The Dark One is an immensely powerful being assumed by the characters of the series to be the oldest and most powerful force of evil in existence. However, rather than simply being malicious, his actions and goals seem to portray him more as a personification of chaos, with the big exception of the willingness to organize. The Dark One seems only to seek to destroy creation, but his true goal is to break the spirits and hearts of whatever sentient beings he can influence. His influence is revealed to be an integral part of human free will, as his existence still affects the pattern even without the presence of a Bore. If destroyed, humans (and likely other sentients) become completely incapable of evil or violence in any respect. He is said to have been imprisoned by the Creator at the beginning of time, and has sought ever since to break free of his prison and break the Wheel of Time and remake the world according to his image and purpose. He is currently still imprisoned.
His true name is Shai'tan, (pronounced: SHAY-ih-TAN) but speaking that name is believed by most people to bring misfortune on the speaker, so there are many alternative names for him:
- Father of Lies
- Sightblinder (used by the Aiel)
- Lord of the Grave
- Lord of the Twilight
- Shepherd of the Night
- Heartfang (used by the wolves)
- Old Grim
- Leafblighter (used by the Aiel)
- Father of Storms (used by the Atha'an Miere)
- Caisen Hob ("Old Hob", used by the Seanchan)
- Lighteater (used by the Seanchan)
In addition, his own followers consider it blasphemy to speak his name directly, so they most commonly refer to him by more flattering epithets:
- Great Lord of the Dark (or simply 'the Great Lord')
- Lord of the Grave
- Lord of the Evening - a name used in the Prophecies of the Shadow
The name Ba'alzamon (meaning "Heart of the Dark" in the Trolloc language) was used by Ishamael before his death; humans learned it and assumed that it was the Trolloc name for the Dark One, leading to the assumption for the duration of the first three books and for much of the world's history that Ishamael was actually the Dark One himself - a falsehood which he did nothing to repudiate.
The Dark One has never been actually seen in any of the novels. Padan Fain states in The Fires of Heaven that the Pit of Doom's lake of fire "holds the Great Lord of the Dark in its endless depths." Although this language may be figurative, the Dark One has several powers within the area of Shayol Ghul. He can speak, although his 'voice' is massive enough to inflict incredible ecstasy and pain on the listener, often reducing those he speaks to barely a coherent state.
Verin Sedai says the Dark One is the "embodiment of paradox and chaos, destroyer of reason and logic, breaker of balance, the unmaker of order". It is he who caused the taint on saidin at the end of the War of Power, and he has promised power and immortality to all who follow him. She also states that, while she believes she understands the Forsaken, she has no idea what the Dark One's goal is or why he does what he does. Moridin however, has stated that the Dark One's eventual goal will not be to destroy reality and remake it, but rather to simply destroy everything. However, the Dark One's goal is later revealed to control over Creation. He has no particular desire as to how the world would exist after his victory, and presents possibilities from a completely tourtured, ruined world and people to a world where he has simply removed from sentient beings the ability to feel compassion. The concept of simply destroying creation however, is also stated to be something that he would be pleased with. His primary command to the Forsaken has been simply to cause as much chaos as possible, a goal which seems to also be foremost in Shaidar Haran's thoughts. He seems to have a sense of humor as well, laughing at the end of Lord of Chaos at Demandred's unknown news. Strangely, he has given strict orders that Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn and his greatest foe, is not to be harmed in any way by his followers. This is later revealed to be because he wishes above all else to break his foes, and that destroying them is not nessecarily part of his plans.
There are other ways the Dark One can impact the world, as well. Metaphysically, the Bore is a pathway that allows the Dark One to reach out into the physical world; Lews Therin Telamon and the Hundred Companions attempted to seal the Bore to limit the Dark One's power, but over the course of the series his influence extends, and the cuendillar seals on his prison begin to weaken and break. By Lord of Chaos, several seals have broken and the rest are fragile.
As the seals over the Bore have weakened, the following events have occurred, indicative of the increasing ability of the Dark One to affect the world.
- The Forsaken began to escape, starting with Aginor and Balthamel.
- Bubbles of evil, likened by Moiraine to a miasma in a swamp, emanate periodically from the Dark One, twisting reality in the Pattern to lethal effect, especially near ta'veren.
- The Dark One often uses the environment against his enemies. In The Eye of the World, he attempted to cause widespread starvation through prolonged winter. The unnatural winter was broken by Rand al'Thor, as he unintentionally uses the store of pure saidin at the Eye of the World. He also causes unnatural heat but this is also stopped by Elayne and Nynaeve when they use the Bowl of the Winds. Currently, the world is shrouded in perpetually overcast skies, but it is unknown if the Dark One is responsible for this most recent abnormal weather.
Known as "the Lord of the Grave," the Dark One has the power to avert death for those he chooses. Death by balefire, however, is a permanent death; this is because balefire burns whatever it touches out of the Pattern. The more powerful the balefire the further back in time the victim is destroyed from the moment they are touched with balefire; the Dark One cannot step out of time and therefore cannot go back and retrieve the soul before it was burned out of the Pattern to restore them to life.
The Dark One is the source of the True Power, which is analogous to the One Power. However, one can only draw on the True Power with the Dark One's blessing. Use of the True Power creates saa, seen in the channeler's eyes as black flecks. Furthermore, it is much more addictive than either saidin or saidar, and it is believed that not even the strongest willpower can fight the desire to use it once the saa have begun to manifest. The more a channeler uses the True Power, the more saa are seen. Saa doesn't affect the channeler's vision. The True Power is demonstrated to be centered around death and destruction; for example Moridin uses it accidentally to crush the life out of a servant. It is also highly destructive to its user, the saa will eventually be replaced by caverns of fire where the mouth and eyes of the channeler would be. This is a highly advanced stage of True Power usage and the user will die soon after unless being granted immortality by the Dark One. As of the end of Knife of Dreams, the only person allowed to draw on the True Power is Moridin; however, during The Gathering Storm Rand also used the True Power, this would be consistent with accounts that the Dark One has attempted to convert the Dragon over to his side, or it may be due to the fact that Moridin and Rand are linked from their experience in Shadar Logoth. Therefore he may be drawing the True Power through Moridin.
When encountered by Rand during the final assult on Shayol Ghul, the Dark One is decribed as being powerful beyond measure; a universe-spanning force of evil that is both incomprehensible in it's nature and infinite in it's being. His essence is described as being utterly empty and cold. It is also revealed that the Dark One is beyond the concept of Time, but contstrained by it in his interactions with the Pattern simply because it is an integral part of reality. It is decribed as being akin to an artist's imagination exceeding the limits of the material they have to work with.
The name Shai'tan is likely taken from Shaitan the Hebrew word for the adversary, later translated to Satan, or Sheytaan, the Arabic word usually referring to "devil".
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