Rand initially has problems learning to channel because the only trained channelers are female, and use completely incompatible ways to do so. Moiraine in particular brings up the "bird teaching a fish to fly, and fish teaching a bird to swim" metaphor, though Verin objects to it, noting that there are birds that swim and fish that fly, while men and women can't use the same methods of channeling...but then Winter's Heart rolls around and gives us a circumstance where men and women must know how to weave like the other side: mixed-gender circles, where a man or woman leading must use both powers at the same time. If you think about it, then, the metaphor of birds and fishes with its built-in caveat was a perfectly sensible one for the Age of Legends. If Rand had been born then, a woman likely could have taught him to use saidin reliably, to at least a basic level, because the basics for doing so would have been standard training for her.
Not only that, but flying and swimming require very similar musculature, on account of them requiring similar movements due to both being in fluids. This is partly what makes flying fish and swimming birds possible. The same can be said of saidin and saidar. They have similar movements - both are woven. They work in the same way - both use the Five Powers.
Min's viewings have a failing - they are utterly unable to actually see the Dark One's influence itself. The closest she comes to seeing something connected to the Dark One is when the main characters are together, and she sees the joint aura of fireflies trying to fill a vast darkness. But you'll notice that all she sees is a darkness, an absence. When she's in the White Tower in The Great Hunt, trying to help Siuan, she never sees a single hint that any of the sisters might be of the Black Ajah, despite Aes Sedai constantly having auras and images around them. She also is never able to identify any of the Darkfriends that Rand has had extensive dealings with (such as those revealed after Rand has his climax on Dragonmount).
The Fridge Brilliance here isn't that her viewings have that failing; it's what it tells us about Min's ability, and connects it with something else. The Aelfinn have the ability to answer any three questions, so long as they don't touch upon the Dark One. It can therefore be surmised that this is because, as with Min's ability, they cannot actually see anything to do with the Dark One, and thus cannot answer questions that do so, and it also suggests that Min's ability is the same as that of the Aelfinn.
The strongest explanation is that Min and the Aelfinn have the ability to read the pattern (which is how the Aes Sedai who know of Min specifically describe it). By implication, they can't see the Dark One...because the Dark One is outside the pattern. This is demonstrated by another conversation between Min and some Aes Sedai, who point out that she has visions that can only happen if they win Tarmon Gai'Don, so they will inevitably win. Min rather sensibly points out that that's not the case; if the Dark One wins, her visions won't matter, because the pattern will have been destroyed.
Word of God has confirmed that Min's powers aren't the same as the Finns' (though I've always taken that to mean that they don't come from the same source, even though they do similar things- a channeler who has Foretelling would represent a third way of "reading the pattern before it happens").
At first I was confused by some of Lews Therin/Rand's titles. That is, Lord of the Morning, Prince of the Dawn, and He Who Comes with the Dawn. Then I realized something. What does the Dragon do in all reincarnations? Fight the Shadow. He repels darkness. Just like the sunrise and early dawn. Awesome.
Some of the mythological parallel come off this way.
"Two dozen generations later you might be the hero if it, not Rand. Or maybe Mat or Lan. Or even myself. Thom Merrilin. Not a gleeman — but what? Who can say? Not eating fire, but hurling it around like Aes Sedai. Thom Merrilin, the mysterious hero, toppling mountains and raising up kings. Rand Al'Thor may be lucky if the next age gets his name right."
Considering that Merlin is the mysterious hero of many King Arthur stories...
Rand himself is very similar to King Arthur: King Arthur Pendragon drew from a stone the mystic blade Caliburn (he got Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, not the stone) and was advised by the wizard Merlin. Lord al'Thor the Dragon drew from the Stone of Tear the mystic blade Callandor and one of his advisers is the bard Thom Merrilin.
Caliburn and Excalibur are the same sword. The Sword in the Stone didn't have a name.
Regarding Demandred, he is clearly established as being motivated in his evil by the fact that he spent his whole life overshadowed by Lews Therin Telamon in just about every way until he finally couldn't take it anymore and snapped. He then proceeded to go over to the side of the Shadow- where he promptly got stuck playing second fiddle to Ishamael for the position of "most dangerous male Forsaken". Irony is beautiful, no? Now imagine how Sammael and especially Be'lal, who are characterized as basically lesser versions of Demandred, must have felt...
