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Questions from February 1st, 2005 - July 19th, 2005
Week 1 Question: Are the Eelfinn limited in their power to grant wishes? To what degree can they affect the outside world? Also, is there any relation between what the Aelfinn do and Min's ability?
Robert Jordan Answers: Oh, yes, there definitely are limits to the powers of the Eelfin. For one thing, they cannot affect the outside world at all. If you said that you wanted to be King of the World, you might well find that what you received was not what you expected. For example, they might put you out of their world into a world with no other sentient life, where you would be king by default. Then again, you might find yourself with the necessary skills to make yourself King of the World, if you were able. Actually achieving it would be up to you. But then, many of their "gifts" are skewed in this way. You must be very careful is you're asking if you want to receive what you are hoping for. And yet, remember that Mat actually did receive very much what he asked for. Just not in the way that he wanted.
No, there is no connection between what the Aelfinn do and what Min does.
Week 2 Question: Is the mark that Alviarin received from Shaidar Haran the same as that the Forsaken received from the Dark One? If so, is she now a Forsaken, or some sort of lesser Chosen?
Robert Jordan Answers: The mark that Alviarin received from Shaidar Haran was not the same as that given to the Forsaken, though it shares one function: Shadowspawn will recognize her as belonging to the Dark One. They will not obey her as they will the Forsaken, however, but she doesn't have to worry about one trying to kill her, either. She is not any sort of lesser Chosen. You might think of it more like the tattoo some people get put inside the ear of their dog, an identification so others will know who the dog belongs to as soon as they see it.
Week 3 Question: After Moiraine fought Lanfear in Cairhien, what happened to the wagons full of ter'angreal and such that came out of the Aiel Waste? Are they just in some storeroom there? And what happened to Moiraine's horse Aldieb?
Robert Jordan Answers: The ter'angreal and so forth that came from Rhuidean are still in Cairhien for the moment, warded by Rand so they aren't accessible to anyone but him. Aldieb is in the stables at the Sun Palace.
Week 4 Question: How exactly does one become a Darkfriend? How does the recruiting structure for the Black Ajah work? Being Mistress of Novices, was Merean particularly active in recruiting?
Robert Jordan Answers: By and large, each cell of Darkfriends recruits people it thinks are likely candidates, though they need to do so very carefully, studying them, sounding them out slowly. Darkfriends are always on the lookout for new members, since they feel very much like an oppressed minority and want to increase their numbers. Once a move to recruit is made, though, either it succeeds or the failed candidate dies.
For someone seeking actively to become a Darkfriend, generally one begins by trying to attract the attention of those who already are Darkfriends. One fairly safe way is to let comments drop that indicate that you don't think the Light is all it's cracked up to be, that praying to the Creator seems useless etc. If this comes to the wrong ears, you might be in varying degrees of trouble depending on what country you are in and who it is that overhears, but you are unlikely to get worse than a flogging from the authorities and possibly only a stern warning to watch your talk from somebody in a tavern, perhaps accompanied by a clout on the ear. Although someone might decide to slip a knife into you in some rougher areas of some towns. It's only relatively safe. By the by, claiming not to believe in the Creator is a good way to avoid recruitment by the Darkfriends. After all, if there is no Creator, how can the Dark One be imprisoned, and if he isn't, then why hasn't he taken over and rewarded the faithful? One of the fastest ways to attract attention is to show yourself willing to kill to advance yourself or simply for gain. That doesn't mean that every strongarm who's willing to slit a throat to steal a purse is a Darkfriend. Some of those might well be horrified by the suggestion. This method has its drawbacks, of course, since if you attract the attention of the authorities first, you are very likely to end up with a noose around your neck or a trip to the headsman's block.
In the White Tower, Black sisters watch novices and Accepted closely for any indication that they might be leaning toward the Shadow or susceptible to the promises of the Shadow. They also watch other sisters, since people do change. Not every Black sister was recruited on the day she gained the shawl nor soon after. Merean had a fine position for watching novices and Accepted, but many sisters teach. Some do little else, but others take turns at it for various periods, so Merean was not necessarily the primary recruiter during her time as Mistress of Novices, not even among those in her charge.
