The Rainbow versus WoT

While I am busy to read the eight book of Robert Jordan’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time, there’s something which bothers me. But let me explain a bit about WoT before continuing with my own musings.

The essential concept in WoT is something called the one power. This power is in WoT what electricity is our world, a force of nature which can be used to get things done. However, only a few people have the ability to manipulate the one power, these are referred to as channelers.

For historical reasons only women can safely channel the one power, while men are bound to become insane if they do channel this. The most important organization of female channelers are the Aes Sedai, whose power base is the city-state of Tar Valon – which is run by the them. The Aes Sedai organization resembles the Roman Catholic Church in several ways.

The Aes Sedai are subdivided into seven groups, known as Ajahs. And safe for some (recent) exceptions, all Aes Sedai belong to one Ajah. Each Ajah has a specific purpose and each is named after a colour. The seven Ajahs are:

  • Red Ajah: their main purpose to track down male channelers before they harm society;
  • Green Ajah: they prepare themselves for the final battle between good and evil;
  • Brown Ajah: they are committed to knowledge;
  • Yellow Ajah: specialized in healing sick people;
  • Blue Ajah: they seek justice;
  • White Ajah: these consist of philosophers.

Though not formally recognized as such, I will mention for completeness the Black Ajah. These group is a secret society of Aes Sedai who are committed to the Dark One.

One should notice two things: the number seven and the use of colours. However, this combination should remind of the seven colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Given Jordan’s background as a physicist, it surprises me that he did not chose to use the colours of the rainbow.

If one realizes that novices (the first stage in the training to Aes Sedai) are required to dress in white robes, while white is also the colour of one of the Ajahs, the choice for the rainbow colours seems to make sense. Also the chosen colours appear to me as random, with the exception of the Black Ajah. But that is not really a legitimate Ajah and given its nature, it falls outside the system of the regular Ajahs.

One could argue that by not choosing the rainbow colours, Jordan is avoiding cliches. Personally I do not find this quite convincing as Jordan does use several “cliches” in his work.

I have to state for the sake of clarity, that I don’t think Jordan was “wrong” in his choice, an author is, of course, free to write his story as he sees fit, only that I wonder about his decision.


6 responses

  1. Before I read past the color groups and your wondering about the colors, I thought to myself: Why are the colors assigned to a specific group? Did he give the color at random? Or did he associate a color with the group’s function? Or is there a universal meaning to a certain color?

    I think Red suits the group that aggressively hunts down harmful entities. But maybe I am just thinking of red because we see it daily used as a warning/stop sign.
    And Black seems right for the Dark Ones. And White for philosophers just thinkers/perhaps neutral.

    I think I would have chosen Yellow for knowledge/enlightenment.

    Not sure what I would choose for the other groups.

    1. >>Red suits the group that aggressively hunts down harmful entities.

      Funnily, this is actually what they do, and it’s stated in the books, that the Red Sister actually dislikes all men.

      1. I don’t belong to the Red Sister group. 🙂

      2. I would really be surprised if you were 😉

  2. I’m guessing by the fact that you’ve read 8 books so far that you’d recommend this series?

    1. If you like high fantasy, then yes.

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