Questions from December 23rd, 2003 - April 20th, 2004
Week 1 Question: Was the Horn of Valere known and used in the Age of Legends? Or did it only appear in the Third Age?
Robert Jordan Answers: The Horn of Valere was known in the Age of Legends, though it was an artifact of an earlier age, but it was never used in the Age of Legends. In part, this was because there wasn't any need in an Age that knew universal peace, but also it was because what it could do was considered a sort of myth by most people in that Age. No one who is serious spends time trying to test out whether a myth might be real. (Seen anybody sacrificing a white bull to Jupiter lately?) And once the Dark One touched the world, before the War of the Shadow actually began, the Horn was among the items lost, and thought destroyed, in the first rush of mob violence, terrorism etc. So it wasn't available for use then even had someone wanted to try. It was later recovered and sealed up with the Dragon Banner because along with the Foretellings that made up the Prophecies of the Dragon was one saying that it must be.
In any case, the story of the Horn was carried on through the Age of Legends in the same way that myths are today, and magnified thereafter though the twisting that occurs in the telling and retelling of a story. And believe me, stories about the Dragon Reborn and the Prophecies and everything concerned with them were rife during the Breaking. When everything is going to hell around them, people cling to anything and everything that might offer hope. That is how the Breaking could end with tales of the Dragon Reborn and the Prophecies already on many peoples' lips.
Week 2 Question: Once all three prequel novels are written, is there any particular order you would recommend new readers read the prequels/books? Should they start off with the prequel novels, or finish with them, or read each one at certain points throughout the series?
Robert Jordan Answers: I intend to write each of the prequel novels just as I did New Spring: The Novel, in such a way that someone could pick any one of them up and begin there with no other exposure to The Wheel of Time, but for best effect, I suggest reading them in the order that they will be published. If you read the second one first, you might find a few surprises spoiled in New Spring: The Novel. And if you read the third one first, you would certainly find spoilers for the first book and some for the second. As for whether to begin with the prequel novels or with the main sequence books, you can do either.
Week 3 Question: There are many theories that attempt to create a connection of time duration to the transmigration of the dead Forsaken. Are there time and/or power constraints on the Dark One's ability to transmigrate souls?
Robert Jordan Answers: There are definitely time constraints on the Dark One's power to transmigrate a soul. The soul doesn't have to be secured immediately - that is, the Dark One doesn't have to be ready to snatch the soul at the instant of death - but the longer that passes after the death, the less chance that the Dark One will be able to secure the soul. Someone who has been killed with balefire in actuality died before the apparent time of his or her death, and thus the window of opportunity for the Dark One to secure that soul for transmigration is gone before the Dark One can know that the soul must be secured unless the amount of balefire used is very small. Remember that the more balefire is used, the further back the target's thread is burned out of the pattern.
After the soul is secured, then a suitable body must be acquired and stripped of the (former) owner's memory and soul to make way for the favored one. By the way, what constitutes a suitable body from the Dark One's perspective is not that of the recipient. Certainly Aginor would never have chosen to be reincarnated in his, shall we say, less than imposing body, nor would the womanizing Balthamel have chosen to be reincarnated as a beautiful woman. It was only chance that Moridin ended up in a body that is young, fairly good looking and physically imposing. Those things simply don't matter to the Dark One. But the body has to be basically healthy and sound, and neither too young nor too old. After all, the Dark One wants his servants to be effective, and a body that meets those basic requirements is more desirable than one that doesn't. Since there is no stockpile of such bodies, the only way for someone to die and immediately be reincarnated would be a matter of pure chance. That is, the death occurred when a suitable body was on hand for some other reason.
There are a few other limits and constraints, but I won't go into them here, since I may want to use them in the books, and I would rather they come as a surprise if I do.
