Thursday, March 28, 2002

The Aelfinn and Eelfinn

By Linda

The Aelfinn and Eelfinn are a pair of nonhuman races who inhabit realms separate from the main world of the Wheel. Jordan answered some questions about them at Dragoncon in September 2005:

Do the Finns inhabit a perpendicular world? No, it is a parallel world.
Does the physical location of the world of Finns have anything to do with the bells ringing when the ta’veren were in together? No.
Have the Finns existed as long as the Wheel? Yes.
Do they have souls? Yes.
Are the Finns from human stock? No.
Did they originate in their current location? Yes.
Are they related to Tel’aran’rhiod or do they control Tel’aran’rhiod? No.

Access to the realms of the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn is via a pair of ter’angreal shaped like doorways that are made of redstone (for more information on these see Doorways section of the Ter’angreal article). The doorways act as optical illusions: the seams don't align correctly, subtly twisting one's perception of them. One doorway takes the traveller to the Aelfinn, the other to the Eelfinn. To use the ter’angreals, one simply needs to walk through them to be instantly transported to their worlds. However, a person may only use each doorway once. (The bells may be an alarm that the connection is in danger.)

These worlds do not appear to obey all of the normal spatial laws of physics, which is why Noal couldn’t map their route (Towers of Midnight, Gateways). Not only can traveling through corridors seem to take one nowhere, but the surroundings can change between one glance and the next. As Mat said:

"The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn have rules," Mat said, turning and running down the corridor, the other two chasing after him. "And this place has rules."
"Rules have to make sense, Mat," Noal said.
"They have to be consistent," Mat said. "But they don't have to follow our logic. Why should they?"

- Towers of Midnight, Gateways

In their dealings with humans, both the Aelfinn and Eelfinn speak a harsh dialect of the Old Tongue. If necessary, they will bring in a translator, though such are often not easily understood.

Many people go to the *elfinn folk for aid, despite the danger but this desperate act is meant to be usually futile:

There are gods or beings so powerful as to be considered gods, beings perhaps in some ways as powerful as Sa’khan [original name of Shai’tan], or possibly even more so, but they are invariably of little or no help. Their aid is withheld, or circumscribed, or more harmful than good, or at best delivers less than was hoped and promised. This is a thread which must run through: mankind must depend on itself, not on the help of all-powerful gods.

Robert Jordan, White Goddess notes

Both races have ancient treaties with humans. According to Brandon Sanderson in an interview, these are so similar to each other they are effectively identical. The terms of their treaties stipulate that humans shall not bring any musical instruments, iron objects, or devices for making light. These things are either inimical to them or reduce their abilities:

"Iron will hurt them, ward them, and hold them. Fire will scare them and kill them. Music will entrance them. But you'll find that both fire and music grow less and less effective the longer you use them.

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Iron weapons bind them in place so that they can’t escape the blow:

Mat cursed, lowering his spear and striking at the Eelfinn, which moved across the ground on all fours. But his blade passed right through it, as if it were smoke.
Was it an illusion? A trick of the eyes? Mat hesitated long enough for another creature to snatch the dice and leap back toward the shadows.
Something sparkled in the air. Thom's dagger found its mark, striking the creature in the shoulder. This time the blade pierced and stayed, releasing a spray of dark blood. Iron, Mat thought, cursing his stupidity.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Any physical weapons the *elfinn use are bronze (Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World).

The Aelfinn and Eelfinn access the lives and memories of those who stand before them, and somehow inhale the "aroma" of a person, savouring the petitioner’s experiences and emotions and perhaps forging a mental link so they can harvest their experiences and memories. It is not necessary for their survival, but entrances them like a drug. Birgitte says they delight in savouring a person’s emotions so much that:

"That's why they built portals into our world, that's why they entice us in. They feed off what we feel. They like Aes Sedai in particular, for some reason. Perhaps those with the One Power taste like a strong ale."

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Ta’veren are much more intoxicating:

"The savor!" one Eelfinn exclaimed.
"So long!" cried another.
"How it twists around him!" said the one who had taken his eye. "How it spins!
Scents of blood in the air! And the gambler becomes the center of all! I can taste fate itself!"

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

due to their influence on the Pattern. Another thing the Aelfinn and Eelfinn can do is drain channelling ability:

"My Power, Thom," she explained. "I could hear them barking and hissing to one another as they fed on me, both Aelfinn and Eelfinn in turn. They have not often had an Aes Sedai to themselves, it seems. While draining my ability to channel, they were fed twofold—my sorrow at what I was losing and the Power itself. My capacity has been greatly reduced.
"They claimed to have killed Lanfear by draining her too quickly, though I think they may have been trying to make me afraid. A man was there once, when they woke me. He said I was not the one he wanted." She hesitated, then shivered.

- Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit for Supper

Yet Lanfear’s/Cyndane’s channelling strength has only been reduced slightly (see Saidar Strength Ranking article), so Moiraine is right to be sceptical. According to Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes, Moiraine never saw what happened to Lanfear in Sindhol. The alarming man was Moridin, looking for Lanfear and it is significant that Moiraine was fearful of him, despite him being uninterested in her (Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes).

As to what Moiraine endured due to remove Lanfear as a threat to Rand:

When they passed through the doorframe ter'angreal, she only clung to consciousness long enough to know that they had both passed through, that the doorframe was burning. When she woke, she was floating in air, and they were explaining to her what was going to happen. To heighten her emotions. She believes that she had relived a number of incidents for them before that. While floating, she could not speak…
once she was brought back to consciousness to find a man there (Ishamael, though she doesn't know it, already as Moridin), apparently young, tall, muscular, beautifully handsome. She was not the woman he wanted. He wasn't interested in her at all, and he seemed irritated at having his time wasted, impatient. She was returned to the "sleep" in moments, but she recalls his appearance very clearly; he frightened her for some reason, and maybe because he was part of her memory, as was her fear of him, the snakes/foxes incorporated him into her dreams when they went to making things more complicated for her. The reinforcement, plus the things done in those particular dreams, have increased that fear to the point where she shivers thinking of him and her teeth might chatter if she saw him in the flesh.

Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

Moridin killed Lanfear to free her from the *Finns, according to Lanfear, although it was also her punishment and allowed the Dark One to transmigrate her soul (A Memory of Light, Prologue).

The *elfinn learn a lot from their harvests of emotions, memories and experiences, but they are not omniscient:

Several of them seemed dissatisfied. They didn't expect us to make it here, Mat thought. They don't like to risk losing us.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

The Eelfinn were able to graft memories and experiences into Mat’s mind. None of Mat’s memories date from before Maecine of Eharon (400‒500 years before the Trolloc Wars; and thus over 2500 years ago), or from after Arthur Paendrag Tanreall (1000 years ago) and none of the memories are of childhood or growing up. How did the Eelfinn get these memories? According to Robert Jordan:

At least a partial answer will be coming up in the next main sequence book, so I guess you could say this is a RAFO. But I will say that if I said those adventurers all entered through the two ter'angreal, I misspoke. A good many entered through the Tower of Ghenjei, which was more widely known in earlier years, if never exactly a household name.

Mat thinks the Eelfinn create some sort of link to any human who visits them, a link that allows them to copy all of the person’s memories after that right up until the moment that person dies (Knife of Dreams, Dragons Eggs). He also believes that the Eelfinn, and maybe the Aelfinn too, therefore know everything Mat now does or experiences through this link (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota).

Sindhol, the parallel world of the Aelfinns and Eelfinns, touched the main world at three tangents that we know of: the two redstone doorway ter’angreal (at least one is destroyed in both worlds, but probably both are) and the Tower of Ghenjei. There is no information in the notes about how or when these connecting artefacts were made or by who.

The connection between the main world and that of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn through the redstone doorways is vulnerable. According to Moiraine:

“One of you would have been bad enough, but two ta’veren at once—you might have torn the connection entirely and been trapped there.”

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

Moiraine and Lanfear might have cut the connection between worlds with their channelling. At a booksigning, Jordan said that the door way burned in part because both were channelling and the world on the other side of the doorway has a radically different set of natural laws (Original WOTFAQ).

The connection between the land of the Eelfinn and the main world was probably snapped when the doorway ter'angreal was destroyed, snapping the Warder bond as well. Or more specifically, causing Lan's bond to transfer to Myrelle (because the bond could not work between worlds, which meant Moiraine was dead as far it was concerned, and this triggered the transfer). Lan could not feel Moiraine anymore, but he could feel Myrelle, and assumed Moiraine was dead. The ter'angreal doorway in Tear connects to a different realm (of the Aelfinn), and the Tower of Ghenjei is closed unless the right mark is made in the right way, so these connections may not have been able to keep Moiraine’s bond to Lan operational when the connection to the Eelfinn’s realm broke.

If that were the case, then the Eelfinn probably lost contact with Mat and so aren’t capturing his experiences and memories as he fears (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota).

It looks like someone destroyed the connection between the main world and the Aelfinn’s realm. Certainly, the red-stone doorway on the Aelfinn’s side is smashed:

Sitting in the middle of that room was a redstone doorway. Or what was left of it.
Mat cursed, running forward. The floor was strewn with chunks of red rock rubble. Mat groaned, dropping his spear and taking a few of the chunks, holding them up. The doorway had been shattered by something, a blow of awesome force.

- Towers of Midnight, The One Left Behind

Perhaps Moridin destroyed it, to trap Mat there if he came to rescue Moiraine, for instance. Another possibility is that it was damaged as a result of one of Lanfear’s wishes.

The Aelfinn

The Aelfinn are tall and very thin, with narrow, elongated faces. Their skin appears scaly in the right light, as does their straight black hair. Their eyes have pupils that are just black, vertical slits, and their hands are long, with long fingers. The clothing of the Aelfinn consists of layers of cloth wound about their scaly bodies. Yellow and red colors have been observed. All in all, they appear remarkably like snakes. They even appear to slither although they walk on two legs.

Aelfinn architecture also evokes snakiness. All lines in the construction are curved. Ceilings and walls are bowed. Curved halls, rounded doorways and circular chambers and windows are all present, with not a straight edge to be seen.

The ter’angreal doorway to the Aelfinn bears three carved sinuous lines running down each side. It has now apparently been destroyed, at least on the Aelfinn’s side and probably in Tear also. For about 300 years, it lay unused and forgotten in the Great Holding under the Stone of Tear, being rediscovered only recently. Before Tear owned it, the doorway was in the possession of the Firsts of Mayene, who used its powers to keep Mayene out of Tairen hands. The last First of Mayene to hold it was Halvar, who gifted it to Tear as a sign of goodwill.

The petitioner must ask all three questions and hear the answers before they leave because otherwise the agreement cannot be fulfilled, since the petitioner cannot re-enter this ter’angreal. The answers are abstruse and incomplete at best and there is a risk. Frivolous questions are punished, though what may be serious for one can be frivolous for another. Most importantly, questions touching the Shadow have dire consequences for the petitioner—they may be killed or injured if they ask them (The Shadow Rising, Doorways). The answers are true so long as they are about the petitioner’s own future.

How are the Aelfinn able to read the future of a petitioner? Moiraine speculates:

That world is . . . folded . . . in strange ways. I cannot be clearer. It may be that that allows them to read the thread of a human life, read the various ways it may yet be woven into the Pattern. Or perhaps it is a talent of the people. The answers are often obscure, however.

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

If the Aelfinn do read the thread of a human life, it may be necessary for that person to be in front of them, or in their world at least. This would explain why their answers to questions about the future of other people (that are not present in their world or they have never met) are not true. They truly are alien however.

In exchange, the Aelfinn savour the petitioner’s experiences and emotions. It is not known if the Aelfinn link to the person and harvest their memories and experiences as the Eelfinn apparently do.

