The Serpent, Spear, and Wheel of Time
A Compendium of Weaponry and Military Costuming
of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
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Mat Cauthon
Mat Cauthon
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** Mat Cauthon **


This "... odd black-hafted spear with a short sword blade in place of a spearpoint, slightly curved and single-edged ..." <TSR: 26, 437, The Dedicated> follows the design of a basic Western glaive; some such are richly ornamented and a perfect match for Mat's ashandarei. Glaives however can widely vary in appearance; the Japanese naginata has a far more stereotypical form and is also an excellent match. This is, incidentally, the form depicted on the cover of CoT:

Mat Cauthon

detail, cover art from Crossroads of Twilight,
Copyright © 2003, Robert Jordan

Not untypically, the cover art deviates from Jordan's description in multiple respects. The haft should be black, and "A line of some strange cursive script [that] ran its length, bracketed by a pair of birds inlaid on metal even darker than the wood. Ravens ... Another pair were engraved on the blade ..." All these are overlooked <TSR: 26, 438, The Dedicated>.

Specifically, these words were inscribed upon the haft, in a script Rand could not read, and presumably in the Old Tongue:

    "Thus is our treaty written; thus is agreement made.
    Thought is the arrow of time; memory never fades.
    What was asked is given. The price is paid."
    <TSR: 26, 439, The Dedicated>

Thought and Memory are the names of Odin's twin ravens in Norse mythology; their identification with Mat is no coincidence, as discussed also below.

The blade itself was 2' in length <TFoH: 3, 113, Pale Shadows>, of black metal; the raven markings are at the point of the blade <TSR: 37, 606, Imre Stand>. The "... iron-hard black haft ..." <TSR: 37, 612, Imre Stand> could be either round or oval in cross-section; if modelled on the naginata, it would be oval.

The length of the weapon is unclear: Mat standing straight has the sword blade beginning just level with his head <TSR: 26, 439, The Dedicated>. That is, if the blade starts level with the start of his head, the length of the weapon is about 82", if level with the top of his head, about 95". If a length of 20" is assumed for the 2' blade, the overall length becomes either 78 or 91" respectively. Either length is typical for a polearm, though the shorter length seems more likely for a weapon used out of formation, and is more typical of the Japanese naginata.

Also worth of comment, not only for sake of the imagery involved, which surely is Jordan at his finest, are Mat's medallion, and the ring he acquires in ACoS. His medallion consists of "... a silver foxhead that almost filled his palm ..." <TSR: 26, 438, The Dedicated>, or 3" or so across - a gift from the Eelfinn, the Foxes, themselves:

    "The pupil of the fox's eye was a tiny circle split by a sinuous line, one polished bright, the other shaded in some way. The ancient symbol of Aes Sedai ..." <TSR: 37, 606, Imre Stand>

Since only the one eye is mentioned here, and elsewhere, the foxhead likely consists of a side-profile view <TFoH: 6, 161, Gateways; KoD: 9, 238, A Short Path, etc.>, though one eye might be missing - no coincidence, given the prophecy below.

Mat's ring foreshadows his fate: to marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons. "Inside a border of large crescents, a running fox seemed to have startled two birds into flight ... He certainly needed to be crafty as a fox ... the medallion had made him fond of foxes." <ACoS: 16, 300, A Touch on the Cheek> Indeed, the crescent border consists of nine crescent moons <KoD: 36, 736, Under An Oak>. Mat himself is the fox. The two birds are undoubtedly ravens, like the twin ravens engraved on blade and haft of his ashandarei - symbols of the Seanchan Imperial family. Tuon's sigil is the Raven-and-Roses, and when Mat marries her, he becomes Prince of the Ravens <TSR: 38, 635, Hidden Faces; WH: 14, 323, What a Veil Hides; KoD: 37, 750, Prince of the Ravens>.

    "Fortune rides like the sun on high
    with the fox that makes the ravens fly.
    Luck his soul, the lightning his eye,
    He snatches the moons from out of the sky."
    <CoT: 28, 616, A Cluster of Rosebuds>

Tuon's fortune-telling is very similar:

    "Beware the fox that makes the ravens fly, for he will marry you and carry you away. Beware the man who remembers Hawkwing's face, for he will marry you and set you free. Beware the man of the red hand, for him you will marry and none other." <KoD: 36, 734, Under An Oak>

Mat is Jordan's Odin - the primary god of war of Norse mythology, instigator of battles, and bringer of victory. Odin's two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, or Thought and Memory, are clearly named on his ashandarei. The ashandarei is analogous to Gungnir, Odin's spear: strong, slender, dwarven-forged, never missing its mark. Odin's ring, Draupnir, does not clearly match Mat's, though it represented Odin's supremacy over the Nine Worlds. Unless, of course, the Nine Moons represent something similar ...

Odin who, seeking wisdom, died on the World Tree Yggdrasil and lived again, who sacrificed an eye to Mimir's well, surely inspires Mat's fate:

And so Rand finds Mat hung low from the branches of Avendesora, the Tree of Life, breathless, pulseless, even as Odin hung from the World Tree and lived again <TSR: 26, 437, The Dedicated>. That Mat, like Odin, should sacrifice an eye - "To give up half the light of the world to save the world" seems inescapable, given Egwene's dream of Mat: "... blood streaming down his face, the wide brim of his hat pulled low so she could not see his wound ..." <TFoH: 15, 301, What Can Be Learned in Dreams>

Mat echoes Odin down to the broad-brimmed hat the latter often wore. Though Mat changes his shirts and coats routinely, his hat is constant: black, wide-brimmed and flat-crowned; it otherwise goes undescribed <TSR: 36, 588, Misdirections; ACoS: 15, 286, Insects; numerous other references>.

Finally, Odin is destined to lead the glorious dead into Ragnarok, the Last Battle, in a final, annihilating fight against chaos. A myth that probably led to his association with the Wild Hunt - led by a multitude of heroes in other nations, but by Odin in parts of Scandinavia. Mat calls forth the Heroes of the Horn, initially at Falme, and undoubtedly will do the same for Jordan's Last Battle, as well.

Odin's Wild Hunt, painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1872
The Wild Hunt, by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1872)

Robert Jordan's very neat incorporation of Norse mythology does not stop there. Rand is Tyr himself, down to the missing fingers (see the Dragon Scepter), and Perrin is Thor (see Perrin's hammer).

See also the reborn Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand, Mat's personal, ultimate fighting force.


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