Sunday, July 24, 2022

Character Parallels: Nynaeve and Lan



By Linda

One of the most iconic love stories of the series is that of Lan and Nynaeve: the kingly paramount Knight, who was wedded to his quest and bonded to a fairy princess who had renounced her royalty, and the powerful and protective hedge-witch considered too young and rebellious for her role.

It began in mutual respect and rapidly deepened. They had quite a bit in common. Both were orphaned while young. Both were given heavy responsibilities while young. Separately and together, both fought hard against the Shadow and to support Rand and his duty to die saving the world. Lan’s abilities were thoroughly trained and honed, and always recognised and respected. Until Moiraine, he thought he knew his ultimate fate. Nynaeve also thought she knew her fate, although she did not know her abilities and would have been appalled if she had. Partially trained, mostly by herself, she was reluctantly respected.

And their relationship? In one way, the result is that the perfect knight who is emotionally crippled and chronically depressed due to a geas laid on him at birth is given just the medicine he needs by a young witch with a chip on her shoulder; in another, a well-educated warrior widens the horizons of a powerful small-town witch to encompass a national and then universal world view, and she rises to heal and protect the world. Balance. And change. Two major themes of the series.

Their stark but healing reversals were facilitated by Moiraine. As is typical for Moiraine, one of the major agents of change in the series, neither party could appreciate all that she did—the necessity for the changes she wrought—until the climax of the war.


The parallels of Nynaeve and then Lan will be discussed in turn. Here is the outline:

Nynaeve
Arthurian Myth Parallels
Healing Goddesses
Mother Goddesses
Battle and Hunt Mythic Figures
Religious Parallels
Historic Parallels
Symbol
Lan
Arthurian Myth Parallels
Fairy Tale Parallels
Battle Gods
Historic Parallels
Literary Parallel
Lan’s Surname
Symbols


NYNAEVE


Mythic Parallels

Arthurian Myth Parallels

The Wheel of Time is deeply rooted in Arthurian mythology—was based on it in the early drafts—and Nynaeve has aspects of three Arthurian figures: Nimue, the Lady of the Lake and the Grail Maiden.


Grail Maiden

The San Greal or Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, is the ultimate quest for the knights of King Arthur’s court. A closely-related sacred object in Celtic mythology is a magical cauldron that can miraculously feed and heal. In Arthurian tradition, a Grail Maiden is often seen accompanying the Holy Grail whenever it makes itself manifest, usually as the bearer of the vessel.

Sa’angreal, prized objects which can grant a select few access to the greatest amounts of the One Power, are parallels of the San Greal. They are hallowed objects for channellers. The Sea Folk’s hallowed object, the Bowl of Winds ter’angreal, is a reference to the Celts’ sacred cauldron. Nynaeve is the only person who has participated in the use of all these hallowed objects of the Power: the Bowl of Winds to undo the Dark One’s distortion of the seasons and to heal and restore the Land, the Choedan Kal to cleanse saidin, and Callandor to seal the Dark One away.

The female Choedan Kal is the sa’angreal, the San Greal vessel, that provides the ultimate amount of the feminine half of the Source, but Nynaeve herself is a hallowed vessel for saidar, since she provides the link and access to that source and Heals to a miraculous degree.

She was acting as a conduit for far more of saidar than the entire White Tower could have handled using every angreal and sa'angreal the Tower possessed.

- Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

Nynaeve enables Rand to remove the taint from saidin so that male channellers could once again be equal partners in using magic to fight the Shadow and aid humanity. A paramount Grail Maiden.


Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake is the title used by several fairy-like figures in Arthurian myth that made important contributions to King Arthur’s life: providing Arthur with the sword Excalibur, eliminating Merlin, raising Sir Lancelot after the death of his father King Ban, and helping to take the dying Arthur to Avalon.

The Lady of the Lake taught Lancelot du Lac about courtly love and the duties of a true knight. In Arthurian myth, Lancelot got his epithet from his foster-mother the Lady of the Lake, whereas in the Wheel of Time world, it is the other way around—Nynaeve married Lan, the Lord of the Thousand Lakes. Nynaeve’s surname al’Meara is similar to the words “of the mere”, of the lake, linking her to the Lady of the Lake as well as foreshadowing her married title of Nynaeve, Lady of the Thousand Lakes.

Nynaeve taught Lan to love:

”You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones.”

- The Shadow Rising, Leavetakings

When Morgan le Fay stole Excalibur from Arthur, and gave the magical sword to her lover, Accolon of Gaul, it was the Lady of the Lake who rescued the king when he was losing his duel with Accolon by knocking Excalibur out of Accolon's hand with her magic. Nynaeve rescued Rand from Rahvin by distracting the Forsaken, and when Moridin killed Alanna and seized Callandor (equivalent to Excalibur) from Rand in the Pit of Doom it was Nynaeve who kept Alanna alive long enough for the Green sister to release Rand’s bond so he did not go insane.

The Lady later became the guardian of Excalibur, when the dying Arthur returned the sword to the lake. It was Cadsuane rather than Nynaeve who took this role at the end of Winter’s Heart, ‘securing’ Callandor. However, Nynaeve and Moiraine helped Rand trap Moridin to use it against the Dark One in the Pit of Doom, which is a lake of lava. After the Dark One was sealed away, no one knows what became of Callandor. Presumably it remained there beside the lava lake in the cave.

The Lady of the Lake was one of four ladies who took the dying Arthur on a boat to be healed in Avalon. However, in The Wheel of Time three women are prophesied to be on a boat with Rand: Elayne, Aviendha and Min (see Foretellings article).

For more information on Arthurian parallels see Matter of Britain: Arthurian Myth Parallels and Arthurian Who's Who essays).


Nimue

Nynaeve also has parallels to Nimue (also spelled Niniane, Viviane, Nyneve and similar variants) of Arthurian myth, a budding enchantress who takes on the role of Lady of the Lake at Avalon after her predecessor is slain at the hands of Sir Balin le Savage. In Arthurian legend, Nimue mistrusts the scheming and morally ambivalent Morgan le Fay and looks to expose her machinations. She also has problems with Merlin, who falls in love with her and wants her for his mistress. Nimue convinces Merlin to teach her magic and then uses it against him when she grows weary of his advances, sealing him in a cave from which “he came never out for all the craft he could do” (Le Morte D’Arthur, Book IV, Chapter I). At first, Nimue’s ethics are just as questionable as those of Morgan le Fay and of Merlin. Having removed Morgan and Merlin from Arthur’s life, she then uses her magic for good, especially to aid Arthur and his knights.

Nynaeve has problematic relationships with Morgan le Fay’s parallel Moiraine and with Merlin (in this case, Merlin’s equivalent is the Amyrlin). The positive Merlin figure, Thom Merrilyn, who is NOT keen on Aes Sedai when the story begins, she respects. His future wife, though…

In the beginning, Nynaeve was very suspicious of Moiraine, and took her to task for leading the young Edmond’s Fielders away from their village with her and placing them in danger. At this stage, Moiraine was both a Morgan le Fay and Merlin figure (and also an abducting fairy) in their lives, protecting and guiding them, but in a secretive and morally ambivalent way (see Moiraine in Arthurian Who’s Who essay). Moiraine taught Nynaeve that she was a magic user also and could become one of the despised Aes Sedai, and Amyrlin Siuan goaded Nynaeve to openly channel “on screen” in a way that could not be passed off as something natural (The Great Hunt, The White Tower). Nynaeve wanted to use what Moiraine and the Aes Sedai had taught her against them (The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn). From this low point in her behaviour, Nynaeve eventually comes to understand and accept the necessity of Moiraine’s actions and to appreciate, even if reluctantly, what she was trying to accomplish in the War against the Shadow.

Nynaeve admired Moiraine’s self-sacrifice for Rand’s sake and publicly embraced her at Merrilor, to Moiraine’s surprise, when Moiraine “returned from the dead”. In Nynaeve’s mind, Rand’s care and protection was always paramount. And Nynaeve and Moiraine together enter the dark cavern of Shayol Ghul with Rand, leaving the Merlin figure Thom Merrilin to guard the entrance, and find a dark Merlin, Moridin/Myrddin already within.

