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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

WoT If…the Glass Column Ter'angreal Lied?


Mashiara Sedai

Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining me for another week of "WoT If?". For this edition, I want to look at some of the facts surrounding the glass column ter'angreal and the visions/past lives it shows to those who enter. There will be a focus on Aviendha's trip through them, trying to determine if it's actually the future of her line, or if it's a warning of things she can change.

 

Spoiler warning! This will include content from many books in the series, including Towers of Midnight, and speculation about A Memory of Light. Please read at your own risk.

 

Many fans agree that Rand's trip through the glass column ter'angreal is one of the finest scenes in the series. It's a wonderful display of Robert Jordan's storytelling abilities. It's intriguing, captivating, and gives us a lot of information about life before the series began. Even Brandon Sanderson said, "However, as I consider it, probably my favorite sequence of scenes in the entire series is the one with Rand going through the ter'angreal at Rhuidean."

 

From Rand's trip inside the ter'angreal, we get a detailed view of what life was like for the Aiel. We see their decline from serving Aes Sedai and practicing the Way of the Leaf to being desert nomads who are constantly at war with the world and each other. This is a tragic fall for their people, losing their purpose as well as their home and native lifestyle.

 

Rand understands right away that he saw the "lost history of the Aiel's origins" (The Shadow Rising, Chapter 34, "He Who Comes With the Dawn") when he went through the ter'angreal. His assumption is correct; Rhuarc confirms it:

 

The Shadow Rising

Chapter 34, "He Who Comes With the Dawn"

 

"No two clan chiefs I have spoken with have seen through exactly the same eyes, Rand, or exactly the same things, until the sharing of water, and the meeting where the Agreement of Rhuidean was made. Whether it is the same for Wise Ones, I do not know, but I suspect it is. I think it is a matter of bloodlines. I believe I saw through the eyes of my ancestors, and you yours."

 

This is important because it shows us that the ter'angreal shows factual events. It shows actual pieces of the Pattern through the person's ancestor's thread. Rand's experiences were seen through the eyes of that ancestor, even knowing their thoughts. It's as if he was transported into their body and mind completely for the duration of the vision. That means the ter'angreal has access to weaves already woven into the Pattern. It can step outside of time and pull out the threads it needs to, in order to show the person their past.

 

It's not too surprising that a ter'angreal can do this. The one used to test novices shows "what was" (The Great Hunt, Chapter 23, "The Testing"). And it could be argued that Nynaeve's first encounter in this test was in a past life. She did have an experience fighting Aginor in The Eye of the World, but during the test, she knows things she shouldn't. She is able to sense Aginor's channeling and alters his flows of saidin; this doesn’t become possible in the main storyline until Knife of Dreams, Chapter 23, "Call to a Sitting." Nynaeve's knowledge hints that this comes from a past life, not something based off their fight during The Eye of the World.

 

So, if the glass column ter'angreal can show the factual past, can it show the factual future? I think this is the biggest concern facing our characters. Because, even if the Light wins the Last Battle, the Seanchan empire still rules over everything, eventually. Jason Denzel, in his review of Towers of Midnight, implies that if Aviendha's visions are correct, it leads to a not-so-happy-ending:

 

"The other scene that rocked me to read is one that completely embraces the spirit of the whole series. It's the epitome of what makes The Wheel of Time stand apart from all other fantasy series. To say that I was moved by it is an understatement. After reading it, I honestly began to question whether this story will actually have a happy ending or not. I mean, let's face it. Most of us assume the series will conclude with a victory at the Last Battle, with maybe a few heroic deaths along the way, right? Well this sequence I'm talking about proves that even victory can be disaster. It shows that even the most noble of intentions can have a butterfly-effect ripple across the Pattern. The sequence was beautiful to behold, and that alone makes ToM worthy of being on the shelf with your other WoT books."

 

With that in mind, I think we can see two different ways of looking at this sequence. The first way is that the ter'angreal is unbiased, showing the facts, not wanting to take any part. With this way of thinking, Aviendha's vision is true, unchangeable, the irrevocable future. The other way is that the ter'angreal is caring, showing a possible future, wanting to lead the viewer in a new direction. If this is what happens, Aviendha's vision is a warning and can be changed.

 

I think I've already established that the ter'angreal's past visions are accurate, but here's more proof. In an interview, Robert Jordan was asked about the glass columns:

 

Question: Rhuarc indicates that an Aiel in Rhuidean sees the past through the eyes of one of his ancestors. Is this true for the women as well? What would a non-Aiel see, if anything?

