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An honest assessment of WOT?


Jon Fossaway

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To the best of my knowledge, the only character that really is presented as having an accent is Bayle Domon. Rand's and Matt's don't seem to really stand out that much in comparison to anyone else's - Morgase's included.

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it wasn't absolute abolishment, due to fact that some serfs had to buy their freedom via the redemption tax (whereas before it wasn't purchasable),

Freedom was always purchaseable, provided that serf had the money (or somebody was prepared to pay) and the owner agreed. Quite a few of the notable 19th century actors started out as serfs, for instance, and so did famous Ukraininian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko.

For that matter, a soldier (who was a serf before and after his 25 years term), who displayed conspicious heroism could be rewarded with a comission and not only gain his freedom, but also become legally a gentleman. Granted, it was very rare.

IIRC, power of the landowners over the persons of ex-serfs ended with the imperial edict in 1961, the redemption tax was compensation to the landowners for the land they were losing.

BTW, it was also relatively common for serfs to go away to work elsewhere in winters, etc. and share their earnings with the owner or pay a tithe to the owner instead of actually working his land. There was a good bit of self-government in the villages, too.

That's why economically talented freed serfs and their children quickly rose to prominence into Russian society after the abolishment (and some extraordinary individuals even before). Lack of easy visual identifier helped too, naturally, although IIRC on the whole these people weren't ashamed of their descent.

Anyway, what I am saying is, Imperial Russia abolished serfdom before US abolished slavery. Being a sort of democracy in no way prevents atrocities towards those who aren't voters.

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Freedom was always purchaseable, provided that serf had the money (or somebody was prepared to pay) and the owner agreed. Quite a few of the notable 19th century actors started out as serfs, for instance, and so did famous Ukraininian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko.

For that matter, a soldier (who was a serf before and after his 25 years term), who displayed conspicious heroism could be rewarded with a comission and not only gain his freedom, but also become legally a gentleman. Granted, it was very rare.

IIRC, power of the landowners over the persons of ex-serfs ended with the imperial edict in 1861, the redemption tax was compensation to the landowners for the land they were losing.

BTW, it was also relatively common for serfs to go away to work elsewhere in winters, etc. and share their earnings with the owner or pay a tithe to the owner instead of actually working his land. There was a good bit of self-government in the villages, too.

That's why economically talented freed serfs and their children quickly rose to prominence into Russian society after the abolishment (and some extraordinary individuals even before). Lack of easy visual identifier helped too, naturally, although IIRC on the whole these people weren't ashamed of their descent.

Anyway, what I am saying is, Imperial Russia abolished serfdom before US abolished slavery. Being a sort of democracy in no way prevents atrocities towards those who aren't voters.

I would never intimate that democracy & respect of human rights go hand-in-hand; I'd be a hypocrite if I did. As for the serf system, while there may have been the zemskii' zabor (if that's what you're referring to, which dates back to the Time of Troubles), their influence was fairly small compared to the land-owners (and socially not all that influential by the time the 19th century rolled around). But yes, the U.S. Civil War had little bearing on Tsar Alexander II's decision to eliminate the serfdom laws (if that's the best way to translate krepostnie prava, then that's what I'll go with) was more reflective of his liberalisation policies and likewise an acceptance of economic realities - industrialism could not be ignored, and an agrarian economy was not likely to result in a politically and culturally strong country.

As for visual identifiers, my studies have shown me that wasn't as much an issue as some might think. Part of the impetus - thinking long-term here - was that by freeing the serfs, the Imperial Government could get people into the cities, and thus working towards the development of a truly industrialised society (remember that under Aleksander II, the rail-roads started undergoing real, serious development, to connect the country together socially and economically).

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I've just finished A Crown of Swords. Interesting ending.

SPOILER: Crown of Swords

Despite the cliffhangers (Is Mat ok? Is Sammael dead?) it's a pretty good book. This book almost makes me think that the conflict between the two different types of evil (the Dark One/Forsaken evil versus the Shadar Logoth/Mashadar evil) will be a crucial point in the Last Battle. The fact that Rand's Forsaken scar throbs counter to his ruby dagger scar seems important, and certainly comes up enough. And since Padan Fain exists as the combination of both kinds of evil, and must still be around in this series for some reason, I have a feeling he'll have an important role at the Last Battle. In what respect, I don't know.

Any thoughts?

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It already came up in the end of WH. That's where he got the idea for.

Yes, but what about Fain? I hope there's a reason that he's still around, something bigger than just a menace who pops up every couple of books and waves his dagger around. He's been built up as such a threat to both sides. And RJ offers some tantalizing info:

"He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern."

No, my heart tells me that Fain has a part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end. (Yes, probably Gollum-esque, if I had to guess).

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And just as in the U.S., there was a slow and bumpy period of transition, though unlike the U.S. (to the best of my knowledge), it wasn't absolute abolishment, due to fact that some serfs had to buy their freedom via the redemption tax (whereas before it wasn't purchasable), and many were screwed - due to the fact that despite being freed, they owned no land, which forced them to have to learn about a whole new system of economic exchange with only the scarcest notion of how it worked (having been stuck in a de facto feudal society up until then). The paying off took somewhere within the vicinity of ten years (roughly; it varied, naturally, per serf).

To the best of my knowledge, U.S. slaves didn't have that problem (scholars of U.S. history should absolutely feel free to correct me).

Slaves in the US did have this problem - although it was handled partially by the fact that slaves were allowed to move about, and so many of them ended up in the cities of the North or South and contributed to recovering populations there, although in the South, Jim Crow laws quickly put former slaves back into what the white elite considered to be their place.

