Forward and Back
In Rhuidean, Rand entered the glass columns ter’angreal and experienced important episodes of Aiel history: hundreds of years compressed into two chapters. (For more on the function of this ter’angreal see the Glass Columns ter’angreal article.) This is some of Jordan’s best writing: economical but engrossing and extremely informative vignettes showing from the onset of the Collapse to the founding of Rhuidean.
Rhuidean was built about 200 AB (after the Breaking), based on the family tree Jordan gives us as well as events mentioned. The Aes Sedai made the decision to build Tar Valon in 47 AB and commenced it in 98 AB (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) . From Rhodric, who was 20 when he heard of their decision to found Tar Valon, to Mandein, who at age 40 saw Rhuidean nearly complete, is four generations, or about 120 years. (Comran was Rhodric's grandson and Mandein was Comran's grandson.)
The Jenn Aiel searched long for Rhuidean and built it originally as a refuge for their people and culture, items of the power and the chora. They may also have believed the Dragon Reborn would be their descendant. However, the Jenn dwindled and died out, while the Aiel throve in the Waste. The symbolism is apt: the gentle and dedicated Jenn cannot exist long-term with evil touching the world and making it harsh and desolate. Their Covenant is too perfect for these times.
Only two Aes Sedai are left when Rhuidean is opened to Aiel, one of them very similar in appearance to Deindre and also able to Foretell, since she informs the Aiel that they will have a unifying chief in the future:
“That one will come later,” she said. “The stone that never falls will fall to announce his coming. Of the blood, but not raised by the blood, he will come from Rhuidean at dawn, and tie you together with bonds you cannot break. He will take you back, and he will destroy you.”Mandein feels the Aes Sedai marked him out before anything was said. He is the first chief to volunteer to go to Rhuidean and one of the few who appreciated the Jenn on their own terms. The first Maiden, Morin, another of Rand’s ancestors, is able to Dream, and is older than she looks, so she might also be able to channel. Many of Rand’s ancestors were crucial in some way: important leaders or visionaries.
- The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear
Mandein is of the 13th generation after the drilling of the Bore. According to the World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time and The Eye of the World Prologue, the Collapse lasted 100-110 years, the actual War 10 and the Breaking 239-344 years. Yet the day the Bore was Sealed Coumin said the war was old before he was born and doesn’t believe there was a time in living memory before there was war (even though his great grandfather informed him otherwise). I guess Coumin doesn’t distinguish the violence of the Collapse from the War proper.
We have a brief glimpse of the gentleness and the high living standards of the Age before the world lurches into increasing hostility, violence, chaos and danger by a single disastrous act of hubris. The Bore was drilled due to ambition and curiosity. Mierin, as Lanfear was then, had no third name him (Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) and this project would have been her attempt to earn it (see Lanfear essay for mythological parallels of her act). In some very apt symbolism the technological marvel, the Sharom (Sharom being very similar to the Hebrew word for ‘Peace’) is broken apart and darkness spreads across the sky swallowing the sun. As well as peace, shalom has connotations of wholeness, safety, welfare, health, prosperity, tranquility, contentment and friendship. It typifies the Age of Legends and what was lost.
The ground and the air rippled, in spreading waves, when the hole was made in the Dark One's prison. The Pattern itself was breached. In Knife of Dreams we saw a similar ripple occur over the world now that the seals have weakened to the point that the Dark One's prison is almost open. Interestingly the soldier’s helmets in the War of Power looks like insect heads, just as those of the Seanchan do.
The Song (or more properly, one type of Singing) is shown. It is more a technique than one single song and there has been enough foreshadowing to indicate it will need to be regained before the end of Tarmon Gai’don. The Song of the Da’shain Aiel that the Tinkers search for to bring back the peace and safety of the Age of Legends could be found by Perrin (Min’s viewing of trees flowering all around Perrin in The Eye of the World, Strangers and Friends) or Rand (in a link back to Lews Therin, who welcomed all to take part in the Singing which regularly occurred at his house (The Eye of the World, Prologue)), although the bronze statue library ter’angreal (see Statues and Figurines Ter’angreal article) from the Ebou Dar cache may also play an important part.
The Nym vanish first, the chora dwindle to one tree before our eyes and the Ogier and Jenn are a remnant of what they were. However, the Ogier find their stedding, their safe place, albeit at the cost of dependence; but for the Jenn, their safe place becomes a necropolis lasting three thousand years.
The Da’shain Aiel (Children of the Dragon) once served all Aes Sedai, not just the Dragon. By the time of the Breaking, they keep the name a secret because people react to Lews Therin's memory badly. Those Aiel who have been through the columns secretly keep the name as a memento of their Da’shain ancestry.
There were far more Dreamers or Dreamwalkers in the Breaking and early in the Third Age than there are now. This is consistent with Talents weakening and knowledge fading through this Age.
The Jenn look down on the Aiel, yet without the Aiel guard, the Jenn would perhaps not have survived to build Rhuidean, even allowing for the Aes Sedai with the Jenn, who would have to violate their ethics to defend the Jenn with channelling. The Aiel are a remnant of the Da’shain.
The Shaido and Brotherless have abandoned Aiel ways just as the Aiel abandoned the Da’shain Covenants. Variations on the theme of covenants and breaking of vows permeates the history of these people. The septs of those Aiel chiefs who did not come and agree to learn the history of their origins and accept their breach of promise died within three generations. The Jenn kept the faith yet died out. Those who broke it to a smaller or greater degree survived. Will the Shaido be the remnant of Aiel that survives the Last Battle? Or will it end differently this time, and the loyal followers will be rewarded for their service and not become extinct?
In 2004 I wrote an essay for Wotmania which summarised what is known about life in the
Age of Legends and into the Third Age, and some possible real life influences on Jordan's ideas about these times and events. It is now released here in the Reference Library.