Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
Chapter 31: Play for Your Supper
Rand looks up ahead and sees dust blowing. He and Mat are looking for a place to hide. The dust does not settle and that fact lets Rand know that travelers are its cause. Mat finds a way through a hedge on the side of the road and calls for Rand to follow him through.
The two boys push through the hedge and crouch as a horseman rides by. Seven horsemen. They all carry swords and spears. When the column of dust has moved far enough down the road, Rand peers out.
Rand thinks about the days since they left Whitebridge. Initially he hoped to see Thom following after them. However, that hope faded within a few days. Rand and Mat worry about being pursued by a myrddraal, and they hide when they see riders on the road from a distance, but Rand also suspects that a Fade would not let them see it coming. Rand remembers back to the first village they passed through on the Caemlyn Road and how it reminded him of Emond’s Field. The sight made him homesick. While they were within sight of it, Mat tugged at him to continue on. They agreed that if the myrddraal could find them in Whitebridge, it would have no trouble at all searching for them in a small village. So they hid in the countryside.
The boys saved their money for a few meals at inns they passed through but they often fed themselves with nothing but water. They also avoided sleeping at inns because it would cost too much. They tried to save their money for an emergency.
When Rand suggested selling the ruby hilted dagger Mat rejected the idea angrily. In turn, he suggested that they sell Rand’s sword. The argument continued with Rand pointing out that the sword was a gift from his father and that selling a sword would be a lot more difficult than selling a ruby. Mat eventually shurgs and points out that they have nobody to sell it to, anyway.
A farmer would have to pay in chickens.
Rand reluctantly agrees. He apologizes. They continue on. They were occasionally able to sleep in a haystack. The two boys tried when possible to negotiate chores on a farm for a meal and a bed. Rand worries about the time spent not moving forward, doing chores, because the Fade may be catching up while they are doing those chores.
Mat is suspicious even of the people who offer to help them. Rand points out that the people who help them have just as much reason not to trust the two of them. At one of their stops, a farmer and his wife bring them two meals worth of food in a bundle and tell them that their four big strong sons are on their way – thus they will not have beds they had promised the two of them. Rand takes the food. He and Mat move down the road.
Rand notes that Mat is becoming increasingly suspicious of strangers and increasingly unable to hide that suspicion. As a result, Rand wonders if stopping at farms is a good idea at all.
Rand and Mat stop at the Grinwell Farm. Master Grinwell has nine children. His oldest daughter is only a year younger than the two of them. Mistress Grinwell agrees to launder the dirty clothes they are wearing and to let them wear Master Grinwell’s clothes while they worked. The eldest Grinwell daughter is named Else. She grins at the two boys when her parents are not looking. She hung around close by as they worked, chewing a pigtail. In particular, she watched Rand. Her stares led Rand to put on Master Grinwell’s shirt. It did not fit well.
Perrin would know how to handle this, he thought. He’d make some offhand comment and pretty soon she’d be laughing at his jokes instead of mooning around where her father could see.
Rand is pretty sure that if her father saw the way she smiles at him, he would loose the dogs on he and Mat. She even says she likes tall men.
After doing the work, Rand and Mat joined the Grinwell family around the dinner table. With all the small children around, Mat dug out Thom’s colored balls and began to juggle. When Mat was done, Rand dug out Thom’s flute and began to play. Else’s mother notices her staring at Rand and she turns her attention to him, too. Rand dealt with the attention by continuing to play. Eventually Master Grinwell tells the boys that it is late and says that he has paid money at an Inn for no better entertainment than they provided in his home. Mistress Grinwell says that the boys can sleep in Else’s room and that she can sleep next to her. Master Grinwell agrees that this is a better option than the barn. Mistress Grinwell also suggests that the boys will need an early start if they hope to travel to the next town, Arien, before nightfall.
The next day, while they walked, Mat teased Rand about Else. Rand changed the subject by bringing up the idea of the two of them performing at Inns in exchange for beds. What Rand brought up as a change of subject turned into an actual plan by the time they reached Arien. When they arrived at the only Inn in the village, Rand played his flute for the Innkeeper and Mat demonstrated juggling. The two of them slept in a bed and were fed a warm meal for playing in the Common Room. The next day, they road in the back of Eazil Forney’s cart for several miles toward Caemlyn.
That became the way of their traveling. Rand began to think that their problems were over. Then they came to Four Kings.
Ah, the classic fantasy “hard traveling” sequence.
This entire chapter is a little bit confusing to recap because almost the entire thing is Rand thinking back, from some indeterminate point in the future, about something that has already happened from his perspective. The next chapter is a continuation of this remembrance from Rand. The end result is a weird mix of present tense and past tense while reading through it.
So what happens? Rand mentions that Mat is growing more suspicious of people. The main thrust of this chapter, though, is letting us know how they adopted the strategy of trying to stay at Inns by offering to play the flute and juggle for their food and board. Those Gleeman lessons with Thom finally paid off. When you’re being chased by minions of The Dark One, what could go wrong by making yourself the center of attention at Village Inns? Probably a lot. Nevertheless, maybe that’s better than sleeping under a bush and starving.
Back in July, the Wheel of Time TV series made a casting announcement regarding the Grinwells. Alongside Master and Mistress Grinwell, they also announced the character “Dana” was cast. It is unclear if Dana a name-change for the oldest Grinwell daughter or if she is unrelated to this sequence of the story. There are thousands of names in these books, with no Danas, so she could really be anyone.
My initial reaction to seeing those actors was that they looked too young. The adults look roughly my age. Then I suddenly realized to my horror that in a 16th Century type setting, people that age really could have nine kids.