This essay will deal with the sources I think were used to create Tuon. Due to her late, though long anticipated, entry in the series, many see Tuon as no more than Mat’s wife. However Tuon also has important functions that have nothing to do with Mat.
Each one of the couple finds the other very complex, with Mat complaining about Tuon:
That little woman made a blacksmith’s puzzle simple.Just like Mat, Tuon has many parallels: mythological and historical references to the sea, war, wealth, horses, empires, fertility and marriage, justice, and the Underworld.
- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs
With the Return figuring large in Imperial planning for over a hundred years (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) and taking up considerable resources, the Seanchan Empire is strongly associated with the sea. Tuon’s triumphant arrival with thousands of great ships crossing a large and underexplored ocean links the Seanchan Empress to sea goddesses.
At one stage Tuon considered making Tar Valon her capital (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota) but she announced publicly, in her audience hall with its ceiling painted with gulls and fishers at sea, and the walls a soft blue, that it would be the maritime port of Ebou Dar, and this while wearing a pleated gown of the deepest sea blue, a white cape fluttering behind her like wave foam (The Gathering Storm, Gambits). Her fingernails were lacquered blue in this scene, instead of their previous red.
Mazu, or Mat-su ("Mother-Ancestor"), is the East Asian goddess of the sea who protects those associated with the ocean. According to legend, she was born Lin Moniang in 960 AD as the seventh daughter of Lin Yuan of Fujian, China. The menfolk of her family earned a living by fishing. Lin Moniang started swimming relatively late at the age of 15, but soon was an excellent swimmer. She was greatly concerned about the dangers of the sea and stood on the shore wearing red clothes in all weathers to guide the fishing boats home. She was said to have saved her brothers and father from drowning at sea in a storm when she was either in a trance or dreaming. Lin Moniang also healed the sick and could predict the weather. After she died, she became a folk hero for her deeds and for trying to save those at sea, and was ultimately deified as Mazu.
Mother-ancestor would be an excellent description of how the Seanchan regard their Empress. Red is the colour of the Seanchan Imperial family, which is why Tuon’s long fingernails are lacquered red (Knife of Dreams, Prologue) much of the time. Saidar itself is often symbolised by water in the series, and Tuon teaches damane in a much more positive and caring way than most. Having trained damane, Tuon has the potential to learn to channel, and may well be forced by events to do so – relatively late. Channellers, even those made damane, exhibit similar talents to Lin Moniang: Tuon has taught her damane Healing and has one which can tell ‘fortunes of the weather’ (The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness), presumably similar to, or the same as, predicting the weather by Listening to the Wind. In Seanchan, people adopt new names as they change rank: Tuon took a new name when she was invested as Empress.
In paintings Mazu is usually depicted wearing a red robe, and in sculptures she is a heavily bejewelled empress holding a ceremonial tablet or a jewel staff, and wearing the flat-topped imperial cap with hanging beads front and back. She is usually accompanied by two guardian generals known as "Thousand Miles Eye" (usually red in colour) and "With-the-Wind Ear" (usually green). They are believed to be former suitors whom she each challenged to fight her for her favours. Mazu defeated them in unarmed combat and they are now completely loyal and do her bidding.
In Ebou Dar Tuon wore much jewellery and was interested in Mat’s ashandarei, and in Jurador, she had Mat buy her many shades of red silk which she had made into clothes. In Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber, Tuon’s headdress was of red silk and gold. Tuon showed her skill in unarmed combat when she wrestled with Mat. The colours of the Deathwatch Guard are red and dark green. Like Mazu’s two generals, they are supposed to be loyal guardians. When hunting Tuon they likened their task to ‘catching the wind in a net’ (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll).
Most of Mazu’s titles are appropriate to Tuon:
- Tian Hou or Tianhou ("Heavenly Empress" or "Heavenly Queen") - Tian is similar to Tuon. The Seanchan revere their Empress and wish her to live forever. One of the Empress’ titles is “She Whose Eyes Look Upward” – to the heavens.
- Tian Fei ("Heavenly Princess Consort") – reflects Tuon’s position as Daughter of the Nine Moons.
- Tianshang Shengmu or Tianhou Shengmu ("Heavenly Holy Mother") - The Empress is the mother of the empire and the Seanchan say devotions to her every morning (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll).
- "Princess of Supernatural Favour" - Tuon certainly has a lot of power and resources at her disposal, including damane, but this will be even more appropriate once Tuon herself channels.
- “Protector of the Empire and the Brilliantly Outstanding Heavenly Princess"- Tuon is highly skilled and was favoured by her mother as most fit to succeed her. She lives to serve the Empire.
- "Daughter of the Dragon" – Tuon tried to capture Rand, but he outshone her and showed her the flaws in her claims. He “allowed her live” (A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered).
The Ancient Greeks had two sea goddesses with parallels to Tuon.
Amphitrite was an Ancient Greek sea goddess. Originally important in her own right as the personification of the sea, when the Olympian pantheon was developed she became merely Poseidon’s consort. Eustathius said that Poseidon first saw Amphitrite dancing at Naxos, and carried her off. Amphitrite's offspring included large sea creatures such as seals and dolphins. In Roman mythology, the consort of Poseidon’s equivalent, Neptune, was Salacia, the goddess of saltwater.
While on board ship, Tuon read the behaviour of porpoises to guide her decisions in Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides. The name Salacia is very similar to Selucia, Tuon’s maid and shadow. Mat, Tuon’s husband, is a parallel of Poseidon (see Mat essay) and he did carry her off with him.
Tuon has sailed across the world to find/claim her husband so, for her, marriage is also associated with the sea. Some sea goddesses are also goddesses of love, fertility and marriage.
Aphrodite is the Ancient Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty who was:
born from the white foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus (Heaven), after his son Cronus threw them into the sea. Aphrodite was, in fact, widely worshipped as a goddess of the sea and of seafaring; she was also honoured as a goddess of war, especially at Sparta, Thebes, Cyprus, and other places. Aphrodite was, however, primarily a goddess of love and fertility and even occasionally presided over marriage. Although prostitutes considered Aphrodite their patron, her public cult was generally solemn and even austere.Tuon too is associated with the sea and seafaring, war, love, fertility and marriage. As Seanchan Empress, she is expected to have many children who will compete against each other to ensure the fittest possible candidate becomes Empress (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path), and is now pregnant. She arrived with an invading force across an ocean to win back the land of her ancestors, and married a ‘battle god’. In keeping with Aphrodite’s cult, Tuon is publicly severe, and much warmer in private:
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
The woman melted in his arms while he was kissing her, and turned to ice the moment she stepped back.Aphrodite’s lover was Ares, god of war. Setalle Anan observed that, whatever Mat’s intentions, Tuon was more a general plotting a battle than a woman being courted (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path).
- Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box
Freyja (“Lady”) is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, war, death, magic, prophecy, and wealth. Her father was Njord, the sea god, and her husband Odin/ Óðr. Half of those killed in battle went to her hall Fólkvangr, and the other half to Odin at Valhalla. She travelled the world searching for her lost husband. A warrior goddess, Freyja often drove a chariot drawn by a pair of large cats. She also possessed a cloak of falcon feathers that enabled the wearer to fly, and lent it to the other gods. The trickster god Loki “borrowed it” to locate Thor’s hammer.
Tuon arrived in the Westlands under the veil as ‘High Lady Tuon.’ Her personal sigil is a chariot drawn by two lions. She came from across the ocean with her army to invade the Westlands. She has also finally found her husband there and one of his parallels is Odin (see Mat essay). The newly married Mat and Tuon parted, and set up separate “halls”. Tuon is associated with death (see more on her parallels to the Queen of the Underworld below): her entire family has been killed, she has survived assassination attempts and been believed dead, her Truthspeaker was a psychopath and sadist and her personal bodyguard is the Deathwatch guard. Even touching the Daughter of Nine Moons warrants a death sentence, never mind kidnapping her. Tuon is expected to be able to defend herself: we have seen her wrestle Mat, who was impressed with her martial arts practice (A Memory of Light, Your Neck In A Cord) and she is also very skilled in using weapons (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). The Seanchan gained Travelling, and also have an air force of raken. Mat, a parallel of Loki, flew on a raken to Shayol Ghul.
