Friday, March 15, 2002

Character Parallels: Lews Therin



By Linda

This essay details the real world historic and mythical figures I think were used to create Lews Therin.

Lews Therin was the most acclaimed and important man of his time, the late Age of Legends, and was one of the strongest channellers. He was also an incarnation of the Creator’s champion and at some stage he was named the Dragon – a saviour figure in the Wheel of Time theology.

Jordan said at a booksigning:

This soul is one of the Heroes [of the Horn], and bound to the Wheel, spun out as the Pattern wills. It is born in other Ages, but in a non-Dragon incarnation, to suit the pattern of that Age.

So not every Age has a Dragon; a saviour or messiah figure. And this figure is not killed by the Shadow each Age it is born. While he saved the world, Lews Therin was not a messiah in the sense of sacrificing his body. However thanks to the Dark One’s counterstroke, he did unwittingly make a blood sacrifice in the death of all his kin. The trauma of this drove Lews Therin to suicide and his death effectively ended the Age.


The Roman Connection

The Utopian Age of Legends is derived from the Ancient Roman Republic, which was regarded as a Golden Age up until modern times (see The Age of Legends essay), with many enemies and notorious figures of Ancient Rome parallels of the Forsaken (see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay). The Collapse was the century long social and moral decline induced by the Dark One’s touch during when:

such brutal sports as sha’je dueling came briefly into vogue… In some parts of the world, in the years immediately preceding the final collapse into war, murder, rape and even torture became regular parts of many spectator sports.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

A real world parallel to this period would be the later Roman Empire, when society became increasingly violent and decadent, and the War of Shadow and especially the Breaking would correspond to the fall of the western Roman Empire into the Dark Ages. Rome paradoxically is a parallel of both the cruelty and decadence sparked by the Dark One’s touch and the civilisation and good government of the Age of Legends.

At the end of the Age of Legends, Lews Therin was the head of the Aes Sedai, styled as ‘First Among Servants”, and sat on the High Seat. He wore the Ring of Tamyrlin and summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion (The Eye of the World Prologue), which were people:

They were actual people, and they were, but you might call them regional governors of the earth, regional governors of the planet. So if I say, summon them, then we’ve got a guy who has been given in effect ultimate power.

- Robert Jordan, Dragoncon, September 2005

The title ‘First Among Servants’ is another parallel to Ancient Rome. The Princeps Senatus was the senior member on the roll of the house, and the first to be consulted during a debate. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity and morals chosen by the censors, and the position was reviewed every five years.

Tarquinius Superbus

As the last ruler of the Age of Legends, Lews Therin could be likened to Tarquinius Superbus, Tarquin the Proud, legendary seventh and last King of Ancient Rome. Lews Therin's sin was pride, as he himself acknowledged. During his reign Tarquinius acquired the Sibylline books from the Cumaean Sibyl. These were used to determin the appropriate rituals to perform to avert misfortune. Lews Therin didn't buy or commission the Prophecies of the Dragon, but, as the Dragon soul, he was the major subject of them. They were used extensively in the Third Age for their foreknowledge of events rather than for advice on rituals to perform to prevent disasters. Rand used the Karaethon Cycle to guide his actions, seeing them as showing what conditions had to be met before certain events could occur (Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival). This is a middle course between the two ways of using prophecies.

Tarquinius earned his sobriquet by refusing to bury his predecessor (whom he arranged to have murdered at his wife Tullia's urging) and reducing the size and power of the Senate. He was not a kinslayer as Lews Therin was, but his wife Tullia was the daughter of the previous king, Servius Tullius, and she not only persuaded him to kill her father and usurp the throne, but, encountering her father's body on her way home, ran her chariot over it. More maltreatment of Tarquinius' kin occurred when Tarquinius' son Sextus raped Lucretia, a particularly virtuous noblewoman and the wife of one of Tarquinius' cousins, which ultimately led to the over throw of Tarqunius and the replacement of the monarch by the Roman Republic in 509 BC. As one of history's bad and overly ambitious femme fatales, she could be compared to Lanfear, who loved Lews Therin's fame and position and tried to manipulate Rand and also Perrin into gaining power for her in the Third Age.

After the decline of the Roman Republic, the Emperor Augustus was the princeps civitatus (‘first citizen’) and described himself as ‘first among equals’ so as not to reduce the status of the Senate. Lews Therin Telamon has much in common with a few prominent senators from the Roman Republic. They will be looked at in chronological order.


