So, we know that the use of balefire can effectively "rewind time", in a manner of speaking, when used against people. But what happens if its used on a forest? Does all of the oxygen that tree produced cease to exist, and the people who breathed it suffocate? In the battle with Rahvin, Rand used balefire in the Palace before stepping into Tel'aran'rhiod, destroying some walls. What if that stone had killed someone in the building of the palace? Would that person have been brought back to life?(obviously I mean if balefire had been used during the building of the palace)

Does balefire affect inanimate objects the same way it does the living?

1 Answer 1


Yes, balefire affects inanimate objects in the same way as living beings.

The clearest and most often cited example of this is in book 7, A Crown of Swords, when

Moghedien balefires the boat in which Nynaeve is travelling,

and Nynaeve finds herself some distance behind where she previously was. That particular incident inspired a lot of debate among WoT fans - was it the boat being balefire, or only the rowers, that caused this? - but it was eventually cleared up by a letter from Robert Jordan to one Thomas Howard (not the Duke of Norfolk):

  1. What the hell is up with balefire (in regards to Nyn and the boat)?

The main issue with this was whether or not balefire burned inanimate objects back through time in addition to living creatures. According to Mr. Jordan, yes it does.

[Ra'T note: 1) emphasis mine; 2) "Nyn"? wtf?]

There was also a more lengthy discussion of this with Brandon Sanderson at JordanCon 2011:

Marie Curie: Even a stone in a wall has a thread in the Pattern, right? You said so...

Brandon Sanderson: As I understand it, Robert Jordan specifically said that even inanimate objects have a thread.

Marie Curie: So, that explains why when, say, a stone pillar is balefired, only the portion that balefire hits disintegrates...

Brandon Sanderson: Right...

Marie Curie: ...because all of those little bits would have their own threads...

Brandon Sanderson: Theoretically. And I was wrong on that for a while—I had to go back and look at interviews before I...[to Terez] Were you the one that sent me that?

Terez: Yeah, I tweeted that to you...

Brandon Sanderson: Yeah...the boat that Nynaeve was on that got balefired...

Marie Curie: She pointed out that inanimate objects...their threads are burned back. But that also explains why a person who has one thread tied to their soul would be completely eliminated by balefire.

Brandon Sanderson: Mmmhmm.

Marie Curie: So...why did their clothes go away?

Terez: (laughs)

Brandon Sanderson: Balefire does spread a bit, from what I've read.

Marie Curie: Then why doesn't it for the column?

Brandon Sanderson: It does, but it's like, you know...just a little bit.

Marie Curie: Right, but if you use a pencil-thin bit of balefire, right, and I shot your shirt, why would the whole shirt disappear?

Brandon Sanderson: Um, if it goes through and hits you, then you disintegrate, and it will spread out from you.

Marie Curie: Then, that doesn't explain Nynaeve's boat.

Brandon Sanderson: No, it doesn't. ... I will be perfectly honest with you. I've worked through and tried to figure out the rules of balefiring inanimate objects quite a bit...because we've got the whole thing with Nynaeve and...

Marie Curie: The rowers.

Brandon Sanderson: Yeah. Well no, not even that...earlier than that with the balefire rod that's like cutting swaths through the palace in Tanchico, and it's just cutting lines through the palace, just slicing big holes...

Marie Curie: Right. That's the stone pillars...the multiple threads...

Terez: It did the same thing in Caemlyn with Rand and Rahvin.

Brandon Sanderson: Yeah. And that's searing little lines, but then you hit something living, and it all poofs. It actually becomes motes...like it hits and it spreads to the full, living thing, and then poof that all goes away. And so...the clothes are something I hadn't even thought of, but balefire does seem to spread a little bit...

Marie Curie: You would think that, you know...where the balefire hit, obviously there would be a hole, the person would poof, and their clothes would drop.

Brandon Sanderson: Yeah. But it's got to spread a little bit because of that. But then, you know, with the boat...yeah.

Marie Curie: You can't imagine how many debates we've had on Theoryland about the boat...

Terez: Oh god...

Brandon Sanderson: The boat is an outlier. You could argue a couple of things on it—distance and power level could both be involved.

Marie Curie: And there are other outliers, like in The Gathering Storm...um...

Terez: The palace?

Marie Curie: Yeah, the palace...

Brandon Sanderson: That, I did intentionally. Looking through everything that is happening, and saying, 'He is continuing to pump balefire into this thing, to expand it through into the entire thing...'

Terez: So, it's a deliberate, directive thing...

Brandon Sanderson: That's got to be possible, because in the Age of Legends...

Terez: Right, whole cities...

Brandon Sanderson: Right, whole cities. And so there's got to be a force-to-spread multiplier. Does that make sense?

Marie Curie: Sure.

Brandon Sanderson: So, I'm using a force-to-spread multiplier. And so you could maybe make that argument with the boat.

TL;DR: it's complicated, and even Sanderson doesn't seem to fully understand what Jordan really had in mind on this issue, but the bottom line is that balefire does affect inanimate objects in the same way as living ones, burning their threads from the Pattern, including backwards into the past if the balefire is strong enough.

  • Do the spoiler tags serve any purpose considering you mention every part of it in the next paragraph?
    – Burhan Ali
    Nov 18, 2017 at 0:34
  • Well, not every part. A name is missed but the line could be reworded to omit this and be un spoiler-tagged.
    – Burhan Ali
    Nov 18, 2017 at 0:35
  • To be fair, Jordan was also inconsistent in the books. When first talking about the Pattern in the earlier books, Moiraine specifically says the threads are the lives of people.
    – Paul
    Sep 6, 2018 at 23:25

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