WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A MEMORY OF LIGHT
This essay will deal with the sources I think were used to create Mat. Of all the characters, the one who has arguably undergone the most development is Mat Cauthon. His complexity rivals that of Rand. Furyk Karede described him to Tuon as “…adaptable. A man of many layers” and she agreed, thinking:
And a man of many layers? Matrim Cauthon made an onion look like an apple!Mat certainly does have many facets. The Aelfinn described some of them:
- Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak
“Go to Rhuidean, son of battles! Go to Rhuidean, trickster! Go, gambler! Go!”But there are far more. Mat’s name alone, for instance, has references to wealth, marriage, horses, fear of witchcraft and advocacy of the common people (see Character Names M article).
- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway
While Mat is similar to the personal name Matt, it probably refers to Math, the Welsh god of wealth and increase, which his appropriate, since Mat is very concerned with these (see Math section below). He is always assessing the value of objects and premises, and gambling for more gold.
Mat’s full name of Matrim is just three letters short of matrimony, the thing Mat has dreaded through most of the books and, unlike Perrin, refused to perform the ceremony of, telling Thom and Moiraine that he wasn’t going to marry them. No wonder Mat dislikes hearing his full name (he also associates it with being in trouble with his mother for inappropriate behaviour, Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak) and repeatedly tells Tuon to call him Mat. She refuses. Tuon herself is a Justice figure (see Tuon essay) and Ma’at, the Ancient Egyptian goddess of justice and proper order, is one of her parallels. The little joke here is that Tuon won’t name him Mat because that would be giving him her own ‘name’.
Mat’s surname Cauthon is similar to two surnames, one associated with horses, the other with social equality. Steve Cauthen is a highly successful jockey – he was the youngest jockey ever to win the US Triple Crown and was England’s champion jockey three times. He was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame. Mat has great skill with horses – in Knife of Dreams we see he is a horse whisperer – and made a lot of money horse-racing in Ebou Dar, thanks to Wind with Olver as jockey.
Georges Couthon was the poor people’s advocate during the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France in the 18th century. Couthon voted for the death of the King and helped draft France’s new constitution. He directed the military operations against Lyon and was eventually guillotined. Mat has made his low opinion of nobles abundantly clear and approved the legal reforms Rand instigated in Tear. Mat may yet be involved in drafting fairer laws for a nation. He encouraged the Altarans to revolt against the Seanchan and was in turn appalled by the destruction he unleashed.
Mat’s negative attitude to the One Power (a parallel of witchcraft and magic) is like that of a real world figure with a similar, although reversed, name: Cotton Mather (1663-1728), the US Congregational minister and prolific author who was a great believer in the evil of witchcraft and participated in the trials of alleged witches in Salem. He also led a revolt against the British Crown’s governor of New England. Much is made of Mat not reading much:
”I do read sometimes.”and of his fear and loathing of the One Power and his wish to avoid Aes Sedai (witches).
- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway
Mat’s name encapsulates his character and derivations: Mat has historic parallels as well as religious and mythological ones; parallels for his military and equestrian skills and his commoner origins. However, when we first meet him he is a Fool.
The Fool had an ambiguous place in medieval and early modern society. He had the right to speak to the monarch in ways no one else was allowed to:
In older times, when freedom of speech was yet to come, lunatics have always been entitled to express themselves freely, to say things which others could not, simply because their crazy words would not be given credit, although sometimes they were true: their insanity acted almost as a sort of intellectual shield or privilege.The figure of the Fool was well-established in the society of those times, and the archetype was included in the trumps in the Tarot deck, which has been used for playing the Tarot family of card games for about 600 years (see also Fool and Joker essay). The Fool card in French decks is often called Le Mat, and thus another parallel for Mat’s name. Usually unnumbered to show that he is not properly part of the regular sequence of trumps, not having a proper social status because of his disregard for rules and the consequences of his actions, the Fool is variously depicted as a ragged vagabond, a jester or an idiot in motley (see the three Fool cards below: Lo Scarabeo ancient Italian tarot, Editions Dusserre Marseille tarot and US Games Waite-Smith tarot). Toting a bundle on his shoulder and/or a stick, he strolls toward a precipice, often with a dog jumping at him or biting at his pants, but he is oblivious to both. The Fool has kinship with the Joker and the Trickster archetypes in being disruptive, but differs in that he does not win games.
- The Fool and the Joker, Andy Pollett
From the first, Mat is a character who is notorious for acting foolishly, playing usually unsuccessful pranks and disassembling valuable and useful items such as clockworks and fireworks. Consequently he is repeatedly told he is a fool by his close friends and relations. His motivation is just to please himself without regard for others’ rules and advice, or the consequences of his actions. In Shadar Logoth this led him to ignore warnings and take the Shadar Logoth dagger from Mordeth’s treasure hoard. Contact with the dagger made Mat increasingly mentally ill with paranoia and partial amnesis - and fools were often mentally ill or had poor mental retention. However Mat’s foolish and unpredictable actions keep him alive until he gains other abilities. In fact, he gains his abilities through these very actions.
A fool is one who has lost his memory (The Wandering Fool, Anon), and Mat lost most of his when corrupted by the evil of Shadar Logoth. After being given dead men’s memories by the Eelfinn, Mat tellingly said, “I am lost in my own mind” (The Shadow Rising, Imre Stand).
After he is Healed of the dagger, Mat’s fool symbolism becomes stronger as his luck makes him truly a wild card, and he leaves the Tower with a quarterstaff as a walking stick and a bundle and scrip hanging from his shoulder (The Dragon Reborn, The First Toss) looking like a Tarot card Fool. He has the Tower guards hounding him and Darkfriends, hounds of the Shadow as they were referred to by Ishamael (The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits), hunting him, just as the Fool of the Tarot cards has a dog pawing his legs. This is further supported when Mat thinks in this scene:
“If you can’t hide what you are going to do, do it so everybody thinks you are a fool.”In some decks the Fool is shown stepping blithely over a precipice, and in Tar Valon Mat even hurls himself off a bridge with a Grey Man.
- The Dragon Reborn, The First Toss
In Tear Mat recklessly shortens the fuses of Aludra’s fireworks and lets them all off together, thinking the sound will make a diversion for the guards and is surprised they blow a hole in the Stone. He berates himself when he enters the Stone through this hole and encounters guards:
Fool! he shouted inside his head. This is why you set the bloody thing off in the first place! Light-blinded fool!Mat bitterly regrets his naivety regarding the red-stone doorways:
- The Dragon Reborn, Into the Stone.
“Twice he had stepped through a ter’angreal like a bull-goose fool, a country idiot thinking it simple as a walk across the meadow. Well, almost as simple.”In the Otherworld of the elfin people, the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, Mat is the butt of the three wishes joke due to his ignorance and his foolishness. Thrice. The point of the joke is that the protagonist is given three wishes by a supernatural being, and fails to make the best use of them. The first two wishes are successful, but the third and final wish is misinterpreted or granted in a literal way so as to leave the protagonist back where they were, or even worse off, and with no hope of undoing the damage. In Tear, Mat forgets his planned second and third questions because the first answer is so unexpected, but recoups and gets four answers before being thrown bodily out. However, in Rhuidean, Mat makes his wishes in complete ignorance and is nearly killed when he neglects to specify that he wishes to leave alive and well. The third time Mat thought he would be smarter than the Eelfinn, but he neglected to include the Aelfinn in his demand that his group not be attacked (Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World).
- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance
Mat tells Tuon about the price for his ashandarei – which was a disguised part of his wishes:
“The price wasn’t gold, my lady…Only a fool would pay it one time, let alone ten.”The ashandarei contains the Eelfinn’s message that their bargain is fulfilled in a joke that Mat – the butt of the joke - understands. He triumphantly tells the Aelfinn that the joke is on the Eelfinn because they provided the implement (the ashandarei) of his escape. Mat accepts that his mistreatment from the ‘Finns is his own fault for being foolish and resolves:
- Winter’s Heart, An Offer
“From now on he was going to watch where he put his feet. Mo more jumping into things without thinking what might come of it”but then he also states that ‘only a fool married” (A Crown of Swords, A Note from the Palace) and that ‘a man would have to be an utter fool to tangle himself” with a woman who could channel (The Shadow Rising, Misdirections) , yet he has done both. He defensively says:
- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance
“I was just cutting the fool,”to explain why he stated Tuon is his wife and is told by Egeanin that he couldn’t be that big a fool as to believe Tuon would complete the ceremony (Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colours). Mat even admitted to Tuon that he does play the fool sometimes (A Memory of Light, Your Neck In A Cord). Interestingly, the Justice Tarot card is thought by some (Lon Milo Duquette, Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot) to complement the Fool, and Mat’s wife, Tuon is a justice figure (see Tuon essay).
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colours
Mat has become less naïve and impulsive and a little less foolish as the series has progressed. In Towers of Midnight, he knew the risks of two missions, Moiraine’s rescue and trapping and removing the gholam, but to his credit did them anyway:
It was the kind of situation where a sensible man would have run. But he was a bloody fool instead.A very courageous fool. Perrin called him a blessed fool (A Memory of Light, A Knack). Thanks to the Aelfinn and Eelfinn he is not a fool regarding warfare, although he may let people think so:
- Towers of Midnight, Into the Void
A hasty departure on short notice as if he were trying to sneak away south, but showy enough to make sure it was noticed. The combination would make him seem a fool, and that was to the good, too.The ‘Finns gave Mat knowledge and abilities which the Pattern has forced Mat to use. By small and impulsive steps Mat has ended up with his own army and devised the mode of use for gunpowder weapons, all without quite knowing how it came to be – an innocent abroad, a Fool, but one who has developed into a winner of battles, trumping everyone. He has moved from being a foot soldier to a general in a very short time.
- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance
Mat has elements in common with a few famous real world generals.
His military opponent, Demandred, also has parallels to brilliant generals, notably the great Carthaginian general Hannibal. Hannibal was eventually outdone by the Ancient Roman general Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama, who is thus a parallel of Mat.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major
Scipio Africanus (236–183 BCE) was a priest of Mars, and was popularly believed to have foreknowledge of the future through his dreams. He distinguished himself very early in his career in the army: he was only 17 when he led a charge to rescue his father and consul at the Battle of Ticinus against the Carthaginian army of Hannibal, and 24 in 211 BCE when he volunteered to take command of the Roman army in Hispania after it was defeated by the Carthaginians led by Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal, and the two consuls leading it were killed. No one else dared take the post because it was regarded as a death sentence. After all, during his campaign in Italy, Hannibal’s forces killed one in five Romans of military age.
However, once Scipio assumed command he never lost a battle. Fortunately for the Romans, the three Carthaginian generals in Hispania, Hannibal's brothers Hasdrubal and Mago, and Hasdrubal Gisco did not work together. He succeeded in driving the Carthaginians out of Hispania, but the Senate delayed in giving him the command to invade Carthage. Finally in 202 BCE, Scipio Africanus Major defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in Carthage, ending the Second Punic War. At the start of the battle, the Carthaginians had the advantage in infantry and the Romans in cavalry. The Roman cavalry swept the Carthaginian cavalry off the field, but foolishly continued their pursuit instead of turning back to participate in the main battle. The Roman infantry was losing ground against the greater numbers of Carthaginian infantry until the Roman cavalry suddenly returned and attacked the Carthaginians from the rear, overwhelming them.
From early in the series Mat is strongly attracted to rubies, gems associated with Mars because of their red colour, hinting at his aptitude and attraction for warfare. He gained his knowledge of the future from the Aelfinn and from Min’s viewings. Like Scipio, Mat was young when he became a battle leader, saving the Tairens and Cairhienin from the Shaido, and also like Scipio, he never lost a battle.
Mat did not want to lead troops then, and was always reluctant to join battle, but once he saw that the Great Captains had been corrupted by the Shadow, he volunteered himself to lead the Light’s armies. The Last Battle is a complex of battles, but the Battle of Zama was perhaps replayed when the Seanchan left the field in a seemingly disastrous move and then returned at the last to turn the tide. However Mat’s feint with the Seanchan was deliberate and not serendipitous.
It took Mat, effectively a composite of other generals, Scipio plus, you might say, to overcome Demandred, an immortal Hannibal.