"Almost" really is the story of Demandred's life. In AMOL, he almost killed Galad and Lan, almost won the Last Battle for the Shadow, and almost fulfilled his role as the Sharan's prophecied Dark Messiah.
Furthermore Word of God is that the Sharan prophecy of the Wyld was about Demandred, but he believed that he was co-opting their version of the Prophecies of the Dragon. So in his moment of crowning glory, binding one of the two most powerful empires in the world under his dominion in less than two years, Demandred did, finally, step out of Lews Therin's shadow- but he never realized it. Brilliant.
The link between cats and female channelers and dogs with male channelers seems to be more than it first appears. Cats are thought to not doing well in groups, and similarly, female channelers are split into lots and lots of tiny groups, all pursuing their own agendas rather than working as a whole. You've got the Wise Ones, with their own clans and septs, and further breakdowns between them as the books progress; the Windfinders, who stick with their own ships; the damane, who don't even get to run their own organisation; Kin, who are probably the most cohesive group of female channelers, yet have to split up to avoid Aes Sedai; and then the Aes Sedai themselves, split into Ajahs, Sitters and non-Sitters, rebels and loyalists, darkfriends, and then the various schemes within those various groups. Then there are even female channelers way out in Shara. The male channelers meanwhile all end up in the Asha'man, where the only noticeable split is between those who follow Rand/Logain, and those who follow Taim (and that split might only have occurred via a circle of thirteen brainwashing people). Much like dogs, they stick to large packs. This is probably due to the fact they're a new organisation and preoccupied with the taint, but even so, the contrast fits with the cat/dog difference interestingly.
It could also be the Pattern's sense of balance taking effect. Cats are generally thought to be solitary and independent and dogs are pack animals...but saidar users are the only ones who can pool their power on their own, while saidin users can't bond the same way. The animal links might symbolize the circles, instead; a woman is partnered with or surrounded by cats and is their link, while a man is accepted into a pack by dogs.
Also an example of Artistic License, feral cats are solitary, tigers and panthers too, lions and feral house cats on the other hand live in packs (called prides in the case of lions). A better animal would have been Bears, they always are solitary, although they are ironically part of the same suborder as dogs.
In AMOL the last Forsaken standing in their original body is Moghedien (Graendal also survives, but had been reincarnated by the Dark One), who was usually considered one of the most pathetic both in and out of universe. However, it makes perfect sense when you consider Moggie's well-deserved reputation as a Dirty Coward- of course the member of the brood who always gets when the getting's good would survive longer than her more badass, but less cautious, associates. Not that it saved her from the a'dam...
The Blight always confused me- it's in the far north, and you'd expect corrupted lands in the far north to be a deadly arctic desert, not unlike the land around Morgoth's stronghold in The Silmarillion. Instead, we get a Garden of Evil that's actually described as being hot. However, according to the Guide, Shayol Ghul was on a tropical island before the Breaking of the World moved it to the far north. The conditions in the Blight are a recreation of the effect the Dark One's corruption had on the original tropical climate (the exception being the Blasted Lands, where the corruption is so strong nothing can survive at all). The fact that its in defiance of natural logic would only make it more appealing to a creature like the DO.
Demandred, Mesaana, and Semirhage have the most successful alliance among the Forsaken, which makes a lot of sense. Not only do they spread out strategically among strong power bases, with Semirhage covering Seanchan, Mesaana covering the White Tower, and Demandred Shara, but they complement eacdh other well. Demandred and Mesaana are similar enough to understand each other's goals and strengths (both had a Start of Darkness resulting from feeling that circumstances chronically forced them into subservient roles compared to what they saw as less qualified people and both are skilled at detailed long-range planning) while being different enough to not be in direct competition with one another (Mesaana's an administrator and Demandred's a military guy; Mesaana basically wants the world at large to recognize her as a sucessful genius but doesn't have any particular enmity with the Dragon, while Demandred's all about proving himself better than and then killing aforementioned Chosen One). As for Semirhage? She's just really freaking scary and it's better to have her on your team than working at odds with you, something D and M are both smart enough to recognize.
