Friday, May 1, 2009

The Eye of the World Read-Through #11 - Ishamael's Power Over Souls

A small post on Ishamael's powers over souls

By Dr. Saidin

We've been debating whether Ishamael had the power to summon Kari al'Thor's soul. While I find this to be highly unlikely, I would like to quickly discuss the demise of Howal Gode, the notorious darkfriend.

EoTW (The Dark Waits)

Gode was there at the table. He only recognized the man from his clothes, his silk and dark velvets. Gode's skin was read, burned and cracked and oozing. His face was almost a skull, his lips shriveled to bare teeth and gums. As Gode turned his head, some of his hair cracked off, powdering to soot when it hit his shoulder. His lidless eyes stared at Rand.

"So you are dead," Rand said. He was surprised he was not afraid. Perhaps it was knowing that it was a dream this time.

"Yes," said Ba'alzamon's voice, "but he did find you for me. That deserves some reward don't you think."

... Gode made a gabbling sound again. "Yes, my good hound. Here is your reward." Rand looked at Gode just in time to see the man's body crumble to dust. For an instant his face held a look of sublime joy that turned to horror in the final moment, as if he had seen something waiting he did not expect.

I found this passage to be disturbing because it casts real doubt on Ishamael's abilities. Could he really be that powerful, or are things not as they seem?

Starting with the analysis, we know that Gode and his men attempted to capture Rand and Mat while they were stuck in a room in Four Kings. Rand was desperate and inadvertently channeled lightning which destroyed most of the room, left Mat temporarily blind, and appeared to kill everyone - though there was no sign of Gode. Considering Gode was closest to the door, it makes sense that he suffered the same fate as his thugs, though the ominous lack of a body is usually a sign of a later reappearance. However, when Rand enters tel'aran'rhiod we see that Gode was hit by lightning and is severely burned. Some theories...

1. Ishamael can catch souls

Loath as I am to say it, I think this might actually be a possibility. Gode's injuries appear to have been fatal. Judging by the description of the man at the table, he was struck directly with the lightning and was killed instantly, like his strongarms. However, here he is in an interview with Ishamael, which is not possible if you are dead. One possibility is that Ishamael became aware of Gode's death when it happened, caught his soul and brought him to tel'aran'rhiod to interrogate him. It was his desire to merely get information, of course, before letting his soul go. We also see that when Ishamael does release Gode, he experiences the joy that a darkfriend gets after finally being given their long-awaited reward, only to discover the terror which waits for them in the next life. This parallels well with Osan'gar's recollection of the horrors of death.

2. Ishamael cannot catch souls - he pulled a dying man into TAR

This is also possible, and the most likely explanation. I feel bad supporting this theory because to me, Gode was clearly dead but kept between the two worlds by Ishamael. However, it is also possible that Gode was lying burned and dying next to the shed, and while unconscious, Ishamael pulled him into the dreamworld to interrogate him before he died. It was lucky timing for Ishamael, who nearly missed his window of opportunity. This is more in line with the ability of dreamwalkers, and I'd support it. However, Rand says that Gode is dead, and Ishamael agrees with him.

3. Ishamael cannot catch souls - Gode wasn't even there

This may have been an elaborate trap, not unlike what we've seen before. It is convenient that Ishamael encountered Rand and Gode in the same dream. Why not finish with Gode, and then go for Rand? It's quite possible that Ishamael wanted to show Rand his power over other men and what happened to those who pleased or failed him. Interactive dreams are possible in TAR. We saw Moghedien create a complex, interactive Emond's Field to trap Egwene, and Ishamael could probably perform similar feats.

4. Take Ishamael and the Dark One with a pinch of salt in book 1

I also support this theory, and find it highly possible. RJ deliberately kept Ishamael and the Dark One vague and interchangable in the event that book 1 never took off, and it could be read as a stand-alone. The way he wrote it, it actually can be. If the series ended after book 1, Rand could have destroyed Ba'alzamon/the Dark One, but if it carried on, we would see later that he was actually Ishamael. Therefore, Ishamael may have been given some of the powers of the Lord of the Grave for this book - power over Gode, over Kari, and other abilities which disappeared later when he became a finite, limited villain (unlike his master).

In conclusion, it's difficult to say if Ishamael could catch souls in book 1. Gode certainly seemed to have been caught, though whether he was alive or not even there can be defended. Knowing what I do know about dreamwalkers, I would bet that Gode was alive and pulled into TAR for his last minutes, but I'm equally convinced that Ishamael was vaguely merged with the Dark One in this book and allowed some freedom with his powers.


