Becoming a novice is known as being "put in white," because they are held to a strict dress code - white dresses, stockings, shoes, and even hair ribbons.
Traditionally the White Tower only accepts girls for training who are between sixteen and eighteen years old, as anyone above this age is thought to be too old to adapt to the discipline. Some novices have lied about their age to enroll. Recently among the rebel Aes Sedai in Salidar the age restrictions have been lifted, and there are novices of all ages, even some as old as grandmothers. This is causing consternation among some traditional sisters, but most are happy that the number of Tower initiates has ceased dwindling and also because the potential of new older novices as Sharina is really stunning.
Novice life is deliberately harsh, in order to prepare them for the difficult life of an Aes Sedai. When a girl becomes a novice, she is required to burn the clothes that she arrived in, in order to symbolize a break with her past ties and build dependence on the Tower. Her room is tiny, the bed uncomfortable and hard, and she must wake every day before dawn to scrub the floor and sweep the room. Meals are taken in silence and are extremely brief, so the novice must eat quickly or go hungry. She will have lessons and classes; some on learning to channel but just as many on the history, the Old Tongue, geography, politics and philosophy - to all of which she must pay strict attention or face punishment. Novices also have classes on the history of Aes Sedai, about channeling in general and classes on uses of the power such as angreal, sa'angreal and ter'angreal. However, most of her day will be taken up with such chores and duties as laboring in the kitchens, scrubbing floors, doing errands for Aes Sedai, and working in the gardens.
Novices are not permitted to channel except when supervised by an Accepted or Aes Sedai (though many do so anyway in secret), and must do all their chores by hand. The idea is that the hard work builds character, though it is likely that there is a desire to keep them too busy, and too tired, to start playing around and experimenting with the One Power. Novices are strictly confined to the Tower grounds, and there are no days off, except for occasional freedays.
Novices are subject to strict discipline, decided and handed out by a sister appointed to the post of Mistress of Novices. She is both disciplinarian and confidante, punishing those who have broken the rules and providing a shoulder to cry on as life as a novice is very hard. It is she who decides when a novice or Accepted is ready to be tested, or if the girl will be put out of the Tower for good. Punishment ranges from a lecture to a severe switching, and extra chores are usually involved. For all that Aes Sedai act like they rule the world, within the Tower there are hierarchies and rules, and discipline and obedience are instilled from the earliest days. In addition novices are carefully cloistered from men. It isn't that the Tower disapproves of intimacy, but that they don't want their novices thinking too much about hearth and family. Relationships between two novices or Accepted, known within the Tower as "pillow friends", are commonplace and unremarkable.
Understandably some novices find the pressure too much, and resolve to run away. They rarely get away with it, usually being caught and returned. Life for a captured runaway makes ordinary novice life look pleasant, with anything less than perfection being swiftly and harshly punished. The reason given is that a half-trained channeler is a danger to herself and those around her, which is not untrue, but it is also the case that the Tower considers itself to have absolute right over all channelers, and does not permit them to leave until it is finished with them.
The novices studying under the rebel Aes Sedai have been arranged into "families" of seven or eight women, making them much easier to organize and also establishing close friendships that help novices to get through the day. This new development has meant that this faction has almost no runaways to deal with. It is unknown whether this new organization has been adopted within the now-united Tower.
The expected time spent as a novice for most girls is ten years. Those showing greater potential might be raised Accepted after five or six years, and there have been cases of novices being raised after only three as Siuan, Elaida and Moiraine. Nicola Treehill was raised after no more than a year in novice white, while Egwene al'Vere and Elayne Trakand were raised after mere months. Nynaeve al'Meara was deemed advanced enough to skip the level of novice altogether.
Usually the time spent in training reflects the strength in saidar of the future Aes Sedai, but other factors can be involved, for example a novice with a great potential like Cadsuane spent as novice many years more than necessary because of her stubbornness, others with the Talent of the "Fast Learning" proceed quicker than their sole potential would allow. Daigian, the weakest known Aes Sedai, remained twenty-seven years as Novice before being tested as Accepted.
When the Mistress of Novices decides that a novice is ready, she arranges for her to face her fears in the arches, which comprise a three-arched ter'angreal which presents a woman with her greatest fears - one for each arch - for what was, what is, and what will be. What happens in this ter'angreal may or may not be real, no one is sure. But injuries can be taken inside that are fatal, and some novices have never returned from the ter'angreal. Novices who refuse the test three times are put out of the Tower, as are those who stop once they begin the test.
A novice who successfully returns from the third arch is raised to the Accepted by the Amyrlin Seat, and thus begins her second chapter of life as a Tower initiate.
List of current novicesEdit
- See also Category:Novices.