Week 4 Question: At recent book signing following the release of Crossroads of Twilight, it was reported that you confirmed that the Forsaken Demandred has never posed as the man known as Mazrim Taim, who was introduced to Rand at the beginning of Lord of Chaos. Have you confirmed that Demandred has never posed as the man known as Mazrim Taim, leader of the Black Tower?
Robert Jordan Answers: Yes. Demandred has never posed as Mazrim Taim. All right, those of who fell over from the shock of a simple, straightforward answer can get up off the floor now. Sometimes, simple and straightforward can be the most devious of all, as any student of Aes Sedai will tell you. <Maniacal laughter from the shadows!>
Week 5 Question: How much do you expect your work on the prequels will delay the completion of the regular Wheel of Time series?
Robert Jordan Answers: Very little, I hope. The prequels are all to be much smaller books and considerably less complex than the main sequence titles, so I expect to finish each of them relatively quickly.
Week 6 Question: How do the Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah "find" men who can channel?
Robert Jordan Answers: We're told throughout the books that the male channelers get goose bumps whenever the females are channeling or embracing the source. However, it is continuously mentioned that the women don't know if the male Asha'man and Rand are embracing or channeling Saidin. So how does the Red Ajah and Cadsuane, find Male Channelers and then gentle them?
There are various ways that the effects of male channeling can be found, weaves that find the resonance of the residues of saidin. Check in Crossroads of Twilight. They do not detect the actual weaves, though, only the residues left after the weave is released. After that, it becomes a matter of detective work. Though perhaps stalking a leopard might be a better metaphor. As for Cadsuane, she has a few more tools at her disposal than other Aes Sedai, the reason for her extremely high success rate. Check Winter's Heart, and a few earlier mentions, for this one.
Week 7 Question: I would like to ask about knotting a weave. Does a channeler determine how long it will last when she knots it or is it dependent on her strength? If a channeler who knotted a weave died, would the weave dissipate immediately?
Robert Jordan Answers: The length of time the knot lasts is the choice of whoever makes the knot. It is not strength dependent. And the knot would continue in existence if the channeler died, at least if the channeler had not set it to unravel in a certain time. Remember, tying off a weave is a way to keep the weave in existence without having to actually channel to maintain it, so once it is tied off, there is really no need for the channeler to continue living for the weave to be maintained.
Week 8 Question: Is the top of the White Tower steepled or flat? If it's flat, what is on the roof?
Robert Jordan Answers: The top of the White Tower (that is, the top of the main tower, since the wings of the Tower along with their much smaller towers must be considered part of the White Tower also) is flat, and surrounded by a solid wall about waist-high on a woman. There is nothing there except a door flat in the surface for getting onto the top of the Tower. Aes Sedai of the present day occasionally use it for observation of events in the vicinity of Tar Valon, such as the progress of the Blood Snow, but it isn't used now on any regular basis. At various times in the past, there has been a garden there, but the sisters inevitably found ground-level gardens more convenient and much more easily maintained.
Week 9 Question: Is it possible to bond a Myrddraal like a Warder? For one of the Black Ajah or a Forsaken, for example? What happens then to such a person?
Robert Jordan Answers: It would be possible, but hardly wise because of the sharing of emotions. It is exceedingly likely that anyone who had a knot of Myrddraal emotions in his or her head, even to the small degree caused by the Warder bond, would very soon go insane. Myrddraal may contain human stock, but they are definitely not human. I don't think even Padan Fain could survive that without going madder than he already is.
Week 10 Question: What did Lanfear do to Rand at the end of The Great Hunt, when she drew the Dragon's Fang on his forehead?
Robert Jordan Answers: She drew the Dragon Fang on his forehead. For exactly the reason you would think.
Week 11 Question: I just started The Great Hunt and I find the religious and political aspects very interesting. I notice the dedication for The Great Hunt says, "They came to my aid when God walked across the water, and the true Eye of the World passed over my house." Has your own religion in any way helped to shape the book?
