Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Not Just the Dragon: Animal Symbolism


By Linda

This essay will discuss the animals used as symbols for people and nations in the Wheel of Time books in alphabetical order. Sometimes the symbolism is expressed literally or physically and sometimes it is more ‘internal’, but it is still always there.


Bear

The blue bear is the sigil of House Haevin of Andor. Egeanin likens Bayle Domon to a bear.

The bear has both good and bad connotations.

  • It hibernates and reappears each Spring, and so symbolises the cycle of renewal of the world. The ancient Chinese believed the bear could cast out evil (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Domon’s life was overturned by the advent of Rand, but he helped fight the Shadow from the first.


  • In Japan the bear is a symbol of strength and in China of masculine courage. It is linked with many war-like divinities such as Odin, Artemis and Thor, and represents fierceness in battle in Scandinavia, where berserkers wore bearskins into battle (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Catalyn Haevin tried to make Aviendha teach her to use a spear (Knife of Dreams, A Bronze Bear) and had to be restrained by Dyelin from participating in the battle for Caemlyn (Knife of Dreams, Nine Out of Ten). On Elayne’s maps, the Borderlander army, the north-men warriors of the Wheel of Time world, are represented by the bronze image of a sleeping bear curled up with its paws over its nose (Knife of Dreams, A Bronze Bear). Egeanin admires Domon’s strength and finds him a comfort.


  • Many societies have regarded the bear as teacher or guide (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Guidance is an issue in House Haevin: Catalyn was allowed to reach her majority early, her guardian believing that he had taught her all she was likely to learn. As a result, Dyelin has had to provide Catalyn with strong guidance. Domon provided support to Nynaeve, Elayne and Min, and for Egeanin, and told Rand and Mat about what they were seeing as they sailed down the Arinelle.


  • Bears were baited in the Middle Ages—harassed and injured by dogs in a confined space for the amusement of people. However, the ‘bears’ of House Haevin pride themselves on their incivility and bait others with their tongues:

    There’s a good mind there, if someone took her in hand for a few years, but she has a double dose of the viperous Haevin tongue.”
    Elayne gritted her teeth. She knew how cutting Haevins could be. The whole family took pride in it! Catalyn obviously did.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats

    This is a form of cruelty. In Christian and Islamic traditions the bear is cruel, lustful and vengeful and it is associated with gluttony and lust in Western art and literature (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).


Bee

Nine bees are the sign of Illian.

As hardworking colonial insects, bees are a symbol of civilisation (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures).

  • Early Christians regarded the bee as the symbol of monks and clerics, who gathered about their abbot, bishop or pope and did his bidding with perfect obedience and industry (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Illian is an example of ‘southern industry’; here corrupted by Sammael. Until Rand sent famine relief, the people were starving because their considerable production all went to Sammael’s army.


  • For early Christians the bee was an emblem of Christ’s death and resurrection. The Egyptians saw the bee as giver of life and so they used it to represent birth, death and resurrection, as well as chastity, balanced living and royalty (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Rand has parallels to Christ (see Rand essay) and was King of Illian.


  • In early France the bee was the symbol of kingship. The Emperor Napoleon incorporated this ancient symbol of the French monarchy into his coat of arms. It is thus appropriate that his close parallel, Sammael, ruled Illian, whose symbol is nine bees.


Boar

The charging white boar is Gawyn’s sigil (and that of the Younglings), the golden boar is the sigil of House Sarand of Andor and the charging boar was the sigil of Barthanes Damodred. Bryne and Siuan are thought of as boars when they are stubborn. In Seanchan the white boar is an omen of danger, perhaps betrayal.

The wild boar is a dangerous and fierce animal.

  • In northern Europe it is a symbol of strength, fearless aggression and resolute courage (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings) and is associated with warfare. Gawyn has shown considerable aggression and skill at warfare—some of it misapplied. Amusingly Gawyn compared Gareth Bryne to a boar for these qualities, and Bryne paid the same complement to Siuan in The Gathering Storm.


  • The boar’s ferocity aroused horror as well as respect. Boars were a symbol of tyranny and lust for Christians because of their destructive nature (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Barthanes Damodred, a Darkfriend, and Elenia Sarand of Andor would be examples of the negative symbolism of boars. Gawyn, too, has been destructive—his Younglings were instrumental in the White Tower coup—and has aided an Amyrlin who became tyrannical. He wanted to kill Rand:

    True, al'Thor was the Dragon Reborn. But in his heart, Gawyn wanted to meet al'Thor with sword in hand and ram steel through him, Dragon Reborn or not. Al'Thor would rip you apart with the One Power, he told himself. You're being foolish, Gawyn Trakand. His hatred of al'Thor continued to smolder anyway.

    - Towers of Midnight, Writings

    "And what would happen if you won and ran him through as you've said you wanted to do? Would you doom us all to satisfy your momentary passion?"
    He had no reply to that.
    "That's not just jealousy, Gawyn," Elayne said, taking the oars from him. "It's selfishness... Birgitte keeps telling me I need to learn to be more temperate.”

    - Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup

    As Gareth Bryne observed:

    "You act with passion. You don't act because of the way you think, but because of the way you feel. In a rush, with a snap of emotion. That gives you strength. You can act when you need to, then sort through the ramifications later. Your instincts are usually good, just like your mother's were. But because of that, you've never had to face what to do when your instincts lead you in the wrong direction."

    - Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

    And his instincts led Gawyn to strike out for Demandred alone, resulting in his death and that of Egwene.

    Jared Sarand’s instincts were completely wrong, and his dogged insistence on blaming a bubble of evil on Elayne led to his troops abandoning him (A Memory of Light, Prologue).


  • Boars are associated in myth with endeavours to end tyranny, the elimination of evil customs and the overthrow of old cycles (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The Hindu god Vishnu took on a boar’s form to battle and defeat a demon and to raise the earth from the bottom of the ocean where the demon had submerged it. The story describes the resurrection of the earth from a deluge at the end of a cycle of Ages and the establishment of a new Age cycle.

    Gawyn disapproved of the way Siuan ran the Tower and aided Elaida’s coup by preventing the Blue and Green Warders from freeing Siuan and Leane, yet the Amyrlin he aided was ironically worse than Siuan. He strayed from his duty to Andor, which was corrupted by Rahvin, and ignored its troubles. The Younglings flew Gawyn’s boar and supported a tyrannical Amyrlin. Gawyn’s dissatisfaction that he was not making an important contribution to the Last Battle at the end of this Age was what impelled him to fight Demandred alone. The loss of Gawyn led to Egwene using herself up fighting Taim and the Sharans.

    Min argued with Tuon over her tyrannical reaction to Min’s viewing of a boar:

    "The boar is the symbol of one Handoin, one of my rivals in Seanchan," Tuon explained patiently. "The white boar is an omen of danger, perhaps betrayal. This woman works for him, or will in the future."

    A Memory of Light, A Yellow Flower-Spider

    and refused to let Tuon misuse this or any other viewing.


  • The boar also features in myths as a test of great courage. King Arthur and his nephew hunted the ravening boar Twrch Trwyth because it carried talismans of great strength (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Gawyn has considerable courage, but often poor judgement:

    Light! Gawyn thought. What if I didn't interrupt him listening? What if I interrupted him on his way out?
    Gawyn dashed to Egwene's door, fatigue evaporating. Sword out, he tested the door. It was unlocked!
    "Egwene!" he cried, throwing the door open and leaping into the room.
    There was a sudden explosion of light and a crashing sound. Gawyn found himself wrapped up in something strong: invisible cords, towing him into the air. His sword fell to the ground, and his mouth filled with an unseen force.

    - Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

    He defended Egwene from the Bloodknives with ferocity and even Sheathed the Sword for her, then he appropriated their ter’angreal rings—powerful talismans that he used to fight Demandred.


  • The boar was sacrificed to Aphrodite, goddess of love and was also sacred to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Egwene’s prophetic dreams showed the cost to Gawyn of his love for her (see Egwene’s Dreams article).


  • In Zoroastrian belief, the shining boar is a symbol of the sun, and the boar and the stag were created by the good god Ormuzd to help kill all serpents, which, with the dragon, were seen to be the animals of the evil god Ahriman (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Gawyn wanted to kill the Dragon Reborn because he believed that Rand killed his mother (i.e. that Rand was evil). In Towers of Midnight, Gawyn saved Egwene from the Bloodknives, enabling her to defeat a Forsaken that was a ‘serpent’ in the bosom. Gawyn also helped keep her from the Sharans who would have captured her for another Forsaken, Demandred and he tried to play an important role in the Last Battle by killing Demandred, but failed.

    Interestingly, Barthanes’ sigil was the boar, and King Galldrian’s the stag; they were caught up in ambition and rivalry rather than fighting the Shadow, and tried to use Rand in their schemes. Each died as a result. (There is much Zoroastrian symbolism and beliefs in the Wheel of Time series, see Eschatology essay).


Bull

Perrin is named Young Bull by the wolves. The sigil of House Bryne is a bull with roses around its neck, and the sigil of Murandy is a red bull on a field of blue and white. Rand is described as bull-headed when he refuses to listen.

The bull is the most formidable of the domesticated animals. Both Perrin and Bryne are seen as formidable. The wolves named Perrin aptly; he is normally very peaceable but is ferocious when finally roused:

The others all knew to end the hunt, Young Bull, Hopper sent from a distance. Only you had to be stopped... Perhaps he was a wolfbrother because he was like the wolves. He didn't need to control them. He needed to control himself.

- Towers of Midnight, To Make a Stand

His leadership of the Last Hunt was essential; the wolves could not fight the Darkhounds without him:

Young Bull. This from a wolf named White Eyes. The Last Hunt is here. Will you lead us?
Many asked this, lately, and Perrin couldn't figure out how to interpret it. Why do you need me to lead you?
It will be by your call, White Eyes replied. By your howl.
I don't understand what you mean, Perrin sent. Can you not hunt on your own?
Not this prey, Young Bull.

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

  • In ancient Indian tradition, the great bulk of a bull supported the world (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Perrin has great physical strength and bulk and is one of three ta’veren supporting the fate of the world. King Roedran shows the mundane aspect of the bull: is immensely fat and uses a blunt manner to make an impression of people (A Memory of Light, To Require A Boon).


