What in the Name of a Bloody Two-Fingered Trolloc Haystack-Grunter Are the Creator and Dark One?
In my previous post on my Grand Alternate Theory, I suggested that the Dark One and Creator don’t exist in the way we’ve traditionally thought. I described them as “personifications of the best and worst parts of all of us.”
There are a couple obvious follow-up questions: “In what sense do they exist?” and “What the fuck does that even mean?”
This post is supposed to answer those questions, but it’s a little more difficult than you might examine. The Creator is described precisely nowhere, and the Dark One is described as a “blankness” or “emptiness,” which is just not enough. As a result, I have to look at what the light and dark are.
There’s a Decided Lack of Dogma
Most religions have a set of beliefs adherents are supposed to subscribe to. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Light and Dark.
The closest we get to dogma on the side of the Light is this passage from Rand as he sits in the Winespring waiting for Tam to recover:
The Dark One was always there—he knew that—but if you tried to walk in the Light, tried to live a good life, and did not name him, he could not harm you. That was what everybody believed, what everybody learned with his mother’s milk.
There are two striking things about this passage. One, it’s incredibly easy to avoid being harmed by the Dark One. Just try to be a decent person and don’t say his name? That’s cake.
The other thing is that “live a good life” is vague as fuck. I read it as “be a decent person” but even that clarification offers the opportunity to do bad things you think are good.
The same is true to a different degree regarding the Dark. We don’t get a lot of information about what ultimately motivates darkfriends, but we do get something in Verin’s green dress chat with Egwene:
I’m convinced that it isn’t intelligence, craftiness, or skill that makes one Chosen—though those things are important. No, I believe it is selfishness the Great Lord seeks in his greatest leaders.
When Egwene asks why, Varin responds it makes them 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.”
There is no dogma but obedience, and even someone who has studied the Dark One for decades doesn’t know what it really wants.
I think that’s because the Creator and Dark one aren’t entities at all, but the personification of our best and worst traits. But that phrase can’t define itself. What’s the difference between our best and worst traits?
It’s there in what the Dark One values. It values selfishness. It values obedience to its whims over anything else. Verin thinks it’s because it makes people predictable tools. I think it’s because the Dark One has no choice. I think it’s because selfishness is the line that divides good from bad.
A Brief Digression on Imagery and Word Usage
Using “light” and “dark” as stand ins for “good” and “evil” is probably older than recorded history. The pantheon of books I’ve read way too many times includes ten by David Eddings where he straight up called the hero the Child of Light and the villain as the Child of Dark.
I think the usage in the Wheel of Time is a bit more literal than that, while still being metaphorical.
The Dark One has many names, but I want to point to two. The Aiel call him Sightblinder and the Seanchan call him Soulblinder. There is a lot of eye imagery used when talking about the Dark One, and what’s the phrase that set their path in the first book? The Dark One is going to blind the Eye of the World.
You can see in the light and you can’t in the Dark. I think Robert Jordan was telling us that the difference between good and bad is the ability to see the value of other people.
If you cannot see the value of other people, you’re going to act like your wants and needs are the only ones that matter. If you can, you’re still going to do the best for yourself—get the job, the promotion, the recognition, whatever—but you’re going to keep an eye out for the other guy, too.
And Now Some Last Battle Stuff
In one of my English classes back in the days when my joints worked the way they’re supposed to, we read The Chocolate War. At one point, we were reading a chapter in class that referenced a novel where the first three words of the novel were what the novel was really about. The first three words of The Chocolate War are “They murdered him.”
It’s more than three words, but the first sentence of the “Those Who Fought” chapter is “You cannot fathom it, can you?” and Rand goes on about how it was about all of them. A little later, Rand says this:
You cannot win unless we give up. That’s it, isn’t it? This fight isn’t about a victory in battle. Taking me…it was never about beating me. It was about breaking me.
That makes the Dark One tremble, and tacitly admit Rand is right by quickly changing the subject to the fact that it can kill. Jordan immediately cuts to scenes where we learn Lan has survived his battle with Demandred, and that Birgitte was restored to the Horn and returned when Olver blew it.
One last thing before I get to the point. I’ve often wondered why Morgase was included in the “those who fought” speech. She didn’t have all that much to do with winning the Last Battle. Lezbi Nerdy showed that Morgase’s inclusion was to show that it wasn’t just the big battles that mattered.
Morgase suffered compulsion, the loss of her throne, rape, and more, but she always fought for what was right. In her darkest moment, she abdicated her throne because it was best for Andor. She kept fighting, not to kill trollocs, fades, or dreadlords, but to believe in a world that was worth fighting for.
By including her story in that speech, Jordan and Sanderson are saying that the small battles fought in the heads of people are just as important as the big ones fought on the battlefield.
That wouldn’t be the case if the Dark One merely influenced people to act poorly. It would only be the case if the influence went the other way. It would only be the case if individual decisions to give in to your worst, most selfish instincts gave power to the Dark One.
That suggests that the only way to beat the Dark One is for each of us to fight our most selfish instincts—to do better.
About the Creator
If the Dark One gets strength from people who give in to their selfish impulses, the Creator obviously gets strength from people who behave selflessly.
The story Moiraine tells in her “weep for Manetheren” speech is, ultimately, about everyday folks fighting evil to protect their neighbors. The same is true of Perrin’s Battle of Emond’s Field, where the women came to fight, but the Whitecloaks didn’t.
Look at Egwene’s death. How is it worded? What does it accomplish?
Her body was spent. She offered it up and became a column of light, releasing the Flame of Tar Valon into the ground beneath her and high into the sky. The Power left her in a quiet, beautiful explosion, washing across the Sharans and sealing the cracks created by her fight with M’Hael.
She offered up her life, became a pillar of light, and healed the very Earth.
A Few Other Random Things That Point Out How Right I Am
Rand reacted poorly to learning he was the Dragon Reborn. He thought the way to avoid pain was by not caring for people. That’s why Cadsuane showed up to teach him to laugh again. Hindsight tells us that teaching him to laugh was a stand-in for his epiphany on Dragonmount.
For a while, Rand was trying to avoid pain by not caring about people. It allowed him to focus on the objective, but it led him to see people as tools instead of people. Cadsuane failed because she didn’t see Rand as anything but a tool.
The Faile abduction side plot was a way to teach Perrin that he had to put the larger goal ahead of his personal troubles. He did that in the Last Battle.
For all he did winning the Last Battle, and sacrificing half the light in the world, Mat wasn’t made a Hero of the Horn. I’m convinced it was because of all those times he did his best to stay away from Rand.
A shadow is what you get when you block the light.
Moridin wanted everything in existence to be destroyed, so he didn’t have to exist anymore. He gave in to despair, betrayed hope, and wanted the most selfish thing possible.
There are a lot of things in the Wheel of Time that don’t always make sense. Why did Rand have to learn to laugh? What the hell was Cadsuane thinking? Why was Rand a straight asshole for eight books? Why did the Borderland monarchs ask about a clerk?
If they had just been interested in having Rand stick Callandor into the Dark One and be done with it, they wouldn’t have needed any of these things. Their existence testifies to their significance. There could be a hundred stories told without them. Jordan and Sanderson weren’t writing a hundred stories, they were writing a very specific story.
They were writing the story of a young man coming of age and faltering under the weight of responsibility and the pain that comes with it. They were writing a story where the protagonist had to learn that people are worth the pain.