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  #1  
Old 09-10-2010, 12:52 AM
Yossarian Yossarian is offline
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Default The Ancient Symbol

This might be long, 'cause it's late and I'm tired, so I apologize in advance....

I just got to Fires of Heaven in my re-read and came across a part early on that stuck out for me, especially, I'll admit, considering the small detail Brandon mentioned. In Chapter 6, Gateways, Rand and company battle Darkhounds, and Lanfear makes an appearance at the end. This chapter has always stuck out in my memory because it's also the chapter when Moiraine pledges to obey Rand like one of the gai'shain if necessary. That, and finding out exactly what balefire does.

This time, I noticed an unusual amount of attention given to the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai. And when I say an unusual amount, I don't mean that it's over the top; just that it's mentioned several times, but in a kind of under the radar manner. First, Rand fights the Darkhounds on a mosaic of the symbol, initially killing them with a sword of the power. They then melted, and their blood pools to re-form three Darkhounds. Jordan specifically notes that their blood "oozed away from the mosaic to mound higher and higher."

A minor detail, certainly, but later in the chapter Rand skims back to his room on a platform shaped like the ancient symbol, and wonders about why he chose that shape. He then thinks, "The Darkhounds had oozed away from that sign before re-forming."

Moreover, when Rand rescues Mat, he observes that Mat is naked except for his foxhead medallion, specifically noting that its eye was "shaped and shaded like the ancient Aes Sedai symbol." So in one chapter, there were at least four separate mentions of the symbol, mostly in passing. And the symbol, at least in this chapter, is suggested to have some kind of power to repel the shadow.

I've read and re-read the series numerous times, and I used to be active in WoT forums back when Path of Daggers came out but have since stopped reading or contributing. That said, I don't remember people actually talking about the symbol, and I haven't found much on the internet about it. It's just a symbol, certainly, and that's how I viewed it until I arrived at this chapter again. Any thoughts would be appreciated; I have more notes on the topic, but, God, this is really long already, and I've bored even myself.
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Old 09-10-2010, 01:56 AM
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I don't know if you're on to something here, but this scene always struck me as odd given how only a few books earlier Perrin was able to kill a Darkhound with only a half-dozen plain old arrows without it going T-1000 on him.
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Old 09-10-2010, 03:58 AM
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About the Darkhound killing: maybe you just need to hit exactly the right spot, say a specific part of the brain, coincidentally located behind the eyes. If you randomly chop them to pieces, then you are unlikely to hit that, and thus they can reform.

And of course the ancient symbol is mentioned later on too, when it becomes the Dragon Banner. But it is never given any obvious prominence.
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:04 AM
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The Banner of Light, Gonzo get it right.

I doubt the symbol in itself has any power beyond that of a symbol. Most likely the mosaic was made of a material the DH are allergic to for want of a better word. Another possibility is that they just needed to get away from Rand himself who IIRC was standing in the middle of the mosaic and the distance the DH needed to be from him just happened to be the radius of the mosaic.
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  #5  
Old 09-10-2010, 10:03 AM
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I don't know that I think the symbol has any actual power; it's not like a cross is to a vampire. I'm not discounting it, of course, but it doesn't really seem to fit the overall structure of the series in that things don't have power in and of themselves. They have to be infused with power.

But I think there is perhaps a significance to the symbol that hasn't been revealed yet. Yes, Rand takes it up as the Banner of the Light, but so far as I can tell, he does it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, he is aware (I believe) that "under this sign will he conquer," but he wasn't exactly in need of a banner under which to conquer. He already had the Dragon Banner, and it was a pretty major plot point in the first few books, so much so, in fact, that the Heroes of the Horn couldn't ride against the Seanchan without it. But as far as I can tell, the Banner of the Light has not had any equivalent moment of significance.

I find it curious, also, that the symbol is mentioned ridiculously early on in the series. It makes its appearance in the third paragraph of the series, before any mention of things like the One Power, Foresaken, Aes Sedai, or even concrete mentions of the Dragon or the taint. And there is Egwene's dream where she's trying in vain to tear down a wall made of discs cast in the image of the ancient symbol. In the dream, she thinks "Maybe it was the symbol that was important." Hm.

All in all, the more I think about it, the more curious (curiouser?) I get about the importance of the symbol.
  #6  
Old 09-10-2010, 10:48 AM
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I think the importance mostly lies in the concept of yin and yang, which I think was really Jordan's only purpose of the symbol other than to fulfill prophecy. The yin and yang concept is huge in the WoT.