Week 5 Question: Did the Dark One or Ishamael, either one, have a say in the placement of any or all of the other Chosen once they were released, or did they all just carve out power bases of their own choosing?
Robert Jordan Answers: They carved out power bases of their own choosing based on various criteria, one of which I will reveal. (Others are definitely RAFO!) For the most part, Ishamael excepted, they set out to create worldly power for themselves using the methods they favored in the Age of Legends. That is, Moghedien worked from the shadows using subversion, Sammael, Be'lal and Rahvin attempted to seize control of national governments and so on. The theory behind this was that once the Dark One broke free, those with the largest worldly power bases would be rewarded most.
Week 6 Question: House Damodred seems really complicated. Who is who, and how are they related (Moiraine, Barthanes, Laman, Caraline etc...)?
Robert Jordan Answers: Laman was Moiraine's uncle, and Caraline is her cousin. Barthanes was Laman's cousin and succeeded him as High Seat though not as king.
Week 7 Question: Since the first few books, Rand's and Perrin's dreams have been protected. Rand can weave a ward around his dreams. Perrin being a wolfbrother has protected his dreams. How have Mat's dreams been protected since the first half of the series?
Robert Jordan Answers: A side effect of his foxhead medallion, though he doesn't know it. This was not part of the intended purpose of making the medallion; it's a true side effect.
Week 8 Question: When a person that can channel is shielded, where is the shield placed? Is it placed around the whole body of the person or around the head of the channeler where they sense saidin/saidar? If you are shielded from the One Power, are you also shielded from the True Power? What happens if someone in a circle is shielded? Can a Warder feel that his Aes Sedai is shielded?
Robert Jordan Answers: A shield exists both as a barrier around the entire person and as a single point along with everything in between. . (In a way, this is like the Bore, which does not actually exist as Shayol Ghul. The Bore exists everywhere, but Shayol Ghul is the place where it can best be detected. Which is not to say that there is any connection between the Bore and a shield. Both simply exist in different states simultaneously.) Someone who is shielded and trying to get past the shield can "feel" their way along its inner "surface" hunting for weaknesses, such as the points that indicate where the shield is being maintained or has been tied off. Shielding against the One Power will indeed stop someone from reaching for the True Power. It isn't possible to shield one person out of a circle since, in effect, the circle has become a single person for the purpose of channeling. You would have to shield the entire circle, which would require either a circle of your own or a pretty hefty sa'angreal. A Warder cannot feel that his Aes Sedai has been shielded, though he would be aware of any agitation on her part. But this would tell him no more than that she was agitated.
Week 9 Question: We've read in the Forsaken's POVs that channeling in the Pit of Doom would have some...unpleasant...effects. Is this related to the nature of the opposition of the One Power to the True Power or is it the Dark One consciously acting against the channeler? If so, why should the Dark One care?
Robert Jordan Answers:It is a matter of the Dark One consciously acting, though interactions between the One Power and him, the source of the True Power, can be unpredictable. The Dark One is not pleasant. He is also highly distrustful. He…dislikes…things that happen outside his control or not at his order. Call him the ur-control freak. Combine these two facts, and anyone channeling in the Pit of Doom without permission can expect swift punishment on the assumption that failure to ask permission means you intend to do something he won't like. It isn't that he believes anyone can harm him, just that he is in charge, and your failure to ask permission, your presumed intention to do something he wouldn't like, means that your faithfulness quotient has just suffered a severe downturn. Myself, I'd sell you short in a skinny minute.
Week 10 Question: In The Great Hunt, who wrote the Dark Prophecy on the dungeon wall in Fal Dara? And why, after Ingtar released Padan Fain from the dungeon, did Fain decide to go to Toman Head? We know he was rebelling against Ishamael's orders (he was supposed to follow the Myrddraal to Shayol Ghul) but why did Fain go to Cairhien and then to Toman Head?
Robert Jordan Answers: A Myrddraal wrote the Dark Prophecy on orders, as a threat. I might want to use some of the reasons, so the rest on that is RAFO.