  • The bull has great virility and thus is symbolic of the life force. It is especially associated with lunar, solar and storm gods (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Its horns, for instance, are linked with the crescent moon and its bellow and stamping with thunder and earthquakes (especially in Crete, home of the Minotaur). Perrin has a Talent for the Dream, a lunar ability. He has golden eyes, a solar attribute, and also parallels with the storm gods Thor and Perun. As for virility, Perrin’s mother-in-law has already informed him of the number of children she expects him and Faile to produce (Lord of Chaos, Beyond the Gate). Bryne, however, was the last of his House.


  • The first saint of the ascetic Jain religion (from which the Da’shain and Tinker Way of the Leaf was derived, see The Age of Legends essay) is represented by a golden bull. Perrin, Young Bull, has golden eyes and is closely linked with the Tinkers.


  • The bull is an ancient symbol of sacrifice. It is one of the four tetramorphs and symbolises St Luke, whose gospel dwells on Christ’s atonement and sacrifice. In Mithraism and in Egypt the bull is a death and resurrection symbol:

    The central liberating act of Mithras is his slaying of the bull, as a symbol of his supremacy over his animal nature. Mithraic candidates to his cult stood in the taurobolium, and were showered by the blood of the sacrificed bull, so they might partake of the mystery of Mithras’ liberation.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    Perrin loathed the experience of bloodshed and killing in battle that was forced upon him and loathes his battleaxe. He has made personal sacrifices to restore the world, including the loss of his family. However, he insisted on putting his tasks on hold rather than lose Faile, the only close love remaining to him.

    The wolves pressure Perrin about his choice of weapons for the hunt:

    “This is wrong. I carried my hammer into Malden. I threw the axe away.”
    A horn or a hoof, Young Bull, does it matter which one you use to hunt? Hopper was sitting in the sunlit street beside him.
    “Yes. It matters. It does to me.”
    And yet you use them the same way.

    - Towers of Midnight, Prologue

    You hunt game with your hooves? An image of a bull ignoring its horns and trying to leap onto the back of a deer and stomp it to the ground.

    - Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

    Rand has parallels with Mithras (see Rand Essay), and was a sacrifice for humanity, so it is interesting that in The Gathering Storm, the Wise Ones described Rand as bull-headed among themselves. At Shayol Ghul, Perrin protected Rand by killing Lanfear, sacrificing his principles of not killing someone who was not attacking him to do so.

    In ancient Egypt, Apis was seen as the avatar of Osiris and the servant of Ptah, the creating god and god of artisans (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology. The Apis bull was believed to indicate the future. The body of Osiris was sometimes borne on the back of a black bull. Rand is Osiris (see Rand Essay) and Perrin one of his helpers. Perrin is creative, a maker of things. He is able to see the future in Tel’aran’rhiod.


  • In northern Asia, death rides a black bull (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Even in modern times young men still flirt with death running with or fighting bulls. Thanks to the Shadow and Perrin’s ta’veren pull on the Pattern, those close to Perrin risked dying.


Crane

The golden crane is the symbol of Malkier and thus of Lan.
  • The crane is noted for its courtship dance. It generally mates for life and is a symbol of loyalty. After a reluctant courtship, Lan married Nynaeve in a Sea Folk ceremony, which is remarkably different to mainland ceremonies, and is a devoted husband.


  • In Chinese mythology the crane flies between Heaven and Earth as a messenger of the gods. Its role is to carry the souls of the deceased to the Western Paradise and thus it represents immortality (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). It has wisdom and knowledge to impart. Lan’s role has been to educate the three ta’veren (especially Rand) as well as protect them.


  • The migration and return cycle of the crane suggested regeneration. The crane is sacred to Apollo as the bird of Spring and is sometimes used as a resurrection symbolism in Christianity. It is believed to be a weather forecaster who tells farmers when to plant their fields. We saw the Blight near Malkier driven back and Spring finally come across the lands after the victory at the Eye of the World in which Lan participated. In New Spring, there were abortive attempts to revive Malkier. Thanks to Nynaeve, the Golden Crane banner flew again and the Malkieri flocked to join Lan under the banner for Tarmon Gai’don (Towers of Midnight, Epilogue). The flag of Malkier acted as a banner for all the Borderlands (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle. The land of Malkier will live again, just as its monarch has been restored.


  • The crane symbolises happiness, honour and luck in China. In Egypt, the double headed crane symbolises prosperity (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Lan is experiencing all such good fortune.


  • In Western art the solitary crane personifies vigilance, diligence and patience.

    Christian tradition accords the crane with the status of a cleric or monk because it stands unmoving, and thus it represents the watchfulness, obedience and loyalty of a good monk.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    It kills snakes and thus, in Christian symbolism, the envoys of Satan. All his life, Lan dedicated himself to his oaths to continue to fight the Shadow and avenge Malkier. Like most Borderlanders and Warders, he knew the watch against the Shadow was not done and furthermore said that he would only rest when he was dead. He would have fought his battle with the Shadow alone in the Blight if he could, as Moiraine was well aware and prevented. When he was Bonded to Moiraine, Lan gave an oath of obedience. Lan rode off by himself to fight the Shadow’s general, Demandred.


  • In Hindu tradition the crane-headed goddess Bagala represents the ugly aspects of humanity such as jealousy, hatred and cruelty and presides over poisons, black magic and deceitful forms of death. She incites people to torment each other. More positively, she represents the power to overcome enemies and to stun or paralyse an enemy into silence. Breyam Mandragoran’s role in the destruction of Malkier was one of inciting a futile attack on the Blight with poisonous insinuations out of jealousy, which cost Malkier forces it could not afford to lose and set the stage for the destruction of Malkier. Cruel Isam Mandragoran, her son, was an assassin for the Shadow who stepped out of Tel’aran’rhiod to kill. He had poisoned daggers, and could magically change his appearance to Luc. On the positive side, Lan is the best at overcoming his enemies in combat, as he demonstrated in the Last Battle.


Dragon

The symbol of Lews Therin Telamon and Rand al’Thor. The Da’shain Aiel were, and the Aiel are, the People of the Dragon. Aludra has named her cannon dragons.

The Dragon is a beast found in myths world-wide, albeit one with a mixed press. It is often considered a type of serpent (see below), just as Lews Therin and Rand are considered as destructive as the Dark One or the Forsaken.

In early myths, the dragon was often:

a great serpent that represents the primal matter of creation itself or the life-giving waters of Ocean;

- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

a symbol of supernatural power. Rand, one of the strongest channellers, is the Creator’s champion. In medieval times, the dragon was considered to be a combination of air, fire, water and earth symbolism (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings), just as Lews Therin and Rand are probably strong in all five Powers, which was exceptional even in the Age of Legends.

Aludra’s dragons were invented to combat wielders of the One Power. Harnessing the explosive power of chemical reactions, their power is just as mysterious to Third Age people as the One Power. Some cannot tell the difference between channelling and fireworks (The Dragon Reborn, Hunted).

In Eastern Asia, the dragon is benevolent and friendly and represents power and imperial authority, and in the Celtic world the dragon was a symbol of sovereignty. Sovereignty is an important theme in Arthurian myth and in the Wheel of Time series (see Arthurian Themes essay). Many in the world believed the Lord Dragon had imperial designs and a lust for power. The Aiel in Aviendha’s visions aspired to be the Dragon Empire.

Asian dragon dances are performed with a hideous mask and accompanied by fireworks in order to frighten demons. For some time, Rand made himself harder in order to defeat the Shadow and the Forsaken (many of whom have demonic names, see Names of the Shadow article) were rightly wary of him. Aludra’s dragons were developed from fireworks and were used against Shadowspawn and the hordes of Sharans.

Dragons in China are depicted with three, four or five claws. The dragon on Lews Therin’s banner has five claws:

A figure like a serpent, scaled in scarlet and gold, ran the entire length, but it had scaled legs, and feet with five long, golden claws on each, and a great head with a golden mane and eyes like the sun.

- The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor End

The five-clawed dragon Lung was the motif of the Han dynasty and symbolised the active yang principle, the East, the rising sun, fertility, happiness and the gifts of spiritual knowledge and immortality.

- Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

Lews Therin was titled Prince of the Dawn and Rand, He Who Comes with the Dawn. Rand is one of the strongest channellers of saidin, which can be likened to the yang principle. (The symbol of Aes Sedai is the yin-yang symbol).

In Russian myth, eclipses of the sun or moon are believed to be caused by dragons (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). And as the prophecy “Twice dawns the day…” foretold, Rand entered Shayol Ghul while an eclipse occurred.

In western art, the dragon is linked with summer. Rand used the Eye of the World to defeat Ishamael and end the Dark One’s winter; then the Dark One imposed an extended summer on the world.

While the dragon has a positive image in Eastern Asia, in Europe and the Middle East it is depicted as violent, antisocial and extremely dangerous, being associated with Satan (the Dark One) through the sin of pride. Lews Therin certainly believes he was overly proud; Rand went the same way until his epiphany. Dragons in the west bring conflict and infertility, and must be destroyed in order to restore the fertility of the Land.

The ambivalent symbolism of dragons was thrust upon Rand: born to save the world and Heal the Land, he was also a great danger to it, as Lews Therin Telamon was before him, and despite his best intentions, did as much evil as good. The Lord Dragon united the world to fight against the Shadow, but also disrupted nations, fought bloody battles and had regular contact with the Forsaken, the Dark One’s representatives, who manipulated him to further evils. Egwene thought:

To me, he must be Rand. Because Rand can be trusted, while the Dragon Reborn must be feared.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

In both the Second and Third Ages, the Shadow forced the Dragon to do bad things and made sure his name was blackened by history even if he saved the world. They also plotted to do evil in the Dragon’s name in the Third Age. This was even further blurred by Demandred claiming to be the “true Dragon”:

“He is false and I am true.”

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

while destroying the Light’s forces.