Scipio Africanus

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (235–183 BC) was a Roman general in the Second Punic War against Carthage, a statesman of the Roman Republic, and one of the greatest soldiers of the ancient world. He was best known for defeating the brilliant general Hannibal of Carthage, a parallel of Demandred, thus earning the surname Africanus, and recognition as one of the finest commanders in military history. (Mat Cauthon, who fought and defeated Demandred in the Third Age is also a parallel of Scipio). He is said to have promised his father to dedicate his life to the struggle against Carthage.

Scipio joined the Roman legions battling Carthage in the Second Punic War when a young man and survived the disastrous battles at the Ticinus, the Trebia, and Cannae. He forced some 4000 survivors of Cannae to continue to fight Carthage.

In 210 the Romans decided to send reinforcements to Spain, but it is said that no senior general would undertake the task and that young Scipio offered himself as a candidate; at any rate, the Roman people decided to invest him with a command there, although he was technically a privatus (not a magistrate). This grant by the people, to a man who had not been praetor or consul, of a military command outside Italy created an important constitutional precedent. Thus Scipio was given the chance to avenge his father's death in Spain, where he hoped not merely to hold the Carthaginian armies at bay and prevent them sending reinforcements to Hannibal in Italy but to resume his father's offensive policy, to turn back the tide of war, and to drive the enemy out of the peninsula. Such a task must have seemed fantastic in 210, but Scipio had the confidence and ability; it was achieved in the next four years.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

As the Creator’s champion, Lews Therin was born to fight the Shadow. He was given supreme command in the War against the Shadow in a democratic age that had forgotten war, and was a successful general. The task of defeating the Shadow seemed impossible.

After conquering Hispania, Scipio aimed at Carthage itself and met the Numidian princes Syphax and Massinissa and gained their support. Syphax later changed his mind and transferred his support to Carthage. Sammael and Demandred likewise changed sides during the war.

Scipio raised and trained a well-equipped fleet and army in Sicily and pressed the Senate for permission to cross into Africa. The conservatives of the Roman Senate, led by Fabius Maximus, the Cunctator (Delayer), opposed the mission because they greatly feared Hannibal and viewed any mission to Africa as dangerous and futile. Likewise, Lews Therin’s suggestion of a strike on Shayol Ghul to seal the Bore was viewed by Latra Posae Decuma and her supporters as too dangerous and she obtained the agreement of all female channellers not to participate – the Fateful Concord. Nevertheless Lews Therin continued with his plans, despite opposition and delays.

Scipio was finally given permission and landed in North Africa, but was hemmed in near his landing place by Syphax. However, he was able to destroy the armies of the Carthaginians and Numidians by setting fire to the Carthaginian-Numidian camp, and destroying the panicking forces as they fled. Over 40,000 Carthaginians and Numidians were killed, and more captured. At the time some questioned the ethics of this but the Second Punic War was marred by atrocities, as was the War of Shadow.

Scipio fought Hannibal at Zama and nearly lost, but his cavalry rallied and attacked the Carthaginians from the rear and overwhelmed them. Hannibal remained at large. Scipio celebrated a triumph in Rome and was given the surname Africanus. In 199 BC Scipio was elected censor and became Princeps Senatus. Further honours were offered him - such as Consul or Dictator for life – but he refused them. The highly acclaimed Lews Therin also gained chancy victories.

For ten years Scipio commanded a devoted army at the people’s wish. His position might seem almost kingly; he had been hailed as king by Spanish tribes, and he may have been the first Roman general to be acclaimed as imperator (emperor) by his troops; but, though convinced of his own powers, he offered no challenge to the dominance of the Roman nobility ensconced in the Senate except by normal political methods (in which he showed no outstanding ability).

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

The War of Shadow lasted 10 years and during that time Lews Therin Telamon held supreme command. Unlike Scipio, Lews Therin was forced to act without the knowledge of the Hall and make the strike on Shayol Ghul without the women (and possibly without the Hall’s approval) and successfully sealed the Bore. However, the Dark One’s counterstroke had terrible consequences, worse than the consequences of letting Hannibal remain at large.

Some senators tried to blacken Scipio’s name in the Senate and he withdrew from Rome to his modest villa in Campania, where he lived simply. He died embittered in 184 or 183 BC, a virtual exile from Rome and refused to have his remains buried in Rome. Lews Therin’s name was blackened by history because of the Kinslaying and the Breaking and he was considered little better than the Dark One for thousands of years, despite his great deeds, including the sealing of the Bore. Lews Therin’s ‘tomb’ is Dragonmount outside Tar Valon (a parallel of medieval Rome).

