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Bel Tine, also known as Festival, is the Westlands celebration of spring's arrival.

It is not set to a specific date, and comes later in northern lands than in the south.[1] It's typically celebrated "when spring had well and truly arrived, the first lambs born and the first crop up."[2]

The night preceding Bel Tine is known as Winternight.

Observance in the Two Rivers

Bel Tine is celebrated the whole day with singing and dancing and feasting.

As part of the celebration, huge bonfires are constructed in the center of town that are almost as big as houses. Bel Tine would be celebrated around the fires and on the village green.[3]

The women of the village erect a Spring Pole the day before the festival, and even though the men walking by can see it happening, they pretend to be surprised by it when they wake up on the morning of the Festival. In the morning, unmarried women of marriageable age dance around the Spring Pole.[4] At noon on the day of Bel Tine, unmarried women dance around the Spring Pole entwining it with ribbons while the unmarried men sing.[5]

There are contests for many things throughout the day, including archery, the sling, the quarter staff, footraces, singing, dancing, fiddle playing, sheep-sheering, bowls, and darts.[6] Tam al'Thor tends to win the archery competition annually.[7]

If a woman is interested in a man and wants him to know it, she might put flowers in his hair at Bel Tine, or she makes a point of asking him and no one else to dance.[8]

Plot

On Winternight in 998 NE, the Two Rivers is preparing for Bel Tine the next day, with the bonfires being put up and the spring pole being erected. A gleeman has arrived, and fireworks are planned. Tam and Rand al'Thor bring apple brandy and apple cider to The Winespring Inn in Emond's Field, as they do every year for Bel Tine.[9]

Rand asks Egwene al'Vere to dance with him the next day at Bel Tine, she agrees to dance with him in the afternoon.[10] She mentions that she'll be "busy in the morning", indicating that as she's now a woman of marriageable age, she'll be dancing with the other unmarried women around the spring pole in the morning, as was custom.[4]

Bel Tine in 998 NE is disrupted by the Trolloc attack on the Two Rivers on Winternight the night before.

Parallels

Bel Tine comes from the Celtic festival of Bealtaine taking place in spring. Bealtaine is also the Irish word for the month of May.

Trivia

  • Every year at Bel Tine, Rand would put flowers on his mother's grave.[11]
  • Cenn Buie considered it "an ill omen" that there were "no storks nesting on the rooftops at Bel Tine."[12]

Gallery

References

  1. The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time
  2. The Eye of the World, chapter 1.
  3. chapter 1: "On the far side of the bridges, the mounds were already building for the Bel Tine fires, three careful stacks of logs almost as big as houses." ... "What of Festival did not take place around the fires would happen on the Green."
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Eye of the World, chapter 3: "In the morning unmarried women of marriageable age would dance the Pole."
  5. The Eye of the World, chapter 1: "In the morning the men would pretend to be surprised to find the Pole, then at noon the unmarried women would dance the Pole, entwining it with long, colored ribbons while the unmarried men sang."
  6. The Eye of the World, chapter 1: "The whole day of Bel Tine would be taken up with singing and dancing and feasting, with time out for footraces, and contests in almost everything. Prizes would be given not only in archery, but for the best with the sling, and the quarterstaff. There would be contests at solving riddles and puzzles, at the rope tug, and lifting and tossing weights, prizes for the best singer, the best dancer and the best fiddle player, for the quickest to shear a sheep, even the best at bowls, and at darts."
  7. The Eye of the World, chapter 1: "But Tam won the archery competition at Bel Tine every year with his flame and his void."
  8. The Shadow Rising, Chapter 6, Egwene to Elayne: "In the Two Rivers ... if a woman wants a man to know she is interested in him, she puts flowers in his hair at Bel Time or Sunday. Or she might embroider a feastday shirt for him any time. Or make a point of asking him to dance and no one else."
  9. The Eye of the World, chapter 1: "Two small casks of Tam’s apple brandy rested in the lurching cart, and eight larger barrels of apple cider, only slightly hard after a winter’s curing. Tam delivered the same every year to the Winespring Inn for use during Bel Tine, and he had declared that it would take more than wolves or a cold wind to stop him this spring."
  10. The Eye of the World, chapter 3: “Will you dance with me tomorrow?” / “In the afternoon,” she said. “I will be busy in the morning.”
  11. The Eye of the World, chapter 1: "She had been an outlander, and Rand remembered little of her aside from a smiling face, though he did put flowers on her grave every year, at Bel Tine, in the spring, and at Sunday, in the summer."
  12. The Eye of the World, chapter 1.