This is a follow-up question to Matrim Cauthon's Memories From Former Lives? where we can learn from a canonical source that Mat's memories of former lives are given to him from his visit inside the ter'angreal. This can for example explain his prowess as general and all the people he remember being in previous lives.

But not all of it. There are anomalies that Jordan's explanation don't cover.

Before entering Shadar Logoth, there is a battle against trollocs where Mat suddely shouts a battlecry, which he doesn't know what it means or where he heard it:

"Carai an Caldazar! Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande!"

The WoT wiki gives this explanation:

"For the honor of the Red Eagle! For the Honor of the Rose of the Sun! The Rose of the Sun!"

The ancient warcry of Manetheren and its last king, whose queen, Eldrene, who was called Rose of the Sun. Mat shouts the warcry in the first fight against Trollocs and again the cry "Carai an Caldazar!" while fighting Trollocs and Myrrdraal near the Jangai Pass

After Shadar Logoth, Mat keeps mumbling in the Old Tongue and similar. If Jordan claims that Shadar Logoth left holes in his memory, then the memories gained do not come from Shadar Logoth nor from the ter'angreal, but from somewhere else.

He is a ta'veren, but apparently not one of the heroes reborn, as the other heroes don't recognize him as they do with Lews Therin. So what is the explanation?

I can think of two possibilities:

  • Is he a reborn hero from Manetheren, a new hero to be added to the group of heroes? The books (Artur Hawkwing to Hurin) say that sometimes new heroes are added to their numbers. And if so, is Perrin one as well?

    I don't recall the books giving any satisfying explanation of why three ta'veren were born at the same time. This doesn't seem to have been the case in the Dragon's previous incarnation as Lews Therin Telamon.

  • If the explanation is simply "the old blood resurfacing", then isn't it strange that Mat in remembers being various people from Manetheren in particular, generals and others. Why would the people of Manetheren be more frequent visitors to the Aelfinn/Eelfinn worlds than other people?

    And what would be the canonical explanation for "old blood resurfacing", as this doesn't seem to happen anywhere else in the world, or to any other character than Mat. (Not counting Rand and Ishamael who we know are reborn.)

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    For what it's worth, I never got the impression that Mat's inherited memories included a statistically disproportionate number of Manethernites, although he did (naturally) dwell on some of them in more detail (e.g., Observer Bias on Mat's part). – gowenfawr Dec 14 '18 at 17:53
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    From Memories of Light: “Then, oddly, [Rand] found himself grinning. "It worked pretty well on Cadsuane." Moiraine sniffed. "That one...Well, knowing her, I doubt you fooled her as well as you assume. You may have the memories of a man four centuries old, Rand al'Thor, but that does not make you ancient. Otherwise, Matrim Cauthon would be the patriarch of us all." "Mat? Why Mat?" "It is nothing," Moiraine said. "Something I am not supposed to know. You are still a die-eyed sheepherder at heart.” – Newbie12345 Dec 14 '18 at 17:55
  • I don't recall that quote ever being expanded upon. – Newbie12345 Dec 14 '18 at 17:55
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    @Newbie12345 I think that just meant that Moiraine had found out about Mat's gift from the Eelfinn. OP seems more interested in why Mat seemed to have more 'Old Tongue' and memories even before his visit to the Eelfinn. – gowenfawr Dec 14 '18 at 18:01
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    Manetheren generals were often warders as well. Having an Aes Sedai close by to help prepare them for safely dealing with the Finns might explain why these generals would be more willing to risk the journey. – David H Dec 16 '18 at 20:13

Firstly, I'd like to catalog the major mentions of the old blood and see what they have to say about what the old blood is supposed to do:

Powers/Abilities corresponding to The Old Blood

  • Purity/strength of the old blood is clearly tied to the ability to use The Power:

    "Do you have any idea," Alanna went on, "how many towns and villages we usually must visit to find three girls with the ability inborn? The only wonder is that it took us so long to come hunting more. The old blood is very strong here in the Two Rivers."

The Shadow Rising, Chapter 31.

  • Additionally, it's clear that in-universe, there is a means of accessing ancestral memories distinct from the Aelfinn/Eelfinn's powers, as the ter'angreal in Rhuidean shows.

  • While it's not definite that Mat is using the memory of an ancestor, it is clear that the Aes Sedai believe that Mat's strength in the old blood is the cause of his random fits of using the Old Tongue, as the above quote and the following show:

[as Mat is being healed and separated from the Shadar Logoth dagger, he screams stuff in the Old Tongue] "Fascinating," Verin said. "That the Old Blood could flow so strongly in anyone today."