The Eelfinn

The Eelfinn are likewise very tall, but there the similarity ends. They are sinewy, with wide shoulders, narrow jaws and waists, and very pale skin. Their eyes are large and pale, and their hair is reddish and stands up straight in a crest. They have pointed ears and sharp pointed teeth. "Foxlike" is a good general description. The senior Eelfinn describe themselves as:

"the near ancient, the warriors of final regret, the knowers of secrets."

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Eelfinn fashion consists of skirts for women and kilts for men; women also wear blouses, with high lace necks and falls at the wrist. The men go bare-chested but for a number of crisscrossing straps over their torsos, made out of pale leather, whether human or otherwise. The number, width and decoration (e.g., silver or gold) of these straps reflects the status of the wearer.

The doorway to the Eelfinn appears largely similar to the Aelfinn doorway, except that it is carved with three rows of point-down triangles running along each upright. Aes Sedai gave this doorway to the Da’shain Aiel during the Breaking. It, along with many other ter’angreal, was carried to Rhuidean where it rested for many centuries. The ter’angreal was destroyed in Cairhien when Moiraine pushed Lanfear through it while they were both channelling (see Doorways section of the Ter’angreal article).

Eelfinn architecture is dominated by two shapes: the pentagon, which is the shape of their doorways and corridors; and an eight-pointed star, which is the shape of their rooms and pillars, the only features in those rooms. In hallways and on pillars, yellow glowing strips run up and along the vertices of the constructions, providing light. The pedestals and pillars are black glassy stone and the floor white. White smoke flows around the room from which the Eefinn can appear.

The bargaining with the Eelfinn must take place in the Chamber of Bonds or else they are not bound by it (Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World). The Eelfinn treaty may best be summed up as a granting of "three wishes," with a dangerous rider. A person may make up to three requests, but these may not be granted exactly as the petitioner had in mind, and may be used against the petitioner as Moiraine found (Towers of Midnight, A Rabbit For Supper). Additionally, there is a price the petitioner must pay:

"A price must be paid," one said.
"The demands must be met," said another.
"A sacrifice must be given." This from one of the females. She smiled more broadly than the others. Her teeth were pointed, too.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Wise people will set the price before making requests, though some foolish people have failed to do so in the past. According to The Wheel of Time Companion, the Eelfinn prefer to make death the price if the questioner does not negotiate it. The Eelfinn are able to fulfil requests precisely and promptly with ter’angreal or similar magical items from their large supplies:

Matt: …some item of Power?
Brandon: Some item of Power, something like that…of which they have great stores…
Matt: Really? Heh, so the obvious question, where did the 'Finns get great stores of ter’angreal, angreal, and is that part of the Pact they made?
Brandon: RAFO…but if you just think about it, we don’t even have to go to the notes for this if you think about it logically, we know of them providing certain items of Power to certain individuals that they were able to match very nicely with certain requests very easily. If you run the statistics on that, it's either a huge coincidence or they have very many to choose from.

- Brandon Sanderson in conversation with Matt Hatch

Mat believes that the Eelfinn never come to the main world side of the twisted doorway ter’angreal for longer than minutes at a time (Knife of Dreams, Dragons Eggs).

The Tower of Ghenjei

The Tower of Ghenjei is a shining column of metal some 200 feet (60 meters) tall, and as big around as a house. Despite this, it has no apparent seams or an entrance; until the right sign is made in the right way, there is no doorway and the Tower is closed. The Tower is located far inland on the north side of the River Arinelle in Andor, some ten days upriver of Whitebridge.

Birgitte Silverbow described it as a gateway to the realms of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn:

"The tower isn't a place, it's a portal. A kind of gate to the crossroads between their realms. You'll find both of them there, Aelfinn snakes and Eelfinn foxes. Assuming they're working together currently. They have a strange relationship."

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

and told Olver how to enter:

"Birgitte says you make the sign on the side of it anywhere with a bronze knife." He made the sign that started the game. "She says it has to be a bronze knife. Make the sign, and a door opens."

- Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota

The Tower’s entrance chamber is shaped like “an off-kilter square.” The black floor is

made of twisting cords that in some places seemed metal and in other places seemed wood

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

and the black walls are:

not stone, but were of some reflective material, like the scales of enormous fish.

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Birgitte also warned Mat that:

“ You don't get anything free if you go in the tower, by the way. They'll ask for something, something dear to you.

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

But Mat didn’t get anything for free when he went through the Eelfinn’s doorway, either.

Snakes and Foxes

Snakes and Foxes is a children’s game in the Wheel of Time universe (see Foxes and Snakes article), the object of which is to move the player’s piece to the center of the circular board without getting caught by "enemy" snake and fox pieces. However, the rules apparently make the game impossible to win without cheating. (Olver appeared to win a game against all odds in Towers of Midnight, Epilogue, paralleling Mat’s and Thom's unlikely successful rescue of Moiraine). As soon as they realize this, most children stop playing.

The game is begun by making the sign of a wavy line through a triangle, and chanting the verse:

Courage to strengthen,
Fire to blind.
Music to daze,
Iron to bind.

- The Shadow Rising, The Tower of Ghenjei

The game is a folk memory of old dealings with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, hence the symbols and the verse’s similarity to the requests made by the Aelfinn and Eelfinn on the other side of the doorways.

In her letter to Thom, Moiraine warns him to remember and heed everything he knows about this game (which luckily they have been playing frequently for some weeks) when he, Mat and another man, Noal Charin attempt to rescue her from the Aelfinn and Eelfinn (see Moiraine's Rescue article). There is nothing remarkable in trying to cheat the rules of the game, it is the minimum requirement for dealing with the *elfinn folk and the success rate is still very low. Perhaps what is remarkable is the amount of prohibited items that the three men brought with them. It was not enough on its own, however.


The Aelfinn and Eelfinn are tricksters, as fellow trickster Mat recognises. They use bluff, illusion and hypnotism to fool those who try to bargain with them:

Never choose the card a man wants you to. Mat should have realized that. It was one of the oldest cons in creation.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

"They control the darkness," Noal said. He stood with his back to Mat and Thom, wary. "Those yellow lights are to distract us; there are breaks in them and sheltered alcoves. It's all a trick."
Mat felt his heart beating rapidly. A trick? No, not just a trick. There was something unnatural about the way those creatures moved in the shadow.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

And then the doorway was in front of them, appearing like a striking adder. It had not been there a moment before. The rim of the opening was intricately carved wood, with an impossible pattern of weaving vines that seemed to double back on one another and make no sense.
All three pulled to a halt. "Mirrors," Noal said. "I've seen it before. That's how they do it, obscuring things with mirrors." He sounded unnerved. Where did one hide mirrors in a bloody straight tunnel?
They were in the right place; Mat could smell it. The stink of the Eelfinn was strongest here. He set his jaw and stepped through the doorway.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

Some of their ‘tricks’ literally evoke smoke and mirrors, the standard modus operandi of magicians.

There is more discussion about the trickster aspects of the *elfinns, Mat, Thom, and Noal in the Trickster essay.


Aelfinn and Eelfinn: The names are similar to ‘elfin’ and therefore refer to elves. In fact, the Old English word for elf was aelf. Like elves, the Aelfinn and Eelfinn have strange powers, including appearing and disappearing suddenly, seeing the future and granting three questions/wishes. Other similarities are that people they encounter are spirited away, maybe never to be seen again, or else returning years later. Elfland, the realm of the elves, is sometimes portrayed as strange and dangerous and elves themselves maybe good, evil or alien. Likewise, the *elfinn’s land operates with different natural laws, and the full motivation of the *elfinn creatures themselves is unfathomable.

Sindhol, the name of their land, translates from the Old Tongue as Neverland, a reference to J.M. Barrie’s works, although Sindhol is also a place in India. The Eelfinn and elves both own fairy treasure including stores of magical items. Both races are renowned as tricky and malicious; even their gifts may not work quite in the way their receivers anticipate. In his Mat notes, Jordan explored the idea of the *elfinn stealing the nourishment out of human food as pixies or fairies do, so that humans could starve to death in their realm while eating amply. Conversely, the *elfinn could offer humans what looks like proper human food but it is not nourishing. This concept was incorporated into the rules of Tel’aran’rhiod where food or drink could be created and consumed there but not be nourishing.

Why are Jordan’s ‘elves’ like foxes and snakes? These animals are creatures with a dubious reputation, just as the Aelfinn and Elfinn are “so alien they might as well be evil” (see Animal Symbolism essay). Foxes are tricky as well as predatory; snakes are lethal as well as wise. The *elfinn folk have ambivalent symbolism to reflect to their amorality and otherworldliess. In Japanese folklore, foxes are often seen as witch-like animals and tricksters that may be malevolent or merely mischievous. Such kitsune are able to confuse people with illusions or visions.

Ghenjei: Ghenjei alludes to the Genji or Minamoto family of samurai, who had great power in Japan in the 11th century AD:

In the late Heian period (the Heian period was from 794‒1185 AD), the more powerful of the samurai, who first established their power in the provinces, gradually gathered in or near the capital, where they served both the military needs of the state against potential outbreaks of rebellion and also as bodyguards for the great noble houses. Through association with the aristocracy, they gradually established a foothold at court. Outstanding among these samurai were the branch of the Minamoto (or Genji) family descended from the emperor Seiwa and the Taira (Heike) family lineage that traced its roots to the emperor Kammu. The Seiwa Genji established themselves as clients in the service of successive Fujiwara regents even before Michinaga was regent. Their fame as a warrior clan was greatly heightened in the mid-11th century when they quelled a rebellion in northeast Japan.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

It also alludes to The Tale of Genji:

a masterpiece of Japanese literature by the Lady Murasaki Shikibu, written toward the start of the 11th century. It is considered the oldest full novel in the world and one of the finest. The Tale of Genji captures the image of a unique society of ultrarefined and elegant aristocrats, whose indispensable accomplishments were skill in poetry, music, calligraphy, and courtship. Most of the story is concerned with the loves of Prince Genji and the different women in his life, each of whom is exquisitely delineated. The work is supremely sensitive to human emotions and the beauties of nature; but the tone darkens as it proceeds, to reflect a Buddhist conviction of the vanity of this world.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

It is interesting that courage and iron (samurai) and music (court) play such a large part in the allusions, because the Tower of Ghenjei is a gateway to the Aelfinn and Eelfinn and these are things that they prohibit. The visit to *Elfland via the Tower of Ghenjei is darker than the previous visits.

Another important allusion is to Genie (or Jinn). A genie is:

in Arabic mythology, a supernatural spirit below the level of angels and devils. Ghul (treacherous spirits of changing shape), Ifrit (diabolic, evil spirits), and Si’la (treacherous spirits of invariable form) constitute classes of jinn. Jinn are beings of flame or air that are capable of assuming human or animal form and are said to dwell in all conceivable inanimate objects—stones, trees, ruins—underneath the earth, in the air, and in fire. They possess the bodily needs of human beings and can even be killed, but they are free from all physical restraints. Jinn delight in punishing humans for any harm done them, intentionally or unintentionally, and are said to be responsible for many diseases and all kinds of accidents; however, those human beings knowing the proper magical procedure can exploit the jinn to their advantage.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

While the Aelfinn and Eelfinn have humanoid form, they are considered so alien that they are evil. They have mysterious powers and grant to those that enter the redstone doorways either three wishes or answers to three questions, reminiscent of the genie of the lamp.


Aside from the tricky, magical allusions associated with the *elfinn, they also have a distinctly infernal symbolism, a demonic aspect.

Upon arrival, Noal was struck by the blackness and the sulphurous stench of their realm. One is left in no doubt from the shades and the whiff of brimstone that their world is the Underworld. The blood that vaporises and then contains phantoms in the steam is distinctly demonic:

He shivered as he saw the Eelfinn's blood on the ground begin to steam. White steam, as in the other chambers, but this had shapes in it.
They looked like twisted faces, appearing briefly and yelling before vanishing.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

as though it contains lost or damned souls.

