Jaymie here. I’ll be discussing a wide variety of topics related to The Wheel of Time. Like many of you, I’ve been reading WoT since the Age of Legends, so we’ll have lots to cover together…WoTever comes to mind.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Affecting change out in Randland or as Sitters in the Hall, who’s the biggest badass of them all?
In this series, I took a look at our own G.L.O.W. – the Glorious Ladies of WoT, specifically the smooth-cheeked, serenity-filled, skirt-smoothing, shawl-adjusting, butt-kicking Aes Sedai. I selected the most badass sister from each Ajah, as well as a runner-up for the title.
In Part One, we chose out the most badass Aes Sedai of the Green, Red, and Gray Ajahs.
The Blue, Yellow, White, and Brown Ajahs saw their badass representatives hailed in Part Two.
Part Three examined the dark side of badassery as the Black Ajah had their day.
In Part Four, it’s time to revere the ULTIMATE Badass Aes Sedai in all of Randland.
Of All Ajahs and Of None
Part One in our series took a look at the Badasses of three Ajahs, Green included. I received a LOT of feedback in the “BUT WHAT ABOUT EGWENE?!” category. I heard you. I did! But I had to save her for Part Four.
She may have identified as Green, holding her would-be Ajah in her heart, but her extraordinary circumstances created an Amyrlin like no other: they may all claim it, but only Egwene was truly and literally of all Ajahs and of none.
And she became the absolute embodiment of Aes Sedai as she served, protected, battled, guided, maneuvered, and sacrificed her way to legend status.
So, let’s talk about Egwene – most of the good, some of the bad, and all of the awesome.
Maybe she’s born with it…
Canonically, none of the major female characters are ta’veren. However, we must allow that the Pattern provided Egwene a lot with which to work:
She’s one of the strongest channelers in a thousand years. She picks up channeling remarkably quickly and astounds other Aes Sedai by being able to split her flow of the One Power in 14 ways.
She’s a Dreamer. Obviously, this comes in super handy throughout the series. (And as often as she’s mentioned, who else thought we might somehow get to meet Corianin Nedeal? Perhaps weirdly trapped in T’A’R? Maybe just me?)
Genetics and family history also come through for the assist – mayor dad, Women’s Circle member mom (in a small village, true, but she’ll still pick up on politics and group dynamics), Wisdom’s apprentice (again, yes, for a small village, but the Wisdom is Nynaeve, yo), and she carries the blood of Manetheren in her veins (*acknowledges the ongoing Egwene/Queen Eldrene reincarnation discussion/debate*). Like her ancestors, she’s hard-working, resourceful, and tenacious. At its worst, that tenacity manifests as stubbornness (muley stubborn, the girl Amyrlin is!). But far more often, it shines as perseverance, dedication, and resolve. Oh, and she happens to have grown up with the Dragon Reborn. That might help down the road.
Additionally, she’s wicked smart.
Boldly going where no Randlander had gone before
Along with her inherent traits and early-life experience, Egwene brings incredibly unique adventures to her interactions.
She’s traveled the Ways. She's sat at the fires of the Traveling People. She witnessed the “exorcism” of Shadar Logoth evil from Mat.
She’s been a Seanchan damane, where she learned their culture in the context of their greatest weapon, channeling; and was forced to rapidly develop her strength and dexterity in the Power (also coming in quite handily).
And, of course, she lived among the Aiel as an apprentice to Wise Ones. She went to learn Dreamwalking, but she also, thankfully and serendipitously, learns and eventually lives the Aiel code of honor and obligation, ji’e’toh, taking it back with her to the wetlands. Egwene’s training from, edification through, and intimacy with the Aiel is a turning point in her fascinating trajectory.
People…people who need people...
Like all of our badasses, Egwene is not perfect.
So much stuff has been crammed into this girl for the purpose of prophecy-fulfillment that her youth seeps out every now and then, usually in the form of immature self-preservation, and usually directed toward the people she grew up with. Examples: her early-series bratty treatment of Nynaeve (to which Elayne, of all people, puts a stop); her bullying of Nynaeve and Elayne so she wouldn’t be discovered sneaking around T’A’R; and her behavior toward Mat after he rescues the girls from the Stone of Tear.
