Friday, September 25, 2020

Character Parallels: Egwene and Gawyn

By Linda

Egwene is the first female character we see in the series. Forthright, active and enterprising, she sets the standard for all the women. The inn-keeper’s daughter was originally expected to marry her childhood sweetheart, Rand the shepherd, but both became powerful magic users and world leaders, rivals that must remember their original ties of love and friendship, and have faith in, and respect for, each other, for the world to be saved.

With a name sounding very like Guinevere, Egwene al’Vere might be expected to be prone to capture like any Arthurian damsel—which she is—but she is also a witch and does not bestow sovereignty on a champion. (In fact, her champion Gawyn’s problem is that he wanted sovereignty and not a supportive role, as we see in his character section below). As Amyrlin, the Mother is sovereign in herself, and not encouraged to have a marital consort. Her channelling strengths are in Spirit—manifesting in a Talent for Dreaming—and Earth. These are very similar to Perrin’s non-channelling affinities, and it is hardly surprising that the Pattern pushed these two Emond’s Fielders into the wild together early in the series. Egwene was a seeress and literally an earth and mother goddess who sacrificed herself to save the Land from balefire.

Arthurian Myth
Earth Goddess
Mother Goddess
Warrior Goddess, Warrior Priestess
Moon Goddess
Dream Goddess
Historic Parallels

Arthurian Myth
Castor or Pollux?


Mythic Parallels

Arthurian Myth Parallels


As her full name clearly implies, Egwene al’Vere is a Guinevere parallel. From the time they were small children it was assumed that Egwene and Rand (a parallel of King Arthur) would marry. But as Min told Rand at the start:

“She loves you too, but she’s not for you, or you for her. Not the way you both want.”
- The Eye of the World, Strangers and Friends

Merlin tells Arthur not to marry Guinevere, because she will cause the fall of Camelot (Le Morte D’Arthur, Book III, Chapter I). At Falme, Egwene told Min that she and Elayne were also pulled to Rand, and then reminded Min that Rand was not safe to marry:

Egwene did not come any further into the room. "I — I felt him pulling at me. Needing me. Elayne felt it, too. I thought it must be something to do with — with what he is, but Nynaeve didn't feel anything." She drew a deep, unsteady breath. "Elayne and Nynaeve are getting the horses. We found Bela. The Seanchan left most of their horses behind. Nynaeve says we should go as soon as we can, and — and . . . Min, you know what he is, don't you, now?"
"I know." Min wanted to take her arm from under Rand's head, but she could not make herself move. "I think I do, anyway. Whatever he is, he is hurt. I can do nothing for him except keep him warm. Maybe Nynaeve can."
"Min, you know . . . you do know that he cannot marry. He isn't safe . . . for any of us, Min.
"Speak for yourself," Min said. She pulled Rand's face against her breast. "It's like Elayne said. You tossed him aside for the White Tower. What should you care if I pick him up?"
Egwene looked at her for what seemed a long time. Not at Rand, not at all, only at her. She felt her face growing hotter and wanted to look away, but she could not.
"I will bring Nynaeve," Egwene said finally, and walked out of the room with her back straight and her head high.
Min wanted to call out, to go after her, but she lay there as if frozen. Frustrated tears stung her eyes. It's what has to be. I know it. I read it in all of them. Light, I don't want to be part of this. "It's all your fault," she told Rand's still shape. "No, it isn't. But you will pay for it, I think. We're all caught like flies in a spiderweb. What if I told her there's another woman yet to come, one she doesn't even know?”

- The Great Hunt, First Claiming

Yet Egwene remained one of Rand’s Guineveres until she told him she no longer loved him, upon which Aviendha was pulled to him, as fated. Rand and Egwene were eventually brought together for a brief alliance as leaders, only to be sundered for this life.

In the mid-13th century Latin romance The Rise of Sir Gawain, Guinevere was a powerful sorceress as well as Arthur's wife and had the ability of foretelling. Egwene was a powerful channeller who had prophetic dreams. After the battle of Camlann, where Arthur and Modred fatally wounded each other, Guinevere finished out her life in a convent as a nun, instead of returning to Lancelot, and eventually became the convent’s abbess. In contrast, Egwene chose to enter the White Tower early in her life to become Aes Sedai, an organisation with strong parallels to 15th‒16th century convents, and eventually became Amyrlin (equivalent of abbess) herself. While Rand fought Moridin at Shayol Ghul, Egwene did not flee or wait passively as the Arthurian ladies usually did, but fought in the Last Battle (an equivalent of the battle of Camlann), where she fell.

In the Arthurian stories, Queen Guinevere, as a Sovereignty figure, is abducted at least twice, and confined against her will more than once, including by Arthur himself after he learns of her infidelity with Lancelot, from where she is rescued in dramatic circumstances by her knight champion (see painting right). The villainous knight Meleagant was another of Guinevere’s abductors, and Demandred, his darker parallel, ordered M’Hael to destroy Egwene al’Vere. Egwene was rescued twice from the Seanchan and once from Demandred’s Sharan channellers by a Seanchan. Gawyn, rather than Lancelot, is Egwene’s champion, and he rescued her from assassination by Bloodknives as her body lay abed while her mind was in the dream, prior to his ill-fated duel with Demandred.

In Towers of Midnight, Rand and Egwene were widely separated in their opinions regarding Rand breaking the remaining Seals, just as Arthur and Guinevere were apart. Arthur had doubts about Guinevere’s faithfulness. Rand accused Egwene of being obstructionist and undermining him, while Egwene doubted Rand’s sanity.

Ragnelle, Sir Gawain’s Loathly Lady

Egwene and her unconventional marriage to Gawyn is a parallel of the marriage of Sir Gawain to Ragnelle, the loathly lady. She had arrived at King Arthur’s court offering to answer the question “what do women most desire?” that had been posed to King Arthur on pain of death, and her price was to marry Sir Gawain. To save the life of his liege lord, Gawain agreed to marry her and on his wedding night was surprised to find that the hag-like lady was a beautiful young woman under a spell. She asked Gawain to choose whether she should be hideous by day and beautiful at night, or vice versa. Gawain could not decide and asked the lady to choose. Since sovereignty, the right to make their own decisions, is what women most desire, his answer broke the spell and she remained beautiful.

Channelling—weaving magic—slows aging, greatly delaying an aged appearance, and the magic of the Oath Rod ter’angreal forces an ageless appearance. People fear and distrust Aes Sedai due to their channelling and the way they work around their three oaths, so they are loathly ladies. Egwene wanted sovereignty because she is a sovereign. (Furthermore, any man who becomes a Warder grants sovereignty in the relationship to his Aes Sedai.) Gawyn wanted to marry Egwene because he loved her, not as a sacrifice to save someone, but didn’t take her position seriously or want to support her, and she admonished him over it. In fact, Gawyn felt granting his wife sovereignty and supporting her was a great sacrifice. His dereliction of duty in leaving her side to find honour on the battlefield cost both of them their lives.

Lyones in the Castle Perilous

When the Lady Lynet came to Camelot in search of a knight to rescue her sister Lyones from the besieging tyrant Sir Ironside the Red Knight of the Red Lands, Gareth volunteered for the job. Lynet criticised him constantly, but he bore it well and acted chivalrously towards her, and earned her respect. Gareth Bryne followed the sharp-tongued Siuan to Salidar and ‘volunteered’ for the job of besieging Tar Valon and ousting the usurper Elaida of the Red Ajah (a parallel of the tyrannical Red Knight) in favour of Amyrlin Egwene. Egwene was captured by Elaida’s Aes Sedai and held in the White Tower. Gareth treated Siuan less chivalrously than Sir Gareth did Lynet, but earned Siuan’s respect.

When Gareth and Lynet came to the Castle Perilous where Lyones was besieged, Gareth fought the Red Knight immediately even though Lynet counselled him to wait. The fight was long and terrible, but the Red Knight finally yielded. Gareth fell in love with the Lady Lyones, and she claimed to return his love, but she insisted that he wander another year. Upon his return, Gareth married Lyones and his brother Gaheris married Lynet. The notable difference in this parallel is that Bryne loved Siuan (Lynet) and Gawyn (who was also Gareth’s brother in Arthurian myth) loved Egwene (Lyones), and it was Gareth and Siuan who delayed their marriage, not Gawain and Egwene. The Castle Perilous is an apt metaphor for the White Tower, wherein the Red Amyrlin held Egwene captive. Egwene told Gareth not to attack the Tower without her order and he gave his word that he would not. After she was captured, it was Siuan and Gawyn who pressed for a rescue attempt until Gareth reluctantly agreed.

Earth Goddess

Egwene was remarkably strong in Earth for a woman and was able to move the land on a large scale and find ores, but also checked the health of the land by sensing underground animals and searching for green shoots in the dying grass. This affinity with the natural world is why the Pattern sent her into the Wild alongside Perrin as part of her early development. It was in the wild that she channelled unsupervised for the first time in the appropriately named chapter A Path Chosen. As an archetypal Green, which is the colour of life and nature, Egwene saved the Land from balefire, using herself up in the process.


Egwene has parallels to Ceres, the Ancient Roman earth and agriculture goddess, who had the power to fertilize and multiply plants and animals and taught humanity agriculture. Ceres protected all phases of the agricultural cycle and also all phases of a woman’s life from girlhood through to old age. A plebeian goddess, she was the protector of plebeian rights and laws, so that the patricians could not run roughshod over the plebs. Over time, the Romans connected Ceres with a couple of other Roman goddesses: Libera (Freedom) and Tellus. Tellus, also called Terra Mater, was a rather stern ancient Roman earth mother goddess who was offered sacrifices, notably the holocaust, which were animal sacrifices wholly consumed by fire.

Ceres’ ancient Greek equivalent Demeter was goddess of the harvest and agriculture, particularly cereal crops, and also as Mother Earth presided over the natural order and the cycle of life and death. When these were violated, Demeter was implacable in her desire for justice and retribution.

Egwene’s origins as the daughter of a village innkeeper were plebeian, though that does not count against a woman in the White Tower. Even under duress she stood up against tyrannical leadership, and sternly pulled the Sitters into line, insisting they obey the spirit of the law and also that they should be ashamed of the way they let Elaida tyrannise the Tower. The Hall agreed to her proposed law to prevent secret meetings of the Hall. She also faced down the Empress over the enslavement of damane and called her out for her lies as well as for her unjust laws. Egwene was a highly protective Amyrlin—she protected the novices and Accepted as well as the Aes Sedai when the Seanchan attacked the Tower, and avenged those lost.

She'd fought. She'd been glorious and destructive, the Amyrlin of judgment and fury, Green Ajah to the core.

- The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

Then she purged the Black Sisters from her Aes Sedai and executed them.

Just before the Last Battle, the Mother saw how time-worn the Land looked in Tel’aran’rhiod, how dire its need of renewal was after being Blighted by the Dark One. In ancient Roman times, such renewal was initiated by sacrifice to Tellus and Ceres. In The Wheel of Time world, this sacrifice is that of the Dragon and also the blood sacrifice of those fighting for the Light. The Land and the Mother want vengeance for the Shadow’s damage of the natural order and of the health and fertility of the Land:

In that moment—maiming, destroying, bringing death upon the enemy—she felt as if she were one with the land itself. That she was doing the work it had longed for someone to do for so long.

- A Memory of Light, What Must Be Done

Appropriately, she uses Earth to kill Shadowspawn. These feelings of vengefulness and union are foreshadowing of Egwene’s sacrifice as she unleashes a healing holocaust to counter the Shadow’s destruction and balefire.

Ceres sought all over the earth for her daughter Proserpina, who had been seized by the Roman underworld god Pluto, and the ancient Greek earth goddess Demeter instituted harsh weather and neglected the cycle of the seasons as she mourned the violation and loss of her daughter Persephone/Kore by Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. Faced with the death of all life on earth, an agreement was made to appease Ceres and Demeter with each mother allowed to meet up with her daughter for months every year.

Egwene was just as vengeful of her daughters and mourned those that were lost. Prosperina/Persephone/Kore is a parallel of Tuon, whom Egwene met to make an agreement about their borders and sovereignty over female channellers. It is interesting that the ancient Romans officially combined their Spring Maiden goddess Proserpina with the freedom goddess Libera, just as freedom for women to channel is an issue with Tuon and Egwene. Tuon and Egwene should have been akin since Tuon has the potential to learn to channel, but the seizure and enslavement of channellers separated them.

The main theme in the Ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries was the reunion of Persephone with her mother Demeter, when the cycle of the seasons was renewed. These mysteries gave the initiate a connection to the natural world and higher hopes in this life and the afterlife.

Egwene had deep feelings for the Pattern and the cycle of time and rebirth:

In that moment, Egwene felt a peace come upon her. The pain of Gawyn's death faded. He would be reborn. The Pattern would continue.

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

When her daughter Sheriam was being executed for apostasy, the Mother expressed her own devout view of the Pattern:

Perhaps the Pattern would be kinder to her [Sheriam] next time she was allowed a thread in its great tapestry. But perhaps not.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

Mother Goddess

As Amyrlin, Egwene is the mother of the Aes Sedai. However, Jordan considered making Egwene a biological mother and fight in the Last Battle while pregnant with Gawyn’s child (Robert Jordan, Galad notes). This idea was dropped, but Egwene takes her motherly responsibilities seriously.


Vesta is the Ancient Roman goddess of the hearth and family and in her temple on the Palatine Hill the sacred fire of the Roman state was kept burning by her priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. The Vestals held some of the few full-time clergy positions in Ancient Roman and, even more atypically, lived at her temple, reflecting the importance of Vesta and the necessity of tending her fire. They were selected from the patrician class as young girls and were legally emancipated from their father’s authority when they joined. Each Vestal swore a vow of chastity for 30 years, at the end of which they retired with a pension and were free to marry, although most chose not to so they could keep their independence.

The flame represented Vesta herself and the Roman state. The goddess was portrayed as a stern woman, wearing a long dress and with her head covered and a sceptre in her hand (see photo right). Her seniority was such that she had precedence in veneration and offerings over all other gods. Vesta was the only Roman goddess who was in any way connected with the fasces and the axe, the symbol of sovereign power in Rome. Her priestesses attended and blessed most important government functions and had right of way on the streets and reserved boxes at the arenas and theatres. Every Roman had the right to freely enter Vesta’s temple, although men were strictly barred from her house at night.

In such a patriarchal society, Vesta was paradoxical: she was the most chaste of the gods, but was addressed as mother and had honorary fertility. Her priestesses were dressed as married women, not unmarried, yet they wore the headdresss of a Roman bride. Each Vestal

was a consecrated virgin, married to the state, who ensured fertility. She was a woman with the legal status of a man. The Vestal was considered capable of mediating between the human and the divine precisely because she was poised in transition between all permissible social roles—she was simultaneously maiden, wife, and man, sterile and fertile, virgin and phallic.

- Jeanne L. Schroeder, The Vestal and the Fasces

Aes Sedai also have far more freedom than do any other people in The Wheel of Time mainland. By strong custom, each sister is largely able to do what she wants, apart from direct orders from the Amyrlin or their Ajah Head. Sisters have no job as such, no farm or house to tend, no realm to rule, no business to run. They live apart from people in their White Tower, although every person has the right to enter the Tower to make petitions. Outside of Tar Valon, a parallel of Rome, Aes Sedai hold themselves above monarchs. They rarely marry and even more rarely have children. Their mission was to keep alive knowledge from earlier times and the fight against the Shadow throughout the Third Age.

Like Vesta, the Amyrlin is Mother, yet she is not a mother. As Jordan usually does, he adds a negative role for the priestess-like Aes Sedai. They are regarded as untrustworthy, even though they take an Oath against lying and against using the Power as a weapon. Such ambivalence arises from combining the power and authority of earth and mother goddesses with the trickiness of the fairy folk and the machinations of the Renaissance Papacy (see below).