[. . .]

"What was that he was shouting, Mother?" Elayne asked, then hastily added, "If I may ask."

"He was ordering soldiers." The Amyrlin gave the young man lying on the table a quizzical look. [...] "In a battle two thousand years gone, I would say. The Old Blood comes again."

[. . .]

"For a time," she said firmly, "I believe the past and the present were one. He was there, and he was here, and he knew who we were. He commanded us to release him."

The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 18

Now, Aes Sedai cannot lie, and while they never directly say "this is because of the old blood" -- they only say "Mat speaks in the Old Tongue sometimes. The Old Blood is strong in The Two Rivers" -- we don't have any real reason to discredit it since they even use it as justification to send two Aes Sedai to a random backwater province of Andor.

It's also not totally unheard-of in-universe by non-Aes Sedai, as Thom indicates (and Agelmar later corroborates):

"The old blood, she said. The blood, not a dead man. I've heard that it can happen, sometimes. Heard, though I never really thought. . . . It was your roots, boy. A line running from you to your father to your grandfather, right on back to Manetheren, and maybe beyond. Well, now you know your family is old."

The Eye of the World, Chapter 19

And the old blood is justification enough for Agelmar to let the "Farmboys" go into the Blight, without additional troops, to seek the Eye of the World, more so than Moiraine's claim that they are ta'veren!

"They are ta'veren," Moiraine said soothingly. [explains three ta'veren together can change the course of history]

Agelmar stopped trying to find his sword, but he still looked at Rand and the others doubtfully. "Moiraine Sedai, if you say they are, then they are, but I cannot see it. Farmboys. Are you certain, Aes Sedai?"

"The old blood," Moiraine said, "split out like a river breaking into a thousand times a thousand streams, but sometimes streams join together to make a river again. The old blood of Manetheren is strong and pure in almost all these young men. Can you doubt the strength of Manetheren's blood, Lord Agelmar?"

[. . .]

"Manetheren," Agelmar said slowly, nodding. "I would not doubt that blood. [. . .] It shall be done as you wish, Aes Sedai."

The Eye of the World, Chapter 47

Although, this passage could be just Agelmar believing more in ancestral martial prowess than in the mysterious workings of the Wheel.

However, Birgitte has perhaps the clearest explanation of manifestations of the Old Blood, driven by her lifetimes of experience, as Mat tries to explain his ability to speak the Old Tongue:

"An Aes Sedai once told me the old blood runs strong in -- What are you bloody well laughing at now?"

"You, Mat. [. . .] Some people speak a few words, a phrase or two, because of the old blood. Usually what they say, or not quite. But you. . . . One sentence you're an Eharoni High Prince and the next a First Lord of Manetheren, accent and idiom perfect."

A Crown of Swords, Chapter 21

Hence, I conclude that we must accept that the Old Blood is the cause of his memories prior to the Finn, and the reason it only happens to him is that Mat just has the strongest bloodline ties to Manetheren out of the group.

As the above quotes show, Mat can clearly occasionally live out the memories of men long dead, quite apart from having the gaps filled by the Finn, indicating his long ancestry. Mat is not the only one in whom the old blood runs strongly, though, as Egwene almost understands his warcry:

Mat shrugged uncomfortably. "I don't remember." He stared at them deffensively. "Well, I don't. It's all foggy. I don't know what it was, or where it came from, or what it means." He gave a self-deprecating laugh. "I don't suppose it means anything."

"I . . . I think it does," Egwene said slowly. "When you shouted, I thought--just for a minute--I thought I understood you. But it's all gone, now."

[. . .]

Rand thought he knew what Mat was thinking. The same thing he was thinking. If Mat was a descendant of the ancient kings of Manetheren, maybe the Trollocs were really after him and not all three of them. The thought made him ashamed. His cheeks colored, and when he caught a guilty grimace on Perrin's face, he knew Perrin had been having the same thought.

The Eye of the World, Chapter 18.

As an aside, Mat has the following to say upon finding out about the old blood:

"It's as if some dead man was speaking with my mouth. I don't like it." The Eye of the World, Chapter 19.

Which is ironic given his future(?) memories of past lives as well as a rather amusing explanation for his reluctance to be tied to the Horn (and probably being reborn but perhaps he is only ever reborn in the Third Age).