Freyja possessed a famous necklace called Brísingamen, which Loki stole, and Heimdall, the gods' watchman, recovered (Encyclopaedia Britannica) (The photo right shows Heimdall with Freyja). In an amusing parallel of the Brisingamen necklace, Mat, a parallel of Heimdall and Loki, bought a Seanchan necklace and offered it to Tuon but she refused it and it ended up being thrown away by Egeanin (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds).
Freyja’s close association with prophecy mirrors Tuon’s situation. One of her priorities is to fulfil the prophecy of the Dragon Reborn kneeling to the Crystal Throne (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). Her fortune told by Lidya the damane showed the less convenient side to prophecy. Tuon features in the Karaethon Cycle herself in a personal way, not just as Empress. Her actions are extensively guided by omens and she promptly claimed seeress Min as her Truthspeaker, and reveres her ability (A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire).
Freyja taught the Aesir witchcraft, which was forbidden. The Seanchan also have a very negative attitude to independent channelling. While Tuon won’t channel personally, considering the ability a taint (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path), she encourages her damane to Heal using the Power – unusual in a Seanchan. In Seanchan all those able to do magic must be leashed. They are just discovering the secret that sul’dam (including Tuon) are able to learn to channel. It is likely that Tuon will eventually be forced by events to channel; the Empress performing the forbidden act of channelling without a leash.
Freya is closely linked to the goddess Frigg (a parallel of Min), who is married to Odin and who has the power of prophecy but does not reveal it; and the two goddesses may represent an example of the splitting of one mythological figure into two. Tuon made Min reveal what omens she saw, to Min’s great discomfort, and Min insisted on informing Tuon of them privately. Mat now finds Min attractive in her Seanchan costume.
The Morrígan (“Phantom Queen”) is the Irish goddess of war, death in battle, prophecy, and sovereignty. She may appear as a single goddess or as part of a trio of goddesses, which also includes the Badb (“Vulture”) and either Nemain (“Frenzy”) or Macha (associated with war, horses and sovereignty). The raven goddess of battle, the Morrigan is one of the Tuatha De Danann who invaded Ireland, and she helped defeat the Firbolgs and the Fomorii. She is the wife of the Dagda.
As an empress without an empire, Tuon could be described as a phantom queen. She has disappeared completely before, even been believed dead, and is now married to a war god and bringing battle and war herself as her forces first invaded the mainland, and then helped defend it in the Last Battle. The Raven is the emblem of Seanchan and Tuon appears in the Karaethon Cycle prophecies as one:
When the fox marries the raven, and the trumpets of battle are blown.Mat is the fox (see Mat essay) and Tuon the raven (see Raven section below) and both are associated with battle. She recognised her husband due to a damane’s prophecy. Tuon is expected to be able to defend herself in unarmed and armed combat (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). The Dagda is a parallel of Rand (see Rand essay), with whom Tuon has made an alliance.
- Knife of Dreams, A Deal
Red being the colour of Mars, god of war, the rubies Tuon often wears also mark her as war-like as well as wealthy.
Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, and generosity. She is called the Goddess of Fortune and protects her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows. She is the daughter of the king of the milky ocean, empress of the sea and the wife of Vishnu the preserver. Physically, the goddess Lakshmi is depicted upon a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels, especially of gold, bestowing coins of prosperity and flanked by elephants signifying her royal power. Her expression is always calm and loving. Lakshmi is strongly associated with the lotus symbolising purity and spiritual power.
Vishnu is a parallel of Mat (see Mat essay) and most amusingly, Mat calls Tuon Precious. The immensely wealthy Tuon was arrayed in precious jewels and fine garments in Ebou Dar, such as a dress made of cloth of gold and thus literally made of money. The Seanchan Empress is also associated with the sea, having crossed an ocean to get to the main continent. Tuon is a very pious woman and trains damane in a far more benevolent way than anyone we have seen previously. The Seanchan society brings order and with it prosperity to a degree that few mainland nations can match. The Seanchan are the only people to have, or work with, elephants (s’redit).
A source of wealth is horses and Tuon is known to love horses.
An early story about the Greek fertility goddess Demeter depicts her as a Great Mare, who was mounted by Poseidon in the form of a stallion and foaled Arion and the Daughter (otherwise unnamed). Mat is a parallel of Poseidon (see Mat essay) and Tuon has parallels with another of Demeter’s daughters, Persephone/Kore (see Kore below). The unnamed Daughter of Demeter is reflected in Tuon’s former title as Daughter of the Nine Moons.
In Gallo-Roman religion, Epona was a goddess of fertility who was also a protector of horses, donkeys, and mules. Unusually for a Celtic deity, the worship of Epona was widespread in the Roman Empire from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE and she was the only Celtic deity worshipped in Rome. In The Golden Ass by Apuleius, Epona’s image on a pillar in a stable was garlanded with roses. In Dacia, she was depicted in the style of Cybele, seated on a throne front on with each hand resting on the neck of a horse: the horses replacing Cybele’s lions. As Daughter of the Nine Moons, Tuon was marked with the raven and roses. Mat declared her his wife after wrestling her in a stable. Tuon both trains and rides horses, and she is also a parallel of Cybele (see Cybele below).
As a queenly goddess of fertility, Epona is linked to sovereignty and the Health of the Land. Empress Tuon also represents sovereignty, and Rand, who is one with the Land and whose unhealing wounds reflect the blighting of the Land, tried to make a pact with her. Tuon delayed declaring herself Empress because she wished to meet Rand as an equal, and believed the Empress is above him:
The Empress could not meet anyone, not even the Dragon Reborn, as an equal.but at their second meeting Rand proved to her otherwise. While ever one of them thought they were above the other there could be no agreement.
- The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness
Tuon is right that the world needs her as Empress. The world needs the goddess of sovereignty to balance Rand and to nurture the people and provide stability; something Rand is poor at doing.
In renaissance times European monarchs had a jester or fool at their court, often a lunatic, hunchback or dwarf, who entertained or even played with the monarch and was entitled to express themselves freely to the monarch in ways no one else was allowed. Tuon has had two people close to her who have fitted this category: Anath/Semirhage and Mat. Her former Truthspeaker, Semirhage told Tuon what she needed to know without any repercussions. In fact the first thing we hear Anath say is that Tuon’s actions are idiocy and she is a fool to think her eyes are downcast by having a damane punished unjustly (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). Tuon is much concerned with justice (see below), and her husband, Mat, is concerned with foolery (see Mat essay and Fool and Joker essay). Semirhage calling Tuon a fool links Tuon with Mat. Mat/Toy is a jester who entertained Tuon with juggling and jokes while they travelled through Altara (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota). In return Tuon claimed him as her own plaything:
"She [Joline] cannot have him," she said sharply. Drawing a breath, she went on in amused tones. "Toy belongs to me. Until I am through playing with him.”The Empress Tarot card represents all the famous women rulers of antiquity (see Il Meneghello Naibi di Giovanni Vacchetta Empress card right, and US Games Waite-Smith Empress card below left). Her figure features in medieval morality plays such as the Dance of Death, thought to be one of the inspirations for the trumps of the Tarot cards:
- Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box
As the wife of the Emperor, the Empress partakes in various Dances of Death. “I thought I had a lot of power…Oh, let me live on, I implore you!” she begs the Grim Reaper.This reminds the reader that the Seanchan wish their Empress to live forever whenever they mention her. Yet both Mat and Tuon are strongly associated with death as rulers of the Underworld (see below and Mat essay) and Mat’s signature tune Jack o’ the Shadows is a parallel of the Dance of Death (see Mat essay).
- Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot
The Empress card signifies fruitful action, fertility, plenty and protection. All these are attributes of Tuon. The Seanchan Empress is expected to be fruitful and Tuon is now pregnant. She is also very wealthy and is careful to establish laws and stable government so her nations prosper. In Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers, Tuon actually made a list of those who were ‘under her protection’ and those who were not.
The Seanchan Empire has some Chinese influences, as well as Japanese and Ancient Egyptian.
