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Two meetings with Whitecloaks. "Eye of the World" vs "Wheel of Time, Season 1" Cannoli Send a noteboard - 08/01/2022 09:01:59 PM

Because of the same masochistic tendencies that caused me to watch the show in the first place, I find myself comparing a few things to the books and am now taking a harder look.

Specifically, I want to compare a handful of incidents that were both portrayed on screen and page, to examine the execution, ascertain whether or not it told a better story and determine what the intent was behind the changes being made.

The first one is:
A prominent character from the Children of the Light encounters a pair of Emond’s Fielders and the whole party. As a result, he confronts the group, after recognizing the Emond’s Fielders the second time.

In the book, this is Dain Bornhald. He encounters Rand, and unbeknownst to him, Mat, who causes him to be splashed with mud. Rand openly laughs at his discomfiture, and when Bornhald confronts him, Rand all but challenges him to a fight, which Bornhald declines due to the possibility presented by Rand that he is capable of taking the fight to a lethal level and the public scrutiny being applied to the incident. Later, Bornhald catches the party attempting to leave the town in a hurry and in secrecy, and recognizes Rand, and attempts to detain them. Moiraine reveals herself to be Aes Sedai and uses the One Power to intimidate and distract Bornhald while Lan leads the group to safety.

On the show, the party encounters a group of the Children led by Geofram Bornhald (Dain’s father, in the books) and Emmon Valda on the road. Moiraine evades their inquiries about the group’s origins and they notice her wound. Bornhald recommends she seek Aes Sedai Healing for it. Later, Valda leads a group of the Children who accost the Tuatha’an caravan with which Perrin and Egwene are travelling. He recognizes Perrin and Egwene, and decides to arrest them. The Tinkers attempt to form a human shield, the Children of the Light beat them down and purse the Emond’s Fielders despite Aram’s attempts to lead them to hide.

In the books, Bornhald’s reasons for accosting a group with Rand in it are somewhat spurious but there is a logic behind it. He had a confrontation with Rand who mocked and implicitly threatened him. While this hardly constitutes probable cause, from a certain perspective it could be perceived as sinister, especially in the context of the group attempting to leave town in the night, during a time of elevated security. Taken together, these are somewhat suspicious circumstances and you can see how and why a Child of the Light might see this as cause to stop and search, and especially see a chance for some payback over his semi-public embarrassment earlier.

As this incident is through Rand’s point of view, the narrative significance is that he was acting out of character and has drawn undesired attention. Furthermore, he himself recognizes the oddity of his actions at the time and now feels bad about bringing problems on his friends. It also sort of shows how the Two Rivers folk are ignorant of the world, as in between the two encounters, Thom had to explain the Nynaeve the dangers of their association with an Aes Sedai. Finally, it demonstrates the relative power of an Aes Sedai to the Children of the Light as Moiraine handily runs them off despite the restrictions of the Three Oaths and the disparity of numbers.

On the show, Valda’s pretext to stop the Tuatha’an is to ask for word of the False Dragon. Why this is of such concern to him is never resolved, it’s just something the writers have him say to fill an empty space until he spots Perrin and Egwene and demands they be brought to him. No rationale for their arrest is ever given. No reason why he should be suspicious, except as he later states when they are captive in his tent, the Light brought them before him, twice. Running into a pair of young people twice, a month apart, is reason to assume they are an Aes Sedai and Warder and arrest them and start a program of torture to induce her to confess her ability to channel.