Marcus Licinius Crassus, (ca. 115 BC – 53 BC), was the richest man in Ancient Rome and is a minor parallel of Mat. He volunteered to crush the slave revolt led by Spartacus, and eventually did so using horrific methods. Married to the Empress, and able to generate money rapidly in his own right, Mat could be the richest man in the world. Demandred, an analogue of Spartacus, led a slave revolt in Shara (River of Souls), and when he brought the Sharans and Shadowspawn to the Last Battle, Mat and his armies eventually crushed them in a series of horrific battles.
Mat’s other main military parallels are more modern. For instance there really was a brilliant, innovative, one-eyed general. His name was Jan Zizka.
Jan Zizka (c. 1376-1424) was:
a military commander and national hero of Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) who led the victorious Hussite Protestant armies against the German king Sigismund, foreshadowing the revolution of military tactics two centuries later in his introduction of mobile artillery.He spent his early life as a mercenary for the Poles, notably fighting with them at the Battle of Grunwald (1410), which is where he lost an eye and acquired his surname of Zizka (one-eyed). When he returned to Bohemia, he became a follower of the religious reformer Jan Hus (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay). The Hussites resisted King Sigismund’s attempts to suppress them and Žižka became a leader of one of the newly formed peasant military communities that, with their tight discipline and religious and nationalist zeal, were vastly superior to the undisciplined feudal levies that they opposed.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Žižka revolutionized warfare through the introduction of cannon mounted on mobile, armoured farm wagons. He was one of the first commanders to handle infantry, cavalry, and artillery as one tactical body. Reduced to the tactical defensive by his cumbersome wagons, he became a master at forcing his enemies to attack at a disadvantage. Žižka's system proved practically unbeatable. He crushed Sigismund near Prague in 1420. Losing the sight of his remaining eye shortly thereafter, he continued to lead his forces to victory against both Roman Catholics and rival Hussite elements, finally dying of plague in 1424.Zizka had the reputation of never losing a battle and he ranks with the great military innovators of all time. He did not adopt the conventional armament and tactics of the time, but instead used armoured farm wagons surmounted by small cannons of the howitzer type. They easily broke through the enemy lines, firing as they went, and thus enabled him to cut superior forces into pieces. Legend has it that his battle wagons were able to execute exceedingly complex manoeuvres at full gallop.
Despite his obvious success, Europe failed to heed Žižka's military system for 200 years. Lingering feudalism and relatively weak central governmental authority partly explain this lapse. Only with the advent of the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf and his reintroduction of mobile artillery in the 17th century did Žižka's system become incorporated into European tactics.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Mat Cauthon is also a military genius who introduced cannon into warfare, just like Jan Zizka (see Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article). He is also a military innovator in the way he has organised his forces:
Cauthon seems to be attempting to re-create the standardisation of size, designation and composition of units that has not been seen since before the War of the Hundred Years.Even before the Last Battle he combined cavalry and infantry into one effective force, removing the influence of feudalism from his army as much as possible, and used primitive grenades. Mat made a bargain with Elayne to have bronze cannon, dragons, made (Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons). Zizka mounted his simple cannon on farm wagons. Aludra mounted her dragons on wagons with separate carts for the dragons’ eggs (A Memory of Light, Prologue).
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Mat is very much of the people as Zizka was. He doesn’t think much of the nobles’ recruiting or military tactics, or even much of the nobles themselves. Interestingly Zizka served as a mercenary for some years and the Band of the Red Hand was secretly hired by King Roedran to unite his forces and then lumped with the mercenaries camped outside Caemlyn (Towers of Midnight, Talk of Dragons).
Another very successful innovative general who used Hussite mercenaries was Matthias Corvinus.
Mat Cauthon, the Raven Prince, has quite a bit in common with Matthias Corvinus. He learned about military matters young and is very popular with commoners. Mat became a noble and consort by marriage rather than a monarch by election.
During his reign, Matthias was one of the first to adopt the Renaissance from Italy. He chose his governing officials on the basis of their ability and education rather than noble birth, much to the discontent of the nobility. Hungary was surrounded by hostile neighbours and Matthias silenced his critics and restless nobles with his success in war against the would-be invaders. Rather than relying on his nobles for troops, he taxed the population and built the Black Army of mercenaries, which included Hussites from Bohemia. At this time most armies were conscripted from the populace as needed, and were thus part-time. Matthias had the idea of a full-time mercenary army from reading about Julius Caesar. At its largest, in 1487, the Black Army reached 28,000 men (20,000 cavalry – light and heavy - and 8000 infantry) from a variety of Central European nations. The infantry were well equipped with early firearms with 25% of the soldiers armed with an arquebus, when most Western European armies had 10% or less carrying firearms. The limiting factor for firearms was the cost of gunpowder. The heavy cavalry protected the infantry and artillery and the light cavalry launched raids on the enemy. With this army Matthias defeated the Ottomans and Poles and Emperor Frederick, and became king of Croatia and Bohemia as well as Hungary, and Duke of Austria. When the king died, the army left Hungary because the succeeding King could not afford the cost of the army. Mattias Corvinus was a very popular king even though he taxed the population heavily for his army, and he became a hero of Hungarian folklore, with his reign regarded as a golden age.
Mat used his ancestral memories of warfare experience and books read to structure his army and devise his very successful battle tactics. He is not fond of nobles, and made the ranks of the infantry officers equal to the ranks of the cavalry, whereas before the infantry were regarded as much lower than the cavalry, since the latter were nobles. Mat’s army has been hired as mercenaries by King Roedran, by whom they were well paid. Thanks to his luck with dice, Mat has won enough money to pay for the Band of the Red Hand, which had about 30 thousand men at the start of the Last Battle. Mat and Aludra introduced gunpowder weapons into Third Age warfare. Ammunition limited the use of the dragons in the Last Battle to a degree, but so did their vulnerability once the cavalry was destroyed by the Shadow. The Seanchan, whom Mat defeated in Altara, have some parallels with the Byzantine Empire rather than the later Ottomans. Folk tales are being created about Mat, much to his horror.
Interestingly, Matthias Corvinus was related to Vlad III Dracula the Impaler, Prince of Wallacia. They were allies for a time but in 1462 Matthias imprisoned his former ally.
With his reputation for extreme cruelty, Vlad could be a parallel of Semirhage. Semirhage crossed paths with Mat in Ebou Dar, but he luckily left the city before she learned who he was and received orders to kill him. She was captured by Rand rather than Mat.
Another historic parallel for Mat is Francis Marion.
Francis Marion (c. 1732-1795) was a colonial American soldier in the American Revolution who was nicknamed the “Swamp Fox” by the British for his elusive tactics.
Marion gained his first military experience fighting against the Cherokee Indians in 1759. Then, serving as a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress (1775), he was commissioned a captain. It was after the surrender of General Benjamin Lincoln to the British at Charleston, South Carolina (1780) that he slipped away to the swamps, gathered together his band of guerrillas, and began leading his bold raids. Marion and his irregulars often defeated larger bodies of British troops by the surprise and rapidity of their movement over swampy terrain. For a daring rescue of Americans surrounded by the British at Parkers Ferry, South Carolina (August 1781), Marion received the thanks of Congress. He was then appointed a brigadier general, and after the war he served in the senate of South Carolina (1782–90).Mat, the Fox in the Prophecies of the Dragon (see Fox section below), and his Band of the Red Hand pride themselves on the rapidity of their movements. Mat’s first military experience was fighting against the Shaido, who, like all the Aiel tribes, have parallels to the American Indians. Like Marion, Mat, too, has used decoy and ambush tactics to disrupt enemy communications, capture supplies, and free prisoners. In 1780, Marion’s small troop of between 20 and 70 men was the only force then opposing the British in South Carolina, just as Mat’s small force was the only one opposing the Seanchan in Altara. Tuon thought Mat’s army was ‘irregular’, but was impressed by it nevertheless. In 1782, during Marion’s absence as State Senator at Jacksonborough, his brigade deteriorated, and there was a conspiracy to turn him over to the British. While Mat was absent in the south, the Band increased in size and also earned a considerable sum from King Roedran (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida). However, during his visit to the world of the ‘Finns, the Shadow attacked Caemlyn and infiltrated the Seanchan again. There was a conspiracy among the Shadow to kill Mat (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). Mat is now Prince of the Ravens, and may well have a position in government after the Last Battle, just as Marion did after the Revolution.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
The 19th century South Carolinan poet William Gilmore Simms wrote a poem about Marion entitled "The Swamp Fox":
Free bridle-bit, good gallant steed,Shades of the song Jack o' the Shadows!
That will not ask a kind caress
To swim the Santee at our need,
When on his heels the foemen press -
The true heart and the ready hand,
The spirit stubborn to be free,
The twisted bore, the smiting brand -
And we are Marion's men, you see…
We may not see their forms again,
God help 'em, should they find the strife!
For they are strong and fearless men,
And make no coward terms for life;
They'll fight as long as Marion bids,
And when he speaks the word to shy,
Then, not till then, they turn their steeds,
Through thickening shade and swamp to fly.
Mat’s next military parallel was a wealthy speculator and gambler as well as a general.
Nathan Bedford Forrest
When Nashville’s fall to the Union was imminent, Forrest took command of the city and evacuated several millions of dollars’ worth of heavy ordnance machinery and several important government officials to safe locations. Mat’s Band of the Red Hand were crucial in saving the cannon from the Shadow and in evacuating thousands of refugees from Caemlyn.
At the Battle of Fallen Timbers Forrest charged through the Union front lines, while his men halted, and was surrounded. He attacked the Union soldiers with revolvers and then sabre, was shot with a musket and captured and used a Union soldier as a shield as he galloped back to his men. This is paralleled by Mat hurling himself into battle with Tylee’s troops to feel the pulse of battle and aid Egwene’s forces. Many of the men with him were killed but Mat captured a Sharan channeller.
Forrest’s raid into west Tennessee to disrupt the movement of Union troops under Ulysses Grant, with his fast moving troops always eluding Grant’s forces, parallels Mat’s raids against the Seanchan in northern Altara. Forrest ended with more soldiers than he began, and so did Mat.
Again in northern Alabama and west Georgia his men fought and chased 3,000 Union cavalrymen commanded by Colonel Streight, with a force far smaller in number. He tricked Streight into thinking that his men outnumbered Streight’s troops by repeatedly parading them around a hill. In Altara Mat used Travelling to attack the Seanchan rapidly in several places, thus making his forces look larger than they were (Knife of Dreams, Under An Oak) and later made his forces look like they were unready for battle and easy pickings (Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens).
There is some controversy over whether Forrest condoned a massacre of African Americans who surrendered at Fort Pillow in Tennessee. In Altara Mat’s abandonment of the custom of giving aid to the vanquished appalled the Aes Sedai. It was a forerunner of the ruthless tactics of the Last Battle.
Forrest created and established new tactics for mobile forces. He moved his mounted troops very quickly, and aimed to constantly harass the enemy in fast-moving raids, and to disrupt the enemy’s communication and supply trains. Mat introduced rapid movement of troops to the mainland and reorganised the military forces as early as Lord of Chaos, and then introduced gunpowder weapons.
Ironically, Forrest was a slave owner and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, whereas Mat Cauthon is anti-slavery as well as anti-noble but married the black-skinned slave-owning Empress of Seanchan and also personally captured a channeller who was enslaved.
Likely parallels for Mat being a general at such a young age include two other generals of the US Civil War, George Custer (1839-1876), who was promoted to brigadier general of the volunteer forces at the age of 23, and Francis Barlow (1834-1896), who became a brigadier general at age 28. Lafayette, who led troops in the US Civil War in his early 20s, would be another.
Mat also has parallels with two US World War II generals:
General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) was a highly decorated US soldier who served in World Wars I and II and the Korean War, and was a US general, United Nations general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. Douglas MacArthur led his men from the front, and in World War I refused to wear a gas mask, leading to lifelong respiratory problems. Mat refuses to wear armour, and in Altara was reminded of the dangers:
"Should you not be donning your armor, Highness?"At the end of World War I MacArthur became superintendent of the West Point Military Academy, and made wide-ranging reforms in the curriculum, exercise regimes, discipline and tactics. Mat has made reforms in troop organisation, weaponry, tactics and the promotion of infantry as equal to cavalry.