Empress Wu Zetian (625 –705) was the only woman in Chinese history to reign in her own right as Empress. There have been other women who were de factor ruler through a son or husband, as Wu was from 665-690, but Wu went further than any woman before or since and founded her own dynasty in 690 and ruled alone under the name Sacred and Divine Empress Regnant for 15 years. The Seanchan Empress is as sacrosanct as the Chinese Emperor was. No man has ruled the Seanchan for almost a thousand years (Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides), so a male emperor is not customary, but not unheard of. It is however probably unprecedented for the Empress to be known to be able to channel.
Wu entered the palace as a concubine of one emperor, and became consort of another by skilful political manoeuvring. The three way struggle for Emperor Gaozang’s affections between his Empress, his Consort and Wu, his concubine, was won by Wu and her rivals were killed (Encyclopaedia Britannica). He was a weak ruler and Wu increasingly began to govern China herself. Wu angered the Emperor for engaging a sorcerer, which was forbidden by law, and for interfering in governance, but she did not lose influence. The reading of omens to determine auspicious or unfortunate times or events, however, was a common practice in ancient China. Wu was renowned for ruthlessness: she was widely believed to have killed her daughter and son, and had another son, Emperor Zhongzong, deposed and exiled. After ruling through her youngest son Emperor Ruizong for some time, she forced him to abdicate in her favour in 690 and ruled in her own name. She was a capable ruler, skilled in choosing excellent officials. In 705 she was ousted in a coup and Emperor Zhongzong returned to the throne. She died later in the year at age 80.
Such goings on would be nothing strange to the Seanchan Imperial family. The Empress is expected to have many children, who vie with each other so that the fittest will become ruler:
The Empress had borne many children, as every Empress did, so that among those who survived there would be one fit to rule after her.In China there was a plethora of heirs due to concubinage. Tuon has had a brother and sister killed:
- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path
His wife-to-be had had a brother and a sister assassinated? After they tried to have her killed, true, but still! What kind of family went around killing one another? The Seanchan Blood and the Imperial family, for starters. Half of her siblings were dead, assassinated, most of them, and maybe the others, too.and she certainly needs every bit of Wu’s political skill and ruthlessness just to survive, let alone keep the throne:
- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path
Tuon would have been schooled in intrigue from infancy, schooled in weapons and fighting with her bare hands, heavily guarded yet expected to be her own last line of defense. All of those born to the Blood were taught to dissemble, to disguise their intentions and ambitions. Power shifted constantly among the Blood, some climbing higher, others slipping down, and the dance was only faster and more dangerous in the Imperial family.The Shadow attacked Tuon at least twice, and ambitious Seanchan will continue to do so. Even the fact that the Seanchan Imperial family:
- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path
live their lives behind walls even when in plain sight, and only whispers of what went on behind those walls escapedIs similar to the Imperial Chinese court within the Forbidden City.
- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path
Fortuona's court attire in Ebou Dar has some resemblance to Chinese court robes, notably her winged headdress in gold and red silk (Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber). Chinese empresses wore a phoenix crown with wings (bobin) at the sides/back and adorned with dragons, phoenixes and gemstones (see illustration above). Tuon’s headdress has owl, rather than phoenix, symbolism. She aims to revive Hawkwing’s empire like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the nations she conquers, but she links herself to the owl instead here, which is a symbol of misfortune, death, evil and witchcraft as well as knowledge. Tuon continually uses omens to guide state policy and promptly appropriated Min for herself to provide a very extensive prophecy service. The knowledge that Tuon has channelling ability (can use magic) bodes ill for her reign. The Return was also a plot of the Shadow, especially Ishamael, and not the exaction of justice as Tuon believes.
While it is customary to use leashed channellers in Seanchan, it is forbidden to channel unleashed, or leave channellers unleashed. The news that sul’dam can learn to channel will rock Seanchan society and government, especially since Tuon qualified as a sul’dam.
China and the Mongols
In the thirteenth century the Chinese were invaded by the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, that would soon also devastate the west. Genghis Khan judged correctly that he would be able to take the Western Xia Dynasty of the Tanguts without the more powerful Manchurian Jin Dynasty coming to its aid. The Mongol leader decided to turn on the Jin Dynasty next, and the Jin commander made the mistake of not attacking as soon as possible. The position of the Jin forces was betrayed to the Mongols, who massacred thousands of Jin troops. Four years later the capital Beijing was captured and the Emperor abandoned the northern half of his empire to the Mongols.
The Sharans have strong parallels to the Mongols, and Demandred to Genghis Khan (see Demandred essay). The Seanchan Empress considered not aiding the mainlanders against the devastating attacks of the Sharans, but retreating and consolidating her rule and increasing her forces. However, unlike the Jin command, she decided to fight the Shadow sooner before they got stronger. Moghedien spied on the Seanchan and compelled an officer to sabotage their counsels. Tuon was herself nearly killed in a Sharan attack on her army headquarters.
Events of the late Qing dynasty
Current events in Seanchan could be likened to those of the late Qing dynasty (19th to early 20th centuries), and this is supported by the similarity of Seanchan and Qing clothing (see Fashion article). The Ever Victorious Army, as the Seanchan forces refer to themselves, was the name of the imperial army of the Qing Dynasty in late 19th century China. It was the first Chinese army trained in European techniques and tactics.
There was massive social unrest in China at this time, with armed rebellions lasting 14 or 15 years, millions of people killed in civil war, and loss of productivity and food supply as large areas of farmland were destroyed by war and flood. The Qing government was weakened. In previous centuries China had been the major power in East Asia, and believed itself an “empire with no boundaries” that had the right to rule “all under heaven”. Likewise:
Seanchan was an Empire larger than all the nations between the Aryth Ocean and the Spine of the World, all under one Empress.Semirhage’s actions in killing the entire Imperial family have resulted in chaos similar to that which occurred in the late Qing dynasty in China:
- Winter’s Heart, An Offer
Seandar is in the hands of rioters and looters, and so are a dozen other cities. At least fifty nobles are contending for the throne, with armies in the field. There is war from the Aldael Mountains to Salaking.The Seanchan invasion of the Westlands is disrupting agriculture, destroying farmland and causing loss of life. In Amadicia farmers are being coerced to grow forkroot rather than food in a time of dearth (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory).
- Knife of Dreams, Prologue
Prior to the arrival of aggressive trade and diplomatic missions from European countries China had rarely had to deal with other countries on an equal basis. The trigger of war between China and Great Britain was opium and China lost. The Nanking treaty forced China to grant Great Britain a lease on Hong Kong, unrestricted access to Chinese ports, and reparation payments for the war and for confiscating Britain’s opium. This provoked further rebellion from the Chinese people.
Rand’s first attempt at a truce was wrecked by Semirhage, Tuon’s truthspeaker. Semirhage’s parallel in Chinese history may be Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) (see Semirhage essay), popularly believed to be a dangerous, power-hungry and ruthless woman who gained control of two emperors through scheming, and was believed to have hastened the death of the first of these, and to have ordered the death of the second; and encouraged the Boxer Rebellion in which thousands of Christian missionaries and tens of thousands of Chinese Christian converts were killed. She thwarted attempts at reforming Chinese government and eliminating corruption, thus ending any chance of peaceful change in China (Encyclopaedia Britannica). On her deathbed she ordered that two year old Puyi (1906–1967) ascend the throne. He was removed from his mother and did not see her again for six years and was treated as a god, with people averting their eyes and kneeling and bowing with their heads touching the ground (kowtowing) until he passed by. Puyi (shown above right) ruled as the Xuantong Emperor from 1908 to 1912 when his regent, Empress Dowager Longyu, signed an edict of his abdication following the Xinhai Revolution. He was the last Emperor of China, after over 2,000 years of imperial rule, and an extended period of instability with warlords contending for power followed.
No Seanchan looks into the eyes of those of higher status, and they kowtow to those of the Blood much higher in the society than they. The Empress is treated like a goddess, with some people even praying to her each morning (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll). Tuon could be likened to Puyi: she rarely saw her mother (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides), and much is made of how young and child-like she looks. Tuon is currently an empress without an empire and considering the complete disorder in Seanchan, with nobles warring over the throne, she could be the last Seanchan Empress. Even if she gains the throne in Seanchan at a later date, the government is likely to have a different structure.
