Welcome back to "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. With the release of A Memory of Light quickly approaching, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at whether some characters will survive or perish during the Last Battle. We'll take just a few people at a time and look at foreshadowing, among other things, that point to life or death after the series.
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.
Also, this WILL NOT contain spoilers from A Memory of Light's Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, or Chapter 11. Please refrain from posting any spoilers from A Memory of Light in the comments section. The A Memory of Light spoiler discussion board can be found here.
A few weeks ago, we touched upon the subject of Birgitte, but only in regards to her connection to the Horn. I'd like to expand on that a bit, seeing if she's a prime candidate for death before, or during, the Last Battle.
I'll start with the evidence saying she won't die. There's less of this, I believe.
As discussed two weeks ago, Min sees Birgitte bound to a man who is "older" and "much younger," but is the same man (Winter's Heart, Chapter 12, "A Lily in Winter"). If Birgitte dies and is reborn right away, she will be younger than Gaidal Cain, like normal. Alternately, she could die and not be reborn, but I think the results would be the same. The next time around, he would be born first and she would be born later. For Gaidal to be the younger of the pair, I'd say that she has to live through this life.
That's the only logic I can find that points to her surviving. Now for reasons she will die.
Birgitte is a tragic character, one of the most tragic in the series. Her greatest fear comes from losing her memories, which would make her forget Gaidal Cain. She begins to drink heavily to drown her sorrows. She also hates people knowing her past and that she is a Hero. She feels like that title is undeserved in this life because she hasn't done anything to deserve it. In the past, she only did what she had to, and the pressure of living up to her fame is too much for her to handle. She doesn't like the titles Elayne has forced on her, and though Birgitte cares for Elayne greatly, their relationship doesn't bring the comfort it should. In short, Birgitte doesn't have much to live for.
One thing Robert Jordan said points to Birgitte's death:
Question: What happens to Birgitte if the Horn of Valere is sounded again?
Robert Jordan: Read and find out, my children, read and find out. :)
In all honesty, I think this means that Birgitte might die before the Horn is sounded again. When asked something along the same lines, Brandon Sanderson gives a straightforward answer.
Question: Will Gaidal Cain be spun out as a hero of the horn of Valere should the horn be sounded again? Can a hero show up there if alive? Will a hero become a "copy" that rests within the horn until called to arms?
Brandon Sanderson: As I understand, if you are 'spun out' you do not respond to the call of the Horn. So no Cain showing up if it is sounded again, as he's been spun out.
The same would be true about Birgitte. Even if she hasn't been "spun out" in the traditional sense, her soul isn't in Tel'aran'rhiod to come to the call of the Horn. And if she died, I think her soul would go to the "waiting place" before going to Tel'aran'rhiod (which is also the reason I don't think Rand will be ripped out of Tel'aran'rhiod after his death). Of course, there are some things Robert Jordan RAFO'ed that Brandon Sanderson has answered, so perhaps that's not the best proof.
So here's something better. First, Elayne thinks about how Birgitte is unable to use a sword.
Chapter 7, "The Streets of Caemlyn"
Unlike them, she [birgitte] wore neither sword nor armor. The memories of her past lives were fading—she said she could remember nothing at all clearly before the founding of the White Tower, now, though fragments still floated up—but one thing she claimed to recall absolutely. Every time she had tried to use a sword, she had nearly gotten herself killed, and had even done so more than once.
Next, Elayne comments on how Birgitte refuses to use a sword.
Chapter 27, "To Surprise Queens and Kings"
The suggestion that she [birgitte] wear a sword had been quashed with as much indignation as if Elayne had asked Aviendha to wear one. Birgitte knew the bow, but she claimed she might stab herself trying to draw a sword.
And finally, Birgitte is wearing a sword.
Towers of Midnight
Chapter 22, "The End of a Legend"
Though she had Guardswomen and men with extra bows at the hallways, Birgitte herself carried a sword, for an assassination attempt would most likely turn to close-quarters fighting.
This, my friends, is foreshadowing. And notice how it's dropped in so casually; there's no extra attention given to it. That's good foreshadowing. In fact, when Towers of Midnight first came out, many people questioned this part in the book. It seemed so out of place with Birgitte's earlier insistence that she won't touch a sword. I think a lot of people thought it was a mistake of sorts, but I'm sure it's just a hint of things to come, trying to sneak below our radar. As a student of literature, I feel these little signs are meant to be important clues to later plotlines.
One last thing Min saw around Elayne might point to a tragic event with Birgitte:
Chapter 24, "New Friends and Old Enemies"
"She says that a great deal," Elayne said dryly. "One of the things she said she saw looking at me was a severed hand. Not mine, she says. She claims she does not know what it means, either."
Perhaps it's Birgitte stabbing herself, cutting off her own hand by accident? Or maybe something not so accidental? Maybe it will be some sort of sacrifice, Birgitte giving up her life to save Elayne's?
I think Birgitte is going to be the most important character to die during the final book. I honestly believe all of our "main" characters will live. We'll go into some of the possibilities of that sometime later. That's all for this week. For next time, I want to speculate a bit on the connection between the three ta'veren. Thanks for reading!