Good tidings, my talented guests of Dragonmount! Welcome back to "It Works in Theory", Dragonmount's intermittent Wheel of Time-themed theory blog. I'm sure I could come up with some playful banter to waste some time before the disclaimer, but since I'm guessing many of you might have been anxious for another dosage of "It Works in Theory", I'll go ahead and skip the theatrics in favor of getting to the proceedings (somewhat) quickly.
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! "It Works in Theory" is best enjoyed from multiple psychological perspectives within each individual. Dilution of the signal by perceiving it through only one personality or that of a relatively sane individual will only serve to diminish the strength and clarity of the signal, resulting in confusion and lack of comprehension. "It Works in Theory" assumes no responsibility for those rare cases in which the consumer actually claims that of competent and clear mental faculties.
We shall belatedly continue the "Darkfriend Appreciation (Month)" this week by examining a very peculiar character indeed, Mazrim Taim. He has long been a figure of much speculation and pondering, and he also seems to have a fairly strong role yet to play in the last book. Ever since he was first introduced into the storyline, multiple questions have constantly revolved around him. His blend of offhand casual insanity and calm calculation makes him an interesting character to theorize about because the reader always gets a sense he is plotting something rather elaborate. He also carries a good bit of power with his office, controlling a growing force of Shadow-controlled Dreadlords who will surely be very deadly in the Last Battle. Before we continue on the many ideas and questions regarding Taim, there is first one issue that we might as well go ahead and cover right out of the gate.
Taim is not Demandred. Many seem to have independently arrived at this conclusion after reading the series, and even after rereading and researching key parts. Indeed, this issue seems to have gotten almost as much attention over the years as the famous "Asmodean's Murder Mystery" spectacle got. There are many clues which seem to suggest this idea may be true, which I will get to a bit later. Nevertheless, we have had several times in which Robert Jordan himself discounted the theory:
INTERVIEW: Apr 20th, 2004
TOR Questions of the Week Part I (Verbatim)
WEEK 4 QUESTION
At a 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?
Yes. Demandred has never posed as Mazrim Taim. All right, those of you 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.
INTERVIEW: Jan 7th, 2003
COT Signing Report - Ted Herman (Verbatim)
Is Taim Demandred?
No, that is totally bogus.
INTERVIEW: Jan 16th, 2003
COT Signing Report - Matthew Julius (Paraphrased)
It's been said that you mentioned that Mazrim Taim is not Demandred. There seems to be some confusion on whether or not you said that.
Mazrim Taim is not Demandred.
INTERVIEW: Sep 3rd, 2005
DragonCon Report - Emma (Verbatim)
Was Taimandred a deliberate ruse to lead your readers astray, or were you surprised (by all of the theories connecting Taim to Demandred)?
I was surprised but I wasn't going to disabuse you of it for a while, I like to watch you squirm.
I hope there aren't too many people out there who are disheartened by this information; I know it seemed like a perfect fit. After all, Taim is said to be extremely powerful in the One Power. He has been able to channel for far longer than most men and doesn't seem (completely) insane yet. Even his use of phrases and mannerisms seem to suggest that Taim could actually be a Forsaken, and Demandred to boot. Alas, it was not meant to be. We'll cover who Demandred's alter ego might be (or if he has one) in a future blog, but for today we can still discuss the questions concerning Taim's origins.
The easiest part to explain is Taim's ability to channel and not be completely maddened by the Taint. He is obviously a Darkfriend, and more than likely due to the strength of his power has the Dark One's protection from the Taint on saidin. Even with his protection, there are more than enough examples of Taim having little slips of insanity. His power level is somewhat irrelevant, as we've seen several Third Agers who have seemed to sprout out of nowhere with unusually powerful abilities with channeling. Interestingly enough, though, his decorum and phrasing are the most interesting aspects about the "Taimandred" theory.
Mazrim Taim seems to make some odd slips of the tongue throughout the series, and these vocal phrases and utterings have drawn a fair amount of attention from theoryheads on this and other websites. The most famous is probably the "So-called Aiel" line he drops in Lord of Chaos:
Lord of Chaos
Chapter 11, "Lessons and Teachers"
"Once they've agreed to follow a man who can channel, they can hardly balk at letting me test them. Those who fail, I'll send on to Caemlyn. It's time you started rasing an army of your own instead of depending on others. Bashere could change his mind; he will, if Queen Tenobia tells him to. And who can know what these so-called Aiel will do." This time he paused, but Rand held his tongue. He had thought along the same lines himself, if certainly not about the Aiel, but Taim had no need to know that.
