Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The Nine Labours of Rand - revisited

by Linda

In Crossroads of Twilight, Nicola was reported to be making a lot of Foretellings, but the rebel Aes Sedai discounted them, claiming Nicola is merely seeking attention and advancement.

“Ever since we found out she has the Foretelling, she’s been Foretelling two or three times a day, to hear her tell it. Or rather, to hear Areina tell it. Nicola is smart enough to know everyone is aware she can’t remember what she says when she Foretells, but Areina always seems to be there to hear and remember, and help her interpret. Some are the sort of thing anyone in the camp with half a brain and a credulous nature might think of - battles with the Seanchan or the Asha’man, an Amyrlin imprisoned, the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things, visions that might be Tarmon Gaidon or a bilious stomach – and the rest all just happen to indicate that Nicola ought to be allowed to go faster with her lessons… I think even most of the other novices have stopped believing her.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Secrets

Two of these things happened in The Gathering Storm: Egwene was imprisoned by Elaida, and the Seanchan raided the Tower, and the remainder are quite feasible. Further battles with the Seanchan and battles with the Asha’man are all too likely. Therefore I think these Foretellings are genuine, even though they are presented as worthless.

It is one of these Foretellings that I want to discuss further: the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things.

What does impossible mean in this context? We’ve seen Nynaeve and Flinn Heal severing/stilling, which everyone said was impossible. So, impossible means nobody else could figure out how to do it and be able to do it.

I think that Rand will do nine ‘impossible’ things, outdoing Nynaeve and Flinn – indeed my theory is that he has already done a few ‘impossible’ things, the first of these being cleansing saidin.

He considered cleansing saidin for quite a while before he worked out how to do it. As early as The Shadow Rising, he saw the necessity of preventing himself and other men from Breaking the World again. He entered the doorway in Tear, asked the Finns how to do it and got a riddle for an answer:

He had asked once, warily, where he knew the answers would be true, how to cleanse the taint from saidin. And got a riddle for an answer.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

A riddle that was very difficult to solve. Fel couldn’t:

Herid Fel had claimed the riddle stated sound principles, in both high philosophy and natural philosophy, but he had not seen any way to apply it to the problem at hand.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

Finally Rand worked it out.

Rand had a hint at the answer, or thought he might, a guess that could be disastrously wrong.

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

We have a variety of reactions recorded about the possibility of cleansing saidin all discounting that Rand would work out how to do it, be able to do it or control the Choedan Kal long enough or well enough to do it.

When he asked Asmodean about removing the taint from saidin, Asmodean was scornful:

“The Shadow take me, you must be beginning to think you really are the bloody Creator! We are dead. Both of us. Dead!”

- The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows

Taim said

“Cleanse saidin. I think that would take more power than you can imagine.”

- Lord of Chaos, A Woman’s Eyes

Torval, a Darkfriend Asha’man said

“That would be wondrous, but how could anyone short of the Creator or…[the Dark One/Great Lord]?”

- The Path of Daggers, Message from the M’Hael

Osan’gar’s comments are also negative:

“I doubt that even I could devise a method to remove the Great Lord’s shadow from saidin. Al’Thor is a primitive. Anything he tries inevitably will prove insufficient, and I for one, cannot believe he can even imagine how to begin.”

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

Osan’gar/Aginor is a fool, although a knowledgeable one.

Once the Forsaken realise Rand plans to use the Choedan Kal, they fear that Rand will crack the word instead:

“He could shatter the world just trying to use the Choedan Kal.”

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

The Choedan Kal are so dangerous to use that it’s a wonder Rand and Nynaeve achieved anything with them at all, let alone did so much with them. Cyndane:

spoke of the Choedan Kal as one familiar with the terror they had inspired during the War of Power. Only balefire had been more feared, and only just.

- Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News

And finally neither Lews Therin nor Cadsuane’s group were encouraging either:

Dangerous, Lews Therin moaned. Madness. …[Nesune says] “By everything I have read, the attempt to use those sa’angreal may result in disaster. Together they might be strong enough to crack the world like an egg.”…Like an egg! Lews Therin agreed. They were never tested, never tried. This is insane!

- Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

All these groups discounted the possibility that he would cleanse saidin successfully. Rand himself knew that it was a very risky plan, but a necessary one.

He had to talk to Nynaeve. Could he cleanse saidin? It might work. It might destroy the world, too. Lews Therin gibbered at him in stark terror.

- The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons

Rand’s ta’veren pull on the Pattern, his strength and his intelligence brought everything together to achieve this most unlikely deed:

  • He solved the riddle and worked out the method.

