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Questions from August 17th, 2004 - January 25th, 2005
Week 1 Question: The Dark One has promised his followers immortality and power above all others on the Day of Return. In previous interviews you have said that this is within his power. My question is, will he? I mean, he doesn't seem very loyal or trustworthy to me. If (Light forbid) he breaks free, will he remember the "little people" or just destroy all the puny humans when he remakes the world in his own image?
Robert Jordan Answers: That's the big question for the Forsaken, isn't it. Can they trust the Dark One? You're right; he isn't very trustworthy or loyal. Greed leads people to believe strange things, to excuse the most abhorrent behavior on their parts-just check out the nightly news for confirmation-and at the root, that is what motivates the Forsaken and, in truth, most Darkfriends. Greed for power, greed for immortality. That makes them believe, because they want to believe. So will he grant these things? Maybe. After all, he gains more willing followers, more eager followers, if he is seen to give rewards. But will he care whether he has any followers at all in a world where he is all-powerful? Flip a coin and check which way the wind is blowing. Maybe you can find the answer there.
Week 2 Question: The other big murder mystery - Ispan and Adeleas. Have you given us sufficient clues in the books that you think we should be able to figure out this one? Any hints on where to look?
Robert Jordan Answers: No, I haven't given you enough information to solve the murders of Adeleas and Ispan, but they will be solved in Knife of Dreams. How's that for a hint?
Week 3 Question: How do the Seanchan Ogier cope with the Longing, given that their duties in the Deathwatch Guard take them overseas? Are there many Steddings in Seanchan?
Robert Jordan Answers: There are many more stedding in Seanchan than there are in the part of the world where the story is taking place, and that is why the Seanchan Ogier don't suffer from the Longing. Because there are so many more stedding, they were able to find them more easily even during the Breaking and therefore never had the very extended separation that Ogier on this side of the Aryth Ocean had, though they seldom were able to settle in one for very long until the Breaking ended.
Week 4 Question: In New Spring you mentioned that the Blue Ajah taught Moraine and Siuan secret weaves upon their raising. Do other Ajahs have secret weaves, and if so, what are they? Could you share a few of them with us?
Robert Jordan Answers: Yes, other Ajahs also have secret weaves, though a few of those secrets are actually known to more than one Ajah, each of which believes that it alone knows. That's always the problem with secrets, isn't it? You can never really be sure that somebody else doesn't know too. I could share, but if I told you, then I'd have to kill you. I may yet use one or more Ajah secret weaves in the books, so I'm afraid the answer here is RAFO.
Week 5 Question: Will Hurin the Sniffer return in any of the remaining books? Please? We miss him. Could you share some insight as to why you decided not to use him after The Great Hunt?
Robert Jordan Answers: He'll turn up again. He hasn't reappeared earlier because the part he had to play was a sidelight to the main story. You should be able to glean some of what he was doing, what effect he and the news he brought was having, from the news that came out of the Borderlands in the books following The Dragon Reborn, though.
Week 6 Question: How were the Gholams made? Were they created or bred like the Trollocs? How exactly are they controlled if they are immune to the One Power?
Robert Jordan Answers: The gholam---singular and plural are the same---were created, not bred. Supposedly their creation involved making them so that they would be obedient to the Chosen, whoever they might be at any given time. This was an attempt at copying something that had turned up in Myrddraal, which seem incapable of disobeying one of the Chosen, possibly because of the use of the True Power in creation of the Trollocs, the parent stock of the Myrddraal. Even Aginor, who created the Trollocs, and thus indirectly the Myrddraal, was uncertain about the actual cause. (Becoming one of the Forsaken involves receiving a mark from the Dark One in return for your oaths; this mark is invisible and cannot be sensed by another human being, even another of the Forsaken, but it can be by certain non-human creatures, including Myrddraal and draghkar among others. This may play a part in the Myrddraal's obedience but doesn't explain it completely.) This element in gholam has some flaws, however, as we have seen in a small measure. In any case, if I were you, I wouldn't try giving orders to a gholam unless I were one of the Forsaken.
Week 7 Question: What was the most respected Talent in the Age of Legends? Why?
Robert Jordan Answers: Healing was probably the most respected single Talent in the Age of Legends, in part because it eased suffering (disease had been all been eradicated, but injuries still occurred) and in part because high levels of ability in that Talent were much more rare than high levels in most other Talents.