Only one other person in the series uses this same way of referring to the Aiel: Moridin.
A Crown of Swords
Chapter 20, "Patterns Within Patterns"
The watcher ghosted through the trees, making no sound. It was wonderful what you could learn with a callbox, especially in a world where there seemed to be only two others. That red dress was easy to follow, and they never looked back even to see whether some of those so-called Aiel were trailing them. Graendal maintained the Mask of Mirrors that hid her true form, but Sammael had dropped his, golden-bearded again and just head and shoulders taller than she.
There are other explanations for this phraseology, of course. Assuming Mazrim Taim was knowledgeable about history and translation of words from the Old Tongue, he would understand the irony in the People of the Dragon referring to themselves as Aiel. Aiel, as you may remember, means dedicated in the Old Tongue; however, the Aiel of today are no longer dedicated to the same set of morals and values that they once were. There are a couple of other important slips, though, that start to make this harder to explain away so easily.
When Taim is first learning more of how much Rand knows about channeling, he sees Rand demonstrate opening a gateway, and Rand describes what he's doing:
Lord of Chaos
Chapter 3, "A Woman's Eyes"
"This is a gateway," he told Taim. "I'll show you how to make one if you didn't catch it." The man was staring at him. If he had been watching carefully, he should have seen Rand's weaving of saidin; any man able to channel could do that.
Yet later, Taim expresses astonishment at Rand's lack of knowledge of other channeling fundamentals:
Lord of Chaos
Chapter 3, "A Woman's Eyes"
"This lot was dredged from the bottom of-" Taim began contemptuously, then stopped in the middle of the farmyard, staring at Rand. Chickens scratched in the dust around his feet. "You haven't tested any of them? Why, in the name of...? You cannot, can you? You can Travel, but you do not know how to test for the talent."
Rand never mentioned Traveling, yet Taim obviously sees that the gateway Rand opened was used for none other than Traveling. Once again, this might be able to be explained away on its own, but together with the "So-called Aiel" comment and this last example, it really starts to become a stretch.
The last example comes from the book title of the last few quotes, an utterance that becomes both something of a motto and an order to anyone trying to further the Shadow's goals: "Let the Lord of Chaos rule." The directive is handed down to the Forsaken, and they mention it in passing several times in the span of a couple of books. Yet when the group of Red Ajah Aes Sedai from Elaida approach Taim about bonding some of his Asha'man for Warders, Taim catches both the Aes Sedai representative, Pevara, and the reader alike off-guard when he uses the phrase as well:
Knife of Dreams
Epilogue, "Remember the Old Saying"
Pevara blinked in spite of herself. Very well? She must have misunderstood him. He could not have been convinced so easily.
Taim's eyes seemed to bore into her head. He spread his hands, and it was a mocking gesture. "What would you have me say? Fair is fair? Equal shares? Accept very well and ask who will let you bond them. Besides, you must remember the old saying. Let the lord of chaos rule." The chamber erupted with laughter.
The other parts about this theory that interest me are Taim's choice of decor. He definitely seems to favor red and black, which Moridin also seems to favor, and the dais he uses to address the Asha'man, made of a strange black rock, seems like it might perhaps be able to trace its origin to Shayol Ghul. Even more interesting, when Pevara is first being brought into the Black Tower and is describing some of the details she notices, we catch something interesting:
Knife of Dreams
Epilogue, "Remember the Old Saying"
The palace the Murandian had spoken of was just that, two stories of white marble topped with pointed domes and spires in the style of Saldaea, separated from a large space of bare, hard-packed ground by the white platform. It was not a large palace, but most nobles lived in buildings far smaller and less grand. Broad stone stairs rose to a wide landing in front of tall twinned doors. Each bore a gauntleted fist gripping three lightning bolts, carved large and gilded. Those doors swung open before the Tairen reached them, but there were no servants in evidence. The man must have channeled. Pevara felt that chill again. Javindhra muttered under her breath. With a sound of prayer, this time.
There have been two other circumstances in which we have seen similar markings, and both were in adornment of something a Forsaken owned. The first was Belal's coach in The Dragon Reborn:
The Dragon Reborn
Chapter 51, "Bait for the Net"
A coachman dressed like the soldiers, but without armor or sword, sat on the seat, and another opened the door as they appeared from the house. Before he did, Nynaeve saw the sigil painted there. A silver-gauntleted fist clutching jagged lightning bolts.
