A novice is a woman who is in training in the White Tower to become Aes Sedai. It is the first level of a Tower initiate, beneath that of the Accepted who are themselves beneath the level of Aes Sedai.
Becoming a novice is known as being "put in white," because they are held to a strict dress code - white dresses, stockings, shoes, and even hair ribbons.
Traditionally the White Tower only accepts girls for training who are between sixteen and eighteen years old, as anyone above this age is thought to be too old to adapt to the discipline. If a girl born with the spark starts to channel before being 16 years old, she is brought to the Tower and enrolled earlier for her safety. Some novices have lied about their age to enroll.
Recently among the rebel Aes Sedai in Salidar the age restrictions have been lifted, and there are novices of all ages, even some as old as grandmothers. This is causing consternation among some traditional sisters, but most are happy that the number of Tower initiates has ceased dwindling and also because the potential of new older novices as Sharina is really stunning.
Once a woman was tested and was found to be able to learn to channel, she would continue to touch the Source even without training. The Aes Sedai used this life to hold on to any girl who could channel, as it would not be safe to let them loose without proper training. By the time they were trained enough to be safe, they were usually set on the path to becoming an Aes Sedai that few thought of leaving.
Novice life is deliberately harsh, in order to prepare them for the difficult life of an Aes Sedai. When a girl becomes a novice, she is required to burn the clothes that she arrived in, in order to symbolize a break with her past ties and build dependence on the Tower. Her room is tiny, the bed uncomfortable and hard, and she must wake every day before dawn to scrub the floor and sweep the room. Meals are taken in silence and are extremely brief, so the novice must eat quickly or go hungry. She will have lessons and classes; some on learning to channel but just as many on the history, the Old Tongue, geography, politics and philosophy - to all of which she must pay strict attention or face punishment. Novices also have classes on the history of Aes Sedai, about channeling in general and classes on uses of the power such as angreal, sa'angreal and ter'angreal. However, most of her day will be taken up with such chores and duties as laboring in the kitchens, scrubbing floors, doing errands for Aes Sedai, and working in the gardens.
Novices are not permitted to channel except when supervised by an Accepted or Aes Sedai (though many do so anyway in secret), and must do all their chores by hand. The idea is that the hard work builds character, though it is likely that there is a desire to keep them too busy, and too tired, to start playing around and experimenting with the One Power. Novices are strictly confined to the Tower grounds, and there are no days off, except for occasional freedays where there were no lessons or chores, except possibly chores given as punishment. There was no set schedule for these; the Mistress of Novices declared them at discretion. During the 130 days that Nynaeve and Egwene were in the White Tower, there were only three freedays.
In order to learn to channel, weaves are demonstrated at a strength too low to be effective. This was done simply in ordr to show the flows and the manner of weaving them. Novices were forbidden to try any weave themselves unless a sister had demonstrated it, and was satisfied that the novice could make it properly. No experimentation whatsoever in the Power was allowed, and novices were always closely supervised when channeling.
Novices are subject to strict discipline, decided and handed out by a sister appointed to the post of Mistress of Novices. She is both disciplinarian and confidante, punishing those who have broken the rules and providing a shoulder to cry on as life as a novice is very hard. It is she who decides when a novice or Accepted is ready to be tested (though the same could be proposed or vetoed by certain combinations of the Amyrlin, Sitters or ordinary sisters, but it was always more difficult to propose than to be vetoed as it was safer to wait than to speed up a testing), or if the girl will be put out of the Tower for good. Punishment ranges from a lecture to a severe switching, and extra chores are usually involved. For all that Aes Sedai act like they rule the world, within the Tower there are hierarchies and rules, and discipline and obedience are instilled from the earliest days. In addition novices are carefully cloistered from men. It isn't that the Tower disapproves of intimacy, but that they don't want their novices thinking too much about hearth and family. Relationships between two novices or Accepted, known within the Tower as "pillow friends", are commonplace and unremarkable.
