I was going to write about my favorite character, but I kept going back to the beginning and explaining the terms I was using in that post. So I guess I have to start with the most basic of basics. The Aes Sedai (the official organization for female channelers in the Wheel of Time books) —
Okay. More basic than that. The Wheel in the Wheel of Time is driven by a power known as the One Power*. Some people have the ability to use the One Power, an activity known as “channeling.” Ones who channel are “channelers.”
As the book opens, the only channelers who are allowed to channel —
Crap. This is turning into a different post than the one I intended to write. So let’s retitle this “The Wheel of Time, a Primer, Part 1” and start from there.
3,000 years before the Wheel of Time starts, the Aes Sedai were a coeducational group with both male and female channelers. Their symbol was the Taiji (known commonly as the “yin yang” symbol). The white half was for the female channelers and the black half for the male.
This is because the One Power doesn’t come from the same place for male and female channelers. In one of the things that irks me the most about this series, it’s a stereotype of male/female sexual relations. The male half is active and the female half is passive. Now, I’m Ace, but I’ve read enough to know that sex is, in fact, more complicated than that.
Then the male channelers, led by Lews Therin Telamon (a/k/a “The Dragon”) did . . .something in an attempt to destroy the Dark One and the Dark One struck back and tainted the male half of the Source, causing the male channelers to “go mad” (sic) and break the world.
Like, physically break the world. People had to leave their homes because some places that had been dry land became the ocean, or vice versa. Mountains cropped up where none had been before and mountains that had been there disappeared without a trace.
To give you a frame of reference, Jordan said that his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina would eventually be the area whence our protagonists hale — the Two Rivers. The Two Rivers is on the western half of the continent in the Wheel of Time. Kind of like where, I don’t know, Nevada? Utah? Colorado? is in the United States in our world. So most of what is now the United States is under the Aryth Ocean.
Once the land stopped heaving and oceans stopped flowing around and things, they discovered that this taint was still there, and every man who learned how to channel eventually succumbed to mental illness. So, the female Aes Sedai set out to find all of the men who can channel and cut them off from that ability before they can succumb.
This is where the Ajahs come in. 3,000 years ago, ajahs were temporary alliances to achieve a goal. Jordan doesn’t really go into what that entailed, that I can find, but I’m imagining an ajah forming to maybe rescue victims of a genocide scheme, or construct a large structure or whatever.
The biggest and best of these projects were created by men and women working together. Which is, of course, no longer an option.
At some point in the intervening 3,000 years, the female Aes Sedai separated into permanent groups based on their interests and skills. They also used the name “Ajah” to refer to these groups. The largest group of them dedicated themselves to finding and “gentling” men who can channel. This is the Red Ajah.
The other Ajahs are:
Yellow, who have talent and interest in healing and medicine;
Green, who train and wait and hold themselves ready for The Dragon to return and fight the Last Battle against the Dark One;
Blue, who dedicate themselves to “causes of honor and justice”;
White, who value logic above all else;
Gray, who value diplomacy and politics; and, last but never least,
Brown, who are dedicated to study and research.
And I’m, like, a whole Ajah of bookworms? Sign me right the heck up for that!
I mean, as a paralegal, I did kind of toy with the Gray for a while, but really there was no actual contest.
Oh, and there are rumors of a Black Ajah dedicated to serving the Dark One, but that could never happen, right?
*Things that happen later in the series have me believing that the One Power is electricity.