Why the Dark One Cannot Win
The Wheel of Time is four-and-a-half million words about a fight that can only ever end one way. It says something about readers, genre expectations, or the quality of the writing and world-building that so many people can read and re-read this series even though the primary conflict is destined to end the right way.
The first chapter of every book tells us that there are no beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. It’s a circle. A wheel even. If you go backwards, you will go through all of time and come back to where you are. It’s the same if you go forward.
Since there are no beginnings or endings, this circle has been going on literally forever. The time span is infinite, and while infinity is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, it’s really very simple.
Infinity is not just a huge number. It is, in fact, not a number, but a concept. You can’t count to it. You can’t add, subtract, multiply, or divide it because it has neither a beginning nor an end. If you add infinity to infinity, what you get is infinity because there’s nothing larger. If you divide infinity in half, you just have two infinities.
It can be a difficult concept to grasp because it doesn’t fit readily in our brains. We intuitively think that if something exists, it had to start existing at some point, but the concept of infinity denies that. An infinite period of time would go back further than the Big Bang and last long after the heat death of the universe.
This is important because of Elan Morin Tedronai’s argument that the Dark One’s victory is inevitable. The argument, in a nutshell, is that the Light has to win every time in order to keep the wheel turning, while if the Dark One wins even once, he can break the wheel and keep it from turning.
He’s envisioning a future where the infinite turning of the wheel requires that the Dark One win eventually. It’s an oblique reference to the Law of Large Numbers, a theory in probability that says the more times you do a thing, the closer the result will be to the expected results.
If you flip a coin four times, you’d expect heads twice and tails twice, but there’s a decent chance you don’t get that. If you flip that coin four billion times, you’re going to get something very close to an even split.
If you have something that is a one-in-a-million chance and you try it a million times, it might not happen. But if you try it nine hundred million times, it’s going to happen.
Moridin’s theory is that with an infinite number of chances, the Dark One is guaranteed to win once, and that once he does, it’s all over.
He’s missing two things, though.
For the Dark One to win one of those infinite replays of the universe, he has to be able to win.
And since he has already had infinite chances, if he were able to win, he would have already won.
Remember what I said above about dividing infinity in half and getting two infinities? That means the past is just as infinite as the future and the same law of large numbers would apply.
If the Dark One could break the wheel, he’d have already done it. He hasn’t. Therefore he cannot.
It’s possible that the Dark One could achieve some sort of victory without breaking the Wheel. The trip into an alternate version of the universe in The Great Hunt suggests this might be the case.