The Lord Dragon is linked to the fertility of the Land and yet brought war to the land and destroyed the nations he was trying to save. Instead of a brave hero or heroine in real world myth defeating or taming the evil dragon to restore the Land, and purge it of evil, the Wheel of Time world had a brave dragon (somewhat tamed by heroines) fighting evil with the aid of other heroes and heroines to restore the Land and purge it of evil. Likewise the dragon weapons appal Birgitte with their destructive potential (Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling). Jordan is trying to provide an explanation for the differing real world beliefs about dragons—a process he has called ‘reverse-engineering’.

Behavioural characteristics of dragons include:

  • Living in a remote and solitary habitat: Rand was raised as an only child in the isolated Two Rivers. By blood he is from the remote Aiel Waste and is closely associated with the isolated and lost city of Rhuidean.

    By virtue of his extreme responsibility and prophesied unpleasant fate, Rand feels cut off from others. For some time, he also cut himself off further so he did not feel their pain, nor inflict more upon them, until he realised this was a mistake.


  • Marauding: The nobles of the land believe that the Aiel—the People of the Dragon—and the Dragonsworn marauded the nations in Rand’s name and brought conflict to the Westlands.


  • Difficult relationships with women, especially maidens: Well, Rand has three girlfriends for a start! He found his relationship with the Maidens of the Spear embarrassing, and castigated himself whenever a woman died in his name, feeling as though he killed her himself. Rand also had problems with Aes Sedai; some assaulted him, one Bonded him against his will and another aimed to prevent him from becoming more negatively dragon-like. Lews Therin also had problems with female Aes Sedai; they formed the Fateful Concord and refused to participate in his plan to attack Shayol Ghul. Both Rand and Lews Therin had problems with Lanfear.


  • Jealous hoarding of treasure: Rand had vast accumulations of ter’angreal in Tear, Rhuidean and Cairhien. While Rand had a good reason for doing this, and was forced by events to do so, it is still in keeping with dragon-like behaviour. Events made Rand more of a dragon.


  • Hoarder or keeper of knowledge: Rand established three academies to keep and extend knowledge and to hopefully prevent its loss when he broke the world. Lews Therin had knowledge of channelling and the Age of Legends that he passed on piecemeal to Rand. Logain was angry that Rand knew weaves that he had not taught others (Knife of Dreams, Vows).


  • Being associated with water: Although a fertility symbol in the East (and Rand has done pretty well fertility-wise so far), bringing clouds and rain, the dragon is also associated with too much or too little water (droughts, floods and typhoons). Rand likewise has some Talent with working weather, notably pulling water out of the air in the extremely arid Waste and making it rain there for the first time.


  • The dragon is associated with the world tree in many myths: In the Wheel of Time the world tree is Avendesora, the Tree of Life, which Rand damaged in his fight with Asmodean.


Added to the behavioural characteristics are the following physical characteristics:

  • Keen or powerful eyesight: Rand gains keen eyesight whenever he holds saidin. The Eye of the World, which Rand used to destroy the Shadow’s army, also qualifies in a symbolic sense.


  • Staring eyes: Many people find the anger and intensity in Rand’s eyes terrifying, for instance the nobles swearing fealty in Cairhien in The Fires of Heaven and the Darkfriends who cannot look him in the eyes since his epiphany.


  • Horns, crest or crown on head: Rand wore the Crown of Thorns and Lews Therin was First among the Servants. While feeling jealous, Egwene thought Rand should wear horns like a Trolloc (The Great Hunt, New Friends and Old Enemies) and many people associate the Dragon with the Shadow.


  • Hideous roar: When Rand attacked Rahvin at the end of The Fires of Heaven, he roared like a beast. He also yelled at others to frighten them into following his orders.


  • Multiple heads: Rand has only one head, but in it he could sense not only Lews Therin, but seven other people. He was also the head of state of a few nations.


  • Fiery breath: Rand killed with the Power, often with Fire.


  • Ability to fly: Again thanks to his channelling abilities, Rand Travelled or moved to other worlds via Portal Stones.

In mythology, the dragon heralds a new cycle of time, changes the face of the earth and/or endures to the ending of the world (unless slain). For all of Time, Rand’s/Lews Therin’s soul has battled the Shadow as the Creator’s champion, his death heralding and marking the end of one Age and the beginning of another on the Wheel of Time. Rand feared he would have to endure the literal ending of the Wheel of Time world in the Third Age but he prevented this. The Dragon thought he was doomed to Break the World again as his predecessor Lews Therin did, but it was in a social way, and he successfully implemented a world-wide peace pact to prevent further destruction.

Eagle

The red eagle was the symbol of Manetheren and the black eagle is the sigil of House Northan in Andor.

The eagle is associated with the sun in mythology.

  • It is an ancient symbol of warfare and victory and particularly represents the triumph of good over evil. The swiftness of the eagle’s flight emphasizes the speed of attacking armies.

    To the Ancient Greeks, the eagle represented extreme bravery and was carved on the tombs of heroes; to the Australian Aborigines, victory against all odds; and to the American Indians, it represents:

    the brightness of day, celestial power and the rising sun which devoured the serpent of darkness.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    The eagle is thus an entirely appropriate symbol of Manetheren, the nation renowned for extreme bravery in fighting the Shadow, holding out against all odds even while being betrayed. Conail, current High Seat of House Northan, is rashly keen to show his own bravery.

    Egwene aptly dreamt of a serpent hiding among fledgling eagles, ripping into them while they stared at the sky (Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger). She realised this referred to Mesaana lurking in the White Tower to strike at the Aes Sedai.


  • The eagle was believed to be very long-lived and represented longevity and wisdom in many mythologies. Manetheren’s blood is still strong centuries later.


  • The eagle is connected with Odin, who often changed into one. Mat is a parallel of Odin (see Mat essay), and can remember fighting in Manetheren’s armies (The Shadow Rising, Imre Stand). He also wore an eagle mask for the Festival of Birds (A Crown of Swords, The Festival of Birds).


  • In medieval bestiaries, the eagle was the symbol of

    human spiritual renewal, baptism and restoration of grace.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

  • More negatively, the eagle represents pride in Western art.


Falcon

Faile means falcon in the old tongue.

  • The falcon is a symbol of liberty. As Loial said, Faile should fly free (The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure).


  • It is associated with the sun and light and was believed to never sleep. Horus was the Ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god of sky and day noted for his sharp, protective gaze (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Faile was taught that spying is a wife’s work to protect her husband’s interests.


  • The Egyptians also identified the falcon with the sun god Ra and with the Theban war god Menthu, who was depicted as either falcon- or bull-headed (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The falcon is also associated with war in China, and can be a benevolent or destructive force. Faile is long accustomed to war and, like any high-born Saldaean woman, expects to accompany her husband to the battlefield (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords). Menthu the war god could encapsulate Perrin (Young Bull) and Faile as a couple.


  • Demandred used a falcon to spy on the battlefield at Tarmon Gai’don:

    [Demandred] flew upon the wings of a falcon, inspecting the battle through the bird’s eyes. Ravens were better, but each time he tried using one of those, one Borderlander or another shot it down. Of all the customs to remember through the Ages, why did it have to be that one? No matter. A falcon would work, even if the bird did resist his control.

    A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

    Consistent with the falcon’s symbolism of liberty, it resisted his control. It was used for a destructive purpose—to aid the side of evil in an apocalyptic war.


  • To the Japanese Ainu the falcon is a helper of humanity and for Native Americans it is the younger brother of the eagle (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). It was Faile who suggested that Perrin fly the Red Eagle banner of Manetheren in Ghealdan, and who tended the Two Rivers folk and refugees from the west, Seanchan and Shaido. Crucially, she protected the Horn of Valere from the Shadow, sacrificing herself to do so.


  • Faile’s thoughts on the skills of the falcon and the hawk:

    "The falcon," Faile said, "is a better flyer. It kills with the beak, and can fly fast and quick. The hawk is slower and stronger; it excels at getting prey that is moving along the ground. It likes to kill with the claw, attacking from above."
    "All right," Perrin said. "But doesn't that mean that if both see a rabbit below, the hawk will be better at snatching it?"
    "That's exactly what it means." She smiled. "The hawk is better at hunting the rabbit. But, you see, the falcon is better at hunting the hawk.

    - Towers of Midnight, A Backhanded Request

    led her to manoeuvre Berelain into finding a way to restore Perrin’s reputation.


Fish

Three silver fish are the symbol of Saldaea. Fish are also an apt symbol of Siuan, the fisherman’s daughter who used fish metaphors constantly.

  • Fish, salmon in particular, are associated with knowledge in Celtic mythology. Siuan was associated with knowledge: knowledge of the Amyrlin’s spy network which enabled her to attach herself to the leadership in Salidar; knowledge of the political and administration skills an Amyrlin needs; and knowledge of the secret histories of the Tower which she imparted to Egwene. She said of herself:

    She'd become something else, a woman who traded in secrets rather than fish.

    - The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts

    She also learned incredibly quickly and well as novice and Accepted.


  • In the Hebrew tradition, fish represent hope and the faithful and are food of the Sabbath and paradise (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). This symbolism carried over into Christianity. Christ made an analogy between fishing and converting people, which is why the Pope wears the fisherman’s ring. The fish was the earliest emblem of Christ. Three fishes intertwined or sharing a single head are a symbol of the Trinity.

    Siuan worked faithfully to find Rand, the hope and saviour of the world, who has parallels with Christ (see Rand essay). The Amyrlin has some parallels with the Pope (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay) and Siuan, the fisherman’s daughter, was Amyrlin when Rand was finally revealed.

    Davram Bashere offered the services of his Saldaean army to Rand.


  • Living in the boundless ocean, fish represent freedom. Once raised Aes Sedai, Siuan wanted to be free to travel the world (New Spring, Practice), but her self-imposed duty to find the Dragon Reborn called her elsewhere. Once she was reduced in One Power strength, and therefore status, she found her situation liberating (The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts). Her hopes were to be finally free after the Last Battle, but it was not to be.


  • Fish spawn profusely and hence are a fertility symbol. In China they are emblems of plenty and good luck (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).


Fox

Mat is referred to as the fox in the Karaethon cycle. The black fox is the sigil of Lord Talmanes, the red fox is the sigil of House Anshar in Andor, and three running red foxes is the sigil of Agelmar Jagad. Thom Merrilin was known as the Grey Fox (The Shadow Rising, Deceptions) and the Eelfinn are fox-like creatures.

