May 2011


Today marks the first day in Olaf Keith’s new series on the history of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams. The first in the series is a detailed analysis of the

Well, this is it. The finale to the Tier 2 Wheel of Time Casting Call. Most of the pseudo-main characters are done, and next time you see a Casting Call after today, we will be focusing on the really BIG PICTURE characters – the SuperGuys, SuperGals, and a couple other important peepz. But for now, let’s talk about this week.

There are only six this week, as that fills out the remainder of my arbitrarily-assigned Tier 2 Cast, and if I were to guess, I would say that most of the castings this week should go by with very little hitch. It’s not to say I’m perfect (I can talk about that in another blog sometime if you’d like), but I believe these last six are just not going to cause a lot of grief. I could be wrong (it’s happened before – rarely), but I think this will be a pretty smooth-sailing week.

As a note on the art: For most of the art I use for characters, I am getting it from the amazing Seamas Gallagher gallery, who does some of the best WoT art out there. Some of the other I’ve used is from the equally amazing Jeremy Saliba. A lot of the art I use is cropped, so that I can fit the most character on the screen without having to deal with fancy borders and such, so you guys should definitely check these guys’ sites out (where you will find the full, beautiful pictures) and support them if at all possible. Some characters, no matter how important(ish) they are, do not have art though. There will likely be no squids this week, though I was awfully tempted to throw up a few fish pictures in one character’s introduction. Stupid fish.

As a note on the continuity of this project – next week, I will not be posting (or if I am, it will just be a bit of a round-up of Tier 2), and will get back to posting the actual list on Friday, May 20. As a note on spoilers – they will exist (likely). Read on!

Tier 2 Casting

Sevanna
First up this week is everyone’s favorite Wise One, Sevanna. Sevanna was known throughout pretty much the entire series (books 4 – . . . 11?) as one of the biggest Toolz (TM) to ever walk through Randland. But man, she caused a lot of strife. She, along with Couladin (and with no little help from Asmodean) help set into motion the massive Shaido-OtherAiel War that never really ended. Perrin stomped out most of it in Knife of Dreams, but as far as we know, they could still be around. Sevanna received her well-deserved uppance, but unfortunately, her head has not decorated a pike yet, which is really about the best fate that she could get at this point.

She is known to be a bit of a slut . . . well, slut, flashing herself all across the place. She is also very beautiful, with golden hair, green eyes, and a “considerable bosom,” which is often lavishly covered with sparklies – likely only there for the sole purpose of drawing the eyes to said bosom.

I’m going Tricia Helfer for this role, who pretty much played the same character through the first season of the new Battlestar Galactica. She has all the attributes needed to meet our Sevanna criteria, and she’s just plain awesome. I considered her for Graendal as well, but she wasn’t quite curvy enough for that. Oh, she’s also very tall, so that fits the whole “really tall Aiel” thing that we like to fit when possible.

Tricia Helfer as Sevanna

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
Battlestar Galactica
Burn Notice (for half a season)
Plenty of other TV shows


Shaidar Haran, by Jeremy Saliba
Next up is everyone’s favorite SuperFade, Shaidar Haran. Shaidar first showed up in his current incarnation during Demandred’s meeting with the Dark One in Lord of Chaos, and has shown up at various (in)convenient parties since then. He is the Hand of the Dark One, and as far as most people are concerned, he’s pretty much Shai’tan’s avatar on the planet.

He looks like most Myrddraal, but is tall, even for one of them. He is also described by many as the only Myrddraal to be seen smiling (though Rand sees one smile at him in tEotW – we’ll ignore that as an EotW-ishm). Basically, he’s a big, bad-ass brute. Not much more to go on.

Stab out his eyes, and Robert Maillet is a spittin’ image of Jeremy Saliba’s art up above. In fact, in his role in 300, he actually looks very much like the art. Even loses an eye to Leonidas. Maillet is a wrestler first, but he’s been getting in to movies, and he’s currently one of my favorite tough-man actors running amok in Hollywood.

