WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A MEMORY OF LIGHT
This essay will deal with the sources I think were used to create Lanfear/Cyndane.
Drilling the Bore
Lanfear was probably one of the most beautiful women of her Age or any other.She was also one of the most powerful channellers, and is forever notorious as the instigator of the catastrophic experiment to drill the Bore into the Dark One’s prison in search of a new source of the Power. Such fatal curiosity in a beautiful woman has a parallel in Greek mythology: Pandora was a beautiful woman upon whom the gods bestowed their choicest gifts. In art she is typically depicted with red hair, as in the painting right, symbolising her headstrong, fiery nature. She found a jar or vase—the so-called Pandora's box—containing all manner of misery and evil. Pandora opened the jar out of curiosity, and evils flew out over the earth. Only hope remained in the vase (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
- Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Similarly, beautiful and powerful Mierin drilled a bore into the Dark One’s prison as part of an experiment, causing initial catastrophe and allowing him to touch the world again and corrupt it. Jordan gave Lanfear Pandora’s temperament, but the dark colouring of Lasair, the Irish goddess.
Lasair ("Flame"), goddess of spring budding, is the eldest of a triad of Irish goddesses associated with the growing and reaping of crops. Her two younger sisters are summery Inghean Bhuidhe (“Yellow-haired Girl”, a parallel of Graendal) and harvest goddess Latiaran, who was burned due to being distracted (a parallel of Moghedien). Interestingly these three are the last female Forsaken remaining in the Last Battle as the Shadow reaped what it had sown. Lanfear/Cyndane did not contribute much to the Shadow’s efforts but played her own game, an analogue of ‘spring budding’ being long over; Lanfear had done her main job earlier. In A Memory of Light, she pursued the two men she had manipulated early in the series.
Lasair has a similar appearance to Lanfear: long black hair and silver jewellery, but also a silver crown. As well as her name, another example of her fiery nature is that she lives in Red Castle. Lanfear was noted for her a fiery temper and projected herself as young Selene, a woman in the springtime of her life, to Rand.
Vice Rather Than Virtue
Rand was severely disappointed that Lanfear knew the right way, Virtue, but turned away from it for own ends. To him, that meant she was unworthy of his attentions, and he felt nothing for her in the end. Perrin however, has a strong theme of choosing between two women, one representing Virtue and the other Vice, in his plotline (see Perrin essay). Faile has always represented Virtue to Perrin, and for a long while Vice was represented by Berelain until she was forced to behave better. But Lanfear was far more a Vice figure than Berelain and secretly attached herself to Perrin before either woman. The Forsaken wanted a powerful consort to aid her and Perrin was her second choice after the Dragon. This probably reflects the extent of Perrin's skills and power – second after Rand among all men – considering that Lanfear is ruthless in selecting and claiming what she perceives to be the most powerful mate for herself.
As part of her usual tactic to convince men rather than force them:
"I will not compel you. I have always believed men perform better if convinced rather than forced."she told Perrin that with great power he could do great good, but he brushed these manipulations aside (A Memory of Light, The Wyld). Ironically she did Compel Perrin - even though she regarded it as cheating:
- The Dragon Reborn, Visitations
She glanced at him. "Such an inferior tool," she said, smelling dissatisfied. "I hate having to use it. This makes me no better than Graendal." She shivered. "If they had given me more time, I would have had you fairly."She justified it on the grounds that she didn't have time to seduce him, yet it was done over a year earlier. Her Compulsion was harder to shake off than her temptations, especially in the Underworld where she is goddess.
- A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow
Visiting the Elves
When Lanfear went through the doorway ter’angreal the Eelfinn were bound by the ancient agreement to grant her three wishes (Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit For Supper). The Elfinn and Aelfinn claimed they got the better of Lanfear though: they told Moiraine they drained Lanfear’s ability to channel, although so quickly they killed her. (Yet as Cyndane she only had a small drop in strength.)
It is possible that in her efforts to be the fairest and strongest of them all, Lanfear may have been previously to the Eelfinn to have wishes granted, and received a ter’angreal or angreal from them that she wore as jewellery.
Matt: …from a beauty perspective can they [the Eelfinn] affect the outer body of some individual?This would be an equivalent of those adventurous or reckless souls of folk tales who visit the elfin or fairy folk for a boon or for fairy treasure. Perhaps this is why Lanfear was certain no woman could be stronger than she without an angreal (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal), and no wonder her beauty was so extreme as to be ‘almost’ unearthly. Elfin folk, parallels of the Eelfinn, are associated with magic and magical items and with beauty and casting glamour or illusion on people. Lanfear’s item/s of the power thus gained may be her woven silver belt (which would then be equivalent to the girdle of Venus, goddess of love and beauty, making her irresistible in either sense of the word) and/or her moon and stars jewellery that she always wore.
Brandon: I would say that, yes they can, but they may have to be using some type of ter’angreal or…
Matt: …some item of power?
Brandon: Some item of power, something like that…of which they have great stores…
- The Gathering Storm, book tour
The spoiled and ambitious beauty is a common motif in literature as well as in real life. Such people get what they want so easily that they can’t be satisfied. Lanfear’s great beauty and strength in saidar (however acquired) gave her both enlarged ambitions and the possibility of achieving them. She aspired to godhood no less - with the Choedan Kal she hoped to:
supplant the Great Lord himself, challenge the Creator.Her plan B was to kill Moiraine, Nynaeve and Rand at Shayol Ghul with Perrin’s aid, seize control of Callandor and earn ultimate power by saving the Dark One (A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow).
- The Fires of Heaven, Gateways
A spoiled beauty from literature with a striking resemblance to Lanfear is Milady de Winter from The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas pere. Milady was a venal, violent and vengeful character who remorselessly seduced and destroyed men for personal gain, as was Lanfear. When thwarted, the faces of both women contorted with rage and hatred evoking terror and horror in those who witnessed their wrath. Milady was a branded felon; Lanfear was a felon who had, in Rand’s words, “let the Dark One attach himself” to her (The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean). As a result of their evil natures, both women were scorned by the hero.
