Welcome back to "WoT If?"! A Memory of Light is only four weeks away, so I'm going to try to make these last few pre-release blogs meaningful. This week, I'm going to look into Moridin's character and motivation and try to come up with a few ideas about why he does what he does. As always:
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, Chapter 11, or Tor's daily previews. 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.
There's a lot of background information about Ishamael/Moridin that's important to his reasoning. I'll try my hardest to be brief, but I don't know how much I'll succeed.
Ishamael was only half-sealed into the Bore and was able to touch the world occasionally. This small freedom left him "half-mad" and "less than half-human," according to Sammael (The Fires of Heaven, Prologue). I think there's also insinuation that he was mad before being sealed. However, since his full release (and his rebirth as Moridin), he seems more cunning and clever than insane. Or perhaps that's part of the insanity?
Does this madness aid his plans or hinder them? Are some of the contradictory actions we see him take a result of this lack of sanity? Or are his plans so well developed that he can pull them off despite having a scarred mind? He had 3000 years to influence the world and events, so I'm sure his ideas are perfectly planned, but there are inconsistencies.
One inconsistency of Ishamael's plans (or the Dark One's?) is his desire to kill, then not kill, Rand. I haven't gone through and counted how many times the orders have been flip-flopped, but we all know it's happened several times. Here are a few examples. The first is a Dream Egwene had:
Chapter 48, "Following the Craft"
He [Rand] had been sneaking through utter darkness toward Callandor, while all around him six men and five women walked, some hunting him and some ignoring him, some trying to guide him toward the shining crystal sword and some trying to stop him from reaching it, appearing not to know where he was, or only to see him in flashes. One of the men had eyes of flame, and he wanted Rand dead with a desperation she could nearly taste. She thought she knew him. Ba'alzamon. But who were the others?
So, here, in book three, Ishamael wants Rand dead. Is that his own desire, or the Dark One's? Later, Sammael says to Graendal:
Chapter 20, "Patterns Within Patterns"
"Perhaps you ought to reconsider what you think the Great Lord means about leaving al'Thor unharmed."
Now, Rand shouldn't be harmed. But it's changed once again by orders from Taim, Demandred, and Moridin to the Asha'man Kisman:
Chapter 22, "Out of Thin Air"
"Kill him," the M'Hael had ordered before sending them to Cairhien, but he had been as displeased that they were found out as that they had failed. Far Madding was to be their last chance; he had made that as plain as polished brass. Dashiva had simply vanished. Kisman did not know whether he had run or the M'Hael had killed him, and he did not care.
"Kill him," Demandred had commanded later, but he had added that it would be better they died than let themselves be discovered again. By anyone, even the M'Hael, as if he did not know of Taim's order.
And later still, Moridin had said, "Kill him if you must, but above all, bring everything in his possession to me. That will redeem your previous transgressions."
Now, it's okay to kill Rand. And once more there's a flip-flop when Moridin commands the other Forsaken:
Chapter 3, "At the Gardens"
"The time and manner of al'Thor's death will be at my choosing. No one else."
"Al'Thor is mine. You will not harm him in any way!"
The last change must be because of Rand and Moridin's link. Moridin says later that he "could throttle Semirhage for what she did" (The Gathering Storm, Chapter 15, "A Place to Begin"), because Rand's lost hand has affected him as well. This is a major piece of evidence for the body-swap theory because it shows how much their link has turned physical.
What's the reasoning behind this inconsistency? As I said previously, it might be Ishamael's insanity. Whether or not he was technically the Nae'blis before, he surely had more authority than the others, and most likely had a hand in most of their plans (he did have 3000 years to organize and manipulate that the others did not). Or does this reflect a change of heart in the Dark One? That seems unlikely to me. Though Verin does say:
The Gathering Storm
Chapter 39, "A Visit From Verin Sedai"
"The Chosen are predictable, but the Great Lord is anything but. Even after decades of study, I can't be certain exactly what he wants or why he wants it. I only know that this battle isn't being fought the way that al'Thor assumes it will be."
Perhaps the Dark One is capable of changing his mind in quick succession. Maybe a lot has to do with the plans Rand was doing at the time. Naturally, the Dark One would want Rand dead rather than have him successfully remove the taint.