The fox is untamed; it represents wildness. Tylin recognised this in Mat, when she said:

“The trouble with having a pet fox… is that sooner or later it remembers it is a fox.”

Winter’s Heart, What the Aelfinn Said


  • The fox is one of the most cunning creatures of world mythology, a trickster who may aid or harm mankind. In tales from China and Japan, the trickster and magician fox will give aid if properly rewarded (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Mat’s knowledge of war and his plans to develop gunpowder weapons both help and harm the world. Mat was taught by his father to consider all sides of a situation to find the advantage in it (The Dragon Reborn, Awakening). Thom, too, is knowledgeable and manipulative; a skilled player of the Great Game not above a little forgery. Talmanes, a Cairhienin noble, also knows the Great Game well. Mat has shown reluctance to help unless he promised to, or there is something in it for him—until the Pattern forces him to. The fox-like Eelfinn, so alien they appear evil, make bargains with people requesting their aid and grant three wishes—at a price in their favour.


  • In Native American myth, the Fox was one of the animals who helped Coyote steal fire from the Fire-People. Mat got the idea of gunpowder weapons from the Illuminators. Jordan based Mat partly on Coyote (see Mat essay). When Mat went to the land of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, Thom, another fox, accompanied him.


  • Folktales of Reynard the Fox and Ysengrim the Wolf (see below) were very popular in medieval Europe with cunning and unscrupulous Reynard usually representing the downtrodden, but clever, peasantry (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore). Mat is a cunning and resourceful farm boy who disdained the nobility, although he has now joined their ranks.


  • In Zoroastrian myth:

    the fox has unusual powers including the ability to frighten off demons…[and] in Japan the fox is associated with shapeshifting, trickery and the power to subdue ghosts and vampires.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    Mat’s unusual powers consist of his medallion, his memories, and his luck, and while he has not subdued ghosts, vampires (Draghkar), or demons (Forsaken—they have demonic names), he managed to fight off and later kill a gholam. He also contended with Demandred, the Shadow’s general, on the battlefield. The dragons he helped Aludra develop were used to kill Shadowspawn and Dreadlords. Thom fought a Myrddraal with just a pair of knives. The Eelfinn have strange powers, even apparently ‘holding’ demonic Lanfear in some way (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal).


  • Christian tales describe the fox as playing dead and then, when ravens and other scavengers come to eat it, jumping up and rending them. Mat has lain in wait for his enemies—Shaisam notably—and used gunpowder weapons in ambush. At the Last Battle he planned for the Seanchan armies to return very late and suddenly after being despaired of, and turn the tide.


  • The fox has much in common with the jackal: both use trickery and lies, and the two animals are linked in some myths. For instance, the Dogon people of Africa have tales of Yurugu, the jackal-fox, who

    acts as the adversary and solution-finder to God’s difficulties.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    Mat’s role as one of the three ta’veren was to bring the Pattern back to the planned design (Robert Jordan on his blog). He lies convincingly, as Tuon discovered when Mat lied to her about not knowing the Dragon Reborn (Knife of Dreams, As If All the World Were Fog). In her eyes, he is a rapscallion and an unfathomable man of many layers. The Seanchan were fooled by “the fox that makes the ravens fly” (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds). They chased after Thom, but it was another fox, Mat, who was responsible for Tuon’s disappearance.

    Jordan combined jackal and fox symbolism in Mat—he has some links with Anubis, the Egyptian jackal-headed god who aided Osiris in his conquest of the world (see Mat essay). The jackal symbolises desolation in the Old Testament and is associated with the evil Ahriman in Zoroastrian religion, and the fox is associated with the devil in Christian tradition. Mat had close ties with desolate Shadar Logoth, and was the one to trick Shaisam into coming close so he could kill him. Again, characters working for the Light are condemned for associating with the Shadow too much and for being forced by the Shadow into damaging the world to save it.


  • The Chinese believed that the spirits of the dead sometimes migrate into the bodies of foxes (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Fox-like Mat was given the memories of dead men by the fox-like Eelfinn.


  • In Japan, a black fox is said to bring good luck, while two or three foxes together mean imminent disaster (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Talmanes has been helpful to Mat and Egwene, appearing when needed in Altara, increasing the Band of the Red Hand, obtaining a new crossbow crank, and also spurring the rebel Aes Sedai to move north. However, the Light suffered serious reverses under the roof, and also the generalship, of Agelmar Jagad, whose sigil is three running foxes.


  • Foxes were believed to love grapes and were a symbol of gluttony. In Ancient Greece the fox was a guardian of vines which were ruled by Dionysus. Mat is fond of wine and had a run in with the parallel of Dionysus, Balthamel/Aran’gar (see Balthamel essay), in Salidar.


Hart

The white hart is the sigil of King Easar Togita of Shienar.

The hart, a male red deer, was a highly-respected animal and the most popular quarry for the hunt in medieval times. It was sacred to the Celts, to whom it was a symbol of the sun and fertility. When the Celts converted to Christianity, the hart became symbolic of Christ, and the quest for the elusive hart was likened to the Christian’s quest for truth and salvation.

In Arthurian myth the sighting of the white hart, which usually occurred when the knights were hunting in a forest, heralded a message from the Otherworld, sent knights on a quest, or signified the presence of Christ. King Easar was one of the Borderlander rulers hunting for Rand, who has parallels with Christ (see Rand essay) and is linked to the health and fertility of the Land, to test the Dragon’s worthiness.


Hawk

The golden hawk in flight is the symbol of Mayene and of Berelain, descendant of Artur Hawkwing, whose sigil it also was. The stooping black hawk is the symbol of Shienar. Olver wore a hawk mask for the Festival of Birds (A Crown of Swords, The Festival of Birds) and the Sea Folk are described as hawkish.

  • The hawk is associated with light, royalty, power, and watchfulness. Shienar watches over the Blight for the Light and Mayene has aided the Light willingly. High King Artur Hawkwing was known as the Hammer of the Light (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar). Olver saved the Horn of Valere from Trollocs and blew it for salvation. Harnan, a veteran survivor of both "the Six-Story Slaughter" and Hinderstap, as Talmanes said, saved Olver from the bubble of evil in Tar Valon and prepared the prisoners at the camp in the Blight to escape.


  • The hawk is a symbol of wisdom in action because it has powerful eyesight, swift flight and great skill as a hunter. Once he realised what he had to do, Rand held the Dark One as tightly as the hawk grips a dove (A Memory of Light, Watching The Flow Writhe). Both Hawkwing and Berelain are skilled rulers.


  • In Ancient Egypt the hawk was the hieroglyph for the wind since it flies so fast. Hawkwing was renowned for moving his troops rapidly.


  • In medieval times the hawk was a symbol of venery, which can mean pleasure in sex or in the hunt. In the case of Berelain’s pursuit of Perrin, it was both.


  • The hawk is the opposite of the dove in Christian symbolism and represents violence, injustice and those who prey upon the weak. Hawkwing became High King through conquest, but under his rule there was no place for injustice or oppression. The Sea Folk are likened to hawks in the predatory way they trade (A Memory of Light, To Ignore The Omens).


Heron

The heron is a symbol of a blademaster.

  • The heron with its long blade-like beak hunts silently and patiently, waiting for its prey to come close and then stabs with great speed and accuracy. It often balances perfectly on one leg. The heron’s great control of body and mind, an appropriate model for blademasters, earned it a reputation for patience, elegance, vigilance, inner peace and contemplation.


  • In Chinese, the word for heron sounds a lot like the word for path or way. Many Asian schools of martial arts or philosophies are described as the “way of…” or “path of…”


  • In Japan, a heron decoration on a sword-fitting means grace and purity. The heron on a sword in the Wheel of Time series is the sign of a blademaster.


  • The heron was believed to shed tears of blood under stress, and for the early Christians it symbolised Christ's agony in the garden, sweating blood as he prayed earnestly (Lk 22:44).


Horse

The rearing red horse is the symbol of Kandor.

The horse is a symbol of animal vitality, speed, beauty and strength and was associated with sun and sky gods. The Kandori ruler holds the Throne of the Clouds (The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances).

  • It often represents courage, nobility, stamina and power and in Islam is a symbol of happiness and wealth.


  • The horse is often associated with war and conquest. A horse was sacrificed to Mars, the Roman god of war, each October. Red horses in particular symbolise bloodshed: in Revelation the red horse represents war and carnage. While all the Borderland nations were all too familiar with carnage as they fought to hold back Shadowspawn, Kandor was completely overrun and destroyed by the Shadow in the Last Battle.

    Christ as avenger frequently rides a red horse in medieval art, the red color representing his blood and his right to judge and punish the enemies of his Church. Ethenielle, Queen of Kandor, demanded the right to slap Rand first, knowing the risk of retaliation, to judge his worthiness (Towers of Midnight, A Testing).


  • In symbolism, rearing horses are considered wild and intractable.


  • The horse was a symbol of lust in western medieval art because in the Old Testament God said that the people of Israel "were well-fed lusty stallions; each neighing for another man's wife" (Jer 5: 8 ).


Hound

Three golden hounds is the sigil of House Renshar in Andor. The Shadow has Darkhounds and Ishamael describes Darkfriends as his hounds. The Freed, the Sharan male channellers, behaved like hounds and were treated as such by Demandred (A Memory of Light, The Wyld). The Empress regards damane as her pet hounds (A Memory of Light, Considerations).

Dogs have ambivalent symbolism.

  • They were venerated in Egypt and in Zoroastrianism as wise, faithful and loyal. As such they indicate the loyalty of Arathelle, High Seat of House Renshar to Andor and previously to Morgase.


  • However in Judaism the dog is considered a scavenger and therefore unclean and in the New Testament it is prophesied to remain outside the New Jerusalem with other dubious types:

    Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!

    - Revelation 22: 15

    Such dark dogs are Darkhounds and Darkfriends, used by the Forsaken, who are indeed deceitful and immoral sorcerers, murderers and apostates. The gholam too has been likened to a hound. The male Sharan channellers were dehumanised and insisted on behaving like hounds after they were freed. Likewise damane are treated like dogs and struggle to behave like ordinary people if their collars are removed.