The chamber floors are scaly. Reptilian or serpentine creatures are associated with the devil.

The way the Elfinn can move through shadows is reminiscent of Myrddraal, Shadowspawn tainted by the Dark One’s power.

"They control the darkness," Noal said. He stood with his back to Mat and Thom, wary. "Those yellow lights are to distract us; there are breaks in them and sheltered alcoves. It's all a trick."
Mat felt his heart beating rapidly. A trick? No, not just a trick. There was something unnatural about the way those creatures moved in the shadow.

- Towers of Midnight, The Light of the World

They can suddenly appear and disappear via shadows like Myrddraal. Their distracting yellow lights are like the flames of hell.

The Aelfinn and Eelfinn delight in draining channelling ability, just as the gholam feels rapture as it senses channelling ability vanishing as its victim dies (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving).

It could be that Shadowspawn were modelled by Aginor on the *elfinns.

Aelfinn and Eelfinn also have similarities to maras, the demons of Buddhist thought which feed on emotions like anger and fear.


Finally, Mat’s quest and sacrifice of his eye has a parallel in Odin.

Odin is god of the hanged because he hanged himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil to acquire knowledge:

he hung there for nine nights, pierced with a spear, sacrificed to himself, nearly dead, to gain the mastery of the runes and the knowledge of the magic spells that blunt a foe's weapons or free a friend from fetters.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Mat said that on his first encounter with the Elfinn he was hanged for knowledge, the lack of it and the getting of it:

Another gain really had been knowledge, if unwanted knowledge.”

- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance

He was in Rhuidean seven days rather than nine (The Shadow Rising, He Who Comes With the Dawn) and apart from memories which gave him the mastery of warfare, he also gained a sword-spear (a way out of the Underworld) and a ter’angreal which blunts direct channelling and can injure a gholam which sucks channelling ability as Aelfinn and Eelfinn do).

As well as knowledge, Odin paid a price to acquire wisdom. He sacrificed one of his eyes to drink from the Well of Wisdom at the base of Yggsdrasil the World Tree and learn what would befall humanity and the gods. As the Aelfinn foretold and Egwene dreamt, Mat gave up his left eye like Odin for wisdom. This wisdom being whatever knowledge Moiraine acquired through her visits to the *Elfinns and her incorporation of it into her already extensive knowledge of the Prophecies and the Pattern.

Note that Odin sacrificed his eye at the same tree from which he hanged himself; this signified that Mat would lose his eye in an encounter with the same creatures that hanged him, the Eelfinn.


Written by Linda, November 2006 and updated May 2019

Contributors: DragonForever, Palatine, BobH

The Aelfinn's Answers

By Linda

Mat, Rand and Moiraine separately went through the redstone doorway ter’angreal in Tear to the world of the Aelfinn, mysterious snaky non-humans. They each wanted answers—true answers to questions concerning their future. This article details these questions and the answers where known. For information on the functioning of this ter’angreal, see the Ter’angreal Doorways and Arches article. For information on the Aelfinn, see The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn article.

Usage of this doorway ter’angreal is subject to an agreement with the Aelfinn: the petitioner can ask three questions about past, present, or future and the Aelfinn will always answer them, though perhaps in a way not always understood by the petitioner. Any person can step through the doorway, since channelling is not required, but they can use the ter’angreal only once. When Mat stepped through the doorway a second time, he was not transported; the ter’angreal did not work at all. The petitioner must ask all three questions and hear the answers before they leave because otherwise the agreement cannot be fulfilled, since the petitioner cannot re-enter this ter’angreal. Frivolous questions are punished, though what may be serious for one can be frivolous for another. Most importantly, questions touching the Shadow have dire consequences for the petitioner—they may be killed or injured if they ask them (The Shadow Rising, Doorways). The answers are true so long as they are about the petitioner’s own future.

Moiraine speculated on how the Aelfinn are able to read the future of a petitioner:

That world is . . . folded . . . in strange ways. I cannot be clearer. It may be that that allows them to read the thread of a human life, read the various ways it may yet be woven into the Pattern. Or perhaps it is a talent of the people. The answers are often obscure, however.

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

If the Aelfinn do read the thread of a human life, it may be necessary for that person to be in front of them, or in their world at least. This would explain why their answers to questions about the future of other people are not true. They truly are alien however.

In exchange, the Aelfinn savour the petitioner’s experiences and emotions. The petitioner must also abide by the treaties and agreements and carry no iron, instruments of music or devices for making light (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). The Old Tongue is the preferred language of trade. Rand and Moiraine needed an Aelfinn translator but Mat already understood the Old Tongue well by this point.


Mat asked the Aelfinn should he go home to help his people. He intended to ask how to get away from Aes Sedai and how to recover the lost parts of his memory, but their answer to his first question so angered him that he forgot them (just as well, since Mat would not have believed their answers, because they would have been identical with their first answer: "Go to Rhuidean") and instead asked three other questions all stemming from their first answer.

With his usual luck, Mat was able to coerce four answers to his questions out of the Aelfinn by refusing to leave. These were:

  • 1. He should not go home to help his people, but to Rhuidean.

  • 2. If he does not go to Rhuidean he will die.

  • 3. He will die because he will have sidestepped his fate and let his thread drift on the winds of time and those that don’t want that fate fulfilled will kill him.

  • 4. His fate is to marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons; to die and live again, and live once more a part of what was; and to give up half the light of the world to save the world (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway).

In the end, he was thrown bodily out of the doorway.

Mat chose to heed their advice and went to Rhuidean, where he entered the world of the Eelfinn, who gave him memories from past adventurers—memories with which he is living a part of the past. He was killed in Caemlyn, but only temporarily because Rand undid Rahvin’s actions by balefiring Rahvin. Mat married Tuon, then Daughter of the Nine Moons and now Empress. Without his knowledge of war acquired in Rhuidean, he would not have his followers—the Band of the Red Hand—to protect him and help him save Tuon (whose respect he earned with his knowledge) and he would have been killed.

For a while, Mat thought that “Go to Rhuidean” was what the Aelfinn told everyone, because Rand also planned to go there; when Rand confirmed the Aelfinn said nothing about Rhuidean to him, Mat took their answer as a trap to make sure Mat returned to their world so they could capture him. Especially when he felt bound to go a third time…


Rand asked how he could win and survive the Last Battle (despite knowing the dangers of asking questions touching the Shadow) and was cryptically told “If you would live, you must die” (Lord of Chaos, Connecting Lines) and “The north and east must be as one. The west and south must be as one. The two must be as one.” (Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon).

A complete text of this question is in Robert Jordan’s notes on Rand:

"How can I fulfill the Prophecies of the Dragon and survive?"
Answer: "The west and the south must be as one; the north and the east must be as one. Two cannot be one; you must stand against the two as one. If you would live, you must die."

Rand initially interpreted the first sentence as meaning that he must conquer everything. When he saw how entrenched the Seanchan were, he realised that this part of the answer may mean that since the Seanchan hold the west and south, he will hold the north and east and they should make an alliance to fight the Last Battle. This ties in with two of the Prophecies of the Dragon, Rand tying the north to the east and the west to the south (A Crown of Swords, Ta’veren) and Rand binding the Nine Moons to serve him (The Dragon Reborn, The Hunt Begins) and also the Aiel Dreamwalkers’ dream of Rand cutting the wetlands in two with a sword (Lord of Chaos, Matters of Toh). He persuaded Fortuona to sign a peace treaty to this effect, respecting their borders, in exchange for Seanchan participation in the Last Battle (A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered). This part of the answer covered the military battle only.

The riddle of the last sentence also took a long while to understand, particularly with Min harping on the most negative interpretation of her viewing of Alivia, but just as Min’s tactlessness annoyed Aviendha enough to declare her punishments unnecessary, so Rand realised that helping him die might not be fatal…Being believed dead by nearly everybody would still be a loss, for them and for him, but he would be alive at least.

To a degree, Rand regrets at least one of the questions that he asked and feels he could have made better use of the opportunity. Of course, once you know the answer, it seems too easy. Rand also asked how to cleanse saidin, and received a riddle for an answer; a riddle, that according to Herid Fel, stated "sound principles, in both high philosophy and natural philosophy" (The Path of Daggers, Message From the M’Hael). The answer, as given in Robert Jordan’s notes on Rand is:

"What is unlike, attracts. What is like, cancels. Let the one absorb the other."

Rand solved the riddle and used saidin’s opposing power, saidar, as a filter and the taint and its opposing power in Shadar Logoth to annihilate each other (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal).

Rand’s last question was not described in the books. In Robert Jordan’s Rand notes, the last question is said to be "How can I destroy the Dark One?" and the answer:

"What was, is, and will be. To choose is the fate of your kind. Without choice, humankind is dust."

While the answer is not a riddle, Rand did not understand it until the very end, which is why he said:

"I see the answer now," he whispered. "I asked the Aelfinn the wrong question. To choose is our fate. If you have no choice, then you aren't a man at all. You're a puppet . . ."

A Memory of Light, Epilogue

Rand had been convinced that killing the Dark One was the way to remove evil from the Land, but realised that this idea was wrong, and a wasted question:

He understood, finally, that the Dark One was not the enemy.

It never had been. …

A Memory of Light, Epilogue

Rand’s answers were riddles that he had to solve, thus resulting in a time delay. The Aelfinn may have done this deliberately, knowing a delay was ‘part of the Pattern’ or it may have been a consequence of their non-human nature and being unable to express themselves clearly in human language. Or they just like to make people sweat!


It is not known what Moiraine asked, or what answers she received. They are not in Robert Jordan’s notes.


Written by Linda, February 2008 and updated June 2013, July 2017 and January 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers : The Unbeliever

By Linda

This article looks at how Aes Sedai (and others) think of male channellers and why Elaida twice refers to Logain as the unbeliever in The Eye of the World, The Web Tightens.

After Elayne was rebuked by Morgase for sneaking a look at Logain and forbidden to go anywhere near him when Elayne accompanies Logain’s procession to the Tower, Elaida told Elayne:

”But my sisters will keep you away from the unbeliever.”

and Morgase’s court:

"Today the unbeliever is brought into Caemlyn. In two days he will be taken north to Tar Valon, and with him goes the Daughter-Heir for her training.”

- The Eye of the World, The Web Tightens

Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah tend to have a negative view of men, stemming from their task of finding men who can channel and gentling them before the taint drives them to madness and destruction. In some cases, of course, their negative view of men attracts them to this task. Cadsuane, a Green, tells Rand that some Aes Sedai believe that men who can channel are rejected by the Light, but she does not:

"The Light's mercy fades to nothing for a man who can channel. Some see that and believe the Light denies those men. I do not.”

- A Crown of Swords, When the Plow Breaks the Earth

and when Moiraine was talking to Loial in Caemlyn, she said that unlike the Reds, the Blues believed that it was right for the Ogier to shelter the male Aes Sedai during the Breaking:

"Some in Tar Valon," Moiraine said quietly, "claim that Ogier sanctuary prolonged the Breaking and made it worse. Others say that if all of those men had been allowed to go mad at once, there would have been nothing left of the world. I am of the Blue Ajah, Loial; unlike the Red Ajah, we hold to the second view.”

- The Eye of the World, Remembrance of Dreams

Many Reds would believe that the Light denies male channellers—that they are accursed or tainted—and that the Ogier should not have harboured them. Not only Reds; some Aes Sedai from other Ajahs hold this view. For instance Saroiya, a Sitter among the rebel Aes Sedai, claims that men are tainted:

“These so-called Asha’man are tainted!” Saroiya called out with no sign of the vaunted White Ajah reserve. Hands knotted in her shawl, she trembled so hard that the long snowy fringe swayed. “Tainted with the Dark One’s touch!”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Surprises

and she refused to consider allying with them even when assured saidin is clean (Knife of Dreams, Call to a Sitting).

