WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A MEMORY OF LIGHT
When we first see Faile Bashere she is a runaway princess turned huntress. She declares she is hunting the Horn of Valere, but her real quarry soon becomes Perrin. Faile and Perrin adore each other, but for much of the series they were ensnared in a triangle with Berelain, First of Mayene. This essay will explore the motifs and real world parallels of these two women.
Faile and Berelain start the series in ‘fairytale roles’: Faile, feeling trapped by her responsibilities, ran away to find adventure as a Huntress – the runaway princess; Berelain was carrying out her duties as a ruler, but had been taken prisoner by the Tairens (The Dragon Reborn, A Flow of Spirit) – the captive princess.
Both noblewomen ‘learn better’ throughout the series. Berelain behaves responsibly as a ruler, but irresponsibly intruded in Faile’s and Perrin’s relationship and was reluctant to accept the wrongness of this. Faile, the younger of the two, finally appreciated not only what her parents taught her about the duties of nobles, but why these are important. She takes her relationship with Perrin seriously, and has now stopped continually challenging Perrin to “prove his worth” by working out what she wants of him and meeting her unspoken demands without her having to do the same for him. In part this jumping through hoops was designed to force him to show he is the stronger of the two and take the lead in the relationship. It is also in the tradition of courtly love.
Courtly love reversed the real status of women in medieval society by placing the lady above her knightly champion, giving her license to be demanding, capricious or dominating. It’s not surprising that an assertive noblewoman from the Borderlands, an area noted for chivalry, would follow the conventions of courtly love. However Jordan as always puts his own take on it, and instead of two knights competing for a capricious lady’s favour, we have two capricious ladies vying for the same knight and thus supremacy over each other. Berelain vowed to Faile that she would take Perrin from her and Faile in turn privately determined that she would have him (The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene). Faile even challenged Berelain over Perrin’s honour; the challenge was a bluff, but the desire to repair Perrin’s reputation was real (Towers of Midnight, The Strength Of This Place).
Perrin was warned by Min in The Dragon Reborn in the aptly named chapter The Hunt Begins that two women, a falcon and a hawk, would sink their claws into him. When he met Faile, Perrin thought:
If she is the falcon, what is the hawk supposed to be? Am I going to be stuck with two women like her? Light!Effectively he was. The two women have a lot in common as Faile herself admitted, which is why they have similar symbols. The hawk and the falcon (see below) are both fierce hunting birds, used by the nobility.
- The Dragon Reborn, A Hunter’s Oath
The main difference, as Perrin said, is that Berelain is not Faile and he loves Faile and married her. But he and Faile were not united enough that Berelain had no effect on their relationship.
It didn’t help that Faile was demanding and jealous, wanting Perrin to prove himself to her and to the world. Faile was mainly responsible for their marital problems, not Perrin, by over-reacting to Berelain, challenging her and competing with her over Perrin, and not discussing their marriage with Perrin to form a united front. It was not until her captivity forced her to grow that she realised her errors. On the positive side, she actively encourages Perrin to express his wild side, and thus she to express hers, so that the two of them can and do strengthen each other. Wildness and strength are two important aspects of their characters.
Marriage was an affair of state, not the heart, for Berelain until she met Galad, and so she had no regard for the damage she had done; she only saw Perrin as the prize and the playing board in her competition with Faile, a prize with strong connections to the Dragon Reborn. She first tried her charms on Rand, much to Elayne’s distress:
"How good a match he [Perrin] was is irrelevant. I was promised him."As far as she was concerned, her fellow noblewoman and rival Faile made just such an advantageous alliance.
"The Lord Dragon," Berelain said.
"I came to the Dragon Reborn in the Stone of Tear," she said. "But he would not have me—he even grew angry with my advances. I realized that he, the Dragon Reborn, intended to marry a much higher lady, probably Elayne Trakand. It makes sense—he cannot take every realm by the sword; some will have to come to him through alliances. Andor is very powerful, is ruled by a woman, and would be advantageous to hold through marriage."
"Perrin says Rand doesn't think like that, Berelain," Faile said. "Not so calculating. It's my inclination, too, from what I know of him."
"And you say the same thing about Perrin. You'd have me believe they're all so simple. Without a wit in their heads."
- Towers of Midnight, A Making
Berelain’s most disgraceful actions are stalking Perrin after he is married and, whenever she obviously fails in her bid for Perrin, spreading lies that she has succeeded (A Crown of Swords, Old Fear and New Fear and Winter’s Heart, Flags). Now that has finally fallen hard for her man in white, Galad, fulfilling Min’s viewing (see Min's Viewings article), she understands the damage she did and is careful with Perrin’s, and therefore her, reputation by not being alone with him (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle).
Berelain equates straightforward with simplistic, open with empty. Yet Galad does not; he feels comfortable with Perrin because he is direct himself.
Strongly attracted to Perrin physically and politically, Berelain didn’t consider how closely Perrin’s feelings are engaged with Faile. Until she met Galad, courtly love for Berelain was more about court, than love. She has been calculating, not loving, and put politics above morality:
Faile hesitated. On one hand, what Berelain said was purely foolish . . . but on the other, she could see what the woman might have seen. Or, perhaps, what she wished to see. To her, breaking apart a husband and wife was nothing immoral. This was politics. And, logically, Rand probably should have wanted to tie nations to him through bonds of marriage to those closest to him.(How Berelain’s attitude has changed since she met Galad: she thinks Galad perfect and worships him, just as knights did their ladies in the courtly love tradition (Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling.))
- Towers of Midnight, A Making
With such selfish attitudes, her stalking, and her revealing clothing, Berelain represents Vice to Perrin, while Faile in her modest clothes represents Virtue (see Perrin essay). Perrin has to work with Berelain as part of the tasks Rand has given him; so in this sense Berelain is Duty and Faile is Love in his life. A strong hero choosing between Virtue and Vice or Duty and Love was a popular motif in the 15th to 17th centuries. The trio make a rather lop-sided love triangle.