One of the Amyrlin’s titles is Flame of Tar Valon, as though she is the flame, saidar. Egwene embodied this title more than any other Amyrlin because of her weave that held the Pattern together long enough for it to heal after balefire. Vesta’s sceptre is represented by Vora’s sa’angreal, the strongest sa’angreal the Tower had, which Egwene used to make this weave destroy an army of channellers.

The Vestals presided over the rites of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess, who had a mystery cult in ancient Rome. At her rites, women were allowed to use strong wine and blood sacrifices, which they were forbidden elsewhere. Men were barred from her mysteries—the premises were ritually cleansed of everything male, including animals and portraits before the ceremonies.

The initiation of women into the mysteries of channelling (for so long forbidden to men) supervised by senior sisters is also a parallel of Bona Dea’s rites, which the Vestal Virgins presided over. During important ceremonies, including that of raising an Amyrlin, the Aes Sedai present all prove that they are not men. After Sierin Vayu was raised Amyrlin, she promptly dismissed all male clerks from the Tower (New Spring, Changes). As Amyrlin, Egwene could be likened to Vesta’s head priestess (see High Priestess tarot card) as well as the goddess Vesta and Vesta’s flame.


Nekhbet was a city goddess in Ancient Egypt who evolved in importance to become protectress and mother of the pharaoh. She was usually depicted as a white vulture, hovering over the pharaoh with wings outspread and clutching a shen symbol (a loop of rope knotted to form a circle representing infinity or eternity) in her claws. The Ancient Egyptians believed that white vultures were all female and reproduced asexually because the species lacks sexual dimorphism—males and females appear identical. Nekhbet’s shrine was the oldest oracle in Egypt where people went to have their fortunes told. Her priestesses were called muu (mothers) and thus Nekhbet was titled Mother of Mothers.

The Amyrlin is the mother of the Aes Sedai and rules the city of Tar Valon—one of the oldest in the mainland—as well as the White Tower. All Tower initiates are female and they wear a ring of a snake eating its tail, a symbol of eternity. Egwene had the gift of foretelling the future from dreams. As her Talent manifested, she watched over Rand (Pharaoh) in her dreams. Many of Egwene’s dreams were about threats to Rand.


Durga is the vengeful incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Parvati, who was consort of Shiva (a parallel of Rand, Egwene’s original intended husband). She is a goddess of war who was born to fight demons, and represents the divine positive feminine power that is used to protect people by destroying evil. In this way, she preserves moral order and rightness. Egwene personally fought and overcame two Forsaken—Mesaana and M’Hael—and also used another—Moghedien—to gain knowledge. Some of the Forsaken have demonic parallels.

Durga is usually depicted wearing a red sari symbolising that she is actively destroying evil and protecting mankind from pain and suffering. Egwene deliberately wore bright red on the day she purged the rebel Aes Sedai of Black Sisters and presided over their executions:

Egwene was all Ajahs. Today, the red symbolized many things to her. The impending reunification with the Red Ajah. A reminder of the division that needed to be righted. A sign of the blood that would be spilled, the blood of good men who fought to defend the White Tower.
The blood of the dead Aes Sedai, beheaded not an hour ago by Egwene’s order…
. Many of the Aes Sedai she passed in the camp gave her looks of respect, awe, and a little horror. After a long absence, the Amyrlin had returned. And she had brought destruction and judgment in her wake.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

Many Aes Sedai thought that Egwene belonged in the Red Ajah (A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-Sword) even though she had married her Warder. Egwene thought that sometimes an Amyrlin had to be “as vengeful as a Red, when necessary” (The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame), in this case the vengeance of the Light on those who were apostate and committed evil on behalf of their evil god.

Warrior Goddess


The Amyrlin rules Tar Valon, a city whose name combines the names of two sacred places: Tara and Avalon and links Celtic and Arthurian myth. The Irish goddess of sovereignty, Medb was associated with Tara, and was territorial and forthright. (Some critics think that Madb may also be the original of Shakespeare’s Queen Mab, the fairy queen who helped people birth dreams.) Medb is a minor parallel of Egwene, who was at her best in battle, be it against the Seanchan or the Shadow. The name Aes Sedai was derived from Aes Sidhe, the people of the mound, fair(y) folk in Irish mythology, who defended their territory fiercely, as Egwene did against the Seanchan.


Like close sisters Elayne and Aviendha, Egwene has some parallels with Athena the Greek goddess of war, magic, knowledge, education and wisdom and her Roman equivalent, Minerva. Athena was the patron of the strategic side of war and preferred to use wisdom to settle conflict, using violence as the last resort, not the first, while her brother Ares was patron of the violent, bloody side.

As a damane, Egwene was forcibly trained to use her channelling for warfare at others’ direction. Egwene learned much about the different education methods of channelling groups and as Amyrlin, ruled the training and promotion of Aes Sedai, but reached out to the Sea Folk and Aiel to coordinate training of women channellers.

Egwene bested the dark Minerva Mesaana by using knowledge to overcome her fear and panic:

Egwene controlled her fear. It was not easy. Light, but it was hard! But she did it. Her face became calm. She defied the a'dam by not giving it power over her.
Mesaana hesitated, frowning. She shook the leash, and more pain flooded Egwene.
She made it vanish. "It occurs to me, Mesaana," Egwene said calmly, "that Moghedien made a mistake. She accepted the a'dam.”
"What are you—"
"In this place, an a'dam is as meaningless as the weaves it prevents," Egwene said.
"It is only a piece of metal. And it only will stop you if you accept that it will." The a'dam unlocked and fell free of her neck.
Mesaana glanced at it as it dropped to the ground with a metallic ring. Her face grew still, then cold as she looked up at Egwene. Impressively, she did not panic. She folded her arms, eyes impassive. "So, you have practiced here."

- Towers of Midnight, Wounds

After a mental duel in which both women exerted their mental control to the utmost, Egwene destroyed Mesaana’s mind, and not her body. Against M’Hael, the Amyrlin impressively invented the Flame of Tar Valon weave from first principles to patch the Pattern after balefire—the reverse of violent destructive weaves, yet used to win a battle.

The metalwork of weapons also fell under Athena’s patronage. Egwene had remarkable strength in Earth and was able to find metal ores, and convert iron into cuendillar.

In the Ancient Greek myths, Athena never consorts with a lover, nor does she ever marry. Aes Sedai are free to have lovers, and a few Greens marry, but Egwene was very atypical in being a married Amyrlin.


Egwene was very much shaped by her time with the Aiel, and was pleased that she measured up to them in toughness:

When Sorilea finally nodded and said, "You are as sound as a Maiden, girl," Egwene was swaying and gulping for air. A Maiden would not have been, she was sure. Still, she felt pride. She had never thought of herself as soft, but she knew very well that before she began living with the Aiel she would have fallen on her face halfway through the test. Another year, she thought, and I will run as well as any Far Dareis Mai.

- Lord of Chaos, An Embassy

The Maidens of the Spear have parallels in the Amazons, women warriors of Ancient Greek mythology. The only Amazonian Queen to leave the Amazons to marry, Hippolyta (“unleasher of horses”), is a minor parallel of Egwene. Hippolyta’s younger sister was Penthesilea, a parallel of Aviendha, who was a close friend, a near sister, of Egwene. It was rare for women to retire from the Amazons to marry, whereas it is the custom of Maidens who wish to marry to leave the warrior society. On the other hand, Egwene is the only Amyrlin we know of who was married. The name Hippolyta is appropriate for a Wetlander “Maiden”, since Aiel rarely ride horses.

One of the Greek hero Heracles’ twelve labours was to obtain Hippolyta’s girdle. Heracles is a parallel of Rand, who was prophesied by Elaida to face the Amyrlin Seat—a warrior Amyrlin at that—and know her anger. Nicola foretold that Rand would do nine impossible things, not twelve, but facing the Amyrlin Seat was not one of them.

Moon Goddess

Egwene is a lunar character, as evidenced by her dark hair and eyes and her talent for Dreaming and Dreamwalking.


The Ancient Greek goddess Artemis was goddess of the Moon, the Wild and the hunt, as well as patron and protector of unwed girls and young women. Egwene went into the wilderness with Perrin, King of the Wild, during The Eye of the World and channelled by herself there. When she was demoted to a novice by Elaida, Egwene helped the other novices and Accepted, giving them advice and showing them how to club together for defence when the Seanchan attacked. Her decision to allow women of all ages be tested for channelling ability resulted in hundreds of novices joining the Tower. Like Vesta/Hestia and Athena, Artemis chose to never to marry, but Egwene, in a reversal of this, did choose to marry when few Aes Sedai did so.


In Greek mythology, Selene is the goddess, indeed the personification, of the Moon. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus (a parallel of Rand), Pan, and the beautiful mortal Endymion, who she watched over and visited in his dreams while he slept in his cave beside his cattle:

"Selene watched him from on high, and slid from heaven to earth; for passionate love drew down the immortal stainless Queen of Night."

- Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy

The Wheel of Time frequently has more than one version of a mythological figure, and often one of these versions will be dark. Lanfear, daughter of the Night, is the dark version of the goddess Selene and even names herself Selene in one of her disguises when attempting to seduce Rand. However, Egwene as the Light’s Selene watched over the sleeping Rand while the dark Selene was stalking him:

... she saw Rand sleeping on the ground, wrapped in a cloak. A woman had been standing over him, looking down. Her face was in shadow, but her eyes seemed to shine like the moon, and Egwene had known she was evil. Then there was a flash of light, and they were gone. Both of them. And behind it all, almost like another thing altogether, was the feel of danger, as if a trap was just beginning to snap shut on an unsuspecting lamb, a trap with many jaws."

- The Great Hunt, Woven in the Pattern

even though she was at the beginning of developing her Talent, as Ishamael rather patronisingly describes to Rand:

"You find odd followers," Ba'alzamon mused. "You always did. These two [Loial and Hurin]. The girl who tries to watch over you.”
- The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

Egwene correctly interpreted a lot of what was happening—more than Rand himself, who was fairly smitten with Lanfear as Selene.

Dream Goddess


Egwene has parallels to the Babylonian goddess Nanshe in her role as "interpreter of dreams". Nanshe had the ability to give prophetic messages and determine the future through dream interpretation and granted the ability to interpret and divine from other's dreams to her priests. We see Egwene give messages to others within their dreams and read what is happening in Tel’aranrhiod, as well as divine the future from her own dreams.

Historic Parallels

The Amyrlin is elected by the Sitters of the Hall, just as her closest real-world equivalent, the Pope, is elected by the Cardinals of the Catholic Church. This is confirmed in Robert Jordan’s notes, where he writes that:

People speak of the Amyrlin Seat as the Catholic Church might speak of donning the Shoes of the Fisherman or ascending to the Holy See of Rome.

- Robert Jordan, General Notes and Thoughts

Egwene instigated a new wave of unification and catholicism aimed at having every female channeller attached to and recognised by the White Tower. Her aim was to increase the prestige of the Tower as well as reform its training and reduce the cloistering of initiates. With the atypical benefit of having seen the best (and worst) of other channelling groups, she was very much a new broom tasked by the Pattern to sweep clean.

Young Popes

Normally, Amyrlins are raised at more than 180 years of age, but Egwene was elected Amyrlin at only 18—a tenth of the years. There have been two popes who were about 18 years old when elected: John XII in the 10th century and Benedict IX in the 11th century. Both obtained the papacy through the influence of a powerful parent and were considered entirely unsuitable to be Pope. Egwene was raised Amyrlin by the influence of her tutor and former ‘mother’ of the Aes Sedai, Siuan, and Sheriam’s group, and was considered entirely unsuitable to be Amyrlin. In fact, the rebels elected Egwene precisely because she was believed unsuitable, and was to be a puppet. This is where the similarities between Egwene and the two young popes end, because Egwene was an excellent Amyrlin and diligent in the duties and responsibilities of her position.

Julius II (Warrior Pope)

Egwene’s career is like that of Pope Julius II, born Giuliano della Rovere, pope from 1503–1513. A beneficiary of nepotism, he was made a cardinal at age 18 by his uncle Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84), who took him under his special charge. As Bishop of Ostia, Giuliano della Rovere consecrated the newly elected Pope Pius III a bishop because he was not one already. This would be the equivalent of making a new Amyrlin an Aes Sedai, just as Egwene was raised Amyrlin without already being Aes Sedai. She swore the Oaths before the rebel Aes Sedai, but never had time to take the test for the shawl.

The way Egwene was demoted back to novice by Elaida is equivalent to the Borgia pope Alexander VI removing Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere from his benefices without the consent of the cardinals in consistory—and, in fact, in the face of their strenuous objections—on the grounds that he was an enemy of the Vatican.

In 1503 at age 60, della Rovere was elected Pope after the shortest conclave in history by the unanimous vote of the cardinals, almost certainly by bribery. Egwene was rapidly elected by the rebel Hall at age 18 after some manipulation by Siuan and probably also influential Black sisters like Sheriam, Delana and Moria who saw a chance to weaken the rebel Aes Sedai. She was then taken in charge by Siuan, a former Amyrlin. The Tower Hall rapidly elected her in her absence.

While Pope Julius II owed his stellar start in the church to his uncle, his actual reign was free from nepotism (Catholic Encyclopedia). Egwene owed her raising to Sheriam’s group, but she eschewed nepotism in her rule, refusing to favour any Ajah, sister or novice.

Julius II entered his regulations against simony in papal conclaves into canon law so that they could not be put aside, just as Egwene convinced the Hall that there could be no secret deals done in the Hall or decisions made without all Ajahs having full representation and also with the Amyrlin given the opportunity to be present at every sitting.

Pope Julius II increased his power and that of the Church by playing the nations against each other. He managed to regain control of the papal states, remove French influence from the rest of Italy and reconciled the two powerful Roman houses of Orsini and Colonna. Egwene played the rebel factions against each other to achieve her plans, reunited the Aes Sedai and purged the White Tower of Black sisters. In Towers of Midnight, Lelaine and Romanda (equivalents of the Orsini and Colonna) started to work together—against Egwene (Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand) and then had their machinations shown up by Egwene as foolish politicking during a global crisis. However, Egwene was used by Rand to unite all nations that were opposed to his plans to break the Seals so he only had to persuade her and all dissenting parties would follow.

Julius II personally led the Papal armed forces to victory at the Siege of Mirandola and, despite great losses at the Battle of Ravenna, ultimately forced the French troops of Louis XII out of Italy with the aid after the arrival of Swiss mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire, thus earning his epithet of the Warrior Pope. Some historians consider the stresses of war shortened the pope’s life and reign. Egwene was on the front line in the Last Battle and fought and destroyed M’Hael and the Sharan channellers, dying as she gained victory.

One of the most powerful and influential popes, Julius II was a central figure of the High Renaissance and left a significant cultural and political legacy. He was described by Machiavelli in his works as the ideal prince. Siuan used and taught Machiavelli’s tactics to Egwene. Egwene’s life and reign was directly ended by war, but has left a very significant legacy and she is likely to be regarded as a great Amyrlin.

Martin V and the end of the Western Schism

The Aes Sedai that gathered in Salidar were in rebellion. Since the rebels still accepted and followed Aes Sedai customs and laws, or dogma, but not Elaida’s leadership, their rebellion was not a heresy, but a schism (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). The Shadow used the schism to tie up the Aes Sedai in useless internal conflict to prevent them from making a positive contribution to the war against the Shadow. The very public schism of the Tower Aes Sedai and the rebels is a parallel of the Great Western Schism of the Catholic Church, which lasted 40 years until 1417, and saw two papal courts operating simultaneously: one at Avignon in France and the other in Rome.

