Logain and Taim (and Rand): Responses to Being a Saidin Channeler in the Third Age
Aka that one essay I’ve been meaning to write for about 3 months [Whole book series & minor show spoilers]
So I think we can all agree that being a saidin channeler during the time of the books is frankly a very traumatic experience during most of the timeframe and the backstory of the books (though it’s definitely changing / has in many ways changed by the end of them).
For one thing, there’s the fact that saidin is tainted and you’re bound to succumb to a madness wrought on by the literal embodiment of all evil.
For another, there’s the fact that your only chances to avoid this seems to be
to get gentled by the Aes Sedai (and lose most/all of your will to live in the process) or
to swear allegiance to the aforementioned embodiment of all evil (and become an expendable pawn in its pursuit of world annihilation).
Needless to say, neither of these options are good.
And lastly, as if that wasn’t enough, the whole world is aware that you’re basically an unreliable ticking time bomb, a person who’s doomed to become a monster and must be hunted, harassed and ratted out to the Aes Sedai as soon as possible.
This post is less about the first two aspects of the Saidin Channeler™️ experience and more about that last one.
And it’s in dealing with that that I think Logain and Taim are such great foils for one another. The world tells them they’re monsters. Unwanted. Doomed. Dangerous. Practically only good for death and destruction, unless they’re the Dragon Reborn and even then it’s still a lot of death and destruction. So what do you do when the world rejects you?
Well Logain is... frankly kind of arrogant (don’t @ me, he’s one of my favorite characters). And I do think in this case it really works in his favor. You see, it takes a lot of arrogance to look at a world that tells you “you’re a worthless monster that needs to be put down” and go “no, actually, I think I can do great things”. And sure, his definition of “great” may not always fall within the definition of “good”, but it certainly always falls within the definition of “important”. Grand. Glorious even.
Before we even meet him in the books he’s been stripped of all his titles and yet he’s built himself an army, won battles and started marching to Tear. He gets stopped by the Aes Sedai, but that’s... certainly not for a lack of ambition. His (perhaps misplaced) self-confidence takes a hit when he’s gentled, but let’s be honest, a man who wants to call himself by the name of a famous False Dragon of the past while on the run from the White Tower still doesn’t come across as particularly humble. In fact, that Logain continues to believe he can achieve something even after gentled is more or less what keeps him alive (even if that something is revenge).
[And this is something I think the TV show takes and purposefully amplifies. Show!Logain manages to earn the allegiance of people through explicitly telling and showing them that someone who channels saidin is not only meant to destroy. That he himself can also help people, can lead them.]
On the flip side, we have Taim. Now, Taim’s response to being declared a monster by the world is simply “then I’ll be that monster”.
[And, you know, I keep forgetting just how young Taim is, because he’s apparently in his late 20s? This is a bit of a tangent to the whole post but, Rand judges him to be older but I’m fairly sure RJ stated Rand misjudged bc Taim was generally Not In A Good State. Now I do have some questions regarding just what he’s been doing in all the years since he started channeling, because apparently he also had the spark and had been channeling long enough to start slowing in aging but he only declared himself Dragon around the time the books begin, so he must have started in his early 20s at the latest. If anyone has any clue what on earth this man was doing for the better part of a decade please tell me.]
Anyway to get back to the original point... Taim is defeated as a False Dragon. Embarassingly falls from his horse the moment the true Dragon declares himself. So when Demandred comes up and offers him a place amongst the Darkfriends? Taim just takes it. And why wouldn’t he? Since he only declared himself Dragon when he did, he must have spent years hiding his ability to channel. Most of his adult life, perhaps. What would he owe to a world that would just hunt him down if they knew what he was? He’s not the Dragon, he knows that now, so there goes that slim chance too.
So he proceeds to do the most horrific things, just as the Shadow asks him too. He gives up his own men to have them become, well, whatever being Turned does to you honestly. He builds himself an army of these brainwashed channelers who’ve had every bit of them replaced by the Shadow’s corruption. Hell, he goes so far in his devotion to embodying the world’s worst fears that he even becomes the only person in the Third Age to achieve the title of Chosen. A twisted form of glory for him as well, I suppose.
In the end I think that’s what Logain’s great character conflict boils down to in that one moment in AMOL. He skirts very close to taking the same path as Taim himself, to trying to achieve the world’s respect through power and fear. It’s an understandable lure, with all that people like him go through. But he takes a different path and finds that people, some people at least do respect him for his deeds. For what he’s achieved. Taim, on the other hand, well, he gets what any follower of the Shadow does, because the Shadow’s glory is only ever ephemeral and the inevitable fate of a monster is to be hunted down. Even if that monster makes himself strong enough that most people wouldn’t dare to hunt him, there’s always going to be someone who tries.
The addendum here is Rand. Rand who also accepts he’s a monster and chooses to be a monster to himself. He takes all of that suffering upon himself so that others don’t have to. Rand who goes “I may be dangerous and doomed but I’ll make this world safe for those I love by my inevitable suffering”. He circumvents the Logain/Taim dichotomy entirely and perhaps that’s because the world fears him, yes, but also places a great deal of responsibility on him. So he accepts the pain, accepts that it’s just his lot in life and keeps a list of all his monstrous deeds to torture himself until he breaks.
I’m frankly fascinated by the interplay of these 3 and the way they’re all shaped by this gift/curse they’ve been given. I think the contrast between Logain and Taim gets lost a bit in the fact that the Black Tower plot gets a bit sidelined for some time and we don’t really get much in the way of a Taim POV. Would have loved to get a better look inside that man’s head, that’s for sure. Really looking forward to seeing the two of them interpreted in the show, I think Logain’s portrayal has been very much in line with my read of him so far and I can only hope they give Taim an equally good treatment.