Channelling the One Power in the Fourth Age

Spoiler Check: I have completed A Memory of Light (Book 14 of the Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Books One of my own personal expectations, before completing the Wheel of Time series, was that something would happen as part of Rand’s final showdown with the Dark One that would lock away access to the One Power. No more channelling. By anyone. I had assumed that Rand would defeat the DO by cutting him off from the One Power (and the True Power) but at the same time stop anyone else from using the One Power, for good or for ill.

There are two reasons for this line of thought. The first is a simple deduction based on the fundamental premise of the Wheel of Time itself. The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend, and so forth. It is one big cycle and one Age’s present is another Age’s myth or legend, and everything comes around sooner or later. Hence our own real world, under this construct, falls within one Age or other, such that our myths contain echoes of Rand’s world (all the Arthurian legends, Perrin’s hammer appears as Thor’s Mjollnir from Norse mythology, etc.) while historical events and people from our own world become the subject (after suitable distortion) of songs known to Thom Merrilin in Chapter 4 of The Eye of the World.

So if the One Power can be channelled in the Third Age (and presumably before it), why can no-one channel it now? This does raise the question of which Age we ourselves inhabit. Do we come after Rand’s time? Before it? Does it matter? The question still remains: what is Robert Jordan’s explanation, within the WoT construct, for why there is no channelling in our world? I had expected that answer to emerge from the denouement of A Memory of Light. But it appears that it didn’t.

The second strand to my rationale was the perceived trend, as WoT progressed, away from a reliance on channelling and more on science as we know it. Rand established schools of science as a legacy for after his expected demise at Shayol Ghul. Why? Surely it reflected his expectation that after the Last Battle, people would need science to replace the use of the One Power. Similarly, there were developments in warfare such as Aludra’s Dragons (cannon) and mechanised crossbows. The relationship between use of science and use of the One Power is a little confused though because before the Breaking of the World there was both channelling and science, for example in the Age of Legends there were aircraft (Sho-wings) and other technological artifacts.

I thought my theory had been vindicated in the Epilogue to AMoL when Rand revealed that after the Last Battle he could no longer channel. But that appears to have been because he simply replaced use of the One Power with his new ability to affect the Pattern directly. After all, if channelling had vanished for everyone it would surely have been mentioned elsewhere in the Epilogue. Would the Aes Sedai still have been worrying about appointing a new Amyrlin Seat if the One Power was lost to them? And Rand’s bond to his three women would surely have dissolved – but it clearly hadn’t.

So I’m none the wiser. Maybe we live in the Nth Age where the ability to channel has been bred out of us. But maybe someone will rediscover the talent and the Dragon will be reborn once again.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass …


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3 Responses to Channelling the One Power in the Fourth Age

  1. Ah, a credible explanation here. Chris Lough claims that “In the text of the series, it is hinted that our own time comprised the First Age, and that this Age ended when humanity discovered how to channel the One Power”. I can’t say I recall any specific hints to that effect; maybe I wasn’t paying careful enough attention. So we’re still in the First Age and all the Rand thing is still thousands of years in the future.

    Hmmm, OK. Does that not make WoT an SF series then, rather than pure Fantasy, by analogy with something like Frank Herbert’s Dune? I know GRC’s Steve Gibson “dismissed” Dune as Fantasy but then he thinks that way about anything which is not clearly “hard” Sci-Fi.

  2. bones says:

    Well that would make Aviendha’s second viewing in Rhuidean invalid wouldn’t it? Seeing that they would be able to channel from birth

    • To be honest, I’m really not sure. I am though thinking that despite the Chris Lough analysis mentioned in my comment above, there must still be a point after the start of the Fourth Age when the ability to channel is lost. There has to be a return to our current First Age situation otherwise how is it that we can hear the echoes of Rand, Thom Merrilin et al coming through as Arthurian legend, etc.

      And why is there a First Age anyway if there is a Wheel of Time such that ages keep coming round time and again?

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