Marital Issues: Jealousy, Fidelity and Manipulation
Faile’s jealousy led her to over-react and attack Berelain in Tear, which sparked the competition between the two women. As Berelain’s reply “and I always keep my promises” shows, Faile’s quite justified warning off of Berelain in Cairhien only made Berelain more determined to ‘win’ (Lord of Chaos, Thorns). As Berelain said when manipulated by Faile into abandoning the chase:
"Very well," she said. "So be it. Be proud of yourself, Faile. It is. . . rare that I take myself off a prize I have long desired."At times Faile resembles Carmen, the passionate and demanding Spanish gypsy and sometime flamenco dancer of Bizet’s opera, who declares:
- Towers of Midnight, The Strength of This Place
"Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame ... He has never known law. If you don't love me I love you, if I love you watch yourself!"She slashes a co-worker with a knife, seduces the hero, and insists on her freedom.
Faile has her ‘Spanish’ side: she uses a red lace fan in A Crown of Swords, Old Fear and New Fear, promises to dance the sexy sa’sara for Perrin, and is noted for her passionate, jealous nature. She convinced Berelain that she would duel her in public for trying to take Perrin.
In that she is like the jealous and vengeful Greek goddess Hera.
Depicted as a regal youthful matron, Hera, the ancient Greek goddess of marriage, was noted for her jealousy. She had plenty of cause to exercise it: her husband and brother, Zeus, who has parallels to Perrin, (see Perrin essay) had many mortal and immortal lovers and children from them. Hera treated both lovers and children harshly.
Hera’s worship included agricultural rituals as is often the case with mother goddesses. Her children with Zeus were: Ares, god of war, Hebe, goddess of youth and handmaiden to the gods, Hephaestus, god of craftsmen and a parallel of Perrin, and according to some, Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, and Eris, goddess of strife.
All these aspects of Hera, including her children’s attributes, have resonances in Faile’s character. Faile is well respected by the Two Rivers women, and was even consulted by the four Wisdoms. She was involved in agriculture there, introducing irrigation and judging a land dispute, and in the battle against the Shadow.
Despite her high rank, Faile, like Hera’s daughter Hebe, has been a handmaid and even a laundry maid to those temporarily ranked higher. This is a minor but persistent motif. Faile was annoyed to be mistaken for Moiraine’s handmaid in The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer. In Cairhien Colavaere made Faile a lady-in-waiting and pitted her against her rival Berelain, and during her captivity among the Shaido she was forced to be both handmaid and laundry maid to Sevanna (Knife of Dream, Something Strange).
Strife has surrounded Perrin and Faile since the beginning of their relationship and Faile’s mother was open in her expectations of the couple producing several children (Lord of Chaos, Beyond the Gate).
Perrin is not unfaithful, but was believed to be by many of his entourage. Unlike Zeus, Perrin is the pursued, not the pursuer, and unlike Hera, Faile has no reason to doubt him. That doesn’t stop Faile being jealous: she chased Calle Coplin off with a stick, warned Alanna off bonding Perrin, attacked Berelain in Tear and threatened to duel Berelain. Ironically Faile herself was pursued by Rolan as persistently as Zeus ever pursued anyone he desired.
Hera’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Juno, spouse of Jupiter (a parallel of Perrin). Juno watched over the finances of the Roman state and her temple on one of the Capitoline hills served as the mint. She was more war-like than Hera and was depicted wearing the goatskin cloak that Roman soldiers wore on campaign.
Faile claimed the contents of Sevanna’s tent to provide funds for the hundred thousand refugees of the Shaido with them. In the Two Rivers she might have introduced the first ‘royalties’ program for generations:
In return for her consent and enough silver to buy supplies, Faile made the two Domani agree to give Perrin a tenth part of what they found, as well as to locate the iron mentioned in passing. Perrin would not like it, but the Two Rivers had nothing like taxes, and a lord was expected to do things and provide things that required money.Like Juno, Faile also has her war-like side: she brought the Watch Hill bowmen to the battle of Emond’s Field and can use the bow as well as knives. Saldaean officers’ wives expect to accompany their husbands to war.
- Lord of Chaos Prologue
Arthurian Myth has a married couple in which the fulfilment of duty and the possibility of infidelity is an issue.
Enid and Geraint…and Elaine and Galahad
Geraint was a Knight of the Round Table who won Enid’s hand and became so obsessed by her that he ceased his knightly duties. This upset Enid, who cried over it at night, which led Geraint to mistakenly believe her unhappiness was a sign she preferred some other knight to him. He took her questing with him to prove to her his skill and commanded her not to speak to him. Enid disregarded this command several times to warn her husband of danger. Her love and faithfulness was eventually proven as was his prowess and they were finally reconciled.
Faile, like any nobly born Saldaean wife, would expect to go on a quest, but Perrin also had to take his stalker as well. The fidelity of both partners has been in doubt, although they have been faithful. Like Enid and Geraint, much of Perrin’s and Faile’s marital strain is due to poor communication. There have been uncomfortable and enforced silences in their marriage when Faile won’t talk and won’t explain where Perrin is ‘going wrong’ (as far as she is concerned). The lack of news about where and how Faile was held by the Shaido also nearly drove Perrin mad, as did the uncertainty of her fate in the Last Battle.
Perrin put aside his duties to concentrate on freeing Faile in Ghealdan. He didn’t want Faile to do her duties as she sees fit either, in case these place her in danger, and only now has acknowledged that he must accept that his loved ones can choose to participate in dangerous tasks. In the Last Battle he suggested Faile deliver the Horn of Valere and stuck to his duty to keep Rand safe, only searching for her after.
