(Content: ableism, misogyny. Fun content: more Mallory Ortberg and a secret game of Trivial Pursuit.)
The Eye of the World: p. 32--61
Chapter Three: The Peddler
I really thought this book would take forever to dissect, but it saves a lot of time when I can summarise four dense pages with 'the peddler is a source of outside news and Rand has an emergency backup friend named Perrin, who is stocky'. The peddler is all theatrical and tells the villagers that just getting eaten by wolves is tame compared to the bad stuff happening elsewhere in the world, like war in Ghealdan. Apparently someone's popped up claiming to be the Dragon and everyone wants to murder him or murder for him.
"Just as bad as the Dark One!"
"The Dragon broke the world, didn't he?"
"He started it! He caused the Time of Madness!"
"You know the prophecies! When the Dragon is reborn, your worst nightmares will seem like your fondest dreams!"No one particularly likes hanging out with the al'Exposition family, but no one can deny they're very efficient. (Is the Time of Madness over, or is it still supposed to be ongoing? It seems weird to name an era with the expectation that it's going to end. If it's indefinite, then 'the Madness' seems better, but if you're naming it in order to convince people that it will end, maybe don't call it 'the Time of Madness'?) Apparently the peddlers and merchants are the only source of this news, since no one in the village goes travelling far, which further raises the question if there isn't just a cartel agreement that everyone will tell the bumpkins about distant atrocities in order to justify higher prices.
The peddler further reports that this one who claims to be the Dragon is the first one who can wield the One Power, opening chasms and crushing walls with words and beckoning lightning at will, though this is all third- or fourth-hand information. Ewin starts shouting about how men who channel the Power always go mad and die, because it's only safe for women, everyone should know that. You know what? I take back my previous compliment about efficient exposition, because this is page flipping thirty-seven and we're still just getting people shouting world-building at each other in a panic. Women who wield the Power are apparently called Aes Sedai, and bringing them up is Not Appropriate for unclear reasons, but they're the only ones capable of fighting Dragon Dude. The Dudely Council decide they need to interrogate the peddler directly, over booze, and patronisingly tell everyone else to go home and be patient about buying stuff.
Once again, nothing happens for a couple of pages, so let's talk about this whole 'Time of Madness' and 'the One Power makes men go mad' thing. I mean, the superficial ableism is obvious--generic 'madness' as a violent affliction that inevitably results in murder and destruction--although I note that they talked about male magicians 'withering away' as well, so I hold out some vague hope that this 'madness' could actually have some nuance to it, and that depression and other such conditions (eating disorders?) might also be considered worthy of note, rather than just the Cackling Maniac style. Yes, that is how far the bar has fallen here; I'm hoping that the Fantasy Madness might be more inclusive. Because from here to Lovecraft and beyond fantasy is full of things that are so powerful that they make people 'go mad', and while that has all sorts of problems on a conceptual level, the fact that this madness always takes exactly the same stereotypical form of vaguely making a person hallucinate and talk to themselves and 'become a danger to themselves' is a whole additional level of ableism. At this point I would actually be pleased to see a case where someone says "No, Rand, don't use the One Power, you will get clinical depression and lose all energy and motivation and feeling and stop eating and die and we don't have comprehensive pharmaceuticals yet" instead of "You'll murder us all because you'll go CaRAYzy".
Obviously Rand will end up wielding the One Power and being the Dragon Reborn--I mean, I know this for a fact, spoilers, but even otherwise I would know it because on the next page we learn two more things:
"The Dragon may have started it, but it was Aes Sedai who actually broke the world."Women fucked up and obviously that means it's going to take a man to fix it. (What do they mean, 'broke the world'? I haven't seen any big cracks yet.) And:
"I heard a story once," Mat said slowly, "from a wool-buyer's guard. He said the Dragon would be reborn in mankind's greatest hour of need, and save us all."Apparently lots of people believe this, but they don't say so because it makes the Aes Sedai angry. So, obvs, the end of this book will concern the ascension of Rand to his true mantle as the Dragon and the hero who will save everyone. At least I figure it'll be the end, because this fake Dragon will be the Book One villain. Place your bets. Apparently 'the stories' vary on whether the Aes Sedai are actually villains, which just confuses me more. They're the established trustworthy magic users of the world, but some villagers don't believe they exist and some say they're 'Darkfriends' and oh my various deities could we maybe do something before we get introduced to yet another Unexplained Capitalised Title?