Another literary parallel for Lanfear is the very tall, beautiful and strong White Witch of C. S. Lewis’ world Narnia. The witch was the culmination of a long line of increasingly harsh and cruel rulers of the world of Charn. She destroyed Charn, first by loosing world war, and then when she lost, by saying the Deplorable Word, the spell which killed everything in the world except her.
A curious child struck a gong in Charn and awakened the evil witch who manipulated people to bring her to Earth and then to the world of the Narnia (C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew). She was the first to rebel in Narnia and became immortal by eating forbidden fruit. It took her a while to gain power over the world, but eventually she made it always winter in Narnia.
In The Wheel of Time the Deplorable Word is the name of the Dark One, Shaitan. Only Ishamael/Moridin was allowed to say it. Charn was a Da’shain Aiel who worked for Mierin, a very tall, beautiful woman very strong in the One Power whose curiosity led her to drill a hole in the Dark One’s prison, the deplorable deed if you like, and who later became the evil Lanfear. He was a remnant of a time before the War of the Power – a world now dead. After the Bore was drilled, the Age of Legends society became increasingly violent and corrupt. The destruction of Charn by war and magic is similar to that of the Age of Legend’s destruction. In The Wheel of Time it is the Dark One who fixed the seasons, first to winter then to summer.
There is not a drop of human blood in the White Witch; she is half giant (reflecting Lanfear’s height and strength) and half Jinn. The word Jinn is a link to the Da’shain who served the Aes Sedai and became Jenn, as well as an allusion to Lanfear’s skill in magic. The White Witch killed Aslan on the Stone Table and was shocked that he returned to life because he was a willing sacrifice who had committed no crime. Rand was a sacrifice for humanity’s salvation and Lanfear wanted to kill him, but Perrin prevented that, burdening himself with the violation of his ethics for Rand's sake (see Wheel of Time and Narnia Parallels article for further parallels).
Petted and admired, beauties are notoriously temperamental. Lanfear’s temper is said to be "uncertain at best” and Lews Therin had to “squelch her little tantrums” (The Fires of Heaven, The First Sparks Fall).
There is one difference however: beauties also cling to their looks and youth, whereas Lanfear’s:
pride is strong enough to support a little fat when it must.Perhaps a small difference, since while it was reasonable for Lanfear to put on a Mask of Mirrors to make herself younger and thus closer to Rand’s age, she resumed the disguise again even after he knew what she really looked like (The Shadow Rising, The Stone Stands). Moreover, as suggested above, even her ‘normal’ appearance was perhaps magic-enhanced.
- The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean
Even though she had great natural, and maybe unnatural, gifts, Lanfear wanted even more than she could achieve by herself. Lews Therin believed she loved the status he gave her more than she loved him (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). When he broke off their relationship, she sought power for herself and control of Lews Therin through the Shadow and all hell broke loose.
The Hell Connection
Lanfear chose her own name because, having missed out on the honorific name, she wasn’t going to risk getting an unflattering Forsaken name. The name Lanfear is similar to l’enfer, which means ‘hell’ in French. ‘Fear’ is included for good measure, since Lanfear is fearsome and terrifying as well as hellish. (Apart from the addition of fear, the French origin of her name also suggests the French phrase femme fatale, and lastly, her strong links with Dumas' character Milady.)
Why hell? There are several good reasons.
did pledge her soul to the Dark One, it was for the most basic of reasons: love and hate.William Congreve wrote:
- Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.Lanfear is the scorned woman par excellence, as she herself is aware. While disguised as Keille Shaogi, Lanfear said to Rand:
- The Mourning Bride
"I have a feeling that you know something of the dangers of scorning a woman.”And then to Mat, while laughing at Rand:
"Scorn a woman’s offer, and perhaps she thinks nothing of it, but perhaps” – and she made a skewering motion – “the knife. A lesson any man can learn. Eh, my Lord Dragon?”Rand completely missed her double talk, since he did not know at that stage that Keille was Lanfear in disguise. Lanfear’s thwarted love for Lews Therin and fury at being rejected impelled her to the Dark One - and to hell.
- The Shadow Rising, An Offer Refused
The Scandinavians had a goddess called Hel, named after the underworld she ruled (Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology). The Northern French term for the Wild Hunt, "Mesneé d'Hellequin," was named after Hel because it was believed that anyone who encountered the Wild Hunt would be brought to her land of the dead. Her realm was guarded by the huge dog Garmr, who will fight Tyr (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) at Ragnarok and they will kill each other. Wolf King Perrin fought in the Last Hunt against the Darkhounds, and then met Lanfear at Shayol Ghul. She planned that they would take over and destroy Rand’s party. She thought she had Perrin as her dog but instead, he turned on her. At the end, Rand was (partially) killed and so was Moridin.
Aother figure with a hell-ish name is Hellawes, a witch in the Arthur myths. She was Lady of the Castle Nigramous (black magic, necromancy) who tried to win Lancelot’s love but was rejected (Thomas Mallory, Morte d’Arthur). Hellawes would rather have had Lancelot as a dead lover, a hint of her necrophilic tendencies, than live without him. He escaped her and she died of unrequited passion. Rand publicly rejected Lanfear at the docks of Cairhien (The Fires of Heaven, Choices), and Moiraine removed her from the world to the realms of the Elfinn folk. Had she not done so, Lanfear would have killed Rand, or enslaved him with Compulsion, or with seduction in his dreams. Lanfear was killed by Moridin when he rescued her from the *Finns. Note that Hellawes contains the word hell.
With her incredible beauty and strength in saidar, her thirst for power and her rage, Lanfear surely is one hell of a woman – in all senses of the phrase.
