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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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First off, Dreadlords was the name given to men and women who could channel and sided with the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars. Yes, the women were called Dreadlords, too. They might have liked to call themselves "the Chosen," like the Forsaken, but feared to. The real Forsaken might not have appreciated it when they returned, as prophecies of the Shadow foretold would happen. Some of the Dreadlords had authority and responsibility equivalent to that of the Forsaken in the War of the Shadow, however. They ran the Shadow's side of the Trolloc Wars, though without the inherent ability to command the Myrddraal that the Forsaken possess, meaning they had to negotiate with them. Overall command at the beginning was in another's hands.
Forsaken was the name given to Aes Sedai who went over to the Shadow in the War of the Shadow at the end of the Age of Legends, though of course, they called themselves the Chosen, and despite the tales of the "current" Age, there were many more than a few of them. Since they occupied all sorts of levels, you might say that many were equivalent to some of the lesser Dreadlords, but it would be incorrect to call them so. At the time, they were all Forsaken—or Chosen—from the greatest to the least.
Some of those Forsaken the Dark One killed were every bit as high-ranking as the thirteen who were remembered, and who you might say constituted a large part of the Dark One's General Staff at the time of the sealing. With the Forsaken, where treachery and backstabbing were an acceptable way of getting ahead, the turnover in the upper ranks was fairly high, though Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, Graendal, Semirhage, and later Sammael, were always at the top end of the pyramid. They were very skilled at personal survival, politically and physically.
In large part the thirteen were remembered because they were trapped at Shayol Ghul, and so their names became part of that story, though it turned out that details of them, stories of them, survived wide-spread knowledge of the tale of the actual sealing itself. Just that they had been sealed away. Other Forsaken were left behind, so to speak, free but in a world that was rapidly sliding down the tube. The men eventually went mad and died from the same taint that killed off the other male Aes Sedai. They had no access to the Dark One's protective filters. The women died, too, though from age or in battle or from natural disasters created by insane male Aes Sedai or from diseases that could no longer be controlled because civilization itself had been destroyed and access to those who were skilled in Healing was all but gone. And soon after their deaths, their names were forgotten, except for what might possibly be discovered in some ancient manuscript fragment that survived the Breaking. A bleak story of people who deserved no better, and not worth telling in any detail.
What were the female Aes Sedai doing during the Breaking? Surely they could have got together in circles of six or thirteen or whatever, cut off one man from the Source, and gone onto the next.
Several things. Partly, you have to find the men before you can do anything. Partly, by the time they realized what was going on, it was too late. The massive geological upheavals were only a part (and not the most important part) of the Breaking. There was also the cumulative social collapse, breakdown of transportation systems, etc.. Imagine a city like Seattle that suddenly loses ALL contact with the outside world. Also, the women were (after a point) trying to preserve what they could, not fight the men directly. Finally, in order to make someone stop doing something, you have to be able to threaten them. What can you threaten a madman with, that he will listen to you and stop?
Speaking of the Breaking, how did Dragonmount survive all that rearrangement of geography?
Note that Shayol Ghul used to be a subtropical island. The Tar Valon area was moved, but as an entire piece, so the mountain, the island, and the river stayed in the same places relative to each other.
What about Mazrim Taim? Isn't his withstanding of the madness for fifteen years something exceptional? [Short segue from there to Taim=Demandred?]
The concept of the unified language he basically explained as there had been a single language in use (the Old Tongue), and the writing and printing of books continued throughout the Breaking, albeit in a very limited extent. The written word introduced a very large conserving factor in the language-change mechanism.
After the Breaking, men were viewed as destroyers. Also, almost all the male leadership of the world were Aes Sedai who were now dead. Add to that the dominant political force in the world for three thousand years being the all female White Tower. It's a natural consequence for women to be more dominant than not in the rest of the world.
A side note—he brought up the story thread where he introduced a misogynist (Agni Neres, the boat captain on the trip from Samara to Salidar). Instead of being angered by his attitudes, Elayne and Nynaeve are puzzled and can't understand him at all.
Well, we don't really know no one did. If they did, they didn't share it, sure. You know, not all channelers are Aes Sedai, and even Aes Sedai don't always share things.
Yeah, they keep a lot back.
The Blue Ajah, you know, has all its little secret weaves, and I'm sure all the other Ajahs do as well. And two, there's always the whole thing that, 'the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills', and sometimes the Wheel weaves out what it needs, and with the Last Battle coming, it needs all the help it can get…so the really talented people, the really ta'veren people, they come out again. That's for most of them. For Healing, maybe there's a different answer. Aes Sedai…they know how to Heal people, and that's the way they do it, and they don't need to know anything better! I mean, it's just Aes Sedai being Aes Sedai. They think they know what they're doing, so they don't look for a better way to do it.
And if they have discovered a better way to do it, they're probably not sharing it with other people, because every Aes Sedai is looking for an advantage over the others.
Oh, okay. So then that sort of partially answers the next half of my question, which is: How did some of these weaves get lost in the first place?
