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Default Budapest Q&A

I have been hosting this on a Google Doc for a while, but it occurs to me that's not a good idea, and it's best to put our transcriptions here. Gonzo and Sarevok transcribed the whole interview; all I did was spot-check what they did.

Budapest Q&A, April 2003

[Much mumbling and inane rambling has been removed - audio files can be downloaded here. I've left the first several lines as an exact transcription (as close as possible) so that you can see why I cleaned the rest of it up. - Terez]

Robert Jordan: and she said that’s it… that’s… I’ll do it for that, you give… you make sure they give you a copy of each of the weapons they make, and with LIVE blades, which means sharpened, not dull. She said I want live blades, so…

Q [sounds like a young man]: Uh, to go back to pronunciation.

RJ: Yeah?

Q: My problem with phoneticism is this, I like... uh… I’m reading from a character’s point of view and he hears a name he’s(?) never heard before. So… he can’t know the spelling and even…of course it’s not the character writing it [??] . But that’s my point again, it’s writing this way than it is, uh… non-phonetic way, but I don’t want to dwell on that too long. It’s just that I’m a great Tolkien fan and I…
[RJ interrupts, Q keeps talking for a few seconds but is incomprehensible]

RJ: But as I say: I write in English, and in English very few names a phonetical…

Q: that’s right

RJ: …and uh… so I don’t… so I don’t use that.

Harriet: [something about words and letters or Latin]

RJ: [Hmm’s in agreement]

Male voice in background: Indeed!

Q: uhm…

H: It would be strange to have phonetics names, when you don’t have phonetic [writing?]

Q: But that… that goes back to the history of English, with… I mean…

H [interrupts]: yeah [??] [??] names

Q [keeps talking]: English has had… English has had… uh… completely different [incomprehensible] vocabulary over the last couple of hundred years.

RJ: Oh… sure, more than the last couple of hundred years English… English…

Q [interrupts]: I mean uh… as… as taught(?) before as the last couple of hundred years…

RJ: yes

Q: …as opposed to the Westlands. I mean… everybody spoke the Old Tongue. [mumbles something]

RJ: English has absorbed words from other languages as recently as the last ten years.

Q: Well of course.

RJ [interrupts]: American English in particular is a sponge. The thing is that most Americans think they know no foreign words whatsoever. But if you sit them down with a test, you find that the average American knows twenty or thirty words of French, twenty or thirty words of German or, you know, maybe as many as fifty from Spanish - more than that from Spanish; probably knows close to a hundred words from Spanish - and between fifty and a hundred from Italian, and from other languages as well, because they have been absorbed into American English.

Q: But in the Wheel of Time world, you don’t have this flux of languages; you don't actually have many different languages. Even the Seanchan speak the same language.

RJ [interrupts]: And I set that up deliberately, because, you know, one of the things about a world that believes in a circular nature of time, is that they believe that there is no real possibility of change. It is one of the things that burden India, as you might know. Whatever I do to affect change… the Wheel of Time - which is as Hindu concept (from others as well, but the Hindus believe in that) - whatever I do to affect change, the Wheel will turn and all things will return to being as they are now. Therefore my effort to affect change is essentially useless. The great gift to the world of the ancient Greeks is that they were the FIRST culture to conceive of time as being linear, which allows for change. I can change things, I can change the future, and it will not return to what it is now, because time passes on; it does not double back. So I have a Wheel of Time world, where there is a belief in reincarnation and a belief that things will return to, not exactly the way they are now, but essentially as if there were two tapestries and you look at them from across the room, and they look identical, and it’s only when you get close that you can see the differences. I began to think also of the periods involved. Do you know why the mountains in this world are so incredibly rugged? Why there’s so few passes? These mountains are only a little over three thousand years old. There are no mountains in the world that are only three thousand years old. There are no mountains in the world that don’t have hundreds of thousands - millions - of years of wind and water erosion to have worn them down. THESE are mountains in their infancy. And in this world, be have had three distinct one thousand year periods, roughly from the Breaking of the world to the Trolloc Wars, from the Trolloc Wars to the War of the Hundred Years, from the War of the Hundred Years to today. Not quite a thousand years in each case, some were perhaps a little more. But in each case, what has happened is, you have had a mixing of the population during the turbulence - the nations breaking apart - a production of a lingua franca for these people to communicate with one another, and not enough time for that lingua franca to degenerate into distinct languages which are no longer intelligible to one another. And that is enough so that the people of today could not understand the people from before the Trolloc Wars, who were speaking something very close to the Old Tongue, if not the Old Tongue itself. But they can understand the people of the Seanchan, who are speaking the language of Arthur Hawkwing’s time, which had not enough time to break down into separate languages, you see. And any effects of it breaking down into separate languages was modified by their getting together, so what’s happened over the space of just a thousand years is: they think each other have strong accents. It’s like I’m speaking to somebody who speaks English and he’s Jamaican, and I don’t understand him very easily, or he’s Nigerian. I don’t understand him very easily, and he’s a native English speaker - we can understand one another; it’s not easy, but we understand one another.

