|Taimandred: The Plot Thickens
Need I explain what the theory under discussion is? No, I think not. There can be very few Wheel of Time fans who have not by now heard of Taimandred, whether they agree, disagree or snarl insanely at every new mention of the name. Therefore, I shall skip the explanation and go instead to the evidence.
Prior to Winter's Heart, there was a very great deal of evidence for Taimandred, and almost none against, leaving the 'against' arguers for the most part in the position of attempting to call doubt on the 'for' evidence rather than raising their own. Since Winter's Heart, those positions have effectively reversed. In order to claim that Taim is Demandred, supporters (of which I am well known to have been, and still am, one) have to answer the following questions.
Why, if Taim is Demandred, did Demandred not recognise Damer Flinn when he encountered him at the end of Winter's Heart?
Why, if Taim is Demandred, is a Darkfriend (Kisman) under Taim's direct control not aware of the fact?
I'll return to those questions later in the essay. First, I'll discuss the evidence for the theory, and in some cases play devil's advocate to explain them away myself.
Evidence for Taimandred
#1: In Lord of Chaos: Prologue, Demandred claims to have rooted fear out of himself long ago. We have seen repeatedly that Taim never seems to show fear, no matter what the circumstances.
#2: Taim listens very closely when Rand talks about the Forsaken. Unlike most others, he doesn't even blink at their mention. He is not surprised that the Forsaken are free, and is not at all terrified by the idea. He claims to have heard rumours, but there have not been all that many to hear; to the majority of people at this time the Forsaken are the stuff of myth, not something to worry about, and certainly very few believe that they have broken free or will in the foreseeable future.
Of course, these two points are clearly related, and don't necessarily mean a great deal. Lack of fear is a weak point to hang an identification on, and if Taim is unafraid of other things he may very well be unafraid of Forsaken as well. However, point #2 combined with #3 is interesting:
#3: In LoC: A Woman's Eyes, Rand warns Taim that one of the Forsaken may try to sneak into the Black Tower, and to be cautious of recruits that learn too quickly. This is one of the few times Taim has ever looked shocked about anything. This might be natural. Except that, as seen in point #2, mention of the Forsaken, even a warning that he may be attacked by Forsaken, does not bother him. Only at the idea that a Forsaken might use the Black Tower to get close to Rand does he show any reaction. Hmm.
#4: Again in the prologue is the phrase Demandred came as close to smiling as he ever did. And in LoC: Dumai's Wells is the quote Taim appeared as close to a smile as Rand had ever seen him. The same description is used several times regarding both Demandred and Taim.
#5: Taim is nearly as strong as Rand is. And Demandred was known to be almost as strong as Lews Therin. Granted, there are other Forsaken-class channelers, some on the side of the Light, but it establishes Taim to be of much the same strength as Demandred.
#6: In WH: Prologue, we see in Taim's description "the unthinking dominance of his stance." In WH: Wonderful News, Demandred "was aware that he dominated the room. He always did."
#7: The two look very similar. In LoC: Prologue Mesaana describes Demandred's 'hawknosed profile'. When Taim appears in Caemlyn in LoC: A New Arrival, he is said to have a hooked nose, and in LoC: Lessons and Teachers, it describes 'his hawk-nosed face'. In fact, almost every time Taim is seen, this description is used. Both are dark-haired, dark-eyed and just short of handsome. Again, there are other dark, hawk-faced people around - most of the population of Saldaea, to start with, and Taim is supposedly Saldaean.
We can see, then, that Taim and Demandred look alike, have a similar and fairly unusual mannerism described in the same way, behave similarly in a room full of people, and are the same strength in the Power. While not conclusive evidence, this is certainly suggestive.
Now, it would be asking too much of coincidence that the original Taim, assuming there was an original Taim, looked precisely like Demandred. But it is not improbable that there was a resemblance which Demandred capitalised upon, eliminating the remaining differences with a weave of Illusion? Why mention the resemblance at all when changing appearance is possible? - because as is well-known, the more difference there is between illusion and reality, the greater the chance of the illusion being uncovered. 'Taim' claims he shaved off his beard because of the heat. But what an odd thing for someone who never feels the heat to do. More likely that Demandred didn't bother trying to mimic facial hair and risk being uncovered if someone touched his face.
#8: Whenever Taim is present, Lews Therin's voice starts screaming about the Forsaken - particularly Demandred. For examples, see LoC: A New Arrival. Admittedly, he has done this on occasion without Taim's presence, but in most cases Rand has either been speaking or thinking about the Forsaken. Only in Taim's presence does he start up unprompted.
#9: Related to the above, when Rand is thinking about killing Sammael Lews Therins voice says Demandred first, then Sammael. Rand and Lews Therin know where Sammael is. Why go looking for Demandred when Sammael is in view? Unless Demandred is even closer than Sammael.