Robert Jordan Answers: Only in the sense that it helped to shape my moral and ethical beliefs. My work certainly is not religious in even the sense that J.R.R. Tolkien's was, much less the work of C.S. Lewis. That inscription, by the way, referred to Hurricane Hugo striking Charleston, where I live. The word hurricane comes from the name of a god of the Caribe Indians, who believed that the storm was that god walking across the water. Anyone who has ridden out a hurricane, and I have ridden out several, can well believe that it is. And if a hurricane isn't the Eye of the World, it's as close as we will come in this world.
Week 12 Question: You stated in another interview that Mat's memories came from adventurers who traveled through the ter'angreal. However several of Mat's memories end with the adventurer dying. Since adventurers probably didn't go through the ter'angreal after they died, how could the 'Finns have obtained these memories?
Robert Jordan Answers: A good question. I was wondering when someone would ask that. I expected it as soon as Mat started revealing those old memories. At least a partial answer will be coming up in the next main sequence book, so I guess you could say this is a RAFO. But I will say that if I said those adventurers all entered through the two ter'angreal, I misspoke. A good many entered through the Tower of Ghenjei, which was more widely known in earlier years, if never exactly a household name.
Week 13 Question: Is the White Tower currently aware of any way to completely dissolve/undo the bond between an Aes Sedai and her Warder so that the link no longer exists and all the positive and negative effects of the bond are removed?
Robert Jordan Answers: Yes, they are. It is called releasing a Warder, and an Aes Sedai who is very old or injured so badly that she knows she is going to die will, if she has the strength, release him so he doesn't suffer from her death. This does require the two of them to be together, and a little more time that laying on the bond. If they are physically apart, or she doesn't have enough time or strength remaining, touch on him.
It has also been used to get rid of a Warder who proved to be unsuitable in some way, such as a man who is discovered to be a thief or who takes reckless chances, a fighter of duels who won't stop without the bond being used to force him. No sister is going to want a Warder who will risk getting himself killed, with all the attendant results to her, for no very good reason.
Although use of the bond in that way (controlling) was not unknown in the past, it came to be regarded as a form of Compulsion to use it so except in the slightest forms. Besides, using the bond to control a Warder all the time is a lot of work. An Aes Sedai wants somebody who can watch her back and keep it safe, not somebody she has to work on all the time. (Which is one of the reasons Aes Sedai stopped bonding men against their will. Not ethical concerns or ethical growth, I'm afraid; it was just not very practical really) Better simply to release the fellow who can't measure up and find another who will.
By the by, releasing a Warder except for cause (the Aes Sedai's imminent death, his own unsuitability) or because he has asked for release is something that JUST IS NOT DONE! It would gain the sister considerable opprobrium from other sisters. A sister certainly would be looked at askance if she released a Warder who was dying, for example, just to avoid the effects on her of his death. When an Aes Sedai bonds a Warder, she is expected to buy in for the full ride. For that matter, releasing him for unsuitability is considered to reflect on the sister's judgement. She should have known better about him from the start.
Week 14 Question: In the middle books in the series, we see that a Roofmistress is typically the clan chief's wife. What happens if the clan chief is not married? Or what status does the roofmistress have if she runs a Hold that is not the home of a clan chief?
Robert Jordan Answers: The roofmistress of a clan hold is always the wife of the clan chief, if he is married. If he is unmarried, his eldest first-sister would be the roofmistress until he did marry. If he didn't have a first-sister, then it would be his eldest living sister-mother, his mother's sister, who is considered more closely related to him than his father's sisters are. After that, there is a whole set of complexities involving blood-relationships that make sure that the woman is who is both the eldest and the most closely related to the clan chief has the position. This is a situation that seldom develops, however, and seldom lasts long if it does. The Wise Ones believe that a clan chief should be married, as a stabilizing influence if for no other reason, and they will arrange the matter one way or another if he himself does not. And since Aiel women in general also believe that a clan chief should be married, in most cases the woman who is temporarily roofmistress will work toward the same end as well.