The Seanchan Empire has similarities with that of Japan, as well as China. The usage of assassins with almost legendary abilities for instance: ninjas in Japan and bloodknives in Seanchan dedicated by the ruler to their missions. The Chinese system of divination by omen reading was exported to Japan in the sixth century, where it was expanded into the system of onmyodo and became controlled by the imperial government. Since onmyodo practitioners were believed to avert disasters by their skill for prophecy, they gained great influence over the lives of the Emperor and court. This is especially possible in the case of the Doomseer Min, which is why Tuon tested her to see if she were likely to misuse her power. Ironically, considering the Seanchan attitude to omens, and disregard of “mainland” philosophical beliefs about the Pattern, onmyodo was prohibited in Japan in the middle of the nineteenth century as superstition.
Japan has a very long-standing monarchy and any male or female with patrilineal descent from the early Japanese monarchs can hold the Chrysanthemum throne. In practice, males inherit the throne; however eight women of imperial blood have ruled as a stop-gap measure (although their children did not qualify to inherit) until a male child heir reached puberty, or to postpone succession disputes. Most Japanese never refer to their emperors by their given names, as it is considered disrespectful. He is referred to simply as "His Majesty the Emperor". The title “tenno” translates as “heavenly sovereign”. After death, the emperor is referred to by the era he ruled.
In Seanchan no male has ruled for almost 1000 years. The Imperial Family count their descent from Luthair Paendrag, and before him, Artur Hawkwing. The Empress is never named because it is disrespectful; she is only “The Empress”. (We only learned Radhanan’s name when Semirhage boasted of killing her.) As a parallel to the title of heavenly sovereign, one of the modes of address to the Seanchan empress is “She Whose Eyes Look Upwards”.
The Japanese emperor with the most similarities to Tuon would be Hirohito Emperor Shōwa, (1901-1989). His childhood title was Prince Michi. In 1921, Prince Hirohito became the first Japanese crown prince to travel abroad when he toured Europe. Tuon’s name changed when she reached adulthood (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides) and changed again when she was invested as Empress (but no one, except maybe Mat, will dare speak this name). Tuon is the first Seanchan princess to sail to the mainland.
The first part of Hirohito's reign took place against a background of financial crisis and increasing military power within the government. There were many incidents of political violence including the assassination of the Prime Minister in 1932, an attempted assassination of Emperor Hirohito, and an attempted military coup in 1936. The coup resulted in the murder of a number of high government and Army officials. It is likely that the Seanchan military are very influential in government (perhaps controlling it) as the Japanese military was. Tuon has avoided repeated assassination attempts but would not have escaped the Grey Men without Mat’s and Min’s aid.
In 1941 during deliberations for war, Emperor Hirohito directly questioned the chiefs of the Army and Navy general staff, which was an unprecedented action. Normally the Emperor’s representative, the President of the Imperial Council would do so. He also addressed the Imperial Conference personally, to stress the need for peaceful resolution of international problems, breaking the tradition of Imperial silence and overawing his advisors. Seanchan nobility also do not usually speak to those far below them – more so at court; their Voice of the Blood would do so. Being spoken to personally by one of the High Blood is a distinction. The Blood gasped when Tuon addressed Beslan personally over his rebellious plots, and even more so again when she spoke directly with Amyrlin Egwene.
The Japanese announced to the world that if their demands were not met then they would declare war on the United States, Britain and the Netherlands, these demands being: unhindered conquest of China and Southeast Asia, no increase in US or British military forces in the region, and cooperation by the West "in the acquisition of goods needed by our Empire." They allied with Nazi Germany (which has many parallels with the Shadow, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay) and Fascist Italy, forming the Axis Powers in World War II. Luthair’s expedition and invasion of Seanchan was encouraged or even inspired by Hawkwing’s advisor Jalwin Moerad (Ishamael). This link with the Shadow is emphasised by the presence of Semirhage as Tuon’s Truthspeaker. The Seanchan have invaded the mainland because their Empress’ ancestors once ruled it and this is a plan Ishamael takes credit for:
I whispered again, and the High King sent his armies across the Aryth Ocean, across the World Sea, and sealed two dooms. The doom of his dream of one land and one people, and a doom yet to come [the Seanchan Return to conquer the mainland and collar the Aes Sedai].The Japanese attack on the US Fleet at Pearl Harbour is mirrored in the Seanchan invasion of Cantorin and Ebou Dar and the Sea Folk shipping in those ports. The harsh Seanchan treatment of their prisoners of war, especially those who can channel, is a mild parallel of Japanese war atrocities.
- The Eye of the World, The Stag and Lion
As a reference to U.S. General Douglass Macarthur’s vow to return to re-take territory invaded by Japan, the theme of return is strong in Mat's and Tuon's subthread. After all, the Return is the reason why Tuon voyaged to the mainland. Mat returned to the land of the *Finns to rescue Moiraine, but once back in the main world he did not return to his men, being instead solely focussed on returning to Tuon. She complained that he had delayed his return to her. The return of the Empress and her forces to the Last Battle was far less certain:
Mat stalked away, calming his anger. Tuon had seemed really angry at him! Light. She would come back when he needed her to, would she not? …The Emperor's surrender speech in August 1945 broadcast over the radio was the first time the public had heard the Emperor's voice. He used a vague tone and a highly formal mode of Japanese understood by few commoners to preserve the mystique of the Emperor as the demi-god embodiment of Japan. Normally, Tuon would speak to very few commoners. Mat and Min (Knotai and Darbinda), and her time in the menagerie may have a democratising effect.
If Fortuona decided to return, that was….
"Mat has asked for us to return," Min said softly. "How long will you debate doing what he asked?"
Tuon eyed her. "Until I am convinced this is best for my Empire." …
Mat had danced this dance well. He knew he had. But there was only so much a man could do. Even Tuon's return might not be enough, if it came….
"They found the spy, apparently," Naeff said. "The Empress is waiting to return on your mark." …
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
He would have to thank Tuon for returning.
A Memory of Light, A Field of Glass
MacArthur, a parallel of Mat (see Mat essay), controversially minimised the responsibility and culpability of the Emperor and other members of the Japanese Imperial family for the war and protected them from prosecution for war crimes. While Emperor Hirohito was not put on trial, he was forced to explicitly reject the traditional claim that the Emperor of Japan was divine. There is still dispute about whether he became a common citizen or retained special status related to his religious offices and whether this holds true for the Japanese Emperors following him. Tuon’s status may also change after Tarmon Gai’don. Mat is in the ambivalent position of having married Tuon and become Prince of the Ravens while the Seanchan are aggressors. For a while Mat was at war with the Empire, although not with Tuon (Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak). Being an advocate of democracy, he may also persuade her to make changes to Seanchan society in the future as General MacArthur did.
After World War II Emperor Hirohito undertook research in marine biology, and described several dozen species of jellyfish new to science. This ties in with Tuon’s parallels as a goddess of the sea.
Hatshepsut, “Foremost of Noble Ladies” (died 1358 BC), was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt, ruling for 22 years and generally regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs. Her nephew/step-son Thutmose III was her junior co-regent and he became Egypt’s most successful general. Tuon’s consort/husband Mat is the mainland’s most successful general. We first meet Tuon as High Lady Tuon – definitely foremost of noble ladies since she is a higher Lady than Suroth as Mat observes (Winter’s Heart, Pink Ribbons).
After successes in warfare early in her reign, Hatshepsut then ruled over a long peaceful era. She re-established trading relationships lost during foreign occupation and brought great wealth to Egypt. She oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt (probably the Horn of Africa) regarded as a long and remote journey by the Egyptians. The expedition set out in her name with five large ships. Tuon sailed with the hundreds of great ships of the Return across an ocean, an expedition over a hundred years in the planning. Until her chats with Rand, Egwene and Artur Hawkwing, she considered the rulers of the mainland nations to occupy positions usurped from her ancestors. After Tarmon Gai’don, trade may well be established between the Seanchan and main continents.
