Friday, July 24, 2020

I have just started A Memory of Light

The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just started A Memory of Light, the 14th and final Volume of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson).
It is time. The storm has come. The Last Battle. Tarmon Gai'don. The World and Time itself hangs in the balance as the Dragon Reborn makes his demands on the Field of Merrilor and marches under the Banners Dragon and Light across the Mountains of Dhoom to Shayol Ghul to face the Dark One and all the forces of the Shadow. Nations shall crumble and humanity shall be unified. Lies shall be torn off in bloody waves as the earth shakes. The world shall be broken and made whole. "He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one," says the Karaethon Cycle, "Red on black, the Dragon’s blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul. In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow." So is the hope of the Light, and the fear of those who love Rand a'Thor.
It is time. The storm has come. The Last Battle. Tarmon Gai'don.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

I have just finished Towers of Midnight

Mah'alleinir is forged
The great journey continues. The Wheel turns.

I have just finished the Towers of Midnight, Volume #13 of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson).
Thus do the children of Morgase fulfill the Foretelling of the old false Flame of Tar Valon, the Sunburst giving justice to and serving the newly risen and proud Red Wolf while the Golden Lily claims the Sun Throne and White Boar finds true love in service. Thus does the gambler give up half the light in the world to save the world as foretold by the snakes and foxes to rescue an old friend, a true Servant of All. Yet the world hangs by a thread even as the Light gathers, the White Tower a threat and threatened both even as the Dragon Reborn makes final preparations to face the Shadow, while the City of Queens is aflame and the Uncrowned King charges death. The Age draws to a close and the armies of the world march to Tarmon Gai'don. To the Last Battle. It is time.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Love, lust, and Lyanna Stark

Maester Aemon one of the wisest, gentlest, and most beloved characters in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series – once said to Jon Snow: "love is the bane of honor, the death of duty."

Prince Rhaegar Targaryen
Lyanna Stark
Not so wise after all, I guess, as any moral and sane person would passionately state otherwise. Yet GRRM twists those words into a kind of sick truth in A Song of Ice and Fire, as exemplified in the character of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Dead during the events of the series, his history casts a long shadow throughout – making him a very present man for all that he lives only in the memories of other key characters. (Worry not, for what follows is essentially background knowledge, not spoilers.) Often described as a man of honor, a noble Prince who did his duty and had skills with both blades and books, his death and that of his House was brought about by a very singular event. Ser Barristan Selmy once noted that "Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna and thousands died for it." Well, one of those thousands was Lyanna Stark herself and two others were her father and eldest brother. To cut a long take short, the already married Rhaegar showed an interest of Lyanna (who was betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon) over his own wife and then, later, kidnapped her. A noble, married, Prince kidnaps a sixteen year old girl who is later found, after the war's end and Rhaegar's death. Found by her brother Ned in the tower where Rhaegar had taken her. Found dying in a "bed of blood". I admit that the exact nature of her death is still a subject of speculation with the fandom of the series, but Lyanna's husband-to-now-never-be told Ned his opinion in no uncertain terms: "And Rhaegar ... how many times do you think he raped your sister? How many hundreds of times?"
Lyanna died in a room
that smelled of "blood and roses"
An opinion which, given GRRM's penchant for rampant needless porn and rape, is quite believable. Hence one can see how GRRM makes a sick truth out of the words "love is the bane of honor, the death of duty" in his world for, by that twisted logic, if Rhaegar had not loved Lyanna he would not have strayed from his duty and lost his honor. Well, my answer is that any fool knows that no honorable person would EVER behave as Rhaegar did. Would ever commit such heinous crimes. Which adds yet another crime to GRRM's name: mistaking lust for love in his series. Mistaking and deceiving the readers into thinking so, for other more truly honorable characters, even Ser Barristan, speak fondly of him; speak of the good in Prince Rhaegar. Good in a kidnapper and likely rapist as well as unfaithful father and husband whose deeds led to the deaths of thousands? Not in any sane and moral person's book. Indeed, I have read in many other Fantasies the same definition of love: that to love is care about another above yourself and your needs so much that everything you do is designed to keep that person happy and safe. By that truth that everyone in their heart knows do I declare that Rhaegar did not love Lyanna as the beginning of their 'relationship' was him favoring her over his own wife, the middle being him abducting her, and the end was her dying in a pool of her own blood on the bed into the tower he had taken her to. A damsel-in-distress locked in the tower, as it were, only this time the handsome prince was the villain in every sense of the word; an appropriate twisting of that archetype, for in its traditional fairy-tale use the noble prince truly does love and care for the trapped lady in question. Yet GRRM, again, calls Rhaegar's feelings love and has more praise of the prince than otherwise throughout his work and to the extent that reader even feels sympathetic towards him. I know, for even I felt so back when I was one of the series' strongest fans. A feeling I spit upon now, for it is never hinted in even the vaguest terms that before his death Rhaegar regretted what he did to Lyanna. Never hinted that he felt remorse. Indeed, the Targaryen Prince even named Lyanna Stark's lofty prison the Tower of Joy.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Dragon's Madness

