Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #14 - The One Power and the Eye of the World 2

The One Power and the Eye of the World 2

By Dr. Saidin

This is the second part of the analysis of the One Power in the Eye of the World. As said before, I’ll start by discussing the way in which Ishamael seems to instantly appear at stages in the first half of the book.

Ishamael and his Travelling

The incident in question is the following:

'Behind him the air rippled, shimmered, solidified into a man who looked around, his mouth twisting briefly with distaste.'

- The Eye of the World, Dragonmount

As I see it, there are three possible explanations for this event...

1. Ishamael was not Travelling, he was unravelling an illusion

This is the most likely explanation. It is more than likely that Ishamael would be cautious around Lews Therin. Not only was Ishamael arguably Lews Therin's worst enemy, but Lews Therin was now insane and had destroyed everyone he loved. The most likely explanation for this scene is that Ishamael had been observing Lews Therin for some time before unravelling a weave of illusion i.e. invisibility like we have seen Rand weave, once he was sure that he was relatively 'safe' and could approach the mad Dragon.

When Lews Therin Travels later in the scene, Ishamael follows him and again we read :

on the island, the air shimmered and coalesced. The black-clad man stood staring at the fiery mountain rising out of the plain. His face twisted in rage and contempt.

While many people take this as evidence of Travelling, it may once again be Ishamael unravelling invisibility again. He'd followed a mad, suicidally crazy Lews Therin to this remote place, and Lews Therin was holding all the saidin he could manage - before he overdrew and destroyed himself. Ishamael also seems to have watched the scene, and is angered by Lews Therin's death. This could be proof that he arrived moments after Lews Therin did, watched the scene under the veil of illusion while removing himself as a target, and then unravelled it when Lews Therin died.

The shimmering effect also fits in well with every other case of illusion which has been unravelled. The most pertinent is the unravelling of Semirhage's illusion, which also presents its self as a shimmering effect. Considering invisibility is a form of illusion, this is the most likely cause for Ishamael's odd entrance.

2. The True Power causes Travelling to look like this

This is once again another plausible answer, which unfortunately can't be substantiated further considering we have seen Moridin Travel only once with the True Power, and he omits a description of his appearance. We know that Travelling with the True Power is done by ripping the Pattern (A Crown of Swords, Patterns within Patterns). Considering it is a highly unnatural process, the gateway may not appear like a quaint doorway as with saidin or saidar. Instead the ripped area may be a metaphysical paradox, and lead to the channeler having the appearance of instantly appearing out of thin air.

This could be substantiated with the evidence cited above. Ishamael instantly arrives at Lews Therin's palace. Later he follows Lews Therin and appears to appear out of thin air again. It could be the optical manifestation of True Power Travelling. I find this to be slightly less likely than the idea that Ishamael was unravelling an illusion for the sole reason that Ishamael appears to not be moving at any stage. No matter how people Travel, they need to step through the gateway. Ishamael appears to shimmer in a stationary position, which makes it more likely that he wasn't stepping through a gateway as much as unravelling illusion from a standing position.

Now apparently RJ answered that this is indeed the reason for Ishamael's strange appearances. Considering it is non-verbatim, it is open to suspicion, though it is an option.

3. Robert Jordan was still consolidating his thoughts on Travelling

It is possible RJ was still fleshing out the One Power, and that all forms of Travelling, whether True Power, saidin or saidar, resembled teleportation and a process of instantaneous displacement rather than a form of motion seen later in the books. When Lews Therin Travels in this chapter it states:

he reached out to the True Source, to tainted saidin, and he Travelled. The land around him was flat and empty.

The sense here is that he desperately pulled in the One Power and was suddenly in another place. There was no description of him forming a gateway and stepping or running through. However, to be fair, this may have been omitted for the sole purpose of brevity.

In conclusion the three most likely reasons for Ishamael's strange movements in the prologue of book 1 are illusion, the properties of True Power Travelling, or the fact that the act of Travelling really did resemble initially the process of teleportation. Of these, the most likely is that Ishamael was observing Lews Therin, and unravelled his illusion at the right times.

Balthamel – very strong in the Power?

EoTW (Remembrance of Dreams) - ”Those stories are true, and none of the Forsaken had a tenth of the strength of their master, not Aginor or Lanfear, not Balthamel or Demandred, not even Ishamael, the Betrayer of Hope himself.”

