Monday, March 11, 2002

Plots, Characters and the Wheel of Time

This article deals with comments that Robert Jordan has made in chat sessions or at book signings. It covers everything from the very nature of how the Wheel of Time universe works to questions about specific scenes and characters. What’s more, it’s recommended reading for any theorist. Much of this information has not been published either in the series, or as part of The World of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

The Creator, the Dark One and the Nature of the Universe-

  • Another point he pressed was that "no one's going to rescue you", there are not going to happen any miracles. The Creator shaped the world and set the rules, but does not interfere. Humankind messed things up, and has to fix it too, as well as finding the truth themselves.


  • How was the Dark One created, i.e. is he a fallen angel, an inherent part of the universe, etc.?

    I envision the Dark One as being the dark counterpart, the dark balance if you will, to the Creator carrying on the theme, the yin yang, light dark, necessity of balance theme that has run through the books...it's somewhat Manichean, I know, but I think it works.


  • Why doesn't somebody just Balefire the Dark One?

    The quantity necessary would destroy the world.


  • When Rand takes Verin and the others through a portal stone in The Great Hunt, at the end of each life he hears "I have won again Lews Therin". I thought that if the Dark One won even once the wheel would be broken and therefore the Dragon would not be reborn again. How could the Dark One have won before to be able to say "again"?

    There are degrees of victory. The Dark One can achieve victory by breaking free, but can also achieve lesser victories. Such as by stopping the Dragon Reborn from doing other things he was born to do. It isn't as simple as him being born to fight The Dark One. It's never simple.


  • Because the Wheel of Time contains the Dark One’s prison, and the Ages repeat with each revolution, then isn’t humanity itself also imprisoned, unable to truly evolve?

    No.


  • The universe is driven by saidin and saidar working against each other. They will not end up as the Light Power.


  • Is our Earth a future or past turn of the wheel?

    Both. The characters in the books are the source of many of our myths and legends and we are the source of many of theirs. You can look two ways along a wheel.


  • I was wondering if you could comment on some of the clues that Randland (as we call it) seems to be written as a future Earth.

    Time is a wheel. If you look in one direction, you are looking at the past. If you just turn around and look in the other direction, you are looking at the future. The books are set in our future and in our past, depending on which way you look.


  • Aside from the Heroes of the Horn waiting around in the World of Dreams, is there any kind of afterlife in the Wheel of Time? Do the Heroes get a choice when they are linked to the Horn; can they retire, or take 'ordinary life' sabbaticals?

    In answer to the first question, yes, there is an ordinary afterlife. In answer to the second, no. You cannot decide NOT to be a hero linked to the Wheel.


  • When Moghedien ripped out Birgitte from Tel’aran’rhiod, she "short-circuited" the Pattern by bringing in an adult "in the flesh" instead of letting Birgitte join Gaidal Cain the "normal" way. He said also that Gaidal Cain might not have any role to play in Tarmon Gai'don.



  • The Dreamworld

  • You cannot enter the Blight from Tel’aran’rhiod because it is apart from normal universe and cannot be touched.


  • Is it possible to go to the Dreamworld in the flesh, and take something with you out through the Gateway?

    No.


  • I am curious to find out why there are no male Dreamwalkers mentioned since according to the Wise ones it is not connected to the One Power.

    Simply because it's a Talent that appears very rarely among men. The Wise Ones are doubtful that there actually can be a male Dreamwalker.


  • On Dreamers, Dreamwalkers and prophetic dreams he said that the ability to interpret one's dreams, enter Tel’aran’rhiod and meddle with other people's dreams were different Talents.


  • You cannot go to Finnland in Tel’aran’rhiod (similar to Stedding).


  • Could a second person have "needed" the Bowl of Winds and found it?

    Maybe. Didn't think of it.


  • The White Tower, Aes Sedai and Warders

  • What do members of the White Ajah actually do on a day-to-day basis?

    Think. Study philosophy.


  • Red Ajah: Not all of them are rabid man-haters. There are some moderates. However, as a Red, whose primary mission is to stop channelling by males, one must view all men as potential enemies. This makes it hard to have any kind of normal relationship with men, "especially after 20, 30, 50, 100 years of such a mentality."


  • I found it very surprising that the Red Ajah would have the largest membership. Could you expand on why that's so? The numbers of male channellers have been dwindling prior to the events of the story, and Aes Sedai from other Ajahs seem to be willing to help capture men. Do the Reds have another role in the Tower, or is there some other reason for their numbers?