Such was Scipio's impact upon the Romans that even during his lifetime legends began to cluster around him: he was regarded as favoured by Fortune or even divinely inspired. Not only did many believe that he had received a promise of help from Neptune in a dream on the night before his assault on Carthago Nova [New Carthage in Spain] but that he also had a close connection with Jupiter. He used to visit Jupiter's temple on the Capitol at night to commune with the god, and later the story circulated that he was even a son of the god, who had appeared in his mother's bed in the form of a snake.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

It is not known if any people in the Age of Legends knew or believed that Lews Therin was the Creator’s champion, but Lews Therin was both good and fortunate: “stinking of piety and goodness” (The Shadow Rising, Veils) and making “his own luck as a mint made coin” (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). Jupiter is also a parallel of Lews Therin, see below). Snakes are associated with knowledge and evil, but are also linked with Dragons (see Animal Symbolism essay).


Scipio Aemelianus

Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (185 - 129 BC) was a leading general in the Third Punic War against Carthage and a politician of the ancient Roman Republic.

Scipio achieved public acclaim by volunteering to serve in Spain and for his achievements in battle against the Carthaginians in Africa while a subordinate officer. In an unprecedented move, the Roman people insisted that Scipio Aemilianus be given supreme command of the army in the Third Punic War, even though he was at least five years under the legal minimum age for the consulship and had never been praetor. A bill was passed to exempt him from the legal restrictions and he was then elected consul and given the African command (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Once back in Africa, he blockaded Carthage until it fell a year later. He dutifully followed the Senate’s command to level the city to the ground, although he was appalled by the destruction. Scipio is thus forever associated with the destruction of Carthage just as Lews Therin is forever associated with the Breaking and kinslaying rather than the sealing of the Bore.

For nearly twenty years of Rome’s history, although never unchallenged, [Scipio] remained its key personality and outstanding statesman. As a speaker he was excellent, as he had to be; and, although not a brilliant general like Africanus, he was an organiser with plenty of drive… But what was most important about him was his deserved reputation for decent behaviour; he was regarded as a person of integrity, in an age which needed this and knew it… Yet the career of Scipio Aemilianus, though advancing ambitiously from one honour to another, remained curiously negative all the same. For the troubles of his age, the troubles of a city-state which had become within a short space of time the capital of a vast empire, he had no creative solutions to offer. It seems a missed opportunity that this most brilliant man of his age did not supply some of the reforms which he alone might have succeeded in introducing. Yet this negativeness also had its good side; for it meant that he never attempted to break out of the Republican system in order to dominate it himself – as, once again, he probably could have if he had tried, and as other men did after him. True, his rabble-rousing exploitation of popular appeal, in defiance of the Senate, were a sinister example to those who came after - and a strain on the constitution. Yet, like Africanus before him, he was still content to work inside the framework.

- Michael Grant, History of Rome

Like Scipio Aemilianus, Lews Therin was a highly acclaimed man of integrity. He did offer a creative solution to end the War of Shadow, but few others than the rebellious Hundred Companions accepted it; it was made against the Hall’s knowledge or wishes and its success was undermined by the Dark One’s counterstroke. Lews Therin’s glorious career ended ignominiously.


Marius

Lews Therin has a minor parallel with Gaius Marius (157 - 86 BC), a noted Roman general and politician who was elected Consul an unprecedented seven times and who dramatically reformed the Roman army by recruiting landless citizens and reorganizing the structure of the legions into separate cohorts. The Roman Republic was torn to pieces by the struggle between Marius and Sulla (who invaded Rome and proscribed his political enemies; a parallel of Be’lal, who razed the Hall of the Servants (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time)) and in a real sense, it never recovered. During his seventh consulship Marius went mad and authorised the massacre of his political enemies over five days of terror. Lews Therin was also given supreme command in troubled times and had to recruit and organise military forces in a world which knew nothing of war. He went mad from the taint on saidin and killed his relatives and friends.


Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was:

a celebrated Roman general and statesman, the conqueror of Gaul (58–50 BC), victor in the Civil War of 49–46 BC, and dictator (46–44 BC), who was launching a series of political and social reforms when he was assassinated by a group of nobles in the Senate House on the Ides of March. Caesar changed the course of the history of the Greco-Roman world decisively and irreversibly

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

and was one of the most influential men in world history. He is the historical figure Lews Therin probably has most in common with, since Lews Therin changed the course not only of the Age of Legends, but the Third Age as well.

Caesar was famous for his luck, referring to himself as Fortune's favourite; Lews Therin was similarly fortunate, making luck like “a mint made coin" according to one disgusted Forsaken (Lord of Chaos, Prologue).

