He is born again! I feel him!
September 2, 2019
In the second chapter of New Spring, we see the rebirth of the Dragon as Foretold by Gitara Moroso, and while I was initially planning this post, I was thinking of it as the Inciting Incident for the four-million-plus words that follow.
But that’s not right.
It’s not the foretelling that’s the inciting incident; it’s the rebirth of the Dragon itself. That realization made me question why Robert Jordan would present us the information this way. To be sure, at publication, we already knew the bare facts, and this chapter was all about introducing Moiraine Damodred, Siuan Sanche, and the Aes Sedai.
But there’s more.
By presenting the incident itself offstage, Jordan had a chance to engage with one of his favorite themes—the distortion of memories over time and distance. How does the first chapter of every book start?
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
As with Duty in the first chapter, this is a theme Jordan deals with a lot so it’s one I’m going to pay attention to during this re-read, and because I don’t have a better term for it, I’ll be tagging those with StoryDistortion.
How it Starts
It starts right away. We see the words Gitara Moroso uses, and it’s evident that she’s talking about a baby:
“He is born again! I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slopes of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!”
I don’t know how the Black Ajah learned that something was afoot, but they did, and they tortured and ultimately murdered Tamra Ospenya to find out what had happened and who Ospenya had sent to search for the Dragon Reborn.
Somehow, Ospenya was able to hold back the fact that the Dragon had just been reborn so the Black Ajah didn’t know they were looking for a baby. That one tiny distortion in the real story had enormous consequences.
Consequences, They’re a Bitch
With Moroso dying immediately after the foretelling, and the Black Ajah killing Ospenya and all those she had assigned to search for the Dragon Reborn, the only ones left who knew the Dragon had been reborn and didn’t want to kill him were Moiraine and Siuan Sanche. That’s why I didn’t talk about them in the last post even though it was all about duty.
Jordan thinks that when you’re the only one who knows about a threat, you’re duty-bound to act on it. I think every significant character does so at one time or another, but Moiraine and Siuan might be the only ones who dedicate their entire lives to it. They have to find the Dragon Reborn, and they have to keep the search secret.
It wasn’t a duty that was assigned to them the way it was with the ta’veren; it was a coincidence of fate that left them as the only ones who could act. They accepted the responsibility and dedicated their lives to it.
The Ripple Effects
One could argue that the Black Ajah’s misunderstanding was as fundamental to the story as the Dragon’s rebirth. Because of it, they didn’t look for babies. Instead, they looked for every man who looked like he might be able to channel.
The Black Ajah roped in the Red Ajah and killed every man they found remotely suspicious without bothering to confirm the men could channel. This period was called the Vileness, and the repercussions ultimately took down the leadership of both the Black Ajah and the Red Ajah while driving a wedge between Thom Merrilin and Morgase Trakand.
The Black Ajah was not hampered by the Three Oaths, but the Red sisters involved in the hunt would often gentle male channelers without returning them to the Tower as Tower law required. If they couldn’t confirm the ability to channel, they’d often tell the man’s neighbors that he could channel and left them to deal with him.
Thom’s nephew Owyn could channel, and the Reds gentled him and told his neighbors, resulting in his death. This sparked a conflict between Thom and Elaida du Avriny a’Roihan which gave the issue enough publicity that the Amyrlin had to deal with it.
The Amyrlin and the Hall of the Tower ousted the Red Sitters and forced them to publicly retire while privately sending them off to perform hard labor as punishment.
When Ishamael escaped from Shayol Ghul, he demanded a report from the head of the Black Ajah and was aghast at what they were doing. It wasn’t that he was opposed to killing innocents, of course, it’s just that he wanted to turn the Dragon Reborn to the Dark instead of killing him. He killed the Black leader and installed Alviaren Friedhen in her place.
In all this mess, the Black were also able to get one of their own—Galina Casban—named as the head of the Red Ajah.
When Thom Merrilin went off to save Owyn, he angered Morgase Trakand, who put a price on his head. He also developed a deep distrust of Aes Sedai that led him to follow along when Moiraine Damodred scurried some youngsters out of Emond’s Field one night.
One tiny piece of information that didn’t get past defined the battle between the Light and the Dark for twenty years, ended the lives of hundreds of characters we never met, and defined the lives of Moiraine, Siuan, and Thom, putting them in place to guide the Emond’s Fielders.
It was a hell of a ripple.