Minor Key: Setalle Anan

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Author: Atarah al'Norahn
Published: December 16 2019 Tar Valon Times Blog Link

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

“‘The sisters would see it if they could let themselves,’ she said, as simply as if she were discussing the chances of rain, ‘but Aes Sedai expect that when…certain things…happen, the woman will go away decently and die soon after. I went away, but Jasfer found me half starved and sick on the streets of Ebou Dar and took me to his mother.’ She chuckled, just a woman telling how she met her husband. ‘He used to take in stray kittens, too.’”
—Setalle Anan to Mat Cauthon, Knife of Dreams, Chapter 9

From the moment she expresses the hope that she can act as a sul’dam in Mat’s plot to escape Seanchan-controlled Ebou Dar, readers began to speculate that Setalle Anan was once Martine Janata, an Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah who was burned out while studying ter’angreal. Her implicit admission of this fact when she asks to see Mat’s foxhead ter’angreal in Knife of Dreams was thus the satisfying confirmation of a theory that had long been hinted at. It is a quiet moment, one filled both with palpable longing on Setalle’s part and imbued with her indelible serenity and strength.

In the more than twenty-five years following the events that unexpectedly severed her from the True Source, Setalle Anan painstakingly builds a new life for herself. After fleeing from Tar Valon to Ebou Dar, she eventually marries Jasfer Anan, with whom she goes on to have eight children—five daughters and three sons. At some point, Setalle buys her own inn, The Wandering Woman, a prosperous establishment situated near the Tarasin Palace.

Although there are differences between being stilled and being burned out[1], it is nonetheless interesting to read Setalle’s character in comparison to Siuan and Leane, who provide our deepest look into what it is like to lose the ability to channel. Like Siuan and Leane, Setalle must find something worth living for—something to replace what is said to be irreplaceable, a temporal (and supposedly temporary) bandage for an incorporeal wound so deep it usually kills within two to three years at the most.[2]

Where Siuan and Leane welcome their eventual Healing with overwhelming relief and a breathtaking joy, however, Setalle’s relationship to her lost ability to channel is somewhat different. Although her examination of Mat’s foxhead is made with trembling hands and an exhalation of breath as she “trace[s] a finger” around the eye that “was half-shaded to form the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai” (KoD, Ch. 9), she later tells Mat that she “should never have even asked to see” the ter’angreal (ToM, Ch. 17). Although Setalle never states it outright within the series itself, The Wheel of Time Companion reveals that she “claimed to be happy when Healing did not work [on her]; if it had, she would have to give up the life she had made for herself.” Despite the fact that characters such as Nynaeve and Elayne have begun to dismantle the perceived barrier between a life and family outside of the Tower and being Aes Sedai, Setalle still sees a clear disjunction between the two—and she appears to favor the option that so few Aes Sedai would ever even consider.


  • [1] Those who are stilled can still sense the Source but cannot touch it; those who are burned out cannot sense the Source at all (Companion). Further, stilling is an intentional severing from the Source and is used as punishment, while burning out is caused accidentally, usually when a channeler draws too much of the Power or uses a ter’angreal improperly (TSR, Ch. 5). While stilling can be Healed, burning out cannot (Companion).
  • [2] Bonwhin Meraighdin is said to have lived for four years after her deposition and stilling (Companion), but this appears to be exceptional longevity post-severing.

Is there a minor—but key—character you’d like to see covered in this series? Let us know in the comments!