Nimue intervenes to save Arthur from sorceresses on three different occasions. Nynaeve directly intervened on Rand’s behalf during his battle with Rahvin in Caemlyn, and her positive support helped save him from annihilating himself and everything when he became extremely dark after accidentally linking to Moridin, as Rand acknowledged. The third time was at Shayol Ghul, where Nynaeve kept Alanna alive to prevent Rand from going mad from Alanna’s death. Three times makes a charm.

Another parallel between Nynaeve and Nimue is an episode involving Nimue, the Lady Ettard, and Sir Pelleas.

Sir Pelleas, who later becomes a Knight of the Round Table, loves the Lady Ettard almost beyond reason, but the Lady Ettard does not return his feelings, and in fact actively dislikes him and treats him contemptibly, even though Sir Pelleas is a fine, honorable knight. When Nimue learns of Sir Pelleas’ plight, she throws an enchantment upon the Lady Ettard while she sleeps which causes her to awaken loving Sir Pelleas as deeply as he did her. She also throws an enchantment upon Sir Pelleas while he sleeps which causes him to awaken hating the Lady Ettard as much as she did him. In the end, the Lady Ettard gets a full taste of her own medicine and eventually dies of a broken heart, and Nimue takes Sir Pelleas as her knight champion/consort.

While this works for Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan only on a very superficial level as a parallel for Nimue and Nynaeve both winning a champion/consort from another woman, it more closely fits Myrelle as the Lady Ettard. Myrelle held Lan’s bond for a time, and wanted to keep him as her own, even though Lan had absolutely no interest in her whatsoever, and had not agreed to his bond being passed to Myrelle. Unlike the Lady Ettard, however, Myrelle had promised Moiraine not to keep her Sir Pelleas Lan, but to pass him on to an Aes Sedai in need of a Warder, and was thus able to reconcile herself to his loving another woman and to giving him up to her. Just as well, since the moment Nyaneve passed her test for the shawl she confronted Myrelle outside the Black Tower and insisted on having Lan’s bond passed to her (Towers of Midnight, A Choice).


Goddesses

As a major character who is one of the most powerful channellers, Nynaeve has parallels to important goddesses of healing and also of motherhood and dominion.


Healing Goddesses and Gods

Isis

Originally an obscure goddess who lacked her own dedicated temples, Isis became one of the most important deities of ancient Egypt. Her cult subsequently spread throughout the entire Roman Empire and she is still revered by pagans today. Isis's reputation as a compassionate deity, concerned to relieve human suffering, contributed greatly to her appeal. Nynaeve rose from obscurity to heal the world by helping to restore the seasons, cleanse saidin and seal the Dark One away. Rand commended her caring and compassionate nature and asked her to never suppress it.

Isis was married to her brother, the divine king Osiris, but he was captured and killed by his jealous brother Set and his corpse dismembered. Isis and her sister Nephthys searched for the pieces of their brother's body and reassembled it. Isis is the epitome of a mourning widow. Her and Nephthys's love and grief for their brother helped restore him to life, as did Isis's great skill with magic. Nynaeve’s care of Rand and of his supporters helped keep Rand sane after he was corrupted by his link with Moridin. She mourned at Rand’s bedside as his body lay dying. In a way, she was his chief mourner, since Elayne, Min and Aviendha knew he was not dead.

Isis was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped her husband Osiris, and she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was likened to her son Horus. She restored the living to health and the souls of the dead to wholeness as she had done for Osiris, and also acted as a mother in the living world and the afterlife/world of the dead, providing protection and nourishment. Isis's actions in protecting Osiris against Set became part of a larger, more warlike aspect of her character, and inspired Kings to call upon her powers of protection against human enemies. Nynaeve’s determination and skill to Heal almost anything and to fight to protect the Light is paramount but she was also the only person with the courage and protective instinct to call out Rand for committing the atrocity of large-scale balefire, thereby contributing to his epiphany and saving the world from annihilation. She was there with Rand at the entrance to the Dark One’s underworld and helped Rand do his task of saving the world even though he would die from it.

As mourner (see illustration right), she was a principal deity in rites connected with the dead; as magical healer, she cured the sick and brought the deceased to life; and as mother, she was a role model for all women. We have seen Nynaeve undertake all these roles

In Ptolemaic times Isis was believed to influence the entire cosmos. Over the series, Nynaeve grows to this level. Jordan split Isis between Nynaeve (powerful magic user who protects Osiris, a parallel of Rand and Heals all) and Tuon (divine Queen/Empress as well as mother of her people who has the potential to channel—perhaps even powerfully).

In many spells in the Pyramid Texts, Isis and Nephthys help the deceased king reach the afterlife. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead describes Isis as protecting deceased souls as they face the dangers in the Duat, the realm of the dead. Likewise, Nynaeve and Min help Rand face the psychological danger of the taint and his link with Moridin; and Nynaeve and Moiraine help Rand face the dangers of the Dark One at the underworld of Shayol Ghul.

Using her magical powers, Isis was able to make Osiris whole, and neither living nor dead—a mummy. Nynaeve’s Healing skills were regarded as “almost miraculous” by other Aes Sedai, but she didn’t transmigrate Rand’s soul. Nor did any other channeller. Transmigration is an example of Wrongness in the Wheel of Time world unless both parties want it. (Rand and Moridin each desired their fates and the Creator personally undertook their mutual transmigration as a concession.) But Nynaeve protected and aided Rand in staying alive at Shayol Ghul, and in subjugating Moridin/Set. Rand/Osiris is also both alive and dead: his soul and mind are alive, but his body is dead.

Isis was the most powerful magic user of the Egyptian deities. Several narratives rate her magical powers as stronger than those of Osiris. She was frequently invoked to help the sick, and, with the goddesses Nephthys (Berelain in this context as she ran the field hospital in Mayene during the Last Battle) and Neith (this arrow-bearing goddess is a parallel of Birgitte, who helped Elayne and Nynaeve from the land of the dead Heroes) she protected the dead. Isis became known, like other fierce goddesses in Ancient Egypt, as the “Eye of Re” and was equated with the Dog Star, Sirius. Nynaeve’s surname also links her with Sirius (see below).


Sekhmet

Another Egyptian goddess who was regarded as an “Eye of Ra”, a protector of the chief god’s realm and dispenser of vengeance, was Sekhmet, a warrior goddess as well as a goddess of healing. She is depicted as a lioness and protected the pharaohs and led his forces in warfare. After their death, Sekhmet continued to protect the pharaohs, bearing them to the afterlife.

When Lan professed his love for Nynaeve, he accurately described her as a lioness due to her fierce protective nature (The Eye of the World, The Blight).

Sekhmet was appealed to for protection against disease, but also had her dark side. She was blood-thirsty and was believed to cause plagues. In Nynaeve, the positive aspects of Sekhmet, the protection and healing, are uppermost, although she does have a tendency to bully others, whereas Semirhage embodies Sekhmet’s negative aspects, bringing pain and torture as a price for her healing.


Aesclepius

Asclepius is an Ancient Greek hero and god of medicine. The son of the sun god Apollo, he was educated in medicine by the centaur Chiron and become so proficient that he surpassed both his teacher Chiron and his father, Apollo. He was therefore able to evade death and to bring others back to life from the brink of death or beyond. Nynaeve is largely self-taught, and surpasses the Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah.

The daughters of Asclepius are Hygieia (the goddess of hygiene, cleanliness—Nynaeve insisted on cleaned hands when attending the injured after Winternight), Aegle (the goddess of good health—Nynaeve uses herbs as well as Healing), Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy—the One Power is like an elixir of life, especially its Healing weaves), Aceso (the goddess of the healing process—Nynaeve rediscovered and developed Healing with five powers), and Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness—Nynaeve’s five powers Healing requires less recuperation than regular Aes Sedai Healing).

