This essay discusses the parallels that may have been used to create Balthamel and Halima/Aran’gar.
In the Age of Legends, Balthamel was originally named Eval Ramman and was:
an historian specialising in vanished culturesworking at an institute of higher learning in M’Jinn. Apart from his work not being of sufficient standard to earn the coveted third name, he also had an uncontrolled temper and fondness for consorting with the rougher, criminal elements of society. More than once he was close to being bound against doing violence and the only reason he wasn’t dismissed from his position was probably his strength in the One Power.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Balthamel joined the Shadow to obtain immortality and is believed to have headed an intelligence network which competed with that run by Moghedien. He also set up camps to breed humans as fodder for Trollocs (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). During the Third Age, due to being sealed close to the surface in the Bore, Balthamel’s once handsome body was so affected by the passage of time that he could not bear to have it seen. He also lost the use of his voice. His violent acts at the Eye of the World roused the Green Man to attack and kill him. However, his soul was caught be the Dark One and placed in a new body, this time that of a beautiful woman. Aran’gar, or Halima, as he was named, influenced events among the rebel Aes Sedai. Twice born, he/she longed for immortality from the Dark One.
A twice-born immortal being of great power with many parallels to Balthamel is Dionysus.
Dionysus (Dionysos or Bacchus), the Greco-Roman god of wine and pleasure and the patron deity of agriculture and vegetation, is the main mythological source for Balthamel.
As Dionysus Dendrites ("he of the trees"), he was a powerful fertility god. Balthamel was ironically killed by the Green Man, a constructed agricultural demigod (see Nym and Green Man essay) for violating his garden (The Eye of the World, Meetings at the Eye). Another epithet, Lyaeus ("he who releases"), illustrated Dionysus’ role as a god of relaxation and freedom from worry. At the Forsaken’s gathering in Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News, Halima was very relaxed and confident until Graendal decided to do some needling. Dionysus is also surnamed Dithyrambos ("he of the double door") in reference to his double birth.
There are two versions of Dionysus’ double birth. In one, his mother was Semele, a mortal woman, and his father was Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus's wife, Hera, jealously provoked the pregnant Semele into demanding that Zeus reveal himself in all his glory to her to prove that he was a god. When he did so, she died, since mortals cannot survive looking upon a god. Zeus rescued the as yet unborn Dionysus, however, by sewing him into his thigh. A few months later, Dionysus was born.
In another version, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the underworld. Hera jealously attempted to kill the child, by sending Titans to tear Dionysus to pieces. Zeus drove off the Titans with thunderbolts, but the Titans had already eaten everything but Dionysus’ heart. Zeus used the heart to recreate Dionysus and implant him in the womb of Semele; thus he was twice-born.
Balthamel, too was twice born: after being sealed in the Bore for over three thousand years he was ripped to shreds by vegetation soon after his release, and then some time later, the Dark One, the Lord of the Grave, placed his soul in the body of a beautiful woman.
As a young man, Dionysus was exceptionally attractive. Balthamel, too, was good-looking and very popular with women in the Age of Legends (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). As Halima, he is now a very beautiful woman. In some stories, Dionysus wears the "bassaris" or fox-skin, symbolizing new life. Halima, Balthamel’s new incarnation, attacked Mat, the fox, with saidin in Lord of Chaos, A Sudden Chill, but was foiled by Mat’s medallion. One of Dionysus’ consorts was Aphrodite. Halima teasingly made a sexual challenge to Graendal, Aphrodite’s parallel (see Graendal essay), and was emphatically rejected, but ultimately made an alliance with her (Towers of Midnight, Prologue).
While Apollo (a parallel of Sammael, Semirhage and Asmodean) popularly represents harmony, order, and reason, Dionysus, god of wine, represents emotion and chaos. Balthamel has the reputation of having appetites and emotions that escape his control:
He was said to have a wildfire temper that he often could not control.Graendal used Aran’gar’s lusts to keep her at her palace.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
She [Aran’gar] was going to do something reckless. Osan'gar knew it; there had always been a problem in that regard. Lanfear seemed cautious by contrast.