 

Robert Jordan: Yes, a woman would also see through the eyes of her ancestors, at least in the "forest of crystal spires" ter'angreal, and she, too, would live the history of the Aiel, in effect. Someone who wasn't Aiel could wander through those spires forever and never see a thing except the spires. He or she might think it was a monument, or maybe a work of art.

 

If Robert Jordan says they see "through the eyes" of their ancestors, then it's got to be true. The ter'angreal is accurate, showing the exact past. And because it doesn't lie about the past, why would it lie about the future? I think this is the main proof that what Aviendha sees will come to pass. She thinks so too:

 

Towers of Midnight

Chapter 49, "Court of the Sun"

 

This was not like the events she had seen when passing into the rings during her first visit to Rhuidean. Those had been possibilities. This day’s visions seemed more real. She felt almost certain that what she had experienced was not simply one of many possibilities. What she had seen would occur. Step by step, honor drained from her people. Step by step, the Aiel turned from proud to wretched.

 

Still, Aviendha decides to try to change the future, whether or not she can:

 

“Can I change it?” she asked.

 

If I can’t, she thought, will that stop me from trying?

 

The answer was simple. No. She could not live without doing something to avert that fate. She had come to Rhuidean seeking knowledge. Well, she had received it. In more abundance than she had wanted.

 

But, in her last vision, Padra remembers her mother (Aviendha) talking "often" about the challenges the Aiel would face after their part in the Last Battle was done:

 

Others nodded. But that raised a larger problem, one her mother had often spoken of. What was it to be Aiel, now that their duty to the past had been fulfilled, their toh as a people cleansed?

 

To me, this sounds like Aviendha trying to tell her children about the dangers she saw in their future. Trying to instill in them the consequences of going down a path toward war. However, it's Padra's desire to prove herself that makes her agree to the plan of war against the Seanchan. I don't think there's anything Aviendha can do to remove a child's desire to gain "great ji" like her parents.

 

That makes it seem pretty certain that events will unfold as they have been shown in the ter'angreal, but there is a counter argument. First, as Jason said, it leaves the reader with a sense of unhappiness. Obviously, Robert Jordan's story won't end with "they lived happily ever after," but I think the readers want a sense of peaceful closure. There will be war in the world's future—we know it eventually becomes our own time, which is constantly at war—but I don't think Robert Jordan would leave us with such a sour taste in our mouths.

 

So, could the ter'angreal be lying? Could it be a warning, not prophecy? It's possible. When Aviendha tries to read the ter'angreal, she senses that it is alive:

 

Towers of Midnight

Chapter 48, "Near Avendesora"

 

She sensed the powerful aura of the pillar. It was far more potent than any of the ter’angreal she had handled with Elayne. Indeed, the pillars seemed…alive, somehow. It was almost as if she could sense an awareness from them.

 

That gave her a chill. Was she touching the pillar, or was it touching her?

 

She tried to read ter’angreal as she had done before, but this one was vast. Incomprehensible, like the One Power itself. She inhaled sharply, disoriented by the weight of what she felt. It was as if she had suddenly fallen into a deep, dark pit.

 

She snapped her eyes open, pulling her hand away, palm quivering. This was beyond her. She was an insect, trying to grasp the size and mass of a mountain. She took a breath to steady herself, then shook her head. There was nothing more to be done here.

 

After she touches it and takes a step, she sees through the eyes of Malidra. This is important because she steps away from the columns, not into them. The ter'angreal, when it touched her, sensed her need for more answers. Or perhaps Aviendha accidentally flipped a switch, making it show the future rather than the past? If so, is the flip permanent? Will another Aiel see the past now, or the future? Either way, it acted on its own, not waiting for her to enter a second time.

 

This fact suggests that the ter'angreal is sentient and that the future might be changed. It has a desire to show Aviendha this for a reason. If there was nothing she could do, why would the ter'angreal bother showing her?

 

Well, one reason could be the fact that the future was difficult for her to see. The whole point of the test was to weed out people unworthy of becoming Wise Ones and Chiefs. Aviendha had no problem seeing the past; in fact, she thinks that "everything she’d seen had been expected. Almost disappointingly so" (Towers of Midnight, Chapter 48, "Near Avendesora"). There's no longer a challenge for them going into the ter'angreal. But seeing the future could kill. Aviendha really struggled with the visions. She is disgusted by what the Aiel have become, sickened that it starts with her line. If they want to continue to test their Chiefs and Wise Ones, this seems a better challenge.

