Howdy, my sagacious sojourners of Dragonmount! Welcome back to "It Works in Theory," Dragonmount's theory blog headed by some bloke I happen to share an identity with. Sorry for the delay in new blog entries lately. Life in general has been very busy, and recently I've also been splitting my writing time between here and the write-ups for the Wheel of Time Cage Match fights Dragonmount has set up. In case you haven't kept up with all the fights, here's a link to the forum that contains all the contests. And now, for our 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! This serves as notice to inform any random passersby or guests who might accidentally be reading this that the blog will soon begin spraying conjecture and hyperphilosophy. Please do not disturb or alarm normal residents of the blog; they have long since developed resistance to the toxic ideas and theories. We hope all enlightened individuals and other patrons who have not been touched by the harmful vapors of this blog yet will soon vacate to avoid being harmed, and dedicate all merits from the Compassionate Mantra to these persons and all other creatures, so that they may be reborn in a land far from this blog's deadly reach.
I decided to be a little ambitious this month and make February "Darkfriend Appreciation Month" (in addition to it being National Black History Month, Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month, Exotic Vegetable and Starfruit Month, as well as Pull Your Sofa off the Wall Month). Every week we shall cover a different notable Darkfriend from the series, discussing their impact on the storyline, their relationship to various theories, and other things relative to each one. This week, I am excited to say that we shall open up the month by examining none other than Padan Fain himself, everyone's favorite deranged dagger-wielding fiend.
Unfortunately, Padan Fain recently met his end in our Cage Match contest against a worthy opponent in al'Lan Mandragoran himself (I even got the privilege to write the scene for that fight!). I noticed some took this fairly hard, so it was obvious that not only is Fain somewhat of a fan favorite when it comes to characters devoted to the Shadow, but his powers and abilities have helped him gain a large amount of respect and appreciation from the fandom of The Wheel of Time. Luckily, he has not met his end yet in the books, and will most assuredly play a large role in the last book of the series.
It would be somewhat foolish to discuss Fain without first covering what made him into the creature he is now, because his history intertwines him with other major characters in the book. Padan Fain was first introduced to us as a peddler who visited the Two Rivers somewhat regularly, but it didn't take long before it was revealed that he had been a Darkfriend for over 40 years. After Rand, Mat, and Perrin leave and start their adventure, Ba'alzamon captures Fain and "distills" him, somehow granting Fain the ability to track down the three ta'veren. His bond to them forced him to follow them into Shadar Logoth, where he encountered the ages-old entity known as Mordeth, and instead of possessing Fain's body completely like Mordeth had long dreamed of doing to escape and infect the world with its evil, it merged with Fain, creating a new, more powerful adversary for our heroes.
The merging helped instantly grant Fain some remarkable attributes, like the ability to not only resist a Myrddraal's fear-inducing gaze but to also be able to make them cower before him like a child would to a bully. Incidentally, Fain won his matchup in our Cage Match fights when he went up against Shaidar Haran, who is a kind of super-Myrddraal himself, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised at all if the two were to actually meet and have a similar outcome in the last book. Other powers and abilities have also emerged throughout the series, helping Fain to evolve into one of the most dangerous foes for Rand to have to deal with.
I first wanted to share a concept that was brought before me by someone who reads my blog (which I'm sure he does as some sort of self-mortification for past deeds) and has occasionally shared his perspective on key issues and theories regarding this series. His idea is that Rand and company will not just defeat, but also destroy the Dark One. Fain will somehow be bottled up inside the sealed Bore, and will turn into a "young" Dark One, presumably to resurface again in future turnings of the Wheel. While I found this idea very intriguing, I initially was somewhat resistant to it because I had always believed that the Dark One was somewhat of an equal to the Creator and could never be destroyed, only simply contained. After all, if the Creator himself (or herself) wasn't able to destroy him, how would anyone be able to?
After looking through some passages, however (with the help of my remarkably resourceful research assistant), I found that there could be some subtle foreshadowing of this type of event. When Fain is imprisoned in Fal Dara and Rand and Egwene visit him in his cell, he taunts Rand with a rhyme:
The Great Hunt
Chapter 3, "Friends and Enemies"
Soon comes the day all shall be free. Even you, and even me.
Soon comes the day all shall die. Surely you, but never I.
I even got the title of my blog from this fun little rhyming quote. It seems to hint that Fain also wants to and will break the Wheel of Time and the Pattern (all shall be free), yet also believes he will never die. This might simply seem to be the musings of a madman, but then we have another quote:
The Great Hunt
Chapter 19, "Beneath the Dagger"
Al’Thor was up there, somewhere, in the mountains. With the Horn. His teeth grated audibly at the thought. He did not know where, exactly, but something pulled him toward the mountains. Toward al’Thor. That much of the Dark One’s...gift...remained to him. He had hardly thought of it, had tried not to think of it, until suddenly, after the Horn was gone —Gone!— al’Thor was there, drawing him as meat draws a starving dog.
“I am a dog no longer. A dog no longer!” He heard the others shifting uneasily around the fire, but he ignored them. “You will pay for what was done to me, al’Thor! The world will pay!” He cackled at the night with mad laughter. “The world will pay!”
Will Fain's hatred for Rand grow so much that he ends up taking Shai'tan's place and battles his own millenia-long struggle to make the world pay? An interesting possibility, to say the least.
I actually think Fain will end up playing a different role in the Last Battle, however, and one that surprisingly might benefit the forces of Light. I won't be the first one to notice that there are some odd similiarities between Fain and another gaunt, villainous character from another famous epic fantasy series you may have heard of, The Lord of the Rings. Who am I speaking of? Why, Gollum, of course. Both characters went through some unspeakable torture and transformation at the hands of evil forces, and both have a knack for being able to follow the heroes around wherever they go (if only Rand could find some elven rope, maybe then he could try to tame ol' Fain like a good Smeagol). Fain even seems to have a similar appearance in a way.