Week 8 Question: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the task of finishing up The Wheel of Time while mentally planning for your next series? Have any of your WoT ideas been put on hold until the next series? (For example, a certain character)
Robert Jordan Answers: No, I don't ever feel overwhelmed by The Wheel of Time. I do sometimes feel that I set out on a 15K run and found that I had somehow been entered in the marathon, but I'm enjoying the run and hoping to make a good time over the distance. I believe I've been doing all right so far. (For those who think I've been slow, I've had well over six thousand pages in The Wheel of Time published over a thirteen year span, which in smaller books of a more usual size would come out at 15 to 18 novels, hardly a slow pace for thirteen years.) And no, none of the ideas for the The Wheel of Time have been put aside for the next series of books. That one has been forming in my head for...Lord, it must be ten years, now. Maybe longer. I've lost count. All of the characters and situations in that series will be distinct to that series and that very different world. When I think of something for those books, I tuck it away in my notes and compartmentalize like the very devil.
Week 9 Question: When a person channels, where do the flows appear to originate from? Do they extrude themselves somehow from the person's body, or do they seem to appear out of thin air in the channeler's general vicinity? What do the flows look like to a person who can channel? Are they colored, clear or indeterminate, smooth or rough, wispy or solid?
Robert Jordan Answers: To the channeler, the flows seem to originate in his or her very immediate vicinity, not to emanate from themselves, although to another channeler, those flows do seem to be emanating from the channeler. The latter is the actual case, as the One Power is passing through the channeler, one of the reasons for individual limits on how much of the Power a particular person can handle. (And you have seen characters react as if to a blow from having a flow snapped or cut.)
A channeler sees the flows as colored very faintly, according to which of the Five Powers is involved (red = Fire, Blue = Water, green = Earth, yellow = Air, white = Spirit), although the "feel" of the flows are also different to a channeler, so that a channeler can tell one from another without actually seeing them. (That is how someone can tell that somebody else has channeled, say, Fire and Earth, in their vicinity without seeing the flows.) It isn't a physical feel; you might almost as well say that they have different flavors. They appear to be smooth and nearly transparent, tinged with color.
Week 10 Question: Now that Shadar Logoth is gone, (cool way to get rid of it by the way), has the evil power in Padan Fain/Mordeth/the Ruby Dagger decreased any? Has it driven him even more insane? Or since the next book is called the Knife of Dreams, will all these questions be answered in it?
Robert Jordan Answers: The evil power in Padan Fain has neither decreased nor increased, nor has that in the dagger. The corruption in him was partly caused by the taint on Shadar Logoth, but it didn't constitute a real connection to the city. Remember that it was because he was Padan Fain, the Hound of the Shadow, that he was able to leave Shadar Logoth in his new condition after he merged with/absorbed Mordeth. (By the way, any other artifacts that might be lying around from Shadar Logoth would have the same long-term corrupting effect as the dagger. Fortunately, or unfortunately, any such thing would need to be metal or stone. The wood and fabric had decayed. It wouldn't have been pleasant to get a splinter from, say, a chair from Shadar Logoth.)
The destruction of Shadar Logoth has not driven Fain any more insane. I'm not certain he'd be able to function at all if he were any madder than he already is. But being insane doesn't make him any less dangerous, only less predictable. He no longer responds to situations or events in any sort of sane, logical manner. His abiding concerns are hatred of Rand al'Thor (and to a lesser degree Mat and Perrin) because he blames them for what the Dark One did to him in order to turn him into the Shadow's Hound, and hatred for the Dark One because of what the Dark One did to him. He goes after Rand because Rand is the easiest target in his mind, but if he can take a swipe at the Dark One or the Dark One's minions in some way that he felt would cause real harm, he'd leap at it.
Week 11 Question: Which of your characters would you most like to sit and have a cup of tea with? Why? And if you don't have a preference, which character do you think would want to sit with YOU (the Creator) and have some tea?
Robert Jordan Answers: I wouldn't really care to have tea with any of them. In the first place, since I created them, I know exactly what they would say in response to any given question or comment, word for word, which would make for boring conversation. In the second place, I've put these people through some fairly rough paces. If one of them showed up and wanted to have tea with me, I think I'd sneak out the back door and leave town for a while. No joking there; oh, no, not at all.
Week 12 Question: In Winters Heart, you mention that back in the Age of Legends, there were several other Forsaken that the Dark One had killed because he suspected they would betray him. What's their story? Were those people ever as high ranking as the 13 survivors, or where they more like high-ranking Dreadlords then actual Forsaken?