On the theme of Forsaken personalities, Demandred and Taim have a great deal of friction in Memory of Light, which also makes sense. Taim, of course, wants Demandred's job, handily explaining the hostilities on his end. But there's also the fact that Taim is very similar to Demandred in some respects to the point that lots of people assumed they were the same person, except that Taim is less powerful and lacks the Noble Demon streak that Demandred at times demonstrates. Having Taim around must be for Demandred a lot like looking in a mirror that reflects only his worst aspects and a constant reminder of how far he himself has fallen. No wonder Demandred can't stand him, even absent the power struggle angle.
For ages, I always thought Lan and Nynaeve's romance was really forced at first. They barely knew each other, then suddenly are all falling head over heels for each other. Suddenly realised, it's because they're hanging around with ta'veren, who are known for their sudden-marriage-causing ability. It's the same thing on them.
We eventually learn that Aginor and Balthamel are wearing what they were wearing in the Age of Legends; they haven't had time to change since being freed. That makes it a bit of a Contrived Coincidence that Balthamel has on a full-body concealing garment so that no one can see his rotten body. Except, Balthamel is a consummate spymaster: he wore that outfit to the last meeting of the Forsaken because he didn't trust even them with what he really looked like, and channeling next to the Bore is deadly dangerous.
Seanchan, Shara and Randland/the Westlands/Seafolk/the Aiel represent the three extremes possible in having Aes Sedai integrated into society. Either they take over (Shara), they are dominated and used as tools (Seanchan), or they learn to live with everyone as uneasy sort-of-equals. The unseen Land of Madmen), which is Australia in all but name, represents the last possibility: they don't try.
Why was Logain always on a first name basis as opposed to the rest of the asha'man? Because he was disinherited, and therefore no longer a member of house Ablar.
In The Dragon Reborn why did Else most likely a disguised Lanfear at this point react so aggressively when she and Mat met on the Tower grounds and insist he stay far away? Because them 'coincidentally' meeting like that out of the blue would seem to be a ta'veren-level coincidence, and she didn't want to get any more caught up in Mat's ta'veren swirl if she could help it.
Far Madding, the city with ter'angreal prohibiting channeling, was allegedly created shortly after the Breaking and got the idea for the ter'angreal from Ogier stedding. The Ogier gave sanctuary to male channelers after the Breaking, but they needed their saidin fix too badly and always left. Far Madding is an island with only three bridges to it, and no weapons allowed. It would have been a perfect place to put male channelers so they couldn't do any more damage, and also couldn't leave. Far Madding's rather extreme matriarchal customs (even for Randland) and the number of strong female channelers from Far Madding supports this possible history. Though, if a person born with the spark or the ability to learn never left Far Madding, they'd never know they could channel. So the strong channelers could be the result of a lack of culling later on, not just a higher base population in the beginning.
In addition, the place probably had a much higher proportion of both male and female banished channelers sent there (any channelling criminal could be thrown across those bridges with the throwers being smug in the knowledge that they couldn't do a huge amount to escape). So, the city was likely drip-fed difficult channelers over the centuries between the Breaking and the White Tower finally getting strong enough to act as the stilling and severing Law and Order for rogues for the most of the continent. And, these channelers would have to merged with the baseline genepool, thereby increasing the proportion of channeling genes within a relatively closed population. Possibly also boosting the stubbornness levels, too.
It seems ridiculously contrived that the door Asmodean more or less randomly chooses to open at the end of The Fires of Heaven would just happen to have Graendal on the other side...until you remember that at the time, both parties were in the same building as a ta'veren who regularly caused unlikely accidents to happen to people in his vicinity.
At first, the continent-wide bad reputation of the Red Ajah seems undeserved and a case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. After all, they're the Ajah that deal with men who can channel. When your small town is dealing with one, insane or otherwise, they're the ones most likely to show up to deal with it, and at that point depending on the damage done you'd be damned glad to see them. And yet even non-channeler characters are nervous of them. Given events of the books however, in hindsight it becomes clear there are two very major reasons for this:
after the Aiel War, there was a continent-wide hidden massacre of men who could potentially channel perpetrated by the Black Ajah. While not every hit is likely to have been done by a once-member of the Red, certain conversations between Red Sitters make it clear that they participated in this, as an Ajah, though likely without knowing why. If many, many, many mysterious deaths all over the continent kept happening for over at most a decade (since it seemed to have stopped by Rand's maturity, and is likely to have been what killed Thom's nephew), and there's always a Red sister hanging around at the time...