Elaida is apparently one of those who go a step further and believe that men who channel (especially those who declare themselves to be the Dragon) are rejecting the Light. Not that all channelling men are Darkfriends, but that they don't believe in the Light. She may make an exception of men who try not to channel, but since they usually fail, she may not either.

Her 'logic' would go like this:

    The Light rejects channelling men. ‘Proof’ of this is that male channellers are cursed to go mad and rot alive.

    If a man actively channels, then he doesn't believe in the Light, because if he did believe, he would try not to channel so the Light wouldn't reject him.

This is an extremist view and Jordan later shows that not all Reds hold it. Pevara, Tsutama and Tarna, for instance, do not appear to be extremists. Nor do they regard male channellers as permanently tainted as Saroiya does.

Elaida’s condemnation of Logain was meant to intimidate Elayne more than anything so that she stayed away from him. It was also meant to show Elaida’s likely reaction to the Dragon Reborn. The irony being that the future Dragon Reborn was right in front of her. He’d even already channelled three times at that stage (see Onset of Rand's Channelling article).

Rand was bitterly disappointed that his cleansing of saidin has largely gone unremarked or even been disbelieved:

Men who could channel were always distrusted. Yet they were the only ones who could confirm what Rand said! He'd imagined joy and wonder at the victory, but he should have known better. Though male Aes Sedai had once been as respected as their female counterparts, that had been long ago. The days of Jorlen Corbesan had been lost in time. All people could remember now was the Breaking and the Madness.

- The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Even those who were there, such as Harine, are sceptical, or believe it changes nothing. Elza took this line too until Corele said:

"Oh, we were both there at Shadar Logoth," Corele said, rolling her eyes. "We saw what you did, Rand. Besides, I can feel the male power through dear Damer here when we link. It has changed. The taint is gone. Right as sunlight, it is, though channeling the male half still feels like wrestling with a summer whirlwind."
"Yes," Elza said, "but be that as it is, you must realize how difficult it will be for others to believe this, Lord Dragon. During the Time of Madness, it took decades for some people to accept that the male Aes Sedai were doomed to go insane. It will likely take longer for them to overcome their distrust, now that it has been ingrained for so long."

- The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Verin also thought it would take time to be accepted.

Word of the removal of the taint is spreading among Aes Sedai. Egwene’s reaction was more positive than most:

"They claim saidin is cleansed," Siuan said.
Egwene raised an eyebrow, but did not object. "Yes," she said, "I suppose that might be a reasonable possibility. We will need further confirmation, of course. But the taint arrived when all seemed won; why should it not leave when all seems to be approaching pure madness?"
"I hadn't considered it that way," Siuan said. "Well, what should we do, Mother?"
"Let the Hall deal with it," Egwene said. "It seems they have matters in hand."

- The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts

She thought it feasible and began to plan changes to the Red Ajah’s role:

"This will be a difficult time for the Red Ajah, daughter," Egwene said. "Their nature has always been to capture men who can channel, but reports claim that saidin is cleansed."
"There will still be rogue channelers, Mother," Silviana said. "And men are not to be trusted."
Someday, we will have to move beyond that last sentiment, Egwene thought. But for now, it is true enough to let stand. "I didn't say that your purpose would vanish, only that it would change. I see great things for the Red Ajah in the future—an expanding of vision, a renewal of duty. I am pleased to have you at my side to help guide them."

- The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

We never learned what Egwene envisioned the Red Ajah’s new role as being, and whether they accepted it. (Policing channellers seems a suitable expansion on their role.) At least some have shown they can trust and accept men.

Mat’s reaction has been the most positive so far:

"I don't know," Mat said, feeling sheepish. "I guess I just think I should feel different, or something. The whole world up and changed on us, didn't it?"
"You could say that," Verin said, "though I would argue that the cleansing itself is more like a pebble thrown into a pond. The ripples will take some time to reach the shore."
"A pebble?" Mat asked. "A pebble?"
"Well, perhaps more of a boulder."
"A bloody mountain if you ask me," Mat muttered.

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

He thinks it should make a huge difference. And considering his fear of anything to do with either saidin or saidar, that is quite a turn-around. Far more so than what the Aes Sedai who were actually there at the cleansing have managed.

Right up until shortly before A Memory of Light as Rand stressed, men were being needlessly killed, severed or exiled when they were no longer going to go mad. The danger of men’s channelling led many to refuse to believe the taint is gone despite assurances, just as it led pacifists to ruthlessness:

As might be expected, occasionally men are born among the Amayar who can channel. The method of dealing with them is curiously gentle, in a way, while at the same time being efficient and brutal. The man is shielded, then put into a deep sleep where his dreams and bodily responses are manipulated. He has pleasant dreams—indeed, pleasant dreams of an entire life—and he feels no pain or discomfort, but he sleeps until he dies. NOTE: This manipulation of dreams is something beyond any Aes Sedai and probably beyond Aiel Wise Ones who are Dreamwalkers.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes


Written by Linda, December, 2005 and updated August 2019

Aes Sedai History from the Breaking to the Hundred Years War

By Linda

This essay on the history of the Aes Sedai details events affecting Aes Sedai from the Breaking until the end of the Hundred Years War in FY 1117 in chronological order and with expansion on certain Aes Sedai issues as they become important. A second essay details the history of Aes Sedai in the New Era.

Topics include:

Establishment of the Tower and Administration
Adoption of the Three Oaths
Dealing with Male Channellers
Tumultuous Tower Politics and the Year of Four Amyrlins
Trolloc Wars
Formation of the Kin
Guaire Amalasan
Bonwhin versus Artur Hawkwing
Deane Aryman
Hundred Years War
Foundation of the Children of the Light

The Tower has been a bulwark against the Shadow for three thousand years. It has guided rulers to wise decisions, stopped wars before they began, halted wars that did begin. That humankind even remembers that the Dark One waits to escape, that the Last Battle will come, is because of the Tower.

- The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams

There are three main real world parallels to the Tower: as a link with the Utopian Age of Legends it alludes to Ancient Rome, a parallel of the Age of Legends (see The Age of Legends essay), but it has even stronger similarities with another great institution modelled after Rome, the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy See (or Vatican City), the centre of learning and guidance for Western Europe through the Dark Ages, and lastly to Catholic convents, especially Venetian convents (and there are also some similarities between Venice and Tar Valon, see below), at about the time of the 15th to 16th centuries.


In the Age of Legends, the Aes Sedai were a large organization ruled from the Hall of Servants located in Paaren Disen (see The Age of Legends essay). The Hall of Servants was both the guild of the Aes Sedai and the building it was housed in, and service to the community was the primary function of the Age of Legends Aes Sedai. The Aes Sedai organised themselves into ajah: small groups of Aes Sedai that formed temporarily for a common purpose and disbanded after it was accomplished, just as the Senators of Ancient Rome combined in shifting networks for political or personal ends (Michael Grant, History of Rome). Many Aes Sedai had careers other than being Aes Sedai, careers that had nothing to do with channelling, and were summoned by the Hall of Servants as required to add their particular strengths and skills to a circle of channellers (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time ).

Long before the end of the Breaking, the Aes Sedai’s extensive organization was destroyed and female Aes Sedai did what they could in small groups or even as individuals (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). In The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated, we see a Da’shain tell of his encounter with a lone Aes Sedai who Healed the sick, took some of the sa’angreal and went on her way.

The small groups that formed during the Breaking were so convenient for safety and efficiency that they became effectively permanent and, due to lack of prolonged contact with other groups, independent as well (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time ).

According to the secret White Tower records, themselves admittedly incomplete, several Aes Sedai (not yet part of any organized Aes Sedai or White Tower, of course) made themselves queens in the years immediately following the Breaking. They did not, however, admit to being what they were. The occasional assumption of a throne by an Aes Sedai (or, as Moiraine put it, women who had the right to call themselves Aes Sedai) was not at all curtailed by the eventual unification of Aes Sedai, but it became more infrequent as the years went on, in part because the thrones were for the most part hereditary and there was no guarantee that a daughter would inherit. Besides which, a fairly high distrust of Aes Sedai after the Breaking meant that they generally were not very popular as rulers, no matter how benign. This may well have been the period when such things happened most often, but even then it was far from common, insofar as the spotty evidence can show.
In addition to Aes Sedai placed on thrones by the White Tower, and those who inherited naturally, there were also those who placed themselves. This happened most often during the first two centuries after the Breaking, of course, before a central authority over all Aes Sedai was established, but there have been persistent rumors of "renegade Aes Sedai" taking thrones, either naturally or by usurpation. Renegades play a large part in various stories, but aside from what may exist in the secret Tower records, there is no evidence that there have ever been any such.

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

Once the Breaking died down,

the female Aes Sedai are in a tenuous position. They have abilities that are needed (example: healing involves the use of Spirit and/or Water, so the women have no diminishment), but they no longer have as much to offer as they once did. Without male Aes Sedai the use of Fire and Earth Powers are severely curtailed. (Example: finding metals required the use of Earth, mining and smelting the use of Earth and Fire. Women can still find metals to some extent, but they do not have enough of the requisite powers to mine or smelt, so these much now be done by human labour.) Those things that required men and women working together (such as the control of the weather) can, of course, now longer be done at all. Additionally, many people believe that all Aes Sedai were to blame for the destruction of the Time of Madness (although few know more than that there was such a time) and fear that they will bring it again. Some of these people will act violently against an Aes Sedai if they find one, and a few are even organized into pseudo-military/religious cults. As an arrow through the heart will kill an Aes Sedai as quickly as anyone else, they are at grave risk. They try now to keep a low profile. No longer are they rulers, but rather often serve rulers of lands. When they travel, they do so secretly, if possible. Generally they try to stay close to Tar Valon.

- Robert Jordan, Box 45 Folder 2 old notes

Founding of the Tower

In 47 AB, a conference of women representing 12 sizeable groups and several small groups decided to unify all Aes Sedai into one organisation and build a new city with a very large tower as a centre of their power. Construction of Tar Valon and the White Tower began in 98 AB and was completed in 202 AB (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). The city, built with Ogier aid, is considered the most beautiful in the Westlands, just as Rome was considered the most beautiful of the western world. Rome is named the Eternal City and Tar Valon has lasted largely unscathed for over three thousand years. Venice, too, is another Tar Valon parallel: it is considered very beautiful and in an exotic style, and furthermore was built on islands and had a high standard of living and a multinational community when these were unusual. In Knife of Dreams, To Keep the Bargain, Birgitte says that she and Gaidal Cain aided the founding of the White Tower.

Once unification was decided, the Aes Sedai established their administrative structure: by 98 AB, one of the women present at the original conference in 47 AB, Elisane Tishar, had been selected as the first Amyrlin Seat, with a Hall of the Tower chosen and a council of seven (six of whom were at the unification conference; all seven probably being the Ajah Heads) closely advising her (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

The Aes Sedai decreed that only Tower Aes Sedai were true Aes Sedai and began assimilating—willingly or forcibly—‘Aes Sedai’ who claimed otherwise. Those who would not submit were stilled; effectively killed, since stilled channellers give up wanting to live. Similarly, the early councils of the Aes Sedai’s main real world parallel, the Catholic church, were concerned with the same issues as Aes Sedai: unification, establishing standard dogma and beliefs (such as the Nicene Creed), heresy and just war (morals). At these councils, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, was established, as were the rules for clergy, including limits set on accusing bishops of wrong doing (sixth canon of the First Council of Constantinople); this implies that the law (or custom) that only the Tower can try and punish Aes Sedai for crimes was present very early in Tower history. The Church’s condemnation of various groups and beliefs as heretical began at the First Council of Nicea in 325 and the next council, the First Council of Constantinople (381), established procedures for admitting heretics back into the Church.

