Collectively, the name of two species of extradimensional humanoids, the Aelfinn and their counterparts the Eelfinn. Each live in a dimension quite different from that of the real world, seemingly apart yet connected.
It appears that multiple ta'veren can physically disrupt the connection of the ter'angreal in Tear to the Aelfinn's realm as seen by the discord created when Mat and Rand both entered the door as well as by Moiraine's comment following the incident.
The Aelfinn resemble snakes and are also sometimes called the "snake people" or the "snakey folk." Their realm can be reached through the Tower of Ghenjei or from the twisted redstone doorframe ter'angreal located in the Stone of Tear. Their doorframe is marked with wavy lines down its sides and edges.
The Aelfinn waylay Matrim's rescue party on the way out of the Chamber of Bonds. In this encounter they are armed with curved swords.
They will answer three questions truthfully, but care must be taken: questions concerning the Shadow often result in death or madness. Frivolous questions are also punished, although it seems the perspective of the person asking the questions is important. The Aelfinn answer these questions in return for the experiences and memories of the questioner; they do not steal them, instead simply passively absorbing them.
1. Should I go home to help my people?
- You must go to Rhuidean.
2. Why would I do it [go to Rhuidean]?
- If you don't go to Rhuidean, you will die.
3. Why will I die if I don't go to Rhuidean?
- Because you would have avoided the thread of fate, you would leave the but that you have marked adrift from the winds of time and you would be killed by those who do not want that destiny to be fulfilled.
As a result of the enormous tension experienced by the Aelfinns having to face the visit of Mat and Rand almost at the same time, they provided the former with more answers than necessary in order to get him to leave.
- What destination?
- Marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons.
- To die and be reborn and to live again a part of what was.
- Give up half of the light of the world to save the world.
1. Unknown question.
- Unknown answer.
2. How can I clean up the Corruption of the Saidin?
- The only thing that is known is that the Aelfinns did not answer this question directly.
3. How can I win the Last Battle and survive it?
- The north and the east must be one. The west and the south must be one. The two must be one. To live, you must die.
The questions Moiraine asked and the answers given to her by the Aelfinns are ignored, but it is possible that one of them was related to the fact that she came to know the face of the person she was going to marry, an assertion she made shortly after her visit to the snake-men.
It is known that many other people have visited the Aelfinns, although in a very remote past. According to an interview with Brandon Sanderson, counselor Mordeth was one of them. Also coming to the world of the Aelfinns and the Eelfinns in one of their past lives were the heroes Gaidal Cain and Birgitte Silverbow, but they did not return alive and died after wandering two months lost by the labyrinthine runners. It is also known that Lanfear and Moridin have been in this world in recent times, but it is unknown if both came to ask the three questions.
Eelfinn resemble foxes, leading them to be known as the "fox people" or "foxy folk." Their world can only be reached via the Tower of Ghenjei or through the twisted redstone doorframe ter'angreal located (until recently) in Rhuidean; theirs has three downward-pointing triangles. Eelfinn carry bronze daggers with rose-vine patterns around the handle.
There seems to exist some form of a hierarchy among them: when the first Eelfinn approaches Mat, Noal, and Thom, it claims it can bring them where they want to go. Mat responds by asking for access to the central chamber and Moiraine, and the Eelfinn responds with, "I cannot make that bargain. I have not the authority."
They will grant three wishes of anyone who visits them, but a price must be set beforehand when dealing with them; if you do not, they will set their own price to their own liking. This is usually painful for the petitioner. What they get out of this transaction is not fully known, but they appear to have a preference for strong human emotions and sensations, especially negative ones such as pain and sorrow. They may also access the memories from those who visit them, and Mat Cauthon speculates that this is the origin of his memories. However it is also possible they are able to "borrow" them from the Aelfinn. It appears that entrants through the Tower of Ghenjei itself must use one of the wishes to simply leave the world of the Finn, if one wants a safe trip back. Users of the doorframe ter'angreal seem to be protected in their departure by ancient agreements, by which they might ask leavetaking while setting their price or their terms; one of the Eelfinn calls Mat "wise to ask leavetaking (as one of your three wishes) when you set no price, no terms."
Believing that the Eelfinns were like the Aelfinns and were busy answering questions concerning the future, Mat began to ask them questions without imagining what was really going on. Because of this, although he did come to request his three wishes, he did so without being fully aware and the effects turned out to be of great importance for future events.
1. I go from here to there with gaps in memory, gaps in my life [...]. If I were given a choice, I would fill in those gaps.
- The Eelfinns granted him this wish by granting him the memories of great generals and strategists who lived in the time between the end of the War of the Trollocs and the Consolidation. By granting them to Mat they made him the greatest military leader of his time and the one who most successfully led the forces of Light during the Last Battle.
