Chapter 3: The Peddler
A huge peddler’s wagon, drawn by eight horses, arrives in Emond’s Field. Padan Fain, a familiar face in the Two Rivers, comes with news from the outside world. Most of the village crowds around the wagon to hear his news. We are also told that Fain struts around like a small rooster, enjoying the attention.
- The late winter is a continent-wide problem.
- A man in the country of Ghealdan has proclaimed himself The Dragon Reborn and has started a war.
- A party of Aes Sedai have been dispatched from Tar Valon to deal with the man in Ghealdan. They had to be called upon because this man can channel the One Power.
The Village Council pulls Fain inside the Inn to have a private conversation with him regarding his news.
Rand, Mat, and their friend Perrin Aybara – they ran into him in the gathered crowd around the peddler’s wagon – discuss the news. They debate whether this is really the Dragon Reborn or “another False Dragon.” Mat shares with the other two that he once heard a merchant’s guard say “the Dragon will be reborn in mankind’s greatest hour of need” – which is scoffed at by Perrin – especially when Mat says that the guard also said the Dragon would tear the world apart again. The boys also discuss Aes Sedai. Aes Sedai are women who can wield the One Power. Unlike men, women do not go insane when they do so. Nevertheless, Perrin credits them generally for the breaking of the world. This leads to the boys discussing a time that Billy Congar “named the Dark One” – which led to cut worm destroying his crops and his entire family coming down with an illness.
Nynaeve arrives just in time to hear the boys discussing “naming the Dark One” and scolds them for it. She is the Village Wisdom but is not much older than the boys are. Her apprentice, Egwene al’Vere, is with her. The boys tell her about Fain’s arrival, and the news he brought, which leads her to declare that the Women’s Circle needs to be involved in this discussion. She marches off to the Inn.
Egwene stays behind to chide Rand for the things they were talking about. Rand notices that Egwene’s hair is now braided for the first time (he stares at it “like a viper”) – a sign in the Two Rivers that a woman is of a marriageable age. Then they argue about Egwene’s apprenticeship. Since Nynaeve is so young, Egwene would likely need to leave the Two Rivers to be a Wisdom. They want to marry each other – but have not declared as much to each other yet – so there is subtext in this conversation about leaving. We are also told “this is not the first time she had squeezed meanings from his words that he never knew were in them.”
When Egwene walks away a small distance, angry, Mat and Perrin approach Rand with news that Moiraine gave Perrin a coin, too, AND Perrin also saw the Black Rider outside the smithy where Perrin is an apprentice, just last night. Egwene returns to the three boys to chide them again about gossip and needlessly scaring people. As she is about to continue berating the three of them, a man with shaggy white hair left the Inn as if pursued.
We meet Padan Fain, the peddler, at the outset. He is described as someone who laughs like he knows a secret that nobody else knows. He is also described as someone who struts around like a rooster who enjoys attention.
This chapter gives us a feel for the superstitions of the town, their understanding of history and the wider world, and a sense that some of that superstition is warranted (i.e. naming The Dark One.)
We meet Perrin, Nynaeve, and Egwene. Perrin is a blacksmith’s apprentice and he is written in such a way that he seems to want the people around him to slow down. He also seems clear-headed, inasmuch as he noticed the detail of “Master Luhhan” carrying a hammer that he does not usually carry.
Nynaeve has the short temper we were told about before meeting her. But she is not all temper. We are told she has the hint of a smile when Rand is staring at Egwene. Some of her temper, at least, appears to be for show and to force some acceptance of her job/office in spite of her age.
We still do not really know what a Wisdom does but this chapter lets us know that Nynaeve can “listen to the wind” and takes care of the sick. Egwene has the talent to do both and is training to do both. Egwene also expresses a desire to leave the Two Rivers and see the world. Rand, though he does not say it outright, wants to marry Egwene and does not want her to move away.
Chapter 4: The Gleeman
A lean and stooped white haired man, with a long white mustache, smoking an ornate pipe, and wearing a coat covered in fluttering patches, emerges from the Inn. He is the Gleeman. His name is Thom Merrilin. He recounts his mistreatment. 1) A person from the adjacent village told him that he could make it to Emond’s Field by nightfall, but failed to mention that he had to leave early to do so. 2) When he arrived in the middle of the night, the Innkeeper “grumbles about the hour as if I were a wandering swineherd,” 3) the same Innkeeper failed to mention he was also the Mayor, 4) every man in the common room, just then, had stared at him with disdain, 5) an old man from that group began instructing him on the type of stories he should tell, and 6) “a girl child” shouted at him to get out of the common room altogether.
Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene are the people right outside the Inn door, so those are the people he speaks with. The group explains Fain’s arrival and the news he brought that necessitated a Council meeting. They also inform him that the “girl child” was the Village Wisdom. Merrilin knows Fain and describes him saying “there’s more raven in him than man” with disdain. He also dismisses Fain’s information as “old news.”
Thom invites Egwene to stand next time him for a part of his Bel Tine performance. He mentions casually that he was once a court bard but that he has now risen “to the exalted rank of Master Gleeman.”
Thom notices Rand’s height and unusual color. He correctly identifies Rand as the tallest person in the district (“as tall as an Aielman”) and the only one with light colored eyes. He also points out Perrin’s blacksmith, uh, bulk, as being “as big as an Ogier.” Perrin responds by saying that they are just regular folks, not “made up creatures from one of your stories.”
Merrilin suppresses a smile and with just a hint of amusement remarks on how widely traveled they must be. Perrin and Mat describe how far the three boys have traveled. It dawns on them while they are talking that they are the butt of a joke – knowing suddenly that he must be far more widely traveled than they are.
Merrilin changes the focus of the conversation to “his art.” He juggles, does flips, plays instruments, and tells stories. He demonstrates some of this to draw a crowd on the Village Green.
Thom notices Moiraine and abruptly stops his display. He apologizes to her for any offense, and she says “none was perceived Master Bard.” He was wary of her.
As Moiraine left, the Village Council emerged from the Inn. Thom took the opportunity to go back inside the Inn for a drink. Rand and his friends approached Tam al’Thor for an update. Tam tells them that Fain did not have much additional information to provide. He also tells them that the Council is not yet worried about outside events.
We learn something about the geography of the Two Rivers. The Mountains of Mist to the west of the Two Rivers are difficult to cross. A large mire blocks access to the Two Rivers from the East. To the south lay The White River, and farther south than that, the Forest of Shadows. Ghealdan is due south of the Two Rivers but the Council believes the trouble will miss their district due to the inaccessibility of where they live. In an abundance of caution, the Council has decided to send patrols to neighboring villages and around the district to keep a watch. They will send those patrols after the Bel Tine festivities are over.
Mat wants to be part of the patrol. He has already expressed interest in battles generally. Rand says that he wants to join the watch, too. Tam then tells Rand that they need to return to the farm immediately to tend to the farm. However, he tells Rand that he can talk to the Mayor about joining the patrol when they return again for Bel Tine tomorrow.
Mat asks Perrin if he will join. “We might even see soldiers. Or Tinkers.” Perrin says that he will probably join, too.
Rand returns their focus to “the black rider” since the three of them have already seen him in the Two Rivers in and around Emond’s Field. The boys make a plan to tell the Mayor about seeing him when all three are present for Bel Tine. In the interim, they hope to find more witnesses so that the Mayor does not laugh at them.
As Rand and Tam are on the road, heading home, Rand asks Tam about why the Council had to speak privately with Fain, noting that the Village Council could have reached its decision about patrols on the spot. Tam replies that the public spectacle of a private meeting, and the public announcement after, were necessary to keep the village from believing the war in Ghealadan was about to descend on them. Rand had apparently never considered that part of the Village Council job was managing the emotions of the village.
While he was quietly considering, Tam asked him if anyone other than Mat and Perrin saw the black rider. The Village Council took the eyewitness reports of Perrin, Rand, and two other other boys their age seriously, and is spreading the word to keep an eye out for a stranger. Tam noted, though, that the only eye witnesses were about Rand’s age.
When four of you see a thing, and solid lads all, we start thinking maybe it’s there, whether we can see it or not.
The reason Tam and Rand are going home is to make sure that stranger has not been lurking around the farm. Rand felt better knowing his father and the rest of the village now believed him.
There are a ton of real world references in this chapter, especially in the section where Thom starts naming stories that he can tell.
We are given a hint that Thom and Moiraine know something about each other though it it not stated outright. She refers to him multiple times as “Master Bard” instead of “Master Gleeman.” Thom also mentioned that he was previously a court bard though I am relatively certain that he said this before Moiraine was standing nearby. Conversely, Thom responds to seeing Moiraine with more wariness than seems warranted given her story.
The chapter has an ominous feel as it ends with the return of focus to the black rider and the additional information that he seems to only be appearing to young men Rand’s age.
Name notation: Thom Merrilin, in the vein of other Arthurian names in this book, is reminiscent of Merlin. Let’s see how much, if anything, he ultimately has in common with King Arthur’s magical adviser.
Bel Tine – the celebration set to occur in Emond’s Field – is most likely based on the real world celebration of Beltane.