Because It's Time to Burn It All Down
This article contains full spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time book series.
The Wheel of Time has a way of being there for you when you need it. A place to escape, find solace, or meet a character who reminds you of yourself—flawed, but capable of great things. A place to wrap yourself in the vast mythology of our world, see connections you never realized were there, and feel tiny in comparison to it. A place to lose yourself in the exploration of endlessly unfathomable metaphysics, form theories, and discuss them with other fans you grow to know and love.
Today, I am calling on the Wheel of Time to be a source of hope and inspiration amid the dumpster fire that is happening in the US government right now (if you are not aware of what's going on, just google SCOTUS).
To be honest, I don't have much faith that anything will save our country and our world in this increasingly devastating and terrifying time for the financially disadvantaged, the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and all people at risk of becoming pregnant. It may seem like a long shot to rely on a book series to bring strength and hope at a time like this, but I need to start somewhere.
So, I'm summoning all the badass boss bitch women in the Wheel of Time to metaphorically bail us out of this mess. I need to take a break from the news and think about ten women with powerful moments of competence and strength. I need to remember these moments when I feel the most helpless, and the most pissed off.
I need to write an article that is only about women because it's unacceptable that a handful of powerful men get to decide anything at all about my and my spear-sisters' healthcare. (While this article will focus on women, it is important to acknowledge that all people with uteruses are suffering right now).
If you are a person with a uterus, you will understand what a profoundly painful place this article is coming from, though my intent is to find hope somehow. Hope that women can be both strong and soft. Hope that we don’t have to be any way other than the way we already are, that we can live our lives without other people deciding what we can do with our bodies. Hope that all of our spear-siblings out there will join us in protest. To fight like the badass boss bitches listed here. And if we can't find hope, if we can't persevere, we'll burn it all down together.
10. Aviendha Going Back Through the Glass Columns (TOM, Ch. 48)
“She had come seeking knowledge. She would not leave without it.
It takes a badass boss bitch to put themselves through hell for the greater good. Aviendha could have walked away after going through the glass columns once to become a Wise One. She could have walked away after that first harrowing vision of the Aiel future when she stepped back in.
But she had a mission to understand the ter’angreal, and to bring that knowledge back to her people. This required deep bravery because using the columns in a new way was not only dangerous (see: Accepted test ter'angreal research), it was devastating.
To prevail, she needed to accept the old customs were no longer relevant and face the possibility of a desolate future. But she prevailed like the queen she is and ensured the Aiel had a future and a role in the Dragon’s Peace.
9. Nynaeve Punching the Black Ajah in the Face (TDR, Ch. 55)
“It feels wonderful. Something changed about her when you hit her, Nynaeve.”
There’s something really satisfying about seeing a powerful channeler resort to hand to hand combat (see: Moiraine’s fight scene in New Spring). Nynaeve is one of the most powerful, but as a former Wisdom, she knows the value of threatening to thump people or box their ears. In The Great Hunt, she even threatens to break Egwene’s neck (metaphorically speaking).
But to attain boss bitch status, it isn’t enough to be haphazardly aggressive; you must choose the right moment to enact violence. It wasn’t really clear how a bound and shielded Amico Nagoyin, stuck halfway in tel’aran’rhiod, was still shielding Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne from the One Power, and we may never know if violence was the only way to release the shields. But when Nynaeve punches Amico in the face, it was absolutely the right moment.
8. Aludra Protecting the Dragons (AMOL, Prologue)
“You think I would leave them?”
Aludra is a boss bitch pretty much all the time. Independent, intelligent, meticulous, ingenious, the Illuminator blazes with poise and competence every time she appears in the series. And it's not just that she makes things explode. She is a master at her craft. She truly cares for her equipment and will not let it fall into the wrong hands.
As Caemlyn falls, Aludra protects her dragons with townspeople and then protects the townspeople with a barricade. Talmanes thinks the secured dragons are a beautiful sight, but I think the most beautiful sight is Aludra, in all her glory, standing on top of the barricade and holding a torch.
7. Min Supporting Rand
“Better ten days of love, than years of regretting.”
Everyone loves knife-throwing Min, but it's her love for Rand that is her ultimate superpower. To be the only one who sees him as a person instead of a tool, hero, monster, or savior. To treat him with tenderness when no one else will, especially himself. To love him when it's almost certain she will lose him. This requires bravery, and the tolerance of a tremendous amount of pain.
While stabbing people may look cooler, it’s not violence that defines a boss bitch—it’s making choices. Min chooses tenderness, understanding, and knowledge as her weapons to protect Rand (and thus the world) against the Dark. This is a crucial task, and it’s why her boss bitch status does not change just because she stops throwing knives and starts sitting on Rand’s lap.
