Full disclosure, I never cared for the character of Cadsuane. My favorite scene is when Tam al'Thor refuses to accede and calls her a bully to her face.

It occurs to me that this may be the intent behind the character, that she's written to be a certain degree of unlikable. Robert Jordan clearly intended her to be a force of nature, bending others around her to her will. She extensively used force to kidnap and manhandle people, Aes Sedai, even sovereigns to further her plots.

There are several passages where the White Tower hierarchy is shown to be based upon strength in the power and several characters are critical of this power structure. Several Aes Sedai are shown to admire, even long for, the power structure of the Aiel Wise Ones, where strength in the power has no bearing and instead the strength of character or strength of will is the measure of a woman. In this light, the writing of Cadsuane's abrasive demeanor can come off as an indictment of this power structure.

However Cadsuane confides in Sorelia that her goal is for the Dragon Reborn to reach the last battle alive, and she believes it is critical Rand relearn to laugh and cry. In pursuit of this goal, Cadsuane doesn't seem to alter her tactics a whit. She's all business to the point of barely even expressing a sense of humor, not even a serious or deadpan one; but she intends to teach laughter. She's certainly capably of bullying someone to tears, but that doesn't seem to meet the spirit of her goal.

In the end, Rand almost kills his father due to the passing mention of Cadsuane's name. But he pulls back and sets out on the journey of self discovery that ends on Dragonmount with the reunification of Rand and Lews Therin. You could say Cadsuane brought about her goal by causing such fury in Rand that he had to choose madness or sanity. I don't accept that was Cadsuane's intention, just happenstance. Even if attempted patricide were her plan all along, it seems a reckless, dangerous gamble to hang the fate of the world in that one moment.

Setting aside my opinions and speculations – I invite your differing perception, especially if it frames your answer – to the questions:

  • How did Cadsuane determine laughter and crying were essential skills for the Dragon Reborn?
    Admittedly it's pretty clear from the narrative that Rand is heading down a dark path, and even hinted that he would have made the wrong decision in how to properly defeat the Dark One during the Last Battle without his epiphany. But how did Cadsuane know that? She seemed to have her goal set in stone before (or perhaps shortly after) meeting Rand for the first time.
  • Did Cadsuane ever reflect on the unsuitability of her tactics to achieve that goal?
    Rand doesn't seem to trust her right from the start and her strong-arm tactics often have the opposite effect, making Rand harder and more unfeeling. Cadsuane never seems to change track with Rand and it finally takes a different force majuere
  • Did Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson comment on why Cadsuane's personality was ill suited for bringing Rand back from the brink?
    Obviously this incongruence achieved a lot of dramatic tension, and the Rand + Tam meeting made for a great story, but I was expecting Tam to play a direct part in Rand's metamorphosis; to achieve Cadsuane's goals. Maybe it's an anachronism to expect a consoling, caring personality to take the lead in treating someone's trauma. Maybe I just prefer it when the "Good Guys" get along.
  • My guess is that she wanted Rand to be more human again so he could be bullied into doing the right (what Cadsuane wanted) things.
    – NomadMaker
    Jun 15, 2021 at 23:00
  • I will say that Cadsuane mentions once or twice how dumb the Aes Sedai strength-based hierarchy is, and she frequently chews out her fellow Sisters for acting on it. In the very scene you're talking about, she kicks a Sister out of the room for being patronizing to Min. Also, after Tam calls her a bully, Min calls her out on her approach being bad.
    – samuei
    Jun 16, 2021 at 13:13
  • I remembered there was more to that scene, but it always felt... really late to the punch. Like Cadsuane should have realized she wasn't having the desired effect on Rand 3 books earlier.
    – Dacio
    Jun 16, 2021 at 18:21
  • 1
    Not sure this is really a Cadsuane specific problem, all of the women who make plans are very stubborn to admitting they were wrong when that plan fails
    – Revenant
    Jun 17, 2021 at 3:12
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    @Dacio To be fair, by the time Cadsuane appears in the series, any given sequence of three books should have been a single book.
    – chepner
    Jun 19, 2021 at 18:03

1 Answer 1

  • How did Cadsuane determine laughter and crying were essential skills for the Dragon Reborn?

It's from the Karaethon Cycle, which Cadsuane is naturally well-aware of:

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield.
He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow.
Pray that the heart of stone remembers tears, and the soul of fire, love.

  • Did Cadsuane ever reflect on the unsuitability of her tactics to achieve that goal?

I don't think she meant to control him directly, but rather act behind the scenes. A tactic that might not always work well. I don't recall her reflecting over it.

  • Did Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson comment on why Cadsuane's personality was ill suited for bringing Rand back from the brink?

You can find various stray comments, mostly by Sanderson, if you search for Cadsuane here. There's some Twitter fragment regarding the scene with Tam you mention, where Sanderson comments:

Poor Cads was at her wits end in some of those scenes. She was pretty sure she'd doomed the world.

  • 1
    Oh, man, it was Prophesied?! That just raises more questions about why she couldn't just talk to him. Just a simple "Hey, remember you have to keep caring about people or you and the world and maybe the whole pattern is doomed." This is exactly why I like Moiraine so much better, because she realizes 1) she has to stop manipulating, 2) start communicating, and 3) won't always get what she wants. I'll read those questions and probably come back and accept your A. Thanks!
    – Dacio
    Jun 21, 2021 at 22:11
  • The Prophesies are not always that straightforward and some of them mean something very different to what the philosophisers believe. There is also a strong belief among all those around Rand working to ensure he completes all the parts of the prophecy that it has to happen naturally. He can't be forced into a certain act because the forcing might undo that very aspect. Also, Rand is Ta'veren, his impact on those around him is massive. Just being in the same room as him can make people behave in a way that is against character. He stays in one villiage and every single man and women wed.
    – Richard C
    Oct 20, 2022 at 8:28
  • @RichardC There are numerous situations in the books where Rand does something only because he read the Prophecy and then does just that. The fall of the Stone of Tear, leaving Callandor in the Stone of Tear, "The unstained tower, broken, bends knee to the forgotten sign", "He shall bind the nine moons to serve him" etc etc. It doesn't always happen the way he thought it would though.
    – Amarth
    Oct 26, 2022 at 18:02

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