Robert Jordan Answers: 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 AesSedai 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.
Week 13 Question: If a wolfbrother is reborn in another Age, will he be a wolfbrother again? In other words, is being a wolfbrother a trait related to the soul? Can women be wolfbrothers?
Robert Jordan Answers: Women certainly can be wolfbrothers, though the term would be wolfsisters. A wolfbrother or wolfsister reborn in another age would only be a wolfbrother or wolfsister again if that were possible in that Age. The ability to speak with wolves doesn't exist in every Age. In the "current" Age, it is a fairly new thing, appearing not too long ago. There are tales of it, sometimes just vague stories of people who supposedly "can talk to animals," without necessarily mentioning wolves, but remember that Elyas's ability was taken, at least by some Aes Sedai, as a sign that he was linked to the Shadow.
Week 14 Question: If the Forsaken were sealed away in Shayol Ghul since the Age of Legends, with no contact with the outside world, wouldn't they be speaking the Old Tongue when they woke back up? How did they learn the Common Tongue?
Robert Jordan Answers: They still do speak the Old Tongue among themselves, but the first two who were freed, Aginor and Balthamel, had been held very near to the edge of the sealing, the reason they were so visibly affected and twisted while the rest came out whole and healthy, and they were very much aware of what had gone on in the world outside. You might say they had floated in limbo while watching three thousand plus years roll by, with the ability to zoom in. That is probably the only reason they didn't emerge entirely mad. In truth, those two have a much better understanding of the current world than any of the others because they watched it forming. They don't have a complete knowledge, because they couldn't see and hear everything at once, but they have an overview that is unavailable to any of the others, excepting Ishamael to a lesser extent. But then, he's a special case.
For the rest (aside from Ishamael), who spend those thousands of years in a dreamless sleep, the language spoken "here and now" was derived from the Old Tongue. I've heard the analogy used of a well-educated, highly intelligent citizen of ancient Rome needing to learn modern Italian. It would hardly be a slam-dunk, but he or she would have the roots of the language already. In the case of the Forsaken, the task is actually easier than that of the ancient Roman, since modern Italian is a more complex language than Latin, while the Old Tongue, as I have said time and again, is more complex and nuanced than the language of "today."
Week 15 Question: At the risk of being RAFO'd: Mesaana was punished for ignoring her orders to go to stop Rand from cleansing Saidin. Was Semirhage also punished for ignoring orders, or did she have special exemption? (If you're going to RAFO us, consider giving us some other little tidbit instead?)
Robert Jordan Answers: Semirhage was present at Shadar Logoth, though not seen. You didn't see Graendal, either, though admittedly Moghedien thought of her, thinking it would be good if she or Cyndane died. If I always tried to show everyone who was present at a battle or the like, the books would be a LOT longer than they are now. And those battles would get rather boring, a list of names. Go down the checklist and make sure everyone gets mentioned. Boring. Anyway, Mesaana was the only one who tried to sit it out. By the way, Moridin also was not present, for reasons that will become self-evident as you read on.
By the by, Rand and his companions very likely would have been killed or captured if the Forsaken were not who they are, if they had been willing to form links and coordinate their attacks. But they suffer from a combination of arrogance toward the "ignorant peasants"of the current Age and distrust of one another. Forming a link is all very well, but who leads? Which of them would be willing to give up control over their own ability and put it completely under the control of another of them? Who are you willing to let get behind your back in a fight? Moghedien? Semirhage? I didn't think so.
Week 16 Question: Is there any relationship between Foretelling and Min's viewings? Or is Foretelling a talent that only manifests in someone who can channel? Is Min's ability completely unique, or has it appeared in Ages past?
Robert Jordan Answers: There is no relationship whatsoever between Foretelling, which manifests only in someone who can channel, and Min's viewings. There have been versions of Min's viewings in some previous ages, though not exactly the same.
Min, and the sniffers, and wolfbrothers appearing are all highly indicative, you know. New abilities, for this Age, are appearing, and that in itself indicates great changes coming. Great changes underway. Min's abilities will not remain unique; we have already seen one wolfbrother besides Perrin and Elyas, though a pitiful soul who couldn't master his gift, and there will be other sniffers. The Age is changing. The Wheel never stands still.
