Monday, July 30, 2001

The Nine Labours of Rand



by Linda


In Crossroads of Twilight, Nicola is reported to be making a lot of Foretellings, but the Aes Sedai with Egwene are discounting them, claiming Nicola is merely seeking attention and advancement.

“Ever since we found out she has the Foretelling, she’s been Foretelling two or three times a day, to hear her tell it. Or rather, to hear Areina tell it. Nicola is smart enough to know everyone is aware she can’t remember what she says when she Foretells, but Areina always seems to be there to hear and remember, and help her interpret. Some are the sort of thing anyone in the camp with half a brain and a credulous nature might think of - battles with the Seanchan or the Ashaman, an Amyrlin imprisoned, the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things, visions that might be Tarmon Gaidon or a bilious stomach – and the rest all just happen to indicate that Nicola ought to be allowed to go faster with her lessons… I think even most of the other novices have stopped believing her.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Secrets

On closer inspection though, the Foretellings are feasible – the battles with the Seanchan and the Ashaman are all too likely and as for an Amyrlin being imprisoned, Egwene has been captured and is now fomenting discord and also revealing the existence of the Thirteenth Depository in the White Tower, both of which are serious crimes, so she could well be imprisoned. But then, so could Elaida. Therefore I think these Foretellings are genuine, even though they are presented as worthless.

It is one of these Foretellings that I want to discuss further: the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things.

What does impossible mean in this context? We’ve seen Nynaeve and Flinn Heal severing/stilling, which everyone said was impossible. So, impossible means nobody else could figure out how to do it and be able to do it.

I think that Rand will do 9 ‘impossible’ things, outdoing Nynaeve and Flinn – indeed my theory is that he has already done the first ‘impossible’ thing. He has cleansed saidin.

He considered cleansing saidin for quite a while before he worked out how to do it. As early as The Shadow Rising, he saw the necessity of preventing himself and other men from Breaking the World again. He entered the doorway in Tear, asked the Finns how to do it and got a riddle for an answer:

He had asked once, warily, where he knew the answers would be true, how to cleanse the taint from saidin. And got a riddle for an answer.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

A riddle that was very difficult to solve. Fel couldn’t:

Herid Fel had claimed the riddle stated sound principles, in both high philosophy and natural philosophy, but he had not seen any way to apply it to the problem at hand.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

Finally Rand worked it out.

Rand had a hint at the answer, or thought he might, a guess that could be disastrously wrong.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

We have a variety of reactions recorded about the possibility of cleansing saidin all discounting that Rand would work out how to do it, be able to do it or control the Choedan Kal long enough or well enough to do it.

When he asked Asmodean about removing the taint from saidin, Asmodean was scornful:

“The Shadow take me, you must be beginning to think you really are the bloody Creator! We are dead. Both of us. Dead!”

- The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows

Taim said

“Cleanse saidin. I think that would take more power than you can imagine.”

- Lord of Chaos, A Woman’s Eyes

Torval, a Darkfriend Ashaman said

“That would be wondrous, but how could anyone short of the Creator or…[the Dark One/Great Lord]?”

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

Osangar’s comments are also negative:

“I doubt that even I could devise a method to remove the Great Lord’s shadow from saidin. Al’Thor is a primitive. Anything he tries inevitably will prove insufficient, and I for one, cannot believe he can even imagine how to begin.”

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

Osangar/Aginor is a fool, although a knowledgeable one.

Once the Forsaken realise Rand plans to use the Choedan Kal, they fear that Rand will crack the word instead:

“He could shatter the world just trying to use the Choedan Kal.”

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

The Choedan Kal are so dangerous to use that it’s a wonder Rand and Nynaeve achieved anything with them at all, let alone did so much with them. Cyndane:

spoke of the Choedan Kal as one familiar with the terror they had inspired during the War of Power. Only balefire had been more feared, and only just.

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

And finally neither Lews Therin nor Cadsuane’s group were encouraging either:

Dangerous, Lews Therin moaned. Madness. …[Nesune says] “By everything I have read, the attempt to use those sa’angreal may result in disaster. Together they might be strong enough to crack the world like an egg.”…Like an egg! Lews Therin agreed. They were never tested, never tried. This is insane!

- Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

All these groups discounted the possibility that he would cleanse saidin successfully. Rand himself knew that it was a very risky plan, but a necessary one.

He had to talk to Nynaeve. Could he cleanse saidin? It might work. It might destroy the world, too. Lews Therin gibbered at him in stark terror.