Even during his lifetime Caesar was considered to be one of the best orators and writers in Rome. His books are still read. Lews Therin was also a famous and popular author in his time (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

Caesar was granted more honours than any Roman before him: he was granted the right to wear triumphal clothing and a laurel crown on all public occasions and the life-long right to the titles of Dictator and Liberator; an ivory statue of him was to be carried at all public religious processions, he was the first living Roman featured on a coin; and he was elected Consul for life and allowed to hold any office he wanted and appoint half of all magistrates (normally elected) and allot magistrates their provinces. Only Caesar was immune from legal prosecution and had supreme command of the legions. Lews Therin was likewise the most acclaimed man of his age. As First among the Servants he effectively had supreme power since he could summon the Nine Rods of Dominion (actually people according to Jordan) and he also had supreme command of the Light’s forces in the War of Power.

Caesar was not and is not lovable. His generosity to defeated opponents, magnanimous though it was, did not win their affection. He won his soldiers' devotion by the victories that his intellectual ability, applied to warfare, brought them...His political achievement required ability, in effect amounting to genius, in several different fields, including administration and generalship besides the minor arts of wire pulling and propaganda.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Despite his successes and the benefits he brought to Rome, Caesar remained unpopular among other Senators, especially the conservative faction, who suspected him of wanting to be a king. He did not bother to show respect or courtesy to other Senators and made it obvious that they were not in his league. Lews Therin may not have been popular with his peers either. He admitted to pride, and it is possible he became arrogant. Rand, for instance, forgot common courtesy until forcibly reminded by Cadsuane (Knife of Dreams, Within the Stone). Moghedien describes Lews Therin as arrogant and she worked on his staff. Was he a tactful man? Caesar was not. After his epiphany, Rand said of his former incarnation:

If I’d offered a hand instead of a smirk, if I’d congratulated instead of competed. If I’d been the man then that I am now...

A Memory of Light, Eastward the Wind Blew

This would explain why although they were both ungrudging in their praise of others’ merit, they were nevertheless betrayed by close colleagues:

Sammael and Demandred hated me, whatever honors I gave them. The more honors, the worse the hate, until they sold their souls and went over.

- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival

Caesar was flamen dialis, high priest of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Jupiter King of the Gods in his role as chief god of the Roman state; and later Pontifex Maximus, high priest of the College of Pontiffs. Religious ceremony and duties were important parts of Caesar's role. The pontifex maximus was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, and it became part of the Emperor's role in the Roman Empire. The title was then applied to the Pope, just as the Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends had parallels to the Senate of Ancient Rome while the White Tower has parallels with the Catholic Church. Lews Therin is/was the Creator’s champion, was First Among Servants and very pious according to Moghedien. He was closely associated with the Da'shain Aiel in people's minds if not in reality, so much so that they were called the People of the Dragon. When we first see him, he asks Ishamael to join in the Singing ceremony they're about to hold (The Eye of the World, Prologue).

Lews Therin ruled when democracy (and civilisation) was falling apart. Julius Caesar ruled when the Roman Republic was falling apart. Caesar ended the Roman Republic as dictator; the Dragon assumed autocratic powers in that he made the strike on Shayol Ghul without consulting the Hall. Both were compelled by events into a dictatorial role; Caesar partly through ambition and partly to overcome his enemies; Lews Therin in order to lead the world through the War of Shadow and stop the Dark One touching the world.

Caesar was one of the greatest military commanders of all time. He decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus, despite Pompey's numerical advantage.

His powers of endurance were phenomenal. But his outstanding personal qualities as a commander were speed, timing and adaptability to suddenly changing circumstances. Sometimes this brilliant rapidity produced alarming mistakes and perils, but he became used to extricating himself from such hazards, and achieving total victory by the narrowest of margins. His Commentaries pay tribute to the luck for which he was often famous. But a commander has to harness the lucky odds in his favour, and that is what Caesar almost invariably achieved.

- Michael Grant, History of Rome

That sounds a lot like Lews Therin. He too made the most of his phenomenal luck.

By crossing the river Rubicon into Italy with his army, Caesar committed an act of war on the Roman Republic. Lews Therin crossed his own Rubicon when he made the strike on Shayol Ghul. In both cases, all hell broke loose as a consequence.

Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, made an informal alliance known as the First Triumvirate (rule of three men) just as Lews Therin Telamon, Demandred and Sammael were the main generals for the Light. Both triumvirates fell apart…

Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra VII, the last of the Pharaohs, has much in common with Lanfear (see Lanfear essay). For instance Cleopatra’s beauty is/was legendary, as is Lanfear’s. When Caesar arrived in Egypt, Cleopatra was excluded from the talks by her co-ruler Ptolemy XIII. Determined to be in on any deals, legend has it that she had herself smuggled into Caesar's presence rolled up inside an oriental carpet (in reality it was bedding). When the rug was unrolled, she captivated Caesar and they became lovers that night. Appropriately, Graendal sneeringly said that Lanfear would:

have stretched out at his [Lews Therin’s] feet if he said ‘rug’”.