    Some facets of being Aes Sedai are being carried out by all Aes Sedai. That is, a Blue sister might dig out an old manuscript and old knowledge. A Brown sister might take on a man who can channel. And a Red sister might engage in political manipulation. But the fact is, to the world at large, one of the primary functions of Aes Sedai is to protect the world from men who can channel. That means that a fair number of young women who go to the White Tower go thinking that this will be one of their major functions as Aes Sedai. So the Red Ajah and the Green Ajah are the two largest.


  • Can an Accepted be raised to Aes Sedai and not choose an Ajah? What happens if they are raised ask for acceptance and are refused?

    This never happens. They are chosen in advance and vetted.


  • Have any Aes Sedai ever been refused admittance to any Ajah?

    No.


  • What are the requirements for being raised from Accepted to Aes Sedai?

    Ability to channel under extreme stress.


  • Is the gift the Aes Sedai get from the bonding the ability to take or drain energy from their warder for their own use?

    That is one of the gifts. She can draw as much strength as she needs. As a matter of fact, she could take it all. In other words, she could kill him.


  • In the last section of The Eye of the World, Lan says that the Bond does not tell him the direction where his Aes Sedai is exactly; it is just a general feeling. But then later in series, both he and Rand had the ability to tell in an exactly straight-line direction the location of whom they are bonded to. Is this an inconsistency, or is there an explanation?

    Yes. There is an explanation: a change that was supposed to be made in manuscript in The Eye of the World and did not get set into type and which I thought had been corrected. I have been trying to get that changed since I discovered that The Eye of the World had been published with the erroneous information. I hope they are still not printing the books with it.


  • Regarding if the Warder bonding had similarities with the linking between a man and a woman he answered that there were bits and pieces that were similar, but that they in whole were very dissimilar.


  • Is it possible for an Ogier to be bonded as a warder? I am not asking if it will happen, just if it is "physically" possible. We know that Ogier can be fierce warriors, so that shouldn't be a problem. Perhaps the bond could somehow reduce the longing? An Ogier would make the perfect warder for a Brown, if the bond were possible.

    Such a bond would be possible, but an Ogier would find it a very strange thing to be asked to do. I can't think of an Ogier on this side of the Aryth Ocean who would be willing to accept.


  • What is the average term of office for the average Amyrlin, assuming she isn't deposed.

    If you check the list of Amyrlin in the illustrated guide, which covers about 1000 years prior to the story, you'll find that there's quite a wide variation -- up to 50 or 60 years for some, and for others, perhaps 20. In large part, it depends how old she was when she was chosen Amyrlin. That is, given that she wasn't deposed.


  • In The Great Hunt it was mentioned that a Aes Sedai with grey hair was very old indeed. (Editor’s Note: Verin) How old does an Aes Sedai typically have to be for her hair to start turning grey?

    It varies. But usually they would expect to have grey hair by oh, 200 years of age. Some grey hair at least. Just like anyone else, some have grey hair at 150, or even 100, but that would be considered prematurely grey for an Aes Sedai.


  • The True Power

  • Is the Dark One the only source of the True Power?

    Yes, the Dark One is the only source of the True Power.


  • Access to the True Power is a matter of wanting it and the Dark One letting you. NOT black cords. In Prologue to The Eye of the World we saw True Power to heal insanity. The One Power cannot be used to heal insanity. The True Power used at Shayol Ghul will fry you instantly.


  • Can you clarify who can tell when one is using the True Power?

    No one can tell if you're using the True Power, except the Dark One, of course.


  • The One Power

  • How learning to use the One Power works: The older you are, the faster you reach your full potential. Men reach their full strength faster than women. Forced training makes you learn faster, but it is very dangerous--it can kill you, or burn you out. The Asha'man are being trained that way, and the casualties of the training show this. (X number dead, Y number burned out...) Egwene, and Elayne and Nynaeve have also experienced forced training.


  • The Flame and the Void he said was mainly a concentration technique, but one very close to the techniques used for teaching men contact the One Power.


  • If a person begins to channel at an old age, e.g. Sharina, will she begin to physically look younger when she slows, or will she remain the same and pick up from there?

    She remains the same. It's not the same as having been stilled or burnt out. She's going to have a very long life, still, just not as a youthful person.


  • We see a lot of characters making estimates about how strong such and such a channeller is or will be, but when we're talking about so far unfulfilled potential, how accurately can it be judged? Especially if the channeller making the judgement doesn't know how much training the channeller being judged previously has had?

