Chapter 5: Winternight
Tam and Rand return home shortly before nightfall. The farmhouse shows no sign that any stranger has visited. The two men do chores until nightfall. After dark, they go inside to eat stew and bathe.
Tam locks their doors for the first time in Rand’s memory. In addition, while waiting for the stew to finish, Rand can hear Tam upstairs scooting an old chest from under his bed. Rand cannot remember him doing that before, either.
When Tam returns downstairs, he is wearing a thick belt and hanging from the belt is a sword with a bronze heron on the black scabbard and another bronze heron on the black hilt. When Tam pulls the sword from the scabbard, there is a third heron etched into the steel. It has never occurred to Rand that his father might own a sword, much less a well made sword.
Tam tells Rand that he bought the sword for entirely too high a price a long time ago. He confesses that he has considered getting rid of the sword many times over the years due to the suggestion of Rand’s late mother and its impractical place on a sheep farm. Then he states that if they run into trouble over the next few days that it might prove lucky that he kept it.
Rand has a lot of questions. He immediately realizes that his father must have purchased the sword outside the Two Rivers. While he knew that Tam must have spent some time away from their district, because his mother was an outlander, he has never thought to ask about the specifics of that time away.
As Rand is getting the hot kettle of tea ready, they hear a loud thump at the door. Rand suggests halfheartedly that it might be a neighbor when the door bursts open. A creature, much taller than a man, wearing chain mail and carrying a scythe-like sword comes inside. It has rams’ horns on its head and a hairy muzzle where a mouth and nose should be. Otherwise, though, it has human features.
Rand hurls the boiling tea kettle at the half human head. As it roars in pain, Tam slashes its throat with his sword. Another similarly sized creature tries to crawl past the now gurgling first. Tam yells for Rand to run out the back and hide in the woods. As Rand approaches the locked back door, he sees shadows outside. Instead of going through the backdoor, Rand doubles back, opens the shutters, and climbs out through a window where he cowers next to the house. As he does this, the backdoor explodes and more creatures enter the house through the back. Rand yells a warning to Tam that the creatures are now coming in through the back and that he has made it outside. Rand runs.
He starts toward the woods behind the farm but stops and crawls on his belly toward the farmhouse and the deep shadows of their barn. Watching from the barn, he hears clashes of steel on steel before Tam bursts through a widow, landing on his feet. Rand calls to him and Tam orders him to run and hide. Tam runs toward the woods and as many as twelve huge shapes chase after him.
Rand crawls into the woods. After some time, he feels a hand cover his face and another grab his wrist. As Rand begins to wrestle, Tam whispers “don’t break my neck.”
Tam tells Rand that the creatures are trollocs. We learn what Tam knows. Tonight is the first time Tam has ever seen a trolloc, however, he says that he has spoken with men who have seen them. He hopes that what he knows can keep them alive. Trollocs can see better than men in the dark and they can track by scent or sound. However, they are also said to be lazy. Tam hopes that if he and Rand can evade them for long enough that the trollocs will give up the chase.
While evading the creatures earlier, Tam was cut on his side by one of their blades. The wound does not look serious, however, Tam is rapidly becoming weak and feverish. Rand realizes he needs to get Tam to Nynaeve for healing. Rand pulls out his father’s sword and creeps back toward the farm house. He needs supplies from the house – blankets, water, and a cart to carry Tam – for an overnight trip down the Quarry Road to Emond’s Field.
Back at the barn, looking for Bela and the cart, he finds that the trollocs have killed all of their sheep. Bela is nowhere to be found. He creeps toward the house and it appears to be empty – except for four dead trolloc bodies. Rand crawls over the trolloc bodies at what used to be his front door and looks for water bags. As he is searching, he hears a scraping sound. One of the trollocs from the doorway is not dead. With a wolf’s ears and snout, it gets to its feet.
Others go away. Narg stay. Narg smart.
The trolloc speaks to Rand. It assures Rand that they do not want to kill him because a myrddraal wants to talk to him. The trolloc tries to convince Rand to put down his sword. Rand pretends to comply. As he dropped his sword to his side, the trolloc lunged for him. Rand manages to get his sword up in time to stab the trolloc through the chest as it charged him.
Fearful of a myrddraal, also called “a fade” in the stories, Rand hurries, gets his supplies from the house. In the stories, fades are said to be twenty feet tall, with eyes of flame, and with the ability to disappear when they turn sideways. He flees the house and heads back to the barn. The cart is broken. However, Rand uses the sword to chop cart shafts into the components for a makeshift litter. To Rand’s amazement, the sword did not dull while chopping through the old wood.
Rand returns, carrying his supplies, to where Tam is sleeping in the woods. Tam rouses slightly when Rand reappears. Rand is now ready to take a journey in the dark to Emond’s Field to find Nynaeve. She is Tam’s only hope.
At this point in the story, The Eye of the World is basically a horror novel. Monsters from stories suddenly showing up and kicking in the door of your quiet rural home qualifies as horror, right? I guess the primary distinction between horror and epic fantasy is that the good guys in epic fantasy usually have hidden powers and secret allies to match or better the monsters. You end up on a ride of the good guys “powering up” followed by the bad guys escalating their own power in turn, until we ultimately have a final battle of good verses evil.