I wrote a whole post on the strength of the male Forsaken a few weeks ago, but to be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to this quote. Maybe it means nothing, but maybe it means everything.

I find it odd that Moiraine chose to include Balthamel in her list of the most powerful Forsaken. It seems as if she starts at the lowest echelon of the ‘most powerful of all’, with Aginor and Lanfear – then Demandred and Balthamel, and finally the most powerful, Ishamael. It may mean that according to Moiraine’s knowledge, Balthamel was one of the strongest of the Forsaken, on a level with Demandred in strength.

Of course, Moiraine may be drawing random names out of a hat. She admits later in the series that of all the Forsaken, she knows Ishamael and Lanfear to be the strongest, and Aginor to be second. She is providing a comparison to the Dark One’s strength, and thus naming them all, as well as throwing in a few extra names like Demandred and Balthamel.

Another explanation is that Balthamel was included because he is present as a villain in this book. By including the names of Aginor and Balthamel, we are told of their immense power and when they later appear, we remember her words.

Further evidence for this theory is that some people believe that the male Forsaken are listed according to strength in the Guide, just as the females are. In that case, their relative strengths are Ishamael, Aginor, Balthamel, Sammael, Rahvin, Be’lal, Demandred and finally Asmodean. I have reservations about placing Demandred low on any list, but on the other hand, perhaps everyone below Ishamael sit on the same level. It is certainly plausible that all the top males are slightly weaker than Rand and Ishamael, and sit on the same level as Taim and Logain. I’ve always believed Balthamel to be one of the weaker male Forsaken, but we know so little about him that I’ve always been completely open to him sitting on higher levels. Dominic and Linda have a hypothesis that Balthamel was indeed one of the strongest, but that laziness and wastage are themes surrounding the character. As I mentioned before, Aran’gar faced one of the largest circles at the Cleansing and killed one of the Ash’aman, and this may provide some explanation of why.

Aginor and Balthamel – much weaker in the Power in this book?

It has remained a source of surprise to me that Rand was able to pull the Eye away from Aginor. It eventually led to Aginor burning himself out and dying, which implies that Rand could draw more than he could without harming himself. It could be that this all comes down to destiny, and that Rand could pull the Eye away from Aginor as surely as he could touch Callandor whereas Be’lal could not. However, I think there are some hints that Aginor and Balthamel may have been weaker in the Power in this book.

We already know that the body is critical in channeling. An exhausted or weakened person struggles to channel, and Rand almost dies while trying to channel in a tired state. Now suppose you have been sealed close to the Wheel and your body is in essence, three thousand years old. It stands to reason that you cannot handle so much saidin in such a frail condition, though admittedly we’ve never seen someone so old as this channeling. I have a hypothesis that Aginor and Balthamel were perhaps half as strong as normal, and that Rand was already beyond this. Evidence of this…

- Balthamel takes time to kill the Green Man with fire, and we know full well that a high strength male can devastate large areas of land in an instant. Aginor is shocked that a Nym could destroy Balthamel.

- Moiraine says in EoTW (There is neither beginning nor end) that ‘Aginor was surprised and angry that I held him for as long as I did... I am surprised myself that I held him so long. In the Age of Legends, Aginor was close behind the Kinslayer and Ishamael in power.” Aginor may be surprised that Moiraine held him because he’s not used to a woman being so powerful, but he doesn’t know that Moiraine has an angreal that makes her very powerful. However, Moiraine says that she herself is surprised that she could hold him. On the other hand, Moiraine has incorrect preconceptions of the strength of the Forsaken, citing later in the series that the weakest of them is ten times as strong as any Sister in the Tower. All of the above may be true, but then it is also possible that Aginor may have suffered a considerable loss of strength in saidin due to his weakened physical state, and was surprised and angry that Moiraine could stop him – which surprised her too.

- In EoTW (Against the Shadow) Rand says that the saidin flowing into Aginor pulsed, and with every throb Aginor grew stronger, more fully fleshed, a man as tall and strong as himself… Could Aginor have grown in more than mere physical strength? My bet is that both he and Balthamel were weaker in this book.

The Nature of the Eye

I’ve long believed that the purpose of the Eye was to force Rand instantly to his full potential as Lews Therin. It would prevent the years of training it would have taken for him to match the Shadow. By providing him with the Horn of Valere and Callandor, the Light had done everything they could to ensure the safety of the Dragon Reborn. This is one reason why I believe that Ishamael believed that the Light would fail if he blinded the Eye of the World.