- The Shadow Rising, Prologue

As far as we know, Cleopatra had no other lovers other than Caesar and Antony. Lanfear remained ‘faithful’ to Lews Therin and transferred her obsession onto Rand (a parallel of Marc Antony).

Cleopatra sought power and the restoration of the dominions of the first Ptolemies from Caesar. Caesar sought money from her. Lews Therin differs from Caesar here in solely being used rather than using in return. He believed Lanfear loved the status he gave her more than she loved himself. In some legends, it was Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra that was a factor in his assassination.

Caesar was betrayed by two of his followers (Brutus and Cassius) who planned his assassination. Other conspirators objected to the increasingly monarchical trend of his rule and to his arrogance and virtuosity. Lews Therin had two generals switch sides partly out of envy and resentment of his achievements and acclaim: Demandred, a parallel of Brutus and Sammael, a parallel of Cassius.

Rome degenerated into another thirteen years of civil war after Caesar's assassination and would never again possess sufficient forces to conquer and hold Babylonia (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Caesar’s death marked the end of the Roman Republic. Lews Therin’s strike on Shayol Ghul, while successful at halting the advance of the Shadow and ensuring that some civilisation remained, resulted in the tainting of saidin, the Breaking of the World and the end of a highly civilised Age. His death effectively marked the end of the Age of Legends.

Two years after his assassination, the Roman Senate declared Caesar a god. In modern times, Caesar's reputation has become as dark as it was during his time as dictator. Lews Therin was the Creator’s champion and after the Kinslaying was deified in a negative sense: for thousands of years he was considered little better than the Dark One (The Eye of the World, The Peddler). Both men had their considerable achievements glossed over in their own times and continually in the centuries after their deaths.

As a knowledgeable virtuoso and a very powerful channeller, Lews Therin did have god-like abilities and was a fitting champion for the Creator. The parallels between Lews Therin and some champions and god-like figures of mythology and religion will now be discussed.


Jupiter

In Ancient Roman myth, Jupiter is king of the gods and the god of the sky and thunder. As the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the upholding of which was vital for justice government and trade. Lews Therin had ultimate power in the Age of Legends and was Lord of the Morning, Prince of the Dawn. The Da'shain Aiel, sworn to the Covenant, were believed to have served only the Dragon. One of his most notable feats was forming Dragonmount with a huge lightning-like bolt of the One Power.


Mithra

Mithra was the ancient Indo-Iranian god of the morning light or dawn.

In spite of his connection with the sun, Mithra functioned pre-eminently in the ethical sphere. The word mithra was a common noun that meant “covenant, contract, treaty” and, as such, Mithra was the god Covenant, the celestial deity who oversaw all solemn agreements that people made among themselves and who severely punished anyone who broke the terms of a covenant, whether it was between individuals or between countries or other socio-political entities.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

As the guarantor of human contracts, Mithra was the mediator between the good god Ahura Mazda and humanity.

Lews Therin was also linked with the sun. He said:

I was the Lord of the Morning…/ am the Prince of the Dawn.
- Lord of Chaos, Tellings of the Wheel

and indeed Ishamael and Aginor referred to him so. Lews Therin was both the Creator’s champion (and the Creator was hailed in the opening text of The Eye of the World as Light of the World, ie the sun) and First Among Servants. With their Covenant, the Da’shain Aiel pledged their lives to serving the Servants, the Aes Sedai, and following the Way of the Leaf. The Covenant defined the Da’shain Aiel. As Head of the Aes Sedai, Lews Therin, oversaw the Covenant. So closely were the Da’shain Aiel identified with the leader of the Aes Sedai that by the end of the War of Shadow they were believed by many to have served only Lews Therin:

“You are a Child of the Dragon, are you not?”
Jonai winced. That name had caused trouble, no less for not being true. But how many citizens now believed the Da’shain Aiel had once served the Dragon and no other Aes Sedai?

- The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated

Their Aiel descendants are the People of the Dragon (The Dragon Reborn, People of the Dragon) and they believed that if they fail the Aes Sedai a second time (the first time being when they abandoned the Covenant) they will be destroyed (The Dragon Reborn, Maidens of the Spear).

Over time the god Mithra became the hero Mithras and the saviour figure of a mystery cult:

Mithras of legend was a hero figure, unconquerable like the Sun itself, a superman for critical times – and he was also an ethical, austere model of conduct, excellently suited to an age of rising asceticism, whose good faith, purity and continence his worshippers must seek to emulate.