Secondly, Pevara makes it clear that the Red Ajah is the one that is specifically trained to counter channelers, particularly male channelers, in combat. If they practice on each other, that means that every member of the Red Ajajh has logged in more channeler-to-channeler combat hours than anyone else in the whole White Tower. By making the division of the Tower along Ajah lines, and by trying to position it such that the Red Ajah takes the most heat, and remain ostracized even after the division with Salidar was resolved, the Shadow has made the Ajah with the most chance of winning in combat against its Dreadlords into the least trusted part of the Tower. If Egwene hadn't gone to great lengths to reintegrate the Red into the Tower, the Ajah most experienced in channeler-to-channeler combat might have been held back from key engagements with Dreadlords due to being ostracized and severely crippled the Tower's combat ability.
The Seanchan reliance on omens. They've had people in their past with Min's pattern reading ability, and they took notes.
The Seanchan view women who can channel as dangerous animals that must be leashed and made a damane or they will harm everyone around them. The main setting of the westlands shows this is utterly unnecessary. Then Leilwin Shipless makes a remark about how Aes Sedai must be leashed otherwise they will enslave everyone else and turn them into their property. And in Shara this is heavily implied to actually have happened. The only reason this hasn't happened in the westlands or other neighbouring regions is because the Aes Sedai have prevented any other group of channelers from doing this by making them stay hidden or be recruited by the white tower. The Seanchan actually have a very realistic point.
That's kind of the whole point of the Three Oaths the Aes Sedai take, and the White Tower as a whole. Siuan even states it outright: the point of the Three Oaths is to make sure that no queen thinks that sisters will lay waste to her cities, that people can hear an Aes Sedai say "This is so" and know it to be true.
Also, the Aes Sedai aren't the only channeling group, and the other two major ones hide only from Aes Sedai. Everyone in the Aiel and Sea Folk knows that a lot of their Wise Ones and Windfinders can channel. Neither have enslaved their cultures like Shara has; in fact, channeling doesn't even count much among Wise One hierarchy, and even Windfinders are only thirds—in-command on their ships, at best (behind Sailmistresses and Cargomasters). It seems half the world has problems with channelers (Seanchan, Shara, and the Isle of Madness), while the other half does fine with them.
The Seanchan are introduced torturing female channelers into submission. They systematically break down channelers to the mental state of a obedient child, to spend the rest of their lives viewed as little more than a well trained, but rabid pet. The average Aes Sedai lifespan is about 200 years. We later find out that Aes Sedai lives are cut unnaturally short by use of the Oath Rod. The exact life span of channelers is unknown, but we meet a 400 year old ex-damane who doesn't find her age noteworthy.
We don't know if Moghedien and Graendal are still immortal from their link to the Dark One. One of them is trapped by an a'dam and the other is Compelled to be worshipfully loyal to Aviendha. Presumably something will eventually kill them, but hypothetically these conditions could last forever.
Considering that the Dark One has been completely re-sealed, it's extremely doubtful that Moghedien and Graendal remain immortal if they ever really were at all; immortality was what the Dark One promised his Chosen, but apart from Ishamael- who drew the True Power so heavily it would have killed him if he wasn't- they only demonstrated the extreme longevity common to all Ao L channelers, plus milennia in stasis when they didn't age. Promising immortality and not actually delivering except to the one guy on your team who wanted to die seems a fairly Dark One-ish move.
It's also hard to tell whether the Seanchan have a point or not when you suddenly notice their argument of "channelers are a danger to society because they can use channeling to manipulate and cause mass destruction" comes with the unspoken caveat of "but it's okay if we do it." All they're doing is harnessing channeling for their power factions to do exactly what they accuse Aes Sedai of doing...and no, not always the Empire. The Seanchan empire is mentioned to have frequent rebellions and civil wars, and both sides have access to damane.
And most telling in all this is Fortuana's flawed logic in her argument with Egwene. Marath'damane have to be leashed because they're dangerous and will inevitably channel to harm people...but all the sul'dam and she herself can channel, in which case she can "choose" not to.
Her argument may be falsely applied, but it's factually correct. Marath'damane are those who spontaneously start channeling (which is how they get caught), but the sul'dam are in fact the ones who won't start channeling spontaneously, but could learn if they ever tried.