The Dragon Banner
The Coat of Arms of
House Targaryen of Dragonstone
While reading Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time I am struck at times by interesting similarities between it and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I have already stated in my Rumors of the Wheel page that before the Game of Thrones was played in Westeros the Game of Houses (also called "The Great Game," translated as "Daes Dae'mar" in the Old Tongue) was played in the Westlands and are every bit as devious as those GRRM spins. In fact, I think the Cairhienin contending for the Sun Throne could teach the Westerosi a few things in their endless wars for the Iron. More to the point, in reading the Knife of Dreams I recently came across a quote of Lews Therin Telamon, called "the Dragon" in his day and after that rang a distant bell in my brain. Then while aimless surfing the web I found myself on a wiki page dedicated to one Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen.

"A man who trusts everyone is a fool and a man who trusts no one is a fool. We are all fools if we live long enough." - Lews Therin Telamon

"It seems to me that a queen who trusts no one is as foolish as a queen who trusts everyone." - Daenerys Targaryen

Aerys II Targaryen, also called the Mad King,
and the father of Daenerys
Lews Therin Kinslayer
Quite the similarity there, beyond question. And as to the question of whether this is a coincidence, well, while I cannot read the mind of the GRRM, I can point out other marked similarities between the Stormborn and the First Among Servants (another of Lews Therin's titles). Beginning with their last names, as Telamon and Targaryen are not exactly worlds apart linguistically. Yet it goes well beyond that. Lews Therin is named the Dragon and was key to defeating the Shadow in the long-ago War of Power as per the prophecies of the day. Daenerys Targaryen is named the Mother of Dragons and is descended from Aegon the Dragon whose conquests she seeks to emulate but, more importantly, she appears to be the princess that was promised and, per the prophecy of Azor Ahai, is destined to save the world from darkness. Is there an echo in here? Yes, and in continues into madness. Literally, for as Barristan the Bold once noted, "Every child knows that the Targaryens have always danced too close to madness." Indeed, Dany's father and several ancestors killed countless and died themselves of it. Just like Lews Therin Telamon, who went horribly mad, was renamed Lews Therin Kinslayer, and whose fate makes the strong tremble three millennia after his death.

The Dragon Reborn
The princess that was promised
Do the above quotes combined with the all rest heavily suggest that GRRM's Daenerys Targaryen was at least partly inspired by Robert Jordan's Lews Therin Telamon? At face value perhaps, yet it is more accurate to say that the Dragon was the inspiration behind House Targaryen. Which brings up other similarities. The Targaryens, under the Aegon the Dragon, united Westeros under their banner in the War of Conquest, just as Lews Therin united and led the forces of the Light under his during the War of Power. It has already been mention that both Telamon and House Targaryen fell to madness that decimated their families made people curse their names. Yet in both cases, in both book series, this is the stuff of history. Was the Stormborn based off the First Among Servants? Not quite. Rather she is based off Rand al'Thor the Dragon Reborn. Remember that Dany is descended from, seeks to emulate, and is effectively called Aegon the Dragon come again in female form by Tyrion Lannister. Well, Rand is literally Lews Therin the Dragon come again (hence his title the Dragon Reborn). Remember that Dany appears to be the princess that was promised and, per the prophecy of Azor Ahai, is destined to save the world from darkness: "When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone." Well, Rand is the subject of the Prophecies of the Dragon (also called the Karaethon Cycle) and is destined to save the world from the Shadow. In fact, the two prophecies mirror each other almost exactly; just looked at the wording: "Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone." Not a far cry from the Dragon Reborn, whose coming will be largely identified by his taking the Stone of Tear. "The Stone of Tear will never fall, till Callandor is wielded by the Dragon’s hand. The Stone of Tear will never fall, till the People of the Dragon come." In short, both Dany and Rand are both ancient saviors come again, and there is a good argument that GRRM based the prophecy of Azor Ahai off of the Karaethon Cycle. Azor Ahai was called Shadowchaser. Rand is called by wolves Shadowkiller. Azor Ahai helped end the Long Night and there is a possible connection between him and the Battle for the Dawn in which the Others were driven back beyond the Wall in Westeros. Well, Lews Therin was named the Lord of the Morning and the Prince of the Dawn and was key in sealing the Dark One away which ended the War of Shadow (another name for the War of Power) in what is now named the Westlands. Also and briefly returning to linguistics, anyone familiar with ASOIAF knows the name Aemon as it is the first name of a certain maester at Castle Black, as well as the first name of various other members of House Targaryen in history. Yet the first instance of the name was in Aemon al Caar al Thorin, the last King of lost Manetheren among whose descendants the Dragon Reborn was raised.Which makes a double connection as not only did GRRM employ the name Aemon, he made it a not-uncommon one among the Dragonkings Targaryen.