2. I want to find a way to get rid of the Aes Sedai and the Power, and...
- Mat obtained the fox-headed medallion, a ter'angreal pendant with which he could certainly stay free of the One Power by undoing all the tissues directed at him. This object would be of enormous use in the future, since with it he could detect a person channeling in his direction while being protected from a direct attack by Power. As if this wasn't enough, the medallion turned out to be the only instrument capable of damaging the fearsome gholam.
3. ... I want to lose sight of you and return to Rhuidean.
- The last of Mat's three wishes was initially believed to simply consent that the Eelfinns granted him to return, though leaving him on the verge of death by attempting to hang him on the branches of Avendesora. However, during the rescue of Moraine Damodred it was discovered that the weapon that was given to Mat, the ashandarei, was in itself a way out of the world of the Eelfinns and the Aelfinns and the instrument with which they could return when all seemed lost.
Treaties and agreements
—A female Eelfinn
The Finn appear to be bound by an ancient treaty between themselves and the humans of the real world. Anyone may enter into their worlds providing they do not bring sources of light, iron, or instruments of music. A modern-day rhyme references these conditions: "Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind."
Both species appear to examine a visitor's "sensations, emotions, experiences," and may possibly feed on them, in order to fulfill their side of the bargain. The Eelfinn, however, require an additional price to be paid, and have been known to kill visitors who do not bargain wisely. They also appear to wear clothing fashioned from human skin.
Snakes and Foxes
The mystery and lore surrounding the Finn have given rise to a children's game known as Snakes and Foxes. Adults are aware that there is no legitimate way to win at the game; success can only come from cheating. Olver won the game once, however; Talmanes, who was with him at the time muses that they must have miscounted or otherwise made a mistake. This coincided with Mat's escape from the Tower of Ghenjei.
The game is played on a board marked with a web-like playing area, with arrows denoting movement around the web; some paths are one-way, others are omnidirectional. Ten pale wooden discs marked with a wavy line denote the Snake pieces, similarly ten discs marked with a triangle denote the Foxes; these twenty pieces are stacked at the corners of the board. Two black discs representing the human players are placed at the center of the web, and the aim of the game is to move the human pieces to the edge of the web and back without being touched by any of the snake or fox pieces. Dice rolls direct the movement of the pieces.
The game begins by enacting a symbol, a triangle with a wavy line drawn through it, and intoning the rhyme: "Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind." The player then rolls dice for both his own pieces and those of the enemy, in sequence. Player pieces are moved to keep as much distance from the snakes and foxes as possible, while following the rules of movement marked on the web. The enemy pieces are moved towards the human pieces in as direct a manner as possible. If a snake or a fox touches a human piece, the piece is removed; when both are removed, the game is lost. The rules ensure that "most of the time [a player] did not make it as far as the outer edge," let alone back to the center.
The dimension that these creatures live in has very strange laws of physics. Things like weight and stress on buildings do not seem to matter as much, judging by the way that structures are built. Their realm appears to be "folded" in time and space and being native to such a place seems to allow the Aelfinn and Eelfinn to "see" things and people in four dimensions: that is, they seem able to read the past, present, and future in the Pattern.
The constructs of the Aelfinn's world consist of curves and spirals; in contrast the constructs of the Eelfinn's world consist of sharp, straight lines and angles. Given the web-like play area of the Snakes and Foxes game, and the notion that both the Aelfinn and Eelfinn share the same and yet separate dimensions, it can be speculated that the Finn's dimension resembles a web in more than name; the Aelfinn inhabiting the curving spirals, and the Eelfinn inhabiting the spokes.[verify] Additionally, pathways through their realm appear to be governed by laws of physics so different from those of the human world as to appear completely random. For instance, in order to proceed forward to a particular location in their realm, one might have to take seemingly random turns, backtrack, go forward, and backtrack again.
In the Old Tongue, this realm was known as Sindhol.
The Finn resemble fairies, both in their weakness towards iron, and in having two distinct realms--similar to the Seelie and Unseelie courts of the fairies in Scottish folklore. Also like fairies, they are not considered evil, and can be useful, but are not considered strictly good either.
Finn have a similarity to kitsune, foxlike creatures in Japanese mythology. Kitsune are credited with magical powers such as divination, fortelling and the ability to weave vast illusions. They are also described as trickster entities that mainly target men. Like Finn, they like to make deals and are said to keep their promises.
Mat, Thom and Noal's journey through their realm has many similarities to navigating a maze in an interactive fiction (text adventure) game. Such games often have a maze of rooms with identical descriptions and exits that are not simply connected (e.g.: going north and then south will not necessarily take you back to the same room.) The description of Noal's attempts to make a map is similar to the manner a player of a text adventure would do so, and is similarly thwarted.
The Snakes and Foxes game is patterned after fox games. Some variants such as Fox and Hounds are unwinnable for one player unless their opponent intentionally throws the game.
Given that "Sind" in the Old Tongue means "Never," and "dhol" means "land," their home world "Sindhol" is "Neverland," a reference to J. M. Barrie's works, namely Peter Pan.