  • Hounds are linked to the Wild Hunt, a folk myth especially prevalent in Northern Europe and Great Britain:

    The basic image is of a powerful mythical figure—a god, goddess or legendary personage—leading a hunt through the night skies that swooped to gather up the souls of the dying in its course across the countryside

    - Paul Devereux, Haunted Land, 2001

    aided by a pack of hounds. In the Wheel of Time series the leader of the Wild Hunt is a far darker figure, the Dark One:

    Darkhounds ran the night in the Wild Hunt, with the Dark One himself the Hunter.

    The Fires of Heaven, Gateways

    The Saldeans name the leader of the Wild Hunt as Old Grim—another euphemism for Shaitan (The Dragon Reborn, Shadowbrothers). The real world equivalent of Old Grim would be the Grim Reaper, Death. This is Shaitan in his role as Lord of the Grave. The Dark One did not literally run with the Darkhounds in the Last Battle, but the Darkhounds did hunt with the Dark One’s influence and purpose (or at least those of the Forsaken) running with them, and so did the gholam.

    In the real world, seeing the Wild Hunt was thought to be an omen of some catastrophe such as pestilence, death or war, or at best the death of the one who witnessed it. (This links in with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and with Revelation.) People encountering or following the Wild Hunt could be kidnapped and brought to the land of the dead. With the approach of the apocalyptic Tarmon Gai’don (Armageddon), the Darkhounds hunted more frequently and attacked en masse (without different packs attacking each other, as happened previously) at Thakan’dar. They slaughtered the Light’s forces until Perrin led the wolves against them.


  • The Celts believed dog saliva had healing properties. The Darkhounds are the antithesis of this; their saliva (and blood) is lethal (The Fires of Heaven, Gateways).


  • In many mythologies dogs guard the underworld and guide souls to it. Darkhounds and Darkfriends are creatures of the Lord of the Grave and kill on his behalf, notably at the entrance to his underworld prison.


Leopard

The red leopard is the sigil of House Gilyard in Andor, three silver leopards is the sigil of Mattin Stepaneos, and two golden leopards is the symbol of Altara. The women of House Bashere are described as leopards.

The leopard symbolises aggression, courage and speed. In Africa it is considered a passionate and unpredictable lover (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The Bashere women are brave and aggressive and Faile, at least, is a passionate and unpredictable lover.

More negatively, the leopard is a symbol of pride and lust in western medieval art (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings) and in Ancient Egypt, the leopard skin was associated with Set, the god of evil. Altarans are depicted as proud, aggressive and quarrelsome—consistent with leopard symbolism. So are the Gilyards:

“You don’t know the Gilyards well, do you? The way they squabble among themselves, they may not notice the boy is gone before summer, and if they do, none will repudiate what he’s done. None of them will admit they were so busy in arguing over who’s to be his guardian that they forgot to keep an eye on him. And second, none of them will admit they weren’t consulted beforehand.”

- Knife of Dreams, High Seats


Lion

The white lion is the symbol of Andor (and of Elayne by extension). Two golden lions harnessed to an ancient war-cart is Tuon’s sigil. Interestingly, Tuon thinks of Mat as a lion. A crouching lioness is the sigil of Lady Edeyn Arrel of Malkier, Lan’s first lover. Lan described Nynaeve as a lioness (The Eye of the World, The Blight). King Andric wore a lion mask when he met Carridin at the Garden of Silver Breezes (The Shadow Rising, Hidden Faces).

  • The golden lion is a solar symbol of military victory, royalty, earthly power and just rulership. In Ancient Egypt, the avenging lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet (a parallel of Semirhage, see Semirhage essay) symbolised the ferocious heat of the sun (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Tuon, the heir and then Empress of a huge empire, has two lions pulling an ancient war cart as her sigil. She intended to conquer the Westlands and avenge Artur Hawkwing. Semirhage was her Truthspeaker. Furthermore, by likening Mat to a lion, Tuon finally accepted Mat as a suitable consort with skills she could respect. The lion is also an appropriate symbol for Andor, a strong and justly ruled monarchy of the Westlands. Another monarch associated with the lion symbol is Andric of Tarabon.


  • Lions were believed to sleep with their eyes open and thus symbolise vigilance. They also represent fortitude, dignity and courage, qualities admired in Nynaeve and Elayne by their companions.


  • In Christianity, the lion is one of the Tetramorphs, being the symbol of the evangelist St Mark and signifies Christ’s regal dignity (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures).


  • The lioness is fiercely protective of the young. Both Edeyn Arrel and Nynaeve have been described as lionesses and both tried to protect young people. As a lioness Nynaeve is a fitting queen for Lan.


  • Negative qualities associated with the lion are pride, ferocity and tyranny. King Andric tried to bypass the normal political process in Tarabon and impose his choice of Panarch on the Assembly. Carridin suspected he had arranged the death of the previous Panarch. Edeyn tried to take advantage of her position as Lan’s first lover and force Lan to marry her daughter and to declare himself King of Malkier. Nynaeve is a bully at times, especially in the early books. Hopper described Slayer as a lion (Towers of Midnight, To Make A Stand).


Owl

The owl and oak is the sigil of Dyelin of House Taravin in Andor, and the grey owl the sigil of Ingtar Shinowa.

  • For the Ancient Greeks, the owl, the bird of Athena, was a symbol of wisdom, meditation, retreat, or scholars. Verin, for instance, kept one in her rooms to protect her papers (The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams). Dyelin advises Elayne and the other young High Seats of Andor. Ingtar was critical of the ignorance of history shown by Rand, Mat and Perrin.


  • In most mythologies, the owl is associated with misfortune, darkness and death. Its hooting is usually considered a bad omen, except that of the screech owl which is thought to warn against danger and to confer success in hunting (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Ingtar was linked to the dark, and so was Verin. She also warned many of the younger characters of dangers.


  • The Celts considered the owl a "corpse-bird" or "night hag" (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures), and in Christianity it is linked to the Devil because it is a silent nocturnal killer. In Asian folktales, owls steal children in the night. Ingtar was a Darkfriend, so the owl was an appropriate sigil for him. Verin too, even though she meant well. In addition to an owl, Dyelin’s sigil contains an oak, which is regarded as a benign and protective tree and so modifies the dark symbolism of the owl. However, by persuading the young High Seats to join Elayne in Caemlyn, Dyelin could be said to have stolen children, albeit for a good cause.


  • Witches are/were believed to keep owls as familiars, or even change themselves into owls. Verin kept an owl in her rooms for a more prosaic reason: to kill mice that would otherwise chew her papers.


Raven

The raven-and-roses is the sigil of the Seanchan Daughter of the Nine Moons and property of the Imperial family are tattooed with ravens. Mat is Prince of the Ravens. Ravens are also strongly associated with the Shadow. At Moridin’s orders, Moghedien wore a raven mask for the Festival of Birds (A Crown of Swords, The Festival of Birds).

  • The raven is a bird of wisdom and intelligence. While in Africa it is believed to warn against danger, elsewhere in the world it is considered a bad omen, signifying misfortune, death or war (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). It is thus a fitting symbol of the Shadow. The Forsaken for instance are intelligent and knowledgeable, but evil and destructive. One of them, Rahvin, has a name which even sounds like raven.

    The Seanchan, another group with the sigil of the raven, have an evil reputation in much of the Westlands, having brought war and slavery to many. Mat, the Raven Prince, is a ‘son of battles’. He warned the Light’s leaders that the Great Captains’ military tactics were corrupt. The symbolism of the raven indicates that some Seanchan custom and belief is unethical, and may have been corrupted by the Shadow. In the case of the Daughter of the Nine Moons, the raven symbolism is modified by the rose, which symbolises love and perfection.


  • The raven is associated with magic. The Dark One is an extremely powerful user of magic, and the Forsaken are also; they all use magic for corrupt purposes. The raven symbolism also shows the dark side of the Seanchan empire, the Raven empire as it is called in Aviendha’s visions of the future, which is built on collared damane (Winter’s Heart, A Matter of Property). Tuon thinks it preferable to make Darkfriend channellers damane than execute them (A Memory of Light, Considerations). And Moghedien, who wore a raven mask in Altara at Moridin’s order is now a damane being taken back to Ebou Dar.


  • The raven was believed to be a messenger between gods and humans. In some tales, it is regarded as a spy and tattler of secrets, in others, a herald of death, war and pestilence, and in yet others, a useful informant. In the books, ravens are literally messengers of the Dark One, gathering information and reporting to Myrddraal. They also signify the Forsaken who pass on the Dark One’s instructions and report information to him. The Forsaken prefer to use a raven when they take over a bird’s mine to spy over the landscape. The Shadow causes death, war and pestilence, and the ravens turn up to eat the bodies after.

    The raven was a companion of the Ancient Greek sun god Apollo (a parallel with Sammael, see Sammael essay). He turned the raven black when the bird informed him of the unfaithfulness of his lover, Coronis. We have seen Forsaken destroy messengers of bad news—for example Moridin accidentally killed Madic in a rage in The Path of Daggers, Unweaving, and Sammael lethally booby-trapped his messenger to Rand, the mode of Andris’ death indicating Rand’s negative reply to his proposal (Lord of Chaos,To Understand A Message).

    The Norse god Odin had two ravens Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory) who sat on his shoulders and whispered the news they had gathered by flying about the world (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The Dark One has creatures, human, Shadowspawn and animal, who do the same. The Seanchan have an extensive intelligence agency: the Seekers and their Listeners. Mat, the Raven Prince and consort of the Seanchan empress, is a parallel of Odin, and has memories of dead men in his head to draw upon, see Mat essay. He is aware of the symbolism:

    "Yes," Mat said, wincing. "That one is bloody obvious. What about Galgan?"
    "A dagger rammed through the heart of a raven."
    "Bloody ashes . . ."
    "I don't think it means you," she added. "I can't say why." …
    "Ha ha. You're sure that bloody dagger doesn't mean me? Ravens . . . well, ravens kind of mean me, right? Sometimes? I'm the flaming Prince of the bloody Ravens now."
    "It's not you."