How ironic then that Lanfear/Cyndane claimed she was being punished with torments by Shaitan (Satan) or his avatar Shaidar Haran, or his regent, the ‘demonic’ Moridin:
He grinds my bones and snaps them like twigs, then leaves me to die before Healing me just enough to keep me alive. He-" She cut off, jerking.The goddess of Hell was apparently suffering as though she were one of the damned being tortured by the demons in Hell.
Her eyes opened wide and she spun toward the wall. "No!" she screamed. "He comes! The Shadow in every man's mind, the murderer of truth. No!" She spun, reaching for Rand, but something towed her backward. The wall broke away, and she tumbled into the darkness.
- Towers of Midnight, Epilogue
In Greek mythology Thanatos (Death, a parallel of Moridin), son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness)
has a heart of iron, and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he holds fast: and he is hateful even to the deathless gods.He is loathed for his mercilessness to mortals and immortals alike. The Dark One and Shaidar Haran have been harsh on the Forsaken that displease them, but Moridin too was prepared to punish Graendal in Towers of Midnight, Writings, and was described by Moghedien as meting out horrific tortures. Moridin described Cyndane as “the one who is punished most” (A Memory of Light, Prologue).
- Hesiod, Theogony
Thanatos was due to take the soul of the woman Alkestis to Hades, the Underworld, but the Greek hero Heracles (a parallel of Rand) overpowered Thanatos and rescued her from his clutches. Rand thought that much, if not all, of Lanfear’s dramatic sufferings was an act, including her pleas that “he has claimed me” (A Memory of Light, A Shard Of A Moment).
Lanfear’s punishment of daily torture followed by Healing is also reminiscent of Prometheus. He was a Titan who tricked Zeus into choosing the bones wrapped in fat as the standard sacrifice to the gods rather than the meat, allowing humanity to keep the meat for themselves. When Zeus took fire away from humanity as punishment, Prometheus stole it and gave it back to them. Prometheus was condemned to have his liver gouged out by an eagle each day and healed each night as punishment. Many years later, Heracles killed the eagle and set Prometheus free. Zeus punished humanity, too, for receiving fire from Prometheus by sending Pandora (another parallel of Lanfear) to live among them. As described above, her curiosity led her to let loose evil into the world.
In both these myths Heracles sets the sufferer free. Rand was not convinced by Cyndane’s performance that she was being tormented. She may have been suffering, but it was also at least in part a trick, just as Prometheus tricked Zeus. Either way, she was luring Rand.
There was a goddess of love and war who made a famous journey to the Underworld.
Attempted Underworld Takeover
Inanna was the goddess of love (but not marriage) and warfare, and the most prominent female goddess of Mesopotamia. Her name is derived from Nin-anna, Queen of Heaven. (The Akkadian goddess Ishtar is often equated with Inanna.) One of the symbols associated with Inanna is the two twisted reeds of the door post. Inanna is noted for her descent into the underworld, which in Sumerian myth was a one-way ticket for everyone except official messengers - even Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld and sister of Inanna, could not leave. Inanna had no intentions of staying there and as a back-up had instructed her aide Ninshubur to plead with three gods, Enlil, Sin and Enki, to save her if necessary. The goddess dressed up for the occasion, which is just as well, since at each stage along her journey she had to hand over a valuable piece of jewellery or garment. These items were imbued with her power, so she was weakening herself by doing so. By the time Inanna reached her sister Ereshkigal, she was naked. Undeterred, she made Ereshkigal get off her throne and sat down in her place. Ereshkigal and her underworld judges delivered a judgment against Inanna and she was killed.
Lanfear planned to become the highest, to become a dark goddess, or at least the Naeblis. However, going through the twisted redstone doorway into the hellish otherworld of the *Finns was ironically not part of her plans. The *Finns can only leave their world and enter the main world for a short while and distance. Moiraine was stripped naked by them, so Lanfear may have been too. The Eelfinn drained Lanfear’s channelling ability, weakening her somewhat (but were interrupted by Moridin before they got very far). Lanfear was killed and her soul was transferred new body.
Ninshubur went to Enlil, Sin/Nanna and Enki in turn as instructed, but only Enki agreed to do anything. Enlil and Sin said that Inanna was power-hungry and had over-reached:
In his rage father Enlil answered Ninshubur: "My daughter craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. Inanna craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. The divine powers of the underworld are divine powers which should not be craved, for whoever gets them must remain in the underworld. Who, having got to that place, could then expect to come up again?"Enki created two figures and told them to appease Ereshkigal and ask only for Inanna’s corpse, which they were to revive with a sacred plant and water. When they arrived in front of Ereshkigal she was in agony and offered them anything if they would make the pain go. They obtained Inanna’s corpse as payment for easing Ereshkigal’s pain as instructed and revived it, but by the laws of the underworld Inanna couldn’t leave unless someone took her place. She decided to sacrifice her lover, Dumuzi, since he was not mourning her death. (The haughty Inanna was known for ill-treating of her lovers.) Dumuzi was taken to the underworld, although in some versions of the myth he spent six months in the underworld and six months in the land of the living as an explanation of the seasons.
Inanna’s Descent Into The Underworld
Moridin and the Dark One were most displeased with Lanfear, and judged her to be disobedient and damaging the Shadow’s plans (quite true), which is why she was killed after Moridin rescued her, or so he could rescue her, from the underworld of the *Finns. No one pleaded for Lanfear’s rescue the way Mesaana and Demandred pleaded to Moridin for the death goddess Semirhage to be rescued. Or perhaps they asked Moridin to help free Semirhage because they deduced he had saved Lanfear.
In one way, love/war goddess Inanna and death goddess Ereshkigal show the rivalry between Lanfear and Semirhage that Mesaana noted in Lord of Chaos, Prologue, but Inanna and Ereshkigal also represent both of Lanfear’s personas. Lanfear was a war and love goddess, and Cyndane was bound to Moridin, Death, experienced agony at his hands, and was held apart from the other Forsaken.