The Eye is more than a collection of saidin. It has amplification abilities akin to a sa’angreal of enormous power. This is substantiated by the fact that…
- Moiraine said that even in the Age of Legends, very few people had the strength to channel such a huge source of saidin. This is similar to the minimum strength required to use the Choedan Kal.
- Rand used the saidin to destroy almost one of the biggest armies in the series unaided. His lone effort in EoTW is similar to the combined effort of the Aes Sedai and Ash’aman in KoD to destroy the Trolloc army of 100,000.

It seems that using an angreal or sa’angreal causes a great increase in power in a developing channeler. Rand experiences a strength jump after using Callandor in TDR, and again in TSR after using the Choedan Kal against Asmodean. Therefore, if the Eye does indeed have amplifying abilities (in effect making it a sa’angreal), then the Eye forced him close to his potential. I would suggest that Aginor denied him his full potential by using the saidin until Rand pulled it away from him.

Small Facts or Hypotheses

- EoTW (Old Friends and New Threats) - A calico cat sauntered in from the hallway to strop the innkeeper’s ankles. No sooner had the calico begun than a fuzzy gray sprang from under the table, arching its back and hissing. This scene occurred when Moiraine and Rand were reunited in the kitchen of the inn. Perhaps this is some of the first evidence that Rand can channel. Perhaps. The aggression of the cat in the presence of him, and the tame attitude of the cat in the presence of her are also some of the first evidence of animals and their attitudes towards channelers. A few chapters later a cat sits on Moiraine’s lap and seems to enjoy being close to her.

- EoTW (Old Friends and New Threats) - ”Soon, if it does not kill him first, he will spread that evil like a plague wherever he goes. Just as one scratch from that blade is enough to infect and destroy, so, soon will a few minutes with Mat be just as deadly. If one thinks of this quote, and the implications for the rest of the series, it seems that RJ didn’t continue with the theme of the contagion of Mashadar. Moiraine hopes that she isn’t too late to save the world from Mat, and Siuan thinks the same in TGH. However, we see that this plague of spreading the evil of Aridhol actually didn’t happen in the hands of Padan Fain. The knife kills people even in WH, but Fain doesn’t seem to be virulent as Moiraine suggests. There could be reasons for this : Fain might have conscious control over this, or the fact that he is a hybrid of the evil of Aridhol and Shayol Ghul may change things slightly.

- EoTW (Remembrance of Dreams) - ”There has not been a dreamwalker in Tar Valon for nearly a thousand years, but I could have tried.” I think we all agree that it’s probably for the best that Moiraine didn’t try and challenge Ishamael in TAR.

EoTW (What follows in Shadow) - ”You feel the taint, the corruption of the Power that made the ways. I will not use the One Power in the Ways unless I must. That taint is so strong that whatever I tried to do would surely be corrupted.” Now, based on the assumption that it was indeed the taint on saidin which is responsible for Machin Shin, it seems odd yet important that the taint can corrupt saidar too. Moiraine’s fires later become a sickly yellow and she is convinced her wardings won’t work. It is proof that the True Power can affect saidar too – which affirms RJ’s statement that saidar would have been corrupted if women had aided at the Strike against Shayol Ghul. It is also a foreboding of what is coming later in the series as the Dark One gains strength and weakens the One Power.

In EoTW (Meetings at the Eye), Aginor says that they found the party by tracking Mat. Moiraine says earlier that Fades and powerful darkfriends would be able to feel Mat and the dagger for a mile. It remains odd that even though the Forsaken could track Mat across the half the world, the Forsaken in WH still mention their difficulty in tracking Fain and their need to hire Slayer.

4 comments: said...

re: - In EoTW (Meetings at the Eye), Aginor says that they found the party by tracking Mat. Moiraine says earlier that Fades and powerful darkfriends would be able to feel Mat and the dagger for a mile. It remains odd that even though the Forsaken could track Mat across the half the world, the Forsaken in WH still mention their difficulty in tracking Fain and their need to hire Slayer.

In an Q&A, RJ stated that Fain has sidestepped the Pattern (though he doesn't say how or when this happened), so that may explain the Forsaken's inability to track him using the dagger.

Dominic said...

Speculatively, the ability of the Shadow to track Fain seems clouded somehow by their inability to track Mordeth.

