The Wheel of Time Companion

The Wheel of Time Companion, Spin the Wheel #1 Entry: “Strength in the One Power”

On November 3, The Wheel of Time Companion encyclopedia will reveal some of Robert Jordan’s worldbuilding files (and by “some” we mean “800+ pages worth”), but you can get a sneak peek now on Tor.com!

The “Spin the Wheel” series on Tor.com gives readers a chance to choose which entries get revealed in these sneak peeks and it looks like our first randomly generated pick is a big one! Congrats to Comment #11 Samadai for selecting “Men’s One Power scale”!

And congrats to Wheel of Time readers, because that means they get the entirety of the “Strength in the One Power” entry, which details how power levels work for both men and women!

 

Strength in the One Power varied greatly across individuals. Men strong in the Power were usually considerably stronger than women strong in the Power. This is not to say that some women were not stronger than some men, just that the general form ran the other way.

This strength was a matter of the sheer raw amount of the One Power that could be drawn. In kind, there was nothing a man could do with any part of the Power that a woman could not and vice versa. There were, however, areas where women showed greater abilities and areas where men did. Additionally, of the Five Powers—Earth, Air (or Wind), Fire, Water and Spirit—women generally had the greatest strength and ability in Air and/or Water, while men generally had the greatest in Earth and/or Fire. That is to say, men were generally much more adept than women in weaving Fire and Earth; they were usually able to handle much more of these as well, which followed from the greater raw strength. Women were generally much more adept than men in weaving Air and Water; despite men’s greater raw strength, in these two areas women were in general stronger than men. Ability in Spirit was usually considered to be equally divided; there seemed to be no advantage, either male or female.

Women who could channel could sense the ability in one another and also sense their relative strengths. Among women, the eventual strength of a testee was determined in the first testing. It would take time for her to reach it—and indeed, if she did not work, it was possible that she would not reach it, because it was a potential—but the limits of her strength were known up front. No one ever surpassed the detected limit. Female strength usually—but not always—grew in a smooth progression, and often the stronger she would eventually become, the more quickly it grew. This was not a hard and fast rule, though. Forcing, which was forcing the woman to use more of the Power and do more, could bring on faster increases in strength, but it also ran the greatly increased risk of burnout or death. There were also frequent individual variations in this speed of growth. Hierarchy among Aes Sedai was based in part on relative strength.

Among men, there was no way of knowing how strong a beginner would become. It was not unusual for men to show as much raw strength at their first testing as a woman who had worked for some time, but there was no way to know how far he would go beyond that, if at all, or how long it would take him to reach his upper limit. Male strength levels usually, but not always, increased in spurts and plateaus, with the intensity and duration of the spurts, as well as the duration of the plateaus, usually uneven. Thus a man might test stronger than a woman only to see her pass him, then spurt to pass her, then have her pass him again because he reached a plateau; this could repeat a number of times until their full strengths were reached. Needless to say, as with women, a man who did not work hard would not go as far as he might otherwise, but in his case, no one would ever be sure that he had not reached his full potential.

Men usually took longer to reach their full strength than women did. Most women took about ten years to do so. It was very likely no coincidence that this was the same amount of time as most novices took to be raised Accepted, although the correlation was not exact. Women sometimes reached their peak strength and remained novices because they had not learned enough or gained sufficient skill, while others were raised Accepted or even Aes Sedai while still short of that peak. It was learning and skill, not strength, that were the keys there. Again, this was not a hard and fast rule; some women took as long as fifteen years to achieve full strength, while a few managed it in as little as seven or eight. Most men took about fifteen years to reach peak strength. For both men and women, of course, the rate of increase in strength could be sped up dramatically by forcing, but this also entailed dangers of burnout or death. Men were somewhat more resistant to the dangers of forcing than
women, but not by a large amount.

For some reason, the age when a man or woman began to channel seemed to make a difference in their rate of progress. While a given person’s peak strength would be the same whether he or she began learning at fifteen or at fifty, they would reach that peak faster at an older age.

Among both men and women strength and skill were not the same thing. It was possible for one person to have great raw strength yet be less effective in many situations than another who had lesser strength but greater dexterity with the flows or greater knowledge in using them. While there were limits to strength for anyone—there was a certain upper limit which could never be surpassed—there were no real limits to increasing skill. Anyone could increase their knowledge, though of course, some would have greater ability to
increase dexterity with the flows than others. Having been born with the inherent spark apparently was not an indicator of strength. There were as many with weak potential who would channel whether they were taught or not as there were with great potential.

Before the appearance of Elayne, Egwene, Nynaeve, Aviendha and Nicola, there were 60 base levels of strength, each of which had internal gradations, for women who were strong enough to be raised to the shawl. After their appearance, there were 72 base levels.

The earlier distribution of Aes Sedai strengths thus ran from 1 to 60, which became 13 to 72. Women below the lowest level at which someone could become Aes Sedai were trained, but with the knowledge that they would be put out; a few received the ring for political reasons, as with Morgase. There was, of course, also the need to consider Aes Sedai reluctance to let go of a woman once they had their hands on her. Non–Aes Sedai changed this distribution to a considerable extent. Both Atha’an Miere Windfinders and Aiel Wise Ones had no lower limit for full acceptance in their organizations.

Rating men against this scale (that is, comparing strength in saidin to strength in saidar), there were an additional six possible levels for men at the top end. While this was true in terms of bulk amounts of the Power that men could handle, certain vulnerabilities on the part of men, and others on the part of women, made a direct comparison difficult at best. Still, one-on-one, looking only at pure strength and avoiding the advantages of dexterity, length of practice and skill, the top level for a man was usually no more than a match for the top level for a woman.

Thus the strongest man would be ++1, the 800-year level in aging. Ranks ++2 to ++6 would have an aging range of 720 to 800 years. The strongest woman would be 1(+12), with a life expectancy of around 800 years; a man of the same rough level, which was 7, would have a life expectancy of 720 years.

There were considerable variations between individuals, but in rough form it could be said that there was a parallel between strength and longevity, minus the effects of a binder such as the Oath Rod. All age levels given were approximations, with considerable room for variation among individuals. For example, at the so-called 800-year level, a person could reasonably be expected to live to between roughly 775 and 825 years of age, with some making it to 850, and a very few making it to as much as 900. Strength level 56(44) was the 300-year age level, 67(55) the 200-year age level, and the bottom level, 72(60), approximately the 150-year level for women. The male equivalents were approximately the 240-year, 180-year, and 135-year levels for men.

A given strength level did not produce the same degree of longevity for a man as for a woman. At any given level of equality, a woman would live longer. In general, a man at any given strength would have a normal lifespan roughly ten percent less than that of a woman of that strength. The range of longevity was the same, though, with men at their top level having a life expectancy of 800 years or so, within the range of the bell curves.

While there were six additional levels for men above those for women, the disparity was not as great as it seemed, measuring the bulk quantity of the One Power that a person could handle. Adding in the greater dexterity of women in weaving, a woman at the top level might well be roughly equal to a man in the top level in a stand-up one-on-one fight.

Watch for more Wheel of Time Companion and Spin the Wheel coverage through this tag.
Lord of Chaos ebook art by Greg Manchess

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