Proud of her military success, Hatshepsut associated herself with the lioness war goddess Sekhmet. She built the Temple of Pakhet (a combination of the lioness war goddesses Bast and Sekhmet). Tuon’s sigil of two lions harnessed to an ancient war cart is an allusion to Sekhmet, and her former Truthspeaker, Semirhage, is a parallel of Sekhmet (see Semirhage essay). Sekhmet was the goddess of war who was sent by Ra to destroy his mortal enemies and she was so enthusiastic about this task that she almost killed all of humanity. She was associated both with disease and with healing which at that time was linked to magic. Semirhage is extremely skilled at Healing but also at killing: she assassinated all of the Seanchan Imperial family. Most unusually for a Seanchan, Tuon has a positive attitude to Healing with the One Power and could learn to channel herself. The construction of a temple to Sekhmet represents a concrete link between Tuon and Semirhage.
Over twenty years after her death, an attempt was made to remove Hatshepsut from historical records by chiselling off her cartouches and images from walls and disfiguring or destroying her statues. They tried to kill all memorials of Hatshepsut - death to her memory! Tuon’s entire family has been killed and attempts have been, and will be, made on her life. The knowledge of her Truthspeaker’s identity and Tuon’s ability to learn to channel, or her actual channelling may cause a backlash movement to reject her as Empress. Note that damane are:
completely written out of all family records and from the citizen rollsjust as was attempted for Hatshepsut. Any sul’dam, even Tuon, could face this in the near future.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
The Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra (69 BC – 30 BC) was a direct descendant of Ptolemy I Soter, founder of the Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt and the general of Alexander the Great who conquered Egypt. There was much contention for the throne among her immediate family, with usurpation by, and murders of, her siblings. Legend has it that after the Romans arrived in Egypt Cleopatra had herself rolled up in a carpet to be smuggled into Julius Caesar’s presence. It was effective: Caesar became her lover and decided not to annex Egypt, instead promoting Cleopatra's claim to the throne. After a war lasting six months Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne, with Ptolemy XIV as new co-ruler. Cleopatra’s legendary, but ultimately fanciful, saying was “As surely as I shall yet dispense justice from the [Roman] Capitol…”
Tuon is a Justice figure (see below) and she planned to conquer Tar Valon, a parallel of Rome (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay). Half her siblings died scheming for the Crystal Throne (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path). Mat, Fortune’s favourite and a great general like Julius Caesar (see Mat essay) rolled Tuon up in a wall-hanging to smuggle her out of Ebou Dar (Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colours).
Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Her patron goddess was Isis (another parallel of Tuon, see below), and during her reign it was believed that she was the embodiment of the goddess.
The above monarchs were all deified to a degree, as is the Seanchan empress. Empresses revered in this fashion are usually regarded as Mother of the Empire. The Seanchan Empress was expected to literally produce many children, and Tuon is making a prompt start. There are a few other mother goddesses with parallels to Tuon.
Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty
As an Empress figure, Tuon is also linked with the Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty, the Mother Goddess, just as her consort, Mat is linked with Celtic heroes (see Mat essay). The Wheel of Time series has many links with Celto-Arthurian myth, the Matter of Britain. These are detailed in the Arthurian Myth Parallels essay. The Mother Goddess represents the feminine principle and more especially, the earth from which all life springs. She requires a worthy consort, who not only joins in physical union with her and engenders new life within her, but is able to protect her and the Land. In return she bestows upon him the right to rule the Land.
From Crossroads of Twilight on, Tuon tested Mat to see what measure of man he was. He literally protected her, yet voluntarily released her to her responsibilities, thus proving himself a worthy consort and ruler. She then completed the marriage ceremony and the consummation of their marriage has been fruitful.
One of the names Tuon chose when she became Empress is Devi. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess, and as such is related to ‘the Goddess’ of the Celts, the Goddess of Sovereignty. She embodies the Feminine without which the male divinity is impotent. In other words, she completes him and provides balance. Devi is a later arrival in Hinduism: the early Hindu goddesses such as Lakshmi (a parallel of Tuon, see above) and Parvati were subsumed into her as one ultimate goddess. Tuon’s mother Radhanan also had a Hindu name so it is not surprising that Tuon adopted the name of the Hindu Divine Mother or Goddess of Sovereignty.
Cybele was the Phrygian goddess of the fertile Earth, nature and wild animals (lions in particular). She became part of the Roman pantheon and was depicted wearing a belted long dress, high cylindrical hat, and a veil covering her whole body. Lions draw her chariot. Tuon’s sigil is two golden lions harnessed to an ancient war cart. Of all the animals in the menagerie, she was most interested in the black-maned lion (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds). Tuon was under the veil from Winter’s Heart to Knife of Dreams and likes to wear belts to emphasise her waist. The Seanchan empress is expected to be fertile.
In the Aeneid, Cybele gave her sacred trees to the Trojans so that they could build their ships to flee Troy, and then went to Zeus and begged him to make the ships indestructible. He did so, and when the ships had fulfilled their purpose of bringing Aeneas and his army to Italy they turned into sea nymphs rather than be destroyed by fire by Aeneas’ enemies. The Seanchan great ships sailed across an ocean for the Return defended by the sul’dam and damane aboard. Windfinders and sul’dam have each tried to set the other side’s ships alight and in Ebou Dar many ships were destroyed.
Isis was the mother goddess in Ancient Egypt, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was goddess of fertility, nature and, later, magic. Roses, symbols of light, love and perfection, were used in her worship. Isis literally means "she of the throne" and her original headdress was a throne. As the personification of the throne, she was an important representation of the pharaoh's power and provided the throne on which the pharaoh sat. By the New Kingdom Isis was regarded as the mother and protector of the pharaoh. The Crystal Throne plays a large part in the Empress’ power, since it is a ter’angreal which causes anyone who approaches it to feel immense awe and wonder and an urge to obey (The Path of Daggers, A Time For Iron). By enhancing the Empress’ will and command, the throne protects her rule. The emblem of the Daughter of the Nine Moons is the raven and roses. One of Mat’s presents to Tuon was:
a little cluster of red silk rosebuds, complete with short stems and glistening leaves that looked as real as nature, only more perfect.Tuon prized them: she wore them in Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers, and packed them carefully for the trip back to Ebou Dar (Knife of Dreams, Under An Oak).
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds
Isis married her brother, Osiris, Lord of the Underworld (a position that was originally probably held by Anubis, a parallel of Mat, see Mat essay) and she was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered and dismembered by Seth. She gathered and reassembled his body parts together and learned magic necessary for restoring Osiris to life. The association of Isis with magic was a later addition to her myth, but it became a very strong one. Isis is especially associated with magic of protection and healing. Many of her priests were Healers and were believed to have the ability to control the weather and interpret dreams.
Osiris is a parallel of Rand (see Rand essay). Tuon met the Dragon Reborn and made a treaty with him.
Tuon has the ability to learn to channel and may eventually be forced by events to do so, especially to protect or Heal someone. Most unusually for a Seanchan she has a positive attitude to Healing with the One Power; she learned about it from her Aes Sedai damane and has taught it to her other damane (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida). It is interesting that one of Tuon’s names, Athaem, is very similar to athame, which is a ceremonial black-handled knife used in Wicca (see photo right), and thus has associations with magic, especially considering that Tuon kept this name when she became Empress, and one of her first actions as Empress was to send Bloodknives to kill Aes Sedai witches.
Prior to this late change in the nature of Isis, the rule of Ma'at (another parallel of Tuon, see below) had governed the correct actions of the Ancient Egyptians for thousands of years with little need for magic, just as the knowledge that sul’dam can learn to channel may finally, after a thousand years, change the lack of a legal place in Seanchan society for the independent use of magic.
Justice, Order and Piety
One of Tuon’s important characteristics is a passion for justice and the proper order of things as she acknowledges:
Order, Tuon thought, keeping her face still. I represent order.Her balance was disturbed due to dispensing injustice to a damane (Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides) which is why she entered Ebou Dar under the veil. In Knife of Dreams As If the World Were Fog, she declared she has never broken her word in her life. Damane and marath’damane seem to be Tuon’s judicial weakness, being the judicial flaw in Seanchan society. When Tuon met with Egwene, whom she openly acknowledged as a queen though her opposite, she was implying she would treat her with respect, and thus not lie to her, but Egwene insisted on having her channelling abilities recognised, so Tuon changed speech and lied to her:
- The Gathering Storm, Gambits
Bringing the world back into order was going to be very, very difficult. Perhaps impossible. Tuon straightened her back. She had not thought to become Empress for many years yet. But she would do her duty.