Zemaille says: Hmm... Not bad for a shorebound scholar. Which of Dr Saidin's explanations do you think is the right one? Answer the Quickpoll on the left panel and/or leave your alternative explanation & comments to this post.


- You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Eye of the World Round-Table open thread to leave a commentary of your own about any aspect of the book.

- Got any nagging question about a topic from The Eye of the World? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.


Linda said...

Option 5. Ishamael can't catch souls but the Dark One can and did, and handed them to Ishy to 'do with as he will'.

Animeeyez said...

Ohhh actually I like Linda's theory as well. Why couldn't they be working together with Ishamael misleading Rand's understanding of the situation...

Dr Saidin said...

To be honest, I don't think the Dark One was accessible to the Forsaken until the end of book 2. We know that when Lews Therin sealed him up, the other Forsaken who weren't in the Bore lost contact with him and his ability to protect them from the taint. It probably would have taken the loss of more seals before the Pit of Doom became functional again.

BobH said...

As I see it, the Pit of Doom must have been "functional" long before the end of book 2, because ... of the existance of Slayer. The combining of Luc & Isam's souls has to have been the Dark One's work, not Ishamael's. In WH ch.22, Slayer thinks:

His services were always begged, except by the Great Lord himself, and more recently by the Chosen.

The "more recently by the Chosen" part implies that the Great Lord had utilized Slayer before any of the Chosen were around, including Ishamael, presumably, since Slayer must know that Ba'alzamon was Ishamael.

Plus, it seems quite likely that Slayer was created in the early to mid 970s, which is several years before Ishamael was around (the first evidence of his existance wasn't until ~981, re his confrontation with Jain Farstrider).

I suspect the Great Lord was able to create Slayer from the 2 souls because the Luc/Isam confrontation occurred near Shayol Ghul - in the passes of the Mountains of Dhoom, according to the Dark Prophecy.

This matches with what RJ said at DragonCon'05, about the DO having greater access to people/souls near SG than elsewhere.

My guess is, until the Seals weakened sufficiently (i.e. well after the EotW began), the DO had access to souls, but only those of Darkfriends (i.e. people who have sworn to him) that died near SG. The Blight was probably the boundary of his reach, until then.

Therefore, he could not have snatched Kari's soul in the early to mid 980s (if she were a DF), nor Howal Gode's soul in EotW - both died hundreds of leagues from SG, and would have been beyond his reach, I think.

Therefore, I think both were simply TAR puppets created by Ishamael (when Rand saw them in TAR).

I agree that RJ wrote EotW to work as a stand alone novel, in case subsequent volumes were never published. And, part of that process was to blur the distinction between Ishamael and the Dark One, as you said.

However, he also had to write EotW to work as the first volume of a series in which it would become clear that Ishamael was NOT the Dark One. Consequently, I believe he deliberately had all the mystical, Dark-One-like things Ishamael did occur in TAR, so that they could be easily explained as illusions later in the series.

Fanatic-Templar said...

I also believe Linda's 5th option is most likely.

Aside from what has already been said, we know that Shai'tan was at this time able to influence the weather of presumably the entire Westlands, or at the very least as far as the Two Rivers.

We see Ishamael, who is still partially bound at the time (he really only appears in the Dreamworld, or to Fain at Shayol Ghul, and in this one instance. Note that even in the Dreamworld, he usually resides in a room apparently close to Shayol Ghul), capable of manifesting physically as far as Shadar Logoth.

The supernatural winter is pretty much intended to convey the message that Shai'tan's power is growing, and by the end of the book, the Seal is weak enough for Ishamael, Aginor and Balthamel to be free so I wouldn't be surprised at all that Shai'tan's reach was by then greater than it had been even a few years ago.

Chris Moorhead said...

I tend to think it was all an illusion just to scare Rand. After all, the names that Ishy bandies about and his other elaborate illusions (like Tar Valon) are just for that end. He wants to win Rand over, and it doesn't matter if he does so through fear, despair, blackmail or goading.

The problem, also, with the DO being able to 'hand souls over' to Ishy is that, where we have seen this before, proximity to Shayol Ghul is necessary. Kari was almost certainly an illusion - emotional bonds strengthen the power an illusion has over your. Gode was likely an made as an example of defiance/failure. But only an illusion.

How might Ishy come to accept souls a gift from the DO, esp. without bodies? It is more likely, IMO, that he made it up. It falls outside of how the DO is limited in his actions in the rest of the series. Gode being alive isn't totally unlikely, too.

uglycat said...

i like the pragmatic explanation, #4.

i remember a lot of minor inconsistencies in book 1 with the rest of the series. book 2 onward, the rules of the world solidify a lot.

