SPOILING The Heron-Marked Sword


Script and references below:

Weapons of the Wheel

Heron-marked Sword SPOILER EDITION


SPOILER WARNING. If you’re new to the Wheel of Time series, do not watch this video! This is the first of two spoiler-heavy follow-up videos to my previous spoiler-free heron-marked sword video. If you have read the entire series, this video is for you, but please go and watch the spoiler-free video first! After you watch this video, check out my second spoiler-heavy video all about blademasters in the series and my top 10 ranked blademasters list.


Seriously, this video even mentions details related to the final scene of the books and you don’t want to be spoiled! You have been warned! GET OUT!


Okay, are they gone? Here we go:


The first time we see a heron-marked sword in the books is on Winternight in the Eye of the World. Tam brings it out from a chest that was under his bed, and Rand is surprised to see it.


Rand asks Tam about where he got the sword and how much it cost. Tam says,


“I got it a long time ago," Tam said, "a long way from here. And I paid entirely too much; two coppers is too much for one of these. Your mother didn't approve, but she was always wiser than I. I was young then, and it seemed worth the price at the time. She always wanted me to get rid of it, and more than once I've thought she was right, that I should just give it away."1

Rand assumes that Tam actually purchased the sword from a merchant, but Tam was not referring to a monetary cost when he said he paid too much.


Later we find out over 40 years before Winternight, Tam al’Thor ran away from his farm life in Emond’s Field and at the age of 17 he became a member of the Illianer army. After a few years of dedicated service, and involvement in several wars, Tam eventually became a blademaster and even rose to become the Second Captain of the Companions. It is said he likely would have become First Captain if he had been born in Illian.2


In The Gathering Storm, Rand asks Tam,


“Were you really a blademaster?” Tam nodded. “I suppose. I killed a man who was one, did it in front of witnesses, but I've never forgiven myself for it. Though it needed doing.”3

Robert Jordan said that the heron-marked sword was given to Tam by the King of Illian at the time. According to Theoryland, “The general fan explanation is that Tam refused to take his sword, but was essentially forced to take it by the King of Illian.”4,5,6


We don’t know who Tam killed to become a blademaster, but it likely would have been revealed if Robert Jordan had lived to complete the prequel or outrigger novels he had planned.


From Winternight, Rand takes Tam’s strange sword and uses it throughout the first and second books. Many times Rand is kept safe because the heron mark on the hilt is visible, even at a distance, and people are wary of him.7 At one point Rand meets with Queen Morgase, and Gareth Bryne says that Rand is too young to be a blademaster, but the sword “belongs with him.”


"Surely," Morgase said, her voice level, "he is too young to have earned a heron-mark blade. He cannot be any older than Gawyn."
“It belongs with him," Gareth Bryne said.
The Queen looked at him in surprise. "How can that be?"
“I do not know, Morgase," Bryne said slowly. "He is too young, yet still it belongs with him, and he with it. Look at his eyes. Look how he stands, how the sword fits him, and he it. He is too young, but the sword is his.”8

In the Great Hunt, Rand confronts Ba’alzamon in a dream in a Portal Stone mirror world, and Ba’alzamon causes Rand’s sword to heat up in his hand, which brands a heron from the hilt into Rand’s right palm.9


In the same book, in a chapter entitled “Blademaster,” Rand faces a true Seanchan blademaster, High Lord Turak, and kills him.10 Some fans argue that this was not because of Rand’s skill as a true blademaster, but because the Pattern required it and his ta’veren nature allowed him to win. According to Rand, because he defeated Turak without proper witnesses, he is not technically a blademaster.


Later Rand has a conversation about this with Nynaeve in the Gathering Storm:


Nynaeve raised an eyebrow. "So you do have a right to carry a heron-mark blade." Rand shook his head. "There were no witnesses. Mat and Hurin were fighting elsewhere. They saw me right after the fight, but did not witness the killing blow." "What do witnesses matter?" she scoffed. "You defeated a blademaster, so you are one. Whether or not it was seen by others is immaterial." He looked at her. "Why carry the heron mark if not to be seen by others, Nynaeve?"11

At the end of the The Great Hunt, when Rand stabs Ba’alzamon in the sky above Falme, the heron-mark on the hilt heats up and brands a second heron into Rand’s left palm, thus fulfilling the prophecy that he would be marked twice by herons. Tam’s sword is destroyed during that confrontation.12 (Prophecy on screen).13


A quick thought about the Amazon Prime teaser sword.14 This is likely supposed to be Tam’s sword, though it could be Lan’s sword, and they’re just adding the heron mark to simplify it for viewers. There is a leaked image from on-set that shows this sword hanging nearby while Rand practices with a bow in what is likely the set for Fal Dara in Sheinar. I won’t reveal that image here, but you can go to WotSeries.com15 to see it.


