[Pam Korda, Leigh Butler]
[Contributors: Bryon Wasserman, J. R. Feehan, Fred Van Keuls, Ryan Ward, Drew Tipson]
One loony theory that had been brought up is that SH is Ishamael re-incarnated, as one way to explain SH's more unusual attributes. Ishamael's old Trolloc nickname was Ba'alzamon, "Heart of the Dark"; while Shaidar Haran means "Hand of the Dark/Shadow." Pretty similar, although it could very easily be a coincidence. However, all of SH's attributes can be just as easily explained by assuming that he was specially created by the DO to have those attributes. Also, from the information we get about Moridin in ACOS, TPOD, and WH (see section 1.2.3), Moridin is indubitably Ishamael. To head off the obvious loony idea at the pass, recall that we've seen SH's thoughts in [ACOS: 40, Spears, 636-637], and Moridin's in [TPOD: Prologue, Deceptive Appearances, 42-44] and [TPOD: 2, Unweaving, 81-84], and they are clearly not the same person. (For one thing, Moridin has eyes, unlike SH.)
Another SH theory is that SH is a physical/corporeal manifestation of the DO, and this theory is strengthened considerably by events in COT.
In [COT: 21, A Mark, 515-518], Shaidar Haran appears in the Tower to chastise Mesaana for failing to show at the Cleansing, and in the process displays some new abilities. In addition to cutting Mesaana off from the OP and shattering her Illusion disguise, he uses something like Illusion himself: "The creature grew as it spoke, swelling in size till its head brushed the ceiling, over two spans up." He also somehow marks Alviarin as "his":
"You are marked as mine," the Great Lord rasped. "Mesaana will not harm you, now. Unless I give her permission."
It's not exactly clear what this "mark" entails; some suggestions are a Warder-like bond or possibly some type of "black cord" connection to the DO like Rand sees on Ishy and Asmodean. Ryan Ward offers, "Or [it] just branded her as really important so Mesaana (and perhaps the other Forsaken) would know not to rough her up. Sort of like the mark Cain got, maybe."
Even more interesting, SH for the first time speaks as if he were the DO: "You were summoned, and you did not come. My hand reaches far, Mesaana." And, referring to the Black Ajah, "You will find who threatens my creatures here and deliver them to me." Perhaps most telling of all, he indicates past knowledge of Mesaana, telling her "You were always... overly wasteful."
The entire scene seemed to strongly suggest that SH is the DO incarnate. Alviarin is certainly convinced of it. Not everyone else is, though.
One objection that has commonly been brought up is how can the DO be in two places at the same time, i.e. in the Pit of Doom and in Shaidar Haran? And how can the DO be imprisoned at SG if he's free to walk around as SH? It's also been pointed out that SH didn't THINK IN ALL CAPS in his POV scene, either - or when speaking to Mesaana and Alviarin, for that matter.
These objections can be addressed by being more specific about what SH could be: the avatar of the DO. The definition of "avatar" varies; the Hindu version (from which the word is derived) defines an avatar as "the descent of a deity to earth, and his incarnation as a man or an animal", but a more interesting definition (for our purposes) is "A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity." The difference between the two is subtle, but significant.
Maybe SH was a special Fade that the DO made as a receptacle for part of his consciousness. This would make him more of an extension (or maybe a familiar) of the DO, rather than the DO incarnate. Maybe the relationship is, as Christian Neubauer suggests, "SH is to the DO as Jesus is to God?" (Not in the father-son sense, but in the "three aspects, one divinity" kind of way.) All are variations on the same basic idea of the avatar.
But what about the above ACOS quote? "A faint weakness washed along its limbs. Too long away from Shayol Ghul. That tie had to be severed somehow." Wouldn't that seem to indicate SH has a will independent of the DO, since he wants to escape his tie to him?
Well, not necessarily. The quote could be interpreted as the DO remarking on how great it would be if his avatar were freer to move around without having to periodically return to SG to get "recharged". Or, alternately, maybe SH does have a separate consciousness, when the DO isn't using him as a vehicle; that doesn't cancel out the possibility that he is also an avatar of the DO.
Of course, SH could very well be just what he seems: the DO's spokesmyrddraal, and the whole "speaking as the DO" business is just a display put on to cow the DO's minions into obedience.
Either way, SH is pretty damn powerful, so now the logical question to ask is why isn't the DO using his Superfade/avatar/whatever he is to go do some real damage to the good guys, rather than just having him swat naughty Forsaken?
One suggestion is that since the DO himself is (we assume) non-corporeal, maybe SH is destined to be the physical embodiment of the DO that Rand actually fights at the Last Battle, and so is being saved up for that purpose. However, several people (myself included) have objected to this theory on the grounds that it is lame.
Another more intriguing notion is that perhaps SH's mysterious powers only work on the Forsaken - or more broadly, only on those sworn to the Shadow. Peter Reid theorizes that "by swearing to obey/follow/whatever the 'Great Lord', the DO then is granted 'control' of that person and that person's abilities whenever he wants it... remember that Fain can 'sniff out' a DF - this implies that there is something there to be sniffed. Also, recall that Ishamael was able to draw DFs directly out of their sleep into secret councils without them knowing that was possible. This would imply that he had some way of identifying them in the World of Dreams (or that place Egwene goes and sees points of light identifying sleeping people). All of this points to some sort of quasi-physical connection existing between the DO and every DF; what has been implied is that this connection grants the DO power over each DF, including the power to prevent them from sensing the True Source, etc." So perhaps it is this connection which allows SH to do all the fancy things he does to various FS; the obvious implication being that he wouldn't be able to use anything other than the ordinary Fade tricks against someone who walks in the Light.
One big unanswered question is that of the relationship between SH and Moridin. Between the two of them, who is the boss? They seem to be working in cooperation. For example, SH breaks Moggy down prior to her delivery to Moridin, and he appears to Graendal to send her to meet Moridin. We haven't seen the two of them (Moridin and SH) interact, and in the sections from their points of view, they don't happen to think about each other, so it's hard to say who exactly is in charge.