A Guide To The World Of Wheel Of Time: What Are Shadowspawn?
The world of The Wheel of Time has plenty of monsters and villains lurking in the background, both human and inhuman. But there is one phrase that gets tossed around a lot: Shadowspawn. There is a lot of talk about the “Shadow” in The Wheel of Time – in fact one of the books is titled The Shadow Rising. Much of this pertains to the great source of evil in the world who typically called “The Dark One” although he has many names. The Shadowspawn are creatures either created by The Dark One or individuals corrupted by this evil force. So what exactly are the Shadowspawn? And how will they play into the upcoming Wheel of Time adaptation on Amazon Prime? Let’s explore the monsters of The Wheel of Time in our latest guide to the world.
A new teaser released this week showed off several of the Shadowspawn we are due to see in the first season of The Wheel of Time. And they certainly look pretty terrifying. But there is also quite a variety. So let’s break down what we can see and what we know from the books.
In the clip released by Amazon Prime, we hear the voice of Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) talking about the Shadowspawn. “Armies of Trollocs and Fades a million strong will wash across the land, killing and eating every person they find.” She warns, likely referring to what will happen if The Dark One is released from his prison. Then we hear another woman’s voice – probably another Aes Sedai – with an ominous warning that “You cannot outrun a Fade.” But what exactly is a Trolloc, or a Fade? Let’s dig into some of the lore of The Wheel of Time for answers.
What Is A Trolloc?
Image via Tor/Forge
The most prevalent of the Shadowspawn are the Trollocs, monsters that were created during the fabled “Age of Legends” in the history of the world. They are a bit like the Orcs of Lord of the Rings, only somehow more terrifying. They are animal/human hybrids created to be like super-soldiers, and they historically make up the bulk of The Dark One’s armies.
Physically imposing, they typically range between 8-10 feet tall. These creatures often have animalistic features like a snout, beak, or hooves depending on what animal they were bred from. They are extremely aggressive and violent, with cruel and sadistic tendencies. When Moiraine speaks about the Shadowspawn eating humans, they are referring to the Trollocs. Carnivorous by nature, they developed a preference for human flesh during The War of Power. Although some Trollocs can speak, their intelligence is limited. They are typically controlled by another type of Shadowspawn – called a Myrddraal, or a Fade.
What Is A Fade?
The Myrddraal are the offspring of the Trollocs. But they tend to be more humanoid in appearance than their animalistic parents. They typically appear as tall, lanky men often described as appearing like a snake. They have no eyes, and an alarming number of sharp teeth. The Fade that appears in the teaser looks a lot like the Mouth of Sauron from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Perhaps unsurprising that Amazon is drawing heavily from Lord of the Rings for the look of many of the creatures in The Wheel of Time. After all, Amazon’s next big fantasy series is Lord of the Rings related.)
Despite their lack of eyes, a Fade can see clearly and often has heightened supernatural senses. They have the ability to travel between shadows, making any dark place hazardous for one being chased by a Fade. In the books there is a theory that the Myrddraal are “slightly out of phase with time and reality.” They have incredible strength, along with poisonous blood, and often wield deadly weapons tainted by The Dark One. It is extremely difficult to kill a Fade, and the best way to do so is to completely cut off their heads. Even then, they will remain alive until the sun sets and they return to the Shadow. Unlike the Trollocs, the Myrddraal are often highly intelligent. And therefore they are typically the commanders of The Dark One’s armies.
Where Did The Shadowspawn Come From?
Image via Amazon Prime
With the exception of the Myrddraal – who were the offspring of Trollocs – the majority of the Shadowspawn were created during The Age of Legends. A fallen Aes Sedai – one of the Forsaken – a man named Aginor was responsible for the creation of these creatures. The Forsaken are another group of villains in the world of The Wheel of Time. They are legendary Aes Sedai who have given their souls to The Dark One. And many of them were sealed away with The Dark One in his prison at the end of The War of Power. This happened when an Aes Sedai named Lews Therin led a group to close the cracks in the seal on The Dark One’s prison. He succeeded in his quest, but a last strike by The Dark One tainted the male half of the One Power.
As The Wheel of Time begins, we will learn that the seals on the Dark One’s prison are weakening again. This means that the Shadowspawn have returned to wreak havoc across the land. It also means that some of the Forsaken are now walking free once more. And we will definitely be seeing some of them in the first season of The Wheel of Time.
What Other Shadowspawn Will We See In The Wheel of Time?
Image via Tor/Forge
Other Shadowspawn we are likely to see in The Wheel of Time series include Darkhounds. These are wolves who have been corrupted by The Dark One. They have poisonous saliva, and leave footprints in stone. Darkhounds are also incredibly difficult to kill. They can regenerate limbs and recover from typically mortal wounds.
Another Shadowspawn that might pop up in the first season of The Wheel of Time is the Gray Man, also called the Soulless. These are actually humans who have given their soul to The Dark One. (This is a bit different from a Darkfriend – who is just someone working for the Dark One that still retains their own soul). The Gray Men can also be women, they are typically used as assassins because they are nearly invisible. They blend into any crowd, and easily escape notice.
There are also Gholams. Created during The War of Power, these are constructs designed to kill anyone who can channel The One Power. There are only six Gholams in existence – three male and three female. But they are even harder to kill than the other types of Shadowspawn, and even the Forsaken fear these creatures. These creatures have immense strength and have an unusual physical structure. Although they look human, they have no bones or internal organs. They can therefore squeeze through the smallest cracks and are impervious to standard weapons.
The last of the major types of Shadowspawn that appear in The Wheel of Time are the Draghkar. These are humans who have been corrupted, and they are often described as quite vampiric in nature. They have huge bat-like wings, large eyes, and pale skin. The Draghkar don’t have much fighting ability. But they can lure humans to them with a hypnotic song and consume their souls.
The Aes Sedai Are Dedicated To Wiping Out The Shadowspawn
Image via Amazon Prime
The Shadowspawn are certainly a diverse and terrifying group of monsters. They are all extremely difficult to kill, and have few weaknesses. Running water is a problem for both Trollocs and the Myrddraal, but other Shadowspawn do not have this trouble. Most Shadowspawn can only truly be killed by an Aes Sedai. And in fact this is what many of Aes Sedai dedicate their lives to – wiping out the Shadowspawn and making the world a safer place. But with the seals on The Dark One’s prison weakening, that task is growing ever more difficult.
With the premiere date for The Wheel of Time rapidly approaching on November 19, 2021 we are exploring the world in these guides. Let me know what other subjects you’d like to see explored in upcoming articles about the world of The Wheel of Time. And as always, be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest genre news.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.