Robert Maillet as Shaidar Haran

Places you’ve possibly seen him:
300
Sherlock Holmes
err… WWF? Several movies coming out soon, too!


Siuan Sanche, by Seamas Gallagher
Caught like a fish in a net in The Shadow Rising, Siuan Sanche spends the remainder of the series making odd proverbs about her time boating and fishing as a young girl. Amyrlin first, once in Salidar, she quickly becomes a tiny fish in a big pond, trying to bait a bunch of bigger fish to kill the shark. Or something. Fish metaphors are stupid.

he is nearly a hand taller than Moiraine and is pretty, if not quite beautiful, with blue eyes and a delicate mouth. She is fair skinned with dark glossy hair to her shoulders. After being Stilled, she has lost about twenty years and looks very young now. The artwork above shows her looking bitchy while (presumably) tending to Gareth Bryne’s underwear. I like that picture.

Gemma Arterton is getting this one. I didn’t really know about her until the newest James Bond movie, but I thought she played a saucy character pretty well there. She is tall(ish), with naturally dark hair, and very fair-skinned. I would think she would need to get her voice a bit deeper to sound like how I imagine Siuan, but all actors have to do some voice training every now and then, right?

Gemma Arterton as Siuan Sanche

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
James Bond: Quantum of Solace
Clash of the Titans
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Thom Merrilin, by Seamas Gallagher
Thom Merrilin dances onto the scene within three chapters of the first book, and immediately captures our hearts with his humorous and surly outlook on the quaint little Two Rivers. Turns out he’s a bit more than just a simple gleeman, but we should have known that anyway, being involved in an epic fantasy series and all. Always filled with wisdom (and snark), he’s been hanging with Mat for a long time now, and finally got his girl in the latest book.

He is fairly old, has a gnarled face, shaggy, snowy hair and blue eyes. He is tall, with stooped shoulders, but his white hair and long mustaches make him appear older than he probably is, given his spryness. He is frequently portrayed as smoking a pipe. He limps nowadays due to a never-Healed wound (time for Nynaeve to come take care of that), and his mustaches are the most recognizable features on him, other than his patched cloak.

I did not go with Sam Elliott for Thom, though everyone in the world seems to want him, and he’s usually the pick on the other Casting blogs. Quite frankly, I just don’t like Elliot’s voice – it’s too low and . . . ‘country’ to do what I want with Thom (this coming from the guy who just said all actors do voice training every now and then – consistent, I ain’t). I did, however, find another awesome old spry guy, named Bill Nighy, that I think will do perfectly fine. He may need to wear a weave, and grow out that fine ‘stache, but on the other hand, he’s played characters recently who had an entire squid for a face, so I don’t think it would be too much work just to give him some facial hair.

Bill Nighy as Thom Merrilin

Places you’ve possibly seen him:
Underworld
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Verin Mathwin
Verin Mathwin was a theory-favorite enigma for about . . . oh, twelve books (and continues to be even after her death. See: Nakomi). We finally learned her deal in The Gathering Storm, where she pretty much single-handedly brought down the Black Ajah (thus making Pevara unfortunately irrelevant – let’s hope Pev & Co. get to kick Taim’s ass next book!). She is known as a rambler, but she is very, very sneaky, and has used her seemingly absent-mindedness to accomplish all sorts of sneaky, sneaky things throughout the series.

Verin is often described as plump, and a bit on the short side. She has dark eyes and brown hair, with a touch of gray (making her pretty old by Aes Sedai standards). She smiles often, sometimes to disarm people, sometimes to get what she wants, and sometimes because she’s just a pleasant person. She also has a bird-like stare that can be very intimidating.

Most of you probably don’t know who Kathy Najimy is. I think you should go back and watch Sister Act, and tell me that Sister Mary Patrick isn’t basically just Verin in disguise. I started reading this series in 1995(ish?) and immediately thought of Sister Mary Patrick for Verin – and I had no inkling back then of spending way too many hours of my life Casting the Wheel of Time on the intrawebz. She’s got the look, she’s got a very intense stare, and she has an awesome smile that will suit Verin when she’s properly happy about something.