"I don't intend getting close enough to the fighting to need armor. A general who draws his sword has put aside his baton and become a common soldier." …
An arrow tugged at Mat's left sleeve, another pierced his right sleeve, only the fletchings keeping it from going through cleanly, and a third ripped open the right shoulder of his coat. He put a finger behind the scarf around his neck and tugged. The bloody thing felt awfully tight of a sudden. Maybe he should consider wearing armor at times like this.
- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens
In World War II MacArthur made a famous speech in Australia: "I came through and I shall return… [to retake territory invaded by Japan]”. He officially accepted the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 and oversaw the Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. In the aftermath of the war he protected Emperor Hirohito and the imperial family from prosecution for war crimes, but also made great democratic reforms in Japan.
Mat made it out of the ‘Finns’ world alive three times and returned to the main world and Tuon in time for the Last Battle. While much was made of Mat’s departure and return, even more was made of the Seanchan’s abrupt withdrawal from the Last Battle and their eventual timely return, which while planned, was not guaranteed:
Mat stalked away, calming his anger. Tuon had seemed really angry at him! Light. She would come back when he needed her to, would she not?The official Seanchan Return to the mainland enabled these valuable forces to contribute to the Last Battle. Mat and Tuon each returned to save world.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
If Fortuona decided to return, that was.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
"Mat has asked for us to return," Min said softly. "How long will you debate doing what he asked?"
Tuon eyed her. "Until I am convinced this is best for my Empire."
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
Mat had danced this dance well. He knew he had. But there was only so much a man could do. Even Tuon's return might not be enough, if it came.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
"They found the spy, apparently," Naeff said. "The Empress is waiting to return on your mark."
Mat breathed in, tasting the battlefield air, feeling the rhythm of the fighting he had set up. He didn't know if he could win, even with Tuon. Not with Elayne's army in disarray, not with the Aes Sedai weakened to the point of being unable to channel. Not without Egwene, her Two Rivers stubbornness, her iron backbone. Not without a miracle.
"Send for her, Naeff," Mat said. He called for paper and a pen, and scribbled a note, which he handed off to the Asha'man. He shoved aside the selfish desire to let Tuon fly to safety. Bloody ashes, there was no safety, not anywhere. "Give this to the Empress, Naeff; tell her these instructions must be followed exactly."
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
He would have to thank Tuon for returning.
A Memory of Light, A Field of Glass
The Seanchan have much in common with Imperial Japan and Mat is in the ambivalent position of having married Tuon (a parallel of Hirohito, see Tuon essay) and become Prince of the Ravens while the Seanchan are intent on invading the Westlands. Being an advocate of democracy, he may also persuade her to make changes to Seanchan society in the future, as his behaviour amongst the Seanchan court and military shows. This may have been intended in the sequel Jordan planned to write about Tuon’s and Mat’s return to Seanchan some years after Tarmon Gai’don.
Mat protected the Empress from the Shadow and was given a new name as reward.
Some have thought that Mat’s new name, Knotai, sounds like no tie, rejecting formal dress, but no one in the Wheel of Time world wears a tie or cravat. The name could refer to “Not I!” since Mat does deny things and refuses to volunteer unless pushed into a promise.
The name has other meanings. If pronounced as Notai, with a silent K, it means “I noticed” in Italian. And Mat does notice vital things in the Last battle that others miss: the Grey Men, Demandred’s tactics, and the corruption of the Great Captains. This fits in with his parallels to Heimdall, the Norse gods’ watchman (see below).
The Italian and Latin word for notary, notaio is also similar to notai, and associations of notaries in Italy are often named something-or-other notai. A notary is the person responsible for witnessing signatures on documents, ensuring they are valid, and taking oaths and affirmations. Mat was not present to sign or witness Rand’s peace treaty, but he persuaded Fortuona to sign it in Altara. He also ensured she kept her word that the Seanchan would fight in the Last Battle.
If pronounced with the K as K(n)otai, the name refers to the sankin kotai, the alternate residence duty of feudal lords in ancient Japan. Sankin kotai was developed in the Warring States period (and such periods have parallels to the Last Battle, see Demandred’s parallels to the Chinese Warring States period) and firmly established by the Tokugawa shoguns, the hereditary military dictators of feudal Japan. Each feudal lord (daimyo) had to reside several months of the year in the capital Edo underthe Shogun’s eye, and when they returned to their own domains they were required to leave their families, including their heir, at Edo as hostages. While the expense and inconvenience of maintaining two residences and travelling in appropriate style with their samurai retinues and the time spent away from their estates prevented the daimyos from waging war and gaining more power than the Shoguns, it also ultimately contributed to the overthrow of the shogunate.
As has already been noted, there are strong Japanese influences in Seanchan society. Alternate residence duty ties in with the Persephone/Kore abduction myth parallel that is part of Mat’s and Tuon’s relationship (see below and Tuon essay). Both parallels indicate that Mat will regularly spend periods of time apart from his wife. Due to long custom, Tuon worries that her Prince (and other high-ranking Seanchan nobles) will compete with her for power and threaten her rule if not her life, just as the Shoguns did not trust their daimyos.
In sword fighting, kotai means “retreat” or “move backwards”, or else “change partners” or switch between offense and defense.
It is also a surname.
General George Patton (1885-1945) was:
a U.S. Army officer who was an outstanding practitioner of mobile tank warfare in the European and Mediterranean theatres during World War IIHe studied and emulated the fast-moving operations of the great cavalry leaders in the American Civil War (1861–65). Translating the function of cavalry into the modern era, Patton promoted the use of tanks and armoured cars and developed improvements to tanks in the 1920s, but US Congress was uninterested at that time. In World War II Patton’s units were highly mobile and aggressive and defeated German defensive positions through manoeuvre rather than fighting them head on. Similarly, Mat has increased the mobility of his army and uses this to the fullest to attack. He avoids head-on battles as much as possible. Mat has promoted the usefulness of infantry and the integration of infantry and cavalry and introduced artillery.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Patton dressed and acted in a striking way because he thought this would motivate his troops and his language was profane in an age when swearing was not usual in public speeches. However, his troops preferred to serve with him because they thought he was their best chance to get home from the war alive. Mat’s dress is also very different to that of the Band – especially since Ebou Dar - and he is also renowned for his colourful language. According to Mat, considerable numbers of his troops are with him because they think they are more likely to survive in his forces.
At times Patton tricked his own superior officers: forbidden to attack, he would send out reconnaissance missions which would meet (expected) resistance and need more and more reinforcements, turning into full-scale attacks. He called this the ‘rock soup’ method, and used it in the Battle of Sicily and again near Metz where he was ordered to halt during Operation Market Garden. Mat has played many tricks, including the role of the Stone Soup trickster in Hinderstap. Refused the opportunity to buy food, he gradually lured the townsfolk into betting more than they owned in a dice game and won on the last throw, filling his empty wagon.
The Germans feared Patton as the Allies’ best general and were slow to respond to the Allied landings at Normandy because they assumed Patton would lead any major attack and he was on leave at that time. Mat gained command of the Light’s armies after Tarmon Gai’don commenced. His risky journey to another world to rescue Moiraine has a parallel in Patton’s life: Patton sent a small (undersized) force of men to liberate a prisoner of war camp where his son was held 80 km behind enemy lines. Mat’s mission of only three men only succeeded with the tragic loss of Jain Farstrider and the sacrifice of Mat’s eye. Mat’s role as a farmboy general perhaps is paralleled in Hitler’s description of Patton as ‘that crazy cowboy general’.
Band of Red Hand (Shen an Calhar)
Mat’s army, the Band of the Red Hand, has a banner of:
a red-fringed white square with a large, open red hand in the center, and beneath it, embroidered in red, the words Dovie'andi se tovya sagain. It's time to toss the dice.The saying is discussed below (see Gambling section). The red hand is the emblem of the O’Neill dynasty (see right), a powerful and important Irish clan based in Ulster. The red hand also appears on the flag of Ulster (see below left) even though the head of the O’Neill clan was forced out of Ireland in the early 17th Century.
- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens
Shen an Calhar is a composite name. In Chinese mythology, the shen is a dragon or sea monster that can shape-shift and create mirages. Calhar is a Portuguese verb that means ‘suits’. Thus shen an calhar would mean an entity that appears at any appropriate time or way to win for the Dragon. The Band has appeared unexpectedly, and also seemed to be larger than it is, to confound its enemies. This also fits in with Mat as Hornblower summoning dead heroes – ‘mirages’ – which fight for the Dragon Reborn at Falme.
Shen an Calhar is associated with the red eagle of Manetheren. Min had a viewing of a red eagle associated with Mat (The Eye of the World, Strangers and Friends) and while being Healed of the Shadar Logoth dagger in the White Tower, Mat shouted orders in a battle between Manetheren troops and Trollocs. Since he didn’t have memories of others at this time this ancestral memory must be a former life of his own.
The Order of the Red Eagle was a Prussian chivalric order awarded to either military personnel or civilians for valour, military leadership, or excellent service to the Prussian kingdom.
The red eagle of Manetheren also refers to the White Eagle of Poland (see coat of arms right). Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and later by Soviet Russia and was a long time being liberated by the Allied Forces. Manetheren was treated badly by Aridhol/Shadar Logoth (a parallel of Soviet Russia, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay). Later in the Trolloc Wars Manetheren was betrayed by the White Tower and received no miliary aid from its allies.
A legendary archer with a band of men with similarities to Mat is Robin Hood.
The longbow-man Robin Hood has been a legend since medieval times. He is most famous for robbing the rich and giving to the poor and fighting injustice and tyranny. Other notable characteristics are his anticlericalism, his chivalry to women and the way he tricks the Sheriff of Nottingham. In the earliest stories, Robin Hood is a commoner, like most longbow-men, but some later authors attempted to ennoble Robin as the dispossessed Earl of Huntingdon. Among his band was Little John, who was very skilled with the quarterstaff, and once masqueraded as Robin Hood’s servant during an adventure (A Gest of Robyn Hode).
Mat as a fool figure has wandered as a vagabond, and he gambles with the rich – nearly always winning - and gives portions of his considerable winnings to the poor. He fights the tyranny of the Shadow, has no love of the nobility and objects to undemocratic laws in any land (such as Tear). Much to his horror, he has recently been ennobled as Prince of the Ravens. Mat’s dislike of Aes Sedai would be the equivalent to Robin Hood’s anticlericalism. As for his chivalry, Mat has vowed to never kill another woman, even if he dies for it (Knife of Dreams, Something Flickers). Like Little John, Mat is highly skilled with the quarterstaff, as Gawyn and Galad discovered, as well as the longbow, and masqueraded as Rand’s servant in Cairhien (The Great Hunt, Dangerous Words). While Mat is actually much taller than average, he is rather short to the Aiel, and Tylin has belittled him also. Mat has a special friendship with Birgitte, who was called Maerion (Maid Marian) in a former life. Like Robin Hood, Mat is a trickster figure (see Trickster section below) as well as a reckless wanderer. The term Robinhood was given to any fugitive or vagabond outlaw in medieval times and would thus tie in with the Fool motif.
Jack Playing Card
Mat is associated with playing cards – he played chop (a five suited poker, see Chop article) in Tear - and has similarities with a European court card that has been around since the 13th to 14th centuries, the Jack or Knave (see two Jack cards right). In the playing card pack, the Jack card represents both a peasant farmer and foot-soldier. Mat started the series a farmboy who uses the longbow to fight.
In Euchre and similar card games the Jack or Knave of the trump suit (and the Jack has always been regarded as a knave – the thieving Knave of Hearts of the nursery rhyme, for instance) outranks the King, Queen and even Ace of trumps. The promotion of the commoner Jack above the regal King and Queen in such games reflects the change in warfare which occurred at the end of the medieval age when the longbow and then gunpowder weapons wielded by commoners reduced the effectiveness and status of the nobly born Knights in battle. It’s no coincidence that Mat comes from an area renowned for the longbow, and was the main one of the Emond’s Fielders using it early in the series – Mat referred to it as an honest man’s weapon (The Eye of the World, Leavetaking) - and then introduced gunpowder weapons into warfare. Moreover he promoted Daerid, a commoner leader of foot soldiers, to the same rank as the noble leaders of the cavalry in his army (Knife of Dreams, As If The World Were Fog). The Jack is directly connected with soldiering: in medieval times the multi-layered cloth armour that served to protect the wearer from arrows and sword cuts was called a jack. This type of armour was common among the archers and foot soldiers of the time.
