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, or the antithesis of the Creator (the personification of order). He may even exist as a necessary byproduct of creation or a balance to the Creator. The Dark One seems only to seek to destroy creation, but his true nature and intention has yet to be fully explained. It is sometimes assumed he is the source of all evil, it is instead suggested that he intensifies the evil feelings of humans, as well as giving new motives for malignant, lowly, or simply chaotic acts. 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:
- Ba'alzamon (meaning "Heart of the Dark" in the Trolloc language, also used by Ishamael; humans learned it and assumed that it was the Trolloc name for the Dark One, hence the misunderstanding in the first three novels that Ba'alzamon was the Dark One himself)
- 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
- Lord of the Grave
- Lord of the Evening - a name used in the Prophecies of the Shadow
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. To this end, he is frustrated by his inability to step outside of Time. Also, 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.
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.
The name Shai'tan is likely taken from al-Shaitan, the Arabic name for "the Adversary", or Satan.
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