In Salidar, Egwene was elected to be head of a rival Hall—an antipope. Oddone Colonna, a parallel of Egwene, deserted the lawful pope, Gregory XII, in 1409 when the latter reneged on meeting with the antipope to negotiate the end of the Western Schism, and Gregory XII excommunicated him. Six years later upon the death of Gregory, Colonna was unanimously elected as Pope Martin V at the Council of Constance after a conclave of three days, even though he was not a cardinal, but a sub-deacon. On 12 November Martin V was ordained deacon, the next day he was ordained a priest, and then consecrated bishop the day after. His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).

As pope, Martin V faced enormous difficulties, for he had to restore the Western church, the papacy, and the Papal States. He possessed considerable knowledge of canon law, was pledged to no party, and was well-regarded. The buildings and populace of Rome were in a very poor state and when he returned there three years after his election, he set to work establishing order and restoring the dilapidated buildings and infrastructure, and made inroads into reforming the clergy before he died.

Egwene was raised Amyrlin even though she was not an Aes Sedai, but an Accepted. Thanks to Siuan’s teaching, she had a good knowledge of Tower history and law. The fact that she was from no Ajah was in her favour. Egwene was elected to both rebel and Tower Halls after short conclaves and her election ended the Aes Sedai schism. Once she was elected, she began to restore the Tower and the city after the neglect under Elaida and the damage inflicted by the Seanchan. Her reforms of the Aes Sedai were the purging of the Black Ajah, laws against secret meetings of the Hall, the removal of the narrow age criterion for novices, and the agreements made to exchange advanced trainees with the Wise Ones and Windfinders.

Martin V wrote to nobles in Bohemia and Moravia demanding they deal with the heresy founded by Jan Hus, and when they refused, declared a crusade against the heretical Hussites. Prior to the cleansing of saidin, Aes Sedai regarded false Dragons and male channellers as heretical, due to the danger they posed when channelling. Jan Hus, leader of the Hussites, is a parallel of Rand. Egwene united the nations that objected to Rand breaking the Seals on the Dark One’s prison—the potential danger of releasing the Dark One made it a heretical action in her eyes. She also vigorously protested at the general council at Merrilor:

"The seals, Moiraine," Egwene said. "He's planning to break them. He defies the authority of the Amyrlin Seat."

- A Memory of Light, A Knack

Pope Martin V strongly opposed efforts that arose at the Council of Constance to substitute constitutional for monarchical government in the Church and to make the pope subject to a General Council.

As well as schism in the Catholic Church, the Aes Sedai split also has similarities with the American Civil War. The rebels gathered in the south and the White Tower with all the items of power were in the north. The rebel general Bryne, rode a horse named Traveller, just like Robert E. Lee. Egwene is portrayed as like Lincoln, trying to unite the factions.


Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) rose from humble origins to become president of the United States until his assassination. Regarded as the greatest US president, he succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery and strengthening the federal government with the careful manoeuvering of factions. He was assassinated just days after the end of the civil war.

While Egwene’s humble origins as daughter of innkeepers in a remote village don’t matter to Aes Sedai, she was an Accepted when raised rebel Amyrlin and a demoted Accepted when raised to Amyrlin of the White Tower. After manipulating the Salidar factions to consolidate her authority, Egwene united the rebels and Tower loyalists, and promoted dialogue between different Ajahs and even different groups of female channellers.

No one knew better than Egwene the horrors of slavery: she was an escaped slave who confronted the leader of a slave-using nation from a position of power. At this parley, she contended with the Empress to limit the Seanchan’s access to potential slaves (damane) and encourage their release. One of the greatest Amyrlins, she died late in the last battle after martyring herself to destroy M’Hael and the Sharan channellers.


High Priestess Tarot Card

As the ruler of a secretive group of initiates with arcane knowledge and mysterious powers, the Amyrlin is like the High Priestess tarot card. The High Priestess is a guide to all that is mysterious and mystical and advises gaining deep knowledge before acting—and hopefully wisdom will come with it. As well as arcane knowledge, she represents secret traditions and rites passed down from initiate to initiate, unlike the Hierophant or Pope figure, who represents community faith, traditions and ritual. More mundanely, the High Priestess can symbolise a seeress, a teacher or adept with archaic knowledge, a librarian, or a distant woman with uncanny insights. The Aes Sedai as a whole have secret traditions and rites, with each Ajah their own secrets and traditions, that are passed on to adepts. Aes Sedai are initiated into the mysteries of channelling and the Tower, and have always held themselves apart and above even kings and queens. Egwene was adept at channelling, and had uncanny insights into the future through the medium of dreams and also Tel’aran’rhiod. As Amyrlin she accessed and learned much from the Thirteenth Depository, the Tower’s archive of secret records dating back thousands of years that is only accessible to a select few Aes Sedai. Indeed, only these elect even know of its existence.

The High Priestess card commonly depicts a woman holding a scroll or book while seated between two pillars that have a curtain suspended between them. In modern decks, she may be crowned with a moon or have a crescent moon at her feet, indicating her lunar character (see Waite-Smith card, above right). She is a low-ranked trump, the first of a quartet of temporal rulers—the Amyrlin is respected, but also feared and distrusted.

Some of the oldest decks depict the High Priestess as a Papess, a female pope with a triple-tiered papal crown (see Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots card below right). Pope Joan was a notorious figure in medieval miracle plays (which were a source of inspiration for the earliest tarot cards) who spent her adult life disguised as a man and gained her position through her great learning:

Aside from her usurpation of the papacy, an exclusive masculine domain, the church may have considered Joan’s greatest sin to be her learning, represented by the large book

- Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot

or scroll that she holds. With men proscribed until recently from utilising any knowledge of channelling due to the danger posed by the taint on saidin, the ceremony for Amyrlin involves each woman present stripping to prove her female gender so that no man may gain the position—no Amyrlin John.

The High Priestess or Papess and the Hierophant or Pope cards are a duo of knowledge and spiritual life, one hidden and apart, the other open and public. The Whitecloaks are convinced that no Aes Sedai is entitled to know what she knows, that gaining the arcane knowledge of channelling is wrong. Had the Aes Sedai emphasised community service and more of them lived alongside regular people—as the Wise Ones and Windfinders do—they would not be distrusted or hated. But they like the mystique of keeping themselves apart and keeping their errors secret from the populace.

Ironically, the Amyrlin’s main parallel is the real-world Pope, even though the Amyrlin and her flock of sisters usually prefer the cloistered life. It shows how far the Aes Sedai have gone astray. Those sisters who are most respected or revered—Moiraine, Nynaeve, Cadsuane—have spent most of their initiated life outside the Tower. In perhaps a shift towards the role of the Hierophant tarot card, Egwene’s aim was to link all female channellers with the White Tower with intent to share knowledge between groups and participate in their societies.

The High Priestess is often seen as an eternal maiden and not as a mother, just as the Amyrlin, while called Mother by the Aes Sedai, does not have biological children, and the last three Amyrlins have been younger and less-experienced than most of their “daughters”.

Moon Tarot Card

The Moon tarot card reveals the land beyond the curtain behind the High Priestess. Typically, the card depicts the moon shining on a mysterious landscape with two canines (either two howling dogs or a dog and a wolf) in front of two pillars (see Tarot of Marseille Moon card and Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots card below left and right). The two pillars look more ancient than in the High Priestess card, and the land is dark, wild and strange and has very different rules to the mundane world. Dogs are often heralds to the underworld, while a dog and a wolf would represent the domesticated and the wild landscape—although as Darkhounds, dogs have the potential to be darkly feral. The Moon card represents visions and illusions, mysteries, magic and ancient powers, mental breakthroughs, but also mental illness. It is about inspiration from the unconscious, or from ancient sources, that cannot easily be put into logical sentences. Such insights can be accurate, but also difficult to interpret. Brilliant, but perilous.

Egwene had a strong Talent for precognitive Dreams and manipulating the world of dreams. Dreams are associated with the moon, and the World of Dreams, Tel’aran’rhiod, that Egwene was skilled at manipulating, has very different rules to the waking world. She had to be taught very sharp lessons to accept that the World of Dreams has its dangerous and nasty side. Egwene’s dreams are reliable in what they portend, yet her interpretation could be unreliable, particularly when it involved visions that triggered her PTSD from when she was enslaved and abused as a damane.

Tower Tarot Card

In Egwene’s role during the attack on the Tower, Jordan neatly combined the symbolism of the Wheel of Fortune and Tower tarot cards. The Wheel of Fortune raises people up and/or casts them down as it turns, but the Tower tarot card is about a sudden breaking or reversal, usually due to a revelation of truth and/or exposure of lies. Something breaks because it is founded on falsehood.

Early versions of the Tower card show a tower with its battlements on fire, reminiscent of the attack of the Seanchan which broke and burned holes in the walls (see Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots card and Waite Smith card above left and right) :

The White Tower still smoldered, a wide field of smoke trailing up in a ring from the center of the island, shrouding the white spire. Even from a distance, the scars of the Seanchan attack were evident on the building. Blackened holes, like spots of corruption on an otherwise healthy apple.
- The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

The White Tower falsely believed that it was invincible and controlled the mainland, that it was a bastion of knowledge and served mankind and the Light. Under Elaida’s reign it had become controlled by evil people, including a Forsaken, and was more a Tower of the Dark One than one of the Light. Literally a Tower of Lies, a false structure. The attack by the Seanchan proved the Aes Sedai’s belief in their intellectual and moral superiority was false and spurred Egwene to berate the Aes Sedai until they saw and accepted this. This action was crucial in the rebuilding of a much more reliable and functional institution. The shock of the newly-raised, young Amyrlin listing their shortcomings was as great as the shock of the holes in the building and the kidnapping of 40 initiates. Without Egwene’s blast there would be no reforging of any integrity at all.

So many of the important characters had sudden reversals in Fortune, but Egwene’s life was the one most affected by the breaking of a tower.

Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card

The Prophecies of the Dragon show the changing of fortunes right alongside the Tower breaking:

“The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign. The seas rage, and stormclouds gather unseen. Beyond the horizon, hidden fires swell, and serpents nestle in the bosom. What was exalted is cast down; what was cast down is raised up. Order burns to clear his path.”

- Lord of Chaos, Closing prophecy

all due to the advent of the Dragon to battle the Shadow.

The Wheel of Time spins out the Dragon who changes the fortunes and fates of so many. Some are raised up from obscurity—not least of all the Dragon himself—some are thrown down even to the lowest levels. In the Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune card depicts this change (see photo right), though fortunate change is emphasised whereas in the Wheel of Time the necessity of balance—good and bad, positive and negative—is always shown.

Egwene was raised from her traineeship to be a figurehead, then demoted to novice under the thrall of an Amyrlin who allowed herself to be manipulated into breaking the White Tower from within. Once the Tower was physically attacked from without, Elaida was demoted from Amyrlin to chained slave and Egwene, who fought off the attackers, was raised Amyrlin. Egwene, who had been a former damane, effectively Traded Places with Elaida and then looked the Empress in the eye. Empress Fortuona, as her name suggests, is closely linked to the Wheel of Fortune card. With all her power, does she turn the wheel, or will she eventually be turned into a damane? It was amusing that the Empress acknowledged Egwene as her opposite while Egwene threatened her with her own former fate.


Egwene should have been a Green, as the Head of the Green Ajah acknowledges. The Greens’ most important role was to engage in battle against the armies of the Shadow to stop them over-running the land. The colour green symbolises life, fertility, renewal, and the natural environment. Egwene is strong in Earth, an indication that she is an earth mother goddess. In her battle with M’Hael, she was sensitive to the health of the Land:

The gaps in the land expanded. M'Hael and Demandred's balefire had done its work. The world here was crumbling. Black lines radiated across the Heights, and her mind's eye saw them opening, the land shattering, and a void appearing here that sucked into it all life.

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

And expended herself to completely neutralise M’Hael and the Sharan channellers and patch reality together with the white Flame of Tar Valon weave.

White Flame

Min had a viewing of a white flame around Egwene in The Great Hunt, New Friends and Old Enemies. The white flame does represent saidar in general, and Aes Sedai, and furthermore their Amyrlin as the Flame of Tar Valon in particular, but the viewing had a deeper meaning. In A Memory of Light, Egwene invented a weave of whiteness to hold reality together after balefire and to destroy M’Hael and the Sharans:

A fire of her own, a weave of light and rebuilding.

The Flame of Tar Valon…

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

White represents purity, truth, innocence and initiation, and a white flame, a purifying fire, is the ultimate manifestation of a calcination. Calcination is an alchemical operation that tempers or purifies matter or spirit as part of the Great Work of the rescue of human souls:

I will smelt away your dross in the furnace. I will remove all your base metal from you.

- Isaiah 1:24–25

and/or the salvation of the cosmos (see Alchemical Symbolism essay). Egwene used it to counteract the evil calcination of balefire unleashed by the Shadow. It saved the Land from disintegration by holding reality together so it could be healed. The fuel for calcination comes from frustrated desires and rage—in Egwene’s case, it was her rage at Gawyn’s loss.

And so we turn to Gawyn right where he most disliked being, a step behind Egwene. So much would have changed if he accepted his supporting role to either his sister or his wife. His situation was mirrored in a positive way by Sleete, a brilliant swordsman who is Warder to the low-ranked Green sister Hattori, who suggested Gawyn also become her Warder. Sleete took a “lesser” job—perhaps without realising how low-ranked Hattori was—but made the best of it. He protects her and follows her wishes without having to be pressured, and has her trust as well as a fair measure of freedom to exercise his own judgment.


When we first see Gawyn, he is First Prince of the Sword, and is where he should be, at his sister’s side. However, going to the perilous White Tower led him to abandon his duty and to support an Amyrlin who is unjust and tyrannical and sent him on a quest that he was not supposed to survive. Not surprisingly, he developed a dislike for Aes Sedai, but eventually married one, the Amyrlin no less, his very own Loathly Lady. His frustration at being her consort, and not performing renowned deeds like the Dragon, led him to recklessly duel a Forsaken and lose. The death of this fallen prince destroyed the one he loved most, thereby saving the world.

Arthurian Myth parallels

Sir Gawain

As his name indicates, Gawyn’s strongest parallel is Sir Gawain, eldest son of King Arthur’s half-sister Morgause (a parallel of Morgase) and Lot of Orkney and brother of Gareth (a parallel of Gareth Bryne), Agravaine and Gaheris, and half-brother of Modred/Mordred (parallel of Galad Damodred). In The Wheel of Time, Gawyn of Andor is Queen Morgase's only son by Taringail Damodred (Da-Modred), and Taringail's second son. Gawyn is brother to Elayne and half-brother to Galad.

In the earliest Arthurian tales, Gawain is depicted as an ideal knight achieving heroic deeds. In the later medieval romances, while he continues to be one of Arthur's most loyal and skilled knights, his character is darker, more treacherous and at times brutal towards women. (The painting right shows Sir Gawain swearing to be merciful and never take against ladies. The fact that he feels he should do this—mend his ways?—is telling.) No longer a paragon of chivalry, he is thus supplanted by Perceval and later Galahad (a parallel of Galad) as an ideal Grail knight and hero. Gawyn was never favourably disposed to Rand al’Thor, a parallel of King Arthur, let alone loyal to him, due to his envy of Rand’s deeds, and his personal belief that Rand killed his mother, despite Egwene, a parallel of Guinevere, insisting that he didn’t. In The Gathering Storm, Gawyn was relying on his prowess with the sword to get his own way. He was as violent and impetuous as Gawain of Arthurian myth.

Many of the tales about Sir Gawain concern chivalry and a knight’s code of honour to do whatever a damsel asks and to keep his word. He is tested to expose the conflict between honour and knightly duties. Gawyn was conflicted over whether to support the White Tower or the rebels, and aided both sides, but above all did not honour his oath and duty to Elayne and Andor.