Another strong tie to Arthurian myth for these three characters is Berelain’s new-found object of desire, Galad. The perfect knight Galahad, a parallel of Galad, was conceived by Elaine, daughter of Sir Pelles (see painting, right) - and note that Berelain includes the name Elaine - when she dishonourably deceived Sir Lancelot into sleeping with her. Berelain thinks Galad “a perfect thing,” and she deceived people into thinking that Perrin slept with her. As he so often does, Jordan switched around the roles when using real world sources.
The biblical princess Jezebel of 1st and 2nd Kings has strong parallels to both Faile and Berelain:
Jezebel was the daughter of the priest-king Ethbaal, ruler of the coastal Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon (modern Sayda, Lebanon). When Jezebel married Ahab (ruled c. 874–c. 853 BC), she persuaded him to introduce the worship of the Tyrian god Baal-Melkart, a nature god. A woman of fierce energy, she tried to destroy those who opposed her; most of the prophets of Yahweh were killed at her command.Eventually Jezebel herself was killed by her eunuchs at the urging of Jehu, the replacement king of Israel. Jezebel came to be regarded as sexually promiscuous, manipulative or as a prostitute because she dressed alluringly to try and convince her executors she was too attractive to kill.
These cruel and despotic actions provoked the righteous wrath of Elijah; according to I Kings 17, he accurately prophesied the onset of a severe drought as divine retribution. Some time later, Elijah had the Baal priests slain after they had lost a contest with him to see which god would heed prayers to ignite a bull offering, Baal or Yahweh. When Jezebel heard of the slaughter, she angrily swore to have Elijah killed, forcing him to flee for his life.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Jezebel
In Christian thought Jezebel is at best considered a pagan, or at worst an apostate in disguise seducing the righteous into committing idolatry and immorality.
Faile’s father is Lord of Tyr and Sidon as well as Bashere and heir to the throne of the coastal nation of Saldaea.
The prophet Elijah is one of the sources for Masema. Masema thought he had the Creator on his side and that Perrin is Shadowspawn and thus not a creature of the Light. He was instructed to kill Perrin, whom he thought of as bull-necked. The wolves call Perrin Young Bull. Perrin the Wild Man and Wolfbrother has strong links with nature and Faile his Wild Woman encourages Perrin to express his wild side. She is not a Darkfriend, but she supports her husband rather than Rand:
"What about Rand? Why should it matter if he's left the Palace?" "Just that you should know what he's doing behind your back. Obviously you didn't know he was going off. Remember, he is the Dragon Reborn. That is very like a king, a king of kings, and kings sometimes use up even friends, by accident and on purpose."Perrin abandoned the task Rand set him - to bring Masema to Rand - to rescue Faile. She had no compunction in killing the Prophet.
- Lord of Chaos, Beyond the Gate
Jordan has given some of Jezebel’s characteristics to Berelain, notably the way she uses her sexuality to manipulate. While Berelain has not avandoned the Light for the Shadow and is thus not apostate, she a noble on the make (pagan) and distracted Perrin from his tasks.
Salome, (c AD 14 - between 62 and 71), was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas infamous for her dancing:
But on Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.The dance was believed to be so erotic as to lead Herod to promise anything and was embellished in later legends as the dance of the seven veils.
And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus.
- Matthew 14:6-11
Faile promised to dance the sa’sara for Perrin one day:
"You've seen the tiganza, have you? Someday, if you are good, I may dance the sa’sara for you, and show you what a dance really is." Ila gasped in recognition of the name, and Faile went even redder than she had inside.a dance that is legendarily erotic.
Perrin pursed his lips. If this sa'sara set the heart pounding any harder than the Tinker women's swaying, hip-rolling dance-the tiganza, was it?-he definitely would like to see Faile dance it. …
He smiled down at the top of her head. "But I won't have to. You promised to dance this sa'sara for me."
Her face went crimson. "Is it anything close to the tiganza? I mean, there is no point, otherwise."
"You muscle-brained oaf!" she snapped, glaring up at him. "Men have thrown their hearts and fortunes at the feet of women who danced the sa'sara. If Mother suspected I knew it-" Her teeth clicked shut as though she had said too much, and her head whipped back to face forward; scarlet mortification covered her from her dark hair down to the neck of her dress.
"Then there isn't any reason for you to dance it," he said quietly. "My heart and fortune, such as they are, already lie at your feet."
Faile missed a step, then laughed softly and pressed her cheek against his booted calf. "You are too clever for me," she murmured. "One day I will dance it for you, and boil the blood in your veins."
- The Shadow Rising, A Missing Leaf
Salome’s mother used her daughter’s dancing ability for her own purposes, while Faile thinks she’d be in trouble with her mother for even knowing the sa’sara. Despite Faile’s typically teenage denial of her middle-aged parent’s sex life, Faile’s mother might not only know the dance, but be able to give Faile a few pointers on performance.
What Deira Bashere is definitely angry about is that following Rand may cost Davram Bashere his head:
Deira's tone was icy as her face. She did not like him [Rand]; as she saw it, her husband had set off down a road that likely would end with his head on a pike over a gate in Tar Valon, and Rand had put his feet on that road.Ultimately, following Rand cost both Davram and Deira their lives.
- A Crown of Swords, Pitfalls and Tripwires
Masema the Prophet, who preached about the Dragon Reborn has parallels to John the Baptist to show the evil of the Shadow in corrupting the very person proclaiming the advent of the world’s saviour. Perrin had refused the urgings of the Wise Ones to have Masema killed despite being assured he represents a danger because this would be contrary to Rand’s orders. Faile didn’t try to persuade Perrin to change his mind; being a warrior princess and a huntress, she killed Masema herself.
In the Gospel of Mark there is a Salome who was a witness to the Crucifixion of Jesus and was among the women who went to Jesus' tomb and was told that Jesus had risen.
While the seductive Salome is not considered to be the same person as Salome the follower of Jesus, they both might be conflated in Jordan’s world as part of his theme of the effect of time on history. Faile played an important part in the Last Battle by saving the Horn of Valere which summoned the dead to fight at Tarmon Gai'don.
