Thursday, March 14, 2002


By Linda

This essay discusses the parallels I think were used to create the character Mesaana.

The Forsaken named Mesaana aspired to great things, but was less remarkable than she liked. Born Saine Tarasind (a name probably derived from real world place names, see Names of the Shadow article), she is of average height and appearance, but then appearances have never been important to her. As far as her mental qualities go, she is:

hard-headed, practical and intelligent, though often taken for being dreamy because of her introspection.

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

As an aid to concentration, she tends to tap her lips when thinking.

She wanted desperately to be a successful researcher…but her dreams were shattered when she was denied a place at Collam Daan. The board labelled her “unsuited for research”, but agreed to allow her to instruct students.

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

While she has an aptitude for education, it is not her occupation of choice and she epitomises the negative and controlling teacher. Alviarin, in particular, has noticed this:

Mesaana said, "Good. I will teach you, then. But remember that a pupil is not a teacher. I choose who learns what, and I decide when they can make use of it.”

- A Crown of Swords, Prologue

There was a way to make a weave and hide it, so she would not have to soften that creak every time – she was certain there was – but Mesaana refused to teach it to her…Mesaana was the real source of her annoyance. The Chosen taught what she wished and nothing more, hinted at wonders and then withheld them.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark

Along with teaching her underlings the minimum needed for them to carry out her instructions, she disciplines them harshly when they prove inadequate:

Mesaana folded her arms beneath her breasts as she considered the situation. With an offhanded thought, she strapped Katerine's back with lines of Air. Failure needed always to be punished. Consistency was the key in all forms of training.

- Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

Her name means “teacher of lessons” in the Old Tongue and her lessons were as harsh as possible.

In the War of the Shadow, Mesaana corrupted children in her occupied territories, encouraging them to destroy knowledge, artefacts and teachers and to denounce fellow students, parents, relatives and neighbours in the name of the Dark One.

The Forsaken were developed from mythological figures to emphasise their channelling abilities and knowledge. Mesaana was in fact developed from a very knowledgeable goddess indeed.


Athena was the Ancient Greek virgin goddess of war, reason, wisdom, intellectual activity, industry, commerce, schools and useful and ornamental arts and crafts. Minerva was her Ancient Roman equivalent. A wise and prudent advisor, she represented the intellectual, defensive side of war and the power of thoughts and self-talk (or internal commentary). Athena won the city of Athens in a competition as to which deity could produce the most useful gift to humankind. Her most common epithet in Homer was glaukopis—bright-eyed or silvery-eyed. Among her sacred animals are the serpent and the crow.

There are quite a few parallels here. Athena was a virgin goddess; Mesaana is currently with a women-only group. Like Athena, Mesaana is known for her knowledge, practicality and introspection—a very thoughtful person. She is associated with intellectual activity and schools, having aspired to be a researcher, being employed as a teacher, and now placing herself in the intellectual White (ivory) Tower. In the War of the Power, she held several field commands, appropriate in a war goddess. Athena’s epithet of bright-eyed or silvery-eyed has a parallel in Mesaana’s disguise:

Eyes glowing like twin full moons regarded her in silence, and a chill slid up Alviarin's spine…For a long moment silvery eyes stared down at her unblinking.

- A Crown of Swords, Prologue

Silver eyes frowned from a face of smoke, with silver lips drawn in a tight line.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark.

As far as Athena’s sacred animals are concerned, the crow is similar to the ravens of the Shadow, and Mesaana herself, and the Black Ajah she controls, are serpents in the bosom of the Tower.

Jordan has developed Mesaana as a goddess of useful employment in an occupation she despises. Just as Mesaana was and is a reluctant teacher, so she is equally scornful of crafts:

It was always a surprise that the woman [Semirhage] liked an activity so ... ordinary.

- Lord of Chaos Prologue

How appropriate that Mesaana with her parallels to Minerva/Athena fought a mental duel with Egwene, and her mind, and not her body, was destroyed when she lost.