Lews Therin certainly seems to think something is up with Taim. But does he recognise Taim as Demandred? Does Taim merely remind him of Demandred? Is he so insane nothing he says can be relied on? These points are subject to interpretation.
#10: In LoC: A New Arrival, Davram Bashere cannot immediately recognise the man in front of him as the False Dragon he played a large part in capturing. You say youre Mazrim Taim? he says skeptically.
#11: Again in this chapter, there is a hint of Taim using Compulsion. Describing what happened to an assassination attempt by Basheres men, he says They shouldnt have tried to kill me under a parley flag. I trust you found them good places as servants? All theyll really want to do now is serve and obey; they wont be happy otherwise. This is high-level Compulsion - of the type the Forsaken use. Of the two Third Agers we know who have worked out Compulsion themselves, Liandrin's is vastly more primitive - even the victim is aware that something is wrong, which, judging from what we've seen, is a mark of very crude Compulsion indeed - and Verin, who has actually studied the subject and had much more time than Taim to perfect it, still can't make a person go against their own inclinations. But Taim can? I'd call this one of the strongest points for Taimandred, if not for one problem:
This episode apparently happened before Taim's capture, which is the point at which, according to the most common theory, Taim was replaced by Demandred. If this timing is correct, either the original Taim could use high-level Compulsion or Taim was Demandred before his capture. This is, depending on how early Taim proclaimed himself, possible.
#12: Initially, Taim proposes a partnership of equals between Rand and himself. This fits in with Demandreds personality - he hated being second to Lews Therin all his life. But when Rand straight out rejects the idea, Taim is quick to accept a subordinate role - as though he's desperate to get into Rands confidence.
#13: In another indication of Demandred's "second" mentality, Taim is definitely not pleased when Rand refers to him as "the second Asha'man."
#14: Taim seems to know a lot of things that he shouldn't. For example, he knows how to test men for the ability to channel, using the exact same method used in the Age of Legends. Impressive, given that this method has not been used for nearly 3000 years. He knows the rudiments of Healing. He knows a great deal about offensive weaves. He claims to have only ever taught one man to channel, and only met a few others who could learn. Despite this, he knows an lot about teaching men to channel. He knows how long it should take them to learn, apparently based on only two cases. And in LoC: Letters, he states that men usually show the spark later than women. True enough. But how does Taim know? He has only encountered one man who had the spark - himself.
To sum it up, in 10-15 years of learning by himself, Taim seems to know as much or more about channelling as Rand. While he has a lot more experience, Rand was taught by one of the Forsaken. Where did Taim acquire this much skill?
#15: Once the Black Tower is established, Taim tells Rand that he doesn't go out recruiting much, but he still makes a few trips now and then. It may be unrelated, but these trips may coincide with Demandreds meetings with Mesaana, Semirhage and Graendal, and his trips to Shayol Ghul.
#16: Taim, like other Forsaken, refers to the Aiel as "so-called Aiel" and "renegade Aiel". The first might pass, just, as doubt that the Aiel he saw were the "black-veiled killers" of the stories or that they were truly "dedicated" to Rand. The second is distinctly odd in any context other than that of the original Da'shain Aiel.
#17: In LoC: Letters, a Gray Man appears in the room with Rand. Rand captures it with Air, but as he does so, Taim bursts through the door, killing the Gray Man, and subsequently commenting Nasty things, the Soulless I am impressed. Taim saw the Gray Man straight away! How many people have managed to do this? Neither of the Maidens guarding Rand saw it, nor did Aviendha, and all three were in the room when it entered. Rand himself didnt notice it until some time after the door had opened. The Guide claims that bystanders who have seen someone killed by a Gray Man, frequently fail to see the killer despite looking straight at it. Yet Taim saw and recognised one within seconds of his arrival.
#18: After the Gray Man, Rand comments That man had to come from Sammael. Taim sounds doubtful, replying Perhaps. I would give a great deal to be sure. Does Taim think he knows more about the Forsaken than Rand does? Perhaps he does, and perhaps he's right...
#19: Also in this chapter, Taim is discussing how Rand should deal with Sammael, and how he would have defended Illian if he were Sammael. While Taim has some experience as a commander, it seems strange that he can judge so accurately what Sammael would do. He should not know how strong Sammael is, or what he can do. He knows nothing of Sammaels strengths and weaknesses, and yet his assessment is completely accurate. As A Crown Of Swords reveals, Sammaels defenses are exactly what Taim predicted them to be.