Chris Moorhead said...

See that you pretty much covered my opinion too, Bob. ;)

One disagreement, though. I don't think that Jordan had double plans for tEotW though. Book 2 had already been completed and was published shortly after the release of tEotW. One of the big myths about WoT is that it was intended as a trilogy shortly before tEotW was written. Jordan knew the final scene from very early on in planning - I don't think he could possibly been naive enough to consider the ending coming any time soon. Plus Min's viewings in tEotW and integrating the fact that TGH was already written points to him having planned for a long epic all along. The prologue to tEotW shows signs of his long term plan for Ishy down to the flaming eyes of Baalzamon.

I don't think he had a double plan for failure of the books - people don't really write to plan for failure. As you say, the lines between the two were obviously blurred intentionally, but only so that it would be a slow reveal on Baalzamon's identity.

Dominic said...

About the 'trilogy':

It is indeed in part a myth. When it was a trilogy, book 1 consisted of the plot of EOTW as act 1, TGH as act 2 and TDR as act 3. Book 2 dealt with the "core" of the series and book 3 was, in all likeness, AMOL. Before he sold the series to Tor, Jordan had abandonned these plans. He began dividing book 1 in three (which is what Doherty referred to recently, about history repeating itself with AMOL being also divided in three books). The original contract for WOT was already for 6 books, with the possibility of extending it. The first three had been split in three volumes, Jordan seemingly thought he might be able to tell the 'center' in two books, with again likely AMOL as the last book.

The three acts structure can still be felt in books 1,2,3. There is a lot more foreshadowing of elements in EOTW than you find normally - because originally RJ was placing stuff for acts 2 and 3 of the books... foreshadowing about the Horn, foreshadowing of Tear and Callandor, placing Elayne and Elaida, Min, setting up Thom's return etc. You also see this in themes he exploited, for example Rand getting a sword from Tam as a prelude to getting Callandor at th end of the book. Another example is how, in the end, RJ basically repeated with variations the same finale for all three books: a confrontation with Ishamael.

When he made the split, the middle act, that became The Great Hunt, was the most advanced, and The Eye of the World the least advanced. Once he completed TEOTW, he had fairly little work to do on TGH and TDR, which is why they were published almost on the heels of each other.

The first book he created 'from scratch' was TSR, and it had years more than the first three to mature in his head before he wrote it. The first three had been outline and developped years before TSR.

This is not what Bob, Mark and me are referring to, however. We are referring to the fact (documented, RJ said as much) RJ decided in TEOTW to tweak things a bit so that it could work as a standalone, in case it didn't sell and the series got cancelled. He felt he owed the readers a book that would be more or less satisfying as one book, without making too many comprises either - it's clear at the end that the story is meant to go forward, and the battle at the Eye wasn't the 'Last Battle'.

We speculate, as many others do, this is where all the ambiguities between Shai'tan and Ishamael, and the extent of the powers etc. originate from. It's clear that if the series went on, RJ intended to brush this stuff as Ishamael's illusions and lies, and as Bob pointed out, RJ was careful to make all of those happen in the World of Dream. OTOH, it's also fairly obvious that he increased the ambiguity of it all so that, if the series got cancelled after EOTW, the reader could conclude Ba'alzamon maybe was the Dark One.
From book 2 on, these illusions were gradually dispelled. If TGH was published it meant, forcibly that the series went forward and he didn't need these 'stand alone safeguards'. Right at the beginning of TGH, doubts are cast that Ba'alzamon is not the DO. It's not a change of mind, it's just that RJ cheated a little in case only EOTW was ever released.

Chris Moorhead said...

It was pretty clear that I understood the difference, Dom, since I mentioned that I didn't believe Jordan had 'double plans' for the book twice.

It just strikes me as strange that Jordan would plan for failure, esp since Jordan has repeatedly said that he writes the series how he would like it written. I don't think he would make concessions so early on. He wasn't a novice, but an author that had published ten books already. By the same publisher, I might add.

Another issue, however, is whether or not tEotW was designed to be more of a teaser into WoT. A transition from the familiar into something new. That I can believe and it seems to fit with comments I have seen Jordan make on tEotW. If there are Jordan comments that contradict me straight out, I'd find it interesting for the reasons I state above, but otherwise I'm viewing it as strictly theoretical debate.