As for the darkhound thing, either Gonzo is messing with you are he failed to recall that those darkhounds that attacked Rand are either the first members of or pre-cursors to the super pack.
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Old 09-10-2010, 11:21 AM
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Default Rand's Promise to Moiraine, an unpaid debt coming due soon. Price is Blood for Life

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Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
This might be long, 'cause it's late and I'm tired, so I apologize in advance....

I just got to Fires of Heaven in my re-read and came across a part early on that stuck out for me, especially, I'll admit, considering the small detail Brandon mentioned. In Chapter 6, Gateways, Rand and company battle Darkhounds, and Lanfear makes an appearance at the end. This chapter has always stuck out in my memory because it's also the chapter when Moiraine pledges to obey Rand like one of the gai'shain if necessary.

Slightly off-topic, Yossarian... however, do recall that Rand previous made a 'promise' to Moiraine to do 'any in his power' to repay her for healing Tam al'Thor, as long as it didn't hurt his friends or homeland (tEotW book).

Rand a chapter or so later noted that Moiraine never brought up, how or when Rand could repaid his debt to pay any price to Moiraine.


That debt is going to come due, in Towers of the Midnight. This is a big deal.
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Old 09-10-2010, 11:26 AM
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For me the significance of the symbol was always pretty clear, the significance lies in its ancient meaning. It means that men and women have to work together as Saidin and Saidar have to work together to defeat the Dark One, like they did during the AoL and which they failed to do during the Sealing of the Bore.


Regarding the extraordinary power of the symbol: Could this simply be an erroneous interpretation?
Quote:
Suddenly the smaller pools flowed across the floor in viscous streams to merge with the larger, which oozed away from the mosaic to mound higher and higher, until the three huge black dogs stood there once more, slavering and snarling as they gathered massive haunches under them.
I think I also read "away" as meaning to a different part of the floor when I first read this but "away from the mosaic to mound higher and higher" here could simply mean "up". The blood oozes up to reform the dogs (I am not a native speaker so I am not quite sure if that reading is possible).
  #9  
Old 09-10-2010, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Scaw View Post
For me the significance of the symbol was always pretty clear, the significance lies in its ancient meaning. It means that men and women have to work together as Saidin and Saidar have to work together to defeat the Dark One, like they did during the AoL and which they failed to do during the Sealing of the Bore.

Regarding the extraordinary power of the symbol: Could this simply be an erroneous interpretation?
I always thought that it just represented that, too, and that when Egwene saw herself trying to tear down a wall made of thousands of the symbols, it was her trying to maintain Third Age Aes Sedai hegemony as opposed to re-establishing a more equal Age of Legends power structure. And I still more or less think that, but for the oblique references that the symbol may be something more. Rand's wounds, for instance, are an obvious reference to the wounds of Christ, but serve a function in the books: to name him true, and for the price he must pay, as well as providing a clue as to how to heal Saidin

And I can't get beyond the fact that yes, while the Darkhounds blood oozing away from the symbol also carries them away from Rand, he still takes time after the fight to notice that they had to leave the symbol to re-assemble. It's a throwaway detail, certainly, and may very well be nothing more than a red herring, but it seems significant, perhaps more than the simple narrative of a fight.

Or I could be over analyzing it.
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
And I can't get beyond the fact that yes, while the Darkhounds blood oozing away from the symbol also carries them away from Rand, he still takes time after the fight to notice that they had to leave the symbol to re-assemble. It's a throwaway detail, certainly, and may very well be nothing more than a red herring, but it seems significant, perhaps more than the simple narrative of a fight.

Or I could be over analyzing it.
I think you're over analyzing.

If there were something special about the mosaic that caused it to inhibit reassembly of Shadowspawn, it was likely something about that particular mosaic rather than what the mosiac depicted.