While much of her character and interests were derived from Athena, Mesaana’s name was probably derived from a figure of Slavic mythology.


Marzanna was the personification of death and winter in Slavic mythology. She was portrayed as an old woman dressed in white. Mesaana is a cold-blooded schemer and killer—a truly deadly and wintry personality—influencing events in the White Tower. She wore a long white dress in The Gathering Storm, Prologue. At the end of winter, effigies representing Marzanna were either burned or drowned.

As well as mythological figures, Jordan based the Forsaken on historical figures such as the Nazis to add realism and bring their evil closer to our own time. Mesaana has parallels to a few Nazis: Rosenberg, von Schirach, Streicher, Hoess and Eichmann. These will be discussed in turn.

In the case of historic figures of the Nazi regime, aspects of one person were divided amongst two, or even three, Forsaken to illustrate the effect time has on history and legend. Alfred Rosenberg is a perfect example of this. He was used as a source for three of the Forsaken: he was a major source for Mesaana and a minor source for Ishamael (forthcoming essay) and Demandred.

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946) was Reichminister for the Eastern Occupied Territories and supervised ideological training and education in Nazi Germany. Of an introverted temperament, he had trouble building friendships even within the Nazi Party, due to his concentration on ideas and dreams. His writings revealed him as:

a man of profound half-culture, acquainted with countless apocryphal sources and theories and all the cranky tract literature of pathological nationalist fanaticism, a reader who assimilated his mass of reading rapidly, uncritically, and inaccurately, so that the result was always in line with his preconceived opinions.

- Joachim Fest, Alfred Rosenberg: The Forgotten Disciple

Such a person would be unsuited to research since he is unoriginal, uncritical and has preconceived ideas.

Mesaana is often considered dreamy because of her introspection (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). While extremely knowledgeable, to her chagrin she was considered unsuited for research and appointed as a teacher. Perhaps she was assessed as unscrupulous or biased, although how her short-comings didn’t also disqualify her as a teacher is a major misjudgement of her assessors.

Rosenberg suffered thwarted ambition too: he greatly desired to be appointed Germany’s foreign minister, but this position was given to Joachim von Ribbentrop and Rosenberg never got over this. Instead, Rosenberg was given the task of supervising political ideology and education in the Nazi party. Even though he was pleased to have power over all intellectual institutions, he remained disappointed at not being foreign minister.

As Hitler’s Delegate for Spiritual and Ideological Training, he assisted in the preparation of the curriculum for the Adolf Hitler schools. These schools selected the most suitable candidates for the Hitler Youth and trained them as an elite for leadership within the Party:

Those Party members, selected for training in leadership in accordance with such points of view (who must have completed their labor service and their military service satisfactorily) are to be taught in the Ordensburgen by the best teachers in history and science of race, philosophy and culture, economics and specialized training, etc. To determine the ideological direction of this education, to choose suitable teachers and to train them, is one of the tasks of the Senior School of the Party [Hoche Schule der Partei] which is to be established in the near future and will be placed under the direction of the Reich Leader Party member Alfred Rosenberg in his capacity as Delegate of the Fuehrer for the Supervision of the Entire Spiritual and Ideological Teaching and Education of the NSDAP.

- Das Dritte Reich, 1936 edition, Education in the Ordensburg

[Mesaana] set up schools in the territory she controlled, schools where children and young people were taught the glories of the Dark One.

- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival

Rosenberg organised and directed a special unit, the Einsatzstab Rosenberg, which removed books, art treasures and collections from museums, libraries and private houses in all German Occupied Territories. He called for the destruction of literature and art works which showed cosmopolitan and Bolshevist influences and for a ban on mentioning the names of their creators in public. A new folk aesthetic was imposed on art and literature by Rosenberg to ensure artworks contained only images considered appropriate to Nazism.

The Shadow also wanted the old order obliterated and Mesaana encouraged mobs of children to destroy museums and libraries containing anything that might detract from the Dark One’s glory.