Q: [something about the Forsaken]

RJ: Essentially learned the local language.

Q: They just got free and learned the local language in a few weeks or so.

RJ: A little more than a few weeks.

Q: Wow… That’s impressive! What about the first and second that were let loose?

RJ: They were very near the surface. It’s one of the reasons for the effects on them. They were for three thousand years aware - not in a sleep like the others; aware - and more aware of what has happened in the world. And because of the way the Bore works… See, the Bore is not located at Shayol Ghul. Shayol Ghul is simply the place where the Bore is most easily sensed. The Bore is everywhere, because of the nature of the universe. And those two guys, in effect, spent the last three thousand years in a state of feeling that they had no body - they certainly had no ability to move - that they were simply trapped minds, but aware and drifting over the face of the earth, able to hear people, able to see what was happening in one area or another. They could speak the language when they came out.

Q: You are talking about Aginor and Balthamel now.

RJ: Yeah.

Q: And Ishamael as well?

RJ: Ishamael is a different case. Read and find out.

Q: And what about the thread of the life in case of the Forsaken? Are they part of the Pattern or they are outside? Is it broken in the case of the Forsaken?

RJ: No. They’re part of the Wheel, except for the fellows who’ve been balefired, who are now gone: no rebirth; they’re out. The Dark One is outside of the Pattern, as the Creator is outside of the Pattern, but everything human is inside of the Pattern. One of the things that the Forsaken hope to gain is immortality. And immortality would put them outside of the Pattern.

Q: You’ve wrote somewhere that Moridin used the True Power and he stepped out of the Pattern or something like that.

RJ: No, he’s made a hole in the Pattern as a way of Traveling which uses the True Power, which is a different thing. If you notice as far back as the Prologue of the Eye of the World, when Ishamael Traveled in to meet Lews Therin, who was mad, the description does not match the Traveling that we see later. It’s because at that point, Ishamael is using the True Power, which produces a different sort of effect for Traveling. It is a different method of Traveling than either men or women use with saidin and saidar.

Q: The descriptions are quite similar when he arrived by Travel with saidin. You also say 'bore a hole trough the Pattern', and for the True Power, I think in one instance, 'ripping a hole in the Pattern'. And in one other instance you wrote that he stepped back inside the Pattern.

RJ: It’s similar. Similar, but it’s not the same thing. It’s why it produces that fading in and fading out effect.

Q: But if a woman used the True Power she would use it the same way?

RJ: Yes. It’s not separate. The True Power is not like saidin or saidar. The reason there are differences for men and women using the One Power is that one is using saidin, for men, and women are using saidar, which are not identical. But using the True Power, which flows from the Dark One, men and women are using exactly the same force, exactly the same source of power.

Q: Are the Forsaken defined by being allowed to tap the True True Power?

RJ: No, not necessarily. They are, but it takes more than that, and they may be denied it. You see there were many more than thirteen Chosen at the time of the Breaking of the World. At the time of the Sealing, there were more, and they died. The reason these thirteen lived was that they were trapped and, except for Balthamel and Aginor, sealed away in large extent from the effects of time, as if they were put in suspended animation. The others who were not there at this conference died.

Q: May I ask you what makes a Forsaken Forsaken, or Chosen?

RJ: Well, many people had sworn their souls to the Dark One. To be one of the Chosen, is to be someone who is recognized by the Dark One as having enough potential to be brought to Shayol Ghul to swear this oath personally, as close to being in the presence of the Dark One as is possible, with the prison partially sealed up.

Q: Is it just a coincidence that all those thirteen who survived can channel?

RJ: Oh, no that’s no coincidence, because if you weren’t able to channel, you weren’t going to get into this game at all.

Q: Ah. [mumble] cannot Channel?

RJ: Yes, but somebody has to be cannon fodder.

Q: Yeah… poor Mat and poor Perrin.

RJ: Hmm, well, if they wanted to be Forsaken, yes.

Q: Yeah… I hope they’re not gonna be Forsaken.

RJ: Read and find out.

Q: Are there any religions in the world of the Wheel of Time?

RJ: No. No religions, no churches: that will change in the next set of books, not in this, but where religion becomes in some ways preeminent, but...

Q [interrupts]: Oh, is that a spoiler?? No no!

RJ: No, that's not for the Wheel of Time at all, and may change somewhat, as these things do. But the reason is this: I've always believed that our religious rituals our attendance at temples, or churches, or whatever is, in part, a reaffirmation of our faith, and a reaffirmation of our belief , a strengthening of our belief in something that we cannot see. And we do these things in order to strengthen our belief in what we cannot see. God, Allah, whatever...but, in this world, it is a world if we had...prophets walking around...performing miracles. The One Power can be channeled. Occasionally men show up channeling the One Power; the Aes Sedai have been there for 3000 years.

Q: But the Creator does not interfere!

RJ: The Creator does not interfere, but there is clear evidence of the theological doctrine.

Q: Of the unseen.

