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I'm talking about Dain Bornhald. 


He is a character often looked over as a petty villain and reluctant ally pulled in by Ta'veren and Galad's story. 


However, Dain has an interesting story of his own and goes through more than many give credit for. 


We first meet Dain in EotW, interestingly enough, as the first interaction with a Whitecloak. That is, when Rand and Mat decide to pull their prank on the Whitecloaks and spray them with mud. 


We get a very polarized view of the Whitecloaks established as minor villains, however, while the Whitecloaks are far from perfect, the circumstances need to be put in to perspective. First of all, Rand (who's PoV we see) is very provincial at this point. He stares at Baerlon and thinks it is a big city. This is his first encounter with professional soldiers. From the TR - where the grandiose is scorned - Dain and his companions would certainly look like petty, arrogant soldiers. In addition, they pull a prank which was an incredibly stupid idea. The Whitecloaks are more zealous than others, but their reaction is not too different from any other guard/soldier. 


Dain then tries to stop Moiraine and co. leaving Baerlon, where Moiraine pulls her giant stunt. Again, Whitecloak zeal aside, it really isn't too extreme an opinion. An Aes Sedai and some country louts leaving in the middle of the night is something to note. Bornhald is actually right in believing something is up - there is, Rand and co. are being chased by the Shadow. - his conclusions however, are tarnished by Whitecloak doctrine and again we get the impression of petty villain when in truth it is reasonably understandable (again, the whole Whitecloak zeal aside). Moiraine's use of the OP to escape certainly would arouse suspicion - as the reader we know that it is necessary, but for one not informed, it would be very strange and threatening. 


Of course we meet his father, who is killed at Falme and sends Byar to inform Dain of his death. This is where the trouble really starts. Byar - who is later revealed to be a Darkfriend (or an incredibly blinded tool) - reports false information to Dain on Perrin, who is blamed for the Whitecloaks death - someone his father had arrested for killing Children and escaped via Aes Sedai help. Not knowing what we do about the story, it is a damaging report, one that drives him to despair. 


Another critical meeting which is often overlooked is the Whitecloak encounter with Verin, Elayne, Egwene taking Mat to Tar Valon. This is in fact a very interesting part of his story. This happens in the same chapter he is informed of his father's death. Careless as they are, they let slip that they came from Falme and Elayne's identity (who the Whitecloaks are looking for). Egwene in her panic uses the OP to lash out at the Whitecloaks, and although in her mind she knows it is only meant to scare them off, it is by all accounts an attack. Something Aes Sedai are purported not to be able to do. Paired with the report from Byar, the situation is very suspicious. 


Jumping ahead to the main action with Dain in tSR. The first thing to take note of is the fact that Fain is advising him. His opinion of Perrin and co. leaves much to be desired - the truth included. Nonetheless, it further confirms Byar's reports, not to mention his companion is now claiming to be the Dragon Reborn, not too much better than a Darkfriend. 


At this point, Dain has become an alcoholic, troubled as he is by all that has happened. His judgement is not the best. The obvious conflict ensues in the Two Rivers. Perrin - now with Golden Eyes, something inexplicable (nobody knows about Wolfbrothers) - comes home at the same time Shadowspawn attack. 


Obviously, we know the real story, and Dain is being manipulated by the Shadow and Fain, but the circumstances are very suspicious. Nonethless, Dain doesn't simply kill Perrin straight away. He reluctantly agrees to wait until the battle is over. Afterwards, Perrin gets off on a technicality - with good reason - because Dain doesn't help out. At this point Dain is very troubled. He doesn't know what to believe, and it shows. Despite all his accusations and threats, he is reluctant to act. 


A long Dain-less period ensues (barring a short mention of being drunk in Amador LoC) until he pops up again in Galad's camp in KoD. Galad is one of the more reasonable and "good" Whitecloaks, and Dain's support shows his character. He supports Galad despite the chain of command in something which is for all intents and purposes treason. To pursue justice. To me, this shows his character more than the Whitecloak bluster and threats, which seem more a habit than real. 


We then come to the encounter with Perrin in ToM. Pretty standard where Dain accuses him of his crimes and the trial ensues. Byar is vehement in his attacks, but as Perrin tells his story, we see Dain start to question what he has been told. Nonetheless, Perrin IS guilty of killing Children and if we look at it closely, not even if Hopper was a human really justifies killing someone in return. Of course, Perrin isn't exactly proud of it either. 


Then we have his revelation regarding his relationship with Wolves. From a readers perspective, we are well acquainted with wolves' opinions on the Shadow, but let's look at it realistically. We have a man who's eyes have changed to wolf eyes and can apparently communicate with them. While it doesn't need to be Shadow-related, it is certainly suspicious. Certainly Dain's scepticism is far more plausible than the reader is led to think. 


Judgement ensues and the battle against Graendal's Shadowspawn, culminating in Byar's death. The critical moment in Dain's story. Perrin's defence of the Whitecloaks makes it hard for Dain to believe he is Shadowspawn, and saves him - a man that he hates, who he has suspected of being Shadowspawn, a murderer and killing his father - by killing Byar - a man who has been a steadfast Whitecloak and friend for many years. 


Byar didn't declare himself a Darkfriend or do anything blatantly evil. He was - from an outside perspective - trying to kill someone who he thinks is a Darkfriend. It would be easy for Dain to turn his eye, but instead he kills his friend because it isn't right. He still hates Perrin at this point. That action alone shows his true character. 


Of course they all go into the Last Battle and fight against the Shadow etc.. but Dain's story culminates in that scene in ToM. 


So in conclusion: Dain Bornhald is  far more interesting - and a good man, despite his struggles - than many give him credit for. I think Dain's story is a particularly strong one threaded through the WoT and has a lot more to offer than simply an annoying Whitecloak. 

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Great post Barid! Even now I am often still astonished at the amount of depth RJ was able to weave into the story even with side characters like DB.

Edited by Suttree
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Completely agree.  I have barely given Dain Bornhald a second thought but reading through that summary you realise that even very minor WoT characters have more backstory and development that many protagonists created by other authors.

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I undoubtedly think Dain is a good man deep down. The problem he suffers from is the same as all people who follow a strict dogma, their conscience often conflicts with their faith. Add to this the fact he obviously respected his father, and would have wanted someone to blame for his death, it's no wonder he was so bitter towards Perrin.


He achieves redemption though in AMoL by telling Perrin the truth about what happened. Like most of us, he finds it hard to let go of anger and grief, but he knows what the right thing to do is, and he does it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't remember if he survived.


Like may minor characters in WOT his fate was left ambiguous.  However, he was included among the list of characters that was sent to Brandon Sanderson requesting that their ultimate fate be revealed in the WOT Encyclopedia.

Edited by Leopoled Boothe
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dain Bornhald is one of the more interesting minor characters in WoT for sure.  I think he shows the overall trajectory of the Children of the Light better than any other character in the series.  From his intimidating beginning, to his drunken almost complete self-destruction, to his self-realizations about the contradictions in his life, and finally his redemption, his life is a microcosm of that of the entire Children of the Light.  He is one of the characters that have caused me in recent weeks to wonder what a book series would be like that took place during the same time as WoT, but only followed minor characters, and none of the grand ones (at least no main character PoVs).  In my final re-read of the series, including aMoL, I found myself quite often wondering what it must have been like for the rest of the people of Randland while this entire series has been going on, and that it would have been quite interesting to see this story told through their eyes and minds, not through those of the ta'veren boys and Wondergirls (at least told primarily through them).

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