Amyrlin Seat

The first Amyrlin, Elisane Tishar elected several years before 98 AB, had seven close advisors (the Ajah Heads), but the position of Amyrlin soon became more that of a supreme monarch, albeit a monarch who wrestled with the Hall, since from very early in Tower history, the Amyrlin has spoken for all Aes Sedai and all Ajahs and her word is law (The Great Hunt, Summoned). Her closest real-world equivalent, the Pope, is Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, a position which is not open to debate or dispute within the Roman Catholic Church; it was established early in Church history and the First Vatican Council anathematised all who dispute the Pope's primacy of honour and of jurisdiction.

While the actual election and primacy of the Amyrlin is similar to the papacy, the way the politics between the Amyrlin and Hall works is like the republican governments of Ancient Rome or Venice. The real collegial nature of the Venetian republican system and their election of a peer to Princely status for life as the Doge, but with variously restrained powers depending on the balance and strength of each side, is quite like the Ajahs and power plays between Hall and Amyrlin; far more so than the Papal system is. The Collegio couldn't act without the Doge and his advisors' seal in many areas, and the edicts of the Doge could not be enforced without the Collegio approving them, and they could also dally in implementing measures that were necessary to enforce the edict, much like the White Tower system. Most Popes or abbots/abbesses were not quite as constrained as this.

Another real world parallel of the Amyrlin, the abbesses of large 15th to 16th century convents:

were not simply slaves to family loyalties. They played the power game with everyone else, relentlessly seeking the survival and enhancement of their communities… Interestingly, the nuns’ complaints (and there were many) were less often against autocratic superiors than against weak ones.

- Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice

This is true for the Tower, too; Amyrlins who show weaknesses have caused more problems and discontent than authoritarian ones.

Hall and Sitters

The Hall of the Tower, consisting of three Sitters in the Hall from each of the seven Ajahs, is the legislative body of the Aes Sedai (A Crown of Swords, Glossary) and has had its current form since the end of the second century AB. It has some similarities with the Senate of Ancient Rome and also to the Consistory (formal meeting of the College of Cardinals) of the Catholic Church and the Collegio of the Venetian Republic (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay).

Ajahs and Ajah Heads

At the unification conference in 47 AB, there were more than 12 women “each sitting for her ajah” (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). By 200 AB and the completion of the White Tower, the Ajahs had reduced in number to seven, were each focussed on a particular purpose and each associated with a particular colour, since the Ajah colours were incorporated into the Tower building, and were no longer temporary, but permanent (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Interestingly, Pope Fabian, an important Pope in the early Church, divided Rome into seven districts each ruled by a deacon (Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church) to improve the organization of the Church in Rome.

An Ajah after the founding of the Tower can be likened to a Congregation, which is a religious order of the Catholic Church with its own set of rules, customs and leader, yet under the papacy. Like the Catholic religious orders, Ajahs became formal, stable groups with their own rules and leadership under the Amyrlin. The autonomy of the Ajahs is an indication of the difficulty in achieving unification. Since 910, when the Cluniac order was established, many Catholic monastic orders have been placed directly under the Pope as a means of keeping the orders pure. While this did not always work, it was meant as a way of keeping rich lords and kings from unduly influencing the monastic orders. Such a system was intended to preserve the spirituality of the order and not to harbour secrets. Placing the Ajahs directly under the Amyrlin keeps the Hall (and other Ajahs through the Hall) from interfering in the functioning of an Ajah and thus maintains the independent philosophy and intentions of the Ajah.

The Ajah Heads were obvious at the beginning of the Tower as the Amyrlin Seat’s seven advisors, but at some stage they went underground and were thenceforth known only to their Ajahs and the other Ajah Heads. This may be a result of a political crisis (such as the Year of Four Amyrlins, see below) when they stepped into the breach between the Amyrlin and Hall. And perhaps in the hostile aftermath it became prudent for them to be less visible so that the Hall and Amyrlin did not watch them constantly or interfere with their duties to prevent them doing it again. IE they were seen as a threat by the Amyrlin and Hall and had to withdraw from public view.

Keeper of the Chronicles

The Keeper is not mentioned at the Tower’s founding—only the Amyrlin, the Sitters of the Hall and the seven Ajah Heads. The position may have been established a little later after the founding of the Tower, just as in the Catholic Church. Early in Church history it was realized that everything the Pope said was as good as law or truth and should be used later for jurisprudence as well as in debates about Faith, and so an Archivist followed the Pontiff everywhere and collected everything he said or wrote into what eventually became the Vatican Archives. The Keeper also has duties similar to the Cardinal Camerlengo and Private Secretary of the Pope. The role of the Keeper was established as the Amyrlin’s secretary and official historian of the White Tower, collecting everything that was decided by the Amyrlin and the Hall into what became Tower Law and the archives, and to write the Chronicles, but, illustrating the power of knowledge, by five hundred years before the Trolloc Wars the Keeper was second-in-command to the Amyrlin (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes).

The Chronicles the Keeper ‘keeps’ are the official history of the Aes Sedai accessible by Aes Sedai only, and they present events the Amyrlin wants known by the Tower in the way she wants them, not what actually happened (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). That is reserved for the secret archives of the Thirteenth Depository (a parallel with the secret archives of the Vatican, see Information section of the Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay), known only to the Amyrlin, Keeper, Sitters, Ajah Heads (who are very often former Sitters), and Brown sisters maintaining it. The Thirteenth Depository may have been established in the first centuries AB since the “ancient rebellions” and the Year of Four Amyrlins are recorded only there, not in the Chronicles. Keepers may have acquired power through knowledge—having the (fairly complete) history of the Tower at their fingertips is a great advantage—until the Keeper became second in power to the Amyrlin.

Speculation: It may have been a Keeper who started keeping the secret history as a record of what really happened, as against what was placed in the Chronicles and open archives. Perhaps only Keepers knew about the secret history at first. For a time, the other Aes Sedai in powerful positions accepted the difference between the records and actual events of their own time, not worrying about earlier times and that knowledge is power. Then a Sitter or an Amyrlin deduced that somewhere the real records exist and the rest, as they say, is history...

False Aes Sedai

Once the decision of unification was reached, the Tower Aes Sedai carried out a vigorous campaign against “women claiming to be Aes Sedai” between 50 and 100 AB (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). These ‘false Aes Sedai’ were those who resisted being part of the White Tower, and are an indication of the difficulty in achieving unification. Many ‘false Aes Sedai’ were:

”forced to kneel to the Amyrlin Seat and the White Tower,” at least some were stilled and a large number joined the Tower and were thereafter accepted as Aes Sedai.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

The Tower’s insistence on unifying all groups of channelling women (apart from the rare exception of the Kin, see Trolloc Wars section below) into the Tower so that they have no rivals has persisted from the founding conference right through until late in the Third Age. The Aes Sedai strive for catholicism—no publicly independent groups—and follow the doctrine that only Tower Aes Sedai can be Aes Sedai. All non-complying female channellers who claim otherwise are humiliated as heretics. In the Catholic Church, the need for unification and the concept of heresy was officially recognised at the First General Council at Nicea (a parallel of the unification conference in 48 AB). The dissident groups who were declared heretical early in the history of the Catholic Church and eliminated by excommunication (equivalent to stilling) or forcible assimilation closely parallel the early elimination of maverick ajahs by the Tower Aes Sedai.

St Augustine of Hippo was highly influential in the early Catholic church’s striving for catholicism (no small groups) and against heresy. He advocated the forcible assimilation of heretics:

"Why ... should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?"

- The Correction of the Donatists, 22–24

Augustine was also influential in the morality of war, something else the early Aes Sedai were concerned with, as is any organisation that becomes powerful internationally.

The Power as a Weapon and the Three Oaths

St Augustine helped formulate the Catholic Church’s theory of the just war: when it is justifiable to use force of arms and what it is justifiable for armed forces to do. This parallels the Aes Sedai’s dilemma of using their power to quell dissident groups, punish wrongdoers, make weapons or fight wars. Like the early Catholic Church, the Aes Sedai had to establish guidelines to using their power ethically, with the horrors of the Breaking and the War of Power still fairly fresh in memory. This was not only the use of armed forces (Tar Valon soldiers) but also the use of the One Power as a weapon and for making weapons.

At first, the Aes Sedai would have established guidelines that they upheld on their honour, but some time during the centuries AB, guidelines became insufficient in the eyes of the populace, and Aes Sedai began to swear Oaths on the Oath Rod:

These oaths were not always required, but various events before and since the Breaking caused them to be necessary. The second oath was the first adopted after the War of the Shadow.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

In The Great Hunt, The Testing, Sheriam says that the Oaths were adopted between the Trolloc Wars and the Hundred Years War, however the above quote implies they were begun sooner, as does the close parallel of the Catholic Church with the Tower (also Oath Rod article). Furthermore the Kin reach ages of more than one hundred years older than any Aes Sedai since before the Trolloc Wars, therefore since even one Oath reduces (roughly halves) lifespan (see Oath Rod article) at least one Oath was sworn on the Oath Rod by Aes Sedai before the Trolloc Wars.

We know that the Third Oath against using the Power as a weapon was not adopted for some centuries after the Breaking because there is the prohibition against channelling in the Hall except for the rituals:

Except for certain exactly prescribed functions, channeling was forbidden in the Hall—another of the customs that pointed to darker days in the Hall’s history…

- Crossroads of Twilight, Surprises

The fact that there were problems in the Hall with Aes Sedai attacking with the Power (and requiring a law against channelling in the Hall except for the rituals) means that the Third Oath was not adopted for some time AB.

Speculation: The order and very rough timing of the adoption of the Oaths is:

1. Second Oath (against making Power-wrought weapons) 3–6 or so centuries AB
2. Third Oath (against using the Power as a weapon) 6–10 centuries AB
3. First Oath (against speaking an untrue word) after the Trolloc Wars

From the example of Seanchan, we can see why the Aes Sedai felt compelled to adopt oaths to keep their overly ambitious and contentious channellers in line rather than risk all non-channellers turning against them.

AB History Post Founding of the Tower

Much of the Tower’s earliest history is lost, or is only recorded in the secret archives of the Thirteenth Depository. Of the little that is known, there is a certain amount of Roman Empire history in the centuries AB (eg the rise of the Church and also the Year of Four Emperors/Amyrlins), which is consistent with an era that follows the Age of Legends, a parallel of the Roman Republic (see The Age of Legends essay).

Aiel and Rhuidean: Some time between 47 and 98 AB, the Jenn Aiel, the four Aes Sedai with them, and the following Aiel entered the Waste. Two of these Aes Sedai remained alive four generations later, one of them with dark eyes and the gift of Foretelling, to open Rhuidean to teach and test potential leaders of the Aiel (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear).

Compact of Ten Nations Also known as the Second Compact/Covenant, this was formed in 209 AB and was largely the work of Queen Mabriam en Shareed of Aramaelle (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Mabriam was a ta’veren and an Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah of legendary status according to Merana (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars).

Caraighan Maconar (212–373 AB) was an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah of legendary status credited with exploits that some Aes Sedai consider improbable despite their inclusion in the Chronicles, such as single-handedly putting down a rebellion in Mosadorin—commemorated in a mural which was in the Tower library (The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain)—and quelling the Comaidin Riots at a time when she had no Warders (Lord of Chaos, Glossary). (Note that the Aes Sedai custom of bonding Warders was adopted very early in Tower History). She brought a male channeller nearly two thousand miles to the Tower by herself after he killed both of her Warders (Lord of Chaos, The Sending). Either she had an angreal or the man was a weak channeller. Caraighan was raised Amyrlin, probably very late in her life since she only lived 161 years. She may have been assassinated (see below).