Then we see it again in the meeting that Nynaeve and Birgitte spy on in Tel'aran'rhiod:
The Fires of Heaven
Chapter 34, "A Silver Arrow"
A compact man of middling height, with a livid scar across his face and a square golden beard, leaned forward angrily. His chair was heavy wood, carved with columns of armored men and horses, a steel-gauntleted fist clasping lightning at the back's peak.
There's really no easy explanation for this; the symbol is too similar to the ones used by the Forsaken to be mere coincidence. So, if Taim isn't Demandred, could he be another Forsaken? All the other clues would point to it being Moridin if he WAS one of them, but I find this highly unlikely because Taim would have to be present and active in the Black Tower affairs to keep a good eye on things, and Moridin is way too busy with other Nae'blis stuff. In all actuality, Taim is probably just Taim, not some other Forsaken's alter ego or avatar.
That still leaves some unanswered questions, however. Taim definitely seems to exhibit the habits of a channeler from the Age of Legends. I personally would be very excited if this was the case, for I have long thought that this could be the case. Perhaps he was a channeler from that Age but just wasn't infamous enough to earn the reputation that the Forsaken earned. If this was the case, though, there would need to be an explanation for where he had been the past 3,000 years. It's possible that he was Sealed in the Bore with the other Forsaken, perhaps near the surface, and stole out in time to become a false Dragon. This seems kind of unlikely, but other explanations start getting even more flimsy (he was stuck in a stasis box, or he was on another Portal World whose time moved much faster than ours). So, the Age of Legends channeler idea might be nixed.
A much simpler explanation for Taim's odd behavior and sayings would be that he is being controlled and directed by the Forsaken, and that their habits are wearing off on him. This explanation definitely seems to fit best with the whole "Let the Lord of Chaos rule" comment. Some even think Taim might be in the process of being groomed for a "new" Forsaken position, perhaps along with Alviarin (the head of the Black Ajah). This is speculated because of one scene in which a Forsaken meeting seems to have two extra chairs set out. I can see both sides to this debate: with some of the Forsaken balefired out of existence, I could see the Dark One wanting to "fill in the ranks" so as to better prepare the Shadow for the Last Battle, but I could also see the other Forsaken having a serious problem with this. They more than likely think that the less of them there are, the more power they will each get to split with one another, and I don't think they would show any mercy to a "new" Forsaken because of this.
Alright, we're several paragraphs in, have a bunch of quotes from both the series and the author himself, and we've established that Taim is not Demandred, but that he's still kind of odd. Well done so far, if I do say so myself. So the next question is, what shall be his fate in the last book? At this point, I think it's safe to say that his fate is intertwined with that of Logain's; those two have been gearing up for a showdown for quite some time. What will happen, though? At first glance, Taim seems to have a decidedly significant advantage. He has more channelers on his side, the Forsaken and other nasty foes in his corner, and also has had much more time with which to plan whatever it is he's been planning. But we know that Logain is destined for glory, so really the main query would seem to be how Logain ends up taking him down.
I actually LOVE an idea that one of my readers posted in the comments section for my blog on Logain, and in fact, I was fairly envious that I had not thought of it first:
@Despothera - The only thing you left out of your article was Logain's ability to see Ta'veren (Sited [sic] in Chapter 30 of Lord of Chaos. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta'veren#cite_note-1) and how this could play into his role and return to Glory.
In particular, I believe this Talent will allow Logain to see through a deception by Taim. I believe Taim will use the Mask of Mirrors to present himself as Rand to the Asham'man [sic] at the Black Tower. However, being that Logain can see Ta'veren, he will know it is not Rand, and will rally his forces to attack, and eventually kill Taim. This makes sense as to why he would be laughing as he stepped over "Rand's" dead body. It also explains why Rand's face breaks apart (Mask of Mirrors). Thereafter he ascends the black stone, and becomes the new M'hael (if he still uses that title, though I think he will title himself Tamyrlin).
Grifter7 was gracious enough to point out how I had forgotten to include Logain's ability to see ta'veren, and he points out a VERY good example of how this ability could become very significant. Really, I don't have much to add to his thoughts, since it really does seem like a very good possibility at this point. Great job, Grifter. It's good to see my theorizing and general prognostication are rubbing off on some of my readers (just kidding).