The ending of Inanna’s underworld journey refers to Lanfear's attack on Shayol Ghul and plans to supplant the Dark One. To achieve this she would sacrifice her former love Rand; she wanted to kill him because he didn’t love her.
The reader is left with the feeling that Inanna’s attempted power coup was always doomed, and the same for Lanfear. Had she succeeded in making Rand bow to her and saved the Dark One, what then? Would Shaitan had made her the highest of the high as she expected she could negotiate? Would this have been the ultimate example of her seductive power? Or would the Dark One have killed her because he believed that she would try to oust him in the future? Enlil and Sin were right: Inanna over-reached herself; and so did Lanfear.
Hell, the underworld, is associated in mythology with night, magic and the moon, as is Lanfear, Daughter of the Night and very powerful channeller. The moon and moon goddesses will now be described further.
Oh Silvery Moon – Moon Associations
In astrology, the moon is associated with the colour white and the metal silver (William Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647). Lanfear was:
usually seen wearing gowns of purest white, often accented with a woven silver belt and jewellery in moon and star motifs.Her chapter icon (found in The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising and The Fires of Heaven) is a crescent moon and stars and her seal is the same in white wax (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night). So Lanfear, with her hair like "waterfalls of night” (The Shadow Rising, Decisions), her “eyes as dark as night” (The Great Hunt, First Claiming) and her preference for white and silver, is strongly linked to the moon.
- Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
The people of earlier times believed that the moon was associated with, well, lunacy. Hippocrates said that moonlight caused nightmares, while Plutarch wrote that sleeping in moonlight would result in insanity. Lanfear used her skill with dreams and the World of Dreams to drive people to madness and suicide in the Age of Legends (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
The moon has no light of its own; it reflects that of the sun, just as Lanfear basked in reflected glory from Lews Therin (the Lord of the Morning) to the extent that Lews Therin believed she loved the status he gave her more than she loved him (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Interestingly, Lanfear was supplanted in Lews Therin’s affections by Ilyena Sunhair (the epithet is from The Eye Of The World Prologue). In many mythologies, the sun is the opposite/rival of the moon. This also shows the strong compatibility between Lews Therin (Lord of the Morning) and Ilyena Sunhair, since they both have solar parallels.
The moon in ancient Greek mythology was personified as a three-fold goddess, each corresponding to the three phases of the moon and the three spheres of influence the ancients recognised:
- The new and crescent moon was depicted in the form of a maiden or virgin and was associated with the heavens (Selene).
- The moon waxing to fullness was an image of fertility in nature and was associated with the earth (Diana/Artemis/Cynthia, the huntress).
- The moon waning to darkness corresponded to the underworld and was portrayed as a witch or crone (Hecate.)
were associated with the performance of malevolent magic that took place at night.Lanfear also did a lot of her malevolent work at night: sending Rand to another world while he slept by the Portal Stone (The Great Hunt, Woven In The Pattern), luring Rand to her in his dreams, and forcing people out of their dreams and into Tel’aran’rhiod to kill or Compel them (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Taking the most well-known moon goddess first, Diana/Artemis is also well-known as goddess of fertility and the hunt. One of her favourites was Orion, a handsome giant who was temporarily blinded, and whom she killed (Bullfinch’s Mythology). Lanfear’s favourite was Lews Therin/Rand, a probable parallel of Orion, since Perrin had a viewing of Rand with a bandage over his eyes:
It was Rand. Perrin thought it was Rand. He wore rags and a rough cloak, and a bandage covered his eyes.Lanfear also studied Lews Therin:
-The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei
as a dedicated hunter might study the life and habits of her prey.The Greeks also sometimes called Artemis Cynthia from her birthplace on Mount Cynthus on Delos. The name Cynthia is similar to Cyndane, Lanfear’s current incarnation. Cyndane had silver hair (The Path of Daggers, New Alliances), a colour associated with the moon, but she was short (since Lanfear was cut down to size) and had to wear Moridin’s livery of red and black, not her own white and silver.
- Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Selene was the pseudonym adopted by Lanfear, according to Robert Jordan’s The World of the Wheel of Time. In Ancient Greece, Selene was goddess of the crescent moon:
She was worshipped at the new and full moons and was usually represented as a woman with the moon (often in crescent form) on her head… Selene is most identified with the beautiful youth Endymion, whom she loved and who was cast into eternal sleep in a cave on Mount Latmus; there, Selene visited him while he slept. A common form of the myth represents Endymion as having been put to sleep by Selene herself so that she might enjoy his beauty undisturbed.There are a couple of parallels here. Lanfear had a liking for crescent moon motifs in jewellery, and she also visited Rand as he slept. Egwene dreamt of an evil woman with eyes that "seemed to shine like the moon" (Lanfear) standing over Rand (a parallel of Endymion, see Rand essay) as he lay sleeping by the Portal Stone (The Great Hunt, Woven in the Pattern). Lanfear also visited Rand in his dreams in the Aiel Waste (The Shadow Rising, Traps) and was going to use her control of him in Tel’aran’rhiod to enslave him.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
And now for the moon goddess in her most hellish aspect: Hecate.
Hecate was a divinity of the underworld (hell) in Ancient Greece. She predated the Olympians and in one myth (the Bacchylides Fragment 1B) was the daughter of Erebus and Nyx, goddess of the night. So she was literally ‘daughter of the night’, which is the meaning of Lanfear’s name (and presumably a sibling of Thanatos, Death (Moridin)). Even when Zeus and the other Olympians took over, she retained her powers. She was believed to bestow good fortune and glory as she pleased (Carlos Parada, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology). Lanfear’s temper was just as ‘uncertain’.
Hecate was goddess of the night, magic (witchcraft), the waning moon, the underworld and crossroads (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology) and was associated with infernal spirits. Originally she was depicted as a young goddess of both beauty and power, carrying a torch and wearing a headdress of stars. Lanfear also had great beauty and power in magic, and wore jewellery with moon and star motifs. Until the scene at the docks in Cairhien when she accepted Rand’s/Lews Therin’s rejection, she ‘carried a torch’ for Lews Therin. The *Finns are infernal spirits as we saw in Towers of Midnight.