#20: Just how old is Taim? Rand guesses thirty-five, and concludes that he has been channeling for about fifteen years. Impressive in itself, considering that Rand is beginning to notice the effects of the taint after only two years. But that guess cant be entirely accurate. Channelers age slowly, and powerful channelers more so. If he started channeling at around twenty, he should appear considerably younger than his true age. So how old is he? It's difficult to pick a precise figure for any channeler's age; perhaps as little as fifty - still an even more impressive thirty years - perhaps measured in centuries. While there is some variation in how soon channelers succumb to the taint, thirty years - or more - with no effects whatsoever seems unlikely in the extreme.
#21: Taim clearly has a good deal of military experience. He automatically organizes the Black Tower along military lines. He's a good general. He gives orders like one, he turns the Asha'man into a lethal force at Dumai's Wells. Demandred is also a good general, but this is not the main thrust of this argument. Taim must, at some point, have served in an army in order to gain such experience. The obvious place, since he is supposedly a Saldaean, is the Saldaean army, but the same applies to any other army of this Age. Just how likely is it that a Borderlander soldier would not know how to use a sword? Just how likely is it that any man could rise to military prominence and never learn one end of a sword from the other, or think he needed to? In the Third Age, excessively unlikely. In the War of the Shadow, perfectly comprehensible. And it is an interesting note that Demandred himself brags of being a great general despite thinking that he should not have to do any fighting himself.
Before Winter's Heart, these points were enough to convince probably the majority of readers that Taim was Demandred. They still stand. We also have, from Winter's Heart, the revelation that Demandred, along with Osan'gar, was ordered to watch Rand (and that Osan'gar was in fact Dashiva). Together with Mesaana's judgement that they were engaged in a "gambler's plan," there are very few possibilities for Demandred's location.
But Winter's Heart also brought two problems for the theory. One, Kisman's thoughts while in Far Madding:
"Kill him," the M'Hael had ordered
before sending them to Cairhien, but he had been as
displeased that they were found out as that they had
failed. Far Madding was to be their last chance; he had
made that as plain as polished brass. Dashiva had simply
vanished. Kisman did not know whether he had run or the
M'Hael had killed him, and he did not care.
Judging from this passage, Kisman at least thinks that Taim and Demandred are different people, which, if they are not, requires that Demandred deliberately deceive Kisman by maintaining two separate personalities. Why would he do this? There are plausible enough reasons. Demandred could wish to maintain the aura of mystique and power surrounding a Forsaken, which would be compromised if his servants interacted with him regularly and saw him as subordinate to Rand. Conversely, he may wish to be able to deal with them as Taim without the barrier of a Forsaken reputation. Or he may merely consider the best way to keep a secret to be to tell as few people as possible.
Whether Demandred or not, this passage identifies Taim as at the very least a high-ranking Darkfriend.
The second and greater problem regards Demandred's failure to recognise Flinn at the Battle of Shadar Logoth.
Suddenly he saw people off to the right ahead of
him through the trees, and sheltered behind a rough gray
trunk. A bald-headed old man with a fringe of white hair
was limping along between two women, one of them
beautiful in a wild way, the other stunning. What were
they doing in these woods? Who were they?
This old man is Damer Flinn. The first Asha'man to be tested by Taim, one of the more promising students, and one of Rand's personal guard. It seems unlikely in the extreme that Taim would fail to recognise him, if he saw him clearly. The argument, then, revolves around whether Demandred did indeed get a clear look at Flinn.
It is possible that he did not. They were partially blocked by trees, and while it is not clear from the description whether the three were moving toward or away from Demandred, if away, Demandred may not have seen much more than Flinn's back. Flinn himself was turning his head as though he could not see clearly. And while he was close enough to note that both Sarene and Corele were beautiful, he did not get a close enough look to recognise Aes Sedai ageless faces. (Sarene is known to have the ageless look, and Corele's reputation as a Healer is unlikely to have been earned so young as to not have it yet.)
It is not entirely implausible, then, for Demandred to be Taim and yet not recognise Flinn on first glance. It would be surprising if he did not recognise him as the battle progressed, but this is not part of the scene. The first few seconds of the battle is all we get, so if Demandred did in fact recognise Flinn after that, we won't find out until book 10.
By the same token, it is not entirely implausible for Flinn not to recognise Taim, particularly as 'Taim' does not look identical to 'Demandred.' There is a close resemblance, but not a mirror one. Furthermore, although we see Flinn after the battle, it is only briefly and not from his point of view. So let us ask another question. If Flinn realized that the leader of the Asha'man was a Forsaken, would he tell everyone? Possibly not. He might wait for Rand to wake up and let him decide what to do with the knowledge. He might consider for a while whether to trust Cadsuane - an Aes Sedai, after all - with it or not. What little information we have about the end of the battle is not enough to determine whether or not Demandred recognised Flinn, or vice versa.
Nor, despite arguments to the contrary, is it sufficient to determine that Taim is not Demandred.