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.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 36: Web of the Pattern
Master Gill takes Mat and Rand to a table and gives them some food. Rand shakes his head ruefully because there is not much food on the plate. He wonders when the world will run out of food altogether. Gill sets the boys at a table in the back where he can speak with them privately and without being overheard. He asks them about the trouble they are in so that he knows what he is getting into by helping them.
Rand relays the story as best as he can but leaves out the Fades and Trollocs. He does try to make it clear that people are attempting to kill the two of them and that the Aes Sedai said some of them are Darkfriends. He tells Gill that he and his friends were separated during an attack while trying to reach Whitebridge, that Thom died in Whitebridge trying to save them from another attack, and that he and Mat went on to Caemlyn hoping to meet his friends here.
Gill tells Rand that he will hear and find out if Moiraine and Lan enter the city. When Rand asks Gill about going to Elaida for help, he says that doing so might be a bad idea because of Rand’s connection to Thom.
They say she can cut right through to what a man wants to hide.
Gill also says that but for Thom, they might be able to go to the Queen’s Guards to help with Darkfriends. However, if they do that, word about Darkfriends will reach Elaida, and then they will have to deal with her personally. Mat agrees about not going to the Guards. Gill says that the issue is the two boys are caught up in the fringes of politics even if it is not of their own doing.
And politics is a foggy mire full of snakes.
Gill sees that the cook wants to speak with him so he gets up and leaves. On his way, he says that they need not worry about Darkfriends in Caemlyn. He also mentions that Caemlyn has been overrun with rats lately.
When he is gone, Mat is not eating and Rand asks him why. Mat laughs bitterly that everything was supposed to be alright if only they could reach Caemlyn. Now nothing is right and they have to somehow reach Tar Valon. Mat is also suspicious of Master Gill.
What kind of man just shrugs off Aes Sedai and Darkfriends? It isn’t natural.
Rand tells Mat to eat and eventually he does. However, Rand is worried that the city walls will not stop a Fade. He is also worried about the Dark One using rats as spies. A serving maid shows them to their attic room. She flirts with Rand and he wishes that he had Perrin’s way with women. Mat lies down on the bed and faces the wall clutching the dagger beneath his coat.
Rand tells Mat that they need to speak more with Master Gill and suggests that he might know how to find Perrin, Egwene, and the others. Rand suggests that they might already be in the city if they kept their horses after Shadar Logoth. Mat mutters “they’re dead” to the wall.
Rand leaves him and goes downstairs. Rand stares suspiciously at everyone who enters. He asks a maid if there is another room where he can sit. She suggests the library and points him toward a door at the end of the hallway. When Rand enters the library, he stops and stares. The shelves hold three or four hundred books. This is the most books he has ever seen in one place.
Suddenly a throat clears behind him. Rand turns and sees someone. Rand’s eyes travel up, and up, and up, to a head near the ten foot ceiling. He sees a snout, eyebrows that hang like a tail, and a shaggy mane. “Trolloc!”
The voice rumbles, “I wish you humans wouldn’t do that.” The voice complains that humans do not remember them but then takes blame for that lack of remembrance noting how few of his people have gone out among humans since the War of 100 Years.
Rand gets to his feet and offers his hand. “My name is Rand al’Thor.”
Loial, son of Arent, son of Halan. Your name sings in my ears Rand al’Thor.
Rand returns the greeting but he still does not know what Loial is. Loial tells him that humans are very excitable. He says that during his first day in Caemlyn he could not believe the uproar.
Children cried, women screamed, and a mob chased me all the way across the city waving clubs and knives and torches and shouting “trolloc!” I’m afraid I was almost beginning to get a little upset.
Loial has been in Caemlyn for four days. Suddenly Rand realizes that Loial is an Ogier. He also realizes that Loial has said there have been six generations since the War of 100 Years and asks Loial how old he is. Defensively, Loial says he is 90 years old. Loial tells Rand that he sneaked away from his stedding without permission. Even at 90 years old, he is not old enough by Ogier reckoning to go out on his own.