When a loathly lady named Ragnelle arrived at King Arthur’s court offering to tell the answer to the question “what do women most desire?” to save King Arthur’s life on condition that Sir Gawain marry her, Gawain chivalrously agreed and was surprised to find out that such an ugly old woman was really a beautiful maiden under a spell. She asked Gawain to choose whether she should be hideous by day and beautiful at night, or vice versa. Gawain did not come to a conclusion and asked the lady to choose. Giving her “sovereignty” in their relationship broke the spell and she remained beautiful (and sovereignty, the right to make their own decisions, is, in fact, what women most desire). Many people hold Aes Sedai in low regard, so in that sense Egwene is a loathly lady. She also needs sovereignty in her marriage. Gawyn wanted to marry Egwene, but did not take her promotion to high office seriously:

Don't you see what a distrust you have shown me? How can I trust you if you will disobey me in order to feel more comfortable?"
Gawyn didn't look ashamed; he just looked perturbed. That was actually a good sign—as Amyrlin, she needed a man who would speak his mind. In private. But in public she'd need someone who supported her. Couldn't he see that?
"You love me, Egwene," he said stubbornly. "I can see it."
"Egwene the woman loves you," she said. "But Egwene the Amyrlin is furious with you. Gawyn, if you'd be with me, you have to be with both the woman and the Amyrlin. I would expect you—a man who was trained to be First Prince of the Sword—to understand that distinction."
Gawyn looked away.
"You don't believe it, do you?" she asked.
"That I'm Amyrlin," she said. "You don't accept my title."

- The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

In Towers of Midnight, Gawyn had to understand that Egwene needed someone who, as Elayne advised him, not only did what she asked, but could be trusted to do what she would want without needing to be told. Despite his justifiable annoyance at Egwene for not allowing him to guard her, he did race back from Andor to save her from the Bloodknives. His dissatisfaction with his supporting role led to him strike out alone for Demandred; his death at Demandred’s sword hand causing Egwene’s incapacitation and death.

Gawyn didn’t want to dutifully support his sister the Queen of Andor, and likewise wasn’t keen on supporting the even higher status queen of the Aes Sedai. At least not when it impinged on his desire for personal accomplishment. Not a team player, as they would say in corporate parlance.

Another contentious visitor at King Arthur’s court was the Green Man, who challenged a knight to strike off his head and, in return, travel to the Green Knight’s castle in one year and a day and accept a similar blow in return. Photo right from

Sir Gawain accepted the challenge and beheaded the Green Knight with one blow. To the court’s surprise, the Green Knight rose to his feet, picked up his head and rode away. A year and a day later, Sir Gawain met the Green Knight at his castle where the Green Knight tried to behead Gawain. He made three attempts, but they were to test Gawain’s courage, not kill him. Gawain was wearing a green girdle that he believed was magical and refused to offer it to the Green Knight in turn as was chivalric custom, but kept it to save himself from death—a failing of morals or faith on his part.

Gawyn abandoned his duty to support Egwene and went to fight the formidable “knight” Demandred. Gawyn wore three bloodknives’ rings to gain an edge in his duel with the Forsaken. Demandred criticised Gawyn for “cheating” with them. Against custom, courtly love and good sense, he had failed to tell Egwene of the ter’angreal rings, telling himself that with them he could keep Egwene safe. Ironically the rings that protected Gawyn also were killing him.

After Sir Gawain’s battle with the Green Man, King Arthur decreed that all the Knights of the Round Table would wear a green sash in recognition of Gawain’s honour and courage. Gawain founded the Younglings during the White Tower coup and they wore a green coat and carried a green banner with his sigil of the white boar.

Sir Gawain also supported the true Queen Guinevere against an impostor, feuded with the House of Pellinore, and took part in the Grail Quest. Not understanding the spiritual significance of the Holy Grail, the San Greal, he refused to seek aid through the sacraments, instead relying on his own prowess. He did not attain the Grail. Gawyn supported Elaida as Amyrlin, not knowing that Egwene, a parallel of Guinevere, was rival Amyrlin. He led his soldiers on raids against the rebel Aes Sedai. Gawyn was not successful in his quest to kill Demandred, who found and achieved the sa’angreal Sakarnen.

Sir Gawain berated King Arthur for leaving Guinevere in the unreliable protection of Sir Kay, from where she was kidnapped by Sir Meleagant, and then he and Lancelot set out to rescue her. The two knights were guided to a fork in the road from which two possible paths ran to Meleagant’s castle; one road led to the Underwater Bridge, and the other, more perilous road, to the Sword Bridge. Gawain chose the Underwater Bridge, while Lancelot took the Sword Bridge and was victorious in freeing Guinevere and ultimately killing Meleagant.

Demandred, as Meleagant, ordered Egwene’s death (although at one point came close to capturing her (A Memory of Light, The Wyld)). Gawyn recognised that Demandred should be killed, and determined to attempt it. Min and Egwene both foretold that Gawyn had a huge fork in his life’s road, and that one road led to his early death, the other to his long life. Both women’s actions influenced Gawyn’s choice.

Gawyn’s poisoning by the Bloodknives’ rings has parallels in the 13th century Vulgate Cycle: Sir Gawain was captured by Caradoc, Lord of Dolorous Tower, and wounded by Caradoc’s guards. Adding to his pain, Caradoc's mother applied poisonous ointment to his wounds because Gawain killed her brother treacherously. Gawain’s health deteriorated, but a damsel restored him to health and then Lancelot freed him.

Unlike the Arthurian Gawain, Gawyn applied his poisonous rings himself in an effort to gain an advantage. The poisoning by bloodknives perhaps indicates his wrongness, his unworthiness, to achieve the quest of killing Demandred. His recklessness resulted in his own death and Egwene’s. In the Morte Arthure, Gawain rushed on ahead of King Arthur’s landing forces and singled out Modred and attacked him madly “in a frenzy for fierceness of heart”, “mad as a wild beast” and was killed by Modred. Arthur hurried ashore and searched for Gawain; he found his body face down on the grass. Gawyn was less frenzied than Gawain, but no less reckless, rushing off by himself to duel a Forsaken. It was his brother Galad who found Gawyn lying on the grass after his duel with Demandred, a dark Modred.

Sir Kay

Jordan included characteristics and actions of Sir Kay as well as Sir Gawain in developing Gawyn. Kay was King Arthur’s hot-headed, sharp-tongued seneschal and foster-brother, and although a skilled knight, was prone to behaving arrogantly to those he considered below him. Likewise, Gawyn behaved in an overweening manner upon arrival at Gareth Bryne’s camp outside Tar Valon. Just as Sir Kay, in his ambition to be Guinevere’s Champion, mistakenly believed he could defeat Meleagant, and thus free Meleagant’s captives, but instead was responsible for the queen’s capture, so Gawyn, Egwene’s seneschal as well as her Champion, went off to fight Demandred, and caused Egwene’s, and his own, death.


One of the parallels of Gawyn’s sister Elayne is Helen of Troy, the beautiful daughter of the Spartan queen Leda and the Ancient Greek god Zeus. After being raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan, Leda made love with her husband Tyndareus that same day and laid two eggs, from which hatched Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. Clytemnestra, with her disastrous marriages, has parallels to Elayne’s mother Morgase, and Castor and Pollux, twin half-brothers who were skilled horsemen and fighters, are parallels of Gawyn and Galad. Half these offspring were mortal and half immortal, although the myths are inconsistent as to which of them are which. Usually Castor is the mortal son of Tyndareus, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus.

Castor and Pollux were regarded as helpers of humankind, intervening during crises to aid those who honoured them. Their fighting and equestrian prowess led them to be considered the patrons of athletes and athletic contests (see illustration, right). We actually see Gawyn and Galad practising their fighting skills in the Warders’ training grounds and then sparring with Mat in an earnest contest.

In Homer's Iliad, Helen looks down from the walls of the city of Troy, where she was taken by Paris, and wonders why she does not see either of her brothers, Castor or Pollux, among the Greeks who came to take her back. It’s because in Homer’s version of this myth both brothers are dead, ie mortal. Likewise, Elayne’s brothers, being non-channellers, do not have her long lifespan, and Gawyn, parallel of Castor, the twin usually regarded as mortal in Greek myth, is already dead.

Just as in some myths Pollux honourably gave up half his immortality to his mortal brother Castor, so Galad honourably saved Gawyn’s life twice as a child (The Eye of the World, The Web Tightens). It’s an indication of Gawyn’s recklessness that he needed saving twice.


Charging Boar

Gawyn’s sigil is a charging white boar symbolising strength, courage and aggression, especially in warfare, qualities that Gawyn displayed, although so often misapplied. He had considerable courage, but often poor judgement due to being reckless or impulsive.

Light! Gawyn thought. What if I didn't interrupt him listening? What if I interrupted him on his way out?
Gawyn dashed to Egwene's door, fatigue evaporating. Sword out, he tested the door. It was unlocked!
"Egwene!" he cried, throwing the door open and leaping into the room.
There was a sudden explosion of light and a crashing sound. Gawyn found himself wrapped up in something strong: invisible cords, towing him into the air. His sword fell to the ground, and his mouth filled with an unseen force.

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

He defended Egwene from the Bloodknives with ferocity and even Sheathed the Sword for her, then he appropriated their ter’angreal rings—powerful talismans that he used to fight Demandred.

As Gareth Bryne observed:

"You act with passion. You don't act because of the way you think, but because of the way you feel. In a rush, with a snap of emotion. That gives you strength. You can act when you need to, then sort through the ramifications later. Your instincts are usually good, just like your mother's were. But because of that, you've never had to face what to do when your instincts lead you in the wrong direction."

- Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

That rush is like the boar’s charge. Gawyn’s instincts led him to strike out for Demandred alone, resulting in his death and that of Egwene—but also the deaths of M’Hael and a lot of Sharan channellers.

In European folklore, the boar’s ferocity and destructive nature aroused horror as well as respect. Gawyn and his Younglings were instrumental in the White Tower coup and helped a tyrannical Amyrlin gain power. He wanted to kill Rand after hearing a rumour from a peddlar:

True, al'Thor was the Dragon Reborn. But in his heart, Gawyn wanted to meet al'Thor with sword in hand and ram steel through him, Dragon Reborn or not. Al'Thor would rip you apart with the One Power, he told himself. You're being foolish, Gawyn Trakand. His hatred of al'Thor continued to smolder anyway.

- Towers of Midnight, Writings

Boars are associated in myth with endeavours to end tyranny, the elimination of evil customs and the overthrow of old cycles (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). The Hindu god Vishnu took on a boar’s form to battle and defeat a demon and to raise the earth from the bottom of the ocean where the demon had submerged it. The story describes the resurrection of the earth from a deluge at the end of a cycle of Ages and the establishment of a new Age cycle.

Gawyn disapproved of the way Siuan ran the Tower and aided Elaida’s coup by preventing the Blue and Green Warders from freeing Siuan and Leane, yet the Amyrlin he aided was ironically worse than Siuan. He strayed from his duty to Andor, which was corrupted by Rahvin (named after an Indian demon), and ignored its troubles. Gawyn’s dissatisfaction that he was not making an important contribution to the Last Battle at the end of this Age was what impelled him to fight Demandred alone. The loss of Gawyn led to Egwene using herself up fighting M’Hael and the Sharans.

The boar was sacrificed to Aphrodite, goddess of love, and was also sacred to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). Egwene’s prophetic dreams showed the cost to Gawyn of his love for her (see Egwene’s Dreams article).

What no one foresaw was the cost to Egwene, Galad, Morgase and Elayne.

Gawyn finally had some insight into his state of mind:

Much of Gawyn's hatred of al'Thor came from frustration. Maybe jealousy. Al'Thor was playing a role closer to what Gawyn would have chosen for himself. Ruling nations, leading armies. Looking at their lives, who had taken on the role of a prince, and who the role of a lost sheepherder?

- Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

But unfortunately, the insight was fleeting. As First Prince of the Sword, Gawyn would have a higher status and more scope for personal achievement than he did as Egwene’s Warder, and would also be doing what he was trained, and sworn, to do, but he would not rule nations as Rand did. He was sworn to the position of First Prince, but never seems to have really understood it or accepted it. Gawyn was frustrated and discontented with the roles that life offered him. Gawyn was not a lost sheepherder, he was a lost sheep. Galad found him, but was too late. The Andoran Prince was lost for this life in A Memory of Light.


Written by Linda, September 2020

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Three Women - Character Parallels for Elayne, Aviendha and Min

By Linda

"I've seen this," Min said. "I knew it would come the day I first met him. We three, together, here."

- A Memory of Light, Epilogue

Three witches, three empowering women, three lovers of the Dragon. On one level, the witches—two magic users and a seeress—mutually agree to a polyamorous relationship with the Light’s champion. On an archetypal or alchemical level, the Dragon, who is one with the Land, partners with the Goddess of Sovereignty, also known as the Goddess of the Land or the Mother Goddess, in her three-fold aspect to restore order and balance to the Pattern and fertility and health to the Land by fighting off evil. The women and the world need the Dragon to confront the Dark One, sacrificing nearly everything to seal the deity away; Rand needs their support to endure the world’s suffering and reach that confrontation.

Jordan’s original story outline was largely Celto-Arthurian (see Arthurian legend parallels in The Wheel of Time), and the Goddess of the Land is intrinsic to Celtic Mythology. Two of her important guises are the three Guineveres of Arthurian myth and the maiden-mother-crone Morrigan of Irish myth. In later drafts of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt, Jordan expanded his story to a more global mythos and symbolism. Yet triple goddesses or queens as the archetypal feminine are widespread in Western culture: the three Norns of Norse myth, the three Fates and three Furies of Ancient Greek mythology, and also the three Maries in the New Testament.

You see there are cycles which I think are archetypical. The trinity, trio, the cycle and multiples of three…These are simply things that, numbers that, turn up again in mythologies in a lot of countries. They have a certain significance that resonates to us.

- Robert Jordan, Interview

Three is a number of harmony, strength and productivity, and Rand, the Chosen One, draws comfort from the strength of the three women’s emotional support, and also their harmonious relationship with him and with each other. The triplicity of the Goddess as maiden, mother and crone symbolises the waxing, full and waning phases of the moon, respectively, as they reflect the light of the sun, Rand, Sol Invictus. Each of Rand’s lovers epitomizes one of these roles: Aviendha, former Maiden of the Spear, pregnant Elayne as Mother, and seeress Min as the Crone, since she will age before the others. Yet they are not confined to one role, and as they grow they show aspects of the other phases as is proper for character growth and development.

Three-fold goddesses, demi-goddesses or legendary queens with parallels to Aviendha, Elayne and Min include:

  • Badb-Macha-Nemain who comprise the Morrigan, an Irish sovereignty goddess associated with the fertility, prosperity and protection of the land, fate and war. The sovereignty goddess Macha was called the “sun of womanfolk” and Elayne, queen of two nations, is a very solar character (see below). A couple of legendary Irish women named Macha also have parallels with Elayne (see below). Badb is an active participant in war, using magic to cause fear and confusion among soldiers, as is Aviendha, former Maiden of the Spear. In her harbinger of doom aspect, Badb is like Min, especially when she takes the form of an ugly hag and prophesies someone’s death, and also when she is the washerwoman at the ford cleaning the clothes of the doomed: seeress Min was forced to do laundry in Salidar, notably that of Gareth Bryne, whose doom she foretold, and who was indeed a doomed warrior.
    The Nemain aspect of Morrigan confounds armies, so that friendly bands fall in mutual slaughter. Elayne’s armies were sabotaged in this way by Graendal’s Compulsion of the Great Captains. Elayne accepted Mat’s plan to lose ground to the Shadow while waiting for the right moment to take the victory, after he explained to her that the Shadow would see through any false pretences. Min saved the Seanchan’s contribution from being sabotaged by the Shadow by exposing Moghedien, another Morrigan parallel. Jordan depicted both a Dark (Lanfear-Moghedien-Graendal) and a Light (Aviendha-Elayne-Min) version of the Morrigan triad.

