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2.7.7: When Rand and Mat are travelling to Caemlyn in TEOTW, why does the scene with the scarves happen twice?

[Steven Cooper]


In TEOTW, after Mat and Rand split off from Thom in Whitebridge, they travel to Caemlyn alone. During that journey, there are two scenes which are exactly the same, even with almost the same wording. These two passages are [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 382] and [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 416]. In both descriptions, the farmer asks Rand and Mat who they are running from. Then he says something about wanting to help them, but he can't because he might get in trouble for helping strangers. He feels bad, and offers them two woollen scarves, which he pulls from his pocket. He explains that he knows it isn't much, but they are his sons' scarves, and that's all he feels he can give them safely. He wishes them luck.

Is this an error? What's going on here?

It's a flashback scene, although not a particularly well-executed one, judging from the amount of confusion it's generated. The confusion comes partly from the fact that Jordan doesn't do anything special to mark the flashback as such (e.g. using an italic font, like Mat's flashback of Mili Skane in ACOS) -- subtle changes of verb tense are the only clues. Also, that whole sequence from chapter 31 to chapter 34 contains not only a long flashback, but another flashback nested inside the first one.

Hopefully, the following table will clarify what's going on. I've arranged the events of these chapters into their proper, chronological order. In the left-hand column are indications of the days passing. Sometimes it's not possible to say exactly how many days Rand and Mat spend in travelling from place to place, hence the use of A0, B0, C0 etc. to mark different sections of the timeline. The numbers in the second column represent the order in which Jordan presents the events in the text. Chapter 31 begins with Rand and Mat travelling down the Caemlyn Road on day D3, before flashing back to the start of the journey from Whitebridge. So, scroll down to event number 1 near the bottom of the table, and just follow the numbers.

Day number Order in book Event
A0 6 "For a long time after leaving Whitebridge, Rand would suddenly find himself staring back down the road behind them... Hope faded as the days passed." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 383]
7 "The first village after Whitebridge looked so much like Emond's Field..." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 384]
8 "Night fell before they found a spot by moonlight..." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 385]
9 "That was not the only night they spent with just their cloaks to protect them... not the only meal they made from nothing but cold water." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 385]
[An unknown amount of time elapses here, but the quote from p.387 given below tells us there must be at least three days between A0 and B0.]
10 [One afternoon, Rand argues with Mat over selling the dagger.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 385]
11 "Farms did provide some meals and a few nights out of the cold." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 386]
12 "Sometimes Mat tried his hand at stealing eggs, and once he attempted to milk a cow left unattended..." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 386]
B0 13 [Rand and Mat do some more farm work, but the farmer changes his mind about letting them stay the night, and they are sent on their way with some food.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 387]
14 "Three days earlier, while they were still working, they'd had the dogs set on them." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 387]
[More days of travelling.]
C0 15 [They arrive at Grinwell's farm. After supper, Rand plays the flute and Mat juggles. They stay the night.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 388]
16 "...whenever a farmer allowed them to stay, he always played one tune on the flute after supper." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 389]
C1 17 [They arrive at Arien at dusk, where they play at the inn.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 390]
C2 18 [They get a ride from Arien in Eazil Forney's cart.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 391]
19 "That became the way of their travelling..." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 391]
[More travelling. At least two days, probably three, between C2 and D0.]
D0 20 "Rand began to think their problems were over till they reached Caemlyn. But then they came to Four Kings." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 391]
21 CHAPTER 32 STARTS HERE. [They arrive at Four Kings in the evening. A storm begins. They play at The Dancing Cartman. They notice a rich-looking man watching them (Howal Gode, a Whitebridge merchant). After the customers leave, they are approached by Gode, a Darkfriend. Lightning strikes the inn, killing Gode. They escape into the night, with Mat temporarily blinded.] [TEOTW: 32, Four Kings in Shadow, 392-408]
[CHAPTER 33 begins with Rand and Mat travelling down the Caemlyn Road in Hyam Kinch's cart on day D3 (see event 22 below), before flashing back to the aftermath of the events at Four Kings.]
24 [They shelter under bushes from the storm. Rand dreams - encounters the dead Gode and Ba'alzamon. Ba'alzamon tells Rand the Eye of the World will never serve him.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 414]
D1 25 [The rain stops. They avoid a village around midday. Afterwards, Alpert Mull gives them a ride, and two scarves. They reach Market Sheran at dusk, and stay at Rulan Allwine's inn.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 415-418]
D2 26 [At breakfast, they encounter Paitr, a young Darkfriend. At evening, they arrive at another small village. At the inn (The Queen's Man) Rand falls ill [reaction to channeling two days ago], so they stay in the stable.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 418-424]
D3 27 [At dawn, a female Darkfriend [Mili Skane] tries to kill them. They escape, and Hyam Kinch gives them a ride.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 427-430]
CHAPTER 33 ends here. CHAPTER 34 starts after Rand and Mat have already left Kinch and are passing through Carysford.
22 CHAPTER 33 STARTS HERE. [Rand and Mat are travelling along the Caemlyn Road in Hyam Kinch's cart. Mat's eyes are much better, Rand is recovering quickly from being sick. They leave the cart at the turn-off to Kinch's farm. The next village is Carysford.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 409-413]
23 "The rain had continued through the night they had staggered away from The Dancing Cartman..." [At this point, the flashback to day D0 starts.] [TEOTW: 33, The Dark Waits, 413]
1 CHAPTER 31 STARTS HERE. [Rand and Mat are on the Caemlyn Road. They see a dust trail and hide through a hole in the hedge from a group of merchants' guards.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 382-383]
2 "A farmer had given [the scarf] to him..." [remembering the events of two days before -- see event no. 25 above.] [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 382]
3 "The list of kindnesses he had made in his mind in the days since Whitebridge had been a short one..." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 382]
4 "Once already, cutting a hole through a hedge had almost given them away." [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 383]
5 "It had not begun like this, their journey down the Caemlyn Road." [At this point, the flashback to day A0 begins]. [TEOTW: 31, Play for Your Supper, 383]
28 CHAPTER 34 STARTS HERE. [They pass through Carysford after dark, and sleep in a haystack.] [TEOTW: 34, The Last Village, 431-433]
D4 29 [They join the line of travellers on the Caemlyn Road. They walk through several villages. At evening, they see a Fade talking to Raimun Holdwin (innkeeper) outside the Goose and Crown, and Almen Bunt gives them a ride through the night to Caemlyn.] [TEOTW: 34, The Last Village, 433-440]

As you can see, chapters 33, 31 and 34 (in that order!) all start on the same day, and both 31 and 33 end chronologically before they begin. I always have to smile when I read Jordan's smartass comment at the start of chapter 34: "[Rand] wondered if his whole sense of time was getting skewed." [TEOTW: 34, The Last Village, 431] Whatever Rand is feeling, the reader's sense of time should definitely be tied into a knot by this point.


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