 

Could the ter'angreal know its purpose? Could it know that it is supposed to test the Aiel? If so, it could understand that the past wasn't enough of a challenge now. It could have changed so its usefulness wouldn't end.

 

I don't think we will find out the answer to this question in A Memory of Light. I bet this is one of those things Robert Jordan wants left unsaid. I think more evidence points out that it's the actual future and Aviendha can't change it no matter what she does. However, my understanding of the Pattern is that it's not woven yet. So perhaps there is some wiggle room for certain threads.

 

There won't be a post next week due to Dragon*Con, so I'll keep you guessing about what the topic will be for the week after that. Thanks for reading.




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I can agree on most of this but I believe the columns are showing her " a possible " future. An example of what I mean can be taken from "Back to the Future" at the end when Doc gives Marty the picture and tells him,"The future is'nt set yet,so make it a good one". I am of a belief that the visions show her if the Aiel continue on the path they are on,this WILL be thier future. Aviendha now needs to show HER strength,resolve and commitment to her people and get thier whole society to put aside the Aiels war/fighting belief.Those who can see the right of what she says will be the "remnant of a remnant". I also feel that those who don't follow her will be destroyed by the Seachan. I think her argument can be," if you thought you were strong enough wed to the spear, I'll show you true strength in putting aside that spear and being a true "People of the Dragon"

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to me, its obviously just "a possible future" as aviendha's children are named :) a very easy way to change the future from the visions she saw, is to name her children something else... a small difference, but an easy proof that the vision isnt set in stone...

 

the future is only what we make of it...

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I thought it was common knowledge that it was only a possible future. There'd be absolutely no point in it otherwise; a factual future is unchangeable, and knowledge thereof defeats any and all motivation in the present, as the result is a foregone conclusion. The visions are a tool - they warn of likely/possible outcomes of present circumstances so that future Wise Ones can take the correct course(s) of action to prevent the worst.

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also, i believe the glass columns dont show past/future, they show the different ages... when avi touched the columns, they sensed her, and her need, and simply updated to show the next age... if anyone else stepped through now, the would also be shown the next age... be it past, present, or future...

 

as for its certinty, i still believe the past is set, it will show that without error... but the future can only ever be a possibility

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the future aviendha saw is like any other wot prophecy,a possibility,nothing more.

rand can change some of it:

command all the aiel clans to return back to the three fold land,to turn the clans into a nation,to abolish all blood feud,build cities,use the ocean of sweet water underneath rhuidean to turn their arid land green.

open trade with other nations etc,etc...

the aiel need a new purpose?not a problem,here is a 1000 years purpose!

first of all,aviendha must meet rand before his proclamation and tell him

everything.

there is a wide range of possibilities between lived happily ever after and the bleak future aviendha saw 50-100 years after the last battle when all

randland is under the seachan yoke.

rand paid a terrible terrible price just to be in the field of merrilor,so for him

alone i will settle for some happiness.

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I have to agree with everyone who believes it to be only a possible future. We saw that there are possibilities in the pattern when Rand took the others through the portal stone. With each flicker they seemed to see a possibility of what was, is and could be. I havent read that book in a while, Im holding off on my re read until AMoL is close to release, and therefore probably not explaining what I mean very well but I hope you see the connection Im attempting to make

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I too am hoping that it is not a certain future, so I convinced myself that it is a showing of the far distant past, at the last turning of the whole wheel. While it would be immensely powerful to read bloodlines or read threads from so long ago, it seems to me to be impossible to tell a future that has not yet been woven. And as mentioned above, it could be telling a near future from an adjacent reality, like the portal stones (think Sliders), though I personally think that is a different "technology" if you will.

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It's not even a possible future imho. I think the girl. Nakomi, being of lanfear in origin in my opinion, or at least someone of bad taste, either messed with the pillars, or messed with Avi's state of mind, because the things nakomi spoke of were directly viewed in the visions. It's too freaky to be coincidence. They're meant to mess with Avi's priorities and set her down the wrong path.

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I haven't read this since shortly after it was released.. I am starting my re-read of the series after Halloween... I seem to recall there being a issue of Aviendha having her dreams manipulated and the glass column vision being an extension of that (a complicated, last minute attempt to influence Aviendha's actions towards the shadow)... That being a stretch (or simply wrong), seeing through the perspective of one individual is limiting and biased. Different people see the same event in slightly different ways, no matter how clear cut they might seem. Especially if the latter Aiel are so beaten down and not in communication with each other, what is seen might not be universal. If nothing else, fodder for eventual sequel and prequel series (just keep Brian Herbert away).

