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


Anonymous said...

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

-The Shadow Rising, The Tower of Ghenjei

It seems to me that Iron is associated with Mat (his ashanderai), music with Thom (he's a gleeman) but Noal isn't associated with fire as far as we know. Isn't it more likely that Aludra is the third to rescue Moiraine?

Anonymous said...

Moiraine's letter specifies a man. Of course if you want to take these things this literally if could as easily mean:

Courage = Mat (the ashanderai isn't iron since Mat got it from the Eelfin)
Fire = Moiraine (she is Aes Sedai)
Music = Thom
Iron = our unknown man, perhaps Noal who is known to carry knives and has played S&F often enough with Olver to know to cheat by bringing something along. I've also heard the theory that Mat's blood will be the iron, but I'm skeptical on this point.

Unknown said...

I always interpreted courage as being a universal trait of all who venture into the 'Finn's realms. Not for the faint of heart!
And I also assume that fire to blind will be Aludra's strikers or other Illuminator associated pyrotechnics. I believe Matt, Thom and Noal all smoke pipes, so one or all of them are likely to have matches.
Thom is the obvious choice for music to daze, especially given the prohibition against musical instruments. Otherwise anyone who can sing would do.
And as for iron to bind, Matt, Noal and Thom all carry a number of knives, but how does one bind with a knife? Perhaps it has to do with the differing rules of reality in the realms of the 'Finns. Then again, maybe they need to bring iron chains.

Zachary Wiggins said...

In many stories, fairies and the fey are weak to iron; often to the point of causing physical pain. It may be that the presence of iron causes the 'Finns to feel a feel a compulsion, either through the presence itself, or a fear of iron, that 'binds' them to do as the wielder wishes. In this way an iron knife, or an iron object similarly unassociated with binding, could be used to 'bind.'

Dida said...

The height of the Tower of Ghenjei in the 200 feet. However, in the Wheel of Time there are only 10 inches per foot. Whereas your calculation relies on a foot being 12 inches in length, as if Robert Jordan used U.S. standards of measures.

60 meters = 196.850394 U.S. feet

If one assumes a Wheel of Time inch is equal to a U.S. standard inch, then one can create an accurate height estimate for the Tower of Ghenjei.

So how high is the Tower of Ghenjei really?

[b]166.6667 feet in U.S. units of measurement[/b]. Where a foot equals 12 inches.

[b]200 feet in Wheel of Times units[/b]. Where a foot equals 12 inches.

In metric terms, [b]the Tower of Ghenjei is only 50.8 meters tall approximately.[/b] As 166.6667 feet = 50.8000102 meters.

In comparison, a [b]"Great Tree"[/b] is equal to [b]500 feet in U.S. units of measurement[/b].

Or in Wheel of Time units, a "Great Tree" is a 100 spans in height.

Or in metric terms, a Great Tree is 152.4 meters in height.

Dida said...


The line I wrote:

[b]200 feet in Wheel of Times units[/b]. Where a foot equals 12 inches.

should have been written as:

200 feet in Wheel of Times units. Where a foot equals 10 inches.

Question, why doesn't Blogger have an edit button for comments?

If can have an edit button for comments, Blogger should have one at the very least.