In some myths Asclepius was among those who took part in the Hunt for the Calydonian Boar, a fierce animal that was ravaging Calydon in central Greece with lightning. The Hunt was remarkable in Greek myth because among the heroes was a woman, the huntress Atalanta, a proxy for the goddess Artemis. Artemis sent the boar in the first place to punish the Calydonians…playing both sides of the board, just like the Shadow (some of whom have parallels to Ancient Greek gods and goddesses). Some of the men in the Hunt were outraged a woman was among them, especially when she outperformed them; and refused to fight because she was present and then tried to take the prize from her after she earned it. It all degenerated into in-fighting. The division of male and female Aes Sedai over battle plans in the war against the Shadow carries over into the Third Age in the form of unproductive antagonism between male and female channellers and between rival groups of channellers and is actively promoted by the Shadow.

After telling Nynaeve she was a fool for trying to Heal beyond what standard Aes Sedai Healing and knowledge could do, the Yellows then criticised her technique after they manipulated her into demonstrating to them:

Finally Nynaeve understood. Finally everything came together. The Yellow sisters' presence. Sheriam and Myrelle believing, then not believing, threatening her, snapping at her. It was all apurpose, all to make her angry enough to work her Healing on Siuan and Leane, to prove herself to the Yellows. No. By their faces, they were here to see her fail, not succeed…
She had believed that nonsense, even the barrel! They had manipulated her like a puppet!...
The rest of the room was staring at Nynaeve. The shock shining through all that Aes Sedai serenity was quite satisfying, and the disgruntlement too. Shanelle's eyes, pale blue in a dark pretty face, seemed about to fall out of her head. Nisao's mouth hung open, until she saw Nynaeve looking at her and snapped it shut.
"What made you think of using Fire?" Dagdara asked in a strangled voice that sounded entirely too high for such a big woman. "And Earth? You used Earth. Healing is Spirit, Water and Air." That opened the floodgate, questions from every throat, but they were all the same question really, just phrased differently.
"I don't know why," Nynaeve replied when she found an opening. "It just seemed right. I've almost always used everything." Which produced a round of admonitions. Healing was Spirit, Water and Air. It was dangerous to experiment with Healing; a mistake could kill not only you but your patient. She said nothing in reply, but the warnings died off quickly in rueful glances and smoothed skirts; she had not killed anyone, and she had Healed what they said could not be Healed…
A murmur rose among the Yellows, and Nynaeve prepared to bask in their compliments. She would accept their apologies gracefully. Then she heard what they were saying.
"... used Fire and Earth as if she were trying to bore a hole through stone." That from Dagdara.
"A smoother touch would be better," Shanelle agreed.
"... see where Fire might be useful in problems with the heart," Therva said, tapping her long nose.
Beldemaine, a plump Arafellin with silver bells in her hair, nodded thoughtfully.
"... if the Earth were combined with Air just so, you see...."
"... Fire woven into Water...."
"... Earth blended with the Water..."
Nynaeve gaped. They had forgotten her completely. They thought they could do what she had just showed them better than she could!
Myrelle patted her arm. "You did very well," she murmured. "Don't worry; they will be all praises later. Right now, they are still a little taken aback."

- Lord of Chaos, To Heal Again

This situation is a blend of Asclepius and Atalanta.

The original Hippocratic Oath taken by medical practitioners began with the invocation "I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods ...".


Hippocrates

Hippocrates is the Greek physician of antiquity who is traditionally regarded as the father of medicine:

Throughout his life Hippocrates appears to have travelled widely in Greece and Asia Minor practicing his art and teaching his pupils, and he presumably taught at the medical school at Cosquite frequently. Undoubtedly Hippocrates was a historical figure, a great physician who exercised a permanent influence on the development of medicine and on the ideals and ethics of the physician.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Nynaeve moved around the nations, not waiting in the White Tower for people to come to her. She had a huge influence in redeveloping Aes Sedai Healing knowledge and skills, even surpassing Age of Legends Healers by restoring stilled channellers’ ability to channel—giving them back their lives, according to Siuan. She has taught her weaves to the current Aes Sedai and brought about a huge expansion of Aes Sedai healing knowledge and skill:

"This truly is Nynaeve's most remarkable discovery," Myrelle said. "The Yellows are taking what she has done and making their own marvels, but she began it."

- Lord of Chaos Journey to Salidar

In the Hippocratic Oath associated with his name, physicians pledge to prescribe only beneficial treatments to the best of their abilities and judgment; to refrain from causing harm or hurt; and to live a model personal and professional life. Nynaeve personifies the Hippocratic Oath, doing her utmost to Heal people and protect them, while her dark opposite, Semirhage represents those physicians who violate their Hippocratic Oaths that they should have followed.


Mother Goddesses


Nana

During her journey with Elayne to hunt the Black Ajah, Nynaeve used the alias of Nana. Nana was an ancient Mesopotamian and Central Asian mother-queen goddess who was conflated with the similarly named Inanna/Ishtar in some eras and also with the Greek goddess Artemis. She annually mourned the death of her divine lover, the vegetation god, who died a martyr. Her tears were instrumental in his rebirth. For the Assyrians, Nana was queen of the world and giver of life.

No wonder Nana was furious at having to attend to the ‘Lady Morelin’s’ needs! Nynaeve is the queen of Malkier, a prominent leader and Healer in the war against the Shadow, and one of the most powerful of the queenly Aes Sedai. She has given many their lives back. Nynaeve was unable to Heal Rand, the Creator’s champion who was one with the Land and sacrificed himself for the world. Nor was she aware that Rand’s soul was transmigrated into Moridin’s body and mourned his passing.

In the Pakistan-Afghanistan area in the second century CE, Nana was depicted as a seated martial goddess with a lion alongside, and was associated with fertility, wisdom and rivers. Nynaeve, a lioness among women, was Wisdom in the Two Rivers…

Nana became one of the venerated females of Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrianism, a religion originating in Persia prior to 600 BC, the benign god of light, Ahura Mazda or Ohrmazd, and his angels contend throughout time with the god of darkness, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman (Ahura Mazda’s evil twin) and his demons. Ahura Mazda appears with three masculine archangels on his right, and three feminine archangels on his left, while he himself is both father and mother of creation (Omens of Millennium, Harold Bloom). The idea of the supporting angels and demons also occurs in the Wheel of Time’s theology: there were three masculine beings with extraordinary powers rallying the Light’s forces (Rand, Mat and Perrin). A trio of feminine ‘angels’ crucial in the Light’s victory at the Last Battle was Egwene, Nynaeve and Moiraine. Nynaeve and Moiraine helped the Creator’s champion seal the god of darkness away and restore the Pattern. Egwene patched over the most damaged areas of the Pattern.


Guanyin

Guanyin is the Buddhist mother goddess who is revered as the goddess of mercy, compassion and kindness. She has miraculous powers to aid others, as does Nynaeve. Guanyin is sometimes depicted standing atop a dragon. Egwene and many Tower Aes Sedai thought that Nynaeve had been with the Dragon too long, and was too influenced by him. However, her assertion that the Dragon had asked her to be with him when he faced the Dark One in Shayol Ghul made them realise that such honour would reflect on the White Tower also… and that if they failed Nynaeve and she then helped Rand sealed the Dark One away, they would not have that reflected honour.

Rand advised and encouraged Nynaeve to be true to her compassionate nature and not be detached like most Aes Sedai. It was good advice, unlike the Sitters’ criticism of Nynaeve’s lack of composure and calm when she exerted herself trying to save people during her test for the shawl. So while Nynaeve has done her best to support Rand, he has also given her confidence to gain the shawl as herself and not try to conform to White Tower stereotypes.


