At the end of The Fires of Heaven there is a murder. In this interview (spoilers on link), Robert Jordan said:

Just using the first five books, is the answer also intuitively obvious?

I think so. It seemed to me so. It seemed to me that there was no need to go into any more detail. I thought that if I went into any more detail, I was being blatantly obvious, and you know... what do I need to do? Caper around with a sign saying 'Here! Here! There he is, see?' I mean.., I assumed that the people who read my books are intelligent to a certain degree, have a reasonable level of intelligence, and are able to deduce things that you know... I mean, I don't have to tell them water is wet. They know that. I don't have to tell them that if they fall of the roof, it's gonna hurt when they hit, you know, they know that. So I... no, I... At this point, I must tell you: although I will continue to put clues into the books. Again. A bit here and there. If I see a spot where I can put a clue, for those who are slow of wits to catch up ... I will not tell you. For the simple reason I am enjoying watching you all try far too much to deprive myself of the pleasure of that.

As of Towers of Midnight, we know the identity of the killer. What were the clues in the first 5 books that made this the obvious answer?

6 Answers 6


(If you don't already know who killed Asmodean, stop here.)

It was not intuitively obvious by any normal definition. It was intuitively obvious in the sense of "if you already know the answer and why it has to be the answer, it makes perfect sense."

To be fair, long before the killer's identity was confirmed, the fandom had generally narrowed things down to either Slayer, Graendel or Lanfear. Of those, Graendel was largely considered to be the most likely. The FAQ entry has all of the clues you need to "figure it out" up through I think TPOD. However, if you're looking for clues in the book, it's gonna be a long wait, because there aren't any. The logic that leads to her basically came down to:

Other than having absolutely no reason to be on our suspect list, Graendel is the only person capable of balefire that we can't definitively eliminate as not being anywhere near Caemlyn, so it's probably her.

My most generous explanation for Jordan's comment is that he expected everyone to be able to perform this process-of-elimination analysis for themselves, and he knew that Lanfear was out of the picture, and Slayer's style of killing doesn't really fit the very balefire-like description we get of Asmo's death. That leaves just Graendel. The fact that it takes a ~5 page FAQ entry to get to that point, I think, clearly indicates how non obvious the answer really was.

In a side note, Jordan's comment does help eliminate what most people consider the most obvious candidate -- Mazrim Taim -- since we knew nothing about him at the time Asmo was killed. All the Dreadlordy stuff we learn about him, that makes him a perfect suspect, comes later. So he wouldn't have been an "obvious" candidate until much later in the story.

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    The name's Graendal. Grendel is the monster in the Beowulf saga. Oct 5, 2012 at 20:14
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    Not to be confused with Grandalf, a fiendish one-armed Istari that spent long years in the house of Nienna mourning the loss his mother
    – xdhmoore
    Dec 19, 2015 at 21:58
  • I haven't read the books but this character's name being similar to Grendel might not be a coincidence. Would the fact that your character is named after a bloodthirsty monster and incarnation of Evil be a clue in itself that this character might be a murderer ? ^^"
    – Pwassonne
    Feb 20, 2016 at 10:58
  • I was never convinced by the "not being anywhere near Caemlyn" part. The Forsaken all have Traveling, any of them could have Traveled to some spot outside the city, masked their ability, waltzed on in and done the deed, and left again, in under a day.
    – M.M
    Feb 22, 2017 at 21:07
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    @M.M it's been a long time since we argued over this on USENET, but I think the justification there was that it seemed like Asmo's death was an accident. He just happened to walk into a closet where a Forsaken was hiding or whatever. So it was someone who was already in Caemlyn and just ran across him. Not sure how that implicates Graendel (I was always a Taim guy myself) but...
    – KutuluMike
    Feb 22, 2017 at 22:27

There's a big clue in Fires of Heaven, as Asmodean walks away thinking about his death and resurrection at Rand's use of balefire, as the text says, "...with a shiver, too" that is directly relevant to the goosebumps men get on their arms when they sense a woman channeling. That was the first hint it was a woman. Lanfear was already through the gate, which mostly left Graendal. She was the chief suspect, and we received big confirmations in later books when so confidently stated in a meeting with her fellow Chosen that Asmodean was dead. Her certainty implies extra knowledge. Our "peeks" into the thoughts all of the other Chosen via the author reveal either ignorance of Asmodean's killer, or not giving thought to it at all, but there are several places in the books where Graendal thinks of Asmodean, and always it is with the certain knowledge that he is dead, at times when all others are still wondering about his fate.


(NOTE: Many fans who've been with the series for a while might read the following response, and then justifiably suspect some kind of prank or trolling. So let me just reassure the suspicious reader that everything here has since been confirmed by Brandon Sanderson through his verified Reddit account in a public discussion here: https://www.reddit.com/r/WoT/comments/3snjii/spoilers_allsignings_and_secrets_terez_reveals/. :) )

The big murder mystery of Who Killed You Know Who is easily one of the most heated and persistent debate topics to come out of the series, rivaled only by the Taimandred conspiracy theories. Though both questions did eventually receive canonical answers by the conclusion of the series, it turns out there is somewhat shocking epilogue to this little story.