As governor of the Baltic States, White Ruthenia, the Ukraine and Eastern Poland, Rosenberg not only participated in the conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in the areas of the Occupied East, but he himself formulated in his writings the harsh policies of Germanization, exploitation, segregation of Jews and extermination of opponents of Nazi rule which resulted in these atrocities. In the Eastern Territories, under the directives of Rosenberg and Himmler and the SS, millions of Jews were exterminated, millions of slave laborers were forced to work under indescribable conditions, the populace was starved, beaten, and murdered, and the areas stripped of their resources.

Such atrocities were committed in the areas Mesaana governed in the Age of Legends: people were harvested to feed the Trolloc armies and killed because they showed too little fervour for the Dark One. Mesaana worked closely with Semirhage (a parallel of Himmler) to their mutual advantage and to unseat rivals.

Rosenberg was one of the originators of the Nazi plan for attacking Norway. He made contact with Quisling (a parallel of Demandred) and arranged for him to collaborate with, receive financial and political assistance from, and ultimately betray Norway to, the Nazis.

Demandred, Quisling’s parallel, also betrayed the Light to the Shadow during the War of Power and thereafter worked closely with Mesaana and Semirhage to topple opponents.

Baldur von Schirach

Von Schirach (1907–1974) was Hitler Youth Leader and Gauleiter (governor) of Vienna. He was one of the most successful organizers of youth groups in history. After the Nazis came to power, Von Schirach, utilizing both physical violence and political pressure, either destroyed or took over all youth groups rivalling the Hitler Youth. Children over ten and youths were shaped by von Schirach into young men willing to prosecute a very destructive war as well as to participate or acquiesce in the most brutal atrocities in modern European history. Von Schirach used a mixture of pagan romanticism, militarism and patriotism to attract and inspire recruits for Hitler's armed forces. Particularly outstanding boys were funnelled into the SS and such boys considered this a great honour.

Young Germans were trained to comply with Nazi concepts of character, discipline, obedience and leadership as set out in von Schirach's book, Die Hitler-Jugend (1934) and expected to enlist in the armed forces. Phrases such as “Everything is the love of Adolf Hitler” were used to brainwash the boys. The boys he helped trained remained loyal to the end, in many cases joining in the hopeless, or even suicidal, defense of their towns and villages at the end of the War. The photo from shows a Hitler Youth March watched by von Schirach and Streicher, both Mesaana parallels.

Von Schirach was disliked by many top Nazis, notably Martin Bormann (a parallel of Moridin) who intrigued against him. Von Schirach was the butt of jokes about his effeminate behaviour and his allegedly white bedroom with feminine furnishings. However, SS Leader Himmler (a parallel of Semirhage, see Semirhage essay) was positive toward von Schirach, presumably because von Schirach created an effective recruiting system and provided boys ready to accept the terrible tasks assigned the SS.

Besides effeminacy, von Schirach has quite a few parallels with Mesaana. Both were great organisers and inspirers of young people, whom they trained (or brainwashed) to be totally loyal to an evil cause. Mesaana’s:

schools corrupted or damaged much of a generation of children in the conquered territories

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

just as von Schirach admitted at his trial to doing to German youth. In addition, they both governed occupied areas.

Mesaana had a close working relationship with Semirhage, as did von Schirach with Himmler (Semirhage’s parallel). Von Schirach’s problems with Bormann are reflected in Mesaana being punished by Shaidar Haran for disobeying Moridin and in Moridin’s humiliation of Mesaana in front of Graendal (The Gathering Storm, Prologue).

Julius Streicher

Streicher (1993–1946) was the rabidly anti-Semitic editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer and Gauleiter, the Nazi party leader, of Franconia. Originally a school-teacher, he was notoriously violent:

One oft-told tale concerned a Nuremberg schoolteacher jailed for insulting Streicher. [Streicher] had horse-whipped the teacher senseless. Afterward, Streicher left the prison sighing—“I needed that. Now I feel relaxed.”