In their first meeting, initially Bornhald appears in charge, with simple questions about strangers encountered, and is prepared to let them go on their way until Valda steps up and signals his interest. Whereupon Bornhald asks Moiraine and company to answer some questions but pointedly warns Valda to keep it brief. Valda’s priority is clearly finding Aes Sedai from a comment he makes and his clear searching Moiraine for the ring she gave to Lan to hold when he warned her of the Whitecloaks’ approach. The focus of the show during his questions is his intrusive behavior, his familiar touching of Moiraine, with Lan even warning him off and threatening to cut off his hand for touching her, and his hypocrisy as he accuses the Aes Sedai (referring to individual Aes Sedai as “sisters” rather than “witches”, curiously) of meddling in other’s business as he carries on a meddlesome search of a stranger who has done nothing to warrant such attentions. Valda locates Moiraine’s wound suffered in the Trolloc attack on Emond’s Field. Moiraine states “You would not believe me if I told you,” about the cause of her wound. In a prior scene in this episode, she told Egwene of the Three Oaths and her inability to speak a word that is not true. So she must sincerely believe that Valda would not believe her account of how she got the wound. She proceeds to truthfully describe the Trollocs and where they encountered them. Bornhald recognizes the wound as Trolloc-work, and says something I shall not repeat because he would not say it, Valda promises he will not forget their faces should they meet again, while Moiraine grins sycophantically. Valda tells Bornhald he will take his questioners south to Bornhald’s surprise, as the other man seems to indicate he will be responding to Moiraine’s news of Trollocs.

With Egwene, Valda has a theological opposition to trappings of status, rebuking her for addressing him as “sir” stating that the authority is the Light’s. Yet, this man who self-identifies as an instrument of the Light in both episodes, addressed Bornhald as “sir” despite clearly not being part of Bornhald’s chain of command. Actually that chain of command is unclear. He has the right & authority to wordlessly demand Bornhald detain Moiraine’s group for his own questioning, but at the same time, Bornhald can indirectly order or demand Valda be quick. But Valda can also unilaterally decide to go his own way with the Questioners. This isn’t entirely out of line from the books, where there are contentions of authority between the Children and the Inquisition of the Hand of the Light. And while the head of the Children has been known to mix and match commands for his own purposes, he also tends to make the chain of command clear, because he’s a Great Captain and understands the importance of that. The occasional bits of confusion encountered among the Children in the field has to do with pernicious outside influences.

In any event, another incongruity in Valda’s interrogation of Egwene is that he is well aware of the Three Oaths and believes that Aes Sedai cannot lie, accepting Egwene’s statement that she is not. He also understands a great deal about channeling and its limitations, even if some of them are exclusive to this medium. Also, the last word was that he was taking his Questioners south, and he encounters Perrin and Egwene far to the north of their original meeting.

But the important thing is that despite Valda’s preoccupation with Aes Sedai and apparent random suspicions of women he encounters of being channelers (with 100% accuracy on screen so far), he does not ask Moriaine if she is Aes Sedai or can channel. He, despite his title and own emphasis on “questions” asks her little more than Bornhald did. She never even needs to use the cover story she preps her companions with. Where mention of Trollocs in Bornhald’s presence in the books made him more suspicious, here it completely derails the investigation. Despite their sure recognition of Trollocs from Moiraine’s description, they never think to ask how she does not know the name when she is in the company of a self-admitted Borderlander whose skills are almost certainly the reason she escaped the Trolloc who wounded her if she cannot channel.

All in all, the portrayal of the Children, the Questioners and Valda is very incongruent and inconsistent. The intention of these two encounters seems to be to show them as credible threats to channelers but also utterly contemptible and without redeeming qualities. The books gave a balanced view, demonstrating the attitudes of the Children and their hostile intentions, while also making it clear how little threat they truly posed to channelers. When, later on, Egwene comes to their attention, she is threatened because she cannot channel but has sufficient associations that she might still fall under their attention. In later books, the Children pose scant threat to the channeling characters are not particularly necessary to establish as dangerous to them. Other dialogue in unrelated scenes strongly suggests the show writers want to have a female-persecution narrative, which also tracks with how Egwene’s captivity under Valda is a later shown, but which does not particularly fit with the themes and ideas of The Wheel of Time.

The book effectively and efficiently achieves the limited objectives it has for the characters’ first encounter with the Children of the Light. The show overreaches, aiming for venting scorn on the Children for perceived misogyny and at the same time trying to make them credible enemies, at a moment when it is inconvenient for them to interfere with the plot, so they fail to ask any of the questions they are later established as knowing to ask. And it fails, under closer scrutiny to really present a threat that is dangerous without a plot-mandate.

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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Two meetings with Whitecloaks. "Eye of the World" vs "Wheel of Time, Season 1" - 08/01/2022 09:01:59 PM 47 Views

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