Except the Seanchan never knew that it was possible to "learn" channeling before coming to Randland, and even after learning they never make any such distinction. They always refer to female channelers like Aes Sedai and Windfinders as marath'damane, regardless of whether their ability was inborn or taught. And the cultural stigma is such that sul'dam who learn (and admit to themselves) that they're channelers almost inevitably treat it as a Heel Realization, consider themselves marath'damane, and wonder if they shouldn't give themselves up to be leashed, regardless of whether they've channeled before or even have the reliable ability or strength to (most only have the ability to sense weaves, not put them together). Fortuana's case is simply hypocrisy.
The Seanchan are soon going to have to face the worst thing any society can be confronted with: A deeply held doctrinal belief in direct contradiction of a provable fact. "All channellers must be killed or leashed" is the belief. "Male channellers are stable and sane and cannot be leashed or readily killed." Also, the discovery that sul'dam are themselves channellers in potentia is going to be a very hard nut to swallow.
We know they survive those things because in the Bad Future that Aviendha foresaw, they break the White Tower, enslave all the Wise Ones, and take over the world.
For me, Alanna bonding Rand against his will has always seemed like a bad thing, but it got pushed into this territory when you realise that it is more or less an equivalent of rape.
There's even more fridge horror when you remember the secret about the Warder bond (that it includes a built-in Compulsion option). If Rand had been a normal man (rather than one who could resist her Compulsion attempt), Alanna would have had him effectively irreversibly enslaved.
It also no doubt plays it's part in pushing him towards madness too (and a general mistrust of Aes Sedai/female channelers), so aside from being a Moral Event Horizon for Alanna, it comes across as rather stupid.
Verin betrays the Dark One just before she dies, Just as Planned. Except... he can grab the souls of his dying followers for punishment at his leisure. On hindsight, it would have been better to have Egwene balefire her just before death. (Assuming Verin would know about this possibility and how to avert it...)
Except that she clearly isn't truly his. Even if she had originally been a proper Black Sister, she has been working for decades to destroy them from the inside. Everyone has the ability to return to the Light (see also Lord Ingtar) and she took it long ago. I don't think the Dark Lord could have any claim on her by the time she sacrifices her life for the cause of good.
It has also been suggested (and never confirmed either way; there may BE no answer if RJ took the Word of God to his grave) that balefire may also blast someone out of the cycle of reincarnation. To my recollection, the possibility has been suggested in the books but nobody knows for sure, reincarnation being a fairly difficult topic to gather observational data from.
Per Word of God, balefire doesn't completely destroy your soul- you'll still reincarnate normally, but with the distortion of time that this weave causes, it's impossible for the Dark One to grab hold of the soul to reincarnate it "manually". Of course, it's doubtful anyone in-universe is aware of this.
The prologue of the last book reveals that all the male Aiel that went into the blight to die (when they learn that they can channel) instead get captured and treated to the 13by13 trick and coverted to the Shadow. So the Shadow has an army of male channelers probably not far off being equal in number to the Wise Ones. Men who thought they were going to die noble deaths instead get their minds broken and are turned into incredibly dangerous weapons to be used against their own people and countless other innocents.
Rand's father also went into the blight after the death of Tigraine/Shaiel but as he was not a channeler this did not happpen to him.
It's strongly implied that Slayer killed Janduin - Luc had disappeared at the same time as Tigraine, and went to the Blight where he met Isam.
The only example we really have of the reincarnation cycle truly being interrupted is the wolves; supposedly, Slayer's killing of the wolves in the dream world is enough to remove them from the cycle of reincarnation. What does this mean for the world as a whole? Did the Darkhounds created from those twisted wolf souls respawn as wolves again? Can new wolf "souls" be born, or is the wolf population in the world of the Wheel of Time doomed to be slowly ground down over each cycle?