- Lord of Chaos, Prologue
Demandred hardly scorned fleshly pleasures, but one day her [Halima’s] cravings would be the death of her. As they already had been once.
- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News
Due to his double birth, Dionysus had secret mystery rites in Ancient Greece that were introduced to Ancient Rome as the bacchanalia. At first, they were for women only, but were subsequently extended to include men and also increased in frequency. These festivals were notorious, not only for their drunkenness, sex and violence, but also because many kinds of crimes and political conspiracies were believed to be planned at them.
Balthamel is/was notorious for his violent tendencies and fondness for taverns, and as Halima was with a women-only group, the rebel Aes Sedai, who are thinking of allying themselves with the Asha’man. She incited the rebels to war against the White Tower as part of the Shadow’s conspiracy to mire the Aes Sedai in useless politicking and internal warfare. The photo above shows Dionysus leading the Horae (Seasons) and it reminds me of Halima, Delana and her maid leaving the rebel camp (Knife of Dreams, Call to a Sitting). Halima and Delana are the only female couple to have sex on-screen.
Human sacrifice was part of Dionysius’ rites at first. Certainly the Dionysus myth contains a great deal of cannibalism and violence, appropriate as a parallel for one of the Forsaken.
Dionysus is accompanied by maenads and satyrs.
The maenads (raving ones) were female worshippers of Dionysus who were inspired to ecstatic frenzy, violence, sex, intoxication and mutilation in the Dionysian mystery rites. A group of maenads killed Orpheus (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) as shown in the photo. These dark ladies are parallels of the Black Ajah, and Balthamel instructed those with the rebels on how to further the Shadow’s cause. (Photo credit: Paula Chabot)
Furthermore, Dionysus was believed to sometimes inflict insanity upon women as a curse. This is a parallel of Halima inflicting headaches upon Egwene and probably Compelling her. She has certainly ‘influenced’ Egwene’s decision to keep the Three Oaths, even though the lifespans of Aes Sedai are halved by swearing on the Oath Rod (see Oath Rod section of Ter’angreal article).
While the maenads were female followers of Dionysus, the satyrs were his male followers. They were mortal nature spirits that were an idle worthless race, subversive and cowardly. Half man, half animal (often goat), they loved wine, women and men and roamed the countryside terrorising people. The satyrs are a major source for Trollocs. Balthamel is strongly associated with Trollocs since in the Age of Legends he established camps where humans were kept and bred to feed Trollocs.
In Nonnius’ Dionysiaca, satyrs are described as wearing:
the “terrifying false mask of a sham, voiceless face”when they fought. At the Eye of the World, when we first see Balthamel:
A tight, black leather carapace covered that one's head and face completely, but the front of it was worked into a perfect face, a young man's face, laughing wildly, laughing insanely, frozen forever.and Aginor said that Balthamel no longer spoke with his tongue. Balthamel here combines the mask of the fighting satyrs with the young, wild and insane visage of Dionysus.
- The Eye of the World, Meetings at the Eye
As well as mythological figures, Jordan based the Forsaken on historical figures such as the Nazis and the enemies and notorious people of Ancient Rome. Balthamel/Halima is no exception. He/she has parallels to a few Nazis: Streicher, Sauckel, Kaltenbrunner, and Mueller, and also to the Roman Mark Antony. These will be discussed in turn.
Julius Streicher (1885-1946)
Streicher was the rabidly anti-Semitic editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer and Gauleiter, the Nazi party leader, of Franconia. He was originally a school-teacher; Balthamel worked at an institute of high learning and probably governed an area for the Shadow in the Age of Legends. (Streicher has major parallels with Mesaana, as his occupation shows; see Mesaana essay).