  • He had the two access keys to the Choedan Kal. They were in an obscure place (Rhuidean) and he had to fight Asmodean, a Forsaken, to get them. The access keys and the Choedan Kal also survived being used at such high levels for such a long period – to Moghedien’s surprise:
    Amazing that the Choedan Kal had survived continuous use for this long, at this level.
    - Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal
    In fact, the female access key disintegrated at the end of the cleansing.
    Cadsuane let the thing that had been a ter’angreal drop to the ground. It could no longer be called the statue of a woman. The face was as wisely serene as ever, but the figure was broken in two and lump like bubbled wax where one side had melted, including the arm that had held the crystal sphere now lying in shattered fragments around the ruined thing.
    - Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

  • He had a very strong and trustworthy female channeller in Nynaeve to link with.

  • Both Rand and Nynaeve had the strength of character and body as well as in the Power to stay the course.

  • He had Cadsuane to plan his defences. With 6 Forsaken attacking the hilltop where the cleansing took place, Cadsuane’s defences were essential to success.

After the cleansing at the end of Winter’s Heart, there were 3 types of reaction from those that knew:

1. Logain knows saidin is clean but doesn’t believe Rand did it:
The man knew saidin was clean, but he could not believe Rand or any man had actually done the cleansing. Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering?
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm

2. Cadsuane and the other Aes Sedai who were actually present at the cleansing took a long while to believe saidin is clean. (They have too many prejudices to overcome. But believing something is impossible is a prejudice in itself.) Merise replied to Cadsuane:

“I do not know, Cadsuane. It feels cleaner than when I first linked with Jahar, but anything could hide in that chaos. Anything.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

3. Those with Elayne think something wonderful was done. Sumeko says

‘I think something very wonderful or very terrible has happened today.” [Elayne replies:] “Wonderful”.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Wise Ones Know.
The reaction of these groups shows that people consider the cleansing of the taint from saidin as beyond mortals, possibly not even achieved or else amazing. In other words: impossible.

Why nine impossible things? Well, the number nine is strongly associated with the dragon in Chinese thought. The dragon is the most yang animal and nine is the most yang number. Both the dragon and the number nine were linked with the Chinese emperor. Chinese dragon robes, traditional court dress in Imperial China, had nine dragons on them. The dragon was regarded as a composite of nine animal forms and it had nine offshoots or protruberances from its body. It had 81 (9 x 9)scales along its back.

Foretellings, of course, are of the future. Nicola’s Foretelling was told offhand to Egwene five days after the Cleansing. It was one of several Foretellings mentioned as a complaint about how Nicola has been Foretelling two or three times a day for some time. It is quite possible Nicola made this Foretelling prior to the Cleansing.

The removal of the taint was not the only amazing achievement that day: Rand and Nynaeve also destroyed Shadar Logoth and Mashadar by making the two inimical and opposite powers annihilate each other. This too is an ‘impossible deed’. Two for one, you might say. The only representation of the evil of Shadar Logoth left in the world now is Mordeth.

Rand performed two more ‘impossible’ deeds in The Gathering Storm: he channelled the True Power through his link to Moridin, while wearing an a’dam, no less. Something Lews Therin believed impossible:

Oh, Light, Lews Therin suddenly screamed. That's impossible!

- The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done

Then he broke a cuendillar a’dam collar while it was on his neck and in operation.

Cadsuane pulled back the sheets, revealing a familiar pair of bracelets. There was no collar.
"Impossible," she whispered.

- The Gathering Storm, A Warp in the Air

Rand has other ‘impossible’ deeds in mind: he would like to cleanse the Ways (that could be a fifth), defeat the Dark One, and die but continue to live. An easy seven!

Four impossible things done, five to go.

The title of this theory refers to Rand’s strong similarities with the Ancient Greek hero Heracles [Hercules] who performed twelve labours (see Rand essay).


Brian said...

What about putting the whole through the clouds above dragonmount, which egwene claimed was something wonderful as well

Brian said...

Sorry "hole"

luvtheedragon said...

sorry! still not buying it....

Gilbetron said...

I like the theory, though it seems odd that there would only be one mention of "nine impossible things," if it really was meant to be significant. One would think there would be a corresponding reference somewhere else in the first 12 books. Occam's Razor would suggest that the number nine was arbitrary. It could just as easily have been "seven impossible things" or "eleven" impossible things." (Odd numbers seem to contribute to the sense of arbitrary-ness, for some reason.) So it was perhaps just intended to be read as, "A whole bunch of impossible things."

However, all that said, a part of me wants badly to believe that there is some underlying organization to Rand's miraculous acts, and this sounds plausible to me. Quite frankly, I'm often amazed at the sort of minutiae that you guys are able to dig out of the text. And I don't mean that in a disaparaging way; not at all, it's quite impressive!

