Monday, January 21, 2013

An Ending: Demandred

This post contains spoilers for A Memory of Light

Read at your own peril.  

Let's talk about Demandred for a moment. 

I've said it before, and I'll underscore here: I've never been much of a Wheel of Time theorist, but I always figured Demandred was in Shara. I mean it made sense. As far as we know this world is only filled with a certain amount of people, and Last Battle affected all of them. Most of the Forsaken were busy dealing with the mainland, that is the people between the Aiel Waste and the Aryth Ocean. Semirhage devoted herself to the Seanchan. That left only the Sharans not taken care of. So it makes sense that Demandred would go there. 

How Demandred managed to twist an entire nation to fight on the side of Shadow, or at least a grand majority of them, I have no idea. I feel like if I had been a Sharan, the moment I saw all those Trollocs, I would have been like "Hell, no" and switched sides. But somehow he had them so convinced that they fought alongside Trollocs. It's very strange, but maybe that says something about Demandred. Most of the Forsaken are pretty persausive (or good with Compulsion, as the case may be), but Demandred manages to persuade most of a nation. (I saw most because clearly he didn't bring all of Shara with him. Shara is way bigger than mainland Randland. If he brought all of Shara the Light wouldn't have stood a chance.)

Anyway, Demandred is the leader of the Forces of Dark, which put him directly against my all-time favorite, Mat. Which leads me directly to my first point. 

Never Bet Against Mat Cauthon
I never doubted this war was going to be won by the Forces of Light. Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy series. It may break several genre tropes, but this was not one of them. We always knew it was going to end with Light winning, we just didn't know how light was going to win. 

Anyway it's made clear that Demandred is a master general. Rand comments about that early on, about how Demandred studied war academically before the Bore was drilled and after how he was a great general, and should have been a great hero for the Light, but of course wasn't.

Perhaps the greatest recommendation for Demandred though is that he makes Mat sweat. In Mat's past battles, he's been able to pretty easily win. ('Easily' being a relative term of course). In the past Mat has always one through a combination of having the memories of every great general ever and having amazing luck. But Mat's luck never works nearly as well in matters of strategy as it does in chance. (Mat makes this comment several times in the series. It's why he'd rather play dice than cards). But it always worked well for him in his battles, because he was always personally on the front lines, directing everything. Avoiding arrows and swords is just as much luck as it is skill. And that's what made this battle different for Mat. He spent very little of it on the front lines. He spent most of it in a tent, directing everybody. And to me, that was the biggest test of his skills as a general he's ever had. Luck had very little to do with it.

It was good to see Mat tested in this way. It was also good to see Demandred compliment him by thinking that he must be someone from his own age, the age of legends, because surely no one is this backwards time could be that good.

I would also like to take a moment to comment on that thought of Demandred's, because it seems not only extremely arrogant and patronizing (not unexpected from a Forskan) but a completely inane thought. The only war Demandred ever fought in was the War of Power. Now the length of that war can be debated, but even at its longest arguable length (100 years) his argument holds no value. Demandred studied strategy, true, but early battles in the War of Power would have been easily won, since war was non-existent during the Age of Legends. Everyone started out as a n00b and learned the hard way. And at most, Demandred has 100 years of battle experience. (At the last, he only has ten. TEN!)

Let's look at Mat on the other hand. He has the memories of every important general from the Third Age. He can even remember being on both sides of the battles. Even ignoring all of the minor wars fought between nations, look at the major wars: The Trolloc Wars (350 years in length) and The War of the Hundred Years (120 years in length). So without counting wars like the Whitecloak War and the Aiel War, Mat has over 450 years of battle experience.

Even if Mat hadn't  had all of those memories, any general in Mat's time can study those wars. Sure documentation wasn't at its best in the Third Age, but essentially any general in Mat's time has 3,500 years (the length of the Third Age) of wars to look back on and learn from. As opposed to Demandred learning from ancient documents of wars from the First Age. So by that measure, any student of war in Mat's time should be better versed in it than Demandred, because by the nature of the two different ages, the Third Age was an age of war and the Second Age was an age of peace. So basically Demandred is a complete idiot on this count, and it's only right that Mat would beat him in the end.

Honestly though, reading over the battle sequences, was Demandred even really leading his side? We rarely see him giving orders. Instead we see him wrapped up in what can only be described as...

Duels to the Death 

Gawyn. *sigh*. You silly teenage boy. Sometimes I forgot that the characters in this series are no more than teenagers or at best in their early twenties. And I suppose it makes sense that out of all of them Gawyn would be the most teenagery. After all, he's not a ta'veren with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He's just a young prince being tossed around by said ta'veren.