  • Three Guineveres In the Welsh Triad Trioedd Ynys Prydein, King Arthur was said to have three Guineveres as his three Great Queens, as a three-fold Celtic goddess of sovereignty. In the King Arthur tales, Guinevere was prone to being kidnapped and rescued, and was also unfaithful to Arthur, having a long affair with Lancelot and almost marrying Modred. All three of Rand’s loves are entirely faithful to him, although Elayne encourages people to think that her babies are Hanlon’s for their own safety. Aviendha felt that her love-making with Rand in The Fires of Heaven was illicit, since in her eyes he was tied to Elayne at that time. This was also the only time Aviendha was rescued; and occurred because she did not know how to make a gateway back to Cairhien. More typical of the archetype, Elayne was captured and rescued multiple times: in Cairhien, Tear, Amadicia, Caemlyn and during the Last Battle, while Min was abducted and held twice; once by the Seanchan with Egwene at Falme, and once by the Tower embassy with Rand at Cairhien.

  • The three Horae were originally goddesses of the seasons who over time changed to law and order goddesses. They were worshipped in the cities in Ancient Greece and were half-sisters of the Moirae. The goddesses—Dike, Eunomia and Eirene—guarded the gates to Olympus and represented fertility. Dike personified moral justice and fair judgement based on immemorial custom. Aviendha has a strong belief in the strength and value of Aiel customs and diligently follows honour and obligation. Adikia, injustice, was Dike’s opposite. Dike is depicted on the Chest of Cypselus at Olympia throttling an ugly Adikia and beating her with a stick. Aviendha memorably beat the murderous Lady Colavaere and also fought off ugly Graendal.
    Eunomia was the goddess of legislation and good human laws, and is a parallel of Elayne, Queen of Andor, who was brought up to practice good governance and fair judgement. Eirene stood for peace and wealth, and is a parallel of Min, now counsellor to the incredibly wealthy Empress. The Horae provided stability and promoted wealth for mankind. Likewise, the three women provide stability for Rand and as Queen, Wise One and Doomseer are stewards for mankind.

  • Qudshu-Astarte-Anat are the Canaanite triple goddess of fertility, sex, love, and war. Qudshu and Astarte were both goddesses of sexuality and fertility and were associated with the lion and the horse. Astarte was the lion-throned goddess, and Elayne holds the Lion Throne of Andor. Elayne and Min were both close to horses—Birgitte said that Elayne spoiled hers, while Min has worked as a stablehand.
    Anat was a blood thirsty war goddess, and established peace through war. She gave birth to her brother's child, but continued to be described as a maiden and as "virgin Anat". No stranger to battle, Aviendha, a former Maiden, is prophesied to have four children all at once. Pregnant Elayne was made overall leader of the Light’s forces in the Last Battle and even actively fought in battle for a brief time to inspire her troops.
    During the New Kingdom period, Qudshu was adopted into the Ancient Egyptian pantheon as Qadesh, and formed a triad with the deities Min (see below) and Resheph (linked to Anat in some texts). This trio would be the equivalent of Tuon, Min and Semirhage (who used the alias of Anath), since the Seanchan have parallels with Ancient Egypt.

  • Three Fates or Moirae of Ancient Greece: Clotho (spins thread, spinner), Lachesis (draws out thread, allotter), and Atropos (cuts thread, death). Everyone bows to them, except perhaps Zeus, a parallel of Rand. These are minor parallels of the three women and a major parallel of Moiraine in their positive aspect, and Moghedien in their negative.

  • Jordan’s legendary Queens share, rather than bestow, sovereignty. They are not passive, but fight their own battles in the story as well as support the Dragon through his, and earn a champion as much as the Creator’s champion wins them.

    Each of the women has other parallels and they will be discussed in turn. Here is the outline:

    Elaine of Arthurian Legend
    Elizabeth 1
    Empress Tarot Card
    Sun Tarot Card
    Golden Lily
    Silver Keystone

    Queen of the Waste Lands
    Star Tarot Card

    Sibyls and the Sibylline books
    Onmyōji and Onmyōdō
    Mary the Prophetess
    Arthurian myth
    Hildegard of Bingen
    Florence Farr
    Queen Min of Korea
    Moon Tarot Card


    When we first see Elayne, she is a sheltered princess who tends sick animals with her first aid kit (a nod to Sekhmet, the Ancient Egyptian lion goddess of healing) and is about to learn to use magic to become one of the few fairy princesses—the few Aes Sedai who are royalty. During her training, Elayne was a runaway and later a captive princess (Tear, Caemlyn). The other immediately obvious thing about Elayne is her name, which is a variant of Helen, meaning 'bright' or 'shining light', and its strong connections with Greek myth and also Arthurian legend.

    Elaine of Arthurian Legend

    There are several Arthurian women named Elaine, and Elayne has parallels with a few of them.

    Elaine, daughter of Pelles the Fisher King of Corbenic Castle, bore the Grail in procession before the knight Sir Perceval. Her father’s kingdom had become a waste land and his plan was that Elayne should bear a child who would become the Grail Hero and save his kingdom. When Sir Lancelot came to Corbenic Castle, he was given a drug that created a glamour that made him think he was making love to Guinevere rather than Elaine. Elaine conceived Galahad, the perfect knight who achieved the Holy Grail. In The Wheel of Time series, the equivalent of the Grail is the Bowl of Winds, which Elaine and Nynaeve, both Grail maidens, located and used to restore the seasons and heal the Land. It was Rand (King Arthur and also the Fisher King) rather than Lan (Lancelot) who Elayne took for a lover after he arrived at her palace disguised by magic. In Winter’s Heart, Elayne decided not to use contraceptives when she and Rand (the world’s saviour) made love in the hope that she would conceive a child for her kingdom. In fact, she conceived the perfect result: a girl to be queen after her, and a boy to be First Prince of the Sword to his sister. The babies may also be Shivan and Calian, reborn Heroes of the Horn.

    The sister of Sir Perceval was also named Elaine. During the quest for the Grail, she met the Arthurian knights Galahad, Perceval and Bors and told them about the significance of the Sword of the Strange Belt, the magical ship, and the Tree of Life. They all then boarded the ship bound for the land where the Grail was. On disembarking, they came to a castle where the Countess chatelaine was afflicted with leprosy. Each virgin maiden travelling through the land was coerced into filling a dish with her blood because it had been foretold that the Countess would be healed of her leprosy by a virgin’s blood. The three knights fought off the castle soldiers that were coming for Elaine, but Elaine decided to donate all her blood to Heal the Countess even though it would mean her death. The Countess was healed successfully by Elaine’s willing sacrifice, whereupon Elaine’s body was placed on a boat and set adrift. When the knights reached the Holy City of Sarras where the Grail was kept, her body arrived and was buried in the city. Elayne was one of the maidens who found and used a Wheel of Time equivalent of the Holy Grail, the Bowl of Winds ter’angreal. Despite being heavily pregnant, she fought for the good of the Land at the Last Battle. Galad is Elayne’s brother rather than son, and for all that she rejects their relationship at times, she has encountered him more often than she has Gawain since leaving Andor. The Sword of the Strange Belt may refer to Laman’s sword, which was originally in a jewel-encrusted scabbard and is now on Rand’s leather belt with its gilded dragon buckle—a strange setting. Elayne did not pass this information on to Rand, but there was an important knife that Elayne gave to Rand—the artham dagger which hid him from the Shadow while he entered Shayol Ghul to make his own willing sacrifice to Heal the Land. The Trees of Life are parallels of the chora trees, Avendesora in Rhuidean and Avendoraldera, which Laman, owner of the Sword of the Strange Belt, had cut down. So far, a magical ship has not featured, but there is an unfulfilled prophecy of Rand and three women—one of them Elayne—in a boat.

    Elaine the Fair, also known as the Lady of Shalott, was the daughter of Bernard of Astolat, and her sigil was a lily. She tried to win the love of Lancelot, and when he rejected her, she died of a broken heart and was brought by boat up the Thames to Arthur's court at Camelot. Elayne’s sigil is a golden lily, but she is in love with Rand (Arthur), not Lan (Lancelot), and is foretold to be on a boat with him and two other women.

    Lastly, there was an Elaine who was the daughter of Igraine, sister of Morgan and Morgause and half-sister of Arthur. She married King Nentres of Garlot. In the Wheel of Time series, Elaine is the daughter of Morgase and Rand is the son of Tigraine, and Rand was relieved to discover that he and Elayne are not related by blood to each other, even though they share a half-brother, Galad.

    Mythic and Religious Parallels


    Rand has parallels to the Hindu god Shiva the Destroyer, as does Lews Therin. Shiva’s first wife Sati, her fiery death, and Shiva’s violent reaction to it, are more typical of Lews Therin and his beloved Ilyena. However, his second wife, the mother goddess Parvati, Sati’s reincarnation, has similarities to Elayne. Parvati is fair, beautiful and benevolent and usually wears a red dress. The voice of encouragement, reason and strength, she encouraged her ascetic husband to participate in the mundane world. The formal dress of the Queen of Andor is red with white lions. She encouraged Rand with her positivity and taught him much about being a leader and ruling.


    Athena was the Ancient Greek virginal goddess of handicrafts and warfare and protector of cities. Her birth was unconventional: she sprang fully-formed from the head of Zeus, who is a parallel of Rand. (Athena’s mother, Metis, is a parallel of Min.) As a goddess of war, Athena has parallels to both Elayne and Aviendha, who were directly involved in the fighting in the Last Battle, although they are Rand’s lovers rather than his daughters. Elayne has closer correspondences with Athena’s other attributes: she rules two cities, and rather atypically of royalty, likes making things, notably ter’angreal, and respects and notices craftsmen and craftsmanship. Elayne sews very neatly and is a good cook. Athena is associated with war strategy, and Elayne oversaw the Light’s forces in the Last Battle. One of Athena’s important legends involves devising the strategy that enabled the ancient Greeks to win the Trojan War, which was fought over another of Elayne’s parallels.

    Helen of Troy

    The name Elayne is a variant of Helen. In Geek mythology, Helen of Troy was a child of the Spartan queen Leda and the god Zeus. Zeus disguised himself as a swan and raped—or in some myths, seduced—Leda. That same day, she also made love with her husband Tyndareus. The result was that she laid two eggs, from which hatched Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. Half these offspring were mortal and half immortal, although the myths are inconsistent as to which of them are which.

    Clytemnestra, with her disastrous marriages, has parallels to Elayne’s mother Morgase. Leda’s quadruple birth is paralleled in the quadruplets that Elayne’s sister-wife Aviendha will carry (see below). From what Aviendha saw in the glass columns, they are of varied appearance due to their mixed heritage (their father, Rand, having changed bodies). Elayne herself is pregnant with twins.

    Helen was abducted by Paris and taken to Troy, which sparked the Trojan War. In Homer's Iliad, Helen looks down from the walls of Troy and wonders why she does not see either of her brothers, Castor or Pollux, among the Greeks who came to take her back. It’s because in Homer’s version of this myth both are dead, ie mortal. Likewise, Elayne’s brothers, being non-channellers, do not have her long lifespan, and Gawyn is already dead.


    Áine, the Irish goddess of wealth, sovereignty and summer, also has parallels to Elayne besides a similarity in name. A solar figure, Áine is also associated with love and fertility. In some tales, she is raped by the King of Munster but maims him in return, thus rendering him unfit to rule by Irish law. Goddesses of sovereignty can remove a man from rulership as well as grant it. In County Limerick, Áine is regarded as Queen of the Fae.

    Elayne is a queen who is also Aes Sedai, and the Aes Sedai have strong parallels to the Fae, the Fair or Fairy, Folk. Her considerable strength in saidar ranks her highly among Aes Sedai. Ruler of the wealthy country of Andor, her golden hair indicates her solar nature. She is carrying the twins of Rand, Sol Invictus, who was maimed and, after considerable travails, is now no longer a ruler.


    Apart from the Irish sovereignty goddess, there are two women named Macha that feature in Irish legend with parallels to Elayne. Macha Mong Ruad (red haired), daughter of Áed Rúad (meaning red fire or fire lord, a name of the Dagda, the good god of Ireland, who in turn has parallels to Rand), was the only queen in the List of High Kings of Ireland, according to both legend and tradition. The kingship was rotated between Áed and his cousins Díthorba and Cimbáeth, each ruling for seven years at a time. However, after Áed died, Macha claimed the right to the kingship when Ared’s turn to rule came round again, but Díthorba and Cimbáeth refused to allow a woman to take the throne. Macha and her forces went into battle against those of Díthorba and Cimbáeth and won, and Díthorba was killed and his sons driven into Connacht. Macha pursued the sons, and captured them. The Ulstermen recommended they be executed, but she enslaved them instead and set them to work building a fort. Macha married Cimbáeth and shared the rulership with him. They ruled together for seven years until Cimbáeth died and then Macha ruled a further fourteen years alone before being killed. Andoran rulership is by tradition matrilineal, and the Andorans were outraged when Rand, albeit with good intentions—consistent with the Dagda being the good god —declared himself king of Andor and said he would give the throne to Elayne. Since she is entitled to it in her own right by descent, Elayne was unimpressed. Elayne has battled other Andoran claimants to the throne, overcome them, and stripped them of their titles and estates (which would normally be a death sentence, especially with the debts they had incurred), but granted them estates in Cairhien so they kept their status as nobles.

    Macha, daughter of Sainrith mac Imbaith, appeared at the house of the widower farmer Cruinniuc and became his common law wife. She was soon pregnant. Cruinnic’s wealth increased while they were together, although Macha warned him that she would only stay with him as long as he kept her secret. Cruinnic promised to say nothing of her to anyone. However, at a festival held by the king of Ulster, Cruinnic boasted that his wife could run faster than the king’s horses, and the king demanded he prove the truth of his claim or be killed. Despite being heavily pregnant, Macha was summoned to the king’s festival and raced against the horses. She won, but gave birth to boy and girl twins on the finish line and in revenge for their disrespect, cursed the Ulstermen to be overcome with weakness for five days at the time of their greatest need, a curse that would last for nine generations. Elayne tried to keep the identity of the father of her twins quiet for some months, even going to the extent of implying that Hanlon was the father. She fought in the Last Battle while heavily pregnant with boy and girl twins, likely to be the Heroes Calian and Shivan. Elayne tried to be merciful as well as firm when dealing out punishments for those who acted against her, steering a course between the two Macha figures.


    Rand is not only Sol Invictus, he is also an analogue of Thor, as his surname al’Thor indicates. Thor had a golden-haired wife named Sif, who was very beautiful. Sif is a minor parallel of both Elayne and Min. Elayne matches Sif’s description, while Sif’s considerable powers of prophecy were given to Min. After Thor grabbed Loki for cutting Sif’s hair, Loki promised to have dwarf artisans craft a gold headpiece to replace her shorn hair. Elayne wears the golden rose crown on her intact locks.


    Besides the rose crown, the lion, specifically the white lion, is associated with Andor and Elayne. The ancient Egyptian healing and warrior goddess Sekhmet was depicted as a lioness or as a woman dressed in red with the head of a lioness. Her dress may have rosettes on the chest in imitation of the shoulder hair of lions. A solar deity, she protected the pharaohs and guided them in warfare. She could breathe fire or bring plagues, but also ward off plagues.

    The formal dress of the Andoran queen was red emblazoned with white lions. Elayne’s golden hair and sunny personality indicate her solar nature. This was much in evidence as she led the Light’s forces in the Last Battle to buy time for Rand to confront the Dark One. Sekhmet also has positive parallels with the healing lioness Nynaeve, and her negative aspects are evident in Semirhage. Elayne can channel strongly, but does not have a Talent for Healing. She uses her knowledge of mundane, rather than magical, healing methods to help injured animals.

