Agelessness and the Oath Rod

Posted by Annie on 21.01.01 00:00

1.) The Look and the Rod

I think that Aan'Allein is right when he says there are two ageless looks. The first is that somebody simply looks younger than their years (e.g. Nynaeve or any of the Kin); the second is the Aes Sedai smoothness/agelessness where it is nearly impossible to put an age on someone. Perrin describes the Tower Aes Sedai who were captured,: "The others looked ageless, of course, maybe in their twenties, maybe in their forties, changing from one glance to the next, always uncertain. That was what their faces said, though several showed gray in their hair." [ACOS: 1, High Chasaline, 60] This doesn't include those who were stilled. So the difference is that when looking at someone who can channel, but who isn't a full Aes Sedai, you can put an age to them but you might be years off, whereas with a full Aes Sedai it is just impossible to put an age to them at all.

Why I think this is caused by the Oath Rod has four main sources, two from The Path of Daggers and two from New Spring. Firstly, there is the description of Galina swearing on Sevanna's Oath Rod. She had hoped that it wasn't a real Oath Rod and that she will not have to keep her word, but she realizes from the feel of it that it is.

"Galina felt the oath settle on her, as if she suddenly wore a garment that covered her far too tightly from her scalp to the soles of her feet.... it suddenly seemed as if the burning of her skin was being pressed deep into her flesh..." [TPOD, 11, Questions and an Oath, 256].
She feels the Oath all over, it affects her skin, making it seems to burn into her bones.

Secondly, there is the scene in the depths of the White Tower, where Seaine retakes the Three Oaths and states that she is not Black Ajah.

"Seaine retook the Oaths in turn, each producing a slight momentary pressure everywhere from her scalp to the soles of her feet. In truth, the pressure was difficult to detect at all, with her skin still feeling too tight from retaking the Oath against speaking a lie. [TPOD, 26, The Extra Bit, 504]
This is even clearer - taking the oath against lying made her skin feel tight - if swearing on the Oath Rod can tighten the skin (kind of like a face lift), wouldn't it give the Aes Sedai smoothness of cheek that Jordan keeps describing?

Thirdly, in New Spring , a newly raised Moiraine describes how she felt, having taken the Oaths so recently:

"The Three Oaths still made her skin feel too tight." [NS, 653]
She too felt her skin tighten, and it made her feel uncomfortable.

All of these could be countered with the fact that Aes Sedai just look younger anyway, and that the tight feeling is just that, a feeling not a fact, that their skin doesn't really shrink they just feel like it does. But in New Spring, there's definite proof that the Oath does really tighten the skin.

Merean (an Aes Sedai senior to Moiraine) described how Moiraine and Siuan Sanche were punished the night before they were raised, for putting mice in Elaida's bed. She is making a joke at Moiraine's expense, after all, being spanked isn't the best way of creating the intimidating image that all Aes Sedai have (!). Anyway, she says:

"I doubt any other women have been raised Aes Sedai while still too tender to sit from their last visit to the Mistress of Novices. Once the Three Oaths tightened on them, they needed cushions a week." [NS, 662-663]
So the Oaths definitely do in fact physically tighten the skin of the swearer - it's not just an impression they get when it happens.

Also, when a person is stilled, the Oath is broken, as is its tightening effect upon the skin. This happens to the Black Ajah, too (someone else posted about its effects upon them). Anyway, when Amico was stilled Aviendha comments upon her appearance and the text says:

"Amico looked young, perhaps younger than her years, but it was not quite the agelessness of Aes Sedai who had worked years with the One Power. 'You have sharp eyes, Aviendha, but I don't know if this has anything to do with stilling. It must, though, I suppose. I don't know what else could cause it.'" [TSR: 5, Questioners, 84].
The same happened, but more dramatically, to Siuan and Leane - when they returned to Salidar the other Aes Sedai didn't recognize them.

Therefore it is the Oath Rod, and the effects of the Oaths settling into the very being of the person that cause the Aes Sedai Ageless look.

2.) The Rod and Death

The Oath Rod does shorten the life span of the swearer. The main evidence for this that I've found are in the thoughts of two Forsaken - Semirhage and Sammael.