Fain (now amalgamated with Mordeth) was seeking his own power base, something he would try again with Pedron Niall and Toram Riatin. He wanted enough power to be able to kill Rand, Mat and Perrin, though most especially Rand, and to protect himself against agents of the Shadow. Because of Darkfriend reports, the Myrddraal who wrote the prophecy already knew who the strangers on Toman Head were, or claimed to be: Artur Hawkwing's armies returned to reclaim the lands stolen from Hawkwing's heirs. He knew that they collared women who could channel, which appealed to Fain/Mordeth, since one disliked Aes Sedai at best and the other purely hated them. The Myrddraal didn't simply give this up to Fain, you understand. Fain is one of the few people who could successfully torture information out of one of the Eyeless. As for why he went to Cairhien first, he knew the location of the Waygate there (along with several others and how to read the guidings in the Ways, this last from Mordeth) and preferred to use the Ways rather than make the longer cross-country journey from Fal Dara to Toman Head.
Week 11 Question: In the books, Perrin calls on the wolves in times of need (rescuing Rand, searching for Faile, etc.). Do the wolves view his use of the gift as selfish due to his general theme of "help ME," "do ME a favor?" Does Perrin risk alienating himself from the wolves as a result of such actions?
Robert Jordan Answers: No, he doesn't. Among wolves, requests for aid are common, though aid isn't always given. Witness how the wolves withdraw from Perrin when they don't want to talk about a subject. Of course, there are wolves for whom the whole notion of talking to men is anathema, but most know that according to their lore, it will be a human who can talk to wolves who will warn them that it is time for them to take part in the Last Hunt, their name for the Last Battle. They don't know whether that will be Perrin or Elyas or someone else yet to be revealed to them, but most of them value this return, as they see it, to a time when men and wolves cooperated in the hunt. This despite the fact that the reappearance of such people tells them that the Last Hunt is coming.
Week 12 Question: Who was Beidomon, who helped Lanfear with the project that lead to the drilling of the Bore? Did he figure in the later events at the end of the Age of Legends?
Robert Jordan Answers: Beidomon was a male Aes Sedai, and a research genius, who believed that they were onto something great. The drilling of the Bore itself caused great damage, and Beidomon, Lanfear and others involved were blamed for that. Once it became clear what had actually happened, the opprobrium increased, and Beidomon sought obscurity, finally committing suicide when he was unable to achieve it. Everyone knew his name, and what he had done. He had nowhere to hide.
As an aside, for those who think that Lanfear was in some way twisted against her will by being involved in drilling the Bore---I have heard the theory advanced---of all those involved in the project, she was the only major figure to go over to the Shadow. She was ripe for the Shadow's plucking long before the Bore was drilled.
Week 13 Question: Can a weave be moved or otherwise affected by external non-Power related forces? For example, can a non-channeler take a sword of Air and use it for battle? Or can a shield of Air be moved by the wind? Or can a natural event disturb a weave without affecting the channeler?
Robert Jordan Answers: The first example given has to be treated separately, I think. A sword woven of Air---or Fire or any other of the Five Powers---could be wielded by a non-channeler if the weave had been tied off or the channeler maintained it. But that is a difficult way to acquire a sword and not really worth the effort unless there is great need for a sword and no other sword available. But in that case, why wouldn't the channeler simply handle things another way? To paraphrase Siuan Sanche, "It's simpler and easier just to use a steel sword."
As to weaves being affected by other non-Power, natural occurrences, no, not directly. Though an earthquake knocking an Aes Sedai off her feet and bouncing her around might put a crimp on her channeling for a bit. The wind will not move a shield woven of Air, nor will any other natural event affect a weave UNLESS it does so by affecting the channeler first and thus disrupting his or her ability for whatever period of time. If the channeler is being swept away down rapids, this presents problems. Not necessarily insurmountable problems, but being tumbled head over heels, bounced off boulders and half drowned makes the necessary concentration not easy.
Week 14 Question: Military strategy in the War of Power must have been odd, indeed. How do the concepts of capturing and holding territory even make sense in a world where forces can Travel?