Philbert said...

Something that was nicely set up to be impossible early in the series: heal a dead person.

Of course this one could also be for Nynaeve healing Rand immediately after TG.

Unknown said...

The "hole" in the clouds isn't really a feat. It is a reflection of his state of mind. Rand is like King Aurthur in that the "health" of the land is linked to his health, and more to the point, his mental health. Many of the phenomenon that have been attributed to the Dark One touching the world are being caused by the combination of Rand's ta'varen nature and his unconscious slide toward the Dark One, abandoning hope, embracing death, retreating from affection, etc...

The opening in the clouds above the Dragonmount, above Rand, is a reflection of him repenting his dark ways and once again embracing hope and love, the second chance. I expect that several aspects of the "Dark One's touch" will become substantially lighter over the course of the next two novels as Rand's behavior changes for the better.

Dida said...

Thanks for your excellent essay Linda!

However I do have a quibble about [B]Mordeth[/B], [I]who[/I] in particular are you referring too? It seems a bit on the 'vague' side, to say the least.

Padan Fain with possession of the red ruby dagger? Rand al'Thor who cut his hand while holding the Power in Aridhol which Sulin saw firsthand. One or both of them?

Note, that Rand's cut hand was not warded by Damer Flinn unlike his later dagger wound to his side by Padan Fain's red ruby dagger.

I'd suggest Mordeth's essence is part of [I]both[/I] Rand and Padan Fain [I]now[/I].

"The removal of the taint was not the only amazing achievement that day: Rand and Nynaeve also destroyed Shadar Logoth and Mashadar by making the two inimical and opposite powers annihilate each other. This too is an ‘impossible deed’. Two for one, you might say. The [B]only representation of the evil of Shadar Logoth left in the world now is Mordeth.[/B]"

Linda said...


Yes I have 'and in Rand's side' in the Rand essay.

Anonymous said...

In response to Gilbetron's post: "I like the theory, though it seems odd that there would only be one mention of "nine impossible things," if it really was meant to be significant. One would think there would be a corresponding reference somewhere else in the first 12 books. Occam's Razor would suggest that the number nine was arbitrary. It could just as easily have been "seven impossible things" or "eleven" impossible things." (Odd numbers seem to contribute to the sense of arbitrary-ness, for some reason.) So it was perhaps just intended to be read as, "A whole bunch of impossible things.""

Actually, 9 impossible things would be far from arbitrary, considering the extensive Rand/Christ parallels. In the book of John, Christ performs 9 increasingly complex and powerful miracles (from turning water into wine to his own resurrection). Seems like a strong argument for there to be nine of them, especially given his "resurrection" will likely be the final one.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that there are no "extensive Rand/Christ parallels".

It's one of the few parallels Jordan actually discussed. He was asked about them and he said a few parallels can be drawn but that wasn't what he envisionned/intended for Rand. He did not see him as a Messiah figure but as a culture-hero in the vein of King Arthur, that he did not, specifically, meant for Rand to be a parallel to Jesus Christ.

Most of the "Messiah parallels" seem second-hand, that is, Messiahs in all religions have a lot in common with saviour-figures in myth, so coincidences and second-hand parallels are bound to be there. But it's in the well of culture-heroes RJ dug for Rand, not in that of the Messiah figures.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, Anonymous (1/27/10 6:10 PM), I think Robert Jordan disagrees in his interviews regarding the inciting idea:

"What started you down the road that led to writing THE EYE OF THE WORLD?
A number of idle speculations that percolated around in the back of my head. I thought about what it really would be like - really - to be tapped on the shoulder and told that you had been born to save humanity. Even if the danger was real and imminent and everyone knew that someone was...scheduled, you might say...to show up and take care of matters, how would they react when that someone stood up and said here I am?" (http://www.sffworld.com/interview/50p0.html)

I think that's a pretty strong implication that Rand is a messianic figure. Also, c'mon, Rand's going to die and rise again 3 days later--difficult to deny that's a Christ parallel.

-(1/27/10 12:11 AM)

Unknown said...

If in fact there are 9 impossible feats Rand has and will accomplish, we should contemplate and discuss possible actions.

Some Ideas have been mentioned above:

Capturing Tear (was said it would never fall)
Cleansing the Taint (people still don't believe)

Others to consider:

Being at the top of Dragonmount and surviving. - reasoning is I remember reading multiple times on how it would be impossible to reach the summit and have the strength to get back down (not to mention thinness of the air)

Drawing Callandor - The Sword that cannot be touched... enough said.

Traveling (Skimming) - he did it before Eqwene.