Kathy Najimy as Verin Mathwin

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
Sister Act 1 & 2
Hope Floats
Numb3rs


Faile Bashere, by Seamas Gallagher
And finally, we come to Zarine (Faile) Bashere. Likely, I should have had her in the “F’s,” since everyone knows her by her chosen name, but ah well, hind-sight, 20-20, all that jazz. Faile starts nuisancing her way into the series during The Dragon Reborn, always up in Perrin’s bidnez and shizzle. Eventually we find out she’s cousin to a king, and maybe she’s not all that bad, though she is a major contributor to the Story Line That Never Ends (TM), being the person Perrin is chasing after. I guess she gets a bit of a Moment of Awesome in The Gathering Storm, getting rid of Masema, but I still don’t really like her.

Perrin think she’s beautiful, but at first, kept thinking her nose was just slightly too large. She has black hair falling to her shoulders, and a “generous mouth” (does that mean a “kind and giving mouth,” or a “large mouth?”). She has high cheek bones, slightly tilted dark eyes, and is tall and slim with a high voice and a flat way of speaking. According to Perrin, she has an herbal scent. That may be important in the Casting, so I’m leaving that in there.

I thought about Zooey Deschanel for awhile – not that Zoey has a big nose, but she does have a kind of funny-looking nose. However, at the end of the day, I just don’t like the Deschanel sisters – they’re boring. So I went with Idina Menzel, who does have a big nose, and she even has the tilted eyes we need. Idina is a singer and songwriter first, but has been doing stage work, and recent movie work, and does a good job at them. She meets all our physical criteria, and in Rescue Me, she played a bit of a bitch, so there’s that.

Idina Menzel as Faile Bashere

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
Enchanted
Various Broadway Shows
Various TV Shows


Aaaaaand, that’s a wrap, folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed Tier 2. Next week, if anything, I’ll likely just post a follow-up to this tier (or maybe not, I kind of want a break from thinking about The Wheel of Time for a bit). Anyway, see you on Friday, May 20 for the beginnings of Tier 1 characters. Rand will not be first.

Cheers!
-Brandon Daggerhart

Welcome back to the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Re-Read and Analysis! It’s been awhile, and there have been many reasons (and excuses?) for why I’ve taken so long to get back into this, but things should be able to continue relatively smoothly for now.

A few notes about changes to the structure. From now on, for the sake of people who can’t read 20,000+ words of a blog in one sitting, I will be moving down to two chapters at a time instead of three, and also condensing the chapter summary lengths a good bit. However, commentary will stay on the same track it’s always been.

I will also be posting this portion of the blog only every other Tuesday from now on. However, if you’re concerned about your MS&T fix, you have nothing to fear, because I have great news for you. A friend’s blog, A Gentle Madness: Collecting Tad Williams is about to start his own bi-weekly project, where he will be studying and analyzing the history of the series, it’s publication, and the critical response it has received over the years. You should be checking this out now! Don’t forget!

And, as usual, if you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.

Let’s see how things have been going since the last time we were in this place . . .

Chapter 30 – A Thousand Nails

Summary

Simon wakes up to find himself cared for in a small room. Father Strangyeard enters and introduces himself, and assures Simon that Binabik and “Marya” are both fine and he will likely see them soon. Simon begins putting his shoes on so that he can see his friends. The two walk outside and by a pyre that is being constructed to burn the body of the giant which had so recently attacked Simon and his friends.

Simon finds Binabik awake, but very pale and weak-looking. Strangyard dismisses himself and Simon and Binabik share a reunion. Simon is disheartened that Binabik believes “Marya” may have gone on, now that her message has been delivered, and cannot believe he’s been out for almost two days. Eventually, Binabik needs to sleep again, and asks Simon to check in on Qantaqa.