Male Channellers

Channelling is a crime for men due to the danger they pose to others and, by Tower law, male channellers must be brought to Tar Valon (equivalent to Rome) to be tried and sentenced to gentling—severed from the One Power (Lord of Chaos, The Sending). This trial may take several days.

The Red Ajah is devoted to hunting men who can channel and can be likened to the Congregation of the Holy Roman Inquisition, an Order of the Roman Catholic Church which was in charge of finding, instructing and sentencing heretics. Important heretics were often tried and sentenced in Rome (or Avignon when the Popes were settled there), and the most defiant heretics were executed to keep the populace safe from them.

As well as the physical danger they pose to the populace, male channellers are regarded at the least as heretical and some extremists see them as tainted or abandoned of the Light (apostate) (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring), or even as unbelievers (see Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers article). They are consequently often treated harshly. False Dragons could be likened to heresiarchs, false prophets who wrongly claim fulfilment of the Apocalypse.

Raolin Darksbane (335–36 AB) was the most famous false Dragon of this era (The Great Hunt, Glossary). His followers attacked the White Tower in an unsuccessful attempt to free him before he was gentled.

Tumultuous Tower Politics and the Year of Four Amyrlins

In the thousand-year period between the founding of the White Tower and the outbreak of the Trolloc Wars, internal Tower politics was a much rougher matter than it was later. During that period, the Amyrlin Seat rarely died in office except by accident or murder; the most common way of leaving office was to be assassinated or forced out. One indication of the tumult of that time can be found in the fact that there was one year in about 150 years after the founding of Tar Valon when four different Amyrlins ruled (called the Year of the Four Amyrlins in the secret histories; only the last three were actually of very short reign) and there were, for a time during that year, two complete Halls of the Tower competing with one another.

In those days, the normal workings of the Tower nearly rivalled what's happening today. Every hand tried to snatch the tiller, if they could. There were actually two rival Halls of the Tower in Tar Valon for part of that year. Almost like now. Just about everyone came to grief in the end, including a few who thought they were going to save the Tower. Some of them might have, if they hadn't stepped in quicksand.

- The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences

Only recorded in the Thirteenth Depository, it is an allusion to the Year of Four Emperors (69 AD) in the Ancient Roman Empire, the four emperors being Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. In 68 AD, a Senate-backed coup frightened Emperor Nero into suiciding. The elderly Galba was declared emperor, but he made a bad impression. While the Senate was deliberating on what to do, the legions chose Vitellius. Meanwhile, Otho was angry with Galba for not designating him as heir when he was Galba’s main backer. He killed Galba and became emperor. Vitellius marched on Rome and defeated Otho. Otho suicided, and Vitellius became emperor but the eastern legions proclaimed Vespasian. Vitellius’ army was defeated and killed by Vespasian’s troops and the very competent Vespasian founded the Flavian Dynasty of emperors. This gives some idea of what political shenanigans occurred in the Tower that year, although there were two Halls operating in Tar Valon instead of one Senate and eastern and western legions.

This was not a rebellion, but a mutiny (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes). Egwene stated that there are six "mutinies" listed in the Thirteenth Depository:

Each of these, in the end, led to the resignation of an Amyrlin Seat and the entire Hall of the Tower. These are not the same as "rebellions." One of these mutinies led to a situation where there were, briefly, two competing Halls of the Tower, one of which, the original, eventually was forced to resign. This was during "the Year of the Four Amyrlins."

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

The secret Tower records report that at one time during these years before the Trolloc Wars there were no fewer than five former Amyrlins supposedly dead or in retirement but in fact in exile under guard. There are hints that some of the Amyrlins deposed during that period were stilled, though not even the secret records say so openly.

The Year of Four Amyrlins was not the only time of either mutiny or rebellion in the centuries AB:

There had been ancient rebellions, buried so deep that few among the sisters knew; the Chronicles stood mute, the lists of stilled and executed confined to records open only to Amyrlin, Keeper and Sitters, aside from the few librarians who kept them.

- A Crown of Swords, Prologue

The White Tower had been broken before, even if only a handful knew it.

- A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead

In the first hundred years after the founding of Tar Valon, there were three major rebellions, two of which resulted in a new Amyrlin. The next roughly 700 years, to the beginning of the Trolloc Wars, saw six more, all put down.

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

Egwene thought the late Third Age Tower split similar to the history of Renala Merlon:

I've sent several of them [Brown sisters] looking through the histories for examples of division, hoping they'll run across the story of Renala Merlon. The connection should be easy to make, and perhaps they will begin to see that our problems here can be solved.

- The Gathering Storm, In the White Tower

Renala’s situation involves division and therefore may belong to this time.

There was much political instability in the early Tower. Not only were attacks made with the Power in the Hall, but assassins were sent into the Hall as well:

"Whosoever intrudes unbidden, woman or man, initiate or outsider, whether they come in peace or in anger [into the Hall] I will bind according to the law, to face the law. Know that what I speak is true; it will and shall be done."
That formula was older than the oath against speaking untruth, from a time when almost as many Amyrlins died by assassination as by all other causes put together.

- The Path of Daggers, The Law

Apparently comparatively few early Amyrlins died a natural death, just as the Roman emperors tended to die violently and the early Popes to be martyred.

There is a possibility that Amyrlins once did require an oath of fealty from the sisters, but this was in the days before the Trolloc Wars.

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

These events are deeply buried even in the Thirteenth Depository. Whatever happened internally or within Tar Valon was kept hidden from the general populace (and from rank and file Aes Sedai) enabling the Tower to have a very great influence in international politics:

Queen Sulmara of Masenashar, a renegade Aes Sedai, was captured about 450 AB and spent the remainder of her life labouring in the White Tower’s stables (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). She was not a false Aes Sedai, ‘merely’ one in rebellion—disobeying orders.

A number of queens were Aes Sedai between the Breaking and the end of the Trolloc Wars. The history books record that every queen of Manetheren was an Aes Sedai, and the king her Warder (The Dragon Reborn, The Falcon). In this era, no ruler held a throne without the Tower's approval (A Crown of Swords, Prologue) and recalcitrant (from the Tower’s point of view) rulers were kidnapped, something that has rarely happened since the Trolloc Wars (A Crown of Swords, Prologue).

Trolloc Wars

All was going well for the Tower—even its tumultuous politics having settled down—when the Trollocs returned to ravage the nations and break the Compact of Ten Nations, and the Black Ajah was established to white ant the Tower.

Ishamael claims he personally organised both these things (The Eye of the World, The Stag and Lion and Decisions and Apparitions). He may be telling the truth: the banner of Ba’alzamon was at the head of the army that attacked Manetheren and Ishamael used this name. This banner was described as ‘light-destroying’ and emanating evil, which sounds like the True Power was being used.

Furthermore, Aes Sedai were forcibly turned to the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars by thirteen Dreadlords weaving the flows through thirteen Myrddraal (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring). This was a discovery made by Semirhage during the War of Power and was a practice probably re-instituted by Ishamael during the Trolloc Wars. The alternative explanation is that Dreadlords had kept this knowledge alive for 1300 odd years at a time when Aes Sedai themselves lost a heap of knowledge.

The Trolloc Wars lasted from about 1000 to 1350 AB. Huge armies of Shadowspawn and Darkfriends were commanded by Dreadlords, both male and female channellers, although the females—Black Ajah—outnumbered the males. Each army from the Compact of Ten Nation fighting the Trollocs had ‘a small complement of Aes Sedai’ to counter the Dreadlords (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) which were under the command of the Tower, not the general commanding the army. Until recently, this was the last war in which Aes Sedai fought.

After nearly two centuries of fighting (i.e. about 1200 AB), during which the troops of Manetheren had been in the forefront, Trollocs were sent against Manetheren to destroy it to prevent any more Manetheren troops being raised. The army of Manetheren, led by King Aemon, Warder to the Aes Sedai Queen Eldrene, force-marched from the Field of Bekkar to the Tarendrelle and prevented the Shadow’s army from crossing into Manetheren. Aid was promised to Aemon if the Manetheren troops could hold back the Trollocs for three days. Manetheren was betrayed, however; no help came and after 10 days against impossible odds Aemon retreated across the Taren and Eldrene organised the evacuation of Manetheren city. Manetheren’s forces made a last stand at Emond’s Field and were completely destroyed. When Eldrene felt her Warder die, she destroyed the Dreadlords of the Army with the One Power and herself and the city of Manetheren with her (The Eye of the World, Tellings of the Wheel).

Tetsuan was the Amyrlin at this time. Of the Red Ajah, she was probably raised as a reaction to the number of male Dreadlords in the Shadow’s armies. It was Tetsuan who betrayed Manetheren for jealousy of Eldrene’s powers (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar), perhaps by ordering those who promised aid not to march to the Tarendrelle. She was deposed and stilled for her betrayal, the first of only three Amyrlins to be stripped of her position, and made a servant in the Tower. Prior to her deposition, the Hall was entirely under Tetsuan’s thumb, due to her political skill, according to Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes. An Amyrlin of the Blue Ajah replaced her.

A possible parallel of Tetsuan is Pope Innocent XI, who disapproved of King James II of England (and more particularly of James being the strongest ally of the Pope’s bitter rival for European dominance, King Louis XIV of France) so that he refused to send aid to James II when James was threatened with deposition. There are stories that the Pope may have known beforehand of William of Orange’s invasion of England and either did nothing, or worse, may have even financially supported it, to weaken King Louis’ power, even though it meant the end of a Catholic monarchy in England.

In the Trolloc Wars, the Shadowspawn armies made at least four attempts to take Tar Valon. They managed to breach Tar Valon’s walls at least once, plundering and burning a part of the White Tower itself (A Crown of Swords, An Oath), an embarrassment to Aes Sedai power that is recorded only in the secret histories. Apparently better known is that the Tower Library was damaged during the fourth Trolloc attempt to take Tar Valon (about 1290 AB, The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

Rashima Kerenmosa, the Soldier Amyrlin, was raised Amyrlin from the Green Ajah in 1251 AB at only 100 years old—young for an Amyrlin.

She went to the Tower at age 15 and spent five years as a novice and five as Accepted (The Wheel of Time Companion). Rashima was very intimidating and no one in the Tower was ever able to stand up to her. Sitters were terrified to cross Rashima and she once confined the Sitters to a diet of bread and water until they saw things her way (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes).

Personally leading the Tower armies, she won innumerable victories, most notably Kaisin Pass, the Sorelle Step, Larapelle, Tel Norwin and Maighande, where she died in 1301 AB. Her body was discovered after the battle surrounded by her five Warders and a vast wall of Trollocs and Myrddraal which contained the corpses of no fewer than nine Dreadlords.

- Lord of Chaos, Glossary

Rashima has some similarities with Pope Urban II, pope from 1088 to 1099. He was elected quite young at only 46 and is best known for starting the First Crusade (1096–99) after he received a request from the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus for help against the Muslims. Huge numbers of European men responded to his call to wrest the Holy Land from the Turks. He died in Rome shortly before the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders was known in Italy.

As the soldier Amyrlin, Rashima also has similarities with the ‘soldier Doge’ of the Venetian republic, Franceso Morosini, and with the “warrior pope” Julius II, pope from 1503–13. Julius, in full armour, personally led troops to free Italy from Cesare Borgia’s forces (P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Chronicles of the Popes). It was during his papacy that the Swiss Guard was founded to provide continuous protection for the Pope, so perhaps the law restricting the Amyrlin from placing herself in danger (see below) was legislated in response to Rashima’s death.