Of all the Jacks, the Jack of Diamonds is the one most appropriate to Mat, since it is a wild card in many traditional card games, such as Boston. Moreover, in the Bezique/Pinochle family of card games the Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Spades is a high-scoring, potentially winning combination (David Parlett, A History of Card Games) and the formidable Queen of Spades is an apt parallel for Tuon (see Tuon essay and Fool and Joker essay). It is not surprising the Pattern went to a great deal of trouble to arrange such a potent marriage (here they are paired, above right). Since he is a Fool figure and god of wealth, Mat is an extreme Jack of Diamonds, although he prefers rubies to diamonds!
Since his sacrifice in the world of the ‘Finns, Mat is a “one-eyed Jack.” These are the Jack of Spades (Tuon’s “suit”) and the Jack of Hearts (the tart thief), who are depicted in profile and thus have only one eye visible. (This is also the case for the King of Diamonds, also called “the man with the axe”, who is thus a parallel of Perrin.) The saying “one-eyed Jacks, the man with the axe” refers to these three cards which are “one-eyed royals” and are often played as wild cards in domestic games of draw poker.
In some card games, for example Five Hundred, there is a card which trumps the Jacks, indeed all the cards: the Joker. After he takes on the responsibility of rescuing the girls in The Dragon Reborn, Mat gains skills in fighting – he becomes a Jack, a commoner soldier - but not until he goes to Rhuidean and gains ancestral memories does he become a full Joker. The Joker card is a promoted Jack, the highest trump in some card games and a wild card in others (such as Poker) (David Parlett, A History of Card Games and see Fool and Joker essay).
The foot-soldier Jack is promoted above the King in the Euchre card game due to his skills in battle – the Jack is ennobled, if you like. The Joker card goes one step higher again, as the highest ranked trump card he wins any battle in the Euchre family of card games (eg Five Hundred) and, as jester, is a regular part of the court, able to speak to the King as he pleases:
In most renaissance households the jester, often a hunchback or a dwarf, though being the least member of the court as for social rank, was also the only subject officially entitled to play with the king (or prince, or duke), to tease him, to tell him things which others could have barely been able to without enduring serious consequences. The same glamorous clothes worn by the jester made him clearly identifiable among all other members of the court: a personage who, at the same time, was ridiculous though outstanding, deformed though witty.In Ebou Dar Queen Tylin forcibly adopted Mat as her pretty – dressed him in fairly extreme style with bright colours, lace, embroidery and all. Mat felt that he was:
- The Fool and the Joker, Andy Pollett
dressed like a buffoon who lacked only a painted face to look like a noble’s fool.Tylin publicly petted Mat (Winter’s Heart, An Unexpected Encounter). She made him a joke in the eyes of the Seanchan, who thought of him as a queen’s plaything (one traditional role of the jester) and called him Tylin’s Toy (Winter’s Heart, News In A Cloth Sack). Mat even entertained Tuon with juggling and jokes while they travelled through Altara (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota), just as a jester would entertain the monarch at court, and in return Tuon claimed him as her own toy:
- Winter’s Heart, An Unexpected Encounter
"She [Joline] cannot have him," she said sharply. Drawing a breath, she went on in amused tones. "Toy belongs to me. Until I am through playing with him.”As a result, she underestimated Mat:
- Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box
Toy commanding an army seemed very odd. He was charming at times, even witty and amusing, but often a buffoon and always a rapscallion. He had seemed very much in his element as Tylin's pet. Yet he had seemed in his element among the show's performers, too, and with the marath'damane and the two escaped damane, and in the hell…until he was reunited with his army:
- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog
Tuon looked at him, squatting there by the map moving his fingers over its surface, and suddenly she saw him in a new light. A buffoon? No. A lion stuffed into a horse-stall might look like a peculiar joke, but a lion on the high plains was something very different. Toy was loose on the high plains, now. She felt a chill.After he returns from the ‘Finn’s world, his missing eye proves he is not a plaything, and Fortuona no longer refers to him as Toy.
- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog
Mat is a winner of battles like the Joker in Euchre, yet he is able to make the most of wherever he is, like the Joker in another card game, Poker.
Adopted in Poker in the 1870s, the Joker is a wild card, counted as any natural card the holder wishes for the purpose of improving the value of his hand (David Parlett, A History of Card Games). The Joker can turn three of a kind into four, or become the missing card of a straight (see poker hand right). He alters chance in the holder's favour. Just like Mat.
As he has matured, Mat has moved from the role of innocent Fool to soldier Jack (of Diamonds) to a true Joker, out trumping all cards in Euchre, and with the wild-card, chance-altering powers the Joker has in Poker. He is no longer naive and now Tuon, Justice/Queen of Spades, has married him. The Jack was ennobled into the Joker, just like Mat is now Prince of the Ravens and has his place in the Seanchan court.
As Fortuona discovered, Mat might be amusing, but he is full of tricks and surprises.
Mat has parallels to a few trickster figures of mythology. Tales of such figures also link to the Joker and the Fool and are:
anecdote[s] of deceit, magic, and violence perpetrated by an animal-human with special or magical powers. Usually grouped in cycles, these tales feature a trickster-hero who within a single society may be regarded as both creator god and innocent fool, evil destroyer and childlike prankster.Mat is linked to an animal figure noted for its cunning: the fox (see Fox section below) and he was tricked by other ‘animal figures’, the Foxes and Snakes. In the early books Mat was irresponsible and greedy and was corrupted by the Shadar Logoth dagger as a result. He is certainly foolish, and this has led to him taking risks which turn out for the best. For instance, in the battle for Cairhien, he tried to avoid any fighting and ended up accidentally doing very well.
The characteristic trickster tale is in the form of a picaresque adventure: the trickster was “going along”; he encountered a situation to which he responded by knavery or stupidity; he met a violent or ludicrous end; and then the next incident is told. Frequently, he is accompanied by an animal companion, who either serves as a stooge or tricks the trickster.
In most African cycles the trickster is an underdog figure, smaller in stature and strength than his opponents (thus gaining the audience's sympathy) but much cleverer and always well in control of the situation. He is ruthless, greedy, and a glutton and often outwits his opponent through a calculating suaveness combined with sheer lack of scruples. Each cycle centres upon a particular prey, such as the hyena, lion, or elephant. The trickster's victim is usually earnest, hardworking, and slow-witted and soon yields to the smooth arguments and attractive promises of his opponent. Although in an occasional cycle the trickster is an admirable figure, in most, any good that results from his actions is inadvertent.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
In Hinderstap he played the role of the tricksome traveller in the Stone Soup folk tale, manipulating the villagers with their own greed into filling his empty wagon with food after they had refused to sell him any. However, after dark, the joke was on him…
For his next act of trickery in a good cause, he planned a raid on Trustair involving extensive yarn-spinning and conning a Warder into lending his fancloth cloak (The Gathering Storm, Legends) but it was rendered unnecessary by an Aes Sedai trickster, Verin. Mat had not seen Verin since he had been freed of the Shadar Logoth dagger and had his memories filled by the Eelfinn, and with a fresh mind, he immediately recognised that she was conning everybody except him (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon). The two tricksters immediately set to to make a bargain. Verin was convinced that she would get the better of Mat because his curiosity would lead him to open her letter early; she underestimated his fear and loathing of the One Power and Aes Sedai.
In Towers of Midnight Mat said:
"I'm trying to get back to my basic roots"Mat was a more primordial trickster in this book playing simple tricks like painting an Aes Sedai’s mouth blue with a herb (see Herbs article).
Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting
"Light, Mat," he said. "You look like you tangled with a briarstitch patch and came out sore."is a reference to the trickster Br’er Rabbit of the Uncle Remus stories manipulating the fox and wolf to throw him into a briar patch so he can escape them. Mat had just escaped the gholam and been told the Aes Sedai were leaving when Thom made his remark. Briars are very thorny plants, usually wild roses or brambles, that form a thicket which is very hard to penetrate.
- Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting
Tricksters need freedom to operate and do as they wish, which is why Mat isn’t a Hero of the Horn. Forever rebellious and anti-authority, he won’t dance to another’s command, not even for immortality (A Memory of Light, Tendrils of Mist). (See the Tricksters essay for more on Wheel of Time tricksters.)
The Norse trickster Loki resembles Mat at his most immature:
Loki was represented as the companion of the great gods Odin and Thor, helping them with his clever plans but sometimes causing embarrassment and difficulty for them and himself. He also appeared as the enemy of the gods, entering their banquet uninvited and demanding their drink…He is counted among the Aesir but is not one of them. His father was a giant (Fárbauti; “Dangerous Striker”)…Loki deceived the gods and cheated them, but sometimes he got them out of trouble.Loki is not properly one of the Aesir, he is an outsider. Likewise, Mat is too much of the rogue or vagabond to be taken seriously by others and is often a wild card. Like Loki, he can spin inventive yarns (such as those for the aborted raid on Trustair) and disguise people (eg his group when escaping Ebou Dar, and himself in Caemlyn when he took Verin’s advice to lie low (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon)) to get out of trouble. Mat rescued Joline, Teslyn and Edesina from a very tight spot, but then tricked Joline into staining her mouth blue in revenge for her treatment of him.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Both Mat and Loki are tricksters as renowned for their adventures and misbehaviour as they are for the punishments they received. Loki was bound naked with venom dripping on his head (see right), perhaps a parallel of Perrin’s vision of Mat, bound naked. Mat is as capricious as Loki; he often does things on a whim and has appeared uninvited at court in Caemlyn, Tear and Ebou Dar. Nevertheless, both Mat and Loki have sometimes helped others, usually through a cunning plan or sheer luck.
Loki fears Thor’s hammer just as Mat fears Rand al’Thor’s channelling – or anyone’s, really.
Interestingly, Loki is the father of the goddess of the underworld, Hel, and Mat has parallels with gods of the underworld (see King of the Underworld section below). Loki’s father’s name means ‘Dangerous Striker’. Mat’s father, Abell Cauthon, won the quarterstaff competition in Emonds Field most years.
Some of Loki’s deeds and characteristics are parallels of Padan Fain/Mordeth – the dark trickster of the series – rather than Mat. (The two tricksters, Fain and Mat, are linked, however, see Fool and Joker essay.) For example, during Ragnarok, the last battle of Norse mythology, Loki will fight with the jotnar against the gods and he and Heimdall will kill each other. Mat is a parallel of Heimdall (see Horn section below) and killed Padan Fain, the carrier of the evil which corrupted him and robbed him of his own memories, at the Last Battle.
Sun Wukong, the Monkey King of Chinese mythology, was tremendously strong and fast and such a skilled fighter and general that he defeated the Army of Heaven’s 100,000 celestial warriors and was the equal of the best of Heaven’s generals. His favoured weapon was the golden-banded fighting staff. When the Jade Emperor invited Money to Heaven, he was put in charge of the horses of the Heavenly Stables rather than given an honoured place as one of the gods. Mat is the best of the Light’s generals, and has developed a strong and fast-moving army. He defeated Demandred, general of the Shadow’s armies. No mean fighter himself with his ashandarei as quarterstaff, he also has great skill with horses and has unwillingly posed as Rand’s servant. Fortuona considers Mat to be a better judge of horses than the Imperial Stablemaster (A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens). For his mission into the Tower of Ghenjei, an iron band was put on Mat’s ashandarei.
Monkey and two companions, ‘Pigsy’ and ‘Sandy’ accompanied the pilgrim monk Xuanzang to India to recover Buddhist sutras and after 81 ordeals they succeeded in their quest and returned to China. The two companions participated as atonement for previous crimes. This is probably a parallel of Mat’s quest to the Finn’s world, with Thom and Noal, both men with guilty consciences over neglecting loved ones, to rescue Moiraine.
Lemminkainen is a trickster and charmer of women from the Finnish Kalevala. He and Ilmarinen the smith (a parallel of Perrin, see Perrin essay) are the companions of the shamanistic hero Vainamoinen, who promises that he shall return to the world at a future time, when his abilities are again needed. Vainamoinen is a parallel of Rand (see Rand essay), who was reborn at need to save the world. Mat the trickster is like Lemminkainen, who journeys to Tuonela, the land of the dead, to shoot the Swan of Tuonela and claim the daughter of Louhi, mistress of the Northland, in marriage.
