The Working Out of Fate and Choice
So what is it with prophecy? Is it inevitably right? Is everything fated?
It’s easy to overlook the amount of choice and free will involved with both prophecy and prophesying. Rand certainly believes that prophecy doesn’t certify events as inevitable:
He had lived too many prophecies to believe any of them meant exactly what they said. Or even that they ensured anything. In his opinion, prophecy set the conditions that had to be met for a thing to happen; only, meeting them did not mean the thing would happen, just that it could.Yet Rand has made the choice to use prophecy to guide his actions – such as taking not e of what the Aelfinn said, and reading multiple copies of the Karaethon Cycle. But in Tear he chose to act on the one verse in those books, just as he chose to solve the Aelfiin’s riddles himself, and when to act on the riddles.
- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival
He’s not the only one using prophecy – Elaida has been secretly doing the same for years, with the important difference that she gets it wrong.
Which brings us to prophesying itself. Elaida participates closely in her prophecies through her (mis)interpretation of them, who she chooses to tell (sometimes no one) and by her subsequent actions. She is certain that her interpretation of her Foretellings is correct, although they could be interpreted in other ways. She is also notorious for keeping her Foretellings to herself (thus losing the chance for objective discussion) and for using them for personal advantage.
In Lord of Chaos, Min’s viewings and the way she chooses to participate in her prophesies, in the way she interprets them and in who or how she tells of them, become very important. Perhaps it was always likely Min would come unstuck since inevitably she would see danger or disaster around someone she loved and would try to prevent it. Most people would.
As the Wise One Bair says:
“Those who move with too much knowledge of the future inevitably find disaster, whether from complacency at what they think must come or in their efforts to change it.”And Bair has not only been through the rings at Rhuidean, she has prophesied often enough herself.
- The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone
By informing Rand in a panic of her viewing that Aes Sedai would harm Rand, she spurred him to flee to Cairhien, and thus actually brought this event about. She was right that the rebel embassy would be present when Rand was hurt and surrounded by death and blood, but it was the Tower embassy that gave him his hurts and brought about the circumstances that led to the battle.
The fine balance between Fate and Free Will in a world abounding with prophecy is discussed further in the essay Fate, Free Will and Divining the Pattern now released on the Thirteenth Depository. Min's Viewings, compiled in September 2004 and previously published on Wotmania are also now republished here.