  • Aes Sedai cannot lie, but they can say things that are not true - if they believe them to be true. So Aes Sedai saying Mat is doing these thing because he has "old blood" doesn't mean anything in itself. – ventsyv Dec 18 '18 at 22:09
  • @ventsyv right, this is why I should have edited more carefully. I added that as an afterthought but meant to connect it more closely to the non-Aes Sedai buying into the idea as proof of it's truth. – Giuseppe Dec 18 '18 at 22:11
  • I like this answer, but you can't quote Verin and then immediately say "and Aes Sedai cannot lie". That doesn't really hold up as evidence. ;) – JMac Dec 19 '18 at 1:03
  • It's a nice parallel that I had not considered - that the Aes Sedai found a remarkable amount of novices in the Two Rivers. This would too be an indication of strong presence of "old blood". Yet none of the girls with the ability to channel speak the Old Tongue. So I guess it could be a combination of "old blood" and Mat being ta'veren with a pure lineage? Unlike for example Rand, who's biologically not from Two Rivers at all. This makes sense, but then Perrin has to be addressed. We don't know much of his family's past either. The Wolfbrother ability isn't related to Manetheren I think. – Amarth Dec 19 '18 at 16:52
  • @Amarth hmm, Wolfbrother is def not Manetheren-related and is credited by multiple Aes Sedai to be an old ability becoming new again with the turning of the Wheel. Perrin might just have a weaker blood tie to Manetheren, as Mat's sister joins the Aes Sedai and is nearly as strong as Egwene. There's a mention of an Aybara cousin of Perrin later on -- I'll have to dig up the reference and see if he's geographically closer to Andor (and therefore likely to be more distantly related to Manetheren). – Giuseppe Dec 19 '18 at 17:03

What I believe is that Moiraine believed strongly in what she said about the Old Blood running strong in some. That is probably an observed phenomenon written about and documented by various Aes Sedai over the millennia, perhaps even carried over from the Age of Legends and the phenomenon observed there. In addition, what happened to Mat having "holes" in his memory, my understanding is that the Eelfinn (as Mat says) stuffed dead men's memories in his head. Mat had obviously been reborn many times. More than the Heroes of the Horn were reborn. So, they weren't random men's memories, they were his memories from past lives. He may have just been spun out by the Wheel more often in Manetheren, over the course of centuries. Mat states he has this block of memories coming from the time when Manetheren was prominent, but there is nothing stating that he did not live any lives before or after until he was reborn as Matrim Cauthon. Just nothing worthy of pulling memories from, at least not for the purpose of making him the battle master capable of winning the Last Battle. Not being bound to the Horn? Well, the Wheel needed to be able to spin him out into the Pattern for the Last Battle and events just before, not just for it. After Mat's first unwitting use of the Old Tongue, all of the Two Rivers folk wondered at it, but Egwene states that she could almost understand what it was, that it sort of danced around in the edges of her mind.

A note that I'm not sure anyone else shares: it seems like Jordan stayed very close to his original idea, but changed it just slightly on a very few small things. Kind of reminds me of TV pilots when trying to sell the show and then there are more noticeable tweaks made once the show is green-lit that become more solid and almost ignore what was done in the pilot.

What I believe about three ta'veren is that the Wheel had woven them into the Pattern because of the dire need for them in what was believed to be the "Last Battle." Three would have been handy during the Breaking, but for the Wheel (weaving as it wills), three were needed for the Last Battle to handle all of the enormous amount of tasks required.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. I tried to break this up where it looked like you wanted paragraphs, but it's still a big block of text; it would read better if you broke it up a bit more. Also, it would make this a much better answer if you could provide sources for some of these assertions, like all the memories being his. – DavidW Nov 3 '20 at 0:39

Like Rand, Mat is a reborn hero. As Birgitte explained it, the wheel would occasionally reweave people into the pattern but without their memories from previous lives.

Since Mat, Rand, and Perrin are ta'veren, that causes "anomalies" in the pattern which result in some of his memories "leaking" back.

I'll try to add some sources later.

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    I don't think it was ever established that Mat was a reborn hero. For example, he isn't bound to the Horn of Valere (or wasn't during The Last Battle). Most of his memory issues were tied to the holes and having them filled. – JMac Dec 18 '18 at 19:58
  • @JMac Not all heroes are bound to the Horn. What I'm trying to say is that Mat is a reborn Manetherenian general. The "old blood" theory does not make much sense because Nynaeve and Egwene arguably also have old blood (which is used to explain their strength with the power) but don't speak in tongues. – ventsyv Dec 18 '18 at 22:17

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