Week 17 Question: What parts of the series were difficult for you to write both emotionally and mentally? Have you ever turned something in for press and later realized you hated how it read?
Robert Jordan Answers: None of it has been hard mentally, though getting inside the skins of the Forsaken and folks like Padan Fain required some effort. You have to really like your character unless that character is meant to be self-hating for some reason, which most people are not. Liking Padan Fain just isn't easy.
I've often read things later and thought I could have done better, but I always think I could do better if only I had another few months to do rewrites. Just a few more months, that's all. Deadline? Pub date? Never heard of them, sport. I've never looked at anything I wrote and hated it. Even the first things I wrote aren't too bad, really. I certainly know that I could do them better, now—I'd hope so, after all these years—but they aren't bad.
Week 18 Question: Who were the first channelers, and how did they learn? By trial and error? Are there any Ages where channeling does not exist?
Robert Jordan Answers: The first people to discover the ability to channel learned through trial and error, with fairly high casualty rates until they learned enough not to kill themselves accidentally. Their appearance marked the beginning of the previous Age to that of the books, or at least the end of the Age before that one.
Yes, as I have set things up, there are Ages when no one has any idea of how to channel or even that the One Power exists. Our own, for one. (The Wheel of Time turns.)
Week 19 Question: How far can a channeler Travel with the One Power? I know they can Travel anywhere on the globe, and enter Tel'aran'rhiod through a slightly different weave, but is it possible to Travel to other planets, or even planets in other galaxies?
Robert Jordan Answers: Travel to other planets within the solar system would require a circle of fairly strong channelers, though not necessarily as many as thirteen, depending on exactly how far out they wanted to go. Travel to a planet in another solar system would require a rather large circle (of the maximum possible size) of very strong channelers, and there would a limit on how far they could go in one jump. They could planet-hop, of course. Travel to another galaxy would be beyond them even if they began on the planet in this galaxy nearest the target galaxy.
Week 20 Question: Why was Aginor so interested in the Eye of the World? He could channel clean Saidin anyway so it shouldn't have been an issue?
Robert Jordan Answers: He was able to channel clean saidin, true, but only through the "filter" which had been provided by the Dark One just a short time previously, which meant the Dark One would be aware of him channeling wherever he was. Remember, Aginor was the creator of the Trollocs; he is quite able to reason things out clearly, at least in a scientific sense. Also, he wasn't certain whether or not the Dark One also would know what he was doing when he channeled, too. For someone as secretive, competitive, and generally untrustworthy as the one of the Forsaken, the Eye of the World amounted to a valuable asset if it could be secured. To put it simply, Aginor saw a means of channeling without the Dark One looking over his shoulder, and maybe a way to increase his own power at the expense of those who didn't have that advantage. Balthamel might well have been for the long drop, administered by Aginor, if things hadn't worked out differently.
Week 21 Question: Just how can an Aes Sedai be a damane? Aren't they bound by the Third Oath: to not use the One Power as a weapon except to defend their lives, their Warder's life, or another sister's life? Wouldn't they be useless as damane to the Seanchan?
Robert Jordan Answers: The Aes Sedai captured by the Seanchan are indeed useless as weapons, except against Shadowspawn or Darkfriends, because they are bound by the Three Oaths, and that limits their value considerably since being weapons is a major use for damane. Damane are used for other tasks, however, including finding ores for mining (Egwene was tested for this, remember; it's a very valuable, and fairly rare, ability), for some mining operations where it would be too dangerous or uneconomical to use human miners (bringing ores out of the ground and refining them using the Power), and in some construction projects, especially where something very large or with a need for added strength is envisioned. The first two both require a high ability in Earth, which has faded considerably on "this" side of the Aryth Ocean and to a smaller degree of the other side, but construction projects and others things, such as producing Sky Lights, are well within the abilities of collared Aes Sedai. The Three Oaths don't inhibit them there at all.
Week 22 Question: How many people have you met that have named their children or pets after characters in your books?
Robert Jordan Answers: A fair number, though I haven't kept count. I'd say a couple of dozen, at least. Whether there are any who I haven't met, and who haven't written to tell me, I couldn't say, of course.
Week 23 Question: In The Path of Daggers,Unweaving, Elayne discovers a ter'angreal that looks like: 'A stout, bearded man with a jolly smile, holding a book.' Was this a sneaky cameo appearance by yourself?
Robert Jordan Answers: Well, I may not be Alfred Hitchcock, but I do like to show up now and then.