From Tar Valon Library
For more information on Novice clothing, go to Novice Dress.
“Novice” is the term given to the girls and women who are beginning their journey to become Aes Sedai. They are referred to as “child” by the Accepted and Aes Sedai because they must “be protected and cared for, guided in the way they should go, and punished when they do what they should not” (TGH, Ch. 24). Girls have to be at least fifteen to become a novice, unless they have already begun to channel (WH, Prologue), and girls older than eighteen are not accepted unless they can manage to get away with lying about their age (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 24; NS, Ch. 17). Most girls spend between five and ten years at this level (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 24), though some have spent only three (NS, Ch. 2) and recently, two have spent only one (TDR, Ch. 22). One initiate, Nynaeve al'Meara, completely skipped the novice stage and moved to that of an Accepted because of her skill (TGH, Ch. 18).
Because Aes Sedai do not spend much time searching for girls who can channel, most have to approach an Aes Sedai or the White Tower on their own. When an Aes Sedai does happen to come across a girl who can learn to channel, however, they are very assiduous in making sure that that girl makes it to the Tower (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 24). When a girl first becomes a novice, another novice who has already been at the Tower for some time is assigned to her for a few days to help her adjust to her new life (TGH, Ch. 24).
Novices are clothed completely in white; even their thin leather slippers, belt and belt pouch are white (NS, Ch. 2; TDR, Ch. 13). The dresses are plainly cut (TGH, Ch. 24). Jewelery is frowned upon (WH, Ch. 8).
The training that novices must undergo before either leaving the Tower or being raised to the level of Accepted is very difficult. It is said that if a girl is going to break, “better it happened as novice than as a sister” (NS, Ch. 2). Egwene thinks to herself that “She had been worked harder and disciplined more strictly as a novice than ever before in her life” (TSR, Ch. 23).
Not all novices make it to the level of Accepted. Girls who are not considered strong enough in the One Power to become Accepted are sent home once they have learned how to properly control their grasp on the One Power (TGH, Ch. 24; LoC, Ch. 37). A girl can also be sent home if she refuses to take the Accepted test three times or if she fails it once (TGH, Ch. 23). Most girls fear being put out of the Tower, and those who are sent home are spoken of in whispers as if they have died (TGH, Ch. 38).
Behavior and Restrictions
Many restrictions are placed upon novices, and they are expected to behave in certain ways. According to Elayne, there are so many rules that it is difficult not to break some of them sometimes (TGH, Ch. 24).
Novices are expected to obey Aes Sedai immediately; it is the first lesson that a novice learns (LoC, Ch. 11). They are not supposed to speak to an Aes Sedai unless they are bidden to do so (TGH, Ch. 24). They are also expected to obey the Accepted almost as quickly as they would the Aes Sedai (TDR, Ch. 13), and in the eyes of the novices, Accepted are just a small step below Aes Sedai (NS, Ch. 2). It is because novices are expected to do as they are told that Aes Sedai believe younger women make better novices and is one of the reasons why older women are not accepted as novices (TGH, Ch. 12), though when older women are accepted, they bend to the rules as well as any (KoD, Ch. 12).
Novices are expected to try to live their lives as if they are already bound by the Three Oaths (TDR, Ch. 10). Just like Aes Sedai and Accepted, novices are expected and required to do what the Tower needs (CoT, Ch. 30).
Novices are not allowed to associate with men; they are discouraged from even thinking about them. In addition, they are also discouraged from thinking of romance and love. This is because women who can channel live a good deal longer than the average person and will likely “watch a husband age and die, and [their] children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, while [they] changed not at all” (NS, Ch. 2).
One of the worst misdemeanours that a novice can commit is to run away. Because of the difficulty of the training, and the fact that it takes so long, many are tempted to try (LoC, Ch. 48). Even setting foot on one of the bridges that leave Tar Valon is considered trying to run away (NS, Ch. 4). They are almost always caught and are punished severely; few try it a second time (LoC, Ch. 8). One of the reasons that novices are kept away from men is so that they do not feel the inclination to run away to get married (NS, Ch. 2).