Loial describes himself as having a reputation for being hot-headed. Rand bites his lip to keep from laughing. If Loial is a hot headed Ogier he can imagine what most Ogier are like. Rand asks him why he wanted to travel so much. Loial answers that he needed to see. “The more I read, the more that I knew I had to go outside.”
Loial wants most to see The Groves planted by the Ogier after The Breaking of the World. He is less interested in the cities. He tells Rand that Ogier learned how to work with stone after the Breaking but that their people prefer the trees that are actually alive. He says that some Ogier still work with stone to make repairs to human cities. He saw some Ogier, from another stedding, when he passed through Cairhien doing that. Loial says that working with stone is something that was thrust on Ogier by the weaving of the Pattern but The Groves came from their hearts.
Loial goes on to explain that Ogier believe in The Pattern. Loial also explains that Ogier are bound to the stedding. Humans can travel any place at any time, but Ogier must return to steddings after travel or else they become sick and die.
Loial tells Rand that most of what he read about the world has changed. Cities have different names. The Groves are either overgrown or they have been cut down. Loial believes that the entire world will show him the same story of overgrown and chopped down Groves. Rand tells him not to give up.
“Yes that’s the way of your kind, isn’t it.” The Ogier’s voice changed as if he were quoting something. “Til shade is gone, ’til water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the Last Day.”
Rand does not know what Loial is talking about. They sit in silence for a minute. Rand asks a question to break the silence. He asks if the Great Trees are like Avendesora. Loial tells Rand that he of all people knows better than that. Rand asks why he would know and Loial questions him as to whether he is playing a joke.
L: Sometimes you Aielmen think the oddest things are funny.
R: What? I’m not an Aielman. I’m from the Two Rivers.
Loial apologizes. He also tells Rand that he does not know where it is. Rand tells him that someone once told him that it was once called Manetheren.
L: Your pain sings in my heart, Rand al’Thor. We could not come in time.
Loial notes that Rand has traveled nearly as far from his home as he has traveled from his own home. He asks Rand why. Rand finds himself telling Loial the entire truth of his travels. The only part of the story he holds back are his dreams.
Abruptly Loial says “ta’veren.” He explains that the Pattern will allow people to make small changes to their lives. A person can live on a farm or in a village. But the Pattern will not allow certain big changes – like choosing to be a king.
L: And sometimes the Wheel bends a life-thread, or several threads, in such a way that all the surrounding threads are forced to swirl around it, and those force other threads, and those still others, and on and on. That first bending to make the Web, that is ta’veren, and there is nothing you can do to change it, not until the Pattern itself changes. The Web – ta’maral’ailen, it’s called – can last for weeks, or for years. It can take in a town, or even the whole Pattern
Loial tells Rand that both Artur Hawkwing and Lews Therin Kinslayer were ta’veren. Loial laughs that Elder Haman would be proud of him for listening to his lectures about the Pattern.
Loial tells Rand that he is ta’veren and his friends might be also. He then tells Rand that he wishes to travel with him. Rand warns him about what is chasing them and Loial replies that there is a Grove in Tar Valon and that the Grove there is well tended. Rand tells Loial that traveling with him might not be a good idea because of the danger they will be facing all the way to Tar Valon. Loial then asks Rand if he will at least talk with him sometimes. Rand agrees readily.
This is a chapter where we really dive into the cosmology of the Wheel of Time. “The Pattern” is something like a fantasy fiction version of string theory. Every life is a thread in a cosmic Pattern with some degree of free will. However, some people – ta’veren – bend the options of the lives/threads around themselves in such a way that those threads/lives end up tied to the ta’veren.