- Michael Grant, History of Rome

Leader during critical times, Lews Therin heroically saved the world by sealing the Bore. As described above, he was closely associated with the austere and ethical Da’shain Aiel and virtuous himself.

"Rand al'Thor. So that is his name now." Her face crumpled in a momentary grimace. "An arrogant man who stank of piety and goodness. Is he still the same?”

- The Shadow Rising, Veils

Unlike Mithras, Lews Therin is a flawed hero; the Lord of the Morning was cast out of popular regard and reviled. Just like Lucifer.


Lucifer

The name Lews Therin is similar to Lucifer, "light-bearer", the Roman term for the planet Venus as "Morning Star". Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, but because it is closer to the sun than the earth, it appears only in the morning and evening. This puzzled the ancients, who explained the situation with the myth that Venus Lucifer tried to outshine the more important Jupiter and Saturn and was cast out of heaven for being too ambitious and proud. Lucifer was used as a term in ancient times for those of pre-eminence, virtue and glory.

Later, Christians associated the myth of Lucifer with Satan so that Lucifer is believed to have been a prominent archangel in heaven who was overly proud and rebelled against God. He was cast out of heaven into the world, along with other rebellious archangels, and set up shop as Satan.

Lews Therin, Lord of the Morning, pre-eminent and most acclaimed man of his age, believed in his pride that men:

could match the Creator, could mend what the Creator had made and they had broken. In his pride he had believed.

- The Eye of the World, Prologue

and he laments “How many have died for my pride?” (The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons). Ishamael pointed out how far Lews Therin had fallen:

"Look at you," he said scornfully. "Once you stood first among the Servants. Once you wore the Ring of Tamyrlin, and sat in the High Seat. Once you summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion. Now look at you! A pitiful, shattered wretch.”

- The Eye of the World, Prologue

Lews Therin’s success at sealing the Bore was undermined by the Dark One’s tainting of saidin. The madness of the male Aes Sedai ended the paradisiacal Age of Legends (its capital Paaren Disen is an allusion to Paradise, see Place Names and The Age of Legends essays) and threw the world into the hell of the Breaking. What Jordan described at a booksigning as a long drawn-out apocalypse…

Lucifer is also linked with the Dragon in Christian theology and will be overcome by the forces of good at the Apocalypse.


Dragon

Lews Therin was named as the Dragon before or during the War of Power – the forces of the Light fought under his dragon banner (The Eye of the World, There Is Neither Beginning Nor End). 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 the serpent Satan (the Dark One) through the sin of pride (see Animal Symbolism essay). Lews Therin certainly believes he was overly proud. Dragons in the west bring conflict and infertility, and must be destroyed in order to restore the fertility of the Land.

Lews Therin displays the ambivalent symbolism of dragons: born to save the world and Heal the Land, he was also a great danger to it, and despite his best intentions, did as much evil as good. Even though he did save the world, the drastic actions the Shadow forced the Dragon to take caused him to be so reviled that he is identified with, or regarded as little better than, the Dark One, Shaitan (a parallel of Satan, see Names of the Shadow and Eschatology essays):

"The Dragon!" someone moaned. "The Dark One's loose in Ghealdan!"
"Not the Dark One," Haral Luhhan growled. "The Dragon's not the Dark One. And this is a false Dragon, anyway."…
"Just as bad as the Dark One!"
"The Dragon broke the world, didn't he?"
"He started it! He caused the Time of Madness!"
"You know the prophecies! When the Dragon is reborn, your worst nightmares will seem like your fondest dreams!"

- The Eye of the World, The Peddler

By forcing the Dragon to do bad things the Shadow made sure his name is blackened by history even if he saved the world. Jordan is trying to provide an explanation for the differing real world beliefs about dragons – a process he has called ‘reverse-engineering’.

The next parallel combines both the Lord of the Morning and the Dragon or serpent.


Quetzalcoatl


Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, was one of the major Meso-American deities. He was the god of learning, of writing, and of books and sometimes a symbol of death and resurrection.