The Eye of the World
Chapter 3, "The Peddler"
The man on the wagon was Padan Fain, a pale, skinny fellow with gangly arms and a massive beak of a nose.
So, what could fate have in store for Fain, if he is somewhat of a mirror of Gollum's role in The Lord of the Rings? Unfortunately, he won't be able to clutch the Dark One to him and fall cackling into a lava pit, so that option is gone. He could perform some other act, though, which he might intend to do as an evil act, but which might end up serving the Light in the end. He could be the one who spills Rand's blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, an event that is exalted in both the prophecies of the Light AND of the Shadow (an oddity I will eventually cover when I discuss the "Blood on the Rocks" topic more in depth). Fain also holds a serious grudge against the Shadow for turning him into what he was, in addition to the Shadow-fighting evil of Mashadar. He even seems to share Rand's ability of identifying Darkfriends:
Lord of Chaos
Chapter 28, "Letters"
There should be nothing to single out a Darkfriend from anyone else, but of late he found he could tell one at a glance, even someone who had only thought of swearing to the Shadow, as if they had a sooty mark on their foreheads.
Another character parallel for Padan Fain is Mordred from the story of King Arthur. Fans of this series have probably noted many similarities and parallels to the Arthurian Legend, most notably Rand's role in the books as the Fisher King (click here for a great article from Linda at the 13th Depository on the Rand/Fisher King relationship). Several things link Fain and Mordred; Fain's soul merged with Mordeth, which is obviously very similar to Mordred, both seem to have nearly unmatched ability even though they don't really achieve what they want, both have a connection to their nemesis (Mordred was Arthur's son, Fain went mad from the process that made him Rand's hunter). And out of all of the villains and even allies that might end up taking Rand out, Fain seems both best equipped and unequal in his desire to be the one to kill Rand (Lanfear/Cyndane is definitely up there in her hatred of Rand, but there's just enough reasonable doubt to give Fain the edge here).
There are many ways in which Fain killing Rand could possibly end up being a good thing, which would definitely entrench Fain's "Gollumness" in the series. Dark Rand 2.0 could be terrorizing the countryside and Fain could dispatch him, not knowing of the difference in his alignment. It would help satisfy prophecy, which could enable other things which have yet to happen to unfold. Then there's that whole Blood on the Rocks thing that we are still unsure of. Either way, I'm looking out for Fain to possibly have a redeeming moment before the last book ends. After all, Egwene herself wonders in the first book if the "No man can stand in the Shadow so long..." quote could apply to Fain, and even though Moiraine is somewhat hesitant, it is definitely a possibility.
The last facet of Fain's character that I wanted to explore has to do with a symbolism that is inherent in Robert Jordan's writing. Padan Fain, or even Mordeth or Mashadar, seems to be absent from all prophecies. Egwene or any of the other characters who can Dream never catch a glimpse of him. Even Min, whose ability lets her see auras around anyone who impacts the Pattern significantly, comes up short.
A Crown of Swords
Chapter 35, "Into the Woods"
For some reason, Min’s eyes were drawn to his companion, a skinny little fellow with a large nose and wide ears, in a red silk coat that did not fit him very well. He kept fingering a curved dagger at his belt, a fancy piece with a golden sheath and a large red stone capping the hilt that seemed to catch the light darkly. She saw no auras around him.
Robert Jordan commented on Fain's unusual nature a couple of times, giving us more hints as to his role in the series:
Wotmania/Dragonmount Q&A - 9 December 2002
Q: Has the Padan Fain/Mordeth character been present in previous Ages, or is he unique to this particular Age?
RJ: He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern.
Jordan also remarked in another Q&A session that Fain was his wild card, a character that existed outside the structure of the Pattern and could act unpredictably. In playing cards, the "wild card" is usually the Joker, which draws its roots from a Tarot card called the Fool. The Fool is a part of the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck, but it is unique in that all of the other cards in the Major Arcana come with a number assigned to them, but the Fool was always either unnumbered or number zero. There is another article at the 13th Depository that goes much deeper into this subject, and I definitely recommend reading it. Basically, the Fool card can be said to represent the Unknown. That which cannot be easily categorized or even defined. The supernatural, or perhaps even past it. It could even be said that it represents infinity, or even a singularity.
The point is that Fain doesn't have to play by the rules set forth by the Pattern. His transformation could be said to be a cosmic accident, and yet most philosophers would point out that accidents are never as random as we think them to be. Another friend and reader (and mentor) of mine put forth another idea to me recently, that Rand ultimately will end the cyclical nature of his world and have reality continue in a linear time model using the Horn of Valere. Some time ago, I wrote one of my favorite blogs, which covered the topic of eternal return and the cyclical nature of the Wheel of Time (click here to read that entry), and pointed out that cyclical time didn't have to be viewed as such a horrid concept. However, if something were to happen that broke Rand's world out of its cyclical time model, I'm not sure if the Horn of Valere would be necessary--but I'm almost positive Fain would have to be involved.
Well, that's it for this week. I hope everyone enjoyed this week's read. Of course, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Next week, we'll be covering another favorite character of mine: Slayer! Also, as you can see, I pay close attention to any thoughts, ideas, or theories sent to me from anyone else, so if you have some thoughts about anything in the series and you would like someone to discuss them with, please shoot me a pm or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't check my email that often, to be honest (or my pm box for that matter), but I promise to read and respond to anything you send. Till next time!