In later Greek myths, Hecate was a dark and terrifying hag of the dead, often with three heads. Lanfear was beautiful as well as dark and terrifying, and, as Lanfear and Cyndane, was two-fold rather than triple-headed.
At night during the dark moon, Hecate was believed to carry torches as she roamed the roads with her howling black dogs (one of the sources for Darkhounds, see Darkhounds essay). Offerings were made to her at crossroads, which were sacred to her (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology). Crossroads were also seen as dangerous places full of evil magic and in later times suicides and criminals were buried there. In The Wheel of Time series, howling black dogs and crossroads are linked to the Dark One.
In the Greek underworld, Hecate also kept company with the Furies.
Since hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, what about the Furies?
The Furies (Erinyes) were dark, powerful figures in the underworld of Ancient Greece that punished the guilty, hounding them to madness and despair (Nonnos, Dionysiaca). Lanfear drove a great many people to suicide or madness in the War of the Power through their dreams (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), and in the Third Age, it was probably she who drove Masema from zealotry to insanity through his dreams. Her Compulsion of Perrin probably added to his internal conflicts over duty versus love, and his humanity versus his animal nature.
In the plays of Aeschylus, the Furies were the daughters of Nyx (the Night); in those of Sophocles, they were the daughters of Darkness and of Gaea. Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number. Later writers named them Alecto (“Unceasing in Anger”), Tisiphone (“Avenger of Murder” or “Voice of Revenge”), and Megaera (“Jealous”). They especially hounded and punished those guilty of crimes against blood-relatives.Appropriate then, that furious Lanfear had Lews Therin Kinslayer in her sights. However her attempts to manipulate his reincarnation, Rand, failed.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Another vengeful and demonic parallel for Lanfear is Lilith.
The Other Woman
In Hebrew mythology, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, and from their union:
sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind.Lilith was made of dust as Adam was and claimed this made her his equal. He disagreed and they quarrelled until:
- Hebrew Myth, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him.Adam complained to God that Lilith had deserted him and God sent angels:
- Hebrew Myth, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than a hundred a day.She refused to return to Adam saying that it was her task to kill infants, though she would spare any with a protective amulet. God:
- Hebrew Myth, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily; and if she could not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own.
- Hebrew Myth, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
Since Adam was left without a mate, God then took one of Adam’s ribs and formed it into Eve. In some versions of the myth, Lilith took exception to Eve:
it is said Lilith became the enemy of Eve, instigator of illicit loves, disturber of unions.Lilith escaped the curse of death which overtook Adam and Eve, because she left Adam before the Fall (Hebrew Myths, Robert Graves and Raphael Patai).
- Kabbalah And Its Symbolism, G. C. Scholem
Lilith not only kills infants, she also seduces dreaming men by giving them erotic dreams. She is titled Queen of Demons or Queen of the Night, and is the equivalent of Lamashtu (Mesopotamia), who kills children, drinks the blood of men, disturbs sleep and brings nightmares and of Lamia (Ancient Greece), a beautiful woman from the waist up and a serpent from the waist down, who kills children, seduces sleeping men, and enchants her victims with glamour and illusion. (Female demons who take on a human female form to seduce men in their dreams are succubi (sing. succubus). Many cultures have stories of such creatures.)
According to G. C. Scholem, Lilith:
is bound in the greatest depths of the Sea, and abjurations are made to keep her there so she can’t come back to disturb the lives of men and women.There are many parallels between Lanfear and Lilith, although Lanfear is derived from Lilith’s role of the ‘other woman’ and not her role as a Dark Mother.
Kabbalah And Its Symbolism
- Lanfear was Lews Therin’s love before Ilyena, as Lilith was Adam’s first wife (see Lews Therin essay). Lanfear could not bear Lews Therin marrying another woman and did her best to disturb their union, as Lilith did to Adam and Eve in some versions of the myth. Lanfear disrupted the wedding ceremony and publicly blamed Ilyena for stealing him from her (Robert Jordan’s The World Of The Wheel Of Time).
- In the Age of Legends, Lanfear wasn’t considered Lews Therin’s equal – she never earned the coveted third name and Lews Therin himself thought that Lanfear loved the status he gave her more than she loved him (Robert Jordan’s The World Of The Wheel Of Time). When Lanfear revealed herself to Rand in Tear, she made sure to establish her superiority:
”Whatever you can do, Lews Therin, I can do. And better.”However in The Wheel of Time series, Lanfear didn’t leave Lews Therin, he scorned Lanfear instead, due to his disgust over her ambition. Rand, too, rejected Lanfear publicly, causing her anguish and then rage. She didn’t storm off and refuse to return, but was pushed by Moiraine into another world, where she was trapped. This reversal of the myth links the story with the scorned woman motif described above and thus the Hell connection.
- The Shadow Rising, The Stone Stands
- Lilith utters the secret name of God, but Lanfear was not allowed to say the true name of the Dark One, because that would be blasphemy (The Shadow Rising, Decisions).
- Lanfear is linked to Asmodeus/Asmodean: she teamed up with Asmodean to try to bring Rand to the Shadow in The Shadow Rising.
- There is no parallel with Lilith’s demon offspring and infanticide, although Lanfear uses her magic powers to spread evil and has a reputation amongst the other Forsaken of spitefulness and an uncertain temper. It was because Lews Therin’s and Lanfear’s relationship ended that Lanfear went to the Shadow and contributed to the evil that plagued people for three thousand years.
- Like Lilith, Lanfear was immortal, although this was a gift of the Dark One, whom she joined because Lews Therin left her.