As for the first part, it's not true - the condition of serfdom was absolutely abolished by the Emancipation Manifesto in 1861. Article 1 states that all serfs are to become "free rural denizens" who are free to move about at will, own land, participate in commerce, etc etc. Some internet research shows only the discrepancy that imperial serfs were not freed until 1866, but I think this is a mistake on the part of whoever wrote the wikipedia article.

I will agree however that it was an immense and likely mind-boggling change for most of them - moving into the new communes, away from the lords, and receiving land from the state at whatever premiums were arbitrarily handed down. This created additional social problems - such as economic stratification among the former serfs, who had all been equally poor. Many of the families didn't receive enough land to earn the money needed to repay their government loans, and even when the amount of land was relatively equal the quality was extraordinarily varied. According the the numbers I have, only 13% of former serf families received land of sufficient quantity/quality to earn money, while a whopping 42% didn't receive enough to support their families. This, as said by someone else, helped create a great wave of migration to the cities, although whether this was intentional on the part of Alexander II is up in the air.

Oh, and ... WOT is great! :leaving:

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Yes, but what about Fain? I hope there's a reason that he's still around, something bigger than just a menace who pops up every couple of books and waves his dagger around. He's been built up as such a threat to both sides. And RJ offers some tantalizing info:

"He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern."

No, my heart tells me that Fain has a part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end. (Yes, probably Gollum-esque, if I had to guess).

Ahh, yes, Fain.

I'm not thinking Gollum-esque though. The end of WHs covered the "2 opposing forces" thing.

The key part is, I think, RJ's phrase "he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern.". Rand doesn't need help from outside the Pattern to defeat the Dark One.

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This created additional social problems - such as economic stratification among the former serfs, who had all been equally poor.

Umm, no. Stratification was always there, as Tolstoy's and Turgenev's writings (who were both landowners and had serfs) amply show. IIRC Tolstoy has this largely autobiogrpahical story, the name of which I don't remember at the moment, where a young landowner, full with progressive ideas comes to his country estate to better the lot of his serfs and the very sharp contrast between the poor and the rich serfs on his lands.

The former live in a hovel that is about to fall down and provides little protection from the elements and have only bread and cabbage to eat at best, while the latter have a big, beautiful house, a dozen or so horses which they use to transport goods out of the growing season (and pay part of their earnings to the owner for the right to do so), a nice orchard, etc. Naturally, the landowner still could do anything to them short of outright killing, so this prosperity was very much on his sufferance , but most chose not to kill geese laying golden eggs. When the Reform came, these people had no trouble getting good land, since they had money to bribe the officials assigning it.

It was the middling and the poor, who got really screwed up by the Reform, land-wise.

And BTW, various Russian Tsar's and Empresses wanted to abolish serfdom from Peter the Great onwards, only there was always something that prevented them.

Peter didn't see how he could accomplish all his other changes if he did this, too. But if he had lived a decade or so longer, he may have come to it.

Catherine II abhored serfdom and saw that as stumbling block for Russia's development, but being an usurper without a shred of right to the throne she couldn't afford to alienate the land-and-serf owning gentry by whose grace she ruled.

Alexander I, who really admired the US, BTW, according to John Quincey Adams who was the first US ambassador in Russia, had the small problem of patricide - itis not clear how much he was involved in his father's murder, but there was a connection that could have been used against him if he tried. Besides, there was a spectre of the French Revolution to frighten him. Many believed at the time that if you give people an inch they'd rise and drown everything in bloody chaos.

I am just saying in a long-winded way that people, even rulers weren't blind towards evils of serfdom in Russia long before the railroads or industrialization.

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I'm going to start a reread of WoT today, since everyone is doing it ;) Haven't read them in a while either. I'll be posting up my thoughts asI go through them here since it seems a reasonably appropriate place to do so.

-Poobs

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Umm, no. Stratification was always there, as Tolstoy's and Turgenev's writings (who were both landowners and had serfs) amply show. IIRC Tolstoy has this largely autobiogrpahical story, the name of which I don't remember at the moment, where a young landowner, full with progressive ideas comes to his country estate to better the lot of his serfs and the very sharp contrast between the poor and the rich serfs on his lands.

Sure there were some wealthy serfs. But how many of the serfs enjoyed such luxuries? I don't know the numbers, but I would assume that it was very very few, especially as a percentage. I'm not disagreeing with you - but I still think that my statement is valid, acknowledging that it is a generalization and not absolute.

re the scarf chapter of Dhoom (RJ's spelling, not mine) - I remember this freaking me out when I read it for the first time. I reread the chapters a few times to make sure that things weren't just messed up in my copy... especially since it's the exact same thing both times.

Weird flashback moments... ahhh

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While a busy weekend has prevented me from slogging through as much as I'd've liked recently, as I mentioned in the "Just Bought" thread, I've already picked up The Great Hunt in anticipation of seeing things through at least one more book at this point...

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re the scarf chapter of Dhoom (RJ's spelling, not mine) - I remember this freaking me out when I read it for the first time. I reread the chapters a few times to make sure that things weren't just messed up in my copy... especially since it's the exact same thing both times.

Weird flashback moments... ahhh

Had the same reaction when I first read it as a teen, and thought "Wait - what?" If you're going to do flashbacks, it's best to make damn sure the readers understand that it is in fact a flashback and not, well, whatever Jordan intended, and which Tor approved.

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I thought that the strange scarf repeat fit that part of the book perfectly, with it adding to the sense of confusion and bleakness on Mat and Rands flight to Caemlyn.

I mean Rand himself states that his sense of time is beginning to get a little of, so I guess the confusing flashback is there to build on that theme.

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