Sammael asks Graendal if the channelers in Shara "bind themselves like criminals" [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 136]. Graendal isn't surprised - she has heard that the Aes Sedai of this Age bind themselves from Mesaana [LoC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 138] and the only type of bond that the Aes Sedai take on willingly that was known about in the Age of Legends would have been to be bound by the Oath Rod - the only other bond they willingly take on being one to a Warder and this was not known about in the Age of Legends. Anyway, with crime being so uncommon and against the community, it's likely that criminals, while not condemned to death, would be punished not only with the above, but with a reduced lifetime.

The Guide expands upon the theme of binding criminals. It says that "When the perpetrators of violent acts were caught, they were not sent to prison. Rather, they were constrained... against repeat offenses. This binding made it impossible for the criminal ever to repeat his crime." [Guide: 3, The Age of Legends, 37]. It is likely that this would also mark the person as a criminal, so that all would know (i.e. the Aes Sedai Ageless look).

The thoughts of Semirhage are conclusive that being bound shortens life span. When she is torturing Cabriana Mecandes she thinks about why she turned to the Shadow once the Hall of Servants learned that she was a sadist. They offered her two choices "to be bound never to know her pleasures again, and with that binding be able to see the end of life approach." [LoC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 139-143]. The last sentence proves that binding (i.e. swearing on what Sammael calls a binding rod, the same as what Galina calls an Oath Rod) does shorten the life span of a channeler. In the Age of Legends people lived to a great age, and channelers longer than anyone else. (This is explained by Elayne: "We slow, Nynaeve. Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five, we begin aging more slowly. How much depends on how strong we are, but when doesn't. Any woman who can channel does it." That quote is taken from Packer W-Quai's post Aes Sedai Agelessness). So it is swearing on the Oath Rod that will make Semirhage's death approach, not anything else that could be done to her.

That's just about all I have to say (sorry this is such a long post) except that all this also proves that the oath Rod is NOT one of the Nine Rods of Dominion. Sammael calls the one he gives Sevanna a binder, and Galina accepts it as an Oath Rod. If anyone would know what one of the Rods of Dominions looked like, it would be one of the Forsaken, and it just doesn't wash that Sammael especially wouldn't recognize it - he was friends with Lews Therin after all. Also we find out that binders are numbered. The Tower's Rod is number three, while Sevanna's Rod is number one hundred and eleven [TPOD, 11, Questions and an Oath, 253]. Seeing as there are way more than nine, it's not likely that the Tower Oath Rod is one of the Nine Rods of Dominion.

wotmania says: Wow, nice theory! Well, we certainly know that facelifts can make it hard to pin an age to someone (how old is Dick Clark???). I really like this theory, and agree with more or less everything in it. After some long hard thinking on the beach in Florida (or a quick change of heart while reading this theory...), I have come around to the argument that the Oath Rod(s) we have seen are binders, and not two examples of the Nine Rods of Dominion. That is really all I have to say - this theory says everything itself.


Number on the Oath Rod

Posted by TheFlamingSword on 26.02.02 14:09
I agree with everything in your post, with one exception. Remember that the Oath rods were created during the age of legends, when people spoke a different language. Could it be that the numbers on the Oath Rods/binders were different in the age of legends? For example, in the Roman times, "I" was one, while now it means something else. So it could be that the numbers were different back then.

Numerical Systems

Posted by Caliber on 26.06.02 11:23
Sure, the Romans represented three by the characters III. But you have to consider the other Oath Rod that we know of (the one in the WT) is numbered 3.

If one Rod uses the common number system (in so far that everyone can tell it is 3) why would the other one use a different one.

Just my thoughts.

But how do you explain...

Posted by gregbaran on 22.08.02 13:04
the "ageless" look. If the 'facelift' effect does occur, like Dick Clark, all Aes Sedai would look young (we know Dick Clark as been around a long time, so we think of him as old, but if you didn't know who Dick Clark was, you would simply think of him being in his mid 30's or early 40's if you met him on the street, he certainly doesn't look "ageless" So how exactly does a 'facelift' which causes someone to have smooth skin, also cause them to look older so that you can't put an age to them?

Not The Number 111!!! The number III!!!!

Posted by WatcherOfTheSeals on 23.04.04 22:22
I beleive that the number is not one hundred and eleven, but rather a "Roman" numeral 3 (III, not 111). I beleive it is indeed Rod of Dominion #3.