However, Lemminkainen is killed and his body tossed in the river and dismembered. It is recovered and reassembled by his mother (see right) and he is restored to life. Trickster Mat and Perrin the blacksmith are the companions of Rand, born to save the world. Mat has had dealings with the ‘Finns of the Otherworld, including being given dead men’s memories (and the King of the Dead has repeatedly said that he hates to remember dying), and has married Tuon, who also has underworld associations (see Tuon essay). He rescued Moiraine from the infernal Otherworld of the ‘Finns – at the cost of his eye and Jain’s life.
Quite a few of the trickster gods obtain and pass on the knowledge of fire to humans.
In Ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus was:
one of the Titans, the supreme trickster, and a god of fire. His intellectual side was emphasized by the apparent meaning of his name, Forethinker. In common belief he developed into a master craftsman, and in this connection he was associated with fire and the creation of man.Wily Prometheus tricked Zeus into accepting the bones and fat of a sacrifice instead of the more nourishing meat, which was kept for humans. He also smuggled fire from the home of the gods for the use of humanity. Zeus punished Prometheus by binding him to a rock where his liver was eaten every day by an eagle, vulture or crow (depending on the story) and regenerated each night to be eaten again the following day. After a considerable time of suffering, Heracles killed the bird and set Prometheus free.
-Encyclopaedia Britannica, Prometheus
As far as forethought goes, Mat is aware of his shortcomings in this area and resolved to remedy that. He planned the trap for the gholam carefully and tricked it, not just with the hidden gateway, but with having two extra weave-breaking and gholam-damaging ter’angreals.
The fire Mat has developed with the aid of Aludra is that resulting from the firing of gunpowder weapons, which will change the face of warfare. Mat realised the consequences of this and had nightmares where the Dark One laughed at him for the destruction he is unleashing. Aludra has also invented primitive matches, which strike fire quickly and efficiently at will. Perrin had a dream of Mat bound, naked and snarling. Hercules, Prometheus’ rescuer, is a parallel of Rand (see Rand essay), and, as Amaresu pointed out to Mat, his life is the gift of Rand twice over (A Memory of Light, Those Who Fight). As for parallels of the attacking birds, Mat is associated with the red eagle of Manetheren, and with the raven of the Seanchan.
Another trickster is Māui, who also stole fire for mankind and introduced death to the world.
In Polynesian mythology, the demigod Māui is famous for his deeds and his tricks. He stole fire from Mahuika the Fire-goddess and only just escaped from her wrath alive. Māui next decides to win immortality for humankind but dies in the attempt, becoming the first human to die. As a result, all humankind is mortal.
The association of fire and death in mythology is even closer and more apt in the case of Mat, who develops fireworks into weapons of war after persuading Aludra (surely the fire goddess Mahuika) to give him a hint. No wonder he is a parallel of various gods of the underworld (see King of the Underworld section below) as well as tricksters who introduce death to the world. While Mat did not steal knowledge from Aludra, she is unhappy with him for worming his way into her affections and then marrying Tuon (The Gathering Storm, Legends).
Tokwah, the trickster figure of the South American Mataco people, also stole fire for the people, and introduced murder and death as well. In fact the Mataco people call him “lord of the dead”, just as Mat is king of the dead (see below).
Coyote is a Native American trickster god associated with gambling, love, and warfare who is a fool or the butt of jokes in some stories but the clever hero or villain in others. He is greedy, mischievous, reckless and impulsive, just like Mat. Coyote often takes advantage of his wise and kind brother Wolf just as Mat the fox often led Perrin the wolf astray when they were young. The god Raven is Coyote’s rival in some stories, but in other parts of the US Raven replaces Coyote as the divine trickster. Mat, now Prince of the Ravens, wrestled physically and mentally with Tuon and for a while regarded himself as at war with the Seanchan.
In one story Coyote lost his eyes in a gambling game, and they were replaced with eyes of pine pitch, which, although allowing him to see, started to melt when he approached fire. Another story concerning Coyote's eyes is that Coyote liked to impress girls by juggling his eyeballs but eventually he threw one eyeball so high that it got stuck in the sky and became a star. Mat is a skilled juggler and entertained Tuon with his juggling in Altara. Egwene dreamt of Mat reaching up into the night sky to catch a firework starburst (representing Mat using the technology of fireworks to develop gunpowder weaponry, see Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders essay) and of Mat placing his eye on a balance scale. Mat has now lost an eye in a gambling game - he sacrificed it to the Eelfinn as payment for Moiraine’s freedom. He said of the ‘Finn’s trickery in disguising access to their bargaining chamber:
Never choose the card a man wants you to. Mat should have realized that. It was one of the oldest cons in creation.Another story tells of Coyote replacing the Moon after it was stolen. Mat 'stole' Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons, and was crucial in safely restoring her to the Seanchan (Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak).
-Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World
Coyote is associated with witchcraft and Mat paid a great deal for his fox-head medallion to be free of the One Power (witchcraft) and now plans to use artillery to counteract the channelling of damane. In vain he repeatedly vows to never again be involved with Aes Sedai (witches). Coyote is also linked with death, sometimes having brought death into the world, or dying himself in the stories. Mat has memories of dead men, and often remembers their deaths. He died at Caemlyn and was restored by Rand’s balefire. Mat has also changed warfare by introducing gunpowder weapons so that anyone with a little equipment and training, not just the one or two percent of people who can channel, will be able to kill en masse.
Anansi the spider is a trickster from West African and Caribbean folklore with characteristics similar to Coyote and Raven. He attempts to steal money or food with his tricks but they often backfire. In Anansi and the Turtle he was outsmarted by the person he was trying to fool. To effect the rescue of Moiraine, Mat had to get the better of the ‘Finns. Mat was outsmarted by the Eelfinn in The Shadow Rising and was convinced he had made a fool-proof (!) bargain for escaping with Moiraine:
None attacked, and Mat began to feel right good about himself once they reached the other side of the room. He had beaten them. Last time, they had gotten the better end, but that was only because they had fought like cowards, punching a man who did not know the fight had started.but the Eelfinn found the flaw in it. In a scene of tricksters trumping each other, Mat realised their escape route had been provided by the Eelfinn previously:
This time he had been ready. He had shown them that Matrim Cauthon was no fool.
- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World
Mat stepped back and tipped his hat to the creatures. "Looks like the game can be won after all," he said. "Tell the foxes I'm mighty pleased with this key they gave me.”
Towers of Midnight, The One Left Behind
Mat is referred to as the fox in the Karaethon cycle. The fox is untamed; it represents wildness (see Animal Symbolism essay). Tylin recognised this in Mat, when she said:
“The trouble with having a pet fox… is that sooner or later it remembers it is a fox.”The fox is one of the most cunning creatures of world mythology, a trickster who may aid or harm mankind. In tales from China and Japan, the trickster and magician fox will give aid if properly rewarded (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). In Native American myth, the Fox was one of the animals who helped Coyote steal fire from the Fire-People. Mat’s knowledge of war and his plans to develop gunpowder weapons both help and harm world. Mat has said that only fools help people for nothing (and he is a fool). He was taught by his father to consider all sides of a situation to find the advantage in it (The Dragon Reborn, Awakening) and is finally resolved to do this.
- Winter’s Heart, What the Aelfinn Said
Folktales of Reynard the Fox were very popular in medieval Europe with cunning and unscrupulous Reynard usually representing the downtrodden but clever peasantry (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore) getting the better of Isengrim the Wolf, who symbolises the rapacious nobility. Mat is a cunning and resourceful farm boy who disdains the nobility, although he has now joined their ranks. In order to escape serious charges Reynard flatters the lioness queen and plays on her heart strings and she intervenes on his behalf to the king. He falsely promises both king and queen that he will lead them to a considerable treasure and later claims to have sent pieces to the king and queen. Mat and Elayne, Queen to the Lion Throne, have bandied words many times, each trying to get the better of the other. They also wrangled over his fox-head medallion treasure. Elayne intervened on his behalf to Tylin to ask her to stop sexually harassing Mat. Much to Elayne’s chagrin, Mat indirectly led her and Nynaeve to the cache in Ebou Dar – a great treasure.
In Zoroastrian myth:
the fox has unusual powers including the ability to frighten off demons…[and] in Japan the fox is associated with shapeshifting, trickery and the power to subdue ghosts and vampires.Mat’s unusual powers consist of his medallion, his memories and his luck and while he has not subdued ghosts, vampires (Draghkar) or demons (Forsaken – they have demonic names), he has managed to fight off a gholam and trick it into a position where he could boot it to its death (Towers of Midnight, Into the Void). He blew the Horn of Valere, which summoned the dead Heroes to fight.
- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures
The Chinese believed that the spirits of the dead sometimes migrate into the bodies of foxes (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Fox-like Mat was given the memories of dead men by the fox-like Eelfinn.
Foxes were believed to love grapes and were a symbol of gluttony. In Ancient Greece the fox was a guardian of vines which were ruled by Dionysus. Mat is fond of wine and had a run in with the parallel of Dionysus, Balthamel/Aran’gar (see Balthamel essay), in Salidar.
Christian tales describe the fox as playing dead and then, when ravens and other scavengers come to eat it, jumping up and rending them. Mat has lain in wait for opposing forces and defeated them (notably the Seanchan, associated with ravens) and used gunpowder weapons in ambush against the Shadow (also associated with Ravens). At the Last Battle he lured Shaisam up close by playing dead and then stabbed him with Shaisam’s own dagger (A Memory of Light, Watching the Flow Writhe).
The fox has much in common with the jackal (and the coyote): they use trickery and lies, and the two animals are linked in some myths. For instance the Dogon people of Africa have tales of Yurugu, the jackal-fox, who
acts as the adversary and solution-finder to God’s difficulties.Mat’s role as one of the three ta’veren is to bring the Pattern back to the planned design (Robert Jordan on his blog).
- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures
In the fable The Raven and the Fox by Aesop, the hungry fox tricked the raven into opening its beak and dropping its cheese, which the fox then ate. Mat lies convincingly, as Tuon discovered when Mat tricked her that he did not know the Dragon Reborn (Knife of Dreams, As If All the World Were Fog). In her eyes he is a rapscallion and an unfathomable man of many layers. The Seanchan were fooled by “the fox that makes the ravens fly” (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds) – he was not the negligible person they thought. Now Tuon, most amusingly considering the fable, has made Mat an honoured and honorary raven.
Jordan combined jackal and fox symbolism in Mat – he has some links with Anubis, the Egyptian jackal-headed god who aided Osiris in his conquest of the world (see Anubis section below). The jackal symbolises desolation in the Old Testament and is associated with the evil Ahriman in Zoroastrian religion, and the fox is associated with the devil in Christian tradition. Mat had close ties with desolate Shadar Logoth and was still susceptible at times to lusting after the ruby dagger (The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding). Characters working for the Light are condemned for associating with the Shadow too much and for being forced by the Shadow into damaging the world to save it.
Foxes are ambivalent creatures – untrusting and untrustworthy. It is a gamble to rely on them – or on any trickster, because trust is the taste of death, according to Mat (Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust).
The Aelfinn are right, Mat is a gambler; not just with dice and cards (although he does that often enough), but on the battlefield with life and death:
"You cannot deny there is battle luck, when you find a weakness in your enemy's lines that you never expected, that should not be there, when you find him arrayed to defend against attack from the north only you are coming from the south. Battle luck rides on your shoulder, my Lord. I have seen it."In Mat’s opinion good luck is better than being able to defend oneself, and anyway, it works better when the person is not looking (Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit for Supper).
- Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box
Mat is conscious of the risks he takes - he could hardly not be with the warning dice in his head informing him of an important choice or event coming up – and told Tuon he is a gambler by occupation (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds).