In Aztec times (14th through 16th centuries) Quetzalcoatl was revered as the patron of priests, the inventor of the calendar and of books, and the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen; he was also identified with the planet Venus. As the morning and evening star, Quetzalcoatl was the symbol of death and resurrection. One important body of myths describes Quetzalcoatl as the priest-king of Tula, the capital of the Toltecs. He never offered human victims, only snakes, birds, and butterflies. But the god of the night sky, [black] Tezcatlipoca expelled him from Tula by performing feats of black magic. Quetzalcoatl wandered down to the coast of the “divine water” (the Atlantic Ocean) and then immolated himself on a pyre, emerging as the planet Venus.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Thus Tezcatlipoca was victorious over the Feathered Serpent but there was a legend that Quetzalcoatl would return from the east…

Lews Therin was a gifted writer, and as First Among the Servants had a high priest-like as well as political role, as we saw in The Eye of the World, Prologue. He was also named Lord of the Morning (Lucifer, Venus as Morning Star) and the Dragon (a creature often linked with serpents). The Dark One’s taint on saidin resulted in Lews Therin’s insanity and destruction (aided by Ishamael’s True Power Healing, Ishamael being a parallel of Tezcatlipoca). Lews Therin immolated himself by over-drawing the One Power. Rand, the Dragon Reborn, came from the east (Rhuidean) at dawn to lead the Aiel.

While all souls are reincarnated in the Wheel of Time world, the Dragon soul is the only one of which we know the identity of its rebirth. In that sense Lews Therin’s soul is a symbol of death and resurrection. Moreover, Rand was reborn to repair the damage Lews Therin did and redeem him and is himself fated to die, and perhaps live again, doing so. As the Aelfinn and the Karaethon cycle said:

“If you would live, you must die”

- Lord of Chaos, Connecting Lines

twice to live, and twice to die,

-The Great Hunt, Discord


Adam

Lews Therin has some similarities with Adam, the first man in the Old Testament who in his pride tried to be like God and was cast out of Eden. In Jewish myth Adam’s first wife was the demonic Lilith; Eve was his second wife.

Lews Therin, the first man of his Age, proudly believed he could fix the Bore and reseal the Dark One (The Eye of the World, Prologue). Lanfear was Lews Therin’s love before Ilyena, as Lilith was Adam’s first wife (see Lanfear essay). Lanfear could not bear Lews Therin marrying another woman and did her best to disturb their union, as Lilith did to Adam and Eve in some versions of the myth. Lanfear disrupted the wedding ceremony and publicly blamed Ilyena for stealing him from her (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

By undoing what Lews Therin did and repairing the damage from the Age of Legends, Rand will redeem Lews Therin’s fall just as Christ redeemed Adam (see Rand essay). As Rand said:

I fight because I want to fix what I did wrong. I want to do it right this time.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

The theme of a heroic man’s crime and atonement was also popular in Greek mythology.


Hercules

Hercules/Heracles is a hero of Greco-Roman mythology who had amazing strength. He has been split between Lews Therin and Rand (see Rand essay), an illustration of Jordan’s theme of the effect of time on legend. Hercules’ jealous stepmother Hera tried to murder him when he was an infant and eventually drove him mad. While insane, he killed his wife, Megara, and his children, nieces and nephews. Many myths (as indeed does Jordan’s Lews Therin) emphasise his murder of his wife.

Out of guilt Hercules exiled himself and then went to the Oracle at Delphi to find out how to atone for his crime. He was told to return home and serve the king for twelve years. The king set Hercules twelve labours, twelve impossible tasks, which he was able to complete.

Lews Therin had amazing strength in the One Power. After being Healed of his insanity by Ishamael, he killed himself in horror at his Kinslaying – his slaughter of his wife, children, relatives and friends. It is Rand who atoned for Lews Therin’s crime and undid his mistakes and Rand who has been prophesied by Nicola to do nine impossible tasks like Hercules: “the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things” (Crossroads of Twilight, Secrets). These are discussed more fully in the Rand and Foretellings essays and the theory Nine Labours of Rand).

Lews Therin has one of the most complex names in the series.


Lews

Lews is similar to Lew, a personal name meaning famous warrior (appropriate for Lews Therin) and Lewis, a personal name and also an island in Scotland where Lews castle is sited.

Llew

The name Lews may also refer to Llew Llaw Gyffes (‘bright lion with a dexterous or sure hand’) of Welsh mythology. His Irish equivalent, Lugh, was described as ‘skilled in all the arts’ and was one of the most powerful and important of the Celtic gods.

Llew Llaw Gyffes was the son of the virgin Arianrhod (‘silver wheel’; note that Lanfear is associated with silver and claims the similar sounding Tel’aran’rhiod as her territory) and being rejected by her, was raised by his uncle Gwydion. Arianrhod repeatedly tried to kill Llew but he was almost impossible to kill: he could only be killed neither by day nor night, indoors nor out of doors, riding nor walking, clothed nor naked, nor by any weapon lawfully made. He was tricked into assuming this vulnerable position and slain.