Yurian Stonebow was a false Dragon from about 1300–1308 AB during the Trolloc Wars (The Great Hunt, Glossary). He was of great strength:

Six Aes Sedai tried to capture Stonebow, and he killed three and captured the others himself.

- Lord of Chaos, The Sending

After almost three hundred years of fighting, the Trollocs were soundly defeated at the Battle of Maighande where the Amyrlin Rashima died. The victory turned the tide of the wars in favour of the Light and the Trollocs were driven back to the Blight, ending the Trolloc Wars.

During lulls in the Trolloc Wars, two rebellions were put down (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes), which indicates huge disagreements in tactics and aims in the Wars, and probably also infiltration by the Black Ajah akin to the late Third Age.

By the end of the Trolloc Wars, those few who knew where the seven Seals were hidden during the Breaking had died without passing this information on and knowledge of the Seals’ locations was lost until 998 NE (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Apart from turmoil and destruction, the Trolloc Wars were responsible for considerable changes in the Tower.

Protection of the Amyrlin

The law safeguarding the Amyrlin was legislated during or soon after the Trolloc Wars (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay). Unless martial law is operating, the Amyrlin has to inform the Hall of any intended travel, so it can establish whether there is any danger, since it is against the law for her to deliberately endanger herself without the Hall’s agreement (A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike). The law has been in existence for over two thousand years, which could mean that there was a reckless Amyrlin about the time of the Trolloc Wars, or it may have been proposed in response to the Soldier Amyrlin’s untimely death in battle. The law is also a parallel with the Council of Friuli in 796‒797 AD, which forbade abbesses of convents to go to Rome on pilgrimage, so that they could not make direct appeals to the Pope against Episcopal decisions (Jo Ann Kay McNamara, Sisters in Arms).

Testing of Tower Trainees

From necessity the Tower tried to raise women as quickly as possible during the Wars.

Testing for Aes Sedai may have been done without the oval ring ter’angreal until after the Trolloc Wars, since during the Wars Barashelle was ‘certain to be given the shawl’ when she tested and she was “not allowed to take the tests” (plural) because she had bonded a Warder while still Accepted (The Fires of Heaven, A New Name). (As punishment she was made a scullion for three years and then given stubborn Anselan as her Warder when eventually raised Aes Sedai.)

The testing for raising novices to Accepted was certainly changed during or soon after the Trolloc Wars. The oval arches ter’angreal was found during the Wars, and may have been introduced to assess the dedication of, and effectively increase the mental toughness of, Tower trainees, since those dangerous times showed the Shadow to be rising.

The Kin

The White Tower continued to maintain its standards during the Trolloc Wars, putting out women who failed the tests. Some of these women did not return to their homes after leaving the Tower, but stayed together and went to Barashta (now Ebou Dar) to avoid the fighting. They became organised, taking in other women put out of the Tower, and also runaways after making sure the Tower wasn’t hunting them. The Tower knew what the Kin were doing, but the Wars left no time for them to disperse the Kin as they did other groups of women channellers. After the Trolloc Wars, the Tower decided to make an exception of the Kin and let them remain so they could retrieve the runaways the Kin took to Barashta/Ebou Dar. Prior to the Trolloc Wars and the founding of the Kin, the Tower only retrieved about 25‒35% of runaways, but using the Kin they retook 90%. With their quiet, modest existence, very strict discipline, emphasis on working in and for the community and lack of corruption (Darkfriends), the Kin could be regarded as a strict, reformed sect that the official church sees as heretical.


The White Tower actually gained lands and influence during the Trolloc Wars and its aftermath. The area of Aes Sedai held lands was larger than the island of Tar Valon during the Free Years, just as the papacy held the Papal States in the past but this territory has shrunk to the Vatican City. Tar Valon is thus equivalent to the Vatican City as well as Ancient Rome.

There is some evidence that in the years between the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years, the period when Aes Sedai political power was perhaps at its peak, the White Tower actively worked to place Aes Sedai in ruling, or at least commanding, positions even when this meant usurping a rightful ruler, but even then there were never a great number.

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

This usurpation occurred when the Aes Sedai wanted to control a nation more fully than they could through manipulation. Whether Aes Sedai ruled directly or indirectly it made the populace suspicious of them and the rise in the Tower’s popularity due to their role in the Trolloc Wars meant that it was less necessary to risk putting an Aes Sedai on a throne.

It is believed by some that the existence of thrones which are limited to men alone date from this period, created in order to ensure than no Aes Sedai would rule.

- Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes

After the Trolloc Wars, the use of balefire was forbidden (The Dragon Reborn, Hunted).

Far Madding acquired its ‘stedding’ ter’angreal soon after the Trolloc Wars. The city’s (presumably violent) history gave its inhabitants reason to want to avoid the Power (Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels).

Four rebellions occurred between the end of the Trolloc Wars and the rise of Artur Hawkwing, one resulting in a new Amyrlin (more than fifteen hundred years ago), the other three put down (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes).

Davian was a false Dragon of considerable strength in FY 351.

The Great Fire in Tar Valon in FY 642 caused minor damage to the Tower library.

The Free Years was the last time any queen was Aes Sedai prior to Elayne of Andor (The Dragon Reborn, The Red Sister).

Guaire Amalasan

The War of the Second Dragon (FY 939‒43), was fought against Guaire Amalasan, who rapidly conquered lands stretching from current Arad Doman to Tear. He besieged the Stone of Tear but it successfully resisted thanks to the thirty Aes Sedai who had taken refuge in the Stone, despite the nation’s rejection of Aes Sedai. Perhaps the Aes Sedai were there to protect Callandor, or to witness a possible fulfilment of a prophecy of the Karaethon Cycle.

Bonwhin Meraighdin of the Red Ajah, the first Red since Tetsuan, was raised to the Amyrlin Seat ~939 at the age of 201 shortly after Amalasan declared himself. It is likely the advent of a false Dragon played no small part in her election. It is quite a coincidence the previous Amyrlin just died when the world was plagued by a False Dragon, paving the way for a Red. She was an imperious and autocratic Amyrlin whom none dared stand up to in the slightest (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes).

Amalasan was a strong channeller: when six Aes Sedai tried to take Amalasan he killed one and stilled two more (Lord of Chaos, The Sending).

Artur Hawkwing rose to prominence in the war because he was the only general never to lose a battle to Guaire Amalasan. The false Dragon was captured by Aes Sedai with Hawkwing during the Battle of Endersole/Jolvaine Pass. Hawkwing’s army accompanied the Aes Sedai hurriedly taking Amalasan to Tar Valon and, against Tower law, the army entered Tar Valon lands and camped near the Erinin, perhaps as an honour or to forestall any attempts by Amalasan’s supporters to free him. Bonwhin ordered Hawkwing to take his army out of Tar Valon lands after a five-day rest.

The Tower tried Amalasan over several days and Amalasan’s supporters Sawyn Maculhene and Elind Motheneos (described as a renegade Aes Sedai) invaded Tar Valon with over 100,000 soldiers and reached the Tower. They were defeated with the aid of Artur Hawkwing’s forces, which were permitted back into the city. Maculhene and Motheneos were killed (Motheneos was possibly captured and executed by the White Tower).

Both the invasion of Tar Valon and the presence of Artur Hawkwing’s forces on Tar Valon lands are not recorded in Aes Sedai Chronicles (A Crown of Swords, An Oath and The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time ) despite being well known by historians.

The Aes Sedai who captured Amalasan went quickly from a heroes' welcome to a harsh secret penance. It is likely that these Aes Sedai, who were heading with Hawkwing’s army for Khodomar when they encountered Guaire Amalasan by chance, and who wanted to give Hawkwing credit for his part in Amalasan’s capture, were Green Ajah. If so, this would be the origin of the thousand-year enmity between two Ajahs that should have much in common. It would also explain why, when Artur Hawkwing finally accepted his first Aes Sedai advisor, she was Green Ajah.

Bonwhin resented the fact the Tower needed Hawkwing’s aid to repel Amalasan’s supporters and, far more, to capture Amalasan in the first place. In Ancient Rome, a surprising number (or perhaps not;)) of emperors begrudged their generals a triumph, but Emperor Valentinian III actually killed his general Aetius for jealousy after he defeated the Visigoths and Huns (both associated with the Shadow, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay).

Bonwhin versus Artur Hawkwing

After the War of the Second Dragon, nations systematically gained Aes Sedai advisors (often a council of four to five Aes Sedai) before moving against Artur Hawkwing’s kingdom of Shandalle. The Tower made no attempt to mediate between the three countries, Caembarin, Khodomar and Tova, which simultaneously invaded Shandalle, and Artur Hawkwing. This suggests the Tower was behind the alliance as payback for Hawkwing’s success and prestige. The Tower’s attempts failed as Hawkwing in turn conquered the invading lands in the Wars of Consolidation.

The Tower was unresponsive to Hawkwing’s requests for Aes Sedai to mediate between him and his enemies until ten years into the wars (FY 954) when they entered into an informal agreement with Hawkwing and he gained an Aes Sedai advisor, Chowin Tsao of the Green Ajah. By 974, Aes Sedai governed about one third of the provinces in Hawkwing’s empire.

Hawkwing’s softer stance on Aes Sedai is attributed to his second wife, Tamika, rumoured to have been a renegade Aes Sedai, However, she never acquired the ageless look, so she did not swear the Three Oaths. It is possible that she was an Accepted sent as an agent, which would explain her efforts to work in the Tower’s favour. (Aes Sedai have been forced to marry kings to aid the Tower).

In FY 968 or 969 either Tamika refused an audience with Bonwhin or the other way around. This is inexplicable either way (since any woman has the right to an audience with the Amyrlin (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay)). If Tamika was a mole, she may have been going her own way and not following Tower orders. Of course, Tamika may have been sent by an Ajah Head—the Green, for instance—and not the Amyrlin.

All Aes Sedai were dismissed from Hawkwing’s service in FY 974, a year after Jalwin Moerad (a likely alias of Ishamael) arrived at Hawkwing’s court, probably because Hawkwing believed the Aes Sedai governors were following Bonwhin’s orders more than his own, increasing the Tower’s influence in his name. This is supported by a triptych in the White Tower, which shows Bonwhin:

tall and proud, ordering Aes Sedai in their manipulations of Artur Hawkwing

- The Fires of Heaven, The First Sparks Fall

Perhaps with Moerad’s encouragement, Hawkwing put a price on the head of any Aes Sedai who did not renounce the Tower. Historians speculate that Hawkwing believed Bonwhin arranged to have his first wife and their three children poisoned in FY 961. He may have been correct, or Ishamael may have misled him. Equally possible is that the Black Ajah committed the murders.

Hawkwing invaded and conquered Tar Valon lands in FY 975 and laid siege to Tar Valon. The siege lasted for years because Hawkwing's generals never managed to block Tar Valon’s harbours and food and supplies still got in. The Aes Sedai always raised the iron chains in time to stop the blockading ships getting into the harbor mouth and sank them before they could be placed to hinder trade (A Crown of Swords, An Oath).

In FY 992, after 17 years of siege, Bonwhin was deposed and stilled for trying to use Artur Hawkwing as a puppet to control the world and nearly destroying the Tower (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar). Publicly she was charged with malfeasance (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), the doing of a wrongful or illegal act by an official. Bonwhin worked as a scullion for four years in the White Tower before dying in 996. Her punishment was kept secret from the outside world by being Sealed to the Tower, but within the Tower she was made to serve as an example (Robert Jordan, Aes Sedai notes). She was the second Amyrlin in Tower history to be deposed and was replaced by Deane Aryman of the Blue Ajah. Like Tetsuan (and also Siuan), she ruled and was deposed in a time of chaos and was associated with the end of an epoch.