Sometime after the publication of Lord of Chaos and after RJ's remark about the killer's identity being "intuitively obvious", he later apparently made a decision to go back and change the identity to the individual revealed in ToM. Clearly this alteration renders the "intuitively obvious" null and void.

The first of many questions people might ask, is "Why is this only coming to light now?" Well, few months back, a passionate and well-known fan in the WoT community by the name of Terez, obtained obtained permission to read RJ's master compilation of personal notes the story, and eventually stumbled across a few curious statements. Terez wrote up detailed account of the findings in a post here, but tabloid headline version reads:


At least, that was the case at least up to the publication of LoC.

In a file of notes made post-publication of Fires of Heaven in preparation for Lord of Chaos, it is written:

Demandred: Hated/feared/despised Lews Therin. Like Lanfear, he plays for larger stakes than most of the others, who are trying to stake out worldly kingdoms. HE WILL SHOW UP CLAIMING TO BE MAZRIM TAIM. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF RAND'S AMNESTY.

Again, later in the same file, a section of notes about Dumai's Wells contains the paragraph,

Taim/Demandred showed up, not so much because his party wants Rand free -- though that might be a point in their plans; on the other hand, Rand in the hands of the White Tower, and thus within Mesaana's power, could still cause one hell of a lot of chaos -- but because of learning that the Shaido were moving in. They could not be sure the Aes Sedai could drive off the Shaido, nor that the Shaido would not kill Rand. And a rescued Rand, pissed at the Aes Sedai will really be a source of chaos and disunity.

The other big revelation comes from a related file of notes pertaining to (of all things) Nynaeve's arc up to the end of LoC, where we find the innocuous comment,

She does not know that Aginor (Osan'gar) and Balthamel (Aran'gar) were resurrected, the latter as a woman who is now masquerading as Halima, Delana's secretary/companion.

She knows that Moghedien was prisoner, of course. Until she is/was informed by Egwene, Siuan or Leane, she thinks Moghedien is still a prisoner.

She does not know that Asmodean was a prisoner of Rand, nor, of course, that he was killed by Demandred.

So there you have it. The answer to your question is that the question itself wrong. Another implication is that, yes, RJ apparently outright lied to us on at least one occasion where categorically denied that Mazrim Taim is or ever was Demandred, and that may not sit well with some people. If that's the case, I refer you again to the reddit thread linked to at the top where Brandon Sanderson, as a passionate fan himself, offers his expert insight on both possible motivations for the change, as well as the far-reaching unintended consequences of the change (including an explanation for why Demandred's Shara arc in the final book felt so jerry-rigged and out of place).

"“Surprising what you can dig out of books if you read long enough, isn't it?" -Rand Al'Thor

Cheers. :)

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    wow... mind == blown Feb 19, 2016 at 21:48
  • @NikolaiDante In many ways, it's the Wheel of Time equivalent of the Flat Earthers being right after all. Makes a person wonder if some of the old theories about Bela and Narg have any merit ;)
    – David H
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:26
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    Reading over the notes and Terez's comments, I get the impression that RJ may have changed his mind about Asmodean's killer but not updated all his notes to be consistent with the change; so perhaps he did actually have Graendal in mind when TFoH was published, even though there were some old contradictory notes in existence.
    – M.M
    Feb 22, 2017 at 21:05

RJ said that he had a physics professor in college who always said things were "intuitively obvious to the most casual observer". He meant it in the same way here :)

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    really? -2? This isbasically my answer boiled down into 2 sentences...
    – KutuluMike
    Oct 5, 2012 at 19:16
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    @MichaelEdenfield Except that this doesn't answer the question, and is very different than your description of what he meant by "intuitively obvious" at the beginning of your answer. ("Hindsight is 20/20" is yours, this appears to be "anyone can figure out the 'why'")
    – Izkata
    Oct 5, 2012 at 23:30
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    @Izkata ah, so people are just missing the humor here. When a math or physics professor says "intuitively obvious" and/or "trivially obvious", they mean the same thing I said: "obvious to anyone that already knows the answer". :) I certainly don't think this answer deserved 2 downvotes.
    – KutuluMike
    Oct 6, 2012 at 0:18
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    The fact that this is an answer to the question is intuitively obvious. ;)
    – rsegal
    Oct 6, 2012 at 3:41
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    @MichaelEdenfield Your answer boiled down into 2 sentences... minus the background on the fandom speculation, the results of the process of elimination, and the qualifiers about Taim not being obvious until later in the story. In short, its your answer, but without all the aspects that contribute to making your answer a good answer. Being humorous is not a qualification for a good answer.
    – Beofett
    Oct 8, 2012 at 13:57

Fish bites. It was obvious because of the fish bites. Read the chapter with the confrontation between Rand and Rahvin and note what happens when he meets Nyneave.

  • Wonderful, crunchy fish bites!
    – Omegacron
    Nov 5, 2014 at 18:41

It all had to do with the fact that two forsaken were in one place at the same time. One was hiding and one was fighting openly against Rhand. Since the person was in the same location it was quite clear that she HAD to be his killer.

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