Recent Bela Sightings
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This is a quick one – all I’ve read of The Great Hunt is the prologue, but I wanted to point out some things I really like about how it portrays the “bad guys” of the Wheel of Time.
1. They aren’t one-sided. By that I mean they’re not just evil people out doing evil things because they’re – you guessed it – evil! Bors has chosen to become a Darkfriend for some reason or another. He may be the sort who would to kill his own mother just for fun, at this point, who knows. But he’s still got the faith/beliefs he grew up with deeply ingrained in his being. A lot of minions are scared of their masters. That’s true for the Darkfriends as well – after all, the Forsaken are capable of inflicting great pain upon them even to the point of death. But what I really appreciated was that whereas most minions in stories have a physical master, these guys are serving basically the Embodiment of All Evil, and even though they keep telling themselves it’s what they want, they can’t quite stifle that terrified crying in the back of their minds. Even as Bors professes his “Pledge of Allegiance to The Dark One” out loud, he can’t stop himself, no matter how hard he tries, from reciting the opposite litany in his heart. Because somewhere deep inside of him he is terrified of the Dark One actually showing up for realsies.
2. They’re EVERYWHERE. I mean you know objectively that Darkfriends could be anyone, but for me I didn’t really internalize it until Bors went around listing members of just about every group/order/country/culture/ruling body in the world… and implying that those were only a small portion of those gathered – a few of the nearest people to him. I mean, with numbers like that it’s really scary! How can the good guys expect to get anything done without the baddies finding out? It makes me afraid for them to tell anyone anything – and of course it scares me even more because I know a lot of them aren’t going to be as cautious as I would be because they don’t have this reminder.
3. Someone can be a bad guy without even knowing it. Bors is given orders that are so secret even he can’t know what they are. This is where we get the first indication that someone can have orders they don’t know. After all, if you don’t know you’re evil, you’ll never be able to give it away through poor acting. As a rereader, I know about compulsion and stuff already, but for a first time reader, that could really make one paranoid. In fact, it still makes me paranoid – who’s out there still waiting for some secret kill switch to be flipped in the final book?
I have one last suspicious activity to note before moving on. I can’t believe I missed it the first time around – good thing I read the graphic novel too!
WHY is Bela even on this journey to begin with?
The obvious answer is because Egwene showed up at the last minute and needed a horse. But how did she come to know?
It’s incredibly last minute, preparations are done in secret, and nobody has been informed. They even have an Aes Sedai and a Warder watching out for them to keep anyone from finding out. NOBODY else suspects anything. Not Nynaeve, who keeps a watch on all the villagers. Not Thom, experienced at intrigue as he is – he really only finds out because he’s been preparing to leave on his own in the loft when they enter the stable. Not even Padan Fain, who’s already been set like a hound after the three boys. So why did Egwene notice where everyone else did not?
Did someone perhaps… give her a nudge in the right direction? Someone whose ravens had noted her early in her childhood and remembered her as wanting adventure?
When Bela found out that everyone was leaving she panicked because they weren’t planning on taking her along. As it would be awkward for a horse to follow them on her own, she reached out and gave Egwene’s mind a little tug, pointed out what was going on. It wouldn’t be hard to find her, since she’s always wanted adventure and Bela’s known her in this form for a while.
And to those who will ask why she didn’t tug Padan Fain instead – she needed someone not only would be receptive to going on adventure, but someone who the others would also be willing to bring along without suspicion. Padan Fain is, unfortunately, quite suspicious. Besides, he has his own horses.
I have the great distinction of owning one more WoT book than Erin (The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel Volume 1), so I would like to post on it before I begin reading The Great Hunt.
This is the one book in the series (besides AMoL, of course) that is not a reread for me. I actually just got it and read it for the first time. I had… mixed feelings. There were some things I liked and some I didn’t. I don’t want to get into them too much because I don’t want to heavily affect others’ feelings about the book, but I’d like to list a few.