It is also perhaps an indication of the strong Red influence in the Hall at this time so soon after a false Dragon, and an even stronger influence of the Black Ajah with Ishamael temporarily free, that Bonwhin remained Amyrlin so long. She would have suited Ishamael very well.

The Tower had declared war on Artur Hawkwing (The Path of Daggers, The Law) and so the Hall was legally bound to approve any of the Bonwhin’s decrees regarding the war with the greater consensus and carry them out as promptly as possible (see the Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). This would make deposing Bonwhin more difficult.

The Amyrlin and the High King were in conflict over supreme authority. Hawkwing wanted to have the same authority over Aes Sedai advisors and provincial governors that he had over his other governors and civil servants: to be able to handpick them himself and move them around and dismiss them at will. He wanted the Aes Sedai to submit to all his laws too, like the rest of the fledging Empire. Many historical rulers tried to get this from the Popes.

Bonwhin bitterly resented the Tower’s need of Hawkwing’s aid in the War of the Second Dragon, nor did she forgive Hawkwing for providing it. To show the world the Tower’s supremacy, she wanted to keep the Amyrlin's sole authority over all the sisters; she wanted the Aes Sedai advisors and governors, and Aes Sedai in general, to continue coming and going as they wished and answer to her above all others; she wanted to decide who would be Hawkwing’s advisors, and she wanted Hawkwing to recognize that the Amyrlin stood above all "secular" rulers—in exchange for which she might have the grace to officially recognize Artur Hawkwing as High King ("crown" him). At some point they apparently came to an agreement and Aes Sedai were included in Hawkwing's government. After a while Aes Sedai were all cast out, probably because the High King discovered they were plotting with the nobles and non-Aes Sedai governors, making veiled promises to gain their support for the Tower and the White Tower supremacy doctrine; in short, undermining Artur Hawkwing's power. Ultimately, Hawkwing decided to bring Bonwhin to heel by invading and besieging Tar Valon.

Quite a few Popes struggled against an over powerful monarch, whom they tried in vain to manipulate—Pope Innocent XI against Louis XIV of France, for instance. However, the two closest parallels are probably Emperor Charlemagne versus Leo III and Emperor Frederick II versus Popes Honorius III, Gregory IX and Innocent IV.

Charlemagne, Charles the Great, king of the Franks from 768–814 and king of the Lombards from 774–814 was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome in 800 and is regarded as the founder of the Holy Roman Empire. He is often seen as the Father of Europe, since he conquered lands until his realm covered most of Western Europe and was the first truly imperial power in the West since the fall of the Roman Empire.

During his reign he was almost constantly at war and never established a permanent capital before his death. He had an almost legendary sword named Joyeuse (joyous).

Charlemagne was in the middle of a mini-renaissance in education, justice and civil administration and his empire was closer to Rome than to the feudal system, which arose after his death. Many of Charlemagne’s deeds were mythologised in medieval times as analogues of the legends of King Arthur.

While Leo II crowned Charlemagne, he also owed much to Charlemagne for protecting him against his enemies. Charlemagne used his authority to interfere in Church affairs. Leo actually paid homage to Charlemagne, something Bonwhin could never do, even though it led to her undoing.

Hawkwing was the first High King (or Emperor) since the Breaking and the subject of many legends. He established peace in the Westlands for the populace, although he spent much of his time fighting. He had a famous sword, too—named Justice. He is noted for his excellent administrative and justice system and died before he could establish his capital in a stedding (something that as a channeller Ishamael really didn’t want).

For both emperors, their death caused their empires to collapse and the nobility to rise and establish a feudal order.

Hawkwing (whose name links him to the historical King Arthur, see Character Names A article) is bound to the Horn of Valere as a Hero of the Horn, just as Charlemagne is associated in legends with King Arthur, the once and future king.

Bonwhin, a parallel of Pope Leo III, was unwillingly forced by events, and Artur Hawkwing’s abilities and luck, to ask aid of Hawkwing and to recognise him as overall ruler of the Westlands. Her resentment led to her undoing, which did not happen to Pope Leo III.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1220–1250, was known in his own time as the Stupor mundi ("wonder of the world”). He improved laws and removed barriers to trade (such as tolls and monopolies) within his empire. His Kingdom of Sicily, where he made a collection of laws that were an inspiration for a long time after, became an absolutist monarchy, the first centralized state in Europe to emerge from feudalism.

He was involved in power struggles with a succession of popes. Popes during Frederick’s rule were particularly zealous against heresy (eg the bloody Albigensian Crusade in southern France, the crusade against muslims in Spain, and the founding of the Dominican Order—later associated with the Spanish Inquisition—to preach against heresy), as though they were Amyrlins raised from the Red Ajah. They were also determined that Frederick would go on a crusade so he would not have time to reinstate imperial power over Italy. Ie go to war where they wanted and not lessen the Papacy’s temporal power.

In 1227, Frederick was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for failing to honour his pledge to go on crusade to the Holy Lands. He went the following year (1228), and recovered Jerusalem (bloodlessly) for the Christians. This gained him much prestige in Europe, but the pope was furious since the Church couldn’t share in this prestige because Frederick was excommunicate—outside the Church. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him the anti-Christ. Some people called Frederick ‘the Hammer of Christianity’ and they meant it negatively.

In 1231 the political situation in Europe forced Pope Gregory to rescind Frederick's excommunication, but he re-excommunicated him in 1239 for fear that Frederick would rule all Italy, Papal States included. Frederick then expelled the Minorites and the preachers from Lombardy, and invaded Papal-held lands with the aim of conquering Rome. Peace negotiations came to nothing: the new pope, Innocent, was a master diplomat, and Frederick signed a peace treaty, which was soon broken. Innocent IV declared Frederick deposed; Frederick questioned his authority to do so. The Pope plotted to have Frederick’s close allies murder him and sent money to Germany to reduce Frederick’s political influence there and helped finance the army of their favoured candidate for emperor, Heinrich Raspe, landgrave of Thuringia, to battle forces loyal to Frederick. German archbishops declared Frederick deposed. Innocent also tried to raise a crusade against Frederick, but Frederick died first. All the heirs of Frederick met unlucky fates.

After Frederick II’s death, a myth developed that he was not truly dead, but merely sleeping in the Kyffhaeuser Mountains and would one day rise to re-establish and rule a thousand-year reich. (Interestingly Frederick II and his grandfather Frederick I Barbarossa were combined into one Frederick in this myth, a real-world example of one of the most important themes in Jordan’s books, the effect of time on history and legend).

Hawkwing developed an excellent administration and justice system in his vast empire. The Tower did all it could to reduce the High King’s prestige and the size of his realm. Bonwhin, a parallel of Innocent, urged rulers to invade Hawkwing’s lands, and was even rumoured to have arranged the murder of Hawkwing’s family. Hawkwing expelled Aes Sedai from his territories—Frederick did likewise to Minorites and preachers in Lombardy—and invaded Tar Valon-held lands (equivalent to the Papal states) with the intention of capturing Tar Valon (Rome). The Tower declared war on Hawkwing, even if not anathema, the equivalent of Frederick’s excommunication.

Hawkwing was instrumental in the capture of Amalasan, much to the Tower’s resentment, just as the Papacy resented Frederick capturing Jerusalem for Christianity. Nearly all Hawkwing’s heirs met unlucky fates. Hawkwing was called the Hammer of the Light (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar) and while this is usually interpreted in its good sense, Bonwhin at least would have regarded it negatively.

Hawkwing is not dead as others are, he is bound to the Horn of Valere as one of the Heroes of the Horn and is spun out as needed by the Pattern. He was called by the Horn to fight at the Last Battle.

In another link with the myth of the thousand-year reich, Hawkwing’s heirs, having ruled Seanchan for one thousand years have returned to rule the Westlands in Hawkwing’s name as his descendants; Ishamael’s ‘doom yet to come’. Hawkwing is believed to have been advised for some years by Ishamael (as Jalwin Moerad), who as Naeblis is the anti-Christ (see Eschatology essay). Interestingly, another group that also claimed it would establish a thousand-year reich is associated with the Shadow: the Nazis (see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken essay).

In the real world, the conflict with the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor eventually led the Papacy into the arms of the emerging French Kings to keep the Emperor in check and defend the Pope against the Emperor (and then the French King asked for too many concessions and the Pope crowned an Emperor again, etc). The Wheel turns.

Deane Aryman of the Blue Ajah, was raised Amyrlin very young at about 72 years of age in FY 992, the youngest ever at that time. Perhaps she was originally elected as a puppet for the Hall to guide through the aftermath of Bonwhin’s disastrous legacy. She repaired the damage done to the Tower’s prestige by Bonwhin’s machinations against Artur Hawkwing, and is credited with persuading Hawkwing’s general, Souran Maravaile to lift the siege of Tar Valon after Hawkwing died in FY 994. Ruling for 92 years, Deane was considered a very strong Amyrlin (Crossroads of Twilight, What the Oath Rod Can Do) who saved the White Tower.

Had she not died in a fall from her horse in FY 1084, she may even have convinced the nobles contending for Hawkwing’s empire to accept the Tower’s adjudication (Lord of Chaos, Glossary). Her death is highly suspicious; she should have had an entourage of Aes Sedai protecting her or available to Heal her, since Artur Hawkwing was long dead and thus the Tower was no longer under martial law (see War section of Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). Her death was of course highly convenient for the Shadow, and for any noble who thought they could grab the whole empire.

Pope Leo I (440‒461) has some similarities with Deane. Deane stands high as far as Amyrlins are rated, and Leo is one of only two popes who were deemed "the Great". Leo the Great did something very much like Deane Aryman: he went to Attila the Hun in person and convinced him to turn back from attacking Rome. He met Genseric of the Vandals outside the walls of Rome and did not prevent the sack of the city, but did reduce murder and arson, just as it was Ishara, and not Deane, who finally convinced Souran to leave. The Tower never regained its territory (equivalent to the Papal States) conquered by Artur Hawkwing.

Both Leo and Deane ruled at a time when a great empire collapsed—the Western Roman Empire in Leo’s case and Hawkwing’s empire in Deane’s. They were both able to assert the primacy of their positions and promote themselves as the representatives of lawful authority to inaugurate a new era for their organizations.

Deane has a minor parallel with Pope Urban VI, who died after injuries sustained by a fall from a mule.

In FY 993 there was a fire in the White Tower library that was attributed to arson or to keep records from Hawkwing.

Andor: In FY 994, an agreement was reached between Ishara and the White Tower that the first born daughter of the Andoran monarch would be sent to study at the White Tower whether she could channel or not, and the ruler of Andor would have an Aes Sedai advisor.

The Hundred Years War began two years after Deane was raised and continued throughout most of the reign of the next Amyrlin.

The Children of the Light were founded in FY 1021 by Lothair Mantelar and within 90 years had changed from a group of ascetic preachers to a military order implacably opposed to channelling and Aes Sedai as well as Darkfriends.

Selame Necoine was raised from the Green Ajah to the Amyrlin Seat in 1084 and ruled for about 56 years.

The fact that Selame was Green might suggest that Deane was actually assassinated by a faction of nobles that the White Tower saw as a potential military threat. Or it may indicate the strength of the Blue-Green alliance so soon after the disastrous reign of an Amyrlin from the Red. Selame was of average strength but was unable to unite the nobles behind the White Tower (The Wheel of Time Companion).

The Free Years epoch ended in the chaos of the Hundred Years War (FY 994–1117) with nations forming and reforming until the fighting finally stopped. (There was a Hundred Years War from 1337–1453 in the real world; a series of conflicts fought by England and France over the remains of the Angevin empire).

FY 1135 became Year 1 of the New Era.


Written by Linda, June, 2006 and updated July 2010, September 2013 and September 2019

Contributor: Dominic