Robert Jordan Answers: Good question, though not all of the forces involved could use gateways. (Rafo! Rafo!) Think of the ability to Travel in terms of moving troops via aircraft, and you will begin to get the picture. Even with the largest possible circles, there are limits to the size of gateways and thus limits to the front along which you can move troops out through it, the numbers you can commit simultaneously. Of course, you can use multiple gateways, but each is still only so large and can admit only so many soldiers at a time.
So-called front lines were very fluid, but you couldn't fling your forces in anywhere without regard to what would be surrounding them or how you were going to resupply, reinforce or withdraw them. Although no one has shown it so far in the books, there are ways to interfere with the making of a gateway - and ways to defend against interference - so the battle would take place on many levels. Yes, any area you hold can be attacked by your enemy, and you can attack any area that he holds. (Part of the result was great destruction and a great fall-off in the ability to produce high tech items. By the time the Bore was sealed, soldiers were already much, much more likely to ride horses and carry swords than to ride armored vehicles or aircraft and carry shocklances, which had all become very rare.) But holding an area is not impossible so long as you can successfully disrupt your opponent's attempts to make gateways into it. Even if he manages to get those first soldiers in, if you can disrupt his ability to reinforce, resupply or withdraw, it becomes another Dien Bien Phu for him. Of course, if you fail, then it becomes Gettysburg or Waterloo, a bloody fight that will be decisive for somebody. At least until the next "decisive" battle is fought. Remember, that designation is always given after the fact, by historians."
Week 15 Question: When a channeler is forcibly turned to the Dark, is his/her former personality lost to eternity? Are they in a permanent state of mindless Compulsion? Furthermore, can a channeler forcibly turned to the Dark return to the Light unaided?
Robert Jordan Answers: They are not in a mindless state of Compulsion. Their former personality is twisted, the darker elements that everyone has to some degree elevated while what might be called the good elements are largely suppressed. I don't mean things like courage, which is useful even to villains, but they are unlikely to be very charitable, for example, and forget any altruistic impulses. Call it being turned into a mirror image of yourself in many ways. It is very unlikely that a channeler forcibly turned to the Shadow could find a way back to the Light unaided. For one reason, by virtue of the twisting he or she had undergone, it is very unlikely that he or she would have any desire to do so.
Week 16 Question: What is the currency break down for Wheel of Time? How many coppers make up a silver penny? How many silver pennies equal a silver mark? How many silver marks make up a gold mark?
Robert Jordan Answers: This varies from country to country, along with the sizes and weights of the various coins, the reason that bankers and others - such as Bran al'Vere - use scales for comparing coins. The heaviest coins in weight of precious metal come from Andor and Tar Valon. For the coins of those two, the scale is very simple.
Ten copper pennies = one silver penny.
One hundred silver pennies = one silver mark.
Ten silver marks = one silver crown.
Ten silver crowns = one gold mark.
Ten gold marks = one gold crown.
As an example of other countries' currencies, the scale for Altara, where the weight of silver or gold in larger coins is less than that in Andor or Tar Valon, is this:
Ten copper pennies = one silver penny.
Twenty-one silver pennies = one silver mark.
Twenty silver marks = one silver crown.
Twenty silver crowns = one gold mark.
Twenty gold marks = one gold crown.
Week 17 Question: You have said before that you write High Fantasy and not Sword and Sorcery Fantasy. What do you feel the future holds for those of us who are so in love with High Fantasy? Do you consider your next works to be High Fantasy? Who else do you consider as writing High Fantasy?
Robert Jordan Answers: If I knew what the future held, I would make a fortune on the stock market, but my next works - tentatively titled Infinity of Heaven - will definitely be High Fantasy. At least, I think so. Others may disagree. That is the slippery difficulty with sub-genres. Everybody has an opinion, and those sometimes differ. As a short - not at all attempting to be all-inclusive and in no particular order -- list of who writes High Fantasy in my opinion: Robin Hobb, Jacqueline Carey, Robert Holdstock, Tim Powers, Guy Gavriel Kay, George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams, J.V. Jones…. Wow, this list is getting long. But I'll add one more. When John M. Ford finishes Aspects - he's let me read some excerpts -- I think you'll call it High Fantasy. Then again, he may disagree. There's that difficulty again.