Nnnnope. As they're all talking about the bad luck that befell a neighbour who had the audacity to "name the Dark One", Nynaeve the Wisdom finally makes her appearance. She is a Strong Female Character, and therefore angry and weirdly violent--she carries a wooden switch for lashing people who displease her, despite her age and her tininess (she's barely shoulder-height to them, of course). Nynaeve tells them all off, and then Rand notices she's accompanied by Egwene.
Of a height with Nynaeve, and with the same dark coloring, she could at that moment have been a reflection of Nynaeve's mood, arms crossed beneath her breasts, mouth tight with disapproval. [...] Her big brown eyes held no laughter now.This is more description than any other person has received so far and it includes a completely unnecessary reference to the existence of her breasts, in case we weren't sure she was the love interest. (Join me in assuming/insisting that "same dark coloring" means both these women have deep brown skin, regardless of whether this lines up with cover art or future adjectives.) Egwene is two years younger than Rand (+5 to Love Interest) and he fumbles over trying to speak to her. Nynaeve demands to know what's been going on, and concludes that she will have to take charge:
"The Council is questioning the peddler about what's happening in Gealdan, are they? If I know them, they're asking all the wrong questions and none of the right ones. It will take the Women's Circle to find out anything useful."So, first: confirmation that the two ruling bodies of the village are the Normal People's Council and the Lady Council. Second: Mallory Ortberg is a gift that humanity has not earned.
Egwene and Rand don't exactly flirt once she's gone, because they were issued Belligerent Sexual Tension in which Rand asks to dance with her and she agrees and then they spend the rest of the conversation disdaining each other--Rand realises for the first time ever that they're both going to reach 'marriageable age' at the same time, and says vaguely they it's no good rushing things, and Egwene says she might never marry because she's going to become Wisdom at some other village, and anyway she thinks it's not as if Rand would care if he never saw her again.
He rubbed his head in frustration. How to explain? This was not the first time she had squeezed meanings from his words that he never knew were in them. In he present mood, a misstep would only make matters worse, and he was fairly sure that nearly anything he said would be a misstep.In conclusion: ugh, women, right? Bro. Bro. Level with me. Bro. Women. There's just no reasoning with them and they're so angry all the time for no reason.
It turns out Perrin also saw the
Chapter Four: The Gleeman
The gleeman that everyone's been tripping themselves over finally appears, bursting out of the inn, and Rand mostly notices that he has grey eyes (like Rand, and unlike everyone else in town). He complains for half a page about how badly he's been treated in town, and was just menaced by Nynaeve, whom he of course insists should be off chasing boys. He proceeds to describe all of the protagonists for us,Rand's height and grey eyes, Perrin's stockiness,comparing them to fantastical beasts. Literally nothing is happening for pages except pointless banter and the seasoned traveller mocking the rural hicks. I'm on page 50 of this book and I feel like I'm reading someone's warmup dialogue exercise. He does a backflip, and juggles as he lists the stories he'll tell, including:
"Tales of great wars and great heroes, for the men and boys. For the woman and girls, the entire Aptarigine Cycle. Tales of Artur Paendrag Tanreall [...]"First, why is the entire Aptarigine Cycle only suitable for women? Does it have feelings in it? Kissing? Second: Artur Paendrag are you fucking with me Robert Jordan. Okay. Deep breaths, Wildman. Hold it together. This can--oh. Egwene asks for stories about Lenn and Salya who travelled to the moon and stars in eagles made of fire, and I suddenly realise that we're going to get cute with the fourth wall.
"But I have all stories, mind you now, of Ages that were and will be. [....] I have all stories, and I will tell all stories. Tales of Mosk the Giant, with his Lance of fire that could reach around the world, and his wars with Elsbet, the Queen of All. Tales of Materese the Healer, Mother of the Wondrous Ind."Okay. So. The whole 'eventually everything becomes legend' thing is getting hammered home and this is apparently happening in our distant future but maybe also the past because time is a Wheel. I get that, and I'm potentially on board, but I'm deeply, deeply skeptical that this serves any particular purpose to the story, and it's yet again more spewing wink-nudge worldbuilding notions at me instead of having anything actually happen. This is the difference between having a clever idea and having a story.
Fancy Lady Moiraine and the gleeman spot each other, polite but obviously not pleased to see each other, and then people start pouring out of the bar again and the gleeman runs off for booze. The Dudely Council has decided to set up patrols around the area in conjunction with the other local villages, and all the boys want to sign up, but Rand's dad says they need to head back to the farm immediately. On the way home, dad al'Thor explains the intricate village politics and crowd-managing that made it actually a good idea to scare everyone with the prospect of war and roaming mages and then rush off to secret council before eventually announcing their patrol plan. I remain skeptical. Also, it turns out that lots of teenage boys have been spotting the