Battle and Hunt Mythic Figures

Maera

While Nynaeve’s surname al’Meara is a real-world surname, it also has a few mythological parallels:

In Greek mythology, Maera was the hound of Icarius, and was turned into the Dog Star, Sirius. Icarius was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and was killed by shepherds while on his travels. His daughter Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with Maera to find him. Maera led her to his grave, and both were so overcome with grief that they each killed themselves. Dionysus placed them in the sky as the constellations Virgo (Erigone), Boötes (Icarius), and Sirius (Maera). Nynaeve was one of Siuan’s three hounds hunting the Black Ajah. Min had a viewing of Nynaeve grieving over a corpse. This was Rand’s body in which Moridin’s soul had died.

Another Maera in Greek mythology was the daughter of Proetus and a companion of the virgin goddess of the Hunt Artemis. When Maera became Zeus’ lover, Artemis killed her because she was no longer a virgin. Nynaeve has excellent woods-craft skills, befitting a friend of the goddess of the hunt. (These skills are also consistent with the hound Maera). Zeus is a parallel of Rand and Artemis here represents the cloistered White Tower. Nynaeve was considered by Egwene and the White Tower to have spent too much time with Rand, who asked her to keep her strong, caring emotions when she re-joined the Aes Sedai, and she nearly failed her test for the shawl for showing these same emotions.

Many of Nynaeve’s mythological parallels are linked with Artemis, the Ancient Greek virgin goddess of the Hunt. Nynaeve never expected to marry:

"A Wisdom seldom weds." She paused to take a deep breath, as if steeling herself. "But if I go to Tar Valon, it may be that I will be something other than a Wisdom."
"Aes Sedai marry as seldom as Wisdoms. Few men can live with so much power in a wife, dimming them by her radiance whether she wishes to or not."

- The Eye of the World, The Blight

not because she was against marriage, but because she hadn’t met a man she loved and respected in the Two Rivers and who returned that love and respect. As Lan told her, Aes Sedai seldom marry also. Currently, only one Ajah actually permits marriage. Nynaeve ended up being one of the first, if not the first, Yellow sister to marry.

Maera was also an alternative spelling for Mara, the demon in Buddhist teachings who tempted Buddha with illusions. Mara personifies unskilfulness and distraction from the spiritual life. Nynaeve greatly objected to the way Aes Sedai scheme, manipulate and mislead others ( The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn) instead of using their skills to help people. Had the Sitters been stupid enough to fail her test for the shawl, as they nearly were, Nynaeve’s exclusion would have highlighted the Tower’s inadequacies. Egwene stepped in and subtly pointed this out.


Eir

With Rand having parallels to the Norse god Thor, some of the women characters battling the Shadow are like Valkyries ( Birgitte, Siuan, Faile and Berelain) or Norse goddesses (Tuon, Min, Elayne, Faile and Berelain). Eir is a Norse goddess or Valkyrie associated with medical skill. Her name means help, protection or mercy. The Valkyries are female supernatural figures who guide the souls of the deceased Nordic warriors either to Freya’s afterlife or to Odin’s Hall of Valhalla. They are brave and loyal and dedicated to helping, qualities that Nynaeve has. Most Valkyries chose who died in battle, but Eir chose who would live and return to health. Nynaeve hates people to die unless it is in their bed at the end of a long life. She is highly protective as well as dedicated to healing every ill that people suffer.


Religious Parallels


Mary

When Nynaeve was introduced to Masema in his role of the Prophet announcing the advent of the Dragon, he immediately proclaimed her blessed among women for her role:

“This is Nynaeve al’Meara,” Uno said quickly into the first pause for breath. “From Emond’s Field, in the Two Rivers, whence the Lord Dragon comes.” Masema’s head turned slowly to the one-eyed man, and she hastily took the opportunity to re-do the shawl as she had had it. “She was at Fal Dara with the Lord Dragon, and at Falme. The Lord Dragon rescued her at Falme. The Lord Dragon cares for her as for a mother.”
Another time, she would have given him a few choice words, and maybe a well-boxed ear. Rand had not rescued her—or not exactly, anyway—and she was only a handful of years older than he. A mother, indeed!
Masema turned back to her. The zealous light that had burned in his eyes before was nothing to what was there now. They almost glowed.
“Nynaeve. ‘Yes.” His voice quickened. “Yes! I remember your name, and your face. Blessed are you among women, Nynaeve al’Meara, none more so save the blessed mother of the Lord Dragon herself, for you watched the Lord Dragon grow. You attended the Lord Dragon as a child.” He seized her arms, hard fingers biting in painfully, but he seemed unaware of it. “You will speak to the crowds of the Lord Dragon’s boyhood, of his first words of wisdom, of the miracles that accompanied him. The Light has sent you here to serve the Lord Dragon.”

- Fires of Heaven, Encounters in Samara

Masema is a parallel of John the Baptist, although a very dark version, who preached about the Lord Dragon, a Messiah figure with some parallels to Christ. As much as Nynaeve hated to admit it at that stage, Rand did also return Nynaeve’s aid, and even gave her useful advice. Masema recognised that Nynaeve played a motherly or protective role to Rand. She very much does protect and support him as the series progresses.

Nynaeve is blessed with her channelling strength and skills, and heals others almost miraculously as even Aes Sedai concede.


Historic Parallels


Valerian

Moghedien’s threat to Nynaeve that she would use her as a live mounting block:

“Oh, I do mean to make you pay for that, Nynaeve al'Meara. This has been such a cozy hiding place, and those blind women have a number of very useful items in their possession even if they do not—" She shook her head, lips peeling back to bare her teeth in a snarl. "I think I will take you with me this time. I know. I shall keep you for a live mounting block. You will be brought out to kneel on all fours so I can step from your back to my saddle.”

- The Shadow Rising, Into The Palace

has an historical precedent. The Roman emperor Valerian (~195–260 or 264 CE) was captured by the Persian Emperor, Shapur I, the first Roman emperor to be made a prisoner of war, to the great shock of the Roman Empire. He was believed to have been in slavery for some years and was humiliatingly forced to kneel to provide a mounting block for Shapur to step on to mount his horse.

The Utopian Age of Legends has some parallels to the Ancient Roman Republic, which was regarded as a Golden Age up until modern times. Correspondingly, many enemies and notorious figures of Ancient Rome are parallels of the Forsaken (see Ancient Rome parallels for Forsaken) as Moghedien is here.


Symbol


Lioness

Lan described Nynaeve as a lioness:

“You are a remarkable woman, as beautiful as the sunrise, as fierce as a warrior. You are a lioness, Wisdom."

- The Eye of the World, The Blight

an animal regarded as fiercely protective of the young. Nynaeve’s motivation for leaving the Two Rivers was to protect the four young Emonds Fielders from Moiraine’s machinations. Lions were believed to sleep with their eyes open and thus symbolise vigilance. They also represent fortitude, dignity and courage, qualities admired in Nynaeve by her companions, although most characters were wary of Nynaeve’s fierce temper.

Negative qualities associated with the lion are pride, ferocity and tyranny. Nynaeve has a ferocious temper and is a bully at times, especially in the early books.


LAN

Lan was Rand’s mentor in the early books, and his abilities elevated him above the Emond’s Fielders and indeed above most people. This, plus his unfulfillable duty, made him remote and intimidating. The Uncrowned, who denies he is a king because his kingdom is dead, is the king of forlorn hope that fights on anyway. His situation is closest to that of Rand and illustrates best to Rand what to become and what not to become. The horror of the Shadow’s corruption of Rand is that in his darkest days, Rand abandoned his mentor.


Mythic Parallels


Arthurian Myth Parallels

Just as Rand’s closes parallel from the first draft of the first book was King Arthur, (indeed, the series was mainly Arthurian in plot outline well into the drafts of the first two books) so Lan is a parallel of Sir Lancelot du Lac.


Lancelot Du Lac

Sir Lancelot was the son of King Ban of Benwick and Queen Elaine but was raised by the Lady of the Lake from whom he obtained his epithet of du Lac (of the lake). He was the paramount Knight of the Round Table, the best fighter and swordsman there, yet willing to serve others, and he never failed in chivalry or courage.