RJ: Of the unseen. As far as it is believed, of the existence of the Creator: Here is the One Power. Here is evidence of everything we believe. There is therefore no need for anyone to undergo rituals to reaffirm or strengthen their belief because it is manifest every day. If we really had prophets walking among us, performing miracles and healing people and raising the dead - and this was a matter of every day that somebody might walk down the street and say 'In the name of and lay their hand on you. In the name of God be healed and your wounds are healed. Or, In the name of God rise up and walk and your dead brother, just died of cholera or whatever rises up and walks - I believe that organized religion would vanish within a generation , or at least become a fringe within a generation, because there would no longer be a need for most people to reaffirm their belief in God, or to strengthen their belief in God, or Allah, or whatever else their religious belief is. It would be manifest in every day life.

Q: And how about the Whitecloaks? I mean they look like some sort of religious sect.

RJ: Which?

Q (two girls in unison): The Whitecloaks!

RJ: The Whitecloaks? Well, they're meant to look as a religious sect. They began as, an ascetic organization dedicated to preaching against Darkfriends, trying to convince people by example that they should not become Darkfriends. And during the War of the Hundred Years they became a military organization. They are patterned on the Teutonic Knights, a touch of the German SS, and...

Q [interrupts]: And the Spanish Inquisition?

RJ: A touch of the Spanish Inquisition. (laughter) They are in short anyone who believes that they know the Truth - the Truth with a capital T. They know the Truth so well, and its so clear to them that if you don't believe that truth, then it becomes obvious that you are evil.

[Note: while most of the population in Randland sees the use of the One Power as a manifestation of their theology, the Whitecloaks believe that it is an abomination against the Creator - Masema would be another one tending toward the religious, along with his followers, believing that only Rand should use the Power (and also sharing the fanaticism of the Whitecloaks, in general). In other words, everyone else seems able to accept that the fact that only certain people can channel as just the way things are, while the Whitecloaks and Masema cannot. - Terez]

Q: You wrote about a very exotic place, called the Towers of Midnight. I think it seems to be an evil place, because as far as I know the Deathwatch Guard is trained there...

RJ [interrupts]: No. The Towers of Midnight are a place that is run by the Seekers: a political prison
[I think that here RJ meant the Tower of the Ravens! See The Great Hunt Chapter 34, or the other quote about the Towers of Midnight in the Seanchan category, from DragonCon2005. - Terez], a place of execution at least for very high-ranking political prisoners. They can’t shed your blood, so they simply stuff you into a sack and hang you over the side of one of the towers until you die, but very careful. A sack lined with velvet so none of your blood will ever seep out and be spilled. Remember there have been times this has been done - this is not an invention of mine. There are cultures in this world where [for] people of certain classes, it was illegal to shed their blood: you could not, even in an execution. Therefore, they would roll a man in layers of velvet and put him inside a bag and have him trampled to death by horses, but the velvet was there to absorb his blood, and the leather bag to insure nothing seeped out, so his blood was never shed. It was never spilled on the ground. You see? So that’s what the Towers of Midnight are. I won’t tell you a lot more, because I don’t know that I will ever show them in one of the books, but it’s possible, so…

Q [interrupts]: You showed them maybe in the second book, as far as I know, only one sentence I think...

RJ [interrupts]: I’ve mentioned them, but I did not show them; you were not there. There’s a difference between mentioning and actually being there, taking a character there to see them.

Q: There is one place, one continent, you wrote about it only in the Guide. It’s the Land of Madmen. What is this?

RJ: It is a place where was never was a White Tower, or any other organization of Aes Sedai, to effect any control over men who could Channel. Therefore, no civilization was able to rise up there again after the Breaking. It is still a place where men who can Channel can be found (much more). [They are] hunted by women who can Channel, because they’re very dangerous. Anybody else, for that matter, if they can find a way to kill them. It’s like, if you find out you have a tiger loose in your neighborhood and you have to kill it. You can’t leave it running loose; somebody has to kill it.

Q: Was pre-Consolidation Seanchan like that or was it different?

RJ: No, pre-Consolidation Seanchan was a quilt of petty kingdoms, or queendoms, if you will, ruled by Aes Sedai, with no unifying power. More Aes Sedai died by assassination than by any other means. They ruled by use of the One Power, gathering a small group of other women around them who could channel, constantly struggling for power against other small groups of women who could channel, who ruled their own small kingdoms, and the constantly shifting quilt - because if the wrong woman died or the right woman died in a particular country, or small fieflet, whatever, small kingdom, it would be absorbed by those around it - there were two continents of almost continual rolling open warfare: there’s war here, war here, war here, war there, stop here, now there, now here, now stop there, okay this could go on here, and constant plotting and scheming, because the only way to rise to the top is if you were and Aes Sedai is to kill those ahead of you. The most common means of death for an Aes Sedai, or cause of death for an Aes Sedai there was assassination. That is the world in which Arthur Hawkwing’s army arrived and began the Consolidation.

Q: Did they speak the same language?

