Please note: this article contains spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time Series.
This is a continuation from Part 1, which you can also find on our blog – HERE.
So, the most packed full of interesting stuff from the fourth book of the Wheel of Time series, The Shadow Rising, are the chapters where Rand and Mat go to Rhuidean. And they are interesting in multiple ways – first we find out the history of the Aiel; but we also learn more about the Age of Legends, something that no one to this point has talked directly about as if they have known and lived it. Later, we get some more glimpses about that Age from the Forsaken, but for now, we see it only from Rand’s ancestors’ eyes.
The history of the Aiel has always fascinated me, and this time I decided to dig into the story deeper than before and figure out things I might have missed in previous re-reads.
We start in Chapter 25 The Road to the Spear: first memory that Rand sees through the glass columns, is of Mandein, whose wife Sealdre, tells him that whichever sept does not come to the Jenn’s call to Rhuidean, and whichever sept does not agree to their terms, will eventually die.
“’You must agree to whatever they ask, husband,’ Sealdre said.
‘Will the others come?’ he asked.
‘Some. Most. I have talked to my sisters in the dream, and we have all dreamed the same dream. The chiefs who do not come, and those who do not agree… Their septs will die, Mandein. Within three generations they will be dust, and their holds and cattle belong to other septs. Their names will be lost.’
He did not like her talking to the Wise Ones of other septs, even in dreams. But the Wise Ones dreamed true. When they knew, it was true.”
So I don’t know why I didn’t see this before, but it is obvious to me now why those septs will die out. It is because they would not have a chief who has gone through the glass columns, and who has seen the history of the Aiel.
Which leads me to wonder why the Jenn Aiel died out; no one attacks them or kills them, they have all the knowledge of the Aiel, they have all the ter’angreal in Rhuidean, surely also some of them could channel, since the current Aiel Wise Ones — their descendants — could also channel.
Also, I am pondering who might be the two Aes Sedai and how old were they at that point? I believe the one who mentioned the prophecy is the one who foretold of the Dragon Reborn in the next chapter – Deindre. Which means that they could be as old as all of the generations of Aiel that Rand saw through the columns — which should be around 500 years. This we know from the next chapter, shouldn’t be disregarded as impossible, since even an Aiel who cannot channel was in his prime at 60.
Now, all of this lead me thinking in another direction — when and why did the Wise Ones start being called Wise Ones? Was it because they were Dreamers and could Dreamwalk? Why is this talent so common among the Aiel? It dates way back even to when they were Da’shain. Also, when did the Wise Ones start also going through the columns and why? Maybe it’s that they started going through the columns as the same time as the clan chiefs, we were just not told of that. But then, how did they find the other ter’angreal that they use on their first entering of Rhuidean? They should have discovered that first, and maybe after they had used that for a while they began going through the columns. But it said that Wise Ones shouldn’t enter Rhuidean twice, so, they needed to have discovered that ter’angreal early on. Maybe all or some of these questions do get answered in some later books, and I am getting ahead of myself here, but I am just a tiny bit disappointed that this was not explained a bit more.
Rand soon finds out that he is looking through his ancestors’ eyes. He is the first one we see that goes through the columns and in his case, he only looks through his male ancestors’ eyes … I cannot help but wonder why is that? Do the Wise Women look through their female ancestors eyes then? If I remember correctly, Aviendha saw the future only through her female descendants in Towers of Midnight; which means that on the journey through her past, she saw through her female ancestors. Why the distinction? Does it make some kind of sense? In Aviendha’s case both of her parents were Aiel, while only Rand’s father was. At first, I was wondering if there might be a connection there, but I suppose it could be easily explained as just… the gender of the one who enters the ter’angreal.
Okay let’s get to the next chapter, since I can continue with my musings indefinitely. We are reading Chapter 26 The Dedicated.
The first memory we see in this chapter is of Adan who has lost almost his entire family. Some of the Aiel have decided to leave the wagons and search for a place of safety, where they can sing. Adan calls them “lost.” Later they become the Tuatha’an, the Traveling People, and the Aiel continue calling them “Lost Ones.” However, why didn’t these “Lost Ones” continue calling themselves Aiel even after they left? Why should the Aiel who have forgotten the Way of the Leaf call themselves Aiel, when they are no longer Dedicated? But then I suppose the Lost Ones didn’t continue being dedicated to the Aes Sedai either, so they probably thought they were not Aiel anymore. And it was easier for them to forget where they come from and why they follow the Way of the Leaf, since they didn’t have the ter’angreal.
In another memory, Jonai overhears Aes Sedai talk possibly about the foretelling of the rebirth of the Dragon, or maybe that the world will be saved at some point in the future:
“ ‘What good is your Foretelling,’ Oselle was almost shouting, ‘if you cannot tell us when?’ Her long black hair swayed as she shook with anger. ‘The world rests on this! The future! The Wheel itself!’