    Historic Parallels

    Elizabeth 1

    Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603) was one of the longer reigning monarchs of England, ruling for nearly 45 years, providing a period of stability and growth for the kingdom after the short reigns of her half-siblings. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana the faerie queene, or Good Queen Bess, she was very well educated, and set out to rule by good counsel from a group of trusted advisers led by her crafty Lord High Treasurer and Secretary of State William Cecil. She also relied heavily on her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and internal spies and overseas agents. Her secret service was essential to uncover and defeat the various conspiracies to assassinate her. Like Elayne, Elizabeth I had an unexpectedly difficult accession to the throne. She was cut out of the succession and, at one stage, imprisoned in a castle. Andoran fashion is “Elizabethan” in style. The faerie are a major source of inspiration for the Aes Sedai. As a strong channeller, Elayne’s life, and therefore rule, is likely to be very long and provide stability to aid in recovery after the Last Battle. It may be looked back upon as a Golden Age, as Elizabeth’s reign was. We see Elayne in council with her secretary and treasurer Norry and palace chamberlain Harfor as they discuss intelligence and set up spies.

    It was Elizabeth’s duty to marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line, just as it is Elayne’s. However, Elizabeth rejected all her numerous prospective suitors, which kept the reins of her kingdom firmly in her own hands, with no influence or rivalry from a consort, in contrast to her cousin Mary Queen of Scots and her half-sister Mary I of England, both of whom are parallels of Morgase. However, she did have a close relationship with a few favoured men, notably Robert Dudley. Elayne isn't a Virgin Queen, but she is likely to be an unmarried mother. (It is a solution to the problem of producing an heir without risking political interference or ambition from a husband, as happened to her mother Morgase and to Morgase’s parallel Mary Queen of Scots.) Elizabeth also refused to name an heir once she was beyond child-bearing age for fear of them being a focus of plots to usurp her throne. Elayne encouraged the belief that the father of her babies was Hanlon to keep them from being used to strike at Rand. One of the Shadow’s plots was to cut her babies from her body and deliver them to the Dark One.

    France was a threat to England early in Elizabeth’s reign, but then became tied up in civil war. Likewise, Cairhien, which has strong parallels to France (as well as Japan), plummeted into chaos early in the books, as Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve saw on their journey to Tear. Elayne later pressed her claims on Cairhien and assumed the crown there. This is a parallel of the English monarchs’ battles in the 14th–15th centuries to win back their French estates and take the French throne. Tear is a parallel of Spain, and the Tairen prince Elayne married in one of Rand’s alternative lives shown in the Portal Stone would have been a Spanish prince in Tudor times. Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, married to her sister Mary 1, was King Philip of Spain. He became her enemy later in life.

    Elizabeth’s reign is regarded as a time when the arts flourished, although the achievements of English poets, musicians and dramatists owed little to the queen, who wasn’t a major patron. Elayne showed no appreciation for the new art forms like opera or plays, preferring traditional bards. She did, however found a school, the Rose Academy, and to her dismay, had a Dark School established on her land at the Black Tower. Gresham College (which ultimately became the Royal Society) was founded toward the end of Queen Elizabeth 1’s reign.

    At the end of her life, Elizabeth refused to allow doctors to examine her and also refused to rest in bed, but stood for many hours at a time and occasionally sat in a chair. Elayne was unwilling to consult a midwife during her pregnancy, and also refused bed rest when she overextended herself.


    Empress Tarot Card

    As ruler of two countries and liege lady of a pact, Elayne is the second empress figure in the series. The Empress tarot card stands for such powerful women rulers (see Il Meneghello Naibi di Giovanni Vacchetta Empress card right, and US Games Waite-Smith Empress card below left). Her archetype features in medieval morality plays such as the Dance of Death, thought to be one of the inspirations for the trumps of the Tarot cards:

    As the wife of the Emperor, the Empress partakes in various Dances of Death. “I thought I had a lot of power…Oh, let me live on, I implore you!” she begs the Grim Reaper.

    - Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot

    This reminds us of how Elayne was made complacent by Min’s viewing that her (and Emperor Rand’s) babies would be born healthy and strong and took risks despite Birgitte’s warnings that it was no guarantee. In the Last Battle, Elayne’s power to channel was neutralised and she screamed in horror as the Shadow prepared to rip the babies from her belly and leave her dead on the battlefield.

    The Empress is a fertility figure and Elayne, as we have seen, is the mother aspect of the three-fold goddess of sovereignty goddess and is pregnant with twins. Besides fertility, the Empress card signifies fruitful action, plenty and protection. Andor is a prosperous nation and Elayne has sizeable estates there, and in Cairhien as well. She is careful to establish laws and stable government so her nations flourish.

    Sun Tarot Card

    Rand is the most solar character in the series, and his love Elayne, with her golden hair, is also strongly solar. As Queen of Cairhien, she holds the Sun Throne as the Sun Queen rather than the Sun King (who was Louis XIV of 17th–18th century France, which has strong parallels with Cairhien). The ancient name of Cairhien means Hill of the Golden Dawn. Appropriately, the Sun is one of the higher ranked cards in the ancient game of Tarocco played with Tarot cards. It follows, and forms a trio with, the Star (representing Aviendha) and Moon (representing Min). The Sun and Moon cards together herald the arrival of the Day of Judgment (Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot). In Jordan’s series the Sun and Moon were in the closest conjunction—a total solar eclipse—when Rand entered Shayol Ghul to battle the Dark One.

    The Sun card usually depicts one or two children playing, or two young lovers together, under a cloudless sunny sky shining on a fertile, domesticated landscape (see Waite Smith card above right and Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots card below left). The Sun is an immensely positive card, and Rand was impressed with how Elayne, with her bright and sunny nature, would consistently be the only person who immediately saw advantages in situations:

    "And you remember Lews Therin now?" she whispered. "Everything he knew? That is not just an air you put on?"
    "I am him. I always was. I remember it now."
    Elayne breathed out, eyes widening. "What an advantage."
    Of all the people he had told that to, only she had responded in such a way. What a wonderful woman.

    - A Memory of Light, To Die Well

    As the Beatles song says: "Here comes the Sun...." and then absolutely everything will be all right. The downside of the Sun card is glossing over or ignoring possible shadows, something that Elayne has done from time to time.

    Golden Lily

    Elayne’s personal sigil, the golden lily, is a reference to Elaine the Lily Lady of Arthurian myth described above. It also indicates her sunny nature, since yellow lilies symbolise happiness and thankfulness.

    Silver Keystone

    The Trakand house sigil is a silver keystone. The keystone is the apex stone of an arch or vault, the final stone placed in construction that locks all stones into position and allows the building to bear weight. Without it, the feature cannot be self-supporting. Elayne consciously understands the significance of the Trakand sigil as is shown when she thinks that it was more important for her to hold the hearts of Caemlyn’s people than control its bricks and mortar (Winter’s Heart The Streets of Caemlyn). Despite Elayne’s pessimism in Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin, Trakand was the keystone that held Andor together. Astrologically, the keystone represents the summer solstice, adding further summer and solar symbolism around Elayne.


    While Elayne holds the Sun throne as Queen of Cairhien, her first throne was the Lion throne of Andor—a lion queen with the Lion banner. For much of the series, she works in partnership with Nynaeve, who also has lioness symbolism. The lion represents vigilance, fortitude, dignity and courage, which both women exemplify. Lionesses are known to be very protective, and this is further emphasised by being coupled with sword symbolism.


    Elayne is the lion sword of Nicola’s foretelling:

    "The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives.

    - Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

    Swords are used to represent kingly power and the right to ennoble commoners. They indicate strength, action, aggression, decision-making and justice: leadership in all its forms. They are used in war, in destruction and in defence. We see Queen Elayne dispense justice, change the status of nobles, and make decisions in war and peace.


    We first see Aviendha as a Maiden of the Spear who was unwilling to learn to channel, and had to be reminded of her toh to her people (an insult by Aiel mores). Her former Maiden ties were burned before her eyes and slowly she transitioned into a wise woman and then ultimately to a mother (of four at once). Hers has been a remarkable progression to embrace all three aspects of the three-fold goddess of sovereignty in her journey to be a leader in the Three-fold Land, the Aiel Waste.

    Queen of the Waste Lands in Arthurian Legend

    Aviendha’s role as one of Rand’s three Guineveres was discussed above, but she is also Queen of the Waste Lands. The Wasteland is a Celtic motif wherein the barrenness of a land is due to a curse that must be lifted by a hero. The idea that the health of the land and its ruler are one is common in Celtic folklore. In Irish myth, the land of the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, declines into a wasteland when he marries an adulteress. Conn visits the Otherworld for a time, and his wife is exiled while he is away, lifting the curse. In Arthurian myth, the health of the land is linked to a tragic but unexplained wounding of its ruler. Other versions of Arthurian myth emphasise the king’s wound rather than the Wasteland. For instance, in Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King can be healed only if Sir Perceval asks him to explain the Grail’s features, but he refrains from talking too much and does not. Perceval is instructed on the Quest for the Holy Grail by his aunt, who is named the Queen of the Waste Land. In Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the Queen of the Wasteland is one of the queens who take the mortally wounded Arthur by barge to the island of Avalon after he falls at Camlann.

    It was Rand, the Fisher, already wounded in his side, who asked questions in the Otherworld of the Aelfinn about how to heal the Land, rather than wait for someone to ask him. These answers led him to the Aiel Waste(land) and to finding the access keys to the great sa’angreal (San Greal) statues. Later he realized that "How can I destroy the Dark One?" was the wrong question, because the Dark One needs to exist to provide humanity with the choice of good versus evil (see Aelfinn Answers article). Had he not realised this, he would have doomed all the Lands to be blighted and destroyed.

    The Aiel are cursed to stay in the Waste which is

    “a shaping stone, to make, us; a testing ground, to prove our worth; and a punishment for the sin.” … “It must have been a very great sin if they cannot bring themselves to tell us, but the Creator punishes us well.”

    - The Great Hunt, A New Thread in the Pattern

    Their sin was abandoning their covenants to follow the Way of the Leaf and serve the Aes Sedai. In the Waste, the breaking of Rhuidean’s wards symbolizes the beginning of the lifting of this curse.

    Aviendha’s first trip through the glass columns in the Waste’s holy city of Rhuidean showed her that

    the Aiel did deserve their punishment in the Three-fold Land, and they did have toh—as a people—to the Aes Sedai.

    - Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

    This toh will be met by fighting in the Last Battle. But beyond? Aviendha herself asks the glass columns to show her more and is led through the Aiel’s future of a devastated society and culture, a future it is her responsibility to prevent. The Aiel must become less prejudiced against other nations, develop ways to deal with conflict or aggression that don't involve warfare, follow the spirit of the Dragon’s peace pact, and stay in the promised land of the Wetlands that he led them to rather than isolating themselves in the Waste.

    Mythic Parallels


    Aviendha’s predicted fate to have four children is a parallel of Leda, the legendary Spartan queen who was raped by the Ancient Greek god Zeus in the guise of a swan. That night she also made love with her husband Tyndareus. The result was that she laid two eggs, from which hatched Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. Half the offspring were mortal and half immortal, although the myths are inconsistent as to which these are, and they may not necessarily reflect the mortality of their father.

    Rand, a parallel of Zeus, visited his three women in Caemlyn disguised as an incredibly ugly duckling. While he obtained the consent of Elayne and Aviendha before making love to each, he did not do so for Min, and thought he had forced himself upon her. From the glass columns and her memories of the three rings ter’angreal, we see that Aviendha’s quadruplets are likely to be two boys and two girls and that the odd thing about them is that they can channel almost from birth and keep hold of the One Power all the time. They are dissimilar in appearance, as Leda’s offspring are dissimilar. One of Leda’s offspring bears a name, Helen, that is a variant of the name of Aviendha’s sister-wife Elayne. Jordan frequently keeps the names but shifts the relationships around when he makes real-world allusions.


    Aviendha and Elayne both have attributes of Athena, the Ancient Greek goddess of warfare and handicrafts (especially weaving), who was the offspring of the chief Greek god, Zeus, and his consort Metis, a parallel of Min. Athena was born from the head of Zeus, and gave him a nasty headache late in her gestation until she sprang from it, fully-armed. Zeus brought this on himself: he found Metis irresistible, but then, after having sex with her, remembered the prophecy that Metis’ children would be very powerful, particularly her second child, a boy, so he swallowed Metis and her newly conceived child to prevent the prophecy. He was successful: Metis was not freed when Athena was freed, and conceived no further children. Aviendha was appalled and angry at her fate to love Rand, when her friend Elayne had a prior claim to his affections, and took it out on Rand. It was Aviendha who was very conscious that Rand had far more status than she and was frustrated at this until Min made her realise she should stand up for herself with the Wise Ones to claim her rightful status. The Wise Ones praised Aviendha’s weaving skill as a channeller, saying she was outstanding:

    You have a control and understanding of weaves that puts most of us to shame. Others have to struggle to learn what comes naturally to you. 'Roughness to your weaves,' she says! I doubt any of the Aes Sedai, save perhaps Cadsuane Sedai, could have managed what you did with that column of water.

    - The Gathering Storm, The Death of Adrin

    Aviendha was a warrior, a former Maiden of the Spear, and was directly involved in the fighting and military tactics at Thakan’dar. She is determined to prevent the visions she saw in the glass columns of her own children being a leading cause of the decay of the Aiel.


    The Maidens of the Spear are an allusion to the Amazons, legendary Ancient Greek women warriors. The Amazonian queen Penthesilea was a daughter of the Greek war god Ares, and was stronger and more skilled than previous queens. She arrived at the Trojan War with 12 Amazonian warriors to fight on the side of Troy and distinguished herself on the battlefield before being killed by the Greek warrior Achilles. In one myth, Penthesilea fought at Troy because she had accidentally killed her sister Hippolyta with a spear when they were hunting deer and felt so much guilt and grief that she wanted to die, but by custom had to fall honourably in battle. Penthesileia is regarded as the last Amazon to be distinguished for her prowess in battle, with the Amazons declining in subsequent generations to the extent that the legends about them were eventually regarded as fictitious.

    The theme of knowledge and skills lost over time and history changing to legend and then to myth is very important in the series. Aviendha is a strong channeller and very dexterous in her weaving, as well as an experienced warrior. Despite being pushed mercilessly into becoming a Wise One before the Last Battle, she was nearly too late to divert the Aiel from their disastrous future. Aviendha killed her uncle Rhuarc after Graendal Compelled him, but did not, however, feel that she had toh for her kinslaying. She did feel that she had toh to Elayne for lying with Rand. The Aiel as a whole fought for Rand in the Last Battle to meet their toh to the Aes Seda.


    Aviendha was bathing in a room in Cairhien when Rand unexpectedly walked in, and she fled through a gateway exclaiming that she had not arranged for him to see her nude (The Fires of Heaven, The Far Snows). This is a reference to the Ancient Greek goddess of maidens and the hunt, Artemis, bathing in a pool when the Greek hero Acteon happened upon her. Artemis was furious as well as appalled and turned Acteon into a stag, resulting in him being torn apart by his own hunting dogs. Rand got a better reception from Aviendha when he caught up with her in Seanchan, but after they made love, they had to get past some Seanchan hunting Aviendha down, having sensed her channelling to make the gateway. Morsa, the Seanchan noble with the group, recognised Rand and offered him an “easing of his sufferings” and great honour if he surrendered to her, but he knew that men who could channel were hunted and shot down on sight.


    The Ancient Greek star goddess Asteria was beloved by Zeus, and took quail form and threw herself into the sea to become an island to escape his sexual advances. As well as being associated with falling stars, she was also perhaps the goddess of night-time divinatory techniques such as oneiromancy (divination by dreams) and astrology (divination by stars). She was the mother of Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, by the Titan Perses, god of destruction.