The roofmistress of a hold that is not the home of a clan chief or a sept chief has the same status as the roofmistress of a clan chief or sept chief, at least inside her own hold. She would gain that position by being the wife of the man who leads the algai'd'siswai of that hold, though her authority in some ways outstrips his inside the hold, just as the authority of clan or sept roofmistresses in some ways outstrips that of the clan or sept chiefs inside the hold. There are certain decisions that are hers alone and in which he has no say at all.
There is a hierarchy of roofmistresses within a clan, with the roofmistress of the clan chief at the top, roofmistress of sept chiefs next, and other roofmistresses ranked below according to the size of the holds of which they are roofmistresses. Roofmistresses of other clans are considered to have comparable status in any inter-clan dealings, though without the authority in any clan save their own.
Week 15 Question: What does the Dark One view as the worst punishment he can inflict on his minions: Killing them as painfully as possible? Balefire? Mindtrap? Being continually resurrected to suffer at his hand for eternity? Something we haven't seen yet?
Robert Jordan Answers: The Dark One doesn't care about his minions sufficiently to invest much time in their punishment except as it serves to correct their behavior or as object lesson to others, nor is there much in the way of gradation. Simple failure and outright betrayal might be punished equally, or one might result in death and the other in becoming an object lesson or in something else. (The mindtrap, by the way, could be called an object lesson only to the one so trapped; remember, none of the Forsaken know who is mindtrapped except Moridin and those who are trapped.) The decision, death or object lesson or something else, normally would be simply a matter of whether or not he believed there was any point to an object lesson and/or whether or not he felt there was really any further use in the individual. Or, for that matter, made for reasons unknowable to a human mind. Remember, the Dark One is NOT human and thinking of him in human terms just doesn't work.
But he also operates under a constraint that did not exist in the Age of Legends. At that time, about 3% of the population could learn to channel to some extent, though not all chose to -- the training program took time, and being able to channel carried with it certain obligations that not everyone wanted to undertake -- but that still meant there were, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of people in the world who could channel, and more likely millions. A large pool of possible recruits. Break a tool or decide it isn't working right and throw it out, because there is an endless supply of similar tools waiting on the shelf. That might be said to have been his attitude. In the here-and-now of the books, that figure is about 1%, and of that 1%, very, very few have any idea that they could learn to channel, much less have any training at all. Here-and-now, the pool of possible recruits is tiny.
Also, while the Forsaken themselves have realized that these primitives have discovered how to do things with the Power that they themselves cannot, or perhaps can once they learn how but never dreamed of doing until they found that the weaves existed here-and-now, they still think of people in the here-and-now as primitives, and their attitudes filter through to the Dark One, who believes that his people from the age of Legends are in all practical ways better -- for which read better trained, more capable, and thus better able to serve him efficiently and effectively -- than the people of the present time. And he is right. In a way. They are certainly better trained, with a much wider knowledge, at least in some areas. Some of their skills are absolutely useless in the society they are forced to live in. Aginor was a genius in biology and genetics, but in this world, he had no way to make the tools to make the tools to make the tools…. Well, you get the idea. Pity the poor chip designer dropped into the seventeenth century.
In any event, the Dark One tries to conserve his resources, using and reusing those he might have killed himself, or ordered killed, in a time where there were thousands to equal them.
Week 16 Question: Can you give us any updates on the next book series you plan to write? (Besides what you have told us before)
Robert Jordan Answers: Sorry, that is very much a work in progress, with nothing at all on paper yet. As such, details change frequently. Also, the more I tell you of what doesn't change, the fewer surprises there will be when the books come out. You'll start reading and say, "I knew that. And I knew that. And I knew THAT! God, Jordan is getting predictable in his old age. I think I'll go read somebody else." And you'll probably be upset about what did change, too, for that matter. I know that when I expect a book or movie to be a certain way and it isn't, quite often the shifting of gears detracts from my enjoyment until it is complete.