[This is basically story-telling plot armor built into the fabric of the universe. Rand needs ____ and he gets it because his ta’veren nature pulls a person with that skill set toward him. He is about to get attacked on Winternight? Aes Sedai and Warder show up. He needs to learn about the world? Worldly Gleeman also shows up. Needs a boat ride? Boat shows up. Etc. But to Jordan’s credit this is executed deftly.]
We’ll revisit this topic a lot more throughout the series.
We also find out from Master Gill in this chapter that Rand’s idea of going to Elaida, in a pinch, is probably a bad idea.
The other big event from this chapter is that we meet an Ogier! Loial is immediately trustworthy because, well, his name. If that’s not enough, he likes to read and he’s always going on about being hasty. You can always completely trust anyone who reads a lot and complains about hastiness.
Robert Jordan almost certainly took the name “Ogier” from King Og of the Bible.
In Deut. 3:11 and later in the book of Numbers and Joshua, Og is called the last of the Rephaim. Rephaim is a Hebrew word for giants. Deut. 3:11 declares that his “bedstead” (translated in some texts as “sarcophagus”) of iron is “nine cubits in length and four cubits in width”, which is 13.5 by 6 feet (4.1 by 1.8 m) according to the standard cubit of a man. It goes on to say that at the royal city of Rabbah of the Ammonites, his giant bedstead could still be seen as a novelty at the time the narrative was written. If the giant king’s bedstead was built in proportion to his size as most beds are, he may have been between 9 and 13 feet (2.7 and 4.0 m) in height. However, later Rabbinic tradition has it, that the length of his bedstead was measured with the cubits of Og himself.
The legend of Og extends outside of the Bible, too.
The 2nd-century BC apocryphal book “Ogias the Giant” or “The Book of Giants” depicts the adventures of a giant named Ogias who fought a great dragon, and who was supposedly either identical with the Biblical Og or was Og’s father.
The book enjoyed considerable currency for several centuries, especially due to having been taken up by the Manichaean religion.
‘Uj ibn Anaq (‘Ûj ibn ‘Anâq) is a giant in Islamic mythology although not mentioned in the Quran. The origins of this character lay in Jewish folklore and the Old Testament, e.g. king Og. He takes his matronymic from his mother ʿAnāq (daughter of Adam) who begat him after an incestuous affair.
Famous and much-painted episodes include his fight with the Prophet Moses (Musa), and his fishing and frying of whales, while he stands just about knee-deep in the ocean.
A reference to “Og” appears in a Phoenician inscription from Byblos (Byblos 13) published in 1974 by Wolfgang Rölling in “Eine neue phoenizische Inschrift aus Byblos,” (Neue Ephemeris für Semitische Epigraphik, vol 2, 1-15 and plate 1). It appears in a damaged 7-line funerary inscription that Rölling dates to around 500 BC, and appears to say that if someone disturbs the bones of the occupant, “the mighty Og will avenge me.”
A possible connection to Og and the Rephaim kings of Bashan can also be made with the much older Canaanite Ugaritic text KTU 1.108 from the 13th century B.C., which uses the term “king” in association with the root /rp/ or “Rapah” (the Rephaim of the Bible) and geographic place names that probably correspond to the cities of Ashtaroth and Edrei in the Bible, and with which king Og is expressly said to have ruled from (Deuteronomy 1:4; Joshua 9:10; 12:4; 13:12, 31). The clay tablet from Ugarit KTU 1.108 reads in whole, “May Rapiu, King of Eternity, drink [w]ine, yea, may he drink, the powerful and noble [god], the god enthroned in Ashtarat, the god who rules in Edrei, whom men hymn and honour with music on the lyre and the flute, on drum and cymbals, with castanets of ivory, among the goodly companions of Kothar. And may Anat the power<ful> drink, the mistress of kingship, the mistress of dominion, the mistress of the high heavens, [the mistre]ss of the earth.” Og’s existence and true identity is disputed.
Other than height, Loial does not appear to be much like the historical Og of our world. Maybe that will change!