One thing I really liked was the concept. It was great to have the book in a different style for those out there who are really into graphic novels and don’t quite know how they feel about long books yet. I could see myself using it as a way of drawing in a new reader who I know would like the series but might be put off by the sheer physical size of the novels. Because it doesn’t cover the whole novel, if they really liked this they’d have to pick up the wordy one to get the rest.
However, with the concept comes the art. I’m not really an art snob on the whole; I can always deal with artists picturing things in different ways than I do. So I think it’s cool to have it visually depicted no matter what. And I don’t have any serious issues with the art. In fact, there were some amazing one page scenes (preceding each chapter) depicted by guest artists that I would love to have posters of.
So where’s my problem? Well, I often had trouble deciphering emotions on the faces of the characters. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I would expect something like this to be a great opportunity to really express the characters’ feelings without having to describe them. However, I felt like the characters fell flat in a lot of ways where they didn’t in the novel, and I’m certain it’s because their faces felt too wooden to me. I just never quite felt like they looked emotionally on the same level as their actions or words indicated they were. Even when a character’s action or dialogue was extremely emotionally charged, I felt sometimes like his or her face made it seem… less so. I guess this speaks to Robert Jordan’s talent at showing us instead of telling us? He’s so good at getting their feelings across through the thought, dialogue, and actions that giving us a picture actually makes it worse because it’s not at the same level of quality. (This is personal opinion though; I could just be bad at reading faces.)
Another thing I really DID like is the fact that it includes both the Egwene prologue and the Lews Therin one. I have read Ravens before (borrowed it from Erin, of course), but that’s not something I got until quite late into the series. Honestly, I think it has great merit, and should be read by everyone who hasn’t read it as soon as possible. It’s a prologue for the first book, after all. I’ve handed the Eye of the World to a few people who were turned off by the (as they called it) “weirdness” of Dragonmount. In those cases, Ravens might have worked better to draw them in. I also really like it because it gives us more insight into the psyches of the young main characters. The first time I read EotW, I found Egwene to be kind annoying, and I think that I would have found her less so if I had gotten this look into her brain at the beginning. It really helps to explain the reasoning behind a lot of her actions. It does….how shall I put it, “bash” you over the head with foreshadowing at some points, but that’s understandable seeing as how it was originally meant for readers who aren’t as experienced at picking that out yet. And of course, for re-readers, Ravens is great for a laugh, because some of the aforesaid foreshadowing is pretty awesome/hilarious.
So what would I suggest this as? Definitely not your only EotW experience, but I think it’s a great supplement to the full novel. Some of the visual stuff is really helpful – for instance, the spread of Emond’s Field after the Trolloc attack very nicely shows how some houses were spared and some were totaled. (FINALLY I can fully visualize that!) If you haven’t read From the Two Rivers, it gives you Ravens, which again, I recommend for everyone. And if you want to lure a hesitant reader into the series, it could be a hook to grab them with.
It is my utter and complete pleasure to be honored with discussing the single most suspicious thing The Dark One a.k.a. Bela the horse does over the course of the series:
Survive Shadar Logoth.
Think about it.
8 horses enter the city and four leave. A 50% survival rate isn’t abnormal around WoT horses, especially when Rand is involved (that kid runs through so many horses, I swear), but lets take a look at the horses that survive:
Mandarb: Trained warhorse, ridden by the uncrowned king of Malkier. Who also happens to be a warder and by all accounts an exceptional horseman. Horse’s survival not in question.
Aldieb: Highly trained horse ridden by an Aes Sedai Cairhienen Princess who, if my memory serves, trained horses before she went to the white tower. Horse’s survival not in question.
Nynaeve’s Gelding: Horse trained enough to be accustomed to a rider ridden by the Wisdom of Emond’s Field, who has trained well enough in woodcraft to track a trail left by Lan Mandragoran. Also pointedly ignored by Trollocs in the escape as rider was not a target. Horse’s survival not surprising.
The Dark One a.k.a. Bela: Cart horse ridden infrequently at best and bareback whenever ridden, only recently introduced to a saddle ridden by a village girl. Escaped by plunging from Shadar Logoth into the river Arinelle where she not only survived, but managed to swim across towing said villiage girl.
I ask you, which of these is the most unlikely? Nuff said.