Week 18 Question: How did the people of the current Age go three thousand years without discovering the military applications of explosives? Were the Illuminators just that ruthless?
Robert Jordan Answers: The Illuminators were completely ruthless in protecting their secret. And they put about tales such as that exposure to air could sometimes makes the substances inside fireworks explode without fire, and even more violently than fire did, in order to discourage close examination. Then there is the fact that there hasn't been a single three thousand year climb from barbarism and disaster, but three roughly one thousand climbs, from the Breaking of the World, from the near total destruction of the Trolloc Wars, which either destroyed or doomed every nation then existing, and from the devastation of the War of the Hundred Years. As an historical note, fireworks were used in China for roughly a thousand years before someone decided to use gunpowder as a weapon. As a matter of desperation, they dropped large firecrackers on the heads of soldiers climbing siege ladders. And by the evidence I've seen, gunpowder wasn't used as a weapon again for several hundred more years after that. I can see the view. All right, they held off the assault, but firecrackers? Firecrackers?
Week 19 Question: What were Moiraine's three questions that she asked the Aelfinn and what were their answers? If the whole answer is RAFO could you give us one Q&A?
Robert Jordan Answers: Sorry, guys. This one is a big time RAFO.
Week 20 Question: It seems that Elaida, leading the Sitters who arrest Siuan Sanche, must be a Sitter herself, yet she was just a few months returned from her position in Caemlyn. Was she actually a Sitter and if so when was she raised? Can you also clarify her change of heart on the Black Ajah from warning the three girls about them in The Dragon Reborn to violently denying their existence in later books?
Robert Jordan Answers: Elaida wasn't a Sitter when she led the arrest of Siuan, but she had organized it, managed to arrange for a rump Hall of the Tower to vote on deposing Siuan and raising her in Siuan's place. By the time Siuan was arrested, Elaida was the "legal" Amrylin Seat, so of course she was leading the Sitters.
As for her change of heart of the Black Ajah, she bounces on whether or not she believes in their existence. When she has convinced herself that they do exist, she is vehement on the subject, but uneasy over Darkfriend sisters, and so manages to convince herself that she was mistaken, whereupon she becomes vehement about their non-existence. But then she becomes uneasy over the possibility that they do exist after all and convinces herself that they really do after all, whereupon…. I have even had a character in the White Tower comment that sometimes Elaida doesn't seem to know from one day to the next whether or not she believes in the Black Ajah.
CORRECTION: Answering these questions, I have always taken the assumption that I knew the books well enough that I did not need to refer to my notes. My answer for the Week 20 Question showed that I was mistaken. I said that Elaida was never a Sitter, but no sooner was that answer posted than my assistant Maria, who also is a fan, came to me with the relevant passage where Elaida is mentioned as a Sitter. I went to my notes, and after a lot of checking, I found the following in a file working out exactly how some points were to be structured and making sure that I had all the details covered. Somehow, I had never incorporated it into the base notes, perhaps because it seemed such a small matter, Elaida having been a Sitter for such a short time and then only as prelude to replacing Siuan and Amyrlin.
“Returning to the White Tower, Elaida quickly became convinced that Siuan and Moiraine were engaged in a scheme that involved Rand al’Thor. Indeed, she had suspicions of this before departing Caemlyn for Tar Valon. Moiraine’s presence in Tar Valon had not escaped her, nor that Moiraine had been seen with Rand. If, as seemed the more likely, he was simply a man who could channel who Siuan and Moiraine intended to make use of as a false Dragon, then it was a scheme that was extremely dangerous to the Tower. Revelation of such involvement could easily shatter the Tower’s prestige, and with it the influence that was the primary cornerstone of the Tower’s influence in the world. And if he was indeed the Dragon Reborn, Elaida certainly had no confidence in Siuan’s ability to handle the him, as surely the Dragon Reborn would need to be handled, guided and directed, not to mention controlled. Helped by her long-standing personal animosity toward Siuan and Moiraine, Elaida came to the conclusion that Siuan must be removed for the good of the Tower. This was not something that could be accomplished by an ordinary sister, however the stepping down of a Red Sitter (Amira Moselle) gave her an opening, and she managed to get herself chosen as Amira’s replacement in the Hall of the Tower.
