The Wheel of Time season two put to rest the notion that Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, fought the Dark One at the Eye of the World. Under the surface, Rand and Moiraine seemed to suspect it couldn’t have been that easy. Indeed, it was not. Moiraine used the poem she obtained from Bayle Domon to determine that the broken cuendillar was part of the seal imprisoning Ishamael. Ishamael is a Forsaken—the most powerful one—and the Dark One’s lieutenant. This isn’t the first time the TV series has mentioned the Forsaken, but who are the Forsaken and why are they bad news? Here’s context with minimal spoilers from the books.
What Are the Forsaken in The Wheel of Time?
The Forsaken were channelers— most of them Aes Sedai—once. They sold their souls to the Dark One for eternal life, swearing allegiance to him. Also known as the Chosen, this group of 13 channelers served the Shadow in the War of the Shadow. That war was the beginning of the Age of Legends’ downhill slide into its end. Though many Forsaken led the Shadow’s armies, these 13 carry the title because they were the ones imprisoned with the Dark One. The last Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, was responsible for trapping them. The Forsaken’s deeds during the war were so evil that they are remembered for them thousands of years later in the Third Age when The Wheel of Time takes place. Moiraine says the Forsaken are so dangerous, that if all of them escape their prisons, the side of Light has no hope of winning the Last Battle.
In The Wheel of Time, some don’t even think the Forsaken existed. They think of them only as bedtime stories meant to frighten children. Those who know the Forsaken are real believe they are safely sealed in their prisons, unable to inflict harm. Ishamael’s appearance in the world and the broken cuendillar prove those seals are no longer reliable barriers.
Who Are the Forsaken?
The 13 Forsaken are: Demandred, Ishamael, Lanfear, Mesaana, Semirhage, Balthamel, Aginor, Asmodean, Rahvin, Sammael, Be’lal, Graendal, and Moghedien.
As you can imagine, a group of ultra-powerful and ultra-ambitious evil-doers do a lot of jockeying for rank. They ultimately serve the Dark One and do whatever they can to accomplish the most in his name. Selfish and focused, they regularly betray and outmaneuver each other. They form precarious, untrustworthy alliances with each other and whoever they think will help them.
Which Forsaken Have We Met in The Wheel of Time TV Series?
We have met two Forsaken so far in The Wheel of Time TV series.
Rand believed him to be the Dark One, but now we know that is not true. Ishamael mentioned it at the beginning of the first episode when he told the little girl who he was. And now we know Ishamael is working with the Seanchan, one of whom was at his earlier Darkfriend meet-up, which cannot lead to good things. As we mentioned, Ishamael is the most powerful of the Forsaken. He broke Moiraine’s connection with the One Power with a flick of his wrist.
Surprise, Selene is actually Lanfear. The broken cuendillar Master Domon brought Moiraine was from outside Cairhien, where Selene has been running an inn and hooking up with Rand. Ishamael uttered a dark poem and broke the seal on Lanfear’s prison. In the Old Tongue, her name means “daughter of the night,” another name Lanfear goes by. She is stronger than almost all other female channelers, though not as powerful as Ishamael. Moiraine calls Lanfear the most dangerous of the Forsaken. She’s known for her casual cruelty and her mastery of the World of Dreams, or Tel’Aran’Rhiod. That connects to her Daughter of the Night nickname. We see her walk in Ishamael’s and Rand’s dreams.
Lanfear swore herself to the Dark One as part of an attempt to win back Lews Therin, the previous Dragon. She loved him and he her, until Lews Therin met his wife, leaving Lanfear heartbroken and desperate.
Can You Kill a Forsaken?
As we learned in The Wheel of Time‘s fourth episode, killing a Forsaken by traditional means does not necessarily stop them. Lanfear is far from gone. She healed her sliced neck within minutes, or the Dark One resurrected her. It seems the TV series may be handling Forsaken deaths differently than the books, but in those stories, one can kill a Forsaken. It is not easy and usually requires a dangerous weave of the One Power, but it can be done.
We may not see all 13 Forsaken from the books. The Wheel of Time TV series is an adaptation of many thousands of pages, first of all. Also, some of the Forsaken are more interesting (more terrible?) than others. Plus, we saw in season one that the Warder Stepin had statues of the Forsaken. The idea is you make offerings to them to ward off the Forsaken. Stepin had eight statues displayed, which may mean that’s all the Forsaken we’ll see in the TV series. Additionally, Ishamael had only six other seals in his space when Lanfear visited him in the World of Dreams.
And speaking of, Lanfear mentioned some of other Forsaken while talking to Ishamael, so they seem like safe bets. She named Moghedien, Graendal, and “the boys.” The latter probably refers to Asmodean, Be’lal, Rahvin, and Sammael. That would complete the set of eight.
Originally published on September 1, 2023.