- Joseph Persico, Nuremberg, Infamy on Trial

Mesaana was a teacher in the Age of Legends who encouraged the children in the areas she governed to hunt down teachers not following the Shadow and assault them or turn them in to be killed.

Steicher’s knowledge of history was combined with a poor understanding of scientific concepts to develop (and publish) nonsensical racial doctrine.

Although understanding scientific and technical concepts, Mesaana was assessed as unsuitable for research and had to be content with being a teacher.

Streicher incited the populace to violence against Jews with his anti-Semitic newspaper and published a book for teachers, The Jewish Question and School Instruction by Fink which emphasised the desirability of anti-Semitic teaching in schools, and suggested ways in which the subject could be introduced and handled. As early as 1925, Streicher was making speeches demanding that German children be taught by German teachers with anti-Semitism as part of the curriculum. In addition, Streicher was involved in writing and publishing children’s books which demonised Jews to an extreme degree to turn German children against them. The most famous of these was the Giftpilz (Poison Mushroom).

Mesaana’s schools taught the glories of the Dark One (Lord of Chaos, Prologue) and encouraged spying, violence, betrayal of those not sufficiently devout to the Dark One and vandalism.

Streicher was ousted from office in 1940 for overstepping himself and insulting Goering and lived in obscurity in a village outside Nuremberg until the end of the war, where he continued to publish his newspaper. Mesaana has been hidden in the White Tower and was punished by Shaidar Haran for overstepping herself.

Rudolf Hoess

Hoess (1900–1947) was in the SS at Dachau, then was promoted to adjutant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and then appointed as Commandant of the newly built camp at Auschwitz. In 1941 he was instructed by Himmler to prepare the Auschwitz concentration camp to be the centre for the “Final Solution of the Jewish question”. Hoess converted Auschwitz into an extermination camp by installing gas chambers and crematoria large enough to get rid of ten thousand people within twenty-four hours.

After some research, Hoess decided that gassing by carbon monoxide, the recommended method, was inefficient and introduced the cyanide gas Zyklon B. By the end of the war, 2.5 million persons were eventually killed at Auschwitz by gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, or burning. (Photo from

In late 1943 Hoess was appointed chief inspector of the concentration camps and worked hard to improve the 'efficiency' of the other extermination centres. He performed his job so well that he was commended in a 1944 SS report that called him 'a true pioneer in this area because of his new ideas and educational methods.'

Rudolf Hoess was

outwardly normal, but lacked something essential to normality, the quality of empathy, the capacity to feel with our fellow man. Hoess had described the millions at Auschwitz not as people, but as “shadows passing before me.” Combine unthinking obedience, racism and a disconnection from the kinship of mankind, and you could produce an Auschwitz commandant.

- Joseph Persico, Nuremberg: Infamy On Trial

Mesaana and Hoess have similar psychologies: both focus on practicality and efficiency in their work—including the atrocities—and have little empathy for others. Hoess didn’t see the prisoners as people and Mesaana ‘didn’t care what Semirhage did to others’ (Lord of Chaos, Prologue).

Hoess worked on organising the concentration camps with Eichmann, another SS officer keen on efficiency.

Adolf Eichmann

Eichmann (1906–1962) was a high-ranking official in the SS and was largely responsible for the logistics of the extermination of millions of people during the Holocaust, in particular Jews. He organized the identification and transportation of people to the various concentration camps. Eichmann performed his duties with great zeal and efficiency, often bragging that he had personally sent over five million Jews to their deaths by way of his trains. In August 1944 Eichmann reported to Himmler that approximately 4 million Jews had died in death camps and that an estimated 2 million had been killed by mobile units.

Eichmann was a model administrator in the SS, organising the mobile SS Einsatz groups, which murdered aristocrats, professionals, clergy, suspected saboteurs and communists, Jews, and anyone deemed a security threat in the Eastern Occupied Territories.

In the Age of Legends, Mesaana was an efficient administrator of occupied territory.

