In Defense of the Red Ajah

Why does everyone hate the Red Ajah so much?

No, I don’t mean male channelers, or False Dragons, or Rand al’Thor or anyone else in the books. I mean the people reading the books. It’s astonishing, how often in the midst of an only vaguely related post, someone will take the opportunity to mouth off about the Red Ajah.

So what’s the problem? The two main points of complaint are the assertion that all Red sisters are, and I quote, ‘lesbian man-hating freaks,” unquote, and based on even less evidence, the equation of the Red Ajah with the Black Ajah.

Hate to tell you, people, but - Like hell they are. And I mean that to cover both points.

There seems to be an unhealthy amount of speculation over the Net on the sexual habits of the Red Ajah. Most of these speculators are male, which makes me wonder what’s wrong with their sex lives. Haven’t they got anything better to do?

Let’s see. Galina, yes. But Pevara, I believe, is described as liking men. And let’s take a look at Toveine’s opinion of Logain...

“Not at all like the pretty boys Toveine liked, eager and grateful and so easily controlled...”

So is Toveine lesbian? Somehow I don’t think so. And judging from the description of her appearance, Toveine appears to be Domani, too. For those people who insist upon stereotypes, I wish you much joy attempting to reconcile the Domani stereotype with the Red Ajah stereotype. I do have better things to do. So let’s continue.

Red Ajah = Black Ajah. Interesting assertion. Any truth to it? Not that I can see. The Black sisters we know of (including dead ones) are:

4 formerly Green: Talene, Jeaine, Asne and Elza.
3 formerly White: Alviarin, Falion and Rianna.
3 formerly Gray: Delana, Temaile and Joiya.
3 formerly Blue: Ispan, Berylla and Merean.
2 formerly Yellow: Chesmal and Amico.
2 formerly Brown: Marillin and Eldrith.
And 3 formerly Red: Liandrin, Katerine and Galina.

The Ajahs, largest to smallest, are Red, Green, Gray, Brown, Yellow, Blue, White.

There are no more known Dark Reds than there are Dark Whites or Dark Grays, and I’ve never heard anyone argue that those Ajahs are full of Black sisters. There are fewer than there are Dark Greens, which is one of the Ajahs popularly supposed to have least Blacks.

Does that enlighten anyone?

Good. Now let’s go on to the more general assertion, that Reds are just plain unlikeable. I think I’ll argue that one, too. To be fair, though, you have to remove Liandrin, Galina and Katerine from the sample. They’re not Red Ajah. They’re Black Ajah, and as I explained, that isn’t quite the same thing. Shadowsworn have psychological problems all their own. You wouldn’t judge all Murandians by Padan Fain, or all Andorans by Daved Hanlon, so you can’t judge the Red Ajah by the Darkfriends among them.

So, let’s see how unlikeable the remainder, among those who play a major role, are:

Elaida. Granted.

Pevara. No, not really. I like her. She has a sense of humour and gives as good as she gets swapping insults. And she very clearly finds the whole Logain-Red Ajah story morally reprehensible. Whether it’s a lie or not, I have to agree with her there.

Toveine. She hates Elaida. That’s a very big point in her favour. And I like her, too. She’s smart, quick-thinking, and she manages to stay calm while shielded and outnumbered by men who can channel. For any Aes Sedai, that’s impressive. For a Red, it’s incredible.

Teslyn. Well, Mat may find her annoying as hell, but I rather like her despite that. I can't work out quite why - other than, possibly, the fact that Joline doesn't - but she's at the very least tolerable. Unlike Elaida...

One power-hungry, megalomaniacal tyrant, and three (reasonably) likeable, intelligent, level-headed women. Well, will you look at that. I guess the majority of Red sisters aren’t so bad after all.

And whether you like Red sisters or not, I doubt you’d want to live in a world without them. Remember something called the Breaking? It was caused by male channelers going mad. The purpose of the Red Ajah is to prevent another Breaking. Since the Red is the largest Ajah, a fair number of people obviously consider it important. Given a choice between a world containing the Red Ajah and a world containing mad male channelers, I’d pick the Reds any day.

I received quite a few critical comments when I posted this on a board. Some thought I was exaggerating or jumping at shadows, because they'd never seen that kind of vituperation directed at the Red Ajah. I'll grant that the majority of people probably don't share the sentiments I attacked above, but I've met (in the Internet sense) many who do, and this essay is directed at them.

On the Tower-style RP organisations I've seen, it is also a fact that the Red is usually by far the least popular Ajah, even on historical RPs where the Dragon and Asha'man don't play a role. Coincidence? Maybe. Probably not. I suspect a large number of people, however, assume that the Reds are the villains because the main character is a male channeler. Jordan gets a little more complex than that.

I've also read one semi-serious defence of the Reds, here.

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