A Series of Fortunate Events: Ranking Mat Cauthon’s Gambles

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

Reluctant hero, ta’veren, and commander extraordinaire, Mat Cauthon undoubtedly has some of the best scenes in the series. His charismatic blend of wit, impulsiveness, skill, and luck consistently make for compelling reading (particularly, in my opinion, once we’re past the whole fiasco with the dagger in the first two books). Although he famously complains about the situations he finds himself in, Mat is a consummate risk-taker who frequently gambles with far more than money. “What’s life,” he asks, “if you don’t take a chance now and then?” (ACoS, Ch. 39)

“Prince of the Ravens,” by EdselArnold on DeviantArt​

 

I’ll say right off the bat that my own personal rankings for Mat’s best gambles often change based on my most current re-read, and I’ve had to leave a lot of scenes I love off this list. Like many fans of The Wheel of Time, Mat is one of my favourite characters, and I read most of his chapters with relish. The following, however, are always highlights for me no matter how many times I re-read them.

 

5. The Malvide Narrows

“She goes with you. But you leave me a dozen of your Deathwatch Guards and some of the Gardeners. If I’m going to take these people off your back, I need them to think I’m you.”
–Mat to Furyk Karede, A Memory of Light, Chapter 36​

I always love seeing other characters trying to keep up with Mat. Here, it is the Seanchan who are left confused while Mat directs a brilliant decoy that ensures Tuon’s safe return to Ebou Dar. Mat has to juggle a lot of different things to pull this off. The timing needs to be right; Tuon’s would-be-asassins have to buy the decoy and walk into Mat’s trap, thinking they’ve caught Tuon unawares; Aludra’s weapons have to work; and the Aes Sedai have to find themselves in enough danger to channel killing weaves at humans. And all the while, leading a force that would normally be at each other’s throats, Mat can sense “so many tensions in the air he could almost feel that hanging rope around his neck again” (KoD, Ch. 37). In the end, it all comes together, but it’s a little like watching a puzzle.

 

4. Rescuing Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve from The Stone of Tear

“At least I know where they are, now. All I have to do is get them out.”
“Get them out, you say. Just like that. Out of the Stone.”

–Mat and Ailhuin Guenna, The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 52​

In this sequence, Mat not only sneaks into an impenetrable fortress—he gets to play with fireworks in the process! Despite the fact that it is supposedly impossible to do, Mat manages to break into the Stone of Tear with only Juilin as backup. It is a feat that even Birgitte later says she would not attempt for anyone but Gaidal. In order for his rescue plan to succeed, Mat has to count on numerous things going his way—not the least that Juilin is trustworthy and Aludra’s fireworks don’t get them both killed.

 

3. Freeing Nestelle din Sakura South Star from the Seanchan

“‘I want you to answer a question,’ he whispered. Blood and ashes, what if he had mistaken the room? What if this was not a Windfinder at all, but one of the bloody Seanchan women? ‘What would you do if I took that collar off your neck?’ Lifting his hand, he held his breath.”
–Mat, Winter’s Heart, Chapter 31​

Mat’s escape from Ebou Dar is one of my favourite plotlines in the series, but his encounter with Nestelle din Sakura South Star in particular always gets to me. Realizing that he cannot leave the Atha’an Miere Windfinders as prisoners of the Seanchan, he decides to take a chance on freeing them. Despite the fact that this might jeopardize his own escape, he ultimately decides that “if he could not take the chance, then who could?” Mat spends a lot of time throughout the series insisting that he’s not a hero. However, in moments such as this, we repeatedly see him go out of his way to help others at great risk to himself. Although Mat later feels guilt over those who died in the Atha’an Miere rebellion, he also knows that “Freeing the Sea Folk Windfinders had been the right thing to do, the only thing he could do” (CoT, Ch. 1).

 

2. Rescuing Moiraine from the Tower of Ghenjei

Matrim Cauthon was the only man to have diced with the fate of the world itself in the prize pouch.”
–Mat, A Memory of Light, Chapter 15​

One of the most long awaited moments of the series, rescuing Moiraine is risky business indeed. In her letter to Thom, Moiraine confesses that she has seen many possible futures in which the rescue does not go well. Mat agrees to help anyway, both for Thom’s sake and because he feels he owes a debt to Moiraine; inside the Tower of Ghenjei, he learns he has made the right call. It is here that Mat will fulfill the Aelfinn’s promise that he will one day “give up half the light of the world to save the world” (TSR, Ch. 15). This is the gamble that ultimately has the biggest payoff in the series—without Moiraine, Rand is doomed to lose the Last Battle, and Mat’s presence in the Tower of Ghenjei is necessary for her rescue.

 

Mat, Gawyn, and Galad, by Ariel Burgess​

1. Fighting Gawyn and Galad in Tar Valon

“I have to win this. I opened my fool mouth, and now I have to win. I can’t afford to lose those two marks. Without those to build on, it will take forever to win the money I need.”
–Mat, The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 24

This is hands-down my favourite scene of Mat’s in the series. Still recovering from the intensive Healing that severed his link to the dagger, Mat decides on the spot to challenge Gawyn and Galad to a duel. He bets two silver marks against two from each of them that he can beat them at once; as he tells Elayne’s brothers, “You can’t have fairer odds than that.” I think what I love so much about this scene is that Mat doesn’t yet have his memories or much experience with his enhanced luck. Thus, he’s really just taking a chance on himself and his own skill with a quarterstaff. His win sets so many things in motion for him; with the marks he wins from Gawyn and Galad, he goes on to start his fortune.