If a novice speaks of an Aes Sedai’s age, she will be sent to the Mistress of Novices (NS, Ch. 2). They are expected to always be on time (NS, Ch. 3), receive a “gentle if firm explanation of why matters [are] how they [are]” if they complain about something (NS, Ch. 8) and are expected to be quiet during meals (NS, Ch. 5; KoD, Ch. 24).
When a novice has to be punished for something, she is sent to the Mistress of Novices’ office where she is sometimes physically punished and sometimes given chores (TGH, Ch. 24; TFoH, Ch. 15). The worst punishment a novice can be given is to be sent to work on a farm, forbidden to channel the One Power until she has learned her lesson. This punishment is usually given as a last chance (NS, Ch. 7).
Despite the fact that novice life is difficult and there are many rules, however, novices are treated more gently than Accepted. According to Siuan, “A measure of stupidity can be tolerated in a novice” (TDR, Ch. 13). In addition, the Mistress of Novices usually tries to protect the novices when they need it, as they are not believed able to protect themselves (TDR, Ch. 23). They are not punished over their lessons unless they have been trying something with the One Power that they are not supposed to, or if they are channeling the One Power without a supervisor (TGH, Ch. 24).
Novices spent almost all day, every day, in training. When they are not taking lessons in the One Power and other subjects, they are doing chores and fulfilling other duties. Novices are almost always tired, and many cry themselves to sleep, not only from exhaustion, but also from fear that they will either be sent away from the Tower or that they will be too tired and accidentally channel more of the One Power than they can safely handle (TGH, Ch. 38).
Training takes place from breakfast until High and then from dinner until Trine. Supper to Full is usually reserved for chores (TGH, Ch. 24).
Duties and Chores
Even when they aren’t being punished, novices are expected to do many chores, as it is believed that they strengthen the body and the mind (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 24). According to the Aes Sedai, “labor builds character” (TGH, Ch. 12), and also keeps the novices too busy and tired to think about men (KoD, Ch. 24). Novices try to do their chores as quickly as possible (ACoS, Ch. 11). Often, the chores that novices are given are “makework,” since there are actually plenty of servants to do all the work (KoD, Ch. 24).
Chores that novices must do include washing dishes, scrubbing floors, doing laundry, serving at tables (TGH, Ch. 12) and sweeping the halls (TGH, Ch. 24). They also scrub the floor of their room every day (TDR, Ch. 13). When they are serving at tables is the only time that novices are allowed to enter the Aes Sedai dining hall (NS, Ch. 13). Chores are done from supper to Full (TGH, Ch. 24), though sometimes there are late chores to be done as well (KoD, Prologue).
When petitions are taken, the novices lead the petitioners to those they need to see (TSR, Ch. 1).
Many of the classes that novices take are classes in the One Power. These range from learning how to touch the Source to actually channeling saidar.
There are many novice exercises that novices use in order to learn how to touch the One Power. These exercises are useful even to Aes Sedai when they need to remain calm. One of the most common is for the novice to imagine herself as a still rosebud opening its petals to the sun (NS, Ch. 24). Another common one is for the novice to imagine herself as the riverbank that controls the river, with the river being saidar. Other exercises include imagining oneself as a summer breeze, a babbling brook, a dandelion seed on the wind, the earth absorbing water, and a root in the soil (LoC, Ch. 13).
Novices have to take lessons on the limits of the One Power (KoD, Ch. 24). One of the things that they are taught is that if they are trying to get rid of a light or a fire, they are never to draw the heat in because it can possibly cause them to burst into flame, and at the very least results in bad blisters. If they want to get ride of a flame, it is to be extinguished with Air or Water (TSR, Ch. 7). Another thing they are taught is that picking apart a weave should not be done under any circumstances as it is very dangerous (TPoD, Ch. 2).
One of the first things that a novice is taught to do with the One Power is to make a single flame or a ball of fire (TFoH, Ch. 49; KoD, Ch. 24). They then eventually move on to weaving patterns in the air with balls of fire and passing them back and forth with a partner (TGH, Ch. 38; LoC, Ch. 8). They also learn, early on, how to light a candle and put it out (TSR, Ch. 7).