Temperance and Strength
Perrin and Faile form a Strength/Temperance duo. Each helps the other to be as strong as they can be, strengthening the other as metal is tempered to make it stronger. Perrin is normally a temperate (moderate in all things) man unless provoked too far or in the thick of battle; Faile is normally tempestuous, but she watches over husband’s temper. He uses his love for Faile to control himself in the few circumstances he is intemperate – to prevent himself from staying in berserker mode or coming too strongly in Tel’aran’rhiod.
[She] planned how she would meet his anger and turn it. There was an art to guiding a husband's anger in the direction you wanted, and she had learned from an expert, her mother.Temperance is the virtue which defeats the deadly sin of wrath. It was popularly depicted in Renaissance and early modern times as a young woman pouring liquid from one cup to another – diluting wine, as shown on the Temperance cards of Lo Scarabeo's Tarot of the Master above right and Il Meneghello's Soprafino Tarot below left.
- Winter’s Heart, Customs
As described above, Faile represents Virtue in Perrin’s life (and Berelain Vice). Much to her annoyance, Faile has been a cupbearer and handmaid to Colavaere and Sevanna. The latter period of servitude was particularly dangerous and Faile was forced into a temperance role as well as into servitude, threading her group through three traps: those of Sevanna, Therava and Galina. Faile had to be the voice of reason and moderation, calming and focussing her liege women and men so they didn’t do something reckless or accidentally expose their plans. During her rescue, Faile realised she could not allay or divert her husband in his berserker rage and her group summoned all their fortitude and distracted or killed their Aiel allies to protect Perrin.
Bashere women are renowned for their strength of character. It is one of the qualities Faile admires in Perrin too:
the sort of man a woman knew she had to be strong to deserve, to equal.Faile is strong for a woman, but not as strong as Perrin and try as she might, she can’t force him from his decisions:
- The Path of Daggers, Beginnings
She hung onto him, trying to pull him toward the inn, and so she was dragged along when he started the opposite way.She consciously gives strength to those close to or depending on her:
- The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure
She had been taught to give those under her strength even when she had none herself, to soothe their fears, not infect them with her own.During the rescue of the Luhhans and Cauthons from the Whitecloaks, Faile was knocked down by Byar but got up and hit him over the head with a piece of firewood: like she said, she isn’t a porcelain figurine (The Shadow Rising, A New Weave in the Pattern).
- Lord of Chaos, Prologue
In another rescue, Faile saved Berelain from a bubble of evil by lending her strength to help force Berelain’s dagger into the ground:
Gritting her teeth—feeling half a fool for helping the woman she hated—Faile jumped in and placed her hands over Berelain's, lending her strength to that of the First.Faile also gives Perrin strength; he says that with her at his side he could do anything (Towers of Midnight, The Strength of This Place).
Together, they wrenched the dagger to the side, toward the ground, where they could drive its point into the earth. When they did, remarkably, it stopped moving.
- Towers of Midnight, Men Dream Here
In Renaissance times Strength was often depicted as a woman wrestling a lion, a reference to the ancient Greek nymph Cyrene (see Lo Scarabeo Classical Tarot Strength card above right). The other popular illustration of Strength was a figure clasping or breaking a column – Samson, a parallel of Perrin, see Perrin essay and below.) The Strength card of the Mantegna Tarot card (of Il Meneghello, right) combines the two.
In Ancient Greek mythology, Cyrene was the daughter of Hypsesus, king of the Lapiths, a legendary people akin to the centaurs, and Chlidanope, a Naiad, a fresh water nymph. She was not the least bit interested in men and marriage, and was completely dedicated to hunting. Apollo encountered Cyrene wrestling alone with a lion, fell in love with her and carried her away. She bore him two sons: Aristaeus, a hunter like his mother, and Idmon, who followed his father in having the gifts of prophecy and healing, and also was one of the Argonauts.
Faile is Saldaean, a people famous for their horsemanship. She left her family responsibilities to be a Hunter of the Horn and named herself after a hunting bird. Perrin encapsulates the abilities of Cyrene’s twins, being a lupine Hunter of Trollocs who also has prophetic dreams. However, it was Faile who chased after Perrin, although her family questioned whether he seduced her (Lord of Chaos, Beyond the Gate). Perrin threatened to get her back by force if they took her from him.
In contrast to Faile, Berelain has undermined Perrin’s strength at times; notably that of his marriage. She could have been playing Delilah to Perrin’s Samson.
The biblical hero Samson (Judges 13-16) had been dedicated to service to God and was granted tremendous strength to combat God’s enemies and perform amazing feats so long as he did not touch wine or cut his hair. His bride was taken back from him by the Philistines and given to another man and eventually killed by the Philistines in revenge for Samson’s attacks on them. He fell for Delilah, who was approached by the lords of the Philistines to discover the secret of Samson's strength for a monetary reward. It took four goes but she managed to wheedle or perhaps seduce it out of him and sheared his hair while he slept. Weakened by Delilah, he was captured by the Philistines and enslaved. Samson prayed for one last burst of strength to kill these enemies of Israel, and collapsed his captors’ temple, killing the assembled Philistines as well as himself.
Perrin has been chosen by the Pattern as a ta’veren to restore events to their proper course and defeat the Shadow. The Dragon’s bannerman, he has great physical and inner strength. His wife was captured and tempted by another man. She was not killed but lost to him for a time.
Berelain seized the opportunity to set herself up to replace Faile, believing it unlikely Faile would return from Malden (Towers of Midnight, The Strength of This Place). She told Faile that if Perrin should overcome the rumour she spread that he had slept with her and learn to use rumour himself, it will make him stronger as man and ruler. Berelain was mistaken; Perrin was weakened by these Delilah-like actions. Actually, Berelain uses rumour and manipulation so much because she rules from a position of relative weakness, not strength.