- Lanfear visited people in their dreams. In the Aiel Waste, she entered Rand’s dream to seduce him and wanted to make him enjoy the dream so much he would never forget (The Shadow Rising, Traps.) This is reminiscent of Lilith and the Lamia seducing men in their dreams and enchanting them and is also a parallel to Selene described above.
She was able to lure Rand to her even though his dream was warded:
No, this was one of his own ordinary dreams. He controlled them now. They were a place he could find peace to think, protected by wards while his body slept beside Min in their new camp, surrounded by Borderlanders, set up on the Field of Merrilor...It is telling of Lanfear's seductive abilities that although in a new and, to Rand, unrecognisable body Cyndane inspired concern and desire in Rand. However Rand was more sceptical and resistant the next time she tried it.
He closed his eyes, enjoying tranquility. Calmness. Harmony.
In the distance, he heard screams of pain.
Rand opened his eyes. What had that been? He stood up, spinning. This place was created of his own mind, protected and safe. It couldn't-
The scream came again. Distant. He frowned and raised a hand. The scene around him vanished, puffing away into mist. He stood in blackness.
There, he thought. He was in a long corridor of dark wood paneling. He walked down it, boots thumping. That screaming. It shook his peace. Someone was in pain. They needed him...
How had this woman gotten into his dream? Was she someone real, or was this a creation of his mind? He laid a hand on her shoulder...
Rand jumped forward, reaching for her, but he was too late. He caught a glimpse of her before she vanished into the blackness below.
Rand froze, staring into that pit. He sought calmness, but he could not find it. Instead, he felt hatred, concern, and-like a seething viper within him-desire. That had been Mierin Eronaile...
- Towers of Midnight, Epilogue
- Like Lamashtu, Lanfear gave bad dreams – in the Age of Legends, she drove people to madness and suicide with her manipulation of their dreams and the World of Dreams, so that people feared going to sleep (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). It was probably Lanfear who manipulated Masema with visions or dreams (The Gathering Storm, Prologue).
- Lanfear was bound in the Bore in an endless dreamless sleep, unable to disturb the dreams of people (The Dragon Reborn, Daughter of the Night), just as Lilith is described as bound deep in the Sea in some versions of the myth.
There is one important change to the Lilith-Eve myth: Lanfear’s decision to drill into the Bore (with Beidomon’s assistance) to find a single Power men and women could both use, combines the ambition of Lilith with the fatal curiosity of Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
Medea was a witch in Greek mythology and a priestess of Hecate, a major parallel of Lanfear (see above). She was the wife of the Ancient Greek hero Jason and aided Jason on his quest. This is a parallel of her partnership with Asmodean to enslave the Dragon Reborn (see Asmodean essay) and of her relationship with Rand (and Lews Therin). When Jason made an army of warriors by sowing dragon’s teeth in a field Medea told him how to distract them so that they fought each other. She gave Jason a narcotic potion to make the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece fall asleep so Jason could steal the treasure. Asmodean imprinted the dragon tattoos on Couladin’s forearms to distract Rand while Asmodean raided Rhuidean for the male Choedan Kal access key, a treasure as great as the Golden Fleece. As a result, the Aiel, Children of the Dragon, fought each other over whether Rand was their Car’a’carn.
Jason and Medea visited Circe, Medea’s aunt, a parallel of Graendal (see Graendal essay). Circe aided them, unlike the more deadly Graendal who ambushed Asmodean. Cyndane and Lanfear both met with Graendal to get her cooperation.
When Jason betrayed Medea for another woman, she was furious and wanted revenge, just as Lanfear felt betrayed and scorned by Lews Therin and then by Rand when they rejected her. She was also furious with Asmodean when he started balking at her plan to manipulate Rand.
Medea healed the Greek hero Heracles (a former Argonaut and a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) after he killed Iphitus, the son of the king of Oechalia. Lanfear Healed Rand a couple of times in The Great Hunt after he was wounded by Ishamael, and also reluctantly healed Perrin (A Memory of Light, The Way of the Predator).
Lanfear, Rand and Moiraine
The situation of Moiraine protecting Rand from being enslaved by Lanfear has a parallel from Greek mythology. Calypso was a nymph who became enamoured of Ulysses/Odysseus when he landed on her isle. She wanted to make him immortal and keep him with her forever, but she was forced to let him go. Telemachus, Ulysses’ son also landed on Calypso’s isle while on a search for Ulysses. Calypso fancied him too, and offered him immortality if he would stay with her. However, Minerva, who in the shape of Mentor accompanied Telemachus, encouraged him to repel her advances. When they couldn’t stop Calypso, Mentor and Telemachus leaped from a cliff into the sea and swam to a ship (Bulfinch’s Mythology).
Lanfear was enamoured of both Lews Therin Telamon and Rand; she offered the latter immortality and to rule the world at her side. In order to prevent Lanfear from controlling Rand, Moiraine, his mentor, leaped upon Lanfear and drove them both through the redstone door ter’angreal.
History Turning to Legend
A major parallel for the Age of Legends is the ancient Roman Republic with Lews Therin Telamon, the last ruler of the Age of Legends, an analogue of both the last King of Ancient Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and, even more importantly, the last ruler of the Roman Republic and most acclaimed man of that time, Julius Caesar. Both men were closely involved with notorious women, Tullia and Cleopatra respectively, who contributed to their downfalls and have strong parallels to Lanfear.
Tullia was the younger daughter of Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome. Servius arranged for his daughters to be married to the two sons (or grandsons, the histories are uncertain) of his predecessor and father-in-law, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. Tullia Minor married Aruns, and her older sister married Lucius. However, Lucius and Tullia found they had much in common and arranged the murder of their respective siblings; they then married.
Being ambitious, Tullia persuaded Lucius Tarquinius to have her father killed and usurp the throne. On her way home she encountered her father’s body lying in the street and ran her chariot over it to despoil it. For this action she was forever infamous in Ancient Rome. Tarquinius’ reign lasted many years but was regarded by the Ancient Romans as a tyranny that justified the abolition of the monarchy. Tarquinius’ family was exiled and the republic founded, so Tarquinius Superbus was the last king of Ancient Rome. Tullia was cursed by the populace as she left because of her role in the murder of her father.