Despite the fact that they take many lessons in the One Power, novices are not allowed to channel without the supervision of an Aes Sedai or an Accepted. They are not even allowed to touch saidar (NS, Ch. 3). Nevertheless, they do anyway. Some argue that in order to keep up, they have to practice (TGH, Ch. 38). Others don’t believe or understand the dangers, or believe that they can avoid them (NS, Ch. 3). Many simply cannot resist (TGH, Ch. 38).
Novices also take other classes that do not concern the One Power. These classes rather concern history and knowledge about the world they live in.
Novices who do not know how to write when they become a novice are taught a decent hand (NS, Ch. 6).
Novices are required to memorize the names of every Aes Sedai since the Breaking of the World who has been stilled, as well as what crime she committed (TGH, Ch. 5). They are also expected to know about the Amyrlins who have been deposed, few though they are (TFoH, Ch. 15). They also learn the difference between being burned out with the One Power and stilling (TSR, Ch. 5).
Lectures are given on the wars that have been fought between Andor and Cairhien (TDR, Ch. 37), including the Great Winter War (KoD, Ch. 24). Other lectures given on history include Avendoraldera (TDR, Ch. 39) and the Weikin Rebellion, as well as history of the White Tower, on topics such as Shein Chunla (KoD, Ch. 24). They are also taught about Shadar Logoth, and every novice who is close to taking the Accepted test knows that nothing from Shadar Logoth should be touched (TGH, Ch. 22). Classes are also taught on the Old Tongue (NS, Ch. 2).
Other classes, rather than being concerned with history, rather concern the nature of reality. Egwene hears two lectures from Sarene Nemdahl on this topic, and part of the lecture is about how “beauty and ugliness [are] equally illusion” (LoC, Ch. 25).
Novices are taught a little of what they are to expect during the Accepted test; they know it by heart (TGH, Ch. 23).
Other lectures are taught on the way the Tower is run. They learn some of what goes on when an candidate for the Amyrlin Seat is called before the Hall of the Tower, as well as a little bit about how the Hall works (LoC, Ch. 35).
In some cases, a novice may be exempted from a class if she is already extensively learned in that area. Moiraine was excused from classes in the Old Tongue because of the lessons that she took on the subject growing up in Cairhien (NS, Ch. 2).
Fun and Pranks
Not all of a novice’s life is taken with classes and chores. Occasionally, the novices are given a free-day where they do not have to do any chores or take any classes. These rare days are coveted by all novices (NS, Ch. 3; TGH, Ch. 38).
Novices also enjoy playing pranks. Some of the pranks that have been played by characters when they were novices include:
- While either novices or Accepted, Siuan and Leane set a bucket of near-freezing water so that it douses an Aes Sedai who had them switched (TFoH, Ch. 26).
- While either novices or Accepted, Pevara and Seaine dust Serancha’s shift with powdered itchcloak (ACoS, Ch. 32).
Novices sometimes have contests to see who is stronger in the One Power. They get in trouble when they are caught (LoC, Ch. 43).
The closest friends among novices are usually between those who are either very alike or very different (NS, Ch. 2).
Although novices are not allowed to associate with men, they are often pillow-friends with other novices. According to Egwene, “the strains between pillow-friends could be as harsh as anything men ever caused” (KoD, Ch. 24).
Accepted are not supposed to be friends with novices (TGH, Ch. 38).
It is considered improper for an Aes Sedai to befriend a novice because there is the risk that the novice will “start feeling above herself” and therefore get into trouble (KoD, Ch. 24). Novices generally don’t really know the Aes Sedai well (NS, Ch. 14).
The one Aes Sedai that the novices are guaranteed to know is the Mistress of Novices. The Mistress of Novices is the one who has complete control over them. Although all Mistress of Novices are different and some are likely stricter than others, the job of the Mistress of Novices is not just to punish them, but also to offer comfort when it is needed (NS, Ch. 5). According to Sheriam, she tries to protect the novices when they need protection (TSR, Ch. 23).
The novice’s quarters are located in a palace-like structure that is attached to the back of the main part of the White Tower (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 9).
There are a dozen floors in the novice quarters (ACoS, Ch. 12), arranged around two hollow wells that surround small gardens. There are almost four hundred rooms (NS, Ch. 3). Spiraling ramps lead from one floor to the next. One of the wells is closed, but the one that is currently open opens onto the Novices’ Court at the bottom (NS, Ch. 3; TSR, Ch. 13).