Oh, my favorite rant. All the Aes Sedai woke up one morning with amnesia. How did I Travel? I can't remember.
Well, part of it…I mean, I was reading, of all things, the Big White Book, and you know, the Breaking lasted a really long time, and things were really breaking. I mean, you might know how to Travel, but you didn't know if where you were trying to go was still there. You know, it might be in the middle of the ocean now, or on top of a mountain, so people probably weren't Traveling as much...and Aes Sedai were being killed right and left. There were all these crazy men, channelers wiping out entire cities, and the Aes Sedai women were trying to stop them, and sometimes they succeeded, and sometimes not…so, things really went to hell in a handbasket. Fast. And, you know, if a woman knew how to channel and she couldn't find anyone else who had the strength to channel, she couldn't really teach anybody to channel.
To Travel, is what I meant to say.
Yeah, there was a time of course when the White Tower wasn't there. You know, the White Tower was a recent innovation in the grand scheme of things, and so the Aes Sedai after the Breaking were everywhere, so there wasn't that institutional memory in all things at that point, and things were lost.
So the Hall of the Servants, then, basically was a much looser organization than the somewhat hierarchical White Tower…
…than we have now.
So we have a sort of central storing place for knowledge, or anything like that.
Yeah, think of what would happen to us if there was a horrible disaster that wiped out the internet. We would lose all of our knowledge except for, you know, the stuff that we still have in books. But you know, a good portion of our knowledge and communication that is electronic now would be gone.
But this podcast would remain in people's hearts. [laughter]
Well, you got me on that one, Maria, because if my computer was suddenly taken away and there were no others to replace it, I think I would probably have the equivalent of amnesia. It's my plastic brain, and I really need it. [laughter]
I've always thought that the lost talents were related to strength, because the modern Aes Sedai are weaker than the Age of Legends Aes Sedai, and a lot of these rediscovered weaves require a certain level of strength that just doesn't exist in those Aes Sedai.
Right, and also talent, because to do this Healing, you have to have a certain Talent for Healing. To make cuendillar...Janya couldn't make cuendillar worth a darn, and…she didn't have that Talent, so if somebody knew it, but there was nobody they could teach it to, it's gone!
Well, the thing is though…leading up to that comment: remember in—I believe it was Crossroads, but it might have been Knife of Dreams—when Sorilea (soar-ih-LAY-uh)—I have no idea if this is how it's pronounced...
She taught Cadsuane how to Travel, even though she couldn't make the weave work herself. So just because you don't have the strength to make the weave finish doesn't mean you can't form the weave anyway.
That's true, but...okay. We've got our nameless Aes Sedai after the Breaking, and she's found a little crew of people, and none of them are strong enough to Travel. Well, she's going to show them how to do it anyway and hopefully one day they'll find somebody strong enough but, you know, they never do. So we've got the same thing, and you know, sooner or later it's going to…if you can't actually use it for anything, you're going to put it aside and not pay any attention to it, and it will get lost.
Or, by the time that bunch of people finds someone who is [strong enough], it might have gone through several iterations and they might have the weave just a little bit wrong, so that it doesn't work either.
And—correct me if I'm wrong on this—but I don't think it's possible to write down how to do a weave. I think it's something that you have to learn through demonstration. You can't just write it down, and be like, 'Well, I'll put this on the shelf, and some day a hundred years from now someone will come along and pick it up and figure out how to weave...whatever from this. I feel like you have to be shown how to do a weave.
That is...I mean, that's how they do it. You know, the novices don't run around with heavy books; they run around being taught by actual people. It's my belief that writing might could give clues or something, but you have to be able to show it or work it out on your own.
Of course, I was going to say they could just check on YouTube and find out how, but then, would the One Power weaves even show up on video? [laughter] If they even had that...
Oh, that's a good question!
I actually was just wondering about that; I wonder if any these things—I'm sure that the effects would—but I presume that if most non-channelers can't see weaves that probably there's nothing there for a video to pick up, either...but it's an interesting question.
How to detect channeling: Whip out your camcorder! [laughter]
With a wi-fi finder.
Yeah, okay. I'm going to be good now. That would be too funny. It's a shame Jessi couldn't be with us. She really wanted to be, but she had to work, and couldn't get off. One of her favorite premises is, you know, how drastically the Wheel of Time story would all be changed if they had access to cell phones and texting and the internet and everything.
Oh yeah. There would be no story.
They do though! Elayne has the communication ter'angreal. They have cell phones...ish. They just don't use them! [laughter]
Give 'em time.
I sort of [?] a couple of the guys before one time when we were podcasting and I had to get up in the office; I was working and I had to turn a phone off, and I came back and I said "I just had to disable that callbox ter'angreal." And they said, "Oh, you are such a geek." [laughter]
A 'dork' is what actually they said.
No, you are a geek, because dorks have no social status whereas geeks are more knowledgeable in one or two given fields, and since we are all major WoT nerds—we qualify as nerds, not dorks.
Yeah, we got some cred there anyway.