Editor’s Note: The following contains The Wheel of Time Season 2 spoilers.
The Big Picture
- The rules of magic in The Wheel of Time restrict men from using the One Power without going insane, which was caused by the corruption of saidin by the Dark One.
- The Breaking of the World occurred when male Aes Sedai unleashed uncontrolled destructive rage, leading to the creation of the Red Ajah to remove contact with the One Power from men.
- Rand al’Thor, as the Dragon Reborn, faces the dilemma of using the One Power to save the world while risking his own sanity and the safety of his loved ones.
In a fantasy world, the rules that determine which characters can access magic often define the story. In Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time, magic is mainly controlled by the Aes Sedai, a group that consists only of women. We find out early on that half of the population, specifically men, can never use the One Power without going mad. But why does this happen, and why is it only men who suffer from this restriction?
To understand this, we first need to grasp the concept of magic in this world. In The Wheel of Time, magic is known as the One Power or the True Source, and it is referred to as the source of power for all Aes Sedai. Contact with the One Power is what allows Aes Sedai to wield magic. Men and women do not have contact with One Power in the same way. This happens because One Power is composed of two halves called saidin and saidar. Men use saidin to tap into the One Power, while women use saidar.
Can Men Channel the One Power in ‘The Wheel of Time’?
Technically, yes. Since the beginning, men have been able to channel, and some of the most powerful and important wizards have been men — but, something happened, something that caused the end of the last era, known as the Era of Legends, and changed what happens to men who channel.
The Era of Legends was remembered as an era of great achievements in science, technology, philosophy, and art. Civilizations were far more advanced than any shown in The Wheel of Time. At that time, the last Dragon, and leader of the male Aes Sedai, was a man by the name of Lews Therin Telamon (played by Alexander Karim in the Prime Video series), while the leader of the female Aes Sedai was Latra Posae Decume (brought to life by Katie Brayben). Together, they faced the dangers the Dark One imposed on their world, yet, they could not agree on which approach to take to defeat the Dark One.
Lews wanted to try something that could imprison the Dark One, but that would also risk permitting the Dark One access to the One Power. This access could allow the Dark One to corrupt the One Power. Latra refused to follow Lews’ plan of Lews and lend him the help of the female Aes Sedai, as she believed the risk outweighed the benefit making the plan far too dangerous. Given this, Lews decided to face the Dark One with only male Aes Sedai. Lews and the forces of light were successful in their attempts to imprison the Dark One, but at a great cost. Before getting imprisoned, the Dark One, corrupted saidin so that any man who wielded the One Power would go insane. This caused all male channelers to fall into a madness that convinced them to kill everyone they have ever loved. Even Lews, the Dragon, killed his wife and children.
What Caused the Breaking of the World in ‘The Wheel of Time’?
The Breaking was a time of uncontrolled destructive rage in the hands of some of the most powerful Aes Sedai. The Breaking came to be the end of the Age of Legends as the destruction of male Aes Sedai reached every corner of the world. It was the remaining female Aes Sedai who fought the men and brought stability, and when the Breaking was finally over, entire civilizations were shattered and lost.
The female Aes Sedai, in an effort to achieve and maintain peace, founded the White Tower. And to prevent the Breaking from ever happening again, they created the Red Ajah. The Red Ajah is a section of Aes Sedai whose goal is to hunt down and remove contact with the One Power from any men who can channel. The practice of removing contact with the One Power from a specific person is called “gentling.” This process can prove itself to be quite hard on the person it is inflicted on. A lot of people end up taking their lives after being gentled due to the feeling that something is missing within themselves. Since then, men who can channel have been faced with the dilemma of using their power, and risking both the insanity and the Red Ajah, or denying that part of themselves — but more often than not, being able to channel has been a death sentence for men.
How Can Rand Use the One Power in ‘The Wheel of Time’?
The corruption of the One Power, specifically of saidin, did not remove men’s capability to access the One Power, but it caused them to get one step closer to insanity every time they used it. So men have to face a dilemma on whether to use the One Power given the dangers it entails, as the madness makes them a danger to their loved ones. Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) faces the same dilemma. As the Dragon Reborn, he can access the One Power, yet he knows that every time he does, he is closer to insanity. In The Wheel of Time Season 1 finale, he decides not only to run from all the people he grew up with but to convince Moraine (Rosamund Pike) to tell them he died.
In The Wheel of Time Season 2, this dilemma is explored in more depth. We see Rand trying, in the beginning, to avoid the One Power completely. He does not try to learn to control it and is mainly afraid of it, yet, he soon finds out that he is unable to refrain from the use of the One Power completely. Refusing his power is refusing a part of himself: an impossible task that will surely bring him more harm than good, but using it is not an option if he wants to keep his sanity and his loved ones safe. Rand, as the Dragon Reborn, cannot outright deny his power, not for his own sake but the world’s. He is needed if the Dark One is to be defeated, but how much of Rand it will cost to save everyone and prevent the world’s destruction is yet to be discovered.
New episodes of The Wheel of Time Season 2 premiere Fridays on Prime Video.
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