|The Dragoness Reborn
I hate that title, but I couldnít think of a better one. Someone suggested the ĎPhoenix Reborní on the basis that the phoenix is invariably considered female, but I have to disagree there. The phoenix, according to mythology, is periodically reborn from the ashes of its own funeral pyre. That makes it a species of one, and gender pretty much irrelevant.
Anyway, this essay originated in a debate on the wheeloftime.com book forum, on the subject ĎA female Dragon Ė possible?í I say yes, and because Iím a considerate person, and also the kind of person who likes writing about my opinions, I thought you should all know why I say yes.
To start with, Iím not talking about Randís soul being transferred into a female body a-la Aranígar. Thatís not a female Dragon, just a transsexual one. Nor am I talking about a second Dragon as a counterpart to the one we know (or not yet, anyway. It may be the subject of another essay sometime.) Iím talking about the soul of the Dragon, the champion of the Light, currently incarnated as Rand alíThor, being reborn as female. Fully female, with two X chromosomes and channeling saidar if she channels anything.
This debate has turned into a huge thread, with numerous arguments both for and against the idea. So Iíve decided to structure this essay as a debate in miniature Ė giving each argument advanced for there not being a female Dragon, followed by my rebuttal of that argument. At the end Iíll give a summary of my (and othersí) basic reasons why there could, and should, be a female Dragon.
Paid attention so far? You might be tested on this. With thanks to the enlightened souls at wheeloftime.com who agree with me (and sympathy for those who donít) here goes:
Argument #1 against a female Dragon: All the Dragons mentioned in the books have been men, and channeled saidin.
Counterargument: There are seven Ages in each turn of the Wheel in which a Dragon could arise. There are an infinite number of turns of the Wheel. We know of only two Dragons, and two out of infinity is far from being a significant sample size.
Argument #2: Gender is a property of the soul.
Counter: Gender is a property of the chromosomes. Aranígar, transferred into a female body, is taking on a distinctively female personality. Since he/she was born and lived a long life as a perfectly normal male, body obviously plays a large part in determining gender.
Argument #3: Since you mention Aranígar, there is one thing that hasnít changed, and that is the fact that he/she still channels saidin. Obviously the half of the Power channeled is determined by the soul and not the body.
Counter: A very good argument, which unfortunately is mostly irrelevant. Aranígar has not been reborn but simply transferred into a new body; he/she still has all of his/her original memories and personality. In a true rebirth, the soul is free from memory, personality and Ė for all we know Ė channeling ability. Whether saidin or saidar is channeled may be imprinted on the soul at birth, and will then not be altered until death Ė the death of the persona, not the body.
Argument #4: Birgitte and Gaidal Cain are always born as female and male, respectively.
Counter: Iím sorry, but thatís another irrelevant argument. Neither Birgitte nor Gaidal Cain are the Dragon Reborn. The same rules do not necessarily apply. In fact, the Dragon has more in common with normally reborn souls than with the Heroes of the Horn Ė he (she) does not spend time in between lives in Telíaranírhiod and thus there is the opportunity for the soul to be wiped blank.
Argument #5: Men are stronger than women in the Power, and the Dragon must be the strongest channeler.
Counter: Thatís a double argument, so letís take it bit by bit.
One - Men are stronger than women in the Power. I think you forgot a couple of words there Ė Men are stronger than women, on average. In a large sample of channelers, you are likely to find more strong men than strong women. But the strongest channeler may still be a woman.
Two Ė The Dragon must be the strongest channeler. Why? Because Lews Therin was? Because Rand alíThor is? Havenít we had this discussion about sample sizes before? And in any case, both Lews and Rand were only first equal with Ishamael.
Does the Dragon need to be the strongest channeler in order to defeat the Dark One? No way! If Rand has to beat the Dark One in one-on-one One Power combat, the worldís doomed. Any human is so insignificant compared to Shaiítan that the small difference between male and female channelers would make no difference whatsoever. However the Dragon defeats the Dark One, it wonít be by being the strongest in the Power.
How about the Forsaken? Thatís a more reasonable argument. Of course the Dragon has to be stronger than the Forsaken (or most of them) in order to defeat them Ė right? Well, letís take a look at the current list of defeated Forsaken:
Aginor - Burned himself out; own goal. Balthamel - Killed by the Green Man. Beílal - Killed by Moiraine. Ishamael - Killed (after two attempts) by Rand using Callandor. Asmodean - Defeated by Rand with an angreal. Captured with help from Lanfear. Then killed by someone, Light knows who, but it wasnít Rand. Lanfear Ė Defeated, probably killed, by Moiraine. Rahvin Ė Killed by Rand and Nynaeve jointly. And Sammael Ė Is he dead or is he alive? Whichever way, Rand would be dead if a certain Shadar Logoth Wanderer hadnít pulled him out of the hole he ended up in. So how many instances do we have of the strongest channeler using his own unaided strength to defeat one of the Forsaken? Thatís right Ė Not one.
Two of the Forsaken were taken out by Moiraine, a channeler weaker than even the weakest of them. Balthamel wasnít killed by a channeler at all. Aginor was killed by himself. Rand and Callandor versus Ishamael Ė Come on! Randís strength had nothing to do with it. A woman with a saíangreal of that magnitude would have defeated Ishamael just as surely. The weakest channeler in the world could have.