When Simon leaves, he meets Sanfugal, who shows him to the stables, where Qantaqa is being kept. The stable master has Qantaqa tied by her neck in a pit, which outrages Simon. He coerces Sangfugal and the stable master to help get the wolf out, and they then head back to Binabik’s room so the troll and wolf can reunite.

Simon and Sangfugal eat their food on the south wall, and Sangfugal tells Simon the story of the ‘Nails’ which surround the fort, giving it its name – Naglimund means Nail-Fort in Erkylandish. The nails were supposedly put in the ground to keep the Sithi out, since Sithi are allergic to iron. They once surrounded the entire city and fort, but Josua had all but a few removed when King John gave him Naglimund. Afterwards, Simon gives Sangfugal a brief version of his travels, and they end their conversation wondering if Elias will attack Naglimund. Simon also learns about the hatred between Josua and Elias, due to Elias’ wife dying in an ambush while under the protection of Josua.

Sangfugal figures Josua will be calling a Raed – a council – soon to discuss options, and mentions that Josua may be calling on Simon due to the youth’s heroics. He then mentions Prince Gwythinn is on his way, and many other important people are in (or soon will be in) the keep, and that decisions will be made soon. He then offers to show Simon the nails. As the story goes, the Sithi apparently cared very little about the nails, even named it a Sithi word which means “Trap that Catches the Hunter.” The two then get swept up in a crowd of people heading to watch the burning of the giant. The two get separated, and Simon thinks he sees Marya, but it turns out to be a tall, dark, and beautiful woman who appears very angry about these festivities.

Commentary

Reunion chapter! Calm after the storm or something. We mostly get to see a little bit of insight this chapter into the hardships other people have been having throughout Elias’ rule – in particular, the hardships suffered by those in the north, such as at Naglimund. Giants coming out of the mountains and killing people is just one of the things mentioned by Sangfugal while they talk.

“Here,” [Strangyeard] said. “My, you are in a hurry. Would you like to your friend first, or have something to eat?”

Simon was already tying the front of the shirt closed. “Binabik and Marya, then eat food,” he grunted, concentrating. “And Qantaqa, too.”

“Hard as times have been of late,” the father said in a tone of reproof, “we never eat wolves at Naglimund. I assume you are counting her as a friend.”

Looking up, Simon saw that the one-eyed man was making a joke.

“Yes,” Simon said, feeling suddenly shy. “A friend.”

“Then let us go,” the priest said, standing. “I was told to make sure you were well provided for, so the sooner I get food into you, the better I will have fulfilled my commission.” He opened the door, admitting another flood of sunshine and noise.

And that is how we’re introduced to Strangyeard, one of the awesomest characters in the series. One of the first things out of his mouths is a well-intentioned joke, so we know right off the bat that he’s going to be a swell guy to have around.

Simon’s reunion with Qantaqa and Binabik were both very well-played, especially Simon’s reaction to the way the wolf had been treated. You can tell how dear his companions/friends have become to him when seeing his outrage at her mistreatment.

The story about the Nails is interesting, especially the Sithi name for them – this is some very ominous foreshadowing of dire circumstances yet to come. Williams played the fey trope straight here, with having them be allergic to iron, but he later turns that trope on its head. What makes this the most interesting is how much irony is in the fact that the Norns desperately need this place for their final gambit. Josua’s home is here, so we are told that the only reason Elias and Pryrates want the place so badly is for the prince, and thus they bring in the Norns to help out. However obviously, the Norns had ulterior motives for this place, since it is one of the Houses (can’t remember the number) that becomes so important at the end. So it can almost be looked at as though the Nails were put in place for a very specific purpose (to keep the Sithi, and in this particular case, the Norns, from gaining access to this House), but that purpose was forgotten about. Or it could be an ironic coincidence.

Sangfugol nodded. “There has been no shortage of trouble between them. They loved each other once, were closer than most brothers – or so I’m told by Josua’s older retainers. But they fell out, and then Hylissa died.”

“Hylissa?” Simon asked.

“Elias’ Nabbanai wife. Josua was bringing her to Elias, who was still a prince, at war then for his father in the Thrithings. Their party was waylaid by Thrithings raiders. Josua lost his hand trying to defend Hylissa, but to no avail – the raiders were too many.”