All accounts of Streicher describe him as having a repulsive appearance. When Balthamel was released from the Bore, his appearance was so repulsive he completely covered it over (The Eye of the World, Meetings at the Eye).
Both Balthamel and Streicher had violent tempers:
One oft-told tale concerned a Nuremberg schoolteacher jailed for insulting Streicher. [Streicher] had horse-whipped the teacher senseless. Afterward, Streicher left the prison sighing – “I needed that. Now I feel relaxed.”Balthamel was threatened with being bound against violence more than once in the Age of Legends, and as Halima has killed and assaulted people. Demandred assessed that Aran’gar’s cravings would contribute to her death (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News) and they did since she originally wanted to leave but was manipulated by Graendal into staying and then ended up dying so that Rand would believe Graendal was dead.
He [Streicher] became notorious, even by Nazi standards, for abusing his office.
- Joseph Persico, Nuremberg, Infamy on Trial.
Streicher, a violent, vulgar man, was despised by most of the Nazi high command. While awaiting trial at Nuremberg, Streicher claimed:
"I am the only one in the world who clearly saw the Jewish menace as an historical problem."His knowledge of history was combined with a poor understanding of scientific concepts to develop (and publish) nonsensical racial doctrine. Balthamel is considered unstable and lacking in technical knowledge by the other Forsaken:
- Julius Streicher, 11th November 1945
He [Streicher] astonished Gilbert [the Nuremberg psychologist] with his biblical erudition.
- Joseph Persico, Nuremberg, Infamy on Trial.
"If you had ever read anything besides a history book, you would know they [the access keys] are almost impossible to destroy!" Osan'gar snarled at her.Streicher libelled Goering by claiming he was impotent and couldn’t have fathered a child. Goering retaliated by having Streicher’s businesses and sexual practises investigated. Streicher was ousted from office in 1940 and until the end of the war he lived in obscurity in a village outside Nuremberg, where he continued to publish his newspaper.
- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News
In Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News, Aran’gar annoyed Graendal (a parallel of Goering) by provocatively suggesting they spend some time alone together. Aran’gar spent some time in obscurity: the Green Man killed him, he was then reborn, and was killed a second time because Graendal shielded her so Rand could balefire her.
One of Balthamel’s major responsibilities in the Age of Legends was to establish camps where people were bred to feed the Trolloc armies. This has a parallel in Sauckel and the Nazi slave labour camps.
Fritz Sauckel (1894-1946)
Sauckel was the Nazi leader of Thuringia until 1942, when he was made the Nazi chief of slave labour recruitment. He had authority to use all available manpower including that of workers from occupied areas and of prisoners of war for the German war economy. This involved the deportation of over 5 million people, often under terrible conditions of cruelty and suffering, for slave labour. In Poland alone, tens of thousands of Jewish workers were worked to death. Sauckel ordered that:
"All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure."The people were press-ganged into slavery, with Sauckel himself admitting that:
"out of five million foreign workers who arrived in Germany not even 200,000 came voluntarily”Balthamel committed similar large scale atrocities, establishing camps where people were kept and bred to feed the Shadow’s enormous Trolloc armies. Like Sauckel, he may have governed an area for the Shadow in the Age of Legends (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). (Photo above from www.holocaustresearchproject.org)
- Fritz Sauckel, 1st March, 1944
Another of Balthamel’s parallels, Kaltenbrunner, ran the Nazi concentration camps and an intelligence network. Just as Streicher was split between two Forsaken (Balthamel and Mesaana), so, too, Kaltenbrunner is a major parallel of Balthamel and a minor parallel of Sammael. Aspects of some Nazis were divided among two, or even three, Forsaken in this way to illustrate the effect time has on history and legend.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner (1903-1946)
In the Nazi regime, Kaltenbrunner was the chief of the RSHA (an organization which included the Gestapo, the SD, and the Criminal Police) and chief of Security Police under Himmler from 1943 until the end of World War II.
