(Super-spoilers ahead, kind of.)


As the breaking of the world begins, civilization - and the Aes Sedai especially - have a very good grip on what's going on. They might not be aware of the identities of all darkfriends, but they know many/most of the Forsaken and the dreadlords, certainly the the ones who declared for the Dark One or were banished for dark-friendly activity; they probably know about Ishar Morrad Chuain's breeding of the Shadowspawn (and certainly know about the experimentation and breeding program generally, since it involves tens of millions of people); and of course they know all of their own strengths - weaves of the power, talents, power-assisted technology, catalogue of angreal, terangreal and sa-angreal; metaphysics of the bore (as far as they've studied it anyway); etc. etc.

Somehow, they lose all of this information. Now, one could "blame it on the darkfriends" for expunging some records from the Aes Sedai records (at the Hall of Servants, and later, the White Tower library). But even assuming they were able to do that much damage, over time, to the records at White Tower - that still doesn't explain much. Everyone who's ever kept records in an organization or has managed in a library knows that management of copies and replication vis-a-vis other libraries is important. And of course, they had printing presses at the time of the breaking, and schools and universities, and there were other libraries around the continent and the world.

Now, if the Aes Sedai, and the human communities surviving the breaking, had bothered to keep records and make copies of them (rather than a sensitive single-record-set, when they know they're riddled by enemy agents) - would they not have had a pretty easy time keeping the Shadow at bay? Or doing even better than that?

I was motivated to ask this by the scene in the TV series, S01E08, where Althor and Damodred are being a bunch of happy-go-lucky idiots who have no idea about anything, and would well deserve just being killed off on the spot by somebody far weaker than Tedronai. I realize the show's story is not the same as the books, but still.

  • 1
    I would have dismissed this question, since so much time has passed, but we do have a number of relatively well-preserved texts (sometimes even physically!) from that long ago or nearly so, typically those that were viewed as important; presumably, texts about the nature of the Shadow would fall into that category.
    – Adamant
    Dec 26, 2021 at 17:19
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    "Hey, remember that archive we set up in that major city? Bob Sedai just turned it [the major city, not just the archive] to glass." It was the Breaking of the World, not the Gradual Reorganization of the World.
    – chepner
    Dec 28, 2021 at 13:13
  • 2
    It was a century of insane male Aes Sedai continuing the destruction; that doesn't mean it took 100 years to break everything. The 100 companions were the 100 most powerful male channelers. It's not hard to imagine that they were able to reduce civilization to nothing pretty quickly, and that the next 100 years saw the remaining channelers destroying the rubble, over and over, until they had mostly died out.
    – chepner
    Dec 28, 2021 at 18:45
  • 1
    @chepner: Except they didn't reduce civilization to nothing pretty quickly. Evidence (albeit, granted, limited) of this is the angreal salvage project (including stasis boxes), the construction of the Eye of the World, the stedding refugee project, and the construction of the ways. Also, in the WoT wiki, it says (without references) that printing-presses remained operational during the initial time of chaos. Surely among the things getting printed would be records of what's going on now and copies of key archives.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 28, 2021 at 20:07
  • 2
    Wheel of Time, premieres this fall, on Amazon Prime. Sponsored by Backblaze. Jan 15 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


Don't the Light's problems in the current age of WoT just boil down to poor record-keeping?

Yes. Their loss of knowledge was caused by several different things:

  • The Breaking of the World was an apocalypse. As soon as Lews Therin's Hundred Companions had sealed the Dark One, the taint on saidin appeared. A large portion of the Hundred Companions went instantly mad as this happened1). They literally started to destroy the world, even reshaping the geography. Eventually over time, all male Aes Sedai would go mad.
  • Since more than half of all Aes Sedai were effectively lost because of this, a lot of knowledge was already lost there. And the most powerful feats of the Age of Legends included using both saidar and saidin together. Many female Aes Sedai would also die trying to fight or cure the male ones.
  • The female Aes Sedai did try to preserve a lot of knowledge and artefacts the best they could during these chaotic times. The collections of items that ended up in Rhuidean is such an attempt and how it got there is addressed explicitly in the books. The chapters where Rand sees into the ter'angreal in Rhuidean is what offers the reader the most knowledge over how the Breaking and everything that followed went. I won't quote anything here as it contains lots of spoilers.
  • Time. Many thousands of years have passed.

they know many/most of the Forsaken and the dreadlords, certainly the the ones who declared for the Dark One or were banished for dark-friendly activity; they probably know about Ishar Morrad Chuain's breeding of the Shadowspawn

The names of all Forsaken and the breeding of shadowspawn was not lost knowledge. They were too well-known. Even commoners living in the third age know their names and use them as monsters from fairy tales etc.

Somehow, they lose all of this information. Now, one could "blame it on the darkfriends" for expunging some records from the White Tower library.

The White Tower didn't exist during the Age of Legends but was built by surviving female Aes Sedai (or rather by ogier in their employ).

1) Source: https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/Breaking_of_the_World

They succeeded, but in the last moment the Dark One managed to taint saidin and sixty-eight companions along with Lews Therin went instantly mad.

  • The breaking of the world is more of an excuse than a reason: 1. There was a century of de-stabilization before it after the bore was made, and 10 years of war which threatened civilization right before it. Plenty of motivation and time to prepare. 2. The vast majority of male Aes Sedai did not go mad immediately; and they undertook multiple collective endeavors (The Eye of the World and the Ways are examples we know of). 3. Many of the male Aes Sedai took refuge in steddings. While they would eventually leave - they had plenty of time there to put many collective affairs in order.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 6 at 10:21
  • Also, see edit regarding the White Tower. In the books there seems to be talk of how information which had been kept there gradually got expunged, and that was my "straw man" argument here.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 6 at 10:23
  • "Names of the forsaken ... hey were too well-known" <- I meant operational intelligence for the Aes Sedai. Real names, personal background, appearance, talents, strengths with different aspects of the One Power, military experience during the war etc.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 6 at 10:24
  • @einpoklum I added a source also claiming that two thirds went instantly mad. I don't remember where exactly this was stated in the books unfortunately.
    – Amarth
    Jan 6 at 12:17
  • @einpoklum Regarding strengths and weaknesses of the Forsaken, this seems to be mostly well-preserved. Aes Sedai like Moiraine and Verin know which ones were military commanders, which ones were the strongest with the one Power and aspects of it. Graendal being the most skilled in compulsion, Lanfear the most skilled in dreamwalking and so on. They knew that Aginor was a sage and the one who created shadownspawn. They knew that Demandred and Sammael held grudges against Lews Therin and that Lanfear had a romance with him etc etc.
    – Amarth
    Jan 6 at 12:22

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