RJ: The people there did not. But the people there…this is like an acquisition. This is sort of like what the Han did: when the Han conquered China, there were many languages in China, as there still are. Because Mandarin is one language and Cantonese is another. They use the same ideograms, because the Han said: “You may speak any language you wish to use, but you will use our alphabet, our ideograms.” And it is as if the French said poisson, you say whatever you say for “fish” [note that the interview takes place in Budapest, Hungary], but all of you spelled it F-I-S-H, in English letters. The French spelled it F-I-S-H, in English letters and said poisson and that’s what they wrote when they said poisson And that’s what you wrote: you would say whatever the Hungarian word is for “fish” but if you wrote it, you would write F-I-S-H in the English letters. And with the Consolidation, culturally the people of that conquering army had been much more absorbed than they were. Culturally they have little left of the culture that they brought with them. But their language was imposed: they imposed the language they brought with them. I’ve thought about it a little bit and I think there was, because of that history, probably more languages than one. The languages would have had more time to drift and more incentive to split apart than they did on the [Randland] continent, as I postulated its history, but those languages were wiped out.

Q: That’s what happened in India, by the way.

RJ: Yes. Those languages [on the Seanchan continent] were wiped out and the language that remains is essentially the language that was spoken by Arthur Hawkwing. But, because, as I say, of the things that happened after Hawkwing’s death: the shifting around of populations, mixing and blending of populations from different parts of the continent, and a thousand years of growth, and no time for that language to change a great deal. Also the one thing that has survived, which helped, I think: printing presses were one for the first things rediscovered, you might say, after the Breaking. People began printing books very shortly after the Breaking - I mean very shortly - as soon as people were setting up cities, there were people who had book presses going, and it’s an interesting thing:. I can read Shakespeare and understand 98, 99 percent of the words and language. If you went back the same length of time between me and Shakespeare to behind him, he could not have understood what those people were saying, he could not have read what they wrote. Because the English language had changed in pronunciation, in the way the spelling was, in the way the letters were written, everything. What happened simultaneously then: it wasn’t as I’ve heard postulated that Shakespeare was so beautiful and so wonderful that he froze the English language. What happened was: the printing press came into common use and suddenly the language stopped changing as rapidly. It still changed, but you would take me back to Elizabethan times and I would have a hard time understanding the accents, but eventually I would work into understanding what would sound to me like strangely accented English, but pretty recognizably English for most, at least for London and the south of England. So we’ve got printing presses, and so in relatively short periods of time, the language is largely unchanged, not completely but largely, in each thousand year segment. Although over the three thousand year segment it has diverged from the Old Tongue, which you must learn to be an educated man, to what people speak now, and most people do not speak the Old Tongue and can not understand the Old Tongue. A thousand years back, you’ve got Arthur Hawkwing, and that’s the language that the Seanchan speak. And these people can understand it, they only think “You’ve got a funny accent, you speak too fast, and you speak too slow, and it’s all slurred.”

Q: Is the Old Tongue entirely alien to modern speakers?

RJ: I'm sorry?

Q: I know it sounds alien, but don't they recognize even a couple of words or word?

RJ: No, not really. You know, scholars would.

Q: How come, a language, over three thousand years - isn't that right? - three thousand years of the books' story, everyone spoke the Old Tongue didn't they? So over three thousand years the language has managed to change so much that you can't even understand a word or a phrase of that language. But over one thousand years, on the other hand, it has changed so little that you basically understand it as an accent.

RJ: If you consider English. You wouldn't understand Old English. You couldn't even read it. You could read the letters, probably. I couldn't; I've seen manuscripts. But printing does stabilize a language, so there is some shift, because, say, a thousand years, a little bit of shift. See, what I have got here, look at these points. This is the Breaking, the Trolloc Wars, the War of the Hundred years and now. Okay. From here to here the language changes somewhat, and from here to here the language changes somewhat. Now, a person here, from this period, right here, just before the War of the Hundred Years could understand somewhat the Old Tongue, but would think "he's got a strange accent". He's got a strange way of expressing himself, his grammar is strange. He puts the words together oddly and he's got a very strange accent, but that's the extend of it. It might be that the gap is not all the way from here to there, but maybe from here to here, that he thinks "I should understand this, but I don't quite, I don't quite understand" and a guy here, listening to this language, says "Yeah, I can understand him. He's got a funny accent, but I understand him." So okay, from here to here, he says, the guy here listens to someone from here speaking and he says "he's got a funny accent, but I understand him". A guy from here listening to someone from this point says "you know, I understand some of that, but it's not quite, you know" and from here to here he says "yeah, I almost think I should understand that, but I can't make out a word" and from here to here he says "What?" I know that the intervals and the true progression of a language are never that smooth, and that's one reason why I have never tried to put it in the books as exactly where these points of commonality existed and where the points shifted from being "I understand him with an effort" to "I think I should be able to understand this but I can't" to "what the hell is he saying, is he talking, I don't know this".

Q: What about the saa? You wrote in a chapter, that there is a black hole before Moridin's eyes.

RJ: No, no, in the eyes. It is not before. In the eyes, inside the eyes.