Soon after joining the Austrian Nazi party, Kaltenbrunner was involved in criminal activities: beating up Austrian citizens, robbing to fund the Nazi party, tapping telephones and instigating riots.
Kaltenbrunner had a large facial scar which he claimed had been earned in a duel – a minor parallel with Sammael (see Sammael essay). Others claimed it was due to being cut by a windscreen in a car accident after a drunken spree.
During Kaltenbrunner’s term in office, millions of people deemed racially, politically or socially undesirable were summarily executed or sent to concentration camps for slave labour and/or mass murder. The Gestapo were responsible for enforcing discipline on the slave labourers and later established a slave labour program of their own. Kaltenbrunner’s subordinate, Oswald Pohl (1892-1951), supervised the construction and operation of slave labour camps and extermination camps. He was responsible for the distribution of items looted from Jewish victims of the ‘Final Solution’, including hair (used for textiles), and gold from teeth, rings and spectacle frames (sent to the State Treasury). As the war ended, some inmates of concentration camps were murdered on Kaltenbrunner’s orders to prevent the Allied armies from liberating them.
Kaltenbrunner claimed his true role had been to run the SD, an intelligence service that rivalled the Abwehr, and he showed a special interest in foreign intelligence matters. Toward the end of the war, Kaltenbrunner’s power increased greatly – enough to make Himmler fear him - and he gained direct access to Hitler.
Balthamel was a violent man who consorted with criminals and spent much time in rough taverns. During the War of the Shadow, he established camps for people destined to be eaten by Trollocs. He also ran an intelligence service that competed with one run by Moghedien (a parallel of the Nazi SD’s rivalry with the Abwehr) and in the Third Age gathered intelligence and ordered agents and saboteurs among the rebel Aes Sedai. Aran’gar had the chance to redeem herself and raise her standing with the Dark One. She had close contact with, and direct orders from, Shaidar Haran, the Dark One’s avatar, or embodiment.
Heinrich Mueller, the chief of the Gestapo, is another Nazi with parallels to Balthamel.
Heinrich Mueller (1900-?)
Mueller was originally a policeman with a reputation as a skilled anti-communist investigator who did not feel bound by legal norms of police investigation. Upon entering the SS, he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming head of the Gestapo in 1934. As Gestapo chief, Mueller oversaw the implementation of Hitler's policies against Jews and other groups deemed a threat to the state. Once World War II began, Mueller and his immediate subordinate Adolf Eichmann planned the deportation and then extermination of Europe's Jews.
Mueller also managed security and counterespionage operations. His most spectacular counterespionage success was the exposure of the Soviet spy network ‘Red Orchestra’, the turning of some of those agents and the development of a double-cross network that fed disinformation to the Soviet intelligence services from 1942 to 1945. This operation was among the greatest Soviet intelligence setbacks of the war and Mueller tried to use these double agents to drive a wedge between the Soviets and the Western allies. However, Mueller was believed by some to be sending a large amount of genuine information to the Soviets through these double agents.
Balthamel was involved in intelligence gathering in the Age of Legends and is employed in the same function in the current age. As a spy and spy handler among the rebels, Halima is vulnerable to the same suggestions of betrayal as Mueller was; hence her fear when Graendal questioned the continued loyalty of male Forsaken once saidin is cleansed.
As a beautiful woman spy, Halima/Aran’gar has a parallel in Ursula Beurton.
The Soviet spy Ursula Beurton, alias Kuczynski, Hamburger, Benter, Miller, etc, was a German-born British citizen who was described by Louis Kilzer in Hitler’s Traitors as a stunningly beautiful woman, slim, black haired, someone who stood out from the crowd. Her code name was Sonia and she was a key figure in the Soviet Rote Drei spy ring. She was perhaps one of the most successful female spies in history and was an important spy for the Soviet Union during World War II. In 1941 she moved to the UK and was Klaus Fuchs' contact for passing atomic secrets to Moscow. After the war, Sonia continued her clandestine operations, recruiting many agents to the Soviet cause and passing on secret information.