I'm fairly positive that Tor had already accepted TGH before the release of tEotW. I recall reading that the two books were delivered more or less together (if not at the same time) into Tor's collective hands.

So, back to the point, I don't think Ishy was at all a 'fall back' DO just in case the series failed and Tor decided to not publish the books RJ was contracted for. It seems more realistic, to me, that any duplicity was an intentional part of the plot. The motivation for RJ planning to fail seems counterintuitive for an author.

Dominic said...

"'m fairly positive that Tor had already accepted TGH before the release of tEotW. I recall reading that the two books were delivered more or less together (if not at the same time) into Tor's collective hands."

It's like you didn't even read what I wrote Chris. RJ's original contract was for six WOT books, and this comes straight from him. Since he said at another time the series could be cancelled if EOTW didn't sell well enough, read between the lines that the deal for 6 books was dependent on sales.
There are other related quotes supporting this, notably one where RJ explained in the first books he did 'recaps' in the first chapters, because he was too afraid the series would not sell well enough and Tor would let the early books go out of print, making it difficult for new readers to catch up.

The quote were RJ explained he tweaked things in EOTW so it could read better as a stand-alone, as if what the character set out to do was accomplished, in case EOTW didn't sell and was the last WOT book is around, feel free not to take me at my word and look for it if you wish.

Dominic said...

"e wasn't a novice, but an author that had published ten books already. By the same publisher, I might add."

You have the timeline of the publishing history a bit wrong, it might be what's confusing you on this.

RJ wrote an historical trilogy, Fallon around 1980, and a stand alone, Cheyenne Raiders. Fallon was published not by Tor but by his future wife, Harriet Popham McDougall, on her own imprint, Popham Press. Harriet was also editorial director for the SF publisher Ace Books at the time. In 1980, Tom Doherty left Ace Books to found TD & Associates, owner of the Tor and Forge imprints. He brought with him Harriet McDougall and Jim Baen (who later left Tor to found Baen). He was looking for writers for his new imprints. Harriet introduced him to Jim Rigney, a young author who had written a wonderful trilogy for her and who has been working for over a decade on "a wonderful Fantasy project". Jordan pitched WOT to Doherty who bought it, as six books in the early 1980s. In the long years before EOTW was finalized, Doherty hired RJ to write Conan novelizations then continuations. When RJ developped EOTW as we know it (in the early 80s), he wasn't a novice, but he wasn't either a 'succesful writer' and Tor was still a fledging company. Tor 'took off' for good when it got sold to St. Martin's Press, got massively succesful in the early 1990s with Wheel of Time and eventually became part of the multinational Holtzbrinck Group, with Doherty still president of the Tor imprint.

They were all taking chances with WOT, they didn't know for sure it would work. This sort of multi-volume sagas were not almost the norm as it is nowadays.

Chris Moorhead said...

You misunderstand the thrust of what I was saying there. I mean to say that the manuscripts for tEotW and TGH were handed in together (or within a few months), in addition to him having a contract for the first several novels in the series. By Tor accepting them, I mean that the ball was pretty much rolling regarding an inevitable release for TGH before tEotW hit the shelves. Esp. considering he was taking 14 months to write each of the next five after tEotW and Tor released the second 10 months after the first and the next few with 12 months between. Do the maths on that scheduling working backwards and you'll find that RJ was investing a hell of a lot from the outset outside of the manuscript fot the first book.

It wasn't a case of writing tEotW with no book 2 being a possibility. There is a difference between putting in recaps and changing the plot, especially when Jordan seems to steer his own ship with regard to how he thinks the plot should go. He had a pretty good deal and a publisher that seemed to be on his side - why put second guesses into the plots?

It's not that I have any problem taking your word for it, it is just that i have a healthy scepticism for accepting second hand quotes as just that. Especially when it involves changing my opinion in a debate. ;) Which is a fair enough expectation, no? This may be annoying, but it is how I am. I've looked around for the quotes at Thus Spake the Creator, the Blog and all the stuff we have at WoTmania, but haven't found anything just yet. But there are lots of small book signing and reports and some non-world comments from DragonCon that may account for it, however.

Given what I've been saying about how much of the series had already been written and finalised before the release of tEotW, I just find it interesting that Jordan would so explicitly plan for failure early on. tEotW is very much NOT a stand-alone novel, but a good introduction to WoT. The purpose of it was to build up the ultimate RAFO. If Jordan, even in part, designed it to be a stand-alone, then he did a pretty poor job.

Dominic said...

"You misunderstand the thrust of what I was saying there. I mean to say that the manuscripts for tEotW and TGH were handed in together (or within a few months), in addition to him having a contract for the first several novels in the series."