    Aviendha fled to Seanchan via her first gateway to avoid Rand, but he followed after her and they made love. Rand has described himself as a destroyer, and Aviendha’s four children by him are prophesied to be odd, because they are super magic-users—super-witches—being able to channel from birth.

    Aviendha doesn’t have a talent for the World of Dreams, and Jordan’s world does not include divination by the stars, but she found “reading” the glass columns to be a dark experience, a true night-journey, wherein she saw the horrifying future of the Aiel:

    She tried to read ter'angreal as she had done before, but this one was vast. Incomprehensible, like the One Power itself. She inhaled sharply, disoriented by the weight of what she felt. It was as if she had suddenly fallen into a deep, dark pit.

    - Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

    It is likely that Aviendha was in Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, when she encountered the mysterious Nakomi at night and was gently nudged into re-thinking her parochial attitudes.


    Nakomi, bearer of an ancient name, is a parallel of Nokomis, grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Native Americans. In his poem The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow called Nanabozho Hiawatha, mistakenly believing they were the same. The historic Hiawatha was a highly skilled orator who aided the Great Peacemaker in forging the Iroquois confederacy. Such alteration of history and myth over time is one of Jordan’s most important themes.

    In The Song of Hiawatha, Minnehaha was Hiawatha’s beloved. Hiawatha was raised by his grandmother Nokomis, after Hiawatha’s mother, Wenonah, was seduced and abandoned by the spirit Mudjekeewis, and died giving birth to him. Nokomis had warned Wenonah against Mudjekeewis, but she succumbed to his seduction.

    Jordan said that he used elements of the Cheyenne and Apache Native Americans, amongst many other peoples, in creating the Aiel. Rand is like the historic Hiawatha in the way he united the Aiel clans and also the Westland nations with his Dragon’s Peace, and also like the fictional Hiawatha with his mother dying while giving birth to him as Wenona also did. Minnehaha, Hiawatha’s wife, would be a parallel of Aviendha. Rand’s mother was warned that the world was doomed unless she went to dwell among the Maidens of the Spear, telling no one of her going. Rand’s beloved, Aviendha encountered Nakomi in the Waste and was given insight from Nakomi’s comments that spurred her to find out more from the glass columns, inadvertently triggering it to show her the Aiel’s likely future, and thereby saving her people from their Trail of Tears. Nakomi is not literally either Rand’s or Aviendha’s grandmother, although she is wise and knowledgeable. (For further description of Nakomi’s parallels to Nokomis see Character Names N article).

    Historic Parallels


    Rand as the Car’a’carn has similarities with Genghis Khan, the Khan of Khans, and Aviendha has some parallels with Genghis Khan’s first wife, Börte (c. 1161–1230). Börte was born into the Olkhunut tribe, where her father, Dei Seichen, was a chieftain. This tribe was friendly to the Khiyad tribe, into which Genghis was born. It is probable that her marriage to Genghis was arranged by Genghis' father to solidify relations between their two tribes.

    Shortly after she and Genghis were married, Börte was kidnapped by three members of the Merkit, a rival tribe. Eight months later, Genghis, with his allies Wang Khan and Jamuha, rescued her from her captors. She gave birth to a son, Jochi, after she was rescued, leaving doubt as to who the father of the child was. Genghis accepted him as his son, but his brothers would not accept him as their ruler and Genghis had to choose another son as his successor. Jochi then became a Mongolian army commander. Genghis had other wives, but only Börte's sons were considered to be his heirs. She gave birth to four sons and five daughters, who were the key bloodline which further expanded the Mongol Empire.

    Aviendha is the niece of the chieftain of the Taardad clan. Her fate, as she saw in the oval rings ter’angreal in Rhuidean, is to love Rand, and when the Wise Ones realised their attraction, they pushed Aviendha as close to Rand as he would accept, so she could be a bridge between the two cultures and Rand could understand his Aiel heritage. Rand himself was born and raised outside the Waste, and many Aiel were reluctant to accept him as the Car’a’carn.

    It is one of Rand’s other loves, Elayne, who was kidnapped by the Shadow, and Elayne who spread falsehoods about the parentage of her unborn children. She will have twins, but Aviendha will birth four babies at one time. All are a key bloodline to events in the Fourth Age, as Aviendha saw in the glass columns in Rhuidean. She is determined to improve the outcome of that fate.


    Star Tarot Card

    While Aviendha could be regarded a solar character like Elayne, symbolised by her red-gold hair, she doesn’t have Elayne’s sunny nature, being rather more determined than optimistic. It’s well to remember that the sun is also a star, and the Star tarot card is a good fit for Aviendha. The card offers hope and a glimpse of the future—on a mundane level, it means waiting for dawn and daylight, on a spiritual level, waiting for hopes answered, even salvation.

    The stars in the sky are distant, but they also guide people to their destination. For much of the series, Aviendha had to wait for her time to shine. She was the last main character to reach her station. The hope the Star card offers is eventual success, which must be waited or worked for, so long as the person remains steadfast on their goal. This Aviendha did, if rather grimly at times. Aviendha had glimpses of her future in the three rings ter’angreal, and then in the glass columns in Rhuidean, after she re-tuned them. In that sense she is the only main character, apart from Moiraine, who has been so guided. The Wise Ones advise accepting fate and using the glimpses from the rings to guide your life, but then they never saw the complete corruption and decay of their people until Aviendha informed them of it. Appalled by what she saw in the columns, Aviendha is taking steps to prevent that future from occurring.

    The Star tarot card often depicts a woman pouring water on bare ground and into a pool under the stars (see Marseille Jean Dodal by Flornoy, right). This ties in with the grim doom that the Dragon is prophesied to bring the Aiel:

    He shall spill out the blood of those who call themselves Aiel as water on sand, and he shall break them as dried twigs, yet the remnant of a remnant shall he save, and they shall live.

    - The Shadow Rising, He Who Comes with the Dawn

    Aviendha is set to keep that remnant from withering away in degradation. It’s a warning as well as a guiding hope.


    Aviendha is the dedicated spear of Nicola’s foretelling:

    "The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives.

    - Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

    The spear symbolises directness and honour, and is appropriately the Aiel weapon of choice. Aviendha is very direct with people and much concerned with earning and keeping honour. She prizes military valour and also strength, both physical and mental, two other attributes of the spear.


    When we first see Min, she wears boys’ clothes and is working at an inn. It is unusual for a seeress to work as a stablehand. Most oracles, particularly those who are accurate—and Min’s viewings are never wrong, even if she doesn’t always understand them—are in less obscure positions, and eventually Min will be too. Min is a tomboy compared to Aviendha the warrior, but she actively protected the empress—her body as well as her ethics—and Rand, the Creator’s champion—his body, mind and destiny.

    Min’s burden is that she can’t change tragic viewings, and in her early days found that warning people only made matters worse. Is she always believed, unlike the unfortunate Cassandra of Greek mythology? Not at first. Some of those whose “fortunes” she “told” thought she made them happen, even if only by saying them. These unhappy people had a point: Min did bring about the fulfillment of her own viewings a couple of times. In all kinds of divination, the diviner participates in the divination (see Fate, Free Will and Divining the Pattern essay). In Min’s case, accurately seeing pieces of the pattern led her to study the Wheel of Time world’s philosophy to solve the riddles of prophecy that will enable Rand to win his battle against the Dark One.

    Mythic parallels – Oracular


    In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a priestess of Apollo who was cursed by the god to utter true prophecies, but never to be believed, after she refused his advances. The daughter of King Priam of Troy, her older brother was Hector, hero of the Greco-Trojan war that was sparked by the abduction of Helen (a parallel of Elayne). Cassandra foresaw that Paris would abduct Helen and cause the war and warned him not to go to Sparta. However, she was considered a liar, or mad, and was disregarded. As Apollo intended, her gift of prophecy caused her grief and frustration.

    When her gift first manifested, Min also was thought a liar for a time, then a witch, or even evil:

    “I was twelve when it started, and I didn’t know to make a secret of it. Everybody thought I was just making things up. Until I said a man on the next street was going to marry a woman I saw him with, only he was already married. When he ran off with her, his wife brought a mob to my aunt’s house claiming I was responsible, that I’d used the One Power on her husband or given the two of them some kind of potion.” Min shook her head. “She wasn’t too clear. She just had to blame somebody. There was talk of me being a Darkfriend, too.”

    - A Crown of Swords, The Butcher’s Yard

    After some years, Min’s viewings were accepted as true, but Min gets little joy from seeing events she would like to prevent. Sometimes speaking up does cause them to be fulfilled, such as when Min warned Rand to stay away from the rebel Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, so he fled to Cairhien, where he was abducted by the Tower Aes Sedai, and Min with him.

    Another Ancient Greek oracle of Apollo reflects Min’s prestigious position with the Seanchan.


    The Pythia was the Oracle of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and had prestige and authority in Ancient Greece, being consulted prior to important actions or decisions. Oracles were thought to be the vehicles through which the gods spoke to humans, whereas seers in ancient Greece interpreted omens sent by the gods, such as the movements of animals and birds, animal entrails, etc (see Fate, Free Will and Diving the Pattern essay).

    The Oracle of Delphi was believed to be selected from the priestesses at the temple, who were chaste women of good character. There were up to three women serving as Pythia at any one time, two prophesying and one in reserve, perhaps yet another example of the triple goddess. Both the Pythia and Cassandra were described as going into frenzied trances to commune with Apollo, and the Pythia’s life was believed to be shortened by the strain of her service.

    The Pythia’s pronouncements were lucid, but as open to misinterpretation as any of Min’s viewings. A famous example was when Croesus King of Lydia consulted the oracle about attacking Persia and was told “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” He believed that this indicated his success in the enterprise and attacked, but it was Croesus’ own empire that was destroyed.

    The Empress was delighted to gain a Doomseer, a Truthspeaker who can directly see pieces of the Pattern, and was even in awe of her ability. Previously the Seanchan were guided by interpreting omens—which also work in Jordan’s world, just not as readily due to their complexity (Knife of Dreams, Dragon’s Eggs). As Doomseer, Min is now sacred to the Seanchan, too holy to be touched:

    Fortuona ignored her, standing. "This woman is my new Soe'feia. Doomseer, Truthspeaker! Holy woman, she who may not be touched. We have been blessed. Let it be known. The Crystal Throne has not had a true reader of the omens for over three centuries!"

    - A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire

    With so much depending on her Doomseer’s reliability and integrity, Tuon tested Min to see whether she would be unjust or untrustworthy. Her viewings do not put Min under physical strain, as the act of foretelling does Elaida:

    As usual, the Foretelling left her [Elaida] trembling, gasping for breath. She forced herself to stand still and straight, to breathe slowly; she never let anyone see weakness.

    - A Crowns of Swords, Prologue

    but Min’s lifespan will be far shorter than that of those who foretell, since she cannot touch the One Power.

    As well as an oracle—a prophetess of sanctity tied to a place—Min is like a sibyl, prophetesses that were often independent of temples, with some wandering from place to place.

    Sibyls and the Sibylline books

    Prior to being co-opted by the Empress, Min was consulted by Moiraine, then Siuan, then Cairhienin noblewomen, and of course, Rand. Min is a sibyl but she also studied books of prophecy—various translations and commentaries on the Karaethon Cycle—more than most people, and more importantly, made far more sense of them than most scholars, with the main aim of helping Rand, which almost no one else was doing.

    The Cumaean Sibyl sold a famous collection of prophecies made by sibyls, the Sibylline books, to the last Ancient Roman king, Tarquinius Superbus. Rather than give foreknowledge of important events, the books advised on the necessary rites for calamities portended by various unusual occurrences or omens such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, sieges of cities, birth of hermaphrodites and other extraordinary natural occurrences. The abnormal events were expected to happen during and before times of crises, as expressions of the gods' will. A later, completely separate collection of Sibylline Oracles describes allegorical visions and apocalyptic prophecies.

    The Age of Legends has parallels to Ancient Rome (see Age of Legends article), with Lews Therin, who held ultimate power at the end of the Age, a parallel of Tarquinius the last King of Ancient Rome. Rand and Min studied prophecies for guidance, particularly about Rand’s battle with the Dark One. Rand believed that the Prophecies of the Dragon don’t describe what will happen, only what must if certain other things are to happen. In this sense they are like the Sibylline books which describe how to avert disaster and ameliorate the effects of unusual omens. These omens are the sort of thing the Seanchan would be interested in. It is probable that, like the sayings of the Sibylline books, the actual prophecies of the Karaethon Cycle are in no particular order.

    The Seanchan have strong parallels with Imperial Japan and China, both of which had omen-reading systems of divination. Min herself is a hugely positive omen for the Seanchan, especially at such a dangerous period of history, as Fortuona acknowledged when she said that they were blessed to have a true reader of omens; which means that Fortune herself was blessed with good fortune. Her Doomseer saved her life and also prevented a Forsaken from sabotaging the Seanchan’s contribution to the Last Battle.

    Onmyōji and Onmyōdō

    Onmyōdō was a divination system developed in Japan from the Chinese philosophies of Yin-yang and Wu Xing (Five Agents) that were introduced into Japan at the beginning of the 6th century, and further influenced by Taoism and Buddhism in the 7th century. Jordan drew on all these philosophies when creating the Wheel of Time.

    Auspicious or inauspicious signs present in the natural world were used to predict good or bad fortune in the human world. The Japanese imperial court increasingly adopted this form of divination, and its practitioners, government-controlled onmyōji, came to have great influence over the personal lives of the Emperor and the nobility of the courts from the 7th century to the 19th, when it was prohibited as superstition. Onmyōji performed divination and were believed to divine auspicious or harmful influences in the earth, avert disasters, identify favourable or unfavourable times or directions of travel, and protect the capital from evil spirits, even recommending it be moved. Min protected the empress and her court by identifying unfavourable persons such as Yulan and Moghedien through her viewings and forced the Empress to return her forces to the battlefield at Merrilor. Note that the moment the Empress knew of Min’s ability she co-opted her for her personal seeress to aid her decisions of state and tested her trustworthiness.

    Abe no Seimei (921–1005) was a famous onmyōji who analyzed remarkable or unusual occurrences, conducted exorcisms, warded against evil spirits, and performed geomantic rites. He was noted for divining the sex of foetuses and finding lost objects. The Japanese emperor erected a shrine in honour of Seimei in Kyoto after his death. Min identified the sex of Melaine’s foetuses and that Elaine had twins at an early stage of pregnancy.

    Mary the Prophetess

    Mary the Prophetess was an alchemist that lived at some time in the 1st–3rd centuries AD, probably in Egypt. She was regarded with huge respect for her alchemical experiments, apparatus and textbooks. The alchemist was said to know the preparation of the caput mortuum—the nigredo—and spoke of the union of opposites:

    Join the male and the female, and you will find what is sought; One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.

    Jordan split Mary the Prophetess between two characters: Mary’s chemical achievements are attributes of Aludra, while her alchemical commentary is similar to prophetic riddles that Min helped Rand to solve.

    He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one…
    “I think the passage refers to some way he has to use Callandor. "
    "I see," Cadsuane said, turning yet another page in her own book. "That is a very unconventional interpretation." Beldeine smiled thinly, turning back to her embroidery. "Of course," Cadsuane added, "you are quite right."

    - The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

    "There's a phrase," Min said, "in the Jendai Prophecy. I wish we knew more of them. Anyway, it says 'and the Blade will bind him by twain.'"
    "Two women," Rand said. "I need to be in a circle with two women to control it." She grimaced.
    "What?" Rand said. "You might as well be out with it, Min. I need to know."
    "There's another phrase, from the Karaethon Cycle. Anyway, I think that Callandor might be flawed beyond that. I think it might . . . Rand, I think it might make you weak, open you to attack, if you use it."