Still speculatively, Mordeth is dead, just a soul. In whichever way he may be tied to the Pattern, it is not the way incarnated souls are part of the Pattern. Who knows how this has affected Fain's thread in the Pattern... Theorically, the Wheel pulls at Fain, but Mordeth is able to pull on Fain another way - in effect Fain sidesteps the Pattern, does not respond to the input/feedback mechanism of the Wheel the way other humans do (that would be true in a lesser extent of the Forsaken when they obey the orders of the Dark One, a will completely foreign to the Pattern) - through his will obeyed by Darkfriends, Forsaken and Shadowspawn, the Dark One is certainly able to make the Pattern drift.

With Fain there is also the matter of his madness that may compound it further (in a lesser measure it would be the case for Moridin, but Moridin is still way too rational in his insanity). The Wheel is not sentient, but like a mega quantum computer functionning through input/feedback. If it sends stimulus A to pull at Fain, it may not get at all the right answer, and the feedback it gets 'doesn't compute'. It seems the Wheel comes closest to controlling Fain again via his obsession for Rand, while the rest of his actions escape rational patterns more. Couple this with the 'Mordeth isn't tied to the Pattern' or considered 'dead' by the Wheel, and you get Fain as a wilcard, sidestepping the Pattern to an extent.

Anonymous said...

Just a random thought on the EoTW Prologue and Traveling.

Perhaps they are actually in TAR, which would explain the Traveling inconsistencies from what we learn later, and the ability LTT displays in finding a location with no people.

It's possible he stepped out of TAR as he destroyed himself and created DM.

Misopogon said...

On the topic of Ishmael's and Lews Therin's shimmer-traveling:

I think there's another possibility that hasn't been discussed: using a TAR for instant travel.

Egwene used her experience of entering TAR corporeally to get to Salidar in order to figure out Skimming and Portal-Traveling. My guess is that personal Traveling is possible for one who can enter TAR. The Traveler need only step into TAR, imagine themselves where they wished to travel to, and then pop out.

We know that stepping in and out of TAR gives a "noticeable" effect.

We see Forsaken many times using good ol'fashioned portal-Travel, because they are attached to their humanity. Ishmael/Moridin doesn't seem to mind as much, and Lews Therin, wishing to get away quickly without being followed, probably didn't care much about his humanity either when moments away from committing suicide.

The benefit of Shimmer- or TAR-Travel would be near-instant teleportation (rather than the time to open a gateway, let alone skim), irregardless of familiarity with the place you're traveling to or from.

Given the risk of humanity-loss, it's certainly not worth it for day-to-day Traveling, but in a crisis situation would be a useful option.

I also would imagine that Moridin's use of the Dark Power enables this shimmer-Travel, perhaps without loss of humanity. It stands to reason that the Source emanating from the DO would, like Saidin and Saidar, still need to work through practical functions (though probably easier and more violent than the Creator's power). I bet portal stones, another shimmer-Travel method, use this same function, having TAR, the shadow-reality, serve as the intermediary.

Conversely, Portal-Travel, Skimming, and The Ways, take you outside the pattern, into a 4th dimension. Because the 4th dimension touches the other three at all points, the trick is to bore a hole in and out of your current dimension, and either touch the two doors together (bending space-time), or travel the distance yourself (creating a worm-hole). I include the Ways in this type of Traveling because they were built as a solid, perpetual, massive object that sits in this 4th dimension. The Ways are basically permanent Skimming Bridges.

These are two very different means of transportation. In physics, the first, the TAR-style travel I am suggesting Ishmael and Lews used, is beam-me-up-Scotty teleportation -- your molecules are transmitted (copied) into an intermediary format (clipboard), then rearranged (pasted) into a new destination. TAR is the clipboard. As with teleportation via computer (and those who have copied and pasted large amounts of data can attest to this), a bit of the original is always lost in the process.

Our other functional form of Travel doesn't have that danger, since there's no "copy" ever made. It also fits with the saidin/saidar descriptions of how the portals are made, with the male side "boring a hole in the pattern" and with saidar, "bringing the two together." Physics-wise, they are describing the same concept of extra-dimensional travel, its basic concept being that through this extra dimension, every point in the universe touches every other point. If you know your exact points of departure and arrival, you can thus pick those exact spots to travel through. If you don't, you can still cut into the 4th dimension, then eyeball your landing.