Author: Shirlyn Cheade
At first glance, the similarities between Tar Valon and the legendary Avalon are only superficial. They are both islands, and at first that is the only similarity. However, when you uncover the legend of Avalon from the distortions and adaptations which have surrounded it in recent years, we come upon some interesting similarities.
First of all, we must examine Avalon from a mythological perspective. Avalon is a mystical island which Morgan, also known as Morgan Le Fay, rules with her college of priestesses. "She is the High Priestess of magic and healing, as well as intrigue and deception" (Begg 35). The figure of Morgan is likely based on the Morrigan, who is "a Triple Goddess made up of three crone Goddesses of war, battle, death, and destruction". Their collective name means "the phantom queen" (McCoy 228).
Avalon is also said to be the origin of Excalibur, the legendary sword. It was said to have been forged here, thereby imbuing it with special powers, specifically, it contained runes of power. These runes served the purpose of guiding Arthur to Avalon to heal him of his wounds. This implies that those who dwelt on Avalon could heal very serious wounds.
Avalon is also where Arthur is buried. There is a single stone megalith on Ile Aval, in Brittany, which is said to be the remains of Arthur's tomb. Aval means Apple-Isle. This is particularly important, considering Avalon is known as the Island of Apple Trees.
Tar Valon is the site of the White Tower, a structure which houses what could be called a college of Aes Sedai. Certainly, it is a place where girls come to learn to be Aes Sedai, though not all have the ability to advance that far. The island of Tar Valon, located in the River Erinin, under the shadow of the Dragonmount (the place of Lews Therin Telamon's death as well as his tomb), is "governed by a Council of Aes Sedai chosen by the Hall of the Tower" (Jordan 222). The Hall of the Tower is made up of three representatives of seven Ajahs, as well as the Amyrlin Seat and her Keeper of the Chronicles. Ultimately, however, all Aes Sedai are answerable to the Amyrlin Seat.
Aes Sedai take Three Oaths, which prevent them from lying outright, however, they have perfected speaking around the truth to an art. There is a common saying throughout the land that "An Aes Sedai never lies, but the truth she speaks may not be the truth you think you hear" (Jordan 208).
Aes Sedai also have many Talents, which allow them to do things that an ordinary citizen cannot, such as Heal. The Talent for Healing is not uncommon, however, not all Sisters have that ability. Healing can cure almost anything, from a black eye to an otherwise fatal wound. Also, in times past, Aes Sedai could forge weapons which were stronger than all others, and which never needed sharpening. However, the Aes Sedai of the present are bound against forging any weapon by the second of the Three Oaths.
Aes Sedai have one other interesting attribute. All women (and men) who can channel age more slowly than normal. Most sisters live to be over two hundred years old, this seems to be approaching the limit however. Recently, women among the Kin in Ebou Dar have been found to be older, some approaching five hundred years old. This has led to speculation that the Oath Rod (the instrument used to bind Aes Sedai to their Oaths) causes the ageless look in Aes Sedai, including cutting their lives short.
In short, Tar Valon and Avalon have many attributes in common:
- The Isle of the Blessed, Avalon, is also known as the isle of eternal youth. Aes Sedai don't age normally, and have the ageless look.
- Morgan rules over Avalon with her college of priestesses the same way the Amyrlin Seat rules Tar Valon.
- Morgan is known as the High Priestess of magic and healing as well as intrigue and deception. While Aes Sedai are not magical, they certainly appear to do magic to an uneducated observer, as well as have the ability to Heal. It is also said that Aes Sedai created Daes Dae'mar, the Game of Houses.
The similarities that emerge if the Dragon/Dragon Reborn is considered to be an Arthur-like figure:
- The grave of Arthur is located on Avalon, and Tar Valon is in the shadow of Lews Therin Telamon's (the Dragon) grave.
- Excalibur, the legendary sword, is said to have magical powers, pulled from the stone. Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends could pull metals directly from the earth, as well as create weapons that are extremely strong and never needed sharpening.
- Arthur was said to be healed of "grievous wounds" while at Avalon. The Aes Sedai of Tar Valon have the ability to Heal almost anything, including, in recent times, severing from the True Source.
Begg, Ean & Deike Rich. On the Trail of Merlin: A Guide to the Celtic Mystery Tradition. The Aquarian Press. 1991.
Jordan, Robert & Teresa Patterson. The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. New York: Tor. 1997.
McCoy, Edain. Celtic Myth & Magic: Harnessing the Power of the Gods and Goddesses. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications. 2000
Written and Researched by:
Novice of the White Tower @ tarvalon.net