There are many, many times when Ishamael says Rand will serve him, even in death. But is that true? That may be a boast on the Dark One's part—trying to scare Rand into serving him willingly. In earlier blogs, we've talked a bit about Rand's soul—and other Heroes'—and whether they go to Tel'aran'rhiod right after death. If that is the case, Rand's soul wouldn't be available to the Dark One. If the Dark One isn't able to get his hands on the Dragon's soul if Rand dies, then he would definitely want Rand to serve him alive, if possible. But if there is no Dragon, the Dark One wins, so he could still want Rand dead, whether or not he can access the Dragon's soul. Logically, there's motivation for wanting to keep Rand alive and wanting him dead.
What of Moridin being the Dark One's champion? He seems to think he is, saying he and Rand/Lews Therin have fought thousands of times with the turning of the Wheel. But how much can we trust his reasoning? He is mad, and possibly deranged. Metal Head said,
"I do think that the Dark One has always had a champion, but it was a different soul every time. It would HAVE to be, because if one "soul" failed the Dark One, lost his "Last Battle" and consequently allowed the Dark One's prison to be re-sealed, that would mean that particular Nae'blis was a failure. Why would the Dark One keep tapping the same soul to be his Nae'blis when that soul has only ever failed to free him?"
This is a great idea! Why would the Dark One recycle a soul that failed him so miserably? Even with the Forsakens' constant scheming, they prove themselves weak and childish, after their own desires, not the Dark One's. Why would he want them to serve him again in the next Age? Although, maybe the Dark One doesn't have any of the power he claims. If Ishamael's soul is eternally bound to the Dark One the way the Dragon is bound to the Light, then the Dark One's control over events is a lot less than he boasts.
Brandon Sanderson said in an interview that, "Rand and Moridin are also frequently woven together in the Pattern." If that's the case, Moridin is eternally tainted by the Shadow. That means he was predestined to go to the Shadow during the War of Power. That means he was a bad guy before he even realized he was a bad guy. Keeping with the theme of the series, this doesn't sound right. Very few things in The Wheel of Time are black and white—no one is pure evil, no one is pure good. Each character has flaws and talents. Even the Forsaken aren't absolute Shadow; they do what they do out of selfishness, but not out of a desire to be evil. Because of this, I don't think Ishamael is eternally tainted. He has to be able to get salvation.
I don't know how popular the theory of Moridin returning to the Light is, but I think it's a real possibility because of that argument. It was logic that sent him to the Shadow to begin with (The Gathering Storm, Chapter 15, "A Place to Begin"). That same logic can bring him back.
And here's where it gets a little crazy. What if Moridin is the double agent? With his logic, he knows there needs to be someone on the inside, getting close to the Dark One, understanding the Shadow's ultimate goals. Now, with that information, he has been fighting Rand, but what if the fights have been for Rand's own benefit? Each battle, each struggle, has led to Rand being more in control, more sure of himself and victory. Even Rand sinking to his lowest and his use of the True Power led to his epiphany on Dragonmount in "Veins of Gold."
When Egwene stands up to Elaida they have a bit of an argument:
The Gathering Storm
Chapter 16, "In the White Tower"
"'As the plow breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men, and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes,' " Egwene said. " 'The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords.'"
Elaida frowned, taken aback.
"The Karaethon Cycle, Elaida," Egwene said. "When you had Rand locked away to be kept 'secure,' had he yet taken Illian? Had he yet worn what he was to name the Crown of Swords?"
"And how did you expect him to fulfill the prophecies if he was hidden away in the White Tower?" Egwene said. "How was he to cause war, as the prophecies say he must? How was he to break the nations and bind them to him? How could he 'slay his people with the sword of peace' or 'bind the nine moons to serve him' if he was locked away? Do the prophecies say that he will be 'unfettered'? Do they not speak of the 'chaos of his passing?' How can anything pass at all if he is kept in chains?"
This exchange might seem off topic, but it shows that everything Rand has done has been the Pattern's purpose, including fights with the Shadow, namely Ishamael. Ishamael had to know each battle was doomed, since Rand was fated to at least survive until Tarmon Gai'don. So, why did he continue with these plans to kill Rand? Because each one ultimately helped Rand. I think Ishamael is going to be important to the Light's victory, and I think he's already aware of what he must do.
As I said, we only have a few more weeks before we know for sure. That's all for this week; I'm looking forward to the comments on this one. Thanks for reading!