6. Moiraine Tackling Lanfear (FOH, Ch. 52)
“Face to face, they toppled through the doorframe ter’angreal. White light swallowed everything.”
What could be worse than body-slamming the most powerful Forsaken while she is angrily channeling, launching both of you through a magical redstone doorframe that explodes in a fire? Actively knowing that all of the above is about to happen to you, and doing it anyway.
Instead of trying to avoid her fate, Moiraine, in true Moraine-form, trusts the Pattern above all else. Moiraine is a boss because of her commitment to her cause—to save the world from the Dark by guiding and protecting Rand. Sacrificing herself for that cause is just part of the job.
5. Faile Killing Masema (TGS, Prologue)
“It is a dark thing we did this day, but necessary. Let no one speak of it to my husband.”
Sometimes the best way to support your partner is to stab someone for them. Just as Min buries herself deep in the books to help Rand, Faile buries her knife deep into Masema to help Perrin. And while she has helped him in countless other ways thanks to her political training (confronting the quartermaster in TOM Ch. 16 is chef's kiss), killing The Prophet frees Perrin from the longest plotline ever and allows him to do other cool stuff in the last three books.
4. Nynaeve Collaring Moghedien (FOH, Ch. 54)
"I am so . . . so bloody tired of being afraid."
Is there anything more powerful than overcoming the negative voice inside your head? It's certainly a relatable battle, and a big part of the reason Nynaeve is so beloved—not for her strength, but for her vulnerability to her own self-criticism.
Afraid, feeling completely useless and shielded from the One Power, Nynaeve overcomes the voice in her head by using it to portray herself on the outside exactly how she feels on the inside—scared and begging not to be hurt, fooling Moghedien into allowing Nynaeve the proximity she needs to form a functional a'dam in tel'aran'rhiod.
And although she may not have planned it at the time, Nynaeve's actions in this moment allowed her and Elayne to keep Moghedien around to teach them weaves from the Age of Legends. Boss points all around for self-actualization, ingenuity, bravery, and lasting impact.
3. Egwene Rallying Support in the Tower (KOD, Ch. 24)
“The two sisters were far more important than the novices or the honey, but they all indicated the same thing. She was winning her war.”
When captured and forced to become a Novice under Elaida's rule in the White Tower, Egwene owns her boss bitch status from day one. She refuses to accept she is anything but the Amyrlin Seat, enduring forkroot dosings, beatings, and humiliation in the process. Her refusal to bend, along with her strategic conversations during private lessons with Sisters, slowly increase her influence in the Tower until she is able to seize power and make it whole again.
Egwene's actions in the Tower highlight how her way of handling adversity matures over time after leaving Emond's Field. Beating her sul'dam Renna with a pitcher (TGH, Ch 46) was a power move (and well-deserved), but Egwene was not a boss bitch in that moment. She was overcome by rage and not acting in accordance with her values. In the Tower, when we see her laughing while being beaten and quietly subverting Elaida’s authority, it's clear how much her Aiel training and experience have changed her.
2. Verin’s Sacrifice (TGS, Ch. 39)
“I swear not to betray the Great Lord, to keep my secrets until the hour of my death."
It barely needs explaining why Verin deserves all the admiration for her boss bitch actions in the Wheel of Time. When faced with the choice between death and a life of servitude to the Dark, she could have taken the easy way out, but instead, she "saw it as an opportunity" for the Brown Ajah to undermine the Black from within. You could think of it as the most badass research project to ever be undertaken.
Committing horrible acts, lying to her Sisters, ending her life in order to share her book of secrets with Egwene, evading all detection of her subterfuge until her dying breath, all in service of the Light and in direct support of its victory—can we please nominate Verin to be a Hero of the Horn?
1. Birgitte and Aviendha Help Elayne Blow Up the Seanchan (POD, Ch. 6) “Gritting her teeth, she fought. One thread at a time.”
This moment takes the number one spot not only because is it one of the most badass action scenes in the books, but also because it involves women supporting other women.
As Elayne attempts to unravel her gateway to prevent the Seanchan from learning the weave, Birgitte and Aviendha refuse to leave her side. Fighting off an army with fireballs and arrows to protect your friend, all while under the threat of a giant explosion? Definitely boss bitch behavior.
It gets even cooler when Birgitte puts Elayne and Aviendha backwards on their horses so they can continue to channel at the Seanchan as they ride away from the blast zone. And when the gateway finally does explode, the three continue to support one another (literally) as they haul each other's wounded bodies up a hill to safety.
So, our number one moment has women endangering their lives to protect the world from an oppressive force, women protecting one another from harm, and women rescuing one another when they're hurting. I can't think of anything the world needs more right now than exactly that.