Lanfear was Lews Therin’s love before Ilyena, although he broke off the relationship before he met his future wife because he believed that Lanfear loved the status of being his lover far more than loved him. The rejected lover did not take this well and tried to replace Ilyena, whom she regarded as having stolen her position. Lanfear was forever infamous as the one who drilled into the Bore, and also for her crimes once she joined the Shadow in her rage at being the woman scorned. Unlike the other Forsaken, who were given unflattering names by the populace and adopted them in pride, she chose her own new name. Lews Therin was a kinslayer as well as the last ruler of the Age of Legends. It was Rand and also Perrin that Lanfear tried to manipulate into gaining power for her in the Third Age, and she also contemplated usurping the Dark One, but we don’t know what tricks she tried on Lews Therin in the Second Age.
Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra VII, the last of the Pharaohs, has much in common with Lanfear. Cleopatra was the:
Egyptian queen famous in history and drama, lover of Julius Caesar and later the wife of Mark Antony. She became queen on the death of her father, Ptolemy XII, in 51 BC, ruling successively with her two brothers Ptolemy XIII (51–47) and Ptolemy XIV (47–44) and her son Ptolemy XV Caesar (44–30)… Her ambition no less than her charm actively influenced Roman politics at a crucial period, and she came to represent, as did no other woman of antiquity, the prototype of the romantic femme fatale.In keeping with his theme of history changing over time to myth, Jordan has used both the history and the legends surrounding Cleopatra to develop Lanfear.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Cleopatra came into power young, at 18. The Cleopatra of myth is a dark, glamorous queen of devastating beauty, while the real Cleopatra was highly intelligent, ruthless and not even particularly pretty. Lanfear is a blend of the two: being dark, incredibly beautiful and ruthless. As a very strong channeller, she, too, came into power young.
Cleopatra had a very compelling voice and used it to great effect to charm, flatter and persuade. Lanfear used Compulsion and her skill in Tel’aran’rhiod to get others to do her bidding.
Cleopatra dreamed of becoming the Empress of the world and almost did so. Her favourite oath was said to be: "As surely as I shall yet dispense justice on the Roman Capitol." Lanfear wanted to be Naeblis or, better yet, use the Choedan Kal to challenge the Dark One and the Creator, and finally settled on taking over Rand’s group at Shayol Ghul, killing them and saving the Dark One.
When Caesar arrived in Egypt, Cleopatra was excluded from the talks by her co-ruler Ptolemy XIII. Determined to be in on any deals, legends has it that she had herself smuggled into Caesar's presence rolled up inside an oriental carpet (in reality it was bedding). When the rug was unrolled, she captivated Caesar and they became lovers that night. Appropriately, Graendal sneeringly said that Lanfear would:
"have stretched out at his [Lews Therin’s] feet if he said ‘rug’."Cleopatra sought power and the restoration of the dominions of the first Ptolemies from Caesar. Caesar sought money from her. Lews Therin differs from Caesar here in solely being used rather than using in return. He believed Lanfear loved the status he gave her more than she loved himself.
- The Shadow Rising, Prologue
Cleopatra committed crimes: her mercenaries killed the Roman governor of Syria's sons when they came to ask for her assistance for their father against the Parthians; she had her consort and brother, Ptolemy XIV, assassinated; and she asked Antony to have her sister Arsinoe killed. Lanfear committed far more crimes.
Some time after the assassination of Caesar, Cleopatra captivated another man, Mark Antony, and subtly exploited his unsophisticated and unstable character. Lanfear tried to do the same to Rand, who was also unstable (due to the taint) and unsophisticated, but thanks to Moiraine she did not succeed, and did Compel Perrin but he broke free of it at the last.
The Lanfear/Cleopatra parallel is an important one, not just in showing how history repeats itself, but also in showing the consequences if events had been allowed to take their course. Moiraine saw from the rings in Rhuidean that Rand could end up enslaved by Lanfear, or killed by her. In some legends, it was Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra that was a factor in his assassination. Cleopatra enslaved Antony, ultimately leading to both their deaths, with her inciting him to kill himself. Besotted with Cleopatra, Antony forgot about his wife and his planned military campaign in Parthia and returned:
as Cleopatra's slave to Alexandria, where he treated her not as a “protected” sovereign but as an independent monarch.Twins were born to Cleopatra and Antony: a boy, Ptolemy Helios (Helios being a solar god) and a girl, Cleopatra Selene (!). (Interestingly Rand, analogue of the unconquered sun, has fathered twin boy and girl with Elayne). In this Age, Lanfear was determined to be Rand’s equal or superior. She also wanted to make sure that Rand completely forgot about his role as the Light’s champion and also his love of Elayne and Aviendha (and Min if she had known). However, Lanfear has never been interested in children. And of course, she disguised herself as a young woman named Selene in the early books. It was only by remembering his love for his wife that Perrin was able to break her Compulsion.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
After the Roman armies of Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) defeated their combined forces, Cleopatra realized that she and Antony were doomed. She could neither kill Antony nor exile him, but she believed that if he could be induced to kill himself for love of her, they would both win undying renown (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Lanfear planned to use Rand to obtain ultimate power for the pair of them. However, Moiraine’s bravery thwarted Lanfear’s plans and Rand was freed of her influence. Thwarted in her first plan, Lanfear then tried to use Perrin to help her kill Rand’s group so she could gain ultimate power from the Dark One.