Q: And can see through? (-?- unsure about this sentence. -?-)

RJ: It depends. When you are using the True Power. At first, when you begin using the True Power, there's nothing there. Nothing in the eyes. After you've used it for a while, you begin to have a black speck floating across your eyes, when you're using it.

Q: And then you see, other observers can see it.

RJ: No, you don't see it. You don't actually see it.

Q: I think it was the chapter when Moridin was observing with a cloak of fancloth. His vision was blurred by a rain of black spots.

Q: But it didn't affect his vision.

RJ: It didn't affect his vision. You're aware of it, but it's not like there is blackness between you, because it gets thicker and thicker and thicker and you get to a point where if you've used it long enough you get a steady stream even if you're not connected. And you are then on the road, at that point, inevitably, to becoming what Ishamael was. Because these are stigmata, if you will. These saa are stigmata caused by a linkage to the Dark One. And eventually the effect is to become all fire eyes. You no longer have eyes visible to other people. If they're looking into your eyes, they seem to be looking into caverns of flame that stretch to infinity. And when you open your mouth they see another cavern of flame that stretches to infinity. Because you've reached at that point the ultimate level of this usage and quite possibly, if you've at this point not been granted immortality, you're on your way to death. Not madness, but you're on your way to death. So it's sort of a race. The Dark One has given you this boon, but if you use it very much, then you'd better hope he is willing to give you another boon, because if he doesn't give you the second boon then you're dead. Some of the Forsaken have expressed discomfort with the fact that Ishamael and Moridin are so free with using the One Power.

Q: And is it addictive?

RJ: Yes.

Q: Entirely.

RJ: So is the One Power. That's one of the things that I intended from the beginning. The One Power has at least the potential for good, and it is something used by those on the side of good. And it is addictive, physically and psychologically addictive and also potentially very dangerous, even deadly to those who are using it.

Q: And so the other Forsaken seem to be afraid of using the True Power?

RJ: Well, they are, because they know this; they will use it when they have to, but they limit it, because they know that if you use it enough to let the saa begin to appear, then you are on a spiral and once they begin appearing, they begin appearing more often. And eventually, unless you are given immortality by the Dark One, you are dead. Now, the thing is, they don't wanna die. This is really great, it is a really great honor to be given the ability to tap into the True Power. Which is not inherently stronger than the One Power. It's not that it is stronger in any way. It is just something that does not have some of the limitations of the One Power. Other people can't feel you embracing it, or using it, like the One Power.

Q: -?-

RJ: Yeah, you could.

Q: -?-

RJ: Yeah, you could burn out with the True Power.

Q: Only True Power, or One Power too?

RJ: With the True Power as well as the One Power you can burn out.

Q: Can you sever a person from the True Power with One Power?

RJ: Not in the same way. If you try to gentle a man or still a woman who's capable of using the True Power you'd have to use another method.

Q: So it is not only the Dark One who can stop giving the Forsaken the True Power, but they can be cut off as Asmodean was cut off.

RJ: Read and find out on Asmodean. I'm not gonna tell you.

RJ: They could be cut off, but the problem with that is, nobody knows how to do it. It is possible that some of the Forsaken themselves know how to do it, but nobody else does.

Q: What happens when Rand and Asmodean have this conflict and ...

Q: ... and Rand severs his ties with the Dark One ...

Q: ... and Rand severs some black ties. Isn't that ...

RJ: That was cutting off his protection from the Taint and also cut off his ability, it was not like stilling them. It was cutting the ties that, most important to him, protected him from the Taint on saidin, so he could draw saidin all he wanted to and never worry about the Taint. But it was also those ties that represented his ability, or the conduits by which he could draw on the True Power. But it was not his ability to draw, it was not the same thing as stilling or severing, it was more like shielding.

Q: 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?

RJ: Oh yes.

Q: Aren't the Forsaken already ...

RJ: No. They're not immortal.

Q: Do they know that?

RJ: Yes, they know that.

Q: But they believe they are immortal.

RJ: 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.

Q: -?- the Dark One, who has now this super Myrddraal, Shaidar Haran. Did he breed him, or did he just take an ordinary ...

RJ: Read and find out. (background giggle) Read and find out.

Q: I have an exiting question, maybe, we heard of making the Forsaken reborn, so has the original body any reflection to the mind of the Forsaken?

RJ: Well, if a Forsaken dies and is reborn naturally, through the turning of the Wheel, no.

Q: If then the Dark One puts him in a new body?

RJ: Oh, if the Dark One puts him in a new body, it is for all intents and purposes the same person, with a new body. It is a shift of an entire person. The concept here, with the exception of the Gray Men: You've seen an Ogier who lost his soul. And in effect there's nobody home anymore. It is a body that lives and breathes, and will move if it is helped along. But it does not, there's nobody home in there. The Gray Men are slightly different. But they also have given up their souls. They've given up their souls in a way. Already, their souls are gone. But it's happened in a way that protects them against this emptiness, as if they're severed from the physical and spiritual side. And the spiritual side is gone, but the physical side remains so there is an intellect in that body, but no soul. And that's why they are Gray Men. Your eyes slip past them, the perfect assassins. You can look right at one and look on, never having realized you saw somebody there. So there's, when a soul ... (break in audio file)

RJ: Sorry, just checking the time…we have to do some things in the morning.