- The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons

Rand’s taveren pull on the Pattern, his strength and his intelligence brought everything together to achieve this most unlikely deed:

  • He solved the riddle and worked out the method.

  • He had the two access keys to the Choedan Kal. They were in an obscure place (Rhuidean) and he had to fight Asmodean, a Forsaken, to get them. The access keys and the Choedan Kal also survived being used at such high levels for such a long period – to Moghedien’s surprise:
    Amazing that the Choedan Kal had survived continuous use for this long, at this level.
    - Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal
    In fact, the female access key disintegrated at the end of the cleansing.
    Cadsuane let the thing that had been a terangreal drop to the ground. It could no longer be called the statue of a woman. The face was as wisely serene as ever, but the figure was broken in two and lump like bubbled wax where one side had melted, including the arm that had held the crystal sphere now lying in shattered fragments around the ruined thing.
    - Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

  • He had a very strong and trustworthy female channeller in Nynaeve to link with.

  • Both Rand and Nynaeve had the strength of character and body as well as in the Power to stay the course.

  • He had Cadsuane to plan his defences. With 6 Forsaken attacking the hilltop where the cleansing took place, Cadsuane’s defences were essential to success.


After the cleansing at the end of Winter’s Heart, there were 3 types of reaction from those that knew:

1. Logain knows saidin is clean but doesn’t believe Rand did it:
The man knew saidin was clean, but he could not believe Rand or any man had actually done the cleansing. Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering?
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm

2. Cadsuane and the other Aes Sedai who were actually present at the cleansing don’t believe saidin is clean. (They have too many prejudices to overcome. But believing something is impossible is a prejudice in itself.) Merise replies to Cadsuane:

“I do not know, Cadsuane. It feels cleaner than when I first linked with Jahar, but anything could hide in that chaos. Anything.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments


3. Those with Elayne think something wonderful was done. Sumeko says

‘I think something very wonderful or very terrible has happened today.” [Elayne replies:] “Wonderful”.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Wise Ones Know.
The reaction of these groups shows that people consider the cleansing of the taint from saidin as beyond mortals, not achieved or else amazing. In other words: impossible.

Foretellings, of course, are of the future. Nicola’s Foretelling was told offhand to Egwene five days after the Cleansing. It was one of several Foretellings mentioned as a complaint about how Nicola has been Foretelling two or three times a day for some time. It is quite possible Nicola made this Foretelling prior to the Cleansing.

The removal of the taint was not the only amazing achievement that day: Rand and Nynaeve also destroyed Shadar Logoth and Mashadar. This too is an ‘impossible deed’. Two for one, you might say. The only representation of the evil of Shadar Logoth left in the world now is Mordeth.

Rand has other deeds in mind: he would like to cleanse the Ways (that could be a third), defeat the Dark One, and die but continue to live. An easy five!

Two impossible things done, seven to go.


The title of this theory refers to Rand’s strong similarities with the Ancient Greek hero Heracles [Hercules] who performed twelve labours (see Rand essay).

6 comments:

luvtheedragon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iopgod said...

Foretellings are of the future, yes, but as we dont have the actual wording of the foretelling, it might be something along the lines of "complete a list of nine impossible things, some of which have already been done"... this could include, for example, capturing the Stone of Tear, which was considered pretty impossible before Rand actually did it.

Anonymous said...

One of those "impossible things" could be intentionally breaking the Seals.

Julien said...

i think Rand may have to destroy the Great Blight if he wants his armies to arrive at Shayol Ghul alive. That could seem nearly impossible to most characters..

Terez said...

I came across this when digging around, and it occurred to me that one of the impossible things was probably warding his own brain from the taint on Dragonmount. Presumably he did it accidentally and not consciously, but he was holding all that Power at the time. And it might be another twofer - he also might have stretched his ability in the One Power, which would explain Maradon and his odd babies. I can't really call to mind anything else he did that was impossible, but I'm sure we'll see a few more things before the end. Like the twice-dawning day, maybe, or just coming back from the dead itself.

Linda said...

Good suggestions, Terez.

I'm waiting to see what impossible things the last book has - and how many. I'm thinking that Rand might cleanse the Ways (that could be a fifth), defeat the Dark One, and die but continue to live. I'm one short of 9 though.

I updated this theory as The Nine Labours of Rand Revisited after TGH, but I should do so again. I think that Rand's channelling to save Maradon is "impossible". That would be the labour which completes the nine.