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WoT If... the Dark One Can't Touch the Dead?

Mashiara Sedai

Hello, all!  Welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog.  The topic this time is the walking death—or the ghosts—that pop up in several places in the series.  We have instances where this phenomenon is attributed to the Dark One, and in other places it's attributed to the Pattern.  So, which is it?  But first:


SPOILER WARNING.  This will include content from A Memory of Light.  Please DO NOT read this if you have not completed the book.


I think most of us would think that the ghosts, or spirits, are a result of the Pattern beginning to unravel.  Reality is getting warped.  First off, could it be because of all the balefire?


With the importance of balefire in A Memory of Light—and Egwene giving her life to combat it—balefire might be one of the main causes.  It is what frays the Pattern; it removes threads and threatens the existence of life itself.


Or is it just the Pattern?  An article on the WOTFAQ, "What's Up With the Ghosts?", has this to say about the dead's connection to the Pattern:


The walking dead are a sign that Tarmon Gaidon is near.  Several characters bring this up as evidence that the end is nigh.


Tuon: "Do you know nothing Toy? The dead walking are a sign that Tarmon Gai'don is near." [KOD (Knife of Dreams) 10: A Village in Shiota]


Verin: "It will come soon. According to everything I've rread on the subject, the signs are quite clear. Half the servants have recognized dead people in the halls, people they knew alive. It's happened often enough that they aren't frightened by it any longer. And a dozen men moving cattle to spring pasture watched a considerable town melt into mist just a few miles to the north." [KOD 18: News for the Dragon]


Egwene: "Egwene was able to discuss it with Siuan in Tel'aran'rhiod, so she knew that these things were signs of the approach of Tarmon Gai'don." [KOD 24: Honey in the Tea]


The ghost seem related to the same phenomena mentioned repeatedly in the books: the Pattern itself is [unraveling] and the fabric of reality is coming undone. Further evidence is the hallways of the palace in Caemlyn and the White Tower shifting [KOD 14: Wet Things], [KOD 24: Honey in the Tea], [TGS (The Gathering Storm) 6: When Iron Melts], villages appear and disappear [KOD 10: A Village in Shiota], [KOD 18: News for the Dragon] and whatever was going on in Hinderstap [TGS 28: A Night in Hinderstap], as well as other unexplainable events. The characters all seem to agree that this is evidence that the Last Battle is [imminent].


However, the unraveling of the Pattern is also blamed on the weakening seals, and the Dark One.  Look at this quote between Rand and Egwene about breaking the seals:


A Memory of Light

Chapter 5, "To Require a Boon"


[Egwene said,] “You won’t break them if I stop you, Rand.”


“Why would you want to stop me, Egwene? Give me a single reason why it would be a bad idea.”


“A single reason other than that it will let the Dark One loose on the world?”


“He was not loose during the War of Power,” Rand said. “He could touch the world, but the Bore being opened will not loose him. Not immediately.”


“And what was the cost of letting him touch the world? What are they now? Horrors, terrors, destruction. You know what is happening to the land. The dead walking, the strange twisting of the Pattern. This is what happens with the seals only weakened! What happens if we actually break them? The Light only knows.”


“It is a risk that must be taken.”


Here, Egwene is blaming the walking dead, not only on the seals, but on the Dark One.  She's implying his touch is what is causing the Pattern such turmoil.  She also thinks that breaking the seals would make everything worse.


By that logic, we can assume Egwene believes the Dark One is in control of all the dead.  That's a belief that's very debatable.  We know the Dark One is also called Lord of the Grave, but it's also a common belief within Randland that people who walk in the Light are protected from the Dark One after death.


There is a lot of conflicting information about this topic.  A lot of it is based on what characters believe, and it's been pointed out to us time and time again that the characters are not always right—in fact, most of the time they are wrong.


So, how much access does the Dark One have to souls?  The WOTFAQ also talks a bit about this.  They speculate that Ishamael—when impersonating Ba'alzamon in The Eye of the World—really had access to Kari al'Thor's soul.