Winter's Heart
Demons made of snow and ice and cold.
The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.
Furthermore, do not try telling me that GRRM is utterly unique is using the seasons as he does in relation to the Azor Ahai prophecy, for here is a section of the Karaethon Cycle that would sound perfectly appropriate coming from the lips of Melisandre or any Red Priest of R'hllor: "The Seals that hold back the night shall weaken, and in the heart of winter shall winter’s heart be born, amid the wailings of lamentation and the gnashing of teeth, for winter’s heart shall ride a black horse, and the name of it is Death." I am not saying that GRRM did a bad job, and indeed I have said in the past that he is an absolutely brilliant storyteller and at making winter and night a thing to fear; indeed, the Others are truly chilling enemies. "Winter is coming." "The night is dark and full of terrors." Yet reading The Wheel of Time showed me that A Song of Ice and Fire was and is not as unique as I first thought for by all appearances GRRM drew heavy inspiration from Robert Jordan. Nor am I the only person to notice this.

Moving away now from prophecies but continuing with the comparison, Remember that Dany and others worry about the madness in her blood and if/when she will succumb to it. Well, the same is true of Rand albeit that the madness comes from a different source which I cannot say for fear of spoilers. Finally, both struggle with the burdens of leadership and whom they can trust, which ties into the initially given quotes of Lews Therin Telamon, which Rand heeds, and Daenerys Targaryen.

In ending, I feel inclined to mention that I am not criticizing George R.R. Martin for drawing such inspiration from Robert Jordan. Anything but, as to do so would be hypocritical in the extreme given how the entire Fantasy genre draws heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Jordan is as guilty of that as any; perhaps more so. Not much difference between Ogier and Ents, right down to their long lives, love of trees, and "do not be hasty" motto. And just as the White Tower on Tar Valon stands guard against the Dark One Shai'tan, so too did the White Tower of Minas Tirith guard against the Dark Lord Sauron. To say nothing of Pit of Doom beyond the Mountains of Dhoom, which could not be a clearer tribute to the Cracks of Doom on Mount Doom. Finally, recall the name Aemon al Caar al Thorin, the last King of lost Manetheren? Well, Manetheren means "Mountain Home" in the Old Tongue, and quite fittingly as the nation's capital city was built into the Mountains of Mist, making the realm's true wealth based in the gold, silver, and other precious metals. As to Aemon al Caar al Thorin himself, he died defending his home from Trollocs. A fairly clear tribute to Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain and the Dwarven realm of Erebor (called the Lonely Mountain) from The Hobbit. At the day's end, all roads lead back to Middle-earth.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The quotes of good friends

One does not need to be a famous (or Fantasy) author or a celebrity to say things that are worthy of being quoted. Indeed, I have always found the best quotes come from the part of us that is most connected to the human spirit, when we are thinking about the world and what it is to be human, for that is when Fantasy, the Spirit of Tolkien, links with each and every one of us. Why? Because while escapism may be the beating heart of the Fantastic, humanity, an examination of what it means to be human through adventure, are the lungs. Here are a series of quotes from personal friends of mine, posted by them on Facebook and then saved by me. (Naturally I have omitted their last names.)

"Humans are good. Some people are evil, and because of that we are forced to feel pain and anger and sadness. Some people will hurt us, try to break us and destroy us from the inside out. But that will never happen, because some people are not all people. Our humanness, the part of us that loves and feels and cares and defends, cannot be broken. That part of us is the human, and that part will always be good." - Sierra

"Tell people you love them as often as you can whenever you genuinely feel it." - Ali

"It's a great feeling when your favorite books touch places that you know, but we need to think about what these and other stories are teaching us with their silence. The stories we tell, fictional and non-fictional, curate the ways we imagine. Since history is at its heart story-telling, the limits of our imagination become the limits of our historical curiosity and compassion." - Sophie

"The point of the hero defeating the dragon isn't that dragons exist, it's that the dragon can be defeated." - Ag 

"It's okay if your best is 80% one day, and 40% the next. It's okay to waver. If we performed our best every day, there would be no room for growth, or observation, or pauses in the interim of, simply, living. We wouldn't be able to stop and remember to love what is around us." -Ali

"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." - Rachel

"The march of all of human history has no brakes, especially not for people trying to throw it into reverse." - Ben

"Don't worry about how your writing turns out, you will have all the time in the world to fail, fail again, fail harder, and learn to become better. Enjoy the transformation." - Lindsay

Patience does not always mean the waiting is meaningless. Patience is learning that the waiting actually has purpose." - Ali

"If you are feeling discouraged, distraught, confused, concerned about humanity, go spend some time talking to kids. You will see that hatred is a learned trait. Take control of that learning, because these kind and strange little geniuses are everything." - Violet 

"Respect is not handed to you just because you are older or more experienced. Respect is earned. The only thing I'll give you for free is the benefit of the doubt." - Eli

The left is a quote from my friend Maggie, and the right one was my reply.
This was, like the others, was part of a facebook conversation,
one I liked it so much I made this image out of it.