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In Wheel of Time a weapon commonly used is balefire, which is a type of fire that destroys your soul a period of time before it was cast, in essence ripping your soul out of the Pattern. (So if my friend got shot and I balefired his shooter with enough power, my friend would still be alive).

The recipients of balefire are some of the few creatures that the Dark One cannot resurrect. However the entire series is based on the premise that the same events repeat themselves with the same people. So:

Would a person who was balefired be respun into the pattern the next time the Age came?

  • 1
    I'd also like to know whether generating balefire (though considered an 'unforgivable') takes more than just the ability to weave all components correctly. Whilst it might be complex, does one have to be a certain level of power to create it? If not, is the strength (read 'damage per second' not 'area of effect') of the balefire stream variable? Kind of like how the patronus spell in HP works... the stronger the caster, if at all, the more effective it is. – Reece Dec 8 '16 at 2:12
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    Yes, acutualy that is true. The stronger the bail fire the farther back it goes. I believe that was first mentioned during Rands's fight with Rahvin if you want to check it out. – Matrim Cauthon Dec 8 '16 at 2:43
  • I approve of the identity of the asker. – chrylis Dec 8 '16 at 9:33
  • Your bio has your home town spelled wrong! It's Emond's Field. – Mat Cauthon Dec 8 '16 at 17:07
  • Us Cauthons have to stick together! – Mat Cauthon Dec 8 '16 at 21:03
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TLDR; Yes a person would be reborn eventually if Balefired.

JOHN NOVAK

[Is balefire the eternal death of the soul?]

ROBERT JORDAN

If someone is balefired, the Dark One can't reincarnate them. But they CAN be spun back out into the Wheel as normal. Balefire is NOT the eternal death of the soul. He also made a comment to the effect that even in the absence of balefire, there may be circumstances where the Dark One cannot bring someone back. There was a long line, so I didn't press. interview 3

The Wheel of Time Companion has this entry for Balefire.

balefire. An extreme weapon of channelers. It burned anything it touched into nonexistence and also burned threads from the Pattern, an effect which could destroy past realities. People who were balefired could not be brought back by the Dark One; however, their souls were not destroyed, and they could be spun out by the Wheel at a later time.

BRANDON SANDERSON (29 AUGUST 2011)

You have the right of it, Terez. I always believed that balefire = Eternal Death. Team Jordan instructed me that this was not the case, and balefire meant the Dark One could not recover the soul.

From the Balefire Paradox

ROBERT JORDAN

Ok, first and foremost we have an answer to the balefire-balefire paradox. If A balefires B, then C balefires A, B WILL come back alive again. I explored this quite thoroughly with him, getting him to repeat himself more than once. It is definite. It is over. interview 16

This shows us that there is something to bring back, and the person is not permanently lost.

Balefire removes one from the Pattern, which is all the Dark One is able to influence. The souls themselves continue to exist beyond the Pattern, but how they are rewoven back in is less clear. It appears they spin back into the Pattern due to the Wheel itself, perhaps the Creator, or both.

  • It certainly makes the endlessly repeated struggle between Ishamael and the Dragon more plausible, since it seems unlikely that both manage to avoid getting balefired in every cycle. – CodesInChaos Dec 8 '16 at 10:06
  • Some confusion comes because earlier RJ quotes said that Balefire destroyed them, or worded it in such a way to heavily imply that. I personally think he changed his mind over the years, and nothing canon stopped him. – user31178 Dec 8 '16 at 17:04
10

From the WOTFAQ:

When a person is balefired, can he be reborn?

The description of balefire leaves us one important question: does "burning one's thread from the Pattern" mean that one's soul is destroyed forever, and one can never be reborn? John Novak finally got an answer for this from RJ at a post-TPOD book-signing [Northern Virginia - 21 November, 1998]:

Balefire: I'm right. (This was my question) What this means is, if someone is balefired, the Dark One can't reincarnate them. But they CAN be spun back out into the wheel as normal. Balefire is NOT the eternal death of the soul. He also made a comment to the effect that even in the absence of balefire, there may be circumstances where the Dark One cannot bring someone back.

Also:

So if a balefired person can be reborn, why can't the DO recycle a Forsaken that's been killed by balefire?

The real question being asked here is: what is the difference between the soul of a Forsaken killed by ordinary means and the soul of one killed by balefire?