The three biggest concerns that I’ve seen brought up about this sword are 1. The heron is not etched into the blade, 2. Why is it a katana style? and 3. If this is Rand’s sword, there is no heron mark on the hilt, so how will Rand’s hands be branded?


First, I think the heron on the blade was likely done this way to simplify things for the props department. It may not be etched into the blade, but it is still technically “heron marked.” This is not a deal breaker to me.


Second, to me the katana style sword is also not a dealbreaker, as the general concept of a curved sword is really all that Robert Jordan described. I’ve seen people mention the heron-marked sword that was available for purchase that was supposedly approved by Robert Jordan himself. I have a 3D model of that sword in this video. The biggest difference between this and the katana style is the inclusion of slightly larger “quillons” on the guard and a different hilt. The books do refer to small braided quillons,16 but I still think these decisions to design it in this way are wise for the props department, and they fall in line with Rafe’s recent Q & A he did on Twitter where he mentioned that they want to make this series feel fresh and not copied from other fantasy series of the past.17 To me, this more Asian influenced sword style is a perfect way to differentiate the Wheel of Time from series like Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings. I also believe we will see other variations of heron-marked swords in the show.


Third, regarding the lack of herons on the hilt, in my opinion there are a few possibilities here that also aren’t dealbreakers. One, we don’t know for sure that there is no heron on the hilt. It could be on the other side, or it could be dark and hard to see in this rendering, or it could be under the wrappings. A quick Google search revealed many katana style swords which contain symbols that are often covered by wrappings around the hilt. So, it could still be there. Two, perhaps they chose to not have Rand branded by herons in the show. It might feel repetitive or unoriginal to have him branded by herons and then branded again by Dragons later. It may simplify things for viewers if they use this trope only once. Third, it’s possible they might choose to have Rand branded in a different way. Anyway, whatever the reason, I think it looks awesome and I can’t wait to see this sword used in the show. Remember, this is another turning of the Wheel. This is Rafe’s vision, not Robert Jordan’s.


Okay, moving on. So Tam’s heron-marked sword is destroyed after the battle of Falme in the Great Hunt.12


Throughout the remaining books, Rand often summons a sword of fire, made purely from weaves of the One Power. His fire sword has a small heron mark on the blade.18


According to the Wheel of Time wiki, there are about 20 blademasters mentioned in the books, including characters from the Age of Legends and the Third Age. There are also a small handful of characters who had heron-marked blades but may not have been blademasters.19


One such character was King Laman Damodred, who ruled in Cairhien before Rand’s birth. His heron-marked blade was Power-wrought, but the hilt was made of ivory, the pommel was gold, and it was encrusted with gemstones. The weapon was not useful in real battle because of the gaudy hilt and scabbard. After Laman’s death in the Aiel War, the Aiel kept his sword as a trophy.20 The sword passed through several owners over many years until Aviendha acquired it and offered it to Rand as a gift in the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven.21 Aviendha hoped that this gift would free her of toh she incurred because Rand had innocently gifted her a bracelet. Rand keeps the blade and has it refitted to a proper hilt.22 He gives the gemstones, ivory hilt, and impractical scabbard back to Aviendha, much to her displeasure.23


Rand does not use Laman’s sword often, as he finds the One Power to be a better weapon for most things; However, he does keep Laman’s sword right up until the end of the series, and he even has it with him in the epilogue of the final book.24 I told you there would be spoilers.


Asha’man, the male counterparts to the Aes Sedai, use the symbol of the curved heron-mark sword as a small silver pin on their collar. The mid-level rank, called Dedicated, wear the silver sword pin on their left side. Full Asha’man wear the silver sword and a gold and red Dragon pin on the right side of their collars.25


One other sword of note is given to Rand by scholars in The Gathering Storm. The sword was found under a submerged ancient statue. To Rand’s surprise, he recognized the sword, not from Lews Therin’s memories, but from his own memories.26 This was the sword called Justice, wielded by Artur Paendrag Tanreall more than 1000 years ago. Rand saw Artur Hawkwing using this sword when he was summoned by the Horn of Valere during the Battle of Falme against the Seanchan.27


Rand admits that he doesn’t know if it was Power-forged. However, Justice was likely Power-forged since it managed to last for over 1000 years without going dull or rusting.28


Interestingly, the sword did NOT have any heron marks, but it was slightly curved and there was a Dragon figure on the scabbard.29


Some fans have speculated that the sword may have originally belonged to Lews Therin Telamon, and that Artur Hawkwing gained possession of it 2,000 years later.