The rooms in the novice quarters are all the same. They are small, just three short paces across, and plain. The walls are white and there are no carpets on the floor (TGH, Ch. 24). There is a small table to be used for studying, with a short shelf above it. There are rows of pegs to hang belongings on, and a bed built against one wall. There is also a washstand, a three-legged stool and a narrow hearth. There are no windows (TGH, Ch. 24; Ch. 38; TDR, Ch. 13). The beds are hard, and novice mattresses are not noted for their softness (KoD, Ch. 24).
There are small holes in the wall that join one room to the next. The novices use these holes to talk to each other at night (TDR, Ch. 13). They are too small to see unless you know where to look for them (TGH, Ch. 38).
The novices eat on the lowest level of the Tower, in a dining hall that is set to one side of the main kitchen. It is large, with floor tiles in the colors of all the Ajahs. There are many tables, which can seat between six to eight novices (KoD, Ch. 24).
In recent years, there has been much concern over the dwindling number of girls who come to the White Tower to become novices (TGH, Ch. 18). One of the wells of the novice quarters has been closed for many years because of the small numbers (NS, Ch. 3). When Egwene arrives at the Tower, there are only thirty-nine other novices. Out of those, only seven or eight will be strong enough to be raised to the level of Accepted (TGH, Ch. 18).
According to some Aes Sedai, Sheriam among them, the ability to channel is being culled out because men who can channel are gentled whenever they are found. The White Ajah has suggested that women should have children by men who can channel in an attempt to heighten the number of girls born with the ability (TSR, Ch. 31). These concerns are unfounded, however, as evidenced by the number of men at the Black Tower and the number of novices with the rebel Aes Sedai.
Another suggestion for the dwindling numbers is that there are not enough women who are strong enough to become Aes Sedai. Elayne claims that the White Tower cannot lower its standards. She tells Egwene that “The Aes Sedai cannot take a woman as a sister if she does not have the ability, the strength, and the desire. They can’t give the ring and the shawl to one who cannot channel the Power well enough, or who will allow herself to be intimidated, or who will turn back when the road turns rough” (TGH, Ch. 24).
The problem, however, is not that the number of channelers in the world has dwindled so drastically or that the White Tower refuses to lower its standards. Rather, it is that the White Tower does not actively recruit, and that they do not accept women over the age of eighteen. When the rebel Aes Sedai open the novice book to any woman who can channel, they eventually attract nearly one thousand new novices (TPoD, Ch. 30). In addition, the White Tower itself, as of “Knife of Dreams,” has over one hundred novices, more than it has had in years. Still, these barely fill half of the dining hall, and Egwene thinks to herself that she will have to open the second kitchen and have the novices eat by shifts after she retakes the Tower. That is something that has not been done since before the Trolloc Wars (KoD, Ch. 24).
- While male servants often turn a blind eye to what novices do, female servants keep a close watch on them (NS, Ch. 3).
- According to Vandene, the Amyrlin Seat will need every Aes Sedai, Accepted and novice when the Dragon Reborn must be faced (TGH, Ch. 22).
- Novices’ horses are kept in the South Stable (TGH, Ch. 39).
- When Verin gives Egwene the dream ter’angreal ring, she warns her to keep it hidden, because no novice should have such a thing (TDR, Ch. 21).
- In the anteroom to the Amyrlin’s study, there are chairs for the Aes Sedai to sit on but novices and Accepted have to stand (TFoH, Ch. 15).
- A novice is only allowed to enter the Hall of the Tower to carry messages or to be expelled from the Tower (ACoS, Ch. 23).
- A novice is allowed to use two doors that lead to the Tower Library. These are the main door to the east, which may be used when she is sent by an Aes Sedai, and the Novice Door at the southwest corner when she goes for herself (ACoS, Ch. 23).
- Aside from flicking a novice’s ear or giving her a swat on the bottom with the One Power, the One Power is forbidden to be used as a punishment by Tower law (TPoD, Ch. 4).
- No one has ever been demoted to novice before Egwene (KoD, Prologue).
- Novices get honey in their tea on special occasions (KoD, Ch. 24).