Simon let out a long breath, “So that’s how it happened!”

“It was the death of any love between them … or so people say.”

And there, we are given the kernel of information that tells us everything we need to know about why Elias is doing what he is doing. We don’t know it yet, but the brothers’ hatred of each other over the death of Hylissa is going to be a very, very important piece of information. Which makes it all even more poignant when you realize eventually how far Elias goes just out of love for his dead wife.

The ceremony for the burning of the giant is a little odd – it seems to be building up to something important, especially when Simon sees the ‘mysterious woman,’ but it turns out to just be either a Red Herring, or just a non-climax. Oh, and hello Vorzheva! I’m already turning my EyeRoll-o-meter (TM) down in preparation for all the stupid things you do when we first meet you. By the way, were we supposed to think that not all was on the up-and-up with Vorzheva after this quick introduction here? It seems that we’re supposed to think she was a bad person, but obviously that is not the case. Red Herring again?

Chapter 31 – The Councils of the Prince

Summary

Simon is called to the prince’s room that night, where while waiting, Simon notices the same angry woman from the festivities is in Josua’s bedchamber. Josua greets Simon warmly, thanking him for the rescue, and they make some idle chit chat about the scroll he was reading, which says Naglimund has never been broken by a seige, and also says he has heard Elias is building a huge army. Then he asks if Simon can wield a sword, and tells the boy to go to the captain of the guards and receive training. The prince then muses back again to the scroll, and Simon is about to leave, but first asks about Marya. Josua can give no definite answers, and bids Simon goodnight. It takes a long time for Simon to find sleep that night.

Simon is greeted the next morning by a cheerful Binabik and Qantaqa. After giving Simon a quick and humorous lesson about tossing bones, and also giving Simon a letter from Marya, the two head for the guards, where Simon is to receive his sword. Along the way, Binabik leaves to go find Strangyeard, to talk about Morgenes’ manuscript. Simon is introduced to Haestan, who retrieves for Simon a sword and bow, then shows Simon how to properly care for his new weapons. That afternoon, Simon trains with the sword for hours, then is told to return in the morning. He stumbles back to his room, sore all over, and crashes for a few hours, only to be awakened by Binabik (again) who has come to take Simon to the Raed. Simon is worn out, but eventually gets up and follows Binabik to the council chambers.

They arrive at the hall of Naglimund where dozens have already arrived, ready for the prince’s council. Binabik whispers to Simon various introductions of some of the lords that are present. They take a seat and Simon drinks some watered-down wine while awaiting Josua’s arrival. Bishop Anodis arrives, as does Prince Gwythinn and Baron Davasalles, then finally Josua. The bishop begins the Raed with a prayer to Usires and God, and does not appear happy to be involved in the council.

Josua begins the Raed by talking about the tough times, and about how Elias is to blame for the higher taxes, undefended roads, etcetera. The lady from Josua’s bedchambers enters and whispers something to Josua (Binabik tells Simon this is Vorzheva from the Thrithings lands). She awaits the prince’s reply then leaves, and the conversation continues. Baron Davasalles asks what Josua actually wants – revenge? peace? just to be left alone? People take offense to his tone, and Gwythinn yells for those assembled to fight the High King. Davasalles continues probing Josua as to why they should fight the High King. The prince replies that the king is dangerous, and as proof, has someone who has seen the king’s dangerousness firsthand. He sends a page, who returns with Vorzheva and someone else. Josua introduces Princess Miriamele, who Simon recognizes as none other than Marya. Feeling betrayed, he stumbles out of the room with everyone watching.

Commentary

“My lords,” Josua said, “the Princess Miriamele – daughter of the High King.”

And Simon, gaping, stared at the short, cropped strands of golden hair that showed beneath the veil and crown, shed of their dark disguise . . . and staring at the oh-so-familiar face, felt a great tumbling inside him. He almost stood, as the others were doing, but his knees went watery and dropped him back into his chair. How? Why? This was her secret – her rotten, treacherous secret!