As the Allies closed in towards the end of the War, Himmler ordered that the extermination of the Jews be halted and evidence of the Final Solution be destroyed, but Eichmann disobeyed him and sent 50,000 Hungarian Jews on an eight-day death march to Austria.

Mesaana not only didn’t attend the Forsaken meeting, she disobeyed orders to go to the cleansing of saidin, because she felt her own plans more important.

Eichmann fled Hungary in 1945 as the Russians invaded, and returned to Austria where he met up with his old friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner (a parallel of Balthamel/Aran’gar, see Balthamel essay). Kaltenbrunner, however, refused to associate with Eichmann since Eichmann's duties as an extermination administrator had left him a marked man by the Allies.

Mesaana and Aran’gar were each involved with manipulating the Aes Sedai in competition with the other...

It is interesting that Eichmann, with an excellent record and considerable responsibilities, was never promoted to the rank of full SS-Colonel. Some have speculated that Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Eichmann’s superior (and friend), may have seen Eichmann as competition, and prevented Eichmann from becoming too powerful.

The Forsaken, too, play these sorts of power games with each other—even their loyalty to the Dark One is secondary to their own prospects.

The Nazi regime is not the only one with parallels to the Forsaken. Communist China, and Mao in particular, were used as a source for both Sammael (see Sammael essay) and Mesaana.

Communist China’s Cultural Revolution

Chairman Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966 and it was officially ended in 1977. He shut down China's schools, and during the following months he encouraged young party members and Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois” things and to test party officials by publicly criticizing them. Young people were encouraged to criticize cultural institutions and question their parents and teachers, which had been strictly forbidden in Confucian culture (Encyclopaedia Britannica). They also attacked and tortured respected teachers and intellectuals, abused elderly citizens and old revolutionaries and even battled former friends. Many died.
China's historic artefacts and sites were destroyed and traditional arts and crafts rejected because they were thought to cause old ways of thinking.

The training and prospects of half a generation were ruined.

There existed, for example, a severe generation gap; individuals who experienced the Cultural Revolution while in their teens and early twenties were denied an education and taught to redress grievances by taking to the streets. Post-Cultural Revolution policies—which stressed education and initiative over radical revolutionary fervour—left little room for these millions of people to have productive careers.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

They were taught no skills and little knowledge: Mao’s political writings were considered sufficient.

Mao’s regime was the opposite of Mesaana’s territories in NOT being well-administered, orderly or efficient, but they otherwise had much in common.

Mesaana set up schools in the territory she controlled, schools where children and young people were taught the glories of the Dark One, taught to kill their friends who didn't learn well enough or fast enough.

- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival

These schools corrupted or damaged much of a generation of children in the conquered territories. They were required from the earliest age to spy and report not only on each other, but on their parents and neighbours; this was the least of her harm. Under her direction mobs of children and adolescents were encouraged to destroy anything which they felt might detract from the Dark One’s glory, especially museums, libraries and research facilities. The old order, the old world, was to be rooted up and obliterated. These mobs hunted down teachers from the old schools and institutions of higher learning, scientists from the research centres, librarians and museum curators, and officials of the former government. Many members of these mobs betrayed their own parents and relatives, and in the second half of the war even carried out executions, often impromptu but at times using “courts” comprised entirely of children.

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

Violence and devotion to a revolutionary figure were considered all the training required and questioning the fervour of others a duty to the regime. Furthermore, Mao and Mesanna share a contempt for traditional arts and crafts.

Pol Pot

Pol Pot (1925–1998), born Saloth Sâr, combined Maoism with Stalinism to create a lethal anti-intellectual agrarian regime that destroyed Cambodian society and resulted in the deaths of 25 percent of the country's population from starvation, overwork and executions. An introspective, highly reclusive man, he was not intellectually gifted and graduated two years late from high school, and subsequently failed to earn a place at an academic institution but received a vocational education. His lack of qualifications barred him from teaching at a state school but he taught history, geography and French literature at a private school for about 7 years. Turning his back on his former profession, he led the Khmer Rouge to destroy Cambodian society and replace it with a classless peasant communism, targeting intellectuals, professionals, civil servants, business people, religious leaders and city residents in particular. People were forced from their professions and businesses and out of the cities to toil in the fields. Announcing "This is Year Zero," he aimed to “purify” Cambodian society of all religion, education, foreign influences, city life and capitalism. Apart from collectivising all property, the Khmer Rouge heavily restricted reading material and religion.