Q: Was there any time when there was no Blight?

RJ: Oh, yes. The Blight is an artifact of the War of the Shadow and the Breaking. There was no Blight before the Bore was created, and the drilling of the Bore did not immediately create the Blight, but the Blight came into being after that.

Q: Was the Blight [mumble] from the Dark One, or one of the Forsaken?

RJ: From the Dark One. It is land that has been corrupted by the Dark One.

Q: Is the ability to channel a property of the soul or the body?

RJ: That’s a RAFO, sorry. I don’t know whether I want to put that in the books or not, but I wish to leave myself the opportunity to put it in without having it already known.

Q: About channeling, you begin as having channeling [mumble mumble] so when Rand cleanses saidin, he thought about it, how he [mumble mumble] Do you do this intentionally, or do you just not want to tell us?

RJ: In the beginning when Rand channels, it’s something very new and unusual to him, and as time has gone along, channeling has become a more common thing. When a child learns to walk, walking is an adventure, and maybe for that first whole year, walking and running is just this wonderful thing, and all excited about it, and a year after that well, you know, you walk, and it’s no big deal. Rand, first learning to channel, first growing in strength, it’s something that is to him a very big deal. Even if he’s trying to be cool about it, it’s still a very big deal. But he’s been doing this long enough now that channeling, per se, is no longer a big deal, and that’s what I’m trying to show in this. He doesn’t think about it in the depth. He’s aware of the effect of saidin, of what saidin is like, but he doesn’t think about it in the same depth that he did when he was first learning how to walk, and doing this wonderful thing about moving around on his hind legs.

Q: Why saidin, why not saidar, was tainted?

RJ: Because there were only men in the party that made up the party that made up the Strike at Shayol Ghul, that were setting the seals. In the act of setting the seals, there was a backblast that affected the people doing this. As I pointed out in something…I wrote a piece called The Strike at Shayol Ghul…there was a great division at the time – I don’t know if all of you have read it…or have none of you read it?

Qs: Yes, yes.

RJ: Okay, then you know about the political struggles that were going on, and the different plans to try and end the War of the Shadow, and seal up the….and why various groups thought that one plan or the other was the best way to go. And in the end, what resulted was the so-called “Fatal Covenant” [It was actually the “Fateful Concord” – Terez], which had the female Aes Sedai swearing not to go along with Lews Therin’s plan, that they would not support it. The result of this was that Lews Therin carried out his plan with only male Aes Sedai, so there were only male Aes Sedai channeling there, which was a lucky thing, because if there’d been women as well, then both saidin and saidar would have been tainted. And his plan worked, except for that one side effect of the backblast which tainted saidin and caused him and the men there with him to go mad there and then, and other male Aes Sedai to go mad slowly as they touched the Source and began to absorb bits of the taint. But that’s why saidar was not tainted, because there were only men there channeling during this act of sealing up the Dark One’s prison.

Q: Are gholam immortal?

RJ: No.

Q: Because they were in…a box?

RJ: Stasis box. A stasis box is an artifact of the Age of Legends, and is in effect an artificial vacuole. Time does not move inside a stasis box. It is a thing devised for storing things that are fragile or that might decay in some way.

Q: So the gholam can die by a natural death?

RJ: I don’t know if you’d call it a natural death, but yeah, they can decay. You saw what happened with Mat’s medallion – it just fell on the gholam’s cheek and branded it.

Q: But do they die of old age?

RJ: Yeah, they do, but they live a little longer than you’d like them to, let me tell you (laughter) – not as long as an Aes Sedai, but...not as long as an Aes Sedai that hasn’t sworn the Three Oaths, anyway…not as long as a strong Aes Sedai that hasn’t sworn the Three Oaths.

Q: Is it true that the Three Oaths is why Aes Sedai [mumble mumble] I thought it might be because, when you try to avoid the Three Oaths, you get a lot of dangerous situation [mumble mumble]...

RJ: No…now you have to be careful with this, because this is a kind of spoiler for people that haven’t read far enough, but the Oath Rod is what was in the Age of Legends called a binder. It was used on criminals. If you committed a violent act, or some sort of criminal act, with a binder, someone who could channel could be constrained from ever doing that again, and the result of having three of the Oaths, is the ageless appearance. One would not produce agelessness, but even one would shorten life, and three of them put a cap on Aes Sedai’s lives, on how long they could live.

Q: There is a widespread debate on the internet: you mentioned some tales of times like Mosk and Merk…does it have any connection with America and Moscow?

RJ: Yes. I thought that one was very obvious.

Q: (various mumblings about Anla)

H: Anla, the Wise Counselor, she was the most popular advice columnist in the United States. Do you know Abby and Ann[?]? You write to the paper with a problem, you know, “What shall I do?”, and she tells you. But her name was Ann Landers.

