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 49: Cold Rocks Hold
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Rand al’Thor
Rand, Rhuarc, and the other Jindo begin to jog toward Cold Rocks Hold. Amys joins them, but the rest of the Wise Ones, along with Moiraine and Egwene, continue at a normal pace. Couladin joins the group and then Mat does, too. They approach Lian, the roofmistress of Cold Rocks Hold to give and receive greetings. Rhuarc and Heirn ask leave to enter the hold which is granted. Then Couladin asks, but as a clan chief (which he is not) and receives a bare welcome, as one friendless and alone. Couladin stalks off clearly angry at being greeted as a beggar. Rand gives his greeting and Lian gives hers back to the Car’a’carn.
Rhuarc puts his arms around Amys and Lian and introduces Rand to Amys as the wife he has met and Lian as the wife he hasn’t. Rand hadn’t really grasped that some Aiel had two wives. They enjoy a pleasant meal of a crumbly, course yellow cake; a spicy stew of goat meat and peppers; zemai and t’mat; long red beans mixed in with green beans; and a sweet fruit called a kardon. Aviendha continues to lecture Rand about everything. Rand resolves to give her a gift which he hopes will reduce the sharpness of her tongue. Rhuarc informs Rand that several clan chiefs have already arrived at the meeting place, Alcair Dal, or are on their way.
Rand wonders if he should go soon to the meeting, to make sure the clans do not continue with whatever blood-feuds they have. Rhuarc recommends against that since those not present will lose honor when the Car’a’carn is presented. Rand leaves the conference to go out for a walk.
Most of what happens in this chapter is introduction to Aiel culture. We cover roofmistress rules, greeting a roofmistress, decorations inside the Hold, marriage, sister-wives, foods they eat, and dining (probably more, too, but that’s what comes to my mind first.) I think it’s arguable that Jordan’s greatest strength as a writer is world-building. This chapter leaves me wanting to just hang out with the Aiel, watch their ceremonies, and hang around for a while as Jordan does info dump. Unfortunately, we’re in the fast-action part of this book so I don’t think we’ll get much of that going forward.
The Aiel clan whose name sounds like “shadow,” Shaido, are the troubule-makers. Go figure
Side-tangent: This chapter goes a long way toward telling us that the Aiel have always been a lot closer to events in the Wetlands than the Wetlanders ever really imagined. Trade, books, news of the world, etc., all travels through The Waste. I mention that because this is the only valid explanation for why the Aiel do not speak an entirely different language. English is vastly different than it was 500 years ago. The same should be true of whatever language is spoken in Randland… except that it isn’t. I’m guessing that Artur Hawkwing could arguably have unified a lot of Randland language a thousand years prior to the beginning of the story. Somehow that unification would have needed to include the Aiel, too.
Rand’s relationship with Aviendha is slowly moving its way through a “hostility to love” trajectory. Aviendha has liked Rand from day one and has been angry about the fact that she does (hence the hostility and the deflection toward Elayne.) She attached herself to Egwene when it appeared Egwene was Rand’s betrothed – and I wonder if she maybe secretly hoped to obecome a sister-wife to her wetlander friend Egwene. Now she is struggling with the fact that Rand’s culture clearly does not permit sister-wives (and this struggle is likely why she avoided talking to Rand about that aspect of Aiel culture.) Rand must be intuitively seeing through her hostile projection because he is warming up to her, too, even if he is not doing so consciously.
Rand is the POV character in this chapter and he catches Egwene looking at him more than once with compassion and concern. I have maintained all along that she never stopped liking him romantically. A few chapters ago, she encouraged Aviendha to bring up Elayne’s two letters, knowing that they were confusing and anger-inducing – a fact she learned from Elayne, but Egwene did not mention that to Aviendha. I think Egwene would be quite happy if Rand and Elayne broke things off officially.
Mat does not have a lot to do in this chapter except make an awesome off-handed comment about a fortress that no longer exists – but that he remembers. I really love the slow-build of the implication of Mat’s memories. He knows a LOT about the world and seems to know a lot about battle in particular.
The Rand-Mat dynamic is a very classic Luke Skywalker – Han Solo, Chosen One and Rogue friendship. Jordan does a great job with their interactions.
The chapter ends with Moiraine making Rand so angry that he leaves. I want to respect the Aes Sedai but her inability to figure out how to “handle” Rand is pretty irritating – especially considering her skill at manipulation more generally.
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