    - Towers of Midnight, A Storm of Light

    The expression in the Jendai Prophecy “bind him by two (twain)” did not mean that Rand would be bound by two women in a circle, but that Moridin would be forcibly brought into the circle by the two women:

    Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.

    - Towers of Midnight, A Storm of Light

    And the successful solution to these riddles is very like Mary’s alchemical precept.

    This was the most dangerous part of the plan. Min had figured it out…
    "Link!" Rand commanded.
    They fed it to him. Power.
    Saidar from the women.
    The True Power from Moridin.
    Saidin from Rand.

    Moridin's channeling the True Power here threatened to destroy them all, but they buffered it with saidin and saidar, then directed all three at the Dark One.

    Rand punched through the blackness there and created a conduit of light and darkness, turning the Dark One's own essence upon him…

    With a bellow—three Powers coursing through him, blood streaming down his side—the Dragon Reborn raised a hand of power and seized the Dark One through the Bore, like a man reaching through water to grab the prize at the river's bottom.

    - A Memory of Light, Watching the Flow Writhe

    The male and female powers, saidin and saidar, were joined to find what was sought (to trap and seal away the Dark One), the two women forced Moridin to link with them, thus bringing a third power (the True Power) to be added to the two halves of the One Power with Rand as the fourth in the ring. He was the One who sealed away the Dark One and brought the world out of the Third Age into the Fourth Age. The sacred conjunction in triple form enabled the achievement of the Great Work (see Alchemical Symbolism essay).

    Arthurian myth

    Min is likely the “she who sees beyond” in Nicola’s foretelling of three on the boat, a parallel of the three queens in Arthurian myth who take King Arthur to the Otherworld in a funeral barge. As a seer, Min also has parallels to Merlin, especially when she broke the news to Rand that he and Egwene (a parallel of Guinevere) will not marry. Merlin advised Arthur not to marry Guinevere because she would cause the fall of Camelot.


    The Norse god Thor’s beautiful wife Sif is described in the Prose Edda as "a prophetess called Sibyl”. Rand al’Thor is a parallel of Thor and Sif is a minor parallel of both Min and Elayne; Elayne matches Sif physically, while Min has her prophetic abilities.

    Another Norse goddess who is a seeress is Frigg, Odin’s wife.


    The god Odin is a parallel of Mat and while Min isn’t married to Mat, she is the Doomseer to Mat’s wife Fortuona and has become close to Mat as the two countryside Andorans adapt to Seanchan ways. Frigg is said to have the power of prophecy, but does not tell others what she sees. Min found out the hard way that telling people who have not consulted her opinion of what she sees around them is often disastrous. Frigg's companion is Eir, a goddess associated with medical skills and a parallel of Nynaeve, who was united with Min to help Rand reach the Last Battle.

    Mythic Parallels – Non-Oracular


    In Greek mythology, Metis was one of Zeus’s important consorts. Noted for her wisdom, prudence and counsel, she helped Zeus free his siblings from the belly of his father Cronus after he swallowed them, by providing Zeus with a potion to make Cronus vomit them up. Zeus then dismembered Cronus and threw him into the pit of Tartarus. Zeus made love to Metis, and then remembered that Metis was prophesied to have two very powerful children, particularly the second, a son who would overthrow Zeus. In a case of like-father-like-son, Zeus swallowed Metis, who was pregnant with Athena (who is a parallel of Aviendha and Elayne). While inside Zeus, Metis constructed armour for Athena. The full-armoured Athena gave Zeus nasty headaches, then burst from his head while Metis remained inside Zeus and provided him with advice and wisdom. In this way, Zeus prevented the prophecy from being fulfilled.

    The Dark One is like Cronus in destroying or engulfing souls. Rand became increasingly dark and corrupted by the Shadow, and Min worked hard to save him from this. She studied the prophecies and helped Rand work out how to seal the Dark One away into the Pit of Doom, an analogue of the pit of Tartarus. Min “knew” that Rand would have three women love him. Aviendha struggled against her fate because it was dishonourable, and gave Rand “headaches” with her temper and criticism of him. Min helped Aviendha stand up for herself to the Wise Ones so that she could become a Wise One of great power. While Zeus prevented a prophecy from happening, Rand believed that prophecy only indicates the conditions necessary for certain things to happen. Considering that Min’s viewings always come true, it is ironic that a prophecy regarding Min’s parallel Metis was prevented from happening.


    Nephthys is an ancient Egyptian goddess whose name means “Lady of the Temple Enclosure” or “Lady of the House”. Like her sister Isis, she is a protector of the dead and of her brother Osiris, the Universal Lord. Nephthys and Isis were sister-wives of the war god Set and the two goddesses brought Osiris back to life after Set trapped him in a box and later killed and dismembered him. Another of Nephthys’ attributes was to be the nurse and guardian of the reigning pharaoh, and she could also appear as one of the goddesses who assisted at childbirth, although in most ancient texts she was considered to be barren herself. Nephthys’ divine power strengthened the souls of the dead and guided them through the afterlife.

    In one sense the pharaoh is Rand, and in another, it is the Empress. The Seanchan have some parallels with Ancient Egypt, notably their clothing—particularly that of their slaves—and also some personal names. Min has physically protected both rulers. Dobraine called Min “my lady Ta’veren,” giving her the title Lady, and Tuon declared Min holy for her powers of prophecy, too holy to touch, as befits someone with the god-like power to see the Pattern so frequently, even if only pieces of it.

    Rand, the Universal Lord, is a parallel of Osiris, and Min witnessed the psychological trauma of his imprisonment in a box and his physical abuse by the Tower Aes Sedai. She was also there at Rand’s parley with a fake Daughter of the Nine Moons (in reality Semirhage), who had a plain wooden box containing male a’dam to bind him and any Asha’man with him. At this latter attack, Rand protected Min, being maimed as he did so. Nynaeve, a parallel of Isis, healed Rand and worked with Min to support him. Min was the only character who consistently aided Rand in what he had to do, rather than pushing him to do something else. She worried about his mental health, and nursed him along, strengthening him for his duty to fight the Dark One as humanity’s champion and die doing so, and helped him to use the prophecies to plan his duel. When he went to the underworld of Shayol Ghul, Min wanted to accompany him, but he took Nynaeve (Isis) instead and Min continued with her important task of advising another Isis, Fortuona.

    Min discussed childbirth with Melaine:

    From there the two of them passed quickly on to childbirth itself. Neither had ever borne a child, but each had helped mid-wives.

    - Lord of Chaos, A Threat

    but Min is “barren” in that she is the only one of Rand’s lovers who continued to take the contraceptive heartleaf tea, and is not pregnant.


    Another Ancient Egyptian goddess who was protector of the pharaoh and his realm, and of women in childbirth was Wadjet (“green one”). Her temple, Per-Wadjet, was one of the world’s earliest known oracles. It also contained a sanctuary of Horus, the child of the sun deity who was a representation of the pharaoh. Much later, Wadjet became associated with Isis.

    Min protected Rand and then Fortuona, both pharaoh analogues. Rand is a strongly solar character, Sol Invictus, while Fortuona, whom Min joined late—just before the Last Battle—has parallels to Isis. Interestingly, Min was dressed in green by the Seanchan each time she stayed among them (The Great Hunt, Falme and A Memory of Light, The Last Battle).


    Min’s shortened name is that of a god, a lunar fertility and sexuality god. Like Wadjet, Min was one of the earliest Ancient Egyptian gods. He was usually depicted as a human male with an erect penis (see photo left). Even some war goddesses were depicted with the body of Min (including the phallus). He was worshipped by the men who worked the mines and the men who quarried the stone at Hammamat as "Min, the Male of the Mountain”.

    Min is the woman with whom Rand has had sex with most often. However, she suppresses her fertility with a contraceptive tea, and is the only one of Rand’s lovers who is not yet pregnant. Min was brought up among the mines in the mountains of Andor and dressed as a boy. Lunar gods tend to be associated with prophecy and dreams, and Min sees auras around people that show their futures.

    Historic Parallels

    Hildegard of Bingen

    Saint Hildegard of Bingen, (1098–1179), the Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, writer, composer and abbess. She was hugely influential, and also regarded as holy, in her own time and since. From a very young age, Hildegard had visions, although she resisted writing them down until she was in her 40s.

    One of her visions was of falling stars turning black as they plunge into the ocean.

    - Paul Harrison, A History of Pantheism and Panentheism

    In another, Hildegard

    watched a procession of angels innumerable who fought alongside Michael against the dragon and won the victory.

    - Frances Gies, Women in the Middle Ages

    These visions are similar to passages in Revelation in the Bible, which Robert Jordan drew on heavily for inspiration of his end-times (see Eschatology essay). In his series, Jordan reverses the moral alignment of the Dragon and his combatant: the Dragon is good—the Creator’s champion, no less—while the Darkfriend M’hael is an analogue of Michael. M'Hael (a former false Dragon) and his Black Asha’man and Black Sisters fought Logain (another former false Dragon now allied to the Dragon) and his Asha’man and also the Tower Aes Sedai.

    Min had a viewing very similar to the stars going black as they fall:

    "When you’re all in a group? Sparks swirling around you [the three ta’veren, Moiraine, Lan, Egwene and Thom], thousands of them, and a big shadow, darker than midnight…The sparks are trying to fill the shadow, and the shadow is trying to swallow the sparks.”

    - The Eye of the World, The Wisdom

    Both visions of stars going dark as they fall to earth are similar to the visions recounted in Revelation 6:13–4:

    and the stars of the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs dropping from a tree shaken by a great wind. The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up

    and also Isaiah 34:4:

    All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine.

    Min’s viewings began when she reached puberty, rather than in early childhood. Her ability is revered by the Empress, who declared that she is holy and that they are blessed to have her services. Apart from using her viewings to help Rand win, she also closely studied all the versions of the Karaethon Cycle and commentary available to her and Herid Fel’s writings on philosophy, which she found enthralling and inspiring.

    Florence Farr

    Min’s surname Farshaw may be derived from Florence Farr (1860–1917), actress and lover of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) —Farr-Shaw. Florence Farr was considered shockingly "modern", having left her first husband because he insisted that she stay at home, and she wore her dark curly hair very short. Shaw wanted to mould Farr into his own vision of the "Modern Woman", and was inspired by Farr to write the play Pygmalion (better known as My Fair Lady) in which a man tries to turn a lower-class young woman into a “proper lady”. Min had very short dark curly hair at first and was horrified to find that she was prepared to toss aside her life for a man. She was forced by events to abandon her boy’s clothes and act the part of the feminine and dainty Elmindreda.

    Florence Farr studied esoteric philosophy and was a prominent member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She summoned visions to gain hermetic knowledge or revelations, was a medium, and made invocations. Among the articles she wrote was Travelling in the Spirit Vision. Another member was William Butler Yeats, who was very interested in Celtic folklore and was inspired by Farr. In Yeats' The Countess Catherine, Farr played Aleel, a bard and seer who could see into the spirit realm. Min is a seeress who sees auras, not spirits. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is a tradition of occultism, magic, philosophy, metaphysics and spiritual development. It was influenced by Freemasonry and Jordan stated on his blog that he is a Mason (see Freemasonry and the Wheel of Time article). In contrast to Masonry, women were allowed to participate in the Order in equality with men. Min became Rand's lover in a city named "The Hill of the Golden Dawn". As well as being a seeress, she has been studying, and being entranced by, Herid Fel’s books on philosophy.

    Queen Min of Korea

    Queen Min (1851–1895) was the first official wife of Gojong, the twenty-sixth king of Joseon and the first emperor of the Korean Empire. The queen lost her parents at a young age and went to live with relatives until she married King Gojong. Declining to take a purely social and decorative role as expected, she eschewed parties and spent her time reading politics, philosophy, ancient classics, science and history. The Queen was well-educated and ambitious and ruled alongside her husband. She advocated stronger ties between Korea and Russia in an attempt to block Japanese influence in Korea, for which she was assassinated by the Japanese.

    Min Farshaw lost her parents when she was young and went to live with her aunts. Like Queen Min, she was far more studious than expected and read widely, notably in philosophy and prophecies to help Rand.

    The Seanchan have strong Japanese influences and the Empress commandeered Min as her omen diviner, even though she was the lover of the Dragon Reborn. Min decided to stay with the Empress to build ties between the mainland peoples and the Seanchan to help Rand win the war against the Shadow. It was the Shadow that tried to assassinate the Seanchan Empress and her court, but Min and Mat saved her.


    Moon Tarot Card

    As mentioned above, Min is a lunar character, as indicated by her mysterious prophetic powers and dark hair. The moon tarot card represents visions and illusions, even madness, genius and poetry. It is about inspiration from the unconscious, or from ancient sources, that cannot easily be put into logical sentences. On the positive side, the card can indicate considerable inspiration and accurate intuitive insight, but on the negative, emotions rule the head and the mind is unreliable or is fooled.

    The Moon card usually depicts a full and crescent moon combined shining on a wild landscape with two dogs or wolves and a pool from which a lobster is emerging (see Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots, right, and Waite Smith tarot, below left.) Sometimes the sky is quite cloudy. The clouds symbolise the partially obscured insight or vision that often occurs under the Moon card, and the dogs or wolves the wildness or wilderness of the unconscious or ancient memories. Wolfbrother Perrin, who also has dreams and visions in the World of Dreams, is a lunar character like Min. They have a brother or sisterly love for each other.

    Min is described in Nicola’s foretelling as “she who sees beyond”—beyond the present. She does not have conscious control over her viewings, or over knowing what or when. Hers is a passive or receptive ability, not an active one; and thus lunar, not solar. In contrast to how Aviendha looks to be able to prevent the disastrous future of the Aiel she saw in the glass columns, Min is powerless to prevent her viewings from happening.

    Min’s viewings are very accurate, although she doesn’t always know what they mean and sometimes interprets them wrongly, especially if she is emotionally involved with the person she is viewing. She was most unfair to Alivia when she interpreted her viewing that Alivia will help Rand die to mean that Alivia will cause his death and told Cadsuane and Nynaeve her opinion, after which neither would then teach Alivia. In contrast, Rand assessed her viewing more carefully:

    But she [Alivia] is going to kill you.” She [Min] bit off every word.
    “You said she was going to help me die,” he [Rand] said quietly. “Those were your words”… “Helping me die isn’t the same as killing me,” Rand went on. “Unless you’ve changed your mind about what you saw.”
    Min flung up her hands in exasperation. “I saw what I saw and it’s what I told you, but the Pit of Doom swallow me if I can see any difference. And I can’t see why you think there is!”
    “Sooner or later, I have to die, Min,” he said patiently.

    - Winter’s Heart, Bonds

    and trusting Alivia, who had always behaved well to Rand, he got her to gather items needed for travelling in his tent so he could secretly leave if he survived. This ended up being a mundane prophecy and shows how Min’s judgment can be unreliable or swayed by her emotions.

    Mesaana described seeresses as strangely accurate and yet vague at the same time, and this is so typical of the Moon tarot card.

    Some old decks, such as the Vandenborre, right, show a woman spinning yarn under a full moon

    possibly tying in with a folklore belief in the moon as a goddess of destiny

    - Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot

    such as Clotho, the spinner, one of the three Fates of Ancient Greek mythology described above that are a parallel of the three women, linking prophecy and destiny closely. And thereby linking Min to the Moon tarot card. Some Baerlon folk believed that Min caused the fulfilment of her own viewings, and she actually did so at least twice in the series.

    The moon appearing with the sun in the sky was a sign of the imminence of that great day of destiny, the Last Judgment. Jordan’s day of judgment, the culmination of his magnum opus, occurred under an eclipse, which is appropriate symbolism logically and also alchemically.


    Written by Linda, July 2020