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It would be easy for her to change that future, she hasn't had Rand's children. She just needs to make sure that doesn't happen. 'Course, that would also make Min's vision wrong.

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I do enjoy reading these "WOT If..." posts. They are well thought out, concise, and make me think. Well done, I'm starting to look forward to them as relief from waiting for MoL.

 

Thank you.

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Mashiara Sedai

Posted

Wow, everyone.

 

I totally agree that it's much better if they suggest a "possible future," but one of the theories on time travel is that you can't change anything, ever. In that "possible future," she saw the vision in the glass columns; she tried to warn her children about the dangers; her children, and their offspring, still made mistakes and had a slightly different perspective about what it means to be Aiel. There's a saying that goes something like this: "You often meet your destiny on the road you took to avoid it."

 

Also, some things are set in stone, like Min's viewings. That must mean the Pattern is already woven, or else, what is she seeing? She doesn't see possible futures--except in the case of Egwene and Gawyn.

 

That being said, I like to point out both sides of an argument. It's not harmful to keep an open mind and try to examine the stories from another angle. :)

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Two things: I think that the glass pillars were showing the possible future just because I feel there were a couple things in the visions that didn't quite add up to the present.

 

Second, even if the pillars were telling the truth, remember the fact that there are seven ages. Each age repeats with some slight variations. Even if the Seanchan do win out, eventually, they find there downfall. Take comfort in that.

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Second, even if the pillars were telling the truth, remember the fact that there are seven ages. Each age repeats with some slight variations. Even if the Seanchan do win out, eventually, they find there downfall. Take comfort in that.

 

Provided this is correct, and the circular nature of the Pattern predetermines most events of an Age, then this seems more of a foregone conclusion. But lets get crazy. What if this is the Last Battle of Last Battles? What if Rand concludes that breaking the wheel to seal away the Dark One will end it forever? Does the Pattern become more mutable if time is suddenly linear?

 

Its not entirely out of the question. Moridin thinks that the Dark One winning will destroy the wheel, and allow him to finally die. That doesn't mean that the good guys can't break the wheel and win. And Rand might just be crazy enough to try it.

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While I think most agree that the past is fact, going forward the Pillars only tell of what may come to pass. I believe they give hints of what might be, not what will be. Even min's viewing are of only parts of the pattern. And for certain people they have multiple outcomes yet to be determined. (Siaun and Bryn.) The Pillars are linked to the realm of the snakes and the foxes. I believe they lay outside the pattern in some way. And feed on emotion - Passion, and what greater passion is there than purpose. The reason I say this is because during Aviendha travels into her possible future she received hints at the "causes" of this possible future. This fore knowledge has armed her to deal with opportunities that are sure to arise during the current 'present' time. if only she can recognize what needs to 'change' to change the vision. (HINT) I feel comfortable suggesting that Aviendha's fate and that of her people might lie in influencing who comes to rule or continues to rule the crystal throne. If you re-read the chapter with this in mind I think it will shed new light.

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While I think most agree that the past is fact, going forward the Pillars only tell of what may come to pass. I believe they give hints of what might be, not what will be. Even min's viewing are of only parts of the pattern. And for certain people they have multiple outcomes yet to be determined. (Siaun and Bryn.) The Pillars are linked to the realm of the snakes and the foxes. I believe they lay outside the pattern in some way. And feed on emotion - Passion, and what greater passion is there than purpose. The reason I say this is because during Aviendha travels into her possible future she received hints at the "causes" of this possible future. This fore knowledge has armed her to deal with opportunities that are sure to arise during the current 'present' time. if only she can recognize what needs to 'change' to change the vision. (HINT) I feel comfortable suggesting that Aviendha's fate and that of her people might lie in influencing who comes to rule or continues to rule the crystal throne. If you re-read the chapter with this in mind I think it will shed new light.

it would be a kicker if the path that av finds for the aiel, is serving the empire, but, i really doubt it as the seanchan capture wise women as damane... a HUGE insult, to their entire way of life...

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Just my two cents, but I am utterly convinced that the future shown was possible...and for me, the clincher is the quote from Avi's kid:

 

"Others nodded. But that raised a larger problem, one her mother had often spoken of. What was it to be Aiel, now that their duty to the past had been fulfilled, their toh as a people cleansed?"

 

The writer took this to mean that Avi tried to use the info from the visions to steer her kids in the right direction, but I notice that Padra says that her mother commented on a "problem," and then phrased that problem in the form of a question. This heavily implies that Avi didnt have the answer to that question...it was unsolved. And that lack of resolution caused Padra and the others to speculate themselves, and come to very unfortunate conclusions.