Lews Therin was the most important man in the Age of Legends, one of the most powerful channellers, a skilled swordsman and noted author - as skilled in all the arts as Llew Llaw Gyffes. Lanfear, furious at Lews Therin’s and Rand’s rejections, wanted to kill Rand/Lews Therin (they are equated in her mind). Her ultimate trap was to try and kill Rand when Rand was in the Pit of Doom (neither indoors nor outdoors), during an eclipse (neither day nor night), while standing and using the One Power and true Power as a weapon (drawn indirectly through Moridin and Callandor). The Welsh god’s virgin birth foreshadows Lews Therin Telamon’s prophesied rebirth born to a maiden.


Therin

Therin is a French surname and is similar to Thorin, which means ‘daring’ or ‘bold’ in Old Norse and is one of the names that appears in the Old Norse poem Voluspa and was used by Tolkien as the name of the chief dwarf in The Hobbit. Thorin is thus a link to Tolkien and also to Rand al’Thor.


Telamon

Telamon is a warrior hero from Greek mythology, one of the Argonauts who accompanied Jason on the quest for the Golden Fleece, and was present at the hunt for the Calydonian boar. He killed his half-brother Phocus and was banished by his father – a kinslayer like Lews Therin.

A telamon is a figure of a man used as a supporting column, and is also called an atlas, referring to the Titan the Ancient Greeks believed supported the world. Telamon means enduring. Lews Therin certainly knew the strain of supporting the world.

The name Telamon also commemorates a battle, as a few of Jordan’s names do: the Battle of Telamon (or Talamone) was fought between the Gauls and the Roman Republic in 224 BC. The Romans, led by Consuls Gaius Atilius Regulus and Lucius Aemilius Papus, defeated the Gauls, removing a threat to Rome (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The Age of Legends is a parallel of the Roman Republic and Lews Therin attempted to remove the threat of the Shadow from it, partially succeeding.


Conclusion

Like his parallels in myth, religion and the ancient Roman Republic, Lews Therin is a flawed hero. He did wonderful deeds, but also committed an atrocity and was not fully successful in repairing the troubles of his time. These have been left for his next incarnation to achieve.


_________________________________________

Written by Linda, March 2007 and updated January 2014

3 comments:

phil said...

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, I think , would be the best peralell to Lews Therin. He grew up in the middle of the 2nd century AD, which is considered to be the height of the Roman Empire- For most people there was peace, relative prosperity, and the emperors were -literally- Good. Marcus Aurelius was groomed his whole life to be an emperor of peace, a philosopher king who would rule justly. And yet, a few years after his reign began, the Pax Romana ended, the 'Barbarians' invaded, and the Emperor spent the rest of his reign on campaign. After his death was follwed by roughly a century of regular civil wars, the first since 200 years, and 3 centuries of constant 'Barbarian Invasion'. He was the last emperor to rule an empire that wasn't in decline, like Lews Therin Telamon.

Linda said...

That's a good point Phil. It's not as important as the Julius Caesar parallel though.

The Age of Legends wasn't supposed to be an Empire at all, but a Republic. Events forced LT into a more autocratic role, and not a popular one either.

phil said...

I honestly don't see how the AOL is more like the Republic than the Empire. The Roman Republic, in Caesar's time, was no Golden Age like the AOL. During his entire life, Roman Government and traditions were constantly falling apart. The Republic, & Roman Democracy, was a farce in his time. They were no longer respected, and any powerful commander could do whatever they pleased, even if it was completely illegal.
The Empire, or more precisely the Pax Romana, really was a Golden Age. There was relative peace and prosperity, the empire was at it's largest, and people could travel freely.
It could be argued, of course, that the Republic had been a 'Height' before, and that it's Decline is comparable to the Collapse. But, it wouldn't be relevant to any comparison of JC & LTT, because their relations to the 'Height' and 'Fall' were completely different. LTT was powerful when the AOL was at its greatest, and tried to save it while it was collapsing. Julius Caesar, however, only lived while his own society was collapsing; he didn't try to save anything. He merely manipulated his world too gain power for himself.
LTT and Caesar may have both been autocrats, but they had different reasons. LTT was unpopular with the Hall and acted against their wishes, but when he acted, it was for 'their own good', and he would not have betrayed his allies. That it is not like JC at all- he crossed the Rubicon to defeat the Senate, not to aid them, in order to gain in his own personal power.
The results of their actions were also different. LTT, by Attacking Shayol Ghul, ended the AOL and destroyed his highly advanced civilization. JC's death may have marked the end of the Roman Republic, but the Rupublic was followed by the Pax Romana, which was a much better era and is the true 'Golden Age' of Roman history. It was nothing like the Breaking.