    A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire


  • The Morrigan is an Irish raven goddess of war and a parallel of Moghedien, who used a very similar name, Marigan, in Salidar (see Names of the Shadow article). Moghedien was forced by Moridin to wear a raven mask for the Festival of Birds, indicating that Moridin embraced the raven as a symbol of the Shadow.


  • Christians linked the carrion-eating raven with Satan because they thought the bird carried off the souls of the damned. Ravens were thus a symbol of sin, especially the sins of gluttony, stealing, and false teaching. Darkfriends bind themselves to the Dark One (Satan), who delights in sin. The Forsaken in particular taught falsely.


Salmon

The silver salmon is the sigil of House Norwelyn in Andor.

The salmon, commonly believed in the past to be long-lived, is associated with knowledge and wisdom. In Celtic tradition, the Salmon of Wisdom is one of the most important magical creatures, having a prodigious memory reaching back to the dawn of time. Salmon overcome obstacles to swim upstream to spawn and thus have a reputation for persistence and determination. Lord Luan is one of the most powerful nobles in Andor and, until Knife of Dreams, persistently supported Dyelin for the Lion Throne.


Serpent/Snake

Time is described as the Great Serpent. The snake swallowing its own tail is a symbol of Time eternally cycling. A snake icon is used to denote Forsaken, who were often serpents in the bosom. The Aelfinn are snake-like.

The snake is the most complex of all animal symbols. It is linked to the world’s creation, to cyclic time, to knowledge, and to evil.

The snake grows by periodically sloughing its skin and this renewal or transformation has been likened to the world renewing itself through a cycle of Ages reaching back to the world’s beginning.

The cosmic serpent or great serpent is a symbol of the primeval life force:

Cosmic serpents are responsible for moulding mountains and creating channels for rivers by the serpentine coils of their body, using their immense strength to shape the Earth itself.

- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

In some myths, the cosmic serpent directly symbolises the creator God. The Creator in the Wheel of Time world is not symbolised directly by a serpent, but two of his creations are: Time and, to a lesser degree, the One Power.

In the Wheel of Time, the One Power is the primeval life force driving the universe, and it has been used by channellers to change the face of the earth. The Age of Legends symbol of channellers has saidin and saidar divided by a sinuous (snake-like) line. Both the snake and the One Power have protective and destructive aspects:

a source of strength when mastered, but potentially dangerous, and often emblematic of death or chaos as well as of life.

- Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

The Great Serpent, sometimes intertwined with the seven spoked Wheel of Time, sometimes swallowing its own tail, is a symbol for Time in The Wheel of Time. The serpent swallowing its own tail, Ourobouros, is a symbol for eternity and also of the self-sufficient nature of the universe in the real world and in the Wheel of Time world. Once created, the Wheel of Time universe runs according to its laws without active interference from the Creator, a fact Rand recognises:

The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm

The Ancient Egyptians believed Ourobouros constantly renewed itself and that time would end if this renewal was interrupted (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures ). The Dark One plans to “strangle the Great Serpent,” effectively killing Time, and since he gains power from death, killing all living things in this way will give him enough power to refashion creation.

Ourobouros was a symbol popular with magicians and sorcerers, and likewise Aes Sedai and Accepted wear a great serpent ring.

In the real world, the serpent was believed to have magical powers:

the power to transform, the ability to grant ecstatic trances and dances, and the ability to withstand the ages and endure to the end of all things.

- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

The chapter icon for the Dark One’s henchmen, the Forsaken, is a snake. Both the Dark One and the Forsaken use the One Power (or even the True Power) to transform things. The Dark One can even transform people by transmigrating souls. The Forsaken felt ecstasy in his presence (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). He is immortal, imprisoned in the Bore throughout the Ages from the beginning to the end of time. The Dark One promised the Forsaken immortality if they would work towards freeing him so he could end Time and transform the world into something of his choosing. As outlined above, Time itself, which the Dark One wants to kill, is also represented as a serpent (and the One Power has serpent-like aspects) encapsulating the ambivalent symbolism of snakes/serpents, the duality of Jordan’s theology, and his exploration of the themes of good versus evil and the necessity of balance. Similarly, the real world symbol of the snake coiled at the base of the Tree of Life can mean energy drawn from the earth or that the snake is destructively undermining life (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).

Snakes (or serpents) and dragons are linked in mythology and the dragon is considered a type of serpent in some myths (see Dragon section above). Both serpents and dragons are associated with trouble, conflict and infertility in the Land. The Dragon, the Creator’s champion, was forced to do bad things to save the world from the Shadow, and also was slandered by the Shadow as having committed worse atrocities. Furthermore:

serpents or dragons encircling a disk represent the reconciliation of opposing forces

- Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

In the Wheel of Time world, the disc-shaped seals on the Dark One’s prison (marked with the One Power channelling symbol with its sinuous line, no less) symbolise the opposition of the forces of Light and Dark but not their reconciliation: the Dragon’s side held the discs and the Shadow secretly stole the unbroken ones.

  • In myth snakes often appear as guardians of shrines or of treasure (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings) and this is what some Forsaken aimed for when they were released from the Bore: the Eye of the World, Tear, Rhuidean and the White Tower were all targets of Forsaken. The snake-like Aelfinn were accessed through the doorway which was part of a treasure of ter’angreal in Tear, and may also have a treasure of knowledge or objects in their realm.


  • The snake is linked with wisdom or prophecy because it can apparently see in the dark (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). (Such snakes have infra-red sensors, and so may the snaky eyeless Myrddraal.) The Aelfinn read the Pattern of the lives of people entering their realm and answer their questions regarding the future. Some Forsaken were skilled at reading the Pattern.


  • The snake lives within the earth and so was believed to know the secrets of the earth, the underworld, magic, medicine and the location of hidden treasures. Sometimes it displayed too much knowledge: the serpent in the Garden of Eden was described as “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made” (Gen 3:1). The Forsaken who were formerly from the paradisiacal Age of Legends and were bound in the Bore under the earth for a time, were knowledgeable about magic, medicine, the Lord of the Grave, the function of many ter’angreal and other treasures that use the One Power, and secret and dangerous weaves.


  • The snake’s duality—a balance between fear and veneration—accounts for its frequent appearance in symbolism as an enemy of mankind.

    - Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

    It is patient, cold-blooded and often venomous, with the snake’s venom representing lies, slander and malicious misinformation. The snake lies still, lulling its prey into coming within reach and then attacks suddenly. In Revelation 12:9, Satan (Shaitan in Arabic) is referred to as “that old serpent”. The snake is a symbol of evil, sin (especially envy and lust), temptation or deceit in Western art. These are all characteristics or deeds of the Forsaken, devout Shaitanists. The Aelfinn have been described as so alien they might as well be evil (The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei).


  • As King Arthur's kingdom became strife-torn, he was troubled by dreams of dragons and serpents. The last battle between King Arthur and Sir Mordred was triggered by the appearance of a snake. In Norse myth, at Ragnarok, the end of the world, Thor battles the World Serpent (or Midgard Serpent) who lives in the primeval ocean that surrounds the world, and they kill each other. Aes Sedai wear a great serpent ring and Rand has been in conflict with them, most recently over his decision to break the remaining seals on the Dark One’s prison (marked with a sinuous line). Various Aes Sedai have abused or tried to kill Rand. The original and best Serpent is the Dark One himself, whom Rand al’Thor is prophesied to battle (whose prison is in all worlds) and to beat as he dies. However, in some respects Rand, the Dragon Reborn, himself is the World Serpent. Perrin, who also has some aspects of Thor, fought Rand over the status of the captive Aes Sedai. Yet twice Perrin saved Rand from women who can channel, including Aes Sedai. As Jordan said, it’s never simple.


Spider

Moghedien’s name is that of a tiny but very poisonous spider in the Age of Legends.

  • In folk tradition, the spider heralded coming rain, which is associated with wealth. Moghedien was an investments advisor before she turned to the Shadow.


  • In both Greek and Norse myth, the spider is associated with the weavers of fate, the Moirae and Norns, who spun and cut the threads of peoples’ lives and determined their allotment of misery and suffering. Moghedien’s former surname was Moiral (similar to Moirae), and she certainly wove schemes that cut short a lot of people’s life spans and allotted them misery and suffering. The spiderweb cracks of nothingness that people saw during the Last Battle were caused by the excessive use of balefire disrupting the Pattern or Fate to a degree that the world began to break apart.


  • In Ancient Greek legend, Arachne was such a superb weaver that the goddess Athena turned her into a spider. Moghedien is weaker in the One Power than other Forsaken, but has a great ability for Tel’aran’rhiod (probably greater than that of Lanfear) and she may also have great dexterity, judging by the very complex shield she wove on Liandrin (The Fires of Heaven, A Silver Arrow).


  • In many myths, the spider is considered an evil spirit, a shape-shifter, and a trickster. Anansi is the cunning spider god and trickster of West African mythology who uses his wits to dupe other animals and humans. In the folktales of South Carolina, he is female and is known as Miss Nancy or Aunt Nancy. In Haiti, he is known as Ti Malice (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures ). Anansi changes into a spider when in trouble and scuttles away to safety. Evil, malicious Moghedien is renowned for lurking in the shadows and scuttling away to safety. She duped people—Lews Therin’s staff, for instance, and Nynaeve and Elayne.


  • In Hinduism, the spider represents Maya, the weaver of illusion. Moghedien’s greatest skill lies in her weavings in Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, but she also weaves Illusion quite effectively.


  • The spider has come to represent traitors because it embraces the fly in order to poison it. In the Age of Legends, Moghedien was a spy and agent provocateur on Lews Therin’s staff. In the Last Battle, she performed the same role among the Forsaken. She hides and waits for the right moment to kill her prey—and she has killed a lot of prey.


Stag

The stag was the sigil of Galldrian Riatin of Cairhien and the white stag is the sigil of House Traemane of Andor.

The stag represents sovereignty, virility and the wild (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures ). In Greek mythology, the stag was the symbol of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Stags were seen as harbingers of death and rebirth because they shed their old antlers and grow new ones each year.

The cult of the stag was widespread in Norse mythology and probably represented the power of Odin and the strength of the line of kings.

- John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

House Riatin gained the throne when Laman Damodred was killed. The death of King Galldrian triggered a civil war in Cairhien for control of the Sun Throne. Ellorien was the High Seat who refused to stand for Elayne and thinks the throne should go to some other House than Trakand.