It has long been argued over whether this Kari was real or an Illusion created by Ishy, but Alan Ellingson points out that in that scene, "Kari never tells/asks Rand to join Ba'alzamon. She only asks him to help her. Ba'alzamon might have limited what she couldn't say but he [evidently] couldn't force her to say anything. Remember in Rand's dreams in TDR (The Dragon Reborn) the people he trusted tried to kill him? Why wasn't Kari like that? Why couldn't Ba'alzamon make her say something more... appealing to Rand? Second, she refers to him as 'Lord of the Grave' and more importantly 'Father of Lies'. Yes, have your chief witness call you a 'Father of Lies' in front of the guy you are trying to convince to join you. Third, her last words are 'The Light. The blessed Light.' Why would Ba'alzamon make her say that if she were an illusion he created?"


However, even if that were true, how would Ishamael have access to the souls?  He is not the Dark One.  In fact, during this scene, none of the seals had been broken yet.  It isn't broken until after Rand's fight with Ishamael.  Therefore, the Dark One wouldn't be able to touch the land at all, let alone bring Kari al'Thor's soul back to talk to Rand.


The proposed idea that it isn't an illusion has some other flaws as well.  We know that the battle with Rand and Ishamael is taking place in Tel'aran'rhiod.  Ishamael is a very skillful manipulator of the World of Dreams; there's no reason Kari al'Thor can't be an illusion made by him.  Naturally, Ishamael would want her to say things that would convince Rand.  Having her say, "Join the Dark One," would key Rand in that it's a fake; Kari would never say that to her son.  So, he needed her to say things that sounded convincing; things that would make Rand believe she was real, giving Ishamael power over Rand.  If Rand believes it's true, in Tel'aran'rhiod, it is.


But her last line—"The Light. The blessed Light."—could be another trick of Tel'aran'rhiod.  If Rand believes it is Kari, Ishamael might lose a bit of control over the illusion.  She could be acting based on Rand's image of her.  We see something similar to this when Nynaeve and Elayne are playing in Tel'aran'rhiod:


The Fires of Heaven

Chapter 49, "To Boannda"


They quietly decided to leave animals alone after a peculiar thing — much like a horse with a horn on its nose! — chased them both up a hill before they could make it vanish. That very nearly sparked a new argument, with each of them claiming the other had made it, but by that time Elayne had recovered enough of her old self to start giggling over how they must have looked, racing up the hill with their skirts hauled up, shouting at the thing to go away. Even Elayne's stubborn refusal to admit it had been her fault could not stop Nynaeve's giggles from bubbling up, too.


Here, their made up creation begins to act on its own.  Obviously, they wouldn't want it to chase them, but their belief in it caused it to act the way they thought it would.  


I think that could show that Ishamael didn't really have access to Kari al'Thor's soul.


Another argument against the Dark One having souls is the fact that we see what he can do with them.  Let me try to explain.  The Dark One regenerates the souls he has.  We do not have any example of him holding onto souls and doing nothing with them.  Here's an interview with Robert Jordan that kind of says the same thing:


Question: To go back to what you were saying a few minutes ago, were you implying that you could channel the True Power without being granted immortality?


Robert Jordan: Oh yes.


Question: Aren't the Forsaken already ...


Robert Jordan: No. They're not immortal.


Question: Do they know that?


Robert Jordan: Yes, they know that.


Question: But they believe they are immortal.


Robert Jordan: No, they do not believe they are immortal, but they believe they will be. All they need to do is get the Dark One free. And they have been promised this. This is their reward for getting him free. If they manage to get him out of that prison, he will grant them immortality. And they believe this because they have seen him in the past, as he has done now, bring the dead back to life. Give the dead new bodies. Transfer souls from a dying body into a young and healthy body. They've seen him do this. So they know that can be done. So it's not as though they are believing something, somebody just walked up to you and said "I can make you immortal if you go out and do this, kill and do awful deeds". They've seen him, they have seen these incredible things done. So they have reason to believe.


Robert Jordan emphasizes that the Forsaken have seen the Dark One transmigrate souls, that he can bring the dead back to life.  Accessing souls and putting them into constructs—in this case, dead bodies—is nowhere near letting souls wander free all over the world.  


In fact, since the souls cannot touch the world and seem to be doing no harm, I think that shows it's not the Dark One's work right there.  If the dead were roaming on his behest, they woild be causing damage, doing evil, harming people—like the bubbles of evil that originate from him.


