The Greatest Game

At the moment of creation the Creator imprisoned the Dark One, who since has striven to escape his prison and remake the universe in his own image. Several times he has come close to succeeding, and yet the Creator has never acted to prevent him from doing so.  If the Dark One and Creator are enemies for all of time, why do they never, save for that one instant at the beginning of the universe, fight each other directly?

Could it be that they are not enemies? That the eternal war is no war at all? That it is, in fact – a game?

(Note: The Dark One is generally seen as male and referred to as he. For ease in distinguishing between them, therefore, the Creator will from now on be referred to as she. This is purely for convenience and is not meant to imply that either being is male or female - which is another question entirely.)

The fact that the Creator has never acted directly in the world suggests that there is something preventing her from doing so. Since, to the best of our knowledge, the Creator was never imprisoned, what is it? Perhaps the Pattern – but the Pattern does not prevent the Dark One from interfering. Also to the best of our knowledge, there is nothing above the Dark One and the Creator. The only other possibility I see is that the stricture was agreed upon between the two beings.

The rules of a game, perhaps?

This would not, of course, be a simple game like chess, but one infinitely more complex. But the basic rule as I see it is clear. The Creator makes the universe as she pleases, and then stands aside. The Dark One’s aim is to manipulate that universe in such a way as to be freed and take it over. He may, within the rules, do whatever he pleases to accomplish this goal. She must set up the game at the outset so as to prevent him from doing so, and after this may not interfere.

I suspect that different rules apply in different stages of the game as to what the Dark One may do, producing the pattern of seven Ages separated by catastrophic events. And the game board, the Pattern, has a mind of its own – as does each of the pieces. A quotation from another book may illustrate a point here (the book is Felix Holt by George Eliot):

Fancy what a game of chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning; if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but also a little uncertain about your own; if your Knight could shuffle himself on to a new square on the sly; if your Bishop, in disgust at your Castling, could wheedle your Pawns out of their places; and if your Pawns, hating you because they are Pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden.

Sounds kind of like what happens in the Wheel of Time right now; the Dark One has quite a few pieces nominally under his control, but they all have their passions and intellects and scheme for their own advancement; they resent being Pawns, or pieces at all, for that matter; at least one of his major pieces (Lanfear) wants to push him aside and take over player status herself. And if the Dark One is not careful of his pieces he is likely to end up checkmated.

At the end of The Eye of the World, the Creator (it is generally believed) spoke, saying ‘ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE.’ It seems that in this stage of the game at least, if she can act at all, she can act only through the Dragon. (On the other hand, Rand was apparently transported directly to Tarwin’s Gap to ‘do what must be done.’ Perhaps the Creator isn’t above a little cheating now and again when her opponent isn’t looking? And perhaps after Tarmon Gai’don, she’ll cheat again to return her favourite piece to the board?)

Another piece of evidence for this view of the universe comes from Moridin’s fondness for the game sha’rah. As Ishamael he knew more than any other mortal of the struggle between Light and Dark. In this scene, he compares it to the game. And the key piece called the ‘Fisher’ is clearly identified with Rand.

Watch out for your Pawns, Dark One…

Raina's Hold / Raina's Library / Raina's Library - Essays