In horror, for the most part, you do not see quite as much powering up.
Winternight is the night before Bel Tine (Gaelic May Day in the real world.)
We are introduced to trollocs in this chapter. Tam lets us know that “the stories are real” and that he has known for Rand’s entire life that the stories are real. He even knows men who have seen them before!
Above is one fan interpretation of what a trolloc looks like. I put a link to his Wheel of Time fan art page above. It’s fantastic. However, you should be wary of spoilers.
What exactly are trollocs? They are described as huge human-animal chimeras. Jordan takes inspiration here from Tolkein. The nightmare creatures are named as a combination of Tolkein’s trolls and orcs.
Tam holds his own against the trollocs but suffers a cut in the process. Rand is clearly terrified but handles the situation as well as any reader might hope to in his shoes. But now he has to get his dad to Emond’s Field for healing.
We get our first mention of myrddraal in this chapter. I’ll share some fan art of what they look like another time. However, from where does the name derive? I had to consult “the Thirteenth Depository” for an answer:
Myrddraal: Myrddraal could be a combination of Myrddin, the Welsh name for the Arthurian magician Merlin, and Baal, the ancient Middle Eastern god/demon in the Bible. Similarly, Myrddraal are powerful and hard to kill.
The name also has connotations of ‘murder’.
It should go without saying that 1) that site is an amazing resource for Wheel of Time readers, and 2) it’s chock full of spoilers for first time readers.
Chapter 6: The Westwood
Tam has only one cut but it seems to be the source of his fever. Rand washes and bandages the wound. His father, with a high fever, begins babbling to Rand’s fifteen years dead mother, Kari.
Rand puts together a makeshift litter using blankets and the shafts he cut from the cart. He is worried about Tam’s warning that trollocs track by scent and sound – especially when tam murmurs or moans.
Rand starts out along the Quarry Road. He realizes that they would be too visible on the road so he moves the litter into the woods adjacent to the road. Rand serves as his own carthorse as he carries his father’s little through the woods. He is weary and hungry. The trollocs had broken into the house before Rand could eat dinner.
Suddenly in the darkness, Tam said clearly,
They came over the Dragonwall like a flood and washed the land in blood…. how many died for Laman’s sin?
Tam starts describing a series of lost battles, burning from Cairhein to the Shining Walls. Rand suddenly hears sounds and covers Tam’s mouth. A horse and rider appeared on the nearby Quarry Road, followed by tall bulky shapes trying to keep up. Rand freezes and waits until all of the shapes are gone. As he begins to breathe, the black rider reappears soundlessly, looking into the woods in the direction where Rand is hiding. Abruptly the black rider rides hard, westward, into the night. Rand begins his journey again to Emond’s Field.
Exhausted, Rand begins to imagine Emond’s Field and the villagers celebrating Bel Tine when he arrives. Dancing. Singing. Music. Tam suddenly spoke up again.
Avendesora. It’s said it makes no seed. But they brought a cutting to Cairhein. A sapling. A royal gift of wonder for the King… they never make peace. Never! But they brought a sapling as a sign of peace. Five hundred years it grew. Five hundred years of peace with those who make no peace with strangers. Why did he cut it down?! Why? Blood was the price for Avendoraldera. Blood the price for Laman’s pride.
Rand thinks Tam is dreaming. Avendesora is “the Tree of Life” but none of the stories mention a sapling, or a “they,” and all of the stories about the Tree of Life talk about “The Green Man.” Rand thinks about how only that morning he would have considered trollocs and fades mere stories. Maybe all of these things are real?
Tam starts muttering again about battles and how they stink.
The slope of the mountain… heard a baby cry. Their women fight alongside the men sometimes. But why they had let her come? I don’t… she gave birth there alone before she died of her wounds. She covered the child with her cloak but the wind blew the cloak away. The child blew with the cloak. Should have been dead, too, lying there, crying in the snow. I couldn’t just leave a child. No children of our own. I always knew you wanted children. I knew you’d take it to your heart, Kari. Yes, lass. Rand is a good name.
Rand is in denial about what Tam has said. “You are my father!” Rand touches Tam’s forehead and feels that the fever has worsened. Worrying over what Tam said, he hurries to Emond’s Field.
Jordan does a great job in this chapter of info-dump without it feeling like info-dump. To some extent, he achieves that by not explaining what we are learning. The setting of the information helps, too. Rand’s journey is anxious. Tam’s “fever dream” thus serves as a good way to tell us about Tam’s backstory – and Rand’s backstory – without it feeling as though the author is just narrating a backstory of the wider world.
Jordan pretty openly pays homage to Lord of the Rings in this book. This chapter felt a lot like the hobbits fleeing and hiding from the Nazgul. The chapter is well-written and compelling enough though that I do not feel that the similarities are noticeable *while reading.* (You don’t get pulled out of the story by the fact it has a lot in common with another story.)
At this point in the book, we do not know the meaning of anything Tam has said in the dream except that he has a far more extensive background as a soldier than Rand was previously aware, AND most importantly, that Rand might not be his biological son.
We will find out in the next chapter if Rand makes it to Emond’s Field.