2.1.8: What's the deal with Mat and bells? --Updated
[Leigh Butler, Jennifer Liang]
[WH: 15, In Need of a Bellfounder, 333]:
"'I will set you the puzzle, since you are so clever, no?' [Aludra] said... 'You tell me what use I might have for a bellfounder, and I will tell you all of my secrets.'"
So what does Aludra want Mat to find a bellfounder for?
To make cannon, though he doesn't know that yet.
Gabriel Wright explains: "Early cannon used a very short barrel, kind of like a bell (although not flared). Basically it was a large chunk of bronze with a bore to put your cannon ball and a small hole at the rear to set the powder charge off. The bellmaker is the person who can cast such an item."
Later, while on his shopping trip with Tuon and Selucia, Mat spots Aludra talking to a salt merchant, and wonders what on earth she would need with salt [COT: 29, Something Flickers]
Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is the primary ingredient of gunpowder, along with charcoal and sulphur. This may constitute something of a misstep on RJ's part, though, because saltpeter is not the same thing as true salt (sodium chloride); they do not form under similar geological conditions, nor are they usually mined together [Basil Halhed].
Mat finally makes the connection in KoD while observing Aludra’s fireworks set up. “"Lofting tubes," he said quickly, gesturing to the small metal-bound wooden tube, a tall as he was and near enough a foot accross, sitting upright in front of her on a broad wooden base. "That's why you want a bellfounder. To make lofting tubes from bronze." [KOD: 9, Dragon’s Eggs]. Aludra further elaborates by saying, “A lofting charge big enough to send it further would burst the tube. With a bronze tube, I could use a charge that would send something a little smaller than this close to two miles. Making the slow-match slower, to let it travel that far, is easy enough. Smaller, but heavier, made of iron, and there would be nothing for pretty colors, only the bursting charge.”