop the Sisters trying to manipulate Mat, but it might make him feel a little more in control of his life.

2. Now that we have been into Rhuidean, were you surprised by the city within the mists or did you expect something different? What do you think has happened to the Jenn Aiel?

I had expected at least one beastie to jump out of the mist at them, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the city was deserted. However, I had not expected there to be a huge collection of angreals just sitting about for no good reason. I find the uncompleted nature of the city rather intriguing as it suggests that the Jenn Aiel vanished before they could finish the building process. However, there does not seem to be evidence of a battle in the city, so I can only assume that they were overcome by a natural disaster or simply dwindled away to nothing. I would like to find out, especially now that we know so much more about the Aiel and their history.

3. The history of the Aiel is revealed to be very complex. Were you surprised to discover that they were originally a people sworn to non-violence and that the Traveling People were actually an offshoot from the original Aiel? 

This has to be one of the most effective, and shocking, pieces of world building that I have ever read. By taking us backward through time, the author makes his ‘big reveal’ gradually, so that we are presented with a series of small surprises but are led in a totally unexpected direction. There is a huge amount of information, much of which is a total disconnect with the modern Aiel, and yet it is not jarring to us because we see it through a series of individuals. This makes it much easier for us to accept their decisions as justified and therefore makes it virtually impossible to condemn them for their actions. Although we can admire those who remain dedicated to The Way of the Leaf, we can also understand why some others lost their faith and decided to choose a different path.

I loved the way that so many details were tossed in to this mix so that we got explanations for so many things. We saw the original Aiel singing to plants with Ogier, and so we now know why the Travelling People seek for the Song. We saw that they held to their tradition not to use swords, even though this is a corruption of the original oath to not use weapons against other people. I also loved that we saw the first Maiden of the Spear and the first example of them veiling themselves before a kill. There was so much history and culture packed into these few chapters, but it was a joy to read even though I was left wanting more.

4. Could you have stood aside, like the Jenn Aiel did, and allowed your friends and family to be murdered or attacked without raising a hand in violence? What do you think of those Aiel who broke their vow of non-violence? 

This is a very difficult question to answer, but I suspect that I would have been unable to stay true to my oath of non-violence. I am politically liberal, but when it comes to violence against the individual (especially animals) I do tend to revert into a more primitive ‘Old Testament’ version of myself. For example, I saw a story on Facebook this week about a man who was imprisoned for killing a small kitten by throwing it out of a second floor window. I am afraid that my response to this is that I would like to take the man and throw HIM out of a second floor window so that he could see how terrifying and painful it is. Honestly, I am not a violent person, but I do not think that I could stand aside and do nothing after someone I love was hurt or killed.

However, I can see how the Jenn Aiel would be horrified to see their brothers and sisters abandoning their oaths after generations of mistreatment and hopeless searching for safety. I can only admire the strength of the Jenn Aiels’ faith and regret that I could never do that myself.

I was not at all surprised that Couladin’s brother, Muradin, could not accept the history that he saw in the ter’angreal. For a society that has a strong sense of honor, it would be very difficult to accept that your ancestors had broken their oaths. I can also see how it would be difficult for someone from a warrior society to learn that those were oaths of non-violence. These revelations would have gone against all of the main teachings of the modern Aiel and rocked the very foundations of Muradin’s personality. I can only assume that failure to deal with this knowledge proves that you do not have the wisdom or flexibility of belief to lead your people. I assume that this is why the Wise Ones must give people permission before they enter Rhuidean, as it would make no sense for the Aiel to lose too many in this way: they must have judged that Muradin had a good chance of surviving.

5. Perrin encounters a strange woman, who seems to know a great deal about the Wolf Dream and the two races beyond the doorways, the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. She seems familiar: is she someone that we have already met, as she suggests? What do you think about the ability to reach their dimension directly from tel'aran'rhiod?

I can only assume that this is Birgitte Silverbow, whom we last met at Toman Head. I did wonder what happened to the Heroes who answered the summons of the Horn, although this does not really shed any light on that as she could simply be dreaming. Her recognition of Perrin and the hint of something silver on her back were rather large clues.

Yet again, we have a bit of neat world building here, with Birgitte telling us, and Perrin, about the Finn races. I like the way that this information is not shared with Mat, the one person who has visited both of them, but with Perrin, who seems to be unconnected to them at the moment. The ability to reach them through Tel’aran’rhiod is intriguing and suggests that it might be possible to Travel via the realm of dreams. I seem to remember Lanfear complaining about the other Forsaken making use of ‘her’ realm, so perhaps this is how she pops in and out of the real world so easily.

6. Perrin's homecoming is far from happy. Were you surprised by what he discovered? Also, did Faile react in the way you expected? Were the people in the old cottage who you expected?

Although I am very sad for Perrin, I was not altogether surprised that Fain had gone this far in his attempts to attract Rand. I am quite sure that Dain Bornhald would never have stooped to such tactics even though he is desperate to kill Perrin. I can only assume that the Cauthons and Luhhans are only alive because of Bornhald’s protection.

As we predicted last week, Faile came through when life became really tough and showed how much she really loves Perrin. As a person who can be somewhat argumentative with those I love, I know that I can fight with them but no one else is allowed to hurt or threaten them. I think this scene has marked a real turning point in their relationship, as life is now so much more serious for them both.

 I had expected Tam and Abell to be at the old sick house, not a pair of Aes Sedai. However, I suppose that we should have been expecting Verin to show up again, as she is almost as meddlesome as Moiraine!

Extra Thought

How funny was the idea of Perrin and Faile hoping to be mistaken for children riding next to the ‘adult’ Loial? :D

My Fellow Commentators:


  1. Great answers. I agree that this bit of world-building, revealing the Aiel history, was pure genius on Jordan's part and some of the most poignant writing I've ever come across in the fantasy genre. The man was a master! I also thought the inclusion of Muradin was really great--really tragic but very illustrative of how traumatic this information can and sometimes is for the Aiel. And yes, the idea of being mistaken for a child next to Loial is all kinds of adorable! :D Loved this whole section!

    1. I loved how the inclusion of Muradin allowed us to get a very condensed view of the possible reactions that an Aiel could have to their history: it was such an efficient way to 'show and not tell' us so much about their mind set.

  2. Mat is our favorite fool, isn't he? If the foxy and snakey people have any say it, they will probably leave doors all over for him to stroll in and out of as he likes, because he is such an easy mark for them.

    Perhaps the foxy people ate the Jenn Aiel, them being pacifists and all.

    Those little nuggets of history were great. And Ogier fighting too! It really shows how some of the long-standing cultures that Rand knows have actually changed over millenia.

    Ah! I thought it was Lanfear in disguise chatting Perrin up, but Brigitte makes a better picture. Perrin can talk to Brigitte. He shouldn't be chatting so freely with Lanfear.

    Trying to disguise Loial, the only Ogier around for how many 100s or 1000s of miles. Quite silly.

    1. I hadn't thought about that possibility for the Jenn Aiel . . . I do hope you're wrong! :(

      I have to admit that I never had any doubt that she was Birgitte, what with the long, blonde braid and all - there was even a hint at her pal with the twin swords on his back as well. You are right though: any conversations with Lanfear should be along the lines of "Go away, you evil woman!" :D


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