I think this also shows that Ishamael is a master manipulator.  He brings up Kari al'Thor, an illusion, to mess with Rand.  In the same way, he told Lews Therin in The Eye of the World prologue that the Dark One could bring back Ilyena.  Again, by that point, the Dark One was already sealed in the Bore.  There was no way he could have brought Ilyena back, even if he could access her soul.  Plus, there is still the debate of the Dark One being able to grab souls of people who walk in the Light.  Personally, I don't think the Dark One could have touched her at all, even if Lews Therin agreed to it.


The conclusion is that the dead have to be a result of the Pattern.  But for what purpose?  Just to fulfill the prophecies?  To be a sign that the Last Battle approaches?  Or is it involuntary?  Does the Pattern, in its weakened state, lose the ability to hold onto the dead?


This is getting a bit long, so we'll take a closer look at a few of those ideas for next week.  That's all for now.  Thanks for reading!

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In regards to Kari al'Thor, there was one other possibilty i wondered with her scene with Ishamael. Could it be possible the Kari was a dark friend? This would explain how Ish or the dark one would have access to her soul. I suppose that would have other rammifications as to wether she would know that infant Rand was the dragon reborn or not but i always found that curious.

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Mashiara Sedai


Daedelus, you're completely right.  Naturally, I don't want to think of anyone from the Two Rivers as being a Darkfriend, but it is a possibility.  That would be a good reason for the Dark One to have her soul.  However, I still don't think Ishy would have been able to have access to it at that time.

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Concerning the statement that the dead don't cause any harm to the living...


While it's true that the ghosts themselves don't attack anyone, there is an example of someone dying a horrible death due to apparitions. I forget the name of the book, but there was a scene in one of Matt's POVs where a someone wanders into a ghost village, which then sinks into the ground taking them with it, them screaming in agony as their legs go into the ground.


I'm not convinced the Dark One has access to the dead either, (apart from those that purposefully  sell their souls to him like the Forsaken and possibly Dark friends) . So does that mean the phantom village was actually a bubble of evil rather than actually ghosts? Or a mixture of both?


Personally I'd put it in the category of the harm being accidental, much like someone stepping in front of a truck. I.e. those caught in the phantom village would be killed as it vanished, but I don't think it was intentional. Merely people being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


But the harm was still done, albeit it was the ground, village rather than the actual ghosts of people.

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Mashiara Sedai


I'm not too sure about that, Mardragon.  The scene you are thinking of is "A Village in Shiota" (Knife of Dreams, Chapter 10).  It's hard to say if they are the normal ghosts or if they are a bubble of evil.  I don't think the peddler--who gets sucked into the ground with the village--we in pain; I think he was screaming out of fear. 


It might be similar to how the rooms and walls move inside the palace in Caemlyn or the Stone of Tear.  It's a piece of the Pattern that got moved.  The peddler just got stuck in it; the same way Nynaeve said she had to Travel out of a room at the Stone when the door disappeared.


If the Dark One doesn't have access to souls, as I argue, then I don't think the bubble of evil would bring up dead souls.  It's most likely the Pattern fraying and transplanting another Age into the current one.

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I think it's pretty simple. As the LB aproaches the Pattern is unraveling more and more. And this unraveling of the Pattern is what causes the time-warping effect that makes ghosts appear. In other words, they're not really ghosts, just images of the past. That's why we can see an entire village disappear. Even if the ghosts were DO's doing, it wouln't make sense the appereance of a village, so I don't think they're souls brought back.

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In regards to Kari al'Thor, there was one other possibilty i wondered with her scene with Ishamael. Could it be possible the Kari was a dark friend? This would explain how Ish or the dark one would have access to her soul. I suppose that would have other rammifications as to wether she would know that infant Rand was the dragon reborn or not but i always found that curious.



In regards to Kari al'Thor, there was one other possibilty i wondered with her scene with Ishamael. Could it be possible the Kari was a dark friend? This would explain how Ish or the dark one would have access to her soul. I suppose that would have other rammifications as to wether she would know that infant Rand was the dragon reborn or not but i always found that curious.

Regarding this, I always thought that Kari was an illusion made by Ishamael to be as realistic as he could. Just terrifice Rand.

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