Regardless of his maturity, I call foul on the Trakand* boys being beaten to a pulp by Demandred. Gawyn is a master swordsman. And not just among his younglings, he beat seasoned Warders. (Anyone remember the war between the two factions of Aes Sedai? Remember how Gawyn was on the wrong side? Yeah, he's a master swordsman.) True he can't hold his own against Mat Cauthon, but who can? I'll also give you that Demandred has the One Power on his side. But Gawyn put on like three or four of those blasted Seanchan rings. A Seanchan Bloodknife wearing a single ring caused ridiculous amounts of damage at the battle of the White Tower, which remember is a battle against Aes Sedai. Gawyn should have been at least able to get a hit in on Demandred.

But whatever. Let's say Gawyn died because Demandred had the One Power and that just gave him an extra edge. Well by that rationale, Galad should have done much better than he did! The silly Whitecloak had a copy of Mat's medallion, thus eliminating Demandred's edge. But noooo. Instead Demandred whooped his butt too. Galad is just as good a swordsman as Gawyn, if not better. (He did after all kill Eamon Valda in a duel, thus proving he was a swordmaster.)

So yes, I call foul. Even though it was completely cool for Lan to come in and teach Demandred whose boss, I don't really believe** that Demandred could have so summarily defeated the Trakand* boys.

*Yes, I know that technically Galad isn't a Trakand. He's a Damodred. Which is way too close to Demandred. But he and Gawyn are brothers and they were both raised by Morgase Trakand, so let's just agree to call them the Trakand boys, ok?

**I admit to being completely biased. I've always been a fan of the Trakand* boys. Heck, I named my dog Galad, and I've always been a Gawyn defender, despite his idiocy at times.


  1. "He did after all kill Pedron Niall"

    *cough cough Eamon Valda cough*

    PS. loving all the recap posts.

  2. Oops! Consider it fixed. Thanks, Christine.

    (I can see why I made that mistake, though. Pedron Niall, then Eamon Valda, then Galadedrid Damodred. Those Whitecloaks sure do go through Lord Captain Commanders quickly.)

  3. On the dueling part, I think it is fair to say that the Trakand boys were not at their best when dueling Demandred. Lan makes the same comment when he fights basically saying that he would probably be able to take the forsaken in a fair fight, but that wasn't case (too lazy to put in the reference :P)

    The Trakand boys had been fighting for hours! Also, Gawyn had already been wearing the rings for a long time and that may have also effected him during the duel. Galad was probably even more tired, him being on the front lines (not like Mr. Warder Gawyn) the whole time.

    Demandred, physically, is fresh. I like your analysis on tactics (Demandred vs. Mat), but I do think it's possible for Demandred to have bested the Trakand boys.

    1. That's a fair point, that I didn't think of. Galad and Gawyn have both been fighting all day. So has Lan, but by that point Galad and Gawyn would have both tired Demandred out some. There are definitely more factors to consider that I did. It's not just Demandred vs. [whichever guy] with all other things being equal. The other things were certainly not equal.

      Glad you liked my discussion of Demandred vs. Mat. :)

  4. I liked Gawyn, even though he was extremely frustrating. And I really rooted for him and Egwene. But with his personality, I think his death was appropriate. In any war, rashness can be very fatal; in the Last Battle, I think it's almost certainly fatal. It was inevitable that Gawyn would do something rash, because he wanted so badly to prove he was a hero. In his mind, that meant great feats, something dramatic. I don't think anything else would do.

    We don't really know why Gawyn has such an inferiority complex. Usually it gets chalked up to bad parenting, but Morgase seems to have been a good parent. Yes, he lost his dad early, but by all accounts Gareth Bryne was an excellent father figure. My theory is that he so idolized Galad that he couldn't see his own worth.

    As for Demandred's death, I'm glad it was Lan! The Shadow destroyed Lan's entire kingdom–killing most of his people, and corrupting the land itself; he deserved the chance to kill a Forsaken one-on-one. It's justice.

  5. I think you are wrong on one account demandred was going to beat Matt had egwene not killed some 300 channelers by herself and the mhael also had demandred not been so obsessed with lew's and baiting him out to fight him. Matt recognizes his skill and even admits that demandred doesn't take the bait on a few of his plans. I think of demandred had one goal win the battle he would have destroyed Matt.

    1. Several factors saved Mat, but the battle wasnt even close to be fair to begin with. I dont think any other generals (even super awesome Ituralde) would even stand a chance. Mat did the absolute best with what he had and his battle plan expected several miracles. :P