His comment that:
Sometimes bad luck could turn out to be good …”I think that last toss [to lose] was one of the luckiest I ever made.”parallels the quotation from John Hay (1838 - 1905) that:
- Knife of Dreams, A Hell in Maderin
True luck consists not in holding the best of the cards at the table; luckiest is he who knows just when to rise and go home.Sometimes Mat pushes his luck to the limit, such as at Hinderstap and when he kidnapped Tuon, now his wife and called Fortuona, Fortuna or Lady Luck (see Tuon essay). He has been given the title of Lord of Luck by common folk (Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend) and fights in the Last Battle in Fortuona’s name . Appropriately, Fortuna’s Greek equivalent, Tyche, had a companion or spouse called Agathos Daimon, depicted as a young man, who presided over vineyards and grainfields (thus also tying in with Mat’s role as god of wealth, see below) and ensured good luck, health and plentiful good food and drink. It was customary to dedicate a few drops of unmixed wine to him at banquets.
Fights “in Fortuona’s name”. p 719
Mat’s motto “It’s time to roll the dice”, which is on the banner of the Band, is very like one that another famous general, Gaius Julius Caesar, used. While crossing the River Rubicon (and effectively committing treason against the Senate) Caesar quoted the Greek poet Menander 'Let the dice fly'. Apart from both being successful generals, Mat and Caesar were both considered very lucky. Legend has it that Cleopatra had herself rolled up in a carpet to be smuggled into Caesar’s presence, whereas Mat rolled Tuon up in a wall-hanging to smuggle her out of Ebou Dar (Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colours). Julius Caesar is a minor parallel of Mat, but a major one of Lews Therin Telamon (see Lews Therin essay).
The god the Ancient Greeks most associated with luck is Hermes.
In the Odyssey he appears mainly as the messenger of the gods and the conductor of the dead to Hades. As a messenger, he may also have become the god of roads and doorways, and he was the protector of travellers. Treasure casually found was his gift, and any stroke of good luck was attributed to him; this conception and his function as a deity of gain, honest or dishonest, are natural derivatives of his character as a god of fertility.The photo shows Hermes holding a purse. Hermes had a special hat, his petasos, to shade him from the sun, just as Mat’s trademark hat was also acquired as protection against the sun. Mat has parallels to other, less tricksome, psychopomps; see King of the Underworld section below. He has travelled a great deal, notably three times to the realms of the ‘Finns. Mat has also performed the role of messenger a few times - most notably delivering a message from Elayne to her mother and from Moiraine to Thom. In Salidar Egwene said that Mat and his band constituted a message from Rand to the rebel Aes Sedai (Lord of Chaos, Possibilities). In The Eye of the World, Mat was very interested in treasure and took a dagger from Mordeth’s hoard. Lucky Mat makes a great deal of money gambling.
-Encyclopaedia Britannica, Hermes
Mat has associations with the Underworld, including Hades (see Hades section below), through the Eelfinn who wear human skin and gave Mat dead men’s memories; through his battle luck – who lives, who dies – and his role as a general; and through his introduction of gunpowder weapons which will raise the death toll in war.
The god of luck and gain naturally leads to wealth.
Wherever Mat is, he always notices the value of his surroundings:
Even in a state of shock, he noticed rubies and gold….He noticed beautiful women, too, even when he did feel hit in the head with a hammer.In The Eye of the World, he rushed into Mordeth’s lair after treasure (The Eye of the World, Shadow’s Waiting) and obsessed over treasure while listening to Domon’s tales (The Eye of the World, Flight Down the Arinelle). Similar European folk tales often describe overly bold and greedy people looking for treasure in fairy or elfin mounds – and paying a high price, as Mat did. Mat has been associated with four treasure hoards: that of Mordeth, that of the Tairens, that of the elfin Eelfinn, and that of the Kin in Ebou Dar. He confessed in The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding, that he still feels the lure of the ruby dagger occasionally and has a trunk full of gold as his personal board. Aludra sarcastically said:
- Winter’s Heart, Pink Ribbons
“You may take the plans, Mat, so long as you keep them in that trunk with your gold. That is one object in this camp that will receive the greatest attention from you.”when Mat took her priceless plans for cannon into his safe-keeping.
- The Gathering Storm, Legends
In the middle of complaining about Seanchan ways, Mat is distracted by the gemstones on the eyepatches he was shown. He chose one with rubies (the stone of Mars, and thus a link with warfare) although Fortuona replaced it with the simple, but still Mars-like, red leather eyepatch (A Memory of Light, Unchangeable Things). Mat prefers to be a trickster god of wealth, and regrets being extremely rich because winning money is not as thrilling (A Memory of Light, The Choice Of A Patch).
Mat’s character improved when began to give his easily won wealth to others, ‘robbing’ the rich and giving to the poor, as Robin Hood did (see Robin Hood section above).
No wonder Mat is interested in treasure, his name is very like that of the Welsh god of wealth and increase, Math.
Math son of Mathonwy is the Welsh god of wealth who can only live if his feet lie in the lap of a maiden or if he is at war (The Mabinogion). This is pretty much an amusing summary of Mat’s (risk-taking?) activities.
As is observed in the books:
Normally, displays of wealth made Mat feel comfortable.The Ancient Greeks also had a god of wealth, Plutus.
- A Crown of Swords, A Touch on the Cheek
Earliest stories describe Plutus as a child of Demeter (the harvest goddess) conceived in a newly ploughed field, and he is depicted as a boy with a cornucopia. In later stories he is said to be the child of Hades and Persephone. Many vase paintings show him with the king and queen of the Underworld.
As a farmboy Mat is familiar with the wealth that can be generated from the land and daydreams about purchasing land from the Coplins, who have some of the best or largest farms in the Two Rivers (The Dragon Reborn, Awakening). Mat has parallels with Hades (see Hades section below) and has married Tuon, one of whose names is Kore, an alternate name of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (see Tuon essay) and the goddess whom Hades abducted for his wife. Even before marrying an immensely wealthy woman:
gold was one thing Mat never had to worry about. He might not always win, but close enough.Another source of wealth Mat knows a lot about is horses.
- A Crown of Swords, White Plumes
Mat is constantly commenting on how much they cost, and they cost an increasing amount in the series. Apart from riding them, he has purchased them, assessed them, whispered to them, and raced them, so it is not surprising he has a resemblance to the Ancient Greek horse god, Poseidon.
Poseidon is part of the trio of Greek Olympian gods (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) who deposed the previous incumbent rulers, the Titans.
When the three brothers deposed their father, the kingdom of the sea fell by lot to Poseidon. His weapon was the trident, but it may originally have been a long-handled fish spear.Poseidon’s trident or fish spear is probably a parallel of Mat’s ashandarei. Mat knows a great deal about horses and his father is the best horse merchant in the Two Rivers. In addition Mat won a lot of money horse racing in Ebou Dar. He also bought the very fast and exotic razor horse for Tuon, perhaps an equivalent of Pegasus.
Poseidon was also the god of earthquakes, and many of his oldest places of worship in Greece were inland. He was, in addition, closely associated with horses. He was the father of the winged horse Pegasus by the winged monster Medusa…Otherwise his offspring were mostly giants and savage creatures, such as Orion, Antaeus, and Polyphemus. The general view of his character was violent.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
The artillery Mat introduced could be regarded as his monstrous offspring, and they may make the ground quake with their explosions and recoil.
As far as Poseidon’s rulership of the sea goes, Mat does have some connections with the sea – he has detailed knowledge of the Sea Folk from his memories and started the Sea Folk rebellion in Ebou Dar, and Tuon his wife has come from over the ocean.
The Seanchan were driven off Toman Head to their ships by the Heroes Mat summoned with the Horn of Valere.
The Norse god Heimdall, notorious for drinking too much mead, will blow his horn Gjallarhorn as Ragnarok, the end of the world, draws near, calling the gods and also the dead heroes (who have been spending their time fighting and feasting in Valhalla awaiting this call to battle) to the battlefield. Gods, demons, giants, elves, dwarfs and men all converge on the plain where the last battle is fought. Heimdall and his enemy Loki will kill each other at Ragnarok, having already fought over the goddess Freyja’s Brisingamen necklace, which Loki stole and Heimdall confiscated and returned to Freyja (here he is with Freyja, below).
Heimdall and his horn is a parallel of Mat the Hornsounder summoning the Heroes from Tel’aran’rhiod to fight at Falme (see Horn of Valere article). This was a sign that the Dragon had been reborn and that consequently Tarmon Gai’don would occur soon. Heimdall’s fondness for mead recalls Mat’s fondness for drinking in taverns. While Loki is a parallel of Mat, he is also one of Fain, and both Mat and Fain contended for the Shadar Logoth dagger for a time. Mat ambushed and killed the Mordeth/Fain amalgamation with the dagger at Tarmon Gai’don. In an amusing parallel of the Brisingamen necklace, Mat bought a Seanchan necklace and offered it to Tuon (a parallel of Freyja, see Tuon essay) but she refused it and it ended up being thrown away by Egeanin (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds).
In the Chanson du Roland, a legend derived from the historic King Charlemagne’s court, Charlemagne’s nephew Roland and his companion Oliver were in the rearguard of the army which had been fighting Muslims. They were attacked, but Roland refused to sound his horn Oliphant to summon reinforcements until it was too late. When he finally blew it, blood flowed from his mouth and ‘burst from his forehead’ and he died.
Olver is a parallel of Roland’s companion Oliver (see Horn of Valere article) and he blew the Horn at the Last Battle, not Mat. Mat is the consort of an empress rather than the nephew of an emperor, and had already blown the Horn of Valere at Falme to save the group from the Seanchan and the Whitecloaks. As the prophecy says:
‘Let who sounds me think not of glory, but only salvation.’
- The Great Hunt,To Come Out Of Shadow
While Mat is a trickster, and therefore unreliable, once he makes a promise he always keeps it (The Dragon Reborn, A Message Out of the Shadow). It is a measure of steadfastness in his otherwise capricious personality.
When asked by Siuan if he would do his assigned role in the Pattern when things got nasty he replied that he was no hero, but would do what was necessary (The Dragon Reborn, Visitations). This has encompassed some very unpleasant experiences – including being hanged and half-blinded.
Zoroastrian saviour figure
In Zoroastrianism, the final saviour of the world, Saoshyans, will overcome the power of evil at the end of time with the aid of six helpers. They will communicate with each other miraculously (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Rand (a parallel of Saoshyans, see Eschatology essay) and his two ta’veren friends were born for the same purpose and were each able to see what the others are doing by a vision through swirling colours.
Judaic warrior messiah
Since the time of Hellenistic rule over the Hebrews (200-165 BC), the idea of the Messiah became established in Judaism: the King of Israel who will deliver the people from their enemies and establish the New Jerusalem on earth where he will reign for a period in righteousness, equity, justice, and truth. There are three messianic figures in various Jewish writings and sects: a royal messiah (the one that most texts refer to), plus a priest messiah and a warrior messiah.
Jordan has one messiah, Rand (see Rand essay), but his success depends on two helpers, Mat and Perrin. Mat may be the equivalent of the warrior messiah. The priest messiah could be Perrin, a gentle man who hates to think of evil as part of the Pattern, and Rand would be the equivalent of the royal messiah since his mother was a princess and his father a clan chief.
The Great Trinity of gods in Hinduism comprises Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. In the Wheel of Time series, Perrin the craftsman has similarities with Brahma (see Perrin essay), Rand is equivalent to Shiva (see Rand essay), and Mat to Vishnu. It is through his role as general of the Light’s forces that Mat preserves the world – bearing in mind the human cost of this preservation, it is a form of tough love as far as the world is concerned.
One of Vishnu’s incarnations is Krishna, a divine magician who tricks all men and gods with his playful ruses. He is portrayed in various roles besides that of Supreme Being: joker, lover, divine hero and god-child. As this essay hopefully shows, Mat plays many of these roles.
Vishnu is commonly depicted as riding on the shoulders of Garuda, the eagle. The red eagle of Manetheren is associated with Mat through his memories as a Manetheren officer, and also through the Band of the Red Hand, which is the New Era version of Shen an Calhar of Manetheren. Both the Band and his memories are crucial factors in Mat’s success so in that sense he rides on their shoulders. Mat also rode on the back of a to’raken to reach Shayol Ghul quickly.
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and an aspect of the Hindu mother-goddess Devi in some traditions, is Vishnu’s consort and she is an appropriate parallel for the immensely wealthy empress Tuon/Fortuona, who took the name Devi on her ascension (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon) (see Tuon essay). Some of Vishnu’s titles correspond to Mat’s attributes:
- Govinda, protector of the cows and Brahmins - Mat milked his father’s cows every day. Apart from the military aid his army has given Rand, Mat has also offered his protection to Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve.