    One of the themes of the book is that no one knows everything there is to know. Another is that just because you believe something to be true, doesn't mean that it is true. Someone can judge a current strength. This differs between men and women. A woman that can channel can very accurate judgment of another woman's strength whether she is channelling or not if she is standing close enough. Among Aes Sedai at least, knowledge of potential strength, especially if it is thought to be a great strength, becomes very wide spread. Among men the circumstances are different. A man who can channel cannot judge the strength of another unless the other is channelling the One Power of holding the One Power, and even then all he can judge is how much of the One Power the other man is holding. He can't say how much he can hold. There are great differences between men and women in the One Power.


  • On channeller strength he said that he knew the rough strength of every channeller in the books, imposed on a 21-graded scale. Nynaeve he said had Forsaken strength, i.e. as strong as most female Forsaken. Egwene, Elayne and Aviendha were a step lower, and an additional step lower Elaida, Siuan and Moiraine was found. They were the strongest Aes Sedai known before "the new ones". Several Aes Sedai, including Leane and Kiruna, were next in strength. By the old standards they were deemed very strong and capable.


  • Can gateways be created at non-right angles to the ground? If not, why not? If yes, why haven't we seen them?

    They can be, and you haven't seen it because there's been no need to do it. And also some of the people who can make gateways don't know how to do it.
    Some people have shielding Talents


  • Would you be willing to tell us a little more about the limits of Healing with the One Power, as they're understood in the present day and/or the Age of Legends? Could someone heal a genetic condition like Huntington's or colour blindness? A chromosomal defect like Down's syndrome? A degenerative condition like arthritis?

    Not with the form of healing that is generally known. With the newly rediscovered forms of healing, it would be quite possible, but with the newly rediscovered forms of healing people would learn how to do it because everything is healed differently with the new way.


  • On Skimming and Travelling he said: "In Skimming, one needs to know the target better than the starting place. In Travelling, one needs to know the starting place better than the destination."


  • What was the "extra bit" in Path of Daggers? Was it the kiss or the bonding?

    The kiss is necessary, because that's how they learned to do it, because that's how the fellow that developed it did it. The extra bit is something in the bonding, and you'll find out what in Winter's Heart. You should have gotten a clue, I think, in the scene where the bonding took place.


  • Does the healing of the Taint reverse its previous effects? Or does the victim have to live with whatever he's gotten to that point and be grateful it won't get worse?

    The second.


  • The Forsaken and the Shadow

  • Moghedien, by the way, used to be an investments councillor until the FTC got on her case.


  • Is there any way to escape a mindtrap other than death?

    To be released, you can be released from it.


  • Fades travel where light and darkness meet.


  • Was Mat right about the "snakelike" guy being a Gholam, and if so, are we to assume that the bad guys are going to have as much trouble stopping one as the good guys?

    I guess he was right. Because after all, his source for the information was Birgitte, who has some memories of the War of the Power. And yes, if a Gholam decided to turn against one of the Forsaken, the Forsaken would certainly have as much difficulty in stopping the attack as any other person would. They were, after all, created for the sole purpose of assassinating Aes Sedai.


  • When it says at the end of The Fires of Heaven, "death took him," in Asmodean's last scene, do you mean that he died? There has been much speculation as to whether or not "death" refers to Moridin, whose name in the Old Tongue means "death." Many think that Moridin's second Mindtrap is for Asmodean, but "death" was not capitalized in the scene where Asmodean made his last appearance. Can you tell me whether or not he was taken by Moridin?

    Asmodean went for the long jump in that scene.


  • It has been reported that you have confirmed that Sammael died at the end of Crown of Swords. Could you confirm that you have said this and elaborate on whether Rand was correct?

    Mashadar killed Sammael. Sammael is toast!


  • History (Age of Legends to Present Day)

  • Are shocklances guns, or an energy discharge weapon?

    Energy discharge weapons.


  • The character Beidomon was presumably very powerful in the Age Of Legends and it has been suggested by some that he is still knocking around in the current age, possibly as Mordeth. Is there any truth in this?

    No.


  • When was the transition period between the Old Tongue and the New Tongue? I assumed it was after the Breaking, but many of Mat's memories still have the Old Tongue in them, and they were long after. When was the change, and what caused it?

    I have gone into this in some depth in other places, but basically after the breaking, the primary language was still what is called the Old Tongue. In the period between the breaking and the Trolloc wars, what would become the language spoken today began to develop as a common or vulgar tongue. During the period between the Trolloc wars and the war of the 100 years, that vulgar tongue supplanted the Old Tongue as the usual or everyday mode of speech, and the old tongue regressed to being more and more something of scholars. At the time of Artur Hawkwing, anyone who was educated, whether noble or commoner, could speak and write the Old Tongue, but in everyday life, most people used something very much like what is spoken today.


