The Wheel of Time has plenty of fantasy tropes that fans of the genre will instantly notice. Among the show’s three male leads, there’s already the archer, the druid, and the rogue. The Two Rivers, where we first meet the majority of the cast, is, in essence, a place like The Hobbit’s The Shire, a tucked-away village largely ignored by the problems of the world — until, of course, an inciting incident leads our travelers away. The series also has the “Chosen One” trope, dubbed the Dragon here, though the TV adaptation takes pains to leave the identity of the Dragon a secret.
The Wheel of Time follows five individuals from the village known as Two Rivers who are taken away by a mysterious woman, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), an Aes Sedai. She believes that one of them could be the Dragon Reborn, someone who could either save the world from ruin or destroy it.
While author Robert Jordan was not averse to using a fantasy trope or two, the world around him also largely influenced his work. Drawing on European and Asian influences, the cyclical belief in time and the idea of Taoism (believing a source of power is the pattern and substance of everything that exists), The Wheel of Time incorporates those belief systems into the very mechanics of its world.
Where Jordan differentiates himself, and why he was so beloved by readers, can be seen in his painstaking construction of customs, systems, and power beliefs in The Wheel of Time. Where this is best displayed — and something that is carefully carried over to the show — is in the descriptions of the Aes Sedai.
As we see through Pike’s character Moiraine, the Aes Sedai are an essential part of the narrative and an important group to know and understand in The Wheel of Time. Here’s everything you need to know about Aes Sedai, from their inner workings to their connection to the One Power.
Who are the Aes Sedai?
The Aes Sedai are a group of women whose name means they are “servants of all.” Mysterious to many outsiders, they reside in the White Tower located in a city named Tar Valon.
The Aes Sedai are channelers of the One Power, the belief system in the world of The Wheel of Time. The One Power is made up of two gendered halves. The female half is referred to as saidar, and the male is saidin. This is where Aes Sedai get their half of the power, while the male half (saidin) has long been tainted and any man who channels that power is driven mad.
We witness this explicitly as members of the Aes Sedai chase down an unknown man who looks to be speaking with a fellow comrade in the first episode. However, once cornered by the women tracking him, we realize he’s been alone the entire time, and his ability to channel the One Power caused him to hallucinate a companion.
In The Wheel of Time, the creator who forged the universe also created the “wheel,” which spins the Pattern of the Ages, using the lives of men and women as threads. The crux of the Wheel is that it weaves as it wills, and every person has a part to play in moving the wheel of the current life cycle forward. The Aes Sedai, through the use of saidir, look to keep the “wheel” — essentially the flow of life itself — moving forward.
Due to their ability to channel and touch the One Power, the Aes Sedai’s life expectancies are greatly lengthened with some in the book living up to hundreds of years. The power also affects their aging process, and many adopt an ageless look after a few years of taking the oath of becoming an Aes Sedai. That oath is to uphold the rules of the White Tower.
Who are the Seven Ajah of the Aes Sedai?
The Aes Sedai are broken into distinctions called the Seven Ajah. While the seven consist of color groups Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Gray, and White, we only truly get to know half of the Ajahs in the show thus far.
The Red Ajah, we learn quickly, are the largest group and are depicted in the series as the law enforcers of the Aes Sedai. Greater still in the adaptation, they police the power, tracking down any wrong and dangerous uses of the One Power. The Red Ajah are the ones who will often track “gentle” male users of the power (cutting them off from the source). They bond with no Warders (more on them later). The Red Ajah also offers the show’s biggest antagonist within the systems of power in Season 1 with the character Liandrin, played by Kate Fleetwood.
The Green Ajah, best depicted by Alanna (played by Priyanka Bose), are the warriors or “Battle Ajah.” In the show, they’re seen as having multiple Warders and are depicted to have the greatest sense of camaraderie. We see them in polyamorous relationships, and they’re given some of the most interesting fight sequences in the series.
With the Blue Ajah, Moiraine is the show’s example of what it means to hold that distinction. The Blue Ajah, who also bond with Warders, have the greatest sources of knowledge and enormous networks to keep their eyes and ears open for world-shifting events. Unkindly described as “little spies with an inflated sense of self-importance,” Moiraine is depicted as worldly and traveled, incentivized by the need of protecting the path of the Wheel and all who contribute to its turning.
The TV series has yet to show the other colors of the Ajah, aside from Yellow Ajah having an affinity for healers. In the books, the Brown Ajah are the historians of the world whose goal is to preserve knowledge. The Gray Ajah are the politicians while the White Ajah, the smallest group, are the philosophers who rule by logic and understanding.
Who is the leader of the Aes Sedai?
The Amyrlin Seat is the leader of the Aes Sedai in the White Tower in Tar Valon. She must have the ability to channel, though she doesn’t need to be raised to full Aes Sedai status (at least according to the books). She is chosen by the Hall of the Tower for a life term.
Played by Sophie Okonedo in the TV series, the Amyrlin Siuan Sanche is considerably and refreshingly different in the show than in the books. The showrunner is keen to give the character more of an active role and further expand on the dynamics of the powerful women characters, especially the shifts in roles and influence within the Aes Sedai.
Who are Warders of the Aes Sedai?
The TV series also expands the role of the Warder too, which is largely the biggest diversion from the book. Warders are “bonded” to Aes Sedai and serve as watchmen, protectors, travel companions, and, in some rare occurrences, husbands. Warders, in general, have a strong sense of community and friendship.
The show gives us plenty more to explore with Lan (Daniel Henney), the Warder we spend the most time with as he is bonded to Moiraine. From page to screen, his character gets the greatest shift in personality with an exposed emotional depth. In the book, Lan is known for his overt stoicism in both the face of threat and day-to-day interactions. Any form of emotional release or even a hint to hidden feelings is (very) slowly unearthed throughout the many books. He’s meant to be enigmatic, like Moiraine, having an air of mystery to him that will be peeled back the more we spend time with him.
What are the Aes Sedai oaths?
By focusing so much time on the inner workings of the Aes Sedai, the show adds immediacy to their prominent influence as well as the threads of doubt already taking place. Understanding their oaths is essential to understanding the Aes Sedai characters and their motives.
They are sworn to three oaths when they become Aes Sedai:
- To speak no word that is not true
- To make no weapon with which one man may kill another
- Never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends or Shadowspawn, or, in the last extreme defense of her life, the life of her Warder, or another Aes Sedai
The series as a whole looks to explore the workings of those oaths, the challenges against them, and how Aes Sedai has learned to find loopholes and manipulate them.
The Aes Sedai are interesting by nature, and the TV series, through costuming and writing, makes sure that every faction has recognizable differences both as a group and as individuals. However, what is truly engaging to viewers are the political plays, the differences of beliefs, and their reactions to impending threats.
With ageless faces and longer lifespans, having this unflappable group be destabilized as the world shifts beneath them is ultimately what makes The Wheel of Time a fascinating and addictive series.
The Wheel of Time releases new episodes Fridays on Amazon Prime Video.