I misundestood and I didn't. What I meant to explain is that yes, TGH was published almost on the heels of EOTW (and finished well before it, TDR was also well advanced), but Jordan decided to write EOTW so that it could be read as a simili stand-alone years before that. We know this, because he said so (it's from an old interview, not a signing report, btw. I remember as much. It's not a quote from Thus Spake, it was part of a bunch of online interviews that have since vanished. Bob may have it, as he collected them at some point and he refers to the same history in his argument.) It may well be that between the time he made that decision of offering a pseudo stand-alone finale, and the time Tor has seen EOTW and TGH they were so certain of success that they put the second book in production without waiting to see if book 1 would be a massive success, but Jordan wasn't sure of that when he made the decision to develop EOTW the way he did. At least, it's what he said. I never thought it showed all that much in the book, except for the finale being a bit 'too big' (the whole massive battle with the Shienarans, notably - you'd think this sort of massive attack by the Shadow would have shook the whole Borderlands and worried many -- and yet we don't really hear of it again) We don't know what he meant exactly by 'tweaking a few things to make it more acceptable as a stand alone' (tweaking isn't the right word... he conceived the story so that etc.), we speculate he made Ishamael a bit more Shai'tan like in EOTW and never solved the ambiguity before TGH (TDR, in fact, but the big clues are all in TGH) for this reason, and that he made the ending 'bigger' than strictly necessary, so it could pass as the big battle, the whole thing about prophecies remaining in an untold future.

Chris Moorhead said...

From Thus Spake the Creator (and available elsewhere)

Q: First off, I absolutely love the WOT series! What I wanted to know was when your originally started writing this series what type of research, if any, did you do to create the world and storyline you have created?

A: I started writing the Eye of the World in about 1985, I guess it was. 85 or 86. It took me four years, and I had been thinking about the things that would lead into the world of the wheel of Time about ten years before I started writing ANYTHING.
All of the Conan books and novelisations were written before 1984, the first in 1982. Where are you getting your timeline from? I assume that Dogherty didn't have the six books contracted until after Jordan had started writing tEotW, which would make that late 80s and Jordan an author with ten books under his belt. The ins and outs of the publishing firms matters less since they are all still 'his people' and he still had a fairly good past record. Ten books is nothing to be sniffed at - if he was not good enough, he would not have gotten that far. Apart from the fact that I claimed that Tor did the original publications of the Fallon books (when it turns out that they merely reprinted it later), what's wrong with the timeline of the publishing history I posted previously?

Dominic said...

IRRC, the same quote is the one that destroys the myth EOTW was ever a stand alone, that it RJ was saying it never was such, he knew where it was going and TGH was actually written at that point and the 'big points' of the whole series mapped out, but he wrote EOTW this way on purpose to give a more satisfying experience in case the series got cancelled after book 1.

And you're right he also wrote it as an introduction with something familiar, before going elsewhere. That's also explained in an interview. TGH and TDR were also that way.

His intention was to write the series as an historical novel, and he felt comfortable to do that mostly with TSR. And this is how the series expanded so much. He realised that contrary to RL historical novels, novels set in a secondary world needed a great deal more development, descriptions and exposition, that he could not take much for granted the way an historical novelist can, that to give the books the depth and feeling he sought, he needed more pages (that explanation is from the Locus interview, about how the series expanded and deepened with TSR and onward).

Chris Moorhead said...

I hate it when things disappear online. :( Especially things I never got the chance to read. Terez has the biggest collection of interviews, I think, but alas she has only the plot-related ones in her database. I'll just take it on trust that it has been remembered more or less accurately, however much it niggles at me to not get the exact wording or context. I have an obsession for checking things myself when I need my mind changed, I apologise. :)

tusitala said...

I don't know if this is the best place to write this, but I don't understand Ishamael in the eye of the world. If he is trying convinces Rand become to the dark side, why he send trollocs and fades to kill him? And why the fade don't kill him in Baerlon? Thanks in advance and sorry for my english.

Linda said...

All through the series Ishamael has alternated between trying to kill Rand and trying to manipulate him. Their attempts to kill Rand fail. The Pattern is looking after Rand too well.

Their manipulation attempts do better - especially the ones to make Rand despair rather than join up.

Ishamael seems to try manipulation after a kill attempt fails. He tries to kill Rand whenever he hears of a big threat to the Shadow's plans. EG he tried to have Rand killed when he found Rand was going to cleanse saidin and had access to the Choedan Kal to do it.