Faile expressed a wish to shear off Berelain’s locks – shave her bald - for chasing after Perrin (The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene and The Path of Daggers, Changes) If she ever does, Berelain will look like one of the Seanchan imperial family, especially since she is descended from Artur Hawkwing… We don’t know if Berelain’s efforts to break Perrin’s marriage – sap his strength – are motivated by self-interest, or because Berelain has sold out to the Shadow. Note that she did have contact with Lanfear in Tear.
Perrin hunter of Trollocs and Wolf King is a Wild Man (see Perrin essay). Some Wild Men abduct noble maidens, others marry a Wild Woman – and live an idyllic life with her in the country far from the corruption of the world (Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (eds), Medieval Folklore). Perrin married a Wild Woman noble maiden and would love to live a quiet life with her in the idyllic Two Rivers. It is no accident that the wild couple re-cemented their marriage out in the wild and confided in each other there.
Signs of wildness in Faile are:
- Faile accepts adverse weather:
“Cold and wet don’t bother me.”
- The Dragon Reborn, The Falcon
- Faile was more comfortable sleeping in the open on the hill than in their tent (Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har).
- Her association with hunting: she ran away to become a Hunter for the Horn, is good with a bow and was taught to fight (The Shadow Rising, Hunter of Trollocs). The falcon is a hunting bird, and Faile actually went hawking in the books. Loial was angry that a wild, free creature like Faile was trapped by the wooden hedgehog ter’angreal (The Dragon Reborn, A Flow of Spirit). She is also described as a leopard, or having the heart of a leopard, another fierce hunting animal.
- When she was captured by the Shaido:
She hoped that Sevanna thought her tamed by that night trussed up in the cold. Only Rolan and his braziers had saved her life. She hoped that she was not being tamed.In contrast to Faile’s acceptance and encouragement of Perrin’s wildness, Berelain wanted to tame Perrin:
- Knife of Dreams, Something Strange
“He is quite ravishing, really - those shoulders, those arms; not to mention those eyes of his - and if he is a bit uncultured, I can have that remedied. My courtiers can teach him how to dress, and rid him of that awful beard. Wherever he goes, I will find him and make him mine. You can have him when I am finished. If he still wants you, of course.”
- The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene
”I despise being attacked, farmgirl, so this is what I will do. I will take the blacksmith away from you and keep him as a pet for as long as he amuses me.”
- The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene
Hawk and Falcon
Faile means falcon in the old tongue while Berelain’s sigil is the golden hawk in flight, as it was her ancestor Hawkwing’s. The hawk and the falcon are very similar birds, indicating that Perrin’s choice is a close one:
If she is the falcon, what is the hawk supposed to be? Am I going to be stuck with two women like her? Light!The two women have a lot in common as Faile herself admitted. We are assured, however, that there is a difference between the hawk and the falcon:
- The Dragon Reborn, A Hunter’s Oath
"Do you know the difference between a hawk and a falcon, Perrin?"
"Size, mostly," he said. "Wing shape, too. The falcon has a more arrow-like look to it."
"The falcon," Faile said, "is a better flyer. It kills with the beak, and can fly fast and quick. The hawk is slower and stronger; it excels at getting prey that is moving along the ground. It likes to kill with the claw, attacking from above."
"All right," Perrin said. "But doesn't that mean that if both see a rabbit below, the hawk will be better at snatching it?"
"That's exactly what it means." She smiled. "The hawk is better at hunting the rabbit. But, you see, the falcon is better at hunting the hawk.”
Towers of Midnight, A Backhanded Request
The hawk is associated with light, royalty, power, and watchfulness. It is a symbol of wisdom in action because it has powerful eyesight, swift flight and great skill as a hunter. Berelain is a skilled ruler who watches over Mayene’s and her own interests. She used her two skilled thief catchers to find out Colavaere’s and Masema’s nefarious deeds. Her forces have aided Perrin.
In medieval times the hawk was a symbol of venery, which can mean pleasure in sex or in the hunt. In the case of Berelain’s pursuit of Perrin, it was both.
There is an amusing scene in The Path of Daggers where the women are out hawking and Faile refuses the proffered hawk at first, because she would rather have the falcon which is reserved for its owner, Alliandre. Faile enjoyed being out in the woods in winter, but Berelain did not.
The falcon is a symbol of liberty. As Loial said, Faile should fly free (The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure). It is associated with the sun and light and was believed to never sleep. Faile was taught that spying is a wife’s work to protect her husband’s interests. She intended to spy on Rand, but Perrin forbade it. She distracted him from forbidding her to spy on others, or using other people to spy for her.
The falcon is also associated with war, and can be a benevolent or destructive force. Faile is long accustomed to war and, like any high-born Saldaean woman, expects to accompany her husband to the battlefield (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords) and rally his troops if he falls.
The Ancient Egyptian war god, Monthu was depicted as falcon-headed and bull-headed and could encapsulate Perrin (Young Bull) and Faile as a couple.
To the Japanese Ainu the falcon is a helper of humanity and for Native Americans it is the younger brother of the eagle (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). It was Faile who suggested that Perrin fly the Red Eagle banner of Manetheren in Ghealdan and who tended the Two Rivers folk and refugees from the west, and the Shaido. The eagle links Perrin with sky gods such as Zeus (see Perrin essay).
Both Berelain and Faile aim to see all, and competed to get the more important information from their scouts.
The ancient Egyptians had two falcon or hawk-headed sky gods: Ra and Horus. Apart from the association with kingship, and the sky, neither Berelain nor Faile has much in common with Ra, but they do with Horus.
Horus was the Ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god of the sky and war. He was the protector of the ruler of Egypt and was noted for his sharp, protective gaze (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).
Set, the god of the desert, storms and chaos, killed Horus’ father, Osiris. Isis, Horus’ mother, told Horus to protect the people of Egypt from Set, which he did, battling Set repeatedly. Horus was sometimes identified with the Egyptian god Upuaut and also with Anubis.
