Cherished Items from the Wheel of Time Series and Why They Make You Cry
This article contains full spoilers for The Wheel of Time book series.
Moving has a way of stirring shit up. When you start packing, you become aware of all the things you own, and as you place them one-by-one into boxes, you think, "I do not need all these things...or do I?" Part of you recognizes it as an opportunity to clean house, get rid of that which does not serve you, reassess your priorities. And yet you still end up using twice as many boxes as you thought you'd need.
I am currently moving into a smaller space than where I live now, and I need to pare down. This requires a certain amount of ruthlessness that I was able to muster for about 1/4 of the dust cloud that was my bookshelf but was nowhere to be found when I looked at my basically useless CD collection. I couldn't imagine never again being able to hold Little Earthquakes in my hands, or the Cranberries albums that, along with my Sony Walkman, got me through every family road trip, or any of the countless little 5x5 plastic squares I was given as gifts in my adolescence.
I can have every intention to start living my best minimalist life. I can fully admit that there are objects I have not used, touched or even looked at in over 10 years. And yet, when the time comes to throw something away, it suddenly becomes the most important artifact of my life that I will certainly need someday and would be devastated to find gone.
So as I packed boxes and started hugging random items, I wondered: when does an object become more than just a thing? How does it become a cherished token, a symbol, an inside joke, an irreplaceable item you can never throw away? From what I can tell so far, it's when the object connects you to the memory of another person. Sometimes, that person is your past self.
Because I am a sucker for catharsis of any kind, I love when sentimental objects are used in books and movies to mess with our emotions. These objects appear innocently enough only to be brought back later to punch you in the gut. They call back a memory, a theme, or a connection. They tell a whole story with one picture. Despite the problematic personnel involved, one of my favorite examples of this is the gift of a thistle from Braveheart.
In The Wheel of Time, our main characters tend to pack lightly. Often on the road or on the run, traveling with whatever they can carry, there isn't much room for sentimentality in their blanket rolls. So it's all the more powerful to encounter an object that links one WoT character to another, or to their own past.
And that's what makes the things on this week’s list so special. The 10 sentimental objects listed below become symbols, sometimes iconic ones, that generate an immediate and deep emotional impact through their presence alone.
10. Moiraine’s Kesiera (TEOTW, Ch. 53)
“It had no power in itself, the stone, but the first use she had ever learned of the One Power, as a girl, in the Royal Palace in Cairhien, was using the stone to listen to people when they thought they were too far off to be overheard.”
You never forget your first time, so what could be more sentimental than a reminder of it? Like the most beautiful set of training wheels, Moiraine’s signature blue-stoned head chain will always remind her of her first flows of saidar, back when everything was simple and she wasn’t tasked with saving the guy who is saving the world. It must have been so exciting for little Moiraine to discover this eavesdropping trick, and you know she used it to her benefit all the time. Her kesiera is a sentimental object that has assumed iconic status but never forgets where it came from.
9. Aviendha’s Ivory Bracelet (TSR, Ch. 50; COT, Ch. 20)
“He thought it would suit Aviendha; whoever made it had carefully shown thorns among the blossoms.”
It’s usually a good thing when someone is honored by a gift you give them, especially when the gift didn’t cost you anything but a 70-woman tea party. But in this case, it doesn’t seem Rand is too pleased with Aviendha’s bizarre reaction to his attempt to soothe her temper with some nice jewelry.
In one of the first of many culturally-driven misunderstandings, the Maidens read way too much into the gift, Aviendha facepalms, and Rand is left trying to figure out which would dishonor Aviendha more—giving her the bracelet or taking it back (for all you Wetlanders, it's the latter).
Later on, the bracelet becomes a symbol of respect between first-sisters, as Aviendha begins to wear it regularly only after meeting her toh to Elayne. And Aviendha certainly does wear it regularly, carrying the memory of Rand close to her while they are apart, even going so far as to make sure it stays on her wrist in tel’aran’rhoid.
8. Elayne’s Feather Flower (TSR, Ch. 8; WH, Ch. 10, 12)
"How could he understand that she would keep the feathers because he had wanted them to be a flower?"
Elayne gets a lot of shit for having the least believable, most utilitarian relationship with Rand out of the three women he loves. But you’d be lying if you said you never felt stupid puppy love at first sight during a meet-cute in your garden with your doofy brother by your side.