 

To me, this sentence is the path-setter for Avi; this tells her how she can prevent this future. In fact, the very fact that she was shown this vision of the future tells her how the Aiel cannot define themselves (and live). The whole thing is tailor-made for her to prevent it from happening.

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I think that Aviendha is one of the characters who believes the most in "doing what needs to be done". And is she stunborn? Oh yeah she is. My bet is that she will decide not to bear Rand's children. That would definitely change the odds.

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Quote (sorry, I don't know how to use the quote function when I'm quoting from the main article and not another commenter)

 

 

Question: Rhuarc indicates that an Aiel in Rhuidean sees the past through the eyes of one of his ancestors. Is this true for the women as well? What would a non-Aiel see, if anything?

 

Robert Jordan: Yes, a woman would also see through the eyes of her ancestors, at least in the "forest of crystal spires" ter'angreal, and she, too, would live the history of the Aiel, in effect. Someone who wasn't Aiel could wander through those spires forever and never see a thing except the spires. He or she might think it was a monument, or maybe a work of art.

 

(End Quote)

 

My question on this is - what did Moiraine see if she isn't Aiel? Or did she not go through the columns on her trip to Rhuidean?

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@rosie moraine didnt go through the columns... she went through the rings... the columns show the past and(possible) future, the rings show similar to the flickering rand found on his trip by portal stone... what might be.... which is how she knew lanfear could have attacked at the docks, and how she might be able to beat her. and to leave the letter to tom for her rescue...

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Along with the others, I believe this to be just a possible future. And after my latest reread, I believe the answer may be right in front of us.

 

All of this is taken from Chapter 49, Court of the Sun.

 

What was it to be Aiel, now that their duty to the past had been fulfilled, their toh as a people cleansed?

 

This really is the central point of this whole sequence, IMO. The Aiel are warriors, and I don't believe there is any quick way that they will all abandon that, no matter their past. I don't see them returning to the Way of the Leaf, at least not quickly. Perhaps over generations, but not immediately. They grow restless during this peace, and need some greater cause or purpose to unify them.

 

Interestingly enough, there is another problem that is mentioned just a few lines further on.

 

"This peace of the Dragon's will not last long, anyway" [...] "Skirmishes between the nations are common, though none speak of them. The Car'a'carn required promises of the monarchs, but there is no enforcement. Many wetlanders cannot be held at their word, [...]"

 

I found this VERY interesting on my latest read. The very peace that Rand forges before the Last Battle appears doomed, because of lack of enforcement and untrustworthy people.

 

Hmm.. if only there were a group of people that could act as enforcers of the peace, a group that placed a high value on honor and honesty, and could, if necessary, act as a deterent because of superior military might. A group that could, in fact, remain warriors, have a use for their skills, and yet ultimately be committed to peace. I think, in this very chapter, we've seen what the future Aiel may in fact become.

 

Now, of course, there is more to it than that. This same section is the one where the Seanchan Empress is mentioned, and I believe this entire point is moot unless Tuon survives, and there can be some understanding between the Aiel and the Seanchan. But ultimately, I believe the Aiel in the future will be peace keepers and enforcers, and will find in this a new calling and purpose.

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I think that Aviendha is one of the characters who believes the most in "doing what needs to be done". And is she stunborn? Oh yeah she is. My bet is that she will decide not to bear Rand's children. That would definitely change the odds.

I also think she would be able to make such a decision, but what about Min's vision? There was an oddity about the kids, but there WERE kids, nothing like Gawyn and Egwene - as if the Pattern itself wasn't sure what would happen in that case. Could the fact of seeing the future possibly interfere somehow with the otherwise infallible visions? Besides, the oddity doesn't seem to refer to the kids' possible inexistence but to them being permanently connected to the Source.

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Mashiara Sedai

Posted

Even if Aviendha doesn't bear Rand's children, the Aiel are still floundering for a purpose after the Last Battle. If it's not Padra who takes the first step, another will.

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@mashiara,

i totally agree with you,the children of the dragon are not the biggest problem in aviendha visions.

there are two crucial points in aviendha flashforwards:

the first one is the new raison d'etre for the aiel clans after the last battle,and i already wrote about this yesterday.

the second one is the relations between the seanchan empire and randland including the aiel,a showdown between rand and tuon is

inevitable.

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@jack

and i really hope he slaps the taste out of her mouth. their last showdown wasn't as epic as i would have liked.

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