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


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very informative article.

Of course, we can only speculate at this point about the new purpose that Egwene has in mind for the Red. However, we should bear in mind that the Reds, in essence, have been hunters, and hunters of a very particular quarry - those who can channel, and who are viewed by many as having abandoned the Light.

It would be very logical for the Reds to become hunters of those channellers who have abandoned the Light in truth: the Black Ajah, Darkfriends in the Black Tower, Dreadlords, etc.

We'll have to read and find out, but I look for the Reds to be reinvented as hunters of Darkfriends, and in particular the Black Ajah and other Darkfriends who can channel - a role of great importance and honor which I can easily see the Reds embracing.

Linda said...

I agree that there is a distinct possibility that Reds will become something like police. (The Aiel use red to symbolise police - Red Shields).

It's sad that Pevara, who has always really wanted this role, is not there at the Tower, but mired at the Black Tower.

Unknown said...

I'm not so sure about Elaida's extremist views on male channellers. Oh, no, of course she considered them mostly like something filthy, yet that "unbeliever" is too much about faith and she never expressed that obsession with 'righteousness' in any other scene, even her POVs.
I would rather interpret her choice of words not as her being some sort of a raging zealot, but as an example of how first sketches of the characters may differ from the later 'canonical' picture.
I mean, it's just the page earlier she is described as "a woman in deep green silk".
Elaida, in deep green... the woman was perfectly not herself that day.