Lan is also peerless in his fighting prowess. He is the best of the Warders and one of the top Blademasters:

If you must enter the Blight, and with only a few, there is no man better to take you there, nor to bring you safely out again. He is the best of the Warders, and that means the best of the best.

- The Eye of the World, More Tales of the Wheel

At the Last Battle, Lan’s forces and Lan himself, saw more fighting than anyone else. It is their fighting above all other abilities for which Lan and Lancelot are prized.

Many of Lan’s life events are similar to those of Lancelot:

  • Both Lan and Lancelot are of royal birth; Lan the son of King al'Akir and Queen el'Leanna of Malkier, Lancelot the son of King Ban and Queen Elaine of Benoic, but were carried off to be fostered by others. Lancelot's father died of sorrow after his seneschal betrayed him to the King of the Wastelands, who usurped his kingdom and took his cousins hostage. Lan's parents and kingdom were betrayed by Darkfriends and lost to the Shadow. Malkier became part of the Blight, the Shadow’s wasteland, and its people were dispersed. Lan’s young cousin Isam was taken to the Town in the Blight.


  • Lancelot was fostered and raised in Avalon by a sorceress, the Lady of the Lake, ignorant of his identity; he was known only as King’s Son. Lan was fostered and raised in Shienar in the royal palace and denied his royal title for many years. He was called the Uncrowned as a result. By binding himself to an Aes Sedai sorceress of Tar Valon as her Warder, Lan moved further away from being a king. Rather than being his foster-mother, Nynaeve, Lady of the Thousand Lakes, is his Aes Sedai, wife and queen. Lancelot gained his epithet from his foster-mother, whereas Nynaeve gained her title from marrying Lan.


  • Lancelot was given a ring by the Lady of the Lake, his fairy foster-mother, which allowed him to remove any magic (Chretien de Troyes, Le Chevalier à la charrette). Lan gave Nynaeve his ring of kingship so that she could obtain aid if she needed it (The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn), and she used it to rally the Borderlands to Lan. When he went to fight Demandred, Lan took a medallion that negated direct magic weaves that Berelain sent to him to return to Mat Cauthon.


  • Both Lan and Lancelot are associated with unrequited or illicit love: Lancelot had a long-term adulterous affair with his lady Queen Guinevere, the wife of his king and liege lord, no less, and was in turn loved hopelessly by Elaine the Fair Maid of Astolat who tended him when he was seriously wounded, and by Elaine of Corbenic, the daughter of the Fisher King, who tried everything she could think of to get Lancelot to love her and eventually deceived him into making love to her by disguising herself as Guinevere. Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship was a major contributor to the fall of Arthur’s kingdom, and the death of many, which is why a deeply penitent Guinevere left Lancelot and joined a convent.

    Lan was loved and pursued by many women when younger, and was nearly sucked into marrying the daughter of his first lover in New Spring. He considered himself unworthy to marry Nynaeve because he was bonded to Moiraine and to his fight against the Blight and had nothing to offer Nynaeve except pain and grief. Myrelle nursed Lan through his mental illness after his Warder bond was broken by the destruction of the redstone doorway. The transfer of Lan’s bond from Moiraine to Myrelle was illicit, since his permission was not asked, although Moiraine did eventually inform him that it would happen if she were killed. Lan felt tricked and betrayed by Moiraine over this. Myrelle wanted to keep Lan as her Warder, but was bound by her promise to Moiraine to pass his bond on to another Aes Sedai in need of a Warder. Nynaeve determined she would be that Aes Sedai, since she had already married Lan, the only Yellow Sister to marry that we know of, and her husband Bonded as a Warder to another woman at the time. She turned up at Myrelle’s tent straight after she was raised to the shawl threatening her with violence (including with the One Power) if she did not pass his Bond over. The White Tower has parallels to 15‒16th century Catholic convents, despite Tar Valon having an Arthurian name.

    Try as they might—and they are mighty men—Lancelot and Lan cannot suppress their feelings, especially when their knightly code of chivalry requires them to submit to the wishes of their ladies. Guinevere gives Lancelot her ring, Lan gives Nynaeve his ring. In New Spring, we see that Malkieri social customs are similar to the high medieval chivalric code. (On the other hand, Shienar, where Lan was raised, follows bushido, the Japanese samurai code, below).


  • Both men are held against their will by women. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Morgan le Fay was in love with Lancelot, and imprisoned him to try and force him to become her lover, but he refused and managed to escape. She and three other queens kidnapped Lancelot. Moiraine, a parallel of Morgan le Fay, bonded Lan as her Warder, but was not in love with him. She knew that Lan and Nynaeve loved each other, but would not release the bond until she had achieved her quest or died in the attempt. She altered Lan’s bond without his knowledge or consent so that it would automatically transfer to Myrelle upon her death. Myrelle would love to have kept Lan as a Warder but had promised Moiraine she would pass his bond on to a young Aes Sedai in need of a Warder and she was bound by the Three Oaths to keep that promise. Nynaeve pressured Myrelle to transfer Lan’s bond to her.


  • Lancelot and Lan rescue their beloved from deadly situations. Lan pulls Nynaeve from the river after Moghedien balefired the boat carrying her, and Lancelot pulls Guinevere out of the fire when she is condemned to burn at the stake for committing adultery with him. Lancelot also rescues Guinevere from Meleagant, who abducted her, crossing the perilous Sword Bridge to Meleagant’s castle do so. The Wheel of Time’s Meleagant, Demandred, did not capture Nynaeve, Lan’s Guinevere, but he did order two other Guinevere figures, Egwene al’Vere and Elayne, to be killed. Lancelot fought Meleagant three separate times before killing him and this is paralleled by the three “Arthurian” knights who attempted to kill Demandred, with Lan the ultimate and successful duellist to face Demandred. For Lan, the Sword Bridge to Meleagant’s castle is represented by the ring of Shadowspawn surrounding Demandred’s command post—so many blades to dodge. Lan crashed through the gap in the Trolloc wall that the Two Rivers arrows of fire made to reach Demandred and kill him. Meleagant manipulated Lancelot into granting him an advantage: he would only fight their third and final duel if Lancelot removed his helmet and his left side body armour and had his left hand tied behind his back. Lan felt very disadvantaged against an almost immortal and strong channeller (even with his weave-breaking device) when he was so tired from fighting all day and had some strength drained by Healing. In contrast, Demandred had his fatigue eased by his Sharan channellers and by meditating at spare moments.

  • Both win a duel with a ruthless Knight against extreme odds. Meleagant knew very well who he was fighting, but Demandred did not. This has its parallel in Lancelot’s quest to kill another villainous knight, the Copper Knight Brandin of Dolorous Gard, early in his career, when Lancelot did not know his own true identity. Brandin felt that he was invincible since any challengers had to singlehandedly defeat ten knights at the first wall and ten at the second before they duelled with Brandin. To counter such unfair tactics, the Lady of the Lake sent three shields, each of which gave increased strength, to Lancelot via a maiden. With these magic devices, Lancelot was able to defeat the knights at both walls and free Dolorous Gard from the Copper Knight. The castle was renamed Joyous Gard and claimed by Lancelot as his own. Lan was at a disadvantage to Demandred in having fought hard all day prior to their duel, although he had obtained a ter’angreal via Berelain that protected him from direct weaves, and his Warder Bond to Nynaeve, Lady of the Thousand Lakes, increased his strength and endurance. The immense losses inflicted at the Field of Merrilor and the Heights upon the Light’s armies by Demandred’s forces qualify the area as the Dolorous Gard, but the Blight is even more dolorous. Lan’s victory over Demandred gave Rand the heart to battle on against the Dark One, and, just as important, insight into the true nature of that fight. This had the immediate effect of easing the Blighting of the Land around Shayol Ghul.

    Lan’s own nation was consumed by the Blight when he was a baby, but after the Dark One was sealed away he could live joyously with Nynaeve in the restored Malkier, just as Lancelot changed the name of Dolorous Gard into Joyous Gard when he defeated its evil lord.