Don't worry, I'm not going to just leave it at that. Taim deserves a bit more, and seeing as how he is fairly loony himself, I don't mind borrowing a couple of theories from the "loony bin." Two things have always piqued my interest when discussing Taim. The first has to do with a very nefarious process we learned about early in the series when Egwene was completing her test for Accepted: the 13 x 13 trick. Just as a refresher, if 13 channelers use 13 Myrddraal to focus their channeling, they can initiate a ritual in which any channeler can be turned to the Shadow forcibly, no matter how strong the will of the channeler being converted. That's pretty nasty business. It looks like we already have evidence of it happening at the Black Tower:
Towers of Midnight
Chapter 56, "Something Wrong"
Packs of black-coated men stood, with arms folded, watching him. Androl tried not to feel a chill. As he walked, he noted Mezar--hair graying at the sides, skin a Domani copper--standing with a group of lackeys. The man smiled at him. Mezar hadn't ever been one who smiled easily. Androl nodded to him, meeting his eyes.
And he saw what Norley had seen. Something was deeply wrong, something not-quite-alive inside those eyes. This didn't seem to be a man, but a parody of one. A shadow stuffed inside human skin.
Light help us all, Androl thought, hurrying by.
Towers of Midnight
Chapter 53, "Gateways"
"Actually," Tarna said, continuing to write, "I've been thinking on what we discussed last night. Perhaps I was hasty. There is much to learn here, and there is the matter of the rebels outside. If we leave, they will bond Asha'man, which should not be allowed."
The woman looked up, and Pevara froze. There was something different in Tarna's eyes, something cold. She'd always been a distant one, but this was worse.
Tarna smiled, a grimace that looked completely unnatural on her face. Like a smile on the lips of a corpse. She turned back to her writing.
Something is very, very wrong here, Pevara thought.
One of the funny things is that although I have probably discussed 17 different ways that we could end up seeing Dark Rand 2.0 in the last book, I've never really focused on the 13x13 trick being the way that he is converted, even though it's probably one of the most feasible ways it could happen. More importantly, though, the method can be used on ANY channeler, so we could very well see someone else kidnapped and brought to the tower and be in danger of being turned to the Shadow. We all know the stage is set for a big battle scene in Caemlyn somewhere around the start of A Memory of Light. It's very easy to believe that when Elayne finds out about her city being attacked, she will want to personally Travel back there and try to restore order. Maybe we'll see her, or another major character that can channel, being carted off to the Black Tower in order to be converted to the Shadow. Even if the ritual is stopped before fruition, it would definitely help add a good bit of tension to whatever rescue operation ends up going down.
The second "out there" idea that I've always kind of focused on in my research has to do with something that Taim brought to Rand in their original meeting. He brought Rand one of the Seals to the Dark One's prison, claiming to have been given it by a random farmer on a trek back from Saldaea. Aside from how sketchy Taim's story is for where he got it, we first would have to wonder why a Darkfriend, one as high up as Taim, would be fine handing over a Seal to Rand. We know that several attempts have been made by those controlled by the Shadow to recover the other Seals Rand has in his possession, so it's obvious the Shadow has some small desire to get those back. One obvious motive for Taim could have been to try and earn Rand's trust by giving him such a token, and this actually kind of works to some extent. But this seems like a small reward for giving away one of the keys to Rand defeating the Dark One at Tarmon Gai'don.
Then I read something from one of our discussion threads in the Wheel of Time discussion forums. In this post, one of our intuitive readers suggests that the Seal Taim gave Rand is actually a fake, and that this is part of a semi-elaborate ruse on Taim's part to try and help undermine Rand's attempt to fight the Dark One. Basically, the theory goes that Rand has to "clear away the rubble"--that is, he has to destroy all the Seals on the Dark One's prison so that he can perhaps construct a new prison for the Dark One. However, Rand already knows that with every Seal that he destroys, the Dark One gains that much influence on Randland. And he also believes that to do it right he has to destroy the Seals at Shayol Ghul, which just so happens to be the strongest area of the Dark One's power.
What if Rand gets there, prepared to destroy the Seals and remake the Dark One's prison, only to realize at the last second he has only destroyed six of the seven Seals? Unable to continue his plan, he would suddenly be at the complete mercy of Shai'tan, and would have only a single moment to curse Mazrim Taim's name before being consumed by Darkness. A scramble would ensue, not only to try and keep Dark Rand 2.0 from terrorizing the countryside, but also to find the last Seal pronto so that Rand's plan can be finished. I, for one, find it to be a completely evil idea and a very interesting possibility indeed.
Well, that's all for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading today's blog, and I'll try my best to keep getting these out to you with somewhat more regularity. As always, let me know what you think in the comments section, and be on the lookout for the last "Darkfriend Appreciation Blog", which will focus on a very interesting Darkfriend indeed! Adios!