Mierin Eronaile (Lanfear’s original name):
While Mierin is similar to the real world place name Mierini in Latvia, it may also refer to Muirenn, of Irish mythology. She was the one of the Sidhe, or ‘fairy folk’ and was often called ‘Muirne of the White Neck.’ Muirenn fell in love with Cumhaill, a young warrior in the Fianna, the bodyguard of the High King of Ireland, and refused to leave him and return to the Otherworld. In the Age of Legends Lanfear was an Aes Sedai; Jordan derived their name from the Sidhe. Lanfear turned her life upside down for love and she too had beautiful white skin and went to the Otherworld of the Eelfinn 'fairy folk'.
Eronaile may be a reference to the Erinyes, the Furies, as described above, and also to Erin, Ireland, and the Celtic origins of Mierin/Muirenn.
In the Waste, Lanfear disuised herself as a fat Darkfriend called Keille Shaogi (in The Shadow Rising and again in The Fires of Heaven). Her name has interesting allusions. Keille is similar to ‘kill’. Liu Shaogi was the Chinese Communist party organiser and Mao’s second in command for more than 20 years. The name thus hints at Lanfear’s plans to ruthlessly manipulate Rand and Asmodean.
Silvie appeared at Egwene’s side in Tel’aran’rhiod in The Dragon Reborn, Tel’aran’rhiod, to see what she was up to and to influence her. She was obviously one of the Forsaken in disguise – one that had strong ties to the White Tower. With her ancient, ugly, hag-like appearance (reminiscent of Hecate) and her name being so close to ‘silver,’ it is likely she was Lanfear.
Cyndane’s parallels – More History Than Myth
As has been described above, the name Cyndane is similar to Cynthia, which is what the ancient Greeks sometimes called Artemis (their goddess of the moon and the hunt) after her birthplace on Mount Cynthus on Delos.
Cyndane incorporates the word Dane as a reference to her colouring: she now has silvery blonde hair and blue eyes. Furthermore, the Vikings who caused so much grief and destruction when they invaded England from the late 8th century to the 11th century were referred to as Danes.
Cyndane’s situation as Moridin’s slave has an historic parallel from the Nazi regime, the regime on which Jordan based the Shadow, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay. Wilhelm Keitel was Adolf Hitler’s Chief of Staff and completely subject to him. He was chosen by Hitler for this very reason:
In Keitel, Hitler found exactly the type of officer he was seeking: someone who would carry out his commands to the letter and without question, a yes-man who would be content to be merely a glorified executive officer, without independent command prerogatives.Even if Keitel disagreed with Hitler’s decisions, his objections were brushed aside and he meekly drafted or endorsed the decrees Hitler wanted. Keitel loathed his situation, but felt powerless to stop it:
- Samuel W. Mitcham, Hitler's Field Marshals (1988)
Constantly in Hitler's presence, he had completely succumbed to his influence. From an honorable, solidly respectable general, he had developed in the course of years into a servile flatterer with all the wrong instincts. Basically, Keitel hated his own weakness; but the hopelessness of any dispute with Hitler had ultimately brought him to the point of not even trying to form his own opinion. If, however, he had offered resistance and stubbornly insisted on a view of his own, he would merely have been replaced by another Keitel.The other members of the Nazi high command were content to do nothing:
- Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970)
Why did the generals who have been so ready to term me a complaisant and incompetent yes-man fail to secure my removal? Was that all that difficult? No, that wasn't it; the truth was that nobody would have been ready to replace me, because each one knew that he would end up just as much a wreck as I.Mindtrapped Cyndane was also largely unable to pursue her own goals. Until the Last Battle, she was apparently eager to obey Moridin (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News) and tell him “everything she knows.”
- Wilhelm Keitel, In the Service of the Reich
As Hitler’s lap-dog, Keitel endorsed orders for killing of captured commandos and reprisals against the families of Allied volunteers, attacks on neutral Belgium and the Netherlands, revenging the death of German soldiers in the East by killing 50 to 100 Communists for one German soldier (with the comment that the life of Slavs was less than nothing), and military commanders always having hostages to execute when soldiers were attacked.
A particularly apt decree that Keitel drafted, bearing in mind Cyndane’s “abilities” with dreams, is the infamous Night and Fog decree. This decree, Nacht-und-Nebel-Erlass authorized the night time arrests and secret killings of suspected members of the resistance. It was a:
secret order issued by Adolf Hitler on December 7, 1941, under which “persons endangering German security” in the German-occupied territories of western Europe were to be arrested and either shot or spirited away under cover of “night and fog” [as Hitler liked to put it] to concentration camps. Also known as the Keitel Order, the decree was signed by Wilhelm Keitel, chief of staff of the German army (Wehrmacht), and was issued in response to the increased activity of the Resistance in France. The German minister of justice established special courts to deal with these cases. Some 7,000 persons are known to have been sent to concentration camps as a result of this decree.To say nothing of the number of those who were executed.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
The “Night and Fog” decree was intended to terrorise all resistance movements. Suspects were arrested in the middle of the night and never heard of again and their families never learned their fate. It certainly ensured that anyone associated with the Resistance in occupied territories would never sleep easily.
In the Age of Legends, people in territories Lanfear controlled:
had more than the usual horrors of the Shadow to face; they feared sleep itself.That is because she took people out of their dreams into Tel’aran’rhiod to kill or compel them (rather like Freddy Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street). Cyndane/Lanfear tried to manipulate Rand via his dreams in Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, and he was tempted at first but suppressed the urge to take the bait.
-Robert Jordan’s The World of the Wheel of Time
Lanfear is a very complex character drawn from a great variety of sources, most especially from Graeco-Roman moon and infernal goddesses, from Cleopatra, Serpent of the Nile and from Lilith, Queen of Demons. These are powerful figures, not to be trifled with. Selene, for instance, was more powerful than her beloved, Endymion. Cleopatra manipulated Caesar and enslaved Antony and contributed to their downfall. This is what Lanfear wanted, but what Moiraine sacrificed herself, and what Perrin broke her Compulsion and his reluctance to kill women, to prevent.
Written by Linda, June 2004 and updated January 2014
Contributor: Dominic, jedi_elf_aes_sedai, Terez