  • Both men undergo a period of depressive mental illness brought on by women severing their relationship. After Guinevere sends Lancelot away from her when she learned of his relationship with Elaine (but not of Elaine’s deceit) Lancelot wanders the wilderness alone made with grief. Lancelot is healed by Elaine with the Holy Grail. When his bond to Moiraine was snapped, Lan wandered alone towards Myrelle in a severely depressed state, grieving for his former bond-holder. Myrelle helped Lan survive the madness from the breaking of his bond to Moiraine as Nynaeve acknowledges in Towers of Midnight, A Choice). Lan was also furious at Moirinae’s and Myrelle’s betrayal of him in arbitrarily passing his bond. He already had the heavy mental load of being bound as a baby to an oath he couldn’t fulfill, while Lancelot carried a lot of guilt towards Arthur, whose trust he betrayed, and anger at Elayne’s deceit, despite her help in healing him.


  • In order to show how myth and legend change over time, Jordan has altered the Arthurian myth: Lan is ugly whereas Lancelot was very handsome; Elaine loves Rand and not Lan; Lan loves Nynaeve, and not Egwene al’Vere, the main parallel of Guinevere (see Arthurian Who's Who and Character Names E article). Lancelot was found unworthy to achieve the quest of the San Greal, the Holy Grail, but Lan achieved the quest to kill the sa’angreal-wielding Demandred in a duel.


    Fairy Tale Parallels

    Nynaeve mentions a “very improper” story (Talia and the Sun King in A Crown of Swords, Swovan Night) where Talia is awakened from a year-long sleep by the Sun King’s kiss (and then presumably to his love-making) and that is appropriate for Nynaeve, who remained unmarried probably longer than most village women, but who also awakened Lan to love.


    Battle Gods

    Much of Lan’s life has revolved around battle and sword fighting, with the emphasis on the latter, since for most of his life he was reluctant to lead men into battle. He did not want to be responsible for leading soldiers to their deaths. However, pitting himself against other swordsmen was another matter. There was none compared to him for sword-fighting but, while well-versed in battle tactics and strategy, Lan was not the Light’s leading general. Yet Lan was an inspiring leader of troops when he did put aside his reluctance.

    There are many gods of war, but few that are deified for their great prowess with sword-fighting.

    Sword gods are associated with invasion—usually undertaking the invasion or at least subduing a populace. Lan’s country was lost to invasion and at the Last Battle the whole Wheel of Time world was under threat from another major incursion. Lan defended the Land against invaders and those who would betray nations to the Shadow. The country which reveres swordsmanship to the extent of deifying swordfighters is Japan.


    Futsunushi

    In Japanese mythology, Futsunushi is the god of swords, martial arts, and conquest, while Takemikazuchi is a god of thunder and swords. Because they often worked together, they were conflated with each other in some accounts. The two gods were sent as emissaries to Japan to demand the earthly deities of the Japanese submit to the rule of the deities of High Heaven. They slew all who refused to submit.

    Another account relates that Futsunushi and Takemikazuchi killed the malevolent star god Amatsumikaboshi in heaven first before they descended to the lands of Japan. In Japanese mythology, the god of stars is depicted as a rebellious god who should be brought to submission. Amatsumikaboshi’s name means “Dread Star of Heaven”, or “August Star of Heaven”, and he was also called Amenokagaseo meaning “Scarecrow Male of Heaven” or “Brilliant Male”—surely a good description of Demandred (see Demandred essay). Lan, the Wheel of Time’s sword god, slew Demandred, that brilliant but dread apostate war god.

    Lan was intensively trained in martial arts as well as the sword, so he fits Futunushi very well. In fact, he learned martial arts first:

    For himself, at eight he had been learning the ko'di and what he would face when he first entered the Blight. Beginning to learn how to kill with hands and feet. Let Diryk have a happier childhood before he had to think too closely on death.

    - New Spring, Keeping Custom

    before the sword.


    Myōken

    Myōken is a Buddhist deity revered as the deification of the North or Pole Star, a god of the north and of war. The Pole Star and also the Big Dipper are prominent constant constellations in the Northern Hemisphere around which the other stars appear to revolve. They were crucial to navigation and so much used by the military and merchant sectors, who therefore venerated them. In particular, the easternmost star of the Big Dipper, Alkaid, was regarded as a war star, and worshipped for success in battle. The veneration of Myōken as a war god is believed to derive from this practice. Alkaid is known in Chinese as the “Broken Army” or the “Destroyer of Armies”.

    Myōken is sometimes portrayed as a youth, or as an armored, stern-faced figure gripping a sword above his head. He is variously shown standing or sitting on a cloud, a dragon or a tortoise (a tortoise symbolising the north in Chinese cosmology).

    Lan is the revered blademaster king of the northernmost nation in the Wheel of Time world. He is the paramount representative of the North and northern nations in the Wheel of Time world—what the northern nations once were and what they are now, as they constantly fight to the utmost to hold back the Shadow’s Blight:

    Neither food nor lodging entered Lan's thoughts, despite the distance they had traveled. His head kept swinging north. He remained aware of everyone around him, especially those who glanced his way more than once, aware of the jingle of harness and the creak of saddles, the clop of hooves, the snap of wagon-canvas loose on its hoops. Any sound out of place would shout at him. He remained aware, but the Blight lay north. Still miles away across the hills, yet he could feel it, feel the twisted corruption.

    Just his imagination, but no less real for that. It had pulled at him in the south, in Cairhien and Andor, even in Tear, almost five hundred leagues distant. Two years away from the Borderlands, his personal war abandoned for another, and every day the tug grew stronger. He should never have let Bukama talk him into waiting, letting the south soften him.

    - New Spring, Into Canluum

    His geas and his training have made him cold and hard, as sharp as the northern winter represented by the god Xuanwu.


    Xuanwu

    The Taoist deity Xuanwu or Zhenwu (“true warrior”, “perfect warrior” or “true valiant”), has a similar role to Myoken and is also venerated as the god of the north. Also known as the Dark Warrior, he is the guardian of the north, and is associated with winter and the colour black, and is capable of great magic.

    Xuanwe is depicted in various ways, although usually as an intertwined tortoise and snake. The tortoise symbolises north in Chinese thought. In the Wheel of Time world, the snake is the Shadow. The Shadow has literally Blighted the north, and Lan was, and is, dedicated to freeing the north from the Blight. In the Last Battle, he was the leader of the combined northern forces.

    Xuanwe may be shown dressed in dark imperial robes and armour, seated on a throne with his right foot stepping on a snake and left foot on a tortoise. He grips his sword tightly, as though he is unable to release it.

    Lan prefers dark or black coat and breeches:

    He had one white silk shirt that did not show too much wear, a pair of tight black silk breeches that showed almost none, and a good black silk coat embroidered along the sleeves with golden bloodroses among their hooked thorns. Bloodroses for loss and remembrance. Fitting.

    - New Spring, Keeping Custom

    and he has cold, blue eyes that reflect his northern origins and his wintriness. Moiraine observes Lan’s coldness and austerity:

    There certainly was no fire in those eyes. She wanted to step back. No fire, but death seared cold. That black coat suited him with its cruel thorns and stark gold blossoms.

    - New Spring, When to Surrender

    Xuanwe’s tight grip on his sword could apply to both Lan and Demandred. Neither man could let go of their quests.

    The Buddhist goddess Guanyin, a parallel of Nynaeve (see above), helped Xuanwe cleanse himself of negative feelings of guilt and regret, just as Nynaeve helped Lan break his emotional block and dare to love and feel happy again. He, in turn, was there for Nynaeve when she finally broke her own block about channelling.

    The Last Battle ended when Lan, the Light’s Sword God, killed the Shadow’s War God Demandred.