Faile’s mother taught her that spying was a wife’s work. Berelain also sets people to gather information for her. Set represents the Shadow, the Dark One being the embodiment of chaos, destruction and infertility. Rand has parallels to Osiris, including being locked in a box and killed, as Osiris was by Set. Perrin has parallels to Upuaut and also to sky gods, and Mat to Anubis, so this group are closely linked.
The sibling-spouses Osiris and Isis had a sister Nephthys, who was the wife of Set.
Nephthys was a deity of the dead in Egyptian mythology. Her name means “Mistress of the House” and she was usually depicted as a woman with the hieroglyph of her name (a basket and a house on top of each other) on her head, but was also sometimes given wings (see photo right) or the form of a kite, an Egyptian hawk.
Nephthys deceived Osiris into having sex with her and bore him a son, Anubis. In some myths Nephthys intoxicated Osiris and seduced him, in others she disguised herself as her sister Isis, Osiris' wife. It was Nephthys' affair with Osiris which contributed to Set’s decision to kill Osiris.
Berelain has (mis)behaved like Nephthys. She tried seducing Rand in Tear, and then stalked Perrin and spread false rumours that they had an affair. Amusingly, she snubbed Mat because he is too much like her (The Shadow Rising, Rumours).
Nephthys supported the sun god Ra during his nightly boat journey through the underworld, especially at twilight, while Isis was Ra's companion at the coming of dawn. Isis represented day, growth, development and vigour, while Nephthys was night, decrease, decay and death (E. A. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians ). The two sister goddesses
were personified by two priestesses who were virgins and who were ceremonially pure; the hair of their limbs was to be shaved off, they were to wear ram's wool garlands upon their heads, and to hold tambourines in their hands.Despite being the wife of Set, Nephthys was seen as a loyal sister to her other siblings, helping Isis to gather Osiris' scattered limbs after Set dismembered him, and resurrect him. A figure of divine assistance and protection, she aided the newly dead, giving them strength for their journey to the afterlife, and comforted the family of the deceased. Darkness and the dangerous fringes of the desert were considered her domain.
- E. A. Wallis Budge, Gods of the Egyptians
Berelain aided Rand and Perrin well at times, and furthered her own ends at Perrin’s expense at others. Upon Faile’s capture, Berelain offered sympathy to Perrin who rejected it. In her palace she organised the retrieval and care of wounded soldiers, including Galad, who, like his brother Rand, lost part of his arm to a Forsaken. Groups were sent from Mayene to the battlefield to identify the dead and bring the wounded in for healing. Nephthys is an appropriate parallel of Berelain’s role in helping decide who could be saved, who healed by channellers and who by physical means. She sensibly sent the protective weave-breaking ter’angreal back to the battlefield.
Tuon has strong parallels to Isis (see Tuon essay) and she made a truce with Rand for the Last Battle. This ‘marriage’ of the two main forces and leaders is essential to winning against the Shadow. Tuon and Berelain are descended from Artur Hawkwing. The Seanchan Imperial family shave their heads, not their bodies.
The women of House Bashere are described as leopards and Perrin agrees, thinking that Faile has the heart of a leopard (The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure).
The leopard symbolises aggression, courage and speed. In Africa it is considered a passionate and unpredictable lover (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The Bashere women are brave and aggressive and Faile, at least, is a passionate and unpredictable lover.
In Tear, Faile behaved in a cat-like fashion, pacing up and down and regarding Perrin as a dog:
He ignored the sound coming from deep in Faile’s throat, like a cat staring at a strange dog and ready to attack.And she wanted to tear Rolan’s throat out:
- The Shadow Rising, Leavetakings
“I will not leave him,” Faile called. “Not even if he is yet too stubborn and foolish to ask a simple favour. Should that be the case, he may still follow me like a lost puppy. I promise to scratch his ears and take care of him.”
- The Shadow Rising, Into the Ways
A few stripes might be a small price to pay for biting a chunk out of this oaf toting her like a sack of grain. Not his hand, though. His throat would be about right.as a leopard would (or perhaps a she-wolf).
- Winter’s Heart, Customs
There are two leopard goddesses with parallels to Faile and both are associated with knowledge.
In Egyptian mythology, Seshat was the Ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge (especially architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and surveying) and writing. She was a scribe and record keeper and kept a tally of the Pharaoh’s years on earth. Seshat was depicted as a woman wearing a leopard or cheetah skin over her dress or a dress patterned like the coat of a spotted cat.
As eldest surviving child, Faile was supposed to keep the family accounts:
”That made me the eldest, and it meant I had to study account books and trading. While my younger brothers learned to be soldiers, while they were being readied for adventures, I had to learn how to manage the estates! It is the eldest's duty. Duty! It is dull, dry and boring. Buried in paper and clerks.”She feels a conflict between being a warrior princess (see below) and a goddess of learning. (Perrin, who tallied the length of time of Faile’s captivity with a knotted cord, has a similar conflict between his wild side and his constructive, nurturing side.) Her education has stayed with her though and come in handy, as Faile now recognises. In Towers of Midnight she examined the quartermaster’s ledgers to help him (relatively) honest and fair. She didn’t dislike her training – she was adept at it; she ran from the expectations she would do her duty (Towers of Midnight, Shanna’har).
- The Shadow Rising, Among the Tuatha’an
Seshat’s representatives laid out the foundations of important buildings in order to establish their correct dimensions and sacred alignments and surveyed the land after the annual floods to re-establish boundary lines. Her priestess approved the inventory of foreign captives and goods gained in military campaigns.
Faile was involved in the reconstruction of the Two Rivers after the Trolloc invasion, introducing irrigation and fostering new crafts. She gave judgement on a land division dispute and claimed Sevanna’s goods after Sevanna was made captive. The large number of freed Shaido captives were under her care.
