In which Nynaeve, Elayne, and Min hatch a plan, Bayle Domon reappears just in time to ostensibly be useful, five ride forth, Perrin sees Whitecloaks again, the Whitecloaks sneak half a legion onto Toman Head
These would be an easy two chapters to skip past to rush to the climax. I certainly have done so on each reread. Writing twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have found much to savor here. But I won’t to dwell on my newfound favorite (or almost favorite) character: Nynaeve.
Nynaeve shows a lot of growth later in the series. She really comes into her own after beating her block, marrying Lan, and attaching to Rand as his most trusted partner. But the seeds of badassery are on ample display right here.
“‘It isn’t swords or brawn we need now,’ Nynaeve said, ‘but brains. Men usually think with the hair on their chests.’ She touched her own chest absently, as if feeling something through her coat. ‘Most of them do.’”
Jordan inserted a lot of sexism into The Wheel of Time, especially misandry. That is oft noted. What is too seldom noted is that, thematically, the Battle of the Sexes stuff is treated as childish and to be discarded as the characters grow up. We see the early seeds of that here; there is a crack in Nynaeve’s wall of gender solidarity. Her eventual loyalty to Lan will be greater than any general sisterhood she feels. In Jordan’s (and my own) view, this is very much to the good: men and women need and complement each other.
“‘Don’t you worry, Min. I have a few ideas. I have not spent my time here idly. You take me to this man. If he is any harder to handle than the Village Council with their backs up, I will eat this coat.’
“Elayne nodded, grinning, and Min felt the first real hope she had had since arriving in Falme.’”
Egwene and even Elayne catch up to and exceed Nynaeve in pretty short order, but she show both courage and leadership aplenty here. It is bravado, but bravado is both sometimes the first step toward real courage and a necessary tool of leadership.
“‘What if I tell you you will sail with something better than damane?’ Nynaeve said softly. Min’s eyes widened as she realized what Nynaeve intended.
“Almost under here breath, Elayne murmured, ‘And you tell me to be careful.’”
The difference between Nynaeve and Elayne is that Nynaeve recognizes that there are times—times to be chosen with great care—where caution has to be thrown to the wind in favor of the roll of the dice (Mat would be proud). Elayne will continue to foolishly throw caution to the wind throughout the series.
Later, when Domon tells the story of the Aes Sedai captured by the Seanchan, Elayne quakes but Nynaeve is completely undeterred. Nynaeve reveals at the end of the chapter that it was an act, but acting brave is still being brave. Nynaeve can tend toward childishness in many ways early in the series, but chapter 43 shows how much older and more mature she is than her four young charges from Emond’s Field and Elayne.
A couple other things here are worth noting, I think.
If there is any doubt to the evil of the Seanchan, in a small town visited by Perrin and Hurin, et al they burned alive “the whole Village Council and their families” for no good reason. I say burned alive because over half a year later the blackened circle still stinks to Hurin with the gravity of the sin.
Verin’s claim that Moiraine sent her got the lion’s share of the attention, but I can’t help but think that her claim that the damane could detect a man channeling is a lie as well. It isn’t a lie if you think it is true, of course, but there is little reason to think that Aes Sedai think female channelers can detect male channeling. That would be an extremely useful skill to the Red Ajah, but it isn’t one they have. Why she would lie escapes me, though. Any thoughts?
I am committed to finishing my The Great Hunt reread posts before the first episode of Amazon’s Wheel of Time adaptation airs on November 19, so expect another post in short order. The only question is whether I will cover the remaining six chapters in one post or two.
You can find all of my reread posts at The Wheel of Time Reread Index.