Sure, Rand and Elayne's relationship is politically sensible and gets awkward almost immediately, thanks to Elayne’s letters, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for romance, and you know Elayne loves a good rom-com. So it stands to reason that of course there would be a flower involved, and, like Murron's thistle in Braveheart, one that is kept and cherished by a partner for years.
Though, we can't really call it a flower, can we? It's actually quite adorable and a bit heartbreaking to watch Rand try and fail to use saidin to fashion some feathers into a flower for Elayne in the Stone of Tear (sure, he did it for the majhere the night before, but performance anxiety is a thing).
Books later, even the coldest heart can’t help but melt a little when we discover that Elayne has kept the stray feathers in her purse all this time—"her greatest treasure," carefully wrapped in a silk handkerchief.
When Randayne finally get to get together and make some babes, Rand gets to compensate for the feather debacle by bestowing Elayne with a real saidin-infused flower—a golden lily left on her pillow. As she weaves protective wards around it, Elayne intends to keep the lily dear to her heart, too, but I'm willing to bet she'll always treasure the feathers more.
7. Mat’s Hat (TSR, Ch. 36)
“Stout, good sir, and nearly new. You will need its like to survive the Three-Fold Land. Here a man can die…like so.”
Artist: Corey Lansdell (IG: @coreylansdell)
Best. Impulse buy. Ever.
When Mat scores his signature hat from Hadnan Kadere in the middle of the Aiel Waste, he’s really only thinking of keeping himself protected from the sun. Neither Mat nor us readers knew it would stay with him for the rest of the series, topping off his increasingly fancy and elaborate looks. And that poor hat goes through so much.
With the amount of times Mat clings to it—scooping it up after the Eelfinn take his eye, insisting that he continue wearing it with his new Seanchan wardrobe—you might think the hat had as much luck as his dice or as much protective power as the foxhead medallion.
And maybe it does. There is a certain magic to Mat's hat, an added layer of fourth-wall-breaking sentimentality for us fans: a similar black hat, wide-brimmed and flat-crowned, was frequently worn by Jordan himself.
6. Thom’s Harp (TEOTW, Ch. 26)
“He shrugged the bundled gleeman’s cloak off of his back and thrust it into Rand’s arms. ‘Take care of that.’”
It sucks that Thom disappears just after he finally opens up, sharing with Mat and Rand the story of Owyn—his true motivation for helping them out. But if he hadn’t been left behind in Whitebridge with Dan the Myrddraal, the harp Thom shoves into Rand’s hands wouldn’t be nearly as important. In fact, the harp is something fans passionately associate with Thom (see: reactions to Amazon giving Thom a guitar instead), and maybe his temporary separation from it heightens that feeling.
But the true sentimentality of the harp comes from the way Rand cares for it after Whitebridge. Can you honestly say you would carry a whole-ass harp with you to the Eye of the World and back, out of Shienar and into another dimension, where you are pursued by some three-eyed creatures and your desperate ex-girlfriend? For someone you think is probably dead? That is some deep level dedication.
As much as I’d like to think I’d do anything for Thom F***ing Merrilin, I probably would’ve dropped that harp, lost it, or at least severely damaged it if I went through everything Rand did. Yet the fumbly-fingered shepherd manages to treat the harp with the utmost TLC until it’s returned to its rightful owner without so much as a fingerprint on it. And the reunion is glorious.
5. The Dull Dagger (POD, Ch. 4; KOD, Ch. 15; AMOL, Ch. 20)
“Aviendha, that you should find this and identify it when you did, that Elayne should give it to me… The Pattern weaves us all where we need to be.”
Artist: Linda Taglieri, The 13th Depository
The dull dagger is meaningful to Aviendha in that it is the first ter’angreal she “reads,” leading Elayne to push her first-sister to explore and discover her Talent. Elayne later gifts Rand the dagger, which will hide him from the Dark during the Last Battle.
There’s something beautiful about this gift. Maybe it’s that Aviendha was so attracted to the dagger, she kept it in her belt pouch for months. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of an object of the Power with a weapon the Aiel would use regularly (sharpened, of course). Maybe it’s the fact that the ter'angreal was once shared between first-sisters and then gifted by one of them to the man they share.
And, though the dagger is given to Rand with the full knowledge that he could die in the Last Battle, it's moving to think of two first-sisters providing him with a little bit of protection along the way.
4. Rolan’s Turquoise Stone (TGS, Ch. 21)
“The Brotherless and one Maiden showed us kindness when they didn’t need to. They kept their honor when others had abandoned it. If there is a redemption to be found for them, and for us, this will be it.”