Originally a river goddess, Saraswati, the wife of Brahma the Creator, symbolizes fertility and prosperity (here they are together, right). The flowing symbolism of water was extended to mean other things that flow – thoughts, words, music - and she became the goddess of learning, intelligence, music, literature and all the arts. After all, knowledge moves along transport routes such as rivers. Saraswati is associated with purity and creativity, especially of literary and verbal communication. She is not bedecked with jewellery like, say, the goddess Lakshmi (a parallel of Tuon), but is dressed modestly — perhaps representing her preference of knowledge over material things.
One verse of the Rig-Veda (6,61,7) credits Saraswati, rather than the storm and war god Indra, an equivalent of Thor, Perun and Zeus and thus a parallel of Perrin, with killing Vritra, a serpentine demon who was hoarding the earth's water and so represented drought, darkness, and chaos.
Perrin met Faile beside a river, and got to know her on a boat. Three fish are the sigil of Saldaea, representing the importance of maritime and river trade and of irrigation to that nation. Faile hates fish (which ironically symbolise knowledge) just as she hated her duty to do the clerical work of Seshat – they symbolise why she ran away from Saldaea. She dresses modestly as Saraswati does and this also ties in with being a Wild Woman (see above). In the painting right among the items Saraswati holds are a ploughshare and a bow and arrow, items that reflect Faile's activities in defending Emond's Field and promoting innovations in agriculture there.
Faile didn’t kill a Forsaken, but she did personally despatch Masema and the last of the Dragonsworn plague, knowing that Perrin wanted to keep to Rand’s orders and bring Masema to Rand.
Faile doubts the veracity of some of the written histories she read:
”I have studied my history and was taught to read between the lines.”and is also careful about the accuracy of reports she receives.
- A Crown of Swords, Old Fear and New Fear
Faile tells us of some of her accomplishments:
Could she [Berelain] recite poetry while hawking? Could she ride in the hunt all day, then play the bittern at night while discussing how to counter Trolloc raids?None of the other important female characters speak of music or of being able to playing a musical instrument. (For instance, it would be quite in keeping with Elayne’s ‘Elizabethan’ parallels to be able to play a musical instrument but she doesn’t seem to. Other people play music to her babies.) Nor do they mention poetry either. Faile can also dance the sa’sara and knows the language of fans and the sign language of the Maidens. (Note that part of sa’sara is contained within the name Saraswati). Other knowledge she gleaned from Bain and Chiad, such as Maiden handtalk and how to behave to Wise Ones, was also used by her.
- The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene
During her captivity, Faile consciously used her intelligence, logic and knowledge because as she said:
Her brain was the only weapon she had.Even while being carried by Rolan and flexing her muscles to keep from freezing, Faile planned what Perrin should do about Masema, what she would say when Perrin got annoyed about her spies, and how to survive and escape the Shaido:
- Winter’s Heart, Customs
Frostbite and cut feet aside, the longer they remained outside without clothes, the more chance that some of them might not survive to escape. The Shaido had to be taking them to some sort of shelter, and Alliandre and Maighdin had delayed reaching it. Maybe it was little more than a quarter hour's delay, but minutes could be the difference between the living and the dead. On top of which, even Aiel would surely let down their guard a little once they found shelter and made fires. And they could rest, being carried. They could be ready to take their chance when it came.Faile made the other captives see reason: she convinced Alliandre to behave like a proper servant, and kept those sworn to her from uprising against Shaido and getting themselves killed. The Aiel are all trained to fight, while the gai’shain were mostly farmers and craftspeople (Knife of Dreams, As If The World Were Fog). Finally she made Perrin allow Galina to be tried properly and not rush in and kill her (Knife of Dreams, Outside the Gates). This also ties in with Faile’s role as Temperance, moderating Perrin’s anger and actions (see above). Faile’s women survived the three traps laid for them, and were close to escaping on their own. They would have succeeded had not Galina been treacherous.
- Winter’s Heart, Customs
When they first met, Faile was conscious of her superior education, and lectured Perrin:
”I think I will end up teaching you so much, no one will notice the hay in your hair.”True. But she learned things herself. And made the most of them.
- The Dragon Reborn, Easing the Badger
As Gaul observed, there is a good deal of the warrior in Faile:
“That one is almost Far Dareis Mai.”She was taught to fight by one of her father’s old soldiers, which is unusual even in Saldaea (The Shadow Rising, Among the Tuatha’an). She is skilled enough with her knives to make Gaul warn Perrin.
- The Shadow Rising, Homecoming
It’s not surprising she got on so well with Bain and Chiad and they respected her enough to teach her Maiden hand-talk – something frowned upon and therefore rarely done, and all the more a credit to Faile. Faile proposed to Perrin like an Aiel and insisted on marrying him right then.
When Byar struck her during the rescue of the Cauthons and Luhhans, she got up and whacked him over the head with a piece of wood. Faile was excited and proud to lead men into battle in the Two Rivers – like a warrior princess. She gloated that Queen Tenobia had not done so despite wanting to.
Crucially it was Faile who insisted that Perrin bring not only her, but also the wolf banner, Two Rivers bowmen and servants with him to Rand (Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought), setting in train Perrin’s increase in leadership, Rand’s rescue at Dumai’s Wells and the destruction of the Shaido with Sevanna and the Dragonsworn.
Just as Perrin has many similarities to the Norse god Thor (see Perrin essay), so Faile has some parallels with Thor’s wife Sif and Berelain with Thor’s mistress Jarnsaxa.
Thor and Sif had a daughter, Thrud (‘strength’), and Thor and Jarnsaxa two sons, Magni (‘strong’) and Modi (‘angry’). Sif’s hair was shorn off by the trickster god Loki. Jarnsaxa was one of the nine mothers of Heimdall, the god who sounded his horn for Ragnarok (a parallel of Mat).