In the Mabinogion, hunting or chasing a white stag is a prelude to contact with the Otherworld. In Arthurian myth, the white stag or hart often appears in the forests around King Arthur's court to send the knights off on adventure against gods and fairies.

In Zoroastrianism, the stag and the boar were created by the good god Ormuzd to help kill all serpents, which were seen to be the animals of the evil god Ahriman (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). King Galldrian’s sigil was the stag, and Barthane Damodred’s the boar; they were caught up in ambition rather than fighting the Shadow, and tried to use Rand in their schemes. Each died as a result. While she did not support Elayne for the throne, Ellorien announced she would send her troops to the Last Battle behind the White Lion of Andor.


Swan

Siuan’s name is pronounced SWAHN (The Dragon Reborn Glossary) and so she is linked with the swan, a water bird.

  • The swan is associated with the sun and the light. Siuan worked for 20 years to find the Light’s champion.


  • It is linked with divine virgins and with love. In Ancient Greece, the swan was associated with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Siuan was in love for the first time in her life.


  • Transformation is a persistent theme in swan myths: people and gods transforming into swans and swans transforming into people. Siuan, too, was transformed: from an Amyrlin strong in saidar, the most powerful woman in the world, to a pretty non-channeller refugee and then to an Aes Sedai weak in saidar and unbound by the Oaths. Having little power, she felt freed from the weight of responsibility she had as Amyrlin and hoped there was “room in her life for a few more changes” (The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts).


  • In Hinduism, the swan represents learning and eloquence. Brahma the Creator rides upon the swan of knowledge called the Hamsa (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Siuan is associated with knowledge: knowledge obtained through the Amyrlin’s spy network, and knowledge of the public and secret history of the Tower, which she imparted to Egwene.


  • The swan was believed to sing only when it was about to die, and this passionate and tragic swan song was of unearthly beauty. The Ancient Greeks therefore linked the swan to Apollo, god of poetry, prophecy and music (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Siuan couldn’t sing in tune, ironically, but she made dark jokes about the rebel Hall making her sing if it ever found out how she deceived and manipulated them (The Path of Daggers, The Law). Siuan already ‘sang’ when she was interrogated by Elaida’s side during the White Tower coup.

    The swan song:

    has been compared to the joyous deaths of saints and martyrs. This song easily became an omen of death. Swans are linked with death in Finnish legend of the Swan of Tuonela in which it personifies the waters of the underworld.

    - Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

    There was a doom hanging over Siuan. Min had a viewing that Siuan and Gareth Bryne must remain close to each other or they both will die (The Fires of Heaven, Trapped) and Siuan heeded this warning during Egwene’s rescue from the Tower and found the Bloodknife’s poison that would have killed Bryne. However, that was not the end of the prophecy and Siuan’s public farewell kiss of Bryne was her swan song. She was killed trying to save Mat from Grey Men. All along, Siuan had been aware that she might die while aiding the Dragon.


  • The swan symbolises hypocrisy and deceit in some myths, because under the white feathers of Northern Hemisphere swans is very dark flesh. Siuan deceived the rebel Hall about the Red Ajah setting Logain up as a false dragon. She also deceived herself because she hypocritically believed she was trying to destroy Elaida and the Red Ajah for the good of the Tower and not because she also wanted revenge on Elaida.


Wolf

Perrin and Elyas are Wolfbrothers. Lord Ituralde is known as the Wolf. Slayer has been likened to a wolf, but a twisted one.

The wolf is an ambivalent symbol. It both aids and harms humanity: the first animal domesticated, and thus one of our oldest allies, but as a wild animal, one of our oldest and most formidable enemies.

  • In some cultures, it is associated with wildness, cruelty, cunning and greed, in others, it is a symbol of courage, victory or care (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Perrin has shown considerable courage and care, and has achieved cunning victories, but horrified Aram and others with his ruthlessness when Faile was captured. Lanfear referred to Perrin as ‘wildling’ (The Dragon Reborn, Shadows Sleeping) and he was under her Compulsion. Elyas lived in the wild among the wolves for many years.


  • In Northern Europe, noble children were called wolf, but so were outlaws and crop diseases (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore). Slayer, the Shadow’s henchman, is a skilled and ruthless killer:

    This man hunts well. He moves almost like a wolf, though he is something wrong.

    - Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

    He thinks he can ‘out-wolf’ Perrin:

    Slayer hesitated, then smiled. "Luc hates you, you know. Hates you deeply."
    "And you don't?" Perrin asked, frowning.
    "No more than the wolf hates the stag."
    "You are not a wolf," Perrin said, growling softly.

    - Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

    Slayer may well be the Wolf referred to in the Shadow’s prophecy:

    Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers.

    - Towers of Midnight, Closing epigram



  • Tales of Reynard the Fox and Ysengrim the Wolf were popular in Medieval Europe. Reynard the wily fox, usually taken to be the oppressed but resourceful peasantry, repeatedly dupes Ysengrim the unwitting wolf, apparently the greedy, bull-headed overlords (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore). In most other myths and folk-tales the wolf is believed to be clever. Perrin feels completely out of his depth among nobles, but they think he has considerable insight, intelligence, and political skill. Elyas has given Perrin useful knowledge, and Lord Ituralde is a brilliant, politically skilled general. Perrin was unwittingly subject to Lanfear’s will until he shook off her influence in Tel’aran’rhiod. Ituralde too was corrupted by a Forsaken, but manage to resist it until he could be confined.


  • Upuaut is the wolf-headed god of Ancient Egypt, who is referred to as ‘he who opens the way’. Upuaut guides the warriors of his tribe into enemy territory. He leads the cortege at the festivals of Osiris. He was a former warrior god and is now worshipped as god of the dead. Upuaut is an ally of Osiris, and, with Anubis, one of his chief officers during the conquest of the world. As such, they both sometimes appear dressed as soldiers.

    - Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology

    The trio of Egyptian gods Osiris, Upuaut and Anubis are parallels of Rand, Perrin and Mat respectively. Osiris was an important god of Ancient Egypt: the ‘Universal Lord’, whose birth gave rise to shouts of gladness, and later tears and lamentations when it was learned what misfortunes awaited him, just as the Dragon Reborn has been greeted with joy and with tears. Osiris was murdered by the evil god Set and resurrected (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology); Rand was prophesied to die facing the Dark One and then live again. Perrin is the Wolf King who was the Dragon’s Bannerman and protected Rand from Isam and Lanfear at Shayol Ghul. Anubis was the jackal-headed god of Ancient Egypt who accompanied Osiris on his conquest of the world. He ushers the dead into the presence of the sovereign judges before whom he then weighs the soul of the dead (Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology). There was a prophetic dream of Mat putting his own eye on a balance scale, and another of Mat weighing two Aes Sedai on a huge set of balance scale, and on his decision resting the fate of the world; these are parallels to Anubis weighing the souls of the dead.


  • The Romans and Egyptians considered the wolf a symbol of courage and its fierceness in battle was also respected and admired in Europe. Perrin lacks neither courage nor fierceness in battle and earned the respect of Aiel. Lord Ituralde’s daring raids against the Seanchan and the Shadowspawn were brave and fierce and his defence of Thakan’dar very effective.


  • The wolf was sacred to Apollo in Greece and to Odin in Norse myth, where it was considered to be a bringer of victory (although Fenrir the cosmic wolf was a harbinger of evil).

    - Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings

    Fenrir the wolf was one of three creatures responsible for bringing about Ragnarok, the end of the world. Like the other two ta’veren, Mat the Fox and Rand the Dragon, Perrin was crucial to victory over the Shadow in the Last Battle, and was forced by the Shadow into violent deeds. Perrin the Wolf King carrying his hammer is a herald of the evil and apocalyptic last days (Knife of Dreams, A Deal). The dark parallel of Fenrir, Semirhage, burned off Rand's hand and then tortured him until he used the Dark One's True Power. Rand became so dark and despairing that he almost destroyed the world.


  • In Germanic society, outlaws were described as wolves. The West Saxons considered an outlaw wolf-hearted, vicious, legally outcast as wolf’s head and worth a bounty when turned in for execution (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore). Outlaws were still called wolves’ heads in medieval times. Two Wolfbrothers, Elyas and Noam abandoned human society and lived among the wolves, and even Perrin has been troubled with feelings of abandonment and rejection. Suroth demanded Ituralde’s head for his raids. Slayer was the worst outlaw of them all, barely controllable by the Forsaken, as Graendal saw (Towers of Midnight, Wounds).


  • Many cultures view the wolf as evil. The Zoroastrians believed the wolf is a symbol of the evil god Ahriman (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). In Christian tradition, the wolf came to symbolize cruelty, gluttony, lust, greed and anger; the adversary of the innocent and meek Lamb. In medieval times, wolves were increasingly considered creatures of the Devil. The Inquisition linked the wolf with lechery, which is untrue but was believed nevertheless. The big bad wolf of folklore was a symbol both of alimentary and sexual predation. The Whitecloaks believe that wolves are creatures of the Dark One (The Eye of the World, Children of Shadow) because some Trollocs have wolf-like features, yet they don’t believe the same about goats. Some Aes Sedai believe that Wolfbrothers are creatures of the Dark One and Masema, too, was convinced that Perrin was Shadowspawn. Thanks to Berelain, many associates of Perrin believed he had been unfaithful to Faile. Slayer is literally a creature of the Dark One.


_________________________________________

Written by Linda, October 2006 and updated January 2014.

10 comments:

'rew said...

An interesting addition to the fish entry is that Elaida in ACOS prologue "Lightnings" breaks an old fish carving in half in anger while refusing to believe certain knowledge (the size of the Black Tower, etc) and claiming she knows more than others...it also seems like a good representation of the destruction of any hope of her staying in power and a breaking of faith with the hall since she doesn't let them know of it.

Linda said...

You are quite right, 'rew. It's funny I was talking this over with Dominic last night. Elaida broke her 'knowledge and wisdom' figurine. Well she would.