Portal Stones - unsure about this one, but could lump it in w/ traveling possibly.

Aes Sedai swearing fealty to him - unsure if it's ever happened to a non-aes sedai.

... just some thoughts (sure some will be in the future.

Anonymous said...

And what about being able to fly ?
Well it seems quite surprising , I know but it is one of the most "impossible" things to do with healing death. Then, there is the cleaning of the Ways, dying and rebirthing, ah yes use a wave on oneself. What do you think of it ?

Linda said...

Flying and using a weave on yourself are possible things. So long as there is something really germane they can add to the plot. The impossible things are really important - 'super turning points' in the Pattern.

Devin said...

Perhaps there has been more than two of the important nine things that Rand has done i.e. cleansing saidin and destroying Shadar Logoth. I'm am unsure exactly what those things could be, but I can speculate as the rest of us have. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is Rand basically binding the Aiel to him. If this causes them to follow the way of the leaf eventually this would be good for all mankind.(allowing the crops to grow again) I do think that the important actions that Rand does will have a lasting affect on the future after he defeats the Dark One. Keeping this thought in mind, you can look back through the books and look in the future books and think of the lasting things that Rand has done for the good of the world.

Anonymous said...

One of the prophesies is that Rand will bind the nine moons to himself. One automatically might think that this could mean he leashes Fortuona. This would be effective and you must admit, pretty satisfying to see. However, the World of Robert Jordan states that if a male holds the adam for a female, both of them die and excruciating death. So if Rand figured out a way to do that, he would be doing an impossible feat.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that drawing Callandor or the Stone of Tear falling were considered impossible; just impossible for everyone but the Dragon Reborn. It seems to me there's a crucial difference.

Anonymous said...

Nice work as always Linda.

By your count:

1. Cleansing saidin
2. Destorying Shadar Logoth/Mordeth
3. Channeling the TP against a domination band
4. Destorying cuendillar

I think we've already had a 5th from the material released for ToM, though I'll refrain from mentioning it.

As for 6-9, I agree on your additional 3:
6. Cleansing the Ways
7. Coming back from the dead (to live, you must die).
8. Permanently sealing the DO away/defeating him

I think the other (or others, if need be), will be of the sort already seen in ToM, more "water to wine" rather than "parting the Red Sea," more everyday type miracles and huge/world scale ones.

Linda said...

Thanks Anonymous. I think you are right about the 5th being in the new ToM material.

Anonymous said...

Personally, IDK what 9 impossible feats Rand could accomplish, but one thing that would stand far and above them all, IMO, would be killing the Dark One in Tarmon Gai'don.

Rand has already been thinking about it in a similar way as he was thinking about cleansing saidin or cheating death. And I believe there's foreshadowing of this event to consider it a very real possibility:

1. Rand's been thinking about breaking all of the seals and freeing the Dark One completely, because the only way you can kill an enemy is by facing them out in the open and for that, the Dark One must be allowed to roam free. Regardless of how risky this plan may sound, even Lews Therin "voice" readily agreed to this (in contrast to other of Rand's ideas, such as the cleansing).

2. Rand has openly admitted that this is what he plans to do when he faced Moridin in Tel'aran'rhiod in TGS. Moridin's reaction? He laughed at Rand and claimed that it was impossible...just like everyone else used to say about the cleansing.

3. Resealing the prison of the Dark One wouldn't stop him from trying and trying over the ages, till he succeeded in breaking free and conquering the world. The only way humankind can be absolutely safe from the Dark One is if he's no more.

4. The name "Last Battle" makes a lot of sense from the Shadow's POV because, if the Dark One's freed, he'll obviously destroy the Wheel and remake the world in his own image. But the term applies to the side of the Light too and it wouldn't make any sense if the Dark One was allowed to continue trying to break free and terrorizing the world.

So again, IDK what other eight "impossible" feats Rand could be capable of achieving but, IMO, everything pales in comparison to this. Even Rand trying to cheat death. Nothing would be more important than utterly and completely destroying the Dark One.

WJ said...

Here's a theory of mine, based on ToM: Rand has already died. The Rand that asked the question was concerned with his survival. The Rand in ToM is LTT+Rand as one person, not fragmented. He no longer sees himself as the son of Tam Al'Thor. His comment about being the only living male Aes Sedai who was properly raise is telling. (I especially loved the comment that this time he had better parenting.)
I don't know if the Finns answers are literal. From the answers Mat got, the answers were literal. I don't remember if Moraine thought her answers were literal or metaphorical. Rand's seemed to go either way.

Anonymous said...

What about the Song of Growth. I don't know how he re-discovered it or maybe remembered it. Maybe Lews Therin knew it.