- Hayagriva, giver of knowledge - Mat was hanged on the Tree of Life for knowledge and used this knowledge to improve and prepare the armies of the Light for the Last Battle. He introduced gunpowder weapons.
- Janardana, one who is worshiped by people for Wealth – people have relied on Mat to win money at the card and dice tables and at the races. He is now called Lord of Luck by some people.
- Trivikrama, conqueror of the three worlds – referring to his role as a great general, and maybe as one who got the better of the ‘Finns.
- Vishal, the Unstoppable One – again as an invincible general.
The Celtic red hand emblem on the Band’s banner represents a severed hand. It is that of the heroic clan chief and he sacrificed it to save the clan from invasion. Having lost a limb and become physically imperfect, he is unfit to rule, but he paid the price for the clan’s sake. It is Rand, not Mat, who has sacrificed a hand, but Mat’s generalship saves the nations from invasion and he sacrifices an eye to rescue Moiraine.
The Hanged Man tarot card depicts a man hanging upside down by one foot from a gibbet. In Renaissance Italy, traitors were hanged in this position and in fact the card is named Traditore (traitor) in some Italian decks (see Hanged Man cards from Editions Duserre Tarot of Marseille right, and US Games Waite-Smith deck left). When Mat was transported by Portal Stone from Cairhien to Falme he saw at least one life when he betrayed Rand since he told Rand that he would never betray him (The Great Hunt, What Might Be).
Occultists believe the Fool, Hanged Man and Last Judgement Tarot cards form a trio. This certainly seems to be the case for Mat. He is the Fool who was hanged for lacking knowledge and led all the Light’s heroes at the Last Battle (Last Judgement) to prevent the end of the world. The Hanged Man card signifies sacrifice to gain something more important, acquiring knowledge or wisdom the hard way leading to a great change of perspective. The inverted head of the hanged man could mean lack of thought, or loss of wits. It was the belief that he would learn more of his future which led Mat to impulsively enter the door way to the Eelfinn, where due to his lack of knowledge, he unwittingly bargained to have the holes in his memory filled, but neglected to agree on terms. The Eelfinn set the price, which was for Mat to be hanged from the neck.
As Mat said:
“I know too much now, but too little then. You could say I was hanged for knowledge.”In his second encounter with the Eelfinn, Mat knowingly sacrificed an eye as payment to rescue Moiraine, who is crucial for Rand’s success. The Norse had a one-eyed god who sacrificed himself in these ways to gain knowledge: Odin.
- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance
From earliest times Odin was a war god, and he appeared in heroic literature as the protector of heroes; fallen warriors joined him in Valhallawhere they would be served mead by Valkyries and prepare for Ragnarok, the Norse last battle. He was usually depicted wearing a cloak and a wide-brimmed hat and carrying a spear which always struck its target. Odin rode an eight-legged horse and led the Wild Hunt across the sky. Mat is a very skilled general with his own army. He summoned dead heroes from Tel’aran’rhiod to fight at Falme and is drinking buddies with Birgitte, a Valkyrie parallel (see Horn of Valere article). At the end of the Last Battle Mat spoke to Hawkwing, the leader of the dead Heroes, then flew through the air with the Hornblower as part of the Light’s Wild Hunt.
Mat’s horses don’t have eight legs, but they are remarkable for their speed and stamina and, in the case of the razor, their stripes. Mat wears a wide-brimmed hat (and wants his hat included in any legends Thom makes about him, The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap) and carries his ashandarei marked with two ravens and the inscription:
Thus is our treaty written; thus is agreement made.His ring, too, has two ravens startled into flight by a fox. As god of the dead Odin was accompanied by two wolves and two ravens. The ravens, named Thought and Memory – just like on Mat’s ashandarei, flew around the earth each day and informed him of what happened in the world. Odin fed the wolves his food since the only thing he consumed was mead or wine.
Thought is the arrow of time; memory never fades.
What was asked is given. The price is paid.
-The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows
Much to his shock, Mat is now Prince of the Ravens. Mat also drinks a lot of wine and is a close friend of Perrin, the (much more abstemious) Wolf King.
Odin is an ambivalent god; he can appear as a vagabond or wanderer, with something of the Fool in him, and also a necromancer, able to make dead men talk. His mind can travel to other worlds like a shaman (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Mat is even more the Fool than Odin is, and gained memories of dead men after he literally travelled to another world – that of the Eelfinn. The price for these memories, and the valuable knowledge they contain, was to be hanged from the neck suspended from his spear across two branches of Avendesora, the Tree of Life, the only one of its kind in the world.
Odin is god of the hanged because he hanged himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil to acquire knowledge:
he hung there for nine nights, pierced with a spear, sacrificed to himself, nearly dead, to gain the mastery of the runes and the knowledge of the magic spells that blunt a foe's weapons or free a friend from fetters.Mat said he was hanged for knowledge:
Another gain really had been knowledge, if unwanted knowledge.”He was in Rhuidean seven days rather than nine (The Shadow Rising, He Who Comes With the Dawn) and apart from memories which gave him the mastery of warfare, he also gained a sword-spear (the way out of the Underworld) and a ter’angreal which blunts direct channelling and can injure a gholam. Knowledge about the Sea Folk from his memories also helped him free both the Windfinders and Aes Sedai damane.
Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance
As well as knowledge, Odin paid a price to acquire wisdom. He sacrificed one of his eyes to drink from the Well of Wisdom at the base of Yggsdrasil the World Tree and learn what would befall humanity and the gods. Odin also owned the severed head of Mímir, which foretold the future.
Egwene dreamt of Mat placing his left eye on a balance scale (The Dragon Reborn, Questions) and of Mat with blood streaming down his face (The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams). As the Aelfinn prophesied, Mat did “give up half the Light of the world in order to save the world” (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). Note that Odin sacrificed his eye at the same tree from which he hanged himself, and Mat too lost his eye in an encounter with the same creatures that hanged him, the Eelfinn, as the price to rescue Moiraine from their world (Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World).
Odin owned a magical and holy gold ring (Draupnir), from which every ninth night eight new rings appeared. Even his most sacred oath sworn on this ring might be broken by Odin if it suited him. Mat has a gold signet ring which was an indication to Tuon that he would be her husband. This ring has nothing to do with Mat’s luck, which can certainly multiply gold coins very rapidly at any game of chance, but it does have nine moons on it. Unlike Odin, Mat keeps his promises but is otherwise unreliable. He breaks a lot of rules:
"You must stay to offer aid," Teslyn said firmly. "The rules of war do demand it."Despite this lack of mercy for the injured, Mat does have parallels with a knight from King Arthur’s court.
"This is a new kind of war," he told her harshly. Light, it was silent on the road, but he could still hear the screaming. "They'll have to wait for their own to give them aid."
Tuon murmured something half under her breath. He thought it was, "A lion can have no mercy," but that was ridiculous.
- Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box
The Arthurian Knight Sir Dinadan is known for his good humoured, jesting nature (see Arthurian Who's Who essay) and for his moaning about all the trouble and danger a knight is put to. He is atypical in preferring to avoid fights – though he fights bravely and skilfully enough if he has to – and courtly love. Mat too has tried his best to avoid both battles and marriage, and complained bitterly about the danger they provide to a fun-loving free-spirited lad. However he’s far happier to dally with women than Sir Dinadan is.
The ancient Greek hero Orpheus travelled to the Underworld to persuade Hades and Persephone to allow his dead wife to return to earth. His song was so beautiful that their hearts were softened and they agreed she could return on condition that Orpheus walked in front of Eurydice and didn’t look back at her until they both reached the earth’s surface. When he arrived at the upper world, Orpheus eagerly looked back at Eurydice, forgetting to wait until she also reached the surface, and she vanished back to the Underworld forever. Mat visited the Otherworld of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn with Thom and Noal to rescue Moiraine. She has asked them to remember and heed the rules of the Foxes and Snakes game – which are the rules of bargaining with the ‘Finns. Since they were entering via the Tower of Ghenjei, the rules did not apply and they played harp, flute, hand drums and hand cymbals and sang. Thom’s playing and singing dazed the ‘Finns like that of Orpheus. The rescue was a very chancy one and Noal did not make it out of the ‘Finns’ world. Hades himself is a parallel of Mat (see Hades section below) and Persephone of Tuon (see Tuon essay).
Finn Mc Cool
Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) was a great warrior of Irish mythology who led a fian, a band of warriors. He served High King Cormac mac Airt (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) and protected Ireland from foreign invasion. In those stories with his son Oisin (a member of Finn’s band and a parallel of Olver) as narrator, Finn is courageous and generous, but in folk-tales he is often a foolish buffoon. Mat has appeared in both guises and he and his band have repelled foreign invaders such as the Seanchan and Aiel, and forces of the Shadow for Rand.
Apart from a spear that never missed its target, a famous sword, and the Dord Fian, the famous hunting horn of the Fian which called the members of his Fianna wherever they were in Ireland, Finn also owned two hounds that were two women of the Sidhe in dog shape. These faithful hounds accompanied him everywhere. Mat has his ashandarei, a sword-spear, and blew the Horn of Valere to summon the Heroes of the Horn to battle at Falme. Officers of the Band have felt Mat’s ta’veren pull when he needed them even at great distances. Mat rescued three Aes Sedai (parallels of the Sidhe) in Ebou Dar from the Seanchan, and at least one of them, Teslyn, pledged herself in debt to him (Winter’s Heart, Three Women). The other two Aes Sedai, Joline and Edesina, are hardly faithful hounds, since they act as if they owe him nothing. Joline hounded Mat, if anything.
An important episode of Finn’s early life was gaining knowledge of past, present and future. In one story he studied with the druid Finneces, who was trying to catch the salmon of knowledge. After seven years, Finneces achieved his aim and told Finn to cook it for him. Finn burned his thumb during the process and absently sucked it to relieve the burn, swallowing a piece of the salmon’s skin and thus ingesting its wisdom. A less well-known version is that Finn stuck his thumb in the door-frame of an otherworldly or fairy house. This isn’t the only dealing Finn had with the fairy world: he rescued prisoners from there and killed a malevolent, fire-breathing fairy with his spear and the aid of his magical weapons.
It was Moiraine, who performs a druid-like role in the books, being both learned and a magic wielder, who was considering going through the red-stone doorway to ask the Aelfinn for knowledge of the future. Mat impulsively entered the ter’angreal to seek answers of his own. The presence of two ta’veren threatened the connection to the Otherworld and cut their visits short. The parallel of Finn sticking his thumb in a doorway to the fairy world is particularly apt and amusing. Mat gained his ashandarei and his ter’angreal medallion, the latter definitely qualifying as a magical weapon, in the Otherworld. He has injured and repelled a gholam with this medallion, and it has also saved him from Aran’gar’s channelling.
A fian (plural fianna) was a band of landless young men, often young nobles who have not yet inherited land, who lived as nomadic warriors, mercenaries and hunters, and who could be called upon by kings in times of war. They could serve as the High King’s bodyguard. Mat’s Band of the Red Hand has a similar function although on a larger scale, having been hired as mercenaries by King Roedran and employed by Elayne to protect her in Cairhien, and operate the dragons. The Band also defended her capital Caemlyn from an attack by the Shadow. Each division of the Band is led by a young nobleman.
Finn and his band are sleeping heroes who will return to save Ireland if necessary. Mat, of course, is associated with, but not part of, the Heroes of the Horn who performed a similar role.
Cu Chulainn was a high-spirited and very skilled Irish warrior who went into formidable battle frenzies. He was very popular with women but eventually chose to marry Emer. However, her father insisted Cu Chulain be schooled by Scáthach in Scotland before he would allow Emer to marry him. Cu Chulain leaned all the arts of war from Scáthach including the use of the Gáe Bulg, a barbed spear that has to be cut out of its victim, which he adopted as his own main weapon. When Cu Chulain returned to Ireland, he forcibly took not only Emer but also her sister and a lot of gold and silver as well. Mat is a great lover of women who accepted his fate to marry Tuon and now loves her. He abducted Tuon with her maid Seleucia. It was while he was away in the ‘Finns’ world that he was given memories of dead men and their battle knowledge and his ashandarei. Never short of gold or silver, he arranged for Elayne to finance the construction of gunpowder weapons, the shrapnel of which will have to be plucked out of its victims. Mat doesn’t go into battle frenzies as Cu Chulainn did (that is more the province of Perrin, who also has similarities with Cu Chulainn, see Perrin essay), but he does become so gripped by his memories that he has to consciously think which are his and which are those of other men. In one of these memories he was called Culain, a name very similar to Cu Chulainn:
Aldeshar was finished, after this day’s work. A shadow blotted the sun for an instant, and then a tall man in armor crouched beside him, helmet tucked under his arm, dark deep-set eyes framing a hooked nose. “You fought well against me today, Culain, and many days past,” that memorable voice [of Artur Hawkwing] said. “Will you live with me in peace?”