  • The concept of the unified language he basically explained as there had been a single language in use (the Old Tongue), and the writing and printing of books continued throughout the Breaking, albeit in a very limited extent. The written word introduced a very large conserving factor in the language-change mechanism.


  • Were either of the Aes Sedai seen at Rhuidean in The Shadow Rising Deindre, the Age of Legends Aes Sedai from the beginning of the Breaking? Is she responsible for foretelling the entire Prophecies of the Dragon?

    No, she wasn't. (Editor’s Note: He didn’t answer the original question.... or if he did, it’s ambiguous. I presume the answer is no, I don’t know why he would want to keep it from us.)


  • The invasion of ironclad men into the Aiel Waste as reflected on in the ancestor-memory ter'angreal he said did not refer to Artur Hawkwing, but to a much earlier event.


  • Geography and Culture in The Wheel of Time

  • In Ebou Dar, if a woman kills a man, it is justified unless proven otherwise.


  • He didn't give any conclusive answer to the Two Rivers channelling paradox, but he noted that many strange occurrences come from there, like inherent ability to speak the Old Tongue under stress.


  • How big are the cities in The Wheel of Time?

    Tar Valon has 500,000 people and cities like Caemlyn and Tear are around 300,000 or so. I've envisioned a seventeenth century society and you've got to remember that for those times 300,000 would be huge. Some Asian cities of that period had populations near one million but nothing in Europe was even close.


  • Randland is approximately 4500 miles across. Seanchan is as big as Randland, the Aiel Waste, and Shara all put together (a single empire the size of North and South America).


  • There are no plans to visit Seanchan in any greater extent than it already has been visited, and there are not going to be any visits to Shara either.


  • The question of Hake's inn in The Eye of the World is answered: it is not a whorehouse, at least not more than any other inn. Due to the increase in women's power, the very concept of prostitution is unknown; but women have much greater freedom in choosing their partners, both casual and permanent. He specifically mentioned Mat's little escapades with various maids and serving-girls.


  • Mashadar occurred after everyone in Shadar Logoth was dead.


  • Machin Shin eats the souls and memories of the people it catches.


  • I find it interesting that there is no formal theology in the series. Why is this?

    This is a world where what might be called the proofs of religion are self-evident all the time. It seemed to me there was no necessity for the trappings of religion, which by and large are to reinforce us in our faith and to convince others. If your beliefs are made concrete and manifest around you at any given time there is not the need for that.


  • The lack of organized religion he explained with the fact that "Religion has been proven". Shai'tan, the Forsaken, the One Power are known and proven to exist, so there is no need for the big persuasion machines of "real" religion.


  • Just how 'organized' is the institution of Blademastery, if we can call it that? I believe you hinted before that there's more to Blademastery than beating a Blademaster and taking his sword. And, how many Blademasters do you imagine exist in Randland at the time of the books? Just how rare is it?

    First off...rarity. Fewer than 100 men in the nations that are spoken of in the book. It is a semi-formal thing that is normally one is chosen to become a Blademaster by other Blademasters. There's no real organization. IF you want to become a Blademaster, you have to find other Blademasters who are willing to acknowledge you as an equal.


  • Would Rand technically be a Blademaster since he killed the Seanchan Blademaster in The Great Hunt? Or is there more to being a Blademaster than that?

    There's more to it than that.

  • How do Wise Ones get gai’shain? (they don't fight, right?)

    They can be traded, though. Besides which, there are other ways, if you read Lord of Chaos, to become gai'shain.


  • Main Characters

  • Is Thom Elayne and Gawyn's real father?

    No. Absolutely no. No question about it. No. No. No. Thom is exactly who he says he is.


  • What was going on in Finnland when Mat went round and round and round the same location? Were they travelling in time?

    Not travelling in time. The physical laws of nature differ. Mentioning the Dark One here is bad luck. In Aelfland, it is *REALLY* bad. You cannot go to Finnland in Tel’aran’rhiod (similar to Stedding).


  • Mat's Foxy Medallion: As we surmised, it works by blocking direct channelling of both Saidin and Saidar, and its weakness is that it doesn't protect against indirect effects, like lightning.


  • When did Mat Die and Live again? He said something that implied that the Die and Live again prophecy fulfilment was the lightning incident in The Fires of Heaven and not the hanging incident in The Shadow Rising.


  • How many crescent moons are on Mat's funky new ring?

    You guess. (Editor’s Note: Nine. It also has two birds on it, presumably ravens.)


  • I must admit I was disappointed Mat wasn't in the Path of Daggers more.