Dark eyed Deindre faced her with a more usual calm. ‘I am not the Creator. I can only tell you what I Foretell.’ ”
This made me realize that the Forsaken did not know either when the Dragon will be reborn and what that would mean. The Second Age Aes Sedai didn’t know of any foretellings that we know of in the Third Age. Which is interesting, since the Forsaken know a lot of information very quickly after breaking out of their prison, including the language of the Third Age.
“Solinda was the calmest of them all, her oldfashioned streith gown only a pale blue mist.”
We know from Graendal wearing it, that streith was a fabric that dresses from the Age of Legends were made out of. Streith was common, even the Aes Sedai wore it. I would’ve wagered it’s more of a commoner rich people garment instead. But then, at the time when Jonai was supposed to leave Paaran Disen, the streith has already become oldfashioned. Which probably means it was no longer being made.
Jonai also meets Someshta in the Hall of the Servants, the Nym that was later called “the Green Man” in the Third Age.
“ ‘Singing,’ Someshta said. ‘Was there singing? So much is gone. The Aes Sedai say some will return. You are a Child of the Dragon, are you not?’
Jonai winced. That name had caused trouble, no less for not being true. But how many citizens now believed the Da’shain Aiel had once served the Dragon and no other Aes Sedai?”
When did the Aiel became known as the Children of the Dragon and why? Lews Therin Telamon became known/famous during the War of the Shadow, so I suppose some time between him becoming a battle leader and sealing the Bore. But then why did they continue being called People of the Dragon? It doesn’t seem to be that long of a time, so that it becomes a custom. Jonai is only sixty-three and the Nym is much older probably and Someshta uses that name. So it’s something that is a bit weird to me, but I suppose the Third Age Aiel decided to keep this, so that the Dragon Reborn can find them and “take them back.”
Later, Jonai’s wife Alnora says something that tugged at my brain:
“’Of no time soon,’ she murmured. ‘All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.’ Smiling tremulously, she touched his cheek. ‘With you I know it will be so, husband of my heart.’ ”
This is the same expression that the Sea Folk used in an earlier chapter. From Chapter 20 Winds Rising:
“If it pleases the Light,” Jorin said fatalistically, “all will be well. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well, if it pleases the Light.”
The sayings are just too similar, which is interesting and makes me wonder if it’s a common saying on the continent, or simply something remaining from the Age of Legends; or maybe both peoples are connected in some way in the distant past.
The next memory is of Coumin, who is only sixteen and he is of the group of men that sing for the seeds to grow.
“Coumin could hear the seed singing around the other fields, hear the women clapping to urge the men on, their rhythm the heartbeat of new life, but it was a distant knowledge. The song caught him up, and he almost felt that it was himself, not the sounds he made, that Someshta wove into the soil and around the seeds. Seeds no longer, though. Zemais sprouts covered the field, taller wherever the Nym’s foot had trod. No blight would touch those plants, nor any insect; seed sung, they would eventually grow twice as high as a man and fill the town’s grainbarns. This was what he had been born for, this song and the other seed songs.“
There were also Ogier who sang with the Aiel men. This makes me think of the tree singing some Ogier are capable of, like Loial. What if the tree singing is simply an old remnant of these seed songs from the Age of Legends. Would this mean that the tree singing is connected to the Song the Traveling People are searching for?
“It was then that he saw the soldier, only a few steps away, watching them. He had left his shocklance and fancloth battle cape somewhere, but he still wore his helmet, like some monstrous insect’s head, its mandibles hiding his face though his black shockvisor was raised.”
This is something that surprised me, how could the Seanchan have armour like the soldiers in the last days of the Age of Legends? My theory is that during the breaking, the people who got separated on the continent of Seanchan somehow kept this armour, and it wasn’t brought in by Luthair Paendrag from the main continent (like I previously thought). But then, why would the helmet be a common thing in Seanchan, but they had no fancloth? I suppose they didn’t have a ter’angreal to make it. Since fancloth cloaks seem to be what the Warders wear in the Third Age. Warders are a third age concept, so supposedly this fancloth was a common clothing in the Age of Legends. Later apparently became a cloak for soldiers to wear and possibly this is why the Warders came to wearing it later.
After Rand had exited the glass columns and saved Mat from hanging, Mat says:
“He winced, scrubbing a hand through his hair.
‘Light, but my head hurts. It’s spinning, like a thousand bits of dreams, and every one a needle. Do you think Moiraine will do something for it if I ask?'”
I am wondering if this is a foreshadowing of the fact that Mat will gain all those memories after asking for them from the Eelfin. “Like a thousand bits of dreams” sounds exactly what he got in the end.
“Rand kept his pace to Mat’s, which was slow at first, hobbling along using the odd spear as a walking staff. He paused once to look at the two figurines of a man and a woman holding crystal spheres, but he left them there. Not yet. Not for a long time yet, if he was lucky.”
This is interesting, because it seems Rand knows that the statuettes are the two keys to the huge sa’angreals, but doesn’t pick them up. Why does he think ‘not yet’? How does he intend to go back into Rhuidean?
And with this concludes Part 2 of my thoughts on The Shadow Rising. I am excited to continue with the Fires of Heaven and see what I missed from my previous readings of that book.