Ursula Beurton’s description closely fits that of Halima:
It was a fine body, suitable for a daien dancer in the old days, sleekly lush, with a green-eyed ivory oval of a face to match, framed by glossy black hair.as does her occupation. Halima, too is very successful as a spy and spy handler.
- Lord of Chaos, Prologue
The fall of the Roman Republic, and later the Empire, is a parallel of the fall of the Age of Legends. The Forsaken, Balthamel included, were modelled on enemies and notoriously autocratic people of Roman times.
Marcus Antonius or Mark Antony (ca. 83 BC – August 30 BC) was a Roman politician and general with some parallels to Balthamel. Antony was wild in his youth, roaming through Rome with his brothers and friends, frequenting gambling houses, drinking too much, and being involved in scandalous love affairs. Cicero described Antony as a drunken, lustful debauchee and Plutarch noted the rumour that Antony was already indebted to the sum of 250 talents (equivalent to several million dollars) before he was twenty years old. Antony left Rome for Greece to escape his creditors and to study rhetoric. After a short time spent in attendance on the philosophers at Athens, he took part in the Roman campaigns in the east, and then joined Julius Caesar’s staff in Gaul. Balthamel was an impoverished student and later wild and hot-tempered historian who gambled, frequented low taverns and consorted with criminals. Demandred assesses Balthamel as being ruled by his appetites (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News). A drunken lustful debauchee is a pretty accurate description of Balthamel in the Age of Legends.
Antony’s unstable personality caused problems, in particular his tendency to resort to violence when thwarted. In 46 BC, he stole real estate off Pompey, but Caesar insisted he pay for it. A violent conflict ensued in which hundreds of citizens were killed. As a result, Caesar removed Antony from all political responsibilities. When Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC, Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave. Much of Antony’s actions, especially after Caesar’s death, contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic. Balthamel came close to being bound against violence (Robert Jordan’s The World of the Wheel of Time,) and was probably lucky not to have lost his position at the M'jinn institute. As one of the Forsaken, he helped end the Age of Legends, which is a parallel of the Roman Republic (see The Age of Legends essay). He was not above a little theft either – we know he cheated at the gaming tables at the Ansaline Gardens (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). Balthamel's violence and greed resulted in his death, and since his rebirth he has been allowed little independence. Aran’gar disguised herself as a ‘lowly’ secretary and masseuse to infiltrate the rebel Aes Sedai and in Knife of Dreams we saw her flee them.
Antony spent much time in the east of Rome’s dominions, and largely abandoned Roman ways for eastern ones, a serious transgression in Roman eyes and a betrayal of Roman values. He was summoned to Rome for an accounting, but did not go. In 39 BC, Antony was hailed as the New Dionysus in Greece. He became Cleopatra VII’s (a parallel of Lanfear) long-term lover and father of all but one of her children. Dionysus the twice born god of wine and pleasure is one of Aran’gar’s parallels. Aran’gar, also twice born, is ambitious for immortality and to be Naeblis. Antony’s alliance with Cleopatra is travestied in Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens, where Aran’gar thinks of how Cyndane threatened her when she made overtures to Cyndane:
Aran'gar had approached her, just to see what might be learned, and the girl had coldly threatened to rip her heart out if Aran'gar touched her again.Aran’gar feared that now that saidin is cleansed, the Dark One will be more suspicious of the male Forsaken’s loyalty, since they no longer need his protection from the taint. Consequently she has always followed orders and gone to meetings as required.
As a politician, Antony was astute enough, but ignored Roman opinion and was overly influenced by his feelings. Balthamel is reasonably astute, but impulsiveness and narrowness of knowledge and interests limited her standing among the Forsaken. She grew bored with Graendal but was lured back with the True Power, and then prevented from escaping Rand’s balefire.
