This series of articles will detail what we know about the various objects in the Wheel of Time world that use the Power for a particular purpose – what they do, how they are activated, their whereabouts, etc. Most of these objects by far are ter’angreal, but Portal Stones also belong in this category. Other objects such as stasis boxes may use the Power in some way to work, since the Power is at the heart of creation and drives the Wheel of Time universe. These objects, and others, will all be discussed in turn.
Ter’angreal (TEER-ahn-GREE-ahl) were/are made to do specific things. Most were made in the Age of Legends and for many of these their original purpose has long been forgotten. Over the years, a considerable number of Aes Sedai have been killed or burned out trying to discover the function of ter’angreal. Only a small percentage of the Tower’s ter’angreal are currently used and these usages may be nothing like the purposes their makers intended (The Great Hunt, The Testing). Some sisters of the Brown Ajah have made ter’angreal their life’s study (The Dragon Reborn, Punishments). The most recent of these was Martine Janata, who began soon after she reached the shawl and continued for over 40 years until she was accidentally burned out more than 25 years ago (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving). She was very cautious, unlike Elayne, yet still came to grief.
While some ter'angreal require channelling to work, others will work simply with the presence of any woman who can channel. It is likely that many ter’angreal can be used with either saidin or saidar, but we have not seen any man attempt to use one. Certainly Portal Stones can be used by either men or women (Rand and Lanfear, for instance), and the defense system jewellery ter’angreal respond to either saidin or saidar. The male access key is the only ter’angreal attuned to saidin that we have seen. There are even ter’angreal that will function for anyone at all, channellers or non-channellers (The Great Hunt, The Testing) and ter’angreal that are activated by certain kinds of singing (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill). In the Age of Legends, there were ‘standing flows’ which enabled ter’angreal that would otherwise require the Power to be used by non-channellers (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark).
Ter’angreal vary greatly in size and can be so immense that they require men and horses, or even the Power, to move (The Path of Daggers, A Quiet Place). Many, but not all, are unbreakable except with the One Power (The Path of Daggers, Threads). A few are cuendillar and can’t be broken at all.
Ter’angreal are of varying strength (Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes in box 55). With those that require channelling, a channeller with insufficient strength may be trapped by the ter'angreal and can’t break free. If they aren’t strong enough to make the ter'angreal work fully, it may work partially, or it may force them into drawing more of the power than they can handle, resulting in full or partial burnout or death.
Very few ter’angreal in Aes Sedai possession "perform the same function" (The Path of Daggers, An Unwelcome Return). This is more a reflection of the comparative rarity of ter’angreal in the late Third Age (and of which the Tower has only a modest sampling) than anything else. In the Age of Legends, there were multiple versions of ter’angreal. For instance we now know of two Oath Rods/binders. Ter’angreal with commonality (some similarity in function) are probably not that rare in the Third Age. However, since Aes Sedai know the function of few ter’angreal, and probably use many of the few they know about in ways different to that which was intended, it would indeed be rare for any commonality to show up.
Commonality can cause resonance, a dangerous situation. When Egwene was tested for Accepted, she left the twisted ring dream ter’angreal in the room where the Accepted ter’angreal was. Both ter’angreal are linked to Tel’aran’rhiod. The resonance built up to such a level that the ter’angreal being used, the Accepted ter’angreal, tried to either shut off the flow from saidar (possibly a built-in safety device) or melt. It took double the normal number of Aes Sedai to keep it operational long enough for Egwene to return (The Dragon Reborn, Sealed).
When a ter’angreal is used in the presence of another with commonality they may both melt and give nearby channellers a massive headache (The Dragon Reborn, Sealed).
In the Age of Legends, the access keys for the Choedan Kal had to be made a great distance away from the sa’angreal statues – the statues they were attuned to - because in the final stages of construction they would otherwise have resonated to the Choedan Kal (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). This would injure, perhaps burn out or kill, any channellers nearby.
Ter’angreal can melt and break if overused. Some can be broken with the One Power and a few by smashing.
If broken, a ter’angreal can no longer correctly perform its function and can injure or damage a channeller that tries to use it, or even just touches it. Egwene picked up a broken female access key in Tel’aran’rhiod, which should have linked her with the female sa’angreal on Tremalking, but it was not able to do so correctly. Lanfear referred to this broken access key as “a fine trap” for an unwary channeller (The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean). It certainly hurt Egwene, and she had trouble releasing the ter’angreal. The Power from the sa’angreal surged back and forth between the access key and Egwene and the crystal sphere of the access key flickered as it did so. Such large and rapid fluctuations in the Power would be painful. This ter’angreal showed no signs of the melting which is typical of overuse or misuse. It had probably broken during the Breaking or Third Age. Some ter’angreal can be smashed, as we saw when Rand and Asmodean fought in Rhuidean (The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean).
When a channeller holds the Power and touches an item, if it is ter’angreal and responds to the same half of the Source the channeller uses, it will feel faintly warm or resonate (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving). It is not known if a channeller can use this method to identify items attuned to the opposite half of the Source, but the method did identify at least one object of the Power that does not require channelling – the Blue Roots Carving (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving and Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill).
Despite her great confidence with ter’angreal, Elayne is not the best at identifying them:
A few of the sisters Elayne had trained showed a greater skill in this than she did herself, but most came nowhere near.
- The Path of Daggers, A Quiet Place
A channeller with this Talent can know what a ter’angreal does, or even sense how to activate it, merely by touching the ter’angreal. Aviendha has the Talent strongly (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill), but Nynaeve may also have it to a degree, since she sensed pain when she picked up the rod ter’angreal that inflicts pain, whereas Elayne felt nothing (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving).
One of the best makers of ter’angreal in the Age of Legends was Jorlen Corbesan. He was:
one of the most talented Aes Sedai before the Breaking, a man who had crafted some of the most amazing ter'angreal Rand had ever seen. Except Rand had not seen them. Those were Lews Therin's memories, not his. Jorlen’s research facility of Sharom had been destroyed—the man himself killed—by the backlash of Power from the Bore.Since the Breaking there have been no known makers of ter’angreal on the main continent prior to Elayne. The Aes Sedai on the Seanchan continent retained some knowledge and ability to design and/or make ter’angreal. The most noted is the a’dam made by Deain to gain the favour of Luthair Paendrag. The only ter’angreal damane know how to make is the a’dam.
- The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood
Elayne held classes on ter’angreal making during Lord of Chaos, but as of Crossroads of Twilight, Secrets, only three other Aes Sedai can make ter’angreal and none as well as Elayne. They are not simple to make. So far she has made a modified a’dam, medallion ter’angreal to protect against direct weaves to a degree, ter’angreal for weaving disguises for those too weak to do so otherwise, and ter’angreal for accessing Tel’aran’rhiod.
Elayne has determined that:
there seemed to be one common thread in those tiny structures for ter'angreal that required channeling to work, and another for those that simply made use of the Power.
- Lord of Chaos, A Matter of Thought
The destruction of a ter’angreal is difficult and dangerous because there may be wild surges of the Power during the process, or wild activations of the ter’angreal and/or variations of the purpose for which it was made (Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes in box 55). This applies even to ter’angreal with quite innocuous functions. In the Age of Legends, when it was judged necessary to destroy a ter’angreal, such destruction was usually done by a circle, though in some cases the circle may have been small.
Written by Linda, August, 2005 and updated May, 2016