Nynaeve has twice won battles with Moghedien. The first time, their strength exactly evened out and Nynaeve won by quick thinking. The second time, Moghedien had an immense advantage Ė Nynaeve was virtually unable to channel. So what happened to Moghedien? She ended up on the end of a leash.
Being the strongest channeler around doesnít seem to give much of an advantage when it comes to facing Forsaken. What do are courage, determination, brains Ė and men do not have a monopoly on any of those qualities. In fact, if we judge by victories over Forsaken so far, the women seem to have the upper hand.
What about other channelers? Well, what about them? Your average Aes Sedai is not likely to care (unless sheís Brown) whether the Dragon is a hundred times stronger than her or ninety-nine times stronger. All she cares about is that he/she is stronger. As for non-channelers Ė Joe Randlander doesnít give a damn whether someone is a powerful channeler or a weak one. Heís quite aware that any channeler is stronger than him.
I think we can conclude that the Dragon does not need to be the strongest channeler.
Argument #6: The Pattern, or taíveren effects, ensure that the Dragon will not be born crippled, or mentally retarded, or with a genetic illness that would interfere with the responsibilities of being Dragon. This is far too important to leave to chance. Why then should the Pattern, or taíveren effects, not ensure that the Dragon will always be born as male?
Counter: Why should it? I agree that the Pattern steers events so as to provide the Dragon with the best possible body for the situation. As you say, thatís too important to be left to chance. But what gives you the idea that the best possible body is always male?
The Prophecies always refer to the Dragon as he and him, so obviously the Dragon in this Age was going to be male all along. Plus, it was saidin that was tainted, and men who broke the world, so balance and aesthetics if nothing else demand that a man put the situation right again.
However, I see no reason that the Dragon of the Second Age had to be male. We know he was. But supposing Lews Therin had been female, and Lewsí opponent Latra had been male - what would have happened then? Probably nothing very different. Except that men would have signed a Fateful Concord, a group of young and powerful female channelers would have defied the majority decision and struck at Shayol Ghul, and saidar rather than saidin would have been tainted. After a Breaking caused by women, male channelers would naturally be the power in the land, and when Tarmon Gaiídon was due a female Dragon would arise to put matters right.
In other words, the situation would be a near-perfect mirror of what it is now.
Or both halves of the Power might have been tainted, or neither. In which case, I suppose, the Dragonís gender would be chosen at random, or by other criteria than channeling ability. Or would the Dragon be twins? All right, people, thereís another question for you to debate Ė can one soul be split between several bodies? Iíve heard it before Ė usually to argue that all three of Randís loves are Ilyena reborn.
But that isnít terribly relevant. The point here is that it is not always necessary, or even advantageous, for the Dragon to be male. In this Age, it is. In another Age, it might not be.
Argument #7: If the soul was sometimes male and sometimes female, that would lead to a male/female merge inside the Dragonís head.
Counter: So? Is there something youíve read in the books that says that canít happen? Granted it would be embarrassing, but Iíve never noticed that the Pattern goes out of its way to let the Dragon avoid embarrassment. In fact, sometimes it seems to do the reverse.
At any rate, though, one doesnít necessarily follow from the other. Rand alíThor has Lews Therinís personality hitching a lift with his mind, but that doesnít mean that all Dragons are aware of the previous one in their heads. We have no evidence that Lews Therin heard the voice of the First Age Dragon.
Argument #8: Robert Jordan has never said or implied that a female Dragon is possible. Since Jordan is the ultimate authority on the universe he has created, there is little point in postulating something that is not covered by the rules of the Wheel of Time universe as given by him.
Counter: Jordan has never said or implied that a female Dragon is not possible, either. And while there may be little point in the argument, if you think about it, there really isnít much point in arguing over who killed Asmodean or whether Taim is Demandred, either. This is somewhat more interesting to argue.
As for Jordanís rules, let me remind you of one of the major rules, both stated and implied, within his universe: Balance is crucial. Male and female balance out, being different but equal. Both Creator and Dark One are neither male nor female. So why should the single key soul in the Pattern be always male? It canít be. That would completely ruin the balance. Either there must be two champions repeatedly spun out, one of either gender, or a single champion who is sometimes male and sometimes female. Itís possible that the cycles alternate; seven Ages of a male Dragon, followed by seven Ages of a female.
A female Dragon is within the rules of the Wheel of Time as Jordan has stated them.
Summary and Speculation
No one has yet supplied conclusive evidence that the Dragon must be male. What do I consider conclusive, you ask? Good question. An authenticated statement from Jordan that the Dragon never has been and cannot be female would be conclusive evidence, and if I was supplied with such evidence I would immediately quit the argument.
Without appealing to Jordan, you could still win the argument by quoting, from any of his books or interviews, words stating unambiguously that the Dragon is always male, that all souls are always reborn as the same gender or that the same rules of rebirth applying to Gaidal and Birgitte apply to the Dragon. But I donít think youíll find any.
Until and unless such evidence is supplied, it must be concluded that there is a possibility of the Dragon being reborn as a woman. And considering that there are an infinite number of cycles of the Wheel, anything that can happen has happened, and will happen, an infinite number of times.