Understandably some novices find the pressure too much, and resolve to run away. They rarely get away with it, usually being caught and returned. Life for a captured runaway makes ordinary novice life look pleasant, with anything less than perfection being swiftly and harshly punished. The reason given is that a half-trained channeler is a danger to herself and those around her, which is not untrue, but it is also the case that the Tower considers itself to have absolute right over all channelers, and does not permit them to leave until it is finished with them.
The novices studying under the rebel Aes Sedai have been arranged into "families" of seven or eight women, making them much easier to organize and also establishing close friendships that help novices to get through the day. This new development has meant that this faction has almost no runaways to deal with. It is unknown whether this new organization has been adopted within the now-united Tower.
For most girls with average strength in the One Power (around level 34-22) and normal skills the expected time spent as a novice is ten years (and after this, again ten years as Accepted, with a total of twenty years in training, before being tested for the shawl).
Ten years normally is also the time a woman of average strength needs to reach her full potential in the One Power. So the two things are related but not in a strictly way, in fact other factors can concur in the time spent in white. Usually anyway the stronger the potential is, the shorter is the time spent as novice, and vice versa.
In fact those showing greater potential (around level 17-5) could be raised Accepted after only five or six years (even if they have not reached their full potential), and there have been cases of strong and skilled novices being raised after only three years as Siuan, Elaida and Moiraine (level 13-1). The very strong Nicola Treehill was even raised after no more than a year in novice white (level 9+4), while Egwene al'Vere and Elayne Trakand (level 8+5) were raised after mere months. Nynaeve al'Meara (level 3+10) was deemed advanced enough to skip the level of novice altogether.
Strength in the One Power, especially among Aes Sedai does not indicate only the brute force or raw power that a channeler can use. It also means other abilities linked to the strength:
- Usually, the stronger the channeler, the more threads one can form and manipulate, and at a higher dexterity. For example, in Knife of Dreams, the powerful Egwene al'Vere is seen easily weaving more than a dozen threads simultaneously, however the very weak Morgase is seen struggling to weave a single faint thread.
- Usually, the strongest can learn a new weave with greater ease and speed than the weakest, for example it is enough for Rand and Alivia to have seen only once the composing of a new weave in order to learn how to reproduce it; for Nynaeve, and Elayne it is enough to see it formed a few times; alternatively, it may takes the weakest channelers years of study in order to learn a new complex weave.
Assumed that usually the time spent in training reflects the strength in saidar of the future Aes Sedai, other main factors can be involved: for instance, a novice with a very great potential like Cadsuane (at level 9+4) spent as novice many years more than expected due her stubbornness; conversely, there are others with the "Fast Learning" Talent who proceed quicker than their sole potential would allow.
Anyway it can be guessed that among many factors that are considered to decide the testing for promotion, quite surely it is required that the candidate reaches a minimum level of strength in saidar, around level 46(34)-47(35) (being the level 45(33) the minimum later required to be tested for the shawl).
As explained above it can be considered quite obvious that the strongest among the novices reach this minimum level of strength quite rapidly, while the weakest need many years to reach it. For instance Daigian, the weakest known Aes Sedai, remained twenty-seven years as novice before being tested as Accepted.
All the novices without the potential to reach this minimum level of strength are sent away from the White Tower, once they have learnt to use safely the One Power (and many of them usually join the Kin).
The Silver Three-arched Ter'angreal
When the Mistress of Novices decides that a novice is ready, she arranges for her to face her fears in the Silver arches, which comprise a three-arched ter'angreal which presents a woman with her greatest fears - one for each arch - for what was, what is, and what will be. What happens in this ter'angreal may or may not be real, no one is sure. But injuries can be taken inside that are fatal, and some novices have never returned from the ter'angreal. Novices who refuse the test three times are put out of the Tower, as are those who stop once they begin the test.
A novice who successfully returns from the third arch is raised to the Accepted by the Amyrlin Seat, and thus begins her second chapter of life as a Tower initiate.
List of current novices
- See also Category:Novices.