In large part this was because of Galina Casban’s support as head of the Red Ajah, Galina having her own reasons to take any chance to pull Siuan down and, of course, favoring anything that would give the Amyrlin Seat to the Red Ajah again after so long. Galina made no attempt to attain the Amyrlin Seat herself because she knew she had little or no chance of being raised. Elaida, who had been so long away from Tar Valon and thus remained out of the political currents of the Tower, not to mention the favorable mention she had received for her guidance of Queen Morgase and Andor, was another matter.
Once Elaida had a chair in the Hall, it was a relatively simple matter to identify the Sitters who seemed most likely to stand for deposing Siuan, since a number of Sitters were uneasy at best about what Siuan was up to. Her support in the Hall had eroded sufficiently by The Great Hunt that she had opposition to her journey to Shienar. As a Sitter, Elaida was able to call a sitting of the Hall while making sure that only the Sitters she wanted to attend actually received notification. Elaida is a forceful and effective speaker, and her arguments to this bare quorum in favor of deposing Siuan were also her campaign for being raised to the Amyrlin Seat herself, so the vote to depose Siuan was followed immediately by the vote to make Elaida the new Amyrlin. She did not expect the violent reaction that would come from this. She had not had access to the secret histories for very long at this point, so her view was that of most sisters. The Tower had always acceded to the will of the Hall however sisters might grumble. Like many others, she was blind-sided by what she thought she knew.”
So there it is. I offer my apologies for giving an erroneous answer. From now on, I’ll be sure to check my notes.
Week 21 Question: One thing that's always confused me is just why Dashiva/Osangar chose to attack Rand (with the turncoat Asha'man) when he did. The last time we saw Rand with Dashiva before that was when they went together (with Flinn, Hopwil and Morr) to confront Cadsuane, and there didn't seem to be any one particular incident that would "set him off."
Robert Jordan Answers: Partly this was guilty conscience working. Even people who don't have a conscience can have a guilty conscience, the sudden conviction - as when Rand came on Dashiva and the others - that somebody knows what they are up to. Add to this that Dashiva was plain getting tired of trailing around after Rand, taking orders. He's one of the Chosen, and the Dark One reclaimed him from death, which is really good, but he's been stuck in a decidedly second-rate body and stuck spying on Rand, fetching and carrying like a servant as he sees it, with hardly even an opportunity to put a spoke in Rand's wheels except in very minor ways. How much better if Rand simply died.
Week 22 Question: In the Randland map there is a cliff (?) called Garen's Wall at the northeast border of Ghealdan. What is Garen's Wall or better to say: Who was Garen?
Robert Jordan Answers: An ancient king of Dhowlan, one of the nations that came into being after the Trolloc Wars. He had a number of wars with his northern neighbor, Farsahelle, and the extremely long cliff line made a very good defense, enough so that the name stuck.
Week 23 Question: Was the Fade who visited Jaichim Carridin in the Prologue of The Dragon Reborn an early version of Shaidar Haran? Its response that it likes to keep an eye on 'all who serve me' and its apparent sense of humour are behaviour atypical of a Fade.
Robert Jordan Answers: I was wondering who would spot that. Shadar Haran Version 0.5! The Dark One doesn't get it spot on the first time every time.
Week 24 Question: How come we haven’t seen any Malkieri Aes Sedai? Or if we have, could you identify a couple for us?
Robert Jordan Answers: They just haven’t been at the forefront, I’m afraid.
Week 25 Question: After reading a book like Misery by Stephen King I think that I would be terrified to be a writer. What has been your creepiest experience with a fan?
Robert Jordan Answers: I haven’t had any creepy experiences with fans unless you count the bikers who came to a signing after hearing a rumor – untrue -- that I was in very bad health and threatened to desecrate my grave if I died before finishing the books. That was a little on the odd side, especially since they looked as if they might desecrate graves for a hobby. On the whole, my fans seem to be pretty sane. No freeze dried cats as presents. No requests for autographs in blood. Oh, a few women have volunteered to have my baby, but that’s a whole different thing.