In a fitting conclusion to Rand’s heron-marked history with his father, Rand gives Justice to Tam al’Thor as a farewell gift before the Last Battle.30


Fun fact: during the Last Battle, when the dead Heroes of the Horn are summoned to fight, there were two copies of Justice fighting in the battle. One from Tam al’Thor, and the other from the ghost of Artur Hawkwing.31


(that’s pretty neat)


Remember to watch my other spoiler-heavy video all about the blademasters of the Wheel of Time and my top 10 blademasters list!


Special thanks to Petr Nikolenko and Kevin Fontana for helping me with some of the 3D modeling for this video. You can follow them on Twitter (links in the description).32 Petr does some incredible blacksmithing work, and has created some awesome Wheel of Time inspired armor.


Please consider liking, subscribing, and supporting me on patreon for more content like this! Comment below with which Wheel of Time weapon you would like to see next.


Thank you to the artists who gave me permission to use their work in this video. And a big THANK YOU to my wonderful patrons who help make these videos possible!


May peace favor your sword!

REFERENCES:


  1. The Eye of the World. Chapter 5, Winternight

  2. The Wheel of Time Companion. Tam al’Thor. (p. 720)

  3. The Gathering Storm. Chapter 47, The One He Lost

  4. LOC Signing Report - Erica Sadun (https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=25)

  5. ROBERT JORDAN

  6. Tam's sword: Given to him by the King of Illian.

  7. Waygate Foundation Q&A (https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=980)

  8. QUESTION

  9. How did Tam come to have a heron-mark sword?

  10. MARIA SIMONS

  11. It was given to him by the King of Illian during Tam痴 service with the Illianer Companions. We do not know what he did to become a blademaster.

  12. FOOTNOTE

  13. What Maria says here is what RJ said (reported by Erica Sadun in 1994). In The Gathering Storm Chapter 47, Tam tells Rand that he became a blademaster by killing a blademaster in front of witnesses. The general fan explanation is that Tam refused to take his sword, but was essentially forced to take it by the King of Illian.

  14. Same as #5 above (second half)

  15. Multiple occurrences throughout the Eye of the World

  16. Whitecloaks

  17. Four Kings

  18. Rand even covers up his hilt while in Caemlyn because it keeps getting noticed

  19. The Eye of the World. Chapter 40, The Web Tightens

  20. The Great Hunt. Chapter 15, Kinslayer

  21. The Great Hunt. Chapter 45, Blademaster

  22. The Gathering Storm. Chapter 35, A Halo of Blackness

  23. The Great Hunt. Chapters 47-49, The Grave is No Bar To My Call, First Claim, and What Was Meant to Be

  24. The Great Hunt. Chapter 26, Discord

  25. https://twitter.com/WOTonPrime/status/1334195629438894081?s=20

  26. https://www.wotseries.com/2020/10/24/local-photographer-captures-filming-in-progress/

  27. The Eye of the World. Chapter 5, Winternight

  28. “Short quillons, worked to look like braid, flanked the hilt.”

  29. https://twitter.com/rafejudkins/status/1334204125089837056?s=20

  30. This happens multiple times:

  31. The Eye of the World ending

  32. Multiple times from The Dragon Reborn until the end of the series

  33. https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/Blademaster

  34. Multiple sources:

  35. The Shadow Rising. Chapter 34, He Who Comes With the Dawn

  36. The Fires of Heaven. Chapter 19, Matters of Toh

  37. The Fires of Heaven. Chapter 20, Jangai Pass

  38. Lord of Chaos. Glossary, Aiel War.

  39. The Fires of Heaven. Chapter 21, The Gift of a Blade

  40. The Fires of Heaven. Chapter 23, The Fifth, I Give You

  41. The Fires of Heaven. Chapter 21, The Gift of a Blade

  42. A Memory of Light. Epilogue: To See the Answer

  43. The Wheel of Time Companion. Asha’man. (p. 80)

  44. The Gathering Storm. Chapter 37, A Force of Light

  45. AMOL Signing Report - Wetlander (https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=940)

  46. WETLANDER

  47. Will you confirm now that Rand's sword (received in The Gathering Storm, given to Tam in A Memory of Light) is Hawkwing's sword Justice?

  48. BRANDON SANDERSON

  49. "Yes, I can now confirm that. It's also my sword." (But in-world, it's Justice.)

  50. A Memory of Light. Chapter 15, Your neck in a Cord

  51. The Gathering Storm. Chapter 37, A Force of Light

  52. A Memory of Light. Chapter 15, Your neck in a Cord

  53. https://wot.fandom.com/wiki/Justice

  54. https://twitter.com/NikolenkoPetr https://twitter.com/Kfon101

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