Jordan and Sanderson Chaucer’d

When I Chaucer’d a short passage from Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, I mentioned that I was planning to do something longer from one of the later books.

Well, here it is, folks. Inspired by my time here at JordanCon. A bit from the Jordan-Sanderson last book. Not a lot to note as preamble about this except to say that the chapter that this is from is the best one in the whole series.

Well, I think so, anyway.

Perrin Aybara, one of my two favorite characters in the Wheel of Time, at last comes into his glorious own here. In this chapter, more than anywhere else, he becomes Thor, and there is nothing wrong with that.

This snippet — which gives only a taste at the power pounding through these pages — comes from chapter 40 of Towers of Midnight, Book 13 of the Wheel of Time (page 613 in my copy). If there’s interest, I might record it at some point so I can provide audio of it.

The Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Toures of Mydnyght, by Hrodebert Iurdane and Bromdune Alisaundresson

Perrin saw now what he was making, what he’d been trying to make all along.

Perun sawe what he was y-makynge now, what he hadde bene temptynge evere to mak.

[First, I’ve opted to go ahead and “translate” Perrin’s name through the use of the Slavic god who is, I’m sure, one of his mythological forebears (the other big one being Thor). That aside, the phrase all along in connection with time (rather than distance) doesn’t occur until the 17th century. I considered translating with something wordy, like “al and alday” (thinking of Troilus and Criseyde 2.457). Instead I opted for a simple word that implies the long continuity of Perrin’s labors.]

He worked the largest lump into a brick shape. The long piece became a rod, thick as three fingers. The flat piece became a capping bracket, a piece of metal to wrap around the head and join it to the shaft.

He laboured the largest lomp into a bryke shap. The longe pece becam a rodde, thikke als thre fyngres. The flat pece becam a hede plat, a pece of metall to wrape aronde the hede and to the shaft joyne hit.

[The word capping, as used here, dates from the 18th century, and bracket is from the 16th. I’ve done my best.]

A hammer. He was making a hammer. These were the parts.

He understood now.

A hamer. He was y-makynge a hamer. These weren the partes.

Understondeth he now.

He grew to his task. Blow after blow. Those beats were so loud. Each blow seemed to shake the ground around him, rattling tents. Perrin exulted. He knew what he was making. He finally knew what he was making.

Groweth he to his taske. Stroke aftir stroke. Those strookes weren lowde. Eche stroke ysemed to shake the grounde him aronde, ratelynge tentes. Perun gloryede. Knew he for fyn what he was y-makynge.

[The verb to exult did not exist in Chaucer’s day. Alas, for it is a good one. Ditto triumph, celebrate, and many another possible replacement. In the end, I opted for the verb to glory, which Chaucer never used but would have heard.]

He hadn’t asked to become a leader, but did that absolve him of responsibility? People needed him. The world needed him. And, with an understanding that cooled in him like molten rock forming into a shape, he realized that he wanted to lead.

He ne had noght axide to be a ledere, bot dide that of duetee him absolue? Peple him nedede. And als understondynge in him colede like molten rokke shapynge hitself, Perun knewe he desired to lede.

[Chaucer, like most men of his time, had no standard spelling. The word asked, for example, comes in various forms — from which I’ve chosen the one that has the orthographical “play” of an axe in it. The word responsibility didn’t exist for Chaucer, but duty very much carried the meaning intended here. I’ve also played a bit with the metaphor of the forming rock: tweaking the language would allow Chaucer to suggest a theological (or existential) rightness to the shape the rock is taking. It is, we might say, acquiring its natural form. And if there is anything that this wonderful scene is about, it is about Perrin doing just that.]

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