Timothy Itnyre explains: "The only difference is that the Forsaken killed by balefire dies in the past; at the moment of contact with the balefire, they are already dead and their soul has gone on to wherever souls go when you're dead. In a normal death, the Forsaken's soul departs at the moment of death. The only difference then is the timing of the soul's departure. This would indicate that the Dark One's inability to resurrect balefired souls has to do with the timing rather than actual physical properties of balefire. In LOC, the Dark One laments his inability to resurrect Rahvin: '"RAHVIN DEAD IN HIS PRIDE. HE SERVED WELL, YET EVEN I CANNOT SAVE HIM FROM BALEFIRE. EVEN I CANNOT STEP OUTSIDE OF TIME"' [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 15].

"The crucial clue is in the last line where the Dark One says that he cannot step outside of time. The Dark One must claim the Forsaken's soul before it goes off to the afterlife; in the case of a balefire victim, the Dark One would have to go into the past to get the soul. Since the Dark One cannot step outside of time, he cannot save those souls. Therefore, balefire prevents the Dark One from claiming souls."

  • 2
    good find, but maybe clean up the formatting a bit? The "I'm right" is confusing, since it's not obvious that you're quoting a FAQ entry that is quoting someone else's USENET post. – KutuluMike Dec 7 '16 at 20:38
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As far as I know, RJ has not said anything about this. But here's a paraphrase of an interview with Brandon, found here:

Brandon said someone killed by balefire could be reborn and woven back into the Pattern later, but the Dark One cannot resurrect that person.

I can't find anything about why this makes sense, and we don't know what Robert Jordan thought about this. Here's what I think about reasoning behind this logical answer:

[Ignore this paragraph if you want, the real answer's up there]. Something must happen at the end of the last Age that brings the Pattern back to the beginning, something that unravels the Pattern and puts it behind the Wheel, ready to be spun again. So in essence, this force, this catastrophe that ends the final Age is like a Giant Balefire, ripping up the Pattern so it can spin again. Then the Pattern repeats itself. My hypothesis (and this isn't part of the real answer, I'm just including it because it's relevant) is that what balefire does is rips you out of the Pattern and puts you back so you can be ready to be respun in the next time your Age comes around.

  • I don't have a source for this at the moment, but I'm pretty sure Maria later clarified that the Dark One can in fact resurrect weakly balefired persons. – David H Dec 7 '16 at 19:58
  • The most likely explanation I've found for why the DO couldn't resurrect Rahvin is from the WOT FAQ, having to do with the "timing" of his death and how balrefire messes with time. The DO himself says something about "cannot step outside of time" in re: Rahvin's soul. – KutuluMike Dec 7 '16 at 20:33
  • Why the downvotes? – CHEESE Dec 7 '16 at 20:42
  • @CHEESE I didn't vote either way on your answer, but I suspect the downvotes are for you saying that RJ never said anything about this, but as the top answer shows, he spoke about it several times. – Beofett Dec 8 '16 at 14:59
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Balefire is not commonly used, in fact it was banned during the war in the Age of Wonders by both sides after they found out what it actually did. Which is to completely remove someone from the pattern. And as it does so it unravels the pattern around the hole it's created.

Now:

In the final book Egwene finds the counter-weave for Balefire and can heal some of the unraveling in the pattern done by Balefire, however doing so requires her own life.

All this considered, we never see an instance of anyone Balefired in the the Age of Wonders coming back in Rand's age so I would assume that unless they were affected by the above they couldn't come back.

My take then on balefire vs normal death would be this.

Birth ---> Life ---> death ---> weave basket ---> Birth
VS.
Birth ---> Life ---> Balefire death ---> intervention (wheel, creator, above, other balefire user, ect...) ---> weave basket ---> Birth

  • 1
    Jordan did confirm this during one of his signings; see the WOT FAQ – KutuluMike Dec 7 '16 at 20:38
  • @KutuluMike, yea Mike I removed that line. – Ryan Dec 7 '16 at 21:05
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    As a nitpick, the harmful effect in the spoiler seems to have been from drawing too much power through an unbuffered sa'angreal rather than an inherent requirement (doing so on a smaller scale would probably not have done that). – chrylis Dec 8 '16 at 9:35
  • @chrylis absolutely correct, in fact a few chapters earlier Egwene is shown 'healing' the cracks in the ground (caused by the excessive use of baelfire) using that weave on a small scale. It does not cost life to use that weave, only drawing enough power to heal a huge amount of the baelfire damage cost her life. – Theyna Dec 8 '16 at 20:43

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