Like Pol Pot, Mesaana had an introspective personality, and fell back on teaching when she did not qualify as a researcher in a prestigious institution. She revenged her thwarted career by organising the destruction of knowledge and museums and the obliteration of the old order of the Age of Legends. Her activities are similar to Pol Pot’s, but her administration was probably better regulated. The Shadow attempted two Year Zeros, each bringing about the end of an Age.


The Vandals were:

a Germanic people who maintained a kingdom in North Africa from AD 429 to 534 and who sacked Rome in 455. Their name has remained a synonym for wilful desecration or destruction.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Under their king Gaiseric, they threw off Roman overlordship, captured Carthage and eventually annexed Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily and finally even invaded Italy and captured Rome. For a fortnight they occupied the city and systematically plundered it, carrying off many valuable works of art and torturing and murdering its people. Their pirate fleet controlled much of the western Mediterranean Sea. The Vandals were zealous (and heretical) Arian Christians, and persecuted the Roman Catholic Church in Africa. Each year after the sacking of Rome, the Vandals and their allies continued to return to Sicily and the coasts of southern Italy for more plunder.

Ancient Rome is the major parallel for the Age of Legends (see The Age of Legends essay) and correspondingly, many of Rome’s enemies are parallels of the Forsaken. During the War of the Shadow, Mesaana:

held several field commands for the Shadow, showing herself to be an adequate general at best… Under her direction mobs of children and adolescents were encouraged to destroy anything which they felt might detract from the Dark One’s glory, especially museums, libraries and research facilities. The old order, the old world, was to be rooted up and obliterated.

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

So appallingly destructive were Mesaana’s children, that they were evermore synonymous with destruction and desecration of artefacts, just as the Vandals are in our world. The Roman Church has much in common with the White Tower and Third Age Aes Sedai (see Aes Sedai Administration essay), and Mesaana organised Black sisters to attack the Tower and destroy the organisation.

Dark School

At Mesaana’s schools the students were taught:

the glories of the Dark One, taught to kill their friends who didn't learn well enough or fast enough.

- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival

This is a parallel of the Dark School where the Devil taught the occult arts and:

when the course of studies ended, the students would rush to escape through the single door, for it was known that the Devil would take the hindmost…

- Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson, The Folklore of Discworld

In the Forsaken’s schools, the hindmost students were taken and killed.


Written by Linda, September 2005 and updated January 2014 and December 2018


Anonymous said...

A footnote on Vandals. I ran across an article that said half of them went south to Italy, Spain, and eventually North Africa and were known as Vandals. The other half of the tribe went north and became the Vikings.

Jens said...

A footnote on Vandals and the footnote on Vandals.

Vandals where an Eastern European Germanic people who moved through Spain to Northern Africa, where they established a new kingdom. They slowly but surely dominated the western Mediterranean Sea but in 442 they made a peace treaty with the Western Roman Empire.

The famous Sack of Rome in 455 was caused by the murder of Emperor Valentinian III and the accession of Petronius Maximus, who had planned this murder, as Emperor.

The Vandals saw this murder as an act against their peace treaty and marched on Rome.

While it is widely agreed today that they plundered exzessively, bloodshed, destruction and burning did hardly occur.

Thus the term "vandalism" is unjustly attributed and actually came in use in the 18th century classicism when Rome was idealised in contrast to "barbaric" people, customs and culture.

Concerning a connection between Vandals and Vikings - there is none. Vikings where Northern European Germanic peoples, seafarers who traded and raided all along European coasts a couple of hundred years after the downfall of Vandals.