- The Gathering Storm, Gambits
Order must be brought to the world. If she had to do that by lowering her eyes slightly and meeting with the Dragon Reborn, then so be it.
- The Gathering Storm, Gambits
Chaos. The entire world was chaos… Order. Here in Ebou Dar, there was order, even in the fields of tents and wagons outside the city. Seanchan soldiers patrolled and kept the peace; there were plans to clean out the Rahad. Just because one was poor was not a reason—or an excuse—to live without law. But this city was just a tiny, tiny pocket of order in a world of tempest.
- The Gathering Storm, Gambits
May she live forever. may she be strong enough to live forever. May she be strong enough to lead us to victory. She would bring order to this world. That was her goal.
- A Memory of Light, To Ignore The Omens
"I needed to meet you," Fortuona said. "You are my opposite. I have agreed to join this peace the Dragon offered, but there are conditions." ...and her lie is promptly exposed. As the coaxing song goes: “Dilly, Dilly come and be killed" – or in this case, enslaved. Tuon doesn’t feel the need to be truthful to marath’damane, perhaps because she can rationalise that they are not fully human. However, she also seriously deliberated whether to keep her word to the Dragon and his peace treaty (A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens), and Mat's exhortations and the desire to keep his belief in her honour, may have played as much part in her doing so, as did making a strategically sound decision. The fact that trickster Mat had to pressure the Justice and Order figure Tuon to keep her word shows the corruption of the Last Days and the need for Rand to grant the world respite from the Dark One.
"Natural indeed," Egwene said softly. "This is why I insist that you see me as I am, for I represent the ultimate proof that your society and empire are built upon falsehoods. Here I stand, a woman you insist should be collared for the common good. And yet I display none of the wild or dangerous tendencies that you claim I should have. So long as I am free from your collars, I prove to every man and woman who draws breath that you are a liar."
The other Seanchan murmured. Fortuona herself maintained a cool face.
"You would be much happier with us," Fortuona said.
"Oh, would I?" Egwene said.
"Yes. You speak of hating the collar, but if you were to wear it and see, you would find it a more peaceful life. We do not torture our damane. We care for them, and allow them to live lives of privilege."
"You don't know, do you?" Egwene asked.
"I am the Empress," Fortuona said. "My domination extends across seas, and the realms of my protection encompass all that humankind knows and thinks. If there are things I do not know, they are known by those in my Empire, for I am the Empire."
"Delightful," Egwene said. "And does your Empire realize that I wore one of your collars? That I was once trained by your sul'dam?"
Fortuona stiffened, then rewarded Egwene with a look of shock, although she covered it immediately.
"I was in Falme," Egwene said. "A damane, trained by Renna. Yes, I wore your collar, woman. I found no peace there. I found pain, humiliation, and terror."
"Why did I not know of this?" Fortuona asked loudly, turning. "Why did you not tell me?"
- A Memory of Light, Considerations
It is no coincidence that the Shadow tried to strike at Tuon by posing as her while committing a crime (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll).
Justice’s scales if used impartially will find the truth. Her sword is for action based on truth and this she hands to her champion.
- Robert Place, Annotated Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery
Justice Tarot Card
The Justice Tarot card depicts a woman holding a pair of scales and a sword (see Justice cards: US Games Waite-Smith tarot right and Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian tarot below).
Mat has frequently likened Tuon to a judge and described her as a hanging magistrate in Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak. His description is apt: she continually thinks of the Law and pronounced sentence on the dead Renna:
“She earned death by betraying the Empire, and she would have betrayed you as easily. She was trying to betray you. What you did was justice, and I name it so.” Her tone said that if she named a thing, then it was well and truly named.Justice is considered the feminine complement of the Fool Tarot card by some occultists (Lon Milo Duquette, Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot), just as Tuon is married to Mat, who has parallels to the Fool (see Mat essay).
- Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers
She has come with the Return to reclaim what had been stolen from her ancestor (Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides) and believes that the law will triumph even in the Last Days:
Eventually, the traitors would be punished, and the thief, the property restored to its rightful owners, and the marath'damane leashed, but those things had to wait on what was more important.Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues and Tuon is certainly shown as virtuous. For instance, she hasn’t, so far as we know, tried to assassinate her siblings before they struck first. It is when Mat shows Tuon that he can be just and merciful that she allows him to kiss her:
- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog
"A strange man, who lets poisonous serpents go," Tuon said. "From the fellow's reaction, I assume a blacklance is poisonous?"She herself also shows mercy, such as when she killed the choking woman who attacked them outside the hell in Maderin (Knife of Dreams, A Hell in Maderin).
"Very." he told her. "But snakes don't bite anything they can't eat unless they're threatened." He put a foot in the stirrup.
"You may kiss me. Toy."
- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida
Two justice goddesses with similarities to Tuon are Themis and Ma’at.
Themis was the Ancient Greek goddess of divine order, law, justice and custom. Judges were often regarded as Servants of Themis. She was the second wife of Zeus and the mother of many children, including the Horae (Seasons), Eunomia ("Order" or “Rule of Law”), Dike ("Justice" or “Trial”), Eirene ("Peace"), and the Moirae (Fates).
As Seanchan Empress, Tuon is expected to produce many children and has already shown her fertility. Tuon had extensive discussions with Setalle Anan on the appropriate order, customs and laws of society, such as those regarding slavery and damane:
"I've told you often enough it's a different world than you're used to." Mistress Anan murmured, "but you still don't quite believe it, do you?"Tuon has imposed order and law in Ebou Dar, Tarabon, and Amadicia, and seems very certain that she knows the proper way society should function. Until her abduction by Mat, she was very keen, like all Seanchan, on there being a clearly defined place for each person with a fairly narrow range of correct behaviour for each place.
"Just because a thing is a certain way," Tuon replied, "doesn't mean it should be that way, even if it has been for a long time."
"Some might say the same of your people, my Lady."
"Some might." Tuon let it rest there, though she usually enjoyed her private conversations with the woman. Mistress Anan argued against leashing marath'damane, as might be expected, and even against keeping da'covale of all things, yet they were discussions rather than arguments, and Tuon had made her concede a few points. She had hopes of bringing the woman around eventually.
- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog
Ma’at was the personification of truth, balance, harmony, order, law, morality, and justice to the Ancient Egyptians. She created order from chaos and regulated the universe and the actions of humans and gods to prevent everything from returning to chaos. The pharaoh was “Lord of Ma’at” and his decrees should be inspired by her because an impious or unjust ruler could bring disaster on the land and people. Egyptians believed that without Ma'at there would be only chaos, ending the world; hence it was necessary for Pharaoh to follow Ma’at and deliver just law.
The Shadow thrives on chaos and anarchy and their main tactic in these last days was to spread disorder to weaken the Light by dividing its forces. It was effective: the Aes Sedai were tied up in civil war, as was the Seanchan continent, the forces of the Whitecloaks were split, etc. Tuon, the Seanchan pharaoh, diligently follows the law and supports the customs of her society. She is determined to bring order to the land, is a firm believer in law and is pious too:
"This is a night for prayer," she told him before going in with her maid. "Do you know nothing, Toy? The dead walking is a sign that Tarmon Gai'don is near."In the Underworld, the souls of the dead were weighed against Ma’at’s feather by Anubis to see if they qualified for paradise.
- Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota
Ma’at’s role in judging the dead leads inevitably to the Underworld itself and Tuon (Ma’at) and Mat (Anubis, see Mat essay) have parallels to rulers of the Underworld.
The theme of the living dead is strong in The Gathering Storm. Mat as King of the Dead was able to avoid the living dead trap of Hinderstap; his consort Tuon as Queen of the Dead actually sent out what are effectively living dead, assassins she declared dead with her blessing to do her bidding as though they were shades from the Underworld. The bloodknives are like the Lord of the Grave’s Grey Men but are not soulless.
had been dodging assassinations since she could walk, and she had survived them all. She anticipated them. In a way, she thrived because of them.Only the Queen of the Underworld would thrive on death attempts.
- The Gathering Storm,
Her people will continually wish her as Empress to live forever – the Queen of the Dead does not die? (When she finally begins to channel, Tuon will indeed live for what seems like forever to the average person.)
