I don’t know if this is my favourite of these books, but I’m certain that it has my favourite chapters. When Rand goes into Rhuidean and sees the history of how the Aiel became the Aiel, it shows so much about the history of their world. In this world the present is hugely effected by events that took place three thousand years ago – so far back that our culture barely has myths about that time. The understanding of who people were and what they were doing has been so lost by not only time, but massive amounts of lost information.
This two chapter section consists of about 10 vignettes starting with the most recent, and going back in time – starting with the first people who saw this story, and continuing through their fathers and grandfathers. You see the first women who fought; and how only about 30 years before, a few of their people defended their sisters, and split from the main (peaceful) group. How these people had tried to protect the valuable items that the Aes Sedai were “coming back for”; how some wanted to give up on the Aes Sedai, and find the songs that they used to sing, forming the Tinkers. Then we are far enough back that there is still technology, and horses had to be found to be found for the Aiel – who served Aes Sedai – because the Aes Sedai realize that it was more reliable; finally we see how the whole problem started, an Aes Sedai named Meirin, who wanted to channel not with the separate powers of men and women but using the same power.
With these glimpses into the past, there are mentions of where Warder’s cloaks come from, Seachan helmet design, how the last Nym was sent to guard for thousands of years, why the Ogier love trees… It was a fabulous way for Jordan to explain all these things that he must have had in his head. If he were still alive, I’d want him to cover the story – any story, actually – set in the Age of Legends, when the Power was at its peak. Were the people regarded as Kings and Queens in this series that, or were they politicians? How do you govern those who can do magic, how do you control them?
This is my favourite part of the series, because I know that the answers aren’t available, and it makes me wonder and dream.