 

Honourable Mention: The Last Battle

“Without a gamble, we’re dead. Finished. Buried.”
–Mat to Elayne, A Memory of Light, Chapter 37

When I was drafting and redrafting this list, I couldn’t quite decide what to do with the Last Battle. The problem is that there are so many moving parts that I didn’t want to lump them together as one point on the list. The complexity of the Last Battle is such that Galad describes Mat as playing “the Game of Houses on the battlefield.” From sending one of the foxhead medallions to Galad, to his staged fight with Tuon, to his use of Hinderstrap, the Last Battle is full of so many brilliant plans and gusty moves from Mat that it really deserves its own list. Because I couldn’t leave it out entirely, I opted to place it separately from the man portion of the list.

 

What are your favourites?

No Comments

On This Day in Randland: Sunday

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

Occurring midway through Amadaine, although not officially considered one of the twenty-eight days of that month, the festival of Sunday corresponds to our own June solstice.[1] Mentioned more frequently in the books than any other holiday except Bel Tine, we as readers have a wealth of information on the importance that this holiday holds within the Westlands. Although the vast majority of these references are by characters from the Two Rivers, the glossary to The Dragon Reborn states that Sunday is “widely celebrated in many parts of the world.”

 

Observing the longest day of the year, on Sunday communities gather for celebration and feasting. It is one of the few times of the year when Tuatha’an caravans meet in groups larger than three (KoD, Ch. 12). In the Two Rivers, merriment abounds: people dance, give gifts, decorate carts, and participate in competitions of speed, strength, and archery. If the Village Council is able to arrange for it, a gleeman and fireworks can occasionally be a special part of the festivities. It is a day that also provides ample opportunity for other, less officially sanctioned shenanigans: in the words of one Matrim Cauthon, there is little as fun as “stealing applecakes at Sunday” (TDR, Ch. 46).

 

As much as it is a day of public celebration, Sunday can also be a day of personal remembrance. It is a day on which Rand routinely leaves flowers at his mother’s grave (TEoTW, Ch. 1), and this type of remembrance appears to be common; while telling stories to a crowded common room in Cairhien, Thom finishes a tale of Rogosh Eagle-eye and Dunsinin by describing how Dunsinin lays “a single rose, one crystal teardrop like dew upon petals” upon Rogosh’s grave every Sunday in remembrance (TGH, Ch. 25).

 

Seamus Gallagher, The Eye of the World Graphic Novel, Volume 1​

References to Sunday in the books are linked to memory in other ways as well. Especially in the early books, thoughts of Sunday are linked to feelings of nostalgia and homesickness for the Two Rivers characters. On several occasions, Egwene especially feels sadness at missing the celebrations in Emond’s Field, and she hopes to share in them again. One particularly poignant moment occurs when Egwene and Perrin are hiding from the Whitecloaks in The Eye of the World. Concealed within the massive stone hand of Artur Hawkwing’s statue, Egwene suddenly asks Perrin: “Will you dance with me at Sunday? If we’re home by then?” (TEoTW, Ch. 30). He promises that he will, and hopes, through the terror, that they will survive. It is a moment that Perrin later recalls in The Towers of Midnight when he is on trial for killing two Whitecloaks that night long ago. As Bornhald recites his own version of the story, Perrin recalls pain, and shouting, and Egwene’s voice in the dark as she speaks of home.

 

While Sunday holds great importance as an annually reoccurring festival, there are a number of particular Sundays on which important events have occurred. Yurian Stonebow is said to have proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn on a Sunday around the end of the Trolloc Wars, and to have been captured on a Sunday some few years later (Companion). Much more recently, it is in 994 NE that Hurin gains his talent and becomes a sniffer (TGH, Ch. 9).

 

As one final point of interest, Sunday in the year 998 NE appears to have fallen early in The Great Hunt, approximately around the time the Two Rivers characters depart Fal Dara. Although the exact date is not directly mentioned in relation to the timeline of the book, we can approximate it through other references. It is around this time that the Feast of Teven occurs, an Illianer festival that also takes place in the month of Amadaine. In this particular year, the Feast of Teven is known to have “coincided with the calling of the Hunt for the Horn” (Companion), an event that Bayle Domon is in Illian to witness (TGH, Ch. 10) and which occurs roughly around the departure from Fal Dara. There is something poetic, in a way, about watching Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve begin to set off on separate journeys so near to a holiday they are accustomed to spending together. These journeys will take them far from home, and while they will experience many wonderful things, some of them will never return to Emond’s Field.

 

Footnotes:
[1] In the calendar observed in the Westlands, Amadaine is the seventh of thirteen months. For more information on calendars and dating systems in The Wheel of Time, see The Wheel of Time Companion and The World of Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time.” For more on how the days of these calendars correspond to our own world, see the article on the Farede Calendar in TarValon.Net’s Library.

No Comments

WoT Wednesday #0.5: A Question for Fans

 

 

This week for a pre-WoT Wednesday, Rafe asked what fans might want to see. We’re not quite sure if this meant what we’d like to see from him about the series, or what we’re most excited to see depicted on screen, but here are some of my favorite responses:

 

 

 

Narg Trolloc made a poll not 20 minutes before Rafe posted this, asking what people want to see.

 

 

 

 

A lot of other people wanted to know about casting and how they could possibly be involved with the show.

 

 

 

 

Several people were wondering what possible cuts there might be in the series.

 

 

 

 
One thing that people really wanted to know about was how channeling was going to be depicted on screen.

 

 

 

 

And some people just wanted to know a few particulars about how the series was going to be adapted.

 

 

No Comments