Before she picked up the fish, Elaida touched a cat (clairvoyance, watchfulness, female malice (!), a witch's familiar) and a woman with a monkey/ape on her shoulder (which Dom thinks is a symbol of insanity, and I think is related to vice, lust, original sin and heresy). All most suggestive. These last two figures also link to the Black Tower, with the Reds regarding Ash'man as heretics/unbelievers and men as having original sin due to the taint on saidin, and to Elaida's Foretelling she is just about to make.

Dominic pointed out to me that the hawks on her message box were a warning about the Seanchan attacking...

Misopogon said...

Linda-

First, a very interesting and well put-together read. I want you to know, before I trash it, that I really respect the work you put into this, and that it has a LOT to love.

Also before I go into the dark side of my response, some other instances of animal symbolism, missed and realized:

1. Sleeping Bear - The motif of a sleeping bear is a powerful one in [Native] American mythology. The sleeping or hibernating bear is symbolic of great untapped power, ambivalent but usually wild-good, that may be unleashed if stirred. I think this is part of the meaning behind RJ's use of the symbol for the Borderlanders. I have been looking, too, for other bear references, since this is the kind of Age when sleeping bears are wakened.

Misopogon said...

2. The Boar in Judaism - In my own (not extensive) studies of Symbology, one recurring theme has been a dearth of post-Diaspora Jewish symbolism in academic study. Hebrew and Ancient Judaic mythologies are well represented, but only up to the point when Christianity diverged. Makes sense: for the Christian world, Jewish eschatology is mostly valued for understanding Christian history; its relevance as an exotic theology is thus, paradoxically, oft discounted. Except, post-Diaspora Judaism, I think we can agree on just a facial basis, has had a profound impact on modern symbolism, even if not stated. If you've watched a movie or a TV show in the last 60 years, you've probably picked some up without knowing it.

One good example of where Diaspora Jewish symbolism is useful in interpreting animal symbols in WoT is the Boar as "Righteous Gentile" or "Allied Gentile." The boar, a pig relative, is tref (un-Kosher) for Jews, who can't touch it or eat it. But many Diaspora Jews have grown rich by providing pigs to gentiles. It has thus, over the last 500 years, become a symbol of the Allied Non-Jew.

The Shoat as Allied Gentile is a stout, honorable (occasionally to the point of folly) "other" who is always aligned good and is endowed with inherent power (by rank, liberty or physicality) but is often led to follow a tyrant because he is not challenged by his upbringing to think too deeply (intellectual inadequacy by non-Jews is a common thread among diaspora-Jewish mythology). Good examples of the Allied Gentile would be Oskar Schindler, Rolf from "The Sound of Music," or Albert Goering. Usually, the Allied Gentile, a previous acquaintance of the Jews put in danger, will be happy and successful serving the evil state, but upon witnessing greater atrocities, gives up his enviable position in order to do what is right.

The Boar was the heraldic symbol of Richard III, who was a friend to the Jews in England, and his son Edward. The Wars of the Roses being associated with Andoran royalty, perhaps this is a direct link?

Jan III Sobieski of Poland/Lithuania was called "The Boar" in Yiddish for his strong defense of several Jewish communities during the wars with the Turks for Eastern Europe.

The boar in Diaspora Jewish legend also has negative connotations. It was the emblem of the 10th Roman Legion who destroyed Jerusalem and the 2nd Jewish Temple.

Misopogon said...

3. Missed Opportunity - Late in KoD, Elayne is naming off the sigils of various houses joining her alliance. I was disappointed when she named the sigil for House Mantera a silver anvil. Remember, this is the House from which Rand comes. We know his father was Aiel, the "People of the Dragon." I thus would have liked his mother's side to have been a Heron. Much has been made of Rand's One Power abilities (represented by the Dragon) but his sword skills, almost as rare we have seen since he has earned the Heron Mark, are oft discounted among his strengths. Oh well, RJ didn't do it. But it would have been cool...

(by the way, after losing his hand -- and thus one of his Heron marks -- Rand's first thought is that he must re-learn the sword.)

4. Canines - You skipped a canine: dogs. I bring it up because canid animals, as a group, seem to have a lot of meaning in WoT. The Wolf (Outlaw, Wild, Wise) and Fox (Cunning, Witty, Trickster) are mentioned, but we often hear about Dogs too. Dogs in WoT are related to servants, blind faith, and slaves. Damane (and Galina) are petted and named and taught to act like dogs. Dogs are an important part of Tuatha'an caravans. When we first meet the Tinkers in EotW, the wolves show the same contempt for dogs that Perrin gives to Tinkers, as both have abandoned self-defense in order to allow others to dictate their fate (a few chapters later (Chapter 29: Eyes Without Pity), wolves are compared to foxes, as Dapple's pack fends off an attack of ravens that killed a fox). Thus, in WoT we have three canid totems that canine-inclined characters may pattern themselves by. They may be sly and cunning like a fox, which makes them well-suited for intrigue and Palaces and, oh, marrying bloody Seanchan princesses. The fox is weak against nature, but strong against civilization. Or they may take the path of the wolf, outlaw, wise, wild, strong against nature but at a loss amongst intrigue (Faile handles this, while Perrin cannot even see he needs to kill Masema, gets tricked by Galina, and hasn't discerned Berelain's intentions. Also, Perrin uses smell, not parsing of words or body language, to read people). Or a character may take the path of the dog, as the Tinkers, damane, Amayar, and other supplicants have done, giving up their free will and thus avoiding the weight of duty.

Misopogon said...

On your piece in general

My big complaint is that for most of your allegories, you don't make the connection. For the symbolism to stick, you should show a.) That the symbol is being directly referenced in the character to whom it is applied, b.) no other symbol is doing the same thing, and c.) That R.J. had knowledge of it.

I'll forgive (c) as a blanket amnesty, since we have no idea of the maximum extent of RJ's knowledge of symbolism, but we do know that the minimum of knowledge he possessed was quite high. Therefore, it's possible that he knew and used every bit of symbolism from each symbol. However, it is far more likely that he picked and chose, and probably was not aware of all that you have mentioned. Some of your more tenuous and obscure connections probably were never thought or known of when applied to the characters, and are thus irrelevant to the story (any interpretation that we read into them being insight from the author).

With a lot of the examples above, however, you did very little to show (a) and seem to have discounted or ignored (b) altogether.

Example:
"In Zoroastrian belief, the shining boar is a symbol of the sun, and the boar and the stag were created by the good god Ormuzd to help kill all serpents, which, with the dragon, were seen to be the animals of the evil god Ahriman (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Gawyn wants to kill Rand because he believes that Rand killed his mother (i.e. that Rand is evil). Hopefully Gawyn will play a positive role in the Last Battle and help kill a few ‘serpents’."

This is a stretch: Gawyn hasn't been commanded to kill Rand; he believes he must because he heard Rand killed Morgase. Thus, the impetus isn't a command that Gawyn obeys, but that he has been misled.

Misopogon said...

Another:
"In northern Asia, death rides a black bull (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Even in modern times young men still flirt with death running with or fighting bulls. Thanks to the Shadow and Perrin’s ta’veren pull on the Pattern, those close to Perrin risk dying."

Again, you're reaching. The whole "Young Bull" parallel you try to draw is, I think, not necessary. Perrin's totem is the wolf. Within the wolves, he is called Young Bull because he is stubborn and broad. Coming from wolves, I think their reference is not so much to domesticated cattle, but referring to "bull" in the sense of a male prey animal. It could be a deer, elk, moose, wild bovine, etc., since ungulates (whose males are called "bulls") are the favorite prey of wolf packs.

This is one example of something I think is a recurring problem with your references to symbolism: you're quick to mention even a tenuous resemblance to an obscure symbolic concept with small insight into the characters of WoT, but fail to mention the not-written-in-a-book-of-symbols yet more obvious and telling attributes of the symbols themselves, like the biological and social structures of wolf packs and how they relate to the character of Perrin (e.g. is there anything in his fighting technique reminiscent of "going for the jugular." This is how you can get through an entire entry on ravens with only a short, passing reference to their ecostystemic role as carrion eaters (all of whom serve the Dark One).

In another example of taking a second animal symbol too far for someone who already has one firmly established, you make mention of the Raven as a symbol for Moghedian (though the spider connection is already well established) simply because she at times, under the direction of Moridin, must use the raven as a symbol. I take this as evidence of Moridin reminding Moghedien that she is a creature of the Shadow (thus a raven) rather than an individual. Thus, the raven is not an insight into her character, but a blanket symbol (for Moridin at least) of Team Dark One. Its significance is actually that it's NOT a fit for those who must carry it, because to Moridin those who serve the Shadow should sacrifice their individuality (e.g. animal totems) and embrace the Raven. I find the parallel between the Irish Morrigan and Moghedien coincidental (the Ulster cycle character is more of a "Lady of Death" who hangs around battles. The name may be phonetically similar, but of the Irish sisters, Badb is closer to Moggie (Morrigan being closer to Semirhage and Macha being similar to Graendal).

I could make this complaint for many of the connections you made. You can tell the tenuous connections to the good ones because with the crummy ones, after you give the description of the symbol, the reader has no idea what you will apply it to afterward. I think, overall, this would be a tighter and more useful article if you got rid of those entirely, or posed the more tenuous ones as questions, or set-aside possibilities.

I hope you take this as constructive criticism. There is a lot of pure gold in this article -- it just needs to be refined.

While you're at it, I would really really like to hear more from you about the interactions between animal symbols (e.g. the three canines).

Thanks for the great read. Sorry if I was hard on ya.

Anonymous said...

"In Japan a black fox is said to bring good luck, while two or three foxes together mean imminent disaster (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures)."

Mat=fox, Thom=grey fox, Talmanes=black fox
That's 3 foxes, probably means nothing, but still interesting.

c0641670-53a6-11e0-9bea-000bcdcb471e said...

In the Eagle section, under pride, I'd love to see Berelain mentioned, especially with how much pride she espoused in her man-catching/keeping abilities around The Dragon Reborn. Also when the Queen of Ghealdan is watching her talk to Faile and realizes they're cooperating and Berelain's political acumen is a source of pride for her.

adeepu9 said...

small correction, "the god brahma rides a swan called hamsa" actually,hamsa is what a swan is called in sanskrit that particular swan does not have a name.

source: self, being a hindu