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colours
Ravens feature in stories of Cu Chulainnn: he was once warned by two magical ravens. The Morrigan, in the guise of a beautiful young woman, offered herself to him but he refused her and in revenge for this slight she attacked him in the form of an eel, a wolf, and a heifer leading a stampede of cattle, but he injured her and eluded her each time. Also known as the Phantom Queen, the Morrigan’s most common form is the raven or crow. Ravens are a symbol of the Shadow and the Seanchan (see Animal Symbolism essay). In Tar Valon Mat annoyed Lanfear by being largely unresponsive to her manipulations, but Siuan and Leane arrived before she could attack him (The Dragon Reborn, Visitations). He refused the advances of Aran’gar in Salidar and was protected from her channelling by his ter’angreal (Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust). Tuon, whose emblem is the raven and roses, wrestled with Mat and was abducted by him. He claimed her as his wife and she has finally claimed him as her husband. The Forsaken most like the Morrigan – Moghedien/Marigan – infiltrated the Seanchan but Mat was not present when Min exposed her.
There are two versions of Cu Chulainn’s death, both involving ravens. In the best known, he is attacked by Medb (the mythic Queen of Connacht) and her forces and his warriors and horse are killed and he is grievously injured. He has himself chained to a post so he may die standing. Due to his ferocity, none believe he is dead until a raven perches on his shoulder or his head (it varies) to peck out his eyes. Perrin saw a vision of Mat bound, naked and snarling, with his ashandarei restraining his arms (The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure) reminiscent of Cu Chulainn bound to a post, but this probably represents Tylin’s rape of Mat. Egwene had a dream of two ravens on Mat’s shoulders with Mat grimly accepting this (Lord of Chaos, A Pile of Sand). It represents Mat’s marriage and now titles as Prince of the Ravens. Mat has indeed lost an eye.
Another version has Cu Chulainn on the receiving end of Badb’s (the crow goddess of battle and a sister goddess of the Morrigan) vengeance after Cu Chulainn kills her father and all his male heirs. She disguises herself as Cu Chulainn’s mistress and kills him. After killing Tuon’s entire family, Semirhage disguised herself as an obviously fake Tuon extorting money from merchants to spur the Seanchan army to find and kill the real Tuon in mistake for this impostor (Knife of Dreams, A Cup of Kaf). She posed as Tuon again at a parley with Rand and injured him.
As Prince of the Ravens, Mat is the Irish psychopomp, guiding souls to the Underworld and even bringing those linked to the Horn back to fight in the waking world.
King of the Underworld
Anubis was the jackal-headed god of Ancient Egypt, who acted as a psychopomp to, and a judge of, the dead:
He opened for the dead the roads of the world. He was depicted as a black jackal with a bushy [fox-like?] tail, who presided over embalmments. Anubis accompanied Osiris on his conquest of the world. He ushers the dead into the presence of the sovereign judges before whom he then weighs the soul of the dead.Mat the Fox has a foxhead medallion and a signet ring with foxes, creatures with a similar symbolism to jackals (see Fox section above and Animal Symbolism essay). As a companion of Rand (a parallel of Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian Universal Lord, see Rand essay) and fellow ta’veren, he accompanied him out of the Two Rivers. The prophetic dreams of Mat putting his own eye on a balance scale and another of Mat weighing two Aes Sedai on a huge set of scales, and on his decision resting the fate of the world, allude to Anubis weighing the souls of the dead.
- Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology
Mat is King of the Dead, but is not Death itself (that’s Moridin). Consistent with his tendency to show both sides of a role, Jordan has two such kings: Mat, attractor and winner of battles and promoter of gunpowder as a weapon, is the Light’s King of the Dead and the Dark One, Lord of the Grave, is that of the Shadow. In fact one of the legends in the making among the people in Andor is that Mat is the Dark One (Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend). Mat was aware of ghosts walking before the other members of the menagerie were: for example on the road into Jurador Mat saw ghosts but Tuon and Seleucia saw nothing (Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers).
On the other hand, the Seanchan believe Mat’s band itself may be spirits:
I know we've killed some [of Mat’s soldiers]—the reports claim it, at least—but they don't even leave their dead behind. Some fools have begun whispering that we're fighting spirits." Fools he might consider them, but the fingers of his left hand hooked in a sign to ward off evil.This is a Wheel of Time legend in the making of Mat as King of the Dead. He has similarities to real world Kings of the Underworld, such as Hades, due to the frequency he has visited the Otherworld of the ‘Finns, his escape from the living dead in Hinderstap, his witnessing of the peddler being dragged alive to the Underworld with the phantom Shiotan village, his survival of hanging and later being struck by lightning, and his role as son of battles and the summoner of the dead Heroes of the Horn. The living dead of Hinderstap played a role in Mat’s strategy in the Last Battle, as did the Heroes.
- Knife of Dreams, A Cup of Kaf
The Ancient Greek god Hades ruled the Underworld and while greatly feared he was not Death itself. With such a grim realm, he was stern and harsh but also just. As god of the dead, and therefore their possessions, he was also considered a god of wealth. In some myths it was the child of Hades and Persephone, Plutus, who was god of wealth. The Greeks sacrificed black animals, such as sheep, to him. Mat’s role as a general was one he didn’t want, but has done out of necessity. He doesn’t kill anything without good reason, letting a venomous snake live because it was fleeing them:
"A strange man, who lets poisonous serpents go," Tuon said. "From the fellow's reaction, I assume a blacklance is poisonous?"Tuon, a Justice figure (see Tuon essay), appreciates Mat’s fairness, and allows him to kiss her as a reward, even while she deplores his ruthlessness in abandoning the injured on the battlefield. Amusingly, considering Hades’ sacrificial animals, she and many others regard Mat as a black sheep.
"Very." he told her. "But snakes don't bite anything they can't eat unless they're threatened." He put a foot in the stirrup.
"You may kiss me, Toy."
- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida
Hades abducted his wife Persephone (also known as Kore):
In the Homeric “Hymn to Demeter,” the story is told of how Persephone was gathering flowers in the Vale of Nysa when she was seized by Hades and removed to the underworld. Upon learning of the abduction, her mother, Demeter, in her misery, became unconcerned with the harvest or the fruitfulness of the Earth, so that widespread famine ensued. Zeus therefore intervened, commanding Hades to release Persephone to her mother. Because Persephone had eaten a single pomegranate seed in the underworld, she could not be completely freed but had to remain one-third of the year with Hades, spending the other two-thirds with her mother.Mat also captured his future wife, one of whose names was Kore, and was pursued by her Blackwatch Guards, rather than her mother. This was ‘coincidentally’at a time when famine and pestilence appeared. Those nobles with the Return were distraught by her disappearance and what it portended for the success of the Return, some even making their funeral arrangements (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll).
-Encyclopaedia Britannica, Persephone
In one of Jordan’s little jokes, Mat, the King of the Underworld was quite disconcerted when his abducted Queen demanded he take her to a Hell in Maderin.
Mat surrendered Tuon voluntarily and they pursued their separate duties. Obviously they reunited, but this parallel indicates they may have regular periods apart.
Mictlantecuhtli was the Aztec god of the dead and the king of Mictlan, the lowest section of the underworld and abode of the dead. He had no eyeballs because he did not need eyes to see, yet wore a necklace of human eyeballs, and other adornments made of human bones. In his headdress were knives that represented the wind of knives which souls encounter on their way to the underworld. His arms were held raised as though he was ready to tear apart the dead as they arrived in his realm. His wife was Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. Mictlantecuhtli was associated with the eleventh hour. In Western thought the eleventh hour symbolises the last possible moment. Mat became the commander of the Light’s armies well into the Last Battle and was the last of the three ta’veren to reach Shayol Ghul. He has lost an eyeball, but killed a rabbit without looking, and he carries many knives, more than any other character. Mictlantecuhtli’s rending of the dead, his bone jewellery and the wind of knives in the Aztec underworld recalls the dismemberment that Asha’man and gunpowder weapons can do in battle.
When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II thought that Quetzalcoatl had arrived, signifying the end of the world, so he offered the skins of human sacrifices to Mictlantecuhtli in order to placate him and avoid suffering in the underworld. As Mat discovered with an ill-timed taunt that he would have their hides if they tricked him, the Eelfinn wear clothing of human leather. Quetzalcoatl is a parallel of Rand (see Rand essay), and his advent was a sign that the Last Battle is imminent. Mat has managed to return to the main world after bargaining with the ‘Finns and paying the price of his eye and the life of Jain Farstrider.
Dancing with Death
Mat’s signature tune Dance with Jak of the Shadows is about dancing with death. (Dance of death photo by Toffel.) The dance of death, or danse macabre, originated in medieval Europe perhaps in response to plagues such as the Black Death, and was popular in the 15th century. Songs and pictures were created of Death depicted as a skeleton and often playing a musical instrument while it leads people of all classes and ages in a processional dance. No respecter of persons, death is inevitable and inescapable. Mat himself, the King of the Dead, has escaped death twice (revived after being hanged, and restored after being killed by lightning thanks to Rand’s balefire), but then he is notoriously lucky. Mat included the living and the dead in his battle plans against the Shadow. As in any time of world war, people die not only in battle or as prisoners, but also of disease and famine triggered by war.
From the individual to national level it’s all a gamble who survives or wins as this painting entitled The Gaming Table; Whene’er Death plays, He’s sure to win; He’ll take each knowing Gamester in shows. Perrin had a vision of Mat dicing with Ba’alzamon - either the Dark One, Lord of the Grave, or Ishamael, now Moridin/Death - and feared for Mat, but Birgitte knows Mat’s luck rather better:
“ That man could dice with the Dark One and win."During the Last Battle, Mat was conscious of dicing with his opposite general, Demandred. The World War II song Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers may have influenced Dance with Jak of the Shadows and also If You Go To Be A Soldier.
Towers of Midnight, An Unexpected Letter
Another song Mat remembers having ‘written’ (a dead man’s memory), The Colour of Trust, bitterly claims that trust is the taste of death (Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust). Death results from trust being broken, promises not kept. The sentiment that death is the only thing that can be relied upon to arrive is in keeping with that of danse macabre. Even at the beginning of the books Mat was untrusting and this was exacerbated by the Shadar Logoth dagger. His encounters with Aes Sedai and the ‘Finns have only validated this attitude in his mind. Mat himself has never been particularly trustworthy unless pressured into making a promise. The untrustworthy are most conscious of how easily and frequently trust is broken by others.
Traditionally the Prince of the Ravens restrains the Empress by being a threat to her power and her life. Mat keeps a check on Tuon by undoing her work when it is wrong for the Pattern, rather than being a threat to her. Tuon saw him as chaos, but Mat’s disorder is more tactical than that. Rand is the Lord of Chaos; Mat is chaos’ little brother, disorder. (I doubt Fortuona could tolerate the amount of chaos that Rand generated.) Fortuona felt she needed to take great risks to bring order to chaos (A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens) and Mat is the risk taker who did just that for her.
Mat’s unpredictability earned Fortuona’s respect whereas a conventional consort would not; she would see such a husband as a stud, but not respect him. She also respected his ability to convincingly deceive her that he knew nothing of the Dragon Reborn (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs). Mat believes that:
A man who could not lie convincingly got short shrift from women.It makes him potentially dangerous and stops her from taking him for granted or lying to him.
Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colors
On the other hand Mat values that Fortuona trusts him (eg when the Grey Man attacked), because most women don’t. He respects her more than any other woman.
Written by Linda, June 2009 and updated December 2013
Contributor: Cannoli, Chip Moore, Dominic, FelixPax/Dida, Moridin_2000, Smallcatharine, Verin’s Owl