There's another case of something messing with reincarnation- Mashadar. It's one of the only two things that can keep the Dark One from reviving his Chosen (the other being balefire, which we know from Word of God stymies the Dark One because of how it screws with time, but doesn't actually keep the soul from being reincarnated normally), and Word of God indicates that this isn't because it destroys the soul, but because if the Dark One tried to bring them (in this case, Sammael) back, they'd Come Back Wrong. Now that implies that the corruption basically "sticks" to the soul, as it were. So would it get "cleaned off" in the time between death and eventual rebirth, or would it still be there? Think about what people under the effects of the "Mordeth power" (Mat, Fain's Whitecloaks, etc.) are like, and now imagine being born like that. *shudder*
Now, the fourth possible future that shows up in the Rand vs. Dark One duel is pretty much in-universe Fridge Horror from Rand (since he realized that in order to destroy the Dark One and create a paradise, he'd have to remove everyone's free will so they couldn't choose to be anything but perfectly good) but there's another layer that Rand himself would have been ignorant of- Fain. Apparently, in this future killing the Dark One destroyed all the Shadowspawn, but Fain draws his power from some other evil source (that he got from Mordeth, and that he was likely put in contact with by the Finns, going by Word of God). Fain also (again, per Word of God) has in some ways "sidestepped the pattern". What does this mean? It means that Rand's future would almost certainly have not taken Fain into account at all (note that he never appears in any of the future visions, despite both Rand and the DO being aware of him, which might just be oversight on their part or might mean he couldn't be affected by Pattern-manipulation at all), meaning that he was still out there. The kicker? Future!Elayne can barely remember who the Dark One is, indicating just how little comprehension of evil these people have. Fain is a homicidal maniac with superpowers, and possibly an embryonic Eldritch Abomination. Imagine him drifting through the edges of this "utopia", killing and torturing people who have no conception whatsoever that anyone would even do such things until he shows up, with no one coming to help them because no one else could wrap their minds around it either, all the while growing stronger and stronger until he's effectively Dark One 2.0 (which seems to have been roughly his plan in the main timeline, albeit here he'd have no Rand-soul to eat). Brrr.
Made moot by the fact that a: Fain/Shaisam is special in this Age, present for the first time in this incarnation of the Age (Word of God), b: Mat kills him while Rand battles the DO. That's why he just isn't there after The Last Battle, regardless if he would be affected by the Fateweaving of Rand and the DO or not. Besides the Fateweaving is just a What-If-Machine, not the battle itself, and it wouldn't be the outcome, so even if Fain survived, if Rand doesn't weave him in, he isn't there.
Well, of course it's purely theoretical Fridge Horror, as that future never actually came to pass. Anyway, a: I always took the statement that the Mordeth/Fain creature was unique to the third age to mean he had specifically come into being in the third age, not that there was anything metaphysical keeping him from continuing into another age, and b. while Mat kills Fain in the timeline that actually happens, there's no guarantee he'd have been in the right place to do it in this hypothetical future (especially since the destruction of the Shadowspawn when Rand killed the Dark One would have instantly swung the Last Battle in the Light's favor, it's entirely possible that this timeline's Mat would have never even wound up at Shayoal Ghul) and I doubt anyone else could have done it (since Shaisam's aura of Mashadar would have presumably destroyed anyone else who tried to get close to him). But again, this is purely hypothetical Fridge Horror based on an, admittedly, deliberately dark reading of events.
More of an Adult Fear kind of Fridge Horror than most, and a bit Fridge Tear Jerker, but Perrin didn't actually undo the Compulsion Lanfear put on him. He resisted the effects long enough to kill her for the sake of the world, thanks largely to his love for Faile, but his brain was still warped into loving her when he did it. That, on top of the general Two Rivers Wouldn't Hit a Girl mindset... no wonder he was crying his eyes out afterward.
If no one can say Shaitan's name, how does anyone know it?
All of the major societies we see are literate- they could just write it down.
It also would have a Forbidden Fruit effect. Like the Bloody Mary legend, people would keep saying the name on a dare or for the thrill. It probably wouldn't always cause local space-time to go into the crapper — the period the story takes place in is exceptional.
It never says that nobody can say it. People say it all the time and then get called woolheads. You're just not supposed to say it because you might get his attention. It's another real-world cultural allusion to the original meaning of the phrase "Speak of the devil."
Also, in this world, The Dark One can just infer his name or have it spread among his followers. He could have it planted in his follower's mind, or even just announce it.
It's probably relatively safe most of the time. Clearly the Dark One doesn't have limitless power to throw around (or he'd break everything constantly), so if you're not ta'veren and aren't one of his big enemies, it's mostly safe to say it. Additionally, the seals are weakening now; it was probably safe to say it for most of the past 3000 years.