“Marya,” he murmured, and as she sat in the chair Gwythinn surrendered to her, acknowledging his gesture with a precise, gracious nod of her head, and as everyone else sat down again, talking aloud in their wonder, Simon finally lurched to his feet.

“You,” he said to Binabik, grabbing the little man’s shoulder, “did . . . did you know?!”

The troll seemed about to say something, then grimaced instead and shrugged. Simon looked up across the sea of heads to find Marya . . . Miriamele . . . staring at him with wide, sad eyes.

“Damn!” he hissed, then turned and hurried from the room, his eyes pooling with shameful tears.

Dun Dun DUUUUUNNNNNN!

So, we finally get the ‘big reveal’ about Marya, and the reason why everyone has been looking at Simon sadly whenever he has asked about her whereabouts. I can feel sorry for Simon here, and I can feel his pain. Not that I’ve ever fallen in love with a girl who turned out to be royalty in disguise – but I do know what it is like to have expectations and hopes so drastically shattered in just an instance. The saddest part, though, is that Binabik didn’t tell Simon, and Marya even kept up the ruse in her letter. Why wouldn’t someone just have let him know? Did Josua not know who Simon was talking about when he asked the prince about her the night before? Or was he just playing with him? Seems like a harsh thing for someone to do to a fifteen-year-old bundle of hormones such as Simon, but alas, I am not a prince dreading an upcoming war, and thus do not know how I would react in the same situation.

We get a bit of dire foreshadowing here – doesn’t the prince know that if he says something like “Naglimund has never been taken in a siege,” then By George, the city is going to fall! Josua needs to become a bit more genre-savvy it seems.

“Here,” the troll said, “first: Clouds in the Pass. Meaning where we stand now it is hard to see far, but beyond is something very different than what is behind.”

“I could have told you that.”

“Silence, trolling. Do you wish to remain foolish forever? Now, the one that is second was Wingless Bird. The second is something of advantage, but here it seems our helplessness might be itself useful, or so I am reading the bones today. Last, what thing it is we should be aware of . . .”

“Or fear?”

“Or fear,” Binabik agreed calmly. “Black Crevice – that is a strange one, one I never have gotten for myself. It could mean treachery.”

Simon took a breath, remembering. “Like ‘false messenger’?”

“True. But it is having other meanings, unusual meanings. My master taught me that it could also be things coming from other places, breaking through from other sides . . . thus, perhaps something about the mysteries we have found … the Norns, your dreams … do you see?”

Simon’s and Binabik’s fond bickering here is a real testament to how close the two have gone. I’m a firm believer that you know you’ve made a true friend when you can playfully insult each other back and forth for awhile without taking any true offense.

On a more serious note though, we get back to the bones. I talked extensively awhile back about how I feel about various superstitious methods of fortune-telling, and I still feel the same way. Fortune-telling is either magical, or it’s superstition – there is no middle ground on it. However, we never know which Binabik’s are. I mean, after the whole series ends, and the Storm King is no more, do Binabik’s throws start sounding more like “Sunny Day in the Park,” and “Gentle Breeze Across Tranquil Waters?” Or are they tarot-card-like, and even when everything’s good, the dice still roll bad results? I do not know. I figure that, most likely, the bones are very much just superstition, but in a fantasy series, it could really go either way, I suppose.

I skimmed over a lot of great dialog in this chapter, mostly between Binabik and Simon, that you should definitely read if you have the book with you. The two have grown very fond of each other, and have developed a very real relationship, and it’s nice to see how smartly Mr. Williams writes the two of them and their chemistry. Also, Strangyeard is usually filled with some pretty unintentionally funny things to say, which won’t be making their way into this reading for the most part.


So that’s a wrap for now. Again, please visit A Gentle Madness around this same time next week to get your fix of Tad Williams. Otherwise, stay tuned for more exciting things happening on this blog in the (relatively) near future.

Cheers!
-Brandon Daggerhart

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