As usual, Jordan has changed the relationships somewhat. It is tricky Faile, Perrin’s wife, who wanted to shave all Berelain’s hair off for trying to seduce Perrin. Berelain snubbed Mat as “too much like her” (The Shadow Rising, Rumours) which is amusing given that Jarnsaxa was one of Heimdall’s mothers. The attributes of Thor’s children embody important issues for Perrin: anger and strength (see Perrin essay).
The two women are parallels of other Norse goddesses, the Valkyries.
The Valkyries (from Old Norse valkyrja "chooser of the slain") decided which soldiers die in battle and which live, and they took the dead to the halls of Valhalla. Berelain oversaw the hospital at the Last Battle, and organised groups of non-combatants to identify the dead and advised on which soldiers to save/Heal.
For Faile, the parallel is reversed, and it is Perrin who searched the battlefield for the missing and feared dead Faile, rather than Faile searching it for fallen soldiers. There are more reserversals: Perrin found Faile in the real world from Tel’aran’rhiod, whereas in Tear he found her in Tel’aran’rhiod from the real world. Faile ran away to hunt the Horn of Valere which calls the Heroes to the Last Hunt at Tar’mon Gaidon, the Wheel of Time Ragnarok and ironically became its guardian and saviour. Valkyries normally brought drinking horns to the Heroes, not the battle horn of Heimdall. (Faile and Berelain are not the only Wheel of Time Valkyries: Birgitte and Siuan the Rhine maiden are two others.) For the parallels of the Horn, Hornsounders and Heroes see the Horn of Valere article.
Faile: Faile probably alludes to faille, a soft ribbed fabric of silk or rayon. It is slightly stiff and this makes it wrinkle-free and much harder-wearing than other evening fabrics, but it is still ironic that a tough woman like Faile, who is trying to shed her Zarine image, selects the name of an evening fabric, even a fairly durable one.
Fail is another possible allusion; it means ‘destiny’ in Gaelic. The Stone Lia Fail is said to have been brought to Ireland in antiquity by the semi-divine race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. Faile was destined to be Perrin’s falcon and Perrin is linked with the Tuatha’an.
Zarine ni Bashere t'Aybara: Deira Bashere chose her daughter’s name and it reveals her hopes for her:
Zarine – no woman would name her daughter that unless she expected her to be a great beauty. One to lie on cushions in palaces, surrounded by servants and suitors.So Deira wanted Faile to have a rather Berelain-like image.
- The Dragon Reborn, Daughter of the Night.
Zarina is a personal name meaning gold. Bashir is an Arab surname. It means "bringer of good news," or "a person who promises good things" in Arabic. Certainly Perrin believed he had struck gold in Faile, even though he had no idea she was a noblewoman.
Berelain sur Paendrag Paeron: Berelain contains the name ‘Elaine’ and may refer to Elaine of Arthurian myth, who loved Sir Lancelot and deceived him into sleeping with her whereby she conceived Sir Galahad. (The drawing right shows Elaine watching out for Lancelot, just as Berelain lay in wait for Perrin). Sir Lancelot discovered her deception and left her and Elaine died of unrequited love.
Berelain has been unscrupulous at times over Perrin and Elaine was prepared to do anything to win Lancelot. As Min predicted, Berelain fell hard for a man in white, Galad, a parallel of Sir Galahad.
Paendrag is from Pendragon, King Arthur’s surname and another tie with Arthurian myth.
There are two parallels for Paeron:
Eva Peron (Evita), second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron, who, during her husband's first term as president (1946–52), became a powerful though unofficial political leader, revered by the lower economic classes.Isabel Peron, third wife of President Juan Peron:
Although she never held any government post, Evita acted as de facto minister of health and labour, awarding generous wage increases to the unions, who responded with political support for Peron. After cutting off government subsidies to the traditional Sociedad de Beneficencia (Spanish: “Aid Society”), thereby making more enemies among the traditional elite, she replaced it with her own Eva Peron Foundation, which was supported by “voluntary” union and business contributions plus a substantial cut of the national lottery and other funds. These resources were used to establish thousands of hospitals, schools, orphanages, homes for the aged, and other charitable institutions. Evita was largely responsible for the passage of the woman suffrage law and formed the Peronista Feminist Party in 1949. She also introduced compulsory religious education into all Argentine schools. In 1951, although she knew herself to be dying of cancer, she obtained the nomination for vice president, but the army forced her to withdraw her candidacy.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
met Peron in either 1955 or 1956 and, giving up her career in show business, became his personal secretary, accompanying him in exile to Madrid, where they were married in 1961. She visited Argentina several times in the 1960s and early '70s, building support for Peron. When Peron finally returned to Argentina to run for president in 1973, Isabel was chosen as his running mate on the suggestion of Peron's close adviser Jose Lopez Rega. Peron's illness several times elevated her to the position of acting president, and when he died on July 1, 1974, she succeeded him in office.Berelain has twice left Mayene in order to further the interests and safety of her country. She governed troubled Cairhien for Rand during his absences though she was given no official title and followed Perrin into ‘exile’. In the Last Battle she converted her palace into a hospital for tending wounded soliders.
Her regime inherited problems of inflation, labour unrest, and political violence. She attempted to solve the problems by appointing new Cabinet ministers, printing money to pay foreign debts, and imposing a state of siege in November 1974 as the country was on the brink of anarchy. The controversy surrounding her social-welfare minister Lopez Rega, who was forced into exile for graft and terrorist activities, did not help her situation. Moderate military officers urged her to resign, but she stubbornly refused; the economic and political situation continued to worsen, and on March 24, 1976, she was seized by air force officers and held under house arrest for five years. In 1981 she was convicted of corrupt practices, but she was paroled in the summer of that year and went into exile in Spain. Pardoned in late 1983, she submitted her resignation as head of the Partido Justicialista, the Peronist party, from her home in Madrid in 1985.
Written by Linda, June 2010 and updated February 2014