One of RJ's major themes was that what the charaters know isn't always correct; they make erroneous assumptions and jump to erroneous conclusions and make bad decisions based on misunderstandings. Since Rand hasn't followed thorugh on his observation that the DH's left the mosaic to reform, it is likely he investigated theory and came to the conclusion that the ancient sign has no inherent power to repel shadowspawn.
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:24 PM
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I think you guys are missing the mark in assuming that there can't be any mystic significance to symbols in the WoT world. Just because the One Power has rational rules and consistent psuedo-scientific explanations doesn't mean that everything supernatural in the whole series follows the same pattern. Take Trolloc's and Fades' inability to cope with rivers, for instance. That's based off of (or rather became the basis for) an old myth that evil spirits can't cross running water. The Fade's shadow-riding ability only works at the edges of the shadow, which goes back to ancient superstitions about liminal or boundary states (ie: power of a threshold, which is why vampires need an invitation to cross one). IIRC one of Shaidar Haran's POV scenes reveals that he's able to manifest most easily during sunrises and sunsets. I don't remember the exact quote but it's something about drawing power from the day dying at sunset and the night dying at sunrise. When Perrin encounters the super Darkhound pack he reminds himself of all the stories he's heard about Darkhounds, including one that says they're at their most dangerous when encountered at a crossroads. Again, the power of liminal places, though of course this one may not be real since many of the stories about Darkhounds are just ghost stories with no basis in fact. The point is there's plenty of weird stuff going on in WoT that has nothing to do with the rational, explainable rules that govern the One Power and I think we should entertain the possibility that the Ancient Symbol actually could invoke the Light and weaken the Shadow.

edit: not that I think just looking at a banner will make Shadowspawn burst into flames. I think some Shadowspawn have particular abilities that involve drawing on the Dark One's essence, like shadow-riding or the Darkhound's reassembly trick, and it is only these abilities that will be disrupted by the symbol.

Last edited by nameless; 09-10-2010 at 06:26 PM.
  #12  
Old 09-10-2010, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by nameless View Post
The point is there's plenty of weird stuff going on in WoT that has nothing to do with the rational, explainable rules that govern the One Power and I think we should entertain the possibility that the Ancient Symbol actually could invoke the Light and weaken the Shadow.

edit: not that I think just looking at a banner will make Shadowspawn burst into flames. I think some Shadowspawn have particular abilities that involve drawing on the Dark One's essence, like shadow-riding or the Darkhound's reassembly trick, and it is only these abilities that will be disrupted by the symbol.
A fair point. However, there's no indication of any such power inherent in the Aes Sedai symbol -- although there is some use of the component parts ("Flame of Tar Valon" and "Dragon's Fang") as symbols of protection or damantion, there is no apparent culltural use of the whole symbol as a symbol of protection.

It should be noted that Mat's medalion, clearly an amulet of protection, features the ancient symbol as the eye of the fox on the medalion. That is the only other instance where the symbol is associated with protection and it isn't associated with protection against shadowspawn -- although Mat's Medalion is the only known thing that can harm a Gholam

I think it is consistent with the "News, History, Legend, Myth" progression at the heart of the Wheel of Time concept that the Ancient Symbol could become associated with protection against Evil in the same way a plastic container stamped PTFE could become a "Protects Things From Evil" device to a Cargo Cult.
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:26 PM
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That's certainly plausible. There's something going on that hasn't been explained yet with regards to the Shadow and boundary conditions, which is why I think the yin/yang in particular may be effective against the Dark One or darkhounds. Because it represents the boundary/overlap between male and female, saidar and saidin, it is the representation of a pure liminal state, which may have some unknown power over the Shadow or may just be mythical nonsense like silver hurting vampires (misremembered from Mat's silver medallion) or salt hurting Darkhounds (I honestly don't know what myth that's alluding to... snails, maybe :P)
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:00 PM
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...which is why I think the yin/yang in particular may be effective against the Dark One or darkhounds. Because it represents the boundary/overlap between male and female, saidar and saidin, it is the representation of a pure liminal state, ...
I think you're reading too much into the similarity of the Taoist Taijitu and the Ancient Symbol.

Taijitu:

Aes Sedai Symbol:


Note the lack of dots in the Aes Sedai Symbol -- the dots, or poles, are a crucial element of the Taoist philosphy the taijitu represents which is deliberately absent from the Aes Sedai symbol and the philosophy it represents.

Both nominally represent Balance but the Aes Sedai symbol really only represents the balance between Saidin and Saidar while the Taijitu represents a much more complex philosophy.
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:52 PM
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While the symbol DOES represent Saidin and Saidar, to many people in Randland it also represents the boundary/balance between light and dark.

I don't feel that the symbol itself repels Shadowspawn, but I do feel it is some type of clue/foreshdowing to how Rand will defeat the DO (the whole "bringing back balance to the Force" thing).

Sorry I'm not any clearer, I'v been up for 23 hours so far today.
 


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