Shalom, my perspicacious patrons of Dragonmount! Welcome to another week of your favorite Dragonmount front page blog, "It Works in Theory." I almost feel lazy in choosing the topic for today's entry, since it's a subject that came up in the comments of last week's blog. I'll go ahead and warn you right now--we're going to be getting our hands dirty today. Before we begin, here's our weekly disclaimer:
WARNING!!! Spoiler Alert!!! WARNING!!!
This blog is based on theories that will include facts and material from the latest books in the series, so if you have not read through Towers of Midnight, continue reading at your own risk! The odds of there being any truly insightful material in "It Works in Theory" are approximately 1 out of 153,294,586. Please read responsibly. Think of the time spent reading and hoping to glean actually useful information from the blog as the cost of your entertainment. Think of actually finding said information as a bonus. Expect not to read anything useful; odds are there won't be anything of note worth reading about. Don't read to win back lost time. The more you try to recoup lost time, the more you will lose.
Today, we'll be discussing the nature and method involved in the cleansing of the Taint and its relationship with Shadar Logoth. There seemed to be somewhat of a divide over this issue. It essentially boiled down to two different perspectives:
1. The only place Rand could have cleansed the Taint was at Shadar Logoth, because of Mashadar's ability to counter the Dark One.
2. Mashadar didn't help contribute to the cleansing. Rand could have done it anywhere but figured by doing it at Shadar Logoth he'd kill two birds with one stone when the aftermath destroyed the surrounding area.
First, let's examine the nature of the relationship between the evil of the Dark One and the evil of Mashadar. There is a great quote right before the cleansing begins that describes the relationship very aptly.
Chapter 35, "With the Choedan Kal"
The male and female halves of the True Source were alike and unalike, attracting and repelling, fighting against each other even as they worked together to drive the Wheel of Time. The taint on the male half had its opposite twin, too. The wound given him by Ishamael throbbed in time with the taint, while the other, from Fain's blade, beat counterpoint in time with the evil that had killed Aridhol.
Rand has been corrupted or tainted with his own double dose of evil presences, once when Moridin pierced his side in The Great Hunt, and the other when Padan Fain cut him with the ruby dagger in A Crown of Swords. Even before the amazing Ashaman Healer Flinn isolated both wounds together, the two evils seemed to exist in counterbalance, both diametrically opposed to one another.
There's also a strong precedent for Mashadar and the forces of the Shadow having it out for each other: The citizens of Aridhol essentially created Mashadar to somehow counter the evil power of the Dark One, even though they knew its origins were spawned from other questionable sources. Then there's the way Mashadar seems to be attracted to Shadowspawn, and the way that Shadowspawn seem to be attracted to the evil in the ruby dagger that Mat carries for a time. If you visit the WOTFAQ, there's a great article that examines some of the questions involving the cleansing of the Taint and the relationship between Mashadar and the Taint.
So, why don't the Mashadar taint and the Dark One's taint destroy themselves in the wound in Rand's side? And how does it make sense to use Mashadar to filter the taint out of saidin, when this seems analogous to using an oily rag to clean up a stain on the carpet? Well, my theory is that even though the separate corruptions are isolated together, they are still reacting more strongly to Rand and his ta'veren nature than they are to each other. They both hate each other, but they share the same strong aversion to Rand. He also struggles so obstinately against evil, which might actually be keeping the two forces from starting to destroy each other.
As for the oily rag metaphor, the important thing to remember is the mechanics of the filter he set up to cleanse saidin. It was constructed almost purely out of saidar, and its use of Mashadar existed in somewhere to deposit the befouled substance of the Taint. Because of the way Mashadar and the Dark One's influence seem to attract one other, Shadar Logoth acted like a big magnet to help draw the Taint in. It's almost similar to the way you would dispose or neutralize an acid spill. Using something pure and non-acidic, like water, won't do much but dilute the acid somewhat. Introduce a basic (above 7 on Ph scale, whereas acids are below 7 on the scale) to the mixture that is the mathematical antithesis to the acid and the two substances balance each other out. The actual process of how Mashadar and the Taint destroy each other is probably more like the instantaneous annihilation of particles that occurs when matter and anti-matter come in contact with each other, but we have to remember we're talking about a theoretical confrontation between two supernatural sources, so a simple and perfectly fitting real-life analogy won't be easy to find.
For those wanting to see more explanation of the process used in the cleansing of the Taint, there is a site known as "Thus Spake the Creator" in which Robert Jordan answers questions that readers have posed to him over the years. One category in the site encompasses any issues involving the One Power, the True Power, and channeling. If you go about halfway down the page, there is a long paragraph devoted to an explanation Robert Jordan gave someone who was wondering exactly how saidin was cleansed. Jordan describes it as being similar to siphoning off another liquid, so in that analogy, imagine you just pumped a lot of bad gasoline into your car's fuel tank and you need to extract all the bad gasoline out so it doesn't harm the engine. Let's imagine in this hypothetical scenario that bad gas is attracted to filthy old motor oil. If you insert a tube into the fuel tank and start the suction just enough to get the gas to start flowing into a container holding the motor oil, you then have to just sit back and allow the oil to continue drawing in the imperfect gasoline from the fuel tank.
There's still a few loose ends in this issue, at least regarding the relationship between Mashadar and the Dark One's influence. We know that the Taint is gone, yet the Taint itself wasn't a completely abnormal occurrence. In a letter to Paul Ward in March of 2000, Robert Jordan sheds some light on this issue (here's the link to the transcript of the letter):
Letter to Paul Ward, March 2000
Q: (paraphrased) Is the DO pure TP? Why does the Creator ignore Randland except to talk to Rand at the end of TEotW?
RJ: No, the Dark One is not pure True Power. Who says the Creator takes little interest in the activities of mankind? And I will neither confirm nor deny that the Creator spoke to Rand.
RJ: The taint and the True Power are both manifestations of the Dark One--they are the same substance, but those who access it are not destroyed in the same way.
We also know that Mashadar is gone as well for the most part, except for what escaped into Fain's body, and the part located in Rand's wound. My question is this: what will be the role Mashadar, and Fain specifically, will play in the Last Battle? I've always felt Fain as a character reminded me a lot of Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. His gaunt, ghastly appearance, the way he's always slinking around following the main characters, the way he clutches his dagger like his very own precious...what if he ends up playing a similar role in Rand's final confrontation with the Dark One as Gollum did at the end of that series? He shows up, determined to use his last attempt to take down either Rand or the Dark One, and inadvertently ends up helping to save the day.
Another situation when I can see the relationship between Mashadar and the Dark One having some significance is in the prophesied letting out of Rand's blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul. This has to do with my theory concerning the importance of Rand's blood, which is still being fleshed out somewhat, so I'll leave that for another day. For now, I shall have to bid you adieu, and leave you with one of my favorite quotes in the series, at the very end of Winter's Heart:
Chapter 35, "With the Choedan Kal"
Night fell. On the hilltop, the wind blew dust across the fragments of what had once been a ter'angreal. Below lay the tomb of Shadar Logoth, open to give the world hope. And on distant Tremalking, the word began to spread that the Time of Illusions was at an end.