Balthamel: Balthamel was probably derived from Balthazar (Belshazzar) (d. circa 539 BC), co-regent of Babylon when the Jews were exiled there.
During his co-regency Belshazzar administered the government, his own estates, and those of his father, though, according to the Book of Daniel, famine and economic setbacks occurred late in his rule. According to the accounts in the Bible and Xenophon's Cyropaedia, Belshazzar held a last great feast at which he saw a hand writing on a wall the following words in Aramaic: “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” The prophet Daniel, interpreting the handwriting on the wall as God's judgment on the king, foretold the imminent destruction of Babylon.Balthamel had a wild and destructive reputation in the Age of Legends. As Halima, he presided over the equally destructive Aes Sedai rebellion with the aim of ensuring its continuation. She had to flee when Romanda exposed her identity. Soon after, she was destroyed when Graendal’s decadent palace (and Graendal is a parallel of the ‘whore of Babylon’ of Revelation) was balefired by Rand. Despite Egwene’s forewarning, the White Tower was nearly destroyed by the Seanchan.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Eval Ramman (Balthamel’s original name): Eval probably refers to Mount Eval/Ebal, the barren grey mountain where the tribes of Israel heard the curse of God pronounced in Deuteronomy 11:29 – the consequences if they transgressed the Ten Commandments. Certainly Eval Ramman broke most of the Commandments before the Dark One even touched the world. Eval is also similar to ‘evil’.
Ramman (Rimmon in the Old Testament or Hadad in the the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon) was the chief god of the Aramaeans. He was the god of storms, thunder, and rain. The Aramaeans contended with the Israelites for territory in biblical times. As an historian, Eval Ramman studied ancient or vanished cultures such as the Aramaeans.
Ramman is similar to some real world places: Raman in India, Thailand and Albania and Rammen in Sweden.
Aran’gar (Balthamel's incarnation): If the name followed the pattern for Osan’gar, Aran’gar would be derived from Aran, the islands off the west coast of Ireland. However, there don’t appear to be any parallels here.
Aran’gar also has connotations of ‘arranger’ and ‘anger’, referring to her espionage and sabotage and her uncontrollable temper.
Halima Saranov (Balthamel's/Aran'gar's alias): Halima is an African personal name meaning ‘gentle’. The name is meant sarcastically, since Halima has murdered a few people and has also broken a man’s arm.
Halima may refer to Abdül’halim, who united the dissatisfied groups in Anatolia, (over-taxed peasants, unpaid troops turned bandit, disaffected citizens and Turkish and Kurdish nomads) in 1598, forcing the towns to pay tribute and dominating provinces in central Anatolia. When Ottoman forces were sent against them, the group withdrew to Urfa in south-eastern Anatolia, making it the centre of resistance (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Interestingly, Halima tried to control the rebel Aes Sedai (who withdrew from the Tower south to Salidar) and keep the conflict between the rebels and the White Tower alive.
Halima is also similar to Halina, the personal name of an agent of Canaris (head of the Nazi’s Abwehr). Halina Szymanska’s passage from Poland to Switzerland was aided by Canaris and once there she passed on information about the Nazis from Canaris to the Western Allies (John Waller, The Unseen War in Europe). However, in the Wheel of Time series, Halima is a spy, spy handler and saboteur for the Shadow who rescues Moghedien (a parallel of Canaris).
Speculation: There are a few places with names very similar to Saranov: Saratov, Sazanov and Satanov in Russia, and Sarnov in Ukraine.
Balthamel’s mythological parallel, Dionysus, indicates his strength in the Power, his wild, reckless and dangerous character and his dual birth. His function as a head of intelligence and the atrocities he committed in setting up camps of people to feed Trollocs are derived from Nazi figures such as Sauckel, Kaltenbrunner and Mueller. His uncontrolled emotions and lack of political skill resulted in his detection and destruction.
Written by Linda, August 2005 and updated December 2010