Tuon has been declared dead twice before:
Only a few were aware that she had vanished twice before, and had been reported dead, to the very arrangement of her funeral rites, all by her own contriving. Whatever the reasons for her disappearance, though, he had to find and protect her. So far he had no clue how. Swallowed by the storm. Or perhaps by the Lady of the Shadows. There had been countless attempts to kidnap or assassinate her, beginning on the day of her birth.and in The Gathering Storm, demonstrating how ‘three times makes true’ in the Wheel of Time series, she declared ‘Tuon’ dead. However Tuon is not exactly dead, but rather reborn, since her old name is still contained within her new name.
- Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll
Tuon is not a goddess of death (that is Semirhage, see Semirhage essay) but she is Queen of the Underworld, having been touched by death so many times and lived with death at her shoulder. In many mythologies they are two different roles, as they are here.
In Aztec mythology, Mictecacihuatl is Queen of Mictlan, the Underworld, ruling over the afterlife with her husband Mictlantecuhtli, a parallel of Mat (see Mat essay). Her role was to keep watch over the bones of the dead and preside over the ancient festivals of the dead. Mictecacihuatl is known as the Lady of the Dead because she was sacrificed soon after her birth. Attempts have been made to kill Tuon since the day of her birth and her whole life so far has been sacrificed to the good of the Empire.
In Ancient Greek mythology Persephone (also known as Kore) was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture (see photo right). She was abducted by Hades, King of the Underworld, as shown in the painting below. Upon learning of the abduction, her mother became distraught and neglected the harvest and the fruitfulness of the Earth, resulting in famine. Zeus therefore commanded Hades to release Persephone to Demeter, but because Persephone had eaten a single pomegranate seed in the Underworld, she could not be completely freed but had to remain one-third of the year with Hades, spending the other two-thirds with her mother (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Persephone’s son is Plutus, “wealth”.
Mat also captured his future wife, Tuon, one of whose names is Kore, and has been pursued by her Deathwatch Guards, rather than her mother. It is now ‘coincidentally’ a time when famine and pestilence have appeared. Those nobles with the Return were distraught by Tuon’s disappearance and what it portended for the success of the Return, some even making their funeral arrangements (Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll). In a nice little joke by Jordan, Mat, the King of Dead, took his Queen of the Underworld to a Hell in Maderin at her request.
Mat surrendered Tuon more voluntarily than his parallel Hades did, and as this parallel indicates they have regular periods apart when they are carrying out separate duties.
Tuon and the Return arrived in Ebou Dar just as the seasons were restored with the Bowl of Winds, but unlike the Persephone myth, there was no corresponding restoration of fertility with her return.
Tuon and Mat are both associated with great wealth, just like Hades (wealth from inheritance) and Persephone (wealth from the land).
In Finnish mythology the Underworld is called Tuonela and is ruled by Tuoni and Tuonetar. Vainamoinen, a shamanistic hero (and parallel of Rand, see Rand essay), travels to Tuonela to seek the knowledge of the dead. Tuonetar ferries him over the river Tuoni to the Underworld but he is not given the spells he was looking for and barely manages to escape the Underworld. The first time Rand tried to meet with ‘Tuon’ he barely escaped alive. His second meeting, this time with the genuine Tuon, did not go as planned either; Tuon refused to agree to the treaty Rand wanted. But in another example of three times making true, Rand's meetng with her in Ebou Dar resulted in a treaty that will survive his death.
Another hero to visit Tuonela is Lemminkainen, the Finnish Trickster God (and a parallel of Mat, see Mat essay). He was killed and his body thrown into the river Tuoni. The position of consort to the Empress or Prince of the Ravens is dangerous as Tuon's father ultimately discovered(Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds).
In Celtic mythology, the Blessed Lands far to the West are an Otherworld. The Seanchan lands also have fairly mythical status, since until now no one has ever returned from them. Tuon has a parallel in Emer, the chosen wife of the Irish hero Cu Chulainn. Emer’s father would not allow Cu Chulainn to marry her until he had been trained in warfare by Scáthach in Scotland. Even when Cu Chulainn returned successfully educated, he had to take Emer (along with her sister and a lot of money) by force from her father, in some stories having to kill her entire family. Despite being a forced marriage, they were happy together. Mat, a parallel of Cu Chulainn (see Mat essay), abducted Tuon with her maid Seleucia. Tuon’s entire family was not killed by Mat, but by Semirhage. Mat was already in love with Tuon before she completed the marriage ceremony, and she thinks:
she might be able to come to love him.She always knew her marriage would be far more for the Empire than her own preference.
- Knife of Dreams, Under An Oak
The raven is a bird of wisdom and intelligence (see Animal Symbolism essay). 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 linked with magic as well as the Underworld. The Seanchan’s emblem is the raven, and they have an evil reputation in much of the mainland, having brought war and slavery to many. The symbolism of the raven indicates that some Seanchan custom and belief is unethical, and may have been corrupted by the Shadow (who also have raven symbolism). The power of the Seanchan empire is built on collared damane (Winter’s Heart, A Matter of Property). Some of these damane had foretellings which were compiled as the Essanik cycle. The Seanchan prophecies differ from the older Karaethon cycle of the mainland (see Prophecies of the Dragon article).
In the case of the Daughter of the Nine Moons, the raven symbolism is modified by the rose, which symbolises love and perfection (see above): she is the flower of their raven-like society. Tuon has links with the Underworld (see above) and with magic, since, apart from owning at least six damane (and hundreds more as Empress), she can learn to channel herself.
There is a story that England will fall if ever the ravens abandon the Tower of London. In a neat reversal, the Seanchan ravens intended to attack the White Tower (a parallel of the Tower of London, which also contains a White Tower) and collar all Aes Sedai. At one point Tuon said she was considering making Tar Valon her capital (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota).
In the fable The Raven and the Fox by Aesop, the raven was tricked by the hungry fox into opening its beak and dropping its cheese, which the fox then ate. Mat lies convincingly, as Tuon discovered when Mat tricked her that he did not know the Dragon Reborn (Knife of Dreams, As If All the World Were Fog). Tuon was warned to beware of Mat the fox. The Seanchan forces seeking Tuon were also fooled by “the fox that makes the ravens fly” (Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds). Now Tuon, most amusingly considering the fable, has married Mat, making him Prince of the Ravens, an honoured and honorary raven.
Ravens are harbingers of misfortune and death and tie in with two of Tuon’s major attributes regarding who lives, who dies - Luck and the underworld. Her name change neatly summarises this: Tuon is dead but her name is within Fortuona.
Luck and Fortune
Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck, fortune and fate (see painting right). She was much propitiated because she was fickle, bringing bad luck as often as good. In a medieval poem set to music by Carl Orff she was hailed as O fortuna imperatrix mundi - Fortuna, empress of the world - which pretty much matches Tuon’s role.
Fortuna was linked with the Egyptian Goddess Isis (a parallel of Tuon). Tyche is the ancient Greek equivalent of Fortuna and she was said to be a daughter of Hermes (a parallel of Mat, see Mat essay) and Aphrodite (a parallel of Tuon, see above), or considered as one of the Oceanids, daughters of the sea and river deities Oceanus and Tethys. Both Tyche and Fortuna were depicted with a cornucopia (of plenty), ship's rudder (to steer fate with), ball (its rolling is hard to control) and wheel (the inevitable change of luck), as shown in the illustration below left. The ancient Greeks attributed disasters without obvious causes to the goddess Tyche.
Tuon has strong links with sea goddesses (see above), having travelled the ocean with the Return to change the fortunes and fate of the mainland. The Return has brought prosperity or at least stability to some, but has brought others down and changed the lives of all. Mat saw that the Return can’t be undone or even easily controlled (Crossroads of Twilight, Time to be Gone).
While Tuon criticises others for being superstitious, she is even more so herself, as much as any desperate devotee of the goddess of luck, constantly using omens as a guide because she believes they are visions of fate shown by the Pattern (The Gathering Storm, Gambits), regarding the seeress Min with reverence, and, wonderful irony, having her fortune told.
Chance, or fortune, was believed by the Romans to be linked to strength of character; a person’s flaws, especially if that person were very important, would bring calamitous misfortune. Likewise, Rand is one with the Land and when corrupted by the Dark One’s taint and using the True Power (same thing) brought darkness and evil events to the Land. It was this aura of darkness around Rand which spurred Tuon to resist Rand’s will and to refuse to make a treaty with him (The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Darkness).
