2.4.07: What did Ogier do of old?

[Windsor Williams, Pam Korda]

Basically, I'm wondering about the role of the Ogier in pre-Breaking society. From what we know in general, the stedding did exist during the period, but the Ogier were not bound to them by the Longing as they are at the time of the series. So it seems reasonable to assume that they were fairly common everywhere, although most common in and around the stedding.

We know they were involved with the seed singing (as per the "through the eyes of Coumin" scene [TSR: 26, The Dedicated, 302-5]), but what other roles did they have? Some clues exist:

Ogier soldiers-- from the Coumin sequence, right at the beginning [TSR: 26, The Dedicated, 302]

He could see the next field, lined the same way, beyond the soldiers with their shocklances sitting atop armored jo-cars. A hoverfly buzzed overhead in its patrol, a deadly black metal wasp containing two men. He was sixteen, and the women had decided his voice was finally deep enough to join in the seed singing. The soldiers fascinated him, men and Ogier, the way a colorful poisonous snake might. They killed.

The "men and Ogier" phrase seems to imply that there were Ogier soldiers as well as humans.

Ogier as police or enforcers-- again, from the Coumin sequence [TSR: 26, The Dedicated, 304]:

Abruptly something struck Coumin in the mouth and his legs buckled; he was pushing himself to his knees before he realized he was down. A hand put to his mouth came away bloody. He looked up to find an angry-faced townsman standing over him, nursing a fist. "Why did you do that?" he asked.

The townsman spat at him. "The Forsaken are dead. Dead, do you hear? Lanfear will not protect you anymore. We will root out all of you who served the Forsaken while pretending to be on our side, and treat the lot of you as we treated that crazy old man."

A woman was tugging at the man's arm. "Come away, Toma. Come away, and hold your foolish tongue! Do you want the Ogier to come for you?" Suddenly wary, the man let her pull him away into the crowd.

"Do you want the Ogier to come for you?" and the man's response argue that the Ogier were enforcers of peace/police of some sort, and effective ones as well. I'm guessing that they would come for him for the killing of Charn ("that crazy old man"), but maybe it's his statements, instead?

I hadn't thought of Ogier in terms of soldiers or police before, but these passages caught my eye while re-reading the series. We've been told at one point or another that old tales refer to Ogier as bad opponents, who rarely get angry but are very dangerous when they do. Watching Loial's anger over the destruction of the Ogier grove in Tear, Perrin remembers an old saying: "'To anger the Ogier and pull the mountains down on your head.' Everyone took its meaning as to try to do something that was impossible. Perrin thought maybe the meaning had changed with the years. Maybe in the beginning, it had been 'Anger the Ogier, and you pull the mountains down on your head.' Difficult to do, but deadly if accomplished" [TSR: 18, Into the Ways, 211].

From the Guide, TPOD, and WH, we know that Ogier in Seanchan are not all as peaceful as those in Randland:

  • "Ogier make up a portion of the Deathwatch, although they are the only ones not property, and are considered incredibly fierce and more deadly than their human counterparts. The Ogier of the Deathwatch are grim in demeanor and action compared to their brothers and sisters across the ocean." [Guide: 17, Seanchan, 161]
  • "Many Deathwatch Guards went without coat or shirt whenever possible to display [their raven tattoos]. The humans, anyway. Ogier Gardeners were not marked or owned, but that was between them and the Empress." [TPOD: 23, Fog of War, Storm of Battle, 443] This implies that the "Gardeners" are members of the Deathwatch Guard, despite the odd name.
  • The Glossary entry for Deathwatch Guards says: "Deathwatch Guards, the: The elite military formation of the Seanchan Empire, including both humans and Ogier." [TPOD: Glossary, 596]
  • We get a description of the Ogier Deathwatch guards in [WH: 14, What A Veil Hides, 325] and again in [WH: 18, An Offer, 377] that bears out the Guide description above (grim, forbidding, and not to be crossed), as well as confirming that Ogier Deathwatch guards are called Gardeners.

The fact that the Seanchan Ogier participate in warfare indicates that the Ogier may have a history of being fighters which the Ogier of Randland proper have lost.

Finally, it is possible that Ogier fought in battle during the Trolloc Wars. When Rand meets Loial for the first time, he tells Loial that he is from the Two Rivers, which used to be Manetheren [TEOTW: 36, Web of the Pattern, 465]. Loial replies, referring to the destruction of Manetheren, "There was a very fine grove there. Your pain sings in my heart, Rand al'Thor. We could not come in time." The implication is, of course, that the Ogier could have helped in the battle if they had come in time.