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Faile is already well on her way to becoming the sort of leader she was meant to be when she pulls Alliandre, Arrela, and Lacille into a secret ceremony to honor the lives of the Shaido men and women who protected them during their imprisonment in Malden.
A good leader knows that their people need closure and healing after having dealt with traumatic events. What better way than through ritual?
It's an awkward sort of funeral, knowing that the honored ones were killed by the mourners' own hands. Yet Faile recognizes that their Shaido helpers had to die, that it was a necessary sacrifice, given the situation they were faced with.
As she muses about these things while distributing personal items taken from each of the Shaido, Rolan's leather cord becomes more than a symbol of Faile's connection to him; it's also a reminder of what Faile learned in Malden about true leadership. Though it's hard to shed a tear for the Shaido, this scene brings us pretty close to it when Faile drops the cord into the fire and keeps the turquoise stone "not for regret, but for remembrance."
3. Lan’s Signet Ring (TGH, Ch. 8; KOD, Ch. 20)
"Show that, and you will have guestright, and help if you need it, from any lord in the Borderlands. Show it to a Warder, and he will give aid, or carry a message to me. Send it to me, or a message marked with it, and I will come to you, without delay and without fail. This I swear."
Source: Badali Jewelry
It isn’t too hard to see why Lanaeve is the most believable and shippable couple in The Wheel of Time. They’re both hard on the outside, soft on the inside. They both have something to prove. They’re both sexy AF.
Lan and Nynaeve take turns melting the chip on each other’s shoulder throughout the series, but one of their most romantic moments is when Lan presses the signet ring of Malkieri kings into her hand. It’s not just the ring and its promise that Lan will always come back to her; it’s that he knows the ring itself will protect her in his absence.
What starts off as a lover’s gift becomes so much more when Nynaeve ti al'Meara Mandragoran uses the ring to rally an army to accompany her husband to Tarwin’s Gap. And while the ring provides proof of her marriage to Lan, it's her passionate words that do most of the convincing—and cause most of our crying.
2. Tam’s Sword (TEOTW, Ch. 44)
“Touching the sword, he could remember Tam’s teaching. For a little while he could find the calm of the void. But the weight always returned, compressing the void until it was only a cavern inside his mind, and he had to start over again, touching Tam’s sword to remember."
Yes, Rand eventually learns to use Tam’s heron-marking blade with mastery, but let’s not forget the sword basically started out as nothing more than a souvenir from the Two Rivers. When you’re raised by a single dad as badass as Tam al’Thor, you’ll want something to remember him by when you leave your village in the middle of the night. And if you’re being pursued by Shadowspawn, it’s probably best if that souvenir is a weapon.
It’s a shame Tam and Rand never got to have a heart-to-heart before Rand left about why exactly Tam had the heron-marked sword, but it doesn’t seem to matter much after a while. The way Rand touches it lovingly throughout The Eye of the World (the phrase “Tam’s sword” appears 15 times), remembering his father's teachings with the double heartache of being away from him and not actually related, makes this one of the truest versions of a sentimental object on this list.
Seeing Tam's sword come to life on screen during Season 1 of The Wheel of Time TV Series adds another layer of sentimentality for fans, especially the shot of it thrust into the snow on Dragonmount as a sign of peace.
1. Rand’s Pipe (AMOL, Epilogue)
“He sighed, fishing in his pocket, where he found a pipe. Thank you, Alivia, for that, he thought, packing it with tabac from a pouch he found in the other pocket. By instinct, he reached for the One Power to light it. He found nothing.”
Whenever Rand smokes a pipe full of Two River’s tabac, it reminds readers that not only is The Chosen One a human being, he is a human with particularly humble beginnings. The uncomplicated pleasure of smoking a pipe is probably close to the feeling Rand gets when he plays the flute.
So in the aftermath of the Last Battle, his duty to the world complete, it makes sense that Rand would return to his roots and enjoy such a simple pastime. Something about this peaceful scene hits harder than some of the most climactic moments from the Last Battle. Add to that the mystery of just how the hell did he light the damn thing, and we’ve got our most sentimental object on this list.
The pipe has special meaning to the fandom as well, knowing that the secret of how it was lit is something that Jordan took to his grave. Because he wrote the pipe scene after sharing the ending of the series with his wife, Harriet McDougal, some have speculated that it was a secret gift to Harriet, symbolic of their relationship and Jordan leaving a little bit of light behind for her when he left the world. And if that isn't the most romantic way to conclude this week's list, I'll throw out all my CD's.