RJ: And she was the most widely distributed advice columnist for what? 40 years? In the United States, and syndicated in newspapers all over the country. Anla the Wise Counselor was Ann Landers.

Q: We would never have guessed it.

RJ: No, but I try not to throw in everything that that people are going to guess immediately.

H: And Salya?

RJ: No, let’s not talk about Salya. [Q confused]. Salya, who walked among the stars? Lenn, who went to the moon in the belly of a fire eagle? Yes? And his daughter Salya who walked among the stars? [much mumbling] No, she didn’t – she wasn’t on the Challenger. Sally Ride was the first female American astronaut. So, that’s Salya, who in this thing has become the daughter of Lenn, who was John Glenn, who did not go to the moon in an eagle, but flies to the moon in the belly of a “fire eagle”…

H [interrupts]: And is relationship to Salya. That’s how it works.

RJ: But that’s the whole thing, in these books: it’s giving you hints, really, and it was the way it was giving you hints, clearly, as to the way things are working in the books, that these are the source of legends, but it’s not in any way a straightforward retelling. What two or three men have done will be compressed to make one story, or what one man has done may be split up into two different men – this part’s given to somebody else, and that part’s given to that one - and he himself is completely forgotten. I put these things there in a way as a clue, a hint to you: this is the way things are working in these books, this is what has come of things that are somewhat recognizable from our time. What myths have risen out of them? So, you see how the distortion has happened. What myths are going to arise out of the events of these books? It’s not going to be just another telling of what happens in these books – it’s all going to be twisted and woven together in ways that nobody who was there at the events would ever recognize.
Qui nos rodunt confundantur, et cum iustis non scribantur.
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Best RJ interview I've ever read. I wish he was this forthcoming with information in some of his other interviews.
“I would not mind you in my head if you were not so clearly insane.”
— Lews Therin Telamon to Rand al'Thor

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I ever met."
— Abraham Lincoln

Draw a crazy picture, write a nutty poem. Sing a mumble-gumble song, whistle through your comb. Do a loony-goony dance 'cross the kitchen floor. Put something silly in the world that ain't been there before.
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A few additional audio bits of the Budapest Q&A were unearthed recently, and the transcript of these extra bits is given below. The extra bits have been added to the full Q&A in the Database. Also, the full audio may still be downloaded here.


More from the Budapest Q&A - April 2003

Q: Does this mean that the Black Ajah has also at least three oaths sworn on the Oath Rod?

RJ: Yeah, they do. Just not the same ones. [laughter]

Q: Of course. Does this imply that the Oath Rod is definitely not one of the Nine Rods of Dominion?

RJ: Oh yes, definitely. No. No no. No. No no no no. I don't think it was. No, the Oath Rods are not the Nine Rods of Dominion. No. There were a fair number of binders available around the world.

Q: Were they numbered?

RJ: Yes, they were numbered.

Q: Because we've seen two so far and they had numbers on them . . .

RJ: Yeah, they were numbered.

Q: And there is the Ring of Tamyrlin. It's just a signet ring, or . . . ?

RJ: Read and find out. Again, this is something I don't know whether I'm going to put it in or not.

Q: Okay.

RJ: But you see there are things that I might want to put in, I might want to use, and giving you the answer lets it out and means I might as well not use it because . . .

Q: It's more interesting.

Q: Does Telamon mean "dragon" or does it mean "Kinslayer" or is it something else?

RJ: What? In Lews Therin Telamon? No, no, no, no. It means something else. That's his name. Lews Therin is the name he was born with. Telamon, a name he was given later.

Q: It does not mean dragon?

RJ: It does not mean dragon, no.

Q: And are dragons definitely not the same as raken and to'raken?

RJ: Definitely not. Definitely not.

Harriet: Oh that's an interesting question.

Q: But, I mean the name [sounds?] the same. . .

RJ: But no, they're definitely not. They're definitely not.

Harriet: They're flying creatures.

Q: They're like a dragon image.

RJ: Yeah, I know they are somewhat of a dragon image. But no, they're definitely not.

Harriet: Oh, cool. That's a wonderful thing to have noticed.

Q: Have you ever heard this before?

Harriet: No, no.

RJ: Although who can say what may be said in the next Age? Remember, things get repeated, things get distorted. And what the next Age believes is true history of a previous Age may not be anyway close to what actually happened. So who knows?

Q: So was . . . In the Age of Legends a dragon was a completely symbolic thing? It did not refer to an actual creature?

RJ: Not to an actual creature. But beyond that, read and find out.

Q: Did they have dragons like . . . ?

RJ: No, it was symbolic at that time. There were no dragons flying around in the Age of Legends, no.

Q: And did they have [ inaudible ]

RJ: They named this man the dragon as a symbol. And his banner was a dragon as a symbol.

Q: [ inaudible ]

RJ: No, that . . . I think you better read and find out. Again, I don't know if I'm going to use it, but I don't want to put out too much.

Q: So if you don't use it, after you finish the series, we come back to this question.

RJ: Okay, okay.