    In the Path of Daggers, you have to remember that Mat had a building fall on top of him. I personally don't think that Mat lying around in a bed with bandages and splints is very entertaining, and it certainly wouldn't have done anything to advance the story. Mat does have an encounter with pink ribbons that some of you might find amusing in this next book.


  • Rand thinks Asmodean has run away back to the Dark One, and will try to sneak back in through the Asha'man.


  • Rand recovered very quickly from his dual Healing is this because of the way men Heal, or because of the warder bond. Or both?

    Partly the warder bond and partly the kind of Healing that was used on him...It should be obvious that Damer Flinn has discovered the same method of healing that Nynaeve uses and of course, he still is not completely Healed, remember.


  • Why has Rand not made any attempt to reach or communicate with Tam? Is he trying to remain isolated from his former life?

    Remember that Rand believes that the more interest he shows in his family, and in any of the people of the Two Rivers, the more he makes them a target. If his enemies believe that they hurt Rand by hurting tam or hurting the Two Rivers, then they will, so Rand has set himself on a course of pretending to have forgotten his past. Pretending to have grown beyond his rude country beginnings. He thinks he has to make his enemies believe that the Two Rivers no longer means anything to him. And the same for Tam.


  • All of Min's viewings have come true except one does this mean she is no longer infallible?

    No, it doesn't. And actually, that's not quite true, that all of her viewings have come true but one.


  • Are Min’s visions absolute foretellings or probabilities?

    Her visions are absolute foretellings. The problem is, she doesn't always know what it means. The only changes from that are two visions she's had which indicated the possibility of the future forking, an "either/or." And that's the only time she's ever had anything like that.


  • Do Min's viewings always predict the future, or do some tell about the past, mainly the 7 towers around Lan in The Eye of the World?

    Um, her viewings are always concerning the future.


  • Exactly how tall is Rand?

    Six foot five to six foot six.


  • Why was Perrin not in the Fires of Heaven?

    He had a lot of things to do back home, and they were all pretty boring.


  • You approach the issues of sex love and the like with all of your characters while maintaining an almost virginal perspective and yet there is a GREAT deal of nudity throughout the novels. No problem with this, but when are Rand and Matt and Perrin going to stop thinking the other has the upper hand?

    I'm not sure that they ever will. Who knows? It seems to me to be a very human thing in dealing with the opposite sex at least to think that somebody else knows more about it than you do. You might swagger and put on a surface belief of "well, I have that nailed!" but I think for most people, there's a little voice in the back saying "God, he really does know how to handle women, doesn't he?" or "God, she really does know all about men!"


  • Other Characters

  • What is Fain?

    A combination of Mordeth and the original Padan Fain. Mordeth is a human-made evil. The black wind gets along with Mordeth because of professional courtesy. Fain is anti-Forsaken as well as anti-Rand. He has a lot of skills and abilities outside of channelling. He cannot channel.


  • Tam has basically put together all the stuff he's heard, and knows that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, although he hasn't admitted it to himself yet.


  • Erith the Ogier was described as Loial's "fiancĂ©e." I guess Erith and Loial's mom came to an agreement...


  • Fel was killed because somebody thought he might reveal too much.


  • According to several of AOL's members in our discussion forum, you stated at a Balticon conference that Verin Sedai had never held the Oath Rod, or had circumvented the Oaths. I was wondering if that was true, and if so, has Cadsuane also done so?

    No, I did *not* say that Verin had never held the Oath Rod...Cadsuane has also held the Oath Rod.


  • How do you explain Liah being in Shadar Logoth for so long?

    She became absorbed into the city. She was left there and she is, after all, a Aiel, one of the people better at surviving under harsh circumstances than anyone else in the world. And also her corruption by Shadar Logoth gave her *some* protection.


  • Lewis Therin Telamon's suicide was emphatically "not" balefire, but an overload of the Power.


  • Why was Myrelle so heartless? She nearly let Lan die, why?

    She's dealing with a man capable of taking her head off before even she could blink and a man who's in a mental state where she can't be sure he won't.


  • On the Asha'man finding Rand in Lord of Chaos, he said that they knew where Rand was. How they did know he began with the following words: "Mazrim Taim is a paranoid S.O.B." finding out of the disappearance of Rand, and a large bunch of Aiel from Cairhien, he followed the route from Cairhien towards Tar Valon by Travelling, until he encountered Elaida's Aes Sedai. From there, he brought in the Asha'man.


  • RJ stated clearly that every person keeping a secret, or withholding information, has a good reason for it, even if it in many cases is very personal.
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