    Historic Parallels


    Samurai

    Lan was raised in Shienar, a country with strong Japanese influences. Always at war with the Blight, Shienaran leaders are similar to samurai, the military officers and warrior nobles of medieval and early-modern Japan. Samurai were bound by a code of honour, bushido, just as European knights followed the code of chivalry. Both codes evolved to make their warriors more patient and responsible, and more likely to consider the consequences of violence, thus reducing the threat they posed to the general populace and encouraging them to aid those less powerful than themselves. Apart from mastery of martial arts and military strategy, a samurai was supposed to exhibit loyalty, honour and sincerity and live frugally. There was an emphasis on duty to the point of self-sacrifice.

    All Lan’s actions show how closely he follows bushido to the utmost degree. His great honour highlights the lack of honour shown by the Aes Sedai, who are mandatorily bound by their Oaths to reduce the threat they pose to others but literally only pay lip service to them. His ultimate disillusionment came when, after twenty years of honourable service, his own Aes Sedai treated him with scant respect, even though his social standing and skills were as great and respected as her own. This alongside the obvious selfish politicking of the Aes Sedai during a global crisis. The man who was reluctant to lead men into battle to their deaths in the Aiel War was disgusted at the flagrant way Aes Sedai used people up to further their own ends:

    “So you [Egwene] are the Amyrlin now. Myrelle told me they had raised one, but not who. It seems you and I have a good deal in common.” His smile was as cold as his voice, as cold as his eyes…
    On the point of turning away, he paused, lifting his free hand as if to touch her stole. "I apologize for ever helping you leave the Two Rivers. You, or Nynaeve."

    - A Crown of Swords, A Mourning of Victory

    Lan believed that Egwene and Nynaeve did not have to leave the Two Rivers, but it was the duty of the three ta’veren to do so, so he did not regret helping them leave.

    He also was prepared to sacrifice himself in Far Madding to help Rand and again in the Last Battle to kill Demandred.

    Samurai were expected to be cultured and literate and we saw Lan quoting poetry in the Shienaran fortress of Fal Dara:

    "The rose petal floats on water," Lan recited softly. "The kingfisher flashes above the pond. Life and beauty swirl in the midst of death."
    "Yes," Agelmar said. "Yes. That one has always symbolized the whole of it to me, too." The two men bowed their heads to one another.
    Poetry out of Lan?

    - The Eye of the World, Fal Dara

    Lan has some similarities with Samurai swordmasters of legendary skill. Here are the main examples.


    Miyamoto Musashi

    Musashi (1584–1645) is foremost of these, fighting and winning his first of 61 duels at 13, eschewing settling in one place or marrying, he wandered Japan duelling any warrior who challenged him. Prior to being bonded by Moiraine, Lan preferred to wander the Blight rather than lead men into battle. Lan joined Moiraine on her long and relentless quest to find the Dragon Reborn. For years he sparred with other Warders, beating all competition.


    Tsukahara Bokuden

    Tsukahara Bokuden (~1489‒1571) is the archetypal wandering swordsman who left home at 17 to test himself against other warriors. He was the paramount swordsman of his era and is said to have killed some 200 men in single combat and in battle. In later years, his desire to test and prove himself waned and he realised that there is also honour in avoiding violence and killing—a novel idea in his time.

    Lan was recognised as almost unbeatable in swordsmanship and, having nothing left to prove, stopped duelling other swordmasters:

    Sleete carried a heron-mark blade and was near-legendary in the White Tower for his prowess. He was said to have bested even Lan Mandragoran twice out of seven bouts, back when Mandragoran had been known to spar with other Warders.

    - The Gathering Storm, An Offer and a Departure


    Minamoto Yoshitsune

    Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159‒1189) was the son of the head of a powerful samurai clan. When his father was defeated and killed by the rival clan leader Taira Kiyomori in 1159, the infant Yoshitsune was placed in a monastery to be trained as a Buddhist priest. At the monastery he studied all he could, then ran away to join his half-brother Yorimoto fighting against the Taira. He proved to be a military genius and engineered many of the victories, including annihilating the Taira in a naval battle, that helped his half-brother Yoritomo gain control of Japan and establish the first shogunate.

    Unsurprisingly, Yoshitsune was celebrated for this, and Yotimoto became very jealous. He accused Yoshitsune of being overbold to the point of insubordination, who raised a rebellion against him, but lost and fled. Yoshitsune wandered Japan for several years, often in the guise of a monk, before taking refuge with a powerful independent lord in northern Japan. When this lord died in 1187, his son sent soldiers to surround Yoshitsune and force his suicide, to curry favour with Yorimoto.

    Lan’s life and kingdom were blighted by jealousy: Breyam’s jealousy that her husband, Lain was not as acclaimed as his brother Akir, who was elected king, and also Cowin Fairheart’s jealousy of Akir.

    ”On a dare, Lain Mandragoran, the King's brother, led his lances through the Blight to the Blasted Lands, perhaps to Shayol Ghul itself. Lain's wife, Breyan, made that dare for the envy that burned her heart that al'Akir had been raised to the throne instead of Lain. The King and Lain were as close as brothers could be, as close as twins even after the royal 'al' was added to Akir's name, but jealousy wracked Breyan…
    Lain died in the Blasted Lands with most of those who followed him, men Malkier could ill afford to lose, and Breyan blamed the King, saying that Shayol Ghul itself would have fallen if al'Akir had led the rest of the Malkieri north with her husband. For revenge, she plotted with Cowin Gemallan, called Cowin Fairheart, to seize the throne for her son, Isam. Now Fairheart was a hero almost as well loved as al'Akir himself, and one of the Great Lords, but when the Great Lords had cast the rods for king, only two separated him from Akir, and he never forgot that two men laying a different color on the Crowning Stone would have set him on the throne instead. Between them, Cowin and Breyan moved soldiers back from the Blight to seize the Seven Towers, stripping the Borderforts to bare garrisons…But Cowin's jealousy ran deeper." Disgust tinged Agelmar's voice. "Fairheart the hero, whose exploits in the Blight were sung throughout the Borderlands, was a Darkfriend.

    - The Eye of the World, More Tales of the Wheel

    Jealousy and strife between brothers and sword-brothers destroyed Malkier and Lan’s family.

    Lan learned all he could about warfare and the Blight in his childhood and youth in Shienar and as a young man wandered in the Blight and led troops in the Aiel War. He played an important role in the Last Battle in strategy as well as physically fighting. In his duel with Demandred he chose a suicidal move—to impale himself on Demandred’s sword—so that Demandred could not escape Lan’s killing blow.


    Kamiizumi Nobutsuna

    Kamiizumi Nobutsuna was a renowned samurai in 16th-century Japan. His fighting style was more defensive, with a low stance, protecting the body while looking to make the one blow that could finish the duel. Nobutsuna is credited with inventing a practice sword made from split-bamboo in a leather sleeve and with the innovation of taking into account and adapting to the opponent's weaponry, rather than imposing dominance without taking into account the opponent. "Move with the mind, in order to move with the body" is one of the school’s main teachings.

    In Lan’s first lesson on the sword to Rand he told him:

    "Moving the blade is not enough," Lan said, "though some think it is. The mind is part of it, most of it.”

    - The Eye of the World, Choices

    Lan is the first to use practise swords (bundles of thin staves) on screen in the books—in a scene where the Shadow tries to kill Rand by pushing him into Lan’s practise sword during Rand’s training session.

    Lan’s ultimate duel was with Demandred. Lan took into account his opponent’s weaponry, and modified his fighting technique because Demandred was a channeller as well as less tired than he. He was at one with the terrain and also read Demandred’s intentions accurately.

    He did not fight as he had trained Rand to fight. No careful testing, no judging the terrain, no careful evaluation. Demandred could channel, and despite the medallion, Lan couldn't give his enemy time to think, time to weave and hurl rocks at him or open the ground beneath him…
    Deep within the void, Lan felt the stone coming. It was an understanding of the fight—one that ran deeply into him, to the very core of his soul. The way Demandred stepped, the direction his eyes flickered, told Lan exactly what was coming…
    Lan burrowed deeply into the void, allowing instincts to guide him. He went beyond lack of emotions, burning away everything. He did not need to judge the terrain, for he felt the land as if it were part of him. He did not need to test Demandred's strength. One of the Forsaken, with many decades of experience, would be the most skilled swordsman Lan had ever faced.