Rand remains a blind spot for her through nearly the entire series, as she often regresses back to a village-Wisdom’s-apprentice-type role when dealing with him. Even as the Last Battle begins, while they stand on the Field of Merrilor and Zen Rand reveals his plan to destroy the seals of the Dark One’s prison, Egwene hears only Stubborn Woolhead Rand, and treats her childhood sweetheart—and his plan—as such.
And her relationship with Gawyn is, for some readers, nothing short of infuriating. That analysis would likely fill an essay of its own.
However. I’m gonna give our young Amyrlin a few passes in light of endorsements from some tried and true badasses.
Egwene has earned the respect of the Wise Ones, namely Sorilea, Bair, Melaine, and the incomparable Amys. When she announces she must leave, they are more than disappointed and want her to stay with them. Stay! In the Waste! A wetlander!
Blue Ajah Badass and Amyrlin-turned-advisor Siuan Sanche also believes in Egwene, recognizing that she will “be an Amyrlin to make thrones tremble,” especially after Egwene reveals her plans for the Tower. (Lord Of Chaos, Ch. 37, When Battle Begins)
When Egwene meets our beloved Gareth One-Of-The-Five-Great-Generals Bryne, he gives her his trust and his army. Do we, as readers, believe we can peg Eggy better than one Master Gareth Bryne?
And while she gains the respect of novices, Accepted, and finally Aes Sedai after her captivity in the Tower, her championing by Red Badass Silviana Brehon really seals the deal, for us readers and for the Tower.
She did it all for the Tower (c’mon!) the Tower…
Ironically, Egwene’s youth—or, lack of years—ultimately allowed for her greater vision, her grasp of the big picture.
She seemed to have unbelievable political savvy for her age, but Egwene was so focused on the right things that she could see through the wrong. Lelaine and Romanda? She’ll use their faults to her advantage, playing them against each other to achieve her larger goal of uniting the Tower. Siuan makes lots of sense and respects her? She’ll soak up the former Amyrlin’s tutelage like sponge, for it will do nothing but help her unite the Tower. You rebels raised me Amyrlin and remained loyal to me? Awesome, but I don’t actually owe you anything. In fact, YOU owe the TOWER an apology, for your part in the break. Hop to, so we can get back to work uniting the Tower.
Essentially, Egwene wasn’t bogged down by years and years of scheming and favors and grudges and personal goals. Her mind isn’t clouded with individual alliances, or “well, that’s not possible,” or “um, we don’t do that here.” When the Tower broke themselves, Egwene was able to respond with, “All bets are off. You ruined this. Now I’m going to fix it and you DO NOT get to tell me how.”
Homegirl’s a badass, pure and simple.
I’ll wrap this fourth Most Badass Aes Sedai installment with Egwene’s (arguably) Top Three Most Badass Moments:
Honorable Mention (because, so many moments)
Her overall maneuvering, first within the rebel camp, and then gloriously and so victoriously within the Tower. She shines when she gets the rebels off of their collective arse and cleverly declares war on Elaida in a beautifully written scene. Then she absolutely radiates as a prisoner in the Tower, as the culmination of every single positive trait Egwene possesses convinces the Tower Aes Sedai of their true goal.
3. The Seanchan attack on the Tower. “The woman stood like vengeance itself, the power of saidar like a storm around her. The very air seemed alight, and her brown hair blew from the wind of the open gap in the wall beside them. Egwene al’Vere.” - POV of Adelorna Bastine (The Gathering Storm, Ch. 40, The Tower Shakes)
2. The dinner that changes everything. When Egwene names Elaida coward and Elaida loses her actual damn mind, I’m ready to stand up and cheer. And then…
“They could all see the weaves, and they could all see that Egwene did not scream, although her mouth was not gagged by Air. Her arms dripped blood, her body was beaten before them, and yet she found no reason to scream. Instead, she quietly blessed the Aiel Wise Ones for their wisdom” …
“‘By the Light,’ Rubinde whispered.” (The Gathering Storm, Ch. 16, In the White Tower)
Yes, girl. By the Light, INDEED.
1. The Flame of Tar Valon. Egwene discovers and channels the counter-weave to balefire, then wields it during the Last Battle to defeat the Sharans, knowingly sacrificing herself to make the stand. We all have a picture in our heads of Egwene’s blaze of glory, and no summary provided here will do that image justice.
Do you agree with this Part Four assessment? Is Egwene al’Vere the ultimate Badass Aes Sedai? What other moments are her most badass?