Q: Did Lews Therin have any children?

RJ: Yeah.

Q: What happened with them?

RJ: He killed them.

Q: Okay, okay. He killed them.

RJ: He killed his wife. He killed his children. He killed everyone who bore a single drop of his blood. He was Lews Therin Kinslayer, remember.

Q: I've got one–another technical question. You said when you were at the signing you were quite angry at your English publishers over your books because they published your last book in December.

RJ: They released it way ahead of schedule. They promised me not to do that.

Q: Did it take some steps in the direction to punish them for that?

RJ: Well, they will not be able to do it again.

Q: Because frankly, I have to say that I like their books better.

RJ: Well, I'm sorry to hear that.

Q: Because they publish better [ inaudible ]. The books are better, the cover doesn’t come off, and so on.

Harriet: There are some serious business problems with that.

Q: Yes, I understand.

Harriet: One is the copyright.

RJ: They put my copyright in danger. I don't hold still for that. They put my copyright in danger. So, they're still my English publisher; I will deliver the books to them as contracted. And I will deliver the books to them exactly as contracted. But it's not going to happen again; they're not going to release the books again. One thing they have promised me that they will put a hold on–their first class hold, which I thought they had been doing before, which is what they do in the United States–which means that if a bookstore puts the books up on sale early, there are sanctions against that bookstore.

Harriet: It's only a matter of a few weeks, but it's important to the sales of the book pretty internationally. If the book makes number one in the United States, and also if it makes number one in London, that matters. And by breaking the date, they put his opening at number one in both countries in at risk.

RJ: In danger. They put it at risk.

Harriet: And there was no reason to do that.

RJ: Because people from the states could have bought it, and perhaps enough.

Harriet: And they did.

RJ: And some people did–they found out about it and bought it. But they put the making of that number one opening, which from a purely commercial point of view, is important. If you open at number one, if you're at number one, you get publicity, you get a lot of things. You get discounts–stores sell your book at a discount. You don't get any less of a royalty, but they put a deep discount on your book, which they make a lesser discount if it's further down in the top ten. And there are more people who will buy the book at the deeper discount than will buy it at the lesser discount. So these things are important. This is my rice bowl, and they threw rocks at my rice bowl.

Harriet: Well, they did write a very apologetic letter.

RJ: Yes, they did.

Harriet: Because they read the internet, too. [laughs] And I don't think it will happen again.

RJ: No, I don't think it will happen again.

Harriet: And also, my dear husband had been kind of begging Tor Books to send the discs to England so that they could make the same date.

RJ: So that they could publish at the same time.

Harriet: And Tor really didn't want to do this.

RJ: They didn't, but I kept saying "please, please".

Harriet: He was doing them a favor to make them able to do this.

RJ: I was doing them a favor to get them to do that so they could release the books on the same day.

Harriet: Yeah.

RJ: Because see, even if I deliver the manuscript to New York, and at the same time I send the manuscript by courier to London, New York can get under way faster and have books ready to go faster than London can. So what I would do would be deliver the manuscript to New York, and New York would prepare everything ready to send to the printer on disc. And I would beg a copy of that disc from New York to send to England so they could hit the presses within 24 hours of the Americans doing this.

Harriet: On the same date. And they hurt Tor doing this. So that is also personally embarrassing.

RJ: It was very embarrassing to me.

Harriet: Yes, we'd asked one company for a favor.

RJ: Because I'd asked my American publisher to do this favor for me–for a number of years I had done it, to do it for the English.

Harriet: And the reason for that is once we turn the book in, I have done my editing but they then have a copy editor who goes through for commas and the little stuff, and that isn't on our discs, and it should be that the books are identical. So it was a mess. It was not happy.

RJ: No, no . . . but I think it's okay now.

Harriet: But I really think it will be okay now. And it's only a matter of about two weeks, but it made a big difference.

RJ: Honey, yes. And I don't think it's going to happen again.

Q: I think we should here finish then officially tell you thank you, Mr. Jordan for coming [to] us and . . .

RJ: It's been a pleasure.

Q: And I may ask your permission to publish it in our site.

RJ: Okay. With the one place in there that I said it's a spoiler, please note that that is a spoiler so that people will not . . .

Harriet: They can skip it if they don't want it.

RJ: Yeah, if they don't want to have things . . . And if you see anything else . . .

Q: Audio as well, or only transcript?

RJ: I think the audio would be all right. But can you mark in the audio that it is, you know, spoiler coming up.

Q: Yes, of course.

Harriet: And you say so.

RJ: Well, you might know some other places that I've talked about things that are not . . .

Harriet: For someone who's just read one book . . .

RJ: If somebody's just read one book or two books, and I'm talking about things that have happened in five, six, seven, then it's . . .

Q: Jason is very interested in our interview.

RJ: You might want to put at the very beginning that this interview contains numerous spoilers.

Harriet: Oh, at Dragonmount?

Q: Should we share it with them?

RJ: Surely, you can do that if you wish.

Q: Thank you very much.

Harriet: Tell him he must . . . [ inaudible ]

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