An exhortation to Tyche says:
"Tykhe, beginning and end for mankind, you sit in Sophia’s seat and give honour to mortal deeds; from you comes more good than evil..."Tuon follows her family custom and has a Sof’eia (a parallel of Sophia, goddess of wisdom), a Truthspeaker, not sitting in her seat, but standing next to it, to ensure that wise and just decisions and judgements are made. Her efforts to restore order will hopefully ultimately lead to more good than evil, but Tuon is also avenging Justice and a goddess of war and the underworld as well, so she will be the fickle mistress of fate for many.
- Stobaeus, Anthology, Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 1019
Tyche’s spouse was Agathos Daimon ("good spirit"), a parallel of Mat (see Mat essay). Nemesis (“fair distribution”), another daughter of Oceanus and the goddess of divine retribution, was Tyche’s frequent companion, or even the goddess of fortune’s dark side. Nemesis was originally the maiden goddess of proportion, distributing good or bad fortune in due measure to each person as they deserved, but came to represent justice avenging any disturbance to this right proportion and restoring the proper order of things.
In Rome, especially, her cult was very popular, particularly among soldiers, by whom she was worshiped as patroness of the drill ground (Nemesis Campestris).Tuon, with her hundreds of thousands of soldiers, many of them utterly dedicated to her, played the role of Nemesis, leading the Return to avenge the wrongs done to Artur Hawkwing:
- Encyclopedia Britannica
she had come to reclaim what had been stolen from her ancestor.She planned to exact justice and return the mainland to proper order (as the Seanchan see it). Tuon’s parallels with justice and order goddesses (see above) show her ability to foster a fair and peaceful society, while her links with Nemesis indicate her vengeance on those who would damage that society and escape justice. Nemesis is often regarded as the inexorable exactor of retribution, no less for being postponed; in the Seanchan’s case after a delay of a thousand years.
- Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides
Artur Hawkwing was badly served by Aes Sedai (servants of all) and, as Luthair discovered, so was the Seanchan mainland; in retribution all female channellers in Seanchan have been enslaved. It is a lasting irony that Empress Fortuona can learn to channel, and may yet do so - Nemesis hoisted by her own petard. At Mat's request, Artur Hawkwing met with Tuon after the Last Battle, a meeting that may have forced her to rethink her desire for vengeance.
Christians regarded the capricious and often disastrous changes in fortune as inevitable and part of God’s unknowable plan which should be accepted. Ishamael thought the Seanchan Return to conquer the mainland and collar the Aes Sedai a plot of the Shadow only:
“I whispered again, and the High King sent his armies across the Aryth Ocean, across the World Sea, and sealed two dooms. The doom of his dream of one land and one people, and a doom yet to come.”But it is also a part of the Pattern, having been described occultly in the Prophecies:
- The Eye of the World, The Stag and Lion
”What does it mean that he shall bind the nine moons to serve him?”Fortune is Fortuona/Tuon and she has already ridden with her consort Mat, "the fox that makes the ravens fly".
- The Dragon Reborn, The Hunt Begins
Fortune rides like the sun on high
With the fox that makes the ravens fly.
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds
In medieval times Fortuna continued to be feared and propitiated because of her renowned caprices. She was depicted in a variety of ways: literally two-faced with one face smiling, one frowning; or with one face half white, half black, to show her duality; or blindfolded to emphasise her arbitrary dispositions. As mentioned above Justice too wears a blindfold to symbolise her impartiality. In A Memory of Light Tuon was tempted to withold military aid to the mainlanders, thereby ensuring disaster. She only changed the fortune of the Light's forces at the last moment.
Is the Return justice as Tuon believes? Or is it the fickle turning of Fortune’s wheel bringing benefits to some and disaster to others?
While the Seanchan leadership has concentrated on the Return, they have been infiltrated by the Shadow and sabotaged. One of the Forsaken even stood at Tuon’s side to influence her, part of the dark side of Fortune, and another subverted her war counsels. The clearest thinking Seanchan officers such as Tylee saw how they furthered the Shadows’ cause by prosecuting the Return and attacking the Aes Sedai instead of allying with the mainlanders and fighting Shadowspawn. Tuon and the Seanchan played a dual role, bringing both stability and destruction.
Tuon is indeed dual: she is potentially her own Nemesis as well as the Nemesis of the westlands. She may be forced by events to channel to save somebody or maybe the Empire in some way, sacrificing herself and lowering her eyes about as far as possible. Fortune’s wheel raises people up and lowers people down, as the Wheel of Fortune Tarot card shows.
Wheel of Fortune
Fortuna spins her Wheel of Fortune at random, changing the positions of people - some suffer great misfortune, others receive great fortune. The Wheel of Fortune shows the change of fate; the rise and fall of people’s fortunes from nadir to zenith and back during the passage of time.
Some wheels, like the one painted in the Visconti-Sforza deck, depict scrolls inscribed with words fluttering out of the mouths of the crowned king at the top and the three other figures clinging to the rim: “Regnabo, regno, regnavi, sum sine regno” (I will reign, I reign, I have reigned, I am without reign) – which tell their own story. Dame Fortune herself sometimes sits at the centre of the turning wheel, blindfolded to demonstrate just how arbitrary she is.or she may stand on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate (see Il Meneghello Soprafino Tarocco Wheel of Fortune card right).
- Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot
Even the highest are not immune to her powers:
The Mort le roi Artu, a thirteenth-century Arthurian text on which Malory drew for his Mort d’Arthur, tells us that on the eve of King Arthur’s disastrous battle with Mordred, the king dreamed presciently that he was riding the Wheel of Fortune, only to be cast down from its highest peak.Rand is a parallel of King Arthur (see Rand essay) and he was raised from lowly origins to be high king or emperor, but has also been treated as dat’sang, and was lowered again by fate, by the Pattern, to a new anonymous life after his battles with Moridin and the Dark One.
- Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot
Even Fortuna herself is vulnerable to changes in fate: not just to death, as Tuon thinks, but also to the total obliteration from normal society and archives that damane undergo when they are collared.
Fortuna is the personification of luck, so lucky Mat is now married to ‘luck’. Note that she literally didn’t become Lady Luck until she first became his wife. Lady Luck is beloved of gamblers; be they dicers or card players. The mainlanders believed that Lady Luck had abandoned them in the Last Battle.
Queen of Spades (or Swords in Latin decks)
As well as being ‘Black Maria’ in the Hearts family of card games, the card unlucky or very expensive to capture, the Queen of Spades has a rather sinister reputation in cartomancy: signifying widowhood, separation, privation and mourning. Empress Tuon, with her severity, her combat skills (using any weapon), her leashed damane and alien beasts, and her sinister former Truthspeaker Semirhage, makes an appropriate Queen of Spades/Swords (see US Games Waite-Smith Tarot Queen of Swords card right). It is not only unlucky to capture her, it is death to even lay a hand on her. She mourned the death of her entire family and was separated from her husband when he left the world on a very dangerous quest.
The Jack of Diamonds (a parallel of Mat, see Mat essay) and the Queen of Spades is a high-scoring, potentially winning combination in the Bezique/Pinochle family of card games (David Parlett, A History of Card Games). It is an unconventional, almost 'illicit', union; a more 'proper' marriage for the Queen would be with the King of Spades. Mat the Fool and god of wealth is surely an extreme Jack of Diamonds (here they are paired, above right), although Mat is more likely to eye rubies than diamonds! The Pattern went to a great deal of trouble to arrange their union, so that the machinations of the Shadow could be undone and the Seanchan allied with the mainland nations.
The raven marrying the fox which tricked it is unlikely; as incongruous as the marriage of Justice with a wild card, a sign of the desperation, madness and turmoil of the Last Days. The Empress marrying the Jester is as eyebrow-raising as the Queen of Spades marrying outside her suit and rank to the Jack of Diamonds. However, Mat and Tuon are firmly united as rulers of wealth, battle and the Underworld.
The Empress who could become a damane, Nemesis who is her own nemesis: such is the chaos of the Last Days.
Written by Linda, June 2009 and updated October 2013