    - A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

    He put Demandred off balance and fought off or dodged his attacks, waiting for that one chance to strike home and kill Demandred. This was his sole aim; he did not plan to survive the fight.

    I've only time for one last lesson . . .

    "I have you," Demandred finally growled, breathing heavily. "Whoever you are, I have you. You cannot win."
    "You didn't listen to me," Lan whispered.
    One last lesson. The hardest . . .

    Demandred struck, and Lan saw his opening...

    - A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

    Demandred, in contrast, asserted dominance. He did want to know “who” Lan was—mostly to know whether he was fighting Lews Therin or not—but had no idea. More importantly he didn’t consider “what” he was and what he intended.


    Tibet

    Lan’s lost kingdom, Malkier, located on the frontier with the Shadow has similarities with Tibet in the 1950s as it resisted the encroaching People’s Republic of China. The country was weakened, then betrayed to the invaders, with the young ruler, the Dalai Lama, escaping with his bodyguards via an arduous and dangerous route and living in exile. The infant Lan was sent out of Malkier with 20 bodyguards to Shienar while his parents went to die fighting the Shadow after Darkfriends betrayed Malkier.


    Literary Parallel

    Due to the huge influence of The Lord of the Rings on fantasy novels in the nineteen eighties and nineties, Jordan deliberately made the first one to two hundred pages of The Eye of the World reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings to make readers feel at home.

    Aragorn

    Lan is a literary parallel of Aragorn, the Ranger and King of Gondor. Both men are hidden monarchs who work closely with the magic-wielding mentor of the world saviour. Lan is the Uncrowned King of Malkier, a Borderland dedicated to fighting the Shadow, and Aragorn is "the crownless again shall be king", of Gondor, which guards against and fights Mordor. In Towers of Midnight, Lan accepted his place and duty as a monarch and rallied the Borderlands to fight. He played a major role as a general and a soldier in the Last Battle. In The Lord of the Rings, the battles were a diversion to keep Sauron from noticing Frodo and the ring creeping through Mordor. In The Wheel of Time, the military battles and Rand’s psychological and theological battle were equally important, had one or the other been lost, the Shadow would not have been vanquished and the Land would not have been healed.

    Aragorn and Lan are very good with a sword and help protect the main characters. Both also have issues regarding the one they love; Aragorn is forbidden to marry Arwen until he gains the thrones of Gondor and Arnor, Lan refused to marry Nynaeve on the grounds that he has nothing to offer her apart from his unwinnable fight with the Shadow. However, Arwen obeys her father and waits for Aragorn to become a king, while Nynaeve refused to wait for her king to be crowned.


    Lan’s Surname

    Mandragoran refers to Mandragora officinarum (mandrake), a very poisonous plant:

    The mandrake has long been known for its poisonous properties. In ancient times it was used as a narcotic and an aphrodisiac, and it was also believed to have magical powers. Its forked root, seemingly resembling the human form, was thought to be in the power of dark earth spirits.

    - Encyclopaedia Britannica

    This plant is also likely to be the real-world plant on which forkroot was based and is one to be treated with respect. Lan is one of the most deadly fighters in the Wheel of Time world. Note that drake is another name for dragon and Lan has been intimately connected with finding and aiding the Dragon for twenty years.

    The dried roots were also believed to be able to harbour a demonic spirit—the pre-scientific explanation for its powerful toxic effect. Dried mandragora roots were thought to be given to sorcerers by the Devil so that they could summon and consult the spirit in a time of need. Over time, a mandragora became the name for a familiar in the form of a little beardless man. Lan was linked to Moiraine, then Myrelle and now Nynaeve (as Aes Sedai, they are witches/sorceresses) by the Warder bond, and his Aes Sedai can locate him as she wishes and also Compel him to do her bidding. She can use his vitality at great need, even up to his death. In that sense, he could be described as her familiar. As far as Myrelle is concerned, very familiar.


    Symbols


    Golden Crane
    The golden crane is the symbol of Malkier and thus of Lan, its king.

    The crane is noted for its courtship dance. It generally mates for life and is a symbol of loyalty. Lan was wed to his duty to Malkier and then Bonded to Moiraine, and fully expected to die while fulfilling these duties in his exemplary manner. Instead, after a reluctant courtship, Lan married Nynaeve in a Sea Folk ceremony, which is remarkably different to mainland ceremonies, and is a devoted husband.< br />
    In Western art the solitary crane personifies vigilance, diligence and patience, whereas in China, the crane is an auspicious symbol, representing happiness, honour and luck. Lan was the epitome of honour, vigilance and diligence, and with his virtues and luck has found happiness after long abandoning such hopes.

    Christian tradition accords the crane with the status of a cleric or monk because it stands unmoving, and thus it represents the watchfulness, obedience and loyalty of a good monk.

    - John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures

    It kills snakes and thus, in Christian symbolism, the envoys of Satan. All his life, Lan dedicated himself to his oaths to continue to fight the Shadow and avenge Malkier. Like most Borderlanders and Warders, he knew the watch against the Shadow was not done and furthermore said that he would only rest when he was dead. He would have fought his battle with the Shadow alone in the Blight if he could, as Moiraine was well aware and prevented. When he was Bonded to Moiraine, Lan gave an oath of obedience. Lan rode off by himself to fight the Shadow’s general, Demandred.

    In Chinese mythology the crane flies between Heaven and Earth as a messenger of the gods. Its role is to carry the souls of the deceased to the Western Paradise and thus it represents immortality (John and Caitlin Matthews, Element Encyclopaedia of Magical Creatures). It has wisdom and knowledge to impart. Lan’s role has been to educate the three ta’veren (especially Rand) as well as protect them.

    The migration and return cycle of the crane suggested regeneration. The crane is sacred to Apollo as the bird of Spring and is sometimes used as a resurrection symbolism in Christianity. It is believed to be a weather forecaster who tells farmers when to plant their fields. We saw the Blight near Malkier driven back and Spring finally come across the lands after the victory at the Eye of the World in which Lan participated. In New Spring, there were abortive attempts to revive Malkier. Thanks to Nynaeve, the Golden Crane banner flew again and the Malkieri flocked to join Lan under the banner for Tarmon Gai’don (Towers of Midnight, Epilogue). The flag of Malkier acted as a banner for all the Borderlands (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle). The land of Malkier will live again, just as its monarchy has been restored.


    One

    Lan’s name among the Aiel, “Aan’allein, ‘One Man,’ shows his close association with the number one. Aan'allein means “one alone” in the Old Tongue and is similar to those words.

    In a political sense, One refers to monarchs, especially absolute monarchs. Lan denies being a monarch, but he is the sole remaining representative of Malkier’s nobility and thanks to Nynaeve and his own prowess, united the Borderlands to fight the Shadow’s armies in another example of One.

    Rand was conscious of this symbolism:

    That one you have tried to kill many times, Rand said, that one who lost his kingdom, that one from whom you took everything…

    Lurching, bloodied from the sword strike to his side, the last king of the Malkieri stumbled to his feet. Lan thrust his hand into the air, holding by its hair the head of Demandred, general of the Shadow's armies.

    That man, Rand shouted. That man still fights!

    - A Memory of Light, Those Who Fight

    Using the Oneness helped Lan stay alive as well as fight brilliantly. Aan’allein was the one to kill Demandred:

    One rider burst from the ranks of their soldiers, galloping toward the Trolloc right flank. Mat would not be happy about that. One man, alone, would die. Loial was surprised that he could feel sorrow for that man's life lost, after all of the death he had seen.

    That man looks familiar, Loial thought. Yes, it was the horse. He'd seen that horse before, many times. Lan, he thought, numb. Lan is the one riding out